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Hostage Handover In Gaza Expected Soon; Israel-Hamas Truce Extended For 2 More Days; 58 Hostages Released So Far, Including 40 Israelis; Ongoing Negotiations Between Israel, Hamas, And Qatar. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 27, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington, and we are following breaking news. A diplomatic source now tells CNN that the handover for the fourth group of hostages in Gaza should be complete within the hour. Earlier, there were significant delays over today's list of hostages. This news coming, as we learn, from Qatar, who has been obviously instrumental in the investigation, these talks, that the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas is now extending for another 2 days.
So far, 58 hostages have been set free over the last three days, 58 hostages from Gaza, that number including 40 Israelis, most of these women and children. And in keeping with the current agreement, Israel has released 117 Palestinians from prison, women and people 18 and under in those releases. Hamas says it now has the list of prisoners to be released later today, while Israel has notified the families of the hostages who are expected to be freed today.
We do have a team of correspondents tracking all of the latest developments. Let's start now with CNN's Jeremy Diamond. He is at the Karem Shalom border crossing in Israel. That is near Gaza and Egypt. Jeremy, have there been any updates on this latest group of hostages that are set to be released?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT Well, Brianna, our understanding is that the process is indeed underway and that there is a major way for these hostages to be released and to then be able to cross into Israel. We know that there were a number of ongoing issues earlier in the day that appear to have delayed the release of these hostages. We know that this morning, the list that the Israeli government received with the hostages was deemed, according to a source that I spoke to, as unacceptable.
Part of that appears to have to do with an issue that has arisen before, which is the issue of children being released without their mothers. There were a number of ongoing conversations earlier in the day between Israel and Hamas mediated by the Qatari government with the assistance of the United States also being heavily involved in those discussions today. And I'm told that following those discussions, additional mothers were indeed added to that list of 11 hostages who we expect to be released from Hamas custody tonight.
Now, in addition to that, we also understand that this truce has now been extended for an additional 2 days by Israel and Hamas, both parties agreeing to extend the truce. And what that will mean, Brianna, is additional hostages being released, 10 hostages per day, as well as 30 Palestinian prisoners released per day from Israeli prisons, and of course hundreds of additional trucks of aid entering Gaza, along with a continuation of the pause in hostilities. All of this coming, as we have watched over the last several days, Brianna, as we have seen some days where this has proceeded very, very smoothly, other days where there have been issues, as there have been today and as there were on Saturday.
And on Saturday as well, Brianna, there was that issue of mothers and children not being released together in at least 1 case. That was the issue of the case of Hila Rotem, who was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7th alongside her mother, Raya, but she was released without her mother. Ultimately, it appears that Israeli officials decided it was better to get her out rather than to not have her, rather than to not have her, rather than to not have Hila be released. And so that release ended up proceeding as it was. But we are standing by here at the Karem Shalom, where we know that for several days, those hostages have crossed into the Rafah crossing and then come to the Karim Shalom crossing and made their first steps onto Israeli soil here.
KEILAR: And what do we know about how this deal got extended, Jeremy? And obviously this is working to what Hamas wants, which is a break, and for that to be extended, and what Israel wants, and to get out as many hostages as possible.
DIAMOND: Yeah, well, there were a number of conversations over the last several days, extensive negotiations mediated by the Qatari government, the United States playing a heavy role in speaking with Qatar. We know that before this news was announced, the Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, spoke with the Prime Minister of Qatar to get this issue resolved and to finalize the agreement between Israel and Hamas, who of course don't speak directly to each other.
But this has been an ongoing process. And Israeli officials have told me that they are taking this day by day to see the number, the list of hostages being released. But clearly, over the last 24, 48 hours, those discussions about extending this truce began. And that truly was the understanding from the beginning of this deal that there were going to be 2 phases if everything went well, if every side adhered to the agreement delivered on their side of the bargain, that this was going to be there was going to be a second phase with these 10 hostages released per day.
But part of what had to happen, we're told, is that Hamas has spent the last several days kind of gathering more information about the whereabouts of other hostages. And that is still a significant hurdle going forward, is the fact that Hamas does not have all of the hostages in its own custody. A number of those hostages, including we've learned tonight that 10-month-old baby Kfir Bibas (ph) are being held by other militant groups, in that case being held by Palestinian militants in Khan Yunis, according to IDF spokespeople.
So that is still an issue that remains. It appears that Hamas at least has the ability to release another 20 women and children hostages over the next 2 days. But after that, there's a big open question, Brianna, about what happens. And of course, massive implications not only for the families of the hostages here in Israel, but also, of course, for the people of Gaza, who have benefited enormously from this pause in hostilities over the last several days, not only humanitarian aid getting into Gaza, but of course, a much, much needed respite in the constant bombardment that they have faced for over 7 weeks now.
KEILAR: Yeah, certainly. Jeremy Diamond live for us there at the Karem Shalom Crossing. We do appreciate the report. And we are joined now by Israeli government spokesman Avi Hyman. Avi, first, can you just update us on the status of today's hostage transfer? We understand from a diplomatic source that this should be completed here within the hour.
AVI HYMAN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Hi, Brianna. Thank you very much for having me on. Firstly, I'll tell you that this is an unfolding story. What we've learned in recent days is that it's not over until it's over. So, from an Israeli perspective, we're going to wait until we see those hostages, Israeli hostages, on Israeli soil before we comment. You know sadly, we know exactly who we're up against. We're up against Hamas, a brutal terror organization that on October 7th came over our borders and killed children in front of their parents, parents in front of their children, beheaded babies, burnt whole families alive. So, we know exactly who we're dealing with. And we're going to wait until we have our people on Israeli ground before we comment further on that.
KEILAR: Do you know if any Americans will be part of this group?
HYMAN: Again, I can't speak to the list until we have got our people back and we've confirmed that list. What I'll tell you is what you just reported is that the ball is firmly in Hamas's court. It has been from the beginning of this agreement, which wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for President Biden and we really appreciate that support and the support of the American people. But we know that if Hamas wants to continue, then we'll get those hostages back tonight. And then every day going forward, if they provide 10 hostages, they get an extra day.
And we know what's got us here. We've got to the point where we're at because Hamas is feeling the pain because we put up the pressure on Hamas, both militarily and diplomatically. They needed a break. They were begging for a break. And we desperately want our hostages back. And so, we continue -- we will do this humanitarian pause and then continue forward with our twofold mission, which is still to destroy Hamas and to bring home all 240 hostages from Gaza.
KEILAR: With this agreement for 2 more days of obviously a seize in the fighting and hostage releases, will we perhaps see more pauses after that and for how long would that go on?
HYMAN: Well, it's really up to Hamas. If they want to release 10 a day, then they get an extra day. But this is Hamas. An organisation, that as your reporter just said, took a 9-month-year -old baby into custody as a hostage. Masked monsters with machine guns holding a 9- month-old baby, he's now 10 months because he's been there for a month with guns pointed at him. He can't walk, he can't talk, but they seem to think that he's a justified hostage. This is who we're up against .
So, we'll take it day by day and we hope to get out as many hostages as we can. And if not, we will go back to the plan, which is to destroy Hamas and to bring back all the hostages. We don't want to leave one behind.
KEILAR: Avi, to the families of hostages that are not being held by Hamas, they may be held by Islamic Jihad or perhaps even other groups. What do you say to them about the prospects for getting their loved ones out?
HYAMAN: Well, firstly, to all the families, you know, we are one. We are one nation. We have never been more united than we are now. And part of the mission in this war from day one is to free every single one of those 240 hostages. As far as what we say to Hamas, Hamas is in control of Gaza. Sadly, it's still in control of Gaza.
KEILAR: But Avi, I'm asking you, I'm asking you about Islamic Jihad. I just, I really want to get to the bottom of this question. I'm sorry to interrupt you. Because you have groups besides Hamas holding hostages, what about getting them out? What is the prospect for that at this point?
HYMAN: Well, the idea behind this humanitarian pause was that Hamas controls Gaza and that Hamas said they needed time to find the other hostages. And all responsibility is on Hamas. So, we say to Hamas, bring back our people. They should not be held in Gaza. It is against, the laws of war, it is against all realms of humanity. Bring them back to Israel.
KEILAR: You have confidence it's within Hamas's ability then to get those hostages that it is not holding?
HYMAN: Absolutely. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are like their little brother. I'll remind your viewers that 93% of Hamas's budget comes from Iran, 100% comes from the United States. And they're not holding hostages. It comes from Islamic Jihad. These people all perpetrated the October 7th massacre together. And it is on Hamas to return every one of those hostages to Israel.
KEILAR: Avi, thank you so much for being with us. We do appreciate your time.
HYMAN: Thank you. Thank you so much.
KEILAR: This extension of this truce is critical to easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as well. We'll be discussing with a UN official who says so much more needs to be done, or many more children, Palestinian children could die. CNN Special Live coverage returns after a quick break.
WOLF BLIZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv. The final pieces are coming together right now for a fourth exchange today of Hamas- held prisoners for Palestinian prisoners and detainees. It's happening on a fourth day of a pause in the fighting. The truce, the temporary truce, has brought great relief to Gazans who have withstood 7 weeks of unrelenting bombardment. But it also has allowed them to come out to the streets to truly see all that's been lost. Seeing as Ben Wedeman is joining us from Jerusalem right now. Ben, Gaza before October 7th. Compared to Gaza of today. Give us a sense, and you've been there many times. How are people there reacting?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you just from looking at the images, it's barely recognizable. Many parts of Gaza that I'm so familiar with looks like a moonscape, really. And that's what many people who are emerging from their shelters are coming out to find. That the city that they thought they knew, the areas, the towns they thought they knew are unrecognizable. Many of the people, of course, have fled to the south. There are about a million people staying in UN schools, taking shelter there in the southern part.
And in those areas, what people are doing are scrambling to get supplies. They're going to UN centers where they're handing out bags of flour. They're going to other areas where there is cooking gas available. Others are just going out and buying whatever they can. Because the anticipation is that, yes, the truce has been extended for another 2 days. But all the messages coming from the Israeli government, all the statements from senior officials are that this truce is not open-ended. That there will be more to come.
Now, as far as the exchange this evening, we understand from Hamas that they have received a list of 33 Palestinian prisoners and detainees who will be released this evening. This includes 3 women and 30 teenage boys. Now, it will take time for them to cross over. But we are expecting, yet again, raucous celebrations by many people happy to see their relatives out of prison. At the same time, it's worth noting that, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, which is an NGO that looks after the affairs of prisoners, since the truce went into effect on Friday, 260 other Palestinians have been detained by the Israelis. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ben Wedeman reporting from Jerusalem. Ben, we'll get back to you. Thank you very, very much. Since this temporary truce took effect on Friday, 158 trucks have been able to reach northern Gaza, where the devastation is clearly the greatest. They carried food, water, baby formula, blankets, among other humanitarian needs. Joining us now is Ricardo Pires. The spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, as we call it. Ricardo, thanks so much for joining us. How will another 2-day pause in the fighting impact the work that UNICEF does? RICARDO PIRES, UNICEF SPOKESMAN: Thanks for having me, Wolf. Every day counts for children in the Gaza Strip right now. After seven weeks of terror, violence, bombardments, death, loss, fear, they're having a break now.
They're being able to regroup, try to find their family members whom they might have been separated from. So, it's a day of hope for them. And 2 more days of that is very welcome, of course, not only for them and their families, but also for humanitarian actors who are trying to deliver life-saving supplies on the ground day after day. And with the ceasefire, albeit temporary, these services are reaching more and more children in need. And this is very welcome for them, but very uncertain.
BLITZER: Ricardo, I know you've been able to speak with your colleagues in Gaza since this temporary truce began a few days ago. How do they explain to you their day now that there is no fighting compared to 6 weeks of unrelenting military strikes?
PIRES: Every day is a day of uncertainty, Wolf. Even though we've had now 2 days in this humanitarian pause, we don't know what's going to happen in the next 48 hours. It looks like the deal is going through, and there will be an extra 2 days of ceasefire to deliver, again, humanitarian supplies, life-saving supplies to hundreds of thousands of children in need. My colleagues on the ground are apprehensive, but hopeful, and positive that they are able to reach these communities.
And I've heard stories from colleagues that, indeed, they're doing that, even though the difficulties are there, the tension is still there, but they're also being able to move trucks and supplies and water and food and hygiene kits and blankets to, again, hundreds of thousands of children who had been unreached to this point in the north of Gaza. So, a lot of tension, a lot of uncertainty, but hope, and a drive to continue to deliver.
BLITZER: UNICEF certainly has been telling stories of at least some of the children in Gaza, Ricardo. Your organization wrote about 14-year- old Ahmed, who said, and I'm quoting him now, I once wanted to become a doctor, but now my most fervent dream is simply to stay alive, end quote. Tell us about what a day is like for 1 child in Gaza right now compared to their life before the Hamas terror attacks against Israel started on October 7th.
PIRES: Every day is a relentless nightmare for children in Gaza. Well, they are very scared. They are traumatized. They've never experienced this level of violence before. And to be fair, they have seen their own share of tragedy and humanitarian disasters before, but this one on this level with this amount of children being killed and injured, it's unprecedented. So, they are very scared, but hoping that our support, that the support of the international community and that this humanitarian pause will hold for just a little bit longer so they can heal their immediate wounds, which are sometimes life-threatening and they're not getting the right health care that they need. But it's full of fear, uncertainty again, and just that desire for a
little bit more normalcy in their lives again because they are not able to go to school again. They're not able to be with their families and friends and their house has been destroyed. And all they see is rubble and dust and violence. So we can't say they are recovering yet, but we can say that as a child normally does, there's a lot of hope, but also a lot of fear.
BLITZER: Ricardo Perez, the UNICEF spokesman, thanks so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road to be sure. Encouraging but emotionally agonizing, the families who still have relatives held hostage by Hamas, anxiously awaiting word on whether their loved ones will be the next to be freed. I'll speak to one of those family members that's coming up next.
KEILAR: We continue to follow major developments out of the Middle East. A diplomatic source telling CNN the latest handover of hostages from Gaza should happen at any moment now. This comes as Qatar announced an agreement to extend the Israel-Hamas truce for another 2 days. The original agreement was supposed to end today after 4 days of hostage exchanges for Palestinian Prisoners held by Israel.
The White House has confirmed that Hamas will release a minimum of 20 additional hostages over the next 2 days. So far, 58 hostages have been freed. That includes 40 Israelis, some of whom are dual nationals, 17 Thai citizens, and 1 Filipino citizen. I'm joined now by Gil Dickmann. He has 2 family members who are being still, at this point, held captive by Hamas. His cousin. Carmel Gat (ph). And cousin- in-law, Yarden Roman - Gat. Just to be clear, that is your cousin's sister-in-law. They were abducted on October 7th. And his aunt, Kinneret Gat, was killed during that terrorist attack. Gil, thank you for taking time to be with us. Have you gotten confirmation either way that your family is or is not on this list today of people being released?
GIL DICKMANN, FAMILY HELD CAPTIVE BY HAMAS: Hi, and good evening from Tel Aviv. We actually got confirmation that my family members, are not on the list for tonight. And we assumed that already. But we don't yet know what is going to happen.