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Foreign Nationals to Leave Gaza; Gershon Baskin is interviewed about Hostages Held by Hamas; Protesters Remove Hostages Posters. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 01, 2023 - 06:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we are following the breaking news this morning. You're looking at the Rafah border crossing where Americans and hundreds of other foreign national who have been trapped in Gaza could soon finally have a pathway out. Same with critically injured civilians.

You're looking at these live pictures. Ambulances have been rushing there and crowds of people have been gathering after sources tell CNN Qatar has brokered a deal with Hamas, Israel, Egypt and the U.S. government to allow up to 500 foreign nationals to leave Gaza and enter Egypt. We're told, of course, an important caveat here, the deal does not include actual hostages held by Hamas.

Joining us now is CNN military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Colonel Leighton, we have talked so much about this border crossing and the frustrations related to its closure. How will this actually work for those foreign nationals who have been waiting for weeks?

LT. COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, so, Phil, the big -- big deal for them here is actually when they move down to this area and they get a green light to come into Egypt through the Rafah crossing. These people have - many of them have actually had to come from northern Gaza, all the way down through the Khan Yunis area, down into the Rafah area where they've been waiting. They were told by the Israelis to evacuate this area and move down into the southern part right here.

So, how they're going to do that is they will go through on foot through the border crossing. There will hopefully be buses or some other form of transcription for them on the Egyptian side of the border. Those buses may be arranged by the Egyptian government or they may be arranged by the consulate/embassies of the countries that they are nationals of. So, that's the kind of thing that happens. They will go through the security process at this Rafah gate and that will involve processes possibly by Hamas, as well as by the Egyptians, and the Israelis, who will also be involved in that.


So, it's going to be a very intricate ballet dance that is going to take place at this point.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Colonel Leighton, just remind people, that is in southern Gaza this strike -


HARLOW: I was just going to say -


HARLOW: The strike on the refugee camp, the Israeli strike on the refugee camp late yesterday is in the north. And so, presumably, these ambulances crossing, et cetera, would not be able to help all of the people injured there, right?

LEIGHTON: That is correct. And keep in mind, Poppy, that the number of people that are going to be moved by ambulance is probably around 80 based on the reporting that we have right now. And given that fact, it's going to be a very, very small portion of the wounded people.

These should be critically injured people that can be helped by medical care in Egypt in a more sophisticated hospital environment than what they were able to do in Gaza at the moment because of the war that's going on there. And the Israeli attacks, which, you're right, they concentrated primarily on the north. To get people out of here, at this particular point in time, and move them down there, in time to cross that border, that's going to be extremely tough to do and really impossible. They're going to have to wait. Anybody who's injured in the latest air strikes is going to have to wait before they can cross that border if they need that kind of care.

HARLOW: And looking at those images of the craters caused by the strike that we have seen - and we know, as we're still trying to get a final count, a high number of casualties in that refugee camp.

Colonel Leighton, thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

HARLOW: We have been talking about this breaking news, the deal brokered by Qatar to allow foreign nationals to leave Gaza. We are told hostages are not part of that deal. We'll be joined by someone who has been involved in the hostage negotiations prior with Hamas, next.

MATTINGLY: And people across the U.S. have been putting up posters of the more than 200 Israelis who were kidnapped to bring attention to what is going on in Israel and Gaza. It's a task that has become more difficult, but many of those posters now being ripped down.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To see them taken down was another - another hit. They don't have a voice right now. And what we're trying to do is give them one. And they're being silenced.




HARLOW: New this morning, sources tell CNN that Qatar has brokered a deal between Israel, Hamas and Egypt, in coordination with the United States, to release all foreign nationals being held in Gaza, along with critically injured civilians. This deal, we should note, is separate from any hostage negotiations. Hamas claim that it will release some of these foreign nationals it's currently holding as hostages in the coming days. We will see. They did not specify which nationalities or how many hostages they would release or exactly when.

Joining us now is Gershon Baskin. He helped negotiate the release of Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity in 2011 after being held for five years and he was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Thank you so much, Gershon, for being with us for your expertise.

When you think about what it took to get him out, to get Gilad Shalit out, I think it was 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, one of who went on to lead Hamas currently, the families, many of them, are calling on - of the hostages on Netanyahu to trade all of the Palestinian prisoners estimated to be about 6,000 in Israel for their loved ones. Is there any chance that happens?

GERSHON BASKIN, UNOFFICIAL ISRAELI NEGOTIATOR: There's a chance that it could happen because the weight of the families of the hostages and their message to the Israeli public is gaining support within Israeli society. Three weeks ago no one was thinking about the hostages. They were all thinking about dismantling Hamas' ability to govern and threaten Israel. And today, while I haven't seen accurate polling on this, it -- my impression is that more than half the society is backing the families of the hostages and saying that Israel has a moral responsibility to bring back all these hostages.

We're talking about women and children, infants, elderly people, sick people, wounded people. This is something that Israel has a responsibility to bring home because Israel failed to protect them. The major function of any country is to provide defense and security for their citizens, and Israel failed these 240 people and has a responsibility to bring them home. With a great price and it's a huge dilemma for the Israeli government.

MATTINGLY: You've said since this start that you've had contact with Hamas officials or Hamas contacts. When was the last time you spoke to them? Have you been given any insight into what an actual strategy is at this point?

BASKIN: Yes, they've gone on radio silence over the last three and a half days. I haven't received any response from them. And I've been communicating with people in Gaza, in Beirut and in Doha, including some people who are members of the leadership. That might be an indication that things are at a very sensitive and intense stage of negotiation, but it also might be that they are irrelevant and have nothing to say about what's being negotiated because, at the end of the day, the decisions are going to be taken in Hamas by the military wing of Hamas, and they're located in tunnels deep underneath the Gaza Strip.

HARLOW: The release that we're hearing that Qatar brokered of foreign nationals, not hostages, that is coming today, our reporting is at Rafah crossing, does that, Gershon, indicate anything to you about where Hamas' mindset is vis-a-vis hostages, or do you view the two as completely separate?

BASKIN: They're completely separate. We're talking about Palestinian nationals who have second passports. There are a few thousand of them. It's not a major exodus of Gaza of Palestinian people. But they are Palestinians who have French passports or U.S. passports or British passports or probably 30 or 40 different nations and they are nationals of other countries. Some of those countries have fought very hard to get the agreement of everyone to allow them to leave.


I think there's been internal pressure on Hamas within Gaza to allow people to leave who have foreign passports. It has nothing to do with the hostages. And when Hamas says that they are thinking about releasing foreign national hostages, they are not talking about Israeli with duel passports, they're talking about the Thai workers who they took, they're talking about Napolitan (ph), Filipino caretakers who were taken along with Israeli hostages. For Hamas there's no difference between an Israeli with a second passport and an Israeli with no other passport.

MATTINGLY: You noted that there is - this is kind of up to the military wing to some degree. People might not recognize that there is a political wing, there's a military wing, they are located in different places. They are often in the midst of different discussions.

There's also multiple different - multiple groups holding hostages, or at least more than one. Do you believe there's a centralized place for Qatar officials, U.S. officials, Israeli officials to actually go to negotiate at this point?

BASKIN: I think it's very difficult and it's impossible to determine who's really in charge and making the decisions at the end of the day. In Gaza there is little difference between the political wing and the military wing. There's a great overlapping of them.

The military wing of Hamas could not have done what they did on October 7th without the agreement and knowledge with at least the most senior leaders of the political wing. (INAUDIBLE), the political leader of Gaza, was released in the Shalit deal in 2011 and there's no question that he is part of the decision making process of the military wing. But as you said, apparently Islamic Jihad and PFLP and individuals are holding hostages as well and it's not 100 percent clear that Hamas has control of all of the hostages.

MATTINGLY: Gershon Baskin, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

BASKIN: You're very welcome.

MATTINGLY: Well, the uptick in anti-Semitic sentiment in this county is bleeding into more facets of everyday life. Even efforts to make the world aware of some of the people believed to be captured by Hams comes with pushback. CNN's Camila Bernal reports.


ADVA REICHMAN, SUPPORTER, "KIDNAPPED IN ISRAEL" PROJECT: So, we can start on one side and come back on the next.

CAMILIA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The goal is to raise awareness to those kidnapped in Israel by showing their faces, names and ages.

REICHMAN: This is a 12-year-old boy who was supposed to have his celebration with his family, and instead they can't even say happy birthday. They don't know if he's alive. They don't know how they are.

BERNAL: But after Adva Reichman puts these up, sometimes in minutes they're ripped off.

REICHMAN: To see them taken down was another - another hit. To see the faces of innocent civilians who were taken from their homes, they don't have a voice right now. And what we're trying to do is give them one. And they're being silenced.

BERNAL: And, in some cases, it's personal.

NITZAN MINTZ, CREATOR, "KIDNAPPED IN ISRAEL" PROJECT: It's not only that I've seen the people tear down the posters and videos. I actually witnessed it with my own eyes. I struggled myself walking in the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn and people were s, so hateful towards me. People cursed me. People threatened me on social media, threatening my life.

BERNAL: Nitzan Mintz and her partner created the posters. The Israeli citizens were in New York for an art program, but after the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel that killed 1,400, they felt they had to do something. So, they stopped their program and started the "Kidnapped from Israel" project.

MINTZ: And then after we uploaded it to our social media, people just downloaded it. So, for us, it was like a miracle.

BERNAL: A miracle and a curse.

MINTZ: The anti-Semitism is rising above any nightmare I ever thought.

BERNAL: She feels that in New York, and Adva feels it in California.

REICHMAN: We are not foreign to anti-Semitism. This is not a new concept. I've known this. I've experienced this. I've felt this for years. But the louder they get, the louder we have to get. It just hurts.

BERNAL: But it's not stopping them.

Aba (ph), let's put another one here.

BERNAL: Even when the posters are taken down, they come back and do it again.

REICHMAN: Judaism in Israel is about human life, and we value and cherish human life. So, until they're back, you're going to see these posters.

BERNAL: Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.


HARLOW: Our thanks to Camila for that reporting.

Meantime, FBI Director Christopher Wray says it is becoming more and more dangerous for Jewish Americans that anti-Semitism is nearing historic levels.

MATTINGLY: And we are watching the Rafah border and the breaking news about a deal brokered to allow foreign nationals to leave Gaza.


And that comes as Israeli officials are defending their strike on a refugee camp in northern Gaza, saying they were targeting a Hamas commander. The number killed is still unclear, but eyewitnesses say it will be significant. We're going to speak to a spokesman for the Israel Defense forces ahead.

Stay with us.


HARLOW: Well, welcome back.

FBI Director Christopher Wray warning that Americans are facing an increased terror threat amid Israel's war against Hamas. During a Senate hearing yesterday, Wray cautioned that the terror group's propaganda could inspire lone wolf attacks and violent extremists in the U.S.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY; FBI DIRECTOR: But the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole nother level.


Here in the United States, our most immediate concern is that violent extremists, individuals or small groups, will draw inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives.


MATTINGLY: Joining us now is former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. He's also a partner at the law firm Paul Weiss.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.

To that point, I've heard from officials who are very concerned that this would dramatically accelerate recruitment around the world. Why should this reach domestic shores, to some degree? Why should this threat be considered real at home right now?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: First of all, it's amazing to me that - and Director Wray said this yesterday, that Jews represent just 2.4 percent of the American population, and yet they are the victims of 60 percent of the religious hate crimes in this country. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. I'm always struck when I go to speak to groups at synagogues, the level of security necessary at a house of worship.

The rise of anti-Semitism in this country is undeniable. I agree with the message that the FBI director sent yesterday, which is that Americans -- I used to say the same thing in times like this when -- Americans should continue to go about their daily lives, go to public events, holiday season is approaching, but always be vigilant. If you see something, say something. It does make a difference. It has made a difference.

And, without a doubt, passions in this country, from what's happening in the Middle East, are rising. You see this on the campuses of colleges and universities. You see this at public events. We all need to be vigilant. We all need to be careful.

HARLOW: This is what Secretary Mayorkas, who holds the job that you had, here's what he said about the rise in anti-Semitism and threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab Americans.



ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In the days and weeks since, we have responded to an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab American communities and institutions across our country. Hate directed at Jewish students, communities and institutions add to a preexisting increase in the level of anti- Semitism in the United States and around the world.


HARLOW: We have seen the Biden administration speaking out on this, taking some action to change, for example, language in, you know, what a federal hate crime is. But what more -- do you think there is more this administration could do right now?

JOHNSON: I think we all need to make clear where the line is. In a free society like this one, where we all have a right to free speech, in times like this we are allowed to be loud, we're allowed to be emotional, we're allowed to be vocal in the expression of our views about what's happening in Israel, what's happening in Gaza.

The line, however, is, we should not be - and we should be discouraging inciting hate, inciting violence, inciting hate directed at American Jews, inciting hate against Palestinians. But, you know, in a society such as ours, we should expect that people are allowed to express their views in a very passionate and emotional way without inciting hate and violence.

HARLOW: The fact that you use the word inciting is so important because I think that is often missed in the debate over freedom of speech and the First Amendment. That there is a line.


HARLOW: And the Supreme Court's been very clear on, there is a line, and the line is incitement.

JOHNSON: Correct. The line is incitement to hate and violence. In many instances, it can be criminal. And what we're seeing now on social media and elsewhere are irresponsible individuals who go that step further, cross that line and put people here in this country in real jeopardy. And it's disturbing that so many Americans today feel that the only way to express themselves is through violent, hateful speech.

You know, great social movements in this country have most often been peaceful.

HARLOW: Right.

JOHNSON: The civil rights movement in the '60s. Dr. King always preached nonviolence. And so there is a way, particularly for young people who are on campuses of colleges and universities today who feel passionate about this subject on both sides, there is a way to express your views forcefully, even loudly, without resorting to encouraging violence against others, without putting others in physical jeopardy.

MATTINGLY: The former general council at the Pentagon, who's considered to be the architect - one of the architects or the architect of the Obama administration's counterterrorism kind of legal infrastructure.


When you look at strikes like what we've seen in Jabalia, what are your concerns?