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CONNECT THE WORLD

Iraqis Begin Push to Retake Ramadi; Kenyan Muslims Protect Christian Passengers on Bus Attacked by al Shabaab; Afghan Forces Fight to Retain Control of Helmand Province; Building Affordable Housing in London; Bethlehem's Tourism Problem. Aired 11:00a-12:00p ET

Aired December 22, 2015 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:21] ZAIN ASHER, HOST: A push to retake a key city from ISIS. Iraq says its army is advancing right to the heart of Ramadi. We'll have

details of the offensive and why the city matters so much in just a moment.

Also ahead, after a year of scenes just like this, the number of desperate people arriving in Europe reaches 1 million. We ask the UN

whether the continent has a handle on the crisis.

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't make $10 a week. Can you believe that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASHER: The biblical birthday of Jesus suffers an unseasonal tourist slump. We'll tell you why at this hour.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN center, this is Connect the World.

ASHER: The Iraqi military says an offensive is under way to take back a key city from ISIS. But officials tell CNN the militant group is using civilians as human shields in Ramadi.

The capital of Anbar province fell to ISIS back in May. Iraq says parts of it have been retaken, but the battle has been drawn out and

difficult.

The Iraqi military says its ground forces began a new advance towards the city center earlier on Tuesday. The Iraqi army has of course been

backed by coalition and Iraqi air power as well.

Let's get more now with Robyn Kriel, who is live for us in London.

So, Robyn, do you know exactly how much of the city, how much of Ramadi has been taken back by the Iraqi army? Just describe to us what is

happening on the ground there right now.

ROBYN KRIEL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the latest, and we're learning more details about what unfolded this morning.

It does sound quite dramatic. Iraqi forces, Zain, in a surprise attack very early this morning built a pontoon bridge that linked over a small

canal that allowed them access into Ramadi's Humairah (ph) district.

Engineers actually built this bridge. Iraqi forces crossed over and launched this surprise attack.

We do understand that clashes are underway near that district. They have -- we do understand they have managed to breach that district and are

advancing to more districts within Ramadi.

Most of Ramadi is surrounded by the Euphrates River and its off chutes, so that's how they decided to get in, in this surprise attack.

Clashes are still under way. Iraqi forces fighting alongside Shia forces. Iraqi special forces, that is, fighting alongside Shia forces,

which is interesting because Ramadi is really the country's Sunni heartland. So that will be interesting to see how that has developed.

20 ISIS militiamen have been killed, we're told, by members from the Iraqi forces who are on the ground there. And a number of their vehicles

have been destroyed, Zain.

ASHER: And Robyn, you know back in May when Ramadi first fell to ISIS. I remember U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter basically

questioning whether the Iraqi army lacked the will to fight.

That was only seven months. What has changed between now and then, do you think?

KRIEL: Well, possibly an increase in interest and support from the U.S.-led coalition. We do understand they have been providing quite a bit

of help on the ground. A number of air strikes targeting key ISIS positions just outside of Ramadi City.

It is a very slow operation. It does not. It doesn't sound like this is

going to take a number of hours. It sounds like it will take a number of days.

They are especially worried, Zain, about civilian casualties being used as human -- as civilians, rather, being used as human shields so they

want to minimize civilian casualties.

What does this mean? It's also the fact that the city is incredibly strategic. It's strategic because it's on the main highway to Baghdad.

There really isn't anything between Ramadi and Baghdad, so they can -- ISIS could have used Ramadi to launch strikes on Baghdad.

It's also hugely significant, Zain, because of the psychology of taking Ramadi the way it fell to ISIS back in May did a huge amount of

damage and was humiliating for the Iraqi army. So perhaps this is also strategically a way for them to save face in light of that.

ASHER: All right, Robyn Kriel live for us in London on the push to take back Ramadi from ISIS. Robyn Kriel, thanks so much.

It has been one year since NATO handed over security operations in Afghanistan to government forces. And now there are fresh signs of a

Taliban resurgent in key areas of Helmand province. A police official says the Taliban have pretty much taken control of the district of Sangin. And

the battle between government forces and Taliban militants is said to be ongoing throughout

Helmand province with Afghan troops reportedly on the back foot.

Let's get more now from the capital Kabul where I'm joined now by journalist Danielle Moylan.

So, Danielle, thank you so much for being with us.

When you look at the string of recent Taliban attacks including six NATO soldiers basically killed near Bagram, the Spanish embassy attacks

around Kabul and this now takeover of Sangin, do you think the Taliban has gotten more brazen recently? And if so, why?

[11:05:08] DANIELLE MOYLAN, JOURNALIST: Look, I think that's certainly correct that the Taliban have been more brazen this year and

they've been certainly encouraged by the large withdrawal of foreign troops at the end of last year.

As you mentioned, they have been carrying out lots of attacks against foreign interests such as the Spanish embassy a couple of weeks ago and

against U.S. soldiers at Bagram just a couple of days ago -- I'm sorry, yesterday.

But they also have been taking over large swaths of districts in some far flung areas around Afghanistan, but they certainly are emboldened and

giving the Afghan security forces a big challenge this year.

ASHER: And Danielle, just to touch on your point about the reduction of foreign troops. We know that even though President Obama has reduced

the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, he decided just I think a couple months ago to

halt, the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops until 2017. Just walk our viewers through how American troops are preparing and grooming, I guess,

Afghan forces to take on the Taliban on their own without foreign help?

OK. It looks as though we're having some technical difficulties with our journalist there. Danielle Moylan in Afghanistan. We'll try and get

her back a little bit later on in the show.

In the meantime, let's turn to the refugee crisis. One million desperate people and counting. In just the past few hours, the

International Organization or Migration announced that more than 1 million migrants and refugees had arrived in Europe this year. That is by the way,

four times, four times more people than last year.

The vast majority of people arrived by sea, nearly 4,000 have drowned or gone

missing during those dangerous crossings.

I want to get more now on the this -- on the 1 millionth arrival and the depth, really, of the refugee crisis from our Diana Magnay who is live

for us in London.

So, Dana, there still doesn't seem to be a proper plan, if you will, to deal with the refugee crisis. What can the international community do

to keep up with those sorts of numbers, do you think?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATINOAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, is this a problem for Europe, you have 28 members of the European Union who all have

very big differences in terms of how to handle this crisis. And whereas Europe is supposed to be built on liberal democratic values, those values

are really now coming under significant strain as countries try to defend their national sovereignty, as right-wing politicians start to orchestrate

a feeling of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner sentiment.

And so it is very, very difficult for Europe to formulate any kind of policy. And I think what you've seen over the past year, is this very

disorganized approach playing into the hands of the right wing in Europe.

Europe has had seven EU summits over the last few months to try and tackle the crisis, the migrant crisis.

And so far, all they've managed to do is say that they'll resettle 160,000 refugees, that they will try and strengthen the external frontiers,

that they will boost Frontex, the force that patrols the frontiers, to stop migrants and refugees from coming in. And they'll give more money to

Turkey, to try to make sure that fewer migrants cross over from Turkey.

But that doesn't really get a grip on the situation at all.

I think it's very interesting, Zain, when you look though at this number, it is 1 million, which is, of course, a large number of people.

But into an area which is 550 million people. Whereas, look at Lebanon, look at Turkey. Turkey has 2.3 million Syrian refugees on camps around the

border, Lebanon has 1 million, that's one for every three Lebanese people.

So the proportions are very, very different. And Europe, which has a lot of

money, is dealing with it far worse than Turkey and Lebanon are.

ASHER: Yeah, Turkey has really been forced, I guess to pull its weight in this refugee crisis. But the EU is asking them to do so much

more.

But I do want to touch on -- aside from the fact that you've got 1 million refugees crossing into Europe, let's talk about the dangerous

crossings, because just under 4,000 migrants actually died this year crossing from North Africa to Italy, many of them, of course, as you know,

Diana, dying in capsized boats.

What do you think can be done, and I guess should be done to combat human trafficking particularly in places like Libya and increase search and

rescue operations at sea?

MAGNAY: Well, it is a question of tackling these smuggling groups. Libya is very difficult, as long as you have continue to have a very, very

unstable situation in Libya, it is going to be extremely difficult to crack down on this smuggling gangs. And that is the same wherever they operate,

really. And there is increasing instability in all of those areas and the smuggling groups becoming more

and more effective.

I think an important step in the process is this idea of boosting Frontex and bringing more resources and more funds into a patrolling body

around this very, very long coastline along the Mediterranean, along Europe's shores and the Mediterranean, which is incredibly difficult to

police.

But it is an uphill battle. And we've seen, despite the wintry months, a huge increase in the second half of this year in migrants making

the crossing over to Europe. And with this war in Syria not making any inroads, you can imagine that that pace will simply continue -- Zain.

ASHER: Absolutely.

And the Syrian civil war has been raging for almost five years. But it's interesting that it's only been this year that we have really seen the

pickup in the number of migrants crossing over into Europe.

OK, Diana Magnay, live for us there in London. Thank you so much.

And we are going to, of course, continue to be looking at Europe's migrant crisis. After the break, we're going to be joined by a

spokesperson for the UN refugee agency.

I'm going to be asking him what exactly his agency is doing to help refugees and migrants. And of course whether what they're doing is enough.

Also ahead, an act of bravery that likely saved the lives of a group of Christians. How Muslim bus passengers banded together during an attack

by Islamic extremists. That's coming up, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHER: These are really touching scenes from Kos, Greece. And they are becoming way too familiar. You can actually see in this video, eight

migrants clambering out of a small inflatable boat that brought them to Europe, just a few of the more than 1 million people who have crossed into

Europe so far this year. All of them, of course, fleeing poverty, some of them fleeing war, but all searching for a better life.

Adrian Edwards joins me live now from Geneva. He's the head of news and chief spokesperson for the UN refugee agency.

So, Adrian thank you so much for being with us. We know that 1 million, this is a huge sort of symbolic milestone, I guess, 1 million

refugees who need help, who are fleeing from conflicts, poverty, have now crossed into Europe. Those numbers don't seem to be slowing down. You've

got some countries like Germany that are far more -- at least the German government, Angela Merkel, far more generous than others. But the question

is, what can Europe do to keep up with those sorts of numbers?

ADRIAN EDWARDS, SPOKESPERSON, UNHCR: Well let's look at the background to this, first of all. Europe in 2015 has seen very, very

dramatic changes. It's worth remembering that Europe has always received refugees and migrants, but never before have we seen people coming across

the Mediterranean on this kind of scale.

And that reflects two problems that lie to some extent outside Europe. One is the situation of global conflict, which is worsening, 5 major

conflicts -- sorry, 15 major conflicts over the past five years.

In addition to that, you're having diminishing humanitarian funding for the scale of the situation that we face globally.

So, as a consequence, many people are moving on from refugee hosted countries towards Europe and other regions. And Europe is still struggling

to, "A," come to terms with that, and "B," find the systems to manage it sustainable.

ASHER: And Adrian, let's look at the numbers. Because President Obama says that the U.S. is going to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees next

year. And when I guess when you consider that number in the context of 1 million refugees crossing into Europe, it seems extraordinarily low, but

part of the problem is that the vetting process is so long, especially with all the security concerns you're seeing. Do you think countries like the

U.S. should be taking in more, despite security concerns?

EDWARDS: Well, quite honestly, it's a situation here, that demands really, I think, concerted international approaches. There's no one

country alone that can deal with this. And certainly, we do have to look at solutions that include much larger levels of resettlement globally.

I think it's important to remember that border protection, and protection of refugees can be compatible if you manage it well. And we

have to work towards that here.

But worldwide, what's happening in Europe is a reflection of a much greater problem today, and very worried problem, of 60 million or so people

forcibly displaced globally, levels of humanitarian funding -- as I mentioned earlier, simply not keeping pace with that.

Now if you campaign that with difficulties of finding solutions for refugees through resettlement or other means, then you've got a very

dangerous combination of elements indeed.

So finding resettlement, relocation, additional help for regularizing these flows of refugees who are making these terribly dangerous journeys

across the Mediterranean, has to be part of the approach to finding answers to this.

ASHER: You mentioned Adrian that there are 15 major conflicts happening around the world right now. But let's talk about the Syrian

civil war, because that has been going on for almost five years. So, the question is, if it's been helping for that long, why are we only seeing a

rapid uptick in the number of migrants now? Just explain the timing of this?

EDWARDS: Well, there's a number of factors playing into this. We've done studies this year of refugees arriving in Europe to look at their

intentions, what's happening there. And increasingly, what we're seeing is the change in the

dynamic inside Syria itself.

You're correct, it's almost five years with this conflict. You have nearly 12 million Syrians displaced either inside their country or as

refugees.

But increasingly, we're seeing something of a brain drain happening from Syria, people coming directly from Syria towards Europe, staying very

short periods of time in the countries of the region which previously have been

hosting them. And that is really an alarming new dynamic in the situation, and it really

speaks to needs on the political side as well for far faster actions to bring about a solution to this conflict in Syria.

Because, at the end of the day, that is the root cause. And unless we make inroads into addressing that it's going to be very hard to deal with

this problem by solving it, if you like, from a palliative approach.

ASHER: Not just from the root causes in Syria, but also in places like Libya as well where you're seeing rapid numbers, huge numbers of

people smugglers as well, because of the chaos there.

But in terms of what is happening on the ground there in Germany, Angela

Merkel, has been very vocal about the fact that she welcomes refugees. But her citizens, Germans on the ground, there is some resistance there,

especially with groups like PAGIDA, anti-immigration groups. Do you fear that the rapid increase in the number of migrants who are heading into

Europe could actually cause serious problems for migrants once they actually arrive, because of those right-wing groups?

EDWARDS: I think there are certain things we can predict with fair certainty for 2016. One, is that refugees and migrants will keep trying to

come to Europe. The underlying causes are not are not changing there.

Two, the humanitarian funding problems are going to increase globally. And that's going to create problems in helping people globally

sufficiently. But three, and here's the risky one, is that politicization of refugees, vilification of people fleeing conflict, xenophobia and these

other factors, these may also increase.

And the problem there is while that may make good political capital for populists, it does nothing to resolve the underlying problems of how

you address so many people in desperate need of help, so many people in need of asylum, so much help needs in the world, that requires really to

keep a calm approach to this and try and work towards collective international solutions for what really is a mega global problem.

[11:20:58] ASHER: Yeah. I mean, you've seen the rise in popularity of groups like the PAGIDA, UKIP, The National Front, also Donald Trump even

in the United States saying that he wants to ban Muslims from entering the country.

But Adrian Edwards, thank you so much. We appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much for your perspective.

And you can find in-depth reporting on Europe's migrant crisis on CNN.com. We cover the conflicts that drive people to flee their homes.

And we talk about the dangers they face on their journey along with the diplomatic wrangling in the European Union.

And of course, we'll have more by going to CNN.com.

Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. Coming up, there was once no rooms at the inn. But now, people are staying away completely from

Bethlehem. We'll explain why after the break.

But first, providing affordable housing in London. We'll show you a collaborative effort that seems to be working. That's next in One Square

Meter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[11:25:02] WENDY OMOLLO: Last year, in November, I lost my job, by the end of January the money was gone. My housemate kicked me out. I went

to the council, and they said they couldn't do anything for me, four or five nights I slept on the streets.

People think of homeless people as this man sitting outside the station asking for money. And there's different levels of homelessness.

If you're couch surfing, or you're staying at a friend's house, you've got no lease with your

name on it, you are homeless.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Wendy's experience led her to Y:Cube Mitcham in southwest London, a residence for young singles.

OMOLLO: Well, for me, personally, it's a stepping-stone to getting back into real life.

DEFTERIOS: The development is a collaboration between Pritzker Prize- winning architecture firm Roger, Stirk, Habour and Partners (ph) and youth charity the YMCA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In London, there's a dearth of good quality affordable housing and Y:Cube offers them the chance to have their own

front door, their own living space, their own home.

And we can deliver an affordable home for them for about 65 percent of the equivalent market rent for this area.

DEFTERIOS: Rent for a one-bedroom flat in southwest London averages $320 per week. Y:Cube renters play about $100 less. An additional problem

is the shortfall of available properties. Y:Cube hopes to be a solution to this affordable housing conundrum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Architects are problem solvers. It was all about money, at the end of the day, all about how much it would actually cost to

build and therefore have that reflect in ensuring that rent staid at an affordable level.

DEFTERIOS: Y:Cubes can be built in two weeks at the cost of $45,000. They're timber units are 26 square maters, small enough to fit on the back

of a truck, purposely designed to be transportable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can be redeployed elsewhere, with great simplicity and speed with the notion of being able to then occupy that land

for a shorter period of time. And when I say temporary, I mean, ten years, 15 years.

The door frame, I'm reaching up, eight foot. It's much higher than a typical door, because what it does, it connects the two small spaces

together. When it's open, you get a feeling of a flow space.

So Y:Cubes, it's not just about the inside, it's also outside.

So out beyond every front door, there's a stoop. And it's about two meters wide. So, you can sit here for an evening, chat to your neighbors

who are passing by. The community is really important.

Now, there are 36 units in this place, that's a really nice sized community.

DEFTERIOS: The YMCA's goal is to have Y:Cubes stacked up across the UK and beyond.

For Wendy, a young woman with ambition, it has meant the start of a new journey.

OMOLLO: It's just a way to reintegrate myself into the community. Two or three years, hopefully, is the longest I will stay here and by that

time I'd have enough funds to kind of move back into my life.

DEFTERIOS: John Defterios, One Square Meter, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(HEADLINES)

[11:32:50] ASHER: India lawmakers have amended a law dealing with juvenile crimes. From now on, suspects between the ages of 16 and 18 could

be tried as adults if they're accused of crimes like rape or murder. The decision comes just days after the release of a teenager convicted in a

notorious gang rape. He served just three years in detention, because he was tried as a juvenile.

Our Sumnima Udas joins me live now from New Delhi.

So, Sumnima, it seems as though this is a step in the right direction, but when you think about this from the perspective of the family of Joti

Singh (ph), is this too little, too late do you think?

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly seems that way, Zain, because this law is not retroactive. So that man who was

freed just a few days ago, even though he committed the most heinous of crimes, gang raping that woman on a moving bus back in 2012, he is

essentially a free man, nothing can be done to him.

But the parents of the victim, they were in parliament today. This debate went on for hours as they were going through the pros and cons and

of amending this law. They listened through that. And when they came out, they said, you know, they have bittersweet sentiments.

They said they're happy that finally the law has been changed. So hopefully this law will deter other minors from committing such heinous

crimes. At the same time, they're also very sad because their daughter has been raped and is now dead and still has not achieved justice -- Zain.

ASHER: Yeah, let's hope this new law, as you mentioned, acts as a deterrent to reduce the number of rape cases there.

Sumnima Udas, live for us there in New Delhi, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Back to one of our top stories this hour, it's been a year since U.S. and NATO troops ended their combat mission in Afghanistan, handing over the

country's security to Afghan forces. But despite the years of training, they're struggling in the fight against the Taliban.

The latest hot spot is in the southern promise of Helmand where weeks of fierce clashes have seen major Taliban gains.

Joining me now to discuss the developments is south Asia analyst Omar Hamid. He's with IHS global insight.

So, Omar, thank you so much for being with us.

President Obama, even though he reduced the number of troops in Afghanistan. He decided to halt the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops

until 2017, partly because of the situation we see there on the ground now. How are American troops getting Afghan forces ready to take on and handle

the Taliban on their own?

[11:35:14] OMAR HAMID, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT: Thanks, Zain.

What we're seeing right now that despite all the training and support mechanisms that U.S. and foreign forces have tried to put in for Afghan

security forces, a consistently what we're seeing is Afghan security forces being unable to hold their ground when they're fighting alone.

That's what seems to have happened right now in Sangin. And a couple of months ago, that's exactly what also happened in the northern city of

Kunduz where left to their own devices, the advanced security forces didn't -- weren't able to match the tactics of the Taliban.

ASHER: And, Omar, you know, when you look at the string of attacks we've seen recently, not just what we're seeing there this week, but also

as you mentioned Kunduz and the Spanish embassy in Kabul being attacked by Taliban suicide bomber recently, it does appear that the Taliban has gotten

more brazen.

There is supposed to be more peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government in January. Do we know if that is going to make much of

a difference, do you think?

HAMID: Yeah, at this moment, I think Taliba's strategy is moving towards keeping the pressure on the government's security forces and

highlighting again and again the security vulnerabilities of the current government.

Now, on the side of the Afghan government, there seems to be a serious division within the government about how to take forward the process of

peace talks, because there seems to be at least one faction, which is being headed by President Ghani, which thinks that in light of the security

force's inability to restore order, probably the best way forward is to engage in peace talks, while others, including the security establishment

of the country and the intelligence services, seem to be opposed still to engaging the Taliban in peace talks.

ASHER: But here's the thing, you mention that the Afghan government, there's division within the Afghan government, but what makes it more

complicated is the fact there's also division within the Taliban itself. The Taliban appears to be especially fractured after the death of Mullah

Omar.

HAMID: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's absolutely clear now that his Mullah Omar successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, has not been able to win over

the complete conference of all the factions and shuras (ph) within the Taliban.

There were rumors just a couple of weeks ago that there had been an assassination attempt on his life.

So, that absolutely kind of reiterates the point that the Taliban themselves are fractious and divided.

But what attacks like the offensive in Sangin do is that they enable them to put forward at least an image of unity on top. So as long as

they're succeeding on the battlefield, they're able to keep going forward.

ASHER: But Omar, if the Taliban itself is fractured, doesn't that mean that you could essentially have one part of the Taliban engaging in

peace talks and other members of the Taliban still fighting on the ground?

HAMID: Yes.

What the fracture within the Taliban means that there is essentially a limited window of opportunity to pursue peace talks with anyone who is in

control of a bulk of the organization.

If we see -- if we continue to see further splintering, and we already know that some commanders in the field have changed and switched their

loyalties to the Islamic State, especially in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan, it will be much harder to have any kind of peace talks if you

have several different stakeholders in place rather than one or two.

ASHER: And Omar, we know that the SAS and U.S. special forces have been involved on the ground sort of trying to train the Afghan forces, to

help them fight the Taliban, just talk to us about the type of assistance they're providing?

HAMID: Well, if we take the case of Sangin itself, the reports are that British forces, including the SAS, or special forces, are being rushed

to assist the Afghan troops in fighting over there.

The problem, as I said, is where the Afghan forces have to fend for themselves. They're fine as long as they're being assisted, and they're

being provided air cover and things like that by western forces, but it's when they're left to their own devices that they seem to struggle.

ASHER: Right. We'll see what happens with the peace talks in January between the Taliban and Afghan -- the Afghan government. And of course

Pakistan is of course going to be involved in those as well. They are crucial to those peace talks.

OK, Omar Hamid, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

Turning now to a show of courage in Kenya, when a bus filled with passengers was attacked by al Shabaab militants, the Muslim passengers on

the bus banded together, they grouped together, to protect the Christians who were on board.

Here is our David McKenzie with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Their aim is to cause terror and division, but Al-Shabaab gunmen here in Kenya came up against an

extraordinary show of defiance and unity.

(voice-over): On Monday more than 100 passengers were crammed on this bus traveling to Mandera on the chronically insecure border with Somalia.

Bullets ripped through the side of the bus in an ambush.

[11:40:09] SYED SEBDOW, SURVIVOR: They were in two groups. One group - - so I see peopling running to the road to stop us and they tell us to get those who are Muslims to come out. Go back to the bus.

MCKENZIE: A man on the bus told CNN there were 12 Christians on board. The gunmen wanted to identify them and execute them. He says Muslim

passengers helped hide some of them on the bus and they gave the Christian women head scarves before the gunmen made them line up on the road.

They stood strong said the witness, telling the gunmen, quote "If you want to kill us, then kill us. There are no Christians here." Al Shabaab

then fled.

JOSEPH OLE NKAISSERY, KENYAN INTERIOR CABINET SECRETARY: We are all Kenyans. We are not separated by religion. Everybody can profess their

religion, but we still we are one country, we are one people as a nation. That is a very good message.

MCKENZIE: Civilians have suffered through countless Al-Shabaab attacks in the border regions of Kenya. Earlier this year Al-Shabaab Garissa

University, killing 147 innocent students. Again, they singled out Christians.

More than 20 were killed in a shocking bus ambush last year.

(on camera): Tragically, a man who fled the scene and a passerby were killed by the gunmen, but the death toll could have been that much higher.

The Kenyans are praising the acts of their citizens who stopped this terrible attack.

David McKenzie, Nairobi, Kenya.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASHER: Remarkable and touching show of solidarity there in Kenya.

OK, live from CNN center, this is Connect the World, coming up, these lottery tickets cost

more than $200, but the prize money is actually well worth that price. We'll tell you why Spain is

lining up for el Gordo. The details coming up.

But first, it's the biblical birthplace of Jesus Chris, but recent violence is keeping tourists away

from Bethlehem this Christmas season. We're going to be talking to people whose livelihoods are being affected. That's coming up after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:45:42] ASHER: Santa Claus himself made an appearance in Jerusalem. He was there to encourage Christians to pick up Christmas

trees. They were being handed out completely free of charge in the runup to the holiday season. The gesture is in very sharp contrast, the surge in

deadly violence you seen there in recent months in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, just a short drive away, there are a few places in the world where Christmas means so much as it does in Bethlehem.

Christians believe that it was there that Jesus Christ was born. The West Bank City traditionally

actually sees a spike in tourism this time of year, but the recent unrest is keeping a lot of people away. Here's our Oren Liebermann with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christmas is days away in Bethlehem. And the holiday decorations ready in manger square. Yet, all

the action is down the road, clashes once again between Palestinian protesters, and Israeli security forces, a near daily occurrence for of the

last three months.

Now, Christmas is caught in the middle.

The clashes, the tension, hitting the tourism industry at a critical time.

Elias Saleh Mchel gift shop right on Manger Square, a prime spot for tourists, is empty. He is left cleaning up the remnants of a dismal end to

the year.

ELIAS SALEH MCHEL, SHOP OWNER: You imagine see how you see how is this Manger Square by yourself.

Please, you look. Show me group coming, show me families coming to the square.

LIEBEMANN: His family has owned this gift shop since 1818. He says, this is one of the hardest years he can remember, sales are down 80 percent

from the last year.

A factory that makes the olive wood crafts, so popular during the holiday season, has had to

cut back on hours because of slumping sales and may have to cut back on working days.

MCHEL: I don't have any Americans or any European bus to my store. I didn't make $10 for a week. Can you believe that?

LIEBERMANN: Because of the tension and the clashes, the U.S. issued a travel warning last

week to the region. It was another blow to an already sagging tourism industry.

It's just a couple days before Christmas here in Manger Square, and there should be hundreds if not thousands of tourists making this holiday

pilgrimage. Instead, take a look around here, there's almost nobody here.

Tour guides stand around the Church of the Nativity, waiting for business, but no one here is particularly hopeful.

HISHAM TEHMAIS, TOUR GUIDE: Totally bad. We have no tourists to work. We are coming here to spend time, only to talk and to see each

other, otherwise, we have stayed at home without work at all.

LIEBERMANN: There is little anyone can do at this point to change the situation in time for

Christmas. But hope, hope, that next year will bring a rebirth of tourism.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Bethlehem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ASHER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. Coming up, the prize is so

gigantic, it is called el Gordo which in Spanish it means the fat one, because the prize money is literally so huge. We'll tell you how much was

paid out in Spain's annual holiday lottery. That's coming up after the break.

And Donald Trump defiant and on the warpath, even using an offensive term against Democrat Hillary Clinton, but a new poll suggests he may have

to look over his shoulder because another Republican rival is gaining ground. That's coming up after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:52:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one -- zero. We have liftoff of Falcon IX.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASHER: There she goes. What you're watching is basically a major accomplishment in spaceflight. The company SpaceX respectfully guided a

rocket booster back to land after using it deliver a payload into space Monday evening.

The booster's safe return was a dramatic first, it has failed many times in the past. And it marks a major step towards making space travel

cheaper because the rocket can now be reused for a future launch.

The primary mission was to put 11 small communication satellites into orbit, all of them we're told, were successfully deployed.

An achievement that we will no doubt be hearing much more about in the future.

You're watching CNN, and this is Connect the World with me, Zain Asher. Welcome back.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has touted his frontrunner status throughout his campaign. But a new poll shows that he

better start looking over his shoulder because someone is gaining ground on him.

Senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns has more on the race and the latest controversial remarks from Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you see Hillary - I mean did you watch that - what happened to her? No, she's terrible.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump unleashing yet another tirade against Democratic frontrunner Hillary

Clinton at a rally in Michigan.

TRUMP: Hillary, that's not a president.

JOHNS: The billionaire coming under fire for using a R-rated derogatory term when referring to her 2008 defeat by Barack Obama.

TRUMP: She was favored to win and she got schlonged. She lost. I mean she lost.

JOHNS: And weighing in on her much discussed bathroom break from Saturday's debate.

TRUMP: I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it. No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting.

JOHNS: Trump then going after Clinton's claim that ISIS is propagandizing the GOP frontrunner.

TRUMP: Donald Trump is on video, and ISIS is using him on the video to recruit. And it turned out to be a lie. She's a liar.

JOHNS: Clinton's press secretary doubling down.

BRIAN FALLON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: It is a confirmed fact that the footage of Donald Trump making those hateful comments earlier this

month was played all across the Middle East.

JOHNS: Trump also discussing the controversy over Vladimir Putin's praise and allegations that the Russian president has ordered the killing

of journalists.

TRUMP: They said, oh, Trump should have been much nastier, that's terrible, and then they said, you know, he's killed reporters. And I don't

like that. I'm totally against that.

JOHNS: The GOP frontrunner then reconsidering.

TRUMP: I would never kill them. I would never do that. Ah, let's see - no, I wouldn't. But I do hate them, and some of them are such lying,

disgusting people.

JOHNS: Trump continues leading in the latest national poll, but Texas Senator Ted Cruz is closing in. The rest of the GOP field making the rounds

in the battleground states of New Hampshire, where Trump rival Jeb Bush again went on the attack.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a serious man that has serious plans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[11:55:22] ASHER: Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns reporting there. And we'll have much more on Donald Trump's controversial

comments throughout the day right here on CNN.

Now, in our Parting Shots the lottery with a very, very hefty payout. It is known affectionately as el Gordo, which means The Fat One in Spanish.

Among the world's biggest lotteries ever, it's operated out of Spain, but anyone, anyone around the world can actually buy a ticket. And get

this, the prize pot this year was worth a staggering $2.4 billion, that's billion with a "b," by the way. But sadly, you don't get to keep all of that money for yourself. This works a little bit like a

raffle with millions of people around the world buying tickets like these people you see right here.

I'm Zain Asher. And that was Connect the World. Thank you so much for watching. Have a great evening, wherever you are.

END