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Group Of 17 Israeli And Foreign Hostages Being Released; IDF: Hostages Being Released Today Handed Over To Red Cross; Source: Abigail Edan Is In The Hands Of Red Cross; Group Of 17 Israel And Foreign Hostages Released; IDF: 13 Israel Hostages Now In Israel. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 26, 2023 - 11:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And welcome back to our continuing breaking news coverage of the Israel-Hamas War. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv.

Major breaking news right now. We're learning that the third group of hostages has been released to the Red Cross. Today, 17 hostages are being delivered to freedom. The IDF says the most recent group of hostages includes both Israelis and foreigners.

We had heard from American officials that they had hoped that at least one American would be among the latest transfer of those held in Hamas captivity in Gaza. We're watching all of these dramatic developments unfold.

I want to start with CNN's Oren Liebermann. He's here with me in Tel Aviv.

Oren, I know you and I are being briefed on what's going on. Give our viewers the latest. What do we know?

So right now, we're expecting the release of a total of 17, 14 Israeli citizens. And that includes an Israeli-Russian citizen, as we've learned, as well as three foreign nationals.

If we look at the numbers under the total agreement, this first part of the agreement that we hope will be continued, it was for 50 Israeli hostages. That means as of right now, we have 13, 13, and 14. So that's a total of 40 at this point. If my quick math is correct there.

And we look for this to continue over the course of the next several hours. We have seen how long it can take for this to play out from Hamas to the Red Cross into the hands of the IDF and then straight to the hospitals. That's the process that we have seen begun now, crucially, at least as of today so far, it has played out without the roadblocks, the problems, the issues that required intense diplomatic efforts.

Last night, we don't seem to be seeing that right now. We have heard that that didn't happen. So this process now playing out much smoother and more quickly than it did yesterday.

BLITZER: Because yesterday, there was delay after delay after the late for hours. We didn't know what was going on. And now it looks like things are beginning to move according to plan.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. There were serious questions yesterday whether the entire deal would fall apart because there was such difficulty there. Hamas accused Israel of not letting in the proper amount of aid. Israel accused Hamas of breaking up families. And that put the entire deal at risk. The country's President Joe Biden in the U.S. stepping in there to make sure this didn't fall apart at such a critical moment.

The U.S. had always viewed the first two days as the test period. And there was a serious risk that on day two of this test period, it would fall apart. Now here we are at day three. The process of the release of the Israelis has begun. And we look forward to hopefully day four with certainly not certain yet but the possibility that there could be an extension.

BLITZER: And we assume that the transfer will be along the lines of what happened. For example, yesterday they will be aboard these Red Cross vehicles, will go through Rafah from Gaza into Egypt. And then walk us through what happens next.

LIEBERMANN: So the last two days, they've crossed through Kerem Shalom. There are other border crossings that were raised as a possibility earlier in this agreement. Now, we wait to see how this plays out.

Hatzerim was an airbase that was used on day one. It was not used yesterday. So there are different routes and possibilities in terms of how this plays out. We'll see as the evening goes on here. It's in the early evening hours. We'll see how this plays out over the course of the next several hours.

I also want to point out the health of the hostages. We've had a chance to hear from some of the families. The biggest issue from purely the physical side appears to be malnutrition. In fact, the family of Karen Munder says Karen and her mother lost between six to eight kilos. That's 12 to 16 pounds over the course of seven weeks. That's tremendous weight loss. They say that's largely because of the diet, which for days on end was only pita bread. And there were some rice and bread mixed into there but certainly not enough.

We've even had a chance to speak to some of the doctors who treated the patients who say, look, this was the most serious physical issue. We've simply had tremendous malnutrition and that's one of the big issues. That, however, doesn't touch on the mental health aspect of being in captivity for so long. That process just began.

BLITZER: And when these hostages finally do reach Israel, they will immediately receive at least some medical examination before they're actually transported either by helicopter or plane or vehicle to a hospital in Israel. LIEBERMANN: The quickest of medical checkups and evaluations, as soon as possible when they cross that border into the hands of the IDF, that's just to make sure there are no serious injuries. That would send them to Soroka in Beersheba. That's a major hospital in Southern Israel.

We saw one freed hostage transferred there yesterday. But the more serious evaluations, the more serious checks will be done at the group of hospitals that will take them in and begin the recovery process.


BLITZER: Oren, stay with me because we're watching all of this unfold. There's major breaking news.

For the first time now also, a U.S. citizen is expected to be among the hostages released by Hamas today. I want to go to CNN's Arlette Saenz. She's covering the president of the United States up in Nantucket, Massachusetts where he is right now.

You have this part of the story. He's been spending the Thanksgiving holiday week there where you are, Arlette. What's the latest? What are you hearing about an American being released?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, White House officials are closely watches -- watching this latest release, waiting for news if an American citizen was in fact part of this third group of hostages released out of Gaza.

Earlier today, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told our colleague Dana Bash that the U.S. has reason to believe that at least one American citizen will be part of this release. He said that they have a good sense of who that was but was unable to confirm at that time who they anticipate this American citizen who will be released by Hamas to be.

Now, there are three Americans that officials have said fall into the category of the 50 women and children that are expected to be released over the course of this four-day pause. That includes two women who the U.S. has not named just yet. And also that young girl, Abigail Edan, a 3-year-old when she was taken captive by Hamas and turned 4 years old on Friday.

The White House has been very eager to get her back home for her -- to her family. Jake Sullivan would not confirm she was part of this group, but said that there is growing optimism about getting her out of Gaza.

And it comes as officials have really been working around the clock trying to ensure that this deal remains on track to not just get that larger group out, but also to get those Americans out. The White House has said they are hopeful that those three Americans will be leaving Gaza in the coming days as part of this deal, but they want to ensure that the implementation has been able to go forward as planned.

President Biden himself jumping on the phone yesterday with the Emir of Qatar to talk about ensuring that any hurdles that needed to be cleared were cleared. But the White House is also keenly aware that it's not just these three American women and children that they're trying to get out but there are in total about 10 Americans who are unaccounted for in missing.

Jake Sullivan, this morning, said that they still don't know the conditions and whereabouts of these American citizens but that they are hopeful that they will also be able to get them out at some point.

Now, I want to note President Biden is still here in Nantucket at this hour. He's scheduled to leave around 1.30 P.M. before he heads to the White House. So we will wait to see whether we will hear from President Biden a bit later today on this latest release, but Jake Sullivan did say that they are hoping for a good day, a joyful day as they are hoping that there will be at least one American citizen coming out of Gaza.

BLITZER: And I think it's really significant as you report, Arlette, that President Biden has been on the phone with Qatari leaders who have been deeply involved in trying to mediate all of this to make sure that this is unfolding as planned yesterday. There were a lot of delays. Let's hope there aren't today.

Arlette, we'll get back to you standby to get more information. We'll come back to you right away.

Part of this deal, of course, was to deliver much more aid, humanitarian aid, medical supplies, food, water, fuel to Gaza. We believe that is also happening as we speak right now.

I want to go to CNN's Larry Madowo who is joining us from Cairo right now. So, Larry, you're all over this part of the story. What's the situation on the ground as far as you know?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've seen dozens of aid trucks make it from Egypt across the Rafah Crossing into Gaza today. The last update we heard was that at least 100 trucks had made it true.

But a warning here, that is just trucks that have come from Egypt across the Rafah Crossing into Gaza. There is a process, a painstaking slow process to get them across the border into Gaza and being distributed, because once they go past Egypt, they go through an Israeli checkpoint where it's re-verified and then they are allowed back up into Gaza where they are unloaded and reloaded into trucks run by humanitarian agencies, sending them across the Gaza Strip.

And today, we have confirmation from the Palestinian Red Crescent that at least another 100 trucks have made it to northern Gaza.

That's important because yesterday, this deal was delayed for hours with Hamas claiming not enough aid was coming into northern Gaza. So yesterday, 61 trucks made it to northern Gaza, 100 trucks are stated who have made into northern Gaza today. They're bringing relief supplies, they're bringing food, they're bringing water, they're bringing other essential first aid materials for the people that badly needed in northern Gaza that's been badly hit by the bombardment over the last 50 days. So that's important.

So as we have this confirmation that the hostages have been handed over to the Red Cross, we're watching that Rafah border crossing. But at the same time, this can only happen because aid keeps coming in and this is an important part of this deal. If it doesn't happen, the whole thing falls apart.

So confirmation that it's still coming in one more day as this effort to try and make sure this comes in longer which the aid agencies have been saying, there's a lot greater need.


The U.N. telling CNN today that they need to understand 200 trucks to come in every day for at least two months to meet the needs of so many people who have been displaced, 1.7 million, since these conflicts broke out on October 7th.

BLITZER: All right, Larry. Good work. We'll get back to you. Stay there. We'll, of course, be in touch. Oren Liebermann is still with us.

Oren, part of the deal is that the aid goes to Gaza, all these trucks, hundreds of trucks are gearing up to bring humanitarian supplies, food, fuel, water, all sorts of badly needed supplies to the people in Gaza. The same time hostages are being handed over to the Red Cross, which is very significant.

But amidst all of this, there's a temporary truce. There's no continued Israeli aerosol or ground assault that's going on. That's part of this agreement as well.

LIEBERMANN: It's an absolutely critical part of this agreement. And in that one question, you get the whole timeline by which this has to play out. And it is on a day-by-day basis, an incredibly specific timeline.

First, from the big picture, the truce itself has to hold. And from the first few minutes a couple of days ago, it has. And because of that, that has allowed the humanitarian aid to go in, more trucks than have gone in since October 7th. It's not just entering Gaza, it has to get to northern Gaza. And that was one of the stumbling blocks yesterday.

One of the issues that slowed the entire process of the release of the hostages and led to the whole diplomatic necessity of the U.S. and of the Qataris stepping in to make sure this happens. The aid has to continue getting in, not only into Gaza, but also to northern Gaza, according to Hamas. And that was one of the major issues.

That aid continues to flow in. But Larry was right to point out it is a -- an incredibly small percentage or fraction of the aid that's needed overall. And that's why it's so critical to try to alleviate even a small fraction of the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded on the ground there. Meanwhile, Israeli forces remain in large numbers inside of Gaza, but have taken up effectively defensive positions, waiting to see how long this truce stops. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of the war cabinet have made it clear that when this pause in fighting ends, the war itself, for lack of a better term, is back on.

And both sides, obviously, preparing for that moment as well, even as there are Qatari efforts, as well as international efforts, to make sure the pause and the fighting continues for as long as possible to release as many hostages as possible and as many Palestinian prisoners as possible, but to get as much humanitarian aid as can be done in this -- in this short window after 50 days, nearly, of war.

BLITZER: And humanitarian aid is coming in. That's really significant right now.

Oren, stay with me. Jeremy Diamond is over at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Egypt.

So, Jeremy, what are you seeing now? We know this has been a significant location over the first two hostage-release programs.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. But we've actually just moved locations. We are actually in Orem.

But where we are, Wolf, is mainly because we've understood that there are a couple of different points where these hostages could cross today. Of course, we have seen, over the last two days, that Kerem Shalom has been the crossing of choice for these hostages. They go into Egypt via the Rafah crossing, and then they drive that very short distance to Kerem Shalom before eventually driving on a road.

But this road here, Wolf, is actually one of the places through which those hostages would travel, whether they were coming from Kerem Shalom or from a different point along the Gaza Strip coming into Israel.

And so, our understanding is that this road, we will be seeing a convoy of those newly freed hostages once they cross into Israel, wherever that may be.

But, Wolf, we have watched, obviously, over the last couple of days, as we have seen both the promise of this deal, but also the fragility of it. Yesterday, of course, was a day during which we saw a number of issues arise as those hostages -- their release was delayed by Hamas for hours yesterday with a lot of uncertainty about whether or not that deal would actually end up materializing for a second day in the row.

In addition, Wolf, to that issue about aid going into Gaza, I'm also told that there was a major hang-up over the fact that Hila Rotem, that 13-year-old who was released yesterday. Her mother, who was also taken hostage with her on October 7th. She was not included in the list that Hamas gave to Israel the day before that release.

And so throughout the day yesterday, I'm told that Israeli officials, behind the scenes, were very much fighting, pushing very hard to try and get Hila's mother, Raya, included as well in yesterday's release.

But, ultimately, it seems that officials decided that it was better to get just at least one of the two family members out of Gaza rather than continuing to push for the second.

There is also, Wolf, a question about Raya's whereabouts, about her condition at this moment. It appears to be unknown.


And, Wolf, as we know, Hamas has many of these hostages, the majority of them in their custody, but they do not have all of them. Some of them are held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militant groups inside of -- inside of Gaza.

And so one of the points of this four-day truce and the reason for the suspension of those surveillance drones over Gaza for at least six hours a day is in order to give Hamas the opportunity to reach out to these other groups to ascertain more information about the whereabouts of all of the nearly 240 hostages who were taken. And so we believe that that effort is underway. But certainly, Wolf, still a lot of uncertainty and this effort is being taken day-by-day.

But at least for now, we know that these hostages are in the hands of the Red Cross and expected to cross into Israel very soon.

BLITZER: All right, Jeremy. We're going to get back to you. I want to bring in -- go back to CNN's Arlette Saenz who's was with the president in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

More good news I take it, Arlette. More very good news. We understand that this little American girl, this dual citizen, Abigail Edan, 4 years old is now in the hands of the Red Cross.

Is that what you're learning as well?

SAENZ: Yes, Wolf, major and good news for this White House and the family of Abigail Edan. A senior U.S. official tells our colleague MJ Lee that Abigail Edan, that 4-year-old dual American Israeli citizen, is now in the hands of Red Cross officials.

The White House officials had been saying all morning that they were hopeful that at least one American citizen would be released by Hamas this morning, and now they do have confirmation that the Red Cross has Abigail Edan.

Abigail Edan has been held hostage for the past seven weeks. Her two parents were killed during the October 7th attack. She has two siblings who survived. And the White House has been working around the clock trying to get these American hostages home. She is the first American hostage that is being released as part of this four-day truce that is hoping to get at least 50 women and children out of Gaza.

Now, the White House has said that there were three Americans who fell into that category. That included two women who they have yet to name, and also this young girl, Abigail Edan. President Biden, yesterday, spent some time on the phone trying to ensure that the deal stayed together, speaking with the Qatari Emir and the prime minister of Qatar also. But the White House has really been working since the start of this attack in trying to get these American hostages back home.

There are still, believe to be about nine missing Americans. Americans believed to be held hostage, but they're getting some very welcome news today as Abigail Edan is in the hands of Red Cross officials. We will wait to see once she arrives and is reunited with her family.

But National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, earlier today said that they had been hoping this would be a good day, a joyful day. It certainly is one for this White House. We will see if we hear anything from President Biden as he's set to depart Nantucket a bit later today.

BLITZER: And so just to be precise, Arlette, Abigail is one of three Americans that we believe have been held by Hamas as part of these hostages?

SAENZ: Well, so Abigail is one of the three people that the U.S. believed could have potentially gotten out as part of this deal that was negotiated to release 50 women and children. There are other Americans who are still being held hostage, unaccounted for, and the White House says that they will continue to work towards their release.

But today there is Abigail Edan. She is in the hands of the Red Cross officials. The White House has said that there are two other women that they think could be coming out in the coming days, but they have been unable to pinpoint whether in fact that would happen, which day it could happen, but it is something that the White House is working towards as well.

BLITZER: And we have confirmed now that this little 4-year-old girl, Abigail Edan, is now in the hands of the international Red Cross and presumably on her way with these other hostages back to Israel. That's very, very good news. Very encouraging to hear this, Oren.

LIEBERMANN: It is absolutely so because it's been a question of how this would play out after such a rocky road yesterday, but it appears the process is beginning to play out. The Red Cross is the critical first step in the transfer from Hamas.

The Red Cross will then give them to the IDF. And we have seen, over the course of the past couple of days, the lengths to which Israel and its military have prepared to receive the hostages, knowing that it would be women and children here doing what it could to make the children as comfortable as possible.

In fact, they released earlier today a video of 9-year-old Ohad Munder, knowing that he liked, for example, Rubik's Cube. So they had one of those ready for him. They had noise-canceling headphones to try to ease the transition as much as possible, knowing what these hostages have just been through over the course of the past seven weeks.


Nothing easy about what has played out here, certainly not with the difficulties that we saw yesterday. But at least from what we're seeing right now, those same difficulties are not playing out, which is to say the transfer of the hostages is continuing.

That's a good sign, a very good sign, certainly not only for the families that have waited so long to see their loved ones, but it's also a good sign for tomorrow, for this process continuing.

And it is at least a hopeful sign for the possible continuation of this. We don't know anything for certain, but it is what everyone here wants to see, not only the U.S., the Qataris, the Israelis, and Hamas, but also the international community, to see a longer period of a pause and the ceasefire, which would allow more humanitarian aid to come in, more hostages to be released, both of course the Israelis, but also the foreign nationals that remain held there, and also for the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

They're part of all this arrangement as well.

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: They are being released by the Israelis as well as part of this arrangement. Oren, standby. We're going to have much, much more on all the breaking news that's unfolding right now.

Once again, 17 hostages freed on this day. The latest round in this temporary truce. Repeat the words, temporary truce between Israel and Hamas.

Coming up, my exclusive interview with the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog. I went to Jerusalem to interview him today. And we got his emotional reaction to the return of the hostages and whether Israel wants to extend this temporary truce even longer. Stay with us.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Look at these live pictures coming in right now from the Rafah border crossing from Gaza into Egypt. This is where the Red Cross vehicles will be bringing the latest batch of hostages, including a young little sweet, 4-year-old American girl will be heading from Gaza into Egypt and then eventually making the short drive into Israel continuing this process.

We're watching all of these developments unfold so far, so good on this day. Oren Liebermann is watching all of this with us as well.

Oren, so far, no delays, no serious problems, as far as we know right now. Things are clearly moving in the right direction. LIEBERMANN: And that is such wonderful news for the families of the hostages waiting to see them here. We have just gotten the heads up from the Israeli military that the next stage of the transfer of the hostages has been completed, which is to say they have gone from Hamas to the Red Cross.

We learned that a short time ago. And now we've learned from the Israeli military, the IDF, that they've gone from the Red Cross to the IDF. And we'll begin making their way towards their families, crucially, but also towards the checkups that they need at this point.

And that means that today's process has played out, as we expected, certainly much better than all the roadblocks and the difficulties and the delays we saw yesterday. The process today is moving, at least from what we can see, smoothly, certainly smoother than yesterday and smoothly that bodes well for tomorrow, at least from where we're sitting right now.

But the Israeli military, the IDF, has the group of hostages in their hands. And that is from what we learned earlier, 14 Israeli hostages, as well as three Thai citizens. So the process today playing out very well.

BLITZER: And so this latest group of hostages who have been held for weeks and weeks and weeks under horrible conditions in Gaza, they are now in the hands of the IDF.

LIEBERMANN: According to a statement, we just got a short time ago. In fact, I can pull this up here in just a moment here. And I'll read this statement. A short while ago, Red Cross representatives transferred 12 hostages over to IDF Special Forces, adjacent to the border fence and the Gaza Strip. From there, they'll make their way to the Hatzerim Airbase. One released hostage who returned to Israel was evacuated via helicopter directly to a hospital. That perhaps indicates a challenge with their physical condition. So we'll learn more about that.

In parallel, Red Cross representatives transferred four released hostages, including an Israeli civilian and three Thai civilians over to Egypt through the Rafah Crossing. So multiple crossings, it seems, use today here, from which they will make their way to the meeting point with IDF soldiers in Israeli territory.

So at least part of that transfer has begun to the IDF. And that means the process is moving to get them to the hospitals, to their families, to checkups, to evaluations.

BLITZER: There'll be a lot of smiles with those families --

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- when they see their loved ones after all these weeks of a horrendous, horrendous situation. Oren, don't go too far away.

I want to go to my exclusive interview right now with the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog. I sat down with him in Jerusalem earlier today to discuss the Israeli's emotional reaction to the return of these hostages and whether Israel wants to extend this temporary truce even longer. Watch.


BLITZER: This is a really precarious moment in Israel's history right now, as I'm sure you and I agree. Israel's been worn out for more than 50 days against Hamas, given what happened back on October 7th, three days into this temporary truce right now. How meaningful is it, Mr. President, right now, for Israelis to see at least some good news, some of the hostages being reunited with their families?

ISAAC HERZOG, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: It is extremely important because we see -- we see human beings who were in their abyss. And without knowing their whereabouts and their fate, as well as the fact that they themselves are totally secluded and disconnected from the rest of the world. The fact that you see young girls, a young boy, or grandmothers walking through and going to Israeli hospitals and coming back and meeting their families, is a huge emotional storm, and something that gives us happiness.

But, of course, happiness with a lot of sorrow in it because there are at least 200 hostages still held out there in -- under Hamas duress, somewhere in bunkers, somewhere without knowing what they are -- what -- how they live and what their whereabouts, some family torn apart.


Most of the hostages that were released have still family members left behind, I mean tearing the families apart. And as you can see, throughout the last few days, Hamas is threading on our psychology with a kind of a passive aggressive approach which wants to drive us as a nation crazy, because of the emotions felt. And because of the extreme pain and worry of so many relatives, to their friends and family out there in Gaza.

BLITZER: As you know, Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said yesterday, and I'm quoting him now, "Any further negotiations will be held under fire," unquote, is he effectively closing the door to extending the truce?

HERZOG: So we have to first remember that there are a few more days of release of the hostages, while Israel is releasing terrorists who are charged, imprisoned for terror activities, including taking lives of people or threatening to take lives of people. And this is a very gruesome process. So I don't want to speak about the next step. But it is clear to us that if we want to prevent further terror against Israel from Gaza, and change the future of the Middle East. And the way that Palestinians have some hope, the only way to do it in a human way, in order to protect the human values in the region is by approaching Hamas. And that will lead to the fact that we have to take further action and undermine Hamas escape military capability.

BLITZER: And that's just to get your thought, if Hamas agrees to another day, another few days of this truce in order to release more Israeli hostages, should Israel accept that? HERZOG: So that is already been negotiated that, first of all, it was agreed in the original agreement, which has been violated constantly by Hamas, but still implemented piecemeal that if they bring another 10 prisoners or so, or the exact number of clauses in the agreement itself, there will be an extension of another day of humanitarian pause. So that is already agreed. They can definitely bring many more hostages and release them. They kind of said that they don't know where -- the whereabouts are, that looks to us, totally false, because they've been controlling Gaza to the last iota, for the last 20 odd years in a very cruel regime that didn't let anybody move without their permission. So that is why I truly hope that in this instance, they will release more and more, and they will get more and more a humanitarian causes.

As to what happens afterwards, it is clear that we intend to complete the task. Meaning undermine the military capabilities of Hamas, as an entity and enable a different future for those who live near the border for Israelis and Palestinians for the ability to undermine this empire of evil, which operates from Tehran and of course, impacts the entire region.

BLITZER: So just want to be precise, Mr. President, in order to get more Israeli hostages released, do you think Israel should agree to extend the truce?

HERZOG: So it depends. So far the agreement speaks about --

BLITZER: The agreement was for four days.

HERZOG: No, but it says specifically that any additional 10 or so hostages released there will be another day of humanitarian pause, and that is what is being implemented.

As to what happens next, there is a Qatari delegation in Israel today. And I think that talking to the relevant authorities in the government, Israeli government as to the next phase.

BLITZER: So you are open to extending the truce?

HERZOG: So again, the way you interpret the word truce is complicated. We've already agreed, we made it public. The eve above the fold, the initial four days, there's a release of further prisoners 10 per day or something 10, 11, I don't have the exact numbers. We will extend the humanitarian pause, meaning the truths, that's the way --

BLITZER: You call it a pause?



HERZOG: But our clear intention is to go in and complete the job, because we must not enable this base of terror, this platform of terror which was taken over by cruel coup, the time 2007 by Hamas to continue. And how would you expect anybody who went through these horrific torments and the horrific scene and this barbaric attack on October 7 with rape and torture and beheading and shopping and mutilating bodies and abducting hostages. How do you expect anybody to go back then if there is no complete end to this threat?


BLITZER: So let's talk a little bit about looking down the road. After this war with Hamas, you have said Israel, and I'm quoting now, "can't leave a vacuum in Gaza." So will Gaza be governed by a revitalized Palestinian Authority as President Biden has proposed?

HERZOG: So here, this is something really important to go into and discuss, because people have to be serious. If we want to prevent the recurrence of further turmoil, if we want to go into a stable or rising in the region, we have to be lucid about it. Is there any force in the world, in the region, which is willing to take over and run the place in terms of the security and preventing further overhauls sadistic and barbaric jihadist activity? Somebody has to say who it's going to be, when there are nations who say we won't have boots on the ground, when there are nations will say, of course not, we leave the dirty job to you guys.

So when Israel says right now, the security and well-being of this place in terms of this security element, meaning fighting terror, and forcing law and order, adjudicating and so forth, will stay in Israeli hands until there is an agreement.

One has to build the alternative. The alternative needs to be discussed in the -- in various key places and see what's next. In the interim, there has to be a major humanitarian aid, and a major humanitarian effort. In this respect, for example, I commend the hospital which has been built now in Rafah by the United Arab Emirates. There are other countries who are making similar efforts, and we commend them as well. But the most advanced projects so far, for example, for another new hospital in the Gaza Strip, is done by United Arab Emirates and yesterday, trucks came in, in order to build this hospital in Rafah. So there should be an overall effort to make something that makes sense for the future on wellbeing of Israelis and Palestinians.

BLITZER: So what should the governing authority of Gaza be after -- after this Israel Hamas war, if it's not the Palestinian authorities?

HERZOG: So I've been saying it along, many, many times. And I'll say it again, this is not only a war between Israel and Hamas, this is actually a wall that defends the real values of liberal and democratic countries or countries who believe in the rules of the family of nations, as opposed to an empire of evil, which is an empire of Jihadis, which believe only in eradicating all of us out of here, not only Jews, but also Christians. And the next will be Europe and the United States. So that is what the war is all about.

And therefore, how you come out of the war, meaning, how do you make sure that what will come out of the war will promise, regional security and stability, will promise peace, or let's say, seizing of fire and terror. This is the key, and this has to be analyzed clearly. And in a very punctual way, not slogans. I heard President Biden's speech on Friday from his vacation, and I come -- I truly welcome these words. I mean, these were important words, as he spoke about the fact that there is an empire of evil which wants to undermine all the peace processes in the region. It is clear that what Hamas did under the instructions of Iran is to undermine the ability of further peace agreements following the Abraham Accords, also peace agreement with Saudi Arabia and of an offering a huge, huge connection between Europe all the way down to Australia.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more of my exclusive interview with the Israeli President Herzog. That's coming up later today. Standby for that. We'll include of course, the moment that President Herzog pushed back against President Biden's call for what's called a two- state solution. Israel living alongside a new state of Palestine, much more on that coming up, standby.

Coming up next, the tearful reunions between the hostages and their loved ones.



BLITZER: We have more on the major breaking news we're following right now. Hamas has released 17 more hostages as part of its four-day truce, temporary truce with Israel. The Israeli military says the 13 Israeli hostages were handed over to them. And that one is being flown by helicopter right now to a hospital. The other four freed hostages were being taken through the Rafah border crossing from Gaza into Egypt. And then there'll be going over to Israel directly.

I want to go back to see this Jeremy Diamond. He's joining us live from Urim in Israel. He's getting new information. What are you learning, Jeremy?

DIAMOND: Well, Wolf, the Israel Defense Forces just put out a statement saying that these 12 newly freed hostages are not only on Israeli territory, but they are now being accompany to the Hatzerim Airbase.

And we expect, Wolf, that they will come right along this road. This is the route from the point where they crossed in the -- near the central part of the Gaza Strip between Israel. We understand that they went through that way rather than through the Kerem Shalom crossing which we have seen over the last two days. And we expect that they will be coming down this road on their way to the Hatzerim Airbase.


We already have a couple of police vehicles here at the intersections apparently prepared, it would seem to block traffic for that convoy to pass by. We also know, Wolf, that one of those newly freed hostages was in fact evacuated directly via a helicopter and has -- has landed at a hospital a short while ago. That is interesting, Wolf, in particular, because we know that the Israelis have had that medical evacuation by helicopter option ready over the last couple of days. In fact, on Friday, when we were at near the Kerem Shalom crossing, we

had two military helicopters lands right by our position, one of those helicopters was a medical helicopter, but they did not end up taking any, any passengers on board in order to evacuate them. And so the indication is that this was a fairly urgent case, if indeed, they were taken directly by helicopter. We do not have information on the condition or the identity of that individual who was evacuated directly to a hospital via helicopter, but that does give you some indication of the urgency of that situation. But Wolf, we are now waiting for this convoy to pass by and of course, we'll come back to you as soon as we have that picture for you.

BLITZER: And just want to follow up, Jeremy, when that convoy goes near you, and heads deeper into Israel, it's -- you say six suggested setting to that Israeli airbase in Hatzerim Airbase, is that right?

DIAMOND: That's right, we saw that on Friday. The first day of the releases, that's what happened. They drove in a convoy, they went to the Hatzerim Airbase, and from there, they boarded helicopters, to hospitals across Israel.

Yesterday, they bypass that step altogether after hours of delay. What happened was the convoy went directly to hospitals where those newly freed hostages were able to be reunited with their families. But it appears that tonight once again, that Hatzerim Airbase option with the helicopters awaiting them at that base has been reactivated. And that is indeed what is happening this evening.

BLITZER: Interesting, very interesting, indeed, very significant. Jeremy Diamond, we'll get back to you. Thank you very much for that update.

I want to go back to CNN's Arlette Saenz, she's with the President in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Arlette, we're hearing that what the President is about to speak once again, I know he's been deeply involved behind the scenes, speaking with leaders and of -- speaking with leaders who have been involved in mediating this arrangement. But what's the latest? What are you hearing?

SAENZ: Yeah, Wolf, the White House just updated the President Biden will deliver remarks at noon on this latest release of hostage -- hostages, a release that has seen the release of a four-year-old Abigail Edan, a senior U.S. official had told our colleague, MJ Lee earlier today that Abigail Edan was in the arms of Red Cross officials as they are working to get her and these other hostages out of Gaza. The White House had expressed a lot of optimism this morning that at least one American citizen would be part of this release. And in fact, it was Abigail Edan, that four-year-old girl who was in captivity for the past seven weeks her two parents were killed on in October 7 during that attack by Hamas, her two siblings have survived the attack.

Now, officials will be working in the coming days, trying to get her any type of medical attention that she might need as also trying to reunite her with her families. But in just a short while we expect to hear from President Biden for the very first time as this is very welcomed news not just for the family, but also for the President and his team who have been working around the clock trying to get these American citizens home.

Of course, there had already been two Americans that had been released earlier on in October, Judith and Natalie Raanan, but Abigail Edan is the first American that has been released as part of this four-day truce to try to get at least 50 women and children out.

Now, the U.S. has also said that there are two other women Americans who they believe could be part of the release in the coming days. So we will see if President Biden has any further update on that or any of the other Americans who remain missing and/or believed to be held hostage. But certainly this is all welcome news for the White House today. And we will hear directly from President Biden in just a short while.

BLITZER: Anxious to hear what he has to say right now. I'm sure he's going to be happy. This precious little four-year-old girl has now been freed. Arlette, we're going to get back to you. Thank you very much. And of course, we will have live coverage of the President's remarks once he speaks. We're told, that will be fairly, fairly soon. Standby for that.

I want to unpack all these important late breaking developments with two guests right now. CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier is with us and CNN National Security Analyst Beth Sanner. To both of you, thanks so much for joining us on this historic and very important day.

And let me start with you Beth. One American hostage has been released so far, that's this four-year-old little girl Abigail Edan. U.S. officials are hopeful to others may be released by tomorrow. Does Hamas benefit from holding on to these Americans longer? What do you think, Beth?


BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. I think that that's one of the issues is that Hamas may believe that their best chance of getting an extension of this, which is what they very, very much want, is to hold on to those Americans. So that's a possibility. But it also could be simply that Hamas is having difficulty locating or moving around hostages without the Israelis being able to monitor that.

And I think that the ties coming out, the story of the ties coming out might give us a window into that. And that only four ties were released today, bringing the total to 17 out of what we think is maybe 25 or 26. So there's no reason for the Hamas -- for Hamas to hold back on the tie. So it may give us an inkling that there really are logistical problems, or that some of those ties might be dead.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Kim, these images of the hostages reuniting with their loved ones, as certainly as I can personally testify, having been here in Israel over the past few days, galvanized the Israeli public. But you also heard President -- Israeli President Herzog tell me, you just heard it a few moments ago that Israel is indeed ready to continue the battle against Hamas. Do you think Israelis could stomach a return to fighting right now?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf, we actually have seen a softening in the Israeli position, in that -- when they initially agreed to this truce, the Israeli cabinet announced that the truce would only last 10 days. That's it. But now we hear from senior Israeli officials similar to what the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Dana Bash this morning, that the truce can last and the humanitarian assistance can enter Gaza, as long as Hamas continues to release hostages. So that is a shift. And surely part of that is because of the pressure from the Israeli public. The families that haven't yet got their loved ones back. But the difficulty is going to come when we get through the women and children and its main men and soldiers that need to be released. Because the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has said that the soldiers, the Israeli soldier should only be released if every last of the 8000 some odd Palestinians held in palace in Israeli jails are also released.

BLITZER: Beth, does Hamas have an incentive to extend this temporary pause and release more hostages? Because this is clearly they're holding on to these hostages is clearly their main leverage right now in all of this?

SANNER: Absolutely. Hamas wants to extend this as much as possible. And if you see the remarks by for example, the Iranian foreign minister who was visiting Lebanon and met with the Hezbollah Head, Nasrallah, on Thursday, on Thanksgiving Day, they are all saying the same thing that this ceasefire or pause is good. They call it a ceasefire. They want it extended and they want it to turn into a peace, permanent ceasefire. And the reason they want to do that is because that would leave, you know, Hamas, basically where, you know, where it could still become Hamas 2.0 in the future in terms of running Gaza. And I think that that, regardless of what happens is actually a fairly high possibility that whatever we see in the future, might look a lot like the pot past.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Kim, yesterday, we saw the deal, the release of more hostages hit a major snag with Hamas holding up the release of the hostages for many, many hours. It was very painful for so many people here in Israel, as I -- as I personally eye witnessed, what do you make of Qatar's role in holding all of this together? The Israeli President Herzog told me in our interview, and more of that will be airing shortly. He told me in our interview that a Qatari delegation is in Israel right now. And I think that's significant. Israel and Qatar do not have formal diplomatic relations. But they are working very closely right now. Israeli officials have been to Doha, Qatar, Qatari officials, according to the Israeli President are in Israel right now. They're working together to deal with this issue?

DOZIER: Absolutely. Qatar has been Hamas' lifeline throughout this and you can see this Qatari delegation, reminding Hamas of what the Palestinian people are getting from this pause. A top Qatari foreign ministry official, Lolwah Al-Khater, was visiting Gaza in the past 24 hours. And she was highlighting the aid that's coming in and how needed it is, so these are the other victims of Hamas all of the displaced Palestinians, some 1.7, the U.N. says, who are not getting counseling don't have enough food, water shelter. And so what Qatar is doing is reminding Hamas that the Arab world is watching and that they too have an obligation to take care of their people and a pause helps that.


BLITZER: And Israeli officials I can testify, have been praising Qatar for its role and great and be very grateful to them for helping deal with this very sensitive hostage release issue. Kimberly Dozier, Beth Sanner, to both of you, thank you very much for joining us. We will continue this conversation.

That's it for Inside Politics Sunday. Up next, we're standing by for President Biden, who said to speak to the nation any moment on today's release of hostages from Gaza. And I'll be back at 2 p.m. Eastern also, with all the latest news from here in Israel and Gaza, including more of my exclusive interview with the Israeli President Isaac Herzog.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's President Biden.

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: -- Americans, a little girl named Abigail, turned 4 years old. She spent her birthday, that birthday and at least 50 days before that held hostage by Hamas. Today, she's free, and Jill and I, together with so many Americans, are praying for the fact that she is going to be all right. You know, she's free, and she's in Israel now.

And so those who are now wrapping Abigail in love and care, and the supportive services she needs, she's been through a terrible trauma. And her mom was killed in front of her, when her kibbutz was attacked by Hamas terrorists on October the 7th. Abigail ran to her dad then, who then was gunned down, gunned down as well while using his body to shield little Abigail. She then ran to a neighbor for help. Where there were all taken hostage, that entire house of neighbors were taken hostage by Hamas and held for 50 days.

What she endured is unthinkable. Abigail was among 13 hostages released today from Gaza under the broker and sustained though intensive U.S. diplomacy. She's now safely in Israel. And we continue to press and expect for additional Americans will be released as well. And we will not stop working until every hostage is returned to their loved ones.

As I said when I spoke about this deal on Friday, this has been the product of a lot of hard work and weeks of personal engagement for me and my team.