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Israel Arrests Director of Al Shifa Hospital; Israel-Hamas Hostage Deal Set to Begin Friday. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 23, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: We do continue to follow the breaking news this morning.
This time tomorrow morning, 13 women and children right now held hostage by Hamas inside Gaza, they should be free. Qatar officials just held a news conference and laid out the details as they're known right now. The truce begins at midnight Eastern time tonight.
Then, roughly nine hours later, the first group of hostages will be released. Now, the list of names of those women and children to be released in this first group is now in the hands of Israeli officials. The prime minister's office says now, with that list in hand, they are contacting the families of all of the remaining hostages.
And just last hour, one family received word while live on air with us that their loved ones are not part of this group.
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN HOST: Qatar also says that, once the truce begins, desperately needed aid will begin moving into Gaza. These trucks are waiting right now at the Rafah Crossing.
BOLDUAN: CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins back with us live from Tel Aviv.
Kaitlan, a lot of moving parts in the past couple hours. What are we hearing now? What are you hearing now from there?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, I mean, if this goes forward as planned, as what we have heard from these officials, it will be the biggest diplomatic breakthrough that we have seen happen since October 7.
Nothing even comes close to it if this is actually what is going to happen. And it seems pretty confirmed from these officials in Qatar. Of course, they have been the ones who have been at the center of all of these negotiations. The news that 240 families of these hostages that are being held in Gaza have wanted to hear so desperately.
And that is that at least, by tomorrow, they do believe at least 13 of those loved ones will be coming home to Israel, will be being released from Gaza by Hamas. What we are told right now is that it is 13 women and children. Israel has the list of the names that they are planning to release tomorrow. They are vetting that list and contacting those families. They say
they are contacting all of the families of the hostages, something that we should note some of those families have complained about, saying that they have not actually heard enough information from the Israeli government, that they have instead been learning about this deal from the media.
But the government does say they are going to be in touch with them. And so there are major questions of what this looks like, because tomorrow really is going to serve as a template of what the rest of the hostage release could look like, because it is not just these 13. It is supposed to be 50 in total over the series of four days. That is how long that pause in the fighting is going to last.
And that is what takes us to Jeremy Diamond in Sderot, where, Jeremy, from where you have been over the last several weeks, you have seen no shortage in fighting and the action that we have seen, as Israel has continued to hit Gaza.
But that is expected to stop at midnight Eastern tonight, 7:00 a.m. local here, as well as the drones that they have been flying over Gaza trying to pick up any intelligence that they can. What else are we expecting?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Kaitlan.
We are just 13 hours away from that truce between Israel and Hamas officially beginning, according to all parties now that have confirmed that is indeed the time when hostilities will stop between Israel and Hamas. But, in the meantime, the fighting is indeed continuing.
We have been watching from our position here right along the Gaza Strip, as Israel has continued to fire into Gaza. We have been hearing small-arms fire in the Gaza Strip. We have been hearing and seeing strikes, Israeli strikes into Gaza.
And just a couple hours ago, we heard from an Israeli Defense Forces spokesman, who made clear that the Israeli military will continue operating in Gaza up until they get the order to stop and that, for right now, everything is business as usual, as you can hear right behind me a very loud explosion going off.
But we do also have now more details about exactly when and how some of these hostages are going to be getting out of Gaza tomorrow. In less than 24 hours, the first of those 50 hostages, 13 of them tomorrow, could be coming out of the Gaza Strip and crossing into Israel.
We expect that this exchange will happen at three different crossing points. And we expect that Hamas will initially hand over those hostages to the Red Cross, who will then hand them over to the Israeli military. From there, children who are under 12 are expected to meet their parents at designated locations near those crossing points. Those who are above 12 and those adult women are expected to go
directly to hospitals in Israel. And, from there, after -- they will undergo various medical examinations and then be reunited with their families. The hope, of course, amid all of this is that it will not just be 50 hostages. It will not just be four days of a pause in fighting.
The hope is that, these first four days, these first 50 hostages can be a proving ground, effectively, to continue freeing more hostages, to continue providing more relief to the people inside of Gaza who are, of course, also very eagerly anticipating this pause in fighting, not only because it will mean a reprieve from the constant bombardment that the Israeli military has continued to carry out in both Northern and Southern Gaza, but also, of course, because it means a lot of aid trucks are expected to enter the Gaza Strip.
That part of the deal will begin as soon as that pause in fighting begins tomorrow morning our time.
COLLINS: Yes, and that's a massive part of this deal as well, one we don't want to forget about the number, the amount of humanitarian aid that's expected to go in, as well as being the quietest 96 hours we could see in Gaza in quite some time.
Jeremy Diamond in Sderot, thank you.
The other question here is how the White House is handling this. U.S. officials have been at the center of these negotiations, including President Biden's top Middle East official, Brett McGurk. He's been on the phone and in person meeting with the Qatari officials, the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, expected to head back to the region again early next week.
CNN's M.J. Lee is tracking all of this.
M.J., obviously, we know Americans are among this group of hostages that are being held in Gaza, what we have heard from the White House. What are they expecting on whether they're being notified whether any of those names, the names of those Americans, are on this initial list of hostages?
M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan.
First of all, we had obviously been trying to get a sense from here in Washington what might have been the reason for the delay. The White House had said within the last 24 hours that the reason was chiefly logistical, just the implementation of getting a sense of the location of each of the hostages, the movements of the hostages.
And all of that does seem to be confirmed by this Qatari spokesperson in this lengthy press conference. But now we wait. There are 13 women and children expected to be released within the next 24 hours or so. And, Kaitlan, what we don't know right now is whether any of the three American hostages -- we are talking about two women, and then there's also, of course, 3-year-old Abigail Idan, who is an American citizen, whether any of them will end up being a part of that first group to be released on day one.
Now, with regards to how families of American hostages will be notified by the U.S. government, I'm told by a U.S. official that this will be confirmed after they are departing Gaza. So, this means that this is once U.S. -- a U.S. official has eyes on the hostage or once a trusted third party has eyes on the hostage.
And that probably means that it's not going to happen until these hostages are physically out of Gaza. Now, it is worth noting that some of these hostages are dual citizens, Israeli and American, so it's very possible that some of the family members of these hostages will get information first from the Israeli government as well.
Of course, we don't know exactly how this is going to pan out, the schedule of some of the hostages getting out, again, whether Americans may be in the mix. But in terms of the U.S. government being in touch with the families of the American hostages, I am also told that, earlier this week, U.S. officials did have a Zoom meeting with the family members of the American hostages who were available.
So we have seen the U.S. government and U.S. officials trying to be in constant state of contact with the family members of these hostages.
COLLINS: Yes, M.J. Lee, thank you for that update.
Danny and Kate, obviously, you heard M.J. there mention Abigail Idan. She is the 3-year-old hostage. Of course, you can't help but think about tomorrow is her fourth birthday. She is expected to turn 4 on Friday. Her family had been saying that was the day that they were hoping to have her home by then.
BOLDUAN: And they can hold on to that hope now still a little bit more today.
Kaitlan, we're going to get back to you. Thank you so much.
In the meantime, one of the families that has been waiting for word, take a look at this family, the family of Chen Almog Goldstein. On October 7, Chen was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, along with three of her children. And that day, she not only became a hostage. She also became a widow and a bereaved mother.
Hamas murdered her husband and their eldest daughter. Chen's cousin, Omer Lubaton Granot, joins me now. He's also helped spearhead the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.
Thanks for coming in, Omer.
Has your family received any word from Israeli officials?
OMER LUBATON GRANOT, COUSIN OF HAMAS HOSTAGE: Thank you for having me, Kate.
Yes, the Israeli officials did contact our family. It took some time. But I can't say more about it right now.
BOLDUAN: They have contacted you since this, since we have heard that they have the list in hand? They have contacted you all today?
GRANOT: I don't know, but they contacted us in the last 24 hours, because there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding when the list was delivered and was exactly in it. But they contacted us in the last day, yes.
BOLDUAN: I hope upon hope that means good things.
What did you think watching and hearing this press conference just now with the Qatar official kind of laying out the details, finally getting confirmation publicly that there is a list and 13 hostages, women and children, which we are talking about very much could include your cousin, laying that out? What did you think seeing that press conference?
GRANOT: I think that we are all waiting for this kind of press conference. We understand that Hamas is an irrational -- we don't have trust in Hamas.
And if we have an opportunity to get a deal done, we want it to happen as fast as we can. So, I'm glad, as much as I can be glad, that there is mediators that are helping us, the U.S. government. This is what we're talking -- focusing about here in the activities in New York, in D.C., all over the U.S.
I'm glad to see that other Arab countries are worried through what happening in Israel and in Gaza and try to bring to cease-fire, trying to bring humanitarian aid, and trying to bring the hostages back home.
BOLDUAN: With this news, are you more hopeful today?
GRANOT: Of course I am.
I think that every soul that we will manage to bring back -- in Judaism, we say that every person is a whole world. So every person that we can get out of there, it's amazing. And it's good -- it's the good news that we are waiting for a long six weeks that we have only bad news and only hard times.
But we still remember and understand that the struggle is long. We will have to help the ones who will come back. And we will -- hopefully, we will see them come back to recover and return to a normal life as much as possible. And we will have to keep fighting for the rest of them, because Hamas is not planning on opening the gates and let people just go.
It doesn't matter if they are Israelis or American or Canadians or Thais. It doesn't matter. They took innocent people. They took innocent people from their houses in a vicious attack. And we are highly devoted to bring every -- each and every one of them home.
BOLDUAN: And talking about that long road ahead, have you and your family started to discuss what that road looks like and how you best can help Chen and the children when they are released?
Because you have to -- and I don't -- you have to assume they don't have any -- any full grasp of the scope of what happened really on October 7. Do you think she's aware of what happened to her husband and her eldest daughter?
GRANOT: I don't know, to be honest.
And I think this is the question I think about the most, because, if they will go back to Israel -- and I don't know. It's terrifying that they don't know. It's terrifying to think that they know. All answers are bad. And I just hope that they can come home as fast as they -- as fast as we can.
And the situation is that their whole kibbutz, they -- they burned the houses. Chen's parents are from this Kibbutz. Nadav's parents are from this kibbutz. They have plenty of friends from this area. They grew up in this area. And this area is all evacuated. All the people that used to live there are murdered, hostages, or displaced.
And it's a beautiful area in our country that we will have to recover and bring a lot of efforts to try and help them to resettle and get their life back, you know?
BOLDUAN: And helping Chen and the children just come to grasp that reality, when they're dealing with so much trauma, as they will be coming out, I mean, just -- it's the definition of a long road ahead.
BOLDUAN: I know that you have been a peace activist for many years, Omer. I heard the Qatari official speaking today say that his goal, their goal, if you will, is to achieve a lasting truce and expanding the pauses.
When it comes to Hamas being on the other side of this, though, is a lasting truce what you're hoping for?
GRANOT: So, I said it before, but unfortunately not, because I don't think Hamas is the partner that we can deal with them and build trust with them today.
And I think that Hamas bring suffering to people from both sides. It's a vicious terror organization that we -- and after what happened on October 7, we need to understand there was a cease-fire until October 6. And we have those rounds coming again and again every two years.
But we see that, with governments and leaders in the Arab world when we, Israel, is managing to bring a more powerful and sustainable agreement, and I really hope that, after we will get this horrible war, after we will get after it, we will see a better leadership in the Palestinian side, we will see maybe a better leadership in the Israeli side, and we can start and build a better future for both sides. BOLDUAN: I'm really hoping for good news for your family in the
GRANOT: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.
GRANOT: Thank you so much for having me.
FREEMAN: Thank you for that, Kate.
Coming up: The IDF has just confirmed it has detained the director of Al Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza and the location, Israel says, of a Hamas command center.
Plus, breaking news just into CNN: New York City Mayor Eric Adams is now being accused of sexual assault in a new lawsuit. What we're learning about the case -- up next.
FREEMAN: This morning, Israeli forces say they have detained the director of Al Shifa Hospital for questioning -- quote -- "following evidence showing that the Shifa Hospital under his direct management served as a Hamas command-and-control center."
Muhammad Abu Salmiya and other medical staff were reportedly arrested Thursday while evacuating with a World Health Organization convoy.
CNN's Eleni Giokos joins me from Cairo.
Eleni, what more are you learning about the situation?
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of course, this is really big news, in the sense that we knew there were just a couple of doctors left at Al Shifa Hospital.
And then we hear this news from the Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, saying that not only the director of the hospital, but also other doctors have been arrested or detained at a checkpoint during the evacuations.
Now, from what we understand, this is for questioning, according to the IDF, but I want you to take a listen to what Peter Lerner, the spokesman from the IDF, had to say about what they plan to ask and do with the director of Al Shifa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. PETER LERNER, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: It makes logical sense that he needs to be questioned at least for -- he was in constant state of denial, saying it doesn't happen.
How could a general manager of a hospital know -- not know about the extent of this tunnel system? So, at minimum, we need to see exactly what he can share with us about his knowledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Yes, interesting to see what he can share with us about this knowledge, and that is the crux of it.
You have got to remember that the IDF embarked on a raid at Al Shifa last week. It actually ended earlier this week. And we just saw what that meant from the medical perspective and the inability of doctors to do their work.
Al Shifa has been one of those issues, frankly, since the start of October 7, when we saw the IDF saying that not only hospitals -- or hospitals were being used as Hamas command posts or at least nodes, and then we saw it all coming together last week by the IDF.
We have seen those images. The IDF says that there are Hamas tunnels under Al Shifa. Now what we have been hearing from the Israeli security agency, they're saying: "In the hospital, under his management, there was extensive Hamas terrorist activity. Findings of his involvement in terrorist activity will determine whether he would be subject to further ISA questioning."
In the meantime, the Ministry of Health has -- now says that they are now suspending all work with the World Health Organization, that they will not be working with them to evacuate more patients out of Al Shifa. And they're saying they want a report to see how this happened. Did the WHO know about this checkpoints and the possibility of them knowing that they would be arrested?
So, what we're seeing here now is definitely something coming to a head. Firstly, you have got the IDF looking at what information they can gather from management at Al Shifa and then the Ministry of Health saying that they want to know more in terms of how this arrest actually occurred.
FREEMAN: Yes, Eleni, truly coming to a head at a very critical moment on this front.
Thank you very much.
BOLDUAN: And joining us now to talk more about this is retired Major Mike Lyons.
It's great to have you. Thank you for coming in.
Let's start with the breaking news that we have learned this morning, though, the big announcement coming from out of Qatar, announcing that there are 13 hostages who will be released tomorrow morning as kind of the first group as part of this hostage agreement deal with -- between Israel and Hamas. And, with that, the truce, the pause in fighting, that begins at
midnight tonight. Going even as -- taking it a step further, the Israeli prime minister's office has confirmed that they have the list of those hostages in hand now. And we have learned they're communicating with all of the hostage families about what the steps forward are.
What did you hear? What do you take from this big announcement today?
MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: So, Kate, fundamentally good news, OK, but I'm going to keep my military hat on and say...
LYONS: ... so now the military has about 12 hours. They have gotten their orders, because they have to stop fighting here in about 12 hours, 7:00 local in Gaza time.
So, right now, I think those forces there, there's probably 10,000 to 20,000 Israeli forces inside of Gaza. They're repositioning, making sure that they're going to be in a spot where they can protect themselves, because they're going to be somewhat vulnerable. They're going to lose some momentum in their fight.
They had the upper hand going on there for a while. So, as I look from that perspective, that's the first thing. Then, once the truce starts, there's this nine-hour window of what's going to happen then, OK?
There's likely going to be some people and some soldiers that will fight. There will be small-arms fire. There will be violations potentially of this. The question is whether they can work through those, and we will find out at 4:00 local time there as to whether or not those hostages get released or not.
But I -- the next 12 to 24 hours from a military perspective from the IDF side are going to be challenging.
FREEMAN: What is the threshold there? I mean, you seem to say that little skirmishes are inevitable.
FREEMAN: But what is the threshold that scuttles this deal in case something like that escalates?
LYONS: I think it's going to be the size of the conflict.
So, for example, the strategic weapons will be shut down, no drones. You won't see anything coming from the sky. But, for example, if Hamas still has control of rockets, for example, if they fire large rockets into Israel, what does Israel do then? Do they call the deal off?
So, again, there's just -- we're at the beginning of the beginning. There's so many things and so much time before those hostages actually get released. I think cooler heads will be there on one side or the other with regards to this.
I'm concerned also how communication is even taking place from Qatar to the ground soldier there in Gaza, whether or not they want to. There's -- both sides probably don't want this to happen, let's say. And, again, lastly, from a military perspective, this pause is going to give Hamas a chance to breathe a little bit.
They're going to likely move soldiers. They're going to move them south. They're going to do other things.
BOLDUAN: I wanted to ask you about that. If you assume that in the pause, it allows time for Hamas to regroup, reset, reposition, how does -- the IDF knows this.
They have -- do -- are they planning for it? What in -- from a tactical standpoint, how do you approach it if you know it's going to happen.
LYONS: Yes, I think they are obviously planning for that. And they're saying -- and with this kind of pause, four or five days, they could move 5,000 to 10,000 soldiers out of that area there south, move them places.
I think the war is eventually going to go in that direction. So, from a -- again, from a realistic perspective, this is going to prolong the war. If Israel is going to keep to its mission of destroying Hamas and making sure that they're not there when this is over, they're going to allow them to kind of live another day.
BOLDUAN: Choices you make, though, right...
BOLDUAN: ... when you're overseeing them.
FREEMAN: Well, and that's part of, as I understand it, probably why they specifically want the drones nowhere near Gaza...
FREEMAN: ... during this period of time.
BOLDUAN: But on that one, the Qatari official was asked about the drones, because the U.S. and Israel have agreed to it.
And he seemed to suggest that the drones had maybe something to do with not wanting to frighten hostages as they were being brought out.
FREEMAN: The noise aspect.
BOLDUAN: Yes, but...
LYONS: So, I -- yes, the drones do this. There's -- probably not. It gives Israel intel as to where those hostages came from, right? So the way that the situation is going to happen is, Hamas is turning
them over to the Red Cross. Well, where's that going to take place? So, if eyes are on those locations, then Israel knows where the hostages came from, emanated from.
LYONS: Then they could possibly use raids to go back to those locations. That's really the reason why.
FREEMAN: Well, thank you, Major, for your insight and your time.