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IDF: Red Cross Says 11 Hostages Are With Them, En Route To Israel; Former President Carter Expected To Attend Wife's Memorial Service. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired November 27, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We are back monitoring the fragile truce in Gaza. You are watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington with Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv. And another hostage release is underway as we speak. The IDF says the latest group of women and children freed by Hamas is with the Red Cross, and it's en route to Israel. After which, more Palestinian prisoners and detainees will be released from Israeli custody. This is the fourth day of these exchanges.
And now, Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend this arrangement for two more days, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Very critical developments, very important developments, Brianna. Indeed, it's a critical two days right now for the families of the remaining 198 hostages and for the residents of Gaza who have seen a surge of badly needed aid entered during this entire temporary pause.
President Biden just released a statement on the extension, thanking the leaders of Israel, Qatar, and Egypt for getting it all done.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is here with me in Tel Aviv. We're watching all of this unfold.
So update our viewers where things stand, Oren, right now.
Coreln2 Wolf, today wasn't nearly as bumpy as we have seen over the course of the past several days. Everything happened a bit later. There was a bit of a delay on all of this coming through because of a disagreement on the list of hostages. But crucially, we've all heard from the Israeli military that 11 hostages are now in the hands of the Red Cross. They say they got that information from the Red Cross, and that means the transfer of this last group of prisoners in the initial 50 is beginning to be complete here.
They have gone from Hamas custody into the hands of the Red Cross and will soon be with the IDF. We don't know what crossings they're coming through at this point, but that's less significant right now. What's important is that the process has begun and they are making their way to the IDF, to Israel and then they'll be transferred to their hospitals and to families where the reunions can begin.
There's also a bigger picture significant meaning here, and that's that one of the senior policy advisers to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told us that the extension of the truce, another two days, another 48 hours, would only happen once the transfer had been complete. It's not complete yet, but it's certainly moving in that direction, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
And that means a number of things, first, more humanitarian aid will flow into Gaza. Still a drop in the bucket of what's needed there. It used to be 400 or more trucks going in a day. This is just a couple of hundred, if that, going in a day, but it still is significant, given the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding there.
On top of that, it also means over the course of the next 48 hours, we should see 20 more Israeli hostages released, women and children, in exchange for 60 Palestinian women and children being released from Israeli prisons. Crucially, it's also shown that mediation can work.
Difficult though it is, challenging though it is, especially with Israel and Hamas who have no reason to trust each other right now. But that's something the international community has focused on and has called for more of as we sit here waiting for today's transfer to be complete and for the hostages to enter Israel.
BLITZER: Update important - very important update. Oren, thank you very, very much.
For more on all of this, right now I'm joined by the international spokesperson for the IDF, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
Lieutenant Colonel, thank you so much for joining us.
As you know better than I do, the IDF says 11 newly released hostages are now in the hands of the International Red Cross in Gaza, and they're on their way to Israel. Do you have any updates you can share with us right now, Lieutenant Colonel?
LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESMAN: Good evening. Thank you for having me, Wolf. So what we've done so far every night is first to understand when hostages exit Gaza and are in the hands of the Red Cross in Egypt. The next stage will be coming into Israel, and then it will be to hospitals and eventually to meet with their families. That's the procedure that we've been following so far.
Right now we are in that very highly - high-tension moment of waiting for the hostages to be taken through Egypt to the entry point into Israel. Once that happens, we already have the message ready, and we will - once it's confirmed, we will send that out to the world and, of course, most importantly, to the families of the hostages that are waiting eagerly for the return of their loved ones.
BLITZER: I know it's all very sensitive, Lieutenant Colonel. I don't know if you could share with us, that would be really important. But if you can't, I totally understand. Is the Red Cross bringing these Israeli hostages first from Gaza into Egypt through the Rafah Border Crossing, and then they'll cross into Israel at Kerem Shalom? Is that - that's what's happened in the past, is that's what happen - is that is happening right now?
CONRICUS: Wolf, you're right. It is sensitive and at this stage, I cannot elaborate about it further. And I can only - we can only say when they are in our hands, and the route is something that I cannot comment on.
BLITZER: Late word today, as you know, Lieutenant Colonel, that the truce, this temporary truce, is being extended for another two days. That's very, very significant. First of all, can you share details about how all of this extended truce came about and how the IDF is ensuring that Hamas will honor its agreements?
CONRICUS: So I cannot yet confirm on the IDF level and maybe the Prime Minister's office can confirm it otherwise. But, of course, we are aware of the ongoing, I would say, relentless negotiations with American involvement, the Egyptians, the Qataris. Of course, speaking with Hamas in Gaza and elsewhere, where the general gist of the things are that Hamas is trying to play for time, using hostages in order to get a respite from fighting. That's the formula.
And as you know, Wolf, this was part of the conditions of the framework to begin with. This is an option that is now being exercised. We understood that was what Hamas would want it to do, so there's windows for this to happen. But there's also a limit for this to happen in the future. We're not there yet.
But we do understand what game Hamas is playing. They're doing psychological warfare, and they're trying to buy more time for themselves, not for humanitarian needs in Gaza, but only for their military needs and maybe to live to see another day.
BLITZER: Can you tell us, Lieutenant Colonel, whether you know if any Americans are part of this final group, this last group of hostages who are now in the hands of the Red Cross heading towards Israel. Are any Americans included?
CONRICUS: I know that they've been requested. And I know that, of course, it is - they are very high on the list of priorities. At this stage, I cannot yet confirm. And with everything in this whole process happening, we can only confirm once we have hands-on and can see and verify for ourselves, we have learned, just as Oren said before, the process is a very messy one where there's many changes. And until things are hands-on and we can see them, we are not going to venture out any statements.
As soon as it happens, we will confirm. We will let the families know and then we will let the world know.
BLITZER: Let it be completed first and then everyone can move on.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, thanks so much for joining us.
CONRICUS: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Amidst all of this, aid groups can only hope this extended truce will become permanent. The organization Doctors Without Borders has been calling for an immediate ceasefire, pleading for world leaders to exert all influence.
Joining us now is Avril Benoit, the Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders-U.S.A.
Avril, thank you so much for joining us.
What's your reaction to this truce now being extended for at least another two days?
AVRIL BENOIT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS-U.S.A.: Well, look, the truce is an opportunity for a few things to get done and we appreciate that. But what we really need is a ceasefire because a truce, this pause, is really like nothing more than a Band-Aid on a gushing wound that will really take years to heal.
And so that's one of the reasons that the humanitarian community is really united in calling for a real ceasefire so that we can stop the killing, we can stop the siege, which is impeding people from being able to move around, to be able to have some freedom of movement. And also, we need to bring in substantially more aid to save lives and alleviate suffering.
BLITZER: How much, though, will a two-day extension of this temporary truce, Avril, help your teams? What will you - what will they be able to do on the ground?
BENOIT: It's so difficult when we are asked, how much can you do in two days when we are so far behind. The shelves, the storage of the hospitals are bare. We don't have the medicines we need. We don't have the medicines we need in the right places. There's a tremendous amount of logistical capacity that has been completely gutted through the total siege that we've seen.
And yes, a few hundred trucks on a day like today is a beautiful photo op. It makes everyone's heart sing, and you think, wow, it's carrying all these supplies. But it's not nearly enough. I mean, we still have patients in the burn unit with severe - 50 percent of the body completely burned, and we don't have the dressings that are appropriate to be able to manage a burn wound like that.
It's so difficult to even imagine that in a couple of days, you are losing this brief little window to be able to go and do assessments to see who needs what, where can we add the additional support. And then all of a sudden, we're going to be in this all-out war with absolutely no limits that we've seen so far, where not only are hospitals being attacked, but also ambulances and convoys of civilians trying to evacuate are routinely being caught in the crossfire here.
So even as much as you can scramble and do a few things in a few days, it is a blip compared to the needs because we are so far behind with all the devastation that's happened so far.
BLITZER: Avril Benoit, the Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders-U.S.A. Avril, we'll continue this conversation to be sure. Thank you so much for joining us.
BENOIT: Thank you.
BLITZER: And we're going to be taking a very quick break right now. We're monitoring the release of this - the fourth group of hostages by Hamas. Our special coverage of the truce between Israel and Hamas will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv. We're standing by for updates on the breaking news right now. The Israeli military saying the Red Cross has confirmed it has received this, the fourth group of hostages from Hamas and they are right now en route, we are told, to Israel.
Let's talk about this and more with the National Security Council Spokesperson, John Kirby.
John, thanks very much for joining us.
I know you're getting updates all the time on what's going on. First of all, do you know if any Americans are among those being released right now?
JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: Hey, Wolf, yes, this is good news for 11 families for sure. But we do not believe that there are Americans in this group coming out today.
BLITZER: And is there an explanation why? I know that the U.S. has been working very hard behind the scenes to get Americans included. Do we know why Hamas is not putting any Americans in this new group?
KIRBY: It's difficult to know and to ascertain specifically how they go about making up these lists and then sharing those lists with the Red Cross and with the - our Israeli counterparts. We are working very, very hard to keep this flow of hostages going. We're glad to see that there's a two-day extension and we certainly would hope that in the next two days, in this next couple of installments, that we'll see some Americans coming out. But it's difficult to know for sure day to day exactly how Hamas is making these decisions.
I would remind that the test pilot for this whole program was two Americans, a mother and daughter, several weeks ago. And, of course, we were able to get Abigail Edan out over the weekend, a little four- year-old toddler American. So that's promising and we're just going to - we're going to keep at it.
BLITZER: I know earlier today at a White House briefing, John, you said there are less than 10 - you believe, there are less than 10 Americans among the hostages, maybe eight or nine, you specifically said. Do we know if they're men, women, children, how that eight or nine American hostages are broken down?
KIRBY: Yes. So there were a total of 10 unaccounted for Americans. We've gotten now three out. So it could be as few as seven, could be eight or nine left. We don't have an exact figure, but - and we actually, Wolf, we don't have perfect information about where they are or even how they are, all of those that we think that are still being held hostage.
We do believe that the majority of the ones that are left and we believe held hostage are males. And right now Hamas is only willing to release women and children. So it could be some time here before we can start to see progress on the other hostages. But, again, we're just working this almost hour by hour.
BLITZER: Are those American hostages, are they dual citizens? Do they also have Israeli citizenship?
KIRBY: I want to be careful here that I don't talk about somebody's citizenship. But, obviously, what we've seen from - for so many countries, not just the United States, is that many of these are dual national citizens that claim citizenship both in Israel and, in our case, in the United States, that's very common and we'd have to expect that additional hostages that we'd be getting out, Americans, would most likely have dual citizenship. But, again, I want to be careful that we don't get too specific on that.
BLITZER: That's an important point, indeed. A diplomatic source is telling us, John, that there are still more than 40 hostages being held by Hamas. But more than 40 hostages are not being held, I should point out, by Hamas, that they're being held by other various groups in Gaza and maybe even individuals being held in Gaza. How much does that complicate your efforts to get these people released?
KIRBY: Yes. Well, if it does make it harder here because it is very possible that Hamas doesn't have physical custody of all the people that were taken hostage. In fact, it's very possible that Hamas did not take all the hostages on October 7th. And other groups, perhaps the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for instance, has taken some hostages.
Now, we know that Hamas has connections with them, has communications with these folks. And they're going to have to do the spade work to try to get those hostages in their custody so that they can be factored into these exchanges. But it does make this a little bit more complex than it would be otherwise if Hamas just had all of them in their own custody.
I want to go back to one, just one quick point on the last question you asked. Just to make it clear, in President Biden's mind, you may be, if you're a dual national, you're still an American. And it doesn't change at all the way we treat our efforts to get you home and back with your families.
BLITZER: Yes, that's so important indeed and so vital.
I just want to get precise also on the situation right now involving the extension, the extended truce for at least another two days. The U.S. strongly supports that, I assume, right?
KIRBY: Yes, absolutely. The President was on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu just over the weekend, urging an extension of this pause so that we could get more hostages out. He was very personally involved in nudging those leaders in the right direction here.
BLITZER: Yes, let's hope all this works out, this extension of the truce, and the hostages coming - getting out of Gaza, coming to Israel and then heading home, assuming Israel is not necessarily their final destination.
John Kirby, as usual, thanks so much for all the important work you're doing. Appreciate your joining us very much.
Up next, there's more news we're following back in the United States, saying goodbye to Rosalynn Carter. The former first lady's casket just arrived at the Carter Center in Atlanta. We'll go there when we come back.
KEILAR: The body of former first lady, Rosalynn Carter, just arrived at the Carter Center in Atlanta, as you see right here. There it will lie in repose. A repose service will take place here in a few hours. Members of the public will be paying their respects, and they'll be sharing their goodbyes. Mrs. Carter died peacefully earlier this month at the age of 96.
And tomorrow, President Biden, the first lady and Rosalynn's husband, former president, Jimmy Carter, are all expected to attend a tribute service in Atlanta.
CNN's Nick Valencia is there at the Carter Center for us.
Nick, what more are you learning about this new development, which is that Jimmy Carter, who, by the way, has been in hospice, is going to make this trip to attend tomorrow's tribute service?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Hey there, Brianna.
The former president has been in hospice care since earlier this year. And as of this morning, it was still unclear whether or not he would attend any of these memorials, memorial services for his wife of 77 and a half years. But just a couple of hours ago, we learned that former President Carter will be at the tribute service held tomorrow at Emory University here in Atlanta.
And of course, the Carters, originally from Plains, Georgia, high school sweethearts, but they had really strong ties here to the city of Atlanta. In fact, the residents here could run into them from time to time. In fact, a couple of years ago, I ran into the Carters while they were trick-or-treating in one of the beautiful in-town neighborhoods here of Candler Park with their grandchildren.
It was just a moment ago that the body of Rosalynn Carter arrived here at the Carter Center, the presidential center here in Atlanta. It just made its way from her alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University, where there was a special wreath-laying ceremony. Her body will lie in repose here for several hours between 6 and 10 PM. The public is encouraged to come here to give their final respects, pay their final respects, say their final goodbyes.
And, of course, some notable names that we're learning that will be at services tomorrow at Emory University include not just her husband, but also the Obamas, the Clintons and Melania Trump, among the many notable dignitaries that will be paying their respects to this first lady who had just a remarkable, remarkable life. Brianna?
KEILAR: She certainly did. Nick, thank you so much for that.