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New Details On U.S. Assessment Israel Not Responsible For Hospital Blast; Protests, Soaring Tensions In Mideast Amid Anger Over Hospital Deaths; Biden Returning From Israel, Will Address Nation On War Tomorrow Night; Wartime Tensions Soar In Mideast After Deadly Gaza Hospital Blast; Hamas Turns To Social Media For Propaganda War. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 18, 2023 - 18:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching The Lead. Our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I will see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, the United States just shared new details on its assessment that Israel was not responsible for the deadly hospital explosion in Gaza, U.S. officials pointing to intelligence indicating a failed Palestinian rocket launch caused the blast.

But across the middle east right now, angry protester and some government leaders still insist Israel is to blame, ratcheting wartime tensions even higher. This as President Biden is heading home from Israel right now after showing support for Prime Minister Netanyahu and the war against Hamas. The White House just announced the president will discuss the U.S. war response during an address to the nation tomorrow night.

Back in Washington, U.S. House remains paralyzed at this critical moment after Jim Jordan lost a second vote to become speaker of the House. Jordan says the third vote is tomorrow even as he faces growing opposition within his own party.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We're following the volatile and very complicated aftermath of that deadly hospital explosion in Gaza. The U.S. offering a more detailed and definitive assessment that Israel was not responsible. And President Biden just weighed in aboard Air Force One as he flies home from his very high-stakes trip to Israel and prepares for a primetime address to the nation tomorrow.

Our correspondents are covering all the breaking news in the Middle East as well as here in the United States. First, let's go to CNN Anchor and Chief Correspondent Kaitlan Collins who's joining us from Tel Aviv. Kaitlan, tell us more about the president's Oval Office address tomorrow night and what he's saying now about his trip to Israel.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's notable what the White House, Wolf, said that President Biden is going to be talking about tomorrow night when he does make that Oval Office address at 8:00 P.M. Of course, that is obviously a venue that is typically reserved for the most serious and somber of addresses that any U.S. president makes to a nation.

They say he will not only be talking about the deadly attack from Hamas on Israel, of course, the center of the focus of his trip here to Tel Aviv today, where he spent several hours on the ground, he's also going to be talking about U.S. support for Ukraine.

Now, that is notable given what you heard President Biden say here today that he is going to be asking for an unprecedented aid package for Israel from the U.S. Congress. And what we've heard from lawmakers on Capitol Hill is this idea of tying aid to Israel to more funding for the war effort in Ukraine as there has been a concern that after the attack happened here in Israel that Ukraine would fall to the backburner.

So, it will be notable to see how the president ties these together tomorrow night. And, of course, Wolf, this comes as the president just spent several hours here in Tel Aviv where one of the biggest things that he was talking about is where the blame went, where it should be placed for that explosion that we saw happened at a hospital in Gaza city yesterday. That is something that you saw some lawmakers come out and criticize Israel over it even though is coming out with steadfast denials.

It took about 24 hours or so before the president came out and cited his own intelligence, but he said he felt confidence in that intelligence. This is what he told reporter on Air Force One.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I can understand why in these circumstances they wouldn't believe (ph). I can understand that. But I would not -- you'd notice I don't say things like that unless I have faith in the source, in which I've gotten.

I don't know all the detail but I know the people at the Defense Department, who I respect, and intelligence community that I respect, it is highly improbable that Israel did that.


COLLINS: It has been very explicit from the White House, Wolf, they do not believe Israel is behind this. They're not just citing what Israel is saying. They're also citing their own analysis from the Pentagon.

And, Wolf, I mean, you know from covering the White House how rare it is for presidents to come back and speak to press on Air Force One. It's almost unheard of for President Biden to do what he did. They are speaking on camera to reporters on the plane. But he did make some other news. He had just gotten off the phone with the president of Egypt, someone he was supposed to meet with in person, but that trip had gotten canceled after he was supposed to go to Jordan.


He said the president has agreed to open up the Rafah crossing, the connection between Egypt and Gaza, to let up to 20 trucks full of humanitarian assistance into Gaza. That, of course, is incredibly significant. That has not happened so far. We'll be waiting to see when that happens, but it would be groundbreaking if that assistance is allowed across, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that would be so important. Kaitlan Collins reporting for us, Kaitlan, thank you. And Kaitlan, of course, will have much more from Israel later tonight on her show, The Source, that's at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.

Tonight, the Israeli military is warning that its war against Hamas it will not be short, but it's unclear how or if the battle plan is being altered by that Gaza hospital explosion, as Israel and the Palestinians continue to trade blame for that deadly blast.

Let's go to CNN's Erin Burnett, who's also in Tel Aviv for us tonight. Erin, what more are we learning about the back and forth over who's behind that deadly hospital blast in Gaza?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, as you know, the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces have put out detailed explanations of signal interceptions that they say they have where members of Islamic Jihad discussed the misfiring of a rocket and striking the hospital. They put out the actual rocket trajectories and they're going to great lengths. They understand what's at stake, right?

These are the trajectories that they put out. They're putting out a map of all the misfired rockets since this war began 12 days ago. Obviously, that's not going to convince people in the Arab world about what happened but they obviously feel that this is very crucial.

And we'll say, Wolf, talking to sources in the IDF, they have great frustration. They say when people talk about what happened to babies on October 7th, we had to put out the proof of what happened to those babies. What happens at the hospital, we have to put out the proof. And they feel that the world believes Hamas without question and that they are always forced to a double standard, as they call it. But, nonetheless, I think the Jordanian foreign minister on CNN, Wolf, said what you and I know to be the case, the Israeli military is saying it's not responsible, but, to be honest, try and to find anybody who's going to believe it in this part of the world, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Erin, while the world waits to see what happens next, there are still Israeli families who do not know what happened to their kidnapped loved ones. Tell us about that.

BURNETT: Wolf, we have been speaking to so many of these families. And I think my greatest sadness is that only small parts of those conversations are actually able to air. These are people going through profound grief and loss. And when you're with them, as a parent, you truly can't imagine it. I mean, it is unbelievable the anguish they are going through.

And tonight, I was with the parents of Maya and Itay. So, they, literally, these two young people, 21 and 18, they were on vacation with their mother in Mexico for three weeks. They got back on Friday, October 6th, around 11:00 in the evening. They were so excited, they came back for the festival, Wolf. And they got to borrow their parents' car, drive straight down to the festival, as young kids do, through the night, because they never get tired, and they're talking about the D.J.s and they get there. And then it was at 8:58 in the morning that their father received a call from Maya. Here's part of the conversation I had with their parents.


ILAN REGEV, DAUGHTER AND SON TAKEN HOSTAGE BY HAMAS: I thought she was dead. I thought both of them dead, my son -- both of my child in the car. They kill me, they kill me. I love you, pop, I love you, daddy. I think that this is -- I have to bury the child.

I want to know if they're alive.


REGEVE: This is more important for me now.

We want to know our child and all the (INAUDIBLE) there are signs of life, something for us.


BURNETT: You know, sitting there, as I've said, it is a feeling and a sense trespass to be there with someone in such grief talking about someone that they love in their personal space as a reporter, but it is what they want. They want the world to hear it. When his daughter called, his phone, an Android, he didn't realize this at the time but I was showing you the time stamps, it actually recorded part of the conversation. And that's why you could hear her screaming, which he replayed because he wants the world to hear, even though he had not listened to it again since that morning when she called.

But, Wolf, those two children are missing. The IDF has told the parents that they believe the daughter is -- they called and said she is a hostage. So, they hold out hope and they say, right now, the only thing that has brought them a smile since October 7th is the fact that their children could be hostages of Hamas, and that is the level of anguish that they feel.


And I think it's so important just to remember, Wolf, in every one of these stories, it all goes back to this moment and it is so far from resolved for these hundreds of families missing their loved ones still tonight.

BLITZER: Yes, freeing those hostages is so, so critically important right now. It's heartbreaking to hear those stories. Erin, thank you very much. Erin, of course, will be back right at the top of the hour for her program, Erin Burnett Outfront. She's reporting from Israel.

Now to the growing anger across the Middle East right now after that Gaza hospital blast. CNN's Ben Wedeman is joining us from Southern Lebanon right now, right near the Israeli border. Ben, we've seen protests erupt in much of the Arab world right now. What's the situation like now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's late at night, so there's not much going on. But certainly during the day, we saw the second protest near the U.S. embassy. It's north of Beirut. There, yet again, protesters were throwing rocks, firing fireworks at the security forces. They were responding with tear gas and water cannon.

And, obviously, the situation in Lebanon, in particular, because of the potentially explosive situation on the border with Israel, is sending jitters throughout the diplomatic community. The United States has authorized family members of the staff at the embassy in Beirut as well as non-emergency personnel to leave if they so desire. The United Kingdom has just put out, an advisory to British subjects in Lebanon, saying that leave now if you -- because perhaps you won't be able to get a flight out of here afterwards.

Saudi Arabia, same message to their people in Lebanon, because, let's keep in mind, Wolf, that in 2006 when the war between Hezbollah and Lebanon began, one of the first things the Israelis struck was Beirut Airport, knocking it out of operation until after the war was over more than 33 days later. So, there does seem to be a fear that even though the focus is on Gaza that perhaps Lebanon may be next in this war. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Stay safe, Ben Wedeman in Southern Lebanon, I appreciate it.

Back here in the United States, U.S. officials are putting out more detailed information about the Gaza hospital attack and its assessment that Israel was not responsible.

CNN's Katie Bo Lillis is digging into all of that for us. Katie Bo, take us through the new assessment from the U.S. intelligence community.

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, so the U.S. intelligence community over the past 24 hours has been racing to analyze both overhead surveillance imagery, communications intercepts that have been provided by Israel, images of the blast site itself to try to sort of analyze what they can, about what they could see to try to determine what caused this explosion.

And they have now come to a pretty firm conclusion that the blast at this hospital was caused by a misfired Palestinian militant rocket rather than a missile from Israel.

And I'll share with you a statement from the National Security Council that we got just this afternoon. An official said that the U.S. government now assesses that Israel was not responsible for an explosion that kill hundreds of civilians yesterday at the Al-Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip. Our assessment is based on available reporting, including intelligence, missile activity and open source video and images of the incident.

Intelligence indicates that some Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip believed that the explosion was likely caused by an errant rocket or missile launch carried out by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The militants were still investigating what had happened.

And so, Wolf, now, I think the important thing for the Biden administration is to try to get this message out sort of as widely as they can in an effort to try to tamp down some of these anti-Israeli protests that have sprung up across the Middle East in response to the sort of initial belief that this hospital was struck by an Israeli missile, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Katie Bo Lillis reporting with new information, thank you.

Just ahead, I'll get reaction to all the breaking news from one of President Biden's top national security advisers, John Finer. He's standing by live.

Plus, a new CNN investigation into the extensive of intelligence Hamas carried ahead of its attack.



BLITZER: Now to a CNN investigation, new evidence revealing Hamas gathered extensive intelligence on Israeli targets before launching its deadly attack. I want to warn our viewers, these images are disturbing.

Our Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Matthew Chance has a closer look.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): These were the terrifying scenes inside. This Hamas gunman recorded themselves moving freely through the gardens of Israeli homes. Code red, code red, the Israeli loud speaker blares in Hebrew, punctuating the sporadic gunfire.

After the attack, Israeli first responders saw bullet holes and bloodstains in room after room in what looks like a coldly methodical killing spree.

But while hundreds of Israel Israeli killed, some Israeli communities managed to repel the Hamas gunmen and saved lives. The Kibbutz Mefalsim, also near Gaza, residents pushed back a Hamas attack and found documents on the bodies of the militants they killed with disturbing, highly accurate intelligence on their homes, including precise numbers of armed guards there, regional defense force, at least 20 residents, one document reads, and ten soldiers.

YARDEN RESKIN, KIBBUTZ MEFALSIM RESIDENT: They knew basically the size of our security team. They knew about other three or four entrances to the kibbutz.

CHANCE: It sounds like they knew everything.

RESKIN: They knew everything, where the generators are, they knew where the armory is, they knew about rural roads around the kibbutz.

CHANCE: Security footage shows how Hamas gunman killed an Israeli outside the kibbutz gates before being repelled.


Even with detailed intelligence on their targets, not every Hamas objective was achieved.

Nearby Kibbutz Sa'ad wasn't even attacked, although we now have documentary evidence that Hamas intended to inflict the maximum possible human casualties there and to hold hostages. A highly detailed street map found on another Hamas gunman and obtained by CNN shows individual buildings in Sa'ad identified and assessed for their military value. The communal kitchen, for example, is described as the main place suitable for holding hostages. Inside the guard room, the soldiers must be neutralized, the Hamas instructions say, while the kibbutz dental clinic is designated a place for first aid for both enemies and friends.


BLITZER: And Matthew Chance is joining us now live from Northern Israel. Matthew, what was the Israeli reaction to learning Hamas had gathered so many specific details on these Israeli communities?

CHANCE (on camera): Well, it was shock. I mean, we showed the maps to one woman in particular from Kibbutz Sa'ad the details which you've just seen, and she was absolutely astounding that a Palestinian militant group, Hamas, could have gathered that kind of detailed information about her home.

And so that's one of the big questions in Israel right now is how, how Hamas gathered that kind of highly specific intelligence about Israeli communities all around the south of the country.

And many of the survivors that we've spoken to, Wolf, say they don't understand how it could have happened unless there had been help from inside. And so, yes, it's a big mist mystery.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance, thanks for that report, very important.

Coming up, we'll get another live report from on the ground in Israel. Much more on all the breaking news right after this.



BLITZER: Back to the breaking news now. We're learning new details about the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Israel was not behind that deadly blast at a Gaza hospital.

Joining us now, President Biden's Principal Deputy National Security Adviser John Finer. John, thanks so much for joining us.

President Biden says his assessment that Israel is not responsible for that hospital blast in Gaza is based on intelligence, he say, shown to him by the U.S. Defense Department. Was that intelligence provided to the U.S. by Israel or was it information the U.S. had independently collected?

JON FINER, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thanks, Wolf. What I will say and I think it's important to not immediately rush to judgment on receiving these reports. And we believe that the severity of the incident and tragedy that unfolded, and President Biden has been clear about his empathy for the loss of innocent Palestinian lives in this explosion, merited a rigorous review, which is exactly what we undertook overnight last night based on our intelligence holdings, conversations with partners, overhead imagery and open source information, including photos and videos shot at the scene. And, ultimately, the determination was made that Israel was not responsible for this explosion and having a look at that information, I think we feel very comfortable with that assessment.

BLITZER: Was Islamic Jihad responsible?

FINER: We have not attributed this explosion to any particular group. Obviously, this is an incident we're still looking into, and we're going to continue to look into it, but we're not yet ready to make that call.

BLITZER: How close are you to making a final determination who blew up that hospital?

FINER: Look, what I will say is, you know as well as I do, that fog of war is a powerful force in making assessments about these sorts of incidents in conflicts, in which we have, frankly, much more access to the situation on the ground than we do in Gaza. So, I don't want to put this on a specific timeline. What I do know is that we are going to continue to look into this and continue to do our own review. And when we'll know more, we will say more.

BLITZER: I want to get your reaction, John, to something that Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said earlier today. Listen to this.


AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Everybody here believes that Israel is responsible for it. The Israeli Army is saying it's not. But, to be honest, try and find anybody who's going to believe it in this part of the world. People are used to this kind of denying things and then admitting them.


BLITZER: So, how big of a problem is it that so many people in the Middle East right now, in the region, believe Israel was responsible for that attack? How does Israel change this perception?

FINER: Look, there is going to be a significant challenge in this conflict with reporting accurate information, because, as I said, not only does the U.S. government not have access to the situation on the ground in immediate and direct way, but neither, frankly, do many international journalists and NGOs that would normally be rushing to the scene to gather facts and interview witnesses and make the determination for themselves.

So, really, the imperative is on all of us not to rush to judgment, to do independent reporting and analysis to gather evidence, to gather facts and then to make a determination. That's what the U.S. government did overnight, last night. We're going to be sharing our assessment and the basis for it with all of our key partners and allies, including the government of Jordan, and then they will ultimately make their decision.

But this is going to be a conflict in which accurate information and the prospect of disinformation is real and we're going to do our best to react only when we have gathered facts and can make what we believe to be an accurate statement about what happened.

BLITZER: Does the reaction from so many in the Arab world, John, to this deadly hospital blast complicate Israel's upcoming full scale invasion of at least Northern Gaza?

FINER: Look, what I will say is that there is a common reaction among the United States, I believe, among many Israelis and among many governments and people in the Arab world, which that this was a horrific tragedy. There was horrendous total in terms of loss of life and this conflict is one in which we are likely to see unfortunately that continue and that is something that the president has discussed quite directly with the government of Israel, with other governments in the region and something that's going to be a key feature of our work going forward.

We are very focused not just on solidarity with Israel and the Israeli people, which was a key aspect of the president's visit today, but on making sure that in this conflict there is the minimum possible loss of innocent civilian life.

BLITZER: Israel now says it will allow humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt. During negotiations from this deal, a source says Israel expressed concern over so-called dual use items, like fuel, coming into Gaza. How much ability will Israel have to deny the transfer of various specific items?

FINER: Look, there are a basic set of items that are going to be necessary for the civilian population in Gaza to survive. And we are going to make a very strong case, and the president did both today in his meetings in Israel and in many of his conversations with regional leaders that that material has to get into Gaza, medicine and food and fuel. Fuel, by the way, is not just for the civilian population. It powers things like desalination plants that help provide water.

And there is significant amount of humanitarian supplies that have been deployed now to Egypt and into the Sinai Peninsula and to el- Arish, which is the major city that's closest to Gaza. And as the president said, we expect those supplies to start to move into Gaza shortly.

BLITZER: John Finer, thanks so much for joining us.

FINER: Thank you.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us now from Tel Aviv. Andersons, it's been a day of fast moving, very significant developments. What are you hearing, first of all, about the humanitarian assistance the people in Gaza so desperately need?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Listen, certainly that has been something that came out of President Biden's trip. Clearly, pressure was put on Israel to agree to that demand. President Biden said that the U.S. will be giving $100 million in humanitarian assistance. But, as you know, there are already trucks from a number of international humanitarian organizations, the U.N. and others, waiting at the crossing point, the Rafah crossing point, waiting on the Egyptian side ready to go in.

Israel has, you know, reaffirmed their concern about those supplies being used just for civilians and the U.S. has said if there's any sign that those supplies are being taken by Hamas or other groups or ending up in the hands of Hamas, that there would be repercussions for that and a reassessment of how that aid is coming in and if more aid is going to be coming in and how it's going to be distributed.

But, certainly, from a humanitarian and even from a military standpoint in terms of Israel's interests, having as many civilians head south, that is something they have been urging, and, certainly, from a military standpoint, the fewer civilians in the north, in Gaza city, the better whenever their ground operation begins to launch.

We have seen hundreds of thousands, as you know, Wolf, as you've been covering hundreds of thousands of people moving down into the south, conditions are incredibly overcrowded there. I talked to a woman earlier today who moved down with her family, there's 57 or so people living in one person's home, one bathroom, sharing supplies, sharing what food there is. So, the situation in the south is dire in terms of getting food, medicine, supplies to people in need, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Anderson, I understand later tonight on 360, you're speaking to a mother and father about the search for their son who was kidnapped by Hamas. Tell us about that.

COOPER: Yes. This is a young man who they knew they had a still image of him in a bomb shelter near the Supernova Music Festival. They knew his hand had been blown off somehow in that bomb shelter, as grenades were tossed in. They had not seen any video of him other than the still image inside the bomb shelter taken from an Israeli inside the shelter. They've gotten more information. We're going to talk to them about what they've learned and why they feel it's so important tonight.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper, thanks very much. And Anderson, of course, will be back 8:00 P.M. Eastern for his program, Anderson Cooper 360.


We will be watching. Thank you.

Right now, I want to bring in Mark Regev. He's a senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Thanks so much, Mark, for joining us.

What can you tell us, first of all, about Prime Minister Netanyahu's meeting today with President Biden? It was behind closed doors. Are the prime minister and the president, President Biden, on the same page about Israel's war against Hamas and its humanitarian responsibilities?

MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: My impression of the discussions is the Americans do understand that Hamas has to be dismantled, that there has to be a new reality in Gaza, that the situation that exists up until now is simply unsustainable, that we cannot expect Israelis to live next to this terrorist enclave dominated by Hamas, who exposed itself for all its brutality for everyone to see, and as you reported just a moment ago about their plans to kill people in Israel.

At the same time, as we pursue this relentless campaign against Hamas, we will be a making distinction between Hamas and its fighters and terrorist machine and between the civilian population of Gaza. And I think in the principles, we' agreed with the Americans and others, and we are -- as Anderson reported, we are encouraging people to move south, to move out of the heavy fighting we expect to be in the north. And at the same time, of course, we understand that those people moving to the south will require humanitarian assistance and we've okayed the idea that that assistance come through the Gaza crossing.

There are, of course, issues, fuel-purpose items and the fact that Hamas is quite possibly going to, again, try to steal some of the aid for its own military mission, I should say. And it's important that safeguards are put in place to prevent that or at least to limit that.

BLITZER: President Biden says he got what he calls no pushback on his request that Israel allow this humanitarian aid through Egypt into Gaza. Can you confirm that? Will that much needed aid enter Gaza soon and in significant numbers?

REGEV: So, once again, we've agreed to that in principle, but sometimes the devil is in the details. And the president himself spoke about the fact that we don't want to see Hamas stealing aid that's directed towards the civilian population.

And, Wolf, it's a real problem. We had an example earlier this week. CNN reported that those six oil tankers entered Gaza with fuel that was supposed to go to Gaza hospitals to run the generators so they could have electric power and there was clear documented evidence that Hamas stole some of that fuel, and our assumption has to be that that was diverted to Hamas' military mission.

BLITZER: Israel says it's not responsible for the Gaza hospital blast, that it was a failed rocket from Islamic Jihad. But the Jordanian foreign prime minister still blames Israel and says no one in the Arab world will believe otherwise. How does Israel change that very widespread perception?

REGEV: So, I'm not sure we can because the evidence is overwhelming and the U.S. government, as we just heard, has come out strongly in support of Israel's contention, that it was a rocket that went stray, an Islamic Jihad rocket that was fired into Israel, fell short. It was a malfunction in the rocket, fell short and it hit the hospital, the area of the hospital.

This is not new. We've seen this sort of malfunction in Islamic Jihad rockets before. There was another case in 2022 when there was a family that was killed in a refugee camp in Gaza. Once again, a missile shot into Israel, malfunctioning, and landing in Gaza and killing people.

But you asked a more important question. The truth is Israel was, of course, not involved, but will people believe it? And, of course, that is difficult. But I think and I think, Wolf, you might tend to agree with me, you know the region well, there can be a difference between what Arab governments know and what they can say publicly.

I believe Arab governments who work with the west who are -- have all sort of defense and security relationships with the United States, that they can't ignore reality. Whether they can say that publicly to their people or not with the feeling on the Arab street and so forth, that I don't know, but I think the evidence is overwhelming that Israel obviously was not involved and that that evidence, I think in leaderships across the Arab world, I think that's pretty clear that they will accept that.

BLITZER: Mark Regev, thanks so much for joining us.

REGEV: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll get an update from Capitol Hill as Republican Congressman Jim Jordan once again falls short of the speakership in the House.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news here in the United States as well, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan falling short once again in his quest to become the next speaker of the House. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is live outside of Jim Jordan's office up on Capitol Hill. So, Manu, what's the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim Jordan is meeting with some key supporters at the moment, trying to figure out whether there's a path for the speakership. At the moment, though, there is not, Wolf, in fact, losing 22 Republican votes today, when he can only lose -- afford to lose four.

This comes after those 20 votes on the first ballot yesterday. He planned to push forward for a third ballot tomorrow. But I am told by multiple sources that he's expected to lose even more on that. This all comes as Republican frustration is growing as they weigh a fallback option, potentially empowering Patrick McHenry as the interim speaker, something that has divided the Republican conference as they struggle to figure out a way forward.



REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): I'm getting calling from constituents saying what the hell is going on with you Republicans. Why can't you -- why can't you just seem to agree on something? It just seems like we are, I'm going to -- I don't want to say lost, we're dysfunctional right now.

REP. MIKE WALTZ (R-FL): My question to those who started all of this, the eight who started all of this, what was your plan? Clearly, you didn't have one. Now we're in total chaos and now people are talking about handing a majority over to the Democrats. And that's unacceptable.


RAJU: This comes as some Republican opponents of Jim Jordan have received death threats, including Congressman Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa voted for Jordan yesterday, against him today. She just put out a statement saying she has received incredible death threats and she said that she will not accept any bullying as these threats she says she's reported to law enforcement and is raising serious concerns about the aftermath of that vote today, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll follow and see what happens tomorrow. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Coming up, the Arab world exploding into anger and protest as Israel's war against Hamas escalates and the civilian toll grows. We'll have much more on the breaking news, right after this.



BLITZER: We're getting new reaction to the rising tensions across the Middle East, amid protests and clashes following the deadly hospital attack in Gaza.

We're joined now by a Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal.

Rula, thanks very much for joining us.

We are seeing these protests across Middle East after this deadly hospital blast in Gaza, even though Israel says it was not responsible and the U.S. intelligence community currently says the same thing. Does the U.S. assessment of any credibility in the Arab world right now?

RULA JEBREAL, VISITING PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: No. A lot of diplomats that have been talking to, they point out to the intelligence failure that happened before the Iraq war. They point out to WMD, the claims that those were fantasies, and then ultimately the region paid the price in terms of radicalization, refugees, destabilization of the whole region.

The region is on fire because they see America doing the same thing and they think that this time, the price will be even higher. The region is already weakened. It's already impoverished, but they also see the attempt to cancel the Palestinian issue whether it's in Gaza and they point out, Wolf, to what's happening in the West Bank, in the occupied territories, where Hamas doesn't -- is not there, where the Palestinian Authority will only recognize Israel, cooperate with Israel, yet they keep -- they are still under military occupation, and very often they are deported. There is settler violence.

Last year alone, 300 Palestinians died, 60 of them only last week. So they point to all those evidence, and the fact that there is no -- anything on the horizon in terms of a political solution. They point to that also is they are trying to cancel the Palestinians. We actually interviewed some scholars, Jewish scholars, on Arab television, who say this is a textbook definition of ethnic cleansing.

BLITZER: As you know, Rula, the rulers of Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority, cancel the face to face meeting with President Biden this week. He was supposed to be an Amman, Jordan. How significant is that, especially from Egypt and Jordan, two major U.S. allies in the region?

JEBREAL: It's very serious, and it should be taken seriously. That means the region is now moving to consider this on America's war. It's not only an Israeli war, it's America's war, and they are trying to distance themselves as possible, because they understand they will be paying the ultimate price.

What has been asked of them, if we follow the region, Egypt is very poor and it's already in a complicated situation. Jordan as well. So they fear that this will blow up against their regimes. The worst fear that they would be blamed for what happened to the Palestinians, which is ethnic cleansing.

BLITZER: Rula Jebreal, thank you very, very much. We'll continue this conversation down the road.

And we have more news. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Hamas has been using social media as part of its war against Israel, to spread propaganda and grow its audience. The social media is also being used to circulate misinformation about the conflict.

Brian Todd is on the story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Militants rushing across the Israeli border on October 7th, videotaping their assault on their targets. A first glimpse of how Hamas organized and carried out the attacks that day. This video, geolocated and authenticated by CNN, is propaganda produced by Hamas and posted on social media to flaunt the success of their attack.

IMRAN AHMED, CENTER FOR COUNTERING DIGITAL HATE: Using propaganda to globalize that jihad against Israel and Jewish people, and they are succeeding, because social media platforms are giving them easy access to a tour that allows them to broadcast to billions.

TODD: This clip in a Hamas video seems to show hostages against the wall. This video, released by Hamas's armed wing, the Al-Qassam brigades, purports to show a drone attack on an Israeli military post near Gaza. The drone dropping it timed IED on a remote controlled machine gun. Analysts say Hamas's social media following has ballooned since the war began.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hamas's audience on social media since that attack on October 7th, it's increased two, three, four, even fivefold on a platform called Telegram.

TODD: Telegram, a free speech platform that its founder says has more than 800 million users around the world. Hamas is banned from social media platforms like Meta, Google, and X, but experts say Telegram has lax rules and private encrypted messaging that's been very attractive to militants and extremists around the world. And Hamas is using Telegram in a very sophisticated manner to pushes its agenda against Israel.

CAITLAN CHIN-ROTHMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Telegram has allowed them to shape a net and narrative, to spread messaging to very large audiences. We have to remember the audience isn't just Israel. It's not just Gaza. The audience is the entire world.

TODD: But analysts say there's also a huge amount of misinformation circulating on social media about this conflict, including old video packaged to seem like it's new.

O'SULLIVAN: There was one video that claimed to show bombing and fire in Gaza. But that video was actually from a few years ago of Algerian football fans celebrating. It was actually fireworks.

TODD: But Hamas's ability to use social media to stoke fear is all too real. Today, a top European Union officials said he's asked social media platforms to prepare for the risk of Hamas live-streaming executions of hostages. "The New York Times" citing interviews with Israeli families and friends of hostages, reports that Hamas has seized the social media accounts of Israelis who they have kidnapped and posted on them videos of those hostages in captivity, and violent messages.

IMRAN AHMED, CENTER FOR COUNTERING DIGITAL HATE: Using them to taunt their families and the Israeli government, and that is just an example of how they will use extreme tactics.


TODD (on camera): Analysts say the big social media platforms are walking a fine line in the Israel-Hamas war. They're under a lot of pressure to eliminate misinformation in graphic violent content, but as one analyst says, there are also caught in a demand dynamic, where users want the latest most granular content about events on the ground, including terrorist attacks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much for that.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" live from Israel starts right now.