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Ceasefire between Israel and Hamas Continues into Sixth Day as Hostage Exchanges Continue; Ten-Month-Old and Four-Year-Old Hostages Still Not Released by Hamas; Biden Administration Dealing with Split in Democratic Party on U.S. Policy towards Israel. Talks in Qatar Push Towards Extending Gaza Pause. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We'd like to see the pause extended, because what it has enabled, first and foremost, is hostages being released. It has enabled us to surge humanitarian assistance into the people of Gaza who so desperately need it.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: That was Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this morning. He is getting ready to head to Israel right now. The final hours of the truce between Israel and Hamas are ticking away and intense negotiations are underway to extend that truce. Hamas is set to release more hostages today after handing over another group of women and children yesterday. And yesterday in Gaza we saw gunmen with rifles slung over their shoulders hand over an 84- year-old woman in a wheelchair as a crowd cheered and recorded with their cellphones. We also saw them release a 17-year-old girl clutching her dog in her arms.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And new this morning, the family of the youngest Israeli hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, telling CNN they have been notified the baby, his four-year-old brother Ariel as well, will not be among the hostages freed today. This is the latest breakdown of the hostages who are believed to still be in Gaza. This morning Israeli officials telling CNN they believe there is still a total of 161 people being held captive and a large majority of them are men. Four are children under the age of 18.

MATTINGLY: And there are 10 elderly hostages who are aged 75 and older. A large majority of these hostages are Israeli, including some dual nationals. The White House says nine Americans are believed to be held in Gaza, and the U.S. remains hopeful two American women could be released today. The only American released so far under this truce is four-year-old Abigail Edan.

Kaitlan Collins joins us live in Tel Aviv. Kaitlan, the negotiations there continuing right now. Do we have any update on whether there could be an extension here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We don't. We are still waiting to see what they decide. Everyone seems to have coalesced around the idea that there will be an extension, but it's really not certain until they have a formal agreement. And so far we have not gotten word of that. Part of that I think is because Israel said they wanted to make sure they got through day six, which, of course, is today as we are now just hours away from this expiring before they agreed to an extension to see how tonight goes, because it has been very day by day.

But really the big question here right now is what happens on day seven. Is there going to be a continuation in the pause, and how long could that go on for? I've heard from Israeli officials that they do believe when it comes to women and children, there are still enough being held that this part of the agreement could go on for several more days. But we know from our sources that there was a meeting in Doha yesterday, including the CIA director, about what this next deal could potentially look like. And Israel said we are not ready to come to an agreement until we finish this part of the agreement for women and children, which of course, we know has not been fulfilled he yet.

But what they are talking about, and what the CIA director in particular was pushing for was broadening the category to include elderly men, other men who are being held, and potentially IDF soldiers, though it is essentially the consensus here that IDF soldiers would be a much higher price than what they have had to do for women and children. Whether that's a question of how many more Palestinian prisoners they have to release in order to get that, those are all still outstanding issues that we do not have the firm details on.

But of course, all of this, all these negotiations, every single turn that they take, it is of grave importance to these families here who are waiting for word on what is going to happen to their loved ones. And we have heard from the Bibas family, and they say that yes, they told me that 10-month-old Kfir Bibas and four-year-old Ariel Bibas, including their parents, are not on the list of hostages to be released today on day six.

And just to speak to the anguish that these families are feeling. Every day when they get that call that it's not going be their loved ones who are on the list, I want you to listen to a cousin of the Bibas family, Eylon Keshet, in this interview, an incredibly emotional interview that he had with me yesterday.


EYLON KESHET, COUSIN OF YARDEN BIBAS: It's 53 days they are going through this nightmare, and it doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense that anyone can let this keep going, that a baby and four years old, there is a mother. They shouldn't be kept like this.


It's inhumane. It's so scary. Just, we can't let it go on. Just think about it. If this was your child, would you want them to be in terrorist hands in captivity? Even not seeing them for 53 days is just -- is so hard. Like, are we the enemies of Hamas, are we the enemies of anyone? Should these children be used as bargaining chips? No, they shouldn't. This is the single answer. They shouldn't be used as bargaining chips for any political or religious or whatever reason. There is no justification for using them like this. So we just want them back really.


COLLINS: You can hear the pain in his voice as he is talking and his concern for 10-month-old Kfir who is still on baby formula. He was not even eating solid foods when he was kidnapped by Hamas, and they are worried that he could starve to death, even if he is being taken care of.

And I got a statement from Eylon overnight, and I want to read it to you, because it's important. And he said that they officially know that they will not be a part of this release on day six today. He said, quote, "We want to make sure that everyone understand that they are in dire conditions and are in real danger to develop irreversible damage in this state. We demand the Red Cross to do its duty, fight for its right to access, provide emergency health support, and report that their status. We also want to send a message to President Biden. Please speak with us, and help save their lives."

Now, these are typically two people, two children, certainly, at least, we also know their mother is being held, that would be a part of this group that is supposed to be being able to be released. But here's the concern, and that is that the IDF says that Hamas has said they don't have them in their control, they are in control of another group in Gaza. Obviously, that just speaks to how complicated all of this is, Phil and Erica.

MATTINGLY: Yes, the scale of the complexity with all the different variables. And yet, Kaitlan, to your interview, the personal here matters as we talk about the diplomacy and next steps. Kaitlan Collins, stay with us. We're going to check back with you in a bit.

Joining us now to discuss is CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga, CNN political analyst Astead Herndon, and the writer of "The Very Serious Newsletter" and host of "The Very Serious Podcast" Josh Barro.

Bianna, I want to start with the interview, which was heart-wrenching to watch, that Kaitlan just showed. And the question is, how could there not be a continuation, how could there not be an extension of the ongoing truce, assuming everything goes according to plan today?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SECURITY GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And the Israeli government's position is that the onus is on Hamas. And it's in Hamas's interest now to keep this pause going because, of course, they can regroup. Hamas's perspective is, we are trying to find these hostages, so that's what we are using this time for. That's not how Israel is interpreting this. But of course, these are their residents. These are their citizens. And they want them home as well. So Hamas saying one thing. I think the Mossad chief is trying to push

in Qatar that Hamas does know how to get in touch with Islamic Jihad or whatever other groups are holding these children and they are not pushing enough to get their release sooner because they think this is leverage for them. And of course, it's inhumane. It's inhumane when you are thinking about an 11-month-old. What does he have anything to do with this? And you see the condition that some of these other hostages have come home. How do you even take care of a 10 or 11- month-old in tunnels for over 50 days?

HILL: I know it's absolutely horrific. And there are members of the family saying very clearly we worry that they are using the children as some sort of a trophy in this moment. The fact that we are hearing from this family, and they are pleading directly with President Biden, wanting to see more from the Biden administration, and Phil has had some reporting on this, but behind the scenes there, they are working really hard specifically on American hostages. How much does that push come from the administration specifically in a case like this?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we're going to see a big push because you're seeing those increasing costs for Biden. And Biden has been kind of steadfast, particularly in the work to get those hostages back. Where we are seeing the political pressure is really on the more aid front. And when we think about the generational divide, I think about the CNN polling that came out recently that showed a 60 point split between Democrats under 35 and their support of Biden in terms of giving aid to Israel rather than Democrats who are over 75.

You see that bigger split when it comes to foreign aid packages and the push for a ceasefire, but there is no split when it comes to hostage release. I think you see a kind of universal public call for that. And you see the administration really responding forcefully, and really saying that that's where they are showing the leadership.

Even when we think about the political nature of this, which obviously, to your point, Phil, is secondary to the personal, I think this is where Biden is going to try to point to his experience as a plus. We see the downside of age and kind of the political back and forth.


But this is place where he is uniquely suited to lean on that leadership, and I think the hostages is going to be a place we see the administration do that.

MATTINGLY: And to that point, Josh, part of that experience is keeping a lot of these discussions behind closed doors, quiet. More than a dozen calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Emir of Qatar, President El-Sisi in Egypt. And to some agree I think the administration feels like they are not getting credit for the fact they are in the middle of a truce, that there have been hostage releases, and that there's been a surge of humanitarian aid. Do you think that's fair? Or do you think that there are there other things they auto should be doing here? JOSH BARRO, WRITER, "VERY SERIOUS" NEWSLETTER: I think it's fair to

give them credit for it. I think that -- I'm sure that the president and the administration didn't create this situation. I think they feel overall this basically this external event happened and it's caused this big domestic political problem for there, and that there is very little that they can do about that given the way that it splits the Democratic Party. And I think that's true.

Obviously, it's true that the hostage releases are a more favorable story than pretty much anything we have seen out of there for several weeks going at this point. But as you note, the nature of this stuff is that it has to be behind closed doors. And it's never completely clear from the outside exactly who it was that drove whatever diplomatic outcome we got. So I think it's hard to prove exactly the extent to which the U.S. was a prime mover behind these multiparty conversations.

HILL: Josh, Astead, Bianna, stay with us. Much more to discuss in just a moment.

MATTINGLY: International mediators pushing for a longer break in the fighting as the truce enters its final day in the war between Israel and Hamas. The foreign ministry of Qatar has played a central role in mediating these negotiations. They are going to join us next.

HILL: Also breaking overnight, a U.S. military osprey plane crashing off the coast of Japan. What Japan's coast guard is saying about the crash, that's next.




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: As the truce here in Gaza between Israel and Hamas enters its final day, international mediators are now pushing for an even longer break in the fighting. A source tells CNN that Israel, the US. Qatar, and Egypt are all working towards extending the pause to get more hostages out of Gaza.

The expectation is that if everything goes well today, Hamas could actually produce an additional list of hostages for tomorrow and also have this pause potentially be extended for at least another 24 hours for someone who knows very well what could be going on in the next 24 hours.

Joining us now is Dr. Majed Al-Ansari, who is the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, which has played a central role in mediating these negotiations. Good morning, sir, thank you for being here. Given this truce is set to expire less than 24 hours from now, do you believe that it will be extended, and for how long?

DR. MAJED AL-ANSARI, QATARI MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESPERSON: Good morning, Kaitlan, thank you for having me. Of course, we are right now in the middle of these negotiations. As you might imagine, our teams on the ground, whether they be in Tel Aviv or here in Doha, in the operations room, are working with all sides to ensure we get all the information in real-time.

At the same time we are working on the release for today, which is, as your report rightly mentioned, it's the last day of the extension of the truth. We are hopeful that within a couple of hours, we will have the release of the final batch, but also, we will also be able to announce an extension.

We are working on an extension that would be guaranteed by the same provision that guaranteed the previous two days, which is that every day we'd have to include at least ten hostages coming out and 30 hostages, 33rd prisoners from the Israeli prisons, and we're very optimistic that we would have good news to share today.

COLLINS: Okay, so you do expect that an extension with the same parameters that are in place right now will be announced once this 6th group of hostages has been released, is that right?

AL-ANSARI: We are optimistic that we will be able to make that announcement during the day. Obviously, these are ongoing negotiations. Negotiators are working right now, so we hope that within a couple of hours, we would have more news on that.

COLLINS: Okay, and for the rest of the hostages that are still being held, has Hamas been able to provide an update on their status and their location? Do they know where all of the hostages who are still in Gaza are right now?

AL-ANSARI: Well, Kaitlan, the way this works is that every day we get the list from both sides, so we can go beyond that list when it comes to confirming information. Obviously, we don't have people on the ground. We get the information on the hostages from Hamas day by day, according to the list agreed between both sides.

So, what we are quite sure of right now is that there is very positive news regarding the availability of other hostages that can be released in the next couple of days. But we don't have any information regarding the full number of hostages of the status at the moment.

COLLINS: Well, I asked because Jake Sullivan, who is, as you know, President Biden's National Security Advisor, said that they believed on day four they were going to get an update on the rest of the hostages, how they are doing from Hamas.

We have yet to see that, has Hamas given any kind of update? And if not, why have they not given that update that the US, was clearly expecting to happen?

AL-ANSARI: As you might imagine, as I said, it's an ongoing negotiation right now. I can't comment on the details of what's happening in the negotiating room at the moment, but it is happening in a positive environment, and it fills us with hope that we will be able to announce something positive by the end of the day.

COLLINS: But if part of the agreement already that was agreed to last week was that the Red Cross could go in to check on these hostages, why has Hamas not let the Red Cross into Gaza yet to fulfill that part of the agreement that they're a party to?

AL-ANSARI: The operations room here in Doha is coordinating between the Red Cross and both parties of the conflict, how negotiators have been working around the clock to make sure that these exchanges happen in a positive environment. Obviously, we are talking about the war zone.

The situation in the red zone, as all of you have seen and your folks have shown very clearly, is that of a war zone with a lot of complications on the ground, a lot of logistical complications.

While I can't comment on the actual agreement language and the commitments that were written into that language, what I can tell you is that the agreement stands and that it is going in a positive environment, and that is what led to the extension of these two days and hopefully to another extension.

COLLINS: Okay, well, I think it is part of the agreement, and I think there are major questions from the families.


Whose loved ones have not gotten out about why the Red Cross hasn't been allowed in yet, I didn't hear an answer there. But I do want to ask you because there were multiple officials in Doha yesterday talking about what the future of this agreement could look like, are you negotiating a deal that would include the negotiations for the release of men and even potentially IDF soldiers as the next option here?

AL-ANSARI: As you might heard before, we have prioritized negotiations to start with those who are most at risk within the hostages, starting with women and children, and then civilian men moving towards soldiers in captivity at the moment.

We are talking to both sides now in parallel discussions regarding first focusing on compartmentalizing this negotiation and getting those who are most at risk out first. Our negotiations regarding women and children take a paramount position within the discussion, but obviously, we are moving toward civilian men being released and then having longer discussions over the soldiers.

I think there is also a parallel line of discussion over thinking how we can reach a sustainable truth to have longer discussions over the release of all hostages.

COLLINS: Okay, so there are those discussions underway. Have there been talks about a longer-term ceasefire that would end the conflict altogether, perhaps if Hamas were to release all of the hostages?

AL-ANSARI: Since day one of this conflict, our priority was to get an end to the hostilities, to get a ceasefire, and to get both parties to agree. However, we are working with what we have, so, the discussions started with a humanitarian part for four days, and now the extension for two days has ended and we are working towards, or is about to end, and we are working towards another extension.

But parallel to that, we are always having discussions on how we can reach a situation where we can have a longer truth. And that truth could lead to a ceasefire within a longer and more robust negotiation over the Holistic issue, not only of the hostages but of the situation as a whole.

I can't confirm now that we have any developments on that front, but I can tell you it's an ongoing discussion. And as we speak right now, our negotiators are working on that.

COLLINS: Okay, so it's still underway, no agreement yet. Last question on what we're expecting to see today. Do you believe that Americans you've seen on the list, are Americans on this list of who's getting released today?

AL-ANSARI: Again, I'm sorry, I can't comment on the details of this information. As you know, our paramount importance right now that we lay is on the safety and security of the hostages and on the success of the release that will take place today and the further negotiations.

I can't comment on the names of these individuals that will be released today, but I can confirm that the release is going to happen in a couple of hours and that the things on the ground that are supposed to happen are happening. And we are hopeful that we are going to have a good announcement about the hostages being released in the next couple of hours.

COLLINS: I understand you can't name names, but can you say if there are Americans on the list?

AL-ANSARI: I can't comment on that right now for the safety of the hostages and for the success of the exchange today.

COLLINS: Dr. Majed Al-Ansari, as always, thank you for your time as a crucial role that Qatar is playing in these talks. Phil, Erica, you heard him there, obviously, they have been central to all of the discussions that are happening yesterday.

Today he says that they do believe that they're hopeful that once we get through the release of the 6th set of hostages, which is set to happen in just a few hours from now, that then they will potentially be able to announce an extension to this temporary truce.

He says right now that's going to have the same parameters that you're seeing in place right now that's men or excuse me, that's women and children, but says there are ongoing discussions about potentially including men in that going forward.

We'll see, of course, once they get through the women and children, which Israel has made clear they want to see those hostages released first before they agree to another potential extension here.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Yeah, absolutely.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Notable optimism about a potential extension. No question about that. Kaitlan, thank you.

HILL: Well, Mark Cuban selling his Dallas Mavericks. We'll take a look at that record deal.

MATTINGLY: And today is the season two premiere of Anderson Cooper's "All There Is" podcast. He's going to be live for us with a preview of what we can expect, and that includes the President.




MATTINGLY: Welcome back to CNN this morning. Here are five things to know for this Wednesday, November 29. Breaking overnight, at least one person was killed after a US Military Osprey aircraft carrying six people crashed off the coast of Japan's Yakushima Island.

HILL: The extended truce between Israel and Hamas is now in its 6th, possibly final day. Talks are currently underway to extend that truce further.

MATTINGLY: Business Mogul Mark Cuban reportedly selling the majority stake of his Dallas Mavericks for a whopping $3.5 billion. He will, however, remain in control of the team's operations.

HILL: A vote to expel George Santos from Congress is now delayed until Thursday. Santos says he expected the vote to pass but won't resign.

MATTINGLY: A private family funeral will be held today for former first lady Rosalind Carter. Her son Chip says she was the most beautiful woman he ever met, pretty to look at too. That's five things to know for this morning, don't forget to download the Five Things podcast.

HILL: Well, the latest season of All There is. Anderson Cooper's podcast tackles the issue of grief. It is a subject that is deeply personal to him. In the first season, Anderson opened up about losing his mom, his dad, and his brother, and the impact that had on him speaking with comedians, poets, filmmakers, and musicians about how they have dealt with the loss of their loved ones.

In the second season, which is out now.