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The Situation Room
Loud Bangs Heard At Shooting Suspect's Last Known Home; Israeli Targeted Raid A New Signal Gaza Invasion Is Coming; U.N. Says Gaza Relief "Paralyzed" By Fuel Shortage. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 26, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There is no childhood left here for the more than one million kids now trapped in this hellscape and no way, Gazan say, to keep the youngest safe.
Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And our thanks to Salma Abdelaziz for that report.
Our coverage now continues with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Loud bangs were just heard near the last known home of the mass shooting suspect in Maine. Authorities conducting an urgent manhunt after 18 people were gunned down. A working theory now emerging about why people at a bowling alley and a bar were targeted.
Also tonight, a new signal that Israel's ground invasion is coming after the IDF set its tanks rolled into Gaza for a targeted raid, this as a U.N. agency says, its relief operation in Gaza is paralyzed by a lack of fuel with no new fuel provided in an aid delivery today.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get right to the breaking news on the manhunt in Maine and those loud bangs heard near, just recently, the suspected mass shooters last known home.
Our Brian Todd is at that address for us right now. Brian, do we know any more about the bangs and where this search stands right now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we do know that FBI personnel approached this house a short time ago. We just got here. One of our colleagues, Scott Bronstein, was here before me. He said a short time ago he heard several loud bangs coming from that house. That house is just over the ridge. We're about, I'd say, 250 to 300 yards away from it. You can see the roof of the house only over that ridge.
What Scott told us when we got here was that a neighbor told him that FBI personnel, as they approached the house, screamed, FBI, come out now, and then there were several large bangs heard.
Now, those could have been flash bangs and our Josh Campbell has said that that could be standard procedure whenever they approach any house, whether there's an occupant in there or not. But there has been some significant activity.
Police and FBI are still at that house and we've been pushed way back in this perimeter as the law enforcement has approached and at least probably entered the last known address of the suspect, Robert Card.
This comes as we're getting new information tonight about how this shooting unfolded and on the manhunt.
COLONEL WILLIAM ROSS, MAINE STATE POLICE: He should be considered armed and dangerous.
TODD (voice over): Tonight, an intense manhunt underway in Maine for the shooter who went on a rampage Wednesday night, killing 18 people and injuring 13 others at two different locations.
Hundreds of law enforcement personnel, by land, air and even at sea, looking for the suspect. 40-year-old Robert Card, an Army reservist who spent two weeks in a mental health facility this past summer and is still at large.
ROSS: We believe this is someone that should not be approached. At approximately 6:56 p.m., the Auburn Communications Center received a 911 call of a male shooting in Just-in-Time or the Sparetime Recreation Center.
Shortly after that, at about 7:08 P.M., the Communications Center received multiple 911 calls about an active shooter inside of Shemengees Billiards.
TODD: Shortly after 8:00 P.M., officials had released a photo of the shooter. And by 9:26 P.M., Lewiston Police received a call identifying the suspect. And then just before 10 P.M., police say they located his car.
Now an entire community is left in fear, being asked to shelter in place. Businesses are shut down and schools ordered closed through Friday. Witnesses left in shock.
ZOE LEVESQUE, SURVIVED SHOOTING: She was grazed by a bullet while we were running.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never thought I'd grow up and get a bullet in my leg. And it's just like, why? Like why do people do this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was holding a weapon. I just booked it down the lane and I slid basically way into where the pins are.
TODD: Others mourning the loss of family in another senseless shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you get anything that happens like this, you go empty. And it's just nothing, nothing you can do.
TODD: Many are asking, were warning signs missed? According to a National Guard spokesperson, the shooter was reported as behaving erratically at an Army training facility this past July. And sources say he made statements about hearing voices and wanting to shoot up a National Guard base. He was then transported to an Army hospital for medical evaluation.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): I'm sure there'll be a lot of review of this and a lot of analysis.
Was there something missed? Was he deemed a danger to himself or someone else?
TODD (on camera): And we have new information tonight, this from a law enforcement source who told CNN that a gun was found inside a car connected to the suspect, Robert Card. That gun is getting traces put on it right now by law enforcement.
BLITZER: Brian, let's stop you for a minute. I want to just go to a news conference. Local officials are speaking right now in Lewiston, Maine.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): At the state, local, and federal level, and everyone is determined to bring the killer to justice.
To the families of those who have been injured or killed, I know that no words can fully ease the shock, the pain, and the justifiable anger that you are feeling. My hope is that you will feel the solace and strength in knowing that you are in the hearts of the people of Maine and of people throughout our nation.
I'd now like to introduce the congressman, Jared Golden, who represents this area of Maine.
REP. JARED GOLDEN (D-ME): Thank you, Senator. Thank you to Mayor Sheline as well.
My name is Congressman Jared Golden from the town of Lewiston, representing the second congressional district. Some of you might not recognize me, because Congress has been so crazy lately. I haven't gotten a haircut in months.
Sometimes things happen that bring your worst nightmares to life. Yesterday, this is what happened in Lewiston. At a time like this, a leader is forced to grapple with things that are far greater than his or herself. Humility is called for as accountability is sought by the victims of a tragedy such as this one.
Out of the fear of this dangerous world that we live in and my determination to protect my own daughter and life in our home and in our community, because of a false confidence that our community was above this and that we could be in full control among many other misjudgments.
I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime. The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine.
For the good of my community, I will work with any colleague to get this done in the time that I have left in Congress.
To the people of Lewiston, my constituents throughout the second district, to the families who lost loved ones, and to those who have been harmed, I ask for forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.
In the days to come, I will give everything I have to support this community's recovery. Thank you.
STEVE LITTLESON, CEO, CENTRAL MAINE HEALTH CARE: Good evening, everybody. I'm Steve Littleson, the CEO of Central Maine Health Care, which includes Central Maine Medical Center here in Lewiston.
On behalf of the 3,000 professionals and team members of Central Maine Health Care, I too would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the events of last night. I would also like to acknowledge the compassion and the expertise and the teamwork displayed by the health care professionals in this community last night when called upon under the most extreme circumstances.
Just to give you the numbers, as we have them now, I know there's been some confusion and I would like to take the opportunity to just let you know what we dealt with and what we have currently in our hospital. All but one of the patients that were taken from the scenes last night were brought to Central Maine Medical Center. One was transported directly to St. Mary's Medical Center here in Lewiston.
Of those patients, two were treated and discharged. One of those patients was transferred from Central Maine Medical Center to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Three patients, unfortunately, passed away in Central Maine Medical Center last night. Of those, eight remain now and we have five patients who are in stable condition, three who are in critical condition in our critical care unit.
Just to give you a sense of the scope of what we dealt with within a relatively short period of time, last night within about 45 minutes to an hour, we had six fully staffed and running operating rooms at Central Maine Medical Center caring for the wounded and the victims.
The professionals that were operating simultaneously in those six operating rooms included orthopedic surgeons, general trauma surgeons, urologist, vascular surgeons, as well as anesthesiologists and support personnel.
I would like to also express our appreciation for all the support that we received and continue to receive, even through today, first, from the city of Lewiston, secondly, from law enforcement, we still have a law enforcement presence on the campus at Central Maine Medical Center, the other area of hospitals that came to our support. We needed blood transferred to Central Maine Medical Center very quickly, and two of the hospitals, Maine General and St. Mary's, accommodated us.
Maine Med in Portland stood by and was ready to accept patients, and as you know, they did accept one of the patients that we transferred to them. And also the various community partners that came to aid and support us last night, including emergency response personnel, personnel from Life Flight of Maine, and others.
As one of the councilors said to me before we walked in tonight, you know, often people underestimate our capabilities here to care for people locally. I think last night we proved that by working together, we can do just that under the most trying circumstances. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll take a few questions.
REPORTER: Senator Collins, is she going to be a panel member (ph)?
Senator, you just heard from Representative Jared Golden that he has changed his mind under the assault weapon ban. Would you do the same?
COLLIN: Well, first of all, let me say, that I think it is more important that we ban very high capacity magazines. I think that would have more input and more effectiveness.
We had an assault weapon ban, which I supported, that was in effect for ten years. It applied to, I believe, 17 or 19 styles weapons. Later, the late Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed an expansion that would have covered 157 weapons. And it was based not on functionality but on cosmetic features.
So, there's always more that we can do. I was a co-author of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which provided funding, for example, for red and yellow flag laws and for mental health clinics, which I think is important as well. So, certainly, there's always more that can be done.
REPORTER: Senator, a decade ago, though, you opposed legislation that limited access to expanded stocks and firearms capacity. Are you suggesting that you would do something different now?
COLLINS: I don't believe you're correct. For example, I was the lead Republican sponsor of a bill that would ban bump stocks, which had the ability to turn a semi-automatic into a fully automatic machine gun. And that legislation has not been enacted into law. There was an attempt to do it by regulation, but it was struck down by the courts. I still support the bump stock legislation.
The other thing that I think we can look at is, and I advocated, was to increase the age of which you could purchase a high capacity rifle from 18 to 21, the way it is, for a handgun.
REPORTER: Senator Collins, you mentioned, there are a lot of questions about the whereabouts of Robert Card. You mentioned a number of agencies searching for him. Can you offer any more details regarding the whereabouts of Card or how close we're getting to finding him?
COLLINS: I cannot because I don't want to jeopardize the search for him in any way.
I have talked extensively to law enforcement, and as I said, just very recently with the FBI deputy director, but I certainly don't want to jeopardize the search in any way.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) flag laws used in this case. You are a big advocate of them. Do you know if they were used in this case?
COLLINS: I'm sorry, I couldn't --
REPORTER: What yellow flag laws used in this case?
COLLINS: To my -- I don't know. That's a very good question.
REPORTER: Do you know that Maine got it right when it came to yellow flag?
COLLINS: Maine does have a good yellow flag --
REPORTER: Do you think it's true, as we are hearing, that Robert Card had mental health issues and he was -- the police put him forward for evaluation. You got it wrong.
COLLINS: No. I don't know whether there was a report to trigger the yellow flag law. It's certainly on the face of the facts that we have. It seems -- could you let me finish, please? It certainly seems that on the basis of the facts that we have that the yellow flag law should have been triggered, if, in fact, the suspect was hospitalized for two weeks for mental illness, that should have triggered the yellow flag law and he should have been separated from his weapons.
I'm sure after the fact that's going to be looked at very closely. Obviously, that's a state issue and I do not have knowledge of what happened in that instance.
REPORTER: Senator Collins, Mark Stone from Sky News, thank you for your time. I wonder if I can just ask you about the weapons again. Why do you think it is that you and so many other lawmakers in America believe it is right for Americans to have the right to own such high- velocity weapons?
COLLINS: Well, first of all, let me say, and I'll repeat it again, that for ten years we had a ban on certain kinds of assault weapons, and I supported that ban. And when George W. Bush proposed that it be extended for ten more years, I supported that effort, which did not succeed.
Later, years later, there was an attempt by former Senator Dianne Feinstein to greatly expand the number of weapons that would be covered by that ban, and it was based not on lethality but more on how they looked on cosmetic features. And I did not think that that was appropriate.
We do have a Second Amendment in our country --
REPORTER: And that gives people the right to own a weapon that powerful, do you think?
COLLINS: And Maine, I would point out, has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the country and has a long heritage of responsible gun ownership. It has also had a very low rate of violence.
What makes this crime so heinous is, in a typical year, Maine might have 22 murders. And last night, we almost approached the number for the entire year.
REPORTER: Does anyone here (INAUDIBLE) on the investigation to tell us? We've seen video of the FBI --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot talk on the Investigation Act, but thank you so much. And I appreciate your patience with us in this news conference. Thank you all. Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. So, there we heard Senator Susan Collins, the Republican of Maine, giving her thoughts on strengthening the gun control laws here in the United States.
I want to bring in, CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller, who's working his sources on this horrendous development as well.
Give us, first of all, your analysis of what we just heard from these Maine officials.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I think the discussion has started in a state with a leading Republican senator about gun control, about mental health issues, about red flag laws, about yellow flag laws. We go through this discussion every time we have one of these shootings.
And as Senator Collins pointed out herself, even after the Las Vegas sniper shooting, which was a horrific attack, where he was able to use a legally purchased assault weapon and basically turn it into a machine gun with the use of a bump stock, which gives it continuous fire, when she was one of those who tried to outlaw the sale of those, that bill is still sitting in Congress.
So, we still live in a country where gun ownership seems to take precedence over these public safety issues that keep rearing their heads again and again and again with the loss of so many lives.
BLITZER: Looking back on this individual, this suspect, John, there were plenty of warning signs out there that could have resulted potentially if the law would have allowed it for him not to necessarily get an assault weapon.
MILLER: Well, in all likelihood, he had those weapons before. Here's an individual who had never really had a run-in for the law. He had no criminal background. He had a drunk driving arrest back in 2007. But other than that, a good citizen and a citizen soldier in the Army Reserves for 20 years, an excellent marksman, a hunter, a fisherman, somebody who enjoyed the country up there in Maine.
But this summer, he had a mental health episode. That's where he said he heard voices when he was at Camp Smith in New York State at a training exercise. It's where he said he was having feelings about hurting other soldiers. And he got that command referral to a military medical facility where they did two weeks of observation and treatment and decided that he was okay to go and continue treatment outside.
Now, that's where we lose track of him, except we know this. He had that crisis over the summer. He then lost a job. He then lost his girlfriend. And we have learned by following the case and talking to people involved in the investigation and those briefed on it that the places he went to shoot last night, the bowling alley, was a place he often went with his girlfriend when they were together. The bar, Shemengees, was a place where we are told she was expected to be in a game tournament that night at the bar, which was employees night, where they get a 25 percent discount if they work in bars and restaurants. So they gather a crowd on that Wednesday night. These were the places that he targeted.
So, it is possible that with the crisis he had over the summer, the loss of the job, the loss of that relationship, that those were the three stressors that pushed him over an edge. The difference is he's highly trained and excellent marksman who is now on the run.
What we just saw there at that address where they're executing the search warrant, where my good colleague Brian Todd was, was this is a place that had connections to him. He had actually registered a jet ski at that address, not that long ago. Neighbors say they hadn't seen him around. But when the FBI is going to do an entry where he may be inside, where they haven't seen him come out, they've had it under surveillance, they're going to go in in what they call a dynamic entry, flash bangs that make those loud noises, announce FBI that they're coming in, do the kinds of things that would disorient the subject so they're not facing a guy who may still have an AR-15 rifle and a lot of ammunition.
So, they're executing that search warrant. They're looking for notes, computers, him, any other evidence they can find that can give them a lead to where he is.
BLITZER: Good point. John, I want you to stand by. We're going to get back to you, get back to our other analysts in just a few moments.
But I want to bring in right now Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's been outspoken on the issue of guns in America.
Let me get your reaction. First of all, Senator, thank you so much for joining us to this awful, awful tragedy in Maine. The U.S. has now gone through 566 mass shootings just this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. What's going on now? How do you see this unfolding?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, my heart is breaking for Lewiston and the community. Obviously, in Connecticut. We've gone through a horrific version of this in Newtown.
I mean, listen, this is just ridiculous. I mean, why on earth does this country extend a permission structure to mass shooters by handing them military-style assault weapons that are designed, literally designed, to kill as many human beings as efficiently and as quickly as possible?
It is not a coincidence that every single one of these individuals, mostly men who are having breaks with reality, go and grab themselves the same exact weapon. Why is it always an AR-15 or an AR-15-style weapon? Why? Because these are weapons designed to kill 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 people as quickly as possible.
We don't allow them for sale in Connecticut, but I tell you, I don't run into a lot of hunters in Connecticut, a lot of sportsmen in Connecticut. I don't run into a lot of people that just want to defend themselves in their home who feel that they can't do those things simply because they can't buy an assault weapon.
So, it's time that we get these off of the streets because it's difficult sometimes to find these needles in a haystack, these individuals who are having breaks with reality. Maybe we should have caught this guy. But at the very least, if they can't get their hands on weapons that kill mass numbers of people, we can save lives.
And it's just time for my Republican colleagues to wake up to that reality. That's where the American public is. I wish it was where my Republican colleagues were in the Senate and in the House.
BLITZER: Democratic Congressman Jared Golden of Maine just spoke at this news conference, which we had, in Lewiston. I want to play a key moment from his remarks. Listen to this, Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDEN: (INAUDIBLE) first to ban deadly weapons of war like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime. The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine.
For the good of my community, I will work with any colleague to get this done in the time that I have left in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator, what do you make of that?
MURPHY: Well, I don't know Representative Golden personally. I know that he's a pretty conservative member of the House of Representatives, and he is coming to the same reality that many others have, which is that these weapons don't deserve to be on the streets of America. You can protect people's Second Amendment rights, but just make sure that folks don't have access to the weapons of war.
But I wish it didn't take members of Congress to have to experience a mass shooting in their own congressional district to come to this reality. I'm glad that Representative Golden has made this decision. But why does it have to happen over and over and over again to have these conversions? This is what America wants. Republicans and Democrats think that these weapons should be off the street, and it's time that we get it done.
We just save a ton of lives if we said, you know what, these weapons belong in the hands of law enforcement and the military, not in the hands of civilians.
BLITZER: So, what do you think the current prospects are for actual legislation, Senator, addressing gun violence? Do you think the prospects are good that it could pass the Congress right now? Are you encouraged, for example, by what you heard from Congressman Golden?
MURPHY: I'm certainly encouraged. And I don't disagree with what my colleague, Senator Collins, said at this press conference. She noted that we did pass the first significant gun violence bill last year in Congress, this Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a bill that I wrote. It was opposed by the NRA. We got Republican votes for it. And, in fact, murder rates in this country have dropped since we passed that bill by double digits, 12 percent in the biggest cities all across this country. But mass shootings haven't dropped. And that is because these mass shooters, because they have access to these assault weapons, can continue to carry out these crimes.
Listen, I think that it's probably not likely that we are going to pass an assault weapons ban while Republicans are in charge of the United States House of Representatives. I don't know the new speaker. I don't know his views on guns. I'll cross my fingers and hope that he's reasonable. But it's probably going to take some elections before we can pass something like what Representative Golden is calling for.
BLITZER: Yes. We often hear about new legislation to pass greater gun control legislation following a mass shooting, then usually nothing much happens.
We know this suspect, Senator, was suffering from mental illness. Many Republicans have now responded by saying that shows we're dealing with a mental health crisis in our country as opposed to a gun violence crisis. How do you respond to that?
MURPHY: It's just not true. We have a mental health crisis in this country, there's no doubt about it, but we don't have a bigger mental health crisis in America than they have in other countries. There's no evidence that there's, for instance, more mental illness in America than there is in European countries or Asian countries, no evidence that we spend less money on treating mental illness than those countries.
So, why do we have a gun violence rate that's 20 times higher than all those other nations if we don't have more mental illness? Why? Because people who are having a break from reality in this country can easily, like getting a bottle of water, get their hands on a military-style assault weapon. Other countries don't allow that to happen.
And so the difference, the reason why America is a more violent place is not because we have more mental illnesses, it's because we just don't care about stopping people with serious mental illness or criminal records from getting guns like other countries do. And if we changed that, we would see a dramatic reduction in the number of homicides and mass shootings that we see.
BLITZER: Yes, people all over the world are watching and wondering what's going on in the United States of America right now. And they say that every time there's a mass shooting and nothing much happens to change the law.
Senator Chris Murphy, thank you very much for joining us.
I want to bring in more of our experts on law enforcement and gun violence right now, and, Andrew McCabe, let me start with you. What stood out to you from these Maine officials what we just heard at this news conference?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you know, I think what you're seeing, Wolf, is what we very frequently see in the immediate aftermath of a horrible, a violent, you know, gun-fueled disaster in this country. You see senators who are all of a sudden very aware of the positions they've taken in the past that have not helped this situation.
I think it's -- you know, it is remarkable that the congressman has pledged to change his position on how he votes and/or may pursue better gun safety laws in this country. But, quite frankly, the prospects are bleak, I think, for any sort of meaningful change with respect to things that most -- almost all American support, universal background checks, reasonable age limits for, you know, people purchasing things, like high capacity rounds and military style weapons, things of that nature, bans, returning to some degree of an assault weapon ban. So, you know, we have a Congress that can't -- it could barely elect its own speaker after many weeks.
So, I just think that the answer is we've seen many, many horrendous gun-fueled tragedies in this country, none of them have been enough to compel our lawmakers to make meaningful change. So, it's hard to understand how this one would be that moment. I hope and pray that it is, but it's hard to get your hopes too high.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Jennifer Mascia, you're an expert in gun safety in this issue of guns in our country. What questions remain about Maine's laws around gun safety right now?
JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the question is with a Democratic trifecta in the state house for the last five years, why hasn't Maine passed stronger gun laws? They're one of the weakest, most permissive gun law states in the northeast. There's no universal background checks, there are permit-less carry, there's no red flag law. But it's been lucky so far there's not a lot of shootings. They've never had a major public mass shooting like this.
There's a number of factors that go into that. It's a very sparsely populated state. It's very homogenous. There's more long guns than handguns because of the state's rich hunting traditions. But I spoke with someone in Lewiston today who said, the only reason it hasn't happened here is because we've been lucky, that's it. And this proves that this kind of gun violence is leaving no corner of the country untouched.
I have several questions about whether, you know, this short-term mental health observation was enough to trigger a gun ban. It's possible it wasn't. It's possible that it did trigger a gun ban, but the military didn't forward the paperwork to the background check system, which is what we saw with Sutherland Springs.
It's also possible that, you know, America is seeing how difficult it is to separate guns from people in crisis. You need specific laws to do that.
BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Chief Ramsey, you're the former D.C. police chief, the former police commissioner in Philadelphia. You know a lot about these situations. It's been, what now, nearly 24 hours since the shootings in Maine actually occurred. Is it likely the suspect, you believe, is still in the area?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I really don't know. I mean, they're continuing to devote their resources in that area. Obviously they're going to have more information than we have available to us. Night time is upon us now. So, being able to search a heavily wooded area like that in darkness is not something you wouldn't want to do, not against someone who's heavily armed as this individual.
So, we don't know if he's in that area or not, but they have to go under the assumption that he is right now because I don't believe they have any evidence to show that he's gone beyond the search area. But it's very possible. I mean, as 20 some odd hours have passed, he could be anywhere by this time.
BLITZER: Yes, let's hope for the best. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
And we'll take a quick break much more on all the breaking news right after this.
BLITZER: Tonight, Israeli forces appear to be laying the groundwork for an all out invasion of Gaza with a targeted tank raid on the northern end of the territory.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us live from Tel Aviv right now. Anderson, Israel, the IDF's spokesperson, I must say, says more raids are, in fact, coming, says that publicly.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. It's Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the IDF, talking about this pretty small ground operation that took place that they released a video of. You see a number of tanks, as they say, literally preparing the ground, flattening out ground. They say some Hamas gunmen were killed, also wanting to do some reconnaissance and eliminate any observation towers or reconnaissance posts that Hamas may have had in that area and any explosive devices.
They say it's likely this will be just one of several of these sorts of limited incursions that we'll be seeing over the next couple of days, however long, in preparation for an ultimate ground operation, Wolf.
BLITZER: As you know, Anderson, the IDF claims an airstrike by Israel in Gaza killed the deputy head of Hamas' intelligence arm. What do we know about that?
COOPER: Yes. His name was Shadi Barud. They say that they targeted two buildings. There's a video that they released of two buildings being hit in the Gaza Strip in Gaza City.
There was the video there. They say that Shadi Barud was the target of that strike and that he was the deputy head of intelligence. They say that he, along with Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, were the people planning the October 7th raid. So, they said this was somebody who was directly involved in the planning of the raid. He'd been a battalion commander for Hamas in the Yunis, in the south, earlier in his career.
BLITZER: All right. Anderson, thank you very much.
And we'll see Anderson later tonight on AC 360, 8:00 P.M. Eastern.
Meanwhile, near Israel's border with Lebanon, entire towns are being evacuated amid growing fears of attacks from Hezbollah.
Our Chief National Security Analyst Jim Sciutto is joining us. He's live in Northern Israel right now.
Jim, I know you had a chance to visit a frontline Israeli position right on the border with Lebanon, where troops are preparing for possible Hezbollah attacks as Iran issues a direct warning to the United States. Update our viewers.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Wolf, that's right. And it's clear that Israeli forces are taking the threat on the northern border extremely seriously, the possibility of a new front opened up by Hezbollah, of course, backed by Iran, tens of thousands of Israeli forces based in the northern part of the country.
They are facing threats from sniper fire, from rocket fire, and also the possibility of ground incursions from the Lebanese side of the border. And as you say, as a precaution, they have instituted mandatory evacuations of communities along the border. We visited one of them, Metula, and that's where I spoke to Israeli forces. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Do you believe people will be able to come back to a town like Metula again, or is it just too close to Lebanon, to Hezbollah?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that we will do everything to make them feel protected, to make them feel safe and to protect them if it's necessary in our life, with the price of our life. When I came here three weeks ago I saw someone who packed his last luggage with tears in his eyes and I asked him why and he told me I don't know if I will return here. This might be the last time that I will see my own house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The reason we didn't show that soldier's face is because of security. Israeli forces don't want them to be identified to make them easier targets for Hezbollah snipers across the border.
But one thing I will say Wolf as well, when you speak to the soldiers, I spoke to the mayor of Metula as well, the status quo is not sustainable for them. They want new and better security if and when residents are allowed to return. And when I asked them what that means, they want military action inside Lebanon. They want Israeli forces to go back into Lebanon to establish a buffer zone of sorts there so that those Hezbollah forces are not right across the wall, as it were.
But, as you know, Wolf, that would portend an extremely dangerous operation, perhaps as dangerous as what they might face in Gaza.
BLITZER: Yes, Hezbollah has a lot, a lot of rockets and missiles, as we all know.
Jim, I thought it was significant today that the Pentagon publicly announced 900 U.S. troops have been deployed or will be deployed soon to the Middle East. This speaks to the growing tension in the region, I take it.
SCIUTTO: It does, and also to the growing danger to U.S. forces. Because while Hezbollah has not launched a significant attack in the north, Iranian proxies have been taking frequent shots at U.S. forces based in Syria, in Iraq. U.S. officials I speak with expect that threat to continue. And they're deploying not just forces, Wolf, to the region, but increased missile defense because they want to protect those forces.
Think of that. That's Iranian proxies taking shots, endangering the lives of U.S. forces in the region. It's a significant threat and also a danger of escalation.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Jim Sciutto in Northern Israel for us, stay safe, Jim. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as fuel shortages cripple the relief effort.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: More now on Israel's war against Hamas, and the horrific humanitarian toll all the violence is taking on the people of Gaza. Tonight, the fuel shortage has reached crisis levels, paralyzing the release efforts, the relief efforts, as Israel blames Hamas for hoarding supplies.
Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us once again from Cairo, Egypt.
Clarissa, Israel still has not yet any fuel into Gaza. Is other aid getting in?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, Wolf, there were about 12 trucks of aid, that managed to go through into Gaza from, here and Egypt across that Rafah border crossing. Yesterday, only six trucks of aid.
So, these are really tiny amounts. Keep in mind, for our viewers, that before this war, more than 450 trucks would go in every single day. Now, the aid that those trucks do contain, water, medical supplies, food, is desperately needed. But as you mentioned, it's fuel that is really reaching an absolute crisis point now.
The primary U.N. agency that works inside Gaza, saying that they have already started now to ration their fuel, that they are stretching it out, that they have had to limit supplies of that fuel to hospitals, also to bakeries.
And that they will be forced if they don't get more fuel to completely suspend their operations tomorrow. We also asked them about the IDF's allegations that during the last three weeks, Hamas has stolen fuel from these U.N. warehouses. They said that they have no knowledge of that having happened. And that even if it had happened, the impetus is still on Israel now to allow fuel in, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, and to stop people from dying, which is what will happen, Wolf, when those generators can no longer keep the incubators, the ventilators, the desalination plans going, Wolf.
BLITZER: Clarissa, we now have both before and after satellite images, of four sites in northern Gaza, showing the destruction the area has seen, recently. Tell us about that.
WARD: So, this is the part of Gaza, Wolf, that two weeks, ago Israeli forces basically asked everybody to evacuate. And you can see the astonishing destruction. I mean, really parts of it look like a moonscape, if you will, just unbelievable damage.
And, that really bears testimony to the incredible, blistering, relentless punishing bombardment, one group that monitors aerial bombardment in conflicts around the world said that more bombs and strikes have been dropped in Gaza in less than three weeks, than the U.S. use in its fight against ISIS in an entire month in March of 2017.
So, this is bombardment the likes of which few conflicts have ever seen. And, certainly Gaza has never seen. And that is being borne out, in these images that you are seeing, but also in that incredibly high civilian death toll, Wolf.
BLITZER: Clarissa Ward in Cairo for us -- thank you, Clarissa, very much.
Coming up, I will speak with an Israeli man whose family is being held hostage, by Hamas. As he meets with officials, in Washington, trying to get the hostages release.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The Israeli army has now updated the number of hostages being held by Hamas, in Gaza, to 224. I am joined now by Avihai Brodutch. His wife and three children were abducted by Hamas during the attack.
Avihai, it's so painful to even hear your story. But I want to show our viewers, first of all, some pictures of your beautiful family.
Can you tell us how all of this, this horrific situation unfolded? And tell us how you're holding up?
AVIHAI BRODUTCH, WIFE AND THREE CHILDREN ABDUCTED BY HAMAS: Sure, well, it was Saturday, and you know, there was a massive attack of rockets and, you know, mortar fire in the kibbutz. And came outside, and I heard gunfire and to reach out and help.
And, I saw this little girl running over. It was the neighbor's girl, I recognized her, because she was -- with who we are, with my youngest son. She is in kindergarten, the same. She came running over, she was covered with blood. And I picked her, up I could see it wasn't her blood, and you know I
was she was all red. I took her. I realize something really wrong was going on, it wasn't the usual rockets that would get on the kibbutz. And it was something very different.
So I took it over, I went over to my wife, and headed over to see how I can help, in the kibbutz. And, that's when I lost touch of my family, my wife went into the safe room, we had a safe room in the house, and locked herself in, along with my three children and the girl, this girl that I found.
And you know, I was trying to do something, to help. And I got injured, and by shrapnel that hit me. And you know, I couldn't move, it I just sat down, and waited for someone to rescue me. And, going through this, you know, I was texting my wife all the time, the lines were down, I could text. And, she told me everything is, find everything is fine.
And around 11:00 a.m., there was the last text I got her. She said that they are coming in, and I haven't heard from her since. It has been three weeks. You know, I was sure they were dead, my family, because I saw was going on. And for a day in the half, I lived in the situation where my whole family was gone. But then, Sunday evening, about a day and a half later, I got a message from a neighbor, that saw them alive. He said, he saw them walking alive in the kibbutz. And with someone leading them into Gaza.
So, you know, I'm in this situation. I --
BLITZER: So, I know you had a chance, Avihai, I'm sorry for interrupting, but I want to get this question. I know you're in Washington. You had a chance to meet with the ambassador of Qatar to the United States. Qatar, of course, has been directly involved in these negotiations behind the scenes to try and release these hostages.
Are you hopeful at all for a deal to free your beautiful family?
BRODUTCH: Sure, I'm very hopeful, that's why I came here. That's all I have is hope because I have no information about my family. I just keep going on hope.
I met the ambassador. I have to say I felt very reassured by what he had to tell me, very encouraged. He is very strong. He's got a very strong personality.
I was really nervous when I met him, but he helped me calm down.
BLITZER: All right.
BRODUTCH: So, he is one of the really great persons, and I'm really thankful for all the things they're doing, in -- for the situation and for the hostage situation. BLITZER: Avihai, we just want to wish you good luck. We're hoping for
the best. Let's stay in touch. If there's anything we can do to help, we'd be, of course, happy to help.
Avihai Brodutch, thank you very much for joining us.
To our viewers, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.