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CNN Sees Convoy Of Hostages Arrive In Israel; 39 Palestinian Prisoners And Detainees Released Today As Part Of Israel-Hamas Exchange; CNN Sees Convoy Of Hostages Arrive In Israel; 17 Hostages Return To Israel On Day Two Of Truce; 41 Hostages Held In Gaza Released In First Two Days Of Truce. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 25, 2023 - 18:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alex Marquardt, in for Jim Acosta. I am in Washington.

We continue our breaking news coverage as Israel prepares to welcome home a second group of hostages. The IDF says that they're all back on Israeli soil.

Now, this was the remarkable scene at the Rafah Crossing going into Egypt in the last hour as we witnessed those hostages finally making their way out of the Gaza Strip.

These are the 13 Israeli hostages who were released today. They range in age from 67 to just three years old. Among the 13 are eight children and five women. The Israeli military says that four Thai nationals have also been released.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in Tel Aviv bringing us the minute by minute coverage of the second day of this truce agreement -- Kaitlan.


You really see what those Red Cross vehicles mean to these hostages. I spoke to the family of one grandmother who was released yesterday who said, you know, she was underground for so long that she didn't know when she did see sunlight, if she was taken to being released or executed, until she saw those Red Cross vehicles yesterday. You just see how powerful that moment is.

And this next phase of the deal between Israel and Hamas comes after hours of a delay in the deal where you were seeing the two sides try to work something out. There were hours of uncertainty, when a dispute with Hamas was unfolding over the amount of aid that was going into Gaza, which is a major component of this deal.

And then with just hours to spare, Qatari officials were involved. They were able to get the deal back on track after some phone calls, including one with President Biden. But now, it is past one in the morning here in Israel. We are still waiting for this hostages to be reunited with their families, which is one of the most crucial steps in this entire process. We have reporters on the ground covering all of the late breaking developments this evening in the second wave of the hostage exchange.

I want to start with CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in Israel.

Jeremy, obviously, it is welcome news for these anxious families who were living through this delay, waiting for their loved ones to finally make it into Israel tonight. What have you been seeing from where you are?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan. We just saw a convoy -- the second convoy that included, we are told by an IDF spokesperson here with us on the ground that those were newly freed hostages. You may have -- hopefully, you guys had those images live on the air, but those were newly freed hostages just driving by.

We saw at least two buses, two vans driving by with a police escort and we are told that there were newly freed hostages inside.

Earlier, we saw an ambulance drive by, also with a police escort in which we are told that there was one of the newly freed hostages in that vehicle.

This is obviously a moment that we are witnessing right now, Kaitlan that their families have been waiting with anxiety, with anticipation for 49 days now, for these hostages to be freed from Hamas captivity and to finally return to Israel, and we are told that that moment has now happened.

In addition to that, Kaitlan, I'm also learning according to an IDF spokesperson, that the two children who were released without any family members alongside them. That is Emily Hand and a second hostages, Hila Rotem who is 13 years old, who was held in captivity was taken captive by Hamas at kibbutz Be'eri on October 7th. Both of them were expected to be met by their families at the Kerem Shalom Crossing and that is in keeping with the plan by Israeli officials that hostages who are 12 and under without family members, that they would be met by their families closer to the crossings.

And I'm told that that meeting, that first meeting between them and their families actually did happen at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

Of course, this was a day filled with so much anxiety and so much uncertainty as we watched as this second release of hostages nearly fell apart multiple times during the day.

Earlier in the day, we had heard that there was a dispute over whether 13 or 14 hostages would be released. Israeli officials told us that they expected 14 hostages to be released, Hamas had released a list with 13.

I suspect that one of the reasons may have been because Hila Rotem was released without her mother, Raya, who was also taken hostage with her on October 7th. We have watched yesterday and today as typically children who were taken hostage with their parents, they were at least released with their mothers, but that did not happen in the case of Hila Rotem.

We then watched as there were various problems as Hamas complained that Israel was not abiding by the terms of the deal as it related to the release of aid into Gaza, and also, as it related to the types of Palestinian prisoners who were being released by Israel in a three to one swap as part of this exchange.


But after all of that, after all of those ups and downs, that emotional roller coaster for the families throughout the day, finally, we are seeing that not only are all of those 13 Israeli hostages firmly back on Israeli soil, but several of them just drove by us and are on their way to hospitals and crucially to meet their families.

COLLINS: Yes, and that is the most crucial step for all of them here.

Jeremy Diamond at Kerem Shalom. We will continue to check back in with you.

We did see that motorcade making its way behind you. That motorcade taking these hostages to hospitals here in Israel.

I want to go to CNN's Clarissa Ward who is live outside the Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Clarissa, obviously one of these hostages that has been returned tonight we know is Emily Hand. Someone who her father in that searing interview with you talked about how he believed that she had been killed and he initially said he was grateful for that because of the conditions of what these hostages were likely going through, and then later to find out that she was indeed a hostage.

Do we know if she has been reunited with her father yet at this point, Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So we do know, Kaitlan that Emily and Tom have been reunited. Tom told me that he actually brought Emily's dog, their family dog, Johnny with him, because he thought that that would be an important first step for her on what is bound to be a long recovery.

Emily has been held now as all the hostages have for more than seven weeks. She is now free, but she has undergone as all the hostages have, an extreme trauma of course, and particularly because she was not with any of her family members.

Emily's mother very tragically died of cancer when she was two-and-a- half, and she had actually gone for a sleep over the Friday night before the October 7th attacks, which is how Tom and Emily were originally separated.

And you describe, you can imagine the mental anguish, the emotional roller coaster for Tom, originally told that his daughter was dead, then told that she might be alive, but there was no proof of life. There was no ability of the Red Cross to visit with her. And we have been in contact throughout, and he has been of the mindset that he would not believe it until he saw it, until he was able to put his arms around her, he would not be able to believe it.

But he is keenly aware as I think many of the hostage families are of those who have been released what a privilege and a rare privilege it is that they are being reunited with their loved ones when so many others remain in captivity.

And you could probably see behind me now, Kaitlan, there is definitely increased activity here at the Sheba Hospital. This is where those children and their families are expected to be brought.

We're expecting them in the coming hour or so, not exactly clear how long that journey will take them and this hospital has gone to real lengths to try to ensure that this is done in the most sensitive manner.

All the media -- and there is quite a few of us who are kind of corralled into this area, and if we pan over here, you can see they've hung some Israeli flags here, but also they have put up a large screen around the entrance to that children's wing of the hospital and they have done that in an effort to try to protect their privacy. We're talking about minors here. We're talking about children who have undergone significant trauma.

We saw them do something very similar last night at the Schneider Medical Center where they put screens up on the path from the helicopter into the ambulance to take them to the hospital.

We don't expect them to arrive tonight by helicopter, we expect them to be coming in vehicles and everyone here prepped, Kaitlan. They have the top psychiatrists, the top trauma specialists, social workers, doctors, nurses, an entire area carved out to try to create the most sensitive, intimate, and warm space that they can as they begin the heartbreaking process of breaking the news to these newly freed hostages about what has happened while they were in captivity, what happened on October 7th, which loved ones of theirs may have been killed brutally in those attacks.

And so there is I think a realization that this is a moment of joy, but tinged also with a lot of sadness and a lot of hard work to come -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, Clarissa Ward at that hospital. We will continue to check in with you as that activity is picking up there on the ground.

And Alex, you just see that as Clarissa was saying there, so many of these hostages are just now learning the full scope of what happened on October 7th. I spoke to one's family earlier and she did not know, they had buried her husband of 52 years in these several weeks that she was being held hostage in Gaza and that was part of the news.


And they said they were just trying to essentially break everything to her slowly because it is just so overwhelming for someone who just has spent seven weeks underground in Gaza.

MARQUARDT: And you know, how incredibly emotional and difficult some of these reunions are going to be and I just keep trying to put myself in the place of Thomas Hand and what that's going to be like when he sees little Emily again.

We remember that searing interview that Clarissa did with him when he thought that she had died, and then he learned that she was still alive and hopefully going to be freed and that moment has come. I just cannot imagine a happier moment for a father like that, but also just so emotionally wrought.

It's going to be such a difficult and emotional few days for them.

Kaitlan, thank you very much.

I want to turn to President Biden. He and White House officials have been watching closely as today's events unfolded. They have been deeply involved. CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Nantucket traveling with the president.

So Arlette, what more do we know about what the president did today in playing a role in resolving the dispute?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, President Biden remained personally engaged as they were trying to make sure that this release today remained on track. The president spent some time on the phone this morning, speaking with the Emir of Qatar, as well as the Qatari Prime Minister, where they talked about possible hurdles to this deal and ways that they could try to overcome that. That's according to the National Security Council spokesperson.

The president's top advisers, senior White House officials remained in contact with their counterparts in Israel, Egypt and Qatar as they tried to work through these hurdles, and it was about four-and-a-half hours ago that the White House got word from the Qataris that the deal was moving forward, the release was moving forward and the Red Cross would be moving to try to recover these hostages.

Vice President Kamala Harris, just last hour spoke to some of the issues that had arisen and the president's involvement, while also stressing that getting Americans back remains their highest priority. Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are extremely grateful that hostages were released yesterday and we are looking forward to again, another group being released today.

There were some issues and challenges around implementation. President Biden spoke with the Emir to resolve those issues and we do believe they are being resolved.

We're going to continue to be diligent and vigilant and doing all that we can in that regard to ensure that there is humanitarian aid going in, that hostages are going out and our highest priority, of course, are the American citizens who are being held.


SAENZ: Now, while 17 hostages were released today, there were no American citizens who were part of that group. White House officials remain hopeful that Americans will be able to get out soon, that includes two women and also that four-year-old, Abigail Idan.

The president yesterday saying that he and the First Lady are thinking of these hostages as they are being released as they will soon have this long journey towards healing.

MARQUARDT: All right, Arlette Saenz in Nantucket traveling with President Biden, thank you very much for that report.

We will have more of CNN's special live coverage when we come back in just a moment. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: We are continuing to follow breaking news out of Israel and Gaza. Those pictures that you're seeing right now are a convoy going past the position of our colleague, Jeremy Diamond. He is at Kerem Shalom in southern Israel.

Kerem Shalom is a crossing between Egypt, Gaza and Israel. You can see ambulances there as well as a number of other vehicles as we've seen over the course of the past few days when the hostages cross from Rafah in Egypt, into Israel. They have been coming through Kerem Shalom and going past that position. We will get back to Jeremy for the latest.

But for now, I want to turn to Tal Heinrich. She is a spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Tal, thank you so much for joining us this evening. I want to start with the complications today. Of course, the day ended well. Everyone is so happy that these hostages were released, 13 Israelis, these four Thai nationals. They're all thankfully back in Israel.

What is your sense of what the complications were earlier today? Was it a question about discrepancies with the list? Our colleague, Jeremy said that 14 were supposed to be on it, but it ended up being 13. Was that Hamas complained about aid? What can you clarify for us.

TAL HEINRICH, SPOKESPERSON FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Well, I can't expand much on that. What I can say is that I think it's a question that should be referred to Hamas. You see, they are the ones committing a war crime. They're committing a crime against humanity, an ongoing one with every day, every moment every minute that they keep holding hostages -- children, babies, elderly.

And today, we saw a flexing of muscles because we have a deal in place. We are fulfilling our part of the deal and he wants them to fulfill theirs.

MARQUARDT: Sorry, what do you mean by a flexing of muscles? What exactly did Hamas do?

HEINRICH: Well, again, I can't expand much about things going on behind-the-scenes, but what I can tell you, I know that there are many reports ongoing and many rumors and such. I can't comment on anything like that.


But I will tell you, the rules of the deal are very clear. There is a humanitarian pause in place, as you know, for a second day, Hamas could have released these hostages at any given moment, Alex, and unfortunately, we have this delay. We really hope that this delay will not repeat tomorrow.

MARQUARDT: Hamas has complained that Israel wasn't fulfilling its end of the deal by allowing the amount of aid that was agreed to into the Gaza Strip. What do you say to that?

HEINRICH: Well, in these two days, these past two days, today and yesterday, we've seen the largest amount of humanitarian aid making its way into the Gaza Strip. We're talking about hundreds of trucks loaded with water, with medical supplies, with essential provisions with food, with equipment for shelters, and so on, with fuel and cooking gas and we will see more of that in the coming days.

So we hope that the deal will continue and that like today and yesterday, although the delay, we will see the release of more hostages.

And as you know, as CNN also correctly reported, there's a mechanism in place by which the deal could be extended. We said that for every extra 10 hostages that Hamas will release, we will agree to another day of humanitarian pause.

MARQUARDT: I do want to ask you about how much farther you think it can be extended. But in terms of the fragility of the deal, we did see, in the words of a Qatari official I spoke with earlier saying there was a very bleak moment in which it looked like today might not happen at all.

So how do you think what happened today will impact what happens over the next two days?

HEINRICH: Alex, I can tell you how it impacted the people of Israel. This has been a nerve wracking day for every person in Israel, people in my country were glued to their TV screens waiting for this momentarily -- you know, to get this little sigh of relief amidst the torture, the ongoing torture that we have been going through as a nation since the October 7th massacre.

Hamas terrorists, they know that. They know that we are a nation that unlike them values life, and I can tell you that we are very proud to be part of this nation that is so committed to the principle of leaving nobody behind.

That is really the epitome of the difference between us and these terrorists that we're fighting up against. They openly say that they want to sacrifice the Palestinian civilians of Gaza for their sick goal of obliterating the state of Israel. We will not let them achieve either of these goals.

And one more thing that I want to say, and we saw the release of four children yesterday and eight more today, we still have 22 more children in Hamas captivity, including, and you mentioned before, four-year-old Abigail, who is also an American citizen and we want to be able to tell these people who were released today and yesterday that they are 100 percent safe, that they -- the Hamas terrorists will never get to them again, that Hamas will never rain rockets on their communities again.

We still can't say it at this point, Alex, but we will be able to say it once we complete the other goal of this operation to eradicate the Hamas regime in Gaza.

MARQUARDT: One of the major demands by Hamas was that Palestinians also be released from Israeli prisons and that is expected to happen tonight as well, some 39 for the 13 hostages, Israeli hostages who were released today.

How many more do you expect to be released in the coming two days?

HEINRICH: I don't have a specific update for you, but I can tell you that we will continue to fulfill our obligations as part of the deal that has been agreed upon and there is no moral equivalency here. There is no -- whatsoever. We have to highlight this part because -- people -- viewers have to understand that we are getting back children that were stolen, innocent civilians, mothers, elderly.

We prioritize of course, women and children, but we still have many other hostages that are still being held in captivity for more than 50 days now. We will get all of them. We want to see all of them back home. But we are releasing Palestinian prisoners.

Again, these are people who were convicted of actions that have -- they have been involved in terrorist activities one way or another. So there is no equivalency here. It's important to say it.

MARQUARDT: Well, many of them were not convicted. Many of them were under administrative detention, held without trial, without charges and many of them were children themselves growing into teenagers.

HEINRICH: Involved in terrorist activities one way or another.

MARQUARDT: All right, Tal Heinrich, we do have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us this evening. I do know how difficult this period is and we're of course thrilled to see the hostages who have gotten out today and hopefully, dozens more to come, if not more, in the coming days.

Tal Heinrich, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thank you very much.


HEINRICH: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: I want to get straight to our Nada Bashir who is in the West Bank. She has been covering the release of those Palestinian prisoners.

Nada, what more you learning about the release tonight?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well look, Alex, we are expecting that bus carrying some of the 39 Palestinian detainees and prisoners to arrive here outside the Al-Bireh Municipality Building.

As you can see behind me, now hundreds of people have gathered. They are waiting to welcome those who have been released. We have already seen video now of that bus traveling through the West Bank near the Petunia Crossing, where many have gathered and are following that bus on foot, celebrating their release as we saw yesterday.

Many family members are here, but also of course, locals as well who have gathered to show their support. As we understand it, 39 Palestinian detainees and prisoners have been released today. That is the second group of Palestinian prisoners and detainees that have been released now, as part of that truce agreement in exchange for Israeli hostages released from Hamas captivity in Gaza.

Amongst those released today, some 33 children, minors under the age of 18. Twenty-four of them, as you were just mentioning now held under administrative detention, no charges laid against them, no ongoing legal process.

And we've been speaking to a number of parents who have gathered here, who only received the news that their children would be released in the last couple of hours and many spoke of the absolute relief that they felt to see that their children would now be released this evening.

Of course, this 39 that we are seeing released tonight follows 39 that were released yesterday and comes as part of a wider 150 that are set to be released as part of that agreement over the course of this four- day truce.

Earlier in the week, we saw a list of about 300 names issued by the Israeli authorities of people potentially eligible for release, many of them, the vast majority of them are minors, children under the age of 18. Again, many of them held under administrative detention.

Of course, that 150 figure is just a fraction of the more than 8,000 Palestinians currently held in Israeli custody, more than 3,000 of them, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, are held under administrative detention.

And of course, this is being seen as a very welcome step. The crowds have gathered. The cars are blocked up behind me. We are expecting the bus to arrive at some point shortly through this row, but yesterday, we saw thousands showing up to celebrate their release, up until the very early hours of the morning in fact, in the streets celebrating that.

We are expecting a similar scene here, but many of the people that we have also spoken to have said that their happiness is somewhat subdued because, of course, there are many still in detention and of course, many said that this has come at a very high cost because of the war in Gaza referencing the mounting civilian death toll that we are seeing in Gaza.

Many that we have spoken to here say that they feel they are one with the Palestinian people in Gaza, and so they feel the pain of those who have had to experience the brutality of this war and because, as we know, this truce agreement has come as a major diplomatic breakthrough.

We are expecting to see some 50 Israeli hostages released at least over the course of this truce, but this has been a very delicate process and that has really been seen today as we've seen those delays in getting the hostages out in comparison to yesterday, delays in getting confirmation of these Palestinian prisoners and detainees to be released today.

So this certainly has been an anxious period of waiting for many of the family members gathered here today. And of course, there are many other family members who haven't seen their loved ones on the list today or yesterday, all are waiting, hoping that their loved ones will be on the list tomorrow and the day after tomorrow if indeed the terms of that truce agreement continue to be upheld -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Nada, you've noted how many were being held under what's known as administrative detention, which means no charges filed or they're not aware of the charges. No, no trial date, no trial.

I was just speaking with Tal Heinrich, who is a spokesperson for Prime Minister Netanyahu a moment ago, pushed back saying that these prisoners were being held in the context of terror or attempted terror attacks. So can you give us a sense of why these 40 who are -- sorry, 80 rather, who have been released tonight and yesterday, were being held by Israel.

BASHIR: Look, there are a mixture of charges and allegations against a number of these detainees. The majority actually today and indeed yesterday were held under administrative charges. Others were held for more serious offenses convicted of more serious offenses including attempted murder, some accused of being involved in terrorist activities.

But of course, as we know earlier in the week, the Israeli authorities issued a list of about 300 people eligible for possible release as part of this truce agreements and many of those listed in that initial list were actually detained, arrested, and held in prison for minor offenses, including throwing stones at Israeli soldiers or according to the Israeli authorities, threatening regional security.


Now, of course, we have seen and continue to see frequent clashes between the Israeli forces and minors, those under the age of 18. We've seen those clashes today and, of course, we have seen an uptick in IDF raids where many of these young people have been arrested.

MARQUARDT: All right. Nada Bashir near Ramallah in the West Bank, thank you so much for that report.

You are watching CNN special live coverage. We'll be right back.



COLLINS: Since the horrendous attacks by Hamas on October 7th here in Israel, we've been in touch with Dori Roberts, who had several family members who were abducted that day, who were being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Yesterday, three of them came home.

His cousin, Doron Katz-Asher, and her daughters, Raz and Aviv. And Dori Roberts joins me now from Austin, Texas.

And Dori, I'm so happy to have you now that you have received this news that your cousin, Doron, and her two daughters have now made it safely back. They were reunited with the dad earlier today. Can you just tell me what have you heard from them? How are they doing now that they're back here?

DORI ROBERTS, SEVERAL FAMILY MEMBERS FREED IN HOSTAGE RELEASE: Well, thank you so much, Kaitlan, for having me on your show and good evening.

It's been one of those roller coasters of emotions. We all saw them crossing the border yesterday and when the final confirmation showed up, it brought us all to tears immediately, including myself. Following that, it was just the procedure of medical exams and debriefing and to another medical team and then really surrounding them by their dad, who had been - Yoni Asher - who've been on the news since day one, pushing and doing everything they could to bring their - his loved ones and our family members back to his arms.

And this is a wonderful victory that we all saw in front of our eyes yesterday as they're reunited and could actually be as a complete family again. It's a wonderful sight to see and we're so blessed to have them with us on this holiday evening. And this definitely gave us Thanksgiving that we never could ever dreamed of.

With that being said, we're still waiting on over 200 or actually 120 - 195 hostages to still come back the same path to Israel while this ceasefire is taking place. We're very blessed that - and we think that we're on the right path to achieve this goal and this important mission to bring all those hostages back to Israel, back to the loved ones, back to the families.

We saw a little hiccup today that really put us all on edge again. And this is just the nature of business of negotiation and dealing in a war time. But we're so glad to see that after a few hours, this process has continued and loved ones are reunited again tonight with loved ones.

COLLINS: We've heard from some of the families who have said that their loved ones who were released were held underground the entire time that they were in Gaza. Is that what you've heard from your cousin as well?

ROBERTS: Yes, unfortunately, I have not talked to her personally. I give them a little bit of that space and that privacy that needs so much after 50 days of being out of touch and completely underground for the entire time. You can see a little bit of marks of exhaustion and nutrition's desperation. And it's really been the challenge there is to determine if - how is their health.

My cousin Doron suffer a back injury throughout this entire ordeal and she's been taking care of at the hospital alongside with her husband, who's there every second of her and the daughters by her side. It seems like they had a really hard, rough time for 50 days underground, no sunlight, no food, really with no nutrition's available to them.

This is going to be hard on anybody, on any adults and if you think about a three and a five years old kids, it's just unimaginable what they have to go through. And I'm so happy they're finally call this chapter and move on and hopefully doing their way to recovery, both on the physical and mental health side of things.

COLLINS: When you see that video of them being reunited with their dad, and one of them apparently said that she had a dream that they were released, that they were saved and he said the dream had come true. I mean, but - just to see how young they are, how little they are - I mean, I have five-year-old nephews, and just the idea of a two and a half and a four-and-a-half-old baby being underground, I mean, they just have to be so traumatized from what they've gone through. Unable to even really process or know that they were being held hostage.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. And I think, like, everybody, every single hostage that came from either the Nova party or any of the communities around - from Nir Oz, from Be'eri or from Kfar Azza, have suffered an enormous amount of trauma.


Doron, my cousin saw her mom being murdered in front of her eyes and her body dumped by the border, she was not there to grieve. She didn't have the time to mourn. She was under a tremendous amount of stress, and trying to hold this entire time, her two young daughters, up to - so they can survive this thing.

So absolutely, it is unthinkable, the amount of stress. But we know that they are now in good hands in the best possible system available to them with family, with therapists, with doctors and a great hospital that hosts them and have them around protected and safe from Hamas. And they can start their long return to recovery and the life hopefully they had before October 7th.

COLLINS: Yes. I know it's such welcome news and a bittersweet moment for so many. And Dory Roberts, we're glad to have you back on with hopeful news and good news tonight, thank you for your time.

ROBERTS: Thank you so much.

COLLINS: And of course, there are more families like Dori's that are getting that good news tonight as the second group of hostages has now made it back here to Israel. They are on their way to hospitals where they're going to undergo the same medical evaluations. We're covering all the breaking news here tonight as the Palestinian prisoners have also been released. More when we come back with CNN's special news.



COLLINS: Back here on the ground in Tel Aviv and CNN's Matthew Chance is here with me now. I think one thing that we really came to appreciate today and as we were waiting for the second group of hostages to be released is just how fragile this deal really is. I mean, we saw it coming to a point where you were hearing Israeli officials say, well, if by midnight, we don't have the hostages, we're going back to our military operation in Gaza.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOGBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that was a vague threat. It's not clear how definite that was. But certainly there was a point earlier on this evening where there was a possibility that this deal was going to fall apart. The Israeli military spokesperson who was on CNN and giving a briefing, basically saying that if we don't get the hostages out this way, there are other ways we can get hostages out as well.

And it was all because of this very complex logistics that has characterized this prison release from the outset. We're talking about aid deliveries into Gaza. We're talking about Palestinian prisoners being released from Israeli jails, as well as the hostages coming out in the other direction.

So it's a very complicated logistical operation and there are all sorts of obstacles that have to be overcome on a daily basis for this to for this to happen. And it's really positive that for the second day in a row now, we're seeing hostages released from Gaza, along with all the other things that have taken place.

COLLINS: I think the question people have, though, is given - that we saw this happening several hours after the initial release of hostages on day one because of those disputes over aid going into Gaza, the number of people who are getting released. It makes people question how secure is this for day three, what is this going to look like for these families and I think it's an open question at this point.

CHANCE: It is. It is tenuous. And you can see from our experience of today how this could go wrong and this could be derailed. And an end to the hostage releases is on - is just there on the horizon if we approach that. But at the same time, it's also a testament to the fact that when there are obstacles that have been thrown up, there is a negotiating process behind the scenes to try and overcome them.

The Qataris, the Egyptians, the United States, they were all involved in putting pressure on Hamas and on Israel to make sure that this deal went through, that this second group of hostages were released. And that was a big diplomatic effort and it was a successful one as well.

COLLINS: So this group has gone through - they're on the way to hospitals in the region now and to be reunited with their families. We typically by this time last night, the list of the names for the next round had already been released. They've been sent to each side. The last we heard from the Qataris that has not happened yet. That was still the process, even though it is well past 1 AM, getting close to 2 AM here in Israel.

CHANCE: Yes. No, we have - we haven't seen that list yet. It doesn't mean it's not going to happen. But clearly, this whole series of setbacks today has potentially set back the releases for tomorrow. But Israeli officials saying very clearly that as far as they're concerned, there is still a deal. It's not that this is the last night of hostage releases and prisoner releases from Israeli jails as far as they're concerned. There is still a deal on the table that they say they will fulfill.

And so, I think there's still some reason for optimism that tomorrow night and potentially the night after we could still see more hostages released.

COLLINS: Yes. And then, of course, simultaneously, we've just seen the Palestinian prisoners returning to the West Bank. I mean, what do we know about? The makeup of that group and also what that means for the next group that's going to be sent in there or sent back after the exchange for the hostages?

CHANCE: Yes. Well, I mean, as before, these are prisoners that have been pre-agreed with the Israelis. Obviously, many of them are teenagers. Many of them have been held on administrative detention, so they haven't actually been tried for any offenses. Some of them are awaiting prosecution. Some of them have been found guilty of crimes as well.

Look, I mean, the Palestinians apparently, the Hamas rather were upset.


And it was one of the obstacles that they hadn't - the releases hadn't involved the people that they thought were going to be released. And so that was something that had to be overcome. But, look, I mean, in the end it was overcome. These obstacles did not stand in the way of the Palestinian prisoner releases. You can see that they're the celebrations as they come out of that jail and cross into Palestinian- controlled territory.

The expectation is there's going to be more of this in the days ahead. COLLINS: Yes. Matthew Chance, we'll continue to check in on this. Thank you for that.

Alex, of course, we're seeing what the terms of this deal is, but also just how tenuous it is and whether or not officials can't guarantee that it is going to happen the next time as we are still waiting for that list of the next Palestinian prisoners who are expected to be released on day three of this Truce but also the Israeli hostages that are expected to be released, something that typically, as of last night, had already happened by this point in time.

MARQUARDT: Yes. That's right, Kaitlan. There's so many moving parts to this and one of the biggest is the question of aid getting into Gaza. Hamas had demanded hundreds of trucks of aid to get into Gaza. And I want to discuss that with our next guest, Laetitia Courtois. She is the permanent observer to the United Nations for the International Red Cross. We often call it the ICRC.

Laetitia, thank you so much for joining us today.

I want to start with the central role that you played and have played for the past two days and in the previous hostage releases in terms of taking those hostages from Hamas and then getting them into Egypt before they go on into Israel.

What are you hearing about the release today from your colleagues about the condition of the 17 who got out?

LAETITIA COURTOIS, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS PERMANENT U.N. OBSERVER: Thank you very much for having me. Indeed, the ICRC plays the role of neutral intermediary, which is to facilitate the implementation of an agreement that is passed between the warring parties. We don't negotiate this agreement, but we make sure that our contact with all the sides involved and our expertise as well in this type of operation allows this operation to happen on the ground with safety, with all the details covered to make sure that this operation goes through.

And today, it allows us 17 people to be freed, to return to their family or at least on the way to returning to their families for the foreign nationals that have been also released. And we really hope this is bringing much-needed relief to the families. It's been an excruciating pain to be detained for the last six weeks for all of them.

MARQUARDT: Did you have a moment to look at them yourselves, these 17 hostages? Did you have a moment to assess their medical condition?

COURTOIS: Well, our teams are - have been on the ground from day one. Several colleagues were the experts, including a doctor to make sure that they are taken care of from the first seconds that they get into our own responsibility and passing them safely to - back to the authorities in charge. So we've been very much caring for them at every single step.

MARQUARDT: One of the questions going forward is going to be whether the ICRC gets access to the remaining hostages. That's something that's been talked about by Prime Minister Netanyahu. What is the latest on that? Are you expecting to be able to visit with around 200 of the remaining hostages and that's assuming all 50 of these get out in the next two days.

COURTOIS: Absolutely. The first element is to continue supporting the release of as many hostages as possible and also accompanying the Palestinian detainees that are also part of this deal. We have been calling from day one for those hostages to be immediately released and also to have access to them for humanitarian visits to make sure that they have access to medical care, to right treatment and conditions, but also to be able to contact with their families. And this is something we continue tirelessly to call for, so this is something we're putting all our efforts to make sure it happens and we really are calling on the parties to make sure that we are being facilitated that access.

MARQUARDT: But just to put a finer point, do you have an expectation that that will happen? Is it something that Hamas, for example, has told you, you will be able to do, visit those hostages?

COURTOIS: It is definitely the obligation of the detaining party, the Hamas, to give us that access. And we continue to call for it. We haven't had that access yet and we are putting all our efforts to make it happen.


MARQUARDT: Laetitia, we have to go in just a moment. But before we do, can I ask you, the aid that is getting into Gaza, is it what you understand, the amount that was agreed to in this deal and is it enough?

COURTOIS: Well, it is indeed a big part of the deal to scale up the humanitarian assistance, the needs are outrageous and immense. And there's so much to be done in such a short timeframe. We have hundreds of people reaching to the hospitals where we are located in the south. We need to reach out to many people. Conditions are deteriorating by the day. And this is really an essential component that needs to happen. The people need water, food, shelter, blankets, because it's getting cold. And, really, those are the really, really basics for survival and the people need it now.

So we really hope that as much can be done to scale up the humanitarian assistance to provide for the people in dire need today in Gaza.

MARQUARDT: Yes, there is such a profound need and it is getting colder. Laetitia Courtois from the International Committee for the Red Cross, thank you so much for joining us.

COURTOIS: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: We have much more news up ahead with the release of 17 Hamas hostages who are now back in Israel. They will be getting medical checkups. They will also be reunited with their families. We will have much more special live coverage right here on CNN when we come back. Stay with us.