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Will Hamas-Israel Truce Be Extended?. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 29, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And this just in. Israel says it is trying to see whether there is a possibility to extend the truce with Hamas beyond today. That is from a senior Israeli official to CNN.
The word from the Qatari Foreign Ministry, which has helped broker these agreements, they are hopeful and they say they're optimistic even that the truce can be extended.
SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: It's what all the families are hoping for.
BOLDUAN: Yes, that's right.
Here's what we know hangs in the balance of these talks right now, the fate of 161 hostages still being held in Gaza. And here's how the Israeli government says that number breaks down. Four of the hostages are children under the age of 18. Another four hostages are 18 and 19 years old; 10 others are 75 years old and older.
Now, while families wait for word on what tomorrow brings, other families are also waiting for what happens today. A sixth group of hostages are set to be freed, and we're standing by for that.
SIDNER: The White House saying it believes that nine of the hostages are Americans. Two are women. The White House is hopeful that those two women may be released in today's group. But, at this time, we don't know if their names are on the list.
Among the children who have been released this week, two teen brothers, ages 16 and 13. You see the celebrations there and the relief on their families' faces. We just received the new images of their emotional reunion with their family and their father's partner, who was just freed yesterday. The father remains a hostage.
We lead off our coverage with Kaitlan Collins, who is in Tel Aviv again for us.
Kaitlan, what are you learning about the hostages that are set to be released today?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: We're still waiting any moment now to see the actual implementation of that release. It's typically around this time during you all's show that we start to see the Red Cross getting these hostages from Hamas, then facilitating their transfer through Egypt and then eventually back to Israel. We have not seen that yet tonight. It's about 6:00 p.m. local here. So
we're still waiting to actually see that movement and to see who is on this list. Of course, the families of these loved ones already know who is expected to be coming home. They always have a bit of caution that, until their loved ones are actually back here on Israeli soil, they're just very cautiously optimistic about the list.
We look at this, though. We do know it's expected to include women and children, but there are two children that we know are not going to be on this list today, and they are the youngest hostages that are still being held by Hamas. People are very familiar with their faces now. They are two young boys, Kfir and Ariel Bibas. Ariel is 4 years old, Kfir 10 months old. He was 9 months when he was kidnapped. He has now turned 10 months old while he was in captivity.
And I heard from their family just a few hours ago, who said they did get word from the Israeli government that their loved ones, those two little boys and their two parents who were also kidnapped, including their mother, Shiri, who is believed to be being held with them, are not on this list.
And, obviously, that is heartbreaking news for this family that has just dealt with every single day waiting to hear about these loved ones. And we talked to them about the condition that they're in. They talked about, obviously, a 4-year-old going through a really traumatic situation of being held hostage, but also the 10-month-old.
When he was kidnapped, he had not started eating solid foods yet. He was still having formula. He's still in diapers. They have real concerns about what everyday life for these two tiny babies could look like while they're in captivity.
I spoke to a cousin of the family, who told me this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EYLON KESHET, COUSIN OF HAMAS HOSTAGE: Are these the enemies of Hamas? Are these the enemies of anyone? Should these children be used as bargaining chips? No, they shouldn't.
This is the simple answer. They shouldn't be used as bargaining chips for any political or religious or whatever reason. There is no justification for using them like this. So, we just want them back, really.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: You can hear the anguish. I mean, this family is beside themselves as they are waiting for any word of what has happened to their loved ones.
Eylon told me there Ariel, the little 4-year-old, loves Batman, and he was saying he wished there was some kind of Batman that could help save his family at this moment. But his fear right now is that they would come home -- this is what he told me -- in body bags.
And you can just see what every day for these families is like as they wait and see these other reunions for other families happening, wondering if they will be next. And, today, we do know the Bibas family is not expected to be on this list. We're still waiting to learn more about who is going to be on this list, including whether or not any Americans are on it.
CNN's Oren Liebermann is tracking all of this from here in Tel Aviv.
Oren, obviously, we're watching as this is happening, not just to see what is going to be going on with the agreement tonight with what's happening with this six group of hostages, but also whether or not they extend this, if there is more hope for other families, if this is going to go on for more days than just expiring tonight at midnight, as it's scheduled to do so.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We just did just hear from a senior Israeli official, who said Israel is looking at the possibility of extending this truce.
I think that's really the first time we have heard from Israel that they are considering that the truce, which has lasted for six days now and is expected to go as of right now until tomorrow morning, could last even longer. We have seen the countries be, I would even say very optimistic that this can be extended by a day or two.
Hamas has signaled their willingness to extend the truce, so we're waiting for a final answer here. Israel not likely to confirm an extension until they see the hostage released -- hostages released from Gaza tonight, 10 women and children. It's a bit late right now. We normally see the process beginning by this hour, and yet it's important to note that we have got no indication right now that the process has broken down.
Yesterday, we even saw exchanges of fire. The Israeli military says there were three explosive devices planted near them, and they were fired upon and fired back. Hamas, meanwhile, said it was Israel that initiated the skirmish. Regardless, that was the most serious violation of the truce we had seen to this point.
And even under those circumstances, the truce, the agreement, the release of hostages, the release of prisoners held together. So, as of right now, we expect it to do so once again, as, on the outside, there are intense diplomatic efforts to make sure it continues, not only for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, but also for that crucial humanitarian aid that has flowed in, about 240 aid trucks a day or so, according to USAID.
They want to see that continue and become a part of this, but that remains a challenge, Kaitlan, especially as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised, essentially, that, when this pause is over and whether that ends tomorrow or at a later date, but, when this pause is over, Israel is very much ready to continue the war and try to achieve its goal of destroying Hamas. That weighs on all of this.
COLLINS: Absolutely. Oren Liebermann, thank you for that report.
Also, we're looking at what is happening for the dozens of hostages who have been released, who are now back here in Israel, as we're waiting to learn more about the timing and the identities of the group of hostages who are set to be released tonight.
When the hostages are released, they're taken to hospitals to be checked out not only for medical evaluations, but also reuniting with their families. Right now, we have learned 23 hostages so far have been discharged from Israeli hospitals after being freed by Hamas.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond is tracking all of this, this morning.
Jeremy, what do we know about the condition? What more are we learning about these hostages who are released?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of the families of these newly freed hostages have begun to share details about the conditions in which they were held and the conditions in which they emerged from Gaza.
We have seen now more than 80 hostages be freed from Gaza over the course of the last five days, and they have returned in varying conditions. Many of them have lost weight, complaining about malnutrition or irregular meals during their time in Gaza.
Some of them said their conditions were better than others, according to their family members; 84-year-old Alma Avraham was released from Gaza, directly medically evacuated by helicopter from the Gaza Strip to a hospital, where she was admitted in critical condition, for example, doctors there saying that her condition has somewhat improved.
But for all of these hostages, regardless of the physical condition in which they return, experts are warning that they are going to face a range of psychological adversities to face now, everything from post- traumatic stress, to survivor's guilt, a range of conditions expected.
And, also, it's important to remember that some of these individuals are also grieving. Some of them did not know that their family members had been killed until they returned here and spoke with their family members. That was the case of Emily Hand, of course, as we saw in that interview yesterday that Thomas Hand, her father, did with Clarissa.
What we do know, Kaitlan, is that 23, at least 23, of those newly freed hostages have already been released from hospitals in Israel, as they begin this longer road of recovery at home with their families, surrounded by psychological and social services as well.
What we also have to keep in mind is the hostages who are still in Gaza. And what we know is that there was a part of this agreement, according to Israeli and American officials, that the Red Cross should be able to visit those remaining hostages inside of Gaza. And it is clear, from talking to Israeli and American officials, that that part of the agreement has yet to be implemented.
And so sources are telling us that they are pressing the Qatari government and Hamas to implement that phase of the agreement, which, as of yet, has not been done -- Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes. And that's a critical part of this for so many hostages that haven't gotten out. Families want to know how they're doing at least. And the Red Cross has not been able to get in to give them that vitally important update.
Jeremy Diamond, thank you.
Kate and Sara, I do want to tell you some breaking news that we have just confirmed here, which is that at least one American is expected to be on the list of hostages who are being released today. Remember, there were three total going into this truce that the U.S. believed could be eligible in the group of women and children to be released.
Abigail Edan, obviously, was already one of those. She's the only American who has been released since this truce went into effect. But we are now learning, my colleague Alex Marquardt and I, from two sources that at least one American is expected to be on this list today.
That will obviously be welcome news for the White House that has been waiting and asking questions. Whether or not both of the women that we believe are eligible will be on that list remains to be seen. But we are learning at least one American is expected to be on this list of the group of the six hostages who are expected to be released tonight.
BOLDUAN: Yes, one American that's among what they estimate is the 10 Americans that were originally believed held. We know that Abigail Edan was the first and only, and this is huge news that another American is expected to be released, at least another one tonight. That's great news.
Kaitlan, thank you so much for bringing that to us.
And Kaitlan was talking about how families are hoping to get any word of how their loved ones are doing, where they are, anything about how they're doing in Gaza in captivity. And it's a huge question hanging over all of this.
And over the last five days of the fragile truce between Israel and Hamas, 81 hostages have been released from Hamas captivity, mostly women and children, as was part of the agreement. And now, this morning, Israel says 161 hostages remain kidnapped and held in Gaza.
A spokesperson for the Qatari Foreign Ministry on CNN this morning said that they are hopeful to extend the current truce and also then start moving towards discussions to potentially secure the release of civilian men and military personnel.
How those more challenging negotiations progress mean everything for the family of 38-year-old Itay Svirsky.
Joining us now is Itay's cousin, Ofir Weinberg.
Ofir, thank you for being here.
OFIR WEINBERG, COUSIN OF HAMAS HOSTAGE: Hi.
BOLDUAN: Have you heard any new updates about Itay, any confirmation of where he is or how he is?
WEINBERG: Yes, I have heard some confirmation that he's alive.
Of course, I don't know to tell you on this minute, but from the last few days, we have a sign of life. And we also know that he doesn't know his brothers survived the attack. I can only -- we can only imagine what it feels like. His brothers were also in the Gaza, near the Gaza border, and he can't say if they survived.
And that is very troubling for us to think about.
BOLDUAN: It is troubling and also understanding for everyone to know both of Itay's parents were killed when murdered by Hamas. His grandmother survived.
And now we have got more information. But all of this -- well, how do you describe the emotion of getting a little bit of confirmation to know that you have confirmation that he is alive or, God forbid, was alive very recently? What does that feel like and kind of the vacuum of no information that you guys have been living in for seven weeks?
WEINBERG: Of course, in the first few minutes, it was a release, a big joy for us to hear that he's alive.
But also to think that he's alive and going through all of this, and it's so close, he can be here at home, and he's not, it's also very, very, very hard for us to think about that.
BOLDUAN: Yes, it's everything all at once.
I have seen you say that you were afraid that the world is going to forget about the hostages like Itay who remain, at the very same time as everyone's celebrating the release of the hostages we have seen so far, mostly women and children. Why are you scared of that?
WEINBERG: Well, this is the first deal. And I really hope that it will be extended as much as we can. And all the hostages, including that deal, include -- that they are included in that deal, will be released, but it's only the first one.
And, unfortunately, young men are not a part of this. And because of all the joy that is now around the release of the hostages, I don't want anyone to forget that the majority are still there. And Itay is not supposed to be released even if the cease-fire will be extended in a few days. And that is why we must continue with the fight of releasing them.
BOLDUAN: You have talked about Itay and the kind of person that he is, the fact that he's -- you have described him as something of a life coach or a therapist as kind of as his profession.
And I was wondering kind of what you cling to and what your family has -- cling to in the past nightmare of seven weeks of who Itay is and how -- what he's holding on to survive in captivity.
WEINBERG: I think that I'm holding on to the hope that he is taking the part of aiding and helping the others around him, also because he could be so good at it, and it could help him have some meaning during those hard days.
And I also hope -- I know that he knows we are fighting for him and our family is waiting for him and loves him so much. And we will not stop fighting for his return. I know that he knows that.
BOLDUAN: Ofir, thank you very much for coming on.
Itay Svirsky, one of the 161 hostages still being held by Hamas right now.
Thank you, Ofir -- Sara.
SIDNER: Kate, we're also learning about an Israeli military raid in the West Bank, what the IDF is saying it was doing near the Jenin refugee camp.
Plus, these could be the final days in Congress for George Santos, the embattled lawmaker set to face an expulsion vote tomorrow. We will have the very latest reaction from Capitol Hill.
And just moments ago, as we told you may happen, we're seeing there former President Jimmy Carter arrive at his home church in Plains, Georgia, ahead of his wife Rosalynn's funeral.
We will take you there next.
BOLDUAN: We have breaking news out of Israel.
The IDF is now saying that it is assessing a new claim by Hamas that the youngest Israeli hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas -- we have talked so much about that sweet, sweet little boy, that face -- that little baby that we have been watching his brother, his mother, the claim by Hamas, that they may no longer be alive.
Let's get straight over to Kaitlan Collins for more on this.
Kaitlan, tell us more about what you're hearing, the claim by Hamas and what the IDF is now doing. COLLINS: Yes, Kate.
And, obviously, we take everything that Hamas says with a grain of salt. They have claimed previously that hostages had been killed, including Hanna Katzir, an elderly woman who was one of the first hostages released as a part of this temporary truce.
But now they are making a claim that three of the Bibas family members, the mother, Shiri, and her two sons, have been killed. We do not know that. We cannot verify it. But the IDF is now weighing in on this claim made -- being made by Hamas.
And for more on that, I want to bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann, who is tracking this.
Oren, obviously, this is a very delicate situation. We want to make sure that we're reporting out what's accurate, what we're hearing. What is the IDF saying right now about these claims?
LIEBERMANN: Kaitlan, let's pick our way through this carefully, because we have to be careful of what's known and what's not known at this point.
The Israeli military, the IDF says it is assessing a claim made by Hamas' military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, that three members of the Bibas family, including the youngest hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, were -- earlier today, the al-Qassam Brigades put out a statement saying that their brother, 4-year-old Ariel Bibas, and the mother, Shiri Bibas, had been killed in an Israeli strike.
But they provide no evidence of that claim, nor do they say when it happened. Keep in mind, we're on day six of a truce here. So there haven't been any Israeli strikes since Friday. and that, in and of itself, raises some questions about the information, or lack thereof, in the statement provided from the al-Qassam Brigades.
The IDF responded to our query with a statement, saying they were assessing the accuracy of the information. They say they are in touch with the Bibas family as they work through this. Both you and I have spoken with members of the Bibas family, who had hoped and prayed that one day their family members would be on a list to come out of Gaza.
But every day, as we learned who would come out, the Bibas family did not see their names on that list or the names of their loved ones on that list. I will also point out the statement from the IDF here.
They say: "Hamas is wholly responsible for the security of all hostages in the Gaza Strip. Hamas must be held accountable for the hostages."
Earlier this week, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari had said the IDF did not believe the Bibas family was being held by Hamas and that instead they were held by another terrorist organization. That, in and of itself, raised some questions about how easy it might be to get them out, but it also introduced that element of uncertainty as to their condition, how they were and then more -- effectively, more questions, as Israel as a country and certainly the Bibas family waited for any news of their loved ones here.
Again, we will point out that this is the IDF assessing the claim made with no evidence by the al-Qassam Brigades, that 10 month old Kfir Bibas, his older brother, 4-year-old Ariel Bibas, and their mother, Shiri Bibas, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Israel looking at that claim, the military examining that. We will certainly keep you posted as we learn more information. Crucially, the father here, Yarden Bibas, not mentioned at all in the al-Qassam Brigades' statement, nor in the IDF statement, so that too a question as we wait to learn more about what has unfolded.
COLLINS: Yes. And the family did seem to be under the impression that they were being held separately, based purely on what so many families -- the last time they saw their loved ones was in videos put out by Hamas members the day of October 7.
And there was a video of Shiri and her two young sons, Kfir and Ariel, where she was holding them. And, Oren, I was talking to their cousin yesterday, Eylon Keshet. He was saying seeing that video panicked him because, he had never seen her looked so scared and so desperate as in that video. He said that she's someone who always has a smile on her face.
And to see her in that moment, you could see that she was scared not only for her own life, but for that of her children. And so when we heard from the IDF in recent days making clear that they did not believe Hamas itself was holding the Bibas family, the mother and the two young children, I mean, is there any indication of why they put that information out?
And the fact that they're saying right now -- just because Hamas is claiming someone else has them, that doesn't mean Hamas doesn't have responsibility for this family. They're still holding Hamas responsible for this.
The way Israel views Gaza and, frankly, the way Gaza is run, it is entirely controlled by Hamas. Certainly, over the course of the past several years, we have seen friction, sometimes quite a bit of friction between Hamas and the other militant and terrorist organizations inside of Gaza, for example, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
But when it comes to who has the power, the might and the control over Gaza, it is Hamas. And that's why the Israeli military will hold Hamas responsible right now and in the future and certainly in the past, regardless of who it was that was holding the Bibas family at that moment or who Hamas had transferred them to or moved them to.
So, Israel will hold Hamas ultimately responsible here, as they try to learn more information and find out what is the ground truth on what happened or didn't happen here, Kaitlan. COLLINS: Yes. And this just goes to show it would be really helpful
if the Red Cross had actually been able to get into Gaza, which is supposed to be part of this agreement that's happening right now to go and check on the other hostages to be able to provide a status update so people could know if Hamas was lying or not about this, instead of having a family that was already anguished enough now get this kind of news, that they don't even know if it's accurate or if Hamas is just lying, like they have about other hostages being killed.
And because the Red Cross has not gone in, we have not gotten that update. The Bibas family was telling me earlier they really want the Red Cross to do their job to be able to go in. Hamas has obviously been preventing that.
Oren Liebermann, this is a developing story. If you get any updates, please let us know.
Sara, obviously, for this heartbroken family that has been besides themselves, this is the last thing they wanted to hear. And just to not even know if it's accurate or not, it only makes it, the cruelty, just that much more amplified.
SIDNER: It is -- there's no other word to describe it than devastating. for the family and to hear about a 10-month-old and a 4- year-old, the Bibas brothers and their mother, though you said the claim -- they are claimed at this point.
They have not -- there's no evidence at this point, but this is a claim that is extremely upsetting. And I understand, Kaitlan, that the family does know about this claim.
Joining me now is retired U.S. Army Major Mike Lyons.
Thank you so much for coming to us on this really difficult moment.
I want to ask you about this going forward. So, you have this claim by al-Qassam Brigades, which is the military wing of Hamas, saying that the Bibas brothers and the mother, the 10-month-old, 4-year-old and their mom, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.
What would need to happen, what would need to be shown to -- to confirm this claim, and -- and how?