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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Biden To Protesters: I Have Faith In Pentagon, U.S. Intel, On Gaza Hospital Blast Assessment; Biden Met With Hamas Attack Survivors, First Responders; Multiple Jordan Detractors Receiving Angry Phone Calls. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired October 18, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: For information, on how to help the humanitarian efforts, in Israel and Gaza, CNN's Impact Your World has gathered a list of vetted organizations, on the ground, responding to the crisis.
Go to CNN.com/impact. You can also text the word, RELIEF, to the number, 70-70-70, to donate.
CNN's coverage, in Israel, continues, with Kaitlan Collins.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE.
President Biden says U.S. intelligence agencies are backing up Israel's claim that it wasn't behind a deadly blast, in Gaza. He's set to deliver an Oval Office primetime address, on the war, tomorrow.
Also, in addition to that, still, there is widespread rage, exploding in the Middle East, despite that new information. Concerns about what that could look like, the far-reaching consequences of that are definitely being felt, inside the U.S. government, tonight.
Also, as money for Israel, depends on a functioning U.S. democracy, Congress has failed, yet again, to elect a new House Speaker. But the twice-rejected candidate, the Republican, still showing no signs of dropping out.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Good evening. I'm Kaitlan Collins, live in Tel Aviv, tonight.
President Biden is due back, in Washington, at any moment, after he visited here, earlier today. We have learned that he will be addressing the nation, from the Oval Office, tomorrow night, in primetime. He plans to talk about America's response, to the attacks, that Hamas waged, against Israel, and the ongoing war, in Ukraine.
The President spent a whirlwind seven and a half hours, here, on the ground. It was a historic visit, to Israel, during wartime, actually making him the first U.S. President, to ever visit Israel, while it was at war.
He met with Israeli leaders. And he also promised a new round, or a new humanitarian aid, to the people in Gaza who, of course, as we have been reporting, so desperately need it tonight.
Complicating Biden's visit was the blast that killed hundreds, at a hospital, in Gaza, right before he arrived here.
On the ground, in Israel, Biden firmly backed up Israel's assertions, that it had nothing to do with that blast, with the President saying that it was data, from the Pentagon, that reinforced his assertion on that.
Still, there was outrage, over the blast, that erupted before that assertion from the former President -- from the current President, I should note, across the Arab world, in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, and in Ramallah, in the West Bank.
This is what President Biden said, to those protesters, in the streets, today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I can understand why, in this circumstance, they wouldn't believe. I can understand that. And -- but I would not -- you'll notice I don't say things like that unless I have faith in the source from which I've gotten it.
I don't know all the detail. But I do know the people at the Defense Department, who I respect, and the intelligence community that I respect, and it's highly improbable that Israel did that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: It was a rare moment there, where President Biden came, to the back of Air Force One, to speak with reporters, as he made his way back to Washington.
And this came, as we were speaking -- and there is new footage, tonight, that CNN has determined this video that was shot by Al Jazeera, comes from an area just west of the hospital, where the blast happened, in Gaza.
The video appears to show a rocket misfiring. The IDF argues that this footage shows, it is not responsible, for that explosion, an assessment that was explicitly backed up, by the White House, not just in what President Biden said, today, but also multiple statements, from his National Security Council, tonight.
The sad reality, on the ground, is that a hospital, in Gaza, is not a safe place, for civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We're threatened to be bombed. Or, those who feared the bombing came together with their children, food, drinks, and took refuge in this place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I should note, CNN has geo-located videos, and stills, pictures from the scene, meaning that CNN has determined the rocket was fired, from an area, that is south of Gaza City.
When you watch this video, you can see that the rocket is seen, continuing to rise, but then later making a sharp turn, back toward the direction, from which it was fired. That is what experts say, is consistent, with a malfunctioning rocket.
The IDF and the U.S. National Security Council, both say that they believe this disaster was caused by a misfire, like the one you see, in this newly-confirmed video.
I should note, CNN is continuing to conduct its own investigation, into the blast, at the hospital. CNN has not made any final conclusions about that.
But both the U.S. and Israeli governments are pointing to new audio, tonight, which the Israelis say features two Hamas operatives, talking about what went wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMAS OPERATIVE #2 (through translator): They are saying it belongs to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
HAMAS OPERATIVE #1 (through translator): It's from us?
HAMAS OPERATIVE #2 (through translator): It looks like it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: For more, on how the U.S. reached this analysis, what it means, going forward, I am joined tonight by the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Beth Sanner.
Beth, I'm so glad you're here, tonight.
Because when we look at this and see what the National Security Council is now saying, in multiple statements, that I should note, being pretty explicit tonight. Can you just kind of walk us through how the intelligence approach -- intelligence community approaches something like this, how they make this conclusion?
BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Thanks, Kaitlan. It's good to be with you, tonight.
The U.S. intelligence community, along with the Military intelligence organizations, are going to do what is called All-Source Analysis. And that simply means that they'll take information, from all different kinds of sources, and combine them together, to corroborate what is going on. So, it's kind of rare that we would have just one source say, "This is what's going on." We're just looking at overhead.
This situation actually has, it seems to be, to have quite a few different kinds of intelligence, to look at. Overhead, open-source, which includes the film that you just showed, SIGINT, which is the intercept of that phone call.
And I also want to stress that the -- it does seem, in these comments, that the U.S. intelligence has its own independent sources, that it's looking at, and not relying on just the Israeli sources. So, when they use the word, "Highly likely," then that is about as strong as most analysts are willing to ever say about anything.
COLLINS: So, if that's as strong as analysts are ever willing to say, as far as they're comfortable going, is there a point, where the U.S. feels comfortable, saying it is a specific group, that is responsible for it? They haven't said whether it's Hamas. They've just said -- the President's phrase, earlier was Palestinian terrorist group.
Is there any phrase --
COLLINS: -- where they are comfortable, going as far to assign blame?
SANNER: Yes. So, I think that probably most of the U.S. intelligence is going to be based on that overhead, and the physical, looking at the physical blast areas, the size, and the corroboration with the open-source.
And I'm guessing that the only thing that leads the path to pitch, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is a smaller terrorist group, they -- that is probably only in that intercept. And I -- and so maybe the reluctance is that there's only that one source, of the intercept, that suggests that it's coming from pitch, but they can't actually prove that that is who it is.
COLLINS: I mean, the unfortunate part of this is that in the time that the U.S. was analyzing this, before you saw President Biden come out, and pretty forcefully back Israel, up on this, we saw a ton of protests. I mean, there is serious outrage here, in the Middle East. Part of President Biden's meetings, today, in Jordan were canceled, because of that.
Is there, any points, I mean, where even though the evidence is there? We've seen the video. We've seen what these two governments are saying. How quickly this conflict is moving, it doesn't seem like that is something that can kind of dampen that outrage that we're seeing.
SANNER: This is a great lesson for us, as Americans, just to think about this kind of misinformation and disinformation, and how quickly it can take hold, as being fact. I think we've seen that in our own situation. And we're going to see more of it.
In this case, that misinformation is pushing on an open door, because there's decades and decades of views, of the Arab street, of the Palestinian conflict. And the Palestinian question is just so different than the Israeli perspective. And they're always going to blame Israel.
And unfortunately, we had governments, in the region, come in, very quickly, and blame Israel, for it, without waiting for information. Part of that is because these governments are afraid of these people. They're afraid of the protests that are going on. And so, they don't want to stand up, to the protesters, and say, "No, you're wrong." And so, we can't expect that.
COLLINS: Beth Sanner, a lot of big questions, for this region. Thank you, for joining, with your expertise, tonight.
SANNER: Thank you.
COLLINS: I want to go live, now, to CNN's Matthew Chance, who is in Northern Israel.
Matthew, of course, you have been reporting on this. And we talked about all the demonstrations that we are seeing erupt, in the Middle East.
What is the latest that we've seen, tonight, now that you've seen the U.S. President come out, and make these statements?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the region is still very much on a knife-edge. And particularly, here in Northern Israel, we're right up against the border, with Lebanon and Syria as well.
And even on, calm days, there's a certain amount of tension, across that border. And these aren't calm days, of course. You've seen those protests, in the region, that Israel has massed its forces, up here and near Gaza, and is threatening a land invasion, of the Gaza Strip.
And over the course of the past 24 hours, for instance, we've been seeing multiple exchanges, of artillery fire, and rocket fire, here, between Lebanon, Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, and Northern Israel.
It hasn't reached the point of escalation yet. That's the phrase that Israeli officials are using, when it comes to describing the level of violence, up here. But if it does reach that point, or breach that point, then, there are large forces, from Israel, already here.
And Israel is absolutely enraged, of course, about what happened, last week. And they're not in the mood to compromise.
And so, look, the possibility of this conflict, spreading out, into the region, I think, is very high, indeed. And the diplomatic efforts have been underway, to try and mitigate against that. But it's still a very high risk.
COLLINS: Yes. Yes. And speaking of intelligence, you were doing reporting, on how Hamas was planning their attack, and what they were essentially using. I mean, they had an intricate level of knowledge, about where certain Israeli positions were.
I mean, what have the Israelis learned from that? How could they potentially use that maybe for their ground operation that we presume is going to happen, in Gaza?
CHANCE: It's astounding, the level of intelligence, the level of detail that Hamas fighters, Hamas militants had, when it comes to attacking, and targeting, those communities, in southern Israel.
We spent the best part of the past week, speaking to various sources, in Israeli government, first responders here, Israelis, who witnessed the attacks, firsthand, to really build up, I think, what was a very disturbing picture, of just how much intelligence Hamas had at its disposal.
I mean, first of all, on the amount of security, that Israel has, in place, in southern Israel, the number of security forces, protecting various Israeli communities, what various buildings could be used for, where the location of strategic assets were located. And also, some of that intelligence about what Hamas' intent was, the taking of hostages, the killing of hostages, things like that.
And so, it really does paint a very bleak picture, indeed, of just how prepared the Palestinian militant group was, to carry out these attacks. And I think that's a factor that the Israelis will have to bear in mind, if they are going to, it seems likely, stage a land operation, to root out Hamas, inside the Gaza Strip.
You can bet that Hamas are going to be ready, and waiting, for the Israelis, in those very narrow, winding streets of Gaza.
COLLINS: Yes. And the Israelis, the government has been warning today that could be a very long operation.
Matthew Chance, great reporting, thank you.
More on President Biden's historic trip here, to Israel. It was a wartime visit. We're going to speak with someone, who can talk about this, can talk about what happened, in that meeting, with Netanyahu, today. And not just Netanyahu, but also the newly formed War Cabinet. That's next.
COLLINS: President Biden is set to deliver a primetime address, about Israel, and the war, in Ukraine, tomorrow night.
We're learning new details, about his meetings that happened, here in Tel Aviv, today, including with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Joining me now is Barak Ravid, who covers foreign policy, for Axios, and is one of the best-sourced reporters, in this region.
Barak, on the flight back, you saw President Biden come back, something he doesn't often do. And he told reporters that he was blunt, with Netanyahu, in their conversations, today, the ones that did not happen, in front of the cameras.
What have you learned, from your sources, about what those blunt conversations were?
BARAK RAVID, FOREIGN POLICY REPORTER, AXIOS: Good evening, Kaitlan.
First, I have to tell you that I'm a bit jealous that you're in Tel Aviv, my home city. And I haven't been there for a long time.
To your question, President Biden, in the meeting, with Netanyahu, and in the meeting, with the Israeli War Cabinet, he tried to explain to them, I think, again, as he said, very bluntly, very directly, he told them, "Listen, the U.S. supports you. You have a lot of other allies supporting you, the U.K., the E.U., Canada, Australia, a lot of countries.
But if you want to maintain that support, you cannot create a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. So even though, I understand that, you're a victim of a terrible attack, it's in your own interest, to allow this humanitarian aid, from Egypt into Gaza."
And I think, and President Biden also said that he didn't get any pushback. The Israelis basically said, "Yes, we agree."
COLLINS: Yes. He said he basically got no pushback.
He even referenced 9/11, at one point. It seemed to be this gentle warning, where he was saying, essentially, "Look, we were so filled with rage, in the United States, following 9/11. And we made mistakes, as a result of that" kind of issuing this warning.
But the other thing, Barak, that was, we heard repeatedly, from Israeli officials, today, was warning, about how long they believe that ground operation is going to potentially take.
What have you heard from your sources about that?
RAVID: Yes. In the meeting with the Israeli War Cabinet, it's not only Netanyahu, told Biden that this thing is going to take time.
Also, Minister of Defense, Gallant, told him it's going to take time, and we're going to need the same U.S. support we get now -- we're getting now, we're going to need it for a long, long time.
And even, Benny Gantz, the new member, of this emergency unity government, former Minister of Defense, told Biden that the whole restructuring of Gaza, after Hamas has toppled? Let's see that it really happens. But if it happens, the whole process could take years, Gantz told Biden.
And Biden, one of the questions he asked the Israeli security cabinet is, "What's your plan? What's the strategy? Do you have any plan for the day after?"
RAVID: "Let's say, you do topple Hamas. What do you do the day after?"
And unfortunately, the answer that he got is that at the moment, there was no plan.
COLLINS: Yes. I mean, that is a big question here. What is the objective? What does that look like? And who's in charge?
Barak Ravid, I was wondering, when I got to the airport, this morning, why there was this huge photo of you, on a billboard. Now, I know why. You're the hometown king.
RAVID: Thank you, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Thanks, Barak. Great reporting. We'll have you back soon.
Of course, today was not just this day where the President was talking about what is going to come next, to tactically speaking with Israeli leaders. It was also a very somber day.
There were moments, at the end of President Biden's visit today, one of his lengthiest meetings that he had, before he came out, and made those remarks, as he was meeting with people, whose lives have been changed by, forever essentially, by that massacre, by what happened.
I'm talking about the families of victims, of the survivors, of that day, and also the first responders, who were there, on the ground.
One of the volunteers that Biden met with was Eli Beer. He is the Founder and President of United Hatzalah, which I should note, of course, is the largest Emergency Medical Service, here in Israel.
And Eli joins me now.
Eli, I'm so glad that you're here with me today. You can take a step closer, since we're here, in front of the camera.
I mean, when I saw you, in that room, today, after you'd been in that meeting, with President Biden? Our viewers know you, because we just spoke to you, a few nights ago. What did it mean to you, to have the U.S. President, here, speaking with you?
ELI BEER, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, UNITED HATZALAH (ISRAELI EMS ORG.): Well, I felt like any other Israeli, in the country.
We had the worst two weeks of our lifetimes. I've been living here, my whole life, more or less, seen the worst disasters, as a first responder, as a medic, in the United Hatzalah, which is all-volunteer organization. We've seen the bombings. We've seen the terror. We've seen car accident. If you put all them together, in 35 years, it's nothing compared to what we saw in one day.
And all of a sudden, the most powerful person, in the world, the President of the United States, comes into Israel, just to show his love and support. I felt I couldn't feel better. I mean, unfortunately, this stuff that I saw, and everything we saw, was so bad. We will never forget it. But he uplifted, literally, he uplifted the spirits, in this country.
BEER: And it meant a lot to me, and to all the first responders and, of course, to the country.
COLLINS: Yes. I mean, we've seen he's been very forceful, in his support of Israel, ever since the day that that attack happened.
And when you and I spoke the other day, we talked about what that day was like, not just for you, but for the other volunteers, and what they saw. What did you tell President Biden? What did you want him to know today?
BEER: Well, I wanted him to know that we, as United Hatzalah, we're not only Jewish. We have, in Israel, 7,000 volunteers. Almost 800 of them are Arab volunteers. And we have volunteers, in the scene, saving lives, who are Jewish and Arab volunteers, Muslims and Christians.
And unfortunately, we had two volunteers, who were murdered, brutally murdered. One was a Jewish volunteer, from Kiryat Malakhi, which is the city nearby.
And one was a paramedic, from Nazareth, an Arab volunteer, Muslim from Nazareth. And he was there. And he went to save people. And when the shooting started on him, I told the President, he did not run away. He stayed on the field.
And he was -- they caught him, and they found that he's an Arab, wearing this United Hatzalah vest, with a symbol of Israel on it. He's an Israeli Arab. And they murdered him in a brutal way. It took us four days, to find him. And the way we found him was terrible.
And then, we had another volunteer, who was a Muslim Arab volunteer. They hung him on a lamppost, when they found out he was an Israeli Arab doctor. And he was trying to save people. In the beginning, one of these terrorists, laid down on the floor, to make people think he's an injured Israeli. And the doctor showed up, to help him.
BEER: And that's when he jumped on him. And nine hours, he was hanging on a lamppost.
These were the most worst feeling, for anyone, in Israel, seeing things like that. And I told the President that we are all united here, in Israel. This is one country. We respect every human being, no matter who they are. And I feel like having America back us, having you come here, having the President of the United States show up, even for a couple of hours, we needed that little uplifting of spirits, here.
COLLINS: Do you feel like it gave you a bit of a boost?
BEER: Definitely. You know, we have a long battle in front of us. My son is serving in the frontlines. He's in Special Forces, in Israeli army. I'm very, very proud of him. And I have one son. And I want him to be safe.
But I -- we need to protect this country. And it's not only for Israel, protecting Israel from these kinds of people. Hamas is exactly like ISIS. And we all see it, now. We've seen this. For years, we're saying this. They're brutal, to their own people. They're brutal to the PLO, when they took over Gaza.
And if God forbid, they would have taken off? Their plan was to get to Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. We had a big miracle, on that Saturday morning, for many reasons that I realize now. They were planning to come here to Tel Aviv. They had the doors open.
BEER: And we know, by this miracle, we woke up, and we have to take care of the problem. And everyone, in Israel, is ready to give their own life. I, myself, I'm a peaceful guy. I don't know how many years, you're following United Hatzalah. We treated 5.5 million people. We never --
BEER: -- we never cared who we're treating, if it's Jew or non-Jew.
BEER: We come because we're medics. And that's the Jewish value of tikkun olam.
COLLINS: Well, Eli, that's why it was so great, to have you, on the other night, but then to actually see you, in the room today. And thank you, for coming back, over here, to talk about this. And, of course, we're thinking of your son, and hoping for the best.
COLLINS: Thank you.
BEER: And we, Israelis, all united. And that's what's important here. And I'm happy that America is united behind us. So, thank you so much. And the world too.
COLLINS: Thank you, Eli Beer.
BEER: Thank you.
COLLINS: And thank you, for what you've been doing.
COLLINS: Of course, Eli is just one of many, who has been focusing on this, seeing it firsthand.
Tonight, we're also covering what is happening in Gaza. Palestinian civilians still trapped there. They are in dire conditions that have been getting worse by the day. But there is hope, tonight, that help could be on the way soon. There's been a newly brokered deal, between Israel and Egypt.
We're going to speak to a United Nations aid worker, whose family is in Gaza, right now, about the hopes for that, next.
COLLINS: Tonight, we are waiting to learn, when humanitarian aid, is going to start moving, into Gaza.
President Biden said today that Egypt is going to allow, after a conversation he had, 20 trucks of humanitarian aid, to go through that Rafah Crossing. That is the only way to get into Egypt, from Gaza.
Joining me now, to talk about all of this, and whether the promise of the aid is going to materialize, is Hani Almadhoun, who has two dozen family members, who are in the Evacuation Zone, in northern Gaza, including his sisters. He's also the Director of Philanthropy at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
And Hani, I'm so glad that you're here, tonight, for Palestinian refugees, I should note.
Hani, the last time we talked, you talked about your mom, being so concerned that the two of you might not speak again, that she had you turn your camera on, during that conversation.
I know that your family is still there, your sisters. How are they doing tonight?
HANI ALMADHOUN, DIRECTOR OF PHILANTHROPY, UNRWA USA: Thanks for having me back, again, Kaitlan. It's, and I appreciate it, to be here, and glad I'm here. I hope it's better circumstances.
They're not doing too well. They're concerned. They're not feeling safety. I have two sisters -- two sisters, sheltering inside the hospital, right now. One sister is in a school, an UNRWA school. I have the family just stay in, in the heart of the Evacuation Zone, and able to move around. They have very little resources, right now. It's not good.
And I just worry for them, for their safety. I continue. I have conversations, here, with members of the U.S. government, about my family, to make sure that they continue to be safe. There is a bunch of kids there, 20 kids.
In the last two weeks, Kaitlan, I've seen, I think I've met every single Israeli citizen, in TVs, in America's TVs. And I hope we have some uplifting stories, from the Palestinian side. And I know that you have in me, trying to change that a little bit. But I'm just -- my heart is heavy.
Kaitlan, I went to the largest, the largest Jewish American administration, today, asking for a ceasefire, in Gaza. This was huge. We went to Capitol Hill. We held hands. There were so many amazing Americans, Jewish Americans, Jewish Voice for Peace, they organize the largest administration, asking for a ceasefire.
ALMADHOUN: And what we get is a humanitarian aid, where we're talking about --
COLLINS: But Hani?
ALMADHOUN: Go ahead.
COLLINS: When I -- I just I want to interrupt here, because when I hear you say that your sisters are sheltering, in a hospital, I mean, I'm just thinking, about how we started the show, tonight, talking about what happened at that hospital, in Gaza City. I mean, you must be incredibly worried about them tonight.
ALMADHOUN: Extremely so. The only reason that my sisters are in the hospital, because they have electricity and water. They went to a shelter, and they stayed for six hours, and they ran for their lives, because they don't have any services.
And a school today, the Al-Maghazi (ph), that's the middle area was bombed, where eight people were murdered.
And the only thing we make this about this, "Who did this? Is it Israel? Is it Hamas? Is it this?" And I worry that worry that nobody worries about the civilians. There is at least 300 people, who died in that hospital. But the question now, the narrative is like, "Who did it? This or that?" And it's unfortunate.
Look, this is a great country. I love that the President got to go, to their allies. But and aid, and Gaza needs aid, definitely, I appreciate that. Humanitarian, more of that. 20 trucks, that's not what they bring in two hours, in a regular day, in Gaza. This is better than nothing. But they don't have water. It is a real concern. And I'd love for the family to receive.
ALMADHOUN: They don't have flour. It is a problem, because safety is another issue. They would love the aid. But they also would love not to be bombed. COLLINS: Yes.
ALMADHOUN: And you're talking about 50 percent of the population under the age of 18. This is not -- I'm sure that we can agree that those folks have nothing to do with whatever Hamas did. And I hope that we can agree on that.
And I know that you're trying to tell the story here. And I love that you invited me in the show.
And I continue to pray for my safety of my family, especially my mother, who's 71-years-old. She has no place to go. They get prank calls, at night, "Evacuate your house, you're going to get bombed," and then "Oh, sorry, we're just joking around." And it's not human to do that.
And I appreciate that. We're all having a stressful time.
ALMADHOUN: And it's difficult conversation. And I've just, when I keep talking about it, I told the White House, I told the State Department, hopefully soon, we will have a ceasefire, so my family can catch a break, and all the civilians --
COLLINS: Well, Hani?
ALMADHOUN: -- be out harm's way.
COLLINS: I know. And, I mean, ever since our conversation the other night, I've been thinking about your family, who has been there, and especially what your sisters were going through, and the fact that they're now sheltering, in a hospital, tonight.
We're going to keep checking back with you, and keep checking, on your family. So, thank you, for telling us and updating us. Hani Almadhoun, we'll continue to check in with you.
ALMADHOUN: Thank you so much.
COLLINS: Also, coming up, tonight, Israel's ambassador, to the United States, his view of how the meetings today here went, high-stakes meetings. That's next.
COLLINS: As he flew back to Washington, tonight, the President repeated, to reporters, that U.S. intelligence shows, Israel is not responsible, for the hospital blasts that happened in Gaza.
Before the show, I spoke to the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog, about today's high-stakes meeting, between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
COLLINS: You heard President Biden come out, tonight, and say that he does not believe Israel is responsible, for that explosion, at the hospital, in Gaza. The U.S. National Security Council says also, based on its current information, that is what its assessment is.
Did the IDF -- did the Prime Minister Netanyahu share any evidence with President Biden, while he was here?
AMB. MICHAEL HERZOG, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES, RETIRED IDF BRIGADIER GENERAL: Well, we shared all the intelligence we have, and all the data we have, with the U.S. administration.
They have their own information. They have their own independent sources. They investigated and came to their own conclusions. So, both the President said twice, and the NSC issued a statement. I think the picture is clear.
And I say to everybody, those who rush to conclusions, verify first, before you rush to conclusion.
COLLINS: Well we saw how quickly, I mean, things really spiraled out of control.
COLLINS: The second half of his trip was canceled. We saw all of this unrest over this.
Given the heightened environment that we're in, how concerned are you about things escalating, into a bigger regional conflict?
HERZOG: So obviously, we are following very closely, what's happening in the region, and especially now, northern front, with Hezbollah. They are provoking us. There are daily aggressions, firing of missiles, of rockets, of mortars, the infiltration from groups, some of them Palestinian factions, green-lighted by Hezbollah. This is playing with fire. This is a very dangerous situation.
We sent deterrent messages, to them, and to Iran, the patron.
The U.S. administration has sent messages to them, through both words and indeed sending carriers, to the region. And we hope the message will sink in. We have no interest, in expanding the war, to additional war theaters. But we will not be deterred. And if they provoke us, we have to respond.
COLLINS: The other announcement that came out of this visit, by President Biden, was on humanitarian aid. He said that Israel has agreed, to allow humanitarian aid, into Gaza.
When do you expect that to happen?
HERZOG: So, that's correct. We discussed allowing some humanitarian aid, to go to the southern part of Gaza. There is a challenge that Hamas might seize humanitarian packages that go in. And we want to avoid that. And President mentioned it, in his speech as well. So, some of it will, we hope, will go immediately.
And we're also working together, both our governments, to establish a mechanism, for the inflow of basic humanitarian goods, like water, like medicine, like food, into Gaza. But we have to secure it with this. There has to be proper monitoring. We do not want to feed the Hamas war machine. And we will not do it.
COLLINS: So, who's going to be that monitor?
HERZOG: So, it depends. In the southern part of Gaza, there is a better chance of monitoring that. We are working very closely, with U.N. agencies, and in hope that they will be able to be on the ground.
But as President Biden said, and we agree, if Hamas interferes, and seizes, those goods?
COLLINS: Then the aid stops?
HERZOG: And the aid stops. Because we do not want to feed Hamas -- the Hamas war machine, as I explained.
COLLINS: And just to be clear, is any of that aid going through Israel? Or is it only going through Egypt?
HERZOG: The aid is going through Egypt. No aid is going through Israel, because Hamas cut all electricity lines, from Israel to Gaza, with its rockets. They destroyed the only passage, between Israel and Gaza. The Rafah (ph) passage, they destroyed it.
And this is a war zone. And you know, there's public pressure, here. People are saying we have 200 kidnapped, there. What about their humanitarian needs? It's a crime against humanity, to keep them. So, why open up our border? That's why we're focused on the Egyptian border.
COLLINS: OK. That's important. So, it won't be going through Israel.
COLLINS: But it'll be going through Egypt.
HERZOG: No. It will not go through Israel.
COLLINS: Another thing that the President said tonight was he recalled 9/11, of course, one of the worst tragedies, to happen in the U.S. And he had this word of caution, saying that, after 9/11, the U.S. was trying to -- he was saying, don't be consumed with rage, because he was saying that the U.S. was, and he said he believes the U.S. made mistakes, as it sought justice.
Is Israel, heeding that advice, from the President, tonight?
HERZOG: Look, people here, are very emotional, about what happened. What happened is national trauma.
In Israel, you've seen the scenes. We all heard voices. We have the people. It's a national trauma. It's our 9/11, and perhaps even worse, because of the nature of the -- this is not thousands of miles away. This is next door. And whole communities were wiped out.
But for us, it's not only about the past, responding to their attack, or their waging war, on us. For us, it's about the future. Namely, we have to make sure that we destroy Hamas' war machine, so that they cannot ever threaten us again, this way.
It's about restoring deterrence. This is a strategic matter, because if we do not win this war, we invite further escalation, further aggression, by Hamas, its allies, and its patrons, in Tehran.
COLLINS: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much, for your time, tonight.
HERZOG: Thank you very much.
COLLINS: Thank you.
HERZOG: Thank you.
COLLINS: And speaking of what President Biden is taking, from these conversations, today, back to Washington, with him, he plans to ask Congress, for what he says is an "Unprecedented support package" for Israel. The question is can lawmakers approve it?
We're going to ask a Republican senator, who just got back from Israel, where he stands, next.
COLLINS: The House remains unable to legislate, tonight, without a House Speaker.
But over, in the Senate, the leaders of both parties there, are pledging to spend the coming weeks, working, on what they say will be a bipartisan aid package, for Israel.
COLLINS: And I'm joined now by Republican senator, Bill Cassidy.
Senator, thank you so much, for being here.
There was this all-senators briefing, today, a classified briefing, of course, I know. But it was with top administration officials, on Israel. Did you see, were you presented, with evidence that Israel was not behind that explosion that happened at the hospital, in Gaza? SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): They said what the President has said, and what the Israelis have said, that the evidence they have, is that they do not think that Israel did it. That was based upon both -- well, let me stop there, because some of it might be classified, with some of it's obviously open-source.
What the President himself has said that from what he has seen, it was not the Israelis. So probably, I should leave it there.
COLLINS: OK. And when you were in that briefing, did you get any clarity about something that has been discussed, but not really, pinpointed, which is any role that Iran may have played, in that attack, by Hamas, on Israel?
CASSIDY: Well, when I was in Israel, I heard the same thing that I've been hearing, from U.S. officials, that there is no direct evidence that Iran actually knew, that they did not, so to speak, activate it. But they've certainly enabled it. It's over the years that both by training, and by transferring resources, to Hamas, that Hamas is able to do something.
Now, others say there's no way that Hamas would have had the sophistication of this, so that Iran must have been involved, specifically, in this activity.
But we've heard both from the administration, and what I've heard from the Israelis, is that they do not have direct evidence that Iran activated this.
COLLINS: OK. That's good to know. Thank you for clearing that up.
And you mentioned, you were just here, you met with not only Prime Minister, but also his Wartime Cabinet that we saw President Biden meeting with, earlier.
The President said he plans to ask you, and the rest of Congress, for what he said is an unprecedented support package, for Israel's defense. Is it accurate that you have heard that will be to the tune of $10 billion? And will you support that, Senator?
CASSIDY: Yes, I have heard that, but kind of through the Senate (ph) first. But I can tell you that the Congress wants to support Israel. And so -- but before I say I'm going to vote for it, I at least need to look at it.
COLLINS: OK. So, you would like to look at that package, first. Of course, there's a question, on whether or not it will be tied to --
CASSIDY: But I'm going to vote to --
COLLINS: -- Ukraine funding.
CASSIDY: But I will vote to support Israel.
COLLINS: Go ahead. CASSIDY: For example, let me give you kind of, you know, when we were there, meeting with the generals, and the others, in the Israeli government, one of the things they requested was humanitarian aid, for Palestine, for the Palestinians.
So, the Israelis were requesting, for the humanitarian aid. I assume that's in the $10 billion, because that's something that the Israelis are requesting for the Palestinians. And so, I like to see, is that request being honored? You see where I'm going with that. There's some things I know are needed. I just want to make sure they're covered.
COLLINS: Senator Bill Cassidy, thank you, for your time, tonight.
CASSIDY: Thank you, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: That's what's happening over in the Senate.
But the Speaker vacancy, on Capitol Hill, in the House, is still greatly impacting what that aid to Israel could look like. 15 days in, now two votes in, the chaos, still spiraling, in the dome, tonight, as a twice-denied Republican hopeful maybe trying for a third time, tomorrow.
We'll have the latest, next.
COLLINS: Tonight, there is still no leader, in the House of Representatives, leaving Congress, unable to do almost anything, seriously almost anything.
Congressman Jim Jordan could not get the votes, again today, though he tried. Yet, the plan, we are told, is to vote, again, publicly, tomorrow, hoping for a different outcome.
Joining me, tonight, is CNN Capitol Hill Reporter, Melanie Zanona, who's been following all of this very closely.
Melanie, I mean, it's gotten to the point, where it's not just he's not getting the votes. The question is what's he going to do? We're now learning that there is a death threat, for a member, who was voting for him, but then changed her vote, to vote for someone else.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, things are getting incredibly tense up here, as the GOP scrambles, to coalesce around a Speaker, and as Jim Jordan struggles to get the votes.
So, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, she is a Congressman, from Iowa. She's actually voted for Jordan, on the first ballot. But she flipped her vote, today, and voted against him. And after that vote, Kaitlan, her office says that she received credible death threats, and a barrage of threatening phone calls. And Kaitlan, she is not the only one. Actually, just before we went on air, Congressman Nick LaLota, another New York congressman, who voted against Jim Jordan, said he received threatening messages -- threatening message, I can't even really read on air, because there's so many swear words, and it's really disturbing stuff. But he says, "I will not succumb to these threats."
Now, this all comes, as there's been a really intense outside conservative pressure campaign, from conservative leaders, conservative media figures, urging people, to call these members, and urge them, to support Jim Jordan.
Jim Jordan, however, said he condemns these threats. He has not been involved in these arm-twisting intimidation tactics.
I caught up with him, earlier today. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): It should never happen. And it's -- it's just wrong. It's wrong.
JORDAN: And we don't want it to happen to anyone, any American, anybody, any member of Congress. It's just wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So again, even though Jim Jordan himself not involved, in these arm-twisting efforts, it does appear to be backfiring, and the opposition is only hardening, against Jim Jordan, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes. I mean, and just seeing this drag out.
I should note. I mean, I was told that, by a source, that this is something that even was brought up, during President Biden's meetings, with Israeli officials, today, the fact that there's still no House Speaker.
Melanie Zanona, we will check back in with you, again, tomorrow night, and see what the update is in. Thank you very much.
And thank you so much, for joining us, tonight, here, live, on the ground, in Tel Aviv. We'll be back here, tomorrow night.
Now, I want to turn it over to "CNN NEWS NIGHT" with Abby Phillip.