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First Photo Of Two American Hostages After Release By Hamas; Aid Trucks Still Waiting To Enter Gaza As Vital Supplies Run Out; Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) Out As Speaker Nominee, House GOP To Start Over; IDF Spokesperson: Preparing For "The Next Stages Of The War"; Mass Protests Erupt Across Middle East Over War In Gaza. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 20, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's cnn.com/impact. Coming up Sunday on State of the Union, I'm going to talk to the House Intelligence chair, Congressman Mike Turner, as well as former Republican Congresswoman and January 6th committee co-Chair Liz Cheney. She's going to join me for her first media interview in a year. That's Sunday at 9:00 A.M. at noon Eastern here on CNN.
Our coverage continues now with Mr. Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you Sunday morning.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, a first look at two Americans who were just freed by Hamas, a mother and daughter now safe in Israel. We're learning more about this initial release of hostages as dozens of others are still being held by Hamas in war-torn Gaza.
This hour, trucks packed with lifesaving aid to Gaza remain stuck in Egypt and may not get through the crossing for at least another 24 to 48 hours. The crisis in Gaza at a desperate new level as angry crowds take to the streets across the Middle East in protest.
Also tonight, House Republicans are starting over in their search for a speaker, extending two weeks of chaos and paralysis. GOP hardliner Jim Jordan forced to drop out after losing a third floor vote and a secret ballot that sealed his fate.
Plus, a huge new development in the Georgia election subversion case, lawyer Kenneth Cheseboro, accepting a plea deal and admitting an open court to conspiring with Donald Trump to put forward a slate of fake electors.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we begin with the first break in the horrific hostage crisis in Gaza with two Americans who were captured by Hamas now free.
CNN teams across the region and here in the United States are covering this major breaking story. First, let's go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's live in Tel Aviv for us. Kaitlan, we also just got the first photo of the two Americans following their release.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this is a photo that we obtained from the Israeli government. In it, you can see Judith and Natalie Raanan. This is the first photo that we have seen of them since they were abducted during that horrific attack on October 7th. They're there with Israeli soldiers. They are being reunited with their family tonight, something that is certainly grateful news for them.
I mean, this is an Illinois woman and her teenage daughter that are now here in Israel. They have been reunited with their family. They are on a military base and right now they're undergoing medical checkups because, of course, they have spent nearly two weeks in the captivity of Hamas since that attack happened.
And I should note they live in Illinois. Judith and Natalie were here in Israel. They were visiting Judith's mother, who was turning 85, it was her 85th birthday, so they were here celebrating that in the end of Simchat Torah, the Jewish holiday, of course. And that is what happened when that attack unfolded. And they were in the kibbutz with Judith's mother when that happened. They were in separate houses.
And, initially, what we had heard from interviews that Judith's mom did, her mom did not want to leave the kibbutz later on when she realized that her daughter and her granddaughter were missing and later learned that they had been taken hostage by Hamas.
And so there have been negotiations happening and there were words from Hamas that they were released on humanitarian purposes. Of course, the IDF tonight scoffing at that, given that attack that we just saw that happened where they brutally murdered, raped and kidnapped people by the dozens. And so this is grateful news though for their family regardless.
Of course, Wolf, I should note that Natalie is set to turn 18 in just a few days and so her family is hopeful tonight that she will be home to celebrate that milestone birthday.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm so happy they have been freed.
Kaitlan, I know you also had a chance to speak to some families whose loved ones are still being held hostage by Hamas. Does today's release give them hope?
COLLINS: I think it's really bittersweet for so many families, Wolf. I mean, I think they're grateful to see these two hostages, these American hostages. They are alive, they are okay, they are released from Hamas, but there are many more that are not going home to their families tonight, Wolf.
And we spoke to several of their family members earlier today of these hostages who are still being held by Hamas. And one was a mother. Her name is Shelly, her son, O'Meer (ph), is missing and was abducted. He was at that Nova Music Festival on that Friday night before the attack happened. He had some furious phone calls back and forth with his family, his two parents that I spoke with today in an incredibly emotional conversation.
And I asked his mom about that update that we had gotten from the IDF earlier today, saying that they did believe a majority of the hostages were still alive, whether or not that gave them hope.
This is what she told me, Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: It must have been a relief to hear what the IDF said today that they do believe most of the hostages are still alive.
SHELLY SHEM-TOV, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: I want to say something about that. My son has asthma. He cannot breathe well. And I also, every day when I'm waking up and I don't have -- I cannot breathe, I'm taking my, yes, inhaler. And I'm thinking about O'meer that he is there. And he don't have his inhaler, whatever you call it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: As you can see, Wolf, it was a difficult conversation. We'll have much more of that later, a full conversation that I had with his family, who so clearly wants their son back.
But what we were at was this ceremony, because of course, Wolf, today is Shabbat, when so many friends and family are typically gathered around a table at someone's home sharing a meal, saying a special blessing.
And so many of those families tonight have an empty seat at the table, because their loved ones have either been killed or kidnapped.
And so they set up this table here in Tel Aviv. You can see it here, this long Shabbat table with a seat for all of the hostages who are still missing tonight.
And we were there talking to their families about their pain, about their hope that their loved ones will be like Judith and Natalie, and will be released to them eventually, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope. Kaitlan Collins reporting from Tel Aviv, thank you.
And Kaitlan will be back once again later tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern for her show, The Source. We'll be watching.
Here in Washington, meanwhile, the Biden administration is welcoming the release of these two American hostages.
CNN's Senior White House Correspondent Kayla Tausche is joining us from the White House right now. Kayla, we just learned the president actually spoke with these two freed Americans, what, just a little while ago? KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It just happened in the last. last hour, Wolf President Biden speaking directly with Judith and Natalie Raanan, the mother and daughter pair who were held captive by Hamas for the last two weeks. President Biden had previously spoken with their family members and earlier today spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss continued hostage relief efforts.
But his message to Judith and Natalie was this, was that the U.S. is going to provide the full support of the government as they recover from what the president described as a terrible ordeal. And the president releasing his statement saying he is overjoyed that they will soon be reunited with their family who's been racked with fear.
These individuals and their family will have the full support of the U.S. government as they recover and heal. And we should all respect their privacy in this moment.
It is a rare triumph for the administration after more than two weeks of violence and tensions in the Middle East. And while there is some relief that these two releases have been secured, there was no question that there is more work to be done, and that was the message from Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: But there are still 10 additional Americans who remain unaccounted for in this conflict. We know that some of them are being held hostage by Hamas, along with an estimated 200 other hostages held in Gaza.
They include men, women, young boys, young girls, elderly people from many nations. Every single one of them should be released.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAUSCHE: Blinken extended a specific thanks to the Qatari government that helped broker the release of Judith and Natalie. Of course, some Hamas leadership is based in Qatar, which is why that country has been an intermediary of sorts for the Biden administration as they've been communicating with Hamas indirectly.
The administration has not said exactly how it was able to secure the release of these two hostages, saying that the privacy of those deliberations and details needed to be kept essentially private for security reasons. Hamas has suggested that they were released for humanitarian reasons, but it remains unclear what, if anything, Wolf, was provided in exchange for their release.
BLITZER: Kayla Tausche reporting from the White House, thank you very much.
Let's get some more now on the dozens of other hostages still being held by Hamas. CNN's Erin Burnett is joining us from Tel Aviv with more on this part of the story.
Erin, what are we hearing from Hamas about these other captives?
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And this is the crucial thing, right? As Kayla said, we don't know what this exchange was. We may never. But we don't know right now, Wolf. All we know is that Hamas has put out a statement that claims that they are working with what they call friendly countries to secure the release of other foreign nationals who are currently being held hostage in Gaza.
Egypt, Qatar, others, of course, you saw Russia is saying that it was also engaged in negotiations with Hamas. So, that's how they categorize it.
Of course, Qatar, as you know, has long had a history of brokering deals with adversarial foreign parties, whether it be the Taliban or others, when it comes to hostages. So, that's what we have from Hamas.
And Wolf, the question is, to your point, what is humanitarian? What does this mean? You have two. Will there be more? And as Anthony Blinken said, there are 10 more Americans and 201 more hostages being held as far as we know tonight.
The number the IDF had given was 203. So, with Natalie and Judith's release, that brings that number to 201 people still south from here in the Gaza Strip tonight.
BLITZER: Erin Burnett reporting from Tel Aviv. And Erin, of course, will be doing much more reporting coming up right at the top of the hour on Erin Burnett Outfront. Once again, she's live in Israel.
Just ahead, a diplomatic source tells CNN the release of the two U.S. hostages is hopefully the start of more to come. I'll discuss that and more with an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're back with the breaking news, two U.S. hostages who were being held by Hamas have been released.
They're in the care of the Israel Defense Forces right now.
I'm joined now by Major Doron Spielman, a spokesperson for the IDF. Major, thank you so much for joining us.
First of all, what can you tell us about Judith and Natalie's condition right now? And can you explain how their release unfolded today?
MAR. DORON SPIELMAN, SPOKESPERSON, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE: So, Judith and Natalie were handed over to the Israeli military a short time ago. It was facilitated by the Red Cross. They've been through, again, hell and back. It was only 14 days ago that the two of them were two of close to 1,500 people or 1,600 people that were part of that Hamas onslaught into Israel.
The reports are that they were taking out at gunpoint at 6:30 in the morning and dragged into Gaza. They've spent two weeks inside those tunnels. I'm sure that even physically, though they look okay, and what we've seen mentally, they have gone through things that we can barely imagine.
The important thing right now is that they're going to be meeting with their families, and it's a little ray of light amidst a lot of darkness that Hamas has inflicted upon Israel. This is a mother and 17-year-old daughter, almost 18.
The IDF says the majority of the 203 estimated hostages are alive. Do you think today's release will lead to more hostages being freed, or is it too optimistic to say that at this point?
SPIELMAN: Look, Wolf, if we were dealing with a sane, normal group, then, of course, I think all of us would have a lot of hope and expectation. Unfortunately, Hamas are evil madmen. I mean, we cannot forget it was only two weeks ago. They massacred our babies. These two were released at the same time, not that long ago, in an attic in one of the homes down south. One of the workers that was cleaning the home found a mother and her five-year-old son that had been burnt to death by Hamas terrorists. So, it's very difficult to have hope.
What I can tell you is, from a military point of view, we're more than just a group moving forward on both of those tracks. Our goal is to target and destroy Hamas completely. At the same time, we're working to release the hostages. That's the complexity of the situation that we have to deal with.
BLITZER: Israel is clearly still bombarding Hamas targets in Gaza, preparing for a ground invasion at the same time. But isn't it a fact that all of that is endangering the hostages' lives? Should Israel consider pausing at least now that the two hostages, this mother and daughter, Americans, have been released?
SPIELMAN: So, Wolf, we've said from the very beginning that Hamas absolutely has to be defeated. They can't exist. Their entire charter, as the president of the United States said just yesterday, is dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel and the death of all Jewish people. They, while we want to release the hostages, holding up the hostages in front of them is not going to prevent us from getting to targeting each and every one of them.
We want to bring the hostages home, but it's an operational priority that we destroy Hamas otherwise, the next, God forbid, massacre is going to be waiting just around the corner.
BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to this. In North Gaza, the Al- Quds Hospital says, the IDF told them to evacuate ahead of a nighttime strike. Can you confirm that, Major?
SPIELMAN: So, I heard this on the media, just like you. What I can tell you, is that this is another example of beating right into Hamas' playbook. If we've asked people to evacuate a hospital, I can't verify this specific case, it's because Hamas are using those hospital grounds or near those grounds to launch rockets.
And, again, I think any normal person anywhere in the world and in America, if they wanted to carry out a war, why would they do it from a hospital knowing that the IDF is going to respond? Our goal is to try to move civilians out of the way, which if we did call that would be what we meant to do.
Hamas' goal is to bait us into killing civilians. They went either way. They kill Israeli civilians. They take it as a win. They bait us to killing their own civilians. They take it as a win. That's why they have to be destroyed and completely their capability taken out, because they're playing this game of the world that recycles itself, Wolf, as we've seen every few years. It's an evil that has to stop.
BLITZER: So, are you saying, Major, that this hospital is a legitimate target?
SPIELMAN: We have said from the very beginning, our targets are only based on intelligence and military targets. We will go where the militants are located. We're trying not to hit public institutions. We didn't wake up two weeks ago and said we want to hit a hospital.
But if there are damages and threats to the lives of Israelis that are taking place from Hamas terrorists that are located in the compound, we will do everything we can to eliminate them.
Unfortunately, I think the world has to be asking a question. Isn't it against human rights to use a hospital as a cover for war? That is where Hamas' true intentions come to the fore. We have to see them as they are otherwise.
They're playing us and they're playing the international community and they're buying time by putting pressure on Israel so they can simply regroup and carry out the next attack.
We're not going to let them fool us, and we hope the world is not going to let them fool them either.
BLITZER: Major Doron Spielman, thank you so much for joining us.
SPIELMAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have much more on that hospital in Gaza that says it's being told to evacuate before an Israeli airstrike. The head of the Palestinian Red Crescent responds to this evacuation warning. That's coming up next.
And anger and frustration builds as humanitarian aid sits just across the border waiting to be allowed into Gaza, lots going on.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Right now, there's more breaking news out of the Middle East after the release of two Americans held hostage by Hamas.
CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is following all the latest developments. She's joining us live tonight from Cairo in Egypt.
Clarissa, a hospital in Gaza, as you know, is now claiming it's under imminent threat of an Israeli airstrike. And just moments ago, an IDF spokesperson refused to confirm or deny that. What more can you tell us?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we understand is that the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza has said that they basically received a phone call from the Israelis telling them that they need to evacuate their facility immediately. They say that there are currently some 400 patients there, and in addition to that, 12,000 displaced people.
I should add that we have no way of verifying those numbers, but obviously real concern from the hospital's administrators that it is simply unfeasible to evacuate that volume of people in a timely manner. More broadly speaking, Wolf, what we're seeing now in Gaza is basically the complete collapse of the health care system as this issue of the logjam with aid continues to get worse and worse. There is barely enough fuel to keep these generators, that keep these hospitals running. There is a massive shortage of medicine, not to mention food and water.
And we actually went to the Rafah border crossing today between Gaza and Egypt, where the hopes had been high that perhaps, perhaps we might start to see some aid trickling in. Today, that was not to be. Take a look.
WARD (voice over): For days, they have been waiting. More than 200 trucks full of aid desperately needed in Gaza, but stuck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres He hoped to be here for a much needed diplomatic win. Instead he found himself in the midst of a protest. His remarks drowned out by the crowd.
People are chanting over and over again, with our blood, with our souls, we will defend Palestine. There's a huge amount of anger, a huge amount of emotion, much of it directed at the West.
And much also at western media, who people here feel have favored Israeli voices over Palestinians.
A protestor starts shouting at me. We invite her to do an interview with us. RAHMA ZEIN, PROTESTER: When a thousand plus Palestinian babies die, you don't feel the same. You don't feel the same. That's when I tell you one of your own has died. But these are our own. And it is unfair in Egypt who stand with Palestine. All Western channels are talking for Israel. If the United Nations is standing for Israel, if all these international institutions are standing for Israel, who's there for the Palestinians and don't call it a war?
The jargon is even more infuriating. It's not a war. They're not on equal footing. It is not a war.
WARD: For many, it is deeply personal. A Palestinian man holds up his I.D.
MAHDI ABU ABEID, PROTESTER: I can't contact with my family there.
WARD: You can't contact your families on the other side?
ABEID: I have seven sisters and my father, my mother, grandmother, uncles, all my family is there. I can't contact with them.
WARD: Wait, are they okay?
ABEID: I don't know if they are okay or not.
WARD: As Egyptian soldiers stand by, the demonstrators get more animated. Protests are normally illegal here, but today, the Egyptian president called on people to take to the streets.
So, this is rapidly becoming a very chaotic scene now. They're trying to get the secretary-general out of here.
WARD: We are ordered back onto the buses and escorted out through the crowd back to the Jewish airport, where piles of aid sit by the runway, so close to where they need to be, but held back, the U.N. says, by complications over how to monitor the trucks that enter Gaza and how to establish a continuous humanitarian corridor.
When you saw the anger of those protesters, most of it leveled at Israel and the U.S., but also at the international community for failing to stop the situation, what's your response?
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think what's important to say is that we are doing everything we can, engaging with all the parties, to make sure that, sooner rather than later, we are able to have not only a first convoy but continued aid to the population in Gaza.
WARD: But no timeline?
GUTERRES: I think it should be as quickly as possible and with as many as possible trucks to cross in the first few days.
WARD: But that is little comfort to the people of Gaza, for whom, every day, every hour, is vital.
WARD (on camera): The secretary-general, Wolf, also called for an immediate end to this impasse. We have heard earlier today from President Biden. He says he is hopeful that within the next 24 to 48 hours that we might start to see some of those trucks flowing in.
But from everyone we spoke to at the U.N., they say, listen, 20 trucks is not enough. Before the war, you had more than 450 trucks of aid going into Gaza every day. It's been nearly two weeks without aid. And everybody watching very closely to see what happens in the coming days. Time is running out, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's hope those trucks start moving into Gaza. Clarissa Ward in Cairo for us, thank you very much.
For more on the hospital in Gaza that says it's under threat of an Israeli airstrike, I'm joined now by Marwan Jilani, he's the director general of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Marwan, thank you so much for joining us.
Can you walk us through exactly what the hospital heard from the IDF?
MARWAN JILANI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, PALESTINIAN RED CRESCENT SOCIETY: Yes. Today, (INAUDIBLE) call to evacuate everybody immediately or with this threat of being responsible, in his words, for the lives of those people in the hospital. At the hospital, we don't only have our patients, we have about 12,000 people who have sought refuge in the hospital, in the corridors, in the basement, in the different floors.
This has been happening for the past two few days. (INAUDIBLE) people started to flee and seek shelter in our hospital. Today was the largest number so we had an average, on average, about 6,000, 7,000 people every night tonight I think because they had the threats to the area. We have about 12,000 people who are in the (INAUDIBLE) just a way of verifying.
BLITZER: Marwan, did the IDF give the Al-Quds Hospital a deadline to evacuate by?
JILANI: No. They gave us three calls. They gave us the first call at 7:00. The last call was about an hour, two hours, just around 11:00 and it was the same threat. It was evacuate immediately. This is not the first time we have been threatened, but this seems to be really serious. And they have said that the people there -- there is going to be (INAUDIBLE) in the vicinity of the hospital and maybe at the hospital itself.
BLITZER: Is it possible for the patients at that hospital and the sheltered civilians to actually evacuate? What would that look like?
JILANI: (INAUDIBLE) how to evacuate and how to evacuate. So, patients who need care, you know, in the words of the WHO, they said moving patients, it is a (INAUDIBLE) sentence. Moving 2,000 people and bombardment while the shelling is going on, when you have no fuel, no cars, no buses, how can you evacuate, and where, where to? Should they walk on the streets where the bombardments around the hospital are (INAUDIBLE)? Should they walk a few kilometers to the south or should they walk to the north where it has been totally destroyed? Their homes have to be totally destroyed.
BLITZER: We've got a little issue with the connection, but go ahead.
JILANI: (INAUDIBLE). We -- just a way of verifying, we are part of the Red Cross family. We (INAUDIBLE) organization providing medical care to the people who need it. We have only civilians in our hospital. It's not been an issue with our hospital or our organization in terms of our mission (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Marwan Jilani, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone at that hospital. Thanks so much for joining us and I apologize for the difficult connection we had.
You're in Cairo. I appreciate it very, very much, Marwan Jilani, who's the director general of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
We'll have much more on all the breaking news just ahead, specifically on the release of those two U.S. hostages, a mother and daughter.
And Israeli ground troops are preparing for a widely expected incursion into Gaza. We'll give you the latest on that.
Plus, we're going to tell you which Republicans are now running to become the next House speaker now after Jim Jordan's bid for the job imploded today.
BLITZER: Stay right here for all the breaking news on the release of those two Americans, a mother and daughter, who had been held hostage by Hamas.
But, first, House Republicans are back at square one tonight in their chaotic and very divisive battle to try to choose a permanent speaker of the House.
CNN's Melanie Zanona joining us live from Capitol Hill right now. Melanie, walk us through what happened today and where the fight to become speaker stands right now.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, you're absolutely right to say that Republicans are back at square one once again because, for the second time in two weeks, their nominee for speaker has been unable to get enough support from within their own party.
Today, Jim Jordan took another speaker vote on the floor. He failed to win enough votes to get the speakership gavel. In fact, he bled even more support this time around. And so afterwards, Republicans got together behind closed doors and they took a secret ballot vote to essentially dump him as their speaker nominee.
So, it raises serious questions about who, if anyone, can get 217 within the Republican conference right now. And a lot of members are really upset over the situation that they find themselves in. That includes Dusty Johnson.
Our Manu Raju caught up with him after that conference meeting. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Clearly, there is yet another void. We are going to have a couple more days of chaos as we try to get a sense of what's next.
To me, it reminds me how incredibly irresponsible it was for 208 Democrats and 8 Republicans to put this House into absolute chaos without any kind of a plan for how we were going to move forward.
We really do need somebody to step forward, somebody who is mission- driven, somebody who is focused on doing something rather than just being something. Blind ambition has distorted this process enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So Republicans, once again, are going to try to elect a nominee for speaker candidates, have until noon on Sunday to file. They'll have another candidate forum on Monday and then an internal election on Tuesday.
And already, there are about half a dozen Republicans who are jumping into the race. That includes Tom Emmer, he's the majority whip. He's the third-ranking highest Republican. Also, Kevin Hern, he's the head of the Republican Study Committee, which is the largest conservative caucus. And then there's Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican and member of the far right House Freedom Caucus. But as you can tell, it's already shaping up to be a very messy,
crowded race. And so that signals to me that it's going to take a while before Republicans are able to unify if at all next week, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens next week. Melanie Zanona, thank you.
Now, let's get to the Georgia election subversion case and the second plea deal by a Trump co-defendant in two days, pro-Trump Lawyer Kenneth Cheseboro, flipping on the former president pleading guilty to a single felony count.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you plead to count 15, conspiracy to commit filing false documents in indictment number 23-SC-188947?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, just how significant is this guilty plea?
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the second individual that prosecutors have security guilty plea and a promise of cooperation from. And in just the past 48 hours they have secured these deals from two people who worked quite closely with former President Trump's legal team and their efforts to overturn the results of the election.
In open court today, Wolf, Chesebro admitted to conspiring with Trump and two of his lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, to subvert the Electoral College process.
As part of this plea deal, he has agreed to plead to one felony count. He has also agreed to testify in future hearings. He faces up to five years in probation and $5,000 in fines and restitution. He will also have to write an apology letter.
But it's notable that, as a first-time offender in the state of Georgia, it is expected that if he complies with the terms of his probation, he will be wiped from his record. If he fills out an application on Monday, he does not have to say that he has been convicted of a felony.
So, these have been some pretty good deals over the past few days for these defendants. We expect there to be additional plea deals from some of the other 16 defendants in the coming weeks and months.
I've spoken with a few sources familiar with the Trump legal team thinking. They're mostly shrugging off these plea deals, but say they are missing out on an opportunity to preview the case down in Fulton County, which is what they had hoped would happen if these two individuals went on trial.
As of now, there is no date set for former President Trump or any of the other 15 defendants. And, Wolf, if you look at that crowded 2024 calendar, it's really hard to see where this trial, which is expected to take over four months, could fit. So, it's unlikely that this case would go forward before the 2024 election.
BLITZER: Yes. As part of this plea deal, Cheseboro will avoid any jail time, which is an incentive for him to fully cooperate and speak honestly during his testimony. Paula Reid, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, protests erupt across the Arab world over the war in Gaza. We will have a live report. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top stories, the release of two U.S. hostages, a mother and daughter from Gaza, who are now in the care of the Israeli defense forces. An IDF spokesperson says that while Israel's top priority is the return of all the hostages and all those missing, the IDF is getting ready for what they call the next stages of the war against Hamas.
Brian Todd takes a closer look now at how an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza might unfold.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meeting with soldiers in recent days. Israel's defense minister said, quote, Gaza will never return who to what it was -- an ominous signal of what's to come when Israel launches its expected ground invasion of Gaza.
MAJOR JOHN SPENCER (RET.), AUTHOR, "UNDERSTANDING URBAN WARFARE": One of the biggest forces in the world who's prepared for -- to enter a contested environment like this is the IDF, but of course, there's no bloodless war. They'll take a lot of casualties, and I think they know that.
TODD: With more than 300,000 soldiers and reservists getting ready for combat, military analysts expect the Israelis to launch the invasion on multiple fronts.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), FORMER U.S. AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: This is Gaza City. And what we can expect is for the Israeli forces to most likely go in this way and this way.
Probably the preponderance of force will be in this direction into Gaza city.
TODD: Inside Gaza, experts say this will be urban combat, possibly even tougher than what was seen in this footage from Israeli's 2014 invasion of Gaza, block to block, building to building, and vicious.
The Israelis facing an enemy that knows every corner.
SPENCER: Many challenges that the defenders had time to prepare. And no matter what, you have to move forward and basically wait until a defender shoots you.
LEIGHTON: Look how narrow this alleyway is, look how the soldier has to point up to see if there any fighters above him. This is a perfect place for these fighters to be situated, for then to rain down fire.
SPENCER: Often caught in the crossfire, Palestinian civilians. Experts say Hamas does not shy away from using civilians as human shields in a combat environment.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Hamas wanted all those people to say, it's blown, put in barricades, it's destroyed transit areas and other things in an effort to fix them in place. TODD: To ambush these rallies, analysts say Hamas will use
sophisticated IEDs, snipers hitting on upper floors of buildings. Another Hamas asset the Israelis will have to navigate, hundreds of miles of tunnels, known as the Gaza metro.
HAREL CHOREV, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY: With the control and communication rooms and supply rooms, it appears for launching rockets.
TODD: And there's the added complication of the hostages Hamas is holding. While two hostages have just been released, there are likely up to 200 more still inside Gaza. Many of whom, analysts say, could be held in tunnels. Does that mean they will go into the tunnels, the Israelis, to try to get them? Or is it just too dangerous?
LEIGHTON: It's very dangerous, but in certain circumstances, the rallies will probably feel the need to go into these tunnels.
TODD (on camera): And experts say the dangers don't even in the areas these rallies will have secured.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus told CNN that in the areas of Gaza that they captured, these rallies will then have to conduct counter insurgency operations, because Hamas and its allies will try to come back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank, you Brian, very much.
Coming up, we'll take a closer look at the protests erupting now across the Arab world over the war in Gaza.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's been a day of very large and angry protest across the Middle East in reaction to the war in Gaza, the worsening humanitarian crisis there.
CNN's Sara Sidner is joining us now from Jerusalem.
Sara, how widespread have the protests been today?
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, we were in Ramallah, in the West Bank. The protests were small, but very, very active. But there have been protests in many different parts, many different neighbors of Israel. One of the largest in Egypt, in Tahrir Square, where thousands of people came out, and a country that, you know, has some limits on when it is you can protest. And people seem to defy that, and came out in support of Gaza.
So there have been quite a few. You've also seen them, of course, in Lebanon. You've seen them in Jordan, where a huge population of Palestinians live, more than 3,000 people. They have been fairly widespread, and growing, except for here. The larger one happened after that hospital blast that Israel said it is not responsible for, and you saw a huge number of people in Ramallah then.
But this is going to continue, as they watch what is happening in Gaza. Not only the humanitarian crisis, but also the continued airstrikes. People are gearing up to have these protests far more often -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I understand the Palestinian death toll, in the occupied West Bank, is rising. You are over in the West Bank earlier today, what can you tell us?
SIDNER: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, the numbers have gone up. They were at 67, and now are at 81. We are now 13 days since October 7th, the day that Israel said had them starting full scale war after that surprised Hamas attack. And since then, there have been some large scale, what Israel calls, counterterrorism activities in the occupied West Bank. And during some of those, there have been people killed. That number has jumped from 67 now to 81 people, 81 Palestinians in the West Bank who have been killed, either by the Israeli military, or by settlers.
An so, that is also ratcheting up, as you might imagine. Tensions in the West Bank, there are a lot of people have to understand, sort of, West Bank is one part of the Palestinian territory. And Gaza, the Gaza Strip is another. And at this point, a lot of people in Palestinian territories, in the West Bank, they also don't have freedom of movement at this point in time.
And so, there's definitely tensions that are boiling of, and boiling over -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I take it, the tension between the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, in the Israeli settlers, is escalating.
SIDNER: Yeah. I mean, that is -- one side seeds it, and you know there are always the two, sort of, sides that really go at it with one another. Of course, the Palestinians see this as their land shrinking. What they had hoped would be an official state one day. And the settlers see it as a place that they feel like, biblically, they should be able to live.
And so there's been a long fight. But because of what happened on October 7th, it has ratcheted up. The fear has ratcheted way up. The fear of attack, on Palestinians, feel like they are also being helped by the Israeli military. So, it is a very messy situation.
And in talking to both Palestinians and settlers in the West Bank, both of them say, they don't see how another peace accord, how peace is possible after what has happened over the last 13 days -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Snider reporting for us from Jerusalem -- Sara, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can join me tomorrow and Sunday, starting at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, for special live coverage of this war.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.