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Source Says, Hostage Release, Fighting Pause to Begin Tomorrow at 3:00 A.M. ET; Explosions Seen Over Gaza Ahead of Truce Tomorrow Morning; U.N. Agency Says, Nearly 1.7 Million People Displaced in Gaza Since October 7. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2023 - 10:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The major breakthrough in Israel, a truce and dozens of women and children kidnapped by Hamas set to be released. What the hostage families are saying about this moment and what it means for Israel's mission to defend itself and take out Hamas.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And President Biden welcoming the deal as a major diplomatic victory after weeks of phone calls and negotiations, vowing not to give up until every American is back home.

BOLDUAN: And millions of Americans are heading out today for the Thanksgiving holiday. We are tracking the roads, the airports and the storm systems for you this morning.

I'm Kate Bolduan with Omar Jimenez. John and Sara are off. This is CNN News Central.

The breaking news, there is an agreement, a truce, it's being called, to soon see dozens of hostages free from captivity. Now, they have been held by Hamas for some seven weeks, meaning, right now, there are families, including American families, waiting, hoping, praying that their loved ones are among the group that will be coming out in the coming days.

As part of this truce, here is what we are told, a four-day pause in fighting will begin roughly 17 hours from now. Hamas is then expected to begin releasing 50 women and children held captive in Gaza. In return, Hamas says Israel will release 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

JIMENEZ: Now, before the truce begins tomorrow morning, Israel is continuing its assault on Hamas targets. These are brand-new images, we want to show you them here, of what Rafah and Southern Gaza looks like right now. The images will come up shortly here. You see the smoke there on your screen, the plumes rising. That was just last hour. And it was part of the barrage of airstrikes we've seen over Gaza. We have got team coverage standing by in Israel. CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins is in Tel Aviv with more on the logistics of how this deal was reached and will now be carried out. Kaitlan, what are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. What we are expecting this to look like is about 3:00 A.M. Eastern Time, 10:00 A.M. local here in Israel is when this is set to begin on Thursday, and what we expect to happen then is that pause in fighting, the biggest pause that we have seen, the most significant one since October 7th. And so that in and of itself notable.

But the question of how it actually looks, what the release of these hostages actually looks like still remains to be seen. But right now, based on our reporting and what we have heard from sources here on the ground is we expect about ten hostages per day to be released.

Now, those are not names that have been made public by either Hamas or the Israeli side. Certainly, families are still waiting desperately to hear more about that, but that is what we are expecting in the four to five-day pause.

Now, there is an option for that to continue, to go on past those initial 50 women and children Israelis who are going to be released from Hamas in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners, that could go on longer, because we've heard from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said that for every ten additional hostages that are released by Hamas, there will be another day of the pause in the fighting.

The question is how long that goes on, how many more hostages Hamas is ultimately able to produce, because there are still questions about the condition of these hostages, whether or not all of them are still alive. Those are major questions that have not yet been answered and that these families are waiting to hear.

And, of course, all of this is coming after days and weeks, five weeks of intense negotiations between the White House, Qatar, Israel and Hamas on this very issue. It points especially after Israel went into the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. There was no communication between Hamas and Qatar for days. Then they resurfaced. They had a disagreement over whether or not that would happen going forward, and then there is movement again.


And that is what led us to where we are now, counting down the hours until this is set to begin.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is also here on the ground. And, Oren, as we are waiting to learn more about technically what this is going to look like, we are also, you know, seeing fighting still continuing in Gaza as of this Moment right now.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, and, frankly, that's not too much of a surprise. We have seen ceasefires and pauses in fighting take effect in previous rounds of fighting. And right up until that pause starts, right up until 10:00 tomorrow, we should very much expect to see fighting continue. In fact, an IDF spokesperson came on our air last night and said, when the political order comes down to stop fighting, the IDF will be ready. But until that point this is very much still an ongoing bar.

So, it is not surprising that we see continued Israeli strikes in Gaza and we have seen red alerts indicating rocket fire coming out of Gaza, and that is because the pause hasn't started yet.

It shouldn't be interpreted as the pause and this agreement falling apart, not at all. As far as we know and all the indications are these -- the pause will go into effect and the war will be put on hold effectively starting 10:00 tomorrow. But until then, it is very much on. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made clear in his cabinet meeting that after the pause in fighting, the war is still on and Israel will pursue its mission of trying to destroy Hamas.

COLLINS: And, Oren, speaking of fighting, I mean, we saw a red alert in a lot of the southernmost point in Israel earlier. We've seen the Houthis in Yemen firing on Israel before. They're not a party to this agreement, neither is Hezbollah in Lebanon. So, I didn't think there are real questions about what those other Iranian-backed groups are going to be doing if Hamas is living up to its part of their part agreement, there still could be action that we are seeing.

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely. And that's part of what makes this a dynamic and difficult situation to try to manage. We actually got a follow-up statement from the IDF that one of their fighter jets intercepted a cruise missile following that alert in Elat.

Now, they haven't attributed that to the Houthis in Yemen but it follow the attacks we've seen coming from there, in which they have claimed in recent weeks. The same question goes, as you pointed out, for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Do they abide by this pause? They have no reason to. They're not a party to this agreement. It just depends on how closely aligned they are with Hamas and what messages have gone back and forth on that front. We haven't gotten a window into that.

But it could very much be that as we see a four-day pause in fighting in Gaza and thousands, if not tens of thousands of Israeli troops simply waiting in Gaza in defensive position for the fighting to resume, we see Israel's southern border and northern border continue to see fighting. That is something we're absolutely going to keep an eye on here.

COLLINS: Yes. That's a huge part of this conflict.

Oren Liebermann, we'll continue to check back in with you.

And here in Tel Aviv, this is a place where the families of so many hostages have been, for five weeks, sharing their anguish, their anger, as they wait for news of their loved ones. As I said, we still don't know which 50 hostages are on that list that are set to be released by Hamas, when and if this agreement is carried out in the coming days. So many of them are still waiting to find out. Of course, there are many who don't believe their family members, if they are going to be released, will be in that initial list of 50.

Clarissa Ward has been in what is now informally known as Hostage Square, and I spoke to her a short time ago.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is just the beginning of the fight. This is not the end. People here want to see every single one of those 240-some hostages released.

There are camps like this that have sprouted up in several parts here in Central Tel Aviv. We are in an area where the focus is on the family of a woman called Hadas Calderon. You can see this poster. Excuse me, ma'am. Can I just move you for one second? This is Hadas Calderon's family. That is her ex-husband, Ofer, who has been kidnapped along with her two children, Erez and Sahar. Her mother, Carmela, and autistic niece, Noia (ph), were actually murdered in those October 7th attacks.

And the hope is, of course, for Hadas Calderon and many mothers and family members like her that, potentially, we may see the release of Sahar and Erez and of some of the other children who are currently being held.

Now, I've also spoken, Kaitlan, to Thomas Hand. You may remember him. We interviewed him early on after the October 7th attacks. He is an Irishman who was living in the Be'eri Kibbutz for some 30 years. His eight-year-old daughter, Emily, was among those. Initially, he was told she had been killed. Then he was told just about a couple of weeks ago that actually she may be alive.

I have spoken to Thomas Hand. He has said, quote, I want to jump through the roof with hope, but I also have to keep a level head emotionally.


I can't let myself get too far ahead of myself.

And he made a couple of important points, Kaitlan. He said that so far no one from the Israeli government has reached out to him. He has learned about this hostage release deal on television, as many different families have. He still has no information as to Emily's exact whereabouts, as to the conditions she's being held in, as to her own conditions. There has been no specific proof of life.

And that's why I think you're seeing this kind of measured approach on the one hand, obviously, ecstatic at the potential that he may be able to see his daughter again in the coming days, but also trying to temper that fervent hope with the possibility at this stage that she may not be coming out, that she may not be alive, that he simply doesn't know enough about her condition or whether she will be among these initial releases.

So, I would say exactly, as you kind of summarized it, an extraordinary amount of excitement and hope, but also real anxiety, not just as to whether their children or their family members will be among those who are initially released, but also so importantly, Kaitlan, as to what kind of a condition they will be returning in.

These children have been held in potentially very difficult, if not horrific, circumstances for many weeks on end. There is bound to be a huge psychological impact to the trauma that they have endured. And so everybody here hoping for the best and bracing themselves for the worst, Kaitlan.


COLLINS: Clarissa Ward, thank you. Omar, Kate, obviously just a lot of questions for these families who are living and have been living for weeks in anguish and are still waiting to find out. Obviously, it's a glimmer of hope for them, but they are still waiting to find out what is going to be -- what is going to be happen when this begins at 10:00 A.M. local tomorrow.

JIMENEZ: And, of course, we talked about how little time it may seem to a lot of people, but for these families, they've been waiting for so long, each hour, each minute, is just waiting and that tenseness, trying to figure out, all right, is my loved one actually going to be among those that comes home.

BOLDUAN: Actually, literally holding their breath in this moment. Kaitlan, thank you so much for being there.


Now, still ahead for us. The four-day pause in fighting will allow a lot more aid to get into the besieged Gaza as the humanitarian crisis there worsens. And while it is a crucial step, we are hearing new stories about the horrific cost of this war especially among children.

But before the truce begins in about 17 hours, the IDF says it is still targeting Hamas infrastructure. So, will the four-day truce open the door for the terrorist organization to regroup?

Plus, as millions head to their destination, storms could put a damper on your Thanksgiving plans. Where that bad weather could hit, next.



JIMENEZ: You are looking -- we're going to take you to some live images right now over Northern Gaza. You can see what we've been watching, or a combination of flares and what appear to be strikes as night begins to fall over there in Gaza. And, of course, as we've been monitoring, the Israeli military says it's still been targeting Hamas infrastructure ahead of the truce that doesn't take effect until tomorrow morning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war after the fighting pause, saying it won't end until, quote, Hamas is destroyed, all the hostages are released, and there is nobody in Gaza who can threaten Israel.

So, we're going to continue to monitor some of these images as we welcome our next guest, CNN Military Analyst and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark.

So, obviously, we've been watching some of these images here. There was a question of how perhaps intense strikes would be in the lead-up to the actual moment this truce took effect. And so we're expecting to begin at 3:00 A.M. Eastern Time, and this maybe precedes my question, but what do you expect to happen leading up to that moment?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think the strikes will be as intense as Israel has targets for. There will be no slacking off until the exact moment of the truce. And I'm sure that this was an issue that was really hammered out in the cabinet. I'm sure there were voices saying, you can't give a truce. You've got to go through with this. You've got to finish the job against Hamas. And so the Israeli military will be pressing to do as much as they can.

During the truce period, Omar, they're going to still have the right to self-defense. And it's very strange. You call it a truce. It could be called a pause. It could be called a temporary ceasefire. But whatever you call it, there's no enforcement mechanism. So, there are no independent observers on the ground.

And what normally happens when something like this kind of a pause occurs is maybe the shooting stops for a while. But pretty soon it starts again because someone feels threatened and they have the right to self-defense.

After the period of four or five days, assuming the hostages get released on schedule, unless there's a continued release of hostages beyond the 50, as Prime Minister Netanyahu said, he's going to resume.


And this is going to be a real struggle. There will be strong political forces pressure on Israel not to resume. So, how this gets resolved is the key strategic problem for Israel.

JIMENEZ: And for those just tuning in, we're monitoring the scene over Gaza right now. We've been seeing some flares, a combination of what appear to be some strikes going into Gaza as well as night begins to fall. And, obviously, under 20 hours to when this truce is set to effect, this is, of course, before then.

Now, when we look, General, at some of the details in this deal, four to five-day pause, but what does a pause like this typically mean militarily? What can and can't you do essentially in a timeframe like that?

CLARK: Well, when it starts, let's look at it from the Israeli side. They'd like to replenish, relax, get a break for the troops that are in frontline contact, but can they really trust Hamas? So, there will be a period of doubt here, and they'll have to keep their guard up and they'll consolidate their positions.

They're inside Gaza, but they don't control Gaza. There are tunnel entrances that are being shot at from behind on some occasions, so they don't really have any security in there. Maybe they'll rotate some troops in and out.

On the Hamas side, they're going to use it to consolidate, replenish, resupply, reorganize, try to re-establish communications, and be ready for the next wave of the Israeli fighting.

So, this is a humanitarian effort. There will be some humanitarian assistance that comes in, unless there are some really strange, strong controls here. Hamas is going to get what it needs out of that humanitarian assistance and replenish its own fuel stocks or whatever.

So, this is a -- let's get the hostages out, that will be a great thing, but this is far from over, Omar, and it's very dynamic. It's really hard to predict where it's going to go.

JIMENEZ: And it's not just on the ground that we're looking at here. U.S. and Israel both pausing drone flights over Gaza as part of this hostage deal as well, per senior White House official.

And to one of your points that you made, Israel's government has made clear, they plan to resume its air and ground campaign to, quote, complete the eradication of Hamas after this truce, temporary pause, whatever you want to call it. But also they've left the door open to continue these pauses by an additional day for every 10 hostages who are released. So, how do you expect Israel to try and balance their goal of hostage release, but also with their goal of destroying Hamas?

CLARK: You know, that's a tough call. And it's a really tough political call on Netanyahu and his war cabinet, because the military knows that Hamas is -- Hamas -- to win, a victory for Hamas is they've used the hostages and they've survived this. And then they emerge as heroes among their followers and supporters, the Iranians, the Hezbollah, and these other Palestinian Jihadi groups. They will use the hostages.

Eventually, they hope Israel will lose its appetite for continuing the fight. And then Hamas will say, aha, we made it. It was a successful operation. Israel knows this. Israel knows that if they don't eliminate Hamas, that it will set the stage for future operations like this, perhaps by Hezbollah coming out of Lebanon. So, this is a really, really tough call.

In the past, Israel has turned loose a thousand prisoners to get one Israeli soldier back. So, the weight on Israel is human life, Israeli human life is the most important overriding factor.

But this is the first time that Israel has declared an existential threat. According to Prime Minister Netanyahu, this is Hamas, is an existential threat. Maybe that changes the calculus. There are all kinds of dynamics that make it very unpredictable, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Yes. And, of course, and I should mention again, as you've been talking, we've been seeing these flares and what appear to be strikes happen as night begins to fall there. So, a lot of dynamics to keep an eye on even ahead of this long negotiated truce or pause or whatever you want to call it.

General Wesley Clark, thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: And leaders from around the world are reacting to and praising this deal reached between Israel and Hamas, a deal that, again, to repeat, will free 50 hostages kidnapped and held by Hamas for 46 days now. That will happen once a pause in fighting begins and will remain that way for four days, putting this war effectively on pause beginning tomorrow morning.

Jordan's Foreign Ministry said that it hopes that this truce will lead to the end of this war, which has created a humanitarian crisis and rising death toll on civilians in Gaza as well.


CNN's Nada Bashir is in Jerusalem for us tracking all this. Nada, what does this pause -- what are you hearing this pause means for the people in Gaza?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, this will certainly go some way to alleviating some of the humanitarian catastrophes, the pressures that we have seen put on the people of the Gaza Strip for over a month.

Now, we have seen the humanitarian situation deteriorating across the board, particularly across Northern Gaza, where we have seen that heavy bombardment concentrated over the last few weeks, but also, of course, in the south, where there are hundreds of thousands of people inside Gaza now displaced, sheltering in these temporary tent cities.

The hope is that this temporary pause, this truce, whether it be four days or potentially even longer, will allow for crucial aid convoys to access the Gaza Strip safely and securely to provide that crucial, much needed humanitarian aid to people inside Gaza, and, of course, also to allow aid agencies to get into Gaza.

Now, according to sources who are familiar with the ongoing negotiations, the terms of that agreement are working towards some 400 aid trucks being allowed into the Gaza Strip each day of this truce. That wouldn't be too far off from the pre-war level of aid we were seeing getting into Gaza, some 455 trucks before the war. So, this will certainly be a welcome development for those in need.

As we know, Gaza has been facing a debilitating shortage in fuel inside Gaza. We saw over the weekend, the Israeli government then allowing some fuel to get into support, water and sewage systems. But, crucially, what is needed now is fuel to allow hospitals to keep running, to allow people to power their generators. That is what is so desperately needed.

And, of course, there will be aid delivered on other fronts as well, safe drinking water, food as well as crucially medical supplies, medication, to allow those hospitals to keep treating patients. And as we know, the vast majority of hospitals, strictly in Northern and Central Gaza, are now in operational. And we have seen doctors working under the most challenging and difficult circumstances, trying to continue to provide care for the so many patients that are coming in wounded as a result of this war, but unable to do so.

And, in fact, we've been speaking to people on the ground. We managed to speak to some families with young children who have had to have amputations as a result of the ongoing airstrikes. And what they are facing is difficult, to say the least. Take a look.


BASHIR (voice over): I was walking with my friends and then suddenly the missile fell, Asef says. I found myself on the ground lying on my right side. I kept trying to stand up, but there was rubble on top of my leg. When they removed the rubble, I saw that my foot had been ripped off.

I've been watching and playing soccer since I was a little boy. It's still my favorite sport, Asef tells us. Now, the Israeli occupation has destroyed my dreams.


BASHIR (on camera): Now, for so many children inside Gaza, for so many families inside Gaza, their lives have been completely changed forever. As we know, according to the U.N., some 1.7 million people now internally displaced, and that death toll continues to rise with each passing day. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Nada Bashir. Thank you.

Coming up still for us, I'd like to welcome you to one of the busiest travel days of the year. What you'll find on the roads and at airports across the country ahead of Thanksgiving.

And on the campaign trail, what we're hearing from presidential candidates on the breaking news of this hostage deal and why some Republicans are even giving credit to Joe Biden.