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Two Freed Hostages Arrive In Israel; Israel Says It's Assessing Hamas Claim That Youngest Hostage, A 10-Month-Old Boy, And Family Members Are No Longer Alive; Today: Final Day Of Current Truce; Talks Underway To Extend; President Biden Challenges GOP's Economic Vision In Colorado; 180 Palestinians Released From Prison During Truce. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired November 29, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN NEWS CENTRAL. I'm Boris Sanchez, alongside Brianna Keilar. And we are tracking some fast- moving developments in the Middle East.
In the last hour, more hostages arrived in Israel after being released by Hamas on this critical sixth day of the temporary truce, a truce that's set to expire in a mere number of hours. U.S. diplomats are scrambling to extend that agreement since a number of hostages are still being held captive.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And also the Red Cross, we should mention, which was supposed to have access to them, has not had access to them. Hamas had agreed to that, so that's a violation of their agreement in these talks. And we know that a key part of the ongoing talks is getting adult males released. It's been women and children so far, almost entirely, with a few exceptions. We also know Israeli troops are at the "ready, prepared operationally," that is a quote along the truce lines in Gaza. Should this pause expire, and military actions resume?
We do have regional coverage, so let's start now with Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, you're there in Ofakim, Israel. We just saw people on the street celebrating. I think they still are. They are hoping for the arrival of some more hostages coming from Gaza.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. When we got here earlier this evening, there were just a few people, but word spread very quickly that this first group of newly released hostages was set to come right through here, through the town of Ofakim, on their way to the Hatzerim airbase, which is right in front of me.
And what we saw earlier in the last hour was these scenes of absolute jubilation as these two Russian-Israeli women, freed today by Hamas, as part of a separate agreement, it appears, between Hamas and the Russian government, arrived here on buses. We saw one of those women smiling and waving as she was greeted by the crowds here. That includes a lot of children, men and women, loud music blaring, drums sounding, really, just quite a scene to welcome these women who have undergone more than 50 days of captivity inside of Gaza.
These two women are Yelena Trupanob, who is 50 years old, and Irina Teti who is 73 years old. They are the third - the second and third Russian-Israeli citizens to have been released, not as a part of the kind of overall agreement between Israel and Hamas for these now six days of a pause in fighting, but a separate agreement, it appears.
We are still waiting to see when exactly those 10 Israeli citizens will be released today as part of that main agreement. We have yet to get news that they are in Red Cross custody. That is typically the first sign that we know that they are soon going to be on their way to Israel. But we will be standing by right here to see whether or not they come through this same roundabout on their way to that air base and then shortly on their way to hospitals and into the arms of their families.
SANCHEZ: Jeremy, please stand by and keep us posted on what you're seeing there.
We want to go to Oren Liebermann now, who's in Tel Aviv for us.
Because Oren, you have the Israeli perspective on where negotiations stand right now. What can you tell us?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So just a short time ago, a senior Israeli official acknowledged for the first time that they were considering the possibility of a truce, and that in and of itself, the extension of a truce, right, a truce I should say, and that in and of itself is a significant statement, because up until that point, the Israelis hadn't commented, even as the countries were expressing quite a bit of optimism that an extension of the truce, either 24 or 48 hours, was possible.
Egypt also expressing optimism, as well as Hamas, saying they were open to an idea of a longer pause in fighting for the release of more Israeli hostages and the release of more Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails.
Crucially, Mark Regev, a senior policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on our air in the last hour, also pointed out that they believe Hamas has the numbers to make this happen. Enough women and children, 10 a day, to extend this for 48 days, two more days.
And that's absolutely critical here because that's a necessary part of the agreement as it stands. We also know from Israel's prime minister's office that they have enough of a list of Palestinian women and children who could be released in exchange for those Israeli hostages, such that all the tools are in place to get this over the line for an extension in the truce. Now the sides just have to come to an agreement and it has to actually happen.
KEILAR: And Oren, Hamas is claiming that the Bibas family, which includes the youngest hostage that was taken into Gaza, 10-month-old Kfir, as well as brother Ariel, who is only four, and their mother, Shiri, are dead. We know Israel is looking into this claim. It's a very sensitive situation, and I think, really, people around the world have been holding their breath, waiting to see, hoping to see this family, what are you learning?
LIEBERMANN: So, Brianna, we're treating this story very carefully because of what we know and, crucially, what we don't know. Israel says it's assessing the claims of Hamas, which put out a statement earlier today that in an Israeli airstrike, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, as you point out, the youngest Israeli in Hamas captivity or held in Gaza, I should say, as well as four-year-old Ariel Bibas, his big brother, and their mother, Shiri Bibas, were killed in an Israeli airstrike. The problem is Hamas put out absolutely no evidence to support this claim, nor do they put a date on it.
And we also know that Israel hasn't carried out strikes in Gaza since before the truce went into effect, which was six days ago. So there's a tremendous amount of information missing. The IDF says they have been in touch with the Bibas family as they look into these claims and continue to keep them updated as this investigation moves forward. The Bibas family pulled out a statement or put out a statement, I should say, in response to Hamas.
They said, "Our family has learned of Hamas' latest claims. We are waiting for the information to be confirmed and hopefully refuted by military officials. We thank the people of Israel for their warm support, but kindly request privacy during this difficult time."
It's worth noting that the IDF spokesperson said just a couple of days ago that Hamas had transferred the Bibas family to the captivity or were held by another militant or terrorist organization inside of Gaza, so it's unclear where that stands. We also know, because we have been in constant communication with the Bibas family before tonight, that they had repeatedly requested the Red Cross be able to visit the Bibas family and check on them, that never happened. Hamas never let that happen, a violation of the truce agreement and of international law.
SANCHEZ: An excruciating wait for answers for that family. We'll see if that might play into ongoing talks.
And on that note, let's pivot to Alex Marquardt who is in Washington for us.
Because, Alex, the U.S. is really pushing to extend this pause, but they're running up against a deadline, what are you hearing?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, when you listen to all of these parties, it does sound like there is reason to hope that this truce could be extended by at least another day, if not two. The U.S. wants this pause to continue. Qatar, which has been mediating all of this, wants this pause to continue. We heard Oren say there that Israel is considering it.
But Israel has said from the beginning, if you keep giving us 10 hostages per day, you can have another day of pause. And now the onus is really on Hamas to come up with these 10 hostages for tomorrow. And so we will know if this pause is extended later today. What we have seen over the course of the past six nights is every night Hamas is supposed to give a list of who they intend to release the next day. So, if we get that list later tonight, we can expect that this will go into a seventh day.
Now, the CIA director, Bill Burns, has been in the Middle East. He was in Doha yesterday to meet with Egyptian-Israeli Qatari counterparts to really push for an extension of this deal. There is a belief that Hamas has at least two more days' worth, so around 20 more women and children who they can release. And so there is an expectation, a real hope there that that is what is going to happen.
Here is what Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had to say about all this earlier today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: But the United States, Brianna and Boris, is also looking ahead. The CIA director, Bill Burns, also wanting to start talking about the next groups of hostages, looking past the women and children to start talking about elderly men who are being held, to talk about the Israeli soldiers, both men and women.
And then there is another category of the dead, people who were either killed and their bodies taken into the Gaza Strip or who have been killed inside Gaza since October 7th. But there is a sense that Israel really wants to focus on getting all of these women and children out before moving on to the next groups of hostages. And there really is an expectation that the cost, if you will, is going to go up, that Hamas is going to be demanding more for those men, for those Israeli soldiers, guys?
SANCHEZ: And as we have seen before, the cost of just one IDF soldier has been very high for Israel.
Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.
As negotiators are racing to try to extend the truce between Israel and Hamas, we want to get some perspective now from CNN National Security Analyst, Beth Sanner. She's also a former deputy director of National Intelligence.
Beth, thank you so much for being with us.
What would it take for this temporary truce to be extended? What are the conversations going to be like in that room that the Secretary of State is in right now?
BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think that there are two negotiations that will have to take place. One is this extension of two days, basically, right? And I think that that's fairly likely. It could fall apart, obviously, with Hamas. But then the second negotiation really needs to be seen as totally separate, this idea of extending it to these other groups.
Because the Israelis have said, we're not going to negotiate a whole new category of releases until all the women and children are out. And then when that agreement happens, let's say they reach it, it still has to go back to the Israeli Cabinet for approval. And we just had today Ben-Gvir, one of the most far-right people, threatening to leave the government if they do not go back to war. So this becomes more complicated.
KEILAR: You heard Netanyahu saying absolutely they are returning today, speaking to assure, in a way, folks who want to get back in and make sure that they are hammering Gaza.
SANNER: Right, exactly. Now, I mean, I think that we should not be under any illusions about where the Israeli public is on this. While the public does want to have these twin goals, 90 percent of them - a poll last week - 90 percent of them want both the hostages out and resuming fighting. But a majority really absolutely believes that they have to go at it and eliminate Hamas.
So there's a lot at stake here for the Israeli government. And we have to understand that, domestically, this pressure is on them, and that is probably going to trump a lot of the pressure that the United States is putting on, this countervailing pressure, in order to extend it.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Beth, wanted to dig in on the question of the process of getting these hostages out, because CNN's reporting is that more than 40 of them were not actually taken by Hamas, but other fundamentalist groups and even other potential individual actors, just random criminals, potentially. That has to make the process not only difficult from a negotiating standpoint, but just logistically actually getting the numbers and figuring out what their status is in the midst of the war that we saw play out in Gaza.
SANNER: Right. So that's one of the reasons why Hamas asked for there to be no overhead of the drone surveillance. There's alternative kind of surveillance, but they asked for the drones not to be there. That's to protect them from reconstituting militarily, but also because they're trying to go and find these hostages and locate them and move them without being discovered.
On this question of this family, the 10-month-old, I think that there are a couple ways to look at this. It might be true that they were killed. We don't know. There are a lot of Palestinian bodies that have not been recovered as a result of bombings. But it's also true that the IDF reported that one of these militant groups was holding this family and maybe they killed them, we don't know.
So there's a - there are a lot of questions out there about how this will work and the ability of Hamas to deliver. But as Oren reported, there should be enough for another two days.
KEILAR: Yeah. And Hamas has blamed Israel, an airstrike, for what was actually a rocket launch from within Gaza that went astray into a hospital. We just have to remember this. There are obviously credibility issues and so we're looking at this very skeptically.
KEILAR: Beth Sanner, thank you so much for your perspective here.
President Biden is set to contrast his economic vision with Republicans, while in Congresswoman Lauren Boebert's backyard. He is in her district. We go live to Colorado next.
And law enforcement in New York are calling for elevated vigilance at tonight's Rockefeller Center tree lighting. What is prompting that heightened security?
SANCHEZ: President Biden is expected to talk up his economic policies in a speech today in Colorado in a visit to the world's largest maker of wind towers in Pueblo. And Biden does have some positive indicators to point to in the economy. Strong GDP numbers out today, strong job creation, a rebound in the stock market, the lowest inflation in the G7 and something we can all appreciate this holiday season, lower gas prices.
Let's bring in White House correspondent Priscilla Alvarez and CNN reporter Matt Egan.
Priscilla, first to you, you're awaiting the President's remarks.
No accident, we should point out, that he's in Lauren Boebert's home district.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right and he plans to take her on in his remarks. We got a preview of that just yesterday during a fundraiser in Denver, where he called her one of the leaders of the MAGA right. And that is what this is about. It's drawing a contrast with MAGA Republicans, and Lauren Boebert is someone that they see aligned with that.
Now, of course, the White House this week was touting those lower gas prices that you cited there at the top. But in the same breath, they're also acknowledging that not everyone feels it. And that's exactly what polls are showing which is that Americans don't believe that the president has handled the economy well. In fact, just this week, a Gallup Poll said that 32 percent of those polled approve of his handling of the economy. The majority disapprove of it.
And so the President is trying to take this message across the U.S. and pointing to the legislative accomplishments this administration has had that has helped job growth. And that is why he is here at this facility. You mentioned it there, it's the largest wind tower manufacturer. They are growing this facility with $200 million investment and the president is attributing that to the Inflation Reduction Act.
And in doing so, he's also making the point that the congresswoman did not vote for it. She opposed this and it comes too at a time where she faces a tough reelection bid in 2024. So the President coming directly to the district to make the case and it's not the first time.
He has done this before in South Carolina, New York and Virginia. So the bottom line here is the president creating that stark contrast between what he and his agenda are trying to accomplish and what the Republicans have opposed.
SANCHEZ: And Matt, let's dig in on the question of low gas prices, because you've been tracking this for a while. Where exactly are Americans seeing the most benefit here?
MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Boris, no doubt that gas prices have at times during the Biden administration been a source of major financial pain for families and a big political headache for this White House. But things are moving in the right direction right now.
I mean, the national average is down at $3.25 a gallon. It's down 62 days in a row, a big improvement from nearly $4 a gallon back in September. And now drivers in 15 states are seeing gas prices on average of $3 or less. That includes Texas, Ohio, Iowa and South Carolina. Now, that is a big win for consumers.
Now, in another positive, this morning, we learned that the U.S. economy accelerated this summer more than previously known. GDP clocking in at 5.2 percent, that is a very impressive number, especially when you remember that a lot of economists expected the U.S. economy to be in a recession right about now.
We're nowhere near there and yet consumers do give these economy low marks. If you look at consumer confidence, it has started to rebound in recent months, but it is well below the pre-COVID level. And that is a problem for the White House, because it does speak to some lingering economic anxiety.
One thing I do think we should remember is that Americans are still spending money. I mean, holiday shopping season is off to a very strong start. Cyber Monday sales shattered records. So it's funny because a lot of Americans say that they don't like this economy, but they're spending like they love it.
SANCHEZ: Matt, I want to dig in on what you talked about, the possibility of a recession, economic anxiety, because today one of Wall Street's best-known bankers talked about a possible recession if there is a spark, a jump in interest rates. He said that before, though, right?
EGAN: That's right. This is coming from Jamie Dimon, who is really one of the most powerful business leaders on the planet. So we do have to listen to what he says carefully. I'm the JPMorgan CEO. He's speaking at the DealBook conference this morning, and he did warn that there are risks out there, that it's too early to signal the all- clear on this economy, including because there's still the potential for the Fed to have to keep hiking interest rates.
Let me read you what Dimon said. He said, "A lot of things out there are dangerous and inflationary. Be prepared. Interest rates may go up and that might lead to recession."
So a stark warning there from Dimon. But we have heard similar comments from him in the past. I do think this is a reminder that there are risks out there. We do, though, need to remember that this is a fast-moving economy. No one, not even Jamie Dimon, knows exactly how this is going to play out.
And when you zoom out, it is very important to remember that the economy is in a much better place than people thought it would be just a year ago.
SANCHEZ: Matt Egan, Priscilla Alvarez, thank you both.
Still to come on NEWS CENTRAL, as Israel pledges it will continue its offensive once the current multi-day truce is over, U.S. officials are urging a more precise approach going forward in Gaza. What's happening behind the scenes when we come back.
SANCHEZ: Israel has freed 180 Palestinians from prison over the first four days of the truce, mainly women and minors. Many of them were detained but never charged. Prison service officials say that 30 were released yesterday.
CNN's Ben Wedeman is live for us in Jerusalem.
Ben, walk us through the diplomatic efforts to release more Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Where is that conversation now?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's part and parcel of the negotiations over the Israeli hostages as well. And of course, tonight is the last day of the two-day extension that was agreed upon. And the diplomats are doing their best to try to work out a formula to extend it.
We heard Majid Ansari, the spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Minister. The Qataris, of course, the linchpin in these negotiations, saying that they are optimistic that an agreement will be reached to extend it at least for two days. And of course, they are now looking beyond the next two days because officials - negotiators say that the number of women and children currently being held in Gaza will be exhausted after two days and then it's going to be a question of how do you deal with the civilian men and the Israeli soldiers who are in Gaza. And our understanding from the Qatari foreign ministry spokesman is that the next phase is looking at civilian Israelis being held inside Gaza and we've seen, for instance, yesterday, William Burns, the head of the CIA, was meeting with Qatari, Egyptian and Israeli officials in Doha.