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Sixth Group of Hostages to be Released; Blinken Talks about Extended Pause; Joel Rubin is Interviewed about Extended Truce in War; Cheney's New Book. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2023 - 09:00   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: It is 9:00 in the morning in New York, 4:00 p.m. in Israel and Gaza, and it's a race against the clock on what could be the sixth and potentially final day of the extended truce between Israel and Hamas. More hostages are set to be released today by Hamas with dozens of hostages still being held captive in Gaza.

Negotiators in Qatar are pushing to extend the pause in fighting so more people can be freed and more aid can get into Gaza. Sources are confirming to CNN negotiators believe there are enough women and children still in Hamas captivity to extend the truce for at least two more days.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ten more Israeli hostages were released from Hamas captivity just last night, along with two Thai nationals. You can see their faces. They are now free.

Still not among that group was two American women who were kidnapped in the October 7th terror attack as well. The White House, though, now says that they are hopeful that these women may be on the list of hostages to be released today.

Now, according to the Israeli prime minister's office there are 161 hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza, 126 of them are male, 35 of them are female. And of those who are still kidnapped, ten of them are 75 years old or older, four more are between the ages of 18 and 19 and another four are just children under the age of 18 years old.

This morning there is new optimism and an important note from the Qatari foreign ministry which has been key to broker all of these agreements, even saying that they could be announcing another truce extension in a couple of hours.

Let's get over to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She has more on this from Tel Aviv.

And, Kaitlan, you spoke with the Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson just a few minutes ago and he offered and important update on this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, these are the officials who have really been giving us the confirmations that we have seen over the last several days of the outlines of this deal, when it's in place, where it's going. And so this is a crucial update that we heard from the Qataris earlier today because this comes amid conversations about what could happen next here. We know that we are on day six of this agreement right now, but everyone wants to know what happens on day seven because this temporary truce and it's 48-hour extension is set to expire tonight. And we know all parts have been talking about what that could look like going forward.

We just asked the Qatari spokesperson what he expects to happen. This is what he told me.


DR. MAJED AL-ANSARI, ADVISER TO QATARI PRIME MINISTER: We are hopeful that within a couple of hours we will have the release of the final batch, but also we'll be able to announce an extension. We are working on an extension that would be guaranteed by the same provision that guaranteed the previous two days, which is that every day would have to include at least ten hostages coming out and 30 hostages - sorry, 30 prisoners from the Israeli prisons, and we are very -- we are very optimistic that we will have good news to share today.

COLLINS: OK, so you do expect that an extension with the same parameters that are in place right now will be announced once this sixth group of hostages has been released, is that right?

AL-ANSARI: We are optimistic that we will be able to make that announcement during the day.


COLLINS: He says they're optimistic. We'll wait to see, of course. We've still got a few more hours as we're waiting to see this actual release of the sixth group of hostages. But he did say there, same parameters, women and children. I've heard from Israeli officials. They believe that could actually go on for several more days because of how many women and children Hamas is still holding at this point.

And then the question that he also referenced there is what happens after that.


And he did say there are discussions going on about expanding this group to include men, potentially even IDF soldiers. That is no easy feat to actually get an agreement there. So, we'll wait to see what the details there look like.

But we're also learning more about what we could see today, on day six. And we have just heard from the Bibas (ph) family, of course this is the family where the father, the mother and the two children who have become, you know, kind of just iconic images of the children who have been kidnapped by Hamas, Kifir Bibas (ph), who is ten months old, and his brother, Ariel Bibas (ph), who is four years old, both have been kidnapped by Hamas, alongside their parents. We have heard from their family. They are not on the list today. That is obviously heartbreaking news for them who have so desperately wanted them to come home. It's still a question of where they are in Gaza right now because the

IDF says Hamas claims to them that they are not in control of them any longer, meaning they are with another terrorist group in Gaza potentially. A lot of questions and obviously not the news they wanted to get as we are waiting to see who did make the list today, who is going to be released.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is tracking all of this here in Tel Aviv.

So, Oren, we know who's not going to be on the list, at least as it comes to these two children, the two youngest hostages now who have not been released. What are we expecting as to how many people are going to be released today?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So, under the terms of the agreement so far we expect ten more women and children to be released and, at least according to the last few days, we expect that to start playing out over the course of the next few hours. It has, in the past, been delayed. Sometimes even delayed by several hours into the middle of the night. But we do expect it at this point to continue.

We certainly haven't seen anything like yesterday's exchange of fire that risked to derail the agreement. So even if this doesn't go forward in the next few moments here, it is expected to continue. Ten Israeli women and children released in exchange for 30 Palestinian women and children released from Israeli prisons.

One of the key questions, will there be any Americans on this list? We saw four-year-old Abigail Edan released a couple days ago. Now the question, are the other two dual national Israeli American women set to be released? That is a key question for the Biden administration.

Then, as you pointed out, one of the other major issues here is how much longer can this continue? According to the Israeli prime minister's office, there are 161 hostages who remain in Gaza. That number has gone up and down as certain hostages have come out. The Israeli government has adjusted that exact number. But of those, according to the Israeli prime minister's office, 35 are women. Crucial to note that some of those might be foreign nationals. But there is a limit on how long the current truce can be extended. And that's something to keep an eye on because the current truce is only for women and children. That essentially a ratio of one Israeli woman or child released for three Palestinian women and children in Israeli prisons to be released.

To go to the next stage of that, elderly men or soldiers, that could require a whole nother set of negotiations, an entirely separate framework. Keep in mind, Kaitlan, it took weeks to work out the beginning of this. And even if there's a basis you can build upon, these are two sides, Israel and Hamas, that completely distrust each other. Even with all of the international pressure, getting to the next stage of an agreement might remain incredibly difficult even if the Qataris are optimistic about the next 24 hours.

COLLINS: Yes. I also think there's a question of, how does Hamas differentiate, you know, these young men who have been kidnapped from current IDF soldiers to reservists? I mean a lot of challenges potentially lie ahead here.

Oren Liebermann, thank you for that update.

Also we're seeing on the ground in Brussels this morning for the NATO foreign minister's meeting Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He did confirm he will be back here in Israel in the coming days. He's made multiple trips since October 7th, this time focusing on extending the pause in the fighting that the White House would like to see extended for several more days at least.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is tracking all of this from the White House this morning.

Arlette, what's the White House saying about whether or not they're hopeful that an extension could actually happen here?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, a key focus for Biden administration officials in the coming day is trying to determine whether that extension in a truce, which is now in its sixth day, could be possible. You heard Secretary of State Antony Blinken today saying that this will be a focus of his as he heads to Israel a bit later today and tomorrow. You also have the special envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, who will be in Israel to work with Blinken, as well as meet with the families of American hostages and Israeli hostages.

And then there is CIA Director Bill Burns, who yesterday was in Doha meeting with Qataris, Egyptian and Israeli officials to talk about a way forward towards a possible truce. Now, earlier today Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the goal of any extension of a truce is to further get hostages out and get more aid in.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We'd like to see the pause extended because what it has enabled, first and foremost, is hostages being released.


It's also enabled us to surge humanitarian assistance into the people of Gaza who so desperately need it.


SAENZ: So there's some hope that there will be work towards extending that truce. Officials believe that there are enough women and children who still need to be released from captivity and that that could allow for a possible two-day truce, but that's something that they will be working towards today.

And it comes at the same time as officials are also looking to what happens when the truce ends, when fighting resumes. Senior administration officials have said that they are urging the Israelis to be more precise, more surgical as they are going after Hamas to try to avoid civilian casualties. They have pushed to be careful with operations in the southern part of Gaza where many civilians have been fleeing.

And it comes as the president back here at home has also faced political pressure, including within his own Democratic Party, to call for a further ceasefire in the fighting. So, these are all things that the White House will be watching in the coming days. And, of course, today they are keeping their eyes on whether either of those two American women being held hostage will be released by Hamas.

COLLINS: Arlette, what is their sense on that, if those Americans are expected to be on this list today? Have they said?

SAENZ: They have not said so far if they expect the Americans to be on the list. Yesterday they said that they were hopeful that they would be released. They said that that is something that they continue to work towards.

One thing that officials have said is that they don't believe that Hamas has been holding back from releasing these American women as any type of leverage against the United States or in their negotiations. So, the White House remains hopeful that this could happen.

They've also noted that they don't necessarily know where exactly all of these hostages are being held. And that could be a contributing factor to some of this. But they, ultimately, are hopeful that those two American women will get out. And the president, of course, has said he will not stop until the -- all the Americans are released from captivity.

COLLINS: Yes, well we should know shortly as we continue to wait for these hostages to be released.

Arlette Saenz, thank you.

Sara, obviously, that's a major question for the White House. They are definitely hopeful that they are on it. It remains to be seen, though, what that looks like.

SIDNER: Yes. Kaitlan, great job out there. Thank you.

Joel Rubin is joining us now to discuss the ongoing truce negotiations and how U.S. diplomacy may impact them. Joel was the deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration. He's also running for Congress in Maryland.

Thank you so much, Joel, for being here.


SIDNER: You know, we just heard - we just heard from Doha officials basically saying, look, we believe that we're going to be able to extend this. It has not been official. It has not been sanctioned just yet. But after these next hostages come out, they're hoping for the next couple of days, though the IDF has said very clearly with the backing of Netanyahu that it's getting ready to resume it's military campaign against Hamas when the truce ends.

What are the chances, do you think, of this being extended for more than just a day or two?

RUBIN: Well, Sara, I believe that you're right, we're going to get a couple more days of extension. But everybody's on a hair trigger right now, so the pressure is only increasing for there to be a further extension.

But it really depends upon Hamas' good will. And that's a very difficult place to be because Hamas does not engage in good will. Hamas is engaging in a very strategic maneuver right now to release individuals, release kidnapped Israelis in order to get a pause in military action that has been waged against it by Israel. So, for Hamas the calculation is, is do they need more time? And I think that's why we're seeing day by day agreements rather than the larger sort of chunk that we had at the beginning of four full days.

That uncertainty will continue and I think Hamas likes it that way, but then, of course, they also have their internal difficulties with identifying where people may be because we know that they are spread about potentially with criminal gangs and other terrorist organizations inside Gaza. So, this is just a very tenuous situation, I can't emphasize that enough, depending on Hamas' decision-making to determine how much longer we're going to have this truce for.

SIDNER: It is so delicate. It is so tenuous. It gives anyone just listening to this anxiety just wondering when the next group may or may not be let out.

I do want to talk to you about the difficulties going forward because there -- it is believed there are enough women and children that Hamas has a hold of to extend the truce just by a couple of days so that they can be released. But then the discussion is going to turn to men and those who are current IDF soldiers. Some of the men are former soldiers because so many people in Israel have to go into the military. So, how difficult will this be? Do you see there being a possibility of men, Israelis, being set free?


RUBIN: You know, Sara, this is the question that's given everyone fear. This trade potentially of Israeli soldiers, in the past we saw a soldier released, Gilad Shalit, over a decade ago. He was one single Israeli traded for 1,027 Hamas fighters. So, the price is probably going to go up. That's my fear.

We've seen this three to one ratio of Palestinians who are in Israeli prisons being released for one kidnapped hostage. That -- over women and children. That ratio is likely going to change significantly, and I think that's where we're going to hit the real road blocks and then we're going to see the Israeli military pressure reassert itself. You know, we have to make sure that all the women and children get

out. Just think about it, babies are still kidnapped and in captivity. What's the purpose of this? It's only about keeping Hamas in a safe space and away from Israeli fire. But I think it's going to be very difficult to envision a three to one ratio exchange for those men.

SIDNER: You make a really good point because in the case of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, he was in for five and a half years before that agreement was made.


SIDNER: And the exchange was a lot more people, ,more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

I do want to lastly ask you just about this complication. We had heard from Hamas that the Bibas (ph) family, you've got a 10 month old and a four-year-old who are being held with their parents still, and Hamas is saying that they don't have control of them anymore. What is that going to mean for negotiations to try and get this family and these two babies out of Gaza?

RUBIN: The idea that Hamas has stolen babies is one that should shock the senses of anybody who's been watching this, as I know how closely you have been and we all have been. The fact that they don't know where this baby is just points to the reality that they took human beings as war booty to trade and give out and now they've lost that individual. And I fear they don't know how to find that baby. And I fear that that's going to create just an ongoing level of uncertainty.

And they are trading in human beings at the expense of all of our humanity. And so this has been an ongoing discussion, a concern that they have given these people out. And the fact that they can't get them back means they've really lost control of the situation and I fear we're going to have a hard time getting good news on this front.

SIDNER: All right, Joel Rubin, thank you so much for joining us today and talking us through this.

RUBIN: Thanks, Sara.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the explosive new book from former Congresswoman Liz Cheney. CNN has an exclusive, early look at it. She is naming names, calling people out, not holding back and warning all Americans now about the, quote, the most dangerous man ever to inhabit the Oval Office.

And George Santos has made it clear that he will not resign under any circumstances. So, why the latest move on Capitol Hill has one Republican saying that Santos is toast?

And a massive search is underway right now after a U.S. military aircraft crashed off the coast of Japan. The new details coming in as the search and rescue operation continues. We'll be right back.



SIDNER: A scathing portrait of the Republican Party. Former Representative Liz Cheney's new book "Oath and Honor" drops December 5th, and CNN got the book exclusively ahead of time. Cheney calls out her now former colleagues as hypocrites, saying they were, quote, "suddenly willing to violate their oath to the Constitution out of loyalty to Donald Trump." But the former president's spokesman said simply the book belongs in the fiction section of the bookstore.

Joining us now is CNN's Jamie Gangel.

Jamie, you got ahold of this. You have -- you always get this. You always get the tea, Jamie. Cheney was not in this book at all afraid to name names and tell the tales.


SIDNER: What can you tell us about what sort of stuck out to you?

GANGEL: So, Sara, the book is a devastating takedown of the Republican Party. It takes readers behind the scenes. She condemns her former colleagues, party leaders, for what she calls, quote, "cowardice" for their loyalty to Donald Trump. She also calls them, quote, "enablers" and "collaborators" who were willing to help Trump overturn the 2020 election results.

For the record, not only does she name names, Sara, she has the receipts. The book draws from text messages, emails, calls, meetings, as well as personal conversations, all of which we're learning about for the first time, Sara.

SIDNER: Yes, she's clearly putting out there that this isn't fiction and she has the receipts.

Then you have former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

GANGEL: Right.

SIDNER: Cheney writes that McCarthy told her to -- spoke to Donald Trump just a few days after the election and that Trump acknowledged to him that he lost the 2020 election, correct?

GANGEL: Correct. This is correct. And you have to also put this in the perspective of, this may be something that Special Counsel Jack Smith is interested in the case because it goes to what did Trump really know? What was his intent?

So, Cheney writes that just two days after the election, McCarthy told her he had spoken to Trump and that McCarthy said to her, quote, "he knows it's over. He needs to go through all the stages of grief."


There's also just this stunning explanation in the book about that now infamous photograph of Kevin McCarthy and Trump at Mar-a-Lago where they're grinning. First of all, Cheney says when she saw the photo she thought it was a fake. This is just three weeks after January 6th. And so she confronts McCarthy about the trip to Mar-a-Lago. And this is what he tells her in his defense. Cheney says, "Mar-a-Lago? What the hell, Kevin?" Kevin McCarthy says, "they're really worried. Trump's not eating, so they asked me to come see him." Cheney, "What? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump's not eating?" McCarthy, "yes, he's really depressed."

I don't know, Sara, it's just -- I've heard a lot of things. It reminds me a little bit about when my children had chocolate icing all over their mouth and they told me they hadn't eaten any cake. It's just -- it's not credible.

SIDNER: That was a really good analogy, Jamie. I'm sure your kids will appreciate you for that.

GANGEL: Sorry, guys.

SIDNER: There are a lot of other revelations, though, in the book that we're learning for the first time, including -- and this I found fascinating -- some behind the scenes looks at what was happening on January 6th before the attack began. What can you tell us?

GANGEL: So, I think this goes to, frankly, the hypocrisy. We have heard all along that Republicans say one thing privately, another thing publicly. And there's an extraordinary scene in the book, this is in the GOP cloak room, where members were being encouraged to sign their names the morning of January 6th on electoral vote objection sheets.

And Cheney spots Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee, who's been a Trump supporter publicly, and she writes, quote, "as he moved down the line signing his name to the pieces of paper, Green said sheepishly, to no one in particular, quote, "the things we do for the orange Jesus."

Sara, it -- I just want to say the book concludes with a stark warning of just how dangerous Cheney believes Trump would be if he were to win reelection in 2024. She writes she believes the checks and balances, those guardrails we talk about of democracy just will not hold if Trump returns to the White House.

SIDNER: What are the words to use here? I mean incredible detail and receipts.

Jamie Gangel, thank you so much for bringing that to us. We appreciate all of your reporting on this.

GANGEL: Thank you.

SIDNER: And, again, that book is coming out December 5th. And we'll be interviewing Liz Cheney here on CNN. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Doctors Without Borders say that some staff, they were trapped in a hospital after an Israeli military raid in the West Bank. The latest on these clashes now as the IDF says it was conducting counterterrorism activities. We'll take you there.

And he's toast. That's one Republican congressman's prediction for what the future holds for fellow Republican Congressman George Santos this week. The new push now to get Santos out from the House.

We'll be back.