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Qatar: Agreement Reached To Extend Gaza Truce Another Two Days. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired November 27, 2023 - 11:30   ET





KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And we do have breaking news here on the ground in Tel Aviv where we are learning Israel and Hamas have agreed to a two-day extension to that four-day temporary truce. That they agreed to that truce that allowed for dozens of Israeli hostages to come home back here to Israel. As we have seen happen night after night for the last three nights with a fourth group expected tonight.

We have just confirmed that that truce is expected to go on for two more days. That means two more days of no fighting in Gaza where it has been incredibly quiet for the last several days, the first time that we've seen that since October 7. It also means more aid is expected to go into Gaza. And of course, the question of whether or not there'll be more Palestinian prisoners also released as a result of this agreement.

This is breaking news. I want to go to CNN's Alex Marquardt, who is also following these developments very closely. And, Alex, we knew this was something that both sides seemed like they wanted. But now, that we know that they have agreed to it, this is an incredibly significant change to this extension, which was just slated to be 96 hours now we've learned it's going to go on for 48 more hours.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There had always been this hope, Kaitlan, and now, it's official. The reason that it wasn't certain was because everything was so fluid. Things could have really blown up at any moment.

There was a moment on day two when it looked like that might happen. Earlier today, it -- things look very uncertain. So, I think in the course of this morning here in the States, and in the day your time, we've had now two back-to-back pieces of very significant news.

It does look like this fourth day of exchanges of hostage releases is going to go into effect in the coming hours. And then we now have this announcement by Qatar, that the four-day pause has now been extended for two more days. Meaning that this temporary truce, this pause in the fighting between Hamas and Israel will extend for six days -- I'm sorry, extend into six days and be six days at a minimum. And there could be a hope that it will go beyond that as well.

Now, Qatar has been the leading mediator between the different sides. They are the ones who speak directly with Hamas. They obviously have a relationship with Israel and the United States as well.

I want to read you the tweet from the foreign ministry spokesman for Qatar. Dr. Majed Al -- Dr. Majed Al Ansari says the State of Qatar announces as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip. So, what does that mean? By the end of today, Kaitlan, there is an expectation that 50 Israeli women and children will have been released.

Now, a number of those are dual nationals. There was a hope that three Americans would be among that 50. So far, just one American, Abigail Edan, has been released. She is 4 years old. She was released yesterday.

There was a hope that two more Americans would get released today. That is uncertain. A spokesman for the White House, the National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said earlier today that he does not know whether that is going to happen.

So, during this two-day extension, there is certainly hope and really an expectation from the American side that those two women will be released. Now, I'm told this news of the two-day extension came after President Biden had spoken with the Qatari Prime Minister. And so certainly there is going to be pressure from the United States on Hamas via Qatar that during these two days that more Americans get released, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, for 20 more families, this is about as welcome news as it gets because there was an open question of whether or not they could even agree to this extension because they're having difficulties just agreeing on the fourth list of hostages. I think the big question you hear, Alex, and I'm not even sure if we have an answer to this because Israel has so little insight into what's going on with these hostages, is if Hamas has 20 more hostages that are together at this point, or do they have to get them and bring them together given we know they've been quite spread out all over Gaza. I mean, what's the sense of what -- of what this could look like if who is left to choose from if we do still understand this next group of potentially 20 more hostages would also still be in that category of women and children?

MARQUARDT: Yes. Kaitlan, the reason that Hamas didn't agree to a bigger number from the get-go, that they only agreed to 50 was, that was the group of women and children who they say they knew where they were, and they could identify them. And they handed over those IDs to Israel, and Qatar in the United States. And what they were saying is that during this four-day pause, they needed that time to essentially go around, figure out where people are, figure out who's holding them because it's not just Hamas, it's other militant factions like Palestinian Islamic Jihad, it's gangs. So, these people are spread out. There's terrible communication in the Gaza Strip right now. So, they haven't really been able to ascertain where these people are, and what their identities are.

And so, what we can take away from this announcement now is that they feel confident that at the very least, they will be able to release 20 more women and children in the next few days. Israel has been very clear. You give us 10 people per day, we will extend this pause for another day for each 10. At the same time, the Israelis have agreed to release three Palestinian prisoners for every single Israeli hostage who is released. So today, for example, if 11 more hostages are released, there's an expectation that 39 Palestinians will get released.

So, as you say, during these two days, at least 20 people are expected to get released. Now, that speaks to the confidence with which Hamas knows that they can find and release those hostages, but it does raise questions about the conditions of the others. And Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser said over the weekend that they do have an expectation that by the end of today, there will be an update on the conditions of the other hostages including the seven American men who are not expected to get released as part of this now six-day pause in the fighting, Kaitlan.


COLLINS: Yes. We still haven't seen the Red Cross go in and check on the other hostages like the Israeli prime minister said was supposed to be a part of this deal. But, Alex, now that they've agreed to 48 more hours, that means, you know, after 7:00 a.m. local here that there will still be 48 more hours to this deal. I think it's clear what Israel gets out of this.

It means 20 more families here are going to be able to welcome home their loved ones at least. What is Hamas get out of agreeing to two more days of an extension? Is it because it's helping them given there's not constant bombardment happening in Gaza?

MARQUARDT: Yes, it really is -- it really is three things. It is a pause in the fighting, which is probably what Israel has feared the most or been most concerned about. Because it gives Hamas a moment to breathe, to reset, to move around the Gaza Strip, to rearm, and to reposition their fighters to gather intelligence about where Israeli forces are.

I mean, this really gives those militants who have had -- who've been pummeled for the past seven weeks. I mean, just Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip. It really does give Hamas a moment to reset.

And then it also allows more of this aid to get into Gaza. We understand that this deal says that regardless of when this pause ends, that at least 200 trucks a day of aid are supposed to be going into Gaza. This allows the aid to not only get in but to be spread around and distributed around Gaza more easily. There are so many hundreds of thousands of desperate people, 1.7 million displaced Gazans who desperately need aid. We're so happy to see this pause in the fighting. And so, that is -- that is really the second major part.

And the third, Kaitlan, is this question of Palestinian prisoners. You have this three-for-one ratio, three Palestinians released from Israeli jails for every one hostage. That's just for the women and children, Kaitlan.

I think that the very interesting moment is who is going to come after these six days. Well, Hamas said they have more women and children to release. Will they start negotiating for some of the men and then that ratio may change? Certainly, when it comes to the IDF soldiers that are holding, you can certainly expect that Hamas is going to be asking for a lot more than three Palestinian prisoners for every soldier that they're holding, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. Previously, they got a thousand prisoners at one point for one IDF soldier. We'll check back in. Alex Marquardt, stand by on this breaking news.

Just to recap for viewers who are just tuning in. This is a significant development here on the ground in Israel because Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a two-day extension to that four-day temporary truce that went into effect last week. That is the truce that is allowed what you have seen every single night here on CNN, which are those Israeli hostages being released.

Also, foreign nationals from other countries who have also been released and are able to be undergo medical treatment, to be reunited with their families here in Israel, also to allow dozens of Palestinian prisoners was to be released to the West Bank, and critically that aid going into Gaza where there has been such a shortage in medical supplies, in food and fuel. That is all that's been happening over the last three days. We are now on day four. And we have just learned that the two parties have agreed to a two-day extension.

This is major breaking news. We'll be back on the ground with a live report. We're going to take a quick break.



COLLINS: All right, we do have breaking news this hour as we have now learned that Israel and Hamas have now agreed to extend that temporary truce that has been in place for four days, we are on day four right now, for two more days. That could mean more hostages coming home to their families. That would obviously be welcome news to them. It could also mean more Palestinian prisoners being released from Israel going back home to the West Bank. And also, more aid going into Gaza where we know it is so desperately needed by the millions of people who are there.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is here tracking this with me. Oren, I should note, it is nearly 7:00 here on the ground local in Israel. We have not actually seen the facilitation of the release of this fourth group of hostages. But this is big news that both sides have agreed to a two-day extension here.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, it is absolutely incredible news from so many different angles. The Qataris had said this was their goal from the very beginning. But from all sides, it was unclear if they could make that happen.

Part of it is the fragility of the original part of the deal itself, the four-day truce, and the pause in the fighting, and all that entail that is humanitarian aid going into Gaza, 50 Israeli hostages released, and then 150 Palestinian prisoners released. With that, we saw almost fall apart multiple times. Two days ago, it was on very thin ice, and it required a tremendous diplomatic effort from the countries and the United States to hold it together. Even tonight, we are seeing roadblocks and challenges to its implementation.

Israel, raising the concern that Hamas was not living up to the agreement by breaking apart families, not putting enough mothers on the list of those to be released, but even those issues seem to have been worked out. Even if we haven't gotten to the point tonight where we've seen the hostages released and this whole process play out over the course of several hours, we expect that it will. And that has allowed Qatar to step in and continue the agreement announcing from their foreign ministry spokesperson that there will be two more days to the truce.


Now, what does that entail practically? First, it means that the pause in fighting will continue, and more humanitarian aid -- hundreds of more humanitarian aid trucks, in fact, going into Gaza, where there is a worsening humanitarian crisis. Even so, it's merely a fraction of what's needed in the Gaza Strip because of the results of the Israeli bombardment and the effect that it's had with a displace Palestinians there.

But as that aid continues, that means on each day, 10 Israeli hostages, women, and children, will be released in addition to, as far as we know, at least 30 Palestinian prisoners a day being released at that same three-to-one ratio in which it's been put into effect until this point. Now, as this truce continues, the countries I suspect, they'll be trying to extend it even more to make sure all women and children get out. We'll see if that's possible.

We have gotten a hint of the distrust between Israel and Hamas as this process has played out. Nevertheless, the countries, the United States, and frankly, the international community, pressuring both sides here to continue this truce, as we've seen domestic pressure on Israel to do everything it can to get all of the hostages out.

The challenge, however, comes from the point after the women and children have been released. Is it possible to secure a new agreement for the release of elderly men? That will be the next stage in this process. And then trying to release younger men after that, and soldiers.

COLLINS: Yes. And it seems they really just happening one day at a time. I mean, we started this morning with a dispute over who was on this list of the fourth group of hostages. There was a new list put out. And then we got word of this agreement. Oren Liebermann, thank you.

I want to go to CNN's Alex Marquardt. We are breaking this news that a two-day extension has been reached between Israel and Hamas. And, Alex, you're learning more about what has been happening behind the scenes that led up to this announcement from the Qatari government.

MARQUARDT: Well, this has been such a high priority for the United States, Kaitlan, that President Biden has really been very intricately involved. He's had numerous conversations with all of his counterparts involved, the Egyptians, the Israelis, the Qataris, over the past few weeks. In just the past three days, he's spoken twice to the Qataris. And that just really speaks to how central that Qataris are to all this.

But I understand that President Biden did speak with the Prime Minister of Qatar earlier today. We don't really have a sense yet -- we haven't gotten a readout from the White House, for example of what exactly was said. But certainly, it would have been about the ongoing hostage negotiations, the concern by the United States over the Americans who have not yet been released. There are two women, seven men, there is great concern over their condition.

But I just want to pick up also on what Oren was just saying. We've just heard from the Israelis that they believe there are 198 hostages who remain in custody. Again, it's not just Hamas. It's other factions. It's gangs. They're spread out across the Gaza Strip.

So, let's just assume that in the next two days that 20 more hostages are released. You're still going to have around 180 who are -- who are inside with, you know, maybe dozens of them are foreign nationals. But a huge number of them are Israelis and Israeli men.

And so, it's very feasible that this pause ends soon with the release of a large number of women and children but leaving inside a large number of Israeli men and female soldiers as well. And so, these negotiations are going to drag out for a long time, and they're likely going to drag out as the fighting starts back up again. Israel has indicated that they very much plan to essentially pick up where they left off.

And I think a big question for the Biden administration now is, what do they want Israel to do? They've expressed some discomfort with the way that Israel has been prosecuting this war. And I think there's an expectation or hope among many U.S. officials that Israel will not go back at it as forcefully as they were before, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: It's so interesting to hear that because the prevailing thinking here among Israeli officials is that it's that on-the-ground campaign in Gaza, which has earned them a lot of criticism, they believe that's what led them to this negotiating point with Hamas for these hostages. We'll see how that factors into those future talks. Alex Marquardt, thank you for that.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is also following these developments from Jerusalem for us. Ben, we've heard from what I've seen any statements from Hamas, what are you hearing from official -- from officials there? How are they viewing this two-day extension that they clearly you know, yesterday for the first time had said that they were on board with potentially doing this?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hamas has actually put out a statement on its Telegram channel, saying that they agreed to the extension of this agreement -- this truce for two more days along the same conditions as the four-day truce. So certainly, this is going to be something of a political bonanza for Hamas.


It's important to note, for instance, that whenever these prisoners and detainees are released into the West Bank, 39 last night, that we're seeing a lot of Hamas flags, even though Hamas doesn't have an open political presence in the West Bank. And this has really been a political bonanza for them because they can point to the Palestinian Authority and Ramallah, which is considered corrupt, incompetent, and simply incapable of putting pressure on the Israelis. And they can say, look, this is what we're accomplishing. We are freeing Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

Now, until now, 117 Palestinian prisoners and detainees have been released. But it's important to keep in mind that every night, the Israelis raid Palestinian homes and 112 Palestinians have been detained. At the same time, 117 have been part of these exchanges, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, and eight Palestinians killed over the weekend in the West Bank. Ben Wedeman, thank you for that update from Jerusalem. We are all following the breaking news here at CNN, that an agreement has been struck between Israel and Hamas for two more days in this temporary truce that has brought dozens of Israeli hostages home. Another group of hostages including mothers set to be released in the coming hours.

We are following it all closely here. Stay with us. We're going to take a quick break but CNN's coverage of this continues right after this.