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The Source with Kaitlan Collins

Father Of American Hostage Released By Hamas Speaks; Kaitlan Speaks To Parents Of 21-Year-Old Israeli Hostage, Kidnapped By Hamas, At Nova Music Festival On October 7th; Pro-Palestinian Demonstrations Erupt Across Middle East. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 20, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: CNN's coverage continues from Israel.



And tonight, they are free. Two American hostages have just been released, by Hamas, into the custody of the Israel Defense Forces.

An Israeli source, providing CNN, with this photo, of Judith Raanan, and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, two Americans, who were abducted by Hamas, two weeks ago, in that surprise attack that killed more than 1,400 people, here in Israel.

And here they are, just moments later, on the phone, with President Biden, all smiles, all around. The U.S. Embassy released a photo, from their end, of the call. That's here in Israel.

And as the President was leaving the White House, tonight, he spoke briefly about that conversation.


REPORTER: How was your call with the freed Americans?



COLLINS: He said, "It went well."

I should note, we are standing by, right now, to hear from Natalie Raanan's father, who is about to hold a press conference, in just moments, after getting that news.

Natalie and, her mom, Judith, are the first hostages, to be released, since this war began. And all of this comes, as the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken says 10 additional Americans, are still unaccounted for, tonight.

In an update, today, from the IDF, Israel said that the majority of the hostages, they do believe, are still alive, offering hope, to other families, who are desperately waiting for word, of their loved ones.

Judith and Natalie were here, visiting family, in a kibbutz, in southern Israel, very close to Gaza, when that kibbutz came under attack, on October 7th.

Erin Burnett spoke with Natalie's brother, and Judith's stepson, Ben, just a few moments ago.


BEN RAANAN, BROTHER OF RELEASED AMERICAN HOSTAGE: My father got a chance, to talk with Natalie. And I know Judith's family got a chance to talk with Judith. At least, from my father, Natalie is doing well, is composed.

I just want to thank the Biden administration, for their wonderful work, as well as the Qatari government.

Also want to thank everyone, throughout the country, who has been praying, for our family.


COLLINS: I should note, we've been covering this story.

Judith was here, to celebrate her mom's 85th birthday. She was living, of course, in Illinois, with her daughter, Natalie, who had just graduated high school, a few months ago. She is set to turn 18, in just a matter of days.

The Secretary of State says that they are meeting with a team, from the U.S. Embassy. They are getting medical checkups. Obviously going to get debriefed, on what has been going on, in the last two weeks, undergoing that medical care.

I do want to note, earlier tonight, a reporter asked President Biden, as he was boarding that plane, whether or not Israel should hold off on, going into Gaza, that ground invasion that we've been previewing here, until more hostages are released. He said, "Yes," at the time. But the White House later clarified he was just talking about hostages, being released.

We are now seeing Natalie Raanan's father, outside of Illinois. I just want to go to him, for those remarks.

URI RAANAN, DAUGHTER RELEASED BY HAMAS: I spoke with my daughter, earlier today. She sounds very good. She looks very good. She was very happy. And she's waiting to come home.

Her mother has a little scratch on her hand. But she told me it's nothing. She's OK. I spoke earlier with President Biden. I thank him, for his concern, for his helping, with the release of them. And he was very, very nice.

I spoke to the Governor, Pritzker. And he was nice. And I thank him very much, for his efforts.

And hopefully, I'm going to see them next week. Next week is Natalie's birthday, on the 24th. And we're going to celebrate her birthday, here in my home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, tell us about the emotions, of this moment? That phone call you got, and just what you felt in that moment?


RAANAN: OK. I did not get a phone call. First of all, I got lots of pictures, from the TV, in Israel. They showed the -- they showed the release of them.

And later, I got a phone call, from the IDF. They told me they're going to meet them, and then they're going to call me. After they met them, they called me. And I spoke with my daughter, then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uri, on that phone call, with your daughter, was she able to tell you anything, about her ordeal? What she's endured, these past two weeks?

RAANAN: No, she did not tell me anything. But she told me they treated her nice, and she was very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you looking forward, to most, when you first see your daughter?

RAANAN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you looking forward, to most, when you first see your daughter?

RAANAN: I'm going to hug her and kiss her. And it's going to be the best day of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you describe what it's been like to wait and not know?

RAANAN: If there was -- there was a situation. I did not sleep at night. And my head always have been in Israel. Lots of phone calls, in Israel. Lots of TVs. I have been glued to the TV, for two weeks, hoping for any good news. Finally it came.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did your ex-wife say the same thing that they were treated well, and that--

RAANAN: I did not speak with my ex-wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But as far as you know, they weren't mistreated, or hurt (ph)? RAANAN: They did not talk about it. But they look good. They look good, and sound very good, very happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you think this moment would happen? Did you ever lose hope these last couple of days?

RAANAN: I did not lose hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kept you going?

RAANAN: Praying and just waiting for this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us about Natalie, and what makes her special?

RAANAN: She's an 18-years-old teenager, typical American teenager, caring about her nails, about her hair, about her fashion. But she sounds very, very, very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What now from here, as far as you understand it, what is the--

COLLINS: And you're hearing, from Uri Raanan, there. That is the father of Natalie Raanan, who, of course, was one of two American hostages, released by Hamas, earlier today.

Anderson Cooper is here with me.

I mean, just being able to hear--

COOPER: Yes, it's incredible.

COLLINS: --the grateful voice. I mean, he said he's been glued to the TV, he hasn't been sleeping, as are many (ph).

COOPER: It's her birthday, in a couple days, I mean.

COLLINS: Next Tuesday.

COOPER: It's just incredible.


COOPER: Incredible. I mean, that -- and I know a number of families, who have loved ones, who are still being held, or they are missing. They don't know their whereabouts. And obviously, they are overjoyed, for this family, and they are desperate for news, of their loved ones.

It is worth pointing out Hamas has released Americans, which is clearly trying to send some sort of a message, to whether it's the American public, or the American government, trying to kind of weaken support, for Israel, or make themselves look good.

That was part of the reason they released this, them, saying, "We're not essentially the monsters that were being portrayed by your fascist government," I believe was, the "Fascist" was the term. COLLINS: Yes.

COOPER: They also indicated that more could be released, if the situation warranted if -- I don't have the exact wording.

But they could release all the hostages now. I mean, there are hostages with serious medical issues, who have serious wounds that they caused, in their capture. And they took these people. They are the ones holding them. They could be released all now. There's nothing holding them back, from releasing all the hostages.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, one of the families, they talked about their son, who was at the music festival that he had his arm shorn off, in the video that they--


COLLINS: --that they had seen. So, there certainly are more.

And I mean, you see this photo of Natalie and, her mother, Judith, who were just here, on holiday, visiting family. And you see, it's the first photo of them. They're being brought in by IDF soldiers. I mean, it's hard to even think about what the last two weeks have been like, for them.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, more details will be learned. Were they kept in underground tunnel? Were they kept underground? I mean, there's no telling, you know?

I talked to Rami Igra. He's a former Mossad officer, high level, involved in the hostage negotiations, in the past. And he said in general, that hostages are often kept relatively well, so to speak, because they are bargaining tools. And that's how Hamas views them. And so, they want to keep them alive, in order to use them, to gain leverage, and get many, many Palestinian prisoners, out of jails.

COLLINS: Yes. And I think you make a good point that these are two American hostages, who are being released. I mean, not--

COOPER: It's not a coincidence.

COLLINS: Earlier this week, we were talking about the French-Israeli citizen--

COOPER: Right.

COLLINS: --who had been kidnapped.

COOPER: Right.

COLLINS: Mia Schem.

COOPER: Right.

COLLINS: That video that they had released, the first time we saw any of the hostages. [21:10:00]

COOPER: Right. They released a video of a French citizen, or a French- Israeli citizen, showing that she -- that they had given her an operation that she -- they were bandaging her wounds. They are sending messages, to other countries, to try to weaken support.

COLLINS: Yes. And, of course, that comes right after President Biden was here.

Anderson Cooper, thank you.

COOPER: Thanks.

COLLINS: And for more now, I want to bring in CNN's Alex Marquardt, who of course has also been following all of this. We were breaking this story, earlier today, as these two hostages were being released.

Alex, when you look at, at what is being said here, about why these two hostages? You heard Israel's Ambassador, to the United Nations, say, it's part of a PR campaign, because they are trying to generate goodwill, before Israel's next Military move.

I mean, how much do you think Hamas is using this to try to influence global perception?


And I think you and Anderson are correct. I mean, here, you have an American family that is on TV, saying, "We're getting our daughter and our wife home." And so, you've got the families, all these 200 hostages, who now have greater hope that their families would -- that their prisoners will be coming home.

And so, there's obviously a hope, by Hamas now, that the pressure will grow, on Israel, to perhaps back down a little bit, to lessen that pressure, that there will be more support, perhaps, for what Hamas is asking for.

We did hear, from a Hamas spokesman, who said that they are willing to release the foreign prisoners, if they are able to get aid, into the Gaza Strip, and able to get a ceasefire out. Of course, those are terms that that Israel certainly has rejected. Now, they're not talking about peace. They're not talking about a ceasefire.

So, the official reason that Hamas gave, earlier today, for releasing these two women, was humanitarian reasons. And it was to send a message, they said, to Americans, to counter what they call, the fascist claims, by the Biden administration.

So, whether that -- this definitely puts Israel in a tougher spot.

But Israel has said that these women were only released because of the Military pressure. And that Military pressure, they say, is only going to grow. Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. And as Anderson noted, of course, Hamas could release all of the hostages, tonight, if it wanted to.

As far as how all of this went down, Alex, I mean, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, you heard him earlier, thanking the Government of Qatar, for what he said was its important assistance here.

I mean, but they also house Hamas leaders, in their country. I mean, how does the U.S. balance that influence that they so clearly have, with Hamas, but also with their ties, to the group, that just conducted this horrific attack?

MARQUARDT: It is exactly that balance, Kaitlan that allows Qatar to do what they do.

Israel and the U.S. do not talk to Hamas. They consider it a terrorist organization. And so, what Qatar does is essentially do the things, that, countries, like the U.S. doesn't want to do.

They are a very small country, in a very powerful, very rich region. They are squeezed between Iran and Saudi Arabia. So, how do they punch above their weight? They do things that other countries don't want to do.

They engage with groups like Hamas. They, in fact, house leaders, from Hamas, in Doha. They host meetings, between the U.S. and the Taliban, on their territory. They engage with the Taliban, when the U.S. doesn't want to.

When those prisoners from Iran were coming home, where did they go through? They came through Doha. The Qataris were engaging with the Iranians, the entire time.

So, it is really through talking to people, who the U.S. and others don't want to talk to, and having enormous amounts of wealth that they really get this stature that they have in the world.

COLLINS: Yes. The other thing that really stood out, tonight, as we're just looking at the big picture of all of this, as we come on two weeks' anniversary is hearing from President Biden, on why he believes Hamas launched this attack, in the first place.

What did the President say, Alex?

MARQUARDT: Well, the President confirmed a theory that has essentially been out there, since this attack took place.

Let's remind our viewers that Hamas is backed by Iran. They are the biggest funders and supporters of Hamas. And Iran's main rival, in the region, is Saudi Arabia.

Now, Saudi Arabia has been on a path, to recognizing Israel, to normalizing ties with Israel, which would completely upend the Middle East, as we know it, and many would argue, certainly here in the United States, make the Middle East, a safer and better and more prosperous place.

And so, President Biden said essentially, that this Iran-backed group, Hamas, carried out this attack, to derail those normalization efforts. This is the quote from President Biden. He said, "One of the reasons Hamas moved on Israel is they know I was about to sit down with the Saudis."

Now, one of the holdups, in this normalization conversation, is the treatment of Palestinians. The Saudis have been worried about the way that Israel has been treating Palestinians, particularly with this new extreme far-right government.


And so, there is -- there's a sense, and we're hearing this from President Biden here that if there is a conflict, between Israelis and Palestinians, that that really could derail these conversations, even further.


COLLINS: Yes. And we had spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu, about that, just a month ago. And he was so hopeful about it. And now, there seems like there is so little hope.

Alex Marquardt, thank you, for that great reporting.


COLLINS: Up next, of course, the release, of these two hostages, is bittersweet news, for so many other families, tonight, who are still desperately waiting, for word, on their loved ones.

I was with those families, today, at a ceremony, here in Tel Aviv, where a Shabbat dinner table was set that had 200 empty chairs, each one representing a hostage, being held by Hamas.

I spoke with the incredible parents, of 21-year-old Omer Shem-Tov, kidnapped at the Nova music festival.


MALKI SHEM-TOV, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: He say that they are shooting all over, and he say that even sees some dying people. And "I love you, I love you."

SHELLY SHEM-TOV, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: He told me he was panicked. He was afraid. He said that they got into the car, and they're trying to escape from there.


COLLINS: More of that interview, right after this quick break.



COLLINS: As there is breaking news, tonight, about two hostages, being freed, from Hamas -- by Hamas, other families are watching this news, tonight, with hope.

It has been two weeks since Omer Shem-Tov's parents have seen their son. The 21-year-old was with his friends, at the Nova music festival, when Hamas attacked, on that day. Omer was eventually handcuffed, placed in the back of a pickup truck, and kidnapped.

That morning was the last time that Omer's family heard his voice, as he called them frantic and terrified.


M. SHEM-TOV: One phone call, to another phone call, he sound much more panic, much more hysteric. Even in the one of the phone call, he say that they're running away. They carry (ph) a lot of friends, but they start to run. So, they lost some of his friends. And while he was running, he said that they are shooting all over, and he say that even see some dying people. And "I love you. I love you," so.

COLLINS: I mean, you must have been so panicked, to hear your 21-year- old son, telling you it's not just rockets. It's -- there's gunfire, and people are running and being killed.

M. SHEM-TOV: Yes, yes. It was like we could understand, from his voice that this is something that we cannot understand, even what is experienced over there.

S. SHEM-TOV: He told me he was panicked. He was afraid. He said that they got into the car, and they're trying to escape from there.

My daughter told him, send us the live location. He sent the live location. And then, the phone was stopped. And then, we started to see that the point is moving, like not in the right way.

COLLINS: Not coming home?

S. SHEM-TOV: Not coming home at all. It's moving to the border. And my daughter started to cry. And she told us, "Listen, it's not the way. It's not the way." I called him to say, "Omer, it's not the way." And he didn't answer. The phone was ringing, and he didn't answer. And then, we saw that he is getting into -- into Gaza.

M. SHEM-TOV: He was behind the border orbit (ph)

S. SHEM-TOV: He was behind the border orbit (ph).

M. SHEM-TOV: And then, in the evening, we got a video that was published by the Hamas, that Omer is -- he's an hostage, he's over there. We saw -- we saw Omer, handcuffed, in a back of pickup, we--

COLLINS: He was handcuffed in a truck?

M. SHEM-TOV: Yes, with his friends. They were alive. There was no blood or something on his clothes. And that was the only -- the only single of the -- signal that we got from him.

COLLINS: And it's been almost two weeks. Tomorrow will have been two weeks. I mean, what have these two weeks been like, for both of you?

S. SHEM-TOV: We didn't -- we are not sleeping. We are not eating. We -- all of the things that we are doing now, it's to shout all over the world, our pain that no mother, in all over the world, needs to feel like -- mother and father needs to feel like we are feeling now.

Imagine that your son is going to a party. And the next day, people, murderers kidnapped him. And you don't know if he's eating, sleeping, if they are beating him. The basic thing of a mother is to--

M. SHEM-TOV: Protect.

S. SHEM-TOV: --to protect her son. And I cannot protect my son. And it's driving me crazy. And it's, I'm talking not only for myself. I'm talking for a lot of families.

You must understand that people were in the safe place at their home. They were sitting, eating breakfast. Some of them were sleeping.


And then, these terrorists came in, through their house, and murdered, and took them, from their house, from the place that it's the most safe place. And they took him, babies, children, teenage, mothers, fathers, grandmothers.

COLLINS: And he's 21. But he's your baby. I mean, what's he like? What's his personality? What is he? You were saying he kisses you three times, on the cheeks, all the time.

S. SHEM-TOV: Yes. Yes. Yes. Every day.

M. SHEM-TOV: Yes, yes, he's an amazing guy. He's a party guy. He's by himself. He's a D.J. And he likes very much all these kinds of festival, music festivals. So, that's Omer.


M. SHEM-TOV: Very, very happy guy. Very happy guy.

S. SHEM-TOV: Yes, funny.

M. SHEM-TOV: Funny, very funny.

COLLINS: I mean, he's so--

S. SHEM-TOV: We call him a--

COLLINS: --so cute.

S. SHEM-TOV: We call him a sunshine, because like the sunshine, everybody wants to be--

M. SHEM-TOV: Next to him.

S. SHEM-TOV: --next to him.

COLLINS: The last time, Omer's family saw him, was at Shabbat dinner, two weeks ago. He was there, like he always is. He's always the life of the party, as they talked about, his big personality. And that night was the night that he went to the Nova music festival.

The next time, his parents heard from him, was in a series of panicked phone calls, the next day, when they realized that the festival he was out was being attacked by Hamas.

The ceremony, tonight, and this huge table that you see, is for all the families, whose loved ones are being held hostage, tonight, whose loved ones won't be at Shabbat dinner, tonight.

And Omer's family is hoping that he will be back, at their Shabbat dinner, at their table, very soon.

Can you show me the video that you were showing me, a moment ago?




M. SHEM-TOV: Amazing.


COLLINS: And that was a picture of your family?



COLLINS: How many times have you watched that video?


S. SHEM-TOV: Oh my god.

M. SHEM-TOV: I saw it. You know, at the beginning, when Dana (ph) posted, I saw it, I don't know, maybe 100 times. And each time, I'm crying. And I get very emotional. Even now, when I see that, I get very emotional. And also the song say, "You're going to get out from this."

S. SHEM-TOV: "Don't be afraid from this fear."

M. SHEM-TOV: You are going -- yes, "You are going to get out from it."

COLLINS: If you could talk to him, right now, what would you say to him?

M. SHEM-TOV: Come back. Enough -- enough -- you did enough troubles. Come back.

COLLINS: What about you, mom?

S. SHEM-TOV: That I love him, that I miss him, that I want every -- every day, when he is going, he is coming to me, he is telling -- he's hugging me, telling me, "Mom, I love you." He is kissing me three times, and he's going. So, I am -- I want him back. I want.

M. SHEM-TOV: I want to hug him. I want to hug him, to smell him. That's what I want very much, to hug him and smell him.

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?

M. SHEM-TOV: You know, for us, it's given maybe some light. But until we don't see them?

S. SHEM-TOV: I want to say something about that. My son have asthma. He cannot breathe well. And I also. Every day, when I'm coming -- when I'm waking up, and I don't have--

M. SHEM-TOV: Breathe.

S. SHEM-TOV: --cannot breathe, I'm taking my--

M. SHEM-TOV: Ventorlin, yes, inhaler.

S. SHEM-TOV: Yes, the inhaler.

And I'm thinking about Omer that is there, and he don't -- he's--

M. SHEM-TOV: Inhaler.

S. SHEM-TOV: Inhaler, whatever he goes (ph). And it's the minimum thing that the humanitarian thing that they need to do, first of all.

M. SHEM-TOV: It's unbelievable.




COLLINS: I want to thank Omer's parents, Shelly, and Malki. They were so gracious, with their time, today, despite being so clearly filled with grief, for their missing son.

These families are devastated. Their lives have been completely uprooted. Omer's dad, at one point had a small smile, on his face, when he told me he can't wait for his son to come home, so he can tell him to go and clean his messy room. My heart is heavy, for them, tonight, and for every family, who had an empty seat, at their Shabbat dinner table.

Back in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Just moments ago, Uri Raanan, the father of the American hostage, Natalie, who was freed by Hamas, tonight, spoke to reporters, about his daughter's release.

CNN's Whitney Wild is live, on the scene, in the Chicago suburbs.

Whitney, what did you hear, from the father, as he was talking about this moment, of such joy, after two weeks, of just not knowing what was happening to his family?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a word, Kaitlan, overall relief, immense relief, because he was acutely aware, of what could happen.


He had so many glowing words, about his daughter, like any father would. But Natalie is special. She is unbelievably kind. She's a fantastic artist.

And what makes this so much harder, Kaitlan, is that again, her kindness was boundless, which made this entire ordeal, especially cruel, for this family. The last two weeks, as you mentioned, have just been excruciating.

Here's how Uri Raanan described those moments.


RAANAN: I did not sleep at night. And my head always have been in Israel. Lots of phone calls, in Israel. Lots of TVs. I have been glued to the TV, for two weeks, hoping for any good news. Finally it came.


WILD: He spoke with her, this evening. He said that the call was brief. But he just said, "I love you."

He was so, so, so grateful, for her to be home. He said, he also spoke with President Biden, who said that he knows how he feels. He was comforted, by those words. He said that President Biden was very, very kind.

And Kaitlan, again, this entire experience has just been terrible. But it is now over. And the expectation is that Natalie Raanan will return to the Chicago area, in the next few days, hopefully in time, for her 18th birthday, which is October 24th. And he says that will be the best day of his life.

COLLINS: Yes, just next Tuesday.

But, Whitney, I was thinking about this. He can relate to the parents that I was just speaking to, to Omer's parents, and so many of these people, who are still waiting on their loved ones, and for hope that they can have a similar experience, what happened to him. Did he have anything to say to those other parents, tonight, those other relatives?

WILD: Certainly. Because surely, those families are looking to him, as a guide, in this moment, someone who's been through, what they've been through, and what they are continuing to endure, in these very difficult moments. And he said, simply, "Don't lose hope. Pray for good."


COLLINS: Whitney Wild, thank you, for being there.

Also, tonight, here, on the ground, in Tel Aviv, Israel's Military says that the majority of the hostages, they believe, are still alive.

The question is does that change the calculus, on when Israeli forces, could potentially go in, for a ground war? And is there a long-term plan, for Gaza, after that potential ground incursion?

We're going to speak with a member of Israel's government, right after this.



COLLINS: Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been happening, daily, across the region, from the West Bank, to Cairo, Oman, Jordan. People have packed the streets.

At the Rafah Crossing, which is that one key access point, where humanitarian aid is waiting, to be allowed, into Gaza, CNN witnessed hundreds of people, venting their anger, as the United Nations Secretary General was speaking. Antonio Guterres forced to leave the area, actually, earlier than planned, as those protests grew more intense.

With me now, tonight, is a member of Israel's Knesset, and the country's former Ambassador, to the United Nations, Danny Danon.

Thank you so much, for being here.

I mean, you see these protests, and such intense anger, directed at U.N. officials, really everyone, Western media, our colleagues, who were there, on the ground, today. I wonder what your response is to that.

Because when someone, like Secretary Blinken, was asked, earlier today, if he believed that Israel was following, the international rules of war. He didn't outright say, yes. He just talked about Israel's right to defend itself.

DANNY DANON, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N., MEMBER OF ISRAEL'S LIKUD PARTY, FORMER ISRAELI DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER, AUTHOR, "ISRAEL: THE WILL TO PREVAIL": We are at war. And at war, you have to fight. We haven't forgotten what happened to us, two weeks ago, with more than 49 of Israelis were massacred. Our girls were raped. As we speak, we have 200 Israelis, in Gaza, babies, 1-year-old, Holocaust survivor of 86-year-old. So, we haven't forgotten that.

So, we will try to minimize the civilian casualties. But we are determined to eliminate Hamas. It will not be easy. We encourage the population, to move out, of northern Gaza, because we intend to come in. And when we come in, we're going to hunt down Hamas, we will eradicate them.

So, the population must move south. They can ignore our warning. But then, they shouldn't come and blame anyone else, but themselves.

COLLINS: There was some reporting, today, in The New Yorker, that senior Israeli officials, while President Biden was here, on the ground, had suggested that war could potentially take up to 10 years. Is that realistic, in your view?

DANON: No. No, we have no intention to drag it for 10 years. Also, it's not easy, for our economy. You have 100,000 Israelis, who left their homes, in the south, and moved to hotels, in the center, and up north. We cannot keep them for a year, in hotels. So, it's going to be long. But when we speak about the length of the war, I would say, weeks, months, but not years.

COLLINS: Is Israel -- if Israel accomplishes what it's setting out, which is to eradicate Hamas' capabilities, at least militarily, what is the plan for Gaza, after? Because Israel has been clear, they don't want to reoccupy Gaza. So, what happens? Who goes in there? Who fills that void?

DANON: So, I was Deputy Minister of Defense, nine years ago. And we had a similar debate. And I told my colleagues, in the Ministry of defense, "I don't care. Let's eradicate Hamas. And then, we'll deal with that."

And for years, we had backed (ph) the decision, of dealing with Hamas, because of these questions. So today, we just move in. As we move in, we're going to have that discussion. But we're not going to wait.

It cannot be worse than Hamas, than ISIS. We haven't shown all the pictures we have, because you cannot show it to the public. But those are animals, what they did to the babies, to pregnant women, thing that you cannot accept. Even ISIS didn't do it to women and children.

COLLINS: Well, they clearly don't play by the international rules of war, or anything of that nature of law, in any sense of the way.

And so, when Israel's forces do go in there? I mean, we've talked of this complex tunnel system that is under Gaza that Hamas operates out of. I mean, are you worried about a serious loss of life, to Israeli forces?

DANON: It's a challenge. I cannot deny it. Because for years, they were waiting for us, planning those traps and tunnels. We are ready for it.


But it's going to be complicated. That's why I'm telling the troops, "Take your time. Do it slowly. And make sure that you don't make any mistakes. Use whatever you need, to eradicate Hamas." But it's hard. It's hard to--

COLLINS: How bad do you think, it could be?

DANON: Well we trained for that also. We have the technology. We always speak about the surprises, they planned for us. We have surprises for them. They should be worried, about the capability of the IDF, and the technology of the IDF.

COLLINS: Israel has two hostages now, in its care, in the IDF, two American hostages, that were released, that have been held for two weeks. What questions do they have, for them, about what they saw, in Gaza?

DANON: So, after they were brought in, we asked them a few questions, about what happened there. You can't expect much, from civilians, who were abducted, into a cell--

COLLINS: Yes, they're not like Military officers.

DANON: --in Gaza.

COLLINS: What did they tell you though?

DANON: In fact, we don't push them. We give them time to be with their family. But we realize it's not easy for them.

And we don't forget, you have more than 200 kidnapped Israelis, as we speak, in the hands of Hamas, for two weeks. They are not celebrating Shabbat, with their families. They are somewhere, in Gaza.

COLLINS: Yes. Ambassador Danny Danon, thank you, for your time, tonight.

DANON: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: For staying up so late for us. We really appreciate that.

DANON: Thank you.

COLLINS: We have more to come, on the breaking news, tonight, those two American hostages that are free, President Biden, celebrating their release, in a phone call.

We'll be back with someone, who knows Judith and Natalie very well. Yes, the Rabbi, from their temple, that you heard from last week. He's back, with us, tonight, next.



COLLINS: Tonight, even as Judith and Natalie Raanan's family is celebrating the fact that they have been released, by Hamas, there are nearly 200 other hostages, that are still in Gaza, a fact that is weighing heavily, on Raanan's community, in Evanston, Illinois.

Before the start of the Sabbath, tonight, I spoke with their Rabbi, Meir Hecht, about their return, and what it means.


COLLINS: Rabbi, I'm so glad to have you back on, on this good news. I mean, obviously, we should note, tonight, that there are so many, many hostages, who are being held captive, by Hamas. But this is obviously joyous news, for Judith and Natalie's family.

Have you been able to talk to any of the family? What can you tell us, tonight?

RABBI MEIR HECHT, CO-DIRECTOR, CHABAD OF EVANSTON, JUDITH AND NATALIE RAANAN'S RABBI: Kaitlan, this is the most incredible news. Our hearts are overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, to the Almighty God, for this unbelievable miracle.

The last time you had me on, we were talking about prayer, and the power of goodness. And look, it seems like our prayers have been answered.

But of course, we still have a tremendous amount of pain and agony and concern. And our hearts are deeply pained, with the knowledge that there are still over 200 hostages, in the hands of Hamas terrorists. And we must continue to pray, and continue to spread that message of goodness, which hopefully will have the effect, that it needs, to overpower this evil and darkness.

COLLINS: Rabbi, have you had a chance to speak with Judith's family? Have you heard anything from them, on their condition?

HECHT: The family is overwhelmed with the news. And I'm sure that they have a lot to do. So, they're busy, busy, non-stop. They will be, I'm sure, talking to the media.

But I want to just share with the listeners that the -- Judith and Natalie have been in our prayers, and in our hearts, for the last two weeks, as have been every one of the hostages, in the entire Israel.

So to be at this, be able to share this moment, with everyone together, a moment of joy, is incredible. And at the same time, we have to be able to be realistic, and understand that we're still in the middle of a war, we're still in the middle of a dark time, where we know that terrorists are holding on, to over 200 more of our brothers and sisters.

So, Judith and Natalie, we are so excited for them. We look forward to them to come back home. And we will celebrate, there's no doubt about it. But we're not -- this is not over yet. COLLINS: Yes. I'm so glad you said that. Because obviously, it's Shabbat. And this is a time, when so many families, and friends, are gathered around a table. They're spending time with their loved ones. And a lot of them have an empty seat, at their tables, tonight, because of -- they've either been killed by Hamas, as a result of this attack, or their loved ones have been abducted.

You talked about how Judith was always there, every Sabbath that she would always come in. What's it going to be like, when you can welcome her back?

HECHT: It is going to be the most special Shabbat we have ever had.

But I do want to respond to a beautiful point that you brought out, which is that there's an attitude that someone is missing, someone is missing from the table, someone is missing from our family. And every Jew around the world is feeling that that someone is missing.

We can either approach it with the knowledge that the missing person, we're going to leave an empty chair.

Or we can say, "No, that empty chair we're going to fill with someone else. We're going to bring someone else to our Shabbat table. We're going to bring another person to celebrate the Shabbat with us. We're going to bring another person to come and pray with us, another person to come and experience the beauty of our traditions, together, with us," because by bringing in more people, we increase in the light, instead of just leaving behind and leaving something empty.

So, we ask everyone to do that. We want to continue spreading the message of goodness, spreading the message of light. Light will win. Goodness will prevail. We will get through this, because goodness and light always prevails.


COLLINS: Rabbi Meir Hecht, we got so many positive responses, after we spoke to you, the first time, in a time of such desperation, as we still didn't know how Judith and Natalie were doing. And so, having you back on, tonight, now that we do know that they are safe, that they have been reunited with their family, is really special.

Rabbi Meir Hecht, thank you, for your time, tonight.

HECHT: Kaitlan, thank you, for having me on, again.


COLLINS: Up next, we'll have a crucial update, on the desperate wait for aid that is so needed, in Gaza, tonight. That's in a moment.


COLLINS: Also, an important update, on Palestinians, tonight, who are so desperate, for needed aid. A hospital, in Gaza, said it is facing the threat, of an imminent airstrike, from the Israel Defense Forces, after it received three warnings, from Israel, to evacuate. That's according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, tonight.

But that hospital says it won't be able to move hundreds of patients, who were there.


Israeli officials, for their part, have told CNN that if an evacuation order is given, even to a hospital, they say it's because Hamas is hiding inside, and beneath hospitals, and schools, among other places, often using civilians, as human shields.

In the meantime, the Red Cross says that Gaza's entire healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, tonight.

The humanitarian relief that has been piling up, across the border, in Egypt, in dozens of trucks that we have seen, we are told that the first delivery, is scheduled to be 20 or so trucks, of that aid. But that is just a small drop in the bucket, compared to the 100 trucks, a day, that the United Nations says Gazans need.

I want to thank you so much, for joining us, tonight, and every night, this week, for this coverage, here, in Tel Aviv. Oftentimes, it is difficult to watch, but it is so important. Thank you, for watching.

I want to turn it over to "CNN NEWSNIGHT" with Abby Phillip, right now.