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Israeli Military Video Shows Tunnel Near Al-Shifa Hospital; 31 Neonatal Babies Evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital; U.S. Defense Secretary Austin Visiting Ukrainian Capital; Trump Picks Up Abbott Endorsement During Border Visit; Sources: Negotiators Nearing Deal for Gaza Hostages. Aired 4-4:30a ET
Aired November 20, 2023 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Max Foster. It is Monday and welcome to our viewers in United States and, indeed, all around the world. Bianca's off this week.
But just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty-one neonatal babies evacuated from Al-Shifa are now being cared for in southern Gaza.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hope those babies can survive and be cared for as they should be.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We offload at the Al- Shifa hospital. Now at the hospital compound, we wait inside a structure to make sure the area is secure before moving the short distance to the exposed tunnel shaft.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This event in McAllen, Texas, was an endorsement by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. But it really comes at a time where Donald Trump appears to be inching towards the GOP nomination.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We need Donald J. Trump back as our president of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.
FOSTER: Hello, it is Monday, November the 19th, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 11:00 a.m. in Gaza, where the Israeli military says it's found a Hamas tunnel shaft in the Al-Shifa Hospital compound, and is now releasing video to show what they've uncovered.
The video was filmed by the Israeli Defense Forces over the weekend. It begins here outside before camera is lowered into the tunnel, revealing a set of spiral stairs. Later, the tunnel walls were reinforced with concrete.
Israel says Hamas has used Al-Shifa to cover up an extensive terror infrastructure underground, something Hamas and hospital officials also denied.
Now, the IDF has also released videos and stills that it claims show Hamas bringing hostages into Al-Shifa Hospital on October the 7th, the day of the attacks. CNN cannot confirm the identities of individuals in the video or their affiliations and can't independently verify the content of the videos.
Meanwhile, 31 neonatal babies evacuated from Al-Shifa are now being cared for in southern Gaza. They're expected to be transferred to Egypt. All are said to be fighting serious infections. One of the fathers who was reunited with his newborn son after two weeks says he wasn't sure earlier if his child was even safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SBEITI, FATHER OF NEONATAL BABY FROM AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL (through translator): We didn't know whether he was dead or alive, especially when communications were disconnected with doctors. They called us in the beginning to tell us that the child feels better and that we can come to take him, but the Israelis had already cut Salah al Din Street. We were in Nuzarat (ph). We can only pray for his safety, and he is here safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: CNN's Eleni Giokos joins us now from Cairo.
So much attention focused on babies around the world, for understandable reasons. What do you know, what you understand, what happened next?
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Max, I was just charging my phone to see if I could, from the Egyptian health ministry. We know they are on the ground.
We've got images of ambulances with doctors. They're with incubators, with ventilators. Frankly, they've been waiting for over a week, and every single day, they have been disappointed by the fact that babies have not arrived into Egypt. What we know now is they were finally taken out of Al-Shifa hospital yesterday saying passage was created. They won't move down to the Al Helal Al-Emirati Maternity Hospital in Rafah.
This was a very difficult and complex evacuation, Max. I want to show you some of those images that we have of the babies. It's difficult to watch. It's difficult to listen to. You can hear the babies cry and you see what state they're in. We know that they needed to be stabilized after moving from Al Shifa and we know the conditions that the doctors have been describing in Al-Shifa over the past week.
Lack of oxygen, lack of fuel, lack of ventilation to keep the incubators running and, of course, that was during the IDF raid as well when you saw communications blackouts, and the Egyptian health ministry here is telling us says they were unable to communicate effectively with people in the hospital.
But I want to take a listen to one of the doctors, what they said about the stage right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MOHAMMAD SALAMAH, AL-HELAL AL-EMIRATI MATERNITY HOSPITAL (through translator): We are conducting tests on all those babies, and they were given fluids and needed medication according to their condition.
For now, they are in a difficult and stable condition. But this condition might deteriorate, especially given that we might run out of electricity at anytime, now as long as fuel doesn't get into Gaza.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: So, while they are moved to the south of Gaza, fuel is still an issue. Giving them the resources they need, still an issue. We know the WHO has in critical condition. They're all fighting infectious diseases because of the inability to treat them in Al-Shifa.
The Egyptians are waiting. We saw about 36 neonatal babies at the start of last week. We know that number has changed. So, tragically, some of them have died because it was very clear that every minute counted.
In terms of what we are seeing in Al-Shifa right now, there are some patients that are trapped there, waiting to see if they can evacuate, the WHO, and some doctors inside describing lack of food and water. Some of the children are starving because they don't have access to water as well, milk, for the most vulnerable and wounded patients are still inside.
But importantly, the babies are now in south of Gaza. And the next few hours, from what I hear, they should be coming through to the Egyptian side where they will be receiving the care that they need. In terms of the people that are accompanying these babies, the WHO says some of the babies to have family members. A lot of them do not.
We don't know what happened to their family. We know there's been a lot of airstrikes, reporting the death toll. So, there's a lot of information that we still need, Max. But the point is to get them into Egypt right now.
FOSTER: Are there other -- other considerations in Egypt? To try to bring out other, you know, critical patients, from Gaza who aren't babies?
GIOKOS: So, this is a really important point. And we spoke to the Egyptian health minister this weekend. He said that they can handle more than 14 or 15 patients a day, and they're just not getting those numbers because it is difficult to evacuate injured patients out of Gaza, and into Egypt. They are waiting.
They say they have the capacity. They want the patients. They say they can even handle all the injured Palestinians currently inside of Gaza. But the process of getting them out and the logistics of it, not just logistics, but also getting their names on the list, is one of the things that is slowing things down quite a bit, Max. So, we've got the resources that we've been seeing on the ground outside of Rafah. It's getting them across the border.
FOSTER: Okay, Eleni in Cairo, we'll get back to with all of those updates throughout the day, if they come in on those babies.
Now, CNN's Oren Liebermann entered Gaza with the Israel Defense Forces to see the tunnel near Al-Shifa and what lies beneath. And to be transparent, CNN reported from Gaza under IDF escort at all times. As a condition for journalist to join this embed, media outlets had to submit footage filmed in Gaza to the Israeli military for review. CNN retained editorial control over the final report though.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We go undercover of darkness as we cross the border fence. It is lights out across the Gaza Strip. Escorted by tank, we switch into an armored personnel carrier for the final stretch. Even through a night vision screen, you can see the magnitude of destruction on the streets of Gaza City.
We off-load at the Al-Shifa Hospital, pick our way along the street, or what's left of it. We have to keep our lights off most of the time or risk exposing our position.
CNN reported from Gaza under Israel Defense Forces escort at all times. As a condition for journalists to join this embed with the IDF, media outlets submit footage filmed in Gaza to the Israeli military censors for review.
Now, with a hospital compound, we wait inside a structure to make sure the area is secure before moving the short distance to be exposed tunnel shaft.
And here's the entrance. You can see what looks like a letter accessing to it. As I step over here, it is very difficult to see how far down it goes, but it looks like there's almost a central shaft for staircase, and then the shaft disappears down into the darkness.
We move around the opening for a better look at the shaft itself. What's clear from here is this is meant to go deep underground.
Which direction does the tunnel go?
MAJOR NIR DINAR, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: We assume that the tunnel goes out and it has another corridor this way.
LIEBERMANN: Towards the hospital?
DINAR: Towards the hospital. Meaning it connects the hospital to outside, which implies that with the way Hamas is working, Hamas is going out somewhere, shoot at our forces, going back inside to a safe place.
LIEBERMANN: We weren't allowed to enter the shaft, but Israeli military sent special gear down to see where this leads. Inside, the video shows a spiral staircase and the camera oriented self, it moves forward into a tunnel. The tunnel makes a sharp left turn and at the end of another path with concrete walls, an arch concrete talk, a metal door, they say they have not yet opened because they fear it is booby trapped.
IDF spokesman, Admiral Daniel Hagari, says some of the Israeli hostages taken on October 7th were also brought to the hospital. He says the body of Noa Marciano was discovered 50 meters from the compound.
REAR ADMIRAL DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: We have evidence they were holding hostages in Rantisi, but also we have evidence that they were bringing them to Shifa Hospital. We are still looking for places they might have held them.
LIEBERMANN: This is not proof of a Hamas command center or headquarters underneath the hospital. But Israel continues trying to build its case that Hamas uses the sanctuary of the hospital for cover, which Hamas and hospital officials have denied.
The IDF's ability to continue its operation in Gaza and the credibility of Israel are at stake here as the number killed in the fighting surpasses 12,000, according to Hamas-run ministry of health. The IDF says one of its missions is to destroy Hamas. But with international criticism mounting, Israel has to show the terror organization is using Gaza civilians and infrastructure as cover to justify an ongoing war.
Oren Liebermann, CNN, in Gaza.
FOSTER: Clare is here with us. We were waiting for evidence of this command center under the hospital. Is this is enough to convince the international community, do you think?
CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet. I think it's compelling, right? It's more than they've shown so far. There has been a real uptick in these kinds of videos and images that we are getting from the idea. Certainly over the last 24 hours.
But, look, they haven't opened that door, that blast-proof door in the tunnel. We heard from spokesperson talking to Oren just now saying they assume that it leads to the hospital. This implies what Hamas is doing, that kind of language. So, they don't know for sure yet. They haven't completed this operation. It's a very delicate, very painstaking operation that's happening at the Al-Shifa Hospital.
Separately, Max, they also put out CCTV video on Sunday which they claim shows two hostages being brought into Al-Shifa Hospital by Hamas on October 7th, which would imply that this is not new. This isn't something that Hamas just started doing, that they have been doing this since the start of the war and perhaps even before that. But the hospital has been used specifically for Hamas purposes.
And one case, you can see this video that you're about to see a stretcher being brought in, which Israel says carries one of the injured hostages. Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says this doesn't prove anything. It just shows that whoever needed medical treatment got it.
But, obviously, this is existential as Oren pointed out for this international credibility at this ongoing operation. If Israel can't prove that the hospital was being used by Hamas specifically to harm Israel, then it wouldn't lose its protected status under international law, and you can expect the calls for a cease-fire, calls for Israel to do more, accurate stations of war crimes in that case, are going to mount.
FOSTER: Could the video inside the hospital you just showed be counterproductive though? Because surely, you know, you saw them on stretchers. Doesn't mean they're necessarily using the hospital to hide hostages. They're using the hospital to treat the hostages.
SEBASTIAN: I think it adds to what they already said, right? One of the video shows an injured supposedly hostage.
SEBASTIAN: One of the video shows an uninjured, what the IDF says is a hostage being forcibly marched through. And, you know, we also got news earlier in the week that two bodies had been found close to the Al-Shifa Hospital. One of them it turned out was Noa Marciano, an IDF corporal, that the IDF claims Hamas actually killed inside the Al- Shifa hospital.
There's also adding weight to the ongoing hostage negotiations, which are told, by the White House, are making progress.
FOSTER: Okay, Clare, thank you.
We are going to turn now to the war in Ukraine. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is now in Kyiv for an unannounced visit. This is Austin's second trip to keep since Russia invaded in February 2022.
According to the Defense Department, he's expected to meet with Ukrainian leadership for talks and, quote, reinforce the staunch support of the United States for Ukraine's fight for freedom.
CNN's Anna Coren joins us live from Kyiv.
The cameras were there. Is this partly, you know, messaging to remind the world that America is still concerned about Ukraine and supports it?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I think that's a very fair point, Max. Obviously, Ukraine has not been in the headlines, as far as global news is concerned, for the last month or so because of the war in Israel. That doesn't mean that the war here has stopped. If anything, it's just as bad, if not worse.
So, Lloyd Austin, coming to Kyiv today, certainly shot in the arm for the Ukrainians. It is a boost in morale. They have been feeling neglected and overshadowed by what's been happening in the Middle East, and concern that global support is waning. But as we've heard from Lloyd Austin, the defense department said this is America's display of staunch support for Ukraine's fight for freedom and Lloyd Austin, he also said on Twitter that he was here to show Ukraine that America is invested for the long haul.
We believe that security assistance will be discussed along with battlefield capabilities. We're moving into winter here in Ukraine. We know snow is falling on certain parts of the battlefield. It is going to be a long and hard winter. The fight on the eastern front and southern front, it is brutal and bloody as ever.
Lloyd Austin will also want to talk about long term vision, heading into 2024. As far as President Zelenskyy is concerned, and he will meet with Lloyd Austin a little bit later this afternoon, he wants to know whether U.S. funding bill is at $61 billion that President Biden wants to push through Congress. Now, we know the headwinds that that is facing, and the concern amongst the Republicans, deep divisions, as to whether they want to support this and a future aid for Ukraine.
But from the experts, Max, that I've spoken to, do they say that if this bill can be passed, $61 billion, will get Ukraine through 2024.
FOSTER: In terms of the latest on the ground, if I can call it that, lots of people won't be up to date because there has been so much focus, as you say, on the Israel-Hamas war. More top on the frontlines not shifting at all in this technological war. How would you say that battle lines currently in line right now?
COREN: Max, this is a war of attrition. There are no two ways about it. We heard from General Zaluzhnyi. He spoke to "The Economist" a few weeks ago, and he called it a stupor. It was also interpreted as a stalemate.
You know, this has now become a slugfest between Ukrainian and Russian forces, and that, you know, eastern front, Avdiivka, Bakhmut, Kupiansk, we know those are real hotspots and down in Kherson, there is that operation underway, the Dnipro River, managing to eke out a bit of a foothold on that left bank.
Look, that is significant, but it's also tenuous. So, as I say, Max, this is a war of attrition, as it stands, unless they get those advanced weapons that they need to push back the Russians.
FOSTER: All right. Anna in Kyiv, thank you so much.
Now, Donald Trump spent the day campaigning in Texas and secured the key endorsement in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. We'll have some more on that.
And later, pop star Shakira heads to court for her tax fraud trial in Spain. We'll have the very latest on today's hearing, and what's at stake for her.
FOSTER: Microsoft has announced it's hiring Sam Altman, just days after he was ousted as CEO of OpenAI. He will work on a new, advanced artificial research team according to Microsoft CEO. He says they are also hiring OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman and other colleagues.
Altman visited the OpenAI headquarters on Sunday, two days after he was ousted. You see him flashing his guess badge there. Multiple news reports say the board that fired Altman has had second thoughts and spoke to him about a possible return. This is the result.
Now, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, spent most of Sunday on the campaign trail. During a stop near the Texas border, he secured the endorsement of the state's Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG JARRETT (R-TX): We need Donald J. Trump back as our president of the United States of America.
I'm here today to officially proclaim my endorsement for Donald J. Trump to be president of the United States of America again!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, the former president is also escalating his anti- immigrant rhetoric.
CNN's Kristen Holmes was there in Texas, and she's got this report.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Part of this event in McAllen, Texas, was an endorsement by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, but it really comes at a time where, one, Donald Trump appears to be inching towards the GOP nomination. He is leading in every poll, and a time we are learning more about what a Trump 2025 agenda would look like should he be reelected to the White House.
And there's a particular focus on immigration. We are told by sources that he wants to expand his hard-line immigration policies of his first term, including with massive deportation. They have a plan to round up undocumented migrants, put them into detention camps that would have to be built to host them until they can be deported. They are also requires tapping local and federal law enforcement to participate in this endeavor because it would be such an enormous undertaking.
Now, the reason why this is so significant is because Donald Trump, as we've said, is inching towards the GOP nomination. We are starting to take a look at what it would look like in a general head to head.
And there are a lot of questions as to whether or not this anti- immigrant rhetoric is something that that would withstand a general election. We've already heard Biden's campaign saying that some of these plans are, quote, inhumane. So, that is something that is up in the air and obviously, something we're not going to see until further down the road.
Kristen Holmes, CNN, McAllen, Texas.
FOSTER: Coming up, Donald Trump will appeal the gag order he's come under in the federal election criminal case. An appeals court in Washington will decide whether to overturn that order, which had been temporarily frozen. Trump's attorneys argue it violates his right to free speech. Excuse me. One legal expert tells CNN that First Amendment rights must sometimes give way to the integrity of the judicial process and guaranteeing a fair trial.
Well, still to come, intense negotiations underway to secure the release of hundreds of hostages taken by Hamas. Where did the talks stand right now? Details, just ahead.
And some rare good news when it comes to traffic in Los Angeles. A major highway headache is finally over.
FOSTER: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster.
If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Kyiv, where he is expected to meet with Ukrainian leadership for high-level talks about the conflict in that region.
The 31 neonatal babies evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza, are now being cared for in southern Gaza and expected to be transported to Egypt. All the babies are said to be fighting serious infections, and 11 are in serious condition, according to the WHO.
Sources tell CNN that the deal to release some of the hostages Hamas is holding could be days away. They say a recent draft of a possible deal, proposes a 4 to 5-day pause in fighting in exchange for the release of some 50 hostages. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has the details
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDETN: Negotiators from various countries who are working on the release of hostages held by Hamas expressed rare optimism over the weekend about the direction of those talks. Sources tell that CNN a draft of a possible deal includes a 4 to 5-day pause in fighting for the initial release of 50 hostages and potentially more pauses thereafter.
But the sources stress that no deal has been struck yet, and that text has been going back and forth for weeks.