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Tug of War

CNN reporters take us on-the-ground in Israel to document the escalating conflict and what it means for the rest of the world.

A frayed rope is about to split in two

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Two More Days of Hope for Hostage Families
Tug of War
Nov 27, 2023

Qatar has announced that an agreement has been reached to extend the Israel-Hamas truce in Gaza by two additional days. Dozens of Israelis and foreign nationals who were held hostage have been released by Hamas in recent days. In return, Israel has released more than one hundred Palestinian prisoners, and more aid has been allowed into a devastated Gaza. In this episode, CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins lays out the challenges that remain and takes us inside the agonizing wait for the hundreds of families awaiting word about their loved ones.

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Episode Transcript
David Rind:
Last week we told you that a deal was coming together to free dozens of hostages from Gaza. Things have moved very quickly since then.
Matthew Chance:
They arrived by helicopter in the safety of an Israeli children's hospital near Tel Aviv. The 51 day nightmare as hostages in Gaza at an end.
Oren Liebermann:
A moment of joy after 50 days of darkness. The country as a whole has rejoiced as families have come together once again.
David Rind:
For days, a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas has allowed for many emotional reunions, including Thomas and Emily Hand.
Thomas Hand:
Yesterday, we finally got Emily back from the hands of the Gaza terrorists.
David Rind:
Remember? Thomas initially told CNN how he was informed that Emily was killed by Hamas in the October 7th terror attack. And he said he was actually relieved to hear that death was actually preferable to the unknown of being held hostage in Gaza. Well, it turned out Emily had indeed been taken alive by Hamas. She turned nine years old while in captivity, but is now back in the safety of her father's arms.
Thomas Hand:
She's lost a lot of weight from her face and body, but generally doing better than we expected.
David Rind:
Meanwhile, as part of the deal, Israel has released more than 100 Palestinian prisoners. And in Gaza, Palestinians have had a moment to catch their breath, to take stock of the devastation around them. More aid is trickling in, but humanitarian groups say conditions there are still atrocious. And on Monday, we got even more news. Qatar announced that the truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended by two days. So what does that mean for the scores of hostages still being held in Gaza?
Kaitlan Collins:
Another thing complicating this back and forth is that Hamas doesn't even have all of the hostages in their possession.
David Rind:
Today, what this latest round of diplomacy means for the hundreds of families still waiting for word about their loved ones. From CNN, this is Tug of War. I'm David Rind. Kaitlan Collins is the anchor of The Source with Kaitlan Collins. And for the last few days, she has been on the ground in Tel Aviv leading our coverage of these hostage releases. I caught up with her on Monday.
Kaitlan Collins:
It is 7:10 p.m. here local in Israel. And typically, by this time, we would already see the facilitation of the hostages well under way. But at another point in this temporary truce and here tonight, there have been delays. And so what has happened today, which has now been resolved in just the last two hours, was Hamas handed over a list of names, as they do every night, to Qatari officials. They then hand it over to Israel. Israel reviews the list and calls the families. Well, when they got the list last night, apparently Israeli officials were unhappy with the names that were on it. They felt that there should be more mothers included in this list because part of the agreement is that if there are mothers and their kids being held in Gaza by Hamas, they have to be released together. They can't just release the kid and keep the mom or vice versa.
David Rind:
They don't want them separated.
Kaitlan Collins:
Exactly. And this has already been an issue because a hostage was released Saturday, Hila Rotem. Her mother was not. And Hamas claimed they couldn't find her, that they were having issues locating her, according to sources. And then she told her uncle, who publicly said actually she was with her mom until two days before she was released. So it's been a huge issue. It was an issue today. They were going back and forth and then they came up with a new list that we are told has additional mothers on it, that we are still waiting to see what that final list looks like.
David Rind:
So this was supposed to be the fourth and final day of this temporary truce. So what happens now that it's been extended by two more days?
Kaitlan Collins:
It seemed clear that they were going to extend it because both sides had an appetite for it. And we weren't hearing really any officials saying that it wouldn't be extended. But the question was for how long? And you know would it actually happen? Nothing has been guaranteed in this entire thing. So now officials, we have confirmed and has been publicly agreed to have announced that two more days will be added, 48 more hours. That means 20 more hostages. So obviously, for for 20 families, this is huge news. And from what we understand, from what you heard here from officials, that means 20 more women and children. So not men, not elderly men, not young men that we saw who were at the festival, not IDF soldiers... women and children, we are told, will be included in this next 20 that that have to be produced by Hamas. So we do now know this will go for for at least two more days.
David Rind:
And that means two more days of no fighting in Gaza.
Kaitlan Collins:
Two more days of no fighting in Gaza. It has been so quiet in Gaza. This is the first time it's been this quiet since October 7th. And I'll tell you, we're broadcasting from Tel Aviv and we're on a rooftop and Gaza is to our left. When I was here last time, which was about two weeks after the attack, every night you could hear bombardment in Gaza. It was loud. Hamas was firing on Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome was intercepting rockets that were being fired. None of that's happened. It is completely quiet. There are no bombs. There is no fighting. There are no drones flying over Gaza. It has been very quiet, but there is aid going into Gaza. And another thing complicating this back and forth is that Hamas doesn't even have all of the hostages in their possession. There are other terrorist groups that are in Gaza that operate there, and they have some of the some of the hostages. But that's part of this, is that Hamas is not totally in charge. So Hamas is not even making the ultimate decision every day on who gets to come home. They believe there's enough men and women to to fulfill those additional 20 if they go for two more days. But once it gets further down the road, things get a lot more complicated because it could not just turn into negotiations for men, potentially elderly men, young men, maybe IDF soldiers would likely be the last. But it's also the idea of Hamas has to go and find this many more hostages. And that's not an easy task for them based on what we know.
David Rind:
We'll be right back. We're back now with Tug of War. I'm speaking with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. And you mentioned how this list gets, you know, exchanged every night of who is in the next group of hostages to be released. I imagine that is just an excruciating moment for these family members waiting to see if their loved ones will be on that list or not. I know you've been hearing from some of them. So what has this been like for them?
Kaitlan Collins:
It's excruciating. I mean, they just sit and wait for the phone to ring and none of them are living normal lives really, anyway because their loved ones are being held by by terrorists. And so they sit and wait. They do appreciate what the government has been doing here in Israel, which is when they get the list after they've vetted it, they call the families who are on the list, but they also call the families who are not on the list to tell them... your loved one's not on this list. But even for those who get the call, we've been talking to them and they still, they don't believe it until it happens. I think of this family, their son, Omer, he's 21. He was kidnaped from the Nova Music Festival. They're not very hopeful that he's on this initial list. But they are joyous when they see these families coming home because the hostage families have become so close and so bonded. There's such a tragic thing that they all know each other. They all treat each other like family at this point.
David Rind:
It's like even if their loved one isn't released today, they're kind of feeding off that spirit of the others who have been able to reunite.
Kaitlan Collins:
Yeah. And it's obviously not the same. You want your family member to come home, but they do feel a bit of hope. And one thing I learned last night, this fascinated me, Moshe Lavi, we have been talking to him repeatedly. His brother in law is captured and in Gaza.
Moshe Lavi:
We need to remember that those who are in the Gaza Strip are someone's sons, someone's fathers, someone's grandparents and brothers. And they're not merely men. They are meaningful human beings to someone else.
Kaitlan Collins:
There's no hope for them to be coming home initially in this group. They hope that eventually he will be part of the negotiating group. But he's a young man. He's not someone who's who's eligible right now.
Moshe Lavi:
'About an hour and a half ago, my sister called me with tears of joy. Because Omri, my brother-in-law was confirmed to be alive as of this morning. It was a relief for us to learn that.
Kaitlan Collins:
But we were talking about what it's like for for his sister and their two kids that they have together. And last night, he told me that they got a call from the Israeli government yesterday saying that they had proof of life confirmation that Omri was still alive. And for them, that was such a glimmer of hope.
Moshe Lavi:
But at least receiving this proof of life has been instrumental for us and will give us strength and hope to continue our mission.
Kaitlan Collins:
They couldn't tell them what it was, but they did tell them that they knew he was still alive. And for that to come 51 days into this was very joyous for them.
David Rind:
I mean, that's astonishing that some families still don't even know if their loved one is actually alive in Gaza right now.
Kaitlan Collins:
Yeah, I spoke to one man last night. His 75 year old father, Alexander, is being held hostage. How worried are you about him?
Very much. Very much. We don't know if he can survive this situation for 50 days. So. He needs to take medication and he needs to eat properly.
Kaitlan Collins:
And he had a heart attack a few years ago. He takes daily medicine. He sleeps with a machine. He hasn't had that for over 50 days. And his son, I'm always amazed at how bluntly they speak, but his son told me we don't know if he could survive this long without his medicine. Do you think about that day of of what it would be like for your dad to come home?
Yes. Every day. Every day. Just thinking what what will we go to do.
Kaitlan Collins:
And so they're just left to wonder and to wait.
David Rind:
We'll see what these next few days bring as this pause is extended. Kaitlan, thank you.
Kaitlan Collins:
Thank you.
David Rind:
Tug of War is a production of CNN Audio. This episode was produced by Taylor Galgano and me, David Rind. Our senior producer is Haley Thomas. Dan Dzula is our technical director, and Steve Lickteig is the executive producer of CNN Audio. We get support from Alex Manasseri, Robert Mathers, Jon Dianora, Leni Steinhardt, Jamus Andrest, Nichole Pesaru, and Lisa Namerow. Special thanks to Caroline Paterson and Katie Hinman. We'll be back on Wednesday with another update. Talk to you then.