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Vehicle Explosion At U.S.-Canada Border; Breakthrough In Middle East Hostage Situation. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired November 22, 2023 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We continue the tracking of breaking news out of Buffalo, or near Buffalo, New York: the U.S.-Canada border, the Rainbow Bridge. There, a vehicle has exploded, and its two inhabitants, according to officials, were killed.
We're going to focus now on breaking news from the Middle East. Major breaking news about the hostages that are being held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just told reporters in his first public address since the announcement of the Israeli-Hamas deal that the Red Cross will be allowed to visit the hostages being held in Gaza, including those not include those that are not a part of the deal.
Of the 50 hostages that are initially set to be returned as part of this 4 to 5-day ceasefire or rather pause in fighting agreement, let's go now to CNN's Oren Liebermann who's live for us in Tel Aviv. Oren, this is a major development in part because information on these hostages has been very difficult to come by, and having the Red Cross access some of them could be useful in getting more details.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Boris, it wasn't just very difficult to get information about the hostages; it was virtually impossible because the Red Cross wasn't able to visit them up until this point. It was also one of the questions Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in a statement yesterday has said the Red Cross would be able to visit the hostages that weren't released. But there was a question of whether that meant the other hostages in the first 50 that simply weren't released on the first day or all of the nearly 240 hostages that Hamas is holding in Gaza. That part was unclear. So, Netanyahu, in a press conference that is still ongoing or at least was just a few moments ago, read specifically from the agreement, and the language he used made it clear, at least from what he was reading, that the Red Cross will visit all of the hostages who remain in Gaza.
He then talked a bit about the deliberation process, the negotiations process that got to this point and improving the terms of the deal. As we've reported throughout the day, it is 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for the Red Cross, and the Red Cross will visit all of the hostages in Gaza for 150 Palestinian prisoners, women, and children here, and then that could be extended past the initial 4 or 5 days. For every 10 hostages, there are that are released, there will be 1 more day of a pause in the fighting.
But Netanyahu also repeatedly emphasized that regardless of how long that pause is, this is still a war. It's been a war since October 7th, and according to Netanyahu and the other members of the war cabinet who also spoke at this press conference, that war will continue. They say until they defeat Hamas. They made it clear that that is the goal here, and they say they will pursue that goal when this pause ends. They also talked about again the difficulties in negotiations, improving the terms to get to this point.
Netanyahu said he spoke to President Joe Biden a short time before the press conference. He says Biden was an integral part of this entire process and helped improve the terms of the deal. So that very much a way of lauding Biden's role here, and then Netanyahu took a few questions. He was asked about the North. He was asked if Israel would also commit to a pause in fighting in the North. He wouldn't commit there. He said the focus is on Gaza right now, and they'll deal with what happens in the North as they need to.
So, it's clear here that things are moving forward. We are now getting to the 12-hour point before that pause in fighting takes effect. It is worth noting, though, that neither Netanyahu nor the other members of the war cabinet offered any specific details about how this would play out. All of those effectively, Boris, we have learned from other sources, be they U.S. sources, country sources. So the Israeli public here is still waiting to hear from their leaders how this plays out and, of course, waiting to see it play out, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Yeah, this agreement is set to kick in at 10 a.m local time where you are in Israel, 3 a.m Eastern here in the United States.
Oren, did we get any indication from the Prime Minister as to what the protocol would be if this agreement were to be breached, if Hamas or any of the other players in that area were to resume hostilities?
LIEBERMANN: That's an interesting question. He was asked that directly. What happens if a soldier who is in Gaza is shot during this pause? Does that immediately result in a violation of the pause? And does the whole deal fall apart? He didn't give a specific answer to that, effectively saying that Israel knows how to respond, and Israel knows how to manage the situation. He also pointed out a little earlier that all of the security bodies and security apparatuses in Israel had supported the deal. So, it doesn't look like he will draw a specific red line and say this is the point where the deal falls apart. It is clear that this is important not only to the country, but also to the war cabinet and to Netanyahu to see to it that this moves forward here.
SANCHEZ: A lot of optimism, not only in Israel, but from the United States that this deal will hold and potentially expand beyond that 4- or 5-day agreement. Oren Lieberman from Tel Aviv, Israel, thank you so much. Our breaking news coverage continues in just a moment. Stay with CNN.
SANCHEZ: Welcome back to CNN News Central. We are continuing to track the breaking news at the U.S.-Canada border near Niagara Falls at the Rainbow Bridge there. The FBI investigating a vehicle explosion. We have some new video we want to share with you that appears to have been taken from a structure not far from the scene. And you see the flames there.
Our reporting indicates that a vehicle was on the U.S. side of the border driving through a local road when at one point it quickly accelerated. According to CNN's John Miller, hitting speeds of roughly 80 miles an hour before heading toward that border crossing, hitting a curb, becoming airborne, and then exploding on impact at an area for secondary screening at that border crossing. Officials are on the ground right now trying to determine exactly what happened. As we take a live look at images close up at the scene where you see vehicle parts and smoke and flames at that site. We want to go to CNN's Brynn Gingras for the very latest. Brynn, what are you learning about what happened? At what stage of the investigation are we in?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, Boris, those pictures are so good because it gives all of us a sense of what investigators on the ground are really dealing with. That was an intense explosion that is there at the site as they tried to figure out, try to answer exactly what happened. As you're seeing this video from, you know, someone that's not too far in a building, investigators are using, as you can imagine, all the cameras in that surrounding area to get different views of what led up to this. And still at this point, there's just a lot of questions.
I'm being told by a source that they're actually also using drones at this point as sort of a tool to sort of get an overview of that area, try to get closer to the vehicle and try to, again, answer some of these questions as to what happened. As you mentioned, our colleague John Miller, his source is telling us that a vehicle on the U.S. side of that crossing was approaching that checkpoint area, accelerated to a high rate of speed, hit a curb, and then actually went airborne, crashing, causing that explosion into a secondary search area at that Rainbow Bridge crossing.
And as you mentioned also, Boris, the FBI is there on the ground, the ATF, the Joint Terrorism Task Force is all hands on deck with federal authorities trying to determine exactly what happened. Was this sinister in nature? Was this a medical emergency? These are all the questions that they are quickly trying to answer, though right now, it's a response. We're hearing that all 4 border crossings are shut down. We heard from Pete Muntean that international flights in and out of Buffalo Airport there are not happening. We're also learning there's an increase in security at the airports in that area and just that area in general. We're hearing increased security as well in other major cities. Evan Perez reporting that's the case in D.C.
We're learning here in New York City, the NYPD is actually sending support to the area from its law enforcement perspective and I can tell you that in just about an hour and 15 minutes, we're going to be hearing from the commissioner of the NYPD in regards to the big event that's happening in the city, the Macy's Day Parade and the security that's being taken in response to that. But I can imagine he is going to talk about this and the heightened security that we are in that is now impacting not only New York State, but New York City.
But certainly, a lot of questions still need to be answered as to exactly what happened there at that checkpoint, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Brynn Gingras, thank you so much for the update. We want to dig deeper now with someone who represents this area, a local leader. Joining us now over the phone is Robert Ort. He's a New York State Senator. Senator Ortt, thank you so much for being with us. What have you learned about the incident at the Rainbow Bridge? Can you share any details with us?
ROBERT ORTT, NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: Thank you, Boris. I certainly can share some details that I know whether or not it is different from what has been reported. I'm not sure, but I've spoken to Governor Hochul. I've spoken to Mayor Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino. I've spoken with Niagara County Sheriff Mike Filicetti as well as Congressman Brian Higgins' office and a host other local law enforcement and local leaders.
I would just urge, certainly caution, clearly we don't know yet. All the hallmarks are there to get people concerned. You have a border crossing the day before a very busy American holiday and a holiday weekend, and you have a vehicle exploding. So, it's easy for folks to jump to or to come to a conclusion, and that may well be the ultimate result of the investigation. But from everything I can tell, I've even heard some conflicting. Initially, the vehicle was coming into the U.S. Now we know the vehicle was coming from. It was coming from the United States.
So I don't think we know enough yet about what the intention was, who these individuals were. I have no doubt between the federal agencies and our state police and parks police and Niagara Falls police and Niagara County Sheriff's Office, they will get to the bottom of who these individuals were, and from there hopefully we can ascertain what the intent was or what the target was or what the goal of this was, whether it was something sinister or something that was going to happen to us.
But, you know, my thoughts go out to the CBP folks. I know we have two deaths, which were the 2 individuals in the car. I know we have a CBP -- my understanding is a CBP officer has been taken to the hospital with secondary injuries. You know, I'm not going to say they're not serious, but I don't know that they're life-threatening. And so, the fact that no one else was injured or killed at this point is a minor miracle and certainly something to be grateful for.
SANCHEZ: Yeah, we certainly hope those folks are okay. Just from hearing sort of your read on the situation, Senator, it does not sound like there is an ongoing threat or potentially secondary threats. Is that a fair assessment? Is that the indication that you've gotten from law enforcement?
ORTT: I have certainly not heard that there is. I do know that for the last several hours anyways, that was what they were trying to sort of guard against and make sure was not the case that this, you know, that the natural reaction is to close all the ports of entry, close all the bridges and make sure that there is not, that this is not something part of something larger. Certainly, here in New York State and across the country, we are, you know, too familiar with coordinated multiple pronged terror attacks going back to 9-11. So obviously they're going to take all the precautions. You know, it's again, it's a bit. It's a travel weekend, right? It's Thanksgiving weekend.
People are going to be on the move, whether it's by plane, whether it's over a crossing to Canada, or whether it's on just a major thoroughfare across New York State. And so, I think all, all of that has to come into play. And I'm sure they are making sure that there are no ongoing threats or active threats. But to my knowledge, there is nothing at this moment that would indicate a larger ongoing threat other than, you know, whatever, whatever threats or chatter that our intel agencies and law enforcement agencies are currently monitoring. So, I'm not aware of an ongoing threat, which is a good thing.
But if someone is traveling, certainly if you're trying to get to Canada, it's not going to happen. I would say it's not going to happen today for sure. If you live in western New York and if you're going to the airport, you're going to endure probably some lengthier security measures or wait times to get into the airport. But it's all out of precaution, given what we've seen happen this morning.
SANCHEZ: New York State Senator Robert Ortt, please keep us posted if you hear any additional information. I hate that we cross paths this way, but I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and thank you so much for your time. Our breaking news coverage continues in a moment. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICKIE WILSON, WITNESSED CAR EXPLOSION ON BRIDGE: When people don't know what's going on, of course, that's why I'm down here to tell you exactly what I've seen. This was, I don't know what happened. All I know is that vehicle was 10, 15 feet in the air before it hit the building. And probably right by that, somewhere around that light, it just, it's just hard to believe. It's just, you know, I have no reason to make anything up or anything. It's a miracle I'm doing this. Well, in front of all these cameras. Of course, I was in this track years ago, but that's another story. Anything else I can answer? Anything else -- I don't know.
It got to the border and there's an overhead thing. And by that time, the vehicle started to come down and it went underneath it. It had to have because it would have taken that out. And then it kind of like disappeared out of range a little bit. But I know it -- and just beyond that, it hit one of the things where the security officers are. And just, I'm just thanking God for answered prayer that none of the border patrol guys, 1 fellow I heard was injured. But I'm only here to let you know the facts of what really happened, what I saw.
UNKNOWN: Thank you. We're glad you're okay and you're safe.
WILKSON: Yes, I do. I'm on 8000 Porter Road, Lot 6, Niagara Falls, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: That is an eyewitness to the incident at the Rainbow Bridge, U.S.-Canada border crossing. That man describing a vehicle crashing into that border crossing, going 10 to 15 feet in the air before coming down and blowing up, reduced to rubble and flames. As we take a look at a video we just got a few moments ago from someone not far from that scene. I want to discuss this and more breaking news from the Middle East with Democratic Congressman from Indiana, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Andre Carson. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. Just right off the bat, have you been briefed on this incident? Is there any information you can share about what happened?
REP ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): Well, what I'll say is we're still waiting. For information, ranking member Himes are getting information and will get information as this investigation progresses. And, you know, we're still waiting. The situation is very fluid. We don't want to speculate at this point. We know that there was a briefcase found, but the briefcase did not have explosives in it. But as a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, I take border security very seriously. I'm a former law enforcement officer. I work in counterterrorism. I work in counterintelligence for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
And, you know, I've spoken out repeatedly about the threat of domestic terrorism. But we don't know enough to make any judgments at this point.
SANCHEZ: Yeah, Congressman, I understand. And I don't want you to speculate, but we originally were scheduled to talk about what's happening in the Middle East, this agreement between Israel and Hamas. And obviously all of those developments have the world on heightened alert. We don't know. We don't know if this was a terror attack or not. But I'm wondering, when you see an incident like this, the state of the world as it is right now, and the timing of this going into Thanksgiving with so many people on the road, so many people traveling, a lot of soft targets out there, you have to be concerned for the security of Americans.
CARSON: I'm always concerned about the security of Americans. The issue of domestic terrorism is one issue that I've lost sleep over. Given the sensitivity of the times. Given the frustration we're facing with Semitism and the Palestinian-Israeli question and the focus on Gaza and the people in Gaza and the destruction that we're seeing to women, men, and children, the images that we're getting repeatedly of children. What we don't want is for non-state actors and for people who are unwell to use this as an opportunity to make some kind of political statement, which sets us further back, unfortunately.
SANCHEZ: Thank you. Congressman, let's pivot to this deal that's been struck between Israel and Hamas and some of the other players in the region. You have been critical, I think it's fair to say, of the way that the Biden administration has handled some of what we've seen unfold in Gaza since October 7th. I'm wondering what you make of this deal. Is it significant to you that a large part of it includes significant aid going into Gaza?
CARSON: Well, I think it's a very important first step as well as a pause. It's a huge relief to the 50 hostages and their families who will be reunited. And look, I and some of my colleagues have been pushing for a ceasefire from the beginning of this situation. And this is a great sign of our momentum. And it's working. And, you know, it's de-escalation that will save lives. And bringing hostages home is critically important and not more violence. But there are still hostages that need to be reunited with their families.
And there have been 13,000 Palestinians who have died. We've had Israelis die. And almost half of those, more than half, have been children. This violence has created a growing, devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza. And it must stop.
SANCHEZ: Congressman, I think the counter argument from certain Israeli officials is that, we wouldn't be in this situation were it not for Hamas. And just looking at the contours of the deal, it seems like Hamas' plan worked. And they're getting a lot of what they wanted. Palestinian prisoners, aid going into Gaza. Is that not a fair statement?
CARSON: I'm sorry, you broke up.
SANCHEZ: Congressman, we only have about 30 seconds. But I'm just wondering, from your perspective, Hamas carrying out these terror attacks and then striking this deal, does it not seem to you that their plan worked?