November 22, 2023 Israel-Hamas war

By Tara Subramaniam, Jessie Yeung, Christian Edwards, Adrienne Vogt, Aditi Sangal, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, November 23, 2023
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5:26 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

No hostages will be released before Friday, Israel National Security Council says

From Tamar Michaelis in Tel Aviv and Jeremy Diamond in Sderot

No hostages will be released before Friday, according to the Israel National Security Council. The start of an agreed temporary truce in fighting is also delayed until Friday, an Israeli official told CNN.

“Talks to release our hostages are advancing and are ongoing," the council said in a statement. "The start of the release process will take place according to the original agreement between both sides, and not before Friday."

Previously, the expectation had been that the first releases would take place as early as Thursday. No reason was given for the apparent delay.

Israel’s cabinet approved a deal early Wednesday for the release of hostages seized by Hamas in exchange for a four-day truce in Gaza.

 

7:21 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Netanyahu says hostage deal does not include “release of murderers” from Israel 

From Tamar Michaelis, Andrew Carey and Sugam Pokharel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 28. 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 28.  Abir Sultan/Pool/Reuters/FILE

The hostage deal does not include the "release of murderers," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday while disclosing more details from the agreement.

Most Israelis have welcomed the agreement, and Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and security establishments fully support the deal with Hamas.  

"They made it clear yesterday at the government meeting that the security of our forces will be maintained during the pause days,” Netanyahu said during a news conference.  

But there has been concern from some that perpetrators of fatal attacks on Israelis could be among the list of Palestinians set to be released from Israeli jails. 

The vast majority of the Palestinians listed as eligible for release are male teenagers aged 16 to 18 – children under the United Nations definition – although a handful are as young as 14. Some 33 are women, according to a CNN count. 

Netanyahu credited the success of the agreement to the combination of Israel’s “non-stop massive military pressure” on Hamas and “heavy” diplomatic pressure Israel had been applying to release hostages taken by the militant group.  

“We have conducted tough negotiation, fought to improve the agreement,” Netanyahu said.  

He said he spoke to US President Joe Biden on Wednesday and thanked him for “acting, at my request, vis-à-vis the mediators, to achieve a significant improvement in the agreement, and such an improvement was indeed achieved.” 

“I believe that this combination [of diplomatic and military efforts] will allow the release of additional hostages in the next stages,” the prime minister said. 

During the truce, the IDF will “prepare for the continuation” of the war against Hamas, Netanyahu said.  

“The war continues, and will continue until we reach all of our goals,” he said.  

 

3:29 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Netanyahu says Red Cross will be allowed to visit hostages held in Gaza

From CNN staff

The Red Cross will be allowed to visit and offer medical support to the hostages that remain in Gaza after some of them are returned, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his first public address since the Israel-Hamas hostage deal.

He read lines from the agreement saying the Red Cross will visit them. 

3:00 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Qatar has yet to receive identifying information of Gaza hostages to be released, diplomatic source says

From CNN's Becky Anderson

Hamas had not yet provided Qatari officials with identifying information regarding the 50 hostages intended for release, a diplomatic source familiar with the deal told CNN.

However, the source said Qatar remained confident the list would be shared tonight local time.

The diplomatic source also told CNN that the agreement struck between Israel and Hamas would see 200 trucks per day entering the coastal enclave, carrying aid and other supplies, including fuel.

Remember: The hostage deal between Hamas and Israel, as laid out by key negotiator Qatar in a statement, would see hostages held captive by Hamas released in exchange for a number of Palestinian women and children in Israeli jails. The truce, meanwhile, would also allow the entry of “a larger number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid,” the statement said.

An Israeli official told CNN Wednesday that the truce is slated to begin at 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) on Thursday.

US officials have a working list of 10 hostages that they believe are likely to be released from Gaza on day one, a source familiar told CNN.

4:30 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Biden discusses hostage deal in call with emir of Qatar

From CNN's Arlette Saenz and Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden spoke with Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, the White House said Wednesday. Officials have pointed to the emir as a key interlocutor with Hamas during negotiations on a hostage deal. 

Biden and the emir discussed the deal as well as developments in the region, the White House said.

Biden is also Biden also spoke with Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday afternoon US time, an administration official tells CNN.

Readouts for both calls are forthcoming.

Biden is spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Nantucket, Massachusetts, with family, but he has made a series of calls to world leaders Wednesday. 

3:42 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Return of hostages is a "complicated process yet to be finalized," Israeli military spokesperson says

From CNN's Tamar Michaelis and Sugam Pokharel

Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023.
Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to the press from The Kirya, which houses the Israeli Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

Coordinating the return of hostages from Gaza is not an easy task, Israel’s military spokesperson said at a briefing Wednesday evening.

“This is a complicated process, which is yet to be finalized, and could take time and last over a few stages,” Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Israel’s cabinet approved a deal for the release of hostages seized by Hamas in exchange for a four-day pause in fighting in Gaza, which is slated to begin Thursday morning. Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails will also be released as part of the deal.

Hagari said Israel’s military is cooperating with all the relevant bodies to administer “an orderly process” to receive hostages from Hamas.

The coming days will be “filled with moment of relief and moments of pain,” he said, warning that they could also include “attempts to carry out psychological terror, aimed against us by the terror organizations.” 

He also said that the chief of the general staff of the IDF, Herzi Halevi, has approved “the war’s plans and stages for the future, and particularly the readiness for the next few days.” 

Hagari stressed that “a long fight is ahead” for the Israeli military. 

2:07 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Israel’s Supreme Court rejects legal challenge to hostage deal

From CNN's Tim Lister

Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected a legal challenge to the Gaza hostage deal which includes the release of at least 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

The Almagor association, which was set up in 1986 to represent victims of terror, had claimed that the government's decision, among a series of objections, intensified the risk of “the recurrence of serious acts of terrorism to which all the citizens and residents of the country are exposed.” 

Almagor had asked the Supreme Court to “annul the government's decision … [and] order [the government] to discuss again the terms of the deal with Hamas,” according to information released by the Court.

The Court said it rejected the petition outright on the grounds that the hostage deal “is a clear political issue to which this court does not consider its involvement as necessary.”

The ruling clears any legal objection in Israel to the execution of the deal that involves the exchange of Israeli hostages in Gaza for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

6:13 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

US has a "working list" of hostages likely to be released by Hamas, source familiar says

From CNN’s MJ Lee, Jennifer Hansler and Sam Fossum 

Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 21.
Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 21. Ariel Schalit/AP

US officials have a working list of 10 hostages they believe are likely to be released from Gaza on day one, a source familiar told CNN. It was not clear whether any of the three American hostages —including three-year-old Abigail Edan — would be released on the first day.

The deal is structured in such a way that each day, a group of hostages to be released would be handed off to the Red Cross; the Red Cross would then take the group to a designated border point, which will largely depend on the location of those hostages, the source familiar said.

Fifty Israel hostages — including some with dual nationalities — are expected to be released over the four-day pause. Ten is the minimum number of hostages to be released each day, but that could be higher. Many of the first 50 hostages are expected to come out through Egypt, they said. 

The first swap had been expected to take place on Thursday, a source familiar with how hostages are expected to leave Gaza told CNN. However, the Israeli National Security Council said later that the pause would be delayed and no hostages are expected to be released before Friday.

The first two days of the hostage release will be treated as a “testing period” to make sure the process is working, the source said. By day three, there is expected to be intense discussions about the potential second phase of the hostage release beyond the initial group of 50.

Brett McGurk, a White House official, told CNN Wednesday he could not speak about the schedule of when the Americans would be released. He confirmed that three US hostages – Abigail and two women — are expected to come home as part of the 50 hostages released by Hamas. A total of 10 Americans are believed to be hostages.

“I was asked earlier do we know if the 50 are alive and well. We understand they’re alive, but they're certainly not well,” McGurk said. “These 50 women, children and toddlers, it's just unimaginable what they've gone through, but we're gonna make sure that they get the care they need when they come home.”

McGurk said he is “hopeful” that the Red Cross will get access to the other hostages, but noted, “I cannot confirm that nor guarantee that.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court “has now greenlit the (hostage) deal to go forward,” thus clearing the way for the process to move forward this week, McGurk said. 

Read more.

2:08 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

IDF says it has discovered more tunnels at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

From CNN's Tim Lister

The Israel Defense Forces said it found further evidence of a tunnel complex under Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza.

The IDF said special forces had exposed “dozens of meters of a tunnel system” that passed under another building in the hospital complex, “as well as rooms where Hamas terrorists can operate and stay for extended periods.”

In a statement Wednesday, the IDF said “the soldiers of the 7th Brigade also located two additional tunnel shafts near the hospital: one on a nearby street and the other in a nearby house.”    

The IDF has frequently alleged that Hamas uses the hospital buildings at Al-Shifa to store weapons and as headquarters.

The IDF also released video from inside the tunnel.

CNN is unable to verify independently the extent and nature of the tunnels discovered by the IDF.