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The Situation Room
Hamas Releases 24 Civilian Hostages From Gaza; Israel: 39 Palestinian Prisoners Released As Truce Begins; U.S. Forces Attacked Four Times In Iraq, Syria On Thanksgiving. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 24, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, dramatic developments here in the Middle East. The first major release of hostages since the Hamas attacks on October 7th. Thirteen Israelis and foreign nationals finally free from Gaza, after nearly seven weeks.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, live in Tel Aviv, Israel.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Jim Acosta here in Washington.
President Biden is vowing to return every single American hostage, even though none were included in today's agreement. The president says it's unclear if Americans will be included in the next release. But he praised today's handoff as a promising sign.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States, and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, an outpouring of emotion here in Israel, as Hamas releases 24 hostages kidnapped back on October 7th.
CNN's Matthew Chance has details, including a closer look at the video Hamas released of the hostage handoff inside Gaza.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They kidnapped and killed. But now, Hamas is showing its gunmen releasing Israelis in Gaza. For many, these are disturbing scenes. Nine year old Ohad Munder, being embraced as he is set free. An old woman, being carried by a masked man as Palestinians cheer.
Of the 49 long days of captivity in Gaza, aid workers from the Red Cross drive them through the border into Egypt, and to freedom.
Egyptian television shows a convoy of vehicles heading to the crossing. Then the hostages, including ten Thais, a Filipino, and 13 Israeli women and children disembarking for checks.
The Israeli military posted this grainy video of the moment they all finally reentered the country. A stuffed, says the Israeli prime minister, towards bringing all hostages home.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We just completed the first return of our hostages, children and their mothers, and additional women. Each one of them is a whole world. But I emphasize to you, the families, into, you citizens of Israel, we are committed to return all our hostages.
CHANCE: Most of the hostages released in this first group, under the temporary truce, were taken from Nir Oz, one of the small Israeli communities near Gaza, ravaged by Hamas on October 7th. At least 38 people there were killed, and more than 70 abducted.
People like Daniel Aloni, and her five-year-old daughter Emilia Aloni. Both freed in the latest reliefs, but the relatives they were visiting during the Hamas attack remain unaccounted for as hostages. Behind every release, a poignant reminder of those left behind.
Like the family of Omri Almog, his brother in law and niece killed, his sister, and her three children still hostages. Yes, Omri is now optimistic.
OMRI ALMOG, FAMILY KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: The best is in front of us. It is going to come. Whatever happened, we cannot change. -- the beautiful girl, she is not with us anymore but --
CHANCE: But there's still a chance. There's a chance for your sister.
ALMOG: Yes, yes, yes. We have to bring what is left. We need to bring back what's left on this family. It's a broken family.
CHANCE: A broken family, in a country of shattered lives.
BLITZER: And Matthew Chance is joining me live here in Tel Aviv right now. So, first of all, Matthew, what do we know about what is expected to happen tomorrow?
CHANCE: Well, we think Wolf that it is going to follow a similar kind of course. Already, Israeli officials that we've spoken to said that Mossad and Israeli military have received a list of potential hostage releases from Hamas by the mediators in Qatar. They haven't told us who's on the list, of course. We don't even know how many names are on that list. It will be beaten 10 and 13, like it was today.
But Israeli officials say they've already inform the families involved, so they can be prepared to, you know, welcome back to their loved ones.
I think you have to remember that the events of today, the pause in the fighting, the releases of the hostages, and the prisoners from Israeli jails, as well as humanitarian relief, it went to remarkably well. I think the hope is, that that could be repeated again and again. BLITZER: Let's hope it does get repeated and these hostages are able
to come home.
Matthew, thank you very much. Matthew Chance reporting.
I want to go to CNN's Oren Liebermann right now. He is over at the Wolfson medical center here in Tel Aviv.
Oren, I know you're at this hospital where hostages have arrived. Update our viewers, what did you actually see?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is one of several hostages that is taken in the freed hostages over the course of the past several hours. At about 9:00 tonight, two patients, to the first freed hostages arrived by ambulance. A couple of hours after that, take a look at this video, this is three more elderly women hostages being brought in on helicopter.
There actually is no helipad here at the hospital itself, so they waited in a field nearby. They were brought in on ambulance. Take a look at this video of the hostages being loaded on to the ambulances -- the cheers, the unbridled joy, the happiness as they were loaded here in Israel, and brought to the hospital for care.
It is that same joy that played out in the hospital itself, according to the staff here, when they were brought in, when they were welcomed, and when they began to receive professional medical care of Wolfson Medical Center. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SOSHY GOLDBERG, ISRAEL'S CHIEF NURSE: I think that there was no one in the room that could hold his feelings, and stop crying because it was a very emotional, and exciting event. They met their families, and they met a very professional team here, that was very well- prepared to receive those hostages.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIEBERMANN: Now, the hospital would not say all that much about their condition, their well-being, or their mental state. They say they will respect the privacy of the five hostages that are here. They have set up a special wing of the hospital just for them and their families, as they go through all of the checks, all of the medical evaluations. It is not just a question of their physical health. It's also a question of their mental health right now.
So, psychologists have been brought in as, well as other professionals, to centrally give them any type of help that they may need. The critical first up was reuniting them with their family. That happened here several hours ago.
And, crucially, it's not a onetime deal here. This is not a process that began, and ended. The hospital is well aware that there may be more elderly freed hostages coming out of Gaza over the course of the next several days. They say they are very much ready to receive them as well, with the same sort of open arms to begin that recovery process.
BLITZER: Oren, Wolfson is not the only Israeli hospital where hostages were taken today. How is that working?
LIEBERMANN: You're absolutely right. Wolfson will focus on the elderly. The five freed hostages who were brought here were on the elderly women. But there are other hospitals that will focus on different populations or groups. So, Schneider Medical Center, which is in Petah Tikva, not all that far from us, that will focus on the children who are afraid. They have set up, essentially, a special area to try and make it feel as little as possible like a hospital.
They wanted to feel almost like a luxury hotel, and make the most comfortable as possible.
Wolf, another example -- that is set up to receive foreign nationals, it's part of a system set in place here for the freeing of the hostages.
BLITZER: Oren Liebermann, reporting from Tel Aviv.
Oren, thank you very much. President Biden says he hopes and expects American hostages will be freed very soon, even though none were released on this first day of the truce.
CNN's Arlette Saenz is traveling with the president in Nantucket, Massachusetts for us right now. Arlette, how is the president feeling about this deal so far?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Biden welcomed the initial release that occurred at least hostages being held by Hamas earlier today.
He said that this was just a start to the process. But he said he believes that this had unfolded well.
But it does come as Americans were not included in that initial batch of hostages that were released. The president said, it is his hope, and expectation, that there will be three Americans coming out in the coming days. That includes two women, and also four year old Abigail Edan. It was her birthday on Friday. Her parents were killed on the October 7th attack by Hamas and she has been held hostage over the course of the past seven weeks.
But President Biden had very few details to offer relating to his expectation on when exactly these Americans would be getting out. Take a listen to what he had to tell reporters earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't know when that will occur. But we expected to occur. We don't know what the list of all the hostages are, and when they will be released. But we know the numbers will be released. It is my hope and expectation it will be soon.
REPORTER: And of the 10 Americans that are unaccounted for, do you know all of their conditions? Are they all alive?
BIDEN: We don't know all their conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: So, still a number of unanswered questions about the fate of these American hostages being held by Hamas. President Biden today, also expressed some optimism that this pause in the fighting, that is currently slated for four days, he believes that could possibly be extended, to get even more than the 50 women and children that had been negotiated in this initial deal. Now, President Biden has been working the thrones throughout the week, including to the leaders of Egypt, Qatar, and Israel. He really says he will remain in contact with those leaders, counterparts in the region, as they are trying to make sure that this deal stays on track.
BLITZER: Arlette Saenz reporting for us. Thank you very much, Arlette, for that report.
Just ahead, a hostage family -- a hostage family member experiencing relief for the first time in nearly 50 days, as his loved ones finally get to go home today.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: One family member getting some good news, as three loved ones are among those released today is part of the hostage release agreement.
Dori Roberts celebrating the good news, as his cousin, and her two daughters were afraid. And Dori is joining us right now.
We are so happy that Doron and her two little girls, Raz and Aviv, are now back safe here in Israel.
How are they doing right now? I know you have been checking in.
DORI ROBERTS, FAMILY MEMBERS RELEASED BY HAMAS TODAY: Well, it is good to see you again, Wolf. It is wonderful to be on the show. The last I heard from them is that there were in the hospital, the Schneider hospital in Petah Tikva under medical care. Their families are waiting to get in, and reunite with them it has been a very emotional day here in Austin, and around the world. We feel optimistic to see those, the great news coming from Israel today.
BLITZER: Obviously, it's a very happy, happy moment for you what are you most looking forward to hearing when you actually get to see them, and touch them, and have a sense of how this is all unfolding? ROBERTS: Like everyone else around us, we want to hug, and touch
them, and know they are safe, that they are home now. And that their families want to assure them, that something like this will never happen again, and that they are safe. To hope that their life can go back to what it was before October 7th.
BLITZER: What worries you most about how this unfolded, and what to expect in the immediate period ahead?
ROBERTS: I think my questions mostly regard to, how those people get their lives back together? I have full trust in the Israeli government, and system, that they will put together a way for these people to get their lives together, and support them in any possible way. The rest of the questions are for politicians from the countries around, to see how they are taking care of the Gaza strip, and the Palestinian people, who's going to be the next leadership after Hamas's dismantled? I don't have answers to that.
BLITZER: I know your aunt Efrat was killed by Hamas terrorists. Her boyfriend, still being held by Hamas and Gaza, we are told. Have you've been given any new information about him, and whether or not he is, also, expecting to be released?
ROBERTS: I hope that he's going to be on one of those lists. But we're really -- yes, I can hear okay.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
ROBERTS: Sorry, sorry about that. We really hope to see him on the news, and we are hoping to see his name on the list, home again with his family. He has been through a lot of stuff. He is 79 years old, a gentleman, a man of the land, a wonderful grandfather, a father, and a partner to my late aunt, Efrat. We love him like family. He's always been there for us, and we will wait to receive him back and Israel, like the rest of them.
We have no news about him since the last picture was taken, and published, in "The New York Times". So, it is unknown, like a lot of the rest of the hostages. It's just unknown, their conditions, how they're doing, physically, mentally, while in captivity.
And we just wish to see any sign, or hope, that the red cross will reach them, and check on them, and ensure that they are given what they need. Hopefully, there will be home in no time.
BLITZER: Dori Roberts, good luck to you, good luck to your whole family, I hope everybody gets together fairly soon. Thanks so much for joining us.
ROBERTS: Thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving.
BLITZER: And coming -- and coming up, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, 24 released today, but what about the next batch of hostages who are set to be released tomorrow? What we are learning. We are getting new information about the list. That's coming up.
BLITZER: After 49 days in captivity, the first group of hostages held by Hamas, now, back in Israel, receiving very important, critically important, medical treatment.
CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is with me here in Tel Aviv.
Clarissa, you are outside of this main children's hospital in Petah Tikva, outside of Tel Aviv, when you saw this all begin to unfold. Describe a little of what you saw?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, there were three families who were taken into that hospital, three of them, four of them, children, three of the mothers. One grandmother. The children, two years old, four years old, nine years old. The nine- year-old, actually, had marked his ninth birthday in captivity.
And I think for that reason, you really saw the hospital went above and beyond to try to protect their privacy when they got off the chopper. There were screens put up, so you couldn't actually see, or identify them. We heard from the hospital staff they had eaten dinner together for the first time, and now begins, sort of, the hard part, if you will, the trauma, the unpacking of the experience that they've had. One thing that was interesting, though, Wolf, is how many people had gathered to watch the scene, this homecoming.
BLITZER: In person.
WARD: In person. Our cameras, obviously, we're focused on the helicopters, but behind the cameras, there was a lot of people, some had brought their children to witness this historic moment. It was emotional, it was somber, but also, hopeful, and excited.
We spoke to one woman, and ER nurse, from a nearby hospital. She had been on shift on October 7th, treating some of the wounded, and said something beautiful that stayed with us where she said, this is just a drop of joy in a sea of sadness. It probably doesn't change things in terms of, more sadness to come, more bloodshed, but this drop of joy, I needed to see it for myself.
I think that encapsulates what the mood was like for all of those people who had gathered outside of the hospital to witness this moment as we saw not one, but two helicopters, coming in, carrying those, now, three hostages, Wolf.
BLITZER: Especially see those little kids. All of the sudden, the mood here in Israel changes overnight. People were sad, depressed, and now they see these kids, their parents, in certain cases, all showing up. That's a pretty happy moment.
WARD: It's a happy moment, and hopefully, portends more happy moments. But I think underlying, that as well, there is a grim realization, first of all, what these children have been through, and that they are likely not the same children they were on October 6th. Secondly, that there are so many others still in captivity, and broadly speaking, the horrors of this war that we have seen played out for seven weeks in which the Israeli government has been clear, this war is not going to stop. This is a temporary pause. This is a temporary truce, so it is likely to continue, Wolf.
BLITZER: And you are telling me, everyone who's involved with dealing the kids were given specific instructions on what to say, what not to say, and how to deal with the kids to make them feel comfortable. There was a lot of toys around, as well.
WARD: They put a lot of toys. They were keen for it to not look like a hospital. Hospitals, generally, are places that people don't like to enjoy being. Their clinical, intimidating, but they wanted it to feel, in their words, like a beautiful hotel, and there are very specific guidelines not just for the hospital staff, but for the IDF, the Israeli forces who are their first point of contact once they were back in Israel about, how do you deal with it when the children asked questions like where's mom, where his daddy?
They were told, you can't answer them, but just comfort them, tell them that they will be in a safe place where they can ask those questions, and get their answers.
BLITZER: So heartbreaking to think about it.
Clarissa, thank you very, very much. Clarissa Ward, reporting.
Right now, let's get the latest on the Palestinian prisoners who were released today. CNN's Nada Bashir is joining us from Jerusalem. She got details.
How is this being received in Gaza, and the West Bank, Nada? You've been checking in on all of this.
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: We have indeed, Wolf. What we have seen today in the occupied West Bank, thousands of people, gathering around the centers where Palestinian prisoners have been returned, released, and reunited with their family members. We saw so many people gathering in the streets today, celebrating that release. Certainly, it is a welcome step.
We have also been hearing from some on the ground, including the family members of some of those released, who told us that, for them, this isn't a moment where they can be totally happy because of what they have seen unfold in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, this has been seen as a welcome step. Of course, this is the first batch of prisoners set to be released over the next four days. Take a look.
BASHIR (voice-over): A joyous celebration as the 23-year-old Malak Suleiman (ph) finally arrived home in east Jerusalem after six years in an Israeli prison. Convicted, and sentenced to ten years in prison at the age of 17 for attempted murder. Police say, they found a knife in her possession near the old city of Jerusalem. It is a charge that she, and her family, have long denied up.
Suleiman is one of 39 prisoners, all women and minors, released from jails in Israel on Friday, in exchange for the release of two dozen hostages who had been held by Hamas in Gaza.
We saw many of those detainees released, to the prisoners are released as well. There carried on peoples shoulders to the municipality building, or a number of those family members were waiting. As you mentioned, among them, 15 minors who are released, and being carried up this road, on people's shoulders, amidst cheering, and celebration, and fireworks up. We have also been speaking to people, including relatives who say, they didn't want to see these crowds.
WAEL HAJ AHMED, GAZA RESIDENT IN WEST BANK (through translator): The celebration is not necessary. They need to be mindful and Gaza. The celebration is wrong. I am torn to pieces.
Have mercy on us. They can be joyful, but the joy is in the heart, because we are dying in Gaza. Have some respect for us, a little.
BASHIR: The release of the first group of Palestinian prisoners comes as Israel, and Hamas, begin a four-day truce. A window of desperately needed respite for civilians and Gaza.
According to Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza, nearly 15,000 Palestinians in the enclave have been killed over the last seven weeks alone. Israel says it is targeting Hamas in response to the terrorist attack of October 7th, which killed more than 1,200 Israeli citizens. But, in Gaza, it is civilians that are paying the highest price.
More than 8,000 Palestinians remain in Israeli jails, including more than 3,000, according to the Palestinian commission for detainees, and ex prisoner affairs, held under administrative detention, meaning, no charges, and no legal process. But for those gathered in the occupied West Bank on Friday night, this is a welcome moment of, in their eyes, long overdue justice.
UM TARIQ, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN CITIZEN: People want to gather, to be together in this moment. And however folks internalize that, in terms of their own emotional reaction to it, that is for them to speak to. But, I think people want to be here, to be together, to welcome home these prisoners. And that's part of the spirit to being Palestinian.
BASHIR: With over 100 Palestinian prisoners suffer released over the next few days, scenes like this are expected to continue. Though, some say, at too high a price.
BASHIR: Of course, Wolf, we are expecting some hundred 50 Palestinians to be released from prison over the next four days, indeed, if the truth is upheld. According to a list seen earlier this week by CNN, the vast majority of those prisoners listed for potential release were young people, children, under the age of 18. Amongst them, many teenage boys between the ages of 16, 18, charged with minor offenses including throwing stones at Israeli prisoners.
Now, it is unclear who, exactly, will be released over the next coming days. It is anticipated, we get more details as to the specifics of which prisoners will be released come morning -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Nada Bashir, reporting for us. Thank you very much, Nada, for that report.
Palestinians, meanwhile, breathing a sigh of relief as the truce between Israel, and Hamas, went into effect today. Now, many of them, trying to check in on their homes, and their loved ones, who are still in Gaza.
Listen to this account from an official with the Norwegian Refugee Council in Gaza. He, and his family, were displaced from their home some seven weeks ago. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
YOUSEF HAMMASH, ADVOCACY OFFICER FOR THE NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL IN GAZA: The seven weeks for the longest, heaviest, hardest, and imaginable seven weeks. Today, the first day of the truce, it was weird feeling how people are on the streets. If you look at their faces, you cannot understand them.
You can see people who are a little happy that they are alive, at least. Other people who have, this time, an opportunity to feel sad, and sorrow for what they've lost, for their loved ones. Many people were also trying to go north. The Israeli forces have prevented them.
Even I, personally, want to know if my house was still there, my parents house, still there, if we have anything remaining. Unfortunately, I couldn't.
It is more than impossible to cover the needs of all people in the south, in four days. I don't think if, we combine all humanitarian actors, international organizations, or working together, can manage to serve all people in need?
Also, the amount of trucks that are coming from Rafah are not enough to cover a small percentage of that need. But, we are trying.
Really, I wish this truce will extend into a cease-fire. And this is the hope of all Palestinians who are trapped in Gaza under this unimaginable situation.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss what's going on with Omar Shakir of the Human Rights Watch Organization.
Omar, thank you so much for joining us.
First, your biggest take away from today's initial hostage release? OMAR SHAKIR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ORGANIZATION: Look, this is a ray of
light amongst weeks of darkness. You have a situation, of course, where hostages, as you discussed on your program, had been held for weeks, away from their family. You have Yafa Adar, whose daughter we interviewed, was in need of medication, uses a walker, people who really needed to be out in custody.
In Gaza, you have an entire civilian population, more than six weeks, have been struggling to survive. Whether they survive, or not, it was a product of luck than anything else. You have a reality where many of them without food, medicine, water, for days, and have really struggling to have the basic necessities of life. So, for many, it is a chance to check on their homes, their loved ones.
You have Palestinian prisoners who, in many cases, have been in detention for years -- women, children, who have a chance to be reunited with their families. It is a glimmer of hope, but more is needed to address, really, the serious concerns for civilians that we continue to have an Israel Palestine.
BLITZER: As you know, Omar, this truce has the potential to be extended if Hamas releases more hostages. What are you hearing about how likely that is?
SHAKIR: Look, I think it is difficult to predict. These are fragile agreements. We have seen in previous hostilities, even small misunderstanding scan, sometimes, lead to them not going through. I think this deal has been offered, and on the table, for sometime. The parameters of which were a pause in fighting, a release of some Palestinian prisoners, release of hostages. It took a while for the Israeli government to agree to that arrangement, but I think that once these things are started, it can develop momentum.
But let's be clear that, you know, human beings are not bargaining chips. Whether they be hostages that are held by Hamas authorities, whether it be Palestinians whose basic need for aid, and a chance to survive in their homes not being demolished contingent on other actions. We need to address these core issues today. Cease-fire, or not, unlawful action should stop, hostages should be released, aid should be allowed in, unlawfully detained Palestinian should be released.
The reality here is that we have this current arrangement. The best hope we can have is that there continues to be progress made on these issues because it is an untenable situation on the ground.
BLITZER: As you know, 39 Palestinian detainees were released from Israeli prisons and exchange for a group of hostages held by Hamas.
What can you tell us about these women, children, in the significance of all of this?
SHAKIR: What I can tell you is the Israeli government has been systematically arresting Palestinians for more than half a century. You have a reality now where there are dual legal regimes in place in the West Bank. Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians, who live across the street, are governed under different legal systems.
You have more than 2,000 Palestinians who are being held in administrative detention, without trial, or charge, based on secret information. That is a status that is not used against Jewish Israelis. Mistreatment and torture is routine.
Since 2001, the Israeli human rights group has noted that 1,400 complaints of torture, including shackling, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures. Three investigations resulting in zero indictments.
You have a situation in which young children are routinely detained at night. There are statistics, and our research shows, they are routinely abused in detention. They are interrogated without their parents present. Many except pleas, even for charges that, on paper, are extreme, to avoid longer sentences, and mistreatment.
So, we have a really serious issue of systematic mistreatment, arbitrary arrest, and this has been ongoing for decades. Much of the Palestinian population has gone through the system.
And so, it's important to deal with, not as part of -- as bargaining chips, but there is a reason -- and the need for these to end these human rights abuses, which are part of Israel's apartheid against Palestinian.
BLITZER: Omar Shakir, thank you so much for joining us.
SHAKIR: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we take a closer look at how former Hamas hostages will try to adjust to their normal lives after their traumatic experience.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Tel Aviv. We're tracking all the latest developments in the release of the first 13 Israeli hostages held by Hamas, and brought back here to Israel today.
CNN's Jim Acosta is joining our coverage right now. He is in Washington.
Jim, update our viewers.
ACOSTA: Thanks, Wolf.
Twenty-four civilian hostages in total were released from Gaza as part of the truce between Israel and Hamas, after 49 days in captivity.
Their long process of healing and recovery can begin.
CNN's Brian Todd is looking into this for us.
Brian, one of the big questions out there, how will they readjust a normal life after this ordeal?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, some may not readjust so quickly according to experts we spoke to. As difficult as their captivity has been, they're now entering a new chapter of emotional challenges.
DR. SEFI MENDELOVICH, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, ISRAELI MINISTRY OF HEALTH: This is the first time that the state of Israel has had to prepare for the arrival of so many hostages.
TODD (voice-over): For the hostages being released, the road ahead, according to analysts, will be difficult.
DARIEL O'SHEA, FORMER NAVY SEAL COMMANDER, FORMER HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Even if they weren't shot or wounded in the initial kidnapping, or their captivity, they are going to have mental scars.
DR. JEFF GARDERE, PROFESSOR OF BEHAVIORAL MEDICINE, TOURO UNIVERSITY: We're looking at a post traumatic stress disorder here, where they will have nightmares. They will have flashbacks. They will have intrusive thoughts. They will have anxiety. They will have depression. They will have anger.
TODD: Jason Rezaian, "The Washington Post" writer who is held in Iran, for nearly a year and a half, spoke to us about the initial stages after being released.
JASON REZAIAN, HELD IN IRAN 544 DAYS: Those first few months are really difficult. It is not really natural to just kind of come back to freedom. And then couple that with a sort of not being able to understand, hey, why am I not happier about this? It's -- it's an intense mix of feelings.
TODD: Why wouldn't a former hostage feel happier about their newfound freedom?
GARDERE: This is what we call survivor guilt. Why me? Why am I free, and these other people are still in captivity? And this is why it is so difficult for them to get through the process of re-integrating into society. Because they feel a piece of them is left behind.
TODD: And psychologist Jeff Gardere and Rezaian say there's another layer to this hostage situation in Israel and Gaza. The abruptness and confusion of it all, being taken hostage so quickly, then released as a war rages around you.
GARDERE: A person that is twist into a hostage situation, dealing with people that they don't know, or don't get to know, and then they are whisked out again, it is something that is not helping their emotional balance in any way.
TODD (on camera): Jeff Gardere says in these latest cases, there's yet another challenge. The fact that some of the people who have just been released have relatives were still being held hostage puts them in what guard air calls, psychological suspended animation -- Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. Brian Todd, thank you very much for that report.
Coming up, the Pentagon reveals an especially tough Thanksgiving for U.S. forces in Iraq, and Syria, as they come under enemy fire.
ACOSTA: The Pentagon says U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria face multiple attacks from Iran-backed militias on Thanksgiving.
CNN chief national security correspondent Alex Marquardt is here with the details.
Alex, how serious where these latest attacks?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, very serious, and that they bring the number of attacks, the total number attacks of U.S. and coalition forces in the past weeks to more than 70. In fact, it's 73 since October 17th. And so, this raises questions and fears about a wider regional war, one that could potentially draw in U.S. forces.
Now, the attacks we saw on Thanksgiving Day, there were four specific ones in Iraq and Syria. Some using drones, some using rockets, you can see there on the map, there were two against bases in Iraq, two against U.S. sites in Syria. We're told by the Pentagon that there was no damage to infrastructure, there were no casualties.
Jim, on the same day, just yesterday, we also saw U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea, the USS Thomas Hudner shooting down what are called one- way attack drones that were fired by Houthi rebels. It's not clear whether the Hudner was the target, but that's down in the Red Sea. This was really racing question whether what the U.S. is doing in terms of deterrence is really working.
Now, the U.S. has struck back, but only four times in the past few weeks. We saw the U.S. carrying out air strikes in Iraq earlier this week, against two sites that were linked, that are linked to an Iran- backed group. We have also seen U.S. hit eastern Syria three times.
The Pentagon saying yes, in fact these strikes, what they're doing, in terms of posture in the region is working in terms of deterrence, because the conflict has not spread wider than it currently is, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. Alex Marquardt, thanks for keeping an eye on that. We appreciate it very much.
Coming up, we'll go back to Israel to Wolf for live coverage of the release of hostages who are reuniting with their loved ones after a 49-day ordeal.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer, live in Tel Aviv. One of the hostages free today is 85 year old Yafa Adar. She was kidnapped from her kibbutz on October 7th, and seen in a video in a golf cart, surrounded by Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Today she is being reunited with her family, although we don't know her current condition. We just know that she is alive. And thank God for that.
When I was in Israel last month, I spoke to her granddaughter about her beloved safta being held in Gaza. This is what some of what she told me. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADVA ADAR, GRANDDAUGHTER OF YAFA ADAR: It is cruel, really, doing something like this to an 85-year-old woman that is done nothing wrong to anyone, you know? She is a grandmother. Everyone has a grandmother. How can you be this detached? So, everyone needs to help us, shout for her, and pressure whoever needs to be pressured, and demands Hamas to bring all of the hostages back home.
BLITZER: I hope when she comes home, I'll meet her.
ADAR: I hope so. Thank you. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We are of course thrilled that Yafa Adar has come home to her family. We mid wish her and her family only the very best as they navigate the difficult journey ahead. And it will be difficult.
We hope for a similar outcome for the other families whose loved ones are still being held in Gaza.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight from Tel Aviv, Israel. I'll be back tomorrow, special coverage starting at noon Eastern, as we continue to await the release of another group of hostages.
"THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS", who is also live here in Tel Aviv, starts right now.