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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10:11 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Hostages won't be released before Friday. Here are other headlines you should know

From CNN staff

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.

There is uncertainty over the reasons behind the delay from Gaza, with one Israeli official familiar with the matter downplaying its seriousness. They reduced the issue down to “fairly minor implementation details.”

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to the Gaza hostage deal. Also, the hostage deal does not include the "release of murderers," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday while disclosing more details from the agreement.

Here are other headlines you should know:

  • More on the hostage situation: “Intensive” work was needed to broker the Israel-Hamas hostage deal, according to the the Qatari minister of state for foreign affairs who also served as the lead negotiator for the deal. As part of the deal, the United States and Israel will both pause drone flights over Gaza for six hours each day, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told CNN. Additionally, 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.
  • Humanitarian crisis: The Gaza Strip is “the most dangerous place” in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund. Elsewhere, a total of 284 injured patients have been evacuated into Egypt since Israel launched attacks on Gaza following the October 7 Hamas attack, according to Egyptian government press office director Ayman Walash. Also, 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, Netanyahu said.
  • International input: The Biden administration will watch the implementation of the deal made between Israel and Hamas, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday. The Norwegian Refugee Council said it needs longer than a four-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to expand aid operations in Gaza, and the lull should lead to a full ceasefire.  
  • Israel Defense Forces claims: The IDF 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.”
9:46 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

White House hopeful release of hostages will begin Friday as parties work out "final logistical details"

From CNN's MJ Lee

The Biden administration is hopeful the hostage release process will begin Friday morning as the parties work out “final logistical details,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement Wednesday night.

“The deal was agreed and remains agreed. The parties are working out final logistical details particularly for the first day of implementation,” Watson said. “It is our view that nothing should be left to chance as the hostages begin coming home. Our primary objective is to ensure that they are brought home safely. That is on track and we are hopeful that implementation will begin on Friday morning.”

A senior US official elaborated that more time was needed to iron out details related to the locations and routes of each of the hostages as well as the logistics of moving them. 

A decision was made to wait one extra day to minimize things going wrong, said the official, who added Israel made the decision together with Qatar and Egypt, and that the US was consulted on and agreed with the decision.

The official also said the fact that Israel had not yet received the names of the first group of hostages to be released was not a serious issue, but added that it would be more worrisome if there was still no list by Thursday evening. 

9:13 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

After the expected release of women and children hostages begins, focus will turn to other groups held in Gaza

From CNN’s Alex Marquardt and MJ Lee 

A woman holds portraits of hostages Erez Kalderon, 12, and of children of the Goldstein Almog family as protesters rally outside the UNICEF offices in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 20.
A woman holds portraits of hostages Erez Kalderon, 12, and of children of the Goldstein Almog family as protesters rally outside the UNICEF offices in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 20. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

After the expected release of the women and children hostages held by Hamas begins, focus will turn to other groups being held in the Gaza Strip that are expected to be more difficult to negotiate their release, sources say. 

Women and children have been the first priority to get released and if that is successful, it will leave men, Israeli soldiers and the remains of those killed — either bodies taken into Gaza on October 7 or those who were killed after.

It’s believed there are 236 hostages being held in Gaza. All 50 expected to be released in the first phase are Israeli women and children, some of whom also have other nationalities besides Israeli. 

A source familiar with the negotiations said US and Israeli officials viewed elderly men as being the next category of people that could be easiest to get out of Gaza, followed by foreign national men.

Both female and male soldiers were considered the hardest to negotiate out of Gaza, the source added. In addition, the parties would also need to work toward retrieving the bodies of those killed that Hamas is believed to be holding. 

The negotiation for those categories hasn’t started in earnest yet, the source said.

As a result of the complexity for the remaining hostages, another source familiar with the discussions confirmed that the others have not been part of the immediate conversations and therefore are on something of a separate track. 

Another complicating factor in the case of many of those who would remain, the person added, is that they’re not in Hamas custody but with other groups and individuals.

Gilad Shalit meets with French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot at the French embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 11, 2012.
Gilad Shalit meets with French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot at the French embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 11, 2012. Jack Guez/Getty Images/File

Israeli soldiers held hostage could give Hamas huge leverage in negotiations. In 2011, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners after years of negotiations. 

Following mandatory Israeli military service for both men and women, most Israelis become reservists and according to a person familiar with the talks, Hamas had initially wanted to consider the women hostages under 45 years old to be as soldiers as well.

Israel refused, another source familiar with the discussions said both sides ended up agreeing that only those women in uniform when they were abducted will be considered soldiers. 

Aside from Israelis, there are kidnapped nationals from other countries, like Thailand and Nepal, whose countries have been in contact with Qatar since Qatari mediators have been a main point of contact with Hamas, a person familiar with the discussions says. 

Israel’s military released security video from Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital that they claimed showed Hamas militants bringing one Thai and one Nepali hostage to the hospital, one of them bleeding on a stretcher.

8:04 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

There's uncertainty over the reasons behind the hostage deal delay, officials say

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Kaitlan Collins, Matthew Chance, Oren Liebermann and Tamar Michaelis

People look at pictures of Hamas' hostages during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, calling for their release on November 11.
People look at pictures of Hamas' hostages during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, calling for their release on November 11. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

There is uncertainty over the reasons behind a delay in the release of hostages from Gaza, with one Israeli official familiar with the matter downplaying its seriousness. They reduced the issue down to “fairly minor implementation details.”

Another official told CNN part of the reason was Israel had not yet received names of the first hostages to be released by Hamas.

Israeli media is reporting that neither Israel nor Hamas have signed the hostage release agreement, though it is not clear whether this should be enough to pause the deal. 

Even so, no Israeli official has expressed concern the entire arrangement has fallen apart.

Speaking at a Wednesday evening news conference held before the delay was announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence the agreement would soon go into effect, even as he offered few details about its implementation.

Earlier, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson had struck a note of caution over the hostage release process.

“This is a complicated process which is not yet complete – it will take time and will be executed in a number of stages. I wish to emphasize that it is not yet finalized, and it may yet take time until it is finalized,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said at his regular evening briefing.
“I don’t know when the truce will come into effect, but in the meantime … our focus is on the fighting,” he continued.
5:49 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

Palestinian boy hopes for a longer truce as he arrives in Egypt for treatment  

From CNN's Sarah El Sirgany in Beirut and journalist Asmaa Khalil in Rafah, Egypt

Mohamed Khaled, 13, speaks with CNN on November 22.
Mohamed Khaled, 13, speaks with CNN on November 22. CNN

Mohamed Khaled, who is only 13, lost a leg in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Now in Egypt for treatment, Mohamed tells CNN he hopes the truce is extended and becomes permanent.   

“I want them to extend this to a full humanitarian truce, so we can live free and safe," Mohamed said. "Four days will not be enough to even bury the martyrs. And even if they were able to do so, the tragedies will then resume.” 
“I wish they extend the truce, and we have a permanent ceasefire” that would allow food and aid to come in," he said. "We are not asking for much."

Mohamed said he was home with his family in al-Bureij in central Gaza “when a missile went through the ceiling of their home and exploded next to him.

"The shrapnel went through my leg here and severed it. My leg was a mangle of blood, flesh and bone," Mohamed said.

“I could see all the flesh was gone after the second knuckle. Only the bone was sticking out," he said, pointing to his bandaged hand and the missing middle finger.

When he spoke to CNN, Mohamed and his mother, Fatma Nofal, were inside an ambulance at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing waiting for their documents to be processed. 

He is due to receive treatment in Egypt before he is transferred to the United Arab Emirates to get a prosthetic leg.  

Nofal said she hopes other injured kids would also be allowed to receive treatment outside Gaza while describing the dire situation she escaped.   

“There are no beds available, no medicine. Strangers take care of kids without parents. I saw two girls, each was the sole survivor of her family. One was merely a year-and-half old,” she said. 

“The nursing staff are doing all they can. But they are overwhelmed,” the mother said. She said she has heard stories of patients with critical injuries who are "left with their family until they die."

 

6:37 p.m. ET, November 22, 2023

White House official says Biden administration will watch "very closely" to make sure Hamas sticks to deal

From CNN's Samantha Waldenberg and Betsy Klein

The Biden administration will watch the implementation of the deal made between Israel and Hamas, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Wednesday.

“Nobody's doing touchdown dances here. Now's the time for everybody to watch very, very closely. Because this is this is going to come down now to implementation and execution,” Kirby said in a virtual briefing for the American Jewish community.

Kirby said that the administration will be watching “very closely” to make sure that Hamas holds up their end of the hostage deal.

Kirby also offered some explanation into the remaining American hostages, explaining that there are 10 unaccounted-for Americans, and they are all believed to be held captive at this time.  

“We know there’s 10 unaccounted-for Americans — we don’t know that all of them are hostages but that’s the assumption that we’re making. So somewhere in that neighborhood,” he said. 

Three Americans would fall into the women and children category that is part of the release deal, and the US is optimistic the three “will be in at least one of the increments.”

But he continued to express some caution: “We’ll have to watch — the truth is we won’t know for sure until we start to see people moving.”

Pressed by CNN’s Bianna Golodryga on whether there is proof all of the hostages are still alive, Kirby hedged. 

“Our information is limited about all the hostages, including the remaining American hostages. So I can’t tell you definitively that we have proof of life on all of them. But I can say that we have no indication to the contrary. So we’re going to continue to work on this as hard as we can,” he said.

 

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.