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Indian Prime Minister Addresses UK Parliament; Diwali: The Festival of Lights; Explosions Rock Southern Beirut; Vienna Conference Deadlocked Over Bashar al-Assad's Fate; Criticism of IDF for Hospital Raid. Aired 11:00a-12:00p ET
Aired November 12, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:19:07] FRED PLEITGEN, HOST: Standing ovations there for the India Prime Minister Narendra Modi who just held a speech in front of the English
-- the British Parliament speaking about the long-standing ties between Britain and India
but also saying that the two countries must have higher ambitions for the future to
Of course, there are several things on his agenda as he visits Britain for the next three days. He's going to meet the queen. He's also going to
the statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
And we have our own Phil Black who is standing by at 10 Downing Street. And Phil, you've been listening in on this speech, what are some
of the things that these two countries want to achieve during this visit?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, as you heard through that speech and we heard from both Prime Minister Modi and Prime
Minister Cameron earlier, the theme of all of this is really effusive mutual appreciation for each other.
Both leaders expressing at some length, gushing really, about the shared interest, history, values but more importantly about the potential
they see in this relationship for going forward. That is the overarching theme of this visit.
You touched on some of the events that Prime minister Modi will be attending and taking part in over the next few days. This isn't t a state
visit, an official one, because he's not the head of state. He's not the president. But it comes very close both in terms of pomp and scale. We
had a royal air force fly-by. You saw there the address to the houses of parliament, tea with the queen. He's staying overnight at the prime
minister's residence and tomorrow the big signature event when Prime Minister Modi will address some 60,000 members of the Indian diaspora here
in London's Wembley stadium and he will be introduced by prime minister David Cameron who will effectively be his warm-up act.
All of this, the messaging well it's not very subtle, it's about Britain, in
particular trying to play a bigger part in the evolving economic story of India, one of the world's biggest economies, one that is growing, one that
involves more than a billion people, about a sixth of humanity, as you heard Prime Minister Modi comment on there.
And so, business is a core part of what these two leaders are trying to walk away with. There's big investment by both sides, by both countries
in each other. Trade, however, is a little low, a little middling when you consider the history
and the shared ties between the countries and so forth.
So it's believed to be below potential there.
So there's a lot of work that is thought can be done. And David Dameron has been pushing for this ever since he became prime minister.
He's been to India three times already. This is the first time in about ten years that an Indian prime minister has visited the UK.
The British press have called it an unrequited love affair but what David Cameron is trying to do here and over the next few days is really
lock in this relationship to make progress economically, but also on issues of security and geopolitical importance as well, Fred.
PLEITGEN: And Phil, but this visit is not without criticism as well. There were some protesters also out today. And there's some people who
believe that, quite frankly, the Indian prime minister travels too much. Is that correct?
BLACK: Yeah. He spends a lot of time traveling, or has done so over the 18 months or so since he won a very strong democratic mandate. But he
is here at a time when domestically he is facing criticism from some who believe that his country has very quickly become quite intolerant where
Hindu nationalists -- and he is the leader of a Hindu nationalist party, remember -- according to his critics they have taken the national
conversation far to the right where there is increasing intolerance towards non Hindus, notably Muslims, sectarian language and sectarian violence
where Hindu vigilantes are accused of killing, beating up Muslims who have been suspected of eating or harming cows.
Remember, cows are very sacred to most Hindus.
The Indian prime minister was questioned about this at a press conference here in London and he disputed all of that. He said that India
is not an intolerant country, that India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi and the Indian constitution protects the rights of every individual.
But here, just outside Downing Street today, there have been hundreds of people who say that Modi is not welcome here for various reasons, some
of those reasons also tie back to his period as the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat where again those same criticisms of sectarianism
they really sort of -- were created perhaps during his leadership of that important Indian state during that time, notably during some riots that
took place there back in 2002 where around 1,000 people, mostly Muslims were killed.
So there are these long-standing criticisms of Prime Minister Modi, but the British prime minister makes the point that this is all about the
future and this is about dealing with a man who does have a very powerful democratic mandate from the world's largest democracy, Fred.
PLEITGEN: Important analysis there.
Thank you very much, Phil lack, at 10 Downing Street.
And this is Connect the World, more top international stories coming up. Stay tuned.
[11:27:56] PLEITGEN: You're watching Connect the World right here on CNN. I am Fred Pleitgen. Welcome back to the show.
Now, some news that is just coming in to us here at CNN, state media in Lebanon reports two explosions were heard in the capital city Beirut.
According to Reuters they rocked a southern suburb of the capital. Witnesses tell the news agency there are a number of deaths. And we will,
of course, bring you more on the story as it comes in to us.
Now to a major new offensive to reclaim the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar from ISIS. Right now, Kurdish forces are attacking from three
sides. You're looking at footage captured by one of our own camera teams on the ground there. You can see the column of vehicles making its way
forward. On the ground, they are with Kurdish forces just outside the city of Sinjar.
Now, they are trying to cut off key supply routes linking ISIS held terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Coalition forces are providing air support
for the offensive. Dozens of air strikes have already been witnessed. The Kurdish Peshmerga have already secured a large number of villages near
Our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is with those forces and he has the latest on the battle.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Peshmerga have said since 9:00 yesterday evening local time, they have been moving towards
the town of Sinjar and we heard ourselves through the top of Mt. Sinjar, the constant coalition
air strikes, and they are is evidence still now today around us as they claim substantial progress. The Kurds say that to the west of Sinjar, they
have taken a village called Karbara (ph), which was vitally a part of the route down to what many says is a strategic objective here.
While Sinjar is itself symbolically vitally important because many want to
see it back in the hands of those Yazidis who once lived there, the Sunni Arabs who once lived there, pushed out brutally last year by ISIS, many
forced in to captivity, slavery.
It is sat, that town Sinjar, on a vital artery, a vital road between the self-declared caliphate capital Raqqa in Syria and Mosul, far in that
direction in Iraq, which they also took last year.
Many, including the coalition Central Command actually, Pentagon officials believe, if they severe that artery, they can severely hamper
ISIS' ability to make money out of the black market oil trade.
Now, that may be why we're hearing so much coalition air power in the skies here. We've seen a succession of heavy blasts around that road
itself is in the distance here. I can't tell you precisely where we are under the rules of the Kurds have asked us to adhere to as part of being
with their Peshmerga forces.
But those Peshmerga forces have been moving in great number down further towards in the direction of that road. And we've seen -- they say
they're numbered 7,500 to quite easy to believe given the strength of the forces we have
Hopes high in Kurdish official's hearts that perhaps this could be over in a
matter of days, if not hours, but they are already admitting the booby traps, the mines laid pretty much everywhere are substantially slowing them
down. We hear blasts pretty much regularly here. Hard to see how there won't be casualties, and hard to see how this will be an easy operation.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, outside Sinjar.
WALSH: And Nick Paton Walsh will continue to follow that situation there in Iraq, in Sinjar as those Peshmerga forces attempt to take back
Now we're staying in the Middle East in a Palestinian hospital director accusing Israeli forces of, quote, executing a man during an
undercover raid and calling it, quote, a clear breach of all international laws.
Surveillance video shows Israeli forces in disguise running through the hallways of a hospital in Hebron. You see some of the footage here.
You can also see that they are running through it with guns drawn.
They detained a suspect in a stabbing attack and fatally shot the man's cousin.
Israel says he tried to attack the security forces, the Palestinians dispute that account.
I want to bring in our own Oren Liebermann who has some of the details on all of this. He is live in Jerusalem. And ORen, what do you know?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, quite stunning video we're seeing. And that's the focus of all this.
You see these Israeli, these undercover Israeli security forces moving straight in to the hospital dressed as local Palestinians. The goal, they
say, was to make an arrest, was to arrest somebody in a suspected stabbing, but even though that happened, there is much more to this story. Here it
LIBERMANN: Disguised as Palestinian men and women, one person even dressed as a pregnant woman, more than a dozen undercover Israeli security
officers raided the al-Ahli hospital in Hebron in the West Bank, guns drawn. The team marched down the hallway just before 3:00 in the morning
seen here in hospital surveillance video. Less than three minutes later, they are marching out only this time they have a man in a wheelchair.
That man, they say, is Azzam Shalalde (ph) who they say is from a family of Hamas operatives. The IDF says he stabbed an Israeli settlers in
the West Bank in late October before the settler shot him, though Shalalde's (ph) family says the shooting was unprovoked.
But during the raid, the Israeli team shot and killed Shalaldeh's (ph) cousin, Abdallah, who was in the same hospital room. The IDF says Abdallah
Shalaldeh attacked the undercover officers, a claim Azzam Shalaldeh's brother, who was in the room, denies.
"Abdullah was walking out of the bathroom as he was preparing to pray," he says. "The undercover security men asked him to stand in his
place and as he was looking at them, they shot him." They left him on the ground for around five minutes. He lost all of his blood and then they hit my brother and
The hospital raid Palestinians say, is a barbaric act and an execution in a humanitarian facility that should be off limits.
"It is a clear breach of international laws and all ethics related to hospitals," Dr. Jahad Shawar says, "it is well-known that hospitals are a
safe place to everyone."
In a statement, the Israeli security agency says, it should be emphasized that the security system will not allow the existence of places
of refuge for terror activists wherever they are.
Thousands attended the funeral of Abdallah Shalaldeh near Hebron. A mixture of mourning and anger, calling for revenge following a raid that
has inflamed an already tense region.
LIEBERMANN: And this isn't the first time that Israel has raided a hospital. Earlier in October, there was a raid in the northern West Bank,
in the city of Nablis when undercover security forces went in to a hospital in Nablis to arrest a suspect in a double murder. The big difference
between this raid and that one, no one died in that raid -- Fred.
PLEITGEN: Oren, this of course comes during a very tense security situation in Israel after all of those stabbing attacks, the reactions to
them. How is that overall situation playing out at this point? Is it dying down? Is it still something that could further escalate?
LIEBERMANN: Well, yesterday was a relatively quiet with no alleged attacks and today, other than this raid, was relatively quiet. But
something like this, and you can see the anger, you can see the passion, essentially, in that funeral. This could really inflame tomorrow. Friday
tends to be a day where you see a lot of protests after Friday noon prayers.
We'll see how this happens. But you get the sense that this could easily inflame everything once again very quickly here.
PLIETGEN: Oren Lieberman in Jerusalem, thank you very much.
Now European council president Donald Tusk says Europe is in, quote, a race against time to save its passport-free Schengen zone. The warning
comes as Sweden joins the list of countries which have tightened border controls to stem the flow of migrants coming to Europe.
But still, they come.
The International Organization for Migration says almost 800,000 have arrived by sea already this year. It's nearly four times the amount that
arrived in all of 2014.
CNN's own Arwa Damon is on the island of Lesbos where she has witnessed a
continuing stream of migrants arriving. She filed this report a short time ago.
[11:35:55] ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, yesterday at least 18 people drowned trying to reach this island. That is
Turkey right there, about a two-hour boat ride away. And the main reason why people are losing their lives crossing these waters is because the
smugglers continue to pack them into these barely sea-worthy rubber dinghies, captained not by someone who knows how to navigate anything, but
by one of the refugees themselves. There, one of the boats that arrived here earlier in the day.
Its occupants as well as the occupants of other arrivals that we saw taking place, shocked, relieved that they've managed to make it alive, but
still very emotional as they do come to shore greeted by these volunteer teams. Most of those people operating up and down the coastline are
volunteers. The group that you see right there, they are part of the Greek life guard volunteers.
And just to give you a little bit of a visual sense of the sheer scale of all of this, this pile of life jackets, it is only a fraction of what
you'll see littering the coastline, littering the various different beaches and arrival points.
This conference that's taking place in Malta was meant to be about the immigrant crisis, the immigrant crisis, but very much focusing on Africa
with a pledge of $1.8 billion being made, that meant to help various African nations crack down on smuggling rings, potentially perhaps even
boost their economy. That may or may not work, that may or may not deal with the circumstances in Africa that are driving people away.
But then you have this entirely different set of circumstances that is what see most of those refugees arriving here fleeing from and that is war.
The vast majority of them who are coming to these shores are from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq and they do believe that they have no other
chance but to make this very treacherous journey to get here, because at this there is no end in sight to the various different acts of violence
that have forced them to flee their homes, Fred.
PLEITGEN: That's our own Arwa Damon reporting there from the island of Lesbos in Greece. Thank you very much for that report.
Now, I want to get you up to date on that breaking news that we're following this hour as state media in Lebanon reports that two explosions
were heard in Beirut. And according to Reuters, they rocked a southern suburb of the capital. That is, of course, the area where Hezbollah holds
They say, that several people have been wounded and they also report that there have been a number of deaths.
And we will continue to bring you more on that breaking news as it comes in to us here at CNN.
And also still to come, the prospects for peace in Syria. Conflict has had a huge toll on neighboring Lebanon as well. We'll with a former
U.S. ambassador about upcoming in Vienna and the potential fate of President Bashar al-Assad coming up.
[11:42:00] PLEIGTEN: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Fred Pleitgen. Welcome back to the show.
And Syrian troops are pressing ahead with an offensive near the big town of Aleppo, gaining more ground with the help of Hezbollah and Iranian
fighters. They captured the strategic town of al Hader Thursday, according to state TV. An opposition group calls the town, quote, the biggest
headquarters for rebel forces in southern Aleppo.
International diplomats, in the meanwhile, are getting ready for another round of peace talks in Vienna this weekend. A major sticking
point remains the fate of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Russia also wants an agreement on a
list of rebel groups defined as terrorists.
To get some perspectives on these developments from Richard Murphy. He is a former U.S. ambassador to Syria.
And ambassador, thank you for joining the program. First of all, the big question has to be, what do the parties need to achieve in Vienna?
Because there was a lot of elation that this meeting took place at all two weeks ago but now they need some real progress, don't they?
RICHARD MURPHY, FRM. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: Well, I think the euphoria continues to have everyone in the same room save the regime of
Syria itself and the rebel forces. But the fact that those who put together Syria in the first place -- the French, the British, the Americans
who sustained it, the Russians who have been working with the regime, everyone has been there and there is still trying
to sense out each other's positions.
And for Washington the big question, of course, focuses on Russia and on Iran. What are they really going to be ready to do?
PLEITGEN: What do you think they are going to be ready to do and what do you think that a compromise could be in all of this? Because I know the
Russians, they did take a lot of flak at the beginning when they started their bombing campaign and they continue to do so. But here we are a month
later, diplomacy is back in play. They have shown, at least in part, they are also fighting against ISIS. So what role do you think they will play?
How important will they be and how much ground do you think they are willing to give?
MURPHY: Well, the news of the last 48 hours where the regime's forces have retaken an airbase to the south of Aleppo, east of Aleppo, with the
help of Russian bombing, with the help presumably of Iranian militias as well, but in the name of the regime, they have had a success and this
allows Russia to come back to the take in Vienna and say, look, many of you had said we don't want to deal with the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Look at
this. He has just shown his ability, as we have shown our determination, to fight the Islamic State.
And in fact, the Russians for all of the criticism that they have been bombing the rebels that we've been supporting, they have spent some 20
percent of their time hitting at Islamic State targets and they have had a success
story in regard to this air base.
This strengthens their position. This strengthens Assad's standing.
PLEITGEN: Well, what do you think the fate of Assad is going to be? Because that seems to be the main sticking point. On the one hand you have
the Iranians and the Russians who are saying, well, we're not married to Assad, but at the same time we don't think that he should just be gotten
rid of. We think he should be able to stand in elections if elections happen.
On the hand, you have the Turks and the Saudis who are not willing to give any ground. Where could some sort of compromised lie in all of this?
And also, you spent so much time in Syria, the Syrian government keeps saying or believes that state institutions would fall apart if Assad
leaves. Do you believe that's true?
MURPHY: The Assad family, first his father Hafez al-Assad and Bashar, have exerted virtually total control of the government institutions for the
past 40 plus years. So, in that sense, there's no clear replacement for the Assad leadership. And what is needed now is willingness of their
principle sponsors, the Russians and Iranians to sit down and discuss, well, what are the alternatives and how can we reach them?
The road ahead is not clear and Vienna on Saturday is not going to settle that question. It's a very essential exercise that's underway in
Vienna and I think we can all welcome the readiness of people to sit down and talk but there are going to have to have accommodations made and the
shape of the accommodations are still unclear.
PLEITGEN: Well, what could they be? Just thinking about it, could it be a former general, someone who is now exile? It doesn't seem clear what
the way forward could be, what a person could be, who could be someone who could succeed Assad.
MURPHY: Well, it's not clear, because that's been the design of the regime from its inception these many years ago.
They want to present a picture that they are in control and Hafez al- Assad passed to Bashar al-Assad the extremely efficient security and intelligent services, sensing any question to the regime's authority and
going after them, sometimes isolating them politically, sometimes liquidating them.
It's been a very thorough, secure system so that today when he says, so what is the alternative and the Russians and Iranians echo that, the
answer isn't clear. It's not an answer that Washington has, that London, Paris have, no. It's something that the Syrians themselves are going to
have to come up with and they are going to have to be negotiations to that end.
There's a Russian plan that has been leaked in part in the recent days, but how serious that is, we'll have to talk with them further to find
PLEITGEN: But on the other hand, I mean, the U.S., its allies, the French, the Turks, the Saudis and also the Syrian opposition, they've had
four years to come up with an alternative for Bashar al-Assad. They've had the Syrian National Coalition. They've had other groups that are being
supported as well. Who can they bring to the table at this point?
I mean, at some point, they are going to have to bring Syrians into the
mix in Vienna or in some other sort of forum if they are going to move forward.
MURPHY: There have to be negotiations. And we have moved our position, the American position in the course of several months ago,
starting several months ago to say Assad that well may not have to be out at the beginning of the transition but he's not going to be in charge at
the end when there's a new administration, a new system of governance.
If you noted that at the first Vienna meeting, the commmunique did not speak of a transitional government, a government of transition. And that,
as I understand it, because of the Iranian position. They don't want to suggest that
there is an alternative, that they have any alternative to Bashar al-Assad.
The Russians may be more flexible, but time will tell. There's going to have to be a great deal more discussion and negotiation featuring these
Syrian opposition, yes, and the regime to start to work out the necessary compromises.
PLEITGEN: Sir, finally, if I may, I want to ask you about your personal feelings. Do you have hope that this could end? And do you have
hope that Syria could stay together as a coherent secular state at this point in
MURPHY: I have that hope, yes. My own association with Syria goes back to the early 1960s and I have seen a Syrian identity over those
decades, a pride in being Syrian. There's been a great destruction, great devastation in the course of these last four years, but the hope that it
can be rebuilt is still valid. It is going to be put to some serious tests, as we see whether we can help turn the refugee tide around that
conditions that were created within Syria that will make them feel safe and welcome. They don't feel that today. They are
fleeing in every direction.
So it's a tremendous job to rebuild the country but, yes, I do have hope that it can be done.
[11:50:54] PLEITGEN: Let's hope so. Richard Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, thank you so much for joining us today.
MURPHY: Thank you.
PLEITGEN: And I want to get you caught up on that breaking news that we're
following at this hour. And state media in Lebanon is reporting that two explosions have rocked the southern part of the capital of Beirut. It says
that several people have been wounded in those explosions.
Reuters reports at least four people have been also been killed. And you're seeing here now the first pictures that are coming in to us there
from al Manar TV.
Agence France Presse, we're also getting some updates from, is putting the death poll being putting the death toll at eight at this point in time,
as we're getting the first pictures there. And we are going to bring you more on this breaking news, of course, as it comes in to us here at CNN.
And this is Connect the World. More top international stories coming up right after the break.
PLEITGEN: Welcome back, folks. And some breaking news that we're following at this hour. Just a reminder, state media in Lebanon reports
two explosions have rocked southern Beirut. You're seeing the first pictures that are coming in to us here at CNN.
Several people have been wounded and Reuters is reporting that at least four people have been killed. Agence France Presse puts the death
toll at eight at this point.
We are going to bring you more on this breaking news as it comes in to us here at CNN.
Well, in tonight's Parting Shots, we're celebrating Diwali, it's a major holiday for many Indians regardless of where they live. Last night
in Dubai, CNN got an inside look at the festivities there. Showing us around was one of Dubai's best tour guides Arva Ahmed (ph).
ARVA AHMED (ph), TOUR GUIDE: Hi, I'm Arva (ph) and this is Diwali in Dubai.
Diwali is essentially the festival of lights and it's a festival that is primarily
celebrating by the Hindus, even by the Jains, even by the Sikhs. And it's called the festival of lights because the word Diwali itself in Sanskrit
means a row of lights. Dipa (ph) means lights, and Awali (ph) is essentially a line or a road.
It's a time when we light different things, whether it's fireworks or whether it's tiny tea lights at the doorstep in order to usher the goddess
of wealth Lakshmi, into the house.
Rungoli (ph) actually comes from the word Rung (ph), which means cellar. You can think of it as sort of like a decoration which symbolizes
hospitality, it's inviting you into the home.
We've seen families actually getting together in their homes or in their shops, sitting down on the ground doing the worship. Really, it's
all about families coming together. You're going out, you're buying new clothes, especially gold, gold is a big thing. So you families going in to
the jewelry shops buying gold.
We've seen people buying mogra (ph), which is the beautiful smelling jasmine, the big gold flowers. I mean, flowers in India are synonymous
Food is always a big thing in India. So, we just need an excuse to have a
feast and essentially. So, Diwali is another excuse that we have in the year to have a feast, especially on the day of Diwali itself. We tend to -
- people call their loved ones over, their families, their friends. They have a feast at
home, a lot of eating, a lot of traditional Indian food. And then you also have a lot of
Atmosphere, especially when you're out on the streets, is absolutely electric. Everybody's outside. Family with all of their kids. So, it's a
time of sharing. You're feeling the love when you're out on the street.
When you sum up all of Diwali, you just cannot celebrate it unless you have an extended community around you.
PLEITGEN: And that's it for Connect the World. There's a lot more news coming up here on CNN, though, including more on those explosions in
For now, thank you for watching.