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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Red Cross Convoy Carrying Hostages Now Entering Egypt; Red Cross Convoy Entering Rafah Crossing From Gaza Into Egypt. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired November 24, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Being received that way and knowing that they are very, very close to finally getting back onto Israeli soil. This
has been an anxiety inducing nerve-racking period of several weeks for these families who have watched the process of these hostage negotiations
for weeks now, have followed mostly through public reports. They have had contacts with the Israeli government. But, most of what they have learned,
these families have told me, has been through public reports. And they have watched as these talks have gotten close to the possibility of a deal
before falling apart again.
And this week, they watched, as just a couple of days ago, this process was delayed by nearly 24 hours. And now, finally, perhaps a point where they
will get to embrace their loved ones, at least those families of the 13 hostages released today, and providing some hope for the families of those
who still remain in Gaza, that a deal is possible to release them, that Hamas can indeed deliver on its side of the bargain to deliver these
hostages to the Red Cross into Egypt, and eventually, hopefully soon into Israel.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Yes. And Jeremy, just in a testament to their selflessness, we've heard from so many of these hostage families that even
though it's not their loved ones coming home because they got a call from the Israeli government yesterday, telling them whether or not it was their
family members, they said they're still so happy for those 13 families that are getting their family members back in just a short time. Jeremy Diamond,
John, I mean, one remarkable aspect of this is we were hearing officials approach it with a lot of caution, a lot of trepidation from the U.S. to
Israel to all over. This is unfolding pretty much as we had expected. Obviously, this is the lengthiest part right here, this actual transfer of
the hostages. But, so far, it has gone as we had been expecting and hearing from officials that they expected it to go.
JOHN BERMAN, HOST: And they are watching with hope that it will continue to do so with this added twist that there are these Thai hostages that were
released also today that we were not told that that was going to happen, leading up to it, Kaitlan. Just so people know what they were looking at
when Kaitlan was talking to Jeremy moments ago, there was some video from inside the West Bank. That was, we believe, the location where some
Palestinian prisoners are being released from or at least moved to. I was told we would have that video again. There you go. Right there. That's from
inside the West Bank. We believe that might be a location where some of the Palestinian prisoners, 39 today, will be released to the over prison here.
You can see right here on that map is where that is.
And in terms of the other locations that we were looking at right there, Jeremy Diamond was reporting from here, the Kerem Shalom crossing. It is
right on the corner between Gaza, Egypt and Israel. The Rafah crossing where you saw video, you saw a new video, actually we're looking at video
right there, I believe, from the Rafah crossing. That is video of the Rafah crossing from moments ago. That is a convoy of Red Cross ambulances moving
Let's look inside there. We can't know for sure who is inside those vehicles. But, that is the closest look of the people inside those vehicles
that we were getting. It's possible -- again, that we do not know for sure that those are some of the hostages, the 13 Israeli hostages, perhaps the
dozen or so Thai hostages also being released by Hamas terrorists from inside Gaza, new pictures, best pictures yet of inside those ambulances
moving through the Rafah crossing. And once they pass through that area, we're looking at right now, they will be out of Gaza and into Egypt again.
These are the first time we've seen these images right there. There were men in the backseat there. We know those weren't the hostages, and perhaps
there as well.
We see -- they could have been the Thai nationals, I suppose. We do not know the gender of the Thai nationals. But, if you see a man for the most
part, either it's a Thai national or Red a Cross worker, not we believe one of the Israeli hostages, unclear who was in that last vehicle. We're trying
to discern. We'll get more information when we can. We do know that the 13 Israeli hostages are en route right now. Their known path was from inside
Gaza through the Rafah crossing. That was a video you just saw right there. We believe they will be taken by car further south back into Israel from
Egypt right here at the Nitzana crossing, and then we believe taken by helicopter to the Hatzerim Airbase, right here inside Israel, where they
will be receiving more treatment, and they will move on from there by helicopter to hospitals around the country.
Again, this is the process that's going on right now. The video you're seeing, we're getting in by the minute. We don't know when it's going to
come. So, we will bring it to you as it happens, these images, these views of these hostages sensing freedom for the first time in more than 48 days.
What am I going to now, guys? All Right. Kaitlan, let's go back to you.
COLLINS: Yes, John. As we are watching all of this unfold minute by minute here, officials in Israel are doing the same thing. The Prime Minister,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Defense Minister, they are watching as well from a military intelligence office space. That is where they're
keeping a close eye to make sure what they have been facilitating and negotiating this deal with Hamas through an intermediary Qatar, making sure
that it goes according to plan because they're watching just as closely as we are to see that this day, this day is a template really for further
hostage releases, because these are 13 of them, we believe. There are 50 total expected. So, how does it work for the other 37 here? All of this is
being carefully monitored.
One big unknown is also the condition of these hostages. We have not gotten any kind of medical update. We don't know what condition they're in. That
is something that they have been bracing for here in Israel, trying to prepare for really any scenario with all of this.
CNN's Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is outside of a children's hospital that could be receiving some of these hostages. We do
expect there to be children among them, though we do not have any official confirmation of who exactly is in this group yet. Clarissa, has there been
any new activity at the hospital? This is a lengthy process, as we're seeing these hostages make their way eventually to Israel. What are you
seeing at the hospital right now?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, behind me, and I don't know if you can see, there are some flashing lights. That is the
hospital's helipad in the last few hours. We've seen a number of ambulances sort of park up alongside. That helipad again, we don't know if that's
where the hostages would arrive. But, the assumption is that the children who are released, and if they are with their mothers, their mothers, and
they are in reasonable physical condition, that they will be brought here to the Schneider Children's Medical Center. If they are in more serious
condition, if they require lengthy or extensive medical care, they will likely be taken to another hospital called Soroka.
But, here at Schneider Medical Center for Children, they have gone to great pains, Kaitlan, to make sure that they have done the best job they possibly
can of preparing for the arrival of these hostages. They have taken over an entire area of the hospital, and really gone to lengths to make sure that
it doesn't look like a hospital. They want to create what one staff member told us was the feeling of a beautiful hotel. There is a lot of thought
that's gone into having a lot of toys so that it feels warm, that it feels intimate. The hospital has gone to great pains as well, Kaitlan, to
handpick the staff who will be working with the hostages, who will be arriving. Obviously, they want to ensure that they have the top
psychiatrists, social workers ready to greet them, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Clarissa, we will check back in with you. I want to go to Jeremy Diamond who is at Kerem Shalom, that border crossing between really Egypt,
Israel and Gaza. Jeremy, what are you hearing?
DIAMOND: We are just hearing helicopters arriving in this direction. This is the first time -- we've been here for hours today. This is the first
time we have actually heard helicopters. And it may be a little bit dark, but let me see if my cameraman Matthias can pan over to show you the
helicopters that are landing very, very close to this Kerem Shalom crossing. We are just two kilometers, and we are now witnessing two
helicopters landing right here, very close to the Kerem Shalom crossing. They are flying extremely low. Dust is actually being kicked up in our
direction as these helicopters come down.
Now, this is not the crossing point itself, but it is, again, about two kilometers away from that crossing point between Gaza and Israel. There is
not an official Egypt-Israel crossing point at Kerem Shalom. But, it has been used in the past. There is a way for people to get from Egypt to
Israel under special circumstances. It was the case with the Gilad Shalit deal. In 2011, when he was released from custody from Hamas, he went into
Egypt via the Rafah crossing, and then he came in via Kerem Shalom.
Now, I don't know what these helicopters are doing here, in particular. I don't know what they are -- whether this is related to the hostages. But
certainly, this is the first kind of activity of this kind that we have seen here today. And as we know, there are effectively two points where we
believe that these hostages would cross into Israel. One of them is Nitzana crossing, which is further southeast from where we are, and the other is
Kerem Shalom, which is right behind me. These bright lights that you see here, this is the area of the Kerem Shalom. And right next to us now we
have two helicopters that just touched down. We can see some flashlights, it appears, from people who are maybe getting off of the helicopter.
And so, this is obviously a developing situation, Kaitlan, and we will -- these appear to be Blackhawk helicopters, from what our understanding is.
So, certainly, military helicopters landing again, about two kilometers from where this crossing point is.
COLLINS: OK. So, Jeremy, as we're waiting to see -- I mean, you had been at this crossing point for hours now, and this is the first time that we have
seen two helicopters in that time span arrive here. Still waiting to figure out whose helicopters these are. Whether they're there to facilitate the
transfer, or what we are expecting next?
DIAMOND: Yes, that's right. And there has been military personnel here --
COLLINS: Are you -- Jeremy, can you see? Those are officials walking to the helicopter?
DIAMOND: It is difficult to see from here. I'm also getting some dust kicked up into my face right now. But, certainly, these are military
helicopters that have landed, about two kilometers from this Kerem Shalom crossing. We have Israeli Military officials who are at this location where
we are. We actually happen to be here already, because we knew it was advantage over Kerem Shalom. But, Israeli Military officials brought some
photographers and Israeli journalists to this point in order to witness the possible crossing. Again, we have not fully officially confirmed that they
are coming through Kerem Shalom crossing.
But, obviously, this kind of activity would suggest that that is very, very possible. I think with the light now, you might be able to get a little bit
of a better look at some of these helicopters, not clear if they're picking somebody up here, if they're moving on. But, again, certainly the most
activity that we have seen at our location. As we know, at this moment, that convoy of hostages is in Egypt, making their way, it would appear,
towards Israel. Which crossing? We don't know. This is certainly the closest one to the Rafah crossing. This would be the closest point for them
to drive to. And so, I suspect that in the next half hour or so, we may get a clearer picture of exactly what is happening and whether or not they are
in fact crossing here.
BERMAN: Yes, Jeremy. I could show people on the map where you are. It'll give people a sense of just how small these distances actually are here.
This is the Kerem Shalom crossing right there that Jeremy was talking about, which is officially a crossing between southern Gaza into Israel.
But, as Jeremy points out, there is also a way to get from Egypt to Israel through there also, if they handle it a certain way. We do know -- we did
expect that the hostages would be moved south from inside Gaza through the Rafah crossing, which is just right here. I'm just putting little dots
there because the distance is, it's really -- you're really talking like barely even a couple miles right there between the Rafah crossing and the
Kerem Shalom crossing right there.
So, it's possible that they moved out from Gaza into Egypt through Rafah and they will move into Israel again at the Kerem Shalom crossing right
there. Another possibility, as Jeremy said, is they'd be brought back into Israel much further south at the Nitzana crossing right there. But, this
process appears to be underway, including video that we saw not long ago of a convoy of Red Cross vehicles with people sitting in the back of these Red
Cross vehicles. There appear to be both men and women inside them. It was hard to get a good look at their faces. Obviously, among the Israeli
hostages, we'd been told that only children and women would be released today as part of the first group of Israeli hostages.
We also learned today there is a group of Thai hostages, workers from Thailand who were taken by the Hamas terrorists some 48 days ago. About 12
of them being released also. So, we're trying to discern whether they were in the back of those vehicles or not. Once they will move up from here,
whether they move for the Kerem Shalom crossing or down here at Nitzana, we do expect them to go to the Hatzerim Airbase right here. Again, this is a
process, and Jeremy, as you are there, watching these helicopters, anymore you're able to discern from the movements that you're seeing?
DIAMOND: No, not at this moment, John. Those helicopters appear to be stagnant at this location, very near to the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
They landed here a few minutes ago. You saw it live on air. And for now, they appear to be sitting here. Some folks appear to have gotten off the
helicopter, perhaps. Others may be getting on. It's not exactly clear from my vantage point. It is quite dark here. But again, this is -- we are
seeing activity, more activity than we've seen all day. I just can't confirm anything at this point.
BERMAN: Jeremy, while we have you here, you're at Kerem Shalom, and then Rafah is not far from you.
Just explain who is involved, on a normal day at the Rafah crossing, from goods and people moving from Egypt into Gaza? And then now, how complicated
this situation is?
DIAMOND: Yes. It's gotten extraordinarily complicated in part, because the Kerem Shalom crossing was one of the main places where goods would cross
into Gaza. It is one of the largest areas for humanitarian aid and commercial goods to go from Israel into Gaza. But, those crossing points,
all crossing points between Israel and Gaza, Kerem Shalom included, were closed after those October 7 attacks happened. And so, instead, what has
happened, as aid has started to trickle into Gaza in recent weeks, is that the aid has been almost exclusively going in via the Rafah crossing. But,
Israeli officials are still conducting checks on all of the goods that enter Gaza. They are the ones conducting a layer of the security checks on
those trucks of humanitarian aid, more recently of fuel.
And it appears that the helicopters are now taking off again. I think you can -- hopefully, you can still see our shot, John. But, it looks like
these helicopters are moving. Let me just pause for a second. Yes. They seem to be just moving into a different position, but they're not all
together leaving our location here. But, yes. As we were talking about, John, the situation in terms of getting things in and out of Gaza has been
complicated by this war. It has been complicated by Hamas's attack on October 7. And so, now there is a whole new layer of difficulty. But, it is
not altogether unusual for Egypt and Israel to coordinate over the entry and exit of people and goods into Gaza.
As you know, the Gaza Strip has faced significant blockade effectively of certain goods, of a lot of activity in and out of Gaza, not just from
Israel's crossings into Gaza but also from Rafah. There is a reason why journalists -- we have wanted to get into Gaza for weeks now during this
war. The Israel and Gaza crossings are closed, but in Rafah, which Egypt controls, they are still not letting journalists in that route either. And
I think you can see here, some officials appear to be arriving on the grounds here. I'm not sure who they are, but there are lights around them,
perhaps even cameras. I'm not sure if you might have a better view on these officials than I do, John, with a bigger screen.
BERMAN: Yes. I'm not looking at big screens either here, Jeremy. But, we do see people milling about those helicopters in that lit area. That is in
Kerem Shalom, which is a crossing normally between Gaza and Israel. It is not far from the Rafah crossing, which is between Gaza and Egypt, where I
do believe we just got some new video in as well. Let's take a look at that new video we're getting. This I'm now told is live from Rafah. These are
Egyptian ambulances lined up waiting at Rafah. A number, frankly, of Egyptian ambulances lined up waiting there. One, two, three, four, five, a
dozen, 13, 14 ambulances waiting there.
We believe there are 13 Israeli hostages being released. 12 Thai hostages, we believe they were brought over the border, the Rafah crossing from Gaza
into Egypt moments ago. This appears to be a group of ambulances waiting, maybe, to greet them there. The number of ambulances there shows you
obviously the concern for the well-being of each of these individual hostages being released right now. There is Rafah. Hang on. There is a
These are live pictures. This is the first time we're seeing that right now. And for the first time, we just saw a little girl getting out of one
of those ambulances and walking into a building there. It could have been that that was one of the Israeli hostages, the young children released not
long ago as part of this deal. We'll keep our eye on this and watch if we see anyone else. Kaitlan Collins is watching right alongside with me.
Kaitlan, I don't know if you did see that. But, that did appear to be a young girl walking from one of those ambulances right there.
That could have been our first clear look at one of the released today.
COLLINS: Yes. And she appeared to be with a woman. We had been told by Israeli officials, who would not confirm identities for obvious reasons,
that they did expect families to be included in this group of hostages, not to be separated as they were released by Hamas. I will say, John, we have
just now official confirmation on the actual numbers that we've been talking about. There had been some questions about how many Thai nationals
were included in this group, the Red Cross, which of course facilitated that transfer. There is that moment again there, John, with the little girl
in the yellow shirt that you can see at the bottom of your screen.
The Red Cross is saying that they are relieved to confirm, and I'm quoting them now, the safe release of 24 hostages. We do still believe that 13 of
those are the Israeli hostages that were negotiated as part of this deal. So, that raises the question of the numbers, the rest are those Thai
nationals that we had heard from the Egyptians. They say they facilitated this by transporting them from Gaza to what you're looking at right now.
That is the Rafah border and the Rafah crossing that we saw them come through in that convoy that we believe was holding these hostages earlier.
Obviously, John, still a lot of questions to come. And I think when you noted the number of ambulances here, it's also it was a big question mark
for these officials, the condition of the -- these hostages and what they were going to be greeted with upon arrival. They didn't know. And so, I
think that is one thing here. And of course, you have seen some elderly people as well in this group that we are looking at, that we are still
waiting for that official list from the Israeli government. There is another woman going inside the door into what we believe is this medical
BERMAN: Yes. An older woman, right? They're being led in, presumably a medical worker there with her arm around the older woman. A short time ago,
we saw a young girl being led in, not exactly clear who the stewards are here, presumably with the Red Cross. The International Committee of the Red
Cross helping these people out or through. But, again, at this point, it does appear that we've had a look at, at least two of the hostages that
have been released, a young girl and an older woman. This process playing out before our eyes at the Rafah crossing. This is Egypt now. So, they are
free, whatever you want to call it, they're free, no longer in the hands of Hamas terrorists, but in safety inside Egypt for the first time in 48 days.
Impossible to know, Kaitlan, what's going through their minds, impossible to know how they are physically although both people we just saw there, the
young woman and the older -- the young girl and the older woman were walking without aid and they were moving along right there. Remarkable to
see that video, the first look we've had, we believe, at any of these hostages now for 48 days, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes. It's also remarkable, John, how we're watching this all play out minute by minute live before our very eyes, because previously when we
had seen some of the hostages being released, I'm thinking of Judith and Natalie Raanan. They were released. We got a photo of them as they were
being walked across by Israeli soldiers. We did not see an actual video of them. There was one I believe released by Hamas, one video that we chose
not to show for obvious reasons. We're watching this all play out as they have been making this trip. We saw where Jeremy was, where those two
helicopters are. That's still a question of what those helicopters are intended for, who is going to be getting on them at Kerem Shalom, and then
of course here at the Rafah crossing what we're seeing this line of ambulances.
Clarissa Ward is at a children's hospital here in Israel that have been bracing for the potential arrival of some of these hostages as they are
being released. Clarissa, obviously, we're -- John and I are just seeing a few of these what we believe to be hostages. It still remains to be seen
exactly who the identities of these people are. What are you seeing from your vantage point?
WARD: So, Kaitlan, I actually can't stand in front of the shot right now just because we have -- we're using a major zoom lens and we have pushed in
as hopefully you can see now. This is the scene at the helipad at the Schneider Children's Medical Center, and we have definitely noticed an
uptick in activity. Earlier on, we'd seen a few ambulances parking up, and now as you can probably see, there are a number of paramedics, medical
personnel. We've also seen a significant security presence. Some people talking on their phones. So, definitely an uptick in the amount of activity
that we're seeing here at the helipad.
And this is expected to be the destination for a number of those hostages, particularly children, any children who are with their mothers, who are in
reasonable condition. Those who are more seriously injured or have medical conditions will be taken to different hospitals. But, here they are
expecting the arrival of some of those children, mothers, if they are traveling with their mothers. They have gone above and beyond to try to
create an area in the hospital that does not look clinical, that does not look like a hospital. They've tried to decorate it. Make it as warm and
intimate as possible. Make it feel like a hotel. They filled it with toys, they told us.
They said they've handpicked medical personnel with the most expertise in children's trauma, psychiatrists, that each family or group or individual
hostage that arrives will be paired up with a social worker. And there is a heightened sense here of the importance of this moment. Of course, there is
a lot of tension and nerves around it. But, really, the focus is on trying to be as sensitive as possible to the state that some of these hostages and
particularly children will be in after going through the trauma that they have been through these last seven weeks.
We talked earlier about how the Ministry of Welfare has put out guidelines, a comprehensive list for IDF soldiers and any personnel who will be coming
into contact with the hostages before they arrive here. You can see another car there with flashing lights driving past. They've been told not to
answer questions that the children might potentially have. Where is mommy? Where is daddy? Of course, a lot of these children may be orphans. They may
not know that they are orphans.
And so, they've been given instructions about how to deal with those questions. They've been told that they should say, I'm sorry, sweetheart. I
can't answer your questions. I'm here to take you to safety and you'll be soon reunited with people you know, who can answer your questions. They've
been told small things like, don't pick the children up without asking them first, offer first. We know as well that they've put teddy bears in some of
the locations where they may first be identifying them and carrying out cursory medical examinations on the children noise cancelling headphones
for those helicopters that they are likely to be embarking on to be taken to the various hospitals. There are five hospitals, we believe, where they
may be coming.
But, this certainly, here at the Schneider Medical Center for Children expected to be the primary destination for those hostages who are children
or traveling with children who are not seriously injured, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes. They're bracing for what is about to come their way. Obviously, something that is a welcome moment here in Israel, also a
bittersweet one, John, and just remarkable to see these images that we were seeing earlier. That's Petah Tikva where Clarissa is in Israel, outside of
that children's hospital. But, we've also been watching at the Rafah crossing as a line of ambulances, and what appear to be hostages going in,
in just what is a major moment, the fact that this deal that has been brokered between Hamas and Israel is playing out as they had hoped it
would. There are still a lot of hostages to go. 37 is a part of this deal. But, obviously, more than 200 still being held by Hamas and Gaza.
But, to see these hostages in this moment being brought to safety and eventually being brought back to Israel is just -- it's a breakthrough of a
moment that -- there haven't been many of those since October 7 happened.
BERMAN: No. And what you're looking right now, it took place just moments ago at the Rafah crossing, the border between Gaza and Egypt. Video, the
first video we've had of this group of hostages who were released by the Hamas terrorists today. We did see video of a young girl walking from an
ambulance into a building there. We also saw a video of an older woman walking from the ambulance to a building there. I believe we've re-racked
this and cued it up again so you can see it all again.
But, what you're looking at now is this line of ambulances plural there for the 24 hostages that we now know were released today. That includes, we
think, 13 Israeli hostages, and then that would make 11 Thai hostages. A number of these vehicles, unclear whether it's one ambulance per hostage,
but certainly a lot of medical care on the scene right there. And it was from these vehicles -- I think walking from a vehicle to a structure (ph)
that we did see the pictures that I would love to see again here of that little girl, an indelible image of a little girl being moved through.
And then, we also saw a picture of an older woman being moved through. And those were the two pictures. Those are the two pictures, I think, that are
most important today to see people that we believe have been in captivity now for 48 days getting their first taste of freedom for some time. That's
taking place right here at the Rafah crossing. The Rafah crossing, again, we believe they're transported from southern Gaza over the border into
Egypt, into Rafah. And we have this video of this young girl from a short time ago. Let's look at it.
BERMAN: And there she goes, being led into a building there. Unclear who the woman who was traveling there with her, whether that was an aid worker
or perhaps a relative. As Kaitlan has acknowledges -- Kaitlan has acknowledged, we believed that some of the children might be being released
with a mother today. We don't know if that took place there. We also saw a video a short time ago of an older woman who appeared to be a hostage,
again, who was being led from the ambulance into the building for some kind of a treatment there.
Let's go to Oren Liebermann now, who I believe is in Tel Aviv, what's become hostage square, this area where people gather there, Oren. What's
happening at this moment? How much are they seeing of this process, this release process?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, there is a bit of a beehive of activity here as the crowd here waits for all of the updates. As you can
imagine, a lot of the TV networks are set up here, and one of the locals has a big setup here. So, through that and through all of the WhatsApp
groups and text messages, they're able to pretty closely follow the latest developments here. You can see that they know here that they have entered
Egypt, and that the 13 women and children have begun their way home. In that sense, there is a bit of, I would say, a festive mood here. There is
music playing behind me, as there has been since we got here about a half an hour ago. And they are joyous at this occasion that the first of the
hostages have come home.
This has been such a square of difficulty, of pain over the course of the last seven weeks. I don't know if you can see it behind me. There is the
table set out, one seat for each of the hostages, now set out for a Sabbath dinner here on this Friday evening here. So, for the first time after the
calls here, the posters, the demonstrations, the sleeping intends. They are trying to get into the defense ministry to meet with the war cabinet. When
they stay here, bring them home now. At least for a small group tonight, now is actually happening. And that has given them a cause to be at least a
bit of a celebration here. Now, is it everybody? No. Of course not. And they know there are many difficult days ahead here because this process is
playing out so slowly. But, a noticeable change here from what we've seen for so long, John.
BERMAN: All right. We have Oren Liebermann in Tel Aviv. Just getting word, 13 Israeli hostages, 10 Thai citizens, one Filipino citizen. Let's go back
to Kerem Shalom crossing. That is a crossing between Gaza and Israel, but also you enter again through Egypt. Jeremy Diamond is there. Jeremy, what
are you seeing?
DIAMOND: Yes, John. Well, I can confirm that these are indeed military helicopters. My producer, Mike Schwartz, just went down and talked to some
folks there. And it does appear that this is related to the transport of hostages potentially. It seems like the soldiers who are here were told to
come here for that reason. They don't know exactly what their instructions are in terms of where they will be transporting people, when, how many, any
information like that. But, they were at least told to come here related to this broader mission of getting these hostages into Israel and onward to
Now, I don't know whether or not hostages will actually end up getting in these helicopters. But, these soldiers at least were given orders related
to the recovery of these hostages. And so, there are indeed two helicopters that landed here just a little bit ago. And we're going to wait and see
what the next saga -- what the next phase of this saga entails.
BERMAN: Jeremy Diamond who is at the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is really very, very close to the Rafah crossing. The Rafah crossing connects Egypt
and southern Gaza. The Kerem Shalom crossing connects southern Gaza and Israel. But, you also get through Egypt. You're talking about very small
distances. I don't even know if we can even make it out of the map here. I put a dot at the Rafah crossing, a dot at the Kerem Shalom crossing. This
is only a total of, what, like eight miles from the coast to the Gaza border there. So, you can see. You're talking about very, very small
distances is possible.
As Jeremy is saying, they will be moved, these hostages, these 24 hostages from the Rafah crossing, some perhaps to the Kerem Shalom crossing where
those helicopters are. We had been told that they would be moved. Once inside Israel proper, they would be moved by helicopter to the Hatzerim
Airbase, which is on this map here, which is right here. So, again, the process of moving these hostages very much underway. That's the airbase
right there. This is the Kerem Shalom crossing. If they're brought by helicopter, that's what that would look like right there. And Jeremy is
watching part of this, we think, unfold. It's a little bit unclear because something of this magnitude just hasn't happened yet in this conflict.
We've seen two hostages released here and there, but not the 24 that we're seeing right now, and the logistical challenges of making sure that these
people are all OK, and getting them back to safety. Inside is real, obviously very dark there now, Jeremy, where you are.
Let's go back to Kaitlan in Tel Aviv with some new reporting.
COLLINS: Yes, John. As we're watching all of this play out and waiting for the identities of these hostages to be confirmed by Israel, which they say
that they'll do once they're safely back in Israel, though, we're watching several of them get out of these emergency vehicles. We're also learning
more about who they are. And I am told by an Israeli source that most of these hostages, not all of them, we don't know that exactly, but a majority
of the hostages that have been released just now by Hamas from Gaza are from kibbutz Nir oz. And on October 7, that was a kibbutz that saw a lot of
devastation in the October 7 attack. I believe it was estimated that a quarter of the population of the several hundred people who lived there
were either murdered or kidnapped into Gaza.
And they saw, I mean, it was the kibbutz where they burned basically the kindergarten to the ground. They went into homes. You heard the testaments
from the people who did survive that attack, about just how devastating it was that day and how it saw some of the worst violence on October 7. John,
we're now seeing, as we're hearing, that they are from kibbutz Nir Oz, the majority of these hostages. Right now, we are watching a line of people now
boarding. They'd gone inside after getting out, now getting onto a bus. You can see an elderly woman. She is stepping into that white bus with
assistance right here. And you see a line of people behind her, some men. Another woman. We believe we saw child at the beginning of the line. It's
unclear, but it was the same child that we saw earlier.
We know that we -- we have heard from Egyptian sources that several of the hostages who are being released today, not just those 13 Israeli hostages,
also several Thai nationals as well who were kidnapped by Hamas on that day, and they appear to be boarding this bus right in front of us, John.
BERMAN: Yes. So, again. 13 Israeli hostages --
COLLINS: The question is, what's next?
BERMAN: Yes 13 --
BERMAN: -- Israeli hostages, 10 Thai hostages, one Filipino hostage. We saw a number of them, but by no means all boarding that bus right there.
Presumably, some are also receiving medical care. It might be in the ambulances there. We are told that the young girl that we have seen earlier
was at the front of the line. We're going to try to get a look at that again. But, boarding that bus, we did clearly see one child, some older
women, and then men. OK. Let's see -- we're going to see those pictures again. Let's take a look at those pictures again.
At the front of the line there, you saw a younger girl, an older woman. Here is a different vantage point there. A couple older women there. And
now, what appear to be a number of the Thai hostages there. 10 Thai hostages and one Filipino hostage, perhaps boarding this bus. That is the
Rafah crossing. We can't be sure where that bus will go, but it's possible it will head not far. We're talking about a mere number of a -- a small
handful of kilometers south to the Kerem Shalom crossing. And from there, it would enter Israel. They are in Egypt right now. This group of hostages
there, apparently the Thai men and also perhaps one Filipino hostage boarding that bus, Kaitlan.
Earlier, we did see the first person to get on was that girl, that young girl that we saw, now free after 48 days in captivity. What's next for this
bus? We are not sure. But, within the next several hours, all of those people we presume will be back inside Israel.
COLLINS: Yes. We believe the next stop for that bus is going to be here in Israel where there is a number of hospitals that are preparing to receive
I mean, they are -- this reintegration process that these hostages are going to have to go through isn't just about their physical well-being,
these medical checkups, but also meeting with therapists and officials here to talk about what they've seen, what they've experienced in these 48 days
that they have been held. These people have not known freedom since October 7, since they were kidnapped by Hamas into Gaza, where we know from at
least two of the hostages who were previously released, they were in a complex tunnel system underground. And they had been underground for so
long that when they were released, John, light, natural light, sunlight shocked them, because they just hadn't seen it in so long.
And so, that's the kind of mindset that so many of these people that you're seeing now have gone through, where -- I mean, there are major questions
about what else those conditions looked like. But, we do know what we've heard from other hostages who have been released. One thing that we were
told is as soon as these hostages, the Israeli hostages at least made it to the border, they were going to try to facilitate a phone call with their
family members. They weren't able to immediately be reunited with them, but they at least wanted them to have that moment, to have that first
conversation with a loved one that they have not been able to have for so long. And it's just a huge sigh of relief for so many of these families to
see this actually unfolding and obviously still waiting for them to actually get here into Israel.
BERMAN: Again, we're getting some new information about who these people are, where they are headed. A group of the 24 hostages freed for the first
time in 48 days, experiencing freedom held by Hamas terrorists. We're going to take a break. Our special live coverage continues right after this.
BERMAN: All right. The breaking news, some 24 hostages have been released by Hamas, including 13 Israeli hostages, 10 Thai hostages, and one Filipino
hostage. They move south from Gaza over the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. We saw pictures a short time ago of them moving out of ambulances,
and you can see a young girl right there, one of these Israeli hostages released. We also saw a number of older women and then a number of the Thai
hostages as well moving in the Rafah crossing. Then we saw them boarding a bus. Where that bus was headed? Not really sure at this point. But, we can
show you one of the places that we do expect the hostages to go soon, and that's the Hatzerim Airbase. You can see inside Israel. So, Rafah here, and
then presumably they'll move somewhere back into Israel either crossing here or here and then travel to the Hatzerim Airbase. That's where our
Matthew Chance is with the latest on what you're seeing. Matthew.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Here at the Hatzerim Airbase, preparations have been underway for some time
to cater for this arrival, this first stop in the arrival of these 13 Israeli hostages, perhaps the nationals from Thailand and the Philippines
as well, though it's unclear whether they'll be coming directly here as well. We're trying to get clarification on that. But, yes. It's going to be
a sensitive operation. You saw those people heading towards the bus in the live video that we've been watching.
And our understanding, according to Israeli Military officials on the ground here at the airbase that had been speaking to us, saying that the
plan at the moment is for these hostages to be driven, these freed hostages to be driven by road in buses to this airbase. The reason they're doing
that they said is because helicopter flights can be scary, and they don't want to further traumatize anybody who hasn't been on a helicopter before.
That's the reason they said they're going to drive them by road. And so, we'll see how that develops.
Obviously, this is a fast changing situation on the ground, and that plan could change. But, whether they come here by bus or whether they're flown
here in helicopters, this is the place where we understand they will be received by -- get initial checkups. They'll be able to make phone calls to
their family members. There'll be properly looked at medically and psychologically to assess what their immediate needs are, give them food
and drinks, a change of clothes, if that's necessary as well. It's not clear whether -- they're still in the same clothes, for instance, that they
were in when they were abducted so violently back on October 7.
So, they're going to be looked at here. They're also shower facilities and things like that. After that, they're going to be loaded onto helicopters
and taken to various hospitals around the country, particularly close to Tel Aviv, depending on what their exact medical needs are. Now, in terms of
the timing on that, once the hostages, if they come by road, once they get to the border of Israel, it's going to take about an hour, it's about 30
miles away, a bit longer than that, perhaps, to the border, depending on where they come across to this space. And then, they're going to be
processed for between half an hour and two hours depending on their specific needs.
And so, we are bracing ourselves for several hours now before these people sort of arrive here, are processed and then finally board those helicopters
that are waiting for them here and choppered to the hospitals elsewhere in the country. But, again, a very sensitive, delicate, anxious period
underway right now.
BERMAN: To be sure, for these 24 people experiencing freedom for the first time in 48 days. Again, Matthew Chance at the Hatzerim Airbase, you're
looking at video right now of these hostages boarding a bus. That was at the Rafah crossing a short time ago. Exactly where that bus is headed, not
really clear. But, again, that was at the Rafah crossing. I can show you on a map where this is all taking place, so we can situate yourself. Where
Matthew Chance was, that's the Hatzerim Airbase right there, the Rafah crossing where you just saw that video right there.
I want to go not far from Rafah now to the Kerem Shalom crossing. That's where our Jeremy Diamond is. And Jeremy, you've been seeing some helicopter
activity there. You've got an update for us.
DIAMOND: Yes. That's right. So, we saw these two helicopters land here earlier in the hour, John. You saw it live with us. We've now just learned
that at least one of these helicopters is indeed a medical helicopter which can be used for medical evacuations. We do not know whether it is here as a
precaution, whether it is here because it is going to be used for one of these hostages, or for some other reason. But, certainly, when you look at
the amount of activity that we are seeing here and all of the indication that we have gotten about the likelihood of Kerem Shalom being the location
where these hostages will cross into Israel, it is certainly increasingly looking like that may very well be the case.
Again, we do not have that fully confirmed as of now, but that does appear to be the likeliest scenario at this point. As we were talking about
before, John, and I think it bears repeating, we know that in the past, this Rafah crossing, this Rafah crossing has been used for these types of
situations, Gilad Shalit in 2011. He was taken out via the Rafah crossing into Egypt, just like these hostages tonight, and then he was brought into
Israel via this Kerem Shalom crossing. And so, that may very well be the scenario that we are beginning to watch play out.
BERMAN: Jeremy, just so people understand, to drive from the Rafah crossing to the Kerem Shalom crossing, where you are, I mean, how long would that
DIAMOND: I could not tell you, John. To be honest, I don't want to guesstimate it.
BERMAN: Got it.
DIAMOND: I do know that it is obviously a relatively short distance. I mean, the Gaza Strip as a whole at its widest point is about six kilometers
wide. So, not a very long drive. It could be something that could be done, I believe, if I'm recalling a conversation I had recently, in about 20, 30
minutes or so. So, it is certainly very close. Again, it depends on what speeds they're moving. We know that they -- there is -- obviously, there
are ambulances involved. And so, we will see exactly how quickly all of that actually comes together. And then also the other question is, how long
are they actually at that crossing point before they actually start moving to that airbase in southern Israel?
BERMAN: Yes, absolutely. Jeremy, I get it. Sometimes, it's hard to know exactly how far or close things are when you're standing there literally in
the dark. But, the important thing to keep in mind here is we're not talking about great distances. So, they boarded that bus. And if they were
going toward you, it would not take long to get there. If they're going to the Hatzerim Airbase --
BERMAN: -- where Matthew Chance is, that could be an hour or so. So, it's possible we see them again shortly or it's possible we may not see that bus
again for some time now. But, obviously, the welfare of these individuals is of paramount importance.
Let's go to Oren Liebermann, who is standing by in Tel Aviv for us right now. This is a location, Oren, where Israeli citizens have been monitoring
the progress of this hostage release. What are you seeing right now?
LIEBERMANN: Very much so, John. There is a crowd behind me. You can see them here over my right shoulder that's watching a TV studio setup. And
that's important because they have a monitor there, a TV that shows them the latest. So, they're staring at that very closely to watch all of the
updates and the movement of these first 13 Israeli women and children from Gaza, now we know into Egypt and making their way back to Israel. On my
left here is the table we've seen set up for some time now, a chair for each of the missing hostages that's set up on a daily basis, given the fact
that it's now Friday night.
It's set up for a -- the Sabbath dinner here. This hostages square has become a focal point of some of the demonstrations, frankly, some of the
protests, many of the families of the hostages set up tents here to try to force the war cabinet meeting at the defense ministry right behind me to
meet with them. And that was a meeting that only came to fruition in the last few days. And even then, they were frustrated by the lack of answers
they got from the government. One man who left that meeting early said there was no new information given. And you could see how frustrated and
how desperate they were for more answers about their loved ones. It was only 24 hours after that that we finally got word that a deal was coming
into place and would soon be acted upon, as we're seeing now.
So, it has been incredibly difficult moments here for all of the families that have come here to demonstrate, to be together. Many have described it
as a new family they have found, as they try to get through the past seven weeks. And now, for the first time in so long, a different emotion creeping
into the picture here. And that, a bit of celebration, just a tiny bit of joy for the 13 that are now on their way back to Israel. They have waited
so long for this moment. A lot of the signs here say "Bring them home now", "Bring them home today". And for weeks, that was just a dream, a hope
tonight, John, for some at least that dream coming true.
BERMAN: Oren Liebermann for us in Tel Aviv right now, with Israelis watching the progress of these hostages right now who have now moved out of
Gaza over the Rafah crossing into Egypt, and we are following their movements very closely. We just got our first video of what we believe to
be a number of those hostages, some 24, 13 Israelis, 10 Thai hostages, one Filipino citizen. They have been released. They are on the move right now.
This is CNN's special live coverage. You're looking at that video, including that little girl in the yellow shirt. Our coverage continues
right after this.