Return to Transcripts main page

CONNECT THE WORLD

Major Development as Russia Bombs Syria From Planes Based in Iran; Simon Biles Slips On Balance Beam; British Extremist Anjem Choudary Found Guilty of Inspiring Support for ISIS; Doctors Without Borders Hospital Hit in Yemen. Aired 11:00a-12:00p ET

Aired August 16, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:13] HALA GORANI, HOST: A significant step: Russian warplanes leave for foreign bombing missions from a base inside Iran. It is the

first time a major power has done so. We are live in Berlin, Moscow, and Istanbul for more this hour.

Also coming up, from classmate to committed opponent: we speak to a doctor who studied

medicine with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Now he treats patients in rebel-held Aleppo.

Plus this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YULIA EFIMOVA, RUSSIAN OLYMPIC SWIMMER: This upset me so much, especially from Michael Phelps and girls like Lilly King and everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Backlash and bullying? How one swimmer says she experienced the anti-doping feeling in Rio firsthand. An exclusive interview is coming

up.

All right. I'm Hala Gorani. Becky is off. We will have those stories until a moment.

First, though, this just in to CNN. A British court has found a radical Islamist preacher guilty of inviting people to support ISIS.

You may be familiar with this man, Anjem Choudary, he has been a vocal backer of extremism for years inside Britain. And police say he has links

to terrorists. One of his associates was also convicted in the trial.

To look at what this verdict means, our Nima Elbagir joins me in the studio. So, Nima, first of all, he is found guilty of, quote, inviting

support for ISIS. What is the how is the official charge here worded?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERANTIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, the British police say essentially it is encouraging support for terror a organization. In

essence, he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And in a very interesting interpretation of the law,

the British courts have said therefore by legitimatiziiing, as someone who has such public standing, legitimatizing ISIS he is essentially encouraging

others to join ISIS and is therefore responsible for those who were radicalized.

What has been so interesting is this is someone who managed to say the wrong thing in the right way for about 20 years in British public life.

Take a look at this. I just want to walk you through some of his statements.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELBAGIR: For years, Anjem Choudary appeared to revel in his tabloid designation as Britain's most hated man. In his 20 years of public

appearances and private preaching, Choudary always appeared to skirt just the right side of the law, backing extremism but no proof of actually

inciting violence. It was the 49-year-old's pledge of allegiance in 2014 to Abu

Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS that brought him under increased scrutiny and led to his arrest. British authorities say they were able to link him to the

battlefields of Iraq and Syria.

Police say they don't know exactly how many of the 850 Brits who traveled to Syria were directly influenced by Choudary, but called him a

key figure in the radicalization and recruitment drive.

When last out on bail, Choudary conducted this interview with us, admitting his support for ISIS, a terror group that proudly promotes rape,

slavery, and mass killings, claiming religious obligation.

ANJEM CHOUDARY, PLEDGED SUPPORT TO ISIS: I believe that Abu Bakr al- Bagdadi, Allah protect him, of course has brought in the dawn of a new era.

ELBAGIR: The reality is that you do have an impact.

CHOUDARY: (inaudible) everywhere in the world.

ELBAGIR: Authorities say Choudary has been linked to the radicalization of a string of the terrorists who have stood trial in the UK

over the past 15 years. He can be seen here in BBC footage at a protest with Michael Adebolajo, later convicted of the violent murder of British soldier Lee Rigby, and was among those close to Al-Muhajiroun

founder Omar Bakri Muhammad, later banned from Britain over links to al Qaeda.

Sadat Dudar (ph), who was suspected by authorities of replacing Jihadi John as ISIS executioner, another Choudary associate.

The two are seen together here after the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden.

Choudary consistently in the circumference of those who would go on to commit acts of violence.

The court has now found Choudary and his associate Mohammed Mizanur Rahman guilty of inviting support to a prescribed organization, a charge he

denied.

But now it could see him jailed for up to ten years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ELBAGIR: In this new reality we are living in in Europe, while this might not be equivalent to say providing material support or recruiting,

what British authorities are essentially saying, the message they are sending is, you are responsible for those killed because they have been

inspired by your example.

[11:05:12] GORANI: Right. And so in a sense it's you are responsible for what you say out loud that might lead some people to believe this

ideology should be espoused in one way or another.

ELBAGIR: and that the lines given how high the stakes are, they are not as clear as people like

Choudary once bet they were.

GORANI: And Choudary, as you mentioned, basically made a living of saying horrific things, but always careful on ot to say something could get

him in legal trouble. But those days are over.

ELBAGIR: And staying on the periphery of some pretty horrifying individuals, and always trying to get away with never himself ever being

associated with the horror of their acts.

GORANI: And so the maximum sentence is ten years? When do we expect to hear that?

ELBAGIR: The 6th of September.

GORANI: And so he was not the only one. He had another -- he had a partner with him, Mohammed Rahman. So, they were both convicted of the

same crime.

ELBAGIR: And for pledging allegiance on the same day. And they were both associated with

the founder Al-Muhajiroun who was previously -- again, these people who go on to do awful things, he was previously associated with al Qaeda and now

is actively recruiting for ISIS.

GORANI: But it is -- and we were discussing this before the program, this is something difficult to quantify, right, because you can say someone

is saying I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, how do you measure how many people may have joined the organization as a result of that? Is

it the more high-profile you are, the more you are likely perhaps to attract people to these causes?

ELBAGIR; And what was interesting in terms of legal precedent the prosecutor didn't have to

proof a tangible number, what he said, the quote was out of the 850 Britons that have gone to Syria, we belief that Choudary and his associate are

responsible for the radicalization of a number of them. So the burden of proof was almost more on Choudary to prove that his words didn't lead to

these people going to Syria and Iraq.

GORANI: All right, thanks very much, Nima Elbagir. More on this breaking news. Anjem Choudary, the extremist preacher there, convicted in

a British court of inviting support for ISIS. We'll have a lot more on that in the coming hours with Nima.

Now to a bombing run in Syria that marks a dramatic new phase in Russia's air campaign against the rebels. For the first time, Moscow is

turning to a powerful ally for help, its warplanes used a base in Iran to conduct missions in Syria today flying over Iraqi air

space.

Russia's defense ministry released these pictures saying ISIS and al- Nusra targets were hit in three provinces.

Donald Trump, meantime, is calling for closer American ties with Russia in the fight against ISIS. The Republican presidential nominee

unveiled his strategy for defeating Islamic terrorism on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I become president, the era of nation building will be brought to a very swift and

decisive end. A new approach, which must shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle

East must be to halt the spread of radical Islam.

I also believe that we can find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: We have reporters around the world covering these developments for you. We are joined now by three senior international

correspondents. Fred Pleitgen is in Berline, Ben Wedeman is in Istanbul, and Matthew Chance is in Moscow.

Matthew, I want to start with you, first of all. This is the first time it appears as though Russia is using Iran in order to conduct

airstrikes inside Syria. Why the strategic decision at this stage?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's important for a couple of reasons. It's important militarily, because it

brings those Russian long-range T-22 bombers closer to the target zone. It means they don't have to fly two hours from southern Russia, they just have

to fly 30 minutes or so across into Syria. And so that means they have to carry less fuel, and so they can carry more bombs. And so potentially this

could represent the means to a significant escalation of Russia's air war in Syria.

Strategically, it's quite interesting as well, because you say it's the first time Russia has used a third country as a base for bombing Syria.

It's the first time Iran, of course, has allowed another country to use one of its air bases to carry out military strikes as well since 1979 and the

Islamic Revolution.

So, it's important in that sense, too.

And I think it just shows how much bigger Russia is growing in the region of the Middle East, it's increasing its footprint. It's showing

that it has influence not just in Syria, but now in Iran as well. And it is a power in the region to be dealt with.

GORANI: And Fred Pleitgen, you travel to Iran a lot. What is in it for Tehran?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think from the Iranian side you can see that there is much closer cooperation

with the Russians. And it's something, Hala, that's been building up over the past couple of months. The Russians and the Iranians

signed an agreement in January vowing closer cooperation in what they call the fight against terrorism, which of course essentially is the Russian

bombing campaign in Syria, and then of course Iran's ground forces which are active in Syria as well. So, you can see the cooperation evolving.

And we also have to keep in mind that, yes, the Russians are putting their bombers on that base there in western Iran, but the Russians are also

asking the Iranians more. They're also asking them for overflight rights, for their cruise missiles over Iranian territory. That's something that

the Iranians announced today.

And then also the Iranians have said that there is a general understanding that the two nations would share their facilities inside Iran

to continue their campaign in Syria. So, we have seen a deepening of the relationship between Russia and Iran, especially pertaining to Syria

itself. And it's really a change from what we saw, for instance, in 2013, 2014 where the two sides, although both of them supported Bashar al-Assad,

were often at odds as to how to move forward. The Iranians for their part calling for more negotiations, even putting forward political plans for

some sort of -- I wouldn't say transition but at least softening of Bashar al-Assad's power. That's something that the Russians didn't want.

So, now it seems as though both sides have aligned their goals on the battlefield, but probably politically as well, Hala.

GORANI: And Ben Wedeman, what impact on the ground is this expected to have, this much closer partnership between Russia and Iran?

PLEITGEN: Well, certainly, it does show the fact that the Russians are playing a much larger role. And for instance, if you look at Iraq, the

Russians have provided the Iraqis, since 2014, with a significant amount of weaponry. And when I was last in Baghdad speaking to Iraqi officials, they

would complain that the Americans, for instance, you would order from them some F-16 fighter planes, and it would take years before they were

delivered. When they requested from the Russians attack helicopters, it took a matter of weeks.

And it's important to keep in mind also that those Russian long-range bombers are flying

over Iraq into Syria from Iran with Iraqi permission. And therefore, the Russians are also beginning to have a much better relationship with the

Iraqis as well.

And I think on the ground in Syria, what we're going to be seeing is a significant escalation of the Russian air campaign against the rebels in

particularly Aleppo when of course they were recently able to break the siege on that city. So, this may be part of a counter-offensive to re-

establish the primacy of the Syrian regime for one thing, but also to reapply even more intense pressure on the already battered rebel parts of

Aleppo -- Hala.

GORANI: And Matthew, what is the longer term outlook here for Russia? What does it ultimately want to achieve in the Middle East?

I mean, clearly it's helping Bashar al-Assad. It has warplanes taking off from Iran. What does it want to achieve in the longer term?

CHANCE: Well, I think it wants to achieve a re-establishment, a reasserting of itself on the international stage. I mean one of the

reasons that Russia went into Syria in the first place was because Syria is a long standing ally of Russia. It saw -- Moscow saw Syria as its last

kind of foothold, its toehold in the Middle East.

If Syria fell, the thinking was here, then so did Russian influence across the entire region. Well, the Russians have succeeded in bolstering

Bashar al-Assad. He's not going to fall any time soon. And neither using Syria as a platform to reassert influence across the entire region.

You heard Ben talk about Iraq there and the growing relationship between Russia and Baghdad. And of course now these planes based in Iran

as well.

Russia is really emerging now as a significant player, it seems, in the Middle East.

GORANI: And also speaking -- I want to go back to Fred with Iran. I mean, in terms of regional influence, if you look at Syria and other

conflicts as a proxy war between Shiite Iran, and Sunni Saudi Arabai, Qatar, that block versus Iran, Iran has influence over Iraq. It now has

Assad, its ally in Syria, bolstered inside Syria bolstered by Russia. It has got sanctions lifted and a nuclear deal with the United States.

Would it feel now particularly emboldened?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think it certainly already feels emboldened, especially by a lot of sanctions

falling away after the end of the nuclear agreement. And you can feel how the Iranians are trying to expand their influence, especially in Syria, but

also trying to steer a lot of the politics there in Iraq as well. So, you can certainly see how Iran has gotten a lot bolder also in light of the

fact that they expect their economy to grow a lot for them to become a lot stronger also as far as defense is concerned as well.

They are already scoping out deals with the Russians to potentially buy things like aircraft, buy things like aircraft, buy things like ground

force vehicles as well, that's something that's still in the early stages, but I do think that the Iranians in the next couple of years are looking to

a major expansion in that region. And of course they see Bashar al-Assad as one of their strategic allies as well. The Iranians at this point in

time very much committed to keeping Assad in power, and so therefore, also pouring more forces into that Syria theater as well.

You can see that in the reaction to when the broke that siege of Aleppo, that it was the Iranians and Hezbollah that started moving massive

forces into that area very, very quickly saying definitly we are not going to allow this city to fall into the hands of the rebels, Hala.

GORANI: And Ben, ultimately the one power that is losing the most influence here in all this is

the United States?

WEDEMAN: It certainly has ceding some ground to the Russians, but I wouldn't say it's

losing all of its influence or its influence. At this point, it is still the major backer, for instance, of the

Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS.

And it can claim some part of the credit in rolling back ISIS, which has lost about half its

territory in Iraq and about 20 percent of it in Syria. And it is also a main backer of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which have, for instance,

recently retaken a town of Manbij in northern Syria, that is the largest town taken by ISIS -- rather that was occupied by ISIS in Syria itself.

But the United States is in a very awkward position. On the one hand, it's supporting the government in Iraq, which is fighting ISIS; on the

other hand it's supporting rebels who are fighting the regime in Syria, which is a friend with Iraq, which is a friend of Iran, which -- and of

course Iraq is an ally with the United States.

So, it's getting very complicated, and even more so now that the Russians are playing an even

larger role in the region -- Hala.

GORANI: We usually need some sort of flow chart when we start getting into alliances these days in the Middle East. Thanks very much.

Ben Wedeman is in Istanbul, Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, and Matthew Chance in Moscow.

A lot more to come this -- on this program. CNN talks talk to the Russian swimmer who for many has become a symbol of her country's doping

scandal. She responds in an exclusive interview after being booed in Rio.

First, though, I'll be joined by a former classmate of Syria's president who smuggled himself into Aleppo to save people from the bombs

dropped by Bashar al-Assad's military. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:20:08] PAUL MAURER, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COMM. OF THE RED CROSS: It's urban warfare at its worst. And because it is urban warfare,

it's also touching more civilian infrastructures, cities are more vulnerable than maybe rural areas. And therefore there is certainly from

what the ICRC has seen in terms of urban warfare one of the worst situations in decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: A description of life inside Aleppo, Syria, from the Red Cross there, in the city's

besieged areas -- death stalks every street and haunts every family.

So far this month, a rights group says well over 300 civilians have been killed by both sides. At least 19 today alone all helplessly, of

course, caught up in the violence.

We often see reports of medical centers in Aleppo being bombed as well, targeted by the Syrian

government and its allies. Now you know the country is led by President Bashar al-Assad, of course, who before he took the job from his father,

trained as a doctor.

You can see him on the left here in this picture. Over on the right, former classmate Dr. Zeheir Sahloul. Here they are in the same picture,

but after the war started. They were flung onto polar opposite sides of the conflict. Dr. Sahloul has faced those bombs, sneaking into rebel-held

areas of the city to help people trapped there.

Zaheir Sahloul joins me now live from Chicago. He is the chair of the Global Relief Committee at the Syrian-American Medical Society.

Thanks, D. Sahloul for being with us.

First of all, how many times have you met Bashar al-Assad?

DR. ZAHEIR SAHLOUL, SYRIAN-AMERICAN MEDICAL SOCIETY: I mean, he was my classmate in medical school. So, many times we had encounters where I

say hello and salaam and had a casual conversation. After he became president, we met three times as part of the Syrian-American Medical

Society conventions in Syria. We used to do medical missions in Syria.

And at one point he mentioned that he would have prefer to be a physician like us than being a president.

So, my perception of him when he was in medical school that he was a humble person. He did not have issues. He was not perceived as brutal or

ruthless or arrogant. But not -- most of us did not expect for him to be the way that he is right now. He is perceived as

overseeing the destruction of half of his country, the killing of half a million people, displacement of 12 million people in Syria, the destruction

of many cities and historic landmarks in Syria. No one expected him to be that brutal.

GORANI: Yeah, you mentioned that you didn't expect him, that your classmates didn't think -- that he was a soft spoken guy in medical school.

And then all this happened. And some of your colleagues met with him in 20111 after the uprising started. What did they say was his frame of mind

then?

SAHLOUL: They felt that he felt under siege. He felt that there is a huge conspiracy that is mastered by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey

and many other countries, and that he was well aware of what's happening in Syria and the demonstrations in every city. But the same time, one story

which is very revealing to what he is thinking -- one of my friends asked him about Hamza al-Khatib -- Hamza al-Khatib (ph) is a child that was

tortured to death in an Daraa. And then he looked at him and he said, do you know how many brothers Hamza al-Khatib has? And my friend was

surprised of that question. And then Bashar, President Assad said he had 13 brothers, and then he started laughing.

And you know, my friend thought at that time that this is not normal. And this is the way he was thinking, I guess, you know, that sometimes you

lose children, but it is not important if you are looking at the bigger scheme.

GORANI: That is a very interesting and telling anecdote. Now you went to Aleppo last -- just basically a few weeks ago. As dangerous as the

place is, you snuck in and you helped treat some of the patients. What did you see when you were there?

SAHLOUL: This was my fifth mission in Aleppo. And it's worse than any previous mission. We barely made it unharmed because the Castello

Road, only road coming from Turkey to Aleppo was bombed every day and we had injuries.

I have seen victims of barrel bombing. I stayed in a hospital that is underground because it was

bombed 17 times in the last four years. I visited four hospitals that all of them were bombed several

times. I saw a child called Ahmed (ph), 5-years-old, who had spinal cord injury because of shrapnel of barrel bomb. And he was on life support.

One day after I left, he had cardiac arrest and he died -- 5 years old.

I saw a woman (AUDIO GAP) double tap on her house...

[11:25:24] GORANI: All right. Sorry about that. We just lost the connection with Chicago there.

We are going to try to re-establish it. Once we do that, we'll get our conversation with Doctor Sahloul going again with a few more important

questions that I'd like to ask him about his time in Aleppo.

I'll headlines after the break just ahead. And also hospitals in Yemen are under threat as well, not just in Aleppo. A deadly attack there

leaves 11 dead. I'll speak to Doctors Without Borders on that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(HEADLINES)

GORANI: Wwell, it's day 11 of the Olympic Games. Germany's Sebastian Brindle has won the day's day's first gold medal in the men's canoe single

1,000 meters.

I'm discovering events by the day.

Other evenst to watch, after a stumble on the beam, the American gymnast Simone Biles will go for a fourth gold today in the floor exercise.

In beach volleyball, an American Kerry Walsh Jennings is fighting for an unprecedented fourth gold medal. She and her teammate April Ross take on

Brazil, the number two team in the world.

And Russia's Darya Klishina will compete in a qualifying round for Wednesday's long jump. She is the only Russian track and field athlete

competing in the track and field games. All her other teammates were banned over the doping scandal.

Now, doping allegations have haunted Russia as swimmer Yulia Efimova was cleared to compete, but only at the last-minute. But a previous doping

suspension sparked outrage among her American competitors. Our Nick Paton Walsh sat down with Efimova for an

exclusive interview.

She was booed. She had a hard time of it when she competed a few days ago. Nick is live in Rio. What did she tell you?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she doesn't really fit the profile many have conjured of the Russian athlete caught up

in the industrial scale of a state-sponsored system. This is an athlete who lives in Los Angeles for the vast majority of every year. She admits

two mistakes have led to two reprimands for doping. She got through on appeal, but

still was booed as she went into some of the races.

And it has left, frankly, a big emotional toll upon her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yulia Efimova, for some the unwilling face of Russian doping at these Olympics, is exhausted.

YULIA EFIMOVA, RUSSSIAN OLYMPIC SWIMMER: The last three weeks I sleep for like four or three hours a day. Sometimes I just almost want to stop it

and just like throw up and everything because I can't -- like it's crazy. But my friends, my parents, they just always try help me and say it's like,

you can't stop because it's your dream. (Inaudible) I'm pretty sure if it's just me I'm not sitting here with the silver.

WALSH: Two doping reprimands in three years. The first for a steroid, DHEA she says was in a supplement she unknowingly bought in an American

health food store. The second for a drug meldonium, only recently banned. She was only at the last minute allowed to compete on appeal. Then this

happened.

When you were in the pool and you did that what did you mean by that?

EFIMOVA: Yes, you know, it was like if you win your race you're first.

WALSH: Did you think that would cause Lilly King to do this?

EFIMOVA: That's why I don't understand what she meant. I don't know. Maybe it's because media and everything and like I'm so bad the media

always try to do some war or something like between athletes. It's -- I think it's more like interesting to watch but it's very hard for athletes.

WALSH: When you hear what the Americans have been saying about you.

EFIMOVA: Yes, it's like it upset me so much especially from (inaudible) and girls like Lilly King and everybody. Just too young. She

don't know, like, she don't know how life is going sometimes.

WALSH: She struggles to believe the depth of state-sponsored doping allegations against her Russian team.

It's hard for you to believe as a patriot or you don't believe the allegations themselves?

EFIMOVA: I don't want to believe this because I know like Russian athletes, a lot of Russian athletes, it's like more stupid just Russian

like use doping but every other country it's fine.

WALSH: It's political, right?

EFIMOVA: Yes. It's always look smart like political. It's only like Russia, Russia, Russia, like all Russia. Drink vodka, have beer and bring

doping and that's it.

WALSH: Yet, she loves her life and home in Los Angeles which she says has changed her.

EFIMOVA: It's -- life's so much easier than in Russian. Everybody is smiling. But they are super friendly and like Team USA always screaming

this and Russian people are like -- they have like really hard life. Like from young here and -- every day, so that's why they so like aggressive.

America is like a lot changed -- like changed me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Now those who stringently criticize her say there is no really such thing as two mistakes -- a drug cheat is a drug cheat. But still she

views them -- the first one, the taking of a food supplement as having been something she simply bought in an American store when she didn't know what

she was doing. And the ongoing row over the second drug Meldonium, has caught many athletes, including Maria Sharapova, in its wake.

But the key question of course for her is what next? She will continue with this mark next to her name, and is clearly very emotionally

exhausted. In tears, frankly, at the end of that interview, once off camera, a young woman who has still gone through a lot here and become the

sort of lightning rod, so to speak of the intense controversy over doping here despite, she argues, not necessarily fitting the exact profile of

those who had been criticized on the Russian team -- Hala.

[11:35:16] GORANI: All right, Nick Paton Walsh in Rio, thanks very much.

I want to take you back to Chicago and Doctor Zaheir Sahloul now as we were discussing a little bit earlier before our connection was lost, he was

a former classmate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in medical school, now very much on the opposite side of this conflict in Syria, sneaking into

Aleppo for the fifth time a few weeks ago, Dr. Sahloul, to help those injured in aerial bombardments in rebel-held areas.

You were going through basically one of the most heartbreaking lists of injuries, of people who lost their lives, of desperate civilians trying

to cling on to what is left of their city in these rebel-held areas. Do you think that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is intentionally targeting

hospitals?

SAHLOUL: To me, it looks like it. I mean, I saw seven hospitals, each one of them were bombed several times. People in Aleppo believe that

they are systematically targeted -- the schools, the fruit markets, the hospitals. I visited an orphanage that is underground. I spoke with the

children there, there were 40 children. And they were scared that they will have to eat grass and tree leaves and

cat meat the same way that the children of Madaya (ph) had to suffer through. And unfortunately their fear became a reality.

I visited an eye center that is underground because there are many children and civilians who lost their eyes, and President Assad is an eye

doctor. And they lost their eyes because of the shrapnels from barrel bombing. So, definitely people feel that they are started, talking about

civilians here, we're talking about the school children, we're talking about hospitals.

Doctors feel they are targeted. And President Assad has a chance to stop all of that. You know, I mean I appealed to the doctor inside him, to

the medical students that I knew when Iwas in medical school. He can stop all of that by a phone call, by a -- with a strike of a pen. He can stop

the barrel bombing.

I appeal to him to look to at the eyes of the children who lost their life because of the barrel bombing, to Samer (ph) and Mahmoud, these are

two children who suffocated to death a couple of days ago in Aleppo because of the chemical weapon.

Why is he doing that? There is no winners in what is happening in Aleppo and in Syria. He can be a peace maker.

GORANI: If you could address him directly right now, what would you say to your former

classmate? Someone you knew, you casually said hello to, you met three times after he became president. What would you say to him directly,

through the camera lens?

SAHLOUL: I will tell him that he swore the Hyopcratic Oath to do no harm, to save lives, even the lives of his enemies as a physician. He has

the chance to do that. He can help many more children and patients and people in Syria as a president than if he were as a doctor.

At one time he told us that he would prefer to be a doctor. He has the chance to save many lives. He can be a peacemaker instead of being

perceived as a war criminal. I appeal to the humanity inside him. He is a family man. He has children. And the children I've seen in Aleppo

suffering because of what he is doing is something that is unimaginable.

GORANI: I want to ask you one last question. Syrian physicians, a group of Syrian physicians, wrote a letter to Barack Obama, the American

president. Do you feel that the United States and the international community as a whole -- do you feel abandoned?

SAHLOUL: Definitely. Definitely. Every person in Syria I met, every doctor, every nurse feel

that they were abandoned by the international community. I mean, we are talking about a city that

has 2 million people, at one point 5 million in western Aleppo, 300,000 in eastern Aleppo, all of them right now under siege. And they are exposed to

bombing.

Yes, President Obama has responsibility to stop what's happening. President Clinton at one time stopped what's happening in Bosnia, and

President Obama can do the same. He has a few more months in office. His legacy will be tainted by what he did not do in Syria -- protecting

civilians and having access to people under siege.

Yes, people in Syria feel that they are deserted and the international community and President Obama, in particular, has the responsibility to

stop this craziness in Syria because what is happening in Syria is not limited to Syria, it's affecting all of us. The Orlando shooting and San

Bernardino shooting and these massacre is because of what is happening in Aleppo.

The same pictures that we are seeing of these children who are mutilated and bombed in Syria

are used by ISIS and other extremists groups to recruit jihadists and extremists.

GORANI: OK, Dr. Zaheir Sahloul, thanks very much, of the Syrian- American Medical Society, joining us from Chicago. We appreciate it.

A lot more to come. Unfortunately, more hospitals under threat, this time in Yemen. A deadly attack there leaves 11 dead. We'll speak to

Doctors Without Borders next about the situation there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:42:22] GORANI: Well, Doctors Without Borders says at least 14 people have been killed, 24 more wounded, after an air strike on a hospital

in northwestern Yemen.

The aid group condemned the attack, obviously. But also noted that the hospital's location was known to everyone involved in the conflict,

including the Saudi-led coalition conducting these strikes.

Amnesty International says this could amount to a war crime if it was indeed intentional. It wants a thorough and independent investigation.

Now, this is how important hospitals in Yemen are, already an impoverished country before the war, it provided medical care to more than

4,600 patients since Doctors Without Borders began supporting it a year ago.

Jomana Karadsheh is in Amman. She is following developments in Yemen with more on this air strike -- Jomana.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, as you mentioned there, this attack on the hospital in northwestern Yemen,

according to MSF, they say that it was carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.

Now the coalition, for its part, says that its investigative committee, this committee that was set up a while ago to look into

incidents like this is investigating these claims urgently, they say. And they say once their findngs are final, they will make that public.

But the real concern here, Hala is the fact is that this comes as we've seen escalation in violence on the ground in the last couple of weeks

since the end of the peace talks that were taking place in Kuwait.

There is a lot of concern amongst aid organizations that we have spoken to on the ground in Sanaa and other locations around Yemen about

this escalating violence when it comes to the health sector. One official today told us that it is really struggling. He said that it is on the

verge of total collapse. And we are not even talking about just these sort of strikes on medical facilities, it's also about shortages that they are

really struggling to cope with.

And a lot of concern about the civilian population that really bore the brunt of this conflict

since last year. Thousands of civilian casualties. An estimate by the UN of about 2,000 children, Hala, who have been killed. Just on Saturday, we

saw another strike in Northern Yemen on a school that killed at least 10 children and wounded more than two dozen others. These are children

between the ages of 8 and 10.

And when you speak to aid officials and people on the ground, they really paint a grim picture of the situation on the ground, a very

staggering figure today that we got from UNICEF, Hala, saying that every single day an average of six children are killed or injured since March of

last year, since the beginning of this conflict.

And a lot of concern that the international community is not doing enough to stop this conflict that many there feel now has become yet

another forgotten war, Hala.

[11:45:21] GORANI: All right, certainly Yemen not the headlines as much as other conflicts, that is for sure. Jomana Karadsheh in Amman,

thank you very much.

This is sadly not the first time the Doctors Without Borders hospitals have suffered devestating strikes. We just heard a firsthand account of

Syria's decimated medical system. In Afghanistan, you'll remember, there was last year's deadly U.S. strike on a Kunduz hospital supported by the

aid group. 185 patients and staff were in the hospital at the time when it struck, 42 people were killed.

The Pentagon's investigation into the incident concluded human error was to blame.

Sixteen members of the U.S. military were disciplined.

I'm joined now by Andre Heller Perache. He's the head of programs for Doctors Without

Borders, and the former head of mission in Yemen. Thanks for being with us.

ANDRE HELLER PERACHE, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS UK: Thanks for having me.

GORANI: Let's talk about this latest hospital strike here. We understand that the coordinates were communicated to everybody. So, it

must have come as a surprise to those inside the building that an air strike killed so many people.

PERACHE: Well, we communicate the locations where we work in Yemen to all warring parties, not just to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, but

also to actors on the ground. We have been in this structure since July of last year, of 2015, where we initially moved there to do secondary or

higher level health care support for a group of displaced population that we were also providing water to and doing mobile clinics for who had fled

areas of more violence up north and taken up refuge in the region.

GORANI: Well, I was speaking to Doctor Joanne Liu, who the head of MSF just a few

months ago after so many Syrian facilities were bombed. And she essentially told me that there

is hesitation now in communicating some of these coordinates because there is a concern that medical facilities are being target.

PERACHE: Well, it is a different situation in Yemen from what's taking place in Syria. I think that you just heard a compelling story from

a Syrian doctor who was just prior to me being here. In Yemen, we have had confidence in the system that was in place, despite the fact that there

have been four strikes on MSF structures at this point over the period of time, yet we have continued to try to follow the indications and

requirements offered to us by telling people exactly where we are working, exactly what we are doing.

GORANI: After four strikes?

PERACHE: This is clearly a shock to us.

GORANI: I'm sorry, I don't understand how after four strikes on hospitals you are confident that communicating coordinates is working.

PERACHE: Well, I think that that comment is perfectly appropriate given the sense that an event like this shakes to us the very core.

Now, circumstances around these situations are distinct for each one of them.

But this is a trend, and it's not just in Yemen, as you had mentioned as well, but this is something that's happening around the world.

What I'm worried about -- what we're worried about as an aid organization is that people start to think that this kind of thing is

normal. It's not normal. The impact that we make in Yemen is tremendous on the population there. We have treated over 200,000 patience

since this conflict has escalated and become international in March of 2015. We've done over 40,000 war wounded patience. We've treated over

20,000 surgical cases, 20,000 babies delivered. And we work on all sides of this conflict.

GORANI: Absolutely, I mean, it's really one of the organizations, Doctors Without Borders, and I say it every time, every time I report in

the field and I see one of your operations, it is awe inspiring what your organization does.

But let me ask you, though, a little bit about what this means that this hospital was -- you have 14 people tragically killed, 24 wounded. But

it's not just the one doctor or medical personnel, it's the number of people that they treat, that's also gone.

PERACHE: Well, precisely. And this is why I highlighted the fact that we were serving a displaced community as well as the local community

that was there. When you lose a health care center like this, it cuts off the last lifeline to people who were in desperate need of support. And we

support 11 hospitals throughout the country directly where we work with mixed teams of staff from around the world. Beyond that, we support an

additional 18 other facilities, health centers and hospitals both. We're running the dialysis centers in multiple parts of the country. We're

provided 1,300 tons of medicine since the beginning of the conflict.

Our presence there is so important. This is why it is -- we do our best to protect our facilities and to communicate with all parties to the

conflict that we are there for the people of Yemen, the civilians who are suffering due to this conflict.

GORANI: Can tell us a little bit about the people who were in that facility, those who were killed, those who were injured, were they locals,

were they people who had come from outside Yemen?

PERACHE: The people who were inside the facility were locals and displaced people. There has been an increase in number of wounded due to

their recent escalation of fighting that was mentioned previous to this. But effectively, a hospital is a center that is protected by war law, it's

protected by domestic law. It's a protected center, it's the last place of refuge in a time of conflict like this.

We have to collectively believe as people on this planet that we're able to operate facilities like this. People who are there need us.

Without our support, it would be an even greater catastrophe.

[11:50:23] GORANI: Yeah, it feels, though, like we're living sometimes living in a new era and hope it doesn't, as you said, start

becoming the new norm.

PERACHE: It's up to us to fight against that, to speak out about it, to say enough is enough, stop bombing hospitals, allow for the safe and

impartial provision of medical care even in times of conflict.

This is what we aim to do. And we will continue to try to make this a reality.

GORANI: All right, good luck to you. Andre Heller Perache, the head of programs for Doctors Without Borders UK for joining us here in the

studio.

A lot more coming up. After stumbling, a happier story, even if it's not a great happy ending for this athlete. But after stumbling on the

beam, the American gymnast Simone Biles tries for gold again. We're live in Rio after the break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: All right. Let's take you back to Rio de Janeiro now. The American, Christian Taylor -- oh, copy editors -- hello. Taylor? well,

anyway, whatever, he just won the gold in the triple jump. So, good for him.

World Sports Amanda Davies is following all the action.

Amanda, tell us more about what is happening today. And well done to Christian Taylor.

DAVIES: Well done to Christian Taylor. Yeah, it is Taylor, Hala. He was defending Olympic champion, very much the favorite going into this one

in the triple jump. And he has successfully defended his crown here this morning.

It's quite an interesting day today, actually, a lot of the big names have been going out to compete early. I can tell you Usain Bolt has just

begun his 200 meters campaign. This is stage two of three of course in terms of him completing the triple-triple of three gold medals in three

games. He won the 100 meters just two days ago. 200 is the one that he says he always worries most about, but it's at the one that he feels he is

absolutely the best at. He eased through his first round.

He -- as have so many of the other big names, the usually suspects, the likes of LaShawn Meritt, Justin Gatlin. But the 200 meters is spread

out over a good couple of days. Perhaps, we feel that the organizers are hoping that if you spread out the likes of Justin Gatlin and Usain bolt,

they might sell more tickets for more sessions at the Olympic stadium.

In terms of the other big names, though, today in action Simone Biles, as you mentioned. She hasn't got long to pick herself up and turn herself

around after that disappointment really on the balance beam yesterday. She had won three golds. She was going for number four here in Rio yesterday

but showed that she is human after all. She set the bar so high in the last couple of days, you almost felt that she was never, ever going to make

any mistakes.

But in some ways it showed us just how tough what she does is. When she slipped, she had to put her hands on the beam, so she came away with

bronze in that. But is straight back to it today in her favorite event, that's the floor event. She has her famous move that

has now been named The Simon Biles, not exactly the most imaginative, but she is absolutely teaching the rest how it's done on the floor.

And you wouldn't bet against her getting her getting her fourth gold in that one.

And I've just got to tell you, Hala, a lot of high hopes and Brazilian interest today in the women's football team. They kick off about five

minutes from now in their football semifinal against Sweden across Rio here at the Maracana.

We had, of course, in the run up of this games been talking about the men's football team as all the focus to win Olympic football gold for the

hosts for the first time. You have to say, it's the women, it seems, with a much, much better chance.

But Sweden, although they beat them earlier in this tournament, have improved steadily. They've knocked out the USA in the last round. So,

likely to provide some stiff opposition.

[11:56:04] GORANI: Let me ask you about spectator turnout. Because yesterday I didn't sleep until 3:30 in the morning watching track and

field, clearly not long enough to catch Christian Taylor, but still some really fun events and some unexpected finishes, but I cooperate help but

notice that the stadium looked very empty, to be completely frank. What's going on there?

DAVIES: There is no other word for it, Hala. Empty is absolute the word. And it seems that there's a whole lot more people sitting at home

watching it on television than actually wanting to go to the events, and that is despite what the organizer is saying. We heard really, really

early on from the organizers that they were really pleased that they'd hit that 85 percent mark in terms of ticket sales. They were saying that they

were impressed that there was a large number of international visitors buying tickets for the major events.

There have been some venues, like the beach volleyball,where it does seem there is a lot of home support for those events. But you have to say

on the whole that is not the case.

The weather last night was really, really bad for the athletics, that certainly wouldn't have helped. But it seems that people are going to

gates saying they want to buy tickets for the events, for example, the 100 meters final. They are being turned away, being told it is a sellout. The

reality is when we're seeing the empty seats is it's absolutely not.

GORANI: Interesting.

All right Amanda Davies thanks very much.

All right, thanks for watching the program.

END