Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

FBI: Soon: Qatar Announces When Israel-Hamas Truce Will Begin; Qatar Giving Update On When Israel-Hamas Truce Will Begin; Qatar: 13 Women & Children Among First Hostages To Be Released. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2023 - 09:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Waiting for truce. Any minute now we may learn when the pause and fighting between Israel and Hamas will begin. And also that means when the hostages will start being released after being held captive for nearly seven weeks now by Hamas.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, officials are seeing a fiery explosion at a bridge between the U.S. and Canada that shut down border crossings has no link to any terror threat. We have the latest on the investigation this morning.

BOLDUAN: A former Obama administration official arrested charged with hate crimes and stalking of a New York City food vendor.

I'm Kate Bolduan with Danny Freeman today. Sara and John are off. This is a special edition of "CNN News Central."

We're standing by right now for what could be, could be the final word on when the hostage agreement and truce will begin. It was suddenly delayed yesterday and there has been true confusion around it ever since. You're looking live at with the press conference where the press conference will be starting any moment in Qatar, where Qatari officials who have been key brokers in these negotiations will be giving that update.

The word from the White House right now is that final logistics are still being hammered out. As sources also say U.S. officials do have a working list of 10 hostages they believe will likely be released first.

FREEMAN: And in Gaza, Israeli airstrikes continue to bombard the area. This morning, the IDF says 300 targets were struck in just the past 24 hours. And just outside of Gaza, aid trucks are now lining up in preparation for this truce. This large convoy is right now at the Rafah crossing. Now the delay this morning now prolongs the anguish of hostage families and the suffering of Gazans desperate for aid,

BOLDUAN: CNN anchor Kailtan Collins standing by for us in Tel Aviv.

Kaitlan, we've been talking about this since yesterday was last night and now this morning. This we're going to hear from Qatar -- Qatari officials soon, we hope. What are you hearing about this delay? And also, what's next?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Kate, I mean, 24 hours ago, we were under the impression that by now by the time we were back here on this show, this delay would already be on -- or this pause and fighting in Gaza would already be underway hostages would be starting to be released. But right now, none of that has happened yet, no surgeon aid has gone into Gaza, either, as we are still waiting to see when this is going to begin. What we do know right now is that there has been a delay and that we are told we are not expecting any hostages to be released until Friday at the earliest. That's about a 24-hour delay from when we had initially believed that was going to happen.

And all of this came down late last night in a word from the National Security Council here in Israel who said, no, this is not going to be happening on Thursday, as many Israeli officials had been expecting. And that came not long after we heard from the Prime Minister himself defending this deal, saying that it was a tough choice for them to make to release 150 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for these 50 hostages, but also justifying why they were taking this move.

Now it has not happened yet. There is no reason to believe the entire deal has been derailed. And of course, that is a really crucial point here, when we talk about those families who are basically waiting every single moment to find out when and if it is going to be their loved one who is on that list of names to be released. But that list of names from Hamas on who is initially going to be released was kind of a sticking point here. They had not turned it over to Israeli officials as of last night, whether or not that has happened in the last hours is still something that remains to be seen. We have not heard any confirmation from Israeli officials.

And that's why this press conference that we are waiting for is so key here, because it could give us some good indication at least of when this could potentially happen if it's still on track to happen on Friday at the very least given the Qataris had been the ones at the center of all of these negotiations between Hamas and Israel for this deal, something that has been painstaking and intensive and weeks in the work.

Of course, Oren Liebermann is also here on the ground in Tel Aviv. Oren, I think this is a major question of if this is going to happen as planned right now on Friday, what this tactically and operationally is going to look like?


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So first and what this is all predicated upon is a pause in the fighting. So, the troops in Israel -- I'm sorry that Israeli troops in Gaza will take defensive positions. And we expect that after about 40, something days of war nearing the seven-week mark of this war, there will be for the first time, a stop in the fighting. Once that's established and likely confirmed by both sides, the hostage release itself begins. And from everything we understand the framework hasn't changed here, even as they hammer out the last logistical details to make this happen. And that framework is the release of 50 Israeli women and children held in Gaza over the course of four days of a pause in the fighting in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails, who will be released, and from there likely go home to where they are in the occupied West Bank and in Jerusalem.

In terms of how this works out on the ground, Hamas will transfer the hostages to the Red Cross, the Red Cross will then bring the hostages to one of several crossing points between either Gaza and Egypt at the Rafah crossing. That's where we saw the hostages come out at the beginning, those four who came out early on, or they'll cross straight into Israel, from Gaza. From there, they will be taken into the care of the IDF, soldiers will get them to hospitals, and then depending on their age, that will determine how quickly they meet their family. Hostages who are at least or who are 12 years or younger, will immediately meet their family, while hostages who are over the age of 12 years will be taken to the hospital. And that's where they will meet their family.

But as is the case right now, there is no final word that on when this all happens. The expectation is not sooner than tomorrow, Israel not being very careful with its words as we wait on the country foreign ministry to hold a press conference and say when they expect this to begin. Very difficult moments for the families who have been this close before only to see things fall apart. And here they are with what is a sign deal moving forward here, still waiting to find out who's coming out, when they're coming out, and how long until their pain ends.

COLLINS: Yes. Oren, you make a good point there that we went from having Israeli officials giving us pretty specific time windows of 10 to 4:00 p.m. of the -- when these hostages were actually going to be coming out to now saying Friday at the earliest and not getting specific. I think that speaks to just how fluid all of this is behind the scenes.

But the other point of confusion is that Prime Minister Netanyahu last night spoke pretty firmly saying that the Red Cross was going to be involved here. And then the Red Cross is coming out today saying they have no idea what the Israeli government is talking about, that they have not come to any agreement on being involved.

LIEBERMANN: So, there's quite a bit of confusion on this point. And at this point, it's pretty much the final word of the Red Cross who says they have not been notified of their role in this agreement. And yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his press conference last night not only spoke about this, he pulled out a document that appeared to be the agreement itself and read one of the clauses they're saying the Red Cross will visit the other hostages who do not come out.

So, it's quite shocking to hear the confidence with which he expressed that. And then to have a statement from the Red Cross saying, they're not a party to this agreement and don't know what this entails. So that will certainly have to be clarified. And at the rate this is going it will have to be clarified very quickly. It's worth noting that under international law, the Red Cross is supposed to be able to visit hostages.

COLLINS: Yes, and of course, that is a key part of this for those who won't be released immediately. Oren, standby as we are waiting to hear from these Qatari officials any moment now.

But as we wait for them to come out at this press conference, hopefully give some kind of indication of the timing here.

CNN's MJ Lee is also tracking the latest from the White House. And MJ, we had heard that Israel had not gotten a list from Hamas of exactly what the names were going to be that they were getting. But the White House had a bit of a working list of who they did expect to be on this list. But I'm curious, where White House officials equally surprised about the delay in actually implementing this hostage deal?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, what I can tell you, Kaitlan right now is that the White House, the White House still says the deal is still on. We saw the National Security Council saying last night that they were hopeful that the implementation would begin at least starting on Friday. What a senior U.S. official told me was that the logistical details that still needed to be ironed out included the details about the specific location of some of these hostages, and just the logistics surrounding moving each of these hostages on day one. We were also told that Israel made the decision with Qatar and Egypt and that the U.S. was consulted and agreed with this decision to delay the release by at least a day.

And regarding your reporting that Hamas has yet to give a list, of final lists of the initial group of hostages that would be released on day one. This senior U.S. official saying that for now, they don't see this as being a serious problem. But importantly, they did say that if there's still no list by say tonight, that that would be a lot more worrisome.


COLLINS: Yes, that is something that they have said they expect to get in the hours before that release. We'll see if that actually happens tonight. MJ Lee, thank you.

Oren Liebermann, I should note that we are waiting for this press conference to start. It has started in Arabic, they are then going to switch to English. That is when we will take it because of course, we want to hear these updates, what indication they could have and what it could mean for the families of these hostages.

We did just hear from the Israeli prime minister, he's meeting with the British Defense Secretary, Defense Minister, David Cameron -- Foreign Secretary, excuse me, during his meeting here, as he's on the ground meeting, not only with Israeli leaders, but also Palestinian leaders. And Oren, he's talking about just the challenges here of getting these hostages home, which clearly, we're watching happen in real time right now.

LIEBERMANN: It's worth noting that even yesterday, when Netanyahu talked about this deal, and was confident that it would be coming together, he didn't give any specifics on when the hostages would be released when the pause and fighting would begin. In fact, he was asked about how the pause in fighting would work. And it was specifically asked what happens if a soldier is shot at and he wouldn't give a specific answer there too. So, he's being very cautious with his warning, especially now since we've seen the delay. And it should be worth noting that it seems Israel was very much expecting this to happen today, because the government press office, which is under the Prime Minister's office was prepared -- preparing a room for journalists to view the crossings and the video coming out of there.

So, it seems that Israel also expected this to come tomorrow. Now Netanyahu being very careful in his wording there, talking about the challenges, and the final details.

The framework has long been as we know it the 50 -- for the 150 more aid going into Gaza, the pause in fighting even the length. We've known this for quite some time. But it's the details and the final details hammering those out who's released, how exactly did they come out the locations, the routes, the crossing sites that it seems is where this got caught up. And then the final decision to delay was a joint decision made by Israel, Qatar and Egypt and the notified the U.S. so here we wait for Qatar --

COLLINS: All right, Oren, can be --


COLLINS: Oren, standby because we are now hearing from the spokesperson for the Qatari Foreign Minister or Foreign Ministry of Affairs office right now speaking in English, want to take that moment live.

MAJED AL-ANSARI, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: -- Friday, the 24th of November, and it will last of course as agreed for four days. And the first will be 7:00 a.m., Friday the 24th of November. And it will last of course as agreed for four days. And the first batch of civilians to be released formulas will be around 4:00 p.m. of the same day, they will be 13 in number all woman and children and those hostages while from the same families will be put together within the same batch. Obviously everyday will include a number of civilians as agreed to total 50 within the four days.

The communications that took place and the meetings that took place all through yesterday went on until early morning today with the Egyptians and the parties of the conflict present here in in Doha. The meetings went very well and in a positive environment and the results of course was the implementation plan of, of the agreement which we have always said needed to be something that is concrete and on the very ready to create a safe environment for the release of, of the hostages.

This is what I have here information for you right now. and I'll be taking questions. (INAUDIBLE).

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE) AL-ANSARI (through translation): -- commitment and it is -- it has look interest and of course we will be communicating with both parties. And of course, they will be responsible for the level of commitment. Becky?


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thank you, sir. What is the process and routes by which the hostages will be transferred out of Gaza (INAUDIBLE)?

AL-ANSARI: I'm sorry, Becky, I can disclose information for security reasons and as I -- you know, we've, we've always said our main objective here is the safety of the hostages. So, we can disclose a lot of information regarding the routes they will be going through. But we will be focusing on, on making sure that they get back safely, through making sure that through our operations boom that will work with both Red Cross and parties of the conflict, that all information is in real time and everybody is getting the information the right way, so, we can move them safely from one place to another.



AL-ANSARI: The criteria on which to prioritize the hostage was purely humanitarian, as, as you know, and our focus was on getting the women and children out of harm's way as soon as possible, which is basically what we are doing within this, this agreement. And we will be going through hopefully, that the momentum carried by this deal would help us get everybody out in in time, and at the same time, of course, lessen the hardship of the people through their humanitarian pause that is taking place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow at 7:00 a.m., isn't going to be the time when we should also expect to develop into (INAUDIBLE), a little portion, if you don't mind. Could this be the opportunity to further expand this deal into something bigger that could pave the way for a major settlement.

AL-ANSARI: As, as we talked about, the humanitarian aid is an integral part of, of this deal, the aid will start going in within of course, they're completed, that will start at 7:00 p.m. -- at 7:00 a.m. So, we are expecting aid to go in as soon as possible from Rafah crossing, you know, that the aid has been there. You know, we've been coordinating with the Egyptians and all the international donors, so it's going to be good coming in through the crossing as soon as we have that period of calm where of course, even the aid workers would be safe in going in.

It would be a fraction of the need, and Gaza need is so great, and Gaza that no matter how much aid you're going to bring in, there will be certainly more need for, for aid, but we are hoping to bring in as much as possible within the confines of, of the deal. And of course, our aim is for this deal to end with a lasting truth. And right now, of course, the confines of this deal are these four days, that our subject to a second phase and, you know, following phases of expanding the pass through the formula of getting more hostages out and therefore getting more time for the path.

We are hoping that that momentum will carry and that we will find this will open the door for further and more deep negotiations towards an end to this (INAUDIBLE).


AL-ANSARI (through translation): -- whether from air or land, and this is what the two parties have agreed to that show that the whole air is completely cleared for the hostages to be delivered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Sir, (INAUDIBLE) from the Arabic TV. In case of any violation from either party, what will happen? And is there any measures in place to deal with this, on the other hand, regarding the Palestinian release -- Palestinian prisoners who is going to receive them and who's going to deal with and investigate their dealings with the Israeli intelligence? Will there be allowance (ph) for medical teams to go into Gaza to deal with the tension?

AL-ANSARI (through translation): The details of the agreement, I don't wish to go into details as I have said before, and this is something where leave it to be implemented on the ground. And that we hope that there will be commitment from both sides. The two parties of the of the conflict are committed and they will adhere to the agreement in this respect as far as medical teams are concerned. Of course, the -- all the types of aids will be allowed into Gaza. The nature and details of this will -- is in the agreement including relief personnel and then we will talk about details.


ANDREW MILLS, REUTERS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you. Andrew Mills from Reuters. Dr. (INAUDIBLE), could you please specify whether it's seven o'clock am local time in Gaza? And my main question is about the release of Palestinians, from Israeli jails. How many Palestinians do -- will be released tomorrow? Where will they be released? And can you tell us more details about who they are?

AL-ANSARI: So, at 7:00 a.m. local time.

MILLS: Gaza time.

AL-ANSARI: Is not, you know, not international, you know, timing. So, it's 7:00 a.m. local time over there. Regarding the Palestinians, I can't disclose right now information about how much you know how many of them will be freed tomorrow. But I can tell you that the deal is a reciprocal deal. So, we're expecting a release to happen on the on the Israeli side.

MILLS: Tomorrow. We are expecting a release tomorrow?

AL-ANSARI: As a result, as a result of the release of hostages at 4:00 p.m., around 4:00 p.m. in Gaza. Yes. MILLS: Thank you.

AL-ANSARI: Steven (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. I just wanted to ask about the Red Cross, Red Crescent, will they be accompanying the hostages out or, you know, throughout Gaza? Or they're meeting them at the edge of Gaza? And will they be able to visit that the hostages that aren't being released and that was being discussed?

And then just to follow on Becky's question, have specific evacuation routes been set yet? And you're just kind of talking about them? And, you know, without compromising without sharing too much detail, will hostages be leaving directly into Israel or, or potentially through Rafah. And then, and then home to Israel?

AL-ANSARI: Regarding the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The -- they, they have been designated to receive the hostages, which I can't discuss the details of how that will happen or where they will take them. But of course, as I said, there are parts of the operations room that is run from here in Doha. And they will, they will take the responsibility there. And we appreciate across all the work that the Red Cross is doing on this. And they are you know, taking a risk with it -- with their own stuff in Gaza. But they, they will be an integral part of handling the hostages. But as I said, I can get into the details of that.

And I also can't get into details of where they will be leaving or where they will be coming out. I think a lot of things on the ground will affect this. The important thing is that we maintain a very clear line of communication with everybody through the operation, we'll make sure that the environment to which the hostage transfer will happen will be a safe one, and that we guarantee the safety of all of them to -- for them to be reunited with their families.


AL-ANSARI: I don't have an update on this right now. I'm sorry. Yes? (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Question regarding the mediation and negotiations today. The truce will last for four days. The question regarding the Palestinian prisoners. Is there any synchronicity between the release of both sides regarding the extension of the truce?

AL-ANSARI (through translation): We said that we will use this period of four days in order to have to have more information about the hostages and their whereabouts in Gaza, which may before the end of this period lead to another agreement to release more hostages, but we said this is four days extendable dependent on the progress on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): The question, please? AL-ANSARI (through translation): Currently, I cannot give you information regarding this matter. However, it is expected that the exchange will be within a certain period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) News. We saw this morning that Israel arrested the head of the -- in Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Was this mentioned in today's discussions? Or are there is it going to be mentioned in future discussions?

AL-ANSARI: I am not aware of, of this specific case. So, I can't comment on it. Sorry.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): -- age to come in. And also, regarding the ceasefire (INAUDIBLE). In respect of a comprehensive ceasefire is it going to be on Gaza?


AL-ANSARI (through translation): Regarding the ceasefire, it will be comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza, whether North or South. Regarding the aids, aid will be coming immediately as soon as this starts from the Rafah crossing, and our brothers in Egypt are also taking care of this and helping in this respect. And we hope that we will have as much help as possible and as much aid as possible. All this aid even their own, if they all come in one day, they will not be sufficient for the needs of Gaza. But we will help do continue with this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Can you walk us through how we expect things to progress from 4:00 p.m. onwards? Is there a certain number of hostages who we know will be part of that first to transfer, and then what will we should be expect to see in the next 24 hours after that?

AL-ANSARI: So, the first release will be of 13 individuals of, you know, men -- sorry women and children. Some of them are elderly women, some of them are women, and others, of course, are children, as we stated. They will be released at approximately 4:00 p.m., I must say. As you might expect, it's not exact time to decide on the time itself, does have a lot of moving parts on the ground, but approximately 4:00 p.m. And that will be happening every day within a specific window of, of time, where the situation will be much safer for them to move about.

They will be, as I said, handed over to the Red Cross. And I won't get into the details of how they are dealt with after that. But the idea is to make the transfer as safe as possible for all parties. You have to remember, this is a war zone. And we need to make sure and this is why the discussions yesterday and went until early this morning to make sure that the executive plan for the implementation of this agreement troubleshoots any possible safeguards against any possible problems within the release itself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, each of the releases will be happening at 4:00 p.m. each day?

AL-ANSARI: I only have the timing for the first day and the number for the first day. And then every day will be. So, the lists that were exchanged today were actually the lists for the first day. (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: Becky Anderson from CNN, what would constitute a break in this truce, a breaking of this truce? We're talking about a truce on the ground? And as I understand it, in the air. So can you just describe what will -- what will be seen as a breakdown in that.

AL-ANSARI: So, I don't think I can get into the technicalities, you know, technically on, on the ground. Of course, this has to be handled by the, you know, people who are there on the ground. But what I can tell you is that the agreement is about full cessation of hostilities within the fourth (ph) day. So obviously, any resumption of hostilities of any kind would be a breach. And I think it's very important that lines of communication remain open. So that any possible breach, however it is defined, is communicated immediately to both sides. And there is a way to work back from it and make sure that we continue with it.

ANDERSON: Right. So, a second question here. Can you just give us some sense about why we have seen delays? Has it been that Hamas or Israel has made any further demands further to what was in the proposal that was that was agreed upon 24 hours ago? And are you expecting any further delays?

AL-ANSARI: We are hoping that we don't see any delays. And I think we've reached the point now where everything is in place, and we are ready to go on, on the ground. So, we are hopeful that as I told you by 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, everything will stop and we will have this beginning of the humanitarian truce or pause. When it comes to the what delays or what were the reasons of the days, I can tell you that the discussions over the, the details and the schematics of how this will happen were very difficult and very detailed, because we wanted as I said to make sure that nothing would cause harm and in the process of getting the hostages out. But also that the parameters of the agreement are agreed upon in the operational sense between both sides and that took a lot of discussions between the both sides, but we are happy to report that the discussions happened in a very positive environment where both sides showed their commitment to the agreement itself.

ANDERSON: Sorry, if any further demands?

AL-ANSARI: I am not aware of any further demands that resulted in in the delay but as I told you, the agreement is, is still as it stands and act was agreed upon from day one.

ANDERSON: Thank you.