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CIA Chief Burns in Doha to Push for Broader Hostage Deal That Would Include Men, Soldiers; Today, Ten More Hostages Set to be Released After Truce Extended; Israel Confirms Death of a Third Hostage in Gaza. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired November 28, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
OLEH SENTSOV, COMPANY COMMANDER, 47TH MECHANIZED BRIGADE: We failed to hold our position and had to retreat. We had injuries but survived, but the other two groups were almost completely destroyed.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the first time Oleg has failed a mission as commander in the almost two years that he's been fighting. The 47-year-old tells me he wants the world to know the truth on the frontline.
A war this father of four is returning to this week.
COREN (voice over): And, Kate, this is the reality of this war on the front line of Ukraine, particularly on the eastern front, where these soldiers are fighting day after day.
We've heard from Ukrainian officials who say that the Russians have a meat grinder tactic. It's wave after wave after wave of Russian troops. There are mass casualties on both sides. But Oleh obviously wants the world to see what is happening, what these soldiers are going through.
And we've heard from the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Zaluzhny, who has said this war is now at a stalemate, that both sides are locked in this fierce and bloody battle just to hold onto the ground, just to hold onto those trenches. And, really, Oleh is perplexed. He says Ukraine at the moment is not winning this war.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But seeing in terrifying detail what these soldiers are up against on the front lines, so important. Anna, thank you so much, great reporting. Thank you for bringing that to us. Sara?
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Now to the war in the Middle East, this morning, a violation of the ceasefire Israel blaming Hamas, Hamas blaming Israel, but, so far, we are not hearing that will stop Hamas from releasing ten more hostages. We will be right back
SIDNER: This morning, a violation of the ceasefire, Israel blaming Hamas, Hamas blaming Israel. But, so far, we are not hearing that will stop Hamas from releasing ten more hostages. Israel is also set to release more Palestinian prisoners.
The Israel-Hamas truce is now in its fifth day and should last until at least Thursday. But this morning, we're hearing reports, of course, of fighting on both sides.
Now, so far, 51 Israeli citizens and 18 foreign nationals have been released by Hamas since the pause began on Friday. We're told the families of the hostages set to be free today have already been notified.
The youngest known hostages, sadly, not on today's release list. It is believed ten-year-old Kfir Bebas and his family are not being held by Hamas, complicating the efforts to get that family out to safety.
BOLDUAN: And another example of the brutality of Hamas just this morning, Israel has confirmed now a third Israeli hostage has died. Ravid Katz was taken from Kibbutz Nir Oz during the October 7th attack, his sister, her daughters were also hostages. They were released on Friday.
The IDF says Katz's body is still being held by Hamas in Gaza.
Now in Qatar, CIA Director Bill Burns is today meeting with Israeli and Egyptian leaders to try and push the hostage agreement even further. Burns trying to get the truce extended past the now six-day agreement and also expand negotiations to get men and possibly even soldiers released from captivity.
Kaitlan Collins is standing by once again for us in Tel Aviv. So, Kaitlan, Burns is trying to make headway in Qatar and we're waiting now for ten more hostages are set to be released from Hamas today.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And I'll note it's 5:00 P.M. local here. We have not seen any activity of the actual release of those hostages happening yet. Obviously, Kate and Sara, that's a long journey. It's multi-step process that we typically are hearing from officials, Israeli officials, that these hostages have been handed over by Hamas to the Red Cross.
Then they get in those ambulances. They make their way to the Rafah border crossing. It takes a little bit of time before they're in Egypt and then back here finally on Israeli soil again, taken to hospitals, reunited with their families. We have not seen any of that activity yet on day five of this hostage release, though we are still expecting it to go forward. Sara, you pointed out earlier those clashes that have been happening in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. So far, we don't have any indications that that has derailed this deal, even though they are accusing each other, violating the terms of the agreement, which is no fighting happening in Gaza at this time. So, we are watching that closely.
But also this trip by the CIA director to Doha right now, he is meeting with Qatari officials, Egyptian officials, having these ongoing discussions. And what the U.S. very clearly wants to see here is an expanded deal, not just these two days that we're seeing for more women and children to get out, but they are also hoping to negotiate for men to get out, for IDF soldiers to get out, both men and women.
And when you talk to officials here in Israel, they'll openly acknowledge that that is a much higher price that they believe they would have to pay than what they have done so far for the women and children, which is 30 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for every one Israeli hostage who makes it back here at home. That is another part of the deal. It is continuing as a part of this two-day extension.
And so I think right now everyone is waiting to see if those efforts by the CIA director will be successful, but also waiting to see who is going to be on this list of hostages released today, because we do know the youngest, a ten-month-old baby who was taken with his entire family into Gaza is not expected to be on that list. He's not even believed to being held by Hamas, but instead is being held by another terrorist group.
We're tracking all of this with Oren Liebermann, who is also here in Tel Aviv. And, Oren, we're also learning news from the IDF about another hostage who has been found killed. Do we know if this person was killed while they were in Gaza? Were they killed before they were taken there? Do we have any details on that front?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: According to the IDF, the body was discovered in Gaza, the death confirmed in Gaza. So, this is 51-year-old -- I don't get the name wrong here -- Ravid Katz. And that's a name or at least a last name we've heard before that's because his sister, Doron Katz, and her children, were some of the first to come out on the first day of the agreement as Hamas released the first group of Israeli women and children. They have now learned the horrible news that Ravid Katz died in Gaza, the IDF confirming that just a short while ago.
That is the third Israeli we now know of, according to the Israeli military, to have died in Gaza. The first was 19-year-old Corporal Noa Marciano found not far from the Shifa Hospital, some 50 meters, according to the Israeli military. The second is 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss, a grandmother, also found in the vicinity of the Shifa Hospital uh, according to the Israeli military.
So, the effort continues. It has been a key question what is the condition of the hostages held by Hamas. And as we've just learned more definitively held by other groups, but that's a question that nobody has been able to answer conclusively, not the Israelis, not the U.S., and, critically, not the Qataris. So, this is something will be watching very closely.
Israel says they tried to operate in such a way as to not in danger the hostages held in Gaza but that is, of course, an incredibly difficult objective to carry out because Israel has never had a very good indication of where they are. So, this is unfortunately a horrible aspect of all this that we will keep an eye on.
COLLINS: Yes. And, Oren, with how we're learning about this push about what the CIA director is doing in Doha, they want this deal to be longer. They want it to include men. They want it to include these IDF men and women soldiers as well.
But I think there's a real sense of almost desperation among the hostage families who are not only desperate to get their loved ones' homes but are looking at this potential window here. They know that this truce has been extended by two days, but they also know that Israeli officials are making pretty clear if this truce goes south, or if it ends abruptly, or if it ends even after the two days, it's very clear that Israel is going to immediately begin its military campaign in Gaza, which could be even more expanded than what we have been watching for the last several weeks.
LIEBERMANN: There has been a tremendous push on the part of the families, you're absolutely right, of the hostages, that is to make sure that Israel tries to get out and does everything it can to get out all of the hostages that it can before fighting resumes. We see that now, especially a big push from the family of ten-month-old Kfir Bibas to try to make sure he's on the next list to come out or trying to put domestic pressure on the Israeli government to make sure that more hostages are released.
That's something we're obviously going to track very closely here.
There is also, of course, international pressure coming from the U.S., the Qataris trying to pressure Hamas there, as well as other international partners to try to make sure this truce lasts longer to get in more humanitarian aid. That would allow for a longer pause in fighting, more Israeli hostages to be released, more Palestinian women and children to be released from Israeli prisons.
A few points to make here. First, you're absolutely right that Israel has indicated that the second this pause in the fighting is over, the war is back on. In fact, we've just seen Israel and Hamas accusing each other of violating the terms of the agreement. Israel says there were three explosives planted near the troops and they were fired upon and returned fire. Hamas blamed Israel, in fact, for leading to that exchange of fire.
What's critical now is, at least from what we see, it has not disrupted or caused the agreement to fall apart, but it does show you how fragile the overall agreement is. And that's something we'll have to keep an eye on, especially as we go into the last 36, 24 hours of this extended truce.
Now, a key question here also is what is the price Hamas tries to exact once we have seen the women and children come out? Israel has long believed that it will demand more, certainly for the men, and absolutely more for the men and women that are soldiers in the Israeli military that were kidnapped.
Is there a bridge that can be built there by the Qataris to try to continue and get those out? That's a critical question and one that, at least from what we've seen, has not yet been answered. I'm not even sure anybody has tried to approach that yet as they focus right now on the women and on the children.
COLLINS: Yes. We'll see how long Hamas wants to keep that policy and fighting underway.
Oren Liebermann, thank you for that.
And starting today, when it comes to Gaza and what we're seeing there, as it's been very quiet with no fighting, the first of three U.S. military flights that is carrying critical humanitarian aid for Gaza is going to land in Egypt, where it will stop there before being taken into Gaza.
We're told that on these flights, medical supplies, food, winter weather gear, because senior administration officials will say, obviously, the winter is coming. It is going to be incredibly rainy there in Gaza. And once that aid has arrived in Gaza, we are told the United Nations will be in charge of distributing it.
This delivery, we are told, is separate from this ongoing truce that has just been extended for two days. The U.S. says it will continue, even if that truce is disrupted, as Oren was noting there, it's incredibly fragile. The question, of course, is if they can still successfully get it in as easily when there is fighting that is resumed.
CNN's Arlette Saenz is tracking all of this from the White House. Arlette, what are we learning about, just how confident U.S. officials are that, one, this aid is even coming close to being enough to what people need on the ground, and, two, how they could ensure that it would keep going into Gaza if Israel does begin its military campaign again?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Caitlin, there is a recognition within the administration that more needs to be done on the humanitarian aid front to try to ease some of the suffering facing these civilians in Gaza. And they are trying in part to ease some of that by sending in this new round of humanitarian aid in.
As you mentioned, the first of three military planes carrying this added aid will be heading into Egypt today. At that point, it will be distributed by the U.N. and really use to replenish some of the supplies and stock that have started to winnow down as this fight continues. Now, this latest shipment is expected to include medical supplies, food, winter gear. As you noted, this is a cold and rainy season in Gaza. So, they want to ensure that they're able to get that type of material to the civilians there.
But it does come as there has been an increase in aid going into Gaza since this truce between Hamas and Israel had started. There are roughly 800 trucks of humanitarian aid that have gone into Gaza. President Biden himself has pointed to one of the successful portions of this truce being the fact that they're not only able to get hostages out but also get that humanitarian aid. So, the administration trying to take one more step at this time to help those civilians in Gaza with this aid.
COLLINS: And in addition to that, I mean, the U.S. is also clearly planning for what happens if this truce does end, if it does -- when it -- it's going to come to an end at some point, but what that looks like. And we're hearing from officials about how they are urging Israel to be more cautious, more surgical when it comes to targeting Hamas and Gaza. What does the U.S. -- what are they warning Israel about basically?
SAENZ: Well, senior administration officials say that they've been urging Israel to be more precise and surgical in their operations as they're going after Hamas to try to avoid civilian casualties. One thing that officials have also pressed upon Israel is warning them against conducting these operations in the southern part of Gaza, where many people have been fleeing to as this conflict has unfolded.
Now, this comes as there is an anticipation that after this truce ends that fighting will resume.
And one thing officials said is that they've been having constructive conversations with Israel about what has gone right and what has gone wrong in their initial campaign.
Of course, President Biden and other top officials across the administration have talked about how there is a need to ensure that civilians are protected. They need to do less -- to try to do more to minimize civilian casualties.
And it comes as the president back here at home has faced his own pressures politically from people who are frustrated with the Israeli military campaign and the thousands of Palestinians it has killed in Gaza.
So, the White House, as they are consulting with Israeli officials about the next steps in this fight, they are trying to caution them and encourage them to just be more precise in their operations against Hamas as they are trying to protect more civilian life.
COLLINS: Yes. We'll see if those messages come through. Israel seems quite intent on resuming that campaign and especially moving it to the south. Arlette Saenz, thank you for that great report.
Sara, Kate, obviously still a lot of questions here about what happens after day five and day six of this temporary truce expires.
SIDNER: Yes, a lot of families are waiting to hear what will happen. Thank you so much, Kaitlan, and thank you also to Arlette.
CIA Director Bill Burns, as you heard, is back in Qatar, pushing for a broader hostage deal, this one to include men and soldiers, according to multiple sources to CNN.
Burns continues to play a key role in the negotiations. Today, he will meet with his Qatari, Israeli and Egyptian counterparts.
I am joined now by former CIA Operative Bob Baer. Thank you so much for being with us. It's been a minute since I've gotten to talk to you. I'm happy to see your face.
First off, can you give us some sense? How significant is it that the director of the CIA is once again back in Qatar, talking through negotiations with the Qataris, the Egyptians, the Israelis, and through them, Hamas? Can you give us a sense of just the importance of him being there?
BILL BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, the importance is he's a seasoned diplomat. He's a very good diplomat. He's an able CIA director, but he knows that part of the world, the Arab part of the world. He's also very discreet, and CIA communications are very secure. So, any sensitive discussions the president knows will be held very tightly. So, that's why Burns is there.
But what Burns really would love to do, and I'm speculating here, is a permanent ceasefire. Because right now, the Israelis are intent on resuming the war, going south, and there is no such thing as precision strikes in Gaza. It's just not possible. It's too built up. Israeli intelligence isn't good enough.
So, we're really at a threshold here. Will this war expand? Will expand through the Middle East? And so sending Burns to Qatar is the best the president can do.
SIDNER: Can you give me a sense? We know that Hamas is in the midst of these negotiations. You've got all these people hanging in the balance. Can you give us a sense of just how tricky all of this is when you have this many players and you have a group that is, the United States considers, a terrorist organization, but it is also the government at this point in time of Gaza?
BAER: Hamas is Gaza. There are separate groups, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for instance. There are criminal groups, which apparently hold hostages, which makes it very difficult. But to get rid of Hamas, you have to get rid of the entire infrastructure of government there. And this is what really the problem is.
Since 2007, Hamas has taken over Gaza completely, the health, education, everything, the police. So, getting rid of it, I don't even know how you would do that, how you would define getting rid of it. But I can tell you right now is the Israelis politically, and for their survival, in a way, need to get rid of Sinwar, the political head, and Mohammed Deif, the military leader. And who knows where they are? They're probably underground. They're moving all the time, every 24 hours. So, the Israelis -- we're talking about, again, going back, they have to resume this war.
SIDNER: Bob Baer, thank you so much. I mean, what you said is just really, really important that Hamas is the government there, and they are in every segment of society getting rid of Hamas. It may not be a thing that is truly possible. I appreciate your time. Kate?
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us with more hostages being released, we are now starting to get a clearer window into what they endured while in captivity, the fear, the silence, the handcuffs, the deplorable conditions, and the darkness, their stories, next.
SIDNER: This is an incredible rescue. After more than two weeks underground, all 41 workers trapped inside a collapsed tunnel in India have been pulled to safety, according to Indian officials.
CNN's Vedika Sud is joining us now.
This is quite a revelation, Vedika. We are looking at live pictures of the ambulances that are just stacked up right outside of the opening of that tunnel. What can you tell us?
VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Sara, nothing short of a miracle is how I would put it. 17 days. After 17 days, you're seeing 41 of them hopefully in good physical condition, if not the best, being pulled out and they've been whisked away in ambulances for medical attention and focus as we speak.
Now, it's taken a lot of effort on part of the government as well as the rescue teams on the ground. There's been disappointment day after day. There were these huge heavy drilling machines that were brought in and they were cutting through the rubble, through the metal rods inside the tunnel that was impacted by the debris, cutting off these 41 men for 17 days from the rest of civilization, if you may, and today they're out.
They've used a pipe, which is about three feet in diameter, and they've inserted it through the debris for the last few days and they've pushed it through and that's how they reached out to those 41 men, bringing them out one by one on a stretcher that was mounted on wheels and using the pulley system, the ropes, really, to pull them out gently.
The entire passageway inside the tunnel was illuminated with lights to make sure that these men who have been in darkness almost for 17 days do not panic while they're being pulled out. For 17 days, constantly, the authorities have been reaching out to them through megaphones, through the pipes, supplying them with oxygen, food, water, medicines, mobile chargers, promising them that they will be pulled out.
There's been dejection, there's been dismay, there's been disappointment in the run-up to the 17-day but today there's only happiness, elation, relief that you're seeing on the faces of the rescue teams, the family members and these migrant laborers themselves, 41 of them out in the last hour and a half. What a story, what a miracle and what an achievement in one of the roughest and most difficult terrains in the Himalayas. Sara?
BOLDUAN: Yes, Uttarakhand way up in the north of India in the Himalaya Mountains. Thank you so much for that bit of good news. And I'm sure we'll start to hear from some of those people who have been rescued. I see they're talking to one of the rescue operators right there. We appreciate your time, Vedika. And we will be back with you to try to get an update. Kate?
BOLDUAN: The bold move, a big endorsement, and one potentially coming with big dollars. The Koch Network, the powerful Republican associated with the powerful Republican donors, the Koch brothers, have just endorsed republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.
Americans for Prosperity Action, the political arm of Koch's network, are out with a new ad in support of the former U.N. ambassador.
Let's get over to CNN's Jessica Dean. She's got more details on this. This is a big deal for not just Nikki Haley, but the entire Republican field.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right, Kate. So often when we hear endorsements, they don't really do all of that much or move the needle. This could be potentially very different. The reason why is just the incredible amount of money that Americans for Prosperity has at its disposal and has shown that it will use.
This is the very first time they've ever gotten involved in a presidential primary, in the GOP presidential primary, and they said they had to. They knew and had said that they would likely bypass former President Trump, because in their explanation of this endorsement of Nikki Haley today, one of their executives saying that they believed that the GOP continues to nominate what they called bad candidates and that Americans are rejecting them. That's why they are throwing their support behind the former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, who they believe could win in a general election.
So, what does their support mean? This is why this is such a big deal. It means probably millions and millions and millions of dollars in ads both in the early states and also the Super Tuesday states. It means access to their data to get to voters. It means their vast network of conservative activists all acting on her behalf. So, this is a huge boost to Nikki Haley as she really looks to fend off Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, as the Trump alternative in this race. And just a scene set for everybody. Remember, the former president continues to really lead this field in all of the polling, both nationally and in the early states. And so what we have seen is who will be that Trump alternative. That's what so many of these other people in the field have tried to become. Ron DeSantis has really pitched himself as the person who can beat Donald Trump and win in a general election. Nikki Haley has done the same thing. And so in all of this polling and also on the ground, we're hearing from voters who are trying to sort through who is the best alternative and who can win. That's the thing that they really keep looking to.
And so this endorsement could potentially reshape a lot of dynamics within this race as we get ever closer to January 15th. Of course, Kate, that's the Iowa caucuses. It kicks off the primary season voting.
BOLDUAN: And just thinking about this, Jessica, and what this political network brings to the Republican field, to conservative causes, and has for years, this almost seems like the biggest statement yet of Republicans -- established -- like a Republican donor network trying to move away and move past Donald Trump, as you're talking about. It's a real statement of what they're trying to do, of course, with the caveat, you know, you never know if it's going to work.