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The Situation Room

Hours Away From Israel-Hamas Truce, Initial Hostage Release; Interfaith Group A Lifeline For Some U.S. Jews & Muslims Amid War; Prominent Celebrities In Sexual Assault Lawsuits. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 23, 2023 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Israel and Hamas are once again on the verge of a temporary truce expected to begin just hours from now. After an agonizing delay, the families of the hostages are hoping this time the deal holds firm, and that their loved ones can finally come home from Gaza.

We expect Hamas to return 13 Israeli captives in the immediate hours ahead and many more in the days to come.


This hour, I'll speak with one man whose son was kidnapped during the October 7th attack. I'll get reaction from a key spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Jonathan Conricus, as well.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv, Israel, and this is a SITUATION ROOM special report.


BLITZER: Here in Israel, a long awaited hostage release could be just a few hours away. The expected truce with Hamas appears to be on track, at this hour, setting the stage for 13 captives to return from Gaza on the first day of the temporary pause in the hostilities.

CNN's Oren Liebermann has all of the breaking developments for us.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After nearly seven weeks of war, it is the storm before the calm.

The final hours of fighting in Gaza, ticking down, until a pause in the conflict set for early Friday morning. Thirteen hostages, women and children, will then be freed by Hamas on Friday afternoon, transferred to the Red Cross, and then back to Israel.

GILI ROMAN, HOSTAGE RELATIVE: We are waiting, on a day-by-day basis, to wait for the phone call to see if our loved ones are coming back.

LIEBERMANN: Under the agreement, a pause in the fighting is scheduled to last for days, a total of 50 Israeli women and children will be released in stages, in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children, held in Israeli prisons. A spokesperson for Qatar's foreign ministry expressed hope that the deal could be the basis for a longer pause.

MAJED AL-ANSARI, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: And we are hoping that these four days would work as a proof of concept for further de-escalation measures, including expanding, sending this humanitarian tools -- pause, but also, getting to a more sustainable, sustainable truce.

LIEBERMANN: Hundreds of trucks are waiting at the Rafah Border crossing outside of Gaza, ready to enter the strip as part of the agreement. Nearly 80 percent of Gaza's population is displaced, facing critical shortages of food, water, and fuel. These trucks will provide only a fraction of what's required.

For Gazans, the pause in fighting as a brief respite, after weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment. As of Tuesday, more than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, based on numbers from the Hamas-controlled ministry of health, which have not been officially updated, because of a breakdown in communications.

On Thursday, Israel detained Dr. Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the director of Al-Shifa hospital. The IDF says he was questioned about alleged Hamas activity in the hospital. The IDF released footage of additional tunnels they see that were uncovered below Gaza's largest medical facility.

Health officials in Gaza have consistently denied Hamas use the hospital for military purposes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a meeting with the new U.K. Foreign Minister David Cameron, said the pause in fighting is not the end of the war.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We will continue with our war aims, namely to eradicate Hamas, because Hamas has only promised to do this again and again and again.

LIEBERMANN: The prime minister's office said in a statement that they had notified the families of the first 13 hostages to be released.

Gili Dickmann says he is holding his breath, even though his loved ones are not in that initial group.

GIL DICKMANN, HOSTAGE RELATIVE: And I'm actually myself very excited to hear about the kids that are coming home, and the hostages that are coming home. And -- but, after saying that, I can't really believe anything until I see them free and home.

LIEBERMANN: Oren Liebermann, CNN, in Tel Aviv.


BLITZER: And thanks to Oren Liebermann for that report.

Right now, I want to go to Qatar's role in managing these extremely tense hostage negotiations.

CNN's Becky Anderson has more from Doha, in Qatar -- Becky.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the families of those 13 women and children who are scheduled to be released on Friday, there is now some light at the end of what has been this agonizing darkness. But no one is underestimating just how tough this is all going to be, not least those at the heart of this Qatar-led mediation.


ANDERSON: What is the process, and route, by which the hostages will be transferred out of Gaza into Israel?

MAJED AL-ANSARI, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: I am sorry, Becky, I can't disclose information for security reasons. And as I, we've already said our main objective here is safety of the hostages. So we can't disclose other information regarding the routes they will be going through. But, we will be focusing on making sure that they get there safely, and making sure that through our operation room that will work with both of the Red Cross and the parties of the conflict, that all information is in the real time, and everyone is getting the information that way so we can move them safely from one place.


ANDERSON: And the follow-up question, if I can. Are you mediating a separate track with Hamas, for the release of non-Israelis, specifically Americans? And, are there Americans on the list?

AL-ANSARI: The criteria on which to prioritize the hostages was purely humanitarian, as you know. And, our focus was on getting the women and children out of harm's way, as soon as possible, which is basically what we are doing within this agreement. And, we will be going through hopefully the momentum carried by this deal, what help us get everybody out in time.

And at the same time, of course, lessen the hardship of people in Gaza for the humanitarian pause that is taking place.


ANDERSON: It isn't clear exactly who will be released on day one. But what is clear is that there are a series of obligations that both sides must adhere to. At least ten hostages have to be released by Hamas every day. There has to be a complete secession of hostilities, on the ground. No surveillance drones, to be flown over the area, or any area where hostages might be released. And these humanitarian convoys must be allowed in through the Rafah border crossing, 200 trucks, full of supplies, including fuel, destined for humanitarian infrastructure, schools, hospitals, which need these supplies most.

This is fragile. It's not going to be easy. But what it is is the biggest diplomatic breakthrough since this conflict began. Let's hope, it goes well -0- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope indeed. Becky Anderson reporting from Doha, Qatar.

Right now, we want to bring in CNN's Alex Marquardt. He is in Washington, for more on the U.S. reaction to this hostage deal.

Alex, the Biden administration says there are, what, ten Americans likely among these hostages? What -- what do U.S. officials know about the release starting tomorrow?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Ten Americans, among the 240 hostages being held by Hamas. Those are men, women, and children. What they know, what they expect is that among the 50 who or expected to come out in the next four days, there are three Americans, two women, and young Abigail, who is just 3 years old, Abigail Edan. She turns for tomorrow.

In fact, where you are, Wolf, it is already her birthday. Now, we know, Oren just said that the Israeli government is alerting the families of those 13 who are coming out tomorrow, who are expected to.

CNN spoke with an aunt of Abigail just a few hours ago. She said that they had not been contacted by either the Israeli or the American government. That could be an indication, that may be an indication, Wolf, that young Abigail Edan is not coming out tomorrow. But, of course, we have to caution that everything is extremely fluid.

And now, U.S. officials have said that they will not alert families of the citizens who do come out of Gaza, until they are out, until there is an official, U.S. official, or an official from another country like Israel or from an agency that they have faith in, they will not let those families know that those Americans are out. But, what American officials do know for now, Wolf, is that there is next occasion that three Americans will come out in the next few days, but hopefully, more to follow, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope indeed.

All right, Alex, quick question. U.S. officials are clearly hoping that this pause extends beyond the four days. What more do we know? What else is going on?

MARQUARDT: Well, American officials have said that this deal was structured in a way to incentivize the pause to continue, to incentivize the parties involved for more hostages to come out. Not just women and children, but all of the hostages.

Now, U.S. officials have said repeatedly in the past few days, they will not rest until the American hostages are out. They will continue working within this framework, without -- with their counterparts, Qatar, Israel, Egypt, to get the rest of the hostages out, Wolf.

BLITZER: Alex Marquardt with the late breaking information, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, families are anxiously awaiting for the release of the first group of Hamas hostages, scheduled for a few hours from now. I'll speak with the father of one hostage. This is a SITUATION ROOM special report.


BLITZER: We are awaiting the start of the truce between Israel and Hamas and the first exchange of prisoners and hostages, which will happen a few hours later. For more on this, we are joined now by Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son was kidnapped by Hamas.

Jonathan, thank you so much for joining us. I wish we're meeting under different circumstances.

How does it feel, first of all, knowing that your son Sagui won't be among this first group of hostages released?

JONATHAN DEKEL-CHEN, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: Well, I mean, obviously, it's very painful, on one hand. On the other hand, I couldn't be more pleased for what I hope will be the 50 people released, and the young children and mothers. Many of whom I will know, because the disproportionate number of the children and the other hostages come for my kibbutz at kibbutz Nir Oz, which was destroyed on October 7th. So we will welcome them with open arms, but keep our eyes on the prize, which is the release of all 240 hostages, beyond this first group of 50.

BLITZER: What sort of emotions does all of this raise for you? Have you spoken with any of these other families, especially the families of these little kids who might be coming home?

DEKEL-CHEN: Well, really, I speak with them almost daily, Wolf, and I would say these are difficult hours for them, I am sure, because we've been sort of down this path before, and yet there were no actual releases.


So, these will be this will be a sleepless night I am sure, for the families involved from our kibbutz, or from anywhere else in the border communities. We will remain hopeful with them, but only cautiously optimistic, because of the nature of Hamas, and what is clearly a disregard for human life and decency, both for Israelis and for the Palestinian people.

BLITZER: How hopeful are you, Jonathan, that there will be further hostage deals to free all of the hostages from Gaza, including your son Sagui?

DEKEL-CHEN: Well, I want to be cautiously optimistic. I don't, it will be difficult to say whether or not this, this first batch of releases, if it does in fact happen, we will be a sign for anything moving forward, because of the simple fact that we are not dealing with a normal state, a normal government, even a rogue government, but rather a terrorist organization that has its own one evil logic.

And so, it remains to be seen. And at least for me, I can't speak for anyone but myself, I have to keep a very even keel in these days and weeks in front of us, because, the emotions consume us every day. But, one way or another we have to keep functioning for Sagui's children, for my grandchildren, for all of the other survivors of the massacre, on October 7th.

BLITZER: Sagui, your son, has two young daughters, a two-year-old and a six-year-old. How have they've been dealing with their father's absence?

DEKEL-CHEN: Well, they miss their dad. I mean, it's really that simple. And certainly, the six-year-old has lots of questions that we can't answer. You know, when is that coming home, where is he exactly, is he okay?

We also can't answer a seemingly simple question, when can we go home? We can't go home, we cannot go back to our kibbutz, it no longer exists following the massacre of the looting and the burning of our kibbutz by Hamas, and civilian looters on October 7th.

So given the circumstances, you know, they are doing okay. We surround them with love, and with caring, and, hope that as children, they will be resilient enough moving forward, to have good lives. Again, we have many more questions than answers right now.

BLITZER: Jonathan, are you satisfied that Israel and the United States are both doing enough to help bring about the release of all of the hostages?

DEKEL-CHEN: I want to believe that they are. And, Wolf, I can say absolutely that in terms of the U.S. administration, and the Congress, it certainly is, as far as the Senate Foreign Relation Committee is concerned, they seem absolutely committed to the return of all hostages, of all nationalities, back to their homes.

I think the Israeli government has a harder time, deciding what to do, and how to do it, given its parallel goals of returning the hostages, and these civilians that were taken from their homes, as a result of a monumental intelligence and military failure on the side of Israel. They, of course, want that, and they also, our government very much wants to destroy Hamas as a military and governing organization.

It's our role as parents, and all concerned citizens, to remind our government, day and night, that the welfare of the civilian hostages, which are the responsibility of our government, must take first priority, and cannot be pushed aside, or in any way clouded during the pursuit of this war.

BLITZER: Let's have all these hostages come home, and come home soon. Jonathan Dekel-Chen, thank you very much for joining us.

DEKEL-CHEN: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: And coming up, we'll have much more of our live coverage here on Israel. We will speak with a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, just ahead of this temporary pause in fighting with Hamas.



BLITZER: Tonight, Israel and Hamas appear to be on track for the first major pause in the hostilities since the war began. Within, hours if the truce takes hold, 13 hostages will be released from Gaza, with more to come in the immediate days ahead.

Our chief global affairs correspondent, Matthew Chance, is with me here in Tel Aviv. He is working the sources, watching all that is going on.

Matthew, tonight, the Israeli military is warning there still could be changes at any moment.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, there could be changes. And, there are already been changes. Remember, the pause is meant to start Thursday morning, it is now not starting to Friday morning. This is logistically a very complicated operation to sort of extract those hostages, and also receive them on the other side, and to bring the back into Israel.

There's all sorts of things that could go wrong, which is why the IDF tonight, the Israeli military are warning that this is not a deal that will be done until it's actually done. And so, that's something we have to bear in mind, and it's causing a great deal of anxiety.

But we know so far, 13 people on an initial list that has been sent to Israel by Hamas, via the -- in Qatar. The people on, those on that list, they are women and children. Israel says there's about 40 children, that are being held captive inside Gaza, after being abducted on October the 7th.

And, we don't know the exact names of the people on the list, because for understandable reasons, the Israelis have not made that public.


But they say they have spoken to all of the family members so far, tonight, telling them whether or not their family members are on that list or not. So you can imagine how stressful, how anxious people are, hearing good news or, you know, hearing bad news that their family wasn't on that list, it must be absolutely dreadful.

BLITZER: And I even as we're getting closer and closer to a potential truce, and the hostages coming own home, at least the initial batch of hostages, there's a lot of military activity going on in northern Gaza.

CHANCE: Yeah, there is, and this is something that the Israelis have been very clear about. They said yeah, we are not going to stop this military pressure, until we absolutely have to under the terms of this deal. The Israelis insist that it is that military pressure, it is the fact that they are bombarding Hamas strongholds, and of course those other people in Hamas as, well that is bringing Hamas to the negotiating table, and producing this first initial release of hostages.

So, they are not going to give that up until they absolutely have to.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what's going on, Matthew. Thank you very, very much. Matthew Chance reporting.

For more on the Palestinian side of the agreement, let's go to CNN's Nima Elbagir. She's joining us live from Jerusalem.

Nima, what is CNN learning about the current situation in Gaza?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, even as people in Gaza were beginning to hope of possibly, in the early hours of tomorrow morning, Gaza time, that the truce would be in place, that possibly humanitarian aid will be able to reach them.

Instead, as they wait for that time, they are being subjected to an intense campaign of bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces, in those final hours ahead of the truce. And knowing what we have seen in the aftermath of these kind of intensification's of Israeli bombardments, there is so much concern here, Wolf, for what is happening under the cover of dark, to those civilians, when they are so close to some kind of despite.

And the humanitarian pause is also expected to bring aid, and the U.N. has said it is going to try and make everything it can out of every minute it has. But even then, they really are scared, that is not enough to bring Gaza back from the state of humanitarian catastrophe, that it is currently in, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nima, Israeli officials also released more details about the Palestinian prisoners who will be released, in exchange for the hostages. What do we know about that?

ELBAGIR: Well, Israel has said that in this initial tranche of release, that those who have been convicted by Israeli courts of murder, will not be released. It will only be those who have been convicted of the charge of attempting murder. Given the opacity for so many Palestinian prisoners and their families of much of this working, a lot of the families were unclear as to whether their loved ones would meet the requirement.

But we understand now that it is going to be comprised of teenagers and Israel -- the law allows Israel to detain Palestinians 14 and up. So, we can have very young teenagers on that list, and women. And tomorrow, the hope is that there will be 39 Palestinians, if this holds.

And as you said, Wolf, nothing until the last moments, is certain. But, people are really holding on for those initial 39 here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope it starts -- it starts in a positive way. Nima Elbagir in Jerusalem, thank you very much.

Let's get reaction out to all of these late-breaking developments from a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces, Jonathan Conricus is joining us.

Jonathan, thank you so much for joining us.

As you, know we are only a few hours away from this pause in the fighting. Can you provide any further details on what this hostage release will look like?

JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Well, goodnight to you, Wolf. Thank you for having me.

It will be tense. It will be vigilant and cautious. Our troops will be the first Israeli's to receive, hopefully in a few hours, those women and children that have been held in inhumane conditions by Hamas, for 47 days and nights, underground. And the first Israeli faces that they will see will be the faces of IDF personnel, who will let them know, hopefully, that they are safe, and in safe hands, and will facilitate almost immediate contact with family, by telephone. And will then take them to medical checkup, and bringing them to safety in Israel.

BLITZER: Let's hope all of that happens.


Jonathan, Israel and the U.S., we're told, will not be able to fly drones over Gaza, as part of this deal. What is the IDF doing to ensure that Hamas won't use this pause in the upcoming pauses, for example, to gather strength, to further attack Israel down the road?

CONRICUS: Yes, Hamas will, undoubtedly use what they've dubbed a humanitarian pause, this is the words of a Hamas spokesperson I just heard on Sky News Australia, they will use this pause not for humanitarian purposes, and I don't think that they could be bothered with caring about Palestinians, and their humanitarian needs. They will use it for the military purposes, to resupply, and perhaps to stage attacks against the IDF.

We are going to be on the ground, we are going to remain in oppositions to where we are currently. But we will be moving, and is important to emphasize that we are not going to be static, understanding fully well that Hamas has a track record of violating internationally brokered cease-fires, just like they did in 2014, when they killed Israeli soldiers and took the body of an Israeli officer, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, of blessed memory, and we know that this is their modus operandi, and we are very aware of the fact that they will probably try to do something similar, that's the working assumption. And we will be ready for any such eventuality.

BLITZER: Israel's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, says the fighting will continue, in his words, forcefully, after this pre-truce. He says it will continue for at least two more months. Is that enough time to completely destroy Hamas in Gaza?

CONRICUS: Well, let's hope that we can get it done faster than that. It could you, know the war could end, and the suffering could and for Israelis and four Palestinians, if Hamas surrenders unconditionally, and if they release all of the hostages that they took from Israel on the 7th of October, that would definitely spare us the need to do so. But if they, won't and I don't think that they will, that we will of course have to do it ourselves.

And we are prepared, equipped, and most importantly ready to do so, once given the greenlight to go back to combat activity by the Israeli government.

BLITZER: As you know, Lieutenant Colonel, Hezbollah launched a series of attacks in northern Israel, on Thursday. The IDF struck back, hitting Hezbollah military infrastructure in southern Lebanon. Is Israel planning to strike more Hezbollah targets?

CONRICUS: You know, Wolf, our posture along the northern border has been a defensive one. From the first day, from October 7th, we have seen almost relentless Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon into Israel, violating resolution 1701, from southern Lebanon, towards Israeli civilian and military targets.

And our posture is a defensive one, we have continuously warned the state of Lebanon that they are entering a very dangerous situation. What we are going to do now is to continue to defend ourselves. I don't think that we will be taking initiatives at this time, and we will continue to defend against Hezbollah aggression. And let's hope that for once, they do what's right for the civilians in Lebanon, and think about the future of Lebanon, instead of escalating the situation while jeopardizing everything that is left in Lebanon.

BLITZER: So is it possible you think, that this war against Hamas is not going to escalate to another war against Hezbollah?

CONRICUS: That depends mostly on what Hezbollah does. And, Hezbollah has escalated the situation over the past few days, with more and more rockets and drones, and missiles fired towards northern Israel. They have escalated both in terms of quantity, and range and scope. Thankfully, without significant casualties on our side, and with us capable of striking back quite accurately.

But at the end of the day, we have said we have been very clear. We didn't want the war against Hamas in Gaza, and we are not looking for a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is being forced upon us, and we will do everything necessary in order to defend Israelis, our sovereignty against these evil and hateful organizations, both Hamas and Hezbollah. But we do not seek war. That has to be very, very clear.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, thanks so much for joining us.

CONRICUS: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead -- thank you.

And just ahead, some good news on what is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. How American and Muslims are actually coming together at the dinner table, and their message to Israelis and Palestinians. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: We are back live from Tel Aviv.

As fighting between Israel and Hamas has caused deep divisions around the world, but inside of one group in the United States, Jews and Muslims are already bridging that divide.

CNN's Danny Freeman has more.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of miles from the fighting, the violence, and the conflict --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Focus on a solution.

FREEMAN: -- there is food, laughter and love in this New Jersey home.

ALAN BRILL, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION: The first thing you do is you reach out to the other side.

FREEMAN: This is the Bergen County chapter of the Interfaith Encounter Association, a large organization based in Jerusalem, dedicated to respectful dialogue and support between religions.

LI AGHA, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION: Every time I go to the meetings, all of these things that we have in common. I'm like wow, you guys believe that too? Right?

FREEMAN: This group of Muslims and Jews from several states has meant for years, through war, peace, and the pandemic, to listen and learn.



And I think when you live in a bubble, this is when the stereotypes and all these isms tend to come out.

RONNIE PERELLS, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION: I actually think for the power of a group like this, it is actually the difference. And, we have different ways of thinking about things, and that's when I can learn something. I can't learn something from some of the same as me.

FREEMAN: But that also means frank conversations about pain and discrimination, with Islamophobic and antisemitic incidences on the rise.

GABRIELLA CARPIO, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION: They realize like oh, you guys get also demonized, just as much as we do. And, so we are not that different, and learning that from you guys help me understand that we are in this together.

YITZHAK HANDEL, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION: You have to stand up to people who may not believe what you have to say, and I am in the same position, and I appreciate it very much that you have been doing that, and I try to do the same as well.

FREEMAN: At times, the work feels daunting.

MOHAMMED ALHOMSI, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATON: We are in a position, in a very tough position. That one introduced myself, that I do interfaith, a lot of people say I wouldn't want to be you these days.

FREEMAN: But for Mohammed Alhomsi from Pennsylvania, and Joan Heffler Goldstein from New Jersey, these relationships have proved a lifeline, since October 7th.

JOAN HEFFLER GOLDSTEIN, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCATION: When the hostilities first broke out in a no, I finally stopped crying, and I called Mohammad's wife Disam (ph), because I needed to speak to my sister who is looking at everything from a different direction than I am.

FREEMAN: That must of been incredibly difficult?

GOLDSTEIN: It was really hard. It was really hard. It was really important for me to be able to see if I could see what her view was, and show her what my view was, and see if we could come together. And in fact, we did.

FREEMAN: What went through your mind, when your friend, your Jewish friend Joan, reached out to your wife for comfort?

ALHOMSI: I was happy, that Joan reached out to my wife. You know I think it was over an hour conversation. I said I'll take it I said thank you God, thank you for this connection that they have.

FREEMAN: This connection was built on nine years of these types of conversations.

GOLDSTEIN: If we are going to talk about politics, we first have to have the love and understanding, and the deep trust. It's really a deep trust.

FREEMAN: There is still disagreement, there are still lessons to learn. But in this room, there's hope.

LEWIS STONE, MEMBER, INTERFAITH ENCOUNTER ASSOCIATION: I really feel that there's hope for the world. And, that now we should go eat.


FREEMAN: Danny Freeman, CNN, Teaneck, New Jersey.


BLITZER: And thanks to Danny Freeman for that report.

Coming up, a flurry of sexual assault claims against prominent politicians and celebrities in New York. We have details on the new lawsuits, and why they are being filed right now.



BLITZER: Back in the United States, New York state has seen a flood of sexual assault accusations against prominent entertainment and political celebrities.

CNN's Jean Casarez has the details.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York City Mayor Eric Adams, firing back after a document was found in New York's Supreme Court, accusing him of a 1993 sexual assault.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: As I indicated, it is absolutely not true. This is something that has never happened. I -- I don't even recall meeting the person.

CASAREZ: The three-page several summon alleges sexual assault, battery, gender-based employment discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Adams, with defendants including the city of New York, and the NYPD. The 30-year-old claim brought under New York's Adult Survivors Act, allowing a one -year window for victims of sexual abuse to legally come forward, regardless of the statue of limitations.

It is just the latest in an avalanche of claims against high-profile men, among others, as the look back window closes this week.

Penthouse model and actress Sheila Kennedy filing suit against lead singer for guns and roses, Axl Rose, alleging in 1989 in a New York City hotel room, he violently sexually assaulted her. The attorney for Axl Rose, saying simply put, this incident never happened.

Rose has no recollection of ever meeting or speaking to the plaintiff, and has never heard about these fictional allegations prior to today.

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: It was like something you never heard about.

CASAREZ: Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx accused in a civil suit of offensively touching a woman, at a popular New York City rooftop restaurant in 2015. A spokesperson for Foxx in a statement saying the alleged incident never happened, saying the claims were brought in a previously dismissed case. We are confident they will be dismissed again. And once they, are Mr. Foxx intends to pursue a claim for malicious prosecution against this person, and her attorneys are re-filing this frivolous action.

Joan Tarshis is the latest to file suit against disgraced comedian Bill Cosby. She told CNN in 2014, Cosby gave her a drink, she passed out.

JOAN TARSHIS, BILL COSBY ACCUSER: When I came to, it was the next morning. And, I was in bed with him, naked.

CASAREZ: Cosby spokesperson had no comment on the allegations.

And Cassie Ventura, a longtime girlfriend of Sean "Diddy" Combs accused the rapper and producer of years of sexual abuse, rape and trafficking, in a suit that was resolved amicably one day after the filing. Combs' representative saying was, in no way in admission of wrongdoing, does not in any way undermined his flat out denial of the claims.

Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And our thanks to CNN's Jean Casarez for that report.

We're also getting new information now about the latest sexual assault lawsuit filed against the musician and producer Sean Combs. Attorneys for the accuser, Joi Dickerson-Neal, they have just released a photo of her from a music video with homes.


The suit accuses Combs of drugging her, and sexual assault, as well as revenge porn.

A spokesperson for Combs says her story is, quote, made-up and not credible.

We'll be right back with more news.


BLITZER: During the past six weeks, CNN's Nic Robertson has covered the aftermath of the Hamas terror attack on Israel's military response. He looks back at all he's seen and heard, and looks ahead to what may be next. We need to advise, you his report contains graphic images.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Minutes after leaving the plane in Tel Aviv --

The sirens have gone off, people are taking cover. We have got off the bus. People are taking cover. You can hear the intercept missiles banging in the air.


It's October 7th, 14 hours since Hamas's attack began. No one knew what to expect. A few hours later, three and a half miles from Gaza -- It's Iron Dome being fired up all around us right now. It is

illuminating the sky here. The bangs are the Iron Dome intercepting rockets being fired from Gaza just a couple of miles away.

The coming days reveal Hamas's horrors. You can look at all these shell casings that are scattered around on the ground here. This gives you an indication of the intensity of the firefight.

More than 300 at the Nova Music Festival. A rocket shell there where some were mercilessly killed in cold blood had the biggest impact.

Six weeks later, we happened to be passing as Israel's recovery specialists clean it out.

This is bringing back a lot of painful and difficult memories. The last time I was here six weeks ago, it was still full of human flesh and remains. I'm looking inside, it seems worse. The grenade splatter, the gunshots in the wall here, they are bigger. They are worse.

Just looking at it, that night I was really emotionally beaten by what I saw here. I don't know, it's clean, but I don't think I will ever forget it, and that feeling.

Equally unforgettable, the scale of suffering and death inside Gaza. An average of 2,000 people a week killed, two thirds of them women, children, and the elderly. The worst I have ever witnessed while covering a war.

My only access to Gaza, the IDF, revealing an apocalyptic landscape where every building appears crushed, collapsed, shot up, burnt are blown apart, nothing untouched by the war. Destruction on a scale I have never encountered before.

More rockets coming out -- guys, more rockets are coming out.

For weeks from a balcony a mile from Gaza, witnessing the destruction, explosion by explosion, day after day, as the IDF followed political orders to destroy Hamas, and Hamas emerging to fire rockets back.

Through these long weeks talking to families of hostages, hearing their pain.

DEKEL-CHEN: It is excruciating. We don't know if he is healthy or wounded. We know nothing.

And sharing difficult moments.

Guys, siren!

With victims returning to where Hamas attacked them.

ALIZA SAMUEL, OCTOBER 7 ATTACKS SURVIVOR: They were lined up, I saw one of my friends, she was begging for her life.

DEKEL-CHEN: So, what next? Cease-fire, hostage release? Maybe. It won't be all hostages. And the halt in fighting is unlikely to last. Israel fears Hamas will exploit the force to regroup. Hamas will do

whatever it takes to survive, including not handing over all of the hostages.

Israel vows to completely destroy Hamas and release the hostages. Their tactics show fighting Hamas is the priority and it's far from finished. The implication just watching the past six weeks, for some hostage families, more days and more weeks of agonizing wait. For Gaza's besieged civilians, continuing misery. Gaza is still cut off from the world, the vast majority of its 2. 2 million citizens displaced, crowded in the southern end of the enclave.

Humanitarian access on a scale to match the scope of their need is absent. Israel vows to route Hamas there, as well. Most of Gaza's hospitals are out of action. International pressure on Israel is now mounting.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: We are witnessing killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented from any conflict since I am secretary general.

ROBERTSON: The only concrete certainties today in Gaza rebuilding what is destroyed will take years. In Israel, no one will feel safe until Hamas is gone.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Sderot, Israel.


BLITZER: A special thanks to Nic Robertson for all his excellent reporting. To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.