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Today: Final Day Of Current Truce, Talks Underway To Extend; Interview with Juliette Touma, UNRWA Communications Director; U.S. Military Aircraft Crashes Off Coast of Japan; Tuberville Says Talks Underway With Senate Republicans To End His Military Blockade; One-On- One With Palestinian-Israeli Knesset Member Mansour Abbas. Aired 1:30- 2p ET

Aired November 29, 2023 - 13:30   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Humanitarian groups are holding out hope that Israel and Hamas will agree to extend the temporary truce so critical aid can keep coming into Gaza. It's so important.

The World Health Organization is warning that disease is spreading among displaced Gazans due to overcrowding and lack of medicine, sanitation and basic hygiene.

Juliette Touma is the communications director for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. She joins us live from Amman, Jordan.

Juliette, thanks so much for joining us.

Tell us, first of all, how much of an impact the current aid coming into Gaza over these past several days that the truce has been in effect is having on the people in Gaza?

JULIETTE TOUMA, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, UNITED NATIONS RELIEF AND WORKS AGENCY: A very good impact. Is it enough? It is by far not enough. Because if we look at the numbers of trucks that used to come in every day before the war started into Gaza, they were 500. Now we are much, much less than that.

So it is significant. It is a good breakthrough. We managed to get some aid trucks up to Jabalia with our teams. In fact, we went to deliver this assistance and also went to check in on our facilities.

It's remarkable that it continues to be in places like Jabalia despite 50-plus years of war. But much more is needed, including for the private sector to restart the markets in Gaza.

BLITZER: As you know, Juliette, the World Health Organization has spoken about the alarming and escalating rate of disease in Gaza right now. Tell our viewers what you, with UNRWA, what you're seeing?

TOUMA: I was there myself just a few days ago. And you could see in one of the shelters I visited, people were literally on top of each other. There was not much clean water. There was no cleaning supplies.

It was very, very overcrowded. There's not much food around. People were forced to sleep on the floor.

Many were still wearing their sandals because when they moved to the south of the Gaza Strip, the weather was so much better. Now it is getting colder. It is raining, it is muddy. The sewage is flowing.

So it is only a matter of time that diseases will start spreading further.

BLITZER: As you know, today is supposed to be the last day of the temporary truce. If it is not extended, Juliette, what will the U.N. and other relief groups be able to do next?

How can aid groups best ensure the flow of desperately needed humanitarian goods into Gaza? If the fighting, for example, were to resume?

TOUMA: First and for most, we really, really are following very closely and very anxiously developments over the coming couple of hours and the news. We really hope that this pause does extend.

Because what it really is meant for people in Gaza is that it brought them some respite after nearly 50-plus, 50 days of war, right? So that's really, it was a relief for many people in Gaza, including our own.


But we are certainly very worried that if the pause does not extend, that the airstrikes and the bombardments in Gaza resume, and that we will go back to square zero where we'll be very limited with what we can do.

We're not sure what is the fate of these aid convoys coming into Gaza. Whether we'll be able to get fuel, which we have been receiving over the last few days, cooking gas, as an example.

So we really hope that pause extends and it translates at some point to humanitarian ceasefire as well.

BLITZER: Let's hope the temporary truce continues, humanitarian aid can continue to come into Gaza and more hostages, in the process, will be released as well.

Juliette Touma, in Amman, Jordan, for us, thank you very much for joining us.

And still ahead, I'll bring you part of my conversation with Mansour Abbas, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a key member of the Israeli Knesset, the parliament.

We'll be right back.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Right now, there's a desperate search for survivors after a U.S. military aircraft crashed overnight. It was carrying eight people when it crashed offer the coast of Japan.

CNN's Katie Bo Lillis is tracking this for us.

What are you learning, Katie Bo?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Brianna, we're still awaiting a lot of the details of exactly what happened here.

We know that there were eight people aboard this Osprey that was conducting routine training exercises off the coast of Japan when it suffered what the Air Force Special Operations Command is calling an aircraft mishap.

Japanese authorities are reporting that at least one person was killed. The U.S. military at this point is not confirming any deaths. They say that search-and-rescue operations are underway and that the status of the crew remains unknown.

But what we do know, Brianna, is that this is just the latest in a long string of aircraft mishaps involving the Osprey.

The Osprey is a really commonly used military aircraft. It's kind of claim to fame is that it can both take off and land like a helicopter. It can also fly across the ground like a regular old fixed-wing aircraft.

It is a people and stuff mover. The United States military has hundreds of these things.

But there have been three deadly accidents just in the last two years involving the Osprey. So increased scrutiny, I think, of the safety of this particular aircraft.

KEILAR: And one just this summer, right?

LILLIS: Yes. In August, there was an accident in Australia that killed three U.S. Marines and seriously wounded several others. In 2022, five Marines were killed in a crash during a training mission in California. Also in 2022, four U.S. servicemembers killed during NATO training exercises in Norway. All Osprey accidents.

KEILAR: A lot of questions to be asked in the wake of this.

Katie Bo, thank you so much for the very latest here.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: One of Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville's, fiercest critics tells CNN they're in talks to end the Alabama Senator's one-man blockade of military appointments. Senator Dan Sullivan, a fellow Republican and colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, has confirmed there's been progress toward ending the 10-month hold that's got hundreds of officers from getting promoted.

Let's get the latest from CNN congressional correspondent, Lauren Fox.

So, Lauren, bring us up to speed. What's the latest?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, these talks have been ongoing for about a day. This all started in the Republican Senate lunch yesterday.

Where multiple lawmakers who came out of that meeting told me and my colleague, Manu Raju, that they were more optimistic than they had been until this point that Senator Tuberville might be willing to break his months-long hold over military promotions.

Now, in the current structure of what they're discussing, Senator Dan Sullivan told our colleagues, Morgan Bremer (ph) and Manu Raju, that they are looking at potentially an idea in which Tuberville would release holds on military officers at a three star or below.

That means only four-star officers and above would still be held up by this process. But that would release a large number of these holds. It is not clear yet if Tuberville will support this idea.

This has been going on for 10 months now. There are more than 450 military officials who are being held up by these holds. You've heard arguments from Democrats and Republicans alike that this is having an effect on military readiness.

You've also seen Senate Republicans put pressure on their colleague, Senator Tuberville, to try and release these holds.

Obviously, at lot of questions remain about whether or not Tuberville would be open to that idea and what happens if he's not -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, a rare bipartisan agreement in their criticism of this blockade.

Lauren Fox, on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.


We still have much more news ahead. Stay with CNN. We're back in just a moment.


BLITZER: Earlier today, I drove out to Klarcasa (ph) north of Tel Aviv to sit down and speak with Mansour Abbas. He's a Palestinian citizen of Israel. He leads the United Arab List Party and is a key member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

Here's part of our interview.


BLITZER: Did Israel go too far in its military response to Hamas? Because as you correctly point out, thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza were killed and injured in the course of the Israeli military action, airstrikes, the ground operations. Did Israel go too far?

MANSOUR ABBAS, PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER (through translation): Looking at the Israeli response, it is clear that the response happened due to what happened on October 7th.

About 1,200 people were killed and the vast majority of them civilians. We saw a very harsh response due to the horror that Israel saw on October 7th.


But it's important to mention that the use of force -- and this is why we saw the use of force in that drastic numbers that affected Palestinian civilians and brought to the death of a lot of Palestinians, innocent people.

But it is important to say that the use of strength and power alone does not work. And it didn't work to protect the people of -- the Israeli citizens living cross from the Gaza Strip. They were attacked regardless of Israel's existing military power.

At the same time, the military power that Hamas tried to exert through the militant groups has also not brought any successes or any achievements to the Palestinian people.

So both sides need to realize that the use of power on both sides have not led to any successes or improvements to the situation. The only thing that's happening is we're breeding more and more hate on both sides.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about the increased Israeli settler violence against Palestinians on the West Bank. Is the Israeli government doing enough and the Israeli military doing enough to stop this and prevent this from continuing?

ABBAS (through translation): Unfortunately, the Israeli government and army need to do a lot more in order to prevent accelerations in the West Bank and the violence.

First and foremost, because it's in the Israeli interest. Having accelerations will bring another front for Israel to deal with.

We see the responsible and courageous actions by the P.A. and by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in preventing escalations from happening in the West Bank and preventing a front from starting there.

With the calming of the situation, continued military cooperation with the army and acting responsibly in order to prevent a clash from happening there. Even though, if we look at the past few years, the Israeli Prime

Minister Netanyahu has always tried to prevent and weaken the Palestinian Authority and weaken the position of Abbas to create illegitimacy.

But we see now the proof that the president, Mahmoud Abbas, is still strong and has taken a very courage step in order to prevent escalations.

He needs to be supported even more and strengthened more because this is the path that will lead to challenges in this reality through the P.A. and through Mahmoud Abbas' current position to prevent escalations and hostility.

And from then to take the next step and discuss peaceful resolutions. Because Mahmoud Abbas has been talking about these resolutions and have not steered away from that vision and it needs to be supported.

BLITZER: It was shocking the other day when three Palestinian students who were visiting the United States -- they were in Vermont.

Three Palestinian students were just walking around Burlington, Vermont, wearing keffiyehs, speaking Arabic and English, and they were shot and, fortunately, not killed. One of them is in very serious condition. They came from the West Bank to Vermont.

What was your reaction when you heard about this?

ABBAS (through translation): Unfortunately, this conflict expands beyond the limits of our region. We see the effect of it on the United States, on Europe and other parts of the world. We see that it's taken a violent approach as well.

From here, I would say that my call for everyone in the world who is supporting both sides, supporting the Israeli side or supporting the Palestinian people, your support is important.

And it needs to be directed towards ending the conflict, to bring messages of peace, messages of mutual understanding and respect in order for these messages to arrive to us here.

Because we need to start working on acceptance and that's the first step we need to do here is acceptance, mutual respect and cooperation. And that message needs to be reverberated across the world in order to see these changes that we hope for.

It doesn't matter if somebody is wearing a keffiyeh. We need to respect everyone in the same way and we need to condemn any action of violence and we cannot support anyone who uses violence to reach their means.

But the West has a role in pushing for peace in this land.

BLITZER: Is a two-state solution, Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine, still possible?


ABBAS (through translation): I believe the only real solution we can ever think of, especially right now, is the two-state solution. That's the only way both sides will get what they actually aspire for.

The Palestinian people will get what they've been looking for, self- determination and an establishment of their own state, and for the Israelis, for securing the state that they hoped for, a Jewish democracy.

And to achieve their roles, both sides need to accept the other also needs to be here as well.

But we need support. The most that we need is American support, of course. We saw the American actions when the war started, bringing the U.S. carrier to the Mediterranean to try and prevent an escalation to a regional conflict.

We believe the United States has a role to play also in the diplomatic approach.

My suggestion to the administration is to bring a convoy of diplomats that will be here always on the ground working all the time on bringing this conflict to an end and for the two-state solution to be materialized.


BLITZER: I want to thank Mansour Abbas for speaking with me today. He's a very, very impressive man, has some strong ideas that we should all pay attention to.

We'll have much more of this interview later tonight in "THE SITUATION ROOM," 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll have more on all of the latest developments in the war between Israel and Hamas that's going on right now after a quick break.