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Red Cross Says 24 Hostages Have Been Released; First Hostages Released As Israel-Hamas Truce Begins. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired November 24, 2023 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We now know were released today. That includes we think 13 Israeli hostages, and then that would make 11 Thai hostages. A number of these vehicles is unclear, whether it's one ambulance per hostage. But certainly, a lot of medical care on the scene right there.
And it was from these vehicles, I think walking from a vehicle to a structure, that we did see the pictures that I would love to see again here of that little girl, an indelible image of a little girl being moved through. And then we also saw a picture of an older woman being moved through. And those were the two pictures -- those were the two pictures, I think, that are most important today to see people that we believe have been in captivity now for 48 days getting their first taste of freedom for some time.
That's taking place right here at the Rafah Crossing. Rafah Crossing again, we believe they're transported from Southern Gaza, over the border into Egypt into Rafah. And we have this video of this young girl from a short time ago. Let's look at it.
BERMAN (voiceover): And there she goes being led into a building there. Unclear who the woman who was traveling there with her. Whether that was an aid worker, or perhaps a relative, as Kaitlan has acknowledges -- as Kaitlan has acknowledged, we believed that some of the children might be being released with a mother today.
We don't know if that took place there. We also saw a video a short time ago of an older woman who appeared to be a hostage, again, who was being led from an ambulance into the building for some kind of treatment there.
Let's go to Oren Liebermann now, who I believe is in Tel Aviv at what's become hostage square. This area where people gather there. Oren, what's happening at this moment? how much are they seeing of this process -- this release process?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, there's a bit of a beehive of activity here as the crowd here waits for all of the updates. As you can imagine, a lot of the TV networks are set up here. And one of the locals has a big setup here. So, through that, and through all of the WhatsApp groups and text messages, they're able to pretty closely follow the latest developments here. You can see that they know here that they have entered Egypt, and that the 13 women and children have begun their way home. In that sense, there's a bit of, I would say, a festive mood here. There's music playing behind me as there has been since we got here about a half an hour ago. And they are joyous at this occasion that the first of the hostages have come home.
This has been such a square of difficulty, of pain over the course of the last seven weeks. I don't know if you can see it behind me. There's a table set out. One seat for each of the hostages now set out for a Sabbath dinner here on this Friday evening here. So, for the first time after the calls here, the posters, the demonstrations, the sleeping in tents, the trying to get into the defense ministry to meet with the war cabinet when they say here, bring them home now, at least for a small group tonight now is actually happening. And that has given them a cause to be at least a bit of a celebration here.
Now, is it everybody? No. Of course, not. And they know there are many difficult days ahead here because this process is playing out so slowly. But a noticeable change here from what we've seen for so long, John.
BERMAN: All right. We have Oren Liebermann in Tel Aviv, just getting word. 13 Israeli hostages, 10 Thai citizens, one Filipino citizen. Let's go back to Kerem Shalom crossing. That is a crossing between Gaza and Israel, but also you can enter again through Egypt. Jeremy Diamond is there. Jeremy, what are you seeing?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. Well, I can confirm that these are indeed military helicopters. My producer, Mike Schwartz, just went down and talked to some folks there. And it does appear that this is related to the transport of hostages potentially. It seems like the soldiers who are here were told to come here for that reason. They don't know exactly what their instructions are in terms of where they will be transporting people, when, how many, any information like that, but they were at least told to come here related to this broader mission of getting these hostages into Israel and onward to their families.
Now, I don't know whether or not hostages will actually end up getting in these helicopters. But these soldiers at least were given orders related to the recovery of these hostages. And so, there are indeed two helicopters that landed here just a little bit ago. And we're going to wait and see you know, what the next saga -- what the next phase of this saga entails.
BERMAN: Jeremy Diamond who's at the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is really very, very close to the Rafah Crossing. The Rafah crossing connects Egypt and southern Gaza. The Kerem Shalom crossing connects southern Gaza and Israel, but you can also get through, through Egypt.
We're talking about very small distances. I don't even know if you can even make it out of the map. Here, I put a dot at the Rafah crossing, a dot at the Kerem Shalom crossing. This is only a total of what? Like, eight miles from the coast to the Gaza border there.
So, you can see -- you're talking about very, very small distances it's possible as Jeremy is saying they will be moved these hostages -- these 24 hostages from the Rafah Crossing, some perhaps to the Kerem Shalom crossing where those helicopters are. We had been told that they would be moved -- once inside Israel proper, they would be moved by helicopter to the Hatzerim Airbase, which is on this map here, which is right here. So, again, the process of moving these hostages very much underway.
That's the airbase right there. This is the Kerem Shalom crossing. If they're brought by helicopter, that's what that would look like right there. And Jeremy's watching part of this, we think unfold.
It's a little bit unclear because something of this magnitude just hasn't happened yet in this conflict. We've seen two hostages released here and there but not the 24 that we're seeing right now. And the logistical challenges of making sure that these people are all OK and getting them back to safety inside Israel. Obviously, very dark there now, Jeremy, where you are.
Let's go back to Kaitlan in Tel Aviv with some new reporting. Kaitlan.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, John, as we're watching all of this play out and waiting for the identities of these hostages to be confirmed by Israel, which they says they'll -- they say that they'll do once they're safely back in Israel, though. We're watching several of them get out of these emergency vehicles. We're also learning more about who they are.
And I'm told by an Israeli source that most of these hostages, not all of them, we don't know that exactly, but a majority of the hostages that have been released just now by Hamas from Gaza are from Kibbutz Nir Oz. And on October 7, that was a kibbutz that saw a lot of devastation in the October 7 attack. I believe it was estimated that a quarter of the population of the several hundred people who lived there were either murdered or kidnapped into Gaza.
And they saw -- I mean, it was the kibbutz where they burned basically the kindergarten to the ground. They went into homes. You heard, you know, the testaments from the people who did survive that attack about just how devastating it was that day and how it saw some of the worst violence on October 7.
John, we're now seeing as we're hearing that they are from Kibbutz Nir Oz, the majority of these hostages. Right now, we're watching a line of people now boarding. They've gone inside after getting out, now getting onto a bus.
You can see an elderly woman. She's stepping into that white bus with assistance right here. And you see a line of people behind her, some men, another woman. We believe we saw a child at the beginning of the line. It's unclear if it was the same child that we saw earlier. We know that we have heard from Egyptian sources that several of the hostages who were being released today, not just those 13 Israeli hostages also several Thai nationals as well, who were kidnapped by Hamas on that day, and they appear to be boarding this bus right in front of us, John.
BERMAN: Yes. So again, 13 Israeli hostages --
COLLINS: The question is, what's next is --
BERMAN: Yes. 13 Israeli hostages.
BERMAN: 10 Thai hostages. one Filipino hostage. We saw a number of them but by no means all boarding that bus right there. Presumably, some are also receiving medical care and might be in the ambulances there.
We are told that the young girl that we'd seen earlier was at the front of the line. We're going to try to get a look at that again. But boarding that bus we did clearly see one child, some older women, and then men.
OK, let's see if we're going to see those pictures again. Let's take a look at those pictures again. At the front of the line there you saw a younger girl and an older woman. Here's a different vantage point there.
A couple of older women there. And now, what appeared to be a number of the Thai hostages there. 10 Thai hostages and one Filipino hostage perhaps boarding this bus. That is the Rafah Crossing.
We can't be sure where that bus will go. But it's possible it will head not far -- we're talking about a mere number of a small handful of kilometers south to the Kerem Shalom crossing. And from there, it would enter Israel.
They're in Egypt right now. This group of hostages there apparently the Thai men. It also perhaps one Filipino hostage boarding that bus. Kaitlan, we're -- earlier, we did see the first person to get on was that girl -- that young girl that we saw now free after 48 days in captivity.
What's next for this bus? We are not sure. But within the next several hours, all of those people we presume will be back inside Israel.
COLLINS: Yes, we believe this -- the next stop for that bus is going to be here in Israel where there is a number of hospitals that are preparing to receive them. I mean, they are -- this reintegration process that these hostages are going to have to go through isn't just about their physical well-being, these medical checkups, but also a meeting with therapist and officials here to talk about what they've seen, what they've experienced in these 48 days that they have been held.
These people have not known freedom since October 7, since they were kidnapped by Hamas into Gaza, where we know from at least two of the hostages who were previously released, they were in a complex tunnel system underground. And they had been underground for so long that when they were released, John, light -- natural light -- sunlight shocked them because they just hadn't seen it in so long.
And so, that's the kind of mindset that so many of these people that you're seeing now have gone through where -- I mean, there are major questions about what else those conditions looked like. But we do know what we've heard from other hostages who have been released. One thing that we were told is as soon as these hostages -- the Israeli hostages at least made it to the border, they were going to try to facilitate a phone call with their family members. They weren't able to immediately be reunited with them, but they at least wanted them to have that moment, to have that first conversation with a loved one that they have not been able to have for so long. And it's just a huge sigh of relief for so many of these families to see this actually unfolding and obviously still waiting for them to actually get here into Israel.
BERMAN: Again, we're getting some new information about who these people are, where they are headed, a group of the 24 hostages free. For the first time in 48 days experiencing freedom held by Hamas terrorists. We're going to take a break. Our special live coverage continues right after this.
BERMAN: All right, the breaking news some 24 hostages have been released by Hamas including 13 Israeli hostages, 10 Thai hostages, and one Filipino hostage. They moved south from Gaza over the Rafah Border Crossing into Egypt. We saw pictures a short time ago of them moving out of ambulances. And you can see a young girl right there, one of these Israeli hostages released.
We also saw a number of older women and then a number of the Thai hostages as well moving in the Rafah Crossing, then we saw them boarding a bus. Where that bus was headed? Not really sure at this point.
But we can show you one of the places that we do expect the hostages to go soon. And that's the Hatzerim Airbase. You can see inside Israel. So, Rafah here, and then presumably they'll move somewhere back into Israel, either crossing here or here, and then travel to the Hatzerim Airbase. That's where our Matthew Chance is with the latest on what you're seeing. Matthew.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Here at the Hatzerim Airbase, preparations have been underway for some time to cater for this arrival -- this first stop in the arrival of these 13 Israeli hostages, perhaps the nationals from Thailand and the Philippines as well. Though it's unclear whether they'll be coming directly here as well. We're trying to get clarification on that.
But yes, it's going to be a sensitive operation. You saw those people heading towards the bus in the -- in the live video that we've been watching. And our understanding, according to Israeli military officials on the ground here at the airbase that had been speaking to us, saying that the -- that the plan at the moment is for these hostages to be driven -- these freed hostages to be driven by road in those buses -- in buses to this airbase.
The reason they're doing that they said is because helicopter flights can be scary. And they don't want to further traumatize anybody who hasn't been on a helicopter before. That's the reason they said they're going to drive them by road.
And so, we'll see how that develops. Obviously, this is a fast- changing situation on the ground, and that plan could change. But whether they come here by bus or whether they're flown here in helicopters, this is the place where we understand they will be received by a -- you know, get initial checkups. They'll be able to make phone calls to their family members.
They'll be properly looked at medically and psychologically to assess what their immediate needs are, given food and drinks, a change of clothes if that's necessary as well, it's not clear whether you know they're still in the same clothes, for instance, that they were in when they were abducted so violently back on October 7. So, they're going to be looked at here. There are also shower facilities and things like that. After that, they're going to be loaded onto helicopters and taken to various health hospitals around the country, particularly close to Tel Aviv, depending on what their exact medical needs are.
Now, in terms of the timing on that, once the hostages -- if they come by road, once they -- once they get to the border of Israel, it's going to take about an hour. It goes about 30 miles away. A bit longer than that, perhaps to the border depending on where they come across to this space.
And then they're going to be processed for between half an hour and two hours depending on you know, their specific needs. And so, you know, we're -- you know, we're bracing ourselves for several hours now before these people sort of arrive here, are processed, and then finally board those helicopters that are waiting for them here and choppered to the -- to the hospitals elsewhere in the country. But again, a very sensitive, delicate, and anxious period underway right now.
BERMAN: To be sure for these 24 people experiencing freedom for the first time in 48 days. Again, Matthew Chance at the Hatzerim Airbase. You're looking at a video right now of these hostages boarding a bus. That was at the Rafah Crossing a short time ago. Exactly where that bus is headed, not really clear. But again, that was at the Rafah Crossing.
I can show you on a map where this is all taking place so it can situate yourself. Where Matthew Chance was, that's a Hatzerim Airbase right there, the Rafah Crossing where you just saw that video right there. I want to go not far from Rafah now to the Kerem Shalom crossing. That's where our Jeremy Diamond is. And, Jeremy, you've been seeing some helicopter activity there. You've got an update for us.
DIAMOND: Yes, that's right. So, we saw these two helicopters land here earlier in the hour, John. You saw it live with us. We've now just learned that at least one of these helicopters is indeed a medical helicopter which can be used for medical about evacuations.
We do not know whether it is here because -- as a precaution, whether it is here because it is going to be used for one of these hostages, or for some other reason. But certainly, when you look at the amount of activity that we are seeing here, and all of the indications that we have gotten about the likelihood of Kerem Shalom being the location where these hostages will cross into Israel, it is certainly increasingly looking like that may very well be the case.
Again, we do not have that fully confirmed as of now but that does appear to be the likeliest scenario at this point. As we were talking about before, John, and I think it bears repeating. We know that in the past, this Rafah Crossing -- this Rafah Crossing has been used for these types of situations.
Gilad Shalit in 2011, he was taken out via the Rafah Crossing into Egypt, just like these hostages tonight. And then he was brought into Israel via this Kerem Shalom crossing. And so, that may very well be the scenario that we are beginning to watch play out.
BERMAN: Jeremy, just so people understand, to drive from the Rafah Crossing to the Kerem Shalom crossing where you are. I mean, how long would that take?
DIAMOND: I could not tell you, John, to be honest. I don't want to guesstimate it.
BERMAN: Got it.
DIAMOND: But I do know that it is obviously -- it is obviously a relatively short distance. I mean, the Gaza Strip as a whole at its widest point is about six kilometers wide. So, not a very -- not a very long drive. It could be something that could be done, I believe in -- if I'm recalling a conversation I had recently in about 20 -- 30 minutes or so. So, it is -- it is certainly very close.
Again, it depends on what speed they're moving. We know that they -- there is -- obviously there are ambulances involved. And so, we will see exactly, you know, how quickly all of that actually comes together. And then also the other question is how long are they actually at that crossing point before they actually start moving to that airbase in southern Israel?
BERMAN: Yes, absolutely. Jeremy, I get it. Sometimes it's hard to know exactly how far or close things are when you're standing there, literally in the dark. But the important thing to keep in mind here is we're not talking about great distances. So, they boarded that bus. And if they were going toward you, it would not take long to get there.
DIAMOND: You got it. NANCY CORDES: If they're going to the Hatzerim Airbase where Matthew Chance is, that could be an hour or so. So, it's possible we see them again shortly, or it's possible we may not see that bus again for some time now. But obviously, the welfare of these individuals is of paramount importance.
Let's go to Oren Liebermann, who is standing by in Tel Aviv for us right now. This is a location, Oren, where Israeli citizens have been monitoring the progress of this hostage release. What do you see right now?
LIEBERMANN: Very much so, John. There's a crowd behind me, you can see them here over my right shoulder that's watching a TV studio setup. And that's important because they have a monitor there, a TV that shows them the latest. So, they're staring at that very closely to watch all of the updates and the movement of these first 13 Israeli women and children from Gaza now we know into Egypt and making their way back to Israel.
On my left here is the table we've seen set up for some time now. A chair for each of the missing hostages, that's set up on a daily basis, given the fact that it's now Friday night. It's set up for the Sabbath dinner here.
This hostages' square has become a focal point of some of the demonstrations -- frankly, some of the protests. Many of the families of the hostages set up tents here to try to force the war cabinet meeting at the defense ministry right behind me to meet with them. And that was the meeting that only came to fruition in the last few days. And even then, they were frustrated by the lack of answers they got from the government.
One man who left that meeting early said there was no new information given. And you could see how frustrated and how desperate they were for more answers about their loved ones. It was only 24 hours after that, that we finally got word that a deal was coming into place and would soon be acted upon as we're seeing now.
So, it has been incredibly difficult moments here for all of the families that have come here to demonstrate to be together. Many have described it as a new family they have found as they tried to get through the past seven weeks. And now for the first time in so long, a different emotion creeping into the picture here.
And that, a bit of celebration. Just a tiny bit of joy for the 13 that are now on their way back to Israel. They have waited so long for this moment. A lot of the signs here say bring them home now, bring them home today. And for weeks, that was just a dream. A hope. Tonight, John, for some at least that dream coming true.
BERMAN: Oren Liebermann for us in Tel Aviv. Right now, with Israelis watching the progress of these hostages right now who have now moved out of Gaza over the Rafah Crossing into Egypt. And we are following their movements very closely. We just got our first video of what we believe to be a number of those hostages some 24, 13 Israelis, 10 Thai hostages, one Filipino citizen. They have been released. They are on the move right now.
This is CNN's special live coverage. You're looking at that video including that little girl in the yellow shirt. Our coverage continues right after this.