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Activist: Chemical Attack In Douma Kills Dozens; Officials: 1 Person Dead And 6 Firefighters Injured; U.S. Farmers Anxious Amid Trade War Fears; Activists Chemical Attack In Douma Kills Dozens; Officials & Palestinians Killed At Israel Border Friday; Israel: Philippines Tourist Island Shutting Down For Cleaning. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired April 8, 2018 - 11:00   ET


Syrian opposition and volunteer group say a chemical attack in the rebel- held city Douma has killed at least 48 people, wounding around 500. One man was killed and six responding firefighters were injured when the 50th floor

of the Trump Tower was on fire. U.S. Farmers are in fear amid the trade war against China. Dozens of people were killed in an apparent chemical weapons

attack on a suburb of Damascus after troops loyal to the government restarted their offensive to take back the rebel-held city, opposition

activists, medics and rescue workers said Sunday. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a journalist named Yaser Murtaja was shot

in the stomach while wearing a press vest and holding a camera covering the Friday protest. The Philippines government will be closing its most famous

holiday island Boracay to tourists for six months in order to clean it up after concerns that rapid development and pollution was threatening its

idyllic shores.>


[11:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Lynda Kinkade at CNN's Global Headquarters. We are busy

connecting the world today. Let's get started. Well, Syrian opposition and volunteer group say a chemical attack in the rebel-held city Douma on

the outskirts of Damascus has killed at least 48 people, wounding around 500. Now, CNN cannot verify the images that you're about to see which were

published on the Douma revolution Facebook account but we think it is important to show you them in just a moment, and I should warn you, some of

them are very graphic. Now, it happens in the very contested Eastern Ghouta, enclave activist point the finger at the Syrian regime. But the

government denies responsibility. Again, we must warn you, these images that you're about to see are hard to watch. The video appears to show the

victims. The women, children, and men left on the floor of what opposition activist described as an underground shelter where they have been seeking

safety. The phlegm you can see on their lips and their noses appear to be the tell-tale sign of a chemical attack. And now the video shows doctors

frantically treating patients, again, many of them children. Some of them appear to have been had some sort of trouble simply trying to breathe, but

at least this baby is heard crying. And it's not only children, scores of adults are affected. Doctors say they've seen victims apparently paralyzed

by what is likely some type of chemical agent. Now, these people are being washed down to clear away any toxic residue. And to remind, these videos

were taken by anti-government activist and doctors and edited before publication on social media.

Well, CNN is on the ground in Syria. Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen is covering the story from the capital of Damascus and

our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Beirut in neighboring Lebanon. Good to have you both with us. I want to start first

with Fred. These images coming to us by opposition groups, very hard to verify because the city is surrounded by government troops, journalist

can't get access. But you are on the ground in Syria, just explain what you're hearing.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Lynda! Yes, very troubling images and as you said very hard to verify as well. And of

course, also as you can imagine, there is a lot of controversy with both sides putting out allegations against one another. So all this happen only

about eight miles from where I am right now in Ghouta, which is on the outskirts of -- the eastern outskirts of Damascus. And from we're hearing

from opposition groups, they say this happened at around 8:22 p.m. on Saturday night when they say a helicopter of the Syrian government was

hovering above this Douma area and then dropped some sort of improvised device, and then afterwards people started having these respiratory

problems. The opposition groups are saying there's hundreds of people who have these problems and as you've noted, they say that dozens of people

have been killed. And once again it seems that number is still pretty much unclear and influx as this situation continues to develop. We've also said

it's very -- it's pretty much impossible to verify both the pictures and the information that's coming from inside that rebel enclave of Douma but

the government has issued a very strong denial and a very strong response. They're saying essentially two things. They believe that this is a ploy to

stop them from advancing on that area. We have to keep in mind that there was a fierce government offensive going on in that area until the early

warning hours of today. And it seems as though at this point in time, we're getting signals that perhaps (INAUDIBLE) between the rebels that are

in that area and the Syrian government brokered by the Russians for the rebels to leave that are and put the Syrian government forces to move in.

There still some controversy as to whether or not that is really the case, but certainly it seems there is some movement on the ground. Nevertheless,

both sides are hurling allegations at one another. And once again, one of the things we can see is that, it's the civilians here in Syria are

suffering the most as you can see from those horrible images. Lynda?

KINKADE: Yes, Fred, certainly those civilians, those women, those children, and the men and involved. Fred, in the last couple of hours,

U.S. President Trump has weighed in calling it a mindless chemical attack and saying Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran and Syria are responsible

for backing the Syrian President who he called "Animal Assad." He also said that there would be "a big price to pay." How could that translate on

the ground where you are?

PLEITGEN: Well, I'm not really sure that the Syrian government believes that there really is going to be a huge price to pay as President Trump put

it. Look, one of the things that we've seen over the past couple of months is that the U.S. has been, or at least President Trump has been clear that

he wants out of Syria. And the U.S. has really been essentially marginalized as a player on the ground both in terms of the military but

also of course, in terms of diplomacy as well. In fact only a couple of days ago, there was this summit on the future of Syria that was held by

Turkey, Iran, and Russia with the U.S. of course not being at the table. And those three countries as well are the ones that have shown long-term

military commitments here to Syria and have essentially laid out their positions for what they wanted to see there and followed through it. If

you look at the areas here in Damascus, especially there in Douma where this alleged attack happened, it is the Russians that are clearly calling

the shots there and the Syrian government that is advancing in those places. President Bashar al-Assad is in a stronger position now than he

has been since I was would say 2015. So while there are some people here in Damascus who fear that there could be some sort of U.S. retaliation,

there are very few who believe that retaliation would lead to a decisive shift in Syria's ongoing civil war. Of course, it's been going on since

2011, Lynda.

[11:06: 12] KINKADE: That's right, now in its seventh year. Fred, just stand by for us. I want to go to Ben because we also heard from President

Trump taking a dig at the previous administration, at President Barack Obama saying that if he'd taken military action after a major alleged gas

attack in 2013, the Syrian disaster would have ended a long time ago. And this of course despite Donald Trump tweeting at the time that attacking

Syria would only lead to bad things. Ben, what's your take on that kind of passing the buck, blaming the previous administration. Could the previous

administration have done more here?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, I think (INAUDIBLE) analyst on the situation in Syria since the beginning of

the uprising there in 2011, the administration of Barack Obama made a series of mistakes. First of all, it called for the overthrow of the

regime and then Barack Obama set out the red line the use of chemical weapons that Bashar al-Assad should not cross and of course on the 21st of

August 2013, widely believed that the regime did cross that line with a chemical attack in Ghouta, that left more than a thousand people dead,

really the United States has just made one mistake after another and no administration is really innocent in that regard. At this point, there are

no really good options for the United States. After the 4th of April attack last year on Khan Sheikhoun that left more -- chemical attack than

left more than 70 people dead, yes, the Trump administration did launch 59 cruise missiles at an air base in Central Syria but that really didn't

change the course of the war in any way. And the fact of e matter is, let's keep in mind that nearly half a million people have been killed in

the Syrian civil war on both sides, and that certainly the world refocuses its attention on Syria when perhaps chemical weapons have been used, but

it's worth noting that according to the United Nations, up to March of six, March 6th of this year, more than 1,000 Syrian children had been killed and

that didn't seem to move the world in any way. And yes, to die by chemicals is a gruesome to die but people are still dying and it doesn't

appear that anybody has a solution to this on-going bloodbath that we're just seeing another spike in today. Lynda?

KINKADE: Ben, just talk to us about this area of Eastern Gouta, this area that has been a long, hard-fought battle held by the rebels since very

early in this seven-year war and it's an area the regime claimed to be winning in the battle. And if that's the case, why would the Syrian army

carry out an attack like this?

WEDEMAN: Well, that's a very good question and a question many people are asking, that given that they've retaken almost all of the Eastern Ghouta,

and really obviously the rebel faction that's left in Douma which is called Jaysh al-Islam, the Army of Islam supported by Saudi Arabia has really got

its back against the wall. And we saw that over ten days before the resumption of hostilities there were negotiations for the evacuation of

those fighters to northern Syria. So it's not at all clear why the Syrian government would use these chemical weapons which have refocused world

attention on the situation in the eastern Ghouta. So it's a good question. It's obvious why the government wants to crush this pocket of resistance

outside of this city of Damascus because it really is a suburb of Damascus and it has been the source of regular mortar and rocket fire into the

capital. So the Syrian government which has been able to boast significant progress against the rebels and clearly wants to crush this area of

resistance. Why they would use chemical weapons at this point is anybody's guess. Lynda?

[11:10:37] KINKADE: All right, Ben Wedeman for us in Beirut, always good to get your analysis and Fred, one of the few international reporters on

the ground inside Syria, thank you. When the Syrian regime was accused of a chemical attack last year, the U.S. responded with cruise missiles. So

what if any will be the reaction this time around? Now, to discuss this further is CNN Military Analyst Mark Hertling who joins us from Orlando,

Florida. Always good to have you on the program, Mark. When we look at what happened last year and the way President Trump responded, is it enough

to deter the Syrian regime? And if you were in the White House right now what would be your advice?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it certainly isn't enough, Lynda, and we've seen that. And your questions for both Fred and Ben were

insightful and spot on. What we're seeing over the last week or so have been extremely intense and unrelenting attacks in eastern Ghouta and

Damascus, this area has been said are considered to be a place where Jaysh al-Islam is remaining. So to answer your question before, why use

chemicals, I think personally it's intimidation, a continued intimidation, number one. And number two, because they can. Going back to your question

as what kind of advice would I give? I'm not sure right now because we're so far into this fight, a civil war where Russia has made themselves known,

where the Iranian influence has been certainly contributing to the situation to support Assad and we are now Turkey our NATO allies becoming

involved in the northern part of Syria, it's just becoming more complex rather than less so. So it has actually closed some of the options that

the President has and President Obama said himself that this was the biggest failure of his term in office and I think you're going to see the

same thing that President Trump will say. He is put in a very hard position right now because he has promised to retaliate again if chemical

strikes were used again by the Assad regime. They have been, Russia has already warned against conducting those counter strikes and it's becoming

more intense as we're talking about the potential for a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.

KINKADE: And speaking of that, and the -- I guess the conundrum that the U.S. President faces. Let's just take a listen to what President Trump

said last week about Syria.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be coming out if Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very

soon, we're coming out.


KINKADE: That message was just hours after the Pentagon highlighted the need for U.S. troops to remain there for the immediate future. It seems

that the president -- it's a tale of two Trumps, whether to pull out very soon or whether to take the moral high ground and respond to a chemical

attack like this. How does he reconcile those two things?

HERTLING: Well, when I -- when I heard that statement, what I immediately thought of, I'm a history -- I like history and I thought back to what

happened with the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq in 1990 when she basically told Saddam Hussein that he could go ahead and the U.S. wouldn't react if he

went into Kuwait. They did right after that. There was a signal sent by this. Words matter on the world stage. When President Trump said that

countering the things that both his State Department and his Defense Department were saying in terms of increasing the number of military forces

there, it certainly sent a message to Russia and Iran and to Syria that he didn't want any part of this fight. Let's give it -- let the people in the

area take care of it I think is what he also said. So they're taking care of it today and it's just an indicator that words and tweets are not a

strategy. You have to have really, an understanding of how you synchronize all these elements within an administration.

KINKADE: So is the fear that those sort of words could embolden the Syrian regime that we are going to pull out quickly knowing that once the U.S.

leaves, the remaining powers are virtually all on Assad's side.

HERTLING: I think they have emboldened the Syrian regime. It's the same kind of thing that happened in the last administration when we're talking

about troop levels and troop strength in both Iraq and Afghanistan. When the enemy hears those sort of things, and in this case, the enemy is the

government Assad, they tend to do things that they might not otherwise do. So I think we're making as a country the same mistakes we've made multiple

times as Ben Wedeman said throughout this campaign against Syria.

[11:15:19] KINKADE: CNN Military Analyst Mike Hertling, always great to get your perspective. Thanks so much for joining us.

HERTLING: Thank you, Linda. I want to go to Germany now and another major story we're watching. Police is searching for a motive behind Saturday's

deadly attack in the western city of Muenster. Crowds of people were enjoying a warm Sunday afternoon when a van deliberately slammed into a

restaurant's open terrace killing two people and wounding 20 others. The driver then shot and killed himself. Police say he acted alone and as of

right now there is no link to terror. Well, still to come, U.S. President Donald Trump suggests a happy end to trade war woes and heaps praise on an

official embroiling the scandal. The latest on the stories making waves at the Trump White House when we come back.


KINKADE: Welcome back. Firefighters rush to the feet of a fatal fire at U.S. President Donald Trump's flagship New York City property. Billowing

flames could be seen coming from an apartment on the 50th floor of Trump Tower. One man was killed and six responding firefighters were injured in

the blaze. The President and his family were not in the building during that fire but he tweeted about it, and our affiliate WPIX in New York has

more details.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was an automatic alarm from an alarm company at 5:35 p.m. that alerted he FDNY that there was a fire on the 50th floor of

Trump Tower. Within five minutes the first firefighters were on the scene in what the Fire Commissioner called a very large apartment with lots of

furniture 50 stories up

DANIEL NIGRO, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Units made their way up to the 50th floor. The apartment was virtually entirely on

fire. They pushed in heroically. They were knocking down the fire. They found one occupant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 51-year-old male resident later was pronounced dead at St. Luke's. More than 200 firefighters and EMS battled this four-

alarm fire with lots of smoke damaging other apartments above. President Trump and his family were not in the building and the President tweeted

just an hour after the fire broke out "fire at Trump Tower is out." Very confined, well-built building. Firemen and women did a great job. Thank

you." The Fire Commissioner talked about how difficult it was to fight this fire.

[11:20:23] NIGRO: The units have to get there, and they have to hook up to a standpipe system with their hose. It takes a little longer. The fire,

of course, the building -- it contains the heat and it contains the smoke. It was extremely hot in the apartment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Several groups of tourist were inside Trump Tower walking near the Trump's store and share their videos of the fire and their

stories of being evacuated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a little scary. I'm not going to lie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We could see the fire and the flames coming out. I was scared for a while. I'm glad I got out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were downstairs in the cafe. We saw one truck pull up and a gentleman came downstairs and told us we had to evacuate, and

they exited us out the back of the building and then we came outside and we saw that it was on fire.


KINKADE: Well, President Trump is not shying away from controversy this weekend. He's once again attacking his own Justice Department and the FBI

asking what have they got to hide? He's accusing them of dragging their feet on a Congressional inquiry to several issues including Hillary

Clinton's e-mails and alleged abuse of his secret FISA court. This as Mr. Trump doubles down on his defense of his embattled EPA Chief. He tweeted

that Scott Pruitt is doing a great job despite a lengthy list of ethics issues. President Trump be is predicting a rosy outcome from the messy

trade dispute with China tweeting that he will always be friends with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that China will "take down its trade

barriers." But fears of a trade war are running high especially after Mr. Trump off the (INAUDIBLE) on Thursday threatening additional $100 billion

in tariffs. It's a move he may have made without first consulting his new top economic adviser. Larry Kudlow makes it sound as if he found out about

it when rest of us did.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Well, you would support that the President pulled the trigger on the hundreds of billions of dollars of tariffs against



TAPPER: You would?

KUDLOW: I absolutely would. No free market guy, no free trade guy disagrees on this subject. The guild if you will, the brethren of the

economic profession have all agree that something has to be done. Now, Jake, remember, this is a process, right? No tariffs have been surmounted


TAPPER: I get that. Yes.

KUDLOW: In this last round that was announced late last week, the President asked Lighthizer our trade diplomat to consider whether an

additional round of tariffs would be necessary or useful and part of that is because after we've made the first round, the Chinese response was

unsatisfactory, to put it at least. So the President is trying to get their attention again. The process may include tariffs. I can't rule that

out. It may rest eventually on negotiations. We will see how the President wants to do it.


KINKADE: You just, of course, heard Larry Kudlow on CNN's Jake Tapper "STATE OF THE UNION" a short time ago insisting that these tariffs may

never happen. But if they do, he is on board. But before that, I just want to play some sound where he seems quite surprised to find out this

announcement was even going to happen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did the President first tell you that he was going to announce these additional potential $100 billion tariffs?

KUDLOW: Last evening.


KINKADE: It sounds like Larry Kudlow had to play catch up with the rest of us on what is taking place in regards to the trade war. Well, many

Americans already filling the (INAUDIBLE) not just on Wall Street but also in the heart of Trump country, among the states most affected by China's

proposed tariffs will be states that voted for President Trump. Farm products are being targeted and Iowa residents fear the worst. Here's our

Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This could be America's next war zone, Iowa. If a trade war between the U.S. and China breaks out, then America's

heartlands is on the front lines and Ron Heck's Farm will be one of the many battlefields.

How worried are you?

RON HECK, SOYBEAN FARMER: Well, it's a matter of concern when your largest soybean export customer is having negotiations with your government.

SAVIDGE: And President Trump's take no prisoner negotiating style is worrying the rural constituency that they helped put him in the White


HECK: I have some current concern with the President.

SAVIDGE: China is threatening to put a 25 percent tariff on all U.S. soybeans. The result for Iowa soybean farmers has been a week of stomach-

churning value swings for a crop that hasn't even been planted yet.

HECK: Well, I grow more than 100,000 bushels a year so a 50-cent reaction is $50,000. So that's a big deal.

[11:25:06] SAVIDGE: America is the number one producer of soybeans.

GRAHAM KIMBERLY, SOYBEAN FARMER: In the United States, one of every three rows that you see driving down the road of a soybean field will end up in


SAVIDGE: Graham Kimberly is a sixth generation farmer in his family, and like many, he's hoping the terror threats don't become reality.

KIMBERLY: I want to encourage both governments to continue the -- continue the dialogue --

SAVIDGE: You would like cooler heads to prevail.

KIMBERLY: And make sure that cooler heads prevail in this whole situation.

SAVIDGE: But for pork producer Dave Struthers, just the threat of tariffs on pork has had a significant impact on the price he gets today for his


DAVE STRUTHERS, HOG FARMER: A market hog right now is only worth about $100. It takes me about $120 to produce it.

SAVIDGE: He says he's losing about $2,000 a week and he's already thinking of going to the banks for loans. But crop prices aren't the only thing a

trade war might jeopardize. There's also a very real political price that Republicans could pay at the midterms and beyond. You see, the biggest

pork and soybean states are overwhelmingly red states controlled by Republicans.

SAVIDGE: You don't think the Chinese just sort of capriciously picked soybeans?

KIMBERLY: No, no. The Chinese are very politically astute.

SAVIDGE: Kimberly has first-hand insight. His family is personal friends with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping. We even visited Kimberly's farm six years

ago. The man who is now the president --

KIMBERLY: Exactly.

SAVIDGE: As American farmers calculate the cost of a potential trade war, some already have become victims here.

STRUTHERS: That's the problem, you know. There's innocent victims here.

SAVIDGE: Which means GOP leaders should be concerned with the potential cost in rural American votes.

Did you vote for this President?

STRUTHERS: I did vote for this President.

SAVIDGE: Do you at any way feel regretful?

STRUTHERS: You know, I want to see this play out. Am I going to vote for him again? I'm going to say, it depends on who's running against him.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge CNN Perry, Iowa.


KINKADE: Well, for more on all of this stories and are they going on, seeing the world of U.S. politics, just head over to

There you'll find our latest reporting on all things Trump. Still ahead, a Palestinian journalist among the dead as violence continues along the Gaza-

Israeli border. That story coming up next.


[11:31:11] KINKADE: Live from CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Lynda Kinkade. Welcome back to our


Well, to return now to our top stories, Syrian activist say dozens of people were killed, Saturday in a government launch chemical attack on a

rebel-held city of Douma. CNN cannot independently verify the videos you're about to see, it was taken by anti-government activist and doctors.

We need to warn you some of the images are disturbing.

Witness has say, a helicopter dropped a barrel bomb which unleashed toxic gas on the area. Doctors say many patients suffered convulsions and became

paralyzed. These people you can see being washed down to clear away the toxic residue. The Syrian government denies any role in the attack.

Fawaz Gerges is a professor at the London School of Economics and also making the Arab world. He is also a friend of the show and joins us from

Beirut, Lebanon. Always good to have you on. I want to start first --


KINKADE: -- with this promise by Russia in 2013 that the Syria -- the Syria would abandon its use of chemical weapons. Since that promised was

made, we know international investigators have found the Syrian regime guilty of using chemical weapons at least four times.

We heard today from President Trump, blaming the Obama administration were mistakes made in the past. What can we learn from those?

GERGES: Well, we can learn from today. And yes, as you've said we don't have really verifications so far. We don't have credible evidence, more

resources. Even though there has been a pattern of the use of chemical weapons and nerve gasses here, 2013, 2017, 2018.

What we have learned is that basically, despite the combinations by the international community. Despite the rhetoric of the French president and

the American president, international community has turned a blind eye to the unfolding tragedy in Syria.

I mean, think about agenda. We're talking about the use of chemical weapons and the killing of schools of civilians. What you have in Syria,

more than 400,000 have been killed in the past eight years. It's the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yes, we should be terribly concerned

about the multiple use of chemical weapons over the years. But what we should be concerned about how do we end this strategy?

President Trump blames Barack Obama. OK, Barack Obama made some mistakes. Is President Trump, committed that he have the desire and the will to

basically become engage in Syria? This is the question, as we know he wants to drain American troops sooner rather than later. So before

criticizing basically his predecessor, President Trump's responsibility is to get fully engage, actively engage, diplomatically engage with the

international community to bring about an end to this particular tragedy that has ravaged those state and society.

KINKADE: As we heard today, President Trump tweeting just a short time ago, warning of a big price to pay for this apparent chemical attack. We

also heard a response to that tweet. Senior Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, saying that Mr. Trump has to back up that tweet with action. Take

a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It becomes a tweet without meaning. Then, he's hurt himself with North Korea. If he

doesn't follow through and lived up to that tweet, he's going to look weak in the eyes about Russia and Iran. So, this is defining moment, Mr.

President. You need to follow through that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.


[11:34:57] KINKADE: So we have a president here with to conflicting positions. One saying, we want to -- he wants to remove U.S. troops very

soon. And then, the other hand, saying that there's going to be a very big price to pay. With regards to what Lindsay Graham, just had to say, the

president listen to that? Will he act on that?

GERGES: First of all, with all due respect, I don't really take anything that President Trump says will granted. He is full of contradictions, he

is incoherent, he is all over the map. If president really is concerned about the situation in Syria, basically, should show that he is really

concerned diplomatically, politically, socially.

The reality is, even if President Trump carries out an attack tomorrow or the day after. As he did, as you know in 2017. This is not enough, the

situation has gone too far, it's too little. What we need now is the international community led by the United Nations, by the European Union,

by the U.S. president, to really sit down with the Russians, with the church, with the Iranians, with the Saudis and try to find a solution to

this particular crisis.

My take on it is that President Trump's words about the big price does not really mean much at all. Because he, as long as he does not translate his

rhetoric into active political engagement, the rhetoric basically, the word does not be (INAUDIBLE). I'm here in the heart of the Middle East in

Beirut, and people realize that President Trump does not mean when he says -- when he talks about big price. Whether it's about North Korea or even

about Syria.

KINKADE: And Fawaz, I just want to remind our viewers about what happened in 2017, you just referenced it briefly. Almost exactly a year to this

day, dozens of civilians in Syria were killed in the rebel-held town of Khan Shaykhun. Including women and young children activist, of course,

blaming the Syrian government. And two days later, Donald Trump, launch 60 cruise missile at a Syrian airbase. And then, days later, the U.N.

Security Council look to pass a resolution condemning the chemical attacked hat was vetoed by Russia, of course, ally of Syria.

So, for all its awfulness, these attacks seem to be effective for the Syrian regime and no one seems to be stopping them. How closer they to


GERGES: Well, I think, you have really put your finger on the pulse of a very critical angle of these Syrian conflict. The Syria conflict now is

more about regional and local rival list. It's not just between the Assad regime and the rebels. I mean, yes, President Trump, basically has waited

some warnings to Syria regime. Yet the Russians have made it very clear, any attack on Syria would have major consequences because they have some

major forces all over Damascus and other places, as well.

So this is now -- it's not just about Assad and the rebels, it's about the United States and Russia. It's about Israel and Iran. It's about Turkey

and the Kurds. It's a very complicated situation, and yes, Lynda, the Assad Regime is winning, is winning militarily. And Assad is in a hurry to

finish off the rebels. But at the end of the day, what we talk -- what we need here is not an American attack against some chemical facilities in

Syria. What we need is active American diplomatic engagement with the international community.

President Trump has one fixation. And one fixation only and that's the so- called Islamic State. Even if the Islamic State is defeated in Syria, the Syrian war will go on for many years. The challenge is not only to defeat

ISIS militarily, the challenge is to end the tragedy that has taken that has exacted a heavy toll on the Syrian people including today.

Yet, a warning to our viewers, we do not have conclusive evidence that the Syria regime used chemical weapons today even though there is a pattern of

attacks by the Syrian regimes including chemical gas and nerve gas in Syria since 2013.

KINKADE: Fawaz Gerges, always good to get your perspective, hear challenge even with this war now in its seventh year. Thank you so much for being

with us.

Well, in Gaza, health official say, a journalist is one of the nine Palestinians killed during Friday's protests along the border with border

of Israel. Hundreds of people gathered Saturday for the funeral of the slain journalist. Israel says it will looking to the circumstances of his

death. The Israeli defense minister called the protest a terrorist parade and says there were no civilians there. Palestinians are taking part in a

week's long march of return, a demonstration demanding the right to return to land inside what is now Israel.

Well, these 31 Palestinians have been killed since the protest began two weeks ago. Our Ian Lee has more on the protest from the Israeli-Gaza


[11:40:24] IAN JAMES LEE, CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Burning tires draw a black curtain across the border of Gaza and Israel. A Friday of fire mix

with tear gas and water ingredients for another volatile day. Thousands of Palestinians again rallying near the fence, meters away, Israeli forces.

Each side bracing following Gaza's deadliest week in years.

This thick, black smoke is designed to obscure the sight of Israeli snipers. But the military fears that it could also be used as cover for

Palestinians moving closer to the border.

This video provided by the IDF allegedly shows a Palestinian cutting the border fence, a red line for Israel, who warns anyone threatening the

country's sovereignty is risking their life.


LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, HEAD, INTERNATIONAL MEDIA DESK: Our mission today is to deny the Hamas, that ability. And to make sure that nothing

harms the -- our security infrastructure and nothing comes across.

LEE: Tear gas and water cannons try to repel Palestinians making a run at the fence. When that doesn't work, live rounds and the death toll rises.

"I'm hoping that I will be a martyr," Nehal Walid, says. "My son is carrying the Israeli flag. He will burn it in front of them, and I want

him to be a martyr too, God willing."

She is not the only one that says so. Many of these Palestinians tell us they have nothing to lose and will do anything to return the lands they

lost to Israel 70 years ago. Their determination can be measured by their casualties. And the dead and injured overwhelming Gaza's already

struggling hospitals.

MAHNA AHMED, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, AL-AWDA: There is some shortage in some kinds of medicines and supplies. So, we are trying but it's not so easy.

LEE: It's likely to get more difficult with the violence expected every Friday until mid-May. And many worry a single incident could burn out of

control leading to yet another war. Ian Lee, CNN, on the Israel-Gaza border.


KINKADE: Well, CNN, Oren Liebermann, joins me now from Jerusalem. Some of great reporting there, Oren, I want to ask you about the death of this

Palestinian journalist whose mother was hoping that he'd recover from his injuries, but that was not to be.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The name of that journalist is Yaser Murtaja. He was shot and killed on Friday by Israeli forces according to

the Palestinian Ministry of Health. He was shot in the stomach while wearing a press vest and holding a camera. According to news agencies and

those who were on the site working next to him, covering the Friday protest, he was rushed to the hospital but that is where he later died from

his wounds.

Reporters Without Borders, which is an international media watchdog said, "It's clear, it's intentional," they say that Israel fired upon Murtaja,

the shot that killed him. Meanwhile, the IDF, the Israeli military has responded saying it's not aware of the circumstances in which Murtaja was

shot. As policy, Israel does not target journalists, but this incident, this killing has laser-focused criticism not only from Palestinians but

also from the international community on Israel's actions here, on Israel's use of live fire. As well as other riot dispersal measures both this past

Friday and the week before.

Now, as you pointed out, the number of Palestinians killed stands at 31. This really insists those kill were carrying out either attacks or breaches

of the security fence which is a red line for Israel. But it has focused criticism on Israel's actions, on Israel's use of live fire against

protesters. The numbers that standing at some 20,000 who participated this past Friday, and that criticism of Israel coming not only from media

watchdogs but also from the international community and that's only expected to increase in the coming weeks as this protests continue.

And that has become -- Lynda, what this is about at this point, a battle for the narrative of what's happening along the Gaza border. This

criticism of Israel continues and increases Palestinians wanting their story to be, the big story in the Middle East, and with the exception of,

of course, Syria that has what happen over the full course of the last week or so, Lynda.

KINKADE: All right, Oren Liebermann, no doubt we will be speaking to you at many more times over the coming weeks. Thank you very much.

Well, live from Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, a polluted paradise. Why a Philippines tourist hot spot is dealing the pinch? We'll

have that story when we come back.


[11:46:57] KINKADE: Well, it looks like another day in paradise, tourists and locals alike enjoying soft, sandy beaches on the islands of Boracay.

But the Philippines' government is kicking visitors off the popular tourist spot for a six month clean up. President Rodrigo Duterte, even doing so

far as to call it a cesspool because of raw sewage. So, how the people on the island responding to all of this? Well, CNN's Alexandra Field has been

talking to tourists and business owners who are worried that visitors won't come back.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lynda, they are still swimming in the waters just behind me. This is allowed for only a few more weeks, but

business owners on this stretch of beach insist their water is clean. But that isn't the case all over the island, and that's why federal officials

insist that the entire island must now be shut down to visitors for some six months.


They come for the sand of those white sand beaches, the surf seemingly clear, blue waters. This is Boracay, of the Philippines' most visited

islands, 2 million came in 2017. Now it's been called a cesspool by the country's own president. The island, government officials say is overrun

with trash and has a wastewater problem.

ULI STACHER, BUSINESS OPERATOR, BORACAY, PHILIPPINES: On the height of it we had, basically, the first ten meters on the shoreline, a raw sewage. It

was yellowish, smelly -- I mean, you could really smell it.

FIELD: And this is a place that people are coming from around the world to visit?

STACHER: Yes, yes.

FIELD: This is one of the most famous beaches in Boracay, but all along you'll find this big drainage pipes. They're meant for storm runoff that

local say that for years, they been seeing raw sewage flowing right out of it.

At the end of April, Boracay's beach party ends for as many as six months to clean up and repair work that's already underway. Measures to deal with

problems caused by rapid development. Locals say the water looks better already, but that little notice of the sweeping shutdown could leave them

without businesses to come back to.

STACHER: You could have done it in a less dramatic way. You don't need to shut down an entire island. You could shut down phase by phase.

FIELD: What will this mean for you, for your business?

STACHER: Basically to standstill. No more income, zero. And also the employees, no more income.

FIELD: Uli Stacher, runs a water sports school. He fears his employees will leave to find work on other islands and that they won't come back.

Those who make their money off with (INAUDIBLE) waves have anything bigger fear that tourists won't come back either.


FIELD: Kristopher Nacor, says his water sports business is losing money even before the official shutdown begins.

NACOR: They said, "Oh, and we don't want to come back to bulabog it is dirty." So it's -- I mean, it's affecting us already.

FIELD: Swimming will be banned, flights are being canceled. The government says calamity funds will be available for affected workers.

Still, Jun Juan Salvador is a tour guide who says, he hasn't sure how we will get by. Boracay is popular the world over as a wedding destination.

[11:50:10] AMANDA TIROL, WEDDING PLANNER, BORACAY, PHILIPPINES: I ended up crying, she ended up crying, we were both crying.

FIELD: Wedding planner, Amanda Tirol her employees, her vendors, and her venues will all feel the effect. Then, there's a heartbreak, too.

TIROL: So, all of a sudden, that wedding of their dreams can't happen anymore. We actually have some brides that were crying and saying -- you

know, the wedding of their dreams aren't going to happen anymore.

FIELD: The promises that Boracay will look better by the time the high season sort, six months from now. The fear here is that visitors won't

come back to see it.


FIELD: Official say that if they can do the cleanup work in less than six months, then they would re-open the island. They also say they're

investigating how the problem was allowed to get this bad. Lynda?

KINKADE: Thanks to Alexandra Field, there. While there are many questions about what happens in Boracay, the mere was considerably more upbeat in the

Philippines' capital earlier, Sunday. That hosted it's very first -- well, underpants run.

Take a look at these images that maybe not too closely. Where maybe seeing into the top hop, man, and women making their ways through the street of

Manila in skimpy outfit. And what does usually quite a conservative, mostly Catholic country will have to say if that becomes an annual event.

Well, up next, the woman who left 10 marks on modern Iraq. We'll explore the life of Gertrude Bell.


KINKADE: Well, in our "PARTING SHOTS" this hour, Letters from Baghdad. That's the title of a film exploring the extraordinary life of Gertrude

Bell. A fascinating woman who despite being overlooked in many history books, played a significant role in the British Empire. The filmmakers

behind the documentary spoke during a recent screening in Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believed she is a British spy, her travels should be prevented. She knows more about the Arabs and Arabia than almost any other

living English man or woman.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Archeologist, explorer and diplomat. Gertrude Bell, lived an extraordinary life defying the

expectations of a woman in Victorian, England. Among her many accomplishment, helping to create Iraq from the ashes of the Ottoman

Empire, and to establishing the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad.

Letters from Baghdad, a documentary about Bell's life has just been screened in the Iraqi capital to co-inside with the 150th anniversary of

her birth.

ZEVA OELBAUM, DIRECTOR, LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD: One of the things that were so inspiring to us about Gertrude Bell, was that she was a champion of

diversity. She loved the different cultures that she came upon in Baghdad. During her time, Iraq was very diverse and it was a very vibrant city.

[11:55:11] HOLMES: The documentary shows until now, unseen footage of Iraq as it was being pulled together into a new state a century ago. The script

is taken entirely from Bell's letters and official documents. The filmmakers hope Iraqi viewers will be inspired to preserve the heritage.

SABINE KRAYENBUL, DIRECTOR, LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD: We drove through the streets, and we were looking at some of the older cars and see how some of

these houses are falling apart. And I think, this gives the (INAUDIBLE) watching this footage gives you an enthusiasm into want to restore and want

to protect, and want the past.

HOLMES: Ultimately, Letters from Baghdad, chronicles and extraordinary journey of a Victorian woman into the inner sanctum of British colonial

power, and the birth (INAUDIBLE) of a new state. Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


KINKADE: That's all for this edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thanks for watching, we'll see you next time.