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Hamas Awaits Israeli Response As It Accepts Ceasefire Proposal; Israeli Military Orders Palestinians To Leave Eastern Rafah; WH Holding Briefing As Hamas Accepts Ceasefire Proposal; Hamas Accepts Proposal; Awaiting Israeli Response. 2-3p ET

Aired May 06, 2024 - 14:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What seem to be accepted now. Does that mean that the ball is no longer in Hamas' court?

MILLER: Sayeed(ph), it's important for me to answer that question without characterizing the response that Hamas has given, which I'm not yet willing

to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, all right. On "Al Jazeera", you know, now we know that Israel is accusing the correspondents of "Al Jazeera" or colleagues

for Israeli citizens by the way, you know, accusing them of incitement that goes back many years and all these things.

A crime that is punishable by imprisonment. Are you worried that if correspondents might actually be imprisoned by the Israelis, and if they

are -- what good would the United States do?

MILLER: So, I'm not going to speak to those specific allegations. It's not something that we've reviewed in detail. We would have to do that, and

certainly I'm not going to speculate about what we might do in response to an action that has not yet been taken.

I will just reiterate that when it comes to the decision to shutter "Al Jazeera's" operations in Israel is something that we are concerned by. We

support the work that journalists and media do. We have had -- I don't think it's any secret that we have had our differences with --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, of course, yes --

MILLER: "Al Jazeera" --


MILLER: Over the years, including --


MILLER: Some of the ways in which they cover this conflict. But we support the free media --


MILLER: Conducting their operations everywhere in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think most countries have had an issue with "Al Jazeera". Let me ask you about Rafah. Now, the movement, you know, of

hundred thousand people and so on. Now, how many would need to move before Israel can go in and legitimately go after a Hamas position. I mean, the

area is so small, Al-Mawasi, where they're moving and so on. Just, you know --

MILLER: It's not --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet is kilometers away. What -- you know, what would prevent, let's say Hamas fighters or Hamas leaders and so on to actually

move, you know, to another place. They allegedly have a network of tunnels that would allow them to do that and so on.

And then, you know, we have the same kind of situation. We see the Israeli saying we want to go after them in that area. I mean, how do you read this

whole situation --

MILLER: So, that is not really a question I can answer. I will just make clear as I have already and as others in the administration, including the

president, including the secretary have on a number of occasions, that operation, a major operation in Rafah is not something that we can support.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and finally, I asked on Thursday about Dr. Alman Albush(ph), I was wrong, he wasn't shot, he was apparently -- he died and

some say under torture and so on. I know that your colleague at the White House said what she said that she was sad and then all these things.

But have you followed up on this issue? How do you follow up on it? And because apparently, they are keeping his corpse. I mean, they're not

returning it to his family or others and so on for proper burial.

MILLER: It is one that we have raised with the government of Israel. I can't -- I don't have a response to read out. We have made clear with

Israel as we have made clear publicly that they must treat all detainees humanely and with dignity in accordance with international humanitarian

law, and that they must respect detainees' human rights. And also that they must ensure accountability for any abuses or violations.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Matt, since they took all the "Al Jazeera" questions, I'll skip mine.


MILLER: No problem --


MILLER: Alistair(ph), do you have something?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to -- because I was a bit confused, if you can clarify. So the Hamas response, it's not on the generous proposal. It's

not -- it's not accepting this proposed.

MILLER: I think I made clear. I'm not going to characterize their response one way or the other until we've had a chance to fully review it, digest

it, discuss it with our partners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. My second question is about the pier that the United States is conducting, we believe we have an hour of working that

this close to being operational. Can you just tell us how this bill will operate? I mean, who will -- who will have the upper hand in making this --

MILLER: So, it is something that we have been trying to complete as soon as possible. And when I say we, I mean, largely our colleagues at the Pentagon

who are constructing the pier we've been involved in liaising with humanitarian groups that will be involved in the distribution of

humanitarian assistance once it comes in to Gaza.

But with the actual timeline for the launch of the pier and its operation, any details I'm going to defer to the Pentagon to comment on those and in

great detail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the way, on the pier itself, it was said over the weekend that it was moved to a -- because of some high wind and waves and

so on. Do you have any comment on that?

MILLER: I'm going to defer to the Pentagon for any of those --


MILLER: Operational kind of details. They're the ones that are responsible for --


MILLER: Constructing and moving it and ultimately launching it. Michelle(ph), go ahead, and deal with a few more in the Middle East before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ask -- cut-out to expel Hamas leaders from Doha -- from Doha. And is it the time for these leaders to leave?


MILLER: I am not going to speak to private diplomatic conversations as we have said a number of times, the secretary and his conversations has made

clear with a number of partners in the region that any relationship they have with Hamas, any influence they have with Hamas, they should use to

make clear to Hamas that it --to Hamas that it needs to accept a ceasefire deal that includes the release of hostages.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome, I am Paula Newton in New York, and you have been listening to Matthew Miller at

the U.S. State Department. He has been trying to give us the U.S. administration reaction to what has been going on in terms of our breaking

news that Hamas says it has agreed to some type of a ceasefire just to recap on what Mr. Miller said regarding the U.S. administration reaction,

they say that William Burns, the CIA director remains on the scene, that he is evaluating this in real time.

They do not want to characterize this peace agreement. So far, just to see if it can work or at camp, they do not want to prejudge. But at this point,

they say they are looking at it, and we just want to bring you right up to date that what the developments are to this hour, we have learned that

Hamas is now saying that they have agreed to some type of a ceasefire.

A member of the Hamas political bureau in fact, tells CNN that Hamas is waiting for the Israeli response. And that was after the group agreed do a

ceasefire and hostage deal proposed by Egypt and Qatar. Now, a source says mediators convinced Hamas to accept the deal after a meeting between the

Qatari Prime Minister and U.S. CIA Director William Burns.

The Israeli Prime Minister's office has declined comment as of now. We've learned though that the Israeli government is reviewing the Hamas

announcement. It's unclear whether Hamas has agreed to a framework that became public last week that called for the release of 20 to 33 Israeli

hostages over several weeks in exchange now for a temporary ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

What is key there is a temporary ceasefire. All of this comes as refugees in Rafah, of course, have been ordered to evacuate by the Israeli army.

Eastern Rafah is where an expected ground invasion could happen at any moment. It's a desperate situation as you can imagine for tens of

thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of Palestinians already crowded in this potential war zone.

Meantime, world pressure is mounting on Israel not to invade Rafah. The U.S., Germany, Britain, Egypt and other nations have expressed concern

about the looming humanitarian crisis, and we will add that President Biden had a phone call with Netanyahu not too long ago. Again, expressing his

rejection of this plan for Rafah.

Joining me now is international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson live from London. So much to get through and to update everyone on. Nic, can you

bring us right up to date on what appears to be the Hamas acceptance? Now, look, this does not mean that it is anything that Israel can accept, but do

you view this at least in some measure as a good step forward?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I'm taking my view and measuring it against what I'm hearing from regional sources who have

been well-informed about the talks, if not by the second pretty much by the minute and the hour and have a good understanding of what's going on.

And the assessment at the moment would seem to comport with everything that we're hearing, that what Hamas says they've agreed to, the Qatari and

Egyptian proposal may not be the entirety or is not the entirety of what Israel wants the deal to be.

We know over the weekend they -- it was thought that the talks were close to agreeing a framework, a framework for the deal. It didn't happen. And we

always understood over the weekend that even if the framework was agreed to, there would be required perhaps several days or weeks worth of

negotiations over the details.

So, we don't know what's missing at the moment. Is it a framework-sized hole? Is that the gap between Israel and Hamas at the moment, or is it a

detailed-sized hole at the moment? The way it's being characterized to me at the moment is that this isn't play, and with the diplomatic sources say

that the ball is in Israel's court.

So, there may be something that we might be able to call an amendment or an add-on that can fix a gap if it is in fact a gap that exists here. And I'm

putting all these caveats in, because we don't know precisely what it is that Hamas has agreed to. We do know the broad terms of those discussions

over the weekend that you mentioned, there was going to be a six-week ceasefire during which a temporary ceasefire, during which Hamas would

release 20 to 30 hostages, the children, the women, the elderly, and the sick.


It had originally hoped to have been 40 and has been down-scaled over the past several weeks. So, there was that part, but key to Hamas was always

that element that they wanted a permanent ceasefire. They wanted Israel to remove its troops from inside of Gaza.

And this morning, when Israel started dropping flyers, the IDF started dropping flyers over Rafah, telling the civilian population, at least a

100,000 of them approximately, that they needed to move because they were in imminent danger because there was going to be a military operation in --

where they were living.

And it really gave the impression that the door was closing on the talks. But that may well have been a pressure point from Israel. We know that the

Prime Minister of Israel has said all along that he believes the IDF believes as well that the way to get the hostages released was military

pressure on Hamas.

So, was that posturing? But where we seem to be right now very clearly, is that Hamas has maybe wrong-footed Israel here. But certainly, Israel seemed

to be in a very forward-leaning military posture, and that takes a lot of planning. So, has Hamas sort of put their thing on the table?

And now, it's down to Israel to look bad if they don't accept it, because apparently, according to Hamas, they've accepted the terms of the deal. So,

until we get the specifics we weren't -- no, and there's one other thing I would add that the source explained to me over the weekend that from the

talks, there was pressure on Qatar to provide some sort of guarantee to again, perhaps bridge a hole in the talks that existed.

And we understand that the CIA Director Bill Burns has spent the whole past 24 hours meeting with the Qatari prime minister, principal, interlocutor

and negotiator. And we know that Hamas had their leadership inside of Qatar --

NEWTON: Yes --

ROBERTSON: As well discussing. So, you can put those pieces together and still see that this is a process that is in play, that isn't over and seems

to be potentially close. But if it isn't and falls apart, I think the world knows where it's at -- where the situation stands, and that's a very

potential and serious incursion to Rafah.

NEWTON: Yes, and as we're listening very carefully to everything you just outlined from your sources, I do want to point out that the IDF says to CNN

that in fact they are continuing simultaneously, which whatever military plan they had for Rafah.

But Nic, look, we have seen some celebrations in Gaza, they have been given some hope that their nightmare will end. We heard just on CNN in the last

hour, a mother of one of the hostages and I quote her now, saying, "this is an option, we hope it is a good option." How difficult of a situation is

this now for the Netanyahu government?

ROBERTSON: This is very difficult, but Netanyahu has been very clear all along that he intends to go into Rafah. So, if the people of Gaza feel a

sense of relation because they think this pressure may be lifted from them. It may be -- it may be premature at the moment. And when one thinks of the

hostage families, the numbers of times that they've had their hopes up and had them dashed.

And I've talked to many families of hostages, and they don't dare hope, they don't dare hope because it's so painful, because they get crushed.

They don't trust Hamas. No one -- very few Israelis would ever consider trusting Hamas. They don't because they --

NEWTON: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Consider them a terrorist organization and their word isn't worth -- isn't worth anything --

NEWTON: Yes --

ROBERTSON: In the minds of many people. So, for those families, this is -- this is truly an incredibly painful period because they are built up to

believe that perhaps the moment is getting closer and there's no family that cannot withstand that kind of mental pressure that -- to say no, I'm

not going to think about it.

So, this is a very difficult moment. There's so much to gain here, potentially, for the families, for stability, peace and safe lives for

people in Gaza at the moment --

NEWTON: Yes --

ROBERTSON: But it's not there --

NEWTON: Yes --


NEWTON: It is so tantalizingly close to be able to hug those loved ones. And again, for the people in Gaza to try and get back some of their normal

life. Nic Robertson, stay with us as we continue to try and parse this story over the next hour. I want to bring in Yaakov Katz; he is a Senior

Fellow for the Jewish People Policy Institute and the former editor-in- chief for the "Jerusalem Post".

I mean, look, let's just have you weigh in here of everything you've heard in the last hour and a half or so, given the response that we've had both

from the U.S. administration and also what we believe Hamas was trying to succeed in here, because some have said that they're trying to corner the

Israeli government.

YAAKOV KATZ, SENIOR FELLOW, JEWISH PEOPLE POLICY INSTITUTE: It definitely seems as if it's a Hamas attempt to corner the Israeli government from

intending to impose upon it a unilateral ceasefire by saying that we've agreed to an offer that was put on the table by the Egyptians than the


Israel is saying very clearly, this is not the proposal that we agreed to. And I think that when you look at the details that have been outlined on

"Al Jazeera" by the -- one of the top Hamas officials out here, you see there that the big -- I would say obstacle for Israel is the Hamas saying

that this is a complete cessation and end to the war.


Israel has said yes, we are ready to agree to a ceasefire that would see the release of about 30 to 40 of the hostages who have being held there for

already over 200 days, but we are not willing to call this an end to the war. And that's of course what Hamas wants here.

NEWTON: What kind of pressure though will it put on the Netanyahu government regardless, right? I mean, as I said, we just had a mother of

one of the hostages on CNN in the last hour, this is, of course, seized all of Israel and so many people around the world. Does it not put more

pressure on that war cabinet to take a very serious look of what Hamas is proposing?

KATZ: It definitely puts a ton of pressure on Netanyahu personally and on the war cabinet, and on the entire coalition, Paula. And I would say that

Netanyahu definitely is thinking about -- he's almost stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, if he's viewed as being the person to

torpedo a possible release of the hostages, he will see protests in Israel unlike I think anything we've probably seen in the past.

We've seen a lot of protests in the past year-and-a-half under the judicial reform, and since the war broke out with Hamas in Gaza after the October

7th massacre. But this will be something of another scale because he will be seen as potentially being the person to stop it.

But if he does agree to the deal, and he releases and he stops the war, gets the hostages released, he potentially loses his coalition. We already

saw a statement released by Itamar Ben-Gvir; one of the more far-right members of Mr. Netanyahu's coalition saying, no, we need to go into Rafah

right now, and I think that this is what makes Netanyahu in a very complicated situation at the moment.

And why he probably definitely politically-speaking, and I would say probably also from a security standpoint, it wouldn't make sense for Israel

today to agree to say the war is completely over. You still have 15,000 Hamas armed men in Rafah, you have four battalions there. We saw just

yesterday that they have the ability to fire rockets and mortars from Rafah into Israel, killed four soldiers.

Israel does need to continue to be able to operate and take down Hamas, and it wouldn't make sense for Israel to agree otherwise at this moment.

NEWTON: Yes, it does seem like a red line for the Israeli government as it stands right now. I want to ask you though, about certainly regional

pressure on Hamas as well. I found it interesting that Turkey has already come out and said that, look, they hope that Israel supports this deal.

Certainly, there is a lot of regional engagement. I will remind everyone that Turkey just cut off trade ties with Israel as well. Clearly, President

Erdogan want to insinuate himself in this negotiation. Do you think it can be productive or will the Netanyahu government, again, just see it as

regional players backing them against the wall?

KATZ: Paula, Erdogan is definitely not someone that Israel can count on as a player. He's one of the more violent anti-Semites today's leader around

the world, and has consistently bashed Israel and demonized Israel in ways that should be unimaginable.

But sadly, they're not. Just a few days ago cutting off trade that Israel's had with Turkey for -- or more than 70 years since we were established as a

country. But there are other players in this region. The Saudis are a key player. The Emirates are key player. The Egyptians with which Israel has

had peace since 1979 is a key player.

So,, there are other countries in the Middle East that Israel is working with in partnering with to be able to try to resolve this conflict and

bring an end. That let's be honest, both sides have been suffering. The Israelis have been suffering. The hostages are definitely suffering, and

the people of Gaza have also been experiencing a great deal of suffering, and this needs to come to an end, but needs to come to an end with -- under

which Israel gets back its people.

And also changes the security reality in Gaza that Hamas is not able to really take control of the Gaza Strip. That has to be one of the key

conditions here.

NEWTON: Yes, and as you pointed out, there were rockets flying just yesterday, one had been a relative -- time of relative quiet that those

soldiers there did also lose their lives. We're going to leave it there for now. I appreciate your insights as we continue --

KATZ: Thank you --

NEWTON: To follow this breaking news. And we will be right back after a short break with much more on this.



NEWTON: Returning now to our breaking news. Hamas has agreed to a ceasefire proposal that was proposed by Egypt and Qatar. Now, the news was met with

celebrations in parts of Gaza, Israel though has yet to respond. And CNN has learned the government is reviewing the Hamas response.

Spokesperson for the Israeli military meantime says forces will continue to operate in Gaza. Meantime, humanitarian groups warn of a deepening refugee

crisis if Israel invades Rafah, the United Nations reports about 600,000 children in Rafah would be impacted.

Hamish Young is a senior emergency coordinator for UNICEF and joins us now from Rafah in Gaza. It is very good to speak with you at this hour. Can you

let us know what the reaction has been there on the ground? Obviously, we see that there were celebrations given the fact that Israel has not yet

responded. How cautious is everyone at this point?

HAMISH YOUNG, SENIOR EMERGENCY COORDINATOR, UNICEF: Thanks, Paula. There were a lot of celebrations an hour, two hours ago, there was a lot of

people out celebrating, cheering, clapping, a lot of screaming, a lot of gunfire in the air, cars running around hooting their horns.

In fact, a number of children came up to where we are and asked is it true? Is it true? And it was a little bit heartbreaking because I had to say to

the best of my knowledge, I don't know. And I explained everything that we've just been hearing from your other speakers that the proposal had been

accepted by Hamas, but not by the Israelis.

And the other thing, Paula, that was almost surreal, was up on the roof of our building, we could see everybody celebrating, but off in the distance

and overhead, we could see and hear the jets still bombing in the east of Rafah as people were celebrating.

NEWTON: Extraordinary really, what is going on in Gaza and how so many people right now are pawns of this political negotiations. I want to ask

you, given the fact that the IDF says that they will still continue with whatever ground operations they are planning on in Gaza, and issue was

whether or not about 100, 150,000 people were going to start moving to eastern Gaza -- what -- eastern Rafah, pardon me.

How many people have moved and what is your sense of it, given the fact that the United States has said they're against it, many other countries

have said they're against it, and they have urged Israel to put in an adequate humanitarian resources on the ground there before anyone moves.

YOUNG: So, the original population of Rafah was about 280,000, about a million moved in. In the areas that were notified for evacuation today, the

original population is about 50,000, and there are about 70,000 IDPs. So, we were estimating approximately a 100,000 people would move out.


We -- it's too early yet to give an assessment of how many have moved. But what I saw today was a lot of people on the move, and that wasn't just from

the areas in eastern Rafah where the evacuation orders were issued and the leaflets dropped. These were people from all over Rafah, and they were

moving towards the -- towards the west, towards the coast.

Someone moving up towards Khan Yunis, some were moving into other parts of Rafah, and some were moving into parts of Al-Mawasi. And I think Paula,

it's important to recognize that people have been moving out of Rafah for some months now. Ever since Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that there

would be a ground invasion, people started moving out.

The people who moved out first are the ones who had A, somewhere to go, and based on resources in order to move. They could -- had a car or could

afford a ride on the back of a truck, something like that. Which means that the people that are here now are the most vulnerable. They're probably the

people who have moved several times already.

They've been displaced by the fighting, they have nowhere to go. They have no means to move, they're already in a catastrophic, desperate situation.

NEWTON: And given what you've just told us about that situation, we have -- you know, the WFP Cindy McCain saying that there is already famine on the

ground, especially in the north. We have heard from other aid groups, including your own, saying that, look, this is just not adequate.

What do you think will happen if indeed there is even a calibrated response, some type of a ground invasion in Rafah?

YOUNG: Well, we've already seen enormous numbers of people have been killed according to the Ministry of Health. Approximately 14,000 children have

already been killed in this -- in this conflict. We'll see more tens of thousands more will be injured. The malnutrition rates that we see now

which we've never seen in Gaza before, it hasn't been a problem in Gaza.

But in the north, it's well over 15 percent severe malnutrition, which is the criteria for an emergency. In the south is around 5 percent or 6

percent if the Rafah invasion goes ahead, that will skyrocket, disease will go up, children are living in absolute squalor under tense top pullens(ph).

It was raining this morning heavily, and that has a catastrophic impact on the already dire sanitary situation. So, for example, the cases of diarrhea

are about 20 times higher now than they were this time last year. And as you know, kids without access to medical or health facilities easily can

die from diarrhea.

NEWTON: Absolutely, dehydration is a huge risk, and I take your point that in terms of the people that have already moved and those that remain, they

are the most vulnerable now, seeking shelter elsewhere --

YOUNG: That's right --

NEWTON: In Gaza. Hamish Young for us, thanks so much for the update, we appreciate it. Now, we will be right back after a short break. Stay with



NEWTON: We want to take you straight to the White House where a briefing is ongoing. Let's listen in.


last thing that I want to do is say anything at this podium that's going to put that process at risk. Guard this(ph).

As we've said before, we still believe that reaching an agreement is the absolute best outcome, not only for the hostages, but for the Palestinian

people, and we're not going to stop working to that outcome. Now, as you know, the president talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, the

call lasted about 30 minutes and was constructive.


The President reaffirmed his message on Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day. The two leaders discussed the shared commitment of Israel and the

United States, remember the six million Jews who were systematically targeted and slaughtered in the Holocaust, one of the darkest chapters in

human history, and to forcefully act against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate-fueled violence.

Of course, the two leaders spoke about our efforts to secure the hostage deal, including through these ongoing talks today. During the call, at the

President's urging, Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to ensure that Kerem Shalom crossing is back open for humanitarian assistance for those in need.

And I also want to take a moment to address the latest reports now out of Rafah, which was also a topic of discussion on the -- on the call. I'll

reiterate again that we cannot and we will not speak for IDF operations, but we've made clear our views about operations in Rafah that could

potentially put more than a million innocent people at greater risk.

During his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the President again made this clear. He also made clear that we continue to believe that the hostage

deal is the best way to avoid that sort of an outcome while securing the release of those hostages. And as I said, those conversations continue.

Just one more thing. President Biden hosted His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan for lunch at the White House that probably wrapped up here just

recently. They discussed the strong partnership between the United States and Jordan. They also spoke about the situation in Gaza, of course,

including efforts to secure the hostage deal and to get more humanitarian assistance into the civilians of Gaza.

We're going to have a more detailed readout of that conversation here very, very soon. Just don't have it right now, but you'll be seeing it shortly.

STEVE, REPORTER: As far as you can tell, which proposal did Hamas accept?

KIRBY: I'm not going to get into that, Steve.

STEVE: And is the issue over how long a ceasefire would last?

KIRBY: Again, you're asking me for the parameters around the response and the deal itself, and I'm just not going to do that.

STEVE: Lastly, Israel has called on people in Rafah to evacuate. Is -- does that presage a full-scale assault? What are we seeing?

KIRBY: As I said in my opening statement, I'm not going to speak for IDF operations or their military intentions and plans. They should be the ones

to answer those kinds of questions.

What I can only reiterate is that we've been consistent, and the President was consistent again this morning, that we don't support ground operations

in Rafah that would put the majority or even any, the civilians there at any greater risk. We want to see their safety and security allowed for and

factored in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Noting your caveats at the top, are you able to say whether Hamas was agreeing to something that had been discussed over the

last several days?

KIRBY: Again, without getting into the details of it, and Director Burns is still talking to partners about this. There have been ongoing negotiations

and talks here for weeks, and the Director traveled recently to see if we can't bring this thing home. And again, without speaking about the details

of the response by Hamas, I think it's safe to conclude that that response came as a result or at the end of these continued discussions that Director

Burns was part of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when do you think you'll have a better sense of what is happening? When will you get a readout from Director Burns? Later

today, early tomorrow?

KIRBY: I don't know. The President has been briefed on the response. He's aware of where the situation, where the process is.

What you're asking me is like, when are we going to get like a final, you know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the answer, yes.

KIRBY: Yes. Final table slap here. There is a -- there's a process that has -- that has been worked in the past, and will be worked this time. You get

a response by Hamas. We're going to have to evaluate that. We're going to see what's in it. Certainly, the Israelis must have a chance to look at

this and to evaluate it.

And Director Burns, as we speak, literally as you and I are talking, are having these conversations with partners in the region. You know, it would

be great. I'm sure we'd all like to have an answer as soon as possible, but I just don't want to get ahead of that process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a quick follow-up on the readout, when do you expect the Kerem Shalom crossing to reopen, or is it already reopened?

KIRBY: It should be open very, very soon. Prime Minister Netanyahu committed to opening it on the call this morning. So at 2:30, is it open? I

don't know. But he assured the President that it would be reopened. It had been closed for several days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And one more. Cindy McCain, the Executive Director of the World Food Program, said over the weekend that Northern Gaza is in a,

"Full-fledged famine." Is that the assessment of the U.S. Government as well?

KIRBY: The U.N. has not declared a famine in Gaza writ large, but I don't want to understate the degree of need here and the dire situation that so

many people in Gaza are in, particularly with respect to food and water.


So it is not a great situation, clearly, and that's why, again, we're working so hard to get this deal in place so we can keep that humanitarian

assistance up at a higher level.


MARY, REPORTER: I understand you don't want to get into the specifics here, but isn't your understanding that this is Hamas's final offer? I mean, is

there still room to negotiate here?

KIRBY: I think it's going to depend on our evaluation and the Israelis' evaluation and where we go from here.

MARY: And as Steve mentioned, the Israelis are already warning people to evacuate Gaza. If they do go through with this operation, is the U.S.

willing to consider putting limits or conditions on aid to Israel?

KIRBY: I won't get ahead of where we are right now, Mary, in the process here. And I'm certainly not going to speak to hypothetical operations that

haven't happened yet. I think we just have to see what transpires.

The President was very direct and consistently so this morning that we don't want to see major ground operations in Rafah that put these people at

greater risk.

MARY: But a month ago, the administration did make clear that the U.S. would change its approach, right, if Israel didn't take significant steps

to address the humanitarian crisis. Does that still hold? Is it possible that the U.S. could change course if the humanitarian process isn't


KIRBY: Of course. We always -- we always have the right to adjust our policies as appropriate, and that has not changed, no.

MARY: And presumably an operation in Rafah would jeopardize steps to address the humanitarian crisis?

KIRBY: All I can say is we've been very direct and very consistent in our views of concerns about operations in Rafah.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Does the U.S. currently have any sense of whether Israel is inclined or not inclined to accept this


KIRBY: I won't speak for the Israelis.

LEE: The -- when the President and the Prime Minister spoke earlier today, was this specific framework discussed, and did the President encourage or

pressure on the Prime Minister to accept this framework?

KIRBY: You're talking about the -- what the -- what Hamas says they responded to. So just -- and just so you have the TikTok here, but when

they were talking this morning, we did not have news that Hamas had responded. So that news broke after the call.

That said, as I mentioned in my opening statement, of course they talked about the hostage deal and the importance of getting it secured.

LEE: So you're saying when the two leaders spoke, Hamas had not yet -- it would be wrong for this framework to say that the President would not have

specifically asked the Prime Minister to potentially accept it.

KIRBY: Correct. It would be wrong for you to conclude that the call this morning was about having the Israelis accept the Hamas response. The Hamas

response hadn't happened yet.

LEE: Did he broadly encourage the Prime Minister to get yes to some sort of deal?

KIRBY: He -- as he has consistently with Prime Minister Netanyahu, urged that we get this deal secured. But it wasn't -- it wasn't a pressure call.

It wasn't about twisting his arm towards a certain set of parameters.

Director Burns is in the region having these conversations with the Israelis, the Qataris, the Egyptians, as -- again, as we speak. And that's

the forum for working out the parameters of it. But the President clearly talked to the Prime Minister about the importance of getting a deal done,


LEE: And John, what is the President's position on a limited operation into Rafah?

KIRBY: I think I -- I don't think I can answer it any differently than I did with Mary. We've been very clear that we don't support a major ground

operation in Rafah, operations in general that put at greater risk the more than a million people that are sheltering there.

And the question right now is a hypothetical. I mean, we're aware they dropped leaflets. We're aware that they're -- that they're warning people

to evacuate. I let them speak to their operations and to their intents -- intentions. Nothing's changed about where we are with respect to operations

in Rafah that could put those people at greater risk.

LEE: Right, but you know that they are asking people in the area to evacuate, and the possibility of a limited Rafah operation is on the table.

So I'm asking, does the President believe that Israel can execute a limited operation into Rafah while adequately protecting the lives of civilians


KIRBY: The President doesn't want to see operations in Rafah that put at greater risk the more than a million people that are seeking refuge there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he wouldn't support a limited operation into Rafah?

KIRBY: I think I've answered the question.


FRANCESCA, REPORTER: OK. Picking up on the timeline, so prior to Hamas saying that they accepted this proposal, what, as you understood them to

be, were the sticking points for either Hamas or the Israelis in the deal that had been on the table?

KIRBY: I'm not going to get into that.

FRANCESCA: OK. Did it involve Rafah in any way?

KIRBY: I'm not going to talk about the parameters of the proposal that was worked before this Hamas response, and I'm certainly not going to talk

about the response right now.

I mean, I do understand the curiosity, and you guys are all asking exactly the right questions, all very fair. But I really do hope you understand

that the last thing I would ever want to do from this podium is say something that could put this very sensitive process at greater risk. We

are at a critical stage right now.

We got a response from Hamas. Now Director Burns is working through that, trying to assess it, working with the Israelis. I mean, my goodness, folks.


I don't know that it gets any more sensitive than right now, and the worst thing that we can do is start speculating about what's in it.

FRANCESCA: And one more thing on Rafah. What was your understanding why the Israelis were only evacuating part of Rafah at this time?

KIRBY: You'd have to talk to the Israelis.


DANNY, REPORTER: Thanks, Green. Thanks, Admiral. You've previously said several times that the ball is in the court of Hamas, previous stages of

negotiations. Would it be fair to say now that the ball is in Israel's court?

KIRBY: It's going to depend on what the response actually says and the conversations that we have with the Israelis about what -- where we go from


DANNY: And just one other thing, if I can ask, do you have any sense that Israel is currently using this threat or the start of an operation in Rafah

as a means of putting pressure on Hamas at this stage of the negotiations?

KIRBY: Again, you'd have to talk to the Israelis about their intentions.


BRENDAN, REPORTER: You said that they -- that you did not know the news during the call, but were you surprised by -- was the White House surprised

by Hamas saying that they had reached a deal or agreeing to the agreement?

KIRBY: It wasn't like we had a heads-up about it. We knew that, as I've said publicly, they had a proposal in front of them. And as was just -- I

was just reminded of the fact that I've said many times, it was -- the ball was in Hamas's court. So we certainly knew that they had it before them and

we were waiting on word. We had hoped that there would be word very, very soon.

We certainly hoped that there could be word today. But did we know the exact moment that al-Jazeera was able to break the news that Hamas had a

response? No, we didn't predict that particular moment.

BRENDAN: Are you encouraged that you are at this sensitive point? You've been talking about it's a very sensitive point, it's important.

KIRBY: We'll be encouraged when we get a deal in place and we can start seeing hostages get back with their families. That'll be encouraging.

BRENDAN: And if I can, what role, if any, do you feel like the leaflets and the pressure of evacuation or the announcement of evacuating, do you think

that had any role in triggering Hamas?

KIRBY: I don't think we know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, can you talk a little bit about the timeline, as the administration understands it, of those evacuations? How much time do

people have to leave? Did you guys put any demands on the Israelis in terms of how those evacuations are to take place under the parameters that you

guys have talked about?

KIRBY: We're asking questions of the Israelis about what their intentions are here and what the -- what the larger purpose of this evacuation is and

sort of where they're wanting to go. I think to answer your question, though, you'd really have to go to the Israelis to speak to their military

operations and plans. I'm not going to get ahead of that.

But are we curious about the timing and the intent and where they're going? Yes, absolutely. And the President expressed our curiosity about that on

the call today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But more than curiosity, are you expressing what you want to see happen in terms of those evacuations, how they take place,

whether Israel's prepared for people moving around within the borders?

KIRBY: I would just say, again, without -- I don't want to get ahead of operations that haven't happened. I don't want to speak for the Israeli

military. I can just say that we don't want to see operations in and around Rafah that make it harder for the people that are seeking refuge there and

shelter to be safe and secure. And we have made that case privately to the Israelis.

The President did it again today with the prime minister directly. We certainly made it publicly. We've been very, very consistent about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, Jackie. Thank you, Kareem.

JACKIE, REPORTER: John, noting everything that you've said about the concerns expressed by the U.S., about the risk to Palestinians in Gaza with

a full-scale operation, is the U.S. still aligned with Israel in its intention to eliminate the terrorist threat posed by Hamas?

KIRBY: Of course.

JACKIE: And is there any feeling that Hamas may be trying to trick the public in some way? You heard Israeli officials commenting on this latest

proposal as a trick. And there's been a lot of pressure to -- go ahead.

KIRBY: No, I'm -- just go ahead. Sorry. I'm listening.

JACKIE: Well, there's been, you know, pressure on the administration to make sure that the needs of Palestinians are being served and that the U.S.

support for Israel isn't, you know, overhanded.

And you had the report come out earlier today or maybe yesterday that the U.S. was potentially weighing withholding an arms shipment to Israel. Is

there any concern that Hamas was trying to capitalize on that public pressure and, you know, play a trick, as Israeli officials put it?

KIRBY: I mean, I don't think there's any possible way I can answer that question unless I got between the ears of Mr. Sinwar, and that's a place I

really don't want to be. I think that is a great question for him.


You know, it's interesting. I stand up here and answer questions, Karine does, Matt Miller at the State Department, Pentagon colleagues, the

President does, Prime Minister Netanyahu does, and the IDF military spokesman does. You know who hasn't answered a single question about his

intentions and what games he might be playing or where he intends to take this? Mr. Sinwar, the head of Hamas.

And I think it's -- I think it's high time that he answers some of these questions and he come clean about what his intentions are. I don't know.

All I know is we've got a response. Bill Burns is looking at that response. He's talking to the Israelis about it. And we'll see where this goes.

Hopefully, hopefully, whatever's in this thing, hopefully it can lead to those hostages getting out real, real soon with their families where they

need to be. And as each new -- as each day passes, their lives get further at risk. So time is really of the essence here.

JACKIE: Noting your answer, is it still a good idea to try and negotiate with terrorists then?

KIRBY: It's not like -- it's not like -- it's not like we sit down pie in the sky and say, hey, today's a good day, let's, you know, negotiate with

terrorists. You got to negotiate with who you got to negotiate to get people back with their families. So frankly, if there's a better idea to

get those hostages home with their families, I think we'd love to hear them.

I just don't think there's another way to do it. There's no other way to do it, quite frankly. You got to negotiate through Qatar with Hamas to get

those folks back with their families.

I mean it -- this -- you know, that's the hard work of diplomacy. Sometimes that means you got to sit across the table from some really bad folks that

you'd rather not have to talk to, but they got those hostages and we want them back.

JACKIE: But the U.S. backs Israel's intention to eliminate Hamas.

KIRBY: We, of course, back their right and responsibility to go after the Hamas threat, to eliminate that threat. Now look, Jackie, I've said many

times here, and you're not going to eliminate an ideology through military operations. But does Israel have a right and responsibility to eliminate a

threat that they suffered on the 7th of October? A hundred percent, absolutely they do. And we've been nothing but very steadfast on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, John. Speaking about a TikTok, what prompted this morning's call?

KIRBY: I think you've heard me say many times, they talk as appropriate. And given where we were in the hostage deal negotiations, given where we

were with humanitarian assistance and Kerem Shalom being shut down for several days, certainly given where we were with expectations in Rafah,

this made all the sense in the world for today to be the day that the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when exactly was the call set up? Was it this morning? Was it yesterday after the rocket attack that killed the three

Israelis? Or what was --

KIRBY: I would tell you the initial planning for the call took place late in the weekend, is about what I'd say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And one more on a different topic. Why did the U.S. halt an ammunition shipment to Israel last week?

KIRBY: Yes, I've seen the press reporting on this. All I can tell you is that Jackie's question, our support for Israel's security remains ironclad.

And I'm not going to get into the specifics of one shipment over another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our NBC is reporting that it included 2,000-ton bombs that may have been used in Rafah. Did concerns over Rafah and what the

Israelis could use this ammunition for, did that play any role in halting that shipment?

KIRBY: I don't have a better answer for you other than the one I just gave you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to go at that question one more time. Did the United States put a pause on an arms shipment to Israel? Is that -- is

that reporting correct?

KIRBY: I'm not going to confirm that report.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And just on another topic, well, the same topic, different question, over the weekend, the Queen of Jordan said in an

interview that the United States is giving the world mixed messages and offering both expressions of concern and support for Gaza in addition to

providing arms to Israel. Can you -- can you comment at all on this -- on her criticism or her critique of the United States position?

KIRBY: I'm not going to -- I don't think it'd be appropriate to get into a back-and-forth here from the podium on this. We have said that two things

can be true at once, and they are.

Israel has a right and a responsibility to defend itself, and we're going to continue to provide for their security and help them with that. And at

the same time, they have a right and obligation to be careful about civilian casualties and getting more humanitarian assistance in, and that's

why we're working so hard on this hostages deal. And that's why the American -- the President and the United States continue to lead the world

in terms of actually making a difference in that outcome, making life better for the Palestinian people.

No other country is doing more than the United States to try to increase that assistance and get this -- get this ceasefire in place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just really quickly, the Israelis stopped the broadcast of al-Jazeera over the weekend. Can you comment on whether that's

an appropriate action for a United States ally?

KIRBY: We don't support that action.


As we said very clearly on World Press Freedom Day on Friday, I know Karine talked about this, the work of independent journalism around the world is

absolutely vital. It's important to an informed citizenry and public, but it's also important to help inform the policymaking process. So we don't

support that at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then did the President bring it up at all in his call today?

KIRBY: The focus of the call was on the hostage deal and on Rafah.

REPORTER: I'm going to give it obviously --

KIRBY: But you saw my -- sorry, you saw, I think I put a statement out this morning on that, so we have --

NEWTON: You've been listening to a White House briefing. That is John Kirby, National Security Spokesperson, trying to bring us right up to date

on what is going on with the proposed ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

What we know now is that Hamas has agreed to something, the White House refusing to comment on exactly the details of that. What is interesting,

though, is that John Kirby said that this is at a critical stage and that these negotiations are sensitive, and that, again, the CIA director,

William Burns, is dealing with all of this in real time, and that although the U.S. President Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, when they spoke

earlier, they did not know that Hamas would come back in acceptance of this deal.

What is interesting here is that we still have no details, the White House not offering any. Again, though, the White House being very clear of what

seems to be imminent or perhaps even ongoing this hour is any future Israeli military operations in Rafah. They said they do not support them.

This is at issue because we heard an aid worker earlier in this hour tell us that as celebrations were breaking out in Gaza over this proposed

ceasefire deal, that he could still hear airstrikes overhead.

We want to get some analysis on this. I want to bring in our Jim Sciutto, who is following this from New York. And in the region are Paula Hancocks,

who is in Abu Dhabi.

Jim, to you first, just your impressions about what you heard, especially the detail in terms of the timing here. It seems that William Burns and

John Kirby wanted to make this clear, that he believes that Hamas accepted something, whatever it is in terms of detail. But that was as a result of

the CIA director still speaking to all players on the ground there.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: No question. I mean, we could tell the U.S. is at least taking this Hamas response seriously, given John Kirby's reticence

there. As he said, he doesn't want to speak publicly about the details. He called this, as you mentioned, Paula, an extremely sensitive time.

So, we know the U.S. is reviewing the Hamas response, and it's our understanding that Israel is reviewing the response as well. That does not

mean that Israel will accept those terms as described by Hamas. And when we look at some of the details as described publicly by the Hamas

spokespeople, there are things in that agreement, including in the second stage, a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which seems far further

along than we've certainly heard the Israelis willing to go.

But at least the U.S. view at this point is there's something here, the U.S. and Israel examining it, and then we'll decide next steps from there

to see if it is actually a deal.

To your point about Bill Burns, he's been highly involved in the -- in these negotiations, but also the previous successful ceasefire


He typically does not fly out to the region to meet the players unless there is something possible, and he's been there now for some time. So they

believe there was at least a serious opportunity. Of course, Paula, we have to inject some skepticism here, just because we've been close before and

haven't gotten that deal across the finish line.

But this is a key point here where, well, it's possible they might make some progress.

NEWTON: And you make such a good point that they certainly did not rule it out. I want to let both of you know that we do have some video just into

CNN about some hostage families in Tel Aviv putting pressure on the Netanyahu government to accept this ceasefire deal as it stands.

Obviously, as I said, we just had in the last hour at CNN a heartbreaking interview with one of the mothers of one of the hostages. They want this

done. They want to be able to hug their loved ones.

Paula Hancocks, look, I just reported the fact that Israel certainly continues some kind of limited operation in Rafah right now. You know Rafah

quite well. You know Netanyahu's plan. He is saying that, look, if we don't go into Rafah, we cannot be done with Hamas once and for all.

How do you view all of this in terms of how it's coming together in the region? The fact that Hamas did seem to say, look, we'll accept this.

Obviously, the devil's in the detail.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I think, Paula, the question at this point is what exactly did Hamas accept? Now, we know that over the

weekend they were in Cairo and there was this Egyptian-led proposal that was on the table that Israel had been part of, had not necessarily agreed

to all of it. Or is it a revised version of that particular proposal?


So really, the question is, and I think why the U.S., why Israel is not making specific comments on this deal is because they need to look at it

very carefully and check whether it is some kind of revised version.

But those pictures you just played there were interesting because we are seeing pressure and celebration on both sides now. We're seeing the hostage

families coming out on the streets in Tel Aviv. We are seeing Palestinians coming out on the streets in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. One of your

guests you spoke to from UNICEF said down in Rafah, he heard people celebrating as well.

There is a desperation to get this deal done from those on both sides that it is affecting acutely. So at this point, I think we are hearing some very

cautious words from the political sphere, certainly from the U.S. that we've heard over the past hour or so. As John Kirby said, it is about as

sensitive as it gets at this point. We've heard also from Turkey's president, apparently Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader spoke to him

after he announced that this deal had been agreed and accepted by Hamas.

So the Turkish president also saying they welcome this move, pushing Israel to accept it as well.

NEWTON: Also highly significant. Paula Hancocks, we're going to leave it there for now. Thanks so much for your insights. You want to stay with us.

Jim Sciutto is up next and he will bring you the very latest on our breaking news.