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CNN International: Israel: Two Hostages Rescued from Gaza in Special Operation; Austin Hospitalized, Transfers Duties to Deputy; Trump's NATO Remarks Spark Criticism from Allies; Kansas City Wins Super Bowl LVIII. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 12, 2024 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Israel Defense Forces says two hostages have been rescued from the southern city of Rafah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was complex. It was fast. The IDF say that this was something that had been in the planning for a long time.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we've heard is a very swift and a very stiff pushback from those within NATO itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was quite the Super Bowl finish in Las Vegas. The Kansas City Chiefs defeating the San Francisco 49ers. What a game we just had here in Las Vegas. The first ever Super Bowl in Vegas certainly did not disappoint.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world and the U.S. I'm Max Foster.


It's Monday, February 12th, 9 a.m. here in London, 11 a.m. in Gaza, where the Israeli military says a covert operation has led to the rescue of two hostages held by Hamas for 128 days.

FOSTER: Two men, six-year-old Fernando Simon Marman and 70-year-old Louis Har are said to be in good condition. They were kidnapped by Hamas on October the 7th.

NOBILO: They're now at a medical facility in Tel Aviv. A short time ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement welcoming the men home.

The special operation took place in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. That's where Israeli forces say they also conducted a series of strikes.

FOSTER: The Palestine Red Crescent Society says more than 100 people have been killed in those strikes, including children. Video obtained by CNN shows a chaotic scene inside this hospital.

NOBILO: The overnight strikes are only adding to concerns over a possible Israeli ground offensive inside Rafah. Prime Minister Netanyahu was asked about that on Sunday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Biden administration says it will be a disaster if you go into Rafah in this way. And it's not just the Biden administration. It's yours, it's your allies in the region. I mean, we've heard from the Egyptian foreign minister that it would be a disastrous, disastrous consequences.

The UAE is warning of exasperating the catastrophe, the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. I mean, aren't you -- Is any of this giving you second thought about going in and doing this?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The answer is, John, they don't have to give me second thoughts about taking care of the civilian population, along with the provision of the necessary humanitarian aid. We've been doing it and I've been directing it systematically.

Victory is within reach. It has to be understood. And victory will be the best thing that will happen not only for Israel, but for the Palestinians themselves. I can't see a future for the Palestinians or for peace in the Middle East if Hamas is victorious.


FOSTER: Journalist Elliott Gotkine is with us. I mean, what a moment for those two hostages and their families after all of this time. How did it come about?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: So according to the IDF, Max, it was a coordinated covert lightning operation -- in its words. It started at 1:49 a.m. It was involving, excuse me, special forces from the Israeli police, the Shin Bet, the domestic security agency and the IDF.

And they, from intelligence, deducted that these two Israeli Argentine hostages were on the second story of a building. They went in at 1:49, literally, according to the IDF, putting their own bodies around these hostages to protect them from fire from Hamas militants who were there guarding them. And they then extracted them.

And then the airstrikes began just one minute later. Now, these airstrikes were on buildings kind of in the area and all designed to both divert attention to prevent Hamas militants from getting there and also to provide cover. They managed to successfully extract the two hostages.

Just one Israeli soldier was mildly injured. They got them out and then took them by helicopter to a medical facility just outside of Tel Aviv. They've already been visited by members of their family, some of whom were previously released in the previous hostage deal with Hamas. And so, they all seem to be reunited now. They see apparently are paler. They've lost weight, but generally are in good spirits. And I suppose still trying to come to terms with the fact that after more than four months in captivity, they are now free.

NOBILO: What do we know about their well-being beyond, as you say, lost weight, paler?


But I've read reports that they're generally in good condition.

GOTKINE: That is what we understand that they are generally in good condition. I mean, we're talking about, you know, 60- and 70-year-old men. They, we don't know if they were kept in tunnels at some part, or if they were in buildings the whole time, if they were well looked after. Because let's not forget, the hostages aren't all under -- aren't all being guarded or weren't all taken by Hamas. Some of the hostages would have been taken by other militant groups, some just by civilians, some would have been kept in tunnels, some would have been kept above ground, and their treatment seems to vary quite, quite widely.

But certainly, from what we understand, these two particular hostages who hold both Argentine and Israeli citizenship, citizenship are well, and it's also, as you can imagine, been hailed by the President of Argentina, and their release has been very much welcomed. And of course, he was just in Israel just last week. So he was, you know, it's kind of coincidental that it's the Argentine hostages that have been released, but certainly he will be incredibly pleased as well.

FOSTER: Also being held, obviously, by the Israeli government, who are presumably going to suggest that, you know, this is evidence that we don't have to negotiate, we can actually just go and get hostages anyway. Is that right? And also, an argument to say we need to go into Rafah, because that's where Hamas is.

GOTKINE: There's no question this news is going to be welcomed, and it will be hailed as evidence. Indeed, Prime Minister Netanyahu in a statement saying that this just shows that it is the military pressure on Hamas, which will ultimately lead to the --

FOSTER: But there's only been two of these successful

GOTKINE: There's only been two successful hostage releases. One was a female Israeli soldier, and that was months ago. These other -- these are the only other two that have been rescued. But I think what Netanyahu is getting at, not that they are literally going to be able to go in and carry out operations such as this to rescue all of the other hostages, more than 100 still believed to be alive, but that the pressure on Hamas from this kind of military operation and the potential for a ground operation in Rafah will prompt Hamas to moderate its demands, which Netanyahu described as delusional last week, and thereby make a hostage deal easier to come by.

FOSTER: OK, Elliott, thank you so much.

NOBILO: Iraqi and U.S. officials are discussing how to phase out the U.S. led coalition combat operations in Iraq. The spokesperson for Iran's top military commander says that they plan to assess the threat that ISIS poses in the country and then set a timetable for U.S. and coalition allies to leave Iraq.

FOSTER: The U.S. still has about 2,500 troops in the country to help the Iraqi government and local forces prevent a resurgence of ISIS. Now, Iraqi officials say U.S. strikes against Iran backed militants in the country are forcing Baghdad to push for an end to that coalition.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin back in hospital. The Pentagon says Austin has symptoms quote, suggesting an emergent bladder issue and has transferred his duties to his deputy. Biden administration officials were quickly notified this time, unlike Austin's previous stay at the Hospital for Prostate Cancer Treatment.

NOBILO: Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks has assumed Austin's duties. And although officials didn't say how long Austin would be staying at the hospital, he has taken with him unclassified and classified communication systems that would be required for work.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more on the likely medical condition here.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, typically, especially in the wake of having had prostate surgery, it means that someone who's unable to empty their bladder, it's something known as urinary retention. It can be really painful and cause a lot of abdominal pain.

But it can also cause other symptoms in the body as well. People can actually drop their blood pressure. They can have heart rate abnormalities. This was described as an emergency. So, you know, in addition to the pain, he may have had some of those other things going on there.

Also, just again, the timeline of this, just to remind you, it was in early December that he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. And then December 22nd, when he had the operation, probably scheduled it over the holidays, some people do that. And it sounds like that operation went well. I mean, he was discharged the next day.

But it was a couple weeks later, actually January 1st, not even two weeks later, that he was admitted to the hospital for an infection at that point, and a significant hospitalization, two weeks at that point.

And now, as you point out, he's back in the hospital again. It's described as a bladder sort of issue here. We don't know specifically what that is.

But again, in the context of having had prostate surgery, the possibility that he has developed what is known as retention, urinary retention, that seems to be the most likely culprit here. And that can lead to an emergency.


NOBILO: The Senate is a big step closer to passing a $95 billion foreign aid bill that provides crucial assistance to both Israel and Ukraine. The chamber voted Sunday to advance the bill. 18 Republicans backed the package despite opposition from former U.S. President Donald Trump.

FOSTER: It comes after Republicans blocked a wider bill that included a bipartisan border deal. If the bill is eventually passed by the Senate, it's unclear whether House Speaker Mike Johnson would hold a vote on it.


The bill is also expected to include humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.

Now Donald Trump's controversial comments on NATO are facing intense criticism. Here's what he told supporters at a campaign rally in South Carolina.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the presidents of a big country stood up said, well, sir, if we don't pay, and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said, you didn't pay your delinquent. He said, yes. Let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.


NOBILO: Trump's comments drew condemnation from the NATO chief and European Council President as well. And his political opponent, U.S. Republican candidate Nikki Haley is calling those remarks irresponsible.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you something. I dealt with Russia every single day at the United Nations. Putin kills his opponents. He invades free countries. This is not someone you ever want to pal around with. And you certainly don't want to give them the right to invade a friend.

I am all for making NATO pay their fair share. But the reason that that has been the most successful organization in 75 years is because Russia's never invaded a NATO country. They know that together we're united. And they know together they can't touch us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: And U.S. President Joe Biden says Trump will, quote, abandon our NATO allies.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us live from Abu Dhabi. Paula, I presume that defenders of Trump's remarks would say that perhaps they were throwaway comments or he's just trying to impress upon NATO allies that they need to pay their due. But can you explain how comments like that alone can have a pernicious impact and potentially lead to grave miscalculations?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, we know what Donald Trump thinks of NATO. When he was president, he threatened to pull the U.S. out of the alliance. He has also called it obsolete in the past. So, the sentiment is not a -- but just how far he has gone in these comments has taken many by surprise.

And it will be listened to very closely by leaders around the world, especially those who remember that alliances were not as sacred to Donald Trump as they are, for example, to the U.S. President Joe Biden.

There are many world leaders who will be expecting a certain level of disdain from a future president, Donald Trump, if he were to win the U.S. presidency, because they have seen what he has done in the past. So there is a concern because within NATO, the core nature of NATO Article 5 is that if one member nation is attacked, then it is attack on all and all other member nations come to the defense of that one country. That's really what it hinges upon.

And if one country in particular, one as large and powerful as the United States decides that it is not going to step up, if that were to be the case, then there are serious repercussions.

We've heard from the NATO Secretary General himself Jens Stoltenberg saying, quote: Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the United States, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.

We've also heard from the European Council President Charles Michel saying that these comments are reckless, adding they serve only Putin's interest.

So, there will be concern about these, these comments that there have been some within the Republican Party that have dismissed them or even agreed with the sentiments of the fact that they want more member nations to pay more within NATO. But when it comes to many of those, those member nations, there will be concerns. What we've seen in recent years is that the U.S. President Joe Biden has managed to sustain a certain level of unity within NATO, in particular, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And this is really just a reminder to all of what a potential second U.S. presidency of Donald Trump could entail -- Max, Bianca.

NOBILO: Paula Hancocks for us in Abu Dhabi. Thank you.

FOSTER: Earlier I spoke with Leslie Vinjamuri, Director of the U.S. and America's Programme at Chatham House here in London. Here's what she had to say about the international impact of Trump's remarks.


LESLIE VINJAMURI, DIRECTOR, U.S. AND AMERICA'S PROGRAMME AT CHATHAM HOUSE: America has important alliance relationships with South Korea, with Japan, who are always looking back very concerned about what a Trump presidency would mean, whether the U.S. would continue to support those countries.


And remember, those are those are countries that are sitting in a very, potentially very insecure region with China, North Korea and nuclear powers. South Korea and Japan, of course, are not and have relied on the United States for their security. And so, there is just a sort of, there is a veil of uncertainty that is hanging over America's allies. But also, it's close partners around the world who are waiting to see what happens in this election.

And I think, you know, the surprising thing always to me is that many more Europeans believe that Donald Trump will be successful in that election in November than the Americans I talked to. So, I think the level of fear and concern and at some level, it doesn't really matter if Donald Trump actually were to remove America's formal commitments. It's the daily blast of saying that he might that creates an extraordinarily uncertain and unpredictable -- unpredictable environment.

And here in Europe, as you know, we're seeing many people say that it's time for Europe to plan for an alternative scenario than America really coming to its defense.

FOSTER: He does have a point, though, doesn't he? To some extent in terms of the money. European countries don't put in as much money and some of them just don't live up to the promises of what money they are going to put in. So, there is that and that's quite an appealing part of this.

But when we consider Russia, China, if he goes through with this promise to effectively weaken the power of NATO without America behind it in the same way, it does open up an opportunity for Russia and China to fill that vacuum on the world stage and does change the world order.

VINJAMURI: Well, I think certainly Putin is enjoying -- enjoying the fear that Donald Trump is instilling in America's closest partners and perhaps waiting to see if he'll have a friend in the White House.

But I think, you know, just to be very clear, that call for NATO's -- members of NATO to step up their defense spending to two percent of their -- of the budget that came in 2014 before Donald Trump. And we have seen consistent movement forward. In 2014, there were only three members hitting that target. Now there are over 10. There's a long ways to go.

But again, you know, if you look at who's spending on defense, the top defense spender in NATO was Poland. It's not the United States.

Europeans have stepped up a lot, especially since Russia invaded Ukraine. So, I think the commitment is serious. The direction of travel is correct. I think Europeans know that they need to do more. But there is a question of how do you -- how do you motivate and creating chaos and fear and signaling support in effect to Russia is not a sound way to do it. Not only not sound for Europeans, it's not good for the United States.


NOBILO: The city chiefs have done it again. They're now back-to-back Super Bowl champions who will go live to Las Vegas to see how they pulled off a miracle with Taylor Swift cheering them on.

FOSTER (on camera): Plus, the half time show that fans had yelling, yeah. How Usher turned up the star power and lost his shirt in the process. Why are we talking about the musicians more than the players?

NOBILO: We always do. But you know what that means? Because of his song, Yeah! Do you know what we do now?

FOSTER: Well, I do now, don't I?

NOBILO: Yes, we'll talk about it more.



FOSTER: The Super Bowl provided a fantastic finish. I mean, I couldn't watch it because I was asleep. Did you watch it?

NOBILO: No, but we're going to chat with Andy and we'll feel like we were there.

FOSTER: We do. We've been reading all about it.

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers with a touchdown in overtime. The Chiefs have now won back-to-back Super Bowls.

NOBILO: In Kansas City, thousands of Chiefs fans came together outdoors in very cold temperatures to cheer for their team.

And the Chiefs' most famous fan, Taylor Swift, was at the game to congratulate her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, with a kiss.

CNN's Andy Scholes is live in Las Vegas right now. So Andy, Max and I haven't been able to watch it. So, tell us the unmissable moments. What should everybody get to see?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I tell you what, guys, the first Super Bowl ever here in Las Vegas, it certainly did not disappoint, but it didn't start off that way. I mean, the first half, it was just an offensive struggle.

It was punt, punt, field goal, fumble, punt. We were looking like we were maybe in for a dud of a Super Bowl.

But in the end, Patrick Mahomes delivering once again. And he's truly cemented himself as one of the all-time great players to ever play the game. We'll show you how it all went down.

Taylor Swift in attendance to cheer on her boyfriend, Travis Kelce. I mean, they showed her on the Jumbotron, she even chucked her drink for all of her fans.

Now, like I mentioned, not a lot of offense in the first half. Pick it up, Chiefs down 10 to 6. They were actually punting here. And this is the play that just changed the game. The ball hits a Niner's player's foot. They can't field it. The Chiefs recover, just totally swinging the momentum. Very next play, Mahomes to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Chiefs take their first lead. They go up 13 to 6.

Niners, though, they would come right back. Brock Purdy is going to find Jauan Jennings for the touchdown. Niners back on top.

But Jake Moody's extra point gets blocked. And that would be huge because the Chiefs, in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, drive down and kick a field goal to tie this game and send it to overtime. It's just the second overtime game in Super Bowl history.

And Niners, they would get the ball first and end up kicking a field goal. Then Mahomes, the chance to go 75 yards to win it all. And he did just that, finding Mecole Hardman for the three-yard touchdown to win the Super Bowl. Chiefs beat the Niners 25-22.

Taylor Swift joining in on the celebrations on the field, giving her boyfriend Travis Kelce a big smooch and a bunch of hugs. And Mahomes, he was named the MVP for the third time in his career.


They're the first team to go back-to-back since the Patriots in 05. And Mahomes, he's already thinking of a three-peat.


PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: I'm going to celebrate tonight. I'm going to celebrate at the parade and I'm going to do whatever I can to be back in this game next year and trying to go for that three-peat.

So it's a it's ongoing thing in the NFL. I think Tom said it best is once you win that championship and you have those parades and you get those rings, you're not the champ anymore. You have to come back with that same mentality and I learned from guys like that.

TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TIGHT END: I don't care what people call us. I know I'm back-to-back and I won three in whatever years. Y'all can call us the Dynasty. You can call us whatever you guys want. I know what we got is something more special than really what you see in the NFL. It's because the guys in this locker room and the head coach.


SCHOLES: And I will say Las Vegas has got to be the best place to win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs probably right now still partying up somewhere on the Vegas Strip, guys. And their head coach Andy Reid, the two previous times he won the Super Bowl, he said he was going to enjoy the night by eating a big old cheeseburger and I can only imagine that's exactly what he's doing somewhere right now.

FOSTER: Oh, sorry we're keeping you from the party Andy. You'll get there. I'll be going on for a while at least.

I wonder if Andy ever felt, you know, realized going into sports and becoming a revered sports correspondent, he'd end up transitioning into showbiz and talking about Taylor Swift.

NOBILO: I don't know. I don't think any of us would have expected the amount that we're talking about Taylor Swift --


NOBILO: I would say. But that head coach is hugely impressive. That's how the Super Bowl wins.

FOSTER: Mahomes.

NOBILO: It really is amazing.

FOSTER: Thank you, Andy.

Now from a covert overnight operation to a potential ground offensive in Rafah. We'll discuss the latest developments in southern Gaza with a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces just ahead.

NOBILO: And millions of people across the U.S. under the threat of severe weather. The latest on a massive storm moving along the East Coast and snow that it could leave behind. That's ahead for you.