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Interview With Egyptian World Bank CEO Mohsen Sarhan; Interview With IFRC Spokesperson Benoit Carpentier; Interview With U.S. Institute Of Peace Distinguished Scholar And The New Yorker Contributing Writer Robin Wright; Interview With Former Special Adviser To Israel's Defense Minister Ory Slonim; Two American Hostages Being Released By Hamas; Interview With Former CIA Operative Bob Baer. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 20, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
The opening of the Rafah Crossing suffers yet another setback. With critical aid for Gaza hanging in the balance, I speak to humanitarian
organizations on the ground.
And as the civilian death toll climbs by the hour, we have a report on the children caught up in Israel's war on Hamas.
Then President Biden says both Hamas and Putin share a common goal to annihilate a neighboring democracy. I speak to veteran foreign policy
analyst Robin Wright about the fear that war will spill out across the region.
Plus, as a possible ground incursion looms, families desperately await news of their loved ones held hostage by Hamas. My conversation with lawyer and
former hostage negotiator Ory Slonim.
Also, ahead, bitter divisions leave Congress in limbo without a house speaker. Michel Martin talks to NPR's Steve Inskeep about lessons we can
draw from history.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
We begin in Gaza, where the U.N. warns the conditions on the ground are "increasingly dire," with food, water, and medicine all running critically
low. As Israel's siege on Gaza and war against Hamas continues.
The focus is on the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza, where right now, trucks carrying vital aid are unable to get to those who desperately need
it. Here's the U.N. secretary-general highlighting this need as he arrived at the crossing today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: These trucks are not just trucks, they are a lifeline. They are the difference between life and death
for so many people in Gaza. And to see them stuck here makes me be very clear, what we need is to make them move, to make them move to the other
side of this wall, to make the move as quickly as possible and as many as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Egypt is expected to give the green light this weekend. But as Israel amasses huge number of troops and equipment near the Gaza border and
the possibility of a ground offensive builds, the urgency of that aid increases.
The Egyptian Food Bank is one of the organizations Eager to cross and help. Its CEO, Mohsen Sarhan, joins us now from the border. Mohsen, thank you so
much for taking time during this critical moment when you're trying to get aid to those desperately in need.
I know that your organization is part of a larger alliance to help see those trucks cross into Gaza and deliver the aid. There were reports that
they were allowed to cross in earlier today. That doesn't seem to be the case right now. Give us an update on where things stand at the moment.
MOHSEN SARHAN, CEO, EGYPTIAN WORLD BANK: Thank you so much for helping deliver our message to the world. Today, was day seven that we're camping
here at the Rafah Crossing. I think today we have reached more than 200 trucks. That's approximately 4,000 metric tons of food. That's, of course,
not counting, I think, seven or eight planes of aid from international development organizations and from other countries that want to help in
that humanitarian crisis.
Today, we had some hope with Antonio Guterres coming to the Rafah Crossing himself. We thought we're going in. We've been ready now. I think we've
been ready for seven days. The trucks are loaded. The trucks are closed. The drivers are in the trucks, and they're ready just to go to the other
And then, the secretary-general of the U.N. gave a very mild speech and he went away. So, to us, what's expected? What's going to happen next? What --
how is this ever going to unfold? The highest authority of human rights in the world can't convince Israel to stop the killing just for a few hours to
get the aid in? This is very, to me -- I'm sorry, I'm a little bit frustrated because to me I'm seeing people dying on the other side.
I'm calling doctors down in Gaza, they ran out of anesthetics. So, now, they have to do surgeries without anesthetics and without antibiotics. So,
it's not just genocide and ethnic cleansing of an entire population, it's also torture before that's happening.
And now, they don't want to just stop the killing for a few hours to get the aid in. This is very medieval. And this is started -- I've studied in
the U.S. and I've lived in the U.S. and I have many good friends in the U.S. and we've dreamt together of making the world a better place. But now,
what's happening now, the killing that I'm seeing in front of me, and it's financed by the taxpayers of the West, and particularly the U.S., it makes
me very sad for what -- for the very definitions of humanity and the very definition of human rights.
GOLODRYGA: So, I take it you're disappointed with what you've heard thus far with the U.N. general-secretary. What specifically? What more would you
like to see him do?
SARHAN: I'd like to see him, as the highest authority of peace in the world, try to make Israel stop the killing just for a few hours. Because
myself, and I'm speaking only for myself as an aid worker, the way that Israel is operating in that environment in Gaza, to me, it's a very clear
methodical plan for an ethnic cleansing of the entire population.
And I want you to remember the Ministry of Defense of Israel when he said, I will starve those people and we will treat them as human animals, and
that plan has been executed now to the letter. People are being killed every day. Now, in Gaza, people cannot get their dead from under the
rubble. They don't have equipment and they don't have enough manpower to keep up with the people that are stuck, dead under the rubble.
So, now, Gaza is turning from the world's biggest open-air prison, and the whole world knows that. These people have been prisoned there for more than
70 years into the world's biggest open-air graveyard.
GOLODRYGA: Mohsen --
SARHAN: And this makes me very sad.
GOLODRYGA: Mohsen, let me ask you, because both Israel and the United States have issued really an ultimatum that aid can only come across if it
doesn't go into the hands of Hamas. Who are your points of contact on the ground there to ensure that doesn't happen?
SARHAN: OK. Let me first start by saying that that condition defies the humanitarian aid concept of neutrality. That's for starters. As aid
workers, we find this does not make sense and it defies the very concept of aid. That's the first thing.
GOLODRYGA: I think the premise is the concern is that the aid doesn't get to those in need, but go ahead.
SARHAN: Yes. But that's the first thing. It defies the concept of humanitarian assistance neutrality. That it is given to people who are
starving, regardless of who they are. OK. Let's move to the other step. If I want to determine, no, I will not give the perpetrators aid, and I want
only to give the good people. They are all Palestinians.
So, if I go to the U.S. and I told -- for example, I go to any state there, I told, get me only the people, give aid only to the people of German
origin. How would I know them? Hamas is not written on I.D.s. So, you don't have an I.D. of a person that is written Hamas. It's an armed resistance
movement that is defying the occupation inside Israel. How would I know them in order not to give them aid? This is a condition designed
specifically and very strategically to continue with that ethnic cleansing.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. We're just getting some alerts that the president says that the first delivery of aid from the trucks is likely to cross in the
next 24 to 48 hours. I know that you are desperate to get it across sooner to those in need. Please keep us posted on what you're hearing from doctors
there on the ground caring for some of these patients and civilians. Thank you so much for joining us.
SARHAN: And I have to thank you also for delivering our message to the world. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Thank you.
Well, let's now bring in Benoit Carpentier from the International Federation of the Red Cross. Welcome to the program. What are you hearing
about the hindrance now in getting aid? You heard the frustration there from Mohsen. What more can be done and what are you hearing about some
other options to make sure that aid gets there perhaps even before the next 48 hours?
BENOIT CARPENTIER, IFRC SPOKESPERSON: Good evening. Well, yes, I mean, the negotiation are still ongoing. We're following them closely. We are on both
sides with the Egyptian Red Crescent who has been for days now coordinating and supporting the Egyptian government in coordinating the aid that has
arrived on the Egyptian border. There's hundreds of trucks. They are ready to pass -- to cross the border. On the other side, we have the Palestinian
Red Crescent who is also ready if called to be able to do that.
Now, the conditions for that have not yet been completely defined. One key condition for any humanitarian access will be safety. Safety for the people
that will be accessing the humanitarian aid that enters Gaza. Safety for the aid workers or whoever is going to be distributed that where most
GOLODRYGA: We're hearing of urgent need for food and dehydration among those who are waiting for help. What specifically can you tell us about the
water shortage and the desperation to get water to those in need?
CARPENTIER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, water is life. If you don't have water, you can't live. That's just a period. So, we've heard report of
people starting drinking water from, you know, places that are not potable drinkable water. So, that could lead to massive disaster in terms of
diseases. So, we have to bring water very, very quickly in Gaza as urgently as possible. That's just a question of life and death. If you don't have
water, you can't live.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, of course. What is your plan, for when this invasion, by the Israeli Defense Forces begins? Because by all indication, it does
appear to be imminent.
CARPENTIER: Well, we have a call that we have repeated and repeated for days, which is the respect of the international humanitarian law, and
civilians must be protected. Civilian infrastructures must be protected. Hospitals and healthcare workers must be protected. So, in any conflict,
that's the basic rules and they apply to any conflict.
GOLODRYGA: Can you talk to us about your staff in particular? Because I know in the first week of war you reported that five were killed in Gaza.
What more can you tell us?
CARPENTIER: Yes. We had four, four paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent that were -- that lost their life in the first week. We had also
three paramedics from the Magen David Adom in Israel that lost their life the weekend before.
The conditions -- the working conditions are absolutely terrible. You have to run medical services, like ambulances running around everywhere in Gaza
where is needed to support people, to help with the injured, and you do that at the risk of your own life. So, that's dreadful condition for any
In the hospitals, there's no medical supply, there's no electricity in some of them, and the hospitals have been also hosting a lot of people that are
seeking refuge because they're thinking that this is a safe place to be. So, the conditions for the health workers, for our colleagues from the
Palestine Red Crescent are really difficult.
GOLODRYGA: Can I ask you a question that I had been hoping to ask Mohsen because he noted that his truck, some of them have been sitting there for
six days. We just got news that from President Biden that he believes trucks will be allowed to enter within the next 24 to 48 hours. Is there
concern among the supplies on these trucks about expiration, whether it be among food or some of the medication that they may provide?
CARPENTIER: Yes. It is one of the concerns, because you have, you know, perishable food, things that would have a limit in terms of how long they
could sit in a truck. So, yes, that's clearly one of the concerns that we have, and that's one of the reasons, even more, that we need to have that -
- those trucks crossing the border as quickly as possible.
GOLODRYGA: What are you hearing, if anything, from the Israeli side, from your Israeli counterparts and who you're working with there in terms of how
things can be sped up?
CARPENTIER: Well, the -- on the Magen David Adom side, so they've been active from the early hours providing, again, ambulance services, blood
services, and they're obviously on standby and carry on their operations on their side to respond to the needs of their -- of the population in Israel
GOLODRYGA: All right. But Benoit Carpentier -- excuse me -- thank you for joining us and please keep us posted on any developments that you're
CARPENTIER: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, now, more than 4,000 people have died in Gaza, that is according to the Hamas controlled Ministry of Health there. And tragically,
about 40 percent of that number is said to be made up of children. These are always the toughest stories to tell.
Correspondent Jomana Karadsheh has their story. And a warning, some of the images and stories in this report are graphic and difficult to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Why? Why have you gone, my son? He wails. You wanted to be a pilot. You're only
sleeping, he says, kissing his boy's lifeless body. Every day of this war has brought pain, pain no parent wants to ever live through.
Every 15 minutes in Gaza, a child is killed, aid groups say. More than 1,500 children killed so far in a war that's only just beginning. A war
they didn't choose. One for which they are paying the heaviest price.
?Those who live haunted by what they've survived. The lucky ones still have parents to hold their hands. Ten-year-old Abdi Rahman (ph) still doesn't
know the strike that left him injured took away his mom, dad and three sisters. His aunt, the only one left to try and comfort him. He wakes up,
he cries, they give him painkillers and he goes back to sleep, she says.
I'm worried about him, the shock when he wakes up and finds out that his mother and father are gone, his aunt says. He's the youngest. He was so
attached to his parents. He used to play football with his dad. He would go with him everywhere.
Families here say they all heeded the Israeli military's warning and moved south, thinking it would be safe, but it wasn't.
Malik (ph) is injured in the hips and legs. She lost her mother and siblings in an airstrike.
A girl in the third grade. What did she do? Her aunt asks. Did she shoot Israelis? She didn't. We're peaceful people in our home, she says. We
didn't launch any rockets or shoot. We didn't do anything.
Nine-year-old Mahmoud (ph) was out playing when his family home was hit. He's in hospital with head and leg injuries.
We were playing in the garden and suddenly a missile landed on us, he says. Trees fell on me. My mother, my father, my brother and grandfather are
injured. My uncle brought me unconscious to the hospital.
Most of the injured in Gaza, doctors say, are children and women. With no power, no water and medical supplies running out, the health care they need
is on the verge of collapse. Around half of Gaza's population are children. Most have only ever known life under a blockade and war. Now, in this kill
box, no place safe from Israel's relentless bombardment.
Desperate for any promise of safety, many have flooded at Shifa hospital grounds. The constant buzz of military drones overhead has become part of
existence in Gaza.
Some find a little escape from this living nightmare no child should ever endure. Loujain (ph) and Julia say their neighborhood was flattened by
We've been living in so much fear, panic and anxiety, she says. Whenever I hear airstrikes, I don't know what to do. I hug my mom.
Seven-year-old Julia says she holds her mom too and hides. They're now living under the stairs.
I get upset when I see injured here in the hospital, Julia says. When I grow up, I want to become a doctor so I can treat them so they can get
It's a war on Hamas, they say, but it is the youngest who bear the brunt, ensnared in violence they can't control, trapped in this race against
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
GOLODRYGA: And we want to bring you this breaking news just into CNN, a major development for hostage negotiations as Hamas says that it has
released two U.S. hostages for "humanitarian reasons." Now, it comes as Qatar mediates this, working for the release of 203 hostages the IDF says
Hamas is currently holding.
Let's get now to Robin Wright, who can talk to us more about this. She's a contributing writer for "The New Yorker," and she joins us now to talk
about this and the president's speech last night.
But Robin, I want to get you to respond to this breaking news, according to our Alex Marquardt and Kaitlan Collins, two American hostages, a mother and
daughter, being released by Hamas for humanitarian grounds. How significant is this, especially as we're waiting for an imminent ground incursion by
the IDF into Gaza?
ROBIN WRIGHT, DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE AND CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Needless to say, two people being
freed is a major development, but remember that there are some 200 -- more than 200 still remaining hostages to both Hamas and Islamic Jihad. So,
there's a very long way to go.
I think that in some cases, the hostage takers know that there are benefits to releasing those they can't take care of and they don't want to be held
necessary for their deaths of these people. So, this is a token move. It is not -- is nowhere near a resolution and it's not -- we should not have
false hope that the release of others or all of them is also imminent.
GOLODRYGA: This is said to have been the result of negotiations directly between Qatar and Hamas, because, obviously, Israel is not negotiating with
Hamas on this matter. Talk to us more about the role of the Qataris throughout this process as it relates to releasing hostages.
WRIGHT: Well, Qatar is a tiny little country in the Persian Gulf, and it both hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, where the
United States was dependent for its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it also hosts some of the Hamas leaders.
And Qatar and Egypt have both been instrumental in negotiating temporary ceasefires in the past, dealing with hostages. Qatar most recently helped
negotiate the end of the hostage ordeal, the five Americans held in Iran.
So, it's role is, is pivotal right now. It will be relied on by the United States to conduct further negotiations, whether it's trying to pressure
Hamas to use more restraint or to limit its activities, its incursions, its rockets fire, probably not successfully, but it will also be negotiating to
try to win freedom for some of the Americans on the humanitarian issues.
GOLODRYGA: And I wanted to ask you about that because these are dual nationals, American Israeli, it appears. and there are hostages held from
about 31 countries by Hamas terrorists. Speak to the fact that these are Americans and what signal that may be sending, the U.S. by Hamas.
WRIGHT: Well, the United States has the highest profile in this war and it has its military deployed in the Red Sea, the -- in the Eastern
Mediterranean. It's aware that the United, United States has supplied full support to Israel. So, the Americans are obviously the highest value. And
if you want to send a message -- but as I said, I think this may be a matter of convenience for Hamas as much as a humanitarian gesture, whatever
But remember, hostage affairs often lead to whether it's the women, the children, the infirm, the elderly, they are often the first ones released.
When the Iranian students took over the American embassy in Tehran in 1982, they released the African Americans and the women's first long before the
men held for 444 days.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. It is believed that Hamas is holding dozens of babies and elderly as well. So, from your point of view, you're suggesting that this
may be because these are people that they simply can't care for at this point. But it does reiterate what the president spoke of yesterday in his
speech to the American public and what we heard him say while he was in Israel, and that is the release of these hostages, specifically American
hostages, is a top priority for him.
So, this, in a way, even if it's just a symbolic move, and obviously you want every single one of these hostages released, signifies that this was a
priority for the president.
WRIGHT: Absolutely. But I fear that the hostages give the Hamas and the Islamic jihad movement a lot of leverage, and it may well be that they are
held long after the cessation of hostilities. Remember, Gilad Shalit was held for five years, and in the end, Israel won his release from Hamas in
exchange for 1,100 of political prisoners. So, the cost will be high and this will be the kind of human drama, the leverage that Hamas has in
negotiating the release of its prisoners and possibly more. That we've never seen a hostage, a modern hostage crisis in the middle of this kind of
war so many of them held by an adversary.
GOLODRYGA: And, you know, the Israelis have called the release of videos, we saw the video of Mia Schem as psychological warfare on the part of
Hamas. You know, can you talk a bit about how this impacts some of the other family members who are desperately waiting to hear about the
condition of their loved ones being held?
WRIGHT: Absolutely. The human drama rips at your soul. When the United States had 52 hostages held in Tehran, the yellow ribbon became a national
symbol as just as the flag and apple pie in baseball. This is the kind of drama that Hamas actually wants to prove that how mighty it is that Israel
is not invincible, so it will use this -- the holding of all of these children, women, elderly, the Israelis, and other nationalities as long as
it can to heighten the drama, to heighten its profile, and that's the danger, that the hostage taking is a whole different component to fighting
a military war.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. All right. Robin, stand by for us.
I do want to go to Nic Robertson, who is joining us now from Sderot, Israel. And Nic, my friend, you spoke too soon, about 30 minutes ago,
saying that it was a quiet evening, because obviously we have news of these two hostages being released. It comes just hours after the IDF had issued a
notice that they believe a lot of these hostages are indeed alive. What is the reaction, if any, from the Israeli government to this news?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We don't have -- well, at least we, we here don't have that reaction yet, but I can tell you the
reaction from apparently Hamas or one of the other groups inside of Gaza, because just as that information about those two, the mother and daughter,
the American mother and daughter being released and handed over to the Red Cross, just as that information was becoming public, at the same time there
was a salvo of rockets coming out of Gaza. They were intercepted by Iron Dome.
We've just heard a couple of explosions, Israeli missiles or artillery, probably Israeli missiles, into the Gaza Strip behind us. So, when we were
talking about the quietness of the day, that did seem to speak to something happening behind the scenes. And it does seem that something was happening
behind the scenes.
But that was only two hostages out of maybe 200, 1 percent. We don't know what Hamas got in exchange for that, if anything. They said they did it on
humanitarian grounds to show the world and the citizens of the United. States that they say that President Biden is lying when he describes Hamas,
that's according to Hamas.
But I think it gives you this gives you an understanding here, just as your last guest was saying, that this could be a very, very drawn-out process.
The price that Hamas will want to extract for each hostage, could be very high in terms of prisoner exchanges and other things. And at the moment,
the price they seem to extract so far today was a pause, it seemed, subjectively from our position anyway, in missile and artillery strikes on
their positions inside Gaza.
It's very hard to predict where the situation develops from now that it is very clear that Hamas, as expected, are using these hundreds of hostages to
their advantage to try to make themselves safer, to try to hold off an Israeli incursion and to change the global narrative about them, which is
so critical to their future as well.
GOLODRYGA: And that incursion is expected imminently as we've been reporting. Just to reiterate once again and tell our viewers the latest
reporting that we have at CNN, two American hostages, a mother and daughter, have -- are being released by Hamas. The two are being handed
over to the Red Cross and are "on their way out." The two are being released on "humanitarian grounds" because it is believed that the mother
is in poor health.
Nic Robertson, thank you so much for joining us, and please do keep us posted on any developments that you hear within the hour.
Well, joining me for more on this is Israeli lawyer Ory Slonim. During his tenure as a special adviser to the defense minister, he was personally
involved in numerous hostage negotiations, and he's currently part of a volunteer group assisting the families caught up in the war.
Ory, thank you so much for joining us. First, your reaction to this news that two Americans, a mother and daughter "on their way out."
ORY SLONIM, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO ISRAEL'S DEFENSE MINISTER: You know, firstly, I'm happy on any release of one or two or even all of them. So,
I'm very happy with the families of these two ladies.
But this is, you know, a small drop in the whole process, a small drop, because never in our history of exchanging prisoners of war or citizens or
negotiating, we never such a big number and such as circumstances, like a war in between. So, I believe there is a mixture of happiness, and we are
very happy, but there are 200 more that are expecting, you know, the next and the very near stage. And I can tell you that it is a tactic, a tactic
really release of these people and I'm in a mixture of being happy and very worrying about the next stages.
GOLODRYGA: Of course, we're all very worried about the next stages and are thinking of these families' loved ones who still are being held hostage by
Hamas. This news comes just a few hours after the IDF said that a majority of hostages are alive. Can you tell us what mechanisms they may have in
determining that at this point?
SLONIM: Look, there is -- you know, there is lots of darkness on everything which is going there. Part of the facts are known, mostly none.
And I think that after finishing this is very mostly none. And I think that after finishing this is very short process, we'll stay at the same stage of
another 200 a citizen and non-armed human beings.
All people, babies, mothers with babies, babies without mother and some young girls and boys who have went to dance in the desert and, you know,
they are there. The girls, some of them were raped in public there. So, you know, after my -- and the whole families and the whole country will be
happy and they will celebrate this too, we are, at the same stage, like we were yesterday.
GOLODRYGA: I know that you are assisting and advising some of the families of these hostages. I can't even begin to imagine what they are going
through. What are some of the things that you are telling them? Obviously, you know, you want to maintain hope, but realism is crucial as well. What
are you telling them and what, if anything, changes after news of these two Americans released?
SLONIM: I'm not a civil servant. I'm one of quite many, many people in the families headquarter. I'm there because I have something like 30 years of
experience, not with such a case, this case is unprecedented case. Never, never in Israel, never in the, in the whole world.
So, when meeting the family, I believe -- and if they look at us now, I think that it's a hope for the two families. Everything is good and their
dears will come home in the next few hours. But all the rest are in the same position, hoping, knowing -- some of them knowing nothing about their
dears. So, from my point of view of talking with the families, hope is always there, always there.
I'm optimistic and realistic, but I'm -- I believe that I need the -- I need my optimism to be a much more much more strong when I talk with
SLONIM: Now, we never tell them illusions and we never tell them stories or our dreams. We are well experienced in such a relationship between us
and the families. And we'll keep them in a very, very high distance from -- sorry, short distance from those people who are taking care. And as of
tomorrow morning, we will do the same like we did yesterday.
GOLODRYGA: Well, thank God you are there to help these families as they go through this living hell. Ory how, if any, does the calculus change once
the incursion begins?
SLONIM: I don't know. I really don't know. I really don't know. And I think that things are -- I don't think that the first release will be
similar or look like the second one. We have our experience and we can we can think about it and look on things that will be done as from tomorrow.
But from my point of view, and I'm talking personally, after the two ladies are at home, we start everything from beginning, from day one.
GOLODRYGA: And by that, does that mean more pressure on the Qataris to put more pressure on Hamas?
SLONIM: For sure. our aim is only one, is to bring all of these civilians. They -- you know, they were not armed when they were kidnapped. And I can
tell you that what has been done there by this group is some criminal act against humanity, even now. And it's like, you know, we are comparing this
behavior, you know, just to ISIS, some people say it's more cold (ph) than ISIS.
And, you know, we are a country, we are a democratic country. We have government parliament, Knesset. We have a bunch of people who are dealing
with this. Nobody is like -- a small group of this organization who has no rules, no treaties, no nothing that is in order of a state like Israel.
GOLODRYGA: It's barbaric.
SLONIM: So, I hope that --
GOLODRYGA: It's barbaric and perpetrated by terrorists. I know you described this as unprecedented and unprecedented for all the wrong
reasons, but I'm wondering if there's anything that we can take from past hostage cases in terms of the significance and the importance of keeping
this front and center.
Obviously, a lot of attention on Gaza, a lot of attention on when this war and incursion may begin. But how important is it, professionally, from your
experience, to continue to talk about this story?
SLONIM: From my experience, which is not even, you know, zero percent from this event, no, zero percent, you have to move on with the whole pressure
in the world with any kind of dealings -- not negotiating, but dealings to press these people in any way to free these people who are being crime
against humanity. We are not easing our way of treatment and behavior because of this release. I'm sorry.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Ory, thank you so much for everything that you're doing. And please tell all the families that you are communicating with that we
will continue to cover this story very highly as well.
SLONIM: Thank you very much.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
SLONIM: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, for more on this, I want to bring in Correspondent Alex Marquardt who is standing by for us in Washington, D.C. Alex, you have been
breaking this story for us, and the headlines have been coming from reporting by you and Kailan Collins. What more do we know about these two
Americans and the circumstances related to their release?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Bianna. Kaitlan and I have spoken to two different sources who have
confirmed that these two American citizens who have been among these around 200 hostages held for almost two weeks by Hamas are now being released.
We understand that they are still in the Gaza Strip, but a source I spoke with said that they are on their way out, and our understanding is that
they are currently in the care of the Red Cross, so that they have been handed over to -- by Hamas to an independent body to get them out.
So, this is not like it's going to be a Hamas hand over to Israel or to Egypt. And that is also another big question right now, Bianna, is, will
they leave through the Rafah Crossing, that we've been talking about so much, because of the aid that we want to see go into Gaza or will they go
out through another crossing called Kerem Shalom, which goes into Israel? Both of those crossings are in Southern Gaza.
So, what we understand is these two Americans, a mother and a daughter are heading south, and then they would be handed over and -- to officials from
one of those two countries that U.N. could also perhaps be involved.
But, Bianna, they are being released, according to both the sources we have spoken with, as well as Hamas, which has put out a statement for
humanitarian reasons, the mother, according to one source, is not in good condition, is not in good health. So, this is a mother and a daughter who
for humanitarian reasons, according to all of these different parties, are now being released, but the fact remains that there are still around 200
hostages in Hamas custody. There are different nationalities.
We have been told by the White House that the number of American citizens being held is less than a handful. That's a quote from the spokesman for
the National Security Council. So, there are still a lot of hostages who are in Hamas custody, but this has been a major focus of the U.S. asking
Qatar, Bianna, because Qatar has that link with Hamas. They host Hamas officials in Doha. So, this is a result of the negotiations that Qatar has
undertaken with Hamas that these two Americans are being allowed out.
Now, the negotiations continue, but certainly Hamas has a lot of leverage here because they still have so many people in their custody that they are
GOLODRYGA: Of course. And I had asked Nic before if there had been any official response from the Israeli government, and to his knowledge, there
had not been. So, I'll ask you, has the White House responded yet or have you heard of anything?
MARQUARDT: I have -- we have not yet seen -- and I'm checking my phone here, but we have not yet seen any kind of response from the White House,
from the State Department, or from the Israeli government.
This is, we understand being reported also in the region. But it's safe to assume, I think, Bianna, that because this is still a fluid situation,
because this mother and daughter are still inside of Gaza, they are not yet out and in safe hands that the U.S. has yet to really say anything. I think
they'll probably be waiting until that happens.
And I think it is still important to emphasize that this is an active war zone. Of course, there is bombing by Israel all across the Gaza Strip.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. So, this mother and daughter are not yet out and safe, and they will certainly be needing medical care. But it is
terrific news, of course, for their family, that they are now on their way out. Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Terrific news. And thank you so much for your fast paced reporting here, giving us as much detail and insight into who these people
are and where they are right now. And obviously, Alex, let us know if you have any news to break for us as well, and we'll get back to you.
Well, let's now bring in National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem for more on this. So, Juliette, listen, this is just a ray of good news. Obviously,
there are hundreds, nearly 200 other hostages being held, but your reaction to the news that two Americans for "humanitarian reasons," which is said
with a large grain of salt given who these terrorists are, have been released, a mother and, and daughter.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, it's obviously good news and part of, I think, a larger narrative play right now between Hamas
within the Arab street and then, obviously Israel and the United States.
I want to make clear as you make clear, as Alex make clear, until we get verification from the United States government that in fact, our citizens
are in custody, so to speak, of the Red Cross and our traversing lines, we are hearing this from non-governmental sources. So, we just given that news
can flow in ways that we can't control.
So, we -- the most important thing is that we're going to wait for some validation from the United States. And the reason why they may not be
commenting, as Alex was saying, is because they the hostages may not actually be safe now. They may be in transit and then -- and this -- and
the story has gotten out.
That being said, if true, this is part of two pieces. One is, of course, Biden -- President Biden spoke last night condemning Hamas is terrorism.
So, under the guise of humanitarian relief, it is not surprising to me that Hamas decides, or at least alleges that they're releasing two Americans.
That's not a coincidence. Presumably a lot of these hostages are under some sort of medical duress. They are playing a narrative game.
But I think what's also important for your audience is they certainly see in the Arab world, while there are lots of people very angry about Israel
and the humanitarian issues related to Gaza, it is not at all clear that Hamas has a good narrative amongst, of course, the nonviolent Arab nations
and the and nonviolent Palestinians.
They have gotten a lot of criticism about what, in fact, was the plan, right? What was this about last Saturday? And I think part of this is also,
if you've seen in the last couple of days as Hamas leaders are being criticized by media, criticized by Arab leaders, that they are trying to
begin to control their own narrative. So, there's a lot going on with this. We will wait to get validation from our government as well -- from the
United States government as well.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. President Biden has said repeatedly that the release of these hostages, specifically the American hostages, is a top priority for
him. And this comes as there's reporting that some family members of these hostages' plan to travel to European capitals to continue to put more
pressure on leaders there to then put more pressure on Hamas. And this speaks to the point that you were just making. Can that be effective?
KAYYEM: It can be. I mean, I think that because the United States is so focused on the hostage issue, there's probably no likelihood that they're
going to be forgotten, in particular because there are U.S. citizens.
Now, this -- if this is true, this may be a ploy by Hamas to rid itself of the United States problem. In other words, release all the United States
hostages and hope that that kind of pressure goes away. But the president has made clear that the use of these hostages as weapons, essentially to
stop Israel from doing what it may intend on doing in Gaza is a useless industry that is -- that violates every norm, if it hasn't been violated
already by Hamas, every norm of engagement, and the president will continue to focus on it.
I will say there is a risk however, and I've commented on this before, sometimes hostage negotiations are best done quietly. And we may find
that's true in this case. I've expressed some worry about all the political focus, and maybe we have some governors going over to Israel to focus on
the hostages. A lot of times this is getting played out at a level that actually you kind of don't want the limelight because people are
negotiating very detailed things.
And I know certainly in extractions or hostage taking with the FBI of foreign nationals, something I'm more familiar with, foreign nationals
abroad, they often ask the family not to speak and to ask for media not to pay attention because of the very delicate negotiations.
And so, I think that if this is true, and we are surprised by it, I'm not surprised that there is a surprise, these negotiations are often done very
quietly as the parties begin to agree on who's going to be released.
GOLODRYGA: I want to -- stand by Julia. I want to bring in a former CIA operative Bob Baer for more on this.
And, Bob, as our hostage experts have been telling us repeatedly, this is unprecedented territory in terms of the scale of hostages and the scenario
where you're about to see a large ground incursion into a very small area where these hostages are being held. If you can speak to Juliette's point,
I mean, what is the best approach? Because we've seen it when we've had Americans detained by sovereign countries, which is a completely different
aspect, but is it more effective to talk about this and push for their release publicly or behind closed doors with the clock ticking with third-
parties like the Qataris?
BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Juliette's right. You do want to do this as quietly as possible. No doubt Qatar at this point has gone to Hamas and
said, you are losing the narrative. You have made an enormous mistake on October 7th, and the only way around this is start releasing American and
European hostages and any others that are non-Israelis. I think there's going to be no negotiations for Israeli soldiers held by Hamas or even
I think the best that Hamas can do before this incursion is cut off any western support. I don't know if this is going to work. But Qatar is the
only country in the Middle East or any negotiator who Hamas will talk to, simply because Hamas gets so money -- so much money from guttering and
private citizens. So, I think this is what we're seeing.
And by the way, this has been talked about releasing European hostages for the last three or four days. Al Jazeera, a Qatari television station, has
been broadcasting these talks of releasing these hostages. So, this doesn't come as a complete surprise. The fact that they're Americans should tell us
GOLODRYGA: So, what does that mean for the Israelis held hostage?
BAER: The conditions for releasing the Israelis will release Hamas prisoners from Israeli prisons and stop the incursion, which I don't see
happening. So, I don't think the Israeli hostages are going to see the light of day for a long time.
GOLODRYGA: It's really difficult to hear. And obviously, these families have a ray of optimism knowing that two of these hostages are reportedly in
the process of leaving and so many more remain. When you hear that these hostages are being released for "humanitarian purposes," and our reporting
suggests one of them, the mother, is in poor health, you know, there are reports of many, many dozens of babies and young children as well as
elderly, I would imagine two weeks in their health conditions.
And look, we just saw video of one of them released last week with her arm severely damaged. I mean, talk about what these other conditions could be
like for these hostages.
BAER: Oh, I think they're awful. They're probably being held in tunnels. Electricity is going out. Medical supplies are being run out. We also don't
know how many hostages have died because of the bombardment.
We know so little about these hostages that you can only suspect the worst and their condition is not good and it's probably going to get worse.
GOLODRYGA: So, how do you respond to the IDF earlier today announcing that the majority of these hostages are still alive? Where would they get that
BAER: They could get that from telephone intercepts. Clearly, there are no Palestinians crossing the border to carry those reports. The best they can
do is hear rumors on cell phones that are still working. They know the IDF that right now, Hamas, it's in its interest to hold these hostages and keep
them alive as long as they can. So, this is a lot of speculation on the IDF's part.
GOLODRYGA: So, Bob, how -- I'll ask you the question I asked our hostage expert before and that is how does the calculus change once this incursion
BAER: You know, it depends how bad it gets, but if those hostages are being held in the tunnels that the Israelis have to take back, their
situation becomes very precarious, obviously.
GOLODRYGA: I know you're in touch with sources in Israel, and other intelligence contacts that you have. What is their outlook from a realistic
standpoint as to the ability to save these hostages?
BAER: Oh, I think there's a consensus. The ability to actually rescue them on the part of the IDF is remote. Any Israeli will tell you that's done
this before, taking back hostages from a well-armed group and a group ready to die is nearly impossible. So, I don't think we're going to be seeing
any, you know, great heroics to get these -- they'll try to get him back, but the chances of the hostages living through a rescue attempt, I think
it's close to zero.
GOLODRYGA: Juliette, you know, October 7th is a day that will forever change Israel. And from the perspective of the amount and price they are
willing to pay for just one of their own, you know, we saw with Gilad Shalit, right, that they traded -- exchanged 1,000 Palestinian prisoners
for him. Everything I'm hearing from my sources there says that there's no appetite at this point to do that, given the horrific massacre that
occurred on October 7th. I'm just curious, what are you hearing and has that position from the Israelis changed forever on this issue? Juliette?
KAYYEM: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was back on. I do think -- I thought Bob was still on. I do think that is an accurate statement that I -
- that there's going to be a for -- before after aspect to what happened last Saturday in terms of a number of things. One -- and maybe some silver
One is, of course, the no gap between the United States and Israel in terms of the United States support of it, it is stronger in terms of the U.S.
government. The second though, as President Biden has been saying, this question of whether Israel and the Arab nations both equally could move
forward without addressing the Palestinian issue is now seriously, you know, sort of suspect. In other words, the president keeps coming back to
the Palestinian issue.
And I have to admit, you haven't -- we haven't heard an American president in a long time begin to even talk about a two-state solution. So, I don't
know how this unfolds in the next -- you know, it's going to unfold differently in the next day, weeks and months, but the next years are going
to look differently in terms of the geopolitical discussion, regardless if Bibi -- if Netanyahu survives this, regardless of who our next president
is. That is just a reality. I think everyone in Israel and everyone in the Arab world understands.
GOLODRYGA: And everything we're hearing from officials within Israel say that the day of accountability for why this happened and why the
intelligence was missed will come after the war.
GOLODRYGA: Bob, it was quite stunning to see the head of Shin Bet and then, the next day the head of intelligence for the IDF both take
accountability and blame for what happened under their watch. From a security perspective, and this is your world, how rare is that and what was
your reaction when you heard it?
BAER: You know, that doesn't surprise me. I've spent enough time with Israeli intelligence that when you sit them down and ask, please tell me
the truth, they will or they'll say it's classified. The Israelis have an ability in a crisis situation to tell the truth, and the fact that the
intelligence heads have admitted defeat and that their mistakes is in character with Israeli intelligence.
What surprises me is how badly the IDF reacted to the incursion and the fact that they didn't know that Gaza was boiling, that there were a couple
thousand people willing to cross the border all at once and die and do it securely until contact, that's what really surprised me. And it's, of
course, surprised the Israelis.
And I think there will be a truth commission coming out of this. And Israelis are going to really have to reassess, they're going to have to
reassess the settlements in the West Bank. Can they be protected? Should they be protected? And what to do with 2.3 million Palestinians?
GOLODRYGA: The --
KAYYEM: Can I just say something?
GOLODRYGA: Yes. We have about 20 seconds left. So, quickly, Juliette.
KAYYEM: Yes. So, you know, we talk about this as an intelligence failure, but as Bob was saying, it was an everything failure. The response was just
not adequate. And Israel knows it needs to review this because Israel's ability to survive is not only that it is strong, it's the perception that
it is strong.
KAYYEM: That too got eviscerated last Saturday, and they know it. They've got to project their strength.
GOLODRYGA: It is inexcusable that it took so many hours for help to arrive for these people. Juliette Kayyem, Bob Baer, thank you so much for joining
us for this breaking news hour. We appreciate your time and we thank you at home for watching and goodbye for now from New York.