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IDF: First Group Of Released Hostages Now In Israel. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 24, 2023 - 12:30   ET



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so, incredibly exciting and happy news for many people tonight across Israel, but also happiness tinged with, you know, a bittersweet sentiment, because there are still so many people, of course, who remain hostages inside the Gaza Strip, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, a sigh of relief for these families and all of these families who have become so close during this, you know, torturous process.

Matthew Chance, as you see more, we'll continue to check back in with you.

There's also -- because of what happened on that day, because so many families were left with members of theirs kidnapped by Hamas, it's created this kind of bonding for these families who they're the only ones who know what each other is going through the agony that they have felt every day, missing their loved ones.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in a place that has informally become known here in Tel Aviv as hostage square. Oren, I mean, this has been a place where you've seen families gather. They have made their emotions clear, they've made their pleas to the government clear when they felt like they weren't being heard. What are you seeing there tonight now that this is the first time that we've seen this large of a group of hostages be released happen?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This is a place where so many of the families that have something fundamental missing, a loved one missing. They have come together to form a new family. A lot of -- or I should say, one of the efforts here has been on this wall here behind me the wall of the Tel Aviv art museum would rotate through the pictures of the missing.

And the red -- I'm sorry, the white lettering on top used to say (foreign language), "bring me home now". Now for the first time in some 50 days, the wording there has changed that now says (foreign language), "I have returned home". It's showing the pictures of the 13 first Israeli hostages who were released under this agreement.

Five-year-old Emilia Aloni, it should change here in just a second. We have seen a number of these pictures come up. Yafa Adar, as well as Adina Moshe, Daniel Aloni from the same family as the previous photo there. It is an enormous relief to the loved ones of those whose picture is being broadcast right now to see their picture up on that wall with the title above that, "I have returned home."

Many of them, as we've learned from the same kibbutz, the kibbutz of Nir Oz. It's also worth noting that we spoke to somebody else here just a short time ago who has a loved one from Nir Oz who has not yet come home. And she talked about the joy of hearing that some of that family, some of the kibbutz family has come home but how difficult it will be over the course of the next several days waiting for news that her cousin and his son have been released and freed and are able to come home after such a long time in Gaza.

Still you can see those pictures continue to rotate 72-year-old Adina Moshe, and that crucial headline up top (foreign language). This is where they hope that they can add to these pictures over the course of the next several days. So it's not just 13. So it becomes the full 50 and beyond that.

And the square will probably always be known as hostage square, but there will be a bit more joy in the gathering here. A bit more of a reason to celebrate. As they add more photos up there behind me, that's (foreign language), "I have returned home".

COLLINS: It is remarkable, Oren, to see that because everywhere you go in Israel, I mean, in other parts of the world, but especially here in Israel, you see these flyers. They are on the backs of cabs, they are on people's shirts, they are inside restaurants, they are everywhere you go where you see that saying, "bring me home" and to see that message changes. Obviously, such a sigh of relief that.

But you look at some of those women -- and I was just looking at a statement from the spokesperson for kibbutz Nir Oz. One of the women who has been brought home, she's one of the elderly women. Yes, she is brought home. It is such a relief for her family. Her husband, though, is still being held hostage by Hamas and Gaza. Obviously he is not on the list of women and children that is expected to be in this first group. It just underscores what a bittersweet moment this truly is.

Oren Liebermann in hostage Square here in Israel.

And, of course, as we continue to monitor what is happening here, the statements that are coming in from Israeli officials. What we do know right now is that these 13 Israeli hostages that have been released by Hamas are now back here in Israel. They've undergone an initial screening. They are on their way to hospitals, where they are going to be reunited with their families the first time that they have tasted freedom since October 7th.

We're continuing to monitor these live developments with our special coverage. We'll be back in just a moment.


[12:39:22] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back. Our breaking news coverage. 24 hostages released by Hamas terrorists today. They are all now in freedom. All 13 Israeli hostages are back on Israeli territory. We believe they're moving by bus from the Kerem Shalom crossing right now towards the Hatzerim Airbase. From there, they will be flown to other hospitals or locations inside Israel.

And just moments ago, we got the names of all 13 Israeli hostages released. I will read through them with their approximate ages. I say approximate because some have had birthdays during their 48 days in captivity.


Yafa Adar, 85 years old, Ohad Munder, nine years old, Keren Munder, 54 years old, Ruth Munder, 78, Margalit Mozes, 77 or 78, Adina Moshe, 72, Daniel Aloni, 45, Emilia Aloni, her daughter, six, Aviv Asher, 2, Raz Asher, 4, Doron Katz Asher, 34, Hana Katzir, 76, Channa Peri, 79 years old. The names of the 13 hostages released.

All of them except for Channa Peri, I believe, residents of the kibbutz Nir Oz. All of them, Israeli citizens. No Americans yet released today, though, it is believed it will happen over the next few days.

Let's get to our Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt, our Chief National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt, for the latest on that. Alex, what are you hearing from U.S. officials now on all of this?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, one name not on that list today, Abigail Edan, an American-Israeli, who President Biden has spoken so much about for most of the time in captivity. She has been three years old. She turns four years old today.

There was certainly a hope among American officials that she would be among those released in this first group. Now, it appears that she is not. We got the sense that that would not happen today, yesterday when the Israelis started telling families of the 13 that they would be coming home.

And so there is an expectation, a hope among American officials that in these four days of pause, that three Americans will be released. Two women and young Abigail.

Now the question after this first day, John, is how many more hostages can we expect released tomorrow? The way that this has been set up is that each side would present the other through the Red Cross with the list of the Israeli hostages. We're expecting a minimum of 10 per day, that's part of the deal.

It could go higher. Today we saw 13. And then there was this other surprise really of the 11 foreign nationals who were also released. John, 50 to be released over four days. But American officials have said throughout this process, that the hope is, of course, that there will be more who are released and that this pause can be extended beyond the four days.

The deal was set up in such a way, one senior Administration official said, in order to incentivize the release of further hostages. There is an expectation that it could go higher than this initial 50. Another couple of dozen perhaps.

And then, John, once you broaden it out beyond the women and children, there are also the questions about who would be left. Now we still have more than 200 hostages left in Hamas and other group's custody. There are foreign nationals like the ones that we saw released today, their elderly Israeli men. There's an expectation that they might be among one of the first groups to be released after women and children.

The toughest group, John, is going to be the IDF soldiers, both men and women who are being held by Hamas and these other groups. They will be the most valuable hostages, if you will, in terms of leverage for Hamas to hold on to.

So I think there are two big questions now, John, how much longer can this pause be extended beyond the four days? Of course, assuming all goes well. And then when could the fighting resumed? Because we have heard Israeli officials saying that they do intend very much to get back to the fighting to get back to their goal of trying to eradicate Hamas.

But John, there was so much focus on this exchange today to make sure that this went well, to prove that this mechanism works, to prove that this deal can hold. We have now had almost 13 hours of a peaceful pause in this fighting it appears to be holding. So American officials are watching this extremely closely to make sure that they can get out, not just these three Americans in the next few days, but as many hostages as possible. John?

BERMAN: You bring up such excellent points there, Alex Marquardt. You know, 13 Israeli hostages released today. 10 Thai citizens, one Filipino, more than 200 hostages remain, including Abigail Edan, who turns four today. This is Abigail's birthday today and it's still held hostage inside Gaza.

Our thanks to Alex Marquardt for that.

Let's talk now to CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier. Kim, you know, we've been watching very closely what's been happening all day long here.


Again, all 13 Israeli hostages back on Israeli soil. We've seen some remarkable video including of a young girl in that yellow shirt being released there. A significant step today. How significant?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it shows proof of concept that with Qatar organizing this and with the U.S. bringing Israel along, they've managed to keep no fighting on the ground, or at least limited fighting. There have been some skirmishes between Israeli troops and Palestinians who are trying to go back to Northern Gaza and some non-lethal methods like tear gas were used to drive them back.

But the guns seem to have fallen silent. And this first tranche lends hope to four days of full transfers each day, possibly up to 10 days. The Israeli cabinet had approved a truce of up to 10 days from the first releases. And U.S. officials have told us as Alex was mentioning, that they want to exploit every single possible day, bringing back as many as 100 hostages in just this period of time.

But that leaves something like 140, including those troops. And if Israel at that point decides that it has to start fighting again, it's going to face pressure from the families inside the country, and also from the international community, because 10 days is not enough time to get in the humanitarian aid that's needed to help the 1.7 million displaced Gazans that the U.N. reports don't have proper shelter or food or water at this point.

BERMAN: You know, and again, and today is very much about these families, these people ages, you know, two to 85, who have been released held hostage for 48 days. But there was also a military and diplomatic effort very much underway.

Who has the leverage here, Kim, as we look at this? As Israel has said, we will pause the fighting as long as Hamas continues to release a minimum of 10 hostages a day. Does that give Israel the leverage or Hamas to leverage?

DOZIER: Well, the uncomfortable reality here is that this is playing out exactly as Hamas planned it. They are deciding who they release and Israel is the supplicant having to cease fire against an adversary that committed horrible atrocities on October 7th, and that's going to keep playing out.

Remember, it took years to get back Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. So with dozens of Israeli troops in their custody, that means anguish for the Israeli families and real incentive for the Israeli Defense Force to start fighting again, because they think Hamas is going to change its tactics, it's going to raise the price of releasing the rest of these troops back to safety.

BERMAN: And Kim, what we're looking at right now on our screen is a helipad outside of children's hospital inside Israel. I believe that's the children's -- the Schneider Children's Medical Center where war was has been all day. Why a children's hospital? Well, four of the hostages released today, the ages are nine, six, four, and two, a two- year-old, who's been held hostage for 48 days.

You know, Kim, obviously, public opinion inside Israel. They put a lot of pressure on the Israeli government to work for a hostage release. At this point, is the public pressure you think pointing toward, we want a full hostage release, we'll continue to pressure the government to pause the fighting until they're all out? Or do you think the public opinion, at some point, will be sated by 100, if that's what it comes to over the next few days?

DOZIER: I think for the families of those who've been taken, they want every single one back. But, of course, Israel is somewhat divided politically. They are the extreme elements of the Netanyahu government and the people they represent who think that this is just empowering terrorists and they'll want to resume the fighting.

And Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has the stability of his own government to consider to maintain it. He's got to make sure that that more extreme wing feels like he is willing to continue to prosecute this war. In the meantime, the tough part that's going to happen for the hostages now is once they feel calm and safe, Israeli security professionals will have to question them, how they were taken, where they were taken, what they saw, what they smelled, how they were treated.

Part of it is to get information that might lead to the locations of other hostages, and part of it also was just to build a list of, you know, what behavior they were exposed to for possible criminal cases. And as Israel has threatened for targeting every last Hamas member responsible from here until as long as it takes.


BERMAN: You know, obviously, they will take care of these people as best they can. But when the time is right, they will learn what they can from certainly the adults who had been freed today.

Kim Dozier, thank you so much for being with us this morning or now this afternoon.

Again, 24 hostages freed by Hamas terrorists today. All 13 Israelis back on Israeli soil. You're looking at video right now including of a young girl from the moments where they cross from Gaza into freedom in Egypt. Our special live coverage continues right after this.



BERMAN: All right, this is CNN special live coverage. 24 hostages free today, this first of four scheduled days of hostage releases, including 13 Israeli citizens, we believe on the move now toward this airbase in southern Israel, the Hatzerim Airbase, will then move to hospitals throughout the country.

Let's get to our Kaitlan Collins who was in Tel Aviv. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, John. The next steps we know here are further medical screenings for so many of these hostages, the Israeli hostages, the 13 of them, who are now the ones who we have confirmed with Israeli officials, they are back here in Israel for the first time since October 7th.

They underwent an initial medical screening as soon as they were transferred over as they are now being accompanied by Israeli Special Forces. But it is this next step that is going to be a critical one, obviously, where they will not only be going to these hospitals, John, they're also going to be reunited with their families for the first times. Israel had provided these Israeli Special Forces with mobile phones so they could make that initial call as soon as they were handed over from Hamas to the Red Cross and then through Egypt to these Israeli officials, so they could at least make a call. But it'll be the first time for them to actually see them in person during that of course and continuing to monitor all their developments here now that they have been fully released and are back in Israel tonight.

BERMAN: And again, you're looking at pictures from earlier where some of these hostages including the 13 Israelis, 10 Thai citizens, one Filipino citizen being loaded onto buses and taken away.

You know I want to leave you I think with the names and ages of these hostages because it is so important. Yafa Adar, 85, Ruth Munder, 78, Margalit Mozes, 77, Hana Katzir, 76, Adina Moshe, 72, Keren Munder, 54, Daniel Aloni, 45, Doron Katz Asher, 34, Ohad Munder, 9, Emilia Aloni, 5 years old, Raz Asher, 4 years old, Aviv Asher, 2 years old, and Channa Peri, the Times of Israel says is 79. All of them except for Channa Peri were residents of the Nir Oz kibbutz, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, a kibbutz that saw a fourth of its members either kidnapped or abducted that day. Now 12 at least have been released and returned back to Israel tonight, John.

BERMAN: Again, this is CNN's special live coverage tracking the release of these hostages. We'll have much more right after this.