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Israel-Hamas Truce Starts, First Captives Are Released; Interview With IDF Spokesperson Major Doron Spielman; IDF: First Set Of Freed Captives Arrived In Israel; Biden Will Speak Soon Following The Liberation Of 24 Captives. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 24, 2023 - 13:30:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for joining us. We'll stay in very close touch with you. Good luck.
Still to come, fighting is paused for the next three days during Hamas's handover of hostages. We're going to speak to the Israeli Defense Forces about what happens next. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of the first release of hostages since the Israel Hamas truce began.
Right now, 13 Israelis, 10 Thai citizens, and one Filipino citizen are in Israel following a truly agonizing 48 days in captivity in Gaza. This is the first of at least 50 total hostages who are set to be turned over to Israel in the coming days, part of that four-day truce between Israel and Hamas.
I'm joined now by Major Doron Spielman of the Israel Defense Forces. Major, thank you so much for joining us. First of all, can you give us an overview? Tell us how this transfer unfolded. Do you have any update on the condition of the hostages who were released today?
MAJOR DORON SPIELMAN, IDF SPOKESPERSON: Thank you for having me, Wolf. This is a monumental day. It will be a monumental day in history books of the State of Israel. To see these beautiful children come home that we've been waiting for, return to their families. These sweet little faces smiling into the camera. This boy, Ohad, who's nine years old, who was trapped in Gaza in a tunnel with his mother to be welcomed by their family.
The people of Israel are full of mixed emotions right now. We're melting with, really, love on one hand for people, and at the same time, we know that there's still over 200 hostages, including many women and children and men and grandfathers and grandmothers still in Gaza.
What we saw was we saw them brought over the border. Right now, they're in medical care. As far as we know, the ones that we've met and that we've seen are in good health. They're probably enormously traumatized. And we have to understand, Wolf, that some of them, some of these little children, there's a two-year-old and a four-year-old, there are multiple children, do not know yet that members of their family have been killed.
And therefore, there's a process of psychologists, of support networks that are there to reveal to them, yes, you're home. But how do we convey to these sweet children that Hams killed their families? That is, right now, what the State of Israel and the people of Israel are facing.
BLITZER: So, how quickly, Doron, do you think these hostages who were released today will be reunited with their families and eventually able to return to their homes?
SPIELMAN: Hopefully within a few hours. Everyone is checking them. Of course, what they've undergone is, there are things that you can see on the exterior of the body and health conditions. Let's not also forget the mental trauma. And mental trauma is not something that can be assessed right away. The medical staff in the State of Israel want to make sure that we're helping these people as much as possible, and therefore in as short a period of time as possible we're trying to assess this. So, when they reunite with their families, they're able to move forward in life after this horrific ordeal that Hamas put them through and put all of us through and not go reversed.
And so, this is an incredibly difficult process on a scale that is simply massive. We're dealing with these 13 precious people. And in the coming days, God willing, we'll be able to deal with more and more as part of this framework. And so, it's a process. Hopefully, as soon as possible, everybody --
BLITZER: Are you getting any -- Doron, are you getting -- I -- are you, excuse me. Are you getting any initial reports from these hostages who are now back in Israel on how they were treated during these nearly 50 days in Gaza as hostages?
SPIELMAN: It's early hours to tell, Wolf. Right now, the way we've been dealing with this is letting them go through the medical process and the psychological process. They will all be debriefed thoroughly. And I'm sure many of those pictures will come clear, obviously, to be held deep underground, inside the Earth for 50 days. The thought that Hamas had their hands on these two-year-old, four-year-old, five-year- old, nine-year-old children is kind of beyond all of us.
We know that Hamas killed a number of our hostages. We uncovered their bodies. And that will be forthcoming in the in the coming days. But what we have to remember from our perspective is that this is a pause, Wolf. This is a pause that because of our military campaign, it led -- pushed Hamas's back to the wall. It led to this release. We are not done with this military operation. We are just beginning until every single one of those sweet children, mothers and fathers in Gaza are going to be returned home.
BLITZER: Is the pause, as it's now being called, in the fighting inside Gaza, they're on holding.
SPIELMAN: It is. It is holding for now. We do have thousands of soldiers that are currently in Gaza. We are refreshing. We're holding forth. We're holding back our fire to enable these hostages to come out. And also, we've been using this time to bring in the enormous amount of humanitarian aid that we're using this for. Because up until now, when we brought in humanitarian aid and when we were kind of assisting those convoys of civilians, Hamas was shooting at us and shooting at our own soldiers.
Right now, there is calm. We had more than 200 trucks of supplies come in today. We had four large gas trucks. Four trucks full of cooking gas.
And so, the people, the residents of Gaza that have head south are also benefiting from this. And we're just hoping that Hamas, they've broken these treaties in the past, Wolf, as I've spoken to you in past conflicts, they've broken many of them. We're hoping Hamas will, for once, live up to their word. We know that we're going to, assuming they don't overstep this treaty, this pause.
BLITZER: Major Doron Spielman of the IDF, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it. We'll continue this conversation down the road for sure.
Coming up soon, right here on CNN, President Biden will speak after this first group of hostages has been released by Hamas. Stay with us. CNN's special live coverage continues right after this short break.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We continue our breaking news coverage. 24 hostages now back in Israel after being released from Gaza during the first phase of a four-day pause in the fighting. And any moment now, President Biden will address the nation about the hostages' release. Of course, we will bring that to you live.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: On the other side of this exchange, the Israeli prison service says that 39 Palestinian prisoners have now been released as part of this agreement. They were women and children as well.
CNN's Nada Bashir, she's in the West Bank where those prisoners have now arrived. Earlier, Nada, our reporters on the ground said they saw some clashes around the prison prior to the release. What reaction are you seeing now?
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: We said we did see some clashes earlier in the day at the Beitunia crossing point. We did see Israeli forces firing tear gas at the crowds that had gathered to watch that crossing unfold. Now, of course, we are seeing huge crowds gathering here outside the Beitunia municipality center. Many of them have been waiting for hours for the release of those 39, or at least some of those 39 prisoners to arrive here at the municipality building where many of the family members have been waiting to meet with their loved ones who have been in prison, many of them for years now at this point.
And we have already seen some of those now released prisoners arriving here outside the municipality building, surrounded by crowds of friends, family and other locals who have come to show their support for those now released Palestinian prisoners.
We've seen fireworks being set on. We've seen people chanting and cheering and celebrating here. And I think that is interesting to see, this celebration unfolding, because earlier in the day, and in fact earlier in the week, we've been speaking to family members of some of those on the list of 150 Palestinian prisoners who could potentially be released over the course of this four-day truce.
And many of those family members told us that while they welcomed this decision and while they would be happy to see their loved ones released, this wouldn't be a moment of total happiness because of course of the ongoing war or rather the war in Gaza that this release of prisoners has come at a heavy price. And you can just see behind me these crowds are pretty huge. And we are seeing Palestinian flags being waved, but we are also seeing Hamas flags being waved here at the Beitunia municipality center.
Now, of course, those 39 prisoners, as I mentioned, are the first amongst what is said to be 150 Palestinian prisoners who are expected to be released if the terms of that truce agreement is upheld over the next four days. And, of course, this is an exchange for those 50 in total hostages that are held by Hamas inside the Gaza Strip.
SANCHEZ: Nada Bashir, thank you so much for that update.
At any moment, President Biden will address the nation after the release of the first group of hostages. Of course, we're going to bring that to you when it happens live. Stay with CNN, we're back in just moments.
SANCHEZ: So, we've learned that no Americans are going to be part of this first group of hostages that were released by Hamas and that entered Israel earlier today. Sources say, the White House, though, is closely watching of the situation and the transfer in real time.
SCIUTTO: Yes, it's notable because of course the U.S. has been directly involved in these negotiations for some time. Biden, Bill Burns, the CIA director, traveled out to the region.
Arlette Saenz is traveling with the president in Nantucket. And, Arlette, I know we're going to hear from the president shortly. But I wonder, was the administration surprised there were no Americans in this initial group? I mean, there's a lot of discussion, for instance, of one of the hostages who happens to be turning four years old today, not involved in this initial group. Was there any upset with that? Any surprised that they weren't included at this point?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the White House had not provided any exact timing for when they believed the three Americans would be released by Hamas. But the White House still remains hopeful that that will be the case, that these two women and that young girl, four-year-old Abigail Edan, will be part of this group of 50 and women and children who are being released in the coming days.
Now, we just learned President Biden just left the home where he is staying here in Nantucket, Massachusetts. And we expect to be hearing from him shortly about this latest hostage release that played out this morning. The White House officials were monitoring the release in real time, and I'm told President Biden was briefed throughout the morning, including by his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. The president, yesterday, had told reporters he was hoping to be able to provide an update today once that release had gone forward.
But all eyes have been, not just on this release at large of the 50 women and children, but also whether these Americans will be able to get out. Officials have really been viewing this first day and tomorrow as a real testing period to ensure that all of the plans and mechanisms that they had agreed to are actually carried out.
So, we expect to hear from President Biden in a short while. An update. He himself had said he was keeping his fingers crossed that that four-year-old Abigail Edan would be part of this hostage relief -- release. And the White House is hoping that soon they will be able to reunite these Americans with their families.
SANCHEZ: Yes. And on that question of this being sort of a test phase are led. And speaking to one of the key negotiators in the U.S. side of this deal, Brett McGurk earlier this week.
He expressed that the deal, at least the first 48 hours of it would be kind of a testing ground to see if it could potentially be extended beyond the four or five-day initial truce. Does the White House still maintain that optimism, seeing how today played out?
SAENZ: Well, the White House has said that there is the possibility that this four-day truce could be extended to potentially secure the release of even more hostages. And then the priority at this time has really been in trying to get the women and children out. And then that is when they will start to focus more intensely on the discussions to release the other hostages.
Sources say that they really view elderly men as being the next category that might be easiest to get out. They anticipate that the hardest ask group to get out would be those men and women serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. But the White House has insisted that they are working around the clock to try to get all of these hostages back home. SANCHEZ: Yes, and again, we are awaiting word from the president, said to address the nation in the next few minutes. We'll see what the president might share. Arlette Saenz from Nantucket, thank you so much.
Today has obviously been a day that so many have been waiting for. 24 hostages released by Hamas and other groups. Our special coverage continues after a short break, stay with CNN.