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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Secretary Of State Heads To Israel With Top Hostage Negotiator; Scalise Wins GOP Nomination, But Lacks Votes To Be Speaker; Festival Attack Survivor Recounts Horror Of Hamas Massacre. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 11, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Earlier tonight, Michael Oren, Israel's former ambassador to the United States, talked to me about a woman, who said goodbye, to her son, a soldier, who was on his way, to one of the kibbutzim, to gather the remains of victims, of the attacks, on Saturday.

"I sent a boy down there," she told Ambassador Oren. "And when I talked with him on the phone, he's a different human being today."

All wars change people. And this war certainly has, deeply, profoundly, for so many here, and in so many ways.

CNN's coverage continues from Israel.


Israel's war, against Hamas, enters a new phase, as Israeli troops are now amassing, along the Gaza border. This, as Hamas is still holding as many as 150 hostages, several now confirmed to be Americans. A former U.S. hostage negotiator will join me live.

And there may have been a vote. But tonight, there is still no House Speaker. Steve Scalise, nominated by House Republicans, to take the gavel, but it's unclear if he can actually get the votes to do so.

I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.

Good evening. This is a special edition of THE SOURCE. We are tracking two fast-moving stories, on location, tonight.

I'm Kaitlan Collins, in Washington.

My colleague, Anderson Cooper, is in Ashdod, Israel, where tonight, 300,000 troops are amassing, along the Gaza border, as Israel has continued to bombard Gaza, with airstrikes, today, and disturbing new details of Hamas' atrocities continue to emerge.

President Biden says that the terror group's attack marks the deadliest day, for Jews, since the Holocaust. And he reacted to reports of one of the more horrific details that we have heard. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It matters that Americans see what's happening.

I mean, I -- I've been doing this a long time. I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.


COLLINS: Now, I should note the White House says that he was referencing public reports. But it is still hard to even hear those words, from the U.S. President.

In Gaza, tonight, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding before our eyes. At least now 1,100 people, in the territory, in the Palestinian territory, have been killed. And all power has been shut off. Talks are underway, we are told, by officials, to set up a corridor, so that Gaza civilians could get out. But that's an incredibly difficult undertaking, and it's not clear where it will end up.

Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is also on his way, to Israel, tonight, with the nation's chief hostage negotiator in tow.

Right now, it is believed that up to 150 hostages are still being held, by Hamas, in Gaza.

The death toll, in Israel, has risen to more than 1,200 people.

And the number of Americans killed now stands at 22.

Among them, two brothers, who worked security, for their village, Amit, and Igal Wachs, who moved, to Israel, from America, to take care of their mom, who has cancer.

Deborah Matias, a mom, who was killed shielding her son, from the bullets.

And 34-year-old Danielle (ph) Ben Senior. She was one of the event organizers, at the music festival, that turned from a night that was supposed to be of revelry, into a scene of carnage.

I want to get right to Anderson Cooper, who is in Ashdod.

Anderson, I mean, those are just a few of the faces and the names of the 22 Americans that we know have been killed in this attack. I mean, you've been there. You're reporting from this country that has been consumed by grief. How is that impacting what you're seeing on the ground?

COOPER: I think this terror attack was such a surprise, on early Saturday morning. And it has taken days for, you know, people are still gathering information.

We're still hearing new stories, about what happened at near Oz, a kibbutz, or Kfar Aza, which we've heard about since yesterday. So, we're still learning about the kind of the full scale, and scope of this. And it's still going to take weeks, before the full picture is clear.

But the level of shock is felt everywhere. There's not anybody here, who does not know somebody, who has not been killed, or kidnapped, or wounded, or had a member of their family killed or kidnapped or wounded.


And there is shock and grief, and it is turning into anger, and to resolve. And, I think, we're seeing that of the buildup of Israeli troops. We're seeing that in the decision by, you know, there's now a -- the opposition party leader has now joined, into a cabinet, with Benjamin Netanyahu. That is a likely step, a likely important step, before any kind of ground invasion is launched.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean it just underscores the level of at least crisis that the Israeli government feels. I mean, the idea that Netanyahu, and Benny Gantz would do that is surprising to anyone, who pays attention.

But also, as we are seeing what is happening with those forces, I mean, the buildup of Israeli troops, along the border, Hamas is still firing missiles, into Israel, from Gaza. What's the latest on the fighting that you've heard, Anderson?

COOPER: Look, there's still this back-and-forth. I mean, there are still rockets coming in, from Gaza. As you know, those are often coming from residential civilian areas. Gaza is, with limited amount of space, reported from Gaza City, and you see rockets suddenly taking off, from a downtown street, then people get into tunnels and move locations. So, it's very easy -- very difficult to stop that, those mobile sites.

And obviously, Israel has been pounding Gaza with all, for days now. And there has been this buildup of troops. So, I think the anticipation is now that there is this Unity Government, as they're saying, or Unity Cabinet, that is one more step, to sort of open up the capabilities, to have a ground assault.

Nobody though is naive about what the reality of that will be, both from the potential, first, loss of civilian life, in Gaza. Civilians has nowhere to go.

And as you mentioned, there have been talks, about possibly opening up some sort of a humanitarian corridor, to Egypt. In pasts, the Egyptian authorities have not wanted to have an open border, with large numbers, of Gazan residents coming and staying in Sinai, and in Egypt. So, they will have to get on board with that. And it remains to be seen if that will even happen.

But it is -- nobody is naive, about what a ground assault, into Gaza, would look like, and the death toll that, could occur from that.

COLLINS: Yes, 2 million citizens, in an area of twice the size of Washington.

Anderson, thank you for that.

Of course, what has been happening in Israel and Gaza presents several pressing issues, for the Biden administration.

First among them is how to help rescue hostages, including Americans that are being held by Hamas.

There's also the intelligence failure, not just among Israeli intelligence, but also U.S. intelligence agencies, among the best in the world, who both say they did not see this coming.

The push to normalize relations, between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which would have been a huge breakthrough that reshaped the Middle East, now in jeopardy, tonight.

Joining me now is someone, who has been deeply involved, in all of these issues. Ambassador Robert O'Brien, who served as the U.S. Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, was also the National Security Adviser, for former President Trump.

Ambassador, thank you, for being here, tonight.

And given your experience, negotiating for hostages, I mean, you've been in these situations. Obviously, this is even more complicated, because there is this act of war, underway. How does the U.S. get these hostages home?

ROBERT O'BRIEN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: Well, so a large number of hostages, American hostages alone, and then you add the Israelis to it. It's a very complicated situation.

I was very pleased to see that Secretary Blinken is going to Jerusalem, to Israel's capital. And that he's got Ambassador Carstens in tow with him, the current SPEHA.

Ambassador Carstens is a career Military officer. I worked with him, when I was National Security Adviser. He's competent, and a very good negotiator. He thinks outside the box.

So, I'm glad we're seeing that diplomatic track, being undertaken, and doing it forward, in Jerusalem, and not just from Washington. That's important.

But we also have to look at other tools. And those tools are moving the hostage extraction and rescue elements forward, just like when we're moving our diplomats, forward, we need to move our specialized soldiers, and sailors forward, to execute rescue, in the event that the opportunity arises, with the intelligence.

And then, we need to look at how we're going to deal with the regional powers, and the message we're going to send to Iran, which has almost total control over Hamas, and what we tell Iran about their obligations, to make sure those Americans stay safe. COLLINS: But what is -- if there was some kind of extraction, I mean, what would that even look like, given the fact that obviously, Israel is striking Gaza, right now, with airstrikes. I mean, what we are told is that these hostages, U.S. intelligence believes is not all -- they're not all, together. They're in tunnels. They're separated. I mean, that's an incredibly complicated process.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we will probably never face something this complicated, in terms of a hostage rescue. And you can imagine the pain and agony that the hostage families are going through, as they think about their loved ones, being in cages, potentially being tortured, potentially being subjected to execution.


But we got to be prepared for opportunities, when they arise. We may not be able to get all the hostages in one swoop. But as the Israelis move into, to the Gaza, which is likely to happen, we're going to have the opportunity, potentially, to extract hostages, once we get some control, over the ground, with our Israeli partners. So, we've got to be ready to go.

COLLINS: Do you --

O'BRIEN: But you're absolutely right, Kaitlan. It's an incredibly complicated Military equation.

COLLINS: If they were going to embark, on something like that, which I mean, what we've heard from officials, defense officials, it seems far-fetched, at this point. I mean, they would need to rely on intelligence.


COLLINS: And I think there are obviously serious questions now being raised about what Israel knows, about what's happening inside of Gaza. So, how would that happen?

O'BRIEN: Yes. And I'm not suggesting that there's the ability to launch a rescue, at this time. My point is we need to be opportunistic. We need to be prepared, if an opportunity arises.

I think, right now, the focus is on Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Carstens' diplomacy. And there are diplomatic levers that we can use, with the Iranians, with the Qataris, with potentially with our Turkish partners, a NATO ally. And so, that's going to be the focus.

But we need to be equally prepared that if a Military option does arise, especially, in the chaos, and fog, of an Israeli incursion, into Gaza, we need to be prepared to get those Americans out.

COLLINS: You obviously used to be in daily intelligence briefings, as the National Security Adviser.

We heard from your successor, Jake Sullivan, who said the U.S. did not see anything, that suggested an attack, of this type was going to unfold, any more than the Israelis did.

How did Israeli and U.S. intelligence miss this, do you think?

O'BRIEN: Well, look, we suffered our own intelligence failure, after 9/11, 20 years ago. So, we know what it's like.

But I think what happened here is we've become a little bit complacent. Both the United States and Israel, we relied so much on electronic intelligence, signal intelligence, reconnaissance with our satellites. And those are exquisite capabilities.

But I think what happened here is the Hamas, and their terror sponsors, in Tehran, used old-school methods. They used runners and messengers. They did in-person meetings, and didn't get on the telephone. They met outside of Israel, in the region, the Wall Street Journal reports, in Lebanon, potentially in Tehran, and other locales.

So, our adversaries know our capabilities. And, in this case, it looks like they took advantage of our reliance on technical means, and maybe a lack of human intelligence, and used old-school techniques.

And maybe they learned from the mafia movies, if the FBI has a wire, speaking code, and meet outside the Italian restaurant, and avoid getting caught. And I think they used those sorts of very, very old- school methods that we've seen the criminal organizations use in the past.

COLLINS: Yes. And I should note, CNN has not confirmed that Wall Street Journal reporting. We've heard some, at least senior Iranian officials, were surprised by this. Of course, there's still a lot of questions there, given they have funded Hamas for so long.

Given you were in the Trump Administration, when the Abraham Accords were signed, and there was such hope for what that could mean, for the region, certainly from Trump officials?

And then, just three weeks ago, I spoke to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, about the idea of Israel normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia.


COLLINS: That seems more unlikely now.

I mean, do you believe that that deal is likely off the table at this point?

O'BRIEN: I'm not sure it's off the table. I think we're going to have an extended period of Israeli reaction, militarily, to this invasion of their country, and that the horrific killing that we saw.

I mean, this is barbarism. This wasn't war. I mean, killing babies and beheading babies and children? It's something we haven't seen, even from ISIS. I mean, this is bad.

And so, there's going to be a Military response. But I think in due time that diplomatic initiatives will take place.

And look, I applauded the Biden administration. I was glad to see Jake Sullivan, my successor, go to Riyadh, and go to Jerusalem, and obviously bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords, which would strengthen the Accords, and strengthen peace, in the Middle East. So, I think it's a worthy goal. I think we should continue it.

But there's probably going to be a -- I don't think it's off the table, Kaitlan. But I think there's going to be a pause.

COLLINS: A pause.

Former Ambassador, Ambassador Robert O'Brien, former National Security Adviser, thank you, for your time, tonight.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Still ahead, new CNN reporting, an Israeli official saying that Iran effectively gave the green light, for this Hamas attack. But initial U.S. intelligence, suggesting that it caught Iran by surprise, as I was mentioning.

Plus, here on Capitol Hill, Steve Scalise was picked by House Republicans, to be their nominee, for Speaker. But, right now, based on our reporting, he still needs a lot more support, to actually win the gavel. The latest, next.



COLLINS: And we'll get back to the ground -- on the ground, in Israel, in just a moment.

But here, on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives, still paralyzed by basic arithmetic and infighting, tonight. Congressman Steve Scalise won his party's nomination, in a closed-door meeting, today. Majority of Republicans, in the House, 113 of them, voting, for him, over Congressman Jim Jordan.

But here's the problem. Scalise needs 217 votes. And as we speak, in the building, behind me, and across this town here, in Washington, Republicans are still trying to find a way to get him, that additional yes, those additional yes-votes that it would take for Congress to elect a House Speaker, and to get back to work.

One of those Republicans that they are working to convince is here with me now, Colorado congressman, Ken Buck.

Thank you very much, for being here.

Can Steve Scalise get to 217 votes, in your view?

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I think it's going to be very tough, for him, to get there. I just want to say, Steve is a great guy, very honest, very hardworking, obviously has some health issues. But he is a really good candidate, for Republicans, to try to unify the party.

Very difficult, right now, given the politics going on behind-the- scenes.

COLLINS: And what you're referencing there, of course, for our viewers, who don't know, is he has blood cancer. He's been dealing with a treatment for that.

You just met with him, a few moments ago, as he is trying to get those additional votes. Did you ask him for anything? How did that conversation go?

BUCK: I felt the conversation went well.

I'm very concerned about Ukraine, and Israel, at this point. Obviously, Russia is involved, in the Ukraine war. And Russia is involved in supplying Hezbollah, Hamas. Iran also supplying -- Iran is supplying Russia with drones. Those countries are linked. And we need to make sure that we are aggressive and how we deal with all of those countries, not just focus on one particular area.

And so, that was my message, to Steve. And I thought it was well- received.

COLLINS: Did he make any commitments on bringing funding for not just Israel, but also for Ukraine?


BUCK: He did not -- he did not make a commitment to me. But I think if the Administration makes a strong case, I think, Steve Scalise will be on board, for that kind of commitment.

COLLINS: Are you still a holdout, right now? Have you made up your mind on who you would vote for then?

BUCK: I am not going to be the last vote against Steve Scalise. I'm not ready to support, right now, because I want to get a few more answers.

COLLINS: But if he was at 216, you would vote for him?

BUCK: I would -- I would vote for him.

COLLINS: OK. That's good to know.

One thing that you had struggled with, when it was Jim Jordan, and Steve Scalise, going into that meeting today, is you said, you would ask both of them, who won the election, and that neither of them would say that President Biden did.

BUCK: Right, the 2020 presidential election. And neither of them would say it before. And I don't think either of them is going to say it now.

COLLINS: Still, Steve Scalise was not prepared to say it?

BUCK: Steve Scalise feels very strongly that some of the Secretary of States didn't act appropriately, and he is unsure about who the winner is.

COLLINS: But you would still feel comfortable voting for him?

BUCK: You know, what are the choices, Kaitlan? That's really the bottom line. We've got some very serious problems around the world. And I think we need to find ways to move forward. It's not an ideal situation.

Kevin McCarthy wasn't an ideal situation. Kevin led the effort, to decertify the electors, in 2021, on January 6th. So, it is one of those issues, where you just have to do the best you can.

COLLINS: To get that aid to Israel passed, that you were just mentioning? I mean, you got to get a House Speaker first. How long do you think it could take before Republicans reach an actual consensus, to elect somebody?

BUCK: I hope yesterday. I really do. I think it's important that we act quickly. I don't see that happening. I think there's going to be some issues, towards the end of the week. And hopefully, we really get our act together.

COLLINS: Do you think it could be as soon as tomorrow or no?

BUCK: I don't think anything is going to happen tomorrow.

COLLINS: You don't think it'll happen this week?

BUCK: I don't know. By the end of the week, maybe. It may drag into the weekend.

COLLINS: OK. Congressman Ken Buck, thank you, for your time, tonight.

BUCK: Thank you.

COLLINS: And keep us updated, of course, on what that race looks like.

BUCK: Thank you.

COLLINS: Still a no, but if you get to 216, you said you'd vote for Steve Scalise.

We'll be back here, in just a moment, with the latest on-the-ground developments that are happening, in Israel. As we mentioned, 300,000 reservists are amassing, on the border, with Gaza.

But the U.S. and Israel, their venerated intelligence arms are still sorting through how this could have happened, without their knowing. New reporting suggests that the Iranians, at least some of them, were surprised. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: Ashdod is about, where we are tonight, is about 19 miles, from the border, with Gaza. And over the last couple of nights from here, all throughout the programs, we've been able to hear the impacts of shells, being fired, into Gaza, from Israel. Last hour or so that we've been here, it's been actually quite quiet. We haven't heard any of that.

Across Israel, tonight, community after community, tanks are mobilizing, troops are mobilizing, in preparation for Israel's continued response. For the Israeli reservists, called up, in historic numbers, they say, any ground operation, in Gaza, will be different, this time.


ALON KAMIL, IDF RESERVIST: Every person has lost someone. Every person.

MICHAEL, IDF RESERVIST: In Amsterdam till Wednesday morning, till -- Monday morning, I came here, you know, to enlist to the Army, and to fight those bastards.

KAMIL: I've been in all the campaigns, in the last 30 years. Never something like this.


COOPER: There remains the looming question of what role, Iran played, in all of this.

Multiple sources tell CNN that the U.S. has specific intelligence that suggests senior officials, in the Ayatollah's regime, or some senior officials, were caught by surprise.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR: We have seen no evidence in the intelligence that they were witting of it, you know, pre-aware, or were involved, in any of the planning, resourcing, or even directing of the operation.


COOPER: I want to bring in CNN's Matthew Chance.

Matthew, certainly, the Biden administration's position is that, or what their public statements are that, that Iran bears broad responsibility, for their support, of Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and others.

You spoke to an Israeli official. What was their perspective? MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, they agree with that assessment. Of course, it's not really disputed that Iran provides political support, financing, training, for Hamas militants, inside of the Gaza Strip. And so, that's where the two intelligence assessments, from the United States, and from Israel, definitely overlap.

There's a bit of a gap between though when it comes to the knowledge of Iran, the involvement of Iran, in this particular operation, which, of course, led to the death of so many Israelis.

What these senior Israeli official that I spoke to, earlier today, told me, is that he thought, and he believed, as a result of the Israeli intelligence that he looked at that Iran had effectively given the green light, to this operation.

Now, he was saying that, to clarify, he didn't believe that Iran knew, about the timing of this, or understood what the impact would be. But they knew that there was an operation, like this, in the planning, before the operation went ahead. And so, in that sense, it was in on it, and didn't do anything to stop it.

So, it's not necessarily a contradiction of U.S. intelligence. But it doesn't give Iran the benefit of the doubt, in the way that you could see the Americans are doing, so.

And remember, it's in Israel's political interests. They've been trying, for years, to rally support, behind the idea that Iran should be punished, for its interaction, with Hamas, and support for Hamas. And, I think, this is probably another iteration of that.


COOPER: What are you hearing from Israeli sources, about what comes next, in Gaza?

CHANCE: Well, I mean, look, the Israelis have been pretty clear, at this point, that they're going to take action, on the ground, in Gaza.

They haven't given exact time frame for that. But we've all seen the massive buildup, of Israeli forces, on the border, with Gaza. 360,000 (ph) reservists have been called up, and have been deployed around the country, or are in the process of that.

But look, I mean, no one's under the impression, this is going to be an easy Military operation. It's going to be a very tough one, and of a different order of magnitude than we've seen before, in Gaza, not least because of the density, of the city, in terms of its population, the network of tunnels, that run underneath it.

And the other complicating factor, of course, is that there were those hostages, a 150 or so hostages, inside the Gaza Strip. So, and that's got to complicate any kind of plan, for a Military operation, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Matthew Chance, thanks so much, tonight, from Tel Aviv. Up next, another story of survival, a young woman, who was at the Israeli music festival, where more than 260 people were killed, according to Israeli authorities. She was shot at, ran away barefoot, hid for nine hours. We'll talk to her next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COLLINS: Tonight, new details are starting to emerge, from survivors, of that Nova music festival, where Hamas slaughtered at least 260 people, so far.

As they ran for their lives, some of them had to resort to the most desperate measures, to find safety, including hiding under dead bodies.

Here's what one survivor, told my colleague, Jake Tapper, earlier today.


LEE SASI, NOVA MUSIC FESTIVAL SURVIVOR: As we got into the bomb shelter, there was about 35 to 40 people, who entered. When we got rescued, seven hours later, only nine to 10 survived. Everyone that came into that bomb shelter, I saw, get murdered, in front of my eyes.

I saw guts. I had flesh, all over my body. We had to bury ourselves, under these dead corpses, to protect ourselves, from these -- from these grenades, that were hitting, and from the rifles, and the RPG.


COLLINS: Hours, before they were rescued, hiding under the bodies of friends, and fellow concertgoers, it was a massacre. There is no other way to put it. It was a massacre.

Tonight, I am joined by another survivor, who also hid, for hours, while surrounded by Hamas. Shani Ohana joins me now.

And Shani, let me just first say, I'm so grateful that you're OK, and that you're willing to come on and talk about something, because these accounts of you, and others, who were there are just, they're difficult to even hear, much less to even imagine that you've lived through it.

Can you just start by walking me through what happened?

SHANI OHANA, SURVIVOR OF ISRAEL MUSIC FESTIVAL ATTACK: OK. First, thank you so much for your kind words. And thank you for having me.

So, me and my friend went to a party, just another party. The day before, I worked at the same location, at a different party. So, we came to celebrate my friend's birthday.

And around 6:30, I remember, just a few minutes before I took a picture of the sunrise, because it was so, so beautiful, the bombs started. At first, I didn't panic, because bombs, is something that unfortunately happens in our day-to-day life, in Israel.

So, me and my friend just started walking back to our camp, taking our stuff, making sure everyone we came with was there. And then, the Police told us to just leave everything, and just run that things are bad. There were tons, tons, tons of bombs.

So, we got in our car, and we started driving, me and one friend. We came to like a blockage at the road. We saw from afar that was -- that was Military, at first, we thought. But then, we heard people turning their cars around, yelling at us to run, because there's shooting.

So, we turned the car around, starting to realize the situation, we're in, texting my friends, telling me that there's shooting, at the party, trying to call another friend, not picking up.

We came to another blockage. People told us to go around that there's like shooting us, on the other side. We went by one of those bomb shelters, where horrific thing, where horrific (ph) things happened.

We wanted to stop. But we decided to keep driving. I called one of my friends, to make sure they're safe. And he -- I hear him running. He's telling me that they got ambushed, and they started shooting at them that he and my friend split up. And he started this -- that he's running, for like 15 minutes, and he's not stopping (ph).

The call got disconnected. And then, I started yelling at my friends, who was driving. I got panicked. I told him, "Just drive, just drive straight and don't stop."


And then, on the road, we were just like a few minutes before, we see -- I'm sorry. We see, on each side, three trucks, armed with Hamas terrorists, with weapons, starting shooting, at our car, while we drive, just straight, in the middle of them, by miracle, not getting hit by any bullets.

We're stopping -- the car is stopping on the side of the road. We go out. I go out without even my shoes on, and we just start running, into the -- into the fields. While they -- while they're shooting at us, we hear the bullets. We can feel them around our legs, and by godsend miracle, are not getting hit. We started to go like down this road, hiding, ducking.

And then, it started to -- we started to get like really far. So, we started to feel a little bit more safe. And then, I see on the other side, I see people hiding. And I see. And I recognize them. They were my friends.


OHANA: Again, a miracle from above.

We go and hid together inside of the bushes. And for the next, I think, between eight to nine hours, we just hear non-stop shooting.

COLLINS: Nine hours?

OHANA: Yes. We started hiding at 8 AM. And we got rescued at 5 PM. So, non-stop hearing non-stop shooting.

COLLINS: And Shani, you --


COLLINS: This video that you took, I just, I want our viewers to see it, because it's, you and I were just talking about this. It's video that you took on your phone, as you were hiding, in the bushes, for those nine hours.

And I just want to be quiet, for a moment, because you could hear the rapid gunfire, in the background of it.





COLLINS: I mean, Shani, I can't even imagine what was going through your mind, at that moment.

OHANA: Yes. So as far as I think the first hour, I couldn't even breathe. It was so stressful, because they were so close.

As far as the video that I sent you, I took about like, I think, four hours in. So, we were hearing it non-stop. We would hear them walking around us. We could hear them talking. We could hear them laughing, while they were shooting. We can hear the bombs because --

COLLINS: They were laughing?

OHANA: They were laughing, always, always laughing, always shooting and laughing.

COLLINS: Oh my god.

OHANA: Because, you could hear them, on their voices, that they're having fun, that they're like "Yes, we finally did this." Every car that passes by, we can hear the grenades, and the shooting. And it was just, just terrible.

I think, after a few hours, I just, I started, tried to disconnect myself, not think about anything. I couldn't even touch my phone. Even if I did have a little bit of reception, it was very, very hard and scary. Thinking that maybe we do we make one wrong sound, and they hear us, and it's the end.

COLLINS: Were you worried that you weren't going to survive?

OHANA: Yes, I was. There were a lot of points that I was worried that I'm not going to go back home that my friends won't go back home. I was just still trying to process all of it.

One minute, I'm at the party, having the best time of my life, with all the people I love and enjoy. It's a big festival that's that for like commit -- for a big community, you know? So, will everyone there, and know everybody. So, it's really excited. And it was sunrise. And it was beautiful.

And then, the next moment something like this happens. I still can't really even process what --

COLLINS: Yes. I mean.

OHANA: -- what is happening.

COLLINS: And to think that day started with you, taking a picture of the sunrise, Shani.

Shani Ohana, I'm so grateful that you're alive, and that you're with your family, and safe, tonight. And of course, we're thinking of you and your friends, and what you've gone through, and for everyone that's been lost. Thank you, Shani.

OHANA: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: And we'll be back, in just a moment.



COLLINS: Right now, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken is making his way, to Israel, tonight, as the White House says still 17 Americans remain unaccounted for. That is down from the 20 that they had estimated yesterday. They also said a very small number, they believe, a handful, in the words of one official, are believed to be hostages, being held by Hamas, in Gaza, tonight.

Joining me is Barak Ravid, an Axios Foreign Policy Reporter, who is deeply sourced, in the region, and has covered it for quite some time.

Barak, I mean, we also saw this news today that is major, if you're watching Israeli politics, Prime Minister Netanyahu forging this emergency government with the former Defense Minister. I mean, as someone who has covered this closely, how much does that indicate to you, just what a crisis this is, for the Israeli government?


I think that the Unity Government that was announced today is really a testament to how deep the crisis in Israel is.

Because Benny Gantz, and Benjamin Netanyahu are not only political rivals, they have so much bad blood between them.

And also, Benny Gantz's political situation, right now, is the best that he could ever dreamed of. In the last nine months, Netanyahu's favorability, as Netanyahu's favorability went down, Gantz's favorability went up.

And if elections were held today, Gantz will be the Prime Minister. So, for him, to enter the government, politically, is, I don't want to say political suicide, but it's not the best political move, to join the government now, and help Netanyahu.


But I think this shows what -- how deep the crisis is, if Benny Gantz feels that he has no other choice, but to join the government, at this time, and to be part of the decision-making at this really, really dark hour, in Israel's history.

COLLINS: Yes, it's certainly incredibly dark.

And the other thing that we're watching Barak is, Gaza is obviously a very densely populated place. It is twice the size of Washington. But it has over 2 million people, who live there. And so, obviously, that's a concern, if there is going to be this ground incursion that we keep hearing about.

What are you hearing from your sources about civilians being able to get out of Gaza before -- and the innocent civilians who live there?

RAVID: So first, unfortunately, and saying that with a heavy heart, I don't think that Palestinian civilians, who live in Gaza will be able to leave anytime soon.

The only negotiations that's taking place, right now, between the U.S., Egypt and Israel, is about some sort of a safe passage, a safe corridor to Egypt, for American citizens, and foreign nationals, in Gaza.

They are approximately 500 or 600 American citizens, in Gaza. There are fewer 100 foreign nationals, people work, the NGOs, journalists, U.N. workers. All of those people, the ones who would want to leave, might be able to do it.

The negotiations, as far as I understand, are making progress. Israel and Egypt have given their consent, in principle, to establish such a safe passage. But the operational details are very complex.

And we have to understand, it's impossible to get out of Gaza, right now, because all the border crossings are closed.


RAVID: And if a ground operation were to start, it'll be even harder. So, I think that everybody wants to do it as fast as possible, before the ground operation starts.

COLLINS: Yes. And, of course, the IDF hit the Rafah Crossing, in recent days. A lot of complex details to be worked out.

Barak Ravid, great reporting. Thank you, for joining me, tonight.

RAVID: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And here with me, on Capitol Hill, David Axelrod, former adviser to President Obama; and Adam Kinzinger, who represented Illinois, in Congress, for 12 years. Both are CNN Senior Political Commentators.

Thank you both, for being here.

Because obviously, what is happening here on the Hill is tied to what is happening tonight in Israel.

David, I mean, the chaos here has consequences. Because we've been hearing, from John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, who said, they're running out of runway, on what they have, when it comes to appropriations, for funding for Israel.


COLLINS: And for Ukraine.

AXELROD: Yes. You would think that this moment would bring some sobriety, to this place, and that the consequences would be obvious, and that the political consequences of continued chaos here would be obvious.

But there are people, in this Republican caucus, who simply don't care. And I think that's dangerous for our country. And it's dangerous for the world.

And, by the way, I'm old enough to remember, when Adam Kinzinger was in Congress.


AXELROD: Yes. When did you leave? January?


AXELROD: And in those days, when a Caucus met, and elected a leader, then the Caucus would close ranks, behind the leader.


AXELROD: And that leader would become Speaker that House.

Those days are gone. People are going -- and we have nihilists, in the Republican caucus. And there's no end in sight here.

COLLINS: I mean, you represented. You were -- you worked in these halls.


COLLINS: What do you make of what happened today? KINZINGER: I mean, it's sad, like I, you know, because what you have is, typically we had this. We would have people run for these leadership positions. And then, again, as David mentioned, somebody would win, and then we'd all go out, we'd vote together, because we have real work to do.

What you're seeing is the terrorist caucus, the legislative terrorist caucus, is continuing to do, what they did, when they got rid of McCarthy. They're going to do it now, to keep Steve Scalise from winning, because Jim Jordan is behind all this. Jim Jordan still wants to be Speaker, even though he lost his vote.

The sad thing is Ukraine is still occurring. We saw this incredible attack, in Israel, right now. You still have Taiwan. You still have North Korea, threatening South Korea. And we have these little fiefdoms that are getting in their little battles --


KINZINGER: -- because they want to raise money and keep fighting (ph).

AXELROD: And let's not forget. We're five weeks away from a government shutdown.


COLLINS: Yes. 37 days before the government runs out of money.


COLLINS: And, of course, influencing all of this, Donald Trump actually endorsed Jim Jordan for Speaker, something that he was advised against.


COLLINS: He was speaking, tonight. And he sought to tie his claims, about the election, to what is happening, in Israel, right now. This is what he said.



DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: And if the election wasn't rigged, there would be nobody, even thinking about going into Israel. The election was rigged, very sadly rigged.


KINZINGER: Can I just say, Donald Trump was actually one of the weakest foreign policy presidents, we've ever had.

Now, he talks stuff. And he'll say things like "This would never happen if I was president." Let's remember what he did with Vladimir Putin. Let's remember what he did when Vladimir Putin, attacked Eastern Ukraine. Again, he said this was brilliant, after he was president.

Let's keep in mind, Iran attacked Saudi oil fields. Donald Trump did nothing. Iran shot down one of our drones, the size of an airliner, costing $200 million. Donald Trump didn't react, and did nothing. Donald Trump projected weakness, with the exception of killing Soleimani, which was big.

But for him to say that all this is because he's not President, is not only just wrong. It shows that he's a man that is totally incapable of rising to a moment, when we would actually love to have a former President, show support, for the current president, as we're trying to unify, against a common enemy of America.

COLLINS: And put politics aside.

What do you say, David?

AXELROD: Well, Donald Trump, when this catastrophe began, the thing you could be sure of was that it was only going to be a matter of seconds, before Trump would try, and take political advantage of it, and make grandiose claims, like that. That's as predictable as the sun coming up, in the morning. And, I think, hopefully, people will see it as such.


David Axelrod, Adam Kinzinger, thank you both, for joining me, here, on the Hill.


COLLINS: Be right back in a moment. We have breaking news, right after this.



COLLINS: We have breaking news in, from the Israeli Defense Forces, who has just posted online, and I'm quoting from them now, that they are now launching an extensive attack, on many centers, of the terrorist organization, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. They say there are more details to come.

Of course, a note of caution, from our reporters, on the ground. This is not the expected ground incursion that people have been anticipating, could potentially happen. That is something they're anticipating, because you have seen hundreds of thousands of Israeli reservists, amassing, on the Gaza border.

Obviously, this is something that everyone is watching closely. You just heard us discussing with Barak Ravid, what they are doing when it comes to, whether or not there will be a humanitarian corridor, for the civilians, the millions of Gazans, who are still there, the innocent ones. That is one big question.

Of course, we will continue to follow all the latest developments, here.

Thank you so much, for joining us, here on THE SOURCE.

"CNN NEWS NIGHT" with Abby Phillip, is up next.