Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Qatar Says "Agreement Reached" To Extend Truce By Two Days; One-On-One With Uncle Of 13-Year-Old Hila Rotem. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 27, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, a major development out of the Middle East. Qatar just announced an agreement to extend the Israel-Hamas truce for another two days. We're still waiting to hear from the Israeli government.

It is also unclear when the hostages who were expected to be released today will make it out of Gaza. So far 58 hostages have been freed. That includes 40 Israelis, some of whom are dual nationals. 17 Thai citizens and one citizen from the Philippines.

CNN is all over the region covering this fast-moving story, including my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, who is in Tel Aviv. Wolf, I am so glad that you're joining us for the hour here. This agreement is a very big deal.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: It certainly is, another two days, that means that more hostages will be released, allowed to leave Gaza, go through Egypt presumably as show up in Israel. So, for Israel, that's really important news. For Hamas, it's an additional two days where there won't be any fresh airstrikes or ground assaults by the Israelis. So, they'll have some time to regroup. That's what they want.

They also want more humanitarian aid coming into Gaza. So there is another at least two days where all these trucks will be bringing humanitarian supplies, food, water, medicine, all sorts of other things into Gaza and that's important. And another two days of this agreement, Dana, will also allow Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners and detainees. Hamas wants that as well.

So, there's some important developments. And we're watching all of this very, very closely. And as you correctly point out, we're waiting to hear directly from the Israeli government to confirm that another two days of this pause will go forward.

BASH: OK, Wolf, standby, because we're going to go right now to MJ Lee at the White House. MJ you were part of the reporting team to break this news. What are you hearing about the details of this extended truce?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The extension of this four-day truce by two additional days has just been announced. And actually, a White House official is now confirming as well that the truce is being extended by an additional two days. Dana, just keep in mind the original parameters of the original deal.

It was a four-day pause in fighting for the release of 50 women and children hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners being released by the Israelis as well as humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza. The understanding though, was always that there could be an extension of this four-day truce. If Hamas was able to release additional hostages, 10 hostages would by Hamas and additional one day in pause in fighting.

But also, Israeli and U.S. officials would always believe too that there were more than 50 women and children hostages, as many as potentially about a several dozen more hostages. So, the fact that this truce is being announced, seems to indicate that there is an understanding that Hamas would be able to turn over additional women and children hostages in the coming days.

Of course, we know that one thing that Hamas has insisted is that they needed this pause in fighting to be in place in order to actually gather up information about the hostages to physically locate some of these hostages, which our understanding is that Hamas doesn't even have a full picture of where some of these hostages are located. BASH: OK, MJ. Thank you so much for that reporting. I really appreciate it.

And now I want to talk about what happened -- more about what happened with this agreement. It was announced by Qatar. And it was announced just a couple of minutes ago. And at this point, Israel as we've been told has not yet mentioned anything about it.

Hopefully our next guest Mark Regev will be able to. He is the senior adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Thank you so much Mark for being here. Can you tell us the details as you understand it inside the Israeli government of this extended truce?

MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: So, I think we have to say the following. Before we talk about extending the deal, we have to implement the current deal and we are waiting for the last batch of hostages of women and children who are supposed to be released this evening. And until they are safely on Israeli soil, we can't say that the four-day agreement for the 50 hostages has been implemented.


Having said that, my prime minister spoke publicly last night, and he was -- his remarks were reported on CNN. He said that we are open to the extension of this humanitarian pause. As your reporter said quite correctly, for every 10 hostages released, we're willing to give an extension of another day. And if Hamas will release Israeli hostages as agreed, we will extend, that's the bottom line.

BASH: So that means, if it's going to be extended for two more days, and I understand what you're saying about what's going to happen today, and I'll get to that in a minute. But just staying on this deal that was just announced inside Qatar and the White House is also confirming. If it is one day -- one more day of a truce for every 10 hostages. If it's two days, presumably that means Hamas has agreed to 20 additional hostages after today.

REGEV: That's correct. Once again, the parameters were set. These were negotiated with the help of President Biden, and we thank him for being -- putting his effort and his office behind these arrangements. We wouldn't have -- I don't think we would have reached the deal without his input. And yes, it was agreed, every extra day, we get 10 hostages, and well, we'll stand by that.

BASH: So far, they have only been women and children. And that was the -- those were the parameters of this initial deal. What about the extension? Will men be included there?

REGEV: My understanding is that there's still enough women and children in Gaza held by Hamas that can fill that for the next 20. Hamas is responsible for all the hostages. They are, unfortunately, but they are the government, they're in Gaza, they control the situation on the ground. The ceased cessation of fighting has given them the opportunity to find every last hostage. And we're expecting tonight to see the final group of women and children. And hopefully, in the coming days, we'll see more.

BASH: Can you just expand on what you just said and how you started in this interview, talking about the current situation? What is the holdup? You said that there is a holdup. What is the sticking point when it comes to the group of women and children expected to be released today?

REGEV: As you know, this is the fourth and final release in the framework of the four days. But as you know, I think it was only last night that they actually got out on time. On the first day and the second day, there were delays. There were last minute crises. There were all sorts of problems.

And the truth is, we have to remember who we're dealing with. We're dealing with a ruthless, fanatical terrorist organization, Hamas. And it's always like pulling teeth. I mean, it's difficult. It's never easy. And that's why I urge, let's wait to see what happens tonight that we see our people -- that released hostages safely on Israeli soil.

I mean, last night, we had the 13 Israeli women and children released. The youngest was that four-year-old American Israeli, Abigail Edan, right. She was kidnapped when she was three. So, you have to ask what sort of people kidnap three-year-olds, right.

And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Hamas and explains why it's so difficult. These people are ruthless. And if they think there's an advantage in them for perpetuating the suffering of these innocent civilians and their families in Israel, they will do so, if they think it's in their interest.

BASH: Well, she was three and her parents were also -- according to President Biden, brutally killed right in front of her on October 7, so I completely take your point. Having said that, they are the organization that you have to deal with because they are the ones who have these women and children. So given that reality, that unfortunate reality that you are dealing with, what is the status, as far as you know of those who are supposed to come out today?

REGEV: So once again, we have received some good signals, but until they are on Israeli soil, it's not done, and we can't celebrate. And it's the same for the families who've been waiting for these people over 50 days now. Once again -- once they are on Israeli soil, we can say it has been done, but we've got to be cautious. With Hamas, you've got to be cautious. You need nerves of steel when you're dealing with these sort of people.


BASH: Mark, I want to ask about one of the sticking points over the weekend, which was that there was a child released without her mother, the Rotem family. Hila was released and her mother was not, Raya. What is your understanding at this point of why that is particularly now since you have been able to officials and your government have been able to speak with the daughter about the last time she saw her mother? Can you give any more information about that?

REGEV: I can only say the following, Dana, to release a young child without a parent, that is the most inhumane thing, to release a daughter and for the mother to stay in captivity. Once again, that is another manifestation of what we're dealing with. These people are heartless. These people are depraved. These people lack any sense of common decency, and that is our enemy.

And when the fight against Hamas is resumed, I want people to remember that Israel is fighting a ruthless and despicable terrorist organization. And when we defeat them, as we will, that won't just be good for Israel. Our people deserve to live in safety and insecurity. It's not to fear terrorists crossing the border in the middle of the night and butchering their children. But the people of Gaza also deserve better. Hamas has been ruling Gaza for 16 years, and what have they bought the people of Gaza? Just suffering and pain and poverty. Everyone in this region will be better off without Hamas.

BASH: If I may, you described the unfortunate human situation here are terrible human -- barbaric human situation. But what about the why? Are you concerned that her mother and others have been separated from Hamas and are now in captivity by other groups inside Gaza?

REGEV: Look, from Israel's perspective, Hamas can subcontract out any responsibility. They are responsible. And the reason for the pause was not to give any excuses because they -- you know, if they were -- if Israel continued attacking, they could say, well, we couldn't get out of our bunker to find the hostages.

They've had now four days of pause. They're the guys that control the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, I wish it wasn't the case, it soon won't be the case, but at the moment, they're in charge, and they are responsible for all the hostages.

BASH: Mark Regev, thank you for your time. Appreciate it. REGEV: Thanks for having me.

BASH: And, Wolf, I want to bring you back in now. Your reaction, knowing not only Mark Regev, but knowing the situation as well as you do to the news there. I mean, I will say obviously, he confirmed this deal. But at the end, he talked about when the military operation resumes, not if, when?

BLITZER: Well, the Israeli defense ministry, the Israeli, the IDF, the Israeli political leadership, the war cabinet, they are all basically on the same page, saying that, after they obviously want to get all the Israeli hostages -- all the hostages out of Gaza and back to Israel. That's obviously a top priority, if not the top priority.

But they're also saying that even after that they're going to continue their struggle against Hamas. They don't Hamas to be in-charge of Gaza because they fear that what happened on October 7 could happen again. So, they're going to continue to go after Hamas and resume their military activity, whether airstrikes or ground assault.

They're making it abundantly clear that is not going to stop. It's stopping as long as this temporary truce and they call it a truce, a pause. They're not calling it a ceasefire. As long as this is going on, they're going to pause in the Israeli military action against Hamas. But they are making it abundantly clear that is not going to pause forever. They're going to go after Hamas and that's going to be very significant.

BASH: Yes, absolutely. Wolf, thank you. And just to underscore the news from Mark Regev of two additional days as CNN has been reporting, which will mean 20 additional hostages and they will only be women and children. They are not yet talking about releasing the male hostages inside Gaza, assuming that the hostages actually come out today, which has not yet happened.

Wolf standby. Coming up. We are going to be talking more about what will happen today as we get more information about this extended truce. Stay with us.




BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv.

BASH: I'm Dana Bash in Washington. I want to get right to the White House where National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby is talking to reporters. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody else while he's here?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION: Yes, sir. President-elect Milei will be coming into Washington D.C. largely to meet with the IMF and the World Bank over their fiscal and economic issues. But while he's here in town, he'll have a chance to meet with some national security council folks, including Jake Sullivan.


KIRBY: The president will -- as you think you know be on travel in the middle of the week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. On the remaining Americans who are being held. Do you have any more clarity on whether they're being held by Hamas or with one of these other terrorist groups? And, you know, all along you've been very clear about concerns that a broader ceasefire would only benefit Hamas. Sullivan was pretty clear yesterday and saying that, you know, Hamas has been able to gain some benefit from this. How concerned are you that the longer this truce lasts -- now six days that Hamas will benefit? And how do you weigh that?


KIRBY: It's a real risk. You have to expect a group like Hamas, a terrorist group, which clearly doesn't abide by laws of war. We try to take advantage of any pause in fighting for their own benefit. So, we're watching that closely as well as our Israeli counterparts. You can bet that they're watching that closely.

And I don't want to speak for the Israelis, but I mean this is a calculated risk that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his work have been are willing to take in order to get those hostages out. So, it's a balance. And as you've also heard, the Israelis say that once the pauses are over, they intend to go right back at military operations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when you say that Hamas be able to get some benefits so far is that restocking, resupplying? What is that benefits?

KIRBY: I would just say that without getting into intelligence issues that any pause in the fighting could benefit your enemy in terms of time to refit, to rest your fighters, to rearm them, reequip them. You know, a pause in the fighting can be seen as a benefit.

But again, I want to stress, and this was always part of the calculus. Any discussion and pauses was always part of the calculus that Hamas might try to benefit from it. So, to have the Israeli people benefited by the return of their loved ones and hostages.

So, to have the American people benefited now with little Abigail back with her family. So again, it's a balance. And again, I won't speak for the Israeli defense forces but when they have -- when these pauses are over, then they have made it very clear that they're going to continue to target Hamas leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, how many Americans are still being held hostage? And do you have proof of life?

KIRBY: We think the number is -- what's less than 10, probably in the neighborhood of, you know, about eight to nine. But we don't necessarily have firm solid information on each and every one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why haven't the two American women who are with the Abigail, what happened with that? Why haven't they been released?

KIRBY: Well, we certainly hope that we'll see them in -- hopefully today. And if not today, certainly over the next couple of days. We want to see them back with their families where they belong as well. The lists are developed by Hamas. And then of course, the Israelis develop their list of Palestinian prisoners that they're going to release.

We're not involved in the specific drafting of the lists and the determination on Hamas's side of who's going to come out on any given day. Obviously, we want to see those two American women released as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truce has been extended two days, what happens now? You want to get like three days next door, a permanent truce.

KIRBY: Like I said in my opening statement, Steve, we're grateful that we've got an extra two days to work with and that will result in the release of 20 more individuals, women and children. And as I said, right at the top, we'd certainly like to see even that extension extended further until all the hostages are released. That's really the goal here. Get all the hostages, home with their families where they belong and how ever long that could take.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Just to put it off from the question about Milei visiting Washington. You mentioned that most of his meetings would be with the IMF. But who will be meeting at the White House at the NSC? And what are the expectations of the White House bodies meeting? And more broadly, what are the expectations of the president (Ph) for the relationship between the two nations?

KIRBY: I already answered that question. He's going to be -- he'll have a chance to meet with Jake Sullivan and potentially other folks here at the NSC. We'll have to see how that shakes out.

BASH: You've been listening to John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman at the White House confirming as we heard from Mark Regev earlier on this program that there will be an additional 20 hostages released, who are now inside Gaza as a result of this extended two-day pause, also saying that they still don't know exactly how many Americans are still inside Gaza. They believe at the White House, it's eight and nine, but not entirely sure.

We're going to take a quick break ahead. We are going to speak with an Israeli woman whose aunt and cousins were released by Hamas this weekend, but she still has several other family members being held hostage inside Gaza.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BASH: Welcome back. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv.

BASH: And Wolf, I know you spoke earlier with the uncle of Hila Rotem who was released on Saturday. She was the child released without her mother. I can't even imagine how emotional that interview was Wolf.

BLITZER: I spoke with her uncle -- Hila's uncle. His name is Yair Rotem. And I drove out to Ramat Gan outside of Tel Aviv to one of the hospitals Sheba Medical Center for children at Tel HaShomer. And we met for a while and it was a very, very emotional powerful interview because I heard her uncle Yair talk about how significant it was that he was finally getting together with his little 13-year-old niece.

And today, by the way is her birthday. She's in the hospital -- at that children's hospital in Ramat Gan outside of Tel Aviv. But her mother was supposed to be there as well, Raya. And as part of the deal, the deal according to U.S. and Israeli officials and others. If little children were released, they would have to be released with at least their mothers if their mothers were being held as well. And Raya, the mother, the sister of Yair is still being held. She was not released.