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Hostage Negotiators Face New Obstacles on Day 4 of Truce; White House Doesn't Know If More American Hostages Will Be Released; Israelis Celebrate as Freed Hostages Reunite With Their Families. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired November 27, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: As of this moment, there seems to be a complication or even a snag in the scheduled release of the Israeli hostages by Hamas terrorists.
Now, this was supposed to be the fourth scheduled day of the release, but right now, sources tell CNN there is a question about mothers. As part of the deal, mothers are supposed to be released with their children, but there seems to be some mothers missing on the list today. Israel considers this a violation of the fragile deal.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: With that issue hanging in the balance is the hope that this truce will be extended beyond today. Israel is making its stance clear, if more hostages are not released, military operations will resume to take out Hamas.
We are also learning from the hostages that have been released about what they have lived through for nearly seven weeks. The aunt of Roni Kriboy says her nephew was kidnapped from the Nova Music Festival, taken to Gaza, and then at one point managed to escape captivity in Gaza, only to be recaptured by Hamas days later. He was finally released to Israeli officials just yesterday.
Kaitlan Collins is standing by in Tel Aviv as we wait to when and if today's hostage exchange is going to happen. What are you hearing, Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. There are basically two outstanding issues here. One is, are they going to resolve the issues over the list of hostages to be released on day four, and, two, are they going to agree to an extension, something that we have seen interest very clearly from both parties here, Hamas and Israel, but it is not clear if they have resolved that. And the first issue they have to resolve is the list of people who are supposed to be coming home back to the Israeli soil today, and what that list is going looking like.
And you're, John, that is has centered around the mothers, because Israel's part of this agreement that they say has already even been violated by Hamas, is that mothers who are in captivity with their children must be released with those children if the children are released. They don't want just one kid being released and the mom staying behind and essentially try to take advantage of the fact that there are families being kept in captivity.
And so that is an issue that we are waiting to see if it gets resolved here in the next several hours. There has already been a bit of a delay in actually facilitating the exchange of these hostages, and that's because Israel wants to see different names on what that list is ultimately going to look like.
Now, we haven't heard anything that seems to say this is going to be derailed, that this exchange is not actually going to happen today. We are just waiting to see what Israeli officials say after these negotiations are going on with Hamas, with the U.S., with Israel, all being, of course, mediated by Qatar, which has been stepping in every step of the way, really, any time there has been issues here.
There is also one other outstanding question about this list and that's whether any Americans are going to be on it, because we know there are two others that the U.S. believes should be on this list in this group of 50, first 50 hostages to be released by Hamas.
For that, I want to go to CNN's Senior White House Correspondent M.J. Lee, who has been doing a lot of reporting on this.
M.J., what is the latest the White House officials are hearing? Did they really have a sense of whether or not those Americans are going to make it on today's list?
M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, as you say, today is such a significant day for this White House, because today would be the day when two American women citizens would be released as a part of this four-day truce.
Just a reminder for everyone, we are talking about 50 women and children covered under the deal. And what the White House has said is that there are three women and children in that mix. Of course, yesterday, we saw the release of Abigail Edan, the four-year-old American-Israeli citizen. So, that leaves us with two additional women. And so if they are not a part of the list of the hostages that are released today, there would be some serious questions about why not.
But, of course, we absolutely have no idea of anything, really, about their condition.
There are also questions, of course, about seven additional American citizens that are unaccounted for. We do know from the White House that they are men. But, again, this is a situation where we really don't know anything about their condition. And they were not covered under the first part of this deal. They are not women and children, so they are not expected to be coming out as a part of the four-day truce. But, again, many questions about when potentially they may be able to get out, and for the White House, this is one of the reasons why they are pushing for an extension of this deal past the first four days.
Here's John Kirby earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: this deal was really for these first 50, what Hamas agreed to was women and children. And so we knew that there was Abigail and two women and, again, we hope that those two American women can get released today. The other hostages that are being held do not fall in that category, they're men.
We certainly hope that back to what you said at the very beginning that Hamas will agree to an extension of this deal so that we can get more hostages out in coming days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: And, Kaitlan, I really do not expect the White House to comment in any official way if these two American women end up being on today's list. We've seen that the policy from the U.S. government is that they would contact the family members of the hostages if and when they safely get out of Gaza. So, there is a privacy and a respect for the family's piece of this.
But there's also just the issue of how much U.S. officials have been careful in talking about the American citizens and really just unwilling to predict whether any of these hostages might be able to get out. And until these women and children are safely out of Gaza, the White House has been very careful to not comment in any shape or form.
I think that just goes to show you how fluid these negotiations are, how tenuous the circumstances are. And again, of course, to emphasize, the White House very much would like to see this truce, this pause in fighting to be extended because there are additional American hostages unaccounted for, people that are in Gaza that the White House would very much like to see get out. Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes. We saw how careful they were being when Abigail Edan was released. They said they believed she was, but they never really confirmed it until after she was safely back here in Israel.
M.J. Lee, we will continue to check in to see what those U S. officials are hearing.
And I mentioned Abigail there. She was reunited with her family yesterday. She was four years old -- turned four years old while she was being held by Hamas in Gaza. And since her return, and that of so many other hostages, we have seen incredibly emotional videos coming out of Israel's hospitals as these families are being reunited with their loved ones for the first time, not knowing that these reunions were ever going to happen. They were in captivity by Hamas in Gaza for weeks.
Here in this video, you can see nine year olds Emily Hand. She's being hugged by her sister there. Of course, no one can forget the searing interview her father did with Clarissa Ward, initially believing that she had been killed in that October 7th attack, and then later finding out she'd actually been kidnapped and taken into Gaza. She has been reunited with her father, as so many other families have.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS HAND, REUNITED WITH DAUGHTER EMILY: She's lost a lot of weight from her face and body, but generally doing better than we expected.
We'd like to thank everyone that has helped and supported us throughout this whole 50 days. You've been great. We can't do it without you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now. Oren, I mean, hearing from Emily's father, saying she's doing better than expected, of course, there are still questions about not just the physical condition that these hostages are coming home in. As he was saying there, she's lost weight, she hasn't been properly nourished. But what about also, you know, their emotional and mental states after going through such trauma, being kept in the dark literally for several weeks, what else are you hearing from these family members?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the emotional health question, the mental health question, is a major challenge, and that's the longer term one. Many of the doctors we have spoken with at the different hospitals we've been to said most of the hostages who have been free to have come out in fairly good physical condition.
The biggest issue that we've heard of so far has been malnutrition. They haven't gotten the nutrients they needed over the course of 50 days. Some have lost around 7 kilos, which is 15 pounds or more there, and that's a tremendous amount of weight that certainly affects the body. The big issue, how long will it take for the mental health aspect of this and what is the process there?
We've also had a chance to speak to those families who have not known when their hostages -- when their family members will come out of Gaza.
And that is an entirely different question, one that weighs on the entire nation.
LIEBERMANN (voice over): A moment of joy after 50 days of darkness. The families from Kfar Aza, who saw so many of their community killed and kidnapped on October 7th, finally had some of their own come back to Israel, released from Hamas captivity. ORIT ZADIKEVITCH, KFAR AZA RESIDENT: They didn't know if they were alive or not until today. So --
LIEBERMANN: Most of the hostages released on day three of this truce came from this tiny community near Gaza, where Orit Zadikevitch's ex- husband was killed.
It has been seven weeks of hell for her before this night.
ZADIKEVITCH: We've been through a Holocaust. We still have eight hostages that we are praying for them. We don't know if they're alive or not.
LIEBERMANN: The country as a whole has rejoiced as families have come together once again, like the unbridled joy on the face of Thomas Hand as he embraced his daughter, Emily, for the first time after seven weeks of captivity. Israel has found unity in this pain, coming together in the thousands depressed for the release of all of the hostages.
But these notes are bittersweet for the families who are still waiting.
YAIR KESHET, FAMILY KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: You know, it's actually a little bit happy and scarier. You know, it's horrible. We're going up and down.
LIEBERMANN: Yair Keshet is waiting for the release of his family, including Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage in Hamas' captivity, who turned ten months old in Gaza. They had hoped Hamas wouldn't hold someone so young for so long.
KESHET: They want to make us suffer as much as possible. That is why everybody thought maybe the youngest will come earlier.
LIEBERMANN: Families have been desperate for news of their loved ones still being held in Gaza, praying that their names come up on the list to be released. Too often it is more waiting and more pain.
But sometimes the kidnapped become the rescued. The list of missing grows shorter and the community that can grow again grows even closer.
LIEBERMANN (on camera): One of the things we've heard from virtually every family, they have promised that even when their loved ones come home, they'll keep fighting for the release of all of the hostages held in Gaza.
And that's pressure on the Israeli government, pressure on the Red Cross and pressure on the international community that they intend to keep up. Kaitlan?
COLLINS: Yes. I mean, these hostages and their families had become like their own family throughout this ordeal, because they've all -- you know they're in a WhatsApp group together, they've all been talking, they're all rooting for another one to come home.
Oren, you're also learning more about what the hostages went through while they were being held in Gaza. What are the details that you're hearing?
LIEBERMANN: So, there are two stories in particular we've learned over the course of the past 24 hours or so. One is on Alma Abraham, 84-year-old, one of the eldest hostages in Gaza. She is in critical condition, according to a doctor that represents the forum for the families of the missing and the hostages.
And he said it was neglect that no human being should have gone through. The malnutrition that we talked about a few moments ago, because of her age, it affected her tremendously. And she is getting all the help she needs and all the help she can get, but remains in critical condition at the hospital.
Her son says he tried to send her medicines through the Red Cross but was unable to, criticizing the Red Cross for not being able to do what they're supposed to be able to do under international law, and that is visit hostages. Of course, that criticism directed at Hamas as well.
We have also learned more about the story of Roni Kriboy, the Israeli- Russian citizen who was released basically by a favor that Hamas did for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who requested his release. According to his aunt who spoke with Israeli radio, the house he was in was bombed, he managed to escape and was on his own in Gaza for four days until she says he was recaptured by Gazans and turned back over to Hamas until he was just released.
COLLINS: Yes. We're learning so much from these families about what's going on as they're getting released just kind of these new details. We even heard from one hostage family yesterday. Their loved one is a male. He's in his mid 30s, not obviously expected to be on this list. They actually got a call that there was confirmation of proof of life. They didn't find out what exactly that was, but it was a small glimmer of hope, a hope for some of these other families that are not seeing their loved ones come home.
Oren Liebermann, I know you'll continue that great reporting. Thank you for that.
And also part of this agreement that's equally important, not just what we're talking about when it comes to the humanitarian aid going into Gaza, it's also what's happening in exchange for the release of these hostages, which is Israel releasing dozens of Palestinian prisoners each day once those hostages have been handed over.
Right now, Israel and Hamas appear to be open to extending this four- day pause that includes the release of hostages and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Whether or not they actually, ultimately agree to it is still remaining to be seen. They are still talking about it.
We're learning more about all of this, including from CNN's Ben Wedeman, who is in Jerusalem, tracking this right now.
And, Ben, when it comes to the Palestinians who are being released from Israeli jails, what are you hearing about those who have been released, who are now back in the West Bank at this moment?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have seen scenes of relief as relatives and families have greeted the 117 who have been released so far. Last night, it was another batch of 39, all of them 18 years or younger, including two 15-year-old boys and a 14-year-old boy.
Now, 23 of them are administrative detainees. These are people who have been rounded up by the Israelis. They haven't been officially charged. They're being held in six-month renewable periods. And, basically, the way administrative detention works, they do not have access to the evidence against them because that's considered state secrets.
Now, the remainder, the 13 are, or rather 16, have been convicted. Some of the convictions are things like stone throwing, throwing Molotov cocktails, assaulting police, and what's called nationalist incitement.
It's worth noting, however, that an NGO that monitors the Israeli military justice system in the occupied West Bank has noted that 95 percent of the cases that go before these military courts end up in convictions. Kaitlan?
COLLINS: Yes, that has been a massive sticking point in this with Israel saying that it was a painful decision for them to agree to that, but one that they felt was necessary to get the hostages back. We'll continue to see if more Palestinian prisoners are released in the coming days.
Ben Wedeman, thank you for that in Jerusalem.
John, obviously, we are still waiting to learn more about what's happening with this fourth set of hostages, whether or not there is going to be this agreement between all sides who are negotiating here.
BERMAN: Yes, absolutely. And on that front, I want to bring in Barak Ravid, political and foreign policy reporter for Axios.
Barak, I understand you've got some new reporting on today's scheduled release. What are you hearing?
BARAK RAVID, POLITICAL AND FOREIGN POLICY REPORTER, AXIOS: Yes, good morning. So, first, the Israeli government started notifying families of hostages that are on the list, the new list that was received in Israel in the last hour, and updated list that, as far as Israeli officials tell me, includes the two mothers that were not on the list in the first place, meaning that now we're on track for the completion of this fourth group of hostages that are going to be released, and the Israeli really officials say that if nothing unexpected will happen in the next hour or two, we'll see this process starting.
BERMAN: All right. Just to be clear, two mothers that weren't on the list are now on the list?
RAVID: Exactly. This is where things are going.
Let's go back a bit when the list -- when Israel received the list last night, it saw that there are several children on the list without their mothers. Part of the understanding between Israel and Hamas and the Qatari and Egyptian mediators was that you do not separate families, meaning a kid is released with his mother, and this was not the case.
And they were excruciating negotiations over the last few hours and threes Israeli officials I spoke to told me that this thing was solved and that the two mothers are back on the list and that, again, if nothing unexpected happens, then we will see their release in the next few hours.
BERMAN: All right. We will be watching that very closely as we get these names, which will take several hours the way this has worked the last few days.
Barak, when will the world know if this has been extended another day, whether or not there's another day in the pause and fighting, whether there will be more hostages released tomorrow?
RAVID: Well, I think we'll know in the next few hours, but, honestly, I spoke to, I don't know, ten different people that are involved in those negotiations, both from the Israeli side and from the mediators. I haven't heard one person until now who told me that there is not going to be an extension.
So, I think that even though there's no deal, there's no agreement, nothing is final yet, I think that everyone are looking at tomorrow, and not only tomorrow, even the day after, so the next 48 hours, as an extension of the pause with another release of 20 hostages.
But, again, nothing is final yet, but this is definitely the direction that we're heading.
BERMAN: What's the mechanism, though? Will Israel obviously will just pause the fighting and wait until they get a list? Will Hamas come forward with a list? Do we know how it's supposed to work?
RAVID: I think first we need to finish the fourth group of hostages that needs to be released today. Before that, nobody is going to close any deal about what happens tomorrow. But let's say this happens, I think, very quickly afterwards, they will have to get a list of who is going to be released tomorrow. And it has to be ten hostages for another day of pause. And this means that this list will have to reach Israel sort of until midnight. So, we don't have a lot of time.
BERMAN: And then after the next few days, Barak -- and, again, the Israeli government, the cabinet only approved a certain number of days for the pause in the fighting. Is the expectation at this point that this will not go on indefinitely? Does Israel intend to go back and continue the offensive?
RAVID: I have zero doubt that once the Hamas runs out of hostages it can release, the pause will end, and Israel will go back to its operation mainly because it still did not start operating in Southern Gaza. And the IDF already approved the plans for the operation in Southern Gaza. It's going to be very different than what we saw in Northern Gaza. The scope is going to be much smaller, smaller number of troops, and a very different way of operating, not this all out assault but more specific raids on specific targets.
BERMAN: What concerns, if any, have you heard from the Israeli military about Hamas being able to reconstitute it all, particularly in the north, during the pause that's happened so far?
RAVID: The Israeli officials I spoke to about this said that they're not very concerned about the north because they feel that they have a good hold on what's going on there. I think the bigger concern is the south and the IDF still did not operate there on the ground, just conducted airstrikes. And I think there's a lot of concern about what awaits the IDF there. Although I have to say there was a lot of concern regarding Northern Gaza Strip and the IDF managed to make progress much, much, much faster than it thought it would.
BERMAN: All right. Barak Ravid, we really appreciate you being with us, sharing your reporting. That reporting is, according to Barak's sources, that the impasse has been solved. Israel has started to inform families of people on the list, and that includes two mothers who were not on the list and now are. So, that is a major development. Kate?
BOLDUAN: A major development. We're going to have much more on this major development we're hearing now about the potential of this fourth and final hostage release happening today and what that means then next with a big question of does the truce extend another day. We've got much more on this ahead.
Plus, a suspect is now under arrest and accused of shooting three Palestinian college students this weekend, that man is about to face a judge for the first time this hour.
We'll be back.
BOLDUAN: Some uncertainty remains today over what is going to happen with the fourth and possibly final hostage release the deal brokered between Israel and Hamas that also brought about this four-day truce, a truce that could expire today.
A key sticking point in today's release had been this morning concern over children being released without their mothers, which was a key part of how this deal was brokered.
Barak Ravid of Axios just told us though that there was a snag with today's list because mothers were left off. That issue though has now been resolved, Ravid reports. And Ravid says Israeli officials are now informing families of the hostages on today's list.
Now, from the White House, John Kirby told CNN This Morning that President Biden remains heavily involved in the ongoing negotiations, especially to get more Americans released after little Abigail Edan got out yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRBY: The president has been personally engaged in this entire deal.
He's been personally involved in moving things forward. Obviously, Abigail was on everybody's mind, just turned four on Friday. Just a little girl who had to watch her parents get slaughtered right in front of her. So, clearly, we obviously all felt a special need to try to get her out, but by no means are we forgetting the other Americans that are being held hostage, including these two American women that, again, we hope we're on the list today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And joining me now is Ivo Daalder. He's a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO under President Obama and the chief executive of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Ambassador, it's good to have you on again.
So, this could be the fourth and final day of this truce. Do you see this as a success if it does not extend beyond today?
IVO DAALDER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: You know, every day there's no fighting allows two really important things to happen, hostages to be released, to be reunited with their families, and very much needed, humanitarian aid to be --