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Freed Hostages Being Flown To Hospital From Israel Air Base. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 24, 2023 - 15:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN Special Live Coverage a group of hostages kidnapped by Hamas finally returning home after being taken by the terrorists nearly 50 days ago. This is a live look on the left side of your screen at a children's hospital helipad that's expecting to receive some of those younger hostages at any moment.

We're going to keep our eyes on that visual and while they are back in safe hands, the visible and invisible scars from this harrowing ordeal will likely stay with them for many years to come.

Let's get some perspective now from global opinions columnist for the Washington Post Jason Rezaian. He was of course wrongfully imprisoned by Iran for 544 days back in 2015. And he brings a unique point of view to this discussion.

Jason, thank you so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us. First, your reaction to this for phase of the hostage relief deal.


JASON REZAIAN, GLOBAL OPINIONS COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Boris, thanks for having me on. I'm relieved for these individuals and their families. But there is still such a long way to go with so many more hostages still being held. I'm also thinking a lot about the hard road ahead, especially for these young children and their families, especially for people who may have witnessed loved ones being killed in front of their eyes before they were taken into captivity.

So while there is a sense of, of relief and happiness for those individuals who have been freed and their loved ones, it's not a fate that they should have ever suffered and the healing from it will take a long time.

SANCHEZ: Yes, your journey and obviously, those of the hostages are very different, but you have the experience. Jason, actually, we're going to pause the conversation for a moment because those helicopters I mentioned a moment ago are now arriving. This is not Schneider's Children's Hospital were four children are

expected to arrive momentarily. Let's go live now to Clarissa Ward, who is there for us. Clarissa, walk us through what you're seeing and what we're expecting to see in just moments.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, so what you should be seeing now just coming towards that helipad right here at the back of the Schneider Children's Medical Center, you can see a helicopter in the air. We know that about 20 minutes ago, the first two helicopters departed from the Hatzerim Air Base followed by another two helicopters.

Now I should stress that at this stage, we can't be 100 percent sure that that helicopter is coming here to the Schneider Children's Medical Center, but we certainly are seeing a significant increase in the activity around that helipad.

There are other hospitals as well. Some in Tel Aviv and around the country where some of the hostages may be taken, but certainly here at Schneider they are expecting some of the children to be brought as well as mothers who are with those children.

We know that a Ohad Munder, who celebrated or I should say who marked his ninth birthday in captivity is among those hostages and his mother Karen. We know that Ross, four-year-old Ross and Aviv, two-year-old Aviv, Asher are also with their mother Doron and also Amelia, five- year-old Amelia Aloni with her mother, Danielle.

Now as I said before, we can't be sure that those specific children and their mothers will be coming here to Schneider. But you can see once again, that helicopter coming into view and you can hear it getting louder now behind that building. And it does appear that it is indeed heading here.

We can start to hear as well. And I don't know if my microphone is picking up on this but people cheering from outside in the city. We're hearing people clapping in the distance as well. This is their first glimpse really, of those hostages finally being brought home.

And you can hear now obviously, that sound getting louder of that helicopter. As it comes towards the helipad here at the back of the Schneider Medical Center for Children, you could see it now getting closer and closer.

And we don't yet know who is on board that helicopter or what they have been through what they have seen over the last seven weeks. But this is quite an extraordinary moment to witness and for many Israelis this is really the first glimpse that they're seeing of some of those hostages finally back on the territory of their homeland.

You're seeing there the helicopter has just landed and my cameraman has tried to pull in on it so that we might be able to get a glimpse of some of the people who will be getting off that helicopter. As I mentioned before the hospital here is waiting primarily for children and their mothers. They have put a lot of emphasis on the importance of obviously not separating any children from their mothers. They have spent all day and all of last night preparing for this

arrival to ensure that it is as seamless and as painless as possible staff telling us they didn't sleep last night because they were so intent on making all the preparations.


They've created an area inside the hospital, deliberately contriving so that it doesn't feel like a hospital so that it feels more intimate, more welcoming, warmer, and more safe. And now you can imagine the entire staff here are on standby, as they witness this moment, the helicopter now turning off its engines, you can hear it's a little quieter now that those blades have turned off. And we're waiting for that first moment when we will see some of those hostages getting off the plane, Boris, Wolf.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Clarissa. These are obviously very delicate moments for these hostages. As you noted, we're not exactly sure who is on board. But we are anticipating that a group of children will be arriving at that Schneider Children's Hospital or potentially along with their mothers.

We know that a critical part in all of this, we're not only the sensitive nature of the logistics and getting them out of Gaza and back into Israel, but also the way that IDF soldiers were set to receive them. You mentioned the critical steps that have been taken at the hospital to ensure that their reintegration goes as smoothly as possible. And you mentioned that there are also crowds there that are cheering them on.

What do we know, Clarissa, about what happens next once they're taken inside and what resources have been made available to these families as they try to piece together a new chapter of their lives.

WARD: So what we know Boris is that the hostages are now freed hostages who are brought here are not believed to be in serious need of medical attention. Anyone who was very wounded or had some kind of medical condition was taken to a different hospital.

The expectation you can hear that cheering now again, I don't know if you can hear that people whistling, people cheering. And we're just waiting for those first now free hostages to step out of the -- out of that chopper. But this will be the place, Boris, where they are first reunited with their families, with their family members. At least, you know almost everyone who has been released today.

According to a spokesperson for the Nir Oz kibbutz where I believe 12 of the 13 release today were living have lost family members. So it is important to remember some of them may not be aware of that they may not know who they have lost.

We talked before about the comprehensive list of guidelines that the IDF was given in terms of how to deal with the hostages, if they ask questions. Where's mommy? Where's daddy? Where's grandpa? They were told not to answer those questions to tell them they were being taken to a safe place where they could see their loved ones, who would be able to answer some of those questions.

And so there has been a huge amount of thought and dedication and effort that has gone into trying to create a mechanism here. And again, you could still hear some people whistling in the background. And you can see a line of people outside getting ready to meet those would now free hostages as they are expected to be getting off that helicopter momentarily.

It looks like they're constructing some kind of a barricade one screen, if you will, I one can only assume that is to give them privacy also, because we are dealing with minors here, minors who have been through a horrendous trauma.

And so every conceivable action that can be taken in order to minimize the trauma that they have to go through from here on is being taken down to the detail of having that screen, putting it up giving them some measure of privacy. Because obviously there are huge amount of cameras here. There are well-wishers who are out on the streets.

There is a huge amount of excitement. But also I would say Boris, trepidation, because I do think there's an understanding that these children will be changed by what they have seen. They will be changed by what they have experienced. And they will be changed by what they will only just be starting to learn now which is the full extent of the October 7th attacks how that impacted their families, their communities and this country as a whole.


And you can't see but behind me, there's a whole line of cameras here. There are also ordinary people here, who some of them have brought their children. And they're looking on, there's a sense that people know that they are witnessing a historic moment. And we are also hearing in the distance now another helicopter, I can see it in the distance, you won't be able to get it in the shot yet.

But as mentioned before, we know that from the Hatzarim Air Base for helicopters in total took off. We don't know how many of them will be coming here to the Schneider Children's Medical Center. One, as you can see on the screen there has already landed it appears that they're in the process of disembarking people from that helicopter behind that screen.

And we now see in the skies, just up above me to the left, and you probably starting to hear it now a second helicopter. And again, hearing some people cheering now in the distance would be potential arrival more now free hostages. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Clarissa, we can hear the helicopter and the cheers as well from that crowd nearly 50 days in captivity for some very, very delicate young children now finally returning to Israel. Some of them assumed to find out the extent of what occurred on October 7th.

And as we saw their every potential measure being taken to ensure that their reintegration goes as smoothly as possible, those barriers being put up before they were loaded into that vehicle, and it departed the helipad.

Clarissa please keep us posted on when you see the next helicopter that you mentioned approaching. I believe we still have Jason Rezaian with us who has a unique perspective.

And Jason, as you're watching these historic images from the Schneider Children's Hospital, I'm wondering what's going through your mind, specifically when it comes to the challenges that these very young kids are going to face moving forward. Some of them are potentially orphaned.

REZAIAN: Boris, you know, the freed hostage is a symbol of hope and resilience and survival for communities of people that have been waiting for them to be freed. But the experience of those people who are just coming out, especially the children, it's incredibly jarring, they're in for such a difficult road ahead. And my heart just really goes out to them as it does to anybody being held hostage or who has recently returned from being a hostage.

I just can't fathom what it would be like to be a child thrust into that situation, and then have to come back to the realities that are happening in Israel and in this war. So I think, you know, spare a thought for these kids as they start this long journey towards recovery, and healing, because it's not going to be easy for them.

SANCHEZ: And obviously, it's not just the children, it's the other hostages and their families as well that have been impacted by this. I'm wondering, what do you think they'll need most, what would be the most useful resource that can be offered to them?

REZAIAN: They'll need the opportunity to be with their families, with loved ones with doctors, but more than anything, they'll need a little bit of privacy and space. And, you know, no one can measure except the person themselves, how long that time needs to last.

And unfortunately, situations like this don't provide that kind of, of privacy and space for people. There's such a great demand for their time. And people just want to see them. And even just the action of wanting to hug someone who's come back from being a hostage can be quite an interference on that person's space. So you know, I just -- I hope that they have the opportunity to to be away from the spotlight as much as possible and get the help that they need.

SANCHEZ: Jason, I'm also curious about something that President Biden alluded to. We don't know exactly when we'll see three Americans that have been confirmed, held hostage by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. We're not sure exactly when we're going to see them released.

But President Biden reassured the country in his speech earlier today that his administration would do everything they can.


To also seek answers for those Americans that remain unaccounted for which the administration reach earlier today that his administration would do everything they can to also seek answers for those Americans that remain unaccounted for which the administration doesn't have clarity on their status.

There was a time when you were incarcerated that I imagine your family was uncertain about your future. And I'm curious as to what you can share about what message you might send to those loved ones who don't exactly know when they're going to see their family members again, or if they might be reunited someday.

REZAIAN: But they have to hang on to hope that we live in in one of the countries in the world that puts great value on the lives and freedom of our citizens, especially those who are being wrongfully detained and abused by powers around the world.

One can argue the merits of various deals that the Biden administration has done to release hostages and wrongful detainees around the world. What you can't argue is that they have had successes. They've had incredible successes. Dozens of Americans who've been wrongfully detained in countries around the world have come home during this presidency.

And it's a continuation of a commitment by administrations Republican and Democrat. That, you know, hostage issues are not partisan. They're an American issue. We don't stand for our people being held around the world. So I would put our faith in, in in this administration, and its ability to effectively bring people home and I hope that that's the case as soon as possible for those Americans who are still unaccounted for.

SANCHEZ: Jason, we're so grateful to have your experience and your optimism as we're watching this unfold. Jason Rezaian. Thank you so much for joining us today.

REZAIAN: Thanks, Boris. We're going to take a quick break. But we do want you to stay with CNN as we watch history unfolding in Israel freed hostages arriving at the Schneider Children's Hospital. We're keeping an eye on another potential helicopter landing there in just moments. Stay with CNN as we bring you the very latest.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: 13 Israelis are among the 24 hostages released so far today in Gaza. Michigan, Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who sits on the Homeland Security and Armed Services Committee. Also long experience in the Mideast joins us now. Good to have you on Congresswoman. Thanks for taking the time.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D) MICHIGAN: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: U.S. was central to these negotiations. The President said that these releases were the result of us diplomacy. I wonder, why do you think no Americans were included in this first group of hostages released?

SLOTKIN: You know, I don't know the answer to that. I know that, you know, the White House has been neck deep in negotiating this. It used frankly, the convening power that only the United States really has. I have to assume that there are going to be Americans in the next tranche. We hope so. We're thrilled for those who got out the young and the old, especially. But I have to imagine the Americans are coming soon.

SCIUTTO: The President in his comments a short time ago said that Israel's goal of eliminating Hamas, which it has stated is it's the goal of operations in Gaza is a legitimate goal. Is that an achievable goal in your view?

SLOTKIN: You know, it's hard. I'm a former CIA officer, I did three tours in Iraq alongside the military in places like Ramadi. And I think it's very difficult to just try and bomb your way out of an ideology. And I think one of the things that is, to me really important, and this pause can help us think through a little bit is how do you legitimately go after the perpetrators of this attack? That is a legitimate target to go after the people who organize this attack, but then have some bigger strategic plan for Gaza.

I don't think it's possible to just get rid of, of an ideology through military action. We learned that the hard way in in our wars.

SCIUTTO: Two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for sure. These are live pictures of a second helicopter, believed to be carrying some of the hostages freed as they arrive for both medical treatment evaluation but also to be reunited with their families.

Another thing the President took care to mention in his comments, Congresswoman was that the US still supports a two state solution. It's something the President said repeatedly since October 7. Is that still an achievable goal as well, given how far apart the sides are today?

SLOTKIN: Yes. And I think that that's been a long standing American goal, and it should still remain an American goal. I think that most of us who are Middle East specialists by training grew up on that. And you have to give Palestinians a path forward and that that state of their own is that path.

So it may be difficult, and certainly settlements have not helped in places like the West Bank. But yes, that should and must remain a goal for the United States for our strategic interests. For sure.

SCIUTTO: Your settlements are to be grown under Bibi Netanyahu, I wonder is Bibi Netanyahu the Prime Minister is still a reliable partner of the U.S. and to see the leader Israel needs now in your view.

SLOTKIN: Well, look, I mean, before this attack last summer, a fifth of the Israeli population was out protesting Bibi Netanyahu. I think there was a lot of controversy around him and a lot of us you know don't always see eye to eye with him.


The Israelis have to make a decision for themselves.