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Israel & Hamas Agree To Hostage Deal, 4-Day Fighting Pause; WH: Biden "Personally Engaged" In Negotiation Process; FBI Investigating Vehicle Explosion At Rainbow Bridge U.S.-Canada Border Crossing Near Niagara Falls; Sam Altman Returns To OpenAI As CEO With New Board; IDF Strikes & Fighting Continue In Gaza Before Pause. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 22, 2023 - 13:30   ET



TAMARA ALRIFAI, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS & COMMUNICATIONS, UNRWA: Well, first, we do welcome that deal, including the humanitarian pauses, the release of the hostages and the prisoners. So any halt in the hostilities is welcome by anyone, especially the people of Gaza who have been through hell over the last seven weeks now.

What we are expecting is, if we do get the security guarantee that we need, we want to be able to go over the entire Strip, the north, the middle and the south.

For the last few weeks, we've only been active in the middle and the south areas after the northern part of the Strip has been completely sealed.

We've been able to deliver food, some clean drinking water and to provide medical services mostly through our mobile clinics and nine of our 25 health centers because the rest of them are in the north and they've been closed.

We want to scale up to receive more trucks and supplies and be able to distribute them. We're currently talking about 156 shelters hosting around 930,000 people. That's more than half of those who are displaced.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Once this proposed window closes tomorrow and the war resumes, what other options will you have to address all these humanitarian needs?

ALRIFAI: Well, we do hope that the window doesn't close so that we're truly able to access areas in the Gaza Strip that we have not accessed for over a month now.

If it does close, then the humanitarian situation will grow even more catastrophic, if that is possible.

Meanwhile, my colleagues will still be in the middle and southern parts of Gaza. And the high officials, including the commissioner general, will continue to engage international leaders globally to allow more humanitarian access. BLITZER: Let's hope lives are saved tomorrow.

Tamara Alrifai, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.

Just ahead, we're getting new details right now on President Biden's urgent conversations with key leaders to get this hostage deal done.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: In less than 14 hours, a four-day truce between Israel and Hamas is expected to begin.

And as the world waits for Hamas to release 50 women and children being held hostage in Gaza, we're learning the deal to make that happen involved weeks of painstaking negotiations between Israel, the U.S., Qatar and Hamas.

As I just discussed with a top administration official moments ago, President Biden was personally engaged in that negotiation process.

Let's get the details from CNN's Arlette Saenz. She's traveling with the president in Nantucket for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Arlette, what comes next here?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, the White House is watching very closely to see what the implementation of this deal will look like.

And a source familiar with the plan tells our colleague, M.J. Lee, that the U.S. has a working list of about 10 people they believe could be released in this first group of hostages.

Now one thing that remains unclear is whether any Americans would be included in this release on the first day.

Administration officials have said that they are hopeful that three Americans will ultimately be released as part of this larger deal. That includes a 3-year-old Abigail, whose parents had been killed in the October 7th attack by Hamas.

But there are still a number of logistical issues that need to get worked out.

The source said that the way that this deal is structured, the initial group of hostages would be transferred to the Red Cross, which would then move this group to a designated border point area where they would be able to leave.

It's expected that many of the 50 initial hostages would be leaving through Egypt.

And then there is the questions about the next phase for these hostages, the rehabilitation that they will all have to go through.

Officials are treating the first two days of this hostage release really as a testing period to make sure that the process is working. And by day three, a source said they anticipate a discussion starting to begin about the release of hostages beyond that initial 50.

So there are still a number of implementation points that the administration is watching in the coming days as they are hoping to get these hostages back home to their families.

SANCHEZ: And, Arlette, walk us through how this deal came together from the U.S. perspective, the Biden administration's role.

SAENZ: Yes, we're getting a clearer view about the painstaking negotiations that went on for weeks, since the beginning of this attack, to try to secure the release of the hostages.

There has been direct engagement from President Biden himself and other top White House officials really from the outset.

There had been communications between the U.S. and the Qataris who really had served as the main mediator in these talks between Israel and Hamas.

They had viewed that initial release of those two American hostages back on October 23rd. That was really a testing point. And that paved the way in the U.S. realizing that the Qataris did have an in, were able to work with Hamas to try to secure the release of the hostages.


But there were a number of challenges that arose over the course of these negotiations. There were discussions that Hamas did not want to release identifying information about the hostages that had been held. That was a key sticking point in these talks.

There was also a moment where Hamas, in recent days, had completely gone dark. Negotiators had not been hearing from them. When they did begin speaking again, they had raised concerns about Israel's raid in Al-Shifa Hospital.

There really are so many moments, fit and is starts in these negotiations. President Biden himself getting involved, speaking directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also the premiere of Qatar.

Netanyahu has given President Biden credit for his involvement in these talks and helping to push them forward.

Of course, President Biden says that they will not rest until all of the hostages are out as they believe there are about 10 Americans who are being held since the beginning of the war.

SANCHEZ: Arlette Saenz, live from Nantucket, thanks for the details.

Still ahead, we're getting new information on a story that's breaking right now. The FBI is investigating a vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge in Buffalo. That is the U.S.-Canadian border crossing. We'll have a report for you on that straight ahead.



SANCHEZ: We have breaking news just into CNN. The FBI is investigating a vehicle explosion near Upstate New York at the Rainbow Bridge U.S.- Canada border crossing. They say the situation there is, quote, "very fluid."

Let's get the latest details now from CNN's Brynn Gingras.

So, Brynn, what do we know about what happened?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris, I think fluid is a good way to describe this as we're trying to get more information as to what happened there at the Rainbow Bridge.

As you just described, that is the bridge that connects the U.S. and Canada near Niagara Falls. The authorities there are saying that both sides of that bridge are shut down right now due to a crash.

However, this is prompting a federal response. We know that the FBI, the ATF, they are on the scene investigating exactly what happened.

Authorities also saying that, at the time of this incident, a car was trying to enter the U.S. through that crossing.

So again, limited details at this point. However, a colleague of ours, Paul Murphy, did talk to someone who was actually headed -- was there on vacation for the holiday with his family, was getting out of the parking lot in that area.

And he described it as some sort of explosion that happened at that same time, said that there was smoke in the air, and then soon after that, they were escorted out of the area by law enforcement.

So very much a fluid situation. Not exactly clear what happened there, but we know it's prompting a federal response. Kathy -- New York Governor Kathy Hochul is aware of the situation, also monitoring this.

So we'll keep an eye on this and we'll continue to update you guys -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Brynn Gingras, please bring us the latest when you get it.


SANCHEZ: Thanks so much.

Now to a bizarre high-stakes tale of tech turmoil turning into triumph overnight after the fired CEO of one of the leading names in artificial intelligence is rehired just days after he was forced out of the company that he helped create. Sam Altman is now back as the CEO of OpenAI. The creator of ChatGPT

was pushed out of the company on Friday. On Monday, Microsoft, which is a huge investor in OpenAI, announced that they had hired him.

And that same day, more than 500 staffers at OpenAI threatened to follow him out the door if the board that fired him didn't resign. Then last night, this development. He was reinstated as CEO and the board was shown the door.

Let's bring in CNN business and politics correspondent, Vanessa Yurkevich, to help us understand this soap opera in Silicon Valley.

Vanessa, what happened?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, in less than a week, you had Sam Altman, the CEO and founder of OpenAI, ousted and then returned as CEO. He announced this on Twitter, along with the company announcing it on X, formally Twitter.

But now, as part of this deal, though, you have a new board. You have two new board members to start, as well as a holdover board member that is still there. He was a part of the original board. He's still there.

But a lot of tech experts are saying this is the beginning of what's going to be a much larger board, nine to 10 people on it. And folks are saying that this group has more experience and is in support of the progress of artificial intelligence.

Also returning to OpenAI in just a matter of days is Greg Brockman. He's the co-founder of OpenAI. He, for a hot second, along with Sam Altman, headed over to Microsoft. Now they're both back.

You see that photo there. Those are many of the employees that signed this open letter to OpenAI saying, if you don't get the current board out and bring Sam and Greg back, we are out.

And just, Boris, to point out for everyday people why this is so important, we use artificial intelligence in our everyday lives whether we know it or not.

And this is the next race. How fast do we move? Do we hold back? That was some of the disagreement between the old board and Sam Altman.

Artificial intelligence, though, very much a part of our lives. Sam Altman wanted to pump the gas and move it forward, and now it's looking like that is exactly what is going to be happening.

SANCHEZ: I look forward to watching the HBO version of this movie. So much drama.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much.


Still to come on NEWS CENTRAL, the deal is done, but the pause has yet to begin. Israeli airstrikes and ground operations are still targeting northern Gaza. We have the latest on the ground there in just moments.



BLITZER: The Israeli military has been warning communities in southern Gaza to head to shelters and take cover as the IDF continues its fight against Hamas.

This is new video showing the aftermath of a blast in southern Gaza earlier this morning. Civilians there pulling bodies from the rubble amid heavy destruction.


CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us from Sderot in Israel, not far from Gaza. He's got more on the latest as far as the fighting is concerned.

Jeremy, what are you learning? What can you tell us?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all this afternoon and evening, we've been hearing continued artillery outgoing from Israel into the Gaza Strip.

We have witnessed large plumes of smoke, explosions, and those illumination rounds being fired into the Gaza Strip.

Indicating that the Israeli military, as they've made very clear, is going to continue to target Hamas militants and infrastructure inside the Gaza Strip up until the truce actually goes into effect.

What the Israeli prime minister also made very clear yesterday is that after this pause in fighting, that the military will resume its campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

And the Israeli officials who I've been speaking to have indicated that that will also include pushing deeper into southern Gaza as well.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military is also providing what they say is new evidence of Hamas' tunnel infrastructure under Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest hospital.

They just released new video, Wolf, showing other entrances to that tunnel shaft, which they revealed last week.

They were also able to breach this door that they found inside the tunnel, which they said -- and they show in this video -- leads to rooms they describe as a hide-out room. Another one they say is a bathroom.

And they say this includes dozens of meters of tunnels that they've already discovered under Al-Shifa Hospital. They say it also passes under one of the hospital buildings known at the Qatari building there.

So CNN obviously can't independently verify the extent of the Israeli military's claims here, although we have been able to geolocate at least one of those tunnel entrances to the Al-Shifa complex.

But certainly, this is what the Israeli military says is further evidence of their broad claim that Hamas operates a command-and- control center below Al-Shifa Hospital. If that's so, we have yet to see evidence of -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jeremy, we'll stay in very close touch with you.

Jeremy Diamond, in Sderot in Israel, thank you.

Just ahead, there's breaking news unfolding near Buffalo, New York, my hometown. We'll have the latest on an explosion over at the Rainbow Bridge between Niagara Falls and Canada.