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CNN International: Freed Hostages, Families Experience Range of Emotions; NATO Chief, Foreign Ministers to Discuss War in Ukraine; Ukraine's Electronic Warfare; Hunter Biden Offers to Testify Publicly on Capitol Hill; Pope Francis Cancels Dubai Trip on Doctor's Advice. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 29, 2023 - 04:30   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Sources tell CNN Hamas has given Israel the list of six -- lists of a sixth set of hostages to be free today, and the Israeli government is notifying their families. A temporary pause in fighting is now in its final day, although there's a possibility it could be extended again. Hamas says it's in constant contact with Qatar and Egypt, who helped broker the deal.

The militant group released 10 Israelis and two Thai nationals on Tuesday, and they promised to free ten additional hostages for every day of the truce. Israel released another 30 Palestinian women and children from its prisons as part of the agreement. Many of the prisoners Israel has been holding were never charged.

Now dozens of newly released hostages and their families are also celebrating their freedom. CNN's Matthew Chance takes a look at their loving reunions.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tears are of joy and of sadness. This is the moment Sharon Avigdori and her 12-year-old daughter Noam, kidnapped on October the 7th are reunited with their family. But they know friends and neighbors were murdered and that others remain hostages. Relief here is bittersweet.

Israel is releasing this emotional footage of hostages freed by Hamas, traumatized women and children returning to shattered lives.

Like eight-year-old Naveh and his sister Yahel, just three, now freed with their mother and grandma after weeks in Gaza, but their dad, Tal, remains a hostage.

Little Emily Hand, who turned nine in captivity, is reunited with her family, but seems shell-shocked by her trauma. In an interview with CNN, her father spoke of his joy and pain.

THOMAS HAND, FATHER OF RELEASED HOSTAGES: It was beautiful, just like I imagined it, you know, running together. I squeezed, I probably squeezed too hard. So only when she stepped back a little, I could see her face was chiseled like mine, whereas before she left it was, you know, chubby, curly, young kid face.

CHANCE (voice-over): Freed U.S. Israeli toddler Abigail Edan, who turned four as a hostage, lost both her parents in the mass attack on Kfar Aza, but her surviving families say they are taking good care of her.

ELLA MOR, AUNT OF RELEASED HOSTAGE: My name is Ella Mor, I'm Abigail's auntie, Guli. And she just landed in the hospital and she's being checked and taken care of. I want to thank everybody for all your love and support. It's amazing and thank you so much.

CHANCE (voice-over): This crisis has shone light on the role of foreign domestic workers in Israel, like Jimmy Pacheco, a Filipino caregiver, abducted by Hamas after the Israeli pensioner he was looking after was killed. Along with the applause, Israel says he and other foreigners get a lifelong stipend for their ordeal.

At times, news of a release has been overwhelming. This is Hadass Kalderon getting the call in a shopping mall that a 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son were being set free. For a moment, relief eclipsing the pain of terrible loss.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Tel Aviv.


FOSTER: The Ukrainian Foreign Minister is warning that Europe cannot defend itself without Ukraine, saying it has the strongest and most battle-hardened army on the continent.

Foreign ministers have been meeting in Brussels today, along with NATO Secretary General, who said the talks are being used to discuss Ukraine's path to NATO membership. This comes after a senior U.S. State Department official said it's not expected that Russia's president is looking to make meaningful peace with Ukraine until he finds out who wins the U.S. presidential election next year.

The U.S. Senate could begin considering a multibillion-dollar aid package for Ukraine. The Biden administration has laid out details of a $105 billion funding bill, $61 billion or more of more than half of the money will go to providing training, equipment and weapons to Ukraine. Most of the remainder will be used to provide security support to Israel.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins us now. I mean, there's a lot to take in there, but take us through this NATO meeting and why it's so crucial.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, I mean this is this is crucial for Ukraine because obviously part of what they're fighting for is not just to get Russia out of their territory, but to sort of take their place in these Western institutions, the European Union and NATO. And this is the first meeting that we're going to see today at the foreign Minister level of the NATO Ukraine Council, which is supposed to be Ukraine and NATO meeting as equals. This was something that was set up out of the NATO meeting that happened in July. Obviously, NATO foreign ministers are trying to send a message here

that despite what's happening in the Middle East, despite the fact that Ukraine has fallen out of the headlines for the past couple of months, they are still a laser focused on doing this. But obviously Ukraine is extremely worried. This is why I think you see Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign Minister, saying today that Europe cannot defend itself without Ukraine. Trying to reinforce the point that this also matters domestically within Europe because they're worried.

We've seen, you know, the far-right leader in the Netherlands win the most votes. We've seen Slovakia's government already cancelling military aid. They're worried about fatigue. They're worried that Congress has now spent the best part of several months discussing Ukraine aid with barely any progress. So, I think all eyes will be in particular on the U.S. and what's Secretary Blinken says in the coming hours.

FOSTER: And in terms of what's happening on the ground, Ukraine determined to push forward the very slow progress. As ever.

SEBASTIAN: Yes, it's been a difficult few months. Certainly, the counter offensive, now that we're very much getting into winter and the weather has been really dire, certainly over the past few days. At least 10 people were killed in a terrible snow storm over the weekend. There is a fear that what the Ukraine's top general said in a very influential essay at the beginning of November, that there will be no deep and beautiful breakthrough, he said. Unless they can come up with some kind of major technological leap.

So, we've been taking a closer look at one of those areas that Ukraine is now focusing on. It's an area where Russia currently dominates. Ukraine has admitted that, and this is electronic warfare. Take a look.


SEBASTIAN (voice-over): It looks like little more than a cluster of TV aerials. And yet this Ukrainian drone has just destroyed a critical piece of Russia's electronic arsenal. The commander who operated the drone says he wanted his video to go viral.

PALVO PETRYCHENKO, UKRAINIAN DRONE COMMANDER (through translator): On this video, other reconnaissance units will be able to see how such antenna looks like in detail, and in the future identify them on the battlefield.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Palvo Petrychenko is stationed on the most active part of Ukraine's eastern front, his unit helping defend the town of Avdiivka from a Russian onslaught.

SEBASTIAN: Why is it so important to destroy these electronic warfare systems in particular?

PETRYCHENKO (voice-over): I am grateful to our partners, to NATO, to the whole civilized world to give us these weapons. All these weapons are highly accurate. They are guided by satellite systems. Russia tries to counter these weapons with electronic warfare systems.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): For Russia, electronic warfare and invisible battleground where electromagnetic waves are used to jam or even alter enemy GPS signals, as well as disrupting radio waves, radar and even cell signals has provided an unexpected advantage over Ukraine's more sophisticated weapons.

U.S. provided guided missiles even some essential HIMARS rocket launchers had been compromised. And drones the most frequent victims. This published by a pro-Kremlin news outlet, purportedly shows the moment Russian jam is struck.

KARI BINGEN, DIRECTOR, AEROSPACE SECURITY PROJECT AT CSIS: So, GPS jamming is basically brute force power. So, think of it if you're -- if your stereos on at home and you've got low music playing and your neighbor is blasting their music next door and you can hear it in it overpowers your stereo.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Ukraine's Minister of digital transformation, who has spearheaded a 100-fold increase in drone production this year, says electronic warfare is now a top priority.

MYKHAILO FEDOROV, UKRAINIAN MINISTER OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (through translator): The new vision for the development of electronic warfare includes protecting every piece of equipment, every trench, every person, comprehensive protection of the entire battlefield and the rear using electronic warfare.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Ukraine is playing catch up here. The head of the country's armed forces admitting in a recent essay, Russia has, quote, significant electronic warfare superiority.

BINGEN: I think what's been interesting is to see these jamming systems being co-located with Russian forces. I think it's really giving insight into how Russia is integrating them into their military plans and their force movements.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): And Russia is not trying to hide this. Official Defense Ministry TV channel showing off jamming equipment on tanks aimed to prevent enemy drones getting too close.

Then even on state media, an armored train said to be kitted out with electronic warfare defenses.


SEBASTIAN: Do you think that electronic warfare is one of the things that could potentially turn the tide in this conflict?

FEDOROV (through translator): One tool is not enough to achieve a breakthrough. It needs to be a combination of certain actions. We're never going to have as much manpower as Russia but technology can change that. We need to continue scaling it up.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SEBASTIAN (on camera): Technology can change, that is what they're saying. They're never going to have as many men or as much industrial capacity. And certainly, we're seeing that even relying on their allies isn't providing that in Ukraine. So, technology is going to be crucial, and it's increasingly urgent. We saw over the weekend that Russia launched what local officials said was the biggest drone attack on Kyiv since the war began -- 75 Shahed drones. Ukraine took out 74 of them, including using electronic warfare -- Max.

FOSTER: Clare, thank you.

Now a centuries old spat between Greece and the U.K. heating up once again. The dispute is over these. They are the Parthenon marbles. The iconic statues were taken from the Acropolis in Athens by Britain in the 19th century. And Greece has been saying for years that it wants them back.


ADONIS GEORGIADIS, GREEK LABOUR AND SOCIAL SECURITY MINISTER: Greece wants to find a solution that wouldn't destroy the British Museum and wouldn't put the British Museum in a very difficult position. We understand their point of view. And we don't want to see us as a threat for the British Museum. We understand that we have to find the common solution, and this is the reason we pose this issue. But everybody should understand also what Mitsotakis said. We have a monument of humanity, the Parthenon. It is being divided. This is a disgrace for our civilization.


FOSTER: On Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accused his counterpart Rishi Sunak, of cancelling a meeting where Mr. Mitsotakis was expected to bring up the sculptures. Mr. Sunak's office said the Greek leader had broken assurances by using his trip to the U.K. to campaign for their return.

Now next, Hunter Biden offers to testify on Capitol Hill, but only under one condition. And House Republicans aren't happy about it. That's story next.

Plus, a touching tribute to Rosalynn Carter. How friends and family are remembering the former U.S. First lady.



FOSTER: Lawyers for Joe Biden's son Hunter say he is willing to testify before the U.S. House Oversight Committee next month, but only if he can do so publicly. They say a public hearing would ensure greater transparency and prevent information from being distorted as an impeachment inquiry into President Biden takes place. But Republicans have shot down that idea as Manu Raju explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: House Republicans for months have been demanding testimony from Hunter Biden as part of their investigation into the Biden family, and now the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden. Last month, issuing the subpoena for his testimony, calling for him to come behind closed doors and be deposed as they ask him questions about him and his father.

But Hunter Biden's attorneys responded. Saying that, yes, Hunter Biden would appear on Capitol Hill. But here's the catch -- in public. They argue that behind closed doors, testimony would allow Republicans to distort his testimony, saying this in the in a statement.

We have seen you use closed door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public. We therefore propose opening the door. If you, as you claim, your efforts are important and involve issues that Americans should know about, then let the light shine on these proceedings.

Now House Republicans, James Comer, who leads House Oversight committee, as well as Jim Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee chairman say that is not OK. In fact, they want him to come behind closed doors and then they say there could be a public hearing. They said that was the proper way that they have with these investigations.

This is what Colmer said in a statement. He said: Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else. That won't stand with House Republicans. Our lawfully issued subpoena to Hunter. Biden requires him to appear for a deposition on December 13th. We expect full cooperation with our subpoena for a deposition. But also agree that Hunter Biden should have the opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.

So it remains to been seen ultimately, how this will play out. The Republicans are hoping that Hunter Biden reveals some new information that will allow them to draw a connection between Hunter Biden's foreign business dealings and Joe Biden, particularly his acts as vice president. They have not been able to drive that -- draw that connection yet as they try to move for any impeachment vote as part of these proceedings in the days, months and weeks ahead. So whether they ultimately agreed to some accommodation or whether the standoff will persist, remains to be seen.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


FOSTER: A U.S. House vote to expel embattled New York Republican Congressman George Santos is now on Thursday. Now it comes in the wake of a damning investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which found that Santos, quote, sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his house candidacy for his own personal financial profit. Santos spoke on the House floor on Tuesday to defend himself.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): To set the record straight and put this in the record, I will not be resigning. Are we to now assume that one is no longer innocent until proven guilty and they are in fact guilty until proven innocent?


FOSTER: Now, one GOP representative tells CNN that House Speaker Mike Johnson has urged Santos to consider resigning. Santos has been bashed -- or has bashed the ethics investigation, calling it incomplete, incomprehensible and littered with hyperbole.

Now to a powerful moment at the memorial service for former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Her husband of 77 years, former President Jimmy Carter emerged from Hospice care to attend. He didn't speak but their daughter Amy shared a letter he wrote to her mother 75 years ago.


AMY CARTER, DAUGHTER OF JIMMY AND ROSALYNN CARTER: My darling, every time I have ever been away from you, I have been thrilled when I returned to discover just how wonderful you are. While I am away, I tried to convince myself that you really are not, could not be as sweet and beautiful as I remember. But when I see you, I fall in love with you all over again. Does that seem strange to you? It doesn't to me. Goodbye, darling. Until tomorrow, Jimmy.


FOSTER: U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden attended that service, and every living former First lady was on hand, including Melania Trump.


FOSTER: The head of the UN is urging world leaders to tackle fossil fuels and their impacts on the environment ahead of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, which starts on Thursday.

Antonio Guterres used a visit to Antarctica on Monday to highlight the climate crisis, posting on X, quote: It's profoundly shocking to stand on the ice of Antarctica and hear directly from scientists how fast the ice is melting. The cause is clear, fossil fuel pollution.

There'll be one notable absence from COP28. Pope Francis will not be attending on the advice of his doctors. The Vatican says the Pope is getting over the flu and his medical team has asked that he not travel for the next few days.

Barbie Nadeau, following this from Rome. A bit more detail on this illness and how it plays into his recent worries in terms of medical, you know, medical matters, if I couldn't call it that.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN REPORTER: Yes, you know, I mean this is something different. He was in the hospital over the summer in June for an intestinal issue. This is a lung issue. And he went in last week for a CAT scan on his lung. They said he didn't have an infection, but he did have an inflammation. These were his own words telling people at his audience.

Now, this morning he did arrive at his audience. His usual Wednesday audience here in Rome, held inside an auditorium on his own two feet rather than in a wheelchair, which is seen as a good sign. This just hours really after they cancelled his trip to Dubai.

You've got to think, though, that he really wanted to go to Dubai. Because the way it was framed by the Vatican press office is really that his doctors told him he can't go and that's it. And even yesterday, the Vatican briefed that the journalists would be travelling with him and everything. So, you know, it seemed to be a very last-minute decision.

But he was - his breath was labored this morning when he spoke. He didn't look particularly chipper. Let's say, you know, he looked a little bit tired. You know, this is a man that was turning 87 on December 17th. And, you know, he's had a lot of health problems. And this is just one, I guess, in a string of what's going to be many. You know, when elderly people start getting sick, it often sort of has this domino effect. So, he's not in the hospital though. He was at his audience this morning, but he's not going to Dubai -- Max.

FOSTER: Obviously always concern about whether or not he can carry on doing his job. Obviously, he can at the moment. He's made that very clear. But there is a backup plan, isn't there, if he becomes incapacitated.

NADEAU: That's right. You know, we know that he -- and this is his own by -- in his own words. He said that he has signed a resignation letter should he become incapacitated that he -- if he's not able to do it himself he should step down. Now of course, that follows what Pope Benedict XVI did, who'd resigned as well. So, you know, there's precedent for that. But I don't think it'll happen anytime soon if it does -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Barbie, thank you so much for that. People thinking of the Pope today and he'll be missed I'm sure at COP.

Now, thanks for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "EARLY START" with Kasie is up next.