Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Sources: Deal Close On Release Of Fourth Hostage Group; Sources: Talks Underway About Extending Truce By 2 Days. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired November 27, 2023 - 11:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Two major stories developing in Israel at this moment. First, today is supposed to be the fourth scheduled release of hostages by Hamas terrorists. There was a holdup. It was over mothers that were not on the list of hostages that were supposed to be turned over. As part of the agreement, mothers are supposed to be handed over with their children. They were not on the list initially, but we are told they are now, and the handover is close to happening.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: That is critical in the moments, minutes, hours ahead also hanging in the balance today is what happens after today. If today's handover does go as planned, might there be an extension in the truce, in the pause and fighting to allow for more hostages to be released? New reporting suggests, yes. Kaitlan Collins is standing by in Tel Aviv once again for us. These next hours are extremely delicate, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Yes. But Kate, they are looking more hopeful than the last time we spoke because we are hearing from sources that they are close to resolving those issues that were at play here and that it does appear that this fourth release of the fourth set of hostages is on track to happen. It's a bit delayed, obviously, because it's now 6:00 p.m. here local. It should have been much closer to actually happening or being underway at this point.

And so now there is a lot of hope from Israeli officials that this is going to move forward on this fourth day. We are covering this from all angles. CNN's White House correspondent MJ Lee is at the White House. We also have our chief national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt, both with me here. We are all three reporting on this incredibly important update.

Alex, let's start with you, because what we are, you know, learning more about what was at the heart of this issue was whether or not a sufficient amount of mothers were on this list. And Israeli officials did not believe that. But now we are hearing that there is a new list of the fourth set of hostages. Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, this is such a critical day. There are so many moving parts. This was supposed to be the fourth day of this deal. Of course, there is the possibility that it gets extended, and we have heard from Hamas, from the United States who both want to see an extension of this deal, but they have to get through this critical fourth day.

And we understand that, as with every day, a list was sent by Hamas to Israel via the mediators in Qatar with the hostages who they intended to release the next day. Today, that list, we understand, to Israel was unacceptable. And the reason was because there were not enough mothers who were on this list who were supposed to be released with their children.

That is a critical part of this deal, that families not be separated, that if children are going to be released, that their mothers also get released at the same time. Now, this issue came to the fore two days ago on Saturday, when a young Israeli named Hila Rotem was released without her mother. She told Israeli press that they had been separated and that she had to leave her mother behind.

A similar situation, we understand, happened today, where Hamas proposed releasing at least one, maybe more children without their mother or their mothers. That was unacceptable to Israel. And so the mediators went back, and now we understand that Hamas is adding mothers to this list, that this is being resolved so that this release of hostages can go forward.

This day four, we expected, Kaitlan, to see 11 hostages released because 39 had been released in the previous days, and the agreement said that 50 would be released over this four-day period. So we're not exactly sure how many are going to be released today, whether it's 11 or more, which mothers exactly were added to this list, whether it's Hila Rotem's mother after she was released two days ago, or anybody else. The good news is that this release does appear to now be back on track, but there's still a lot of questions, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, as we're learning this and reporting this out in real time, we're also just getting an update from the Israeli Prime Minister's office that the families on this new list are now being notified. That is, much later. Typically, they're notified the night of when Israel gets that list. But we are now told those new families on this new list have been notified that it is their relatives, their loved ones, who are expected to come home.

And MJ Lee at the White House, you're also doing reporting on this. And when it comes to how long this temporary truce is going to go on for, that is also a critical question once they get this issue resolved, because today is supposed to be the final day. What are you hearing about whether or not it actually is going to be extended and potentially for how long?


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, today is the final day of that four-day truce agreement. It is day four. But what we are learning just now is that the parties that are involved in these negotiations are now actively discussing the possibility of that truce, that pause in fighting to be extended for an additional two days. Now, the understanding was always when this deal was initially announced, was that if Hamas was able to produce the confidence that they had additional hostages, that that four-day truce could be extended by additional days. We had talked about that roughly coming out to 10 additional hostages, buying one more additional day in the pause in fighting. But important to keep in mind the context here, Israeli and U.S. officials had said initially when the deal was struck, that their understanding was that there were more than 50 women and children hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, perhaps as many as a couple of dozen more.

But they did agree to the terms of this agreement, as Hamas insisted that they needed the pause in fighting those additional days in pause and fighting to gather up information about these hostages. Of course, another piece of important context here is just the reality that these hostages are not even necessarily being held in the same place and not necessarily being all held by Hamas.

Now, what this could potentially mean for the American citizens whose release we are still waiting for, obviously, very significant, two additional women, in addition to Abigail Edan, who was released yesterday, are supposed to be among the 50 women and children being held hostage. So if they are not on this list today of the hostages released, if there is an extension in the truce, they could potentially come out in those two additional days that are extended. But again, those discussions are ongoing, we are told.

COLLINS: Well, and Alex Marquardt, on that front, I mean, there are two potential other Americans that could be released in this. Obviously, that presumably means that they are women, but there are other Americans that we do still believe are being held by Hamas. I mean, what's the status of those hostages?

MARQUARDT: Well, I think the question about negotiating for men is still a ways off, Kaitlan. This is definitely a disappointment to the Biden administration that these two women haven't been released or may not be released. Of course, today is not all said and done, but may not be released during this four-day period. We had heard repeatedly from President Biden and top administration officials that their expectation was that these three Americans, Abigail Edan and these two women, would be released in these initial four days, that they had been identified as part of this larger group of 50.

Now, if these two women are not released today, you can certainly understand that the Biden administration is going to be pushing all the parties, pushing Qatar to encourage Hamas, pushing the Israelis to agree to an extension in order for these two American women to get released.

Once the negotiators are essentially through the women and children and they have all been released, then I think the much harder work starts, and that is around the men. Now, it might be relatively easy to get elderly men out. But once you start talking about the younger men as well as younger Israeli women who are in the IDF, the men who are either in the IDF or of fighting age, they are going to be much harder to get out. They are considered to be much more valuable for Hamas. Hamas may try to get far more Palestinian prisoners out for each one of those hostages. So that is going to be critical. But at this point, the focus is still trying to get out as many women and children as possible. They had identified this initial group of 50.

And there is certainly a hope that during these four days of pause, that Hamas was able to go around, locate other women and children, figure out who they're with, who they are, so that in these coming days, they will be able to keep presenting more lists to the Israelis and extend that pause. Israel has been very clear, if you keep giving us 10 people per day, we will give you another day of a pause in the fighting.

So assuming all goes well today, Kaitlan, we will expect another list from Hamas tonight to the Israelis, proposing a further 10 at least, to be released tomorrow. That is, again, if all goes according to plan.

COLLINS: Yes, and that's a big if. Great reporting, Alex Marquardt, MJ Lee, thank you both.

And we are just now getting new pictures in of the youngest American who was held hostage, Abigail Edan. She was released yesterday by Hamas. She is four years old. She turned four years old while she was being held in Gaza. She is now being reunited with her aunt, her uncle, and her grandparents. Two people you don't see there are her parents who were murdered on October 7th in front of Abigail and her two siblings. She has a smile on her face in these pictures, but of course, what she has been through is nothing short of heartbreaking. She was held by Hamas for seven weeks, spending that birthday, as I noted, in captivity, now coming home as an orphan.


Back with me now is CNN's Oren Liebermann. And Oren, just looking at these pictures, I mean, you see that smile on this little girl's face, but this entire moment of her being free, of her coming home is just so bittersweet given what her family now looks like.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's a moment that has really caused the entire country to celebrate in these pictures, these images of the reunions, not only of this family, but of all the other families. And we were with the residents of Kfar Aza, excuse me, one of the communities attacked by Hamas last night as many of their friends and loved ones were released.

A lot of those released yesterday were from Kfar Aza. And every time there was a new picture, a new video of those who had come out last night, there were cheers. And it's not just cheers for the community. It is cheers for a country, even as so many still vow that there is much more work ahead, that they won't rest until all of the hostages are released.

Even as we heard Alex and MJ go through the challenges of getting all of them released, they see it very much as their mission. Crucially, even those who have seen their loved ones come out, vow to keep on fighting, to keep the pressure on not only the government, but as much as they can on the Red Cross and the international community to keep this going. So the process, the difficult often, process of getting hostages released from Gaza can continue.

And look, we expect to see that tonight as the images hopefully, as tonight's process plays out, even if it's quite a bit later than yesterday. As this process plays out, the country will again rejoice in those who have come out as they still work for and pray for, frankly, those who are still trapped and held in Gaza.

COLLINS: Yes. Oren Liebermann, thank you for that report. And, of course, just to remind our viewers, what we have just learned as part of this breaking reporting is that those issues surrounding the release of a fourth set of hostages now appear close to being resolved. We are told there is a new list of names of hostages that are set to come home today. We are told additional mothers have been added to that list after there was a dispute. And Israel protested against how many mothers were on that list.

We are also told right now, Israel and Hamas, with, of course, Qatar doing the negotiating, are discussing adding two more days to that temporary truce. Whether or not that holds remains to be seen, but that appears to be what's on the table for right now, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and these are big developments, but also adding to how careful and delicate the next coming hours are going to be. And we're going to get right back to you, Kaitlan, thank you so much.

Joining us now for more on this hostage release and what the next hours and day could look like, former Navy Seal commander and former coordinator of the hostage working group for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Daniel O'Shea. It's good to see you. Thank you for coming in. So we've heard on the talks that they could possibly look to extend the truce for a couple days. We've heard a range of opinions, quite frankly, on whether folks think and experts think that this truce will be extended beyond today in any significant fashion. Does it benefit both Israel and Hamas to extend when you're talking about hostages and stuck in the middle of this? How do you see it?

DANIEL O'SHEA, FORMER NAVY SEAL COMMANDER: Absolutely. Both sides are winning here. Hamas is getting prisoners back and Israel is getting their family members back. And there's been, again, not only pressure from the Israelis themselves that lost loved ones 30, 40, odd countries had folks taken. So there's still pressure diplomatically coming from around the world, incredibly intensively by the United States on this issue. So there's a lot of pressure. So and the fact that despite the tinder box situation we still have, Hamas and Israel do not trust each other, but they're both getting what they want, we can presume this will extend for a couple of days, and that's a positive because it means more hostages are going to be coming home.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me about following a first truce, or following any first hostage exchange, if you will, and hostage release, does it become more or less complicated as they now look for possibly a two day-truce for two more releases of hostages? Does the success beget success? Or when you're dealing with what is here a very unique situation in terms of these negotiations and this agreement, does it become more complicated?

O'SHEA: Well, the challenge is, as Hamas now into the world, hostage terrorism works. This has been an incredible play by them, and it's given them an extension on the ceasefire, which gives them more time to prepare for the coming IDF offensive that will resume when the cease fire is over. Even if it extends, it eventually is going to end, and IDF will continue its stated goal to wipe Hamas out. So right now, these hashes are the only thing keeping Hamas alive, which means the more success they have, the more reason they have to hold on to them.


In particular, you talked in the last segment about the challenges with the expectation by the Biden administration that some American women were not released as, quote, promised. Well, guess what? You keep rising the value of the American hostages and others to Hamas. And of course, why would they give them up? Because once those Americans are all released, you can presume pressure from the United States while -- on Netanyahu will decrease significantly.

And that's why it's a very dangerous calculus being played out in these airwaves with all the attention and high level discussions at the very senior levels around the world. And in particular, our own government is having an impact on this.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And also, now that we've received confirmation that more than 40 hostages in Gaza are not being held by Hamas, there is Palestinian, Islamic Jihad, there are other groups, criminal gangs, even individuals operating within Gaza holding hostages, we're now told from diplomatic sources. How does that also complicate the efforts to get more people released? From the White House today, Daniel, they seem to suggest, like Hamas, there is some connectivity of among, you know, Hamas and these groups, this is on Hamas to get these people, find them and get them out. But how does that complicate things?

O'SHEA: Again, it is part of the challenge that, you know, these groups, Islamic Jihad, we know, is holding hostages. We presume that there's other organizations and maybe in onesies and twosies, but the reality is they're watching how effective the hostage taking has been for Hamas. So these organizations, these terrorist groups, they'll come up with their own demands.

And no, they will not necessarily play by the calculus of Hamas. So this hostage crisis is only going to get more complex because as they wind down the release, we still have 190 odd hostage still held. But when it gets down to the last hundred, the calculus and the cost to get those individuals out is going to go up significantly and be more and more complicated and more challenging.

BOLDUAN: Daniel O'Shea, thank you. John?

BERMAN: And coming up for us, an attempted hijacking, U.S. Naval vessel to the rescue. And now, word of missiles fired at the U.S. forces. We have new reporting.

A suspect in the shooting of three Palestinian students in Vermont appears in court. We're getting new information just in from police.

Desperately needed aid making its way into Gaza. We have new reporting on the difference it is making.



BOLDUAN: Overnight, two ballistic missiles were fired at a U.S. warship in the Gulf of Aden. It appears to be the latest attack by Iran-backed Houthi rebels out of Yemen against U.S. and coalition forces since October 7th in the terror attack. It started this attack as a response to a distress call from a nearby commercial tanker with apparent links to an Israeli owned company. The crew said that they were being attacked by several armed men. That is when Navy warship, the USS Mason, responded, even chasing down the armed attackers who eventually surrendered. Hours later, those two ballistic missiles were fired in the general direction of this ship. That's according to a statement by U.S. officials. No damage was reported. No one was harmed in the attack. John?

BERMAN: All right with us now, retired General Wesley Clark, senior military analyst, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. General, this U.S. vessel was targeted by missiles in the Gulf of Aden. How much of a threat are U.S. Interests under by these Houthi rebels inside Yemen with the missiles that they have.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN SENIOR MILITARY ANALYST: There's always the risk that something could go wrong with the defenses. There's always the risk that you'd lose a ship to some mistake, some malfunction or whatever. But normally, no, as of now, we have domination in the seas in that area. We can protect ourselves. We're in good shape, but the risk is always there.

BERMAN: So, General, we are waiting for word on today, which would be the fourth scheduled hostage release by Hamas terrorists today. If that takes place, perhaps there might be another extension of a day or two in the pause in fighting. As these hostage releases continue, what are Hamas and Israel doing inside Gaza in terms of their fighting forces?

CLARK: Well, obviously, Hamas is rearming, resting its troops, figuring out where the Israelis are, planning ambushes, probably infiltrating its fighters back into the north to be able to come up in the rear of the Israeli forces. The Israeli forces are securing themselves. There's been some rotation of forces apparently. Some have gone out, others have come in. They're getting the information they can on Hamas without flying the drones.


But, John, we have to be realistic about this. Hamas is has been designated as an existential threat to Israel. The hostage exchange, it's theater. It's important to the Israeli families. It's vital theater in the world. President Biden is engaged. We've got Americans over there. But underneath all that, Israel, I think is, the military at least understand they have to finish Hamas. This is not an ordinary terrorist kidnapping. This is an armed state of 2 million people in Gaza governed by Hamas that essentially attacked Israel with the intent of precipitating the destruction of Israel. And that is their stated aim. So this is a serious problem that's going to resume the fighting, and it's going to be continued as long as Israel can sustain its will to do so.

BERMAN: If and when the pause is over and the hostage releases end, how do you expect Israel's offensive operation inside Gaza to look different than what we've seen?

CLARK: We've got -- I think there's three things that are going to change. Number one is they're going to increase their security in North Gaza. Number two, they're going to mount a much stronger global information campaign that exploits Hamas, the underground tunnels, what they've done to the hostages, and so forth. And number three, they've got to go into the south. So this fighting is going to intensify.

BERMAN: Talk about number two there, the information campaign and the discussion and video about the tunnels, because obviously, you know, just before the hostage exchange started happening, you know, we'd been seeing underground videos from underneath Al-Shifa Hospital. The IDF releasing this video, which they said proves that Hamas had command operations there, and you still had Palestinian officials denying that there were tunnels underneath Al-Shifa even as the video was being released.

CLARK: Sure. I mean, that's the way it works. And they're denying it on their own networks and channels, and people are saying on their channels, on their side that the Israelis are lying. But what's also happening, John, at this time is the Palestinians are waging their own campaign on information. They're going to evacuate the tunnels that they can. They're going to sanitize them so it doesn't look like the Israelis knew what they were talking about. So that's probably also what's going on at this point.

This information campaign got off to a bad start for Israel because they were focused on the military action, and the Hamas and its allies, including Iran, were focused on the broader dimensions of it. So when you start behind on an information campaign, it's very tough to catch up. They're going to have -- Israel is going to have to do much more to explain to the world why this is an existential threat and how Israel is attempting to deal with it, at the same time minimizing civilian casualties.

BERMAN: General Wesley Clark, great to have you on this morning. Thank you very much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up, we're going to have more on this new reporting that there are talks now of extending further the truth that is set to expire today between Israel and Hamas. What hangs in the balance with that critical decision? Also, the man accused of shooting three Palestinian college students here in the United States just now pleads not guilty. The latest on their condition, how they are doing and also what led police to this man who's now being helped without bond. We'll be right back.