Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Hostage Negotiators Face New Obstacles On Day 4 Of Truce; Three Palestinian College Students Shot In Possible Hate Crime; Source: 40 Plus Hostages Taken On October 7 Not Held By Hamas. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 27, 2023 - 09:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for being with us. At this hour, there are a lot of questions about where things are headed in Israel and Gaza. We could be just hours away from either military operations resuming in Gaza to take out Hamas or the fragile truce between Israel and Hamas being extended. Two very divergent paths this war could take today. And even before getting there, there is uncertainty about today's expected hostage release. So far, 40 Israeli citizens have been freed since the truce began, and another 18 foreign nationals.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: At this moment, today's release hangs in the balance let alone the possibility of an extension. The issue is, where are the mothers? We are told there are no mothers on today's list. And as part of the agreement, mothers are supposed to be released with their children. Now as we wait to see how this develops, we are seeing new pictures of emotional family reunions. Nine-year-old Emily Hand with her sister in the hospital. Her father initially thought she was killed on October 7th.

Let's get right to CNN's Kaitlan Collins who's in Tel Aviv this morning with the latest on where this fourth scheduled day of releases stands, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, John, it seems to be hanging in the balance. We know that there are negotiations happening right now between Israel, Hamas, the U.S., all this is being negotiated by the Qataris, mediated by the Qataris I guess I should say, on what just day four is going to look like before we even get to the idea of whether or not there is going to be this extension to this temporary truce, something that not only Israel, but also have Hamas have both expressed interest in doing so.

But I think right now what we're hearing from officials is they're just focused on getting through day four, because we are told that this fourth list of hostages that was handed over by Hamas last night has what -- is what has caused a lot of these issues. And what is at the heart of this we are told is that it's the mother issue because part of this agreement Israel says is that any child who is kept in captivity by Hamas and Gaza with their mother, must be released with their mother together. They cannot be separated as a part of this agreement.

Now, the IDF has said that Hamas has already violated this once when they released Hila Rotem on Saturday night without her mother who is being held in captivity. Hamas claimed essentially that they could not find her. When Hila later spoke to her uncle, he told reporters that she said that they had just been separated two days before. So I think that's the reason there's a bit of a lack of trust here, I guess a lot of a lack of trust here.

And so right now, what we're told is the -- at the center of these disputes is whether or not all of the corresponding mothers with their children are on this list for today. Now, this could be coming to a head quite soon given here, it's 4:00 p.m. This is typically when those exchanges has started to happen. Right now, we have not seen any evidence that that is the case. We're continuing to follow it all closely. And U.S. officials are as well.

CNN's White House correspondent MJ Lee is at the White House. And MJ the other question here for the White House certainly has been whether or not Americans are going to be included on this list because the White House believed there were three total who could be released as a part of this initial group of 50 hostages released. So far, only one Abigail Edan has been on that list.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Three total Americans, we were always told we're expected to be among the first 50 women and children that are released. And yes, yesterday we saw the release of Abigail Edan, the four-year-old Israeli American citizen. And so now, the question is what happens to the two American women that we have been talking about?

But Kaitlan, given that today is the last day of that four-day truce agreed upon by Israel and Hamas, presumably what we should see happen is have those two women, American women, be a part of that list, the hostage list that is supposed to be released today. But as you were just laying out, what we are told at this moment in time is that all of the parties are still sort of furiously working through some outstanding issues related to that list.

Chief among them, as you alluded to, is the issue of making sure that children that are released on any given day are not separated from their family members because the 50 we are talking about are all women and children, we are talking about children and their mothers and their grandmothers. And a part of the deal clearly stated that children cannot be released without their mothers and grandmothers if they are held in captivity together.


So we are really basically still waiting on word on where that list is, where things stand with that list, and chiefly importantly for this White House, whether those two American women may potentially be released today.

COLLINS: And MJ, you had some really interesting reporting yesterday, as obviously the U.S. was so glad that Abigail Edan, the four-year-old was on that list. Yesterday, we even saw President Biden come out abruptly and speak about that. But you had interesting reporting on the U.S.'s ability and Israel's ability to track her movements as she was making her way across.

Obviously, that's something that stands out, given there are no drones flying over Gaza right now, as a part of this temporary truce. What have you learned about that?

LEE: Yes, I mean, first and foremost, I think yesterday was such a significant day for this White House, you know better than anyone that Abigail Edan has really just become this face and symbol of the White House's efforts to try to get out these American hostages from Gaza. And you've seen how often President Biden has publicly talked about Abigail Edan and we're told that in private too. And basically all of his phone calls that he has had with his counterparts, Abigail has come up.

But what sources had told us was that when Abigail was basically on the move, moving through Gaza and being handed off to the Red Cross, that the U.S. did have the ability to track those movements in real time, which as you say, is notable given that there's a period of day, every day as a part of this truce when U.S. and Israeli drones are not flying over Gaza skies.

Now, there was no sense of release, we are told until Abigail was actually in Israel, that even when she was in that Red Cross convoy, that nobody was taking that for granted. And I should also just quickly note, as for the seven other American citizens that are unaccounted for, we do know that they are men, we don't know anything about their condition.

And again, the next coming days are going to be critical in getting some sense, getting some information as to whether any of those men, those American men may be released in the coming days.

COLLINS: Yes, a big question for these families. MJ Lee from the White House, thank you.

And obviously, as we are waiting to see if this agreement can make it through day four of this truce, we also know Israel and Hamas are considering extending it to potentially go another day. The terms of it are still the same as what we had heard before for an additional day in the pause and fighting. Israel wants to see 10 more hostages released. And the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that he would be open to it if those were the terms that were met.

I want to get right to CNN's Ben Wedeman who is in Jerusalem tracking all of this. Ben, what have you been hearing about whether or not this is something that's going to happen? And also whether or not if they do agree to that extension? Does it also include the release of more Palestinian prisoners each day?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen on Hamas's telegram channel that indeed, they are willing to extend this truce and continue the exchange of hostages for prisoners and detainees. They have, however, said that they would like to see more Palestinians released. Keep in mind, for instance, that until now, 117 Palestinian detainees and prisoners have been released. But in the -- during the same period, since the cause went into effect, the Israelis have detained 112 Palestinians across the West Bank.

And in fact, since the 7th of October, more than 3,000 Palestinians have been arrested. Some of course had been released. But it -- we've seen a wave of arrests every night. For instance, last night 63 Palestinians were arrested in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. So certainly we've seen these scenes of joy and celebration in the West Bank when these detainees and prisoners are released. It's three nights in a row. There have been 39 released.

Last night, for instance, it was all of them were boys under the -- are 18 years or under, one of them was as young as 14. Now what's significant when you look at the crowds of people, welcoming these released prisoners and detainees, is there a lot of Hamas flags waving around which really underscores that Hamas's popularity seems to be surging in the West Bank.

Now, last night I spoke to a senior diplomat here in Jerusalem, who said that if there were elections held tomorrow in Gaza, Hamas would lose. As a result of this war, their popularity has plummeted in Gaza. However he said, if elections were held tomorrow in the West Bank, Hamas would enjoy a sweeping victory. Kaitlan?


COLLINS: That is really interesting, because we've also, you know, heard this dispute that we were talking to the IDF about last night didn't really get a lot of clarity, Ben, which was that eight Palestinians are believed to have been killed in the West Bank and just a lot -- and just this weekend alone. I mean, they were saying that was due to Israeli fire. Last night, the IDF is claiming at least five of them were militants.

But I mean, this is -- with all we talked about Hezbollah and what's going to happen there, the West Bank has also been something that -- a region that has been incredibly on edge for the last seven weeks.

WEDEMAN: Yes. I mean, we've seen for this period of time since the 7th of October, it's almost an unprecedented number of Palestinians have been killed. Yes, some of them have been militants, but many have not. And what we're seeing is that this uptick in violence is not only a result of the Israeli military's action, it is also settlers, settlers who have been provided rather loosely with automatic weapons by Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Israeli National Security Minister, a man who is widely considered to be very extremist when it comes to Palestinian rights.

And we know that the United States, the State Department has expressed concern that the West Bank could become an area of much, much more unrest, much more instability as a result of Israel's policies and actions, as everyone is focused on Gaza. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, certainly an important concern there. Ben Wedeman in Jerusalem, we'll continue to check back in with you as we were waiting to see, John, here, what happens when the fourth day of this truce and whether or not they can resolve these issues that we know are happening right now. And what this fourth list of hostages, which could be the final list, it may not if they do agree to that truce, John, it just remains to be seen what that list ultimately looks like.

BERMAN: That's right. And again, we're several minutes now past the time when today's exchange is supposed to begin. So Kaitlan, please keep us posted.

In the meantime, breaking overnight a suspect is in custody in the shooting of three Palestinian college students in Vermont. He is expected to be arraigned today. And we are expecting an update from the Burlington Police. This morning, authorities are looking into whether this shooting was a hate crime. CNN's Polo Sandoval is in Burlington, Vermont this morning. Bring us up to speed Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. It is quiet on this tranquil sweet this morning. Hard to believe that the block that you see behind me, that is where those three Palestinian-American students were shot on Saturday evening. Police here in Burlington identifying the suspect who was arrested just yesterday reportedly actually lives right in front of where that shooting took place.

Police identifying him as a 40-year-old Jason Eaton, a local man that expects to face various charges and an arraignment in any moment now. We do understand the way this all went down on Saturday that these three young men identified by an organization working with the families as Tashin Ali Ahmad Keenan Abdelhamid and also, Hisham Awartani, where actually on the way to dinner. They were visiting Vermont. They had attended schools in other states. That is when this 40-year-old man, according to police, approached them with a handgun and then opened fire.

The big question right now is, why? When you hear from various Arab- American civil rights organizations and the families themselves, they believe that they were specifically targeted because of what they were wearing. Here's what an attorney representing the families told CNN just yesterday.


ABED AYOUB, ATTORNEY FOR VICTIMS' FAMILIES: The suspect walked up to him and shot them. They weren't robbed. They weren't mugged. It was a targeted shooting and a targeted crime. And they were wearing the Kufi, very symbolic of the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian culture and history. Their identity played a role in them being targeted.


SANDOVAL: Now having heard that and to be clear, Burlington Police who was actually the head of this investigation, saying that they are still in the process of looking through all of the evidence here in hand, they actually worked with the ATF and still in contact with the FBI, as they actually made that rest -- arrests yesterday.

So still many questions in this community, John, certainly shaken to its core as the community calling for this to be investigated as a hate crime, though again, police saying that investigation has not officially led them there yet.


BERMAN: What's the condition of the three students, Polo?

SANDOVAL: So we know that at least one of them is in critical condition. Something to share with you about Hisham Awartani, who is the one that you see on the right in that group photo, that was actually taken just moments before this shooting. His family actually sharing a photo with CNN showing him in his hospital bed. He appears to be in good spirits. However, his family also saying the doctors are right now trying to increase the blood flow to his spine, as we reported yesterday and other organization working with a family say that he likely has a bullet lodged in his spine.

So there's still a lot of concerns about what his recovery will be like. And I can also tell you, John, that the family members were at least two of those three children -- those young men, I should say, are trying to get here to Burlington as they live in Palestine.

BERMAN: All right, Polo Sandoval, keep us posted as to what you hear again. We're expecting an update from the police sometime as soon as this morning. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a pause in the fighting is giving people in Gaza a chance to reach that new aid coming into the enclave. Aid trucks making their way through. We have an update from there.

And missiles fired at a U.S. warship in the Gulf of Aden. What the Pentagon is saying about who was behind it. We'll be right back.



COLLINS: This morning, both Israel and Hamas are considering a truce, an extension of that truce that they have underway. It is now day four of what is supposed to be a 96-hour truce. But during this time, much needed aid has been able to go into war torn Gaza where it is obviously so desperately needed, desperate for supplies, including food, baby formula fuel. We have spotted at least 100 aid trucks entering Gaza on Sunday through the Rafah crossing.

CNN's Larry Madowo is in Cairo and has been tracking all of this. Larry, obviously, we don't know yet whether or not this extension is going to happen. It seems likely. But with the point of, you know, how these delays have gone and releasing the hostages, I don't think anyone would be confident in saying that it is going to happen. But as far as what has gone in so far, what have you been able to see?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, we've seen more trucks come in today. We do not know the exact numbers. It will be until later in the day until we can get confirmation from the Palestinian Red Crescent or from the U.N. about how many trucks were allowed to come in today. But this is crucial, because of what you're talking about. If this truce is not extended, this might be the largest contingent of aids to come into Gaza for a while, because during this four-day period, they had at least 200 trucks. That's the ceiling for how many trucks could come into Gaza with food and fuel and water and cooking gas that's been in short supply throughout the strip. So this is the final day to try and get in as much as possible. It's a painstaking process where they have to go through an Egyptian checkpoint and then Israeli checkpoint and then unload and trying to load them back onto trucks that will distribute across the strip, it doesn't always mean that all the trucks are coming in the Egyptian that of course, the Rafah crossing, get in to Gaza and especially to Northern Gaza, where some of the greatest need is.

But during this pause and fighting, people have been able to queue up for food and for cooking gas and try and get a sense of normalcy. And a lot of them just want this to be extended. Listen.


SABREEN AL-NAJAR, LIVES IN GAZA (through translator): I'm waiting in line to get flour for my children. We are calling on the Arab countries for help. We come in the early morning at 5:00 a.m. before the sun goes up to get flour and food. We are asking the Arab countries to support us so we can go back to our homes. Because here there's no flour, no aid supplies, no food or water.


MADOWO: The U.N. has said that they would need at least 200 trucks coming in daily for two months just to meet the need there. And that is one of the sticking points, Kaitlan, for the Qataris for the Egyptians that are trying to extend this truce to allow even more aid beyond the 200 truck ceiling so that more people can get help given.

COLLINS: Yes, just hard to think that they went so long with nothing then saw a little bit of aid. And now have seen not only quiet in Gaza for the first time since October 7th, but also this amount of aid going in. Larry Madowo in Cairo, thank you.

Kate, obviously a critical issue here getting fuel into Gaza. And as Larry notes, it's not anywhere near enough what they need. But it is incredible compared to the fact that they had nothing and what it was shutting down, including those hospitals that we have learned about.

BOLDUAN: And this being one of the critical elements is your highlighting of the overall negotiation to lead to the truce and the release of hostages that we continue to watch today. Kaitlan, we'll get right back to you. Thank you.

And on the issue of hostages, this morning, we are learning that more than 40 hostages that were taken by Hamas terrorists on October 7th are not being held by Hamas currently, that's coming from a diplomatic source briefed on the hostage negotiations.

And CNN has previously reported that some of the hostages are held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, other groups, criminal gangs, individuals even. Here's one White House National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said about this complication, considering the deal brokered by Qatar is with Hamas, not any other group and operation in Gaza.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: These groups are operating in Gaza. We know they have some connectivity with them. I'm not suggesting there's some sort of strong chain of command here. But clearly, Hamas, they would know how to get a hold of these groups and to get additional hostages released from these groups. If it's within their, you know, if they believe that they want to do that.



BOLDUAN: Joining me now is Chris O'Leary. He's a former director of hostage recovery for the U.S. government. And Chris what I hear from John Kirby right there is this is still on Hamas, no matter, you can't say they're held by others, and we can't locate these hostages. But does it complicate things here, if more than 40 hostages are not in the hands of Hamas right now with these other groups?

CHRISTOPHER O'LEARY, SENIOR VP FOR GLOBAL OPERATIONS, SOUFAN GROUP: It certainly does in the near term with these ongoing negotiations. Hamas is not in control of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, probably has a little more influence in control on the criminal gangs and the elements. Hamas is in charge of the territory. So yes, it's good to put that on them. But Palestinian Islamic Jihad is its own terrorist organization and has broken truces before that were agreed upon between Israel and Hamas.

So Hamas does not have influence and control over them. So it's going to be a challenge, which pivots you into, you know, developing other courses of action to recover the remaining hostages.

BOLDUAN: Before we get there, this could be the last day of this truce or this could get extended. It feels like it could go two very divergent directions after today. Given what you have said, and we've discussed this, we discussed this last week of Hamas, the hostages are leveraged for Hamas. They -- this is their way of survival, is keeping hold of these hostages and survive as long as they can. Do you think it is given that it's likely that they will release more hostages, that they will move to extend this truce or not?

O'LEARY: I think it's reasonable for both sides right now to try to drag this out a little bit longer, from both the United States side and from Israel, getting as many hostages out that Hamas would be willing to release more women and children, the wounded, the elderly. I think they will likely extend it a little bit. Do I think it's likely or reasonable for them to go 20 more days and release all the hostages? Absolutely not. They will lose their protection, their leverage their power, and, you know, Israel could flood all the tunnels right after that.

BOLDUAN: So then let's talk about the other course of action though, because Israel, their one of two goals is to get all of the hostages out, and then also demolishing Hamas, at what point and maybe you think we're already there, does do you think Israel moves toward what you and I discussed which is hostage rescue operations versus negotiated releases, what's the point?

O'LEARY: So it should be parallel efforts, number one. And I use this analogy with some people who I don't think really understood. It's like the movie 'The Great Escape." You're digging multiple tunnels at the same time. If the Germans find one of them, you move into the other tunnel. You know, the younger audience probably doesn't know what I'm talking about. But it's multiple lines of effort. Because if one fails, you can't just throw your hands up and say, well, that didn't work because the stakes are too high.

You have human lives in parallel right now. So my recommendation is that Israel moves to a counterterrorism strategy, which is targeted raids, discretionary targeting, you know, instead of massive bombs leveling, you know, all of Gaza City, doing precision raids, you gather more intelligence, you take detainees who you can question, and there's a targeting cycle that the U.S. Military Special Operations has perfected, which is find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and you do that targeting cycle almost every night, and you go after new targets after you gather information that will bring you to finding the hostages.

BOLDUAN: Because if and when Israel returns to the military operations that we've seen up into this point, what does it mean for the hostages? I mean, do you think it puts them in danger then?

O'LEARY: I think it puts them in danger. And then the greatest thing is it erodes international support, including the United States. You know, Israel was attacked with the second most horrific terrorist attack in the modern era after 9/11, just two months ago. They are fighting a just war under the just war tradition. They are defending themselves. And they are bringing Hamas to justice, but they need to do it in a measured way.

Right now it looks like, you know, Graziani in, you know, in Chechnya where the Russians leveled it. It looks like Stalingrad from the Nazis. You expect that from Russia and, you know, Nazi Germany. You don't expect that from Israel. So I think it's reasonable to expect them to be more discretionary in their targeting. It's also practical because your opportunity to recover the hostages by precision special operations raids and intelligence gathering increases.

BOLDUAN: Tough hours ahead, and tough decisions ahead for sure. All of it is, of course. Good to see Chris. Thanks for coming back in. John?

BERMAN: An attempted hijacking leads to a confrontation between the U.S. Navy and militants trying to overtake a commercial tanker.


And the clock is ticking. Can Congress pass any aid for Israel or Ukraine before the end of the year?