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Russia-Ukraine Tensions Rise after Kerch Strait Ship Capture; U.S. Senator Speaks Out Against Saudi Crown Prince; Aid Groups: U.S. Will Be Responsible For Impending Yemen Famine If It Keeps Helping Saudi War Effort; France To Return 26 Stolen Artifacts To Benin; A Crushing Blow for Taiwan's Independence; The Next Obstacle for Theresa May's Brexit Plan. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:07] ROSEMARY CHURCH, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: Chaos at the U.S.- Mexican border as police fired tear gas at dozens of migrants who tried to rush the gates.

GEORGE HOWELL, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: Plus, take a look at this dramatic video, a showdown that has sparked outrage. More on what it means for the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

CHURCH: And the divorce dividing the United Kingdom as Theresa May gets ready to tell Parliament her Brexit deal is the only deal. And we want to welcome our viewers joining us here in the United States, and of course, all around the world. I am Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I am George Howell from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Newsroom starts right now.

CHURCH: The migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border has reached a boiling point. On Sunday, hundreds of Central American migrants rushed Mexico's northern border, hoping to reach the United States. At least 39 migrants were arrested and are expected to be deported from Mexico.

HOWELL: On the American side of the fence, U.S. law enforcement fired tear gas at the crowds, saying some people were throwing objects at border security. The United States temporarily shutdown its port of entry, but that port of entry was later reopened.

CHURCH: CNN's Nick Watt was at the scene following the events. He has the latest now from the U.S.-Mexico border.


NICK WATT, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: This border in San Isidro is one of the busiest land borders on Earth, and it was shut Sunday afternoon for four hours to pedestrians, and a little bit longer to all vehicular traffic. And the reason, well, there were protests. There was a march. There was supposed to be a peaceful protest on the other side. And apparently, that got a little bit out of hand.

People say that as many as 500 migrants tried to storm the border. They managed to get past Mexican police, and that tear gas was actually fired. This is what eyewitnesses tell us. Tear gas was fired from this side of the border at those people. Now Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement Sunday evening, she said some of these migrants tried to scale what she describes as legacy fencing on either side of the port of entry.

And that they were also throwing projectiles at customs and border patrol officers. Listen. The President last week said that if we feel we are losing control of the border at any point, if we feel that there is a danger of people getting hurt, we will temporarily close down the border. And that is exactly what they did. The Mexican government now is saying that they plan to deport any of those people they managed to identify who tried to get in to the U.S.

But the border did reopen after a few hours, after the CBP said they managed to get things under control. They had beefed up their staffing here at the border in anticipation of these protests, suspecting that something might go wrong. It did. They closed the border, and they dealt with it.


CHURCH: Joining me now to talk more about this is co-director of UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic, Holly Cooper. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: We know that hundreds of migrants in Tijuana rushed pass police toward the U.S. border Sunday. Mexico says 39 of those people will now face deportation. What's your reaction to that move?

COOPER: My reaction is that the individuals, as we understand it, most of who were engaged in peaceful protests, do have the right to apply for political asylum in the United States. And it is that our borders have been essentially shut off, as have the processing centers in Central America been shut off for refugee access.

So we would argue as advocates that that violates international law to not commit them, to at least have the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States.

CHURCH: Mexican authorities claim that those 39 people that they are going to deport were the trouble makers. They had apparently passed around rumors that those who actually rushed the border would actually get through. That is certainly what the officials in Mexico are saying. Does that make any difference?

COOPER: I don't believe it would make any difference, because each individual should have their own rights to be heard. And there is nothing that bars your application for political asylum, such as rushing a border. Many individuals cross the border out of desperation for their lives, for their safety, for the safety of their children.

And until we are able to individually assess each of those cases, they should be given an opportunity to be heard.

CHURCH: So what do you think will likely happen now to these 39 migrants? And why were they specifically singled out do you think for deportation? Do you buy the story from Mexican authorities that it's because they were the trouble makers?

[02:05:03] COOPER: Well, the Mexican government has had a long history of cooperation with the United States government when it -- when the United States government is seeking to enforce its immigration laws. In fact, the immigrants usually call it the vertical border coming through Mexico. And Mexico has traditionally deported thousands and thousands of individuals seeking refuge in the United States each year.

So it would not be atypical for Mexico to again engage in behavior at the behest of the United States government seeking to enforce U.S. immigration laws. So it very likely could be that they will try to deport them as they have often had and historically have.

CHURCH: Right. And when the protests got out of hand and hundreds of those people stormed the border, U.S. officials responded by closing the U.S. port of entry for about four hours or so. It's now been reopened. But that happened just as President Trump had said it would happen if it was seen that any danger might occur for people, possibility of them getting hurt. How does that action compare to procedures in the past, and where do you think this is all going?

COOPER: You know I take issue of the word storm. I think that when individuals are coming to this country, they are coming to this country seeking refuge. And if they have run across the border to do that, then maybe that's what they are doing. But again, we don't know because we haven't discussed the individuals. And to accuse them of storming the border, it makes it sound like they are an aggressor, when in fact they are very likely coming here just for protection.

As we saw, you know, women running off with children in their hands, little girls crying that have been tear-gassed. So I think that we need to reassess our vocabulary when we're talking about immigrants and refugees who are coming to this country seeking safety.

CHURCH: All right. And as you mentioned, you said that the deportation of these 39 migrants was in violation of the law. So what should happen now? What will likely now? Will somebody be there to actually take them through that process to fight this?

COOPER: Yeah. There are lawyers in Mexico, as well as they could petition the United States government for political asylum, as there are U.S. lawyers on the border who are seeking to go protect the human rights of the individuals, you know, who have recently arrived at the border in this so-called caravan.

CHURCH: All right. Holly Cooper, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

COOPER: Thank you, Rosemary. HOWELL: Now, to a naval showdown between Russia and Ukraine that

threatens to escalate into a bigger conflict between these two nations. The U.N. Security Council is set to meet in an emergency session in the coming hours. This after Ukraine accused Russia of firing on and seizing three Ukrainian ships. Russia says the vessels entered Russian waters illegally.

CHURCH: Ukraine says the ships were planning to enter the strategic waterway, the Kerch Strait, which you see here, before they were fired on. Russia closed the Strait earlier, but state media reports it's been reopened for civilian ships. And this dramatic video comes from Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs. It appears to show a Russian ship ramming a Ukrainian tugboat on Sunday. Ukraine's President is furious over the incident, and says he wants Parliament to declare martial law.

HOWELL: A lot to talk about here. Let's bring in CNN's Ivan Watson, following the story from Hong Kong this day. Ivan, you have covered the fighting in eastern Ukraine. And with this show down, it is a sharp escalation in tensions. Again, help our viewers to understand exactly where this is happening, and those dramatic pictures that we saw. Help us to understand exactly what was happening there.

IVAN WATSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Sure. And let's just -- the latest news we have gotten from Russian state media is that Russia is reopening the Kerch Strait to commercial shipping traffic. So that's important, a new development that could help reduce tensions. But yeah, this is taking place at a natural turn point. The Kerch Strait, which is the only way to get between the Black Sea, George, and the Sea of Azov, which is shared by Ukraine and Russia.

And what you saw were three Ukrainian navy ships trying to transit that to get up to the Sea of Azov to a Ukrainian port, and apparently intercepted by Russian ships. Moscow claims that the Ukrainians were acting in a dangerous manner. Both sides agree that there was fire coming from Russian ships on the Ukrainian vessels, and several Ukrainian sailors injured. All three ships seized by the Russians.

[02:09:58] And the Russians say they have treated the wounded Ukrainian sailors in this video, which was distributed by Ukraine's Interior Minister. It appears to be from the deck of a Russian ship. And you can hear the expletive-laden commands of the Russian commander, ordering his ship to ram into this Ukrainian navy tug boat.

And other video shot from the same location has been distributed by Russian state media. So somehow, it seems like the Ukrainians got a hold of this video showing the aggressive tactics, that at least one Russian ship was using against one of these Ukrainian vessels, George.

HOWELL: Ivan, again, you are pointing out this very important news that Russia is no longer cutting off this critical route to commercial traffic, correct, but again, as far raising tensions that had the effect of cutting off several important ports of trade for Ukraine.

WATSON: It's very important to look at the geography here. In 2014, Russia seized Crimea from the Ukraine in a move that was condemned not only by Ukraine, but by E.U., NATO, U.S. Now, that leaves the Sea of Azov up here. Again, shared by Ukraine and Russia, this important industrial port, (Inaudible), which has huge steel and iron works I visited, employs 17,000 people. The only way for them to get their cargo out is through the Kerch Strait.

Likewise, the only way for Russia to reach their annexed Crimea is via a new bridge that Russia constructed, 19-kilometers long across the Kerch Strait and opened earlier this year. I think we have images that show you kind of where that bridge runs along here. But it also appears that the Russians have begun inspecting ships traveling through here, even though it's an international waterway for both Ukraine and Russia.

And that has been criticized, not only by the Ukraine, but also by western governments and the European Union as well. And in this case, the Russians closed part of the waterway in response to this tension by putting a tanker under one of the new bridges that they've placed here. Now, the Russians claim that the waterway is open to commercial traffic at the very least.

While these tensions were taking place, the Russians were making a show of force, not only with naval power, with coastguard power, but by flying fighter jets very close over the surface of the Sea of Azov along the newly constructed Russian bridge. And running attack helicopters through here as well. So there was a clear show of naval and air power here. And it is raising the question of will Russia increasingly tighten Ukrainian access to its own ports in the Sea of Azov.

HOWELL: One reaction in Ukraine from the President, Petro Poroshenko, is the possibility of martial law, Ivan. So of course, we'll have to continue monitoring this situation, the tensions between these two nations. Ivan, thank you for your reporting, we'll keep in touch with you.

CHURCH: And we'll take a very short break here. But still to come, Brexit moves on to the next critical step. The European Union's vote in Brussels was easy. Now comes the hard part for Theresa May in Parliament.

HOWELL: Plus, a crushing defeat for Taiwan's ruling party in an election seen as a test of public support for Taiwan's independence from China, details ahead.


[02:15:00] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, in just a few hours, British Prime Minister Theresa May will face the next major hurdle for her Brexit plan, selling it to Parliament.

HOWELL: And that will be an uphill battle. The leaders of all the E.U. countries signed off on the agreement on Sunday, yet out lines the relationship between Britain and the E.U. from Brexit day, which is March 29th until the end of 2020.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: (Inaudible) the Brexit has underlined the value of this union. Even though it's not (Inaudible), we shall therefore understand that we need to reshuffle all Europe for it to better meet the aspirations of all people. Clearly, the Brexit is telling us that Europe was not reassuring enough and not protecting enough of the peoples of each of our countries.


CHURCH: Well, the deal faces an uphill battle in Britain's Parliament opposition parties, the Northern Irish DUP and members of the Prime Minister's own party are saying they will vote no. Our Erin McLaughlin is in Brussels and joins us now with the very latest on this. So Erin, Theresa May has said herself that this is one of the most significant votes for the British Parliament.

So how likely is it that she can actually get it passed given so many are saying they will vote no?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, quite simply, Rosemary, the arithmetic at Westminster is not in her favor. It's looking increasingly unlikely that we she will be able to get this past Parliament. And so that's perhaps why we are seeing Theresa May now engaged in a big PR push to go over the heads of her cabinet, over the heads of lawmakers to try and sell this directly to the British people, telling them that this deal will pave the way for a brighter future for them.

And terms of her messaging to lawmakers, she's essentially giving them a binary choice, this deal or chaos. And that was reinforced yesterday by the E.U., 27 leaders at that historic summit. Take a listen to what some of the leaders had to say.


MICHAEL BARNIER, CHIEF E.U. BREXIT NEGOTIATOR: It is the best deal possible given the circumstances. Throughout these extraordinary, complex, difficult negotiations, we worked constructively with the U.K., never against the U.K.

[02:20:00] JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION: This is the best deal possible for Britain. This is the best deal possible for Europe. This is the only deal possible, the only deal possible.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think you have heard today what has been said by the commission and by other European leaders. This deal is the result of significant, tough, difficult negotiations over a period of time. It is the -- Jean-Claude Juncker's phrases were the best possible deal and the only deal possible. I want to deliver Brexit for the British people.

This is a good deal that delivers Brexit for the British people. And I hope every Member of Parliament will see that and see the importance of that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLAUGHLIN: So the E.U. 27 seemingly giving Theresa May a boost in getting that message across to lawmakers. The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, being very blunt, telling lawmakers in the U.K. that if you think you can vote this down and come back to the E.U. to try and negotiate a better deal, you are wrong, he said. But many lawmakers in the U.K. say that this is not a good deal for the United Kingdom.

And they nevertheless will be voting it down, once that happens, what happens next is a pretty much an open question at this point, Rosemary.

CHURCH: I mean that is the problem, isn't it, going forward, because if the choice is the vote for this deal or chaos confronts you, where does that leave Britain?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, in an entirely unclear and uncertain place. If this does not get past Parliament, there are several sorts of options or potential outcomes out there that they could call for a general election. They could call for a leadership change within the conservative party. They could even maybe push for another referendum. We just don't know.

E.U. 27 leaders will undoubtedly be monitoring that situation very carefully and then assessing for their next steps. What they are clear is given the red lines that the U.K. has put forward, the withdrawal text, in particular the 585 page legally binding protocols that essentially dictate three areas, the Northern Ireland backstop issue, the Citizen's Rights, and the Financial Settlement, that that is a piece of diplomatic art in the words of some diplomats I've been talking to here in Brussels.

They will not be reopening that for negotiation, perhaps symptomatic of that is the Gibraltar. The fact that they wouldn't reopen that withdrawal agreement even for a member state, and the message they are sending there is that if they are not going to reopen it for a member state, they're certainly going to not going to reopen that for a negotiation with anyone in the U.K.

CHURCH: We shall be watching to see British lawmakers do, our Erin McLaughlin bringing us up-to-date on the issue from you Brussels, many thanks to you.

HOWELL: Let's talk more about the Brexit battle with Matthew Doyle. Matthew is a Former Political Director for Prime Minister Tony Blair live in our London bureau this hour.



HOWELL: History has been made. We watched it unfold. The E.U. 27 signed off on this divorce deal in Brussels. That part is done. Next comes the hard sell, getting Parliament on board. And we're already hearing that members of her own party, the opposition parties, and the Northern Irish DUP have indicated they will be voting no.

DOYLE: Right. As we sit here this morning, there is no way that she has the numbers to get this deal through the U.K. Parliament by various estimates. There are around 90 members of her own conservative party that are set to vote against this deal. And therefore, given the tight arithmetic she starts with following the general election result of last year, then at the moment, there is no way you can see how this deal will get through.

I am sure she'll pull back some of those conservative MPs who are threatening to rebel. But particularly without getting those votes of the Northern Ireland MPs, without it looking like any labor members of Parliament are going to defect in support of this deal, then it's really difficult to see how this deal will get through. In fact, I will predict that this deal won't get through.

HOWELL: It will be interesting to see what Theresa May does to try to gain support here. And look, it's not just a matter of getting Parliament on board. It's also about getting business leaders on board to understand this deal and to get a sense of certainty. The British Prime Minister selling it as a good deal. The E.U. describes it as the only deal. And some believe it could be a worse deal than no deal at all.

DOYLE: Exactly. And this is the challenge that the Prime Minister Theresa May has got. She is going to embark on this two week PR blitz between now and when we expect the vote to come up in Parliament in the week beginning the 10th of December. And what she will be trying to do is mobilize every section of the community that she can, whether it's going to members of the public directly, whether it's going to parts of business, to then try and put pressure on some of her recalcitrant members of Parliament to swing behind this deal.

[02:25:13] But there is a problem at the heart of this, which is the challenge that Theresa May has had negotiating this from the start. And that is defining what the vote in 2016 of the British public actually meant. There wasn't even consensus in the Leave Campaign as to what leaving meant. And that's why this deal seems to be satisfying pretty much nobody at this stage.

HOWELL: All right. The Prime Minister will be making the case for this deal well up to the vote in Parliament next month. But what happens if MPs reject the deal?

DOYLE: Well, that's a very good question. We are in unchartered territory at that point. The -- my expectation would be that she will bring the deal back again and she will try and say look. We have got to face this challenge. That ultimately, the British public voted to leave the European Union in 2016. And it's our responsibility as Parliament to follow that through. Even if it's a deal that you don't like, we have a responsibility to do this.

But at the moment, that strategy just is not going to work. And that's why you are increasingly seeing talk of being another general election to break the deadlock in Parliament, or what I think is more likely given that the politicians are deadlocked on this. There is a decision to go back to the British people and say, OK. Well, the only way this can be resolved is by having another referendum.

HOWELL: OK. You are getting to another question that seems to be a pretty obvious question with regards to people who still hope for an intervention. Is there a possibility or a thought that the path to short circuit Brexit would mean a change in leadership?

DOYLE: No. That's one thing where I think the conservative party have slightly misplayed this. The reality is nobody seriously believes that if you had a different conservative leader, there would have been erratically different deal that would have come back from Brussels this weekend. Now, it's true that there are certain conservative MPs who are so annoyed with Theresa May's plan that they want to try and get rid at this stage.

But more broadly, within the conservative members of Parliament, the reality is there is a view that ultimately we know this was the deal that Brussels was always going to give us.

HOWELL: Matthew Doyle, thank you so much for your time.

DOYLE: Thank you.

CHURCH: And we'll take another break here. Still to come, Sunday's border chaos forced the U.S. to temporarily close its border. It happened just like Donald Trump said it would. How the U.S. President plans to deal with the crisis going forward. That's next.

HOWELL: Plus, voters hand Taiwan's ruling party a major defeat. So is China the real winner in the island's local elections? We'll explain that, a report live from Beijing as Newsroom pushes on.


[02:31:23] CHURCH: Welcome back to our viewers joining us here on the United States and of course all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour. The U.N. Security Council set to hold an emergency meeting in the coming hours. This after Ukraine accused Russia of fire on and seizing three of its ships near Crimea. Russian state media report the vessels illegally entered Russian waters. Ukraine says Russia was the aggressor.

CHURCH: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces her next Brexit hurdle on Monday. She will urge parliament to pass a Brexit deal which the E.U. has now approved. Members of her own party, the opposition party, and the Northern Irish DUP have indicated they will be voting no.

HOWELL: Along the U.S.-Mexico border, these dramatic images. Mexico plans to deport 39 migrants after they tried to cross illegally from Mexico into the United States. The migrants were part of a group that rush pass police or the U.S. border on Sunday. Officials in the U.S. responded by temporarily closing that port of entry, but it is now reopened. CHURCH: Well, U.S. President Donald Trump returned to the White House

Sunday without the issue of the border, but he had been threatening to close the border for days as the migrant caravan from Central America made its way to the United States.

HOWELL: This comes as Mr. Trump gears up for a busy week. Sarah Westwood has more.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Trump returning Sunday evening from his property here in Florida where he spent the Thanksgiving holiday with a full schedule ahead of him. On Monday, he'll head to Mississippi where he'll hold two political rallies on behalf of Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. She's the embattled Republican running in the Senate runoff in Mississippi and some of her controversial comments in the recent weeks have drawn national attention to that race.

Later in the week, he'll be heading to Argentina for the G20 Summit where he is expected to meet on the sidelines with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It will be the first time he'll be seeing the Russian President since what many have described as their disastrous encounter in Helsinki and this comes just days after renewed tensions between Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea. And as all of this is taking place, hundreds of migrants are at this southern border between U.S. and Mexico.

The administration on Sunday evening shutting down one of the largest legal points of entry between Tijuana and San Diego as the president increasingly threatens to send more resources to the border. This week for example he authorize that thousands of troops he has already dispatched to the border to use lethal force if necessary while protecting border patrol agents. The president has spent weeks railing against the caravan of Central American migrants heading to the border.

And all of that will be taking place of course as the president pushes members of Congress to fund his border wall before funding round out for the government in just a week. Sarah Westwood, CNN West Palm Beach, Florida.

HOWELL: All right. Sarah, thank you. Taiwan's ruling party has suffered a major setback in local elections and it has prompted the president, Tsai Ing-wen to resign as the head of the Democratic Progressive Party. She will still those serve out the remainder of her term as president.

CHURCH: On Saturday, voters expressed their dissatisfaction with the government amid tensions with Beijing and a sluggish economy. Analysts say that most voters support the status quo reaping economic benefits from Mainland China without being governed by it. And CNN Senior Producer Steven Jiang joins me now from Beijing with more on all of this. So Steven, what impact will the results of this vote likely have on the ruling party and on Taiwan in the short and long- term?

[02:35:20] STEVEN JIANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Rosemary, the ruling party's definitely deem a lot of soul searching especially ahead of the next general election in 2020. But the odds had always been against President Tsai and her party because China, the government here in Beijing has been trying to undermine her presidency almost since day one due to her refusal to acknowledge the so-called One China principle under which Taiwan is considered part of China even though the two sides have been governed separately since 1949.

Now, because Mainland China remains one of the most important destinations for Taiwanese products and investments and also Taiwan's tourism industry relies on Chinese tourist as a main source of revenue that Beijing government here has been able to squeeze the island economically and as a result chocking President Tsai's party politically and this in additional to what the (INAUDIBLE) in China ramping up exercises around the island and the Beijing government trying to squeeze Taiwan on the international stage.

So, Rosemary, all these moves really have caused a lot of discontent and unease on the island. So the results are really not surprising. But the bigger question going forward is what is President Tsai going to do? Is she going to c change course and if not would that mean the return to power by the island's main opposition which favors closer ties with the China. Now, that of course would have major implications not only on closely relations but also on the relationship between China and the U.S. which of course considers Taiwan a very important ally in Asia, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Of course, we don't know the answer to that question yet. But what we do know is that Taiwan voters also rejected same sex marriage. What's been the reaction to that vote?

JIANG: It was a very bitter blow to not only the local LGBT community but also to their allies and supporters around the region because that defeat came just over a year after the island's constitutional court rule that same sex couples had a constitutional right to get married. That decision was actually greeted with excitement and jubilation around the region which was very socially conservative. But, now, a year-long because the legislature failed to make that chance giving the opponents of no marriage equality and opportunity to organize a very well-funded campaign (INAUDIBLE) process.

And, now, it's very much in doubt that marriage equality will happening in Taiwan any time soon really disappointing a lot of LGBT communities around the region, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Many thanks to Steven Jiang bringing us that update from Beijing. Appreciate that.

HOWELL: The U.S. says a journalist captured years ago in Syria is alive. What we're learning about this case coming up.

CHURCH: The United States isn't fighting the war in Yemen but aide groups say it does much to blame for the humanitarian disasters any of the combatants. Hear why when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [02:41:23] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Ugandan police say at

least 35 people have died in a boat accident on Lake Victoria. Police boats have managed to rescue a few dozen survivors but the death toll is expected to rise.

HOWELL: Authorities say the boat was in poor mechanical shape and was overloaded with passengers on a lake cruise when it capsized. It happened during a bad weather. Uganda's president has offered condolences to the victims' families. He says the boat appears to be private and registered and unlicensed.

CHURCH: Syria's state news agency says more than 100 people were injured in a toxic gas attack in Aleppo.

HOWELL: The city is currently under government control. Police say terrorist groups shelled residential areas and the Syrian army and Russian warplanes responded by attacking rebel targets.

CHURCH: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the gas attack is the first since a demilitarized zone was established in September in a rebel controlled Idlib Province. Rebel officials deny being behind the attack and say their forces do not possess chemical weapons.

HOWELL: Syria remains a dangerous place for journalists but the U.S. is hopeful one reporter who went missing there is still alive.

CHURCH: Austin Tice was captured back in 2012. CNN's Barbara Starr has the latest on efforts to bring him home.


BARBARA STARR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Six years after Austin Tice, a freelance journalist and former Marine was kidnapped in Syria. The Trump administration publicly says Tice is alive.

ROBERT O'BRIEN, UNITED STATES SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR HOSTAGE AFFAIRS: I want to make it very clear that the United States government believes that Austin Tice is alive. We're deeply concerned about his well-being after six years of captivity.

STARR: It's an extraordinary high profile move by the White House to openly talk about a hostage who hasn't been seen since this video with his captors emerged five weeks after his disappearance in 2012.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.

STARR: Tice has gone to Syria to photograph and report what was happening to ordinary Syrians as the conflict heated up. Journalists were in increasing danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're just talking street fighting, you know, Molotov cocktails, any weapon you can basically imagine in an urban street fighting environment. There's just pretty exciting, but I was able to get some pretty good shots that way and tell a pretty good story afterwards that I think otherwise, you know, I never would have gotten told.

STARR: He was coming home for a final year of law school. In August 2012, he was south of Damascus planning to drive to Lebanon when he vanished before reaching the border.

O'BRIEN: We believed that he's being held captive in Syria. I don't want to get into any further on that front either. I'm sorry.

STARR: But is raising a crucial question, is there a real progress in bringing him home?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: An American official doesn't come out and say that a hostage is alive unless they have really good intelligence. They know he's alive otherwise they wouldn't go public.

STARR: CNN has previously reported Tice's believe to be in the custody of the Syrian regime even though it has denied it. His parents Debra and Marc say after several trips they will try to travel yet again to Syria.

[02:44:42] MARC TICE, FATHER OF AUSTIN TICE: Each time we go, we apply for a visa to enter Syria to get as close to Austin as we possibly can and to try to reach out to those holding him captive. We continue our relentless effort to find the key that will open the door for us and his freedom.


STARR: The administration says it's spoken to Austin Tice's parents several times to brief them about the latest on his situation. And, of course, Syria became such a dangerous place for journalists, especially freelance journalist working on their own like Austin Tice.

Trying to bring that story out to the world Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

HOWELL: Well, certainly a dangerous place for journalists.

CHURCH: It is.

HOWELL: And speaking of journalists, now that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a group of U.S. Senators want all lawmakers to be fully briefed on the Saudi Crown Prince's potential role in what happened. The U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and others are asking for a report from the State Department and the CIA.

CHURCH: Graham insists Congress won't look away if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is making the world a more dangerous place. Lawmakers are pushing back against President Trump's insistence that a journalist murder should not interfere with the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Well, five of the world's biggest aid organizations agree, if the U.S. doesn't stop supporting the Saudi War in Yemen, it will be directly complicit in causing what could be the largest famine in decades. HOWELL: In a scathing letter, the aid groups say 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starving to death. Three years of war have caused import restrictions, block aides, damaged infrastructure, not to mention the violent attacks. All of it preventable. Our Sam Kiley, reports.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An electronic pulse track snazzy his battle with death. Her insides were torn out in an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition that supported and armed by the U.S. and U.K. The bombing killed three of her sisters and wounded two more in Hodeidah.

MAGED GHALEB, FATHER OF AIRSTRIKE VICTIMS (through translators): We are calling on all the honorable people of the world. All people from all religions. Anyone who has a heart to stop this bloodshed. We cannot take it. Yemenis and their children are being murdered in cold blood.

KILEY: A bipartisan bill that demands an immediate end to fighting and to the U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's campaign is being considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And is getting support from five of the U.S. biggest charities that are working in Yemen.

They published a joint letter calling for an end to support to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the war.

ABBY MAXMAN, PRESIDENT, OXFAM AMERICA: The U.S. has been over the course of the conflict over 3-1/2 years. Involved in supporting the Saudi-led UAE backed coalition in Yemen. And it has perpetuated the war. The U.S. has been an arms broker while trying to be a peace broker, which is a difficult thing to do both.

KILEY: At least, 10,000 people have been killed in this war. Many of them hit in airstrikes like this Saudi attack on a bus that killed dozens of children with an American bomb.

The U.N. has called for a ceasefire but there are no signs that the two biggest arms supplies to Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and U.K. are going to join Denmark, Finland, and Germany in stopping the flow of weapons.

And while the war rages on, aid agencies say that 14 million people are threatened with famine. And the U.N. says 400,000 children are on the brink of starvation. Sam Kiley, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


HOWELL: These images from Yemen are so painful to see. But these are images that you shouldn't turn away from.


HOWELL: That this is happening. Yes.

CHURCH: Yes. And it's not reported on a lot of networks too. We have to say.

HOWELL: Right.

CHURCH: That it is a story that we have to keep telling viewers out across the globe what's going on in that part of the world.

HOWELL: Right.

CHURCH: Let's take a short break here. But still to come, France is making a move to write a century all wrong. But not everyone agrees returning looted art is the best course of action. Find out why.

HOWELL: Plus, the number of spacecraft on Mars is about to increase by one. And is if everything goes right, it all comes down to the question, does it pull off the landing? Well, explain. Stay with us.


[02:51:31] PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: CNN "WEATHER WATCH" time. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Here watching what's happening across the Americas. The big story.

Storm system locked in across portions of the Great Lakes. Impacted thousands of flights on one of the busiest travel days on Sunday as folks returned back from the Thanksgiving holiday break. And notice the system pushes on in towards Canada. But as a result here, could see significant accumulations across places such as Chicago.

Have already seen it across Kansas City where the airport was shut down briefly across that region. And notice even snow eventually left in place in Detroit, as well. So travel disruptions expected going into Monday.

High temperatures will struggle to make it above the freezing mark. So, anything that does fall which is estimated to be somewhere around five to 15 centimeters in a few spots and as high as 30-plus centimeters for a few spots. That expected to stick around for at least a couple of days there. Denver highs around eight degrees.

There is the arctic air, the cold air, it exists here over the next several days. But we do see the trend across the Northeast with a cooler weather expected in Washington down to three degrees for a high. New York City down into the single digits, as well. But certainly not going to have much moisture with that. So, at least remaining dry going in towards late week.

Down into Belize City, around 30 degrees. Around Managua, 33. Guatemala City also into the 30's while Mexico City remains dry, around 22 degrees. And the tropics are beginning to really quiet down. Of course, the hurricane season officially ending the end of this week.


HOWELL: France, closing one small chapter in its colonial past by returning 26 works of art to Benin. Works that were stolen from the West African nation more than 100 years ago.

CHURCH: Many people say it's about time. But the move is raising questions about the responsibilities of former colonial nations who benefited from the false cultural exports of the past. Lynda Kinkade has a report.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Some of Africa's most precious cultural treasures are on display in a museum, a continent away from where they were created. The Quai Branly museum in Paris houses tens of thousands of pieces of African art, looted during France's colonial past. Now, a new report says, it's time for them to go home.

French President Emmanuel Macron commissioned the report which recommends that works taken between 1885 and 1960 should be returned to their country of origin. It's a controversial proposal. It could put pressure on other Western museums to follow suit.

Experts say, 90 percent of African art is believed to be located in Europe. Some visitors say it's about time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They would perhaps mean people who live in those countries could get to know the cultural history of their countries. There's not much that can provide a link to their cultural and artistic history because everything's in Europe.

KINKADE: Others have expressed hope that the art can stay where it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Can we display other works in a reciprocal arrangement in other countries? And aren't there Western artworks which can be displayed elsewhere?

KINKADE: Western museum have often resisted repatriating odd, arguing that they can take better care of it. But many countries are now challenging this. Chile's Easter Island declared this month that it wants surprised sculpture back from the British Museum, which has also had a long-standing dispute with Greece over who should own the famous Elgin Marbles.

Earlier this month, the British Museum agreed to send some of the iconic Benin bronzes to Nigeria where they will be on display temporarily on loan at a new museum. Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


[02:55:27] HOWELL: And all right. In just a few hours' time, the U.S. spacecraft insight is set to touch down on Mars. And as it guides itself to landing, scientists call that the seven minutes of terror. Because most missions have failed the land on the Red Planet.

CHURCH: Inside is expected to start sending back images of the planet's surface almost right away. It launched back in May on a mission to study the deep interior of Mars. Thanks so much for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. More news right after the break. Stay with us.