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Loud Explosions and Sirens Heard in Tel Aviv; Israeli Military Says 150-Plus Airstrikes Conducted in Gaza; U.S. Calling for Restraint as Middle East Tensions EscalateIsrael, Gaza Militants Exchange Fire in Escalating Confrontation; Gaza Tower Block Collapses after Israeli Airstrike; Air Sirens Sound Throughout the Day in Ashkelon, Israel. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:04]

ANNOUNCER: This CNN Breaking News.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: Good evening. If you've been with us over the last few hours, you'll know that we are following the latest violence in Gaza and Israel after an Israeli airstrike targeted a residential building there.

Here are the pictures.

Now, we don't know if the tower had been evacuated or if the strike caused casualties or a combination of both. The Israeli Defense Forces said they fired four warning rounds into the area. The building involved had more than 40 apartments.

This is the aftermath, as you can see.

Amongst the offices in there was one used by Hamas. The military wing of Hamas says it is retaliating for the attack by firing rockets on Tel Aviv, which in many ways is the red line that the Israelis say you don't cross.

As a result of those rockets being fired across, loud explosions have been heard in Tel Aviv. Some of those explosions are from Israeli Iron Dome Defense System intercepting incoming rockets.

However, one that clearly got past had hit a bus south of the city, three people were wounded including one child earlier.

Elliott is with me. Elliott Gotkine is in Tel Aviv.

Elliott, how successful is Iron Dome at deflecting and destroying incoming rockets?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Well, when I was speaking with the Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson this morning in Ashkelon, which was hit by a rocket overnight hitting a residential building, he said there was about a 90 percent interception rate, so 9 in 10 of the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel are struck down. Now, some of them, the idea of deliberately doesn't strike down if it

knows that they are going to land in the sea or if it knows they are going to fall in waste land or something like that, so it tries to just bring down those rockets that it feels are going to endanger civilians or infrastructure and things like that.

Clearly, the game plan from the militants in the Gaza Strip is to fire as many as possible so that inevitably, some will get through, and as we've seen with the bus that was hit in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv and in other kind of parts of the city and its undergrounds that some will inevitably get through, cause damage, and cause casualties.

Indeed, the death toll, at least on the Israeli side now stands at three as a result of the rocket barrages that took place this evening.

We've also got some updated information on the casualties in the Gaza Strip as well. Now, it seems that the death rate -- excuse me, the death toll there is 30, at least 30 have been killed according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip. They say 30 people have been killed since airstrikes began, ten of whom were children and say that more than 200 have been injured so far -- Richard.

QUEST: Stay with me, Elliott. Ben Wedeman, I'm hoping is with me. Ben is in Jerusalem. Ben, 30 at least dead in Gaza as a result of this building collapse, and frankly I am surprised that -- I will be very surprised if that number doesn't go higher. This is a massive escalation.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question about that and we seem to be in a situation where the tensions in Jerusalem feed into tensions in Gaza, which feed back into Jerusalem.

Now, right now you might be able to hear occasional bangs behind me. These are clashes -- not clashes, it is basically protesters with rocks and fireworks are being charged by Israeli Security Forces using lots of rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Just a little while ago we heard as those Israeli forces stormed into the Temple Mount or the he Haram esh-Sharif right behind me, and that has been the scene here in Jerusalem over the last few nights, centered in the Old City of Jerusalem.

But certainly what we're seeing is an escalation the likes of which -- and I think we've said this many times before and others as well -- it is very reminiscent of the situation in 2014, sort of on steroids in a sense.

The rate of escalation is far greater than what we saw back in 2014 -- Richard.

QUEST: Right, so let's stay with both you and Elliott, bearing in mind this escalation on steroids as you, I think, very well put it.

Elliott, what do you think happens now -- now that Israel -- the Hamas has lobbed dozens if not hundreds of rockets? They've cross a line. They've attacked Tel Aviv directly. What response does Israel do? And then when you finish, Ben, you take up your thoughts on that, too.

[16:05:31]

GOTKINE: Well, Richard, just before you came to me, we had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, the head of the Armed Forces, the head of the Internal Security Forces, the Shin Bet, all addressing the head of the nation.

Netanyahu saying that the terror organizations have and will pay a heavy price for their hostility, adding that this operation will take time, but together with determination, we will bring safety back to Israeli citizens.

Richard, I think that it is inevitable that after this barrage on Tel Aviv and that some of the rockets which obviously got through and caused casualties and injuries that there will be a forceful response.

And speaking with the IDF spokesman this morning, he said that they were prepared for all eventualities, that they weren't intent on escalating things, but that they were prepared for any eventuality, and I think the eventuality of Tel Aviv suffering a barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip would be one scenario which will, I'm afraid inevitably lead to a forceful response and we've heard from the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that that is pretty much going to happen.

QUEST: Ben, the ability of Hamas to inflict the sort of damage on Israel that Israel can inflict on Gaza is obviously -- they're just not proportionate. I mean, Hamas has sent over a hundred rockets in, and they're lucky if they hit a bus.

So in that scenario, whatever response Israel does is going to be deeply damaging.

WEDEMAN: Well, there's no question about it, but keep in mind, the huge imbalance when it comes to military capabilities. Capabilities across the board between Israel and the militant factions in Gaza and sort of the Palestinians on the ground here in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel has one of the best equipped armies in the world. Some of the best internal and external intelligence agencies, and you have on a fairly regular basis wars between Israel and Gaza, operations in the West Bank.

But as much as it might bring calm to the citizens of Israel, the problem is -- the fundamental problem here isn't being involved. Israel is strong enough to sort of isolate itself for a few years at a time from the problems that exist within its midst, the problem is of course the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem and the fact that the citizens of Jerusalem and the West Bank, they're not citizens of any country, really -- are without fundamental rights living in an area under the control of Israel.

We've heard Human Rights Watch call it apartheid and increasingly, many analysts and experts are saying, well, that's essentially the case here, and as long as that situation exists, you will have on a regular basis a situation that -- similar to what we've seen over the last few weeks, which culminates in a bloodshed the likes of which we saw back in 2014.

It's inevitable. It is part of a cycle that will continue unless it's broken by some sort of solution to this problem, which has evaded the international community -- Richard.

QUEST: Ben and Elliott, thank you, gentlemen. When there is more in your areas, please come back and report to us.

Meanwhile, the United States, in Washington says it is deeply concerned about reports of Israeli and Palestinian civilian deaths and calling on all sides to exercise restraint. The State Department says the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has spoken to the Israeli Foreign Minister to condemn the rocket attacks.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is with me. Condemn the rocket attacks maybe, but what will they say and do, Kylie, about the Israeli -- if anything, about the Israel collapsing of a 12-story building?

[16:10:02]

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the key question here. The Biden administration has continually from the State Department and today also from the White House called for de- escalation, right?

Secretary Tony Blinken spoke with his Israeli counterpart. That was his main message today, de-escalation. We know President Biden has been briefed on what is happening in Jerusalem and Gaza every day for the last few days, and he has told those who are working for him to engage with both Palestinian officials and Israeli officials.

But the question here is what more, if anything, can the Biden administration do? Right now, they continue to say that it is awful that there are any civilian deaths on both sides and call for de- escalation, but at this point, beyond that, there isn't much that the Biden administration has done.

We should note, however, that they have really been tracking this closely. On Friday night, 10:30 p.m., here Washington time, they put out a statement on it and have been consistently commenting as this has gone back and forth. But it is a fluid situation, as our reporters on the ground there have demonstrated over the last few days.

So it is a really touch and go situation when it comes to specifically what the Biden administration is saying beyond de-escalation.

QUEST: Right, but Kylie, the last four years had seen pretty much unbridled support for Netanyahu and the Israeli position. Now, Blinken is exceptionally experienced in this part of the world, and the President has decades of experience in foreign affairs. Where is -- besides offering unwavering support for the defense, security, and survival of Israel, where will they put the pressure?

ATWOOD: Well, that's not clear right now. I mean, it is blatantly obvious that the Biden administration from the get go hasn't put priority on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We saw them put special envoys for other areas in the world -- you know, Yemen and North Africa.

A tremendous number of envoys, there isn't one yet for the Israeli- Palestinian issue. They haven't put any Ambassador there and that is someone who would be able to kind of get on the ground there, talk to folks on both sides, see what more can be done.

But I think President Biden obviously was a consequential player during the Obama administration. He saw how little progress they made on this issue, and the Trump administration obviously picked up the baton and decided 99 percent, a hundred percent of the time with the Israelis.

So, the fact that the Biden administration is now even engaging with the Palestinians is a stated difference from what we've seen over the last few years, but what they're really going to do with that is really an open question. And as I said, without them prioritizing this issue, it's not really clear that the impetus is there for them to do much at all.

QUEST: Yes, I mean, it begs the question, do they want to? I mean, of course they would like this thing to stop and they want to have a ceasefire and they want to -- but it's whether or not, Kylie, they wish to expend the political capital, bearing in mind the leadership issues within the Palestinian authority along with the fact that Israel now -- I mean, yes, the opposition leader is now trying to get a mandate, but Israel could be facing the umpteenth election.

ATWOOD: Yes, and I think that the Biden administration has demonstrated up until this point they are going to say all the right things. They continue to say they that they are for a two-state solution. They say that is the only way.

But what they are doing beyond their words to act upon that is not clear right now. We should note their calls for de-escalation are important, right? And the White House said earlier today that President Biden has told those who work for him to also call leaders in the region.

Clearly, they are starting to engage with folks who are even closer to the escalating violence there to try to see if there's anything that can be done, but we'll have to wait and see what that amounts to in the coming days.

QUEST: Thank you, Kylie. I appreciate it. When you hear more from the State Department, we need to know about it. Thank you.

As our continuing coverage unfolds in in Israel and Gaza -- it's late night now -- we will be talking to people in Tel Aviv to find out the atmosphere and the mood bearing in mind the rockets that have been raining down on the city all evening.

This is CNN. Good evening to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:21] QUEST: In the last few moments, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu said militants in Gaza will pay a heavy price after rockets were fired on Tel Aviv. Those rockets killed at least one woman in the nearby town. Several people have been wounded after a rocket hit a bus. The pictures of which you can see there.

And the rocket attack on Tel Aviv follows the destruction of a 13- story residential building in Gaza. It's not immediately clear the level of casualties, but the military of Hamas and Islamic Jihadist vowed to retaliate for the whole incident.

Palestinian health officials say 30 people have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes, but we don't know exactly how that sort of breaks down between the various areas.

Mehul Srivastava is the Jerusalem correspondent for "The Financial Times." He is now in Tel Aviv.

Good evening, sir, thank you. First of all, the latest position as you can tell, have you heard any air raid warnings recently?

MEHUL SRIVASTAVA, JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT, "THE FINANCIAL TIMES": No, the air raid sirens were about half hour, 45 minutes ago, the last one, and they were on schedule. Hamas had made it very clear that they were going to fire rockets between 8:45 and 9:00. People were mostly prepped for it.

And so far, it appears that the damage was very minimal. We haven't heard more since then, but as you know, this is a -- it is a tit-for- tat thing. So, if the Israelis keep up the airstrike campaign, it is not impossible you'll see some more before the morning.

QUEST: The Israelis say they sort of give a warning that they're about to bomb or rockets so that people can evacuate. Are there any warnings from Hamas before they launch dozens of rockets at Tel Aviv?

SRIVASTAVA: So, the two attacks yesterday and today in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were advertised. They had a set a deadline at 6:00 for Israel to do this thing called pulling back its forces from the Al-Aqsa Compound, something that clearly was about to happen, and right on time at 6:01 is when the sirens went off. This evening after that building was attacked in Gaza, it was made clear by Hamas that they were going to launch rockets around 9:00.

But there are multiple attacks throughout the day, especially in Ashkelon. We've just seen many, many barrages where the warnings aren't in any way usable or quite often don't exist. So right now, all of Israel just stays in a state of alert, wait for the sirens to kick off and find a bomb room to the nearest public shelter.

[16:20:01]

QUEST: I suppose the greatest fear for you and others in Israel is that Hamas or the Islamist Jihad find a more successful delivery system that defeats Iron Dome. And I mean, if we look at the imbalance in terms of this evening, the terrible prospect is that Hamas's rockets do become more efficient.

SRIVASTAVA: This has been a concern for the Israeli military for quite some time, the idea that these things that range from projectiles to somewhat efficient rockets to a very small number of more precise rockets that in the period in between the previous wars, Hamas has figured out ways to make these things more accurate, have longer range, being predictable.

And what Israel is doing right now is degrading this operational capabilities. All of these airstrikes are happening, they have many goals, but one of them is a make sure that any store of these kind of rockets or the ability to launch them is degraded for the foreseeable future.

But the concern has always been that Hamas's rockets will get better and the Iron Dome system, which intercepts, they say, between nine out of 10, will at some point get overwhelmed. That's what Ashkelon saw this afternoon, that's what Tel Aviv saw this evening, a large swarm or rockets and projectiles. Many of them were intercepted. We don't have to full numbers yet.

QUEST: Now, it's very difficult to see a way that this de-escalates now that Hamas has crossed the Rubicon of firing rockets at Tel Aviv. I mean, this is -- Israel will retaliate and bearing in mind what we saw today, I mean, it could be dreadful.

SRIVASTAVA: We are -- there's a lot of people out here who would argue that you're on the brink of war, but Israel and Hamas have been trading rockets and fighting limited conflicts amongst each other for quite some time now, and there are several methods of escalation and de-escalation that exist.

Qatari mediator at the U.N., the U.S. is getting involved. There's a short window and in that window, there's also the possibility of inadvertently tumbling right into a war. That bus that was hit today had had civilians on it, Israel, would absolutely would have had to strengthen its response which are already very robust right now.

And Israelis, the military said very clearly that they have the greenlight to go ahead and go after senior Hamas leadership, which is an incredibly --

QUEST: I just want to quickly ask you, and I'm not forecasting, I'm not looking forward, I'm not suggesting that it would be, but a war would look like what?

SRIVASTAVA: In 2014, the war lasted 65 or 67 days and 2,000 Palestinians were dead. And if I remember correctly, close to a hundred Israelis also lost their lives. It was a horrendous outcome, but nobody here is talking about a ground invasion or Israeli troops going in. We're talking an aggressive airstrike, which in this situation we are already seeing casualties in Gaza. Some of them are civilian.

The military said earlier today given the kind of targets they are going after, that many of them are embedded in civilian communities, it is impossible to guarantee that there will not be collateral damage.

This is the extent that we are in right now, predict what a war like this would look like. That's not something I can do.

QUEST: Mehul, thank you, sir. We'll talk more. I do appreciate your time tonight. Stay safe and the family stay safe, too.

So into the White House, which says President Biden is getting updates on the situation and yes, he is calling on Israel and the Palestinians to de-escalate.

The White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki said the President wants his team to engage with both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are continuing to closely monitor the violence in Israel. We have serious concerns about the situation, including violent confrontations that we've seen over the last few days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Kaitlan Collins, our chief White House is with me, joining from Washington. Here we go, Kaitlan. Look, the President has an absolutely shocker block overloaded domestic agenda of crucial importance. This is the last thing he needed. But how is he going to handle it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, they say that he is being updated on the escalating tensions. He got a briefing before Jen Psaki came out there today from his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan on the latest on what's going on, and what you have been seeing play out on CNN.

And so the White House says that while basically his number one priority is de-escalation, that's what he wants to see and he has instructed his officials, according to Jen Psaki to engage intensively was how she put it, with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders on this.

She said that President Biden does -- will always defend Israel's right to defend itself and its security, and that that support won't waiver, but she also condemned those Hamas rocket attacks into Jerusalem while saying that U.S. officials have been pretty candid with Israeli leaders about those evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, saying that is now something, of course -- that is something that has come up during those discussions between the U.S. and the Israeli side.

[16:25:27]

COLLINS: And so, I think what we are seeing with the White House is they are staying on top of this, they are paying attention, but of course, you know, this is a crisis that is coming as he is also pushing this big domestic agenda as you noted and also trying to look ahead to several other fronts when it comes to foreign policy, including when he is expected to go to Europe in June, and now, this is something that is being cast at the forefront of his agenda given just how much tensions have escalated there, so far just past, you know, 24 hours.

QUEST: What's your feeling when it comes to the Palestinian side, where relations just about reached rock bottom and zero? Where the U.S. have very little leverage following the recognition of Jerusalem, the more of the settlements and the Jared Kushner plan which the Palestinians laughed at before it being really fully presented?

Does the administration consider it necessary to give the Palestinians some indication that they are being heard?

COLLINS: I do think that that is something that's happened. I mean, look at what just has transpired, what we reported earlier today which is that, Abbas, the Palestinian leader of course, had sent President Biden a letter congratulating him on his ascent to the presidency earlier this year.

We do know this week is when that correspondence and response went back to the Palestinians from President Biden. It was delivered by an emissary, a letter in response to that.

And we talked to the National Security Council earlier today, they did not tell us what the contents of the letter said. And so it is not really clear what his message was. I think that was something they were likely probably working on before this had happened, but it is notable that they did communicate with them, they did send them a letter in response to Abbas's letter to President Biden earlier this year.

And so that we do know has happened, but really, the question of what the extent of that conversation is or if they are expecting a response given what is under way right now, it really remains to be seen. But I do think this is going to be something facing President Biden.

We aren't expecting to see him again today, but we will tomorrow, and potentially, he could comment on what we're seeing play out.

QUEST: I guess there's nothing good about the situation other than there is a very experienced team in Blinken, in the national security adviser, and in the President himself who will have dealt -- or did deal with exactly these issues when he was Vice President during the war in 2014.

COLLINS: Yes, I think that has been something that's really been a change from what you were talking about the Trump administration's efforts here and what you saw when Jared Kushner, and just of course how close they were and what they talked about when it came to the Abraham Accords and how they dealt with that.

I think what you're seeing is obviously, a different approach here, but I do think when it comes to the Jake Sullivans, the Tony Blinkens, you know, these top national security advisers to President and how they are navigating this, this is going to be the first test of their policy here and what they are planning to do when it comes to the Middle East, something that has not been one of their top priorities since Biden took office just a few months ago.

And so that is going to be something facing them, and of course that's what we're expecting so far. I'm waiting to see if there are going to be any further briefings from officials on what they believe the next steps of this is going to look like as they are saying, they are pushing for de-escalation. That's their number one primary goal.

And Jen Psaki's comments, you know, which were made not in response to a question from a reporter at the briefing earlier today were pretty candid, saying you know, that they don't -- they were talking about the evictions with the Palestinians. They were saying he wants them to engage intensively with leaders from both sides right now.

I do think that speaks to the level of urgency this has internally for this White House.

QUEST: It is late afternoon in Washington. If there are developments and people start talking, Kaitlan, we'll hear from you as soon as it happens. Thank you.

As we continue tonight, the breaking news coverage, we'll be in Ashkelon where -- one of the Israeli cities targeted by rocket fire. Our correspondent, Hadas Gold will be with us after the break.

This is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:32:43]

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza says Israeli airstrikes have now killed at least 30 people. One of those strikes targeted the large residential terror that caused it to collapse.

So that's the 13 storey building reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds. Let's go to Ashkelon though where Hadas Gold, our correspondent is there. And I believe, Hadas, even as we are with you now, the sirens are blaring. Tell me what's happening, please.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Richard -- (foreign language). Richard, we are in a building right now. We just heard the air raid sirens. I'm just calling on somebody to come down because we're sending in the stairwell. This is the way people are coming in to the bomb shelter. So we're trying to allow people to come through if they -- because they need to come to the bomb shelter because we have heard those air raid sirens going off. You heard at least five explosions. Not sure if those were rockets landing or Iron Dome interceptions. But this is what -- this is what has been happening here all day long, constant air raid sirens, people having to rush into bomb shelters. There have been hundreds upon hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, into communities like Ashkelon. The Israeli military is responding with significant strikes in Gaza, saying it is striking hundreds of Gaza and militant positions. Tensions are incredibly high right now. And this is a level of violence that this region has not seen for many years.

QUEST: You've had this all day, and you've had these rocket attacks coming throughout the day. And tell me through how it's all been?

GOLD: We have heard rocket attacks all day. And pretty much how it works is often we would hear at least in the last few hours, airplanes flying overhead. Sometimes we would hear explosions and then within a few minutes, we would hear the air raid sirens that would usually be the sort of response of the rockets firing back and that is when you would see the people rushing into the bomb shelters because when you hear those airway sirens, you only have about 15 to 30 seconds to make it into safety.

[16:35:02]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, we have sirens. Let's go, let's go, let's go.

GOLD (voice-over): In Ashkelon and other neighborhoods near the Gaza border, the warning sounds fill the air all day long as Hamas and Islamic Jihad lunch rocket after rocket against targets in Israel with around 500 fires so far. Senior member of Hamas Political Bureau, Dr. Marcella (ph) saying in a written statement Tuesday that Hamas' response is to stop the Israeli occupations violations and to halt the implementation of its aggressive schemes in Jerusalem, undeterred by Israel's crushing airstrikes in response, and vows of harsher retaliation.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER (through translation): After a situational assessment, we have made the decision to further increase both the intensity of the attacks and the rate of attacks. Hamas will receive blows that it did not expect.

GOLD: Tensions have been building for weeks a major flashpoint protests over threatened evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah, neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians that Islam's third holiest site, the al-Aqsa Mosque has broadened into a level of anger and deadly violence in the region not seen in years.

The familiar sight of this long standing conflicts grief and anguish returning as mourners bury their dead in Gaza, not only Israel's intended military targets, but also the young, at least 10 children among the 28 killed thus far in strikes. Israel says it's investigating any civilian casualties, with more than 150 civilians injured.

And while Israel's air defense or Iron Dome has intercepted most of the incoming rockets from Gaza, direct hits and Ashkelon left to Israeli women dead and dozens more injured, stoking the very real fear of the growing scope and reach of these weapons on Israeli civilians. And while protests pop up in various cities around the globe, against the force of Israel's air response on Gaza, and against the possible evictions in Jerusalem, Western nations are uniformly condemning the rocket attacks and are calling for de-escalation in tensions. A call it has so far gone on heated and with Tuesday night's new rocket target of Tel Aviv, a death toll all but certain to rise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GOLD (on camera): And, Richard, I should add that in the last 45 minutes or so, we have received word from the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. That the death toll there is 30 people, 10 of the dead were children according to the ministry. The ministry is also reporting a total of 203 people injured in Gaza and also in Israel in a neighborhood in a city around Tel Aviv. Another person was killed by rocket fire so that brings us to three Israelis killed for rocket fire and at least 17 injured here as a result of these rockets. Richard.

QUEST: And, so where are you, just give us an idea of to viewers who are not familiar, give us an idea of where you are, what's happening?

GOLD: So Richard, I'm in Ashkelon. We're about 10 kilometers north of Gaza, Ashkelon sits right on the ocean. And this is a city that is not -- that is used to seeing rockets occasionally. But in speaking with the residents here in this building that was hit by a rocket earlier today. At this level of rockets, the amount of air raid sirens, the amount of rockets that we have heard overhead, this is a level that they are not used to. And if you are hearing perhaps in the background, this sort of beeping noise that is from my phone that is telling me that red alert sirens are going off on different cities around the south of Israel. A lot of people have this app on their phone and kind of lets them know that there are sirens going on in the off chance that you can't hear it. But it is hard to miss how loud these air raid sirens are. And from where we sit, we can actually hear airplanes flying overhead, fighter jets flying overhead. And we've been able to hear explosions in the distance which may likely be those airstrikes that that the Israeli military is telling us that they are conducting on Gaza militants. They have now said that they have had hundreds of locations where they say Gaza militants are do anything from prepare their rocket launchers to they say they've also targeted tunnels that they say Gaza militants have been digging to try to get into Israel.

But this is a very escalating situation. And yes, as you can see, it's been happening all day. We are now nearly at midnight and we are still getting regular air raid sirens here.

QUEST: Will people that stay in the shelter all night, or will they come out just your way when they feel it safe?

GOLD: So right now, I mean, it depends. We do -- in the shelter right now actually, there are children sleeping. We are trying to give them some space to try to let them get some much needed rest. Obviously it's hard to sleep through these air raid sirens but they are sleeping in that shelter right now. And when we were -- we heard an air raid siren just a few minutes ago people started coming down the stairs to come to the shelter to take their -- to take their shelter here because it is the safest place to be and we hear those sirens. You have about 15 to 30 seconds to get into a sheltered place to take cover. And that, and within those 15 to 30 seconds you can't expect to hear a rockets overhead either them landing somewhere or hopefully for many people here they hope that the Iron Dome will intercept them.

[16:40:19]

QUEST: Hadas, thank you and let you get to save yours to continue your coverage. Thank you very much. And our coverage continues. Israeli Prime Minister says Gaza military will pay a very heavy price for firing rockets at Tel Aviv.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Search to try and understand what next, Aaron David Miller, CNN's Global Affairs Analyst joins me from Washington. We are where we are tonight. And let us not waste dermatan thinking about how we've got here. Let's just think about what happens next. And the de- escalation that the administration and the European Union is calling for how does it happen?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, these conflicts -- and I don't want to trivialize this because people are dying, have a kind of wash, rinse and repeat cycle to them. 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014, which was the bloodiest 50 days 2200 Palestinians dead, 67 Israeli soldiers, five civilians that lasted almost two months. These conflicts have an even and rhythm on their own. And mediation is critically important. But they will land essentially when both sides either have absorbed enough pain and punishment or have inflicted enough on the other side. And I think in this sense, I would hope we're not talking, excuse me, more than a few days. What is necessary, since the United States does not have direct or even indirect relations with Hamas is a mediation effort. And the Egyptians have tremendous experience here launched by them. They were the ones who created a series of humanitarian pauses and ceasefires during the 2014 confrontation.

The cutleries who bankroll Hamas with Israeli approval, also have a role to play here. The United States has to work directly with its closest Middle East ally. But again, I think you're going to have to see a choreograph sequenced into this. The rockets will stop, the Israeli retaliation will end. The problem, Richard, is that there's no certainty that this will involve anything more than another key to an empty room and six months, a year, or a year --

[16:45:12]

QUEST: Right. But the way and I mean, you and I could spend the next 10 minutes talking about the evictions in Jerusalem and the Palestinian areas that led to the deaths, that led to that, the led to the other, and I'm -- just about everybody to a man and a woman thinks that there'll be some massive retaliation by Israel or stringent retaliation for today's attacks on Tel Aviv. And who has the power, if anybody, the United Nations doesn't, Egypt, other gulf countries, the E.U., the U.S., who has the power to say to both sides, stop? MILLER: The past is prologue here. The party stop in response at times to external pressure, and often external pressure is used as a justification and excuse for them to end. But in this case, since frankly, the conflict has now changed, it's no -- it's still about Jerusalem, but it has acquired a rhythm all of its own, with weapons of much greater force and the prospect of large number of civilian casualties, primarily on the Palestinian side, given the efficacy of Israelis, Iron Dome defense system in the shelters, it'll stop. I suspect and I know this is not a satisfactory answer. Despite the external pressures that can be brought. There is no single party out there, or frankly, look at the international community's response to Syria. The vaunted international community can't stop the greatest refugee flow and humanitarian tragedy since the end of the Second World War. They're certainly not going to be able to deal with this conflict. No, it'll be a sequence choreographed ending to this. And the real tragedy here, Richard, and the broader Palestinian issue is that I can see no conceivable pathway that when we get Israelis and Palestinians into a conflict ending solution, but for the moment, it's critically important that the diplomacy begin and this round end.

QUEST: Thank you, sir. I mean, it's a depressing thought upon which to end but a realistic one, and I'm grateful that you came to us this evening. I appreciate it. Thank you.

MILLER: Thank you.

QUEST: Our coverage on this continues after the break. We'll be in Jerusalem in a moment. This is CNN.

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[16:50:12]

QUEST: So as we come to the end of the hour, we're getting some pictures of the aftermath of the strike on the collapse building in Gaza. Forces, the Israel Defense Forces say that this building had been used by Hamas for rocket research and development as well as intelligence. The IDF says that multiple military units were used by Hamas, and it says it provided advanced warning to civilians inside the building.

Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem. So that's, that is what the Israeli saying. Ben, before we finish, I just want to focus, if we may, on the leadership of both sides, and their not willingness to continue but the advantage they get politically from this continuing?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think both the leadership in Gaza and the leadership in Israel, I don't want to say they are exploiting this for political advantage, but they will get political advantage out of it. For instance, here in Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister has gone through a series of inconclusive elections. And certainly, a war in Gaza is an attempt or an opportunity to sort of get Israelis to rally around the flag around a strong leader. And for Hamas in Gaza, where their rule which has been in place since early 2006, is increasingly unpopular, many Palestinians there feel that their management of the Gaza Strip is incompetent, it's oppressive. And it simply hasn't been able to bring any of them to realize any of the promises of a better life they made and therefore, also there, the position where they are fighting Israel, where they are firing missiles, all the way to Tel Aviv where they are paralyzing Ben Gurion International Airport is an opportunity for them to say, well, we can't manage the Gaza Strip very well. But we certainly are good at inflicting pain on Israel. It's a cynical situation, but not necessarily out of character. Richard.

QUEST: So our last guest says -- Mr. Miller said, this ends when the cycle has exhausted itself, that there is no external force that can be brought to bear that will force these two to cease fire until they've done what they've come to do. Do you buy that?

WEDEMAN: It's early days, and certainly the diplomatic wheels haven't begun to spin quite as quickly as we're accustomed to. But at some point, there will be intervention of one sort of another, as we've seen in 2014, and previous flare ups, Egypt, which has a lot of sway over Gaza, because they control one of its borders, can perhaps bring their diplomatic weight to bear to try to bring calm back to this situation. And oftentimes, in the past, where it appeared that Gaza and Israel were on the brink of war, suddenly they've come up and declared both sides that they will be quiet in exchange for quiet basically, you stop firing, we'll stop firing. But this is really just the symptom of a deeper problem. And that is the unresolved conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. So yes, we are now very busy reporting on this flare up, but there will be more flare ups down the line months, maybe a few years from now. And this will continue until judgment day until this problem is resolved. Richard.

QUEST: Finally, and briefly in a word, are you expecting a response from Israel in the next 24 hours to the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv?

WEDEMAN: I don't like to get into the business of predictions, but I will say it is likely. It is likely that given the size of the barrage from Gaza to Israel today, which went on for many hours that it is almost a certainty that it will happen. Israel often chooses to attack in the early hours of the morning. So, just a few hours away, we shall see. Richard.

[16:55:10]

QUEST: Ben, thank you. It is coming up to midnight in the Middle East. We'll follow closely in the hours ahead.

We will have more coverage in just a moment or two after this short break. My colleague, Jake Tapper, and the Lead continues after this. A reminder of the main news tonight, Israel and Hamas firing rockets and attacking each other tonight, across the Gaza and through to Tel Aviv and into Israel. Because the news never stops, neither do we. This is CNN.

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to the Lead. I'm Jake Tapper. This hour, the new moves from the White House that divided administration hopes will get more people vaccinated more quickly. Plus, prices up at the pump, the cyber attack on the largest U.S. fuel pipelines sparking long lines at gas stations and a growing number of even running out of gas, and leading this hour, violence exploding. Hundreds are injured and dozens are dead as tensions flare between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In moments the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will join me, a source telling CNN, U.S. military and intelligence agencies are monitoring the situation as rockets fly over Tel Aviv with the echo of sirens and loud explosions. Hamas is saying that the rocket barrage is retaliation for Israel leveling a high rise residential building.

Tel Aviv's Airport has been closed because of the threat. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying a short time ago, "We are in the midst of a significant operation."

Let's go to Tel Aviv right now where we find journalist, Elliott Gotkine. He's been hearing sirens and explosions there throughout the night. Elliot, what's it like on the ground in Tel Aviv right now? Have you had to seek shelter?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Earlier this evening I did, Jake, yes. So it's about quarter to nine, local time. So about like three and a half hours or so ago, the first siren sounded I had to wake my nine year old and my eight year old freshman from their sleep, take them down to the communal shelter at the bottom of the building here. And then overhead we heard loud booms, probably the Iron Dome missile defense system, intercepting rockets that were being fired on Tel Aviv.

And then just as we came back up, the siren sounded again in all about five times. This we went through this and obviously quite, you know, unsettling and upsetting for the children, but there were no immediate damage in this vicinity, but in and around Tel Aviv as a result.