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Qatar: Israel-Hamas Truce to Begin Midnight Tonight ET; Qatari Official Says 13 Women and Children will Be Released Friday 9 A.M. ET. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 23, 2023 - 09:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Have you noticed any desire for a continued and sustainable truce?

MAJED AL-ANSARI, SPOKESPERSON, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, QATAR (through translator): In respect of this agreement, it only -- it is only limited to the Gaza Strip and our direct mediation with our partners is Hamas and the Israeli authorities. We have not expanded into other parties. This particularly a concern with Gaza and everything in Gaza. Is there any desire from the two?

We have seen a high level of commitment from the two parties. But what will happen after this I don't know. Our aim is to reach this agreement and on the hope that this would be an incentive to finish this war case which everybody suffers from. And this cannot be achieved except through building up on what we have achieved already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Saba (ph), Ayub (ph) "Araby TV"? Is it easy to implement this agreement to stop the airstrikes, but this is in the north, but in the south where we have the snipers, tanks and army. Has there been any agreement in to stop these, and then have you made -- have you defined the borders between these people as to where they're at so that no one can cross the borders between one and the other regarding the spying aircrafts?

Will these -- are these going to be an existence through the truce? In respect of north of Gaza, as you know, Saba (ph) we can't talk about any military movement because this is a sensitive topic. And that there is agreement to have a comprehensive ceasefire regarding the reconnaissance aircrafts, the Israeli forces have agreed that there are certain times that reconnaissance will not be implemented, but there is a comprehensive ceasefire agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Campen (ph) from "AFP". And in the process of making sure that the deal was -- the logistics were -- and the schematics as you described them were completely in place for things to go forward today. Did you feel that things were put in place for as this scheme continues in the way that it's been laid out for more releases over the -- over the following days? Are you still confident that, that will be able to happen?

AL-ANSARI: We are hopeful. I will -- I don't know if I should say confident, but I'm very hopeful, and as I said, the commitment we have seen from both sides leads us to be very positive to deal with this very positively. We are seeing a good level of commitment over the agreement itself, the details hashed out in the executive plan of this agreement are very sound and robust.

And we are hoping that these four days we'll do work as a proof of concept for further de-escalation measures including expanding -- extending this humanitarian towards -- pause. But also getting to a more sustainable truce in Gaza. Of course, I have to remind everybody and I'm sure that all of you know that -- know this in covering other conflicts around the world.

These are not set in stone. They are not completely guaranteed, anything can happen on the ground. But we are confident that with the signatories of the agreement and the international and regional departments are working with us on this that everybody is highly committed for the success of this humanitarian pause.

And it actually constitutes the first -- you know, giving them a flight at the end of the tunnel if this crisis ends. This is why we needed to succeed, and we are hoping and working towards succeeding. The operation won't run from here in Doha, the main purpose of having this operation home is to make sure that information is relayed in real time.

And that any issue that comes up can be dealt with immediately, and then not allowed to escalate in a way that would have the -- make the whole deal collapse. Stephen?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, one of the -- one of the complications of the past 24 hours seems to have been that these lists of the small batch for each day. So you've received the lists for the first batch. Do you expect there to be similar complications and you know, contentiousness around setting the list each day.

And is there a specific time that's been set each day for -- OK, the lists needs to be set for the next day at -- you know, whatever it is, 5:00 p.m. the day before. And I didn't quite catch the response on the drone surveillance. We understand that, that Israeli drone surveillance won't be happening during a certain part of the day to allow for the hostage chant over -- what happened is that, is it justice really a surveillance? Because it also -- understand that the Americans and maybe some of the Europeans have drones in the area.

AL-ANSARI: OK, so regarding the list that are going out every day, it's a day-by-day process, we'll be receiving those every day and handing them over on the Israeli side to the most hardened, they will handle, you know, the lists from their side also, so we can give it to the other side. Whenever we have both lists confirmed, this is where we can begin, you know, with the process of getting the people out.

But there's an agreement on the time until those, so it's -- there will be a group each day released, and that of course is as I said, it's pending, that's coming in. But obviously, as we have laid out the timeline and the operational plan, it should go, you know, without necessarily any fault in getting the lists through.

Our teams are working day and night. I can tell you why. I have been liaising with the team as late as 2:00 a.m. yesterday and as early as 4:00 a.m. Today, they're working on this to make sure that everything happened as quickly as possible. Obviously, it is in nobody's interest to delay the beginning of this agreement and the implementation of the humanitarian -- which was every moment that goes by is translated into a life lost.

And therefore it is very important for us to do it. But we need to do it the right way. We need to do it in a way that would guarantee the safety of the hostages and the success of the truce itself and the sustainability of the truce. Yes, Becky.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Just confirm, are all those whose names are on the list alive?

AL-ANSARI: Those who have been released? Yes, we have confirmation that those who will be released are all in -- well, in good health. Andrew?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Has -- beyond this first group of 50 hostages or so that we expect to be released in this first four days, has Hamas provided you a more comprehensive list of the hostages that they -- that they do have? Have they gathered more hostages than 50? How many hostages do we expect there are alive in Gaza now?

AL-ANSARI: OK, Andrew, I can't comment on the numbers right now, because we don't have information -- verifiable information over the hostages and their status at the moment. I can tell you that one of the things that we're looking to happen or during the four days of pause is to collect more information of the hostages. Those who we have been told are not all with Hamas.

And to get to know the numbers, to get to know the information that would help in a second wave that we are hoping by the fourth day, we'd have an agreement in place to release more and more hostages and thereby extend the pause in Gaza. I forgot to answer the question it seems on the drones. So I will tell you there's a -- as you rightly mentioned, there will be a period of time where the skies will be clear, and that would allow for the hostage release to happen in a safe environment.

As you might imagine, you know, in the -- in the first deterioration of this one, the mediation secured the release of two American ladies, one of the main challenges was, of course, the sounds that are coming in. You know, the drones flying over whatever that might be -- mistook for an attack at the time. So, of course, we need to make sure that the movement happens in a very safe environment, so it doesn't cause any problems with the hostages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it doesn't any --

AL-ANSARI: That, yes, so clear skies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Hamas regarding the movement of people in north and south Gaza. This all, I mentioned about this before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, the Israeli occupation bring the --

AL-ANSARI: Let the aid and help that goes to the south of Gaza. Yes, all the details will come later. I don't have any details at the moment. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Mose Malijah (ph) from the Qatar News Agency.

AL-ANSARI: From the 7th of October, Qatar started communication with all parties of this conflict. And of course, in the last six weeks, there has been lots of communication and negotiation with these parties who have not had any rest from that point, it was continuous efforts and I speak on behalf of my colleagues and at the top of the pyramid.

But nobody has actually stopped or spurred any effort in order to reach this agreement from day one until today. We have gone through very difficult and very serious and critical moments. However, reaching this agreement does not mean that the works stopped. In fact, work has started from now, and that this guarantees peace, but of course, we want to exploit this in order to create even further atmosphere in order to reach better agreement and extend this agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We understand that Iran's Foreign Minister is going to pay a visit to Qatar. Could this be the moment for further talks? Is it going to be mainly about Gaza? Do you see the potential for more cooperation with Iran when it comes to the need to expand this into more of an extended truce that could pave the way to a settlement between the Israelis and Hamas?

AL-ANSARI: We have been in constant contact with all our regional international partners over this, including Iran, the Iranian foreign minister has been in Doha two times already, and this would be his third visit to Doha. We have discussed with the Iranians the aspects of regional -- over of this conflict, and we have made sure that we relate to all our partners in the region, the complexities that would result from any regional spell over and the need for us to work together to make sure that this conflict is contained.

And that we work together also to walk back from the 7th October into -- I can turn to the -- turn to peace in the region. And therefore we work with everybody including the Iranians to make sure that these messages get across. Becky?

ANDERSON: So, can you just confirm again. The full list of 50 hostages, has that been handed over to you and then you have the 13 names to be released tomorrow or have you just got the list of 13 for Friday release?

AL-ANSARI: The list exchange today were of the -- those who will be exchanged tomorrow within the agreement, and every day will include lists of the day itself.

ANDERSON: Because as I understood it, you were anticipating as part of the agreement getting the full list of 50 hostages being held by Hamas --

AL-ANSARI: We will be getting -- yes, we will be getting more information over all of them, and those who will not -- who are not part of this deal within the course of the four days. But right now, the list which are being exchanged by -- with both sides are the list of the day.

ANDERSON: And one other question to you if you don't mind. Benjamin Netanyahu is very keen to point out that the U.S. President had played a significant part in upping the number of hostages who will be released and lowering the cost of those releases to the Israelis. Can you just comment on the role that the U.S. President has played?

AL-ANSARI: Because I can't testify to what the prime minister has mentioned. What I can tell you is that we are working very closely with the United States over this, and as you know, we had the various delegations from the U.S. administration come here, the last of which was Brett McGurk, and before that, of course, Secretary Blinken.

And we have been in constant contact, you know, President Biden has been calling on the -- his highness, the Emir, and we had conference calls between both sides to make sure that we work together on this, and we appreciate of course, the work done by the United States to make sure that the deal comes to fruition.

And we continue to work with the United States over this. I can't speak of the details of how the -- you know, the role of United States was formulated, but I can tell you that, of course, with the communication that's taking place all across the board, the Americans were very instrumental, especially in working with Israel over the issues of the deal. So --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Has there been an agreement as to the quantity of the delivery and the shipments and the -- from Rafah to Gaza?


How many fuel trucks because these are very important to the hospital?

AL-ANSARI: Regarding the aid, we will basically answer this at the time. This information regarding this, we do not have it at the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Has the Iranian Foreign Minister arrived in Doha? Or have you discussed with Iran the northern frontier of Israel, this is obviously going to be talked about, and there -- will there be any mediation in this respect? As I have mentioned, before Dr. Hossein Abdollahian, the Iranian Foreign Minister would come to Doha on scheduled visit as I have explained.

And there will be a meeting between the two parties, I do not, of course, have any details about this meeting. As I said, all the parties in the region including (INAUDIBLE), they are trying to guarantee so that the crisis does not extend, and of course, the seriousness of the issue has been discussed.

Dr. Majed, just to confirm, regarding the Palestinian prisoners that will be released, will they have the freedom to go to their homes or do they have to go to certain areas and the mechanism of supervising this process, who is going to supervise this truce and the daily arrest against Palestinians. Will this stop or is this -- that the truce has not gone into this? And what is the fate of these detainees?

AL-ANSARI: The truce as I said and the agreement was only to do with the escalation in Gaza, the current escalation, and we hope that this truce would lead into further discussions. But the scope of this agreement is only to deal with the Gaza Strip. We do not have any information to confirm, anything about children -- women and children are only going to be released and from the other side too from Israel.

I'm sorry, hash (ph) from --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes to you and the Egyptians mediating this deal, the way you would be monitoring this, are you setting up an operations room, are you looking at all the aspects of the military security and humanitarian of the deal? The moment you have to step in to say no, we have to put it this way.

AL-ANSARI: We of course, we are not on the ground which is always a handicap for overseeing the deal itself. But what is happening right now is that the operations we're hearing in Doha has direct lines of communications with a particular office here in Doha, Hamas, and with the Israeli side and with the Red Cross, and it's all happening in real time where we are monitoring everything that happens.

I think it all that might come in of any breach, any report about the hostages, any additional information that we can relate between the three sides that we are working with, along with our partners in the region including Egypt and internationally, including the United States.

So, we can make sure that we immediately jump into continuing our mediation work, and to make sure that we troubleshoot any issue that might arise on the ground. So the operations room is very instrumental and working with those parties I mentioned is very instrumental to make sure that the deal goes through the way it was agreed upon. Yes, Stephen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that 13 -- you said that 13 hostages will be released tomorrow. How many hostages in prison will be released tomorrow in the first --

AL-ANSARI: I am -- I am not aware of that piece of information right now. We will come to you with it, but as I said, it's a reciprocal deal, so we're expecting at least to happen, and this will be announced, you know, in a similar time-frame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that list has been -- AL-ANSARI: Yes, the list -- yes, so the list have been approved, they

have been given to both sides. The Palestinians have the lists of those who will be released from Israeli prisons, and the Israelis have the list -- they always had a list of the hostages that will be released from Rafah for the first day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure why the number isn't clear.

AL-ANSARI: That's the information I was briefed upon --


AL-ANSARI: And with the current situation --


AL-ANSARI: You know, you have to allow me some leeway and not knowing everything at all the time.


ANDERSON: Can I just follow up on the --

AL-ANSARI: Sure, you can --

ANDERSON: ICRC information that Stephen was asking about earlier on. You had two proofs of concept (ph) effectively. The release twice of two female prisoners, so four prisoners have been released in two separate releases. And the ICRC, obviously were operationalized, those releases.

So I know that you can't give us any detail on what's going to happen. You said that twice now. But can we expect that the ICRC's involvement this time will be similar or the same as -- and perhaps, you can, you know, use whichever term you think best expresses what's going to happen. You know, because we have seen this before. So is it going to be similar too, the same as?

AL-ANSARI: I would assume that as long as it's happening within the same parameters and in the same conflict, then within the same situation, that it would of course, fall into the same mechanisms. As I said, they are working with us in the operations room in real-time. There are people on the ground who will be ready to receive the hostages. I will have to stop at that and not mention any details again, and how the exchange is going to take place to maintain the success and the safety of the hostages also.

ANDERSON: Can I just ask you just on behalf of the -- you know, the people in the room here and journalists around the world. Access into Gaza is limited to a very few working journalists at present. This is a humanitarian pause and the possibility of it being extended.

I mean, has there been any conversation about allowing for journalists to get in on the ground? You've just expressed that you're not on the ground and that's difficult in and of itself in this -- in this humanitarian pause and affecting the operation of this hostage release. So how about journalists getting on the ground, have you had any discussions?

AL-ANSARI: Well, I know that a lot of respectable organizations are trying to get people out at the moment, and get them into safety, which is of course, something that we are all working towards a mediation process. I am not aware that the agreement includes any caveat about getting journalists in. We applaud all the coverage that all the brave journalists have been doing inside, and those who gave up their lives, and we give our condolences to them and their -- to their families and to the organizations which they gave for so many -- so long of a time.

And the bravery of those who brought us the truth from the field is something that we should all be thankful for and something that we agree is in all instances a level of bravery that a lot of us would not -- would not have.


AL-ANSARI (through translator): This is -- you're making this stuff, I can't comment on this. I don't know what's happening in Rafah. As I said before, now we are talking about what has been agreed upon, the lists that -- of the people that will be released, until now, I do not have any accurate details about what exactly is going to happen.

What I can say, the agreement happened between the two parties and what will happen on the first day. This is what the agreements cover. Thank you very much and good-bye.

KAITLAN COLLINS, ANCHOR, CNN NEWS CENTRAL: We are hearing from a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar, confirming that at midnight tonight, Eastern Time, this temporary truce between Israel and Hamas will begin. That is 7:00 a.m. local here in Israel. That officials said there that the hostages, the first ones who are expected to be released will be released around 9:00 a.m. Eastern, that is 4:00 p.m. local.

We are told not the names of those hostages, but it will be 13 women and children. What we also heard there is that the list of those names, those first 13 hostages who are expected to be released by Hamas on the first day of this temporary truce have been handed over to Israel. That is something that the prime minister's office has confirmed that they have received that list of names.

They in turn, of course, have turned over their list of names of the Palestinian prisoners who are expected to be released back -- out of Israel. The other key moments that we heard there is that aid, humanitarian aid which is expected to be surged into Gaza is expected to go through the Rafah Crossing as soon as possible.


The official there not putting an exact time on it, but that is a key part of this. And of course, the pause in fighting, that cessation of hostilities that we are expected to happen for four days straight is going to be starting midnight Eastern tonight, 7:00 a.m. local as well. We heard a number of updates of confirmation from that official as we have been waiting to see when this deal was going to actually happen, whether or not this deal was going to hold after some delays from both sides.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is also here in Tel Aviv. And Oren, as we were listening there to this spokesperson from Qatar, who of course, has been at the center of the back-and-forth of this deal, I mean, that is welcome news for 240 families here in Israel who have been waiting to hear when their loved ones are going to be released. CNN's M.J. Lee is also at the White House.

M.J., we'll get to you in a moment. But Oren, I thought what also stood out to me was him confirming that, yes, Israel has now received the list of names which had been a hold-up and part of why this had not happened yet, and saying that each day the sides are going to trade names of who it is it's going to be released that next day.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: He clearly was referencing the framework in which this would proceed. And as you're right, confirming the list of the first 13 women and children who are supposed to come out, beginning at 4 O'clock tomorrow afternoon local time. And then he said that will effectively continue.

Every day, there will be a list of names that are provided, the prime minister's office confirming just a short time ago as you pointed out that they have received that first list of names, they're cross- checking that list with what they know about the list of hostages who are in Gaza, and that they're already in touch and will be in touch with the families of the first 13 hostages to come out.

The spokesperson there for the Qatari Foreign Ministry also said that families will be together as they come out, they will not be broken up. And then he also emphasized multiple times throughout that press conference, the commitment from both sides to adhere to the terms of the agreement.

The commitment of Israel and Hamas not to resume fighting. He was asked, well, what happens if fighting does break out, if one side violates the agreement and there's assumption in hostilities, he said that would be immediately communicated to both sides to make sure there is a walk back from the edge and that there isn't an immediate deterioration in the situation.

In terms of what the delay was about, he said, look, there were ongoing discussions late into the evening, essentially to make sure they could troubleshoot all the different scenarios that might arise. And that was part of the delay. The other part, as you pointed out was that they hadn't yet received the list of the first 13 to come out.

When he was asked could this release of the first 50 Israeli women and children over the course of the next four days lead to a wider agreement. Is he confident that it will? He said he is hopeful, he wouldn't use the word confident there. So in terms of what he is seeing, the commitment as to this initial agreement, and he said if we get to the fourth day and we have seen the agreement work as it should, the release of 50 Israeli women and children for 150 Palestinian women helped -- women and children held in Israeli jails. Then he said there is hope that the agreement can be lengthened, that

there can be a longer pause in the fighting, more aid going into Gaza, more Israeli hostages released and more Palestinian women and children released as part of the agreement there.

COLLINS: Yes, and M.J. Lee, the other thing that we heard confirmed there, it is the Red Cross that will be receiving these hostages. There has been -- had been a question of whether or not they would be turned over to Egyptian officials or if it was Red Cross officials themselves who will be receiving these hostages. And another question was also on their condition.

He did confirm that all 13 women and children who as Oren noted, some of them are members of the same family are alive. There have been questions about their condition. The other thing, M.J. that stuck out, which I know, the U.S. has obviously played a key role in is the drones that have been flying over Gaza, that has been giving Israel key intelligence into where Hamas is operating, where these hostages may be.

There is going to be a pause as these hostages are being released. They say that there will be clear skies over Gaza, meaning, no flying of the drones during at least some portion of each day as this temporary pause is going to be under way.

MIN JUNG LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I am struck by how much from this press conference we basically got confirmation of the parameters of this deal and how this would be implemented confirmed. In other words, yes, there has been a delay from Thursday to Friday, but as we understand it right now and based again on this press conference, the details of how this would be implemented appear to remain the same for now.

I was really struck, Kaitlan, the number of times that the spokesperson was talking about ensuring the safety of the hostages. This was a question that he got from our Becky Anderson and other reporters in the room, and he essentially said, look, this was a part of the challenge in making sure that every detail of this implementation could really be squared away.

Because remember, as he talked about, this has been an active war zone, even though there's now going to be a pause starting at midnight eastern. This has been an active war zone, not to mention there's been the challenge of these hostages being in different places throughout Gaza.