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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Wants To Derail Senate Border Compromise Deal; Alex Murdaugh's New Trial Request Denied; President Biden Vowing To Retaliate On Drone Attack In Jordan; IDF Shows CNN Hamas Tunnel They Claim Is Underneath Gaza Cemetery; Pregnant Women In Gaza Struggle To Get Routine Care; Ukraine In The Trenches Of Battle With Russia. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 29, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Lead, I'm Jake Tapper. This hour, we are standing by for a judge's decision. We're expecting at any second in South Carolina and a push for a new trial for Alex Murdaugh, the South Carolina attorney convicted last year of killing his wife and son. We're going to bring you that judge's decision the moment it happens.

Plus, CNN on the ground in Ukraine coming under artillery fire.


UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) guys, 100 meters.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One hundred meters, gotcha. We're now trying to make our way out of here as safe as possible.


TAPPER: Plus, see up close the intense fight in the forest through the lens of a soldier's GoPro camera showing what Ukraine is up against these days.

But leading this hour, the latest dysfunction on Capitol Hill, this time over immigration, beginning with a look at how we got here. You'll all recall when President Biden was sworn in on January 20th, 2021, the new administration started ending many of the Trump administration's immigration policies, arguing that they were harsh and inhumane. For instance, the Remain in Mexico policy, which forced would-be asylum seekers to stay south of the border. Migrant arrivals and requests for asylum surged.

Last May, along party lines, House Republicans passed H.R. 2, that's a bill that would bring back Trump-era policies. President Biden threatened to veto the bill and it's gone nowhere in the democratic- controlled Senate. Last October, Republicans demanded that any additional aid for Ukraine and or Israel be would also need to include legislation to deal with the border crisis.

Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, along with Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, the three of them started negotiating for a possible compromise. In mid- December, apparently hoping to win passage of the aid for Ukraine, the White House signaled that they would accept some of the Republicans' immigration demands, including limits on asylum and an expansion of detention and deportation efforts.

This meant for all intents and purposes, that the Lankford, Sinema, Murphy compromise would be the most conservative immigration compromise that the Senate had taken up in decades. But then, in a January 17th post on Truth Social, former president Donald Trump wrote, "I do not think we should do a border deal at all "'unless we get everything." More posts followed along those lines.

You will recall that Donald Trump was not able to pass any immigration reform when he was president. It did become clear that Trump wanted to use this issue against Biden in November and that was why he wanted to stand in the way of any progress on it. On Friday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, who frequently communicates with Team Trump, sent a letter to his colleagues saying that the emerging border deal in the Senate would be, quote, "dead on arrival" in the House.

And believe it or not, right now in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Republican Party is condemning Lankford for having the temerity to try to solve a major problem in this country. That brings us to today. CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. Melanie, is there any hope for the Senate negotiations now? When will senators even reveal the details of this deal?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, negotiators are still hoping to reveal bill text sometime this week. But Jake, the deal is already facing massive headwinds inside the GOP, particularly in the House. You mentioned Speaker Johnson has made clear that the deal, as he understands it, is likely dead-on arrival in the House, and today he put out yet another statement, taking aim at one of the reported provisions in this deal, saying on social media, "Any border shutdown authority that allows even one illegal crossing is a non-starter. Thousands each day is outrageous. The number must be zero."

Now, that is a reference to a provision we have learned is in the Senate deal that would automatically shut down the southern border if average daily migrant crossings reach over 5,000 in a one-week span. We've also learned that negotiators have agreed to a provision that would speed up the process for those seeking asylum to six months and also expedite work permits.

So those are some pretty significant concessions here from Democrats. In fact, this would likely be the most conservative immigration deal being discussed on Capitol Hill in decades. And President Biden has indicated that he would sign that package into law if it comes to his desk. And yet, despite all of that, it is very unclear whether it will reach Biden's desk. And a huge reason for that, Jake, is Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination. He has been urging Republicans both privately and publicly to reject

this compromise in a large part because he wants to campaign on this issue and he does not want to have Biden and Democrats a victory. And many Republicans here on Capitol Hill, eager to follow his marching orders. And that is what you're seeing right now on Capitol Hill, which is leaving border security and aid for Israel and Ukraine hanging in the balance, Jake.

TAPPER: Meanwhile, the House, which is back in session today, is working on impeaching the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Why?



TAPPER: What did he do that is impeachable?

ZANONA: Well, Jake, there's probably two ways to answer that question. The first is what Republicans say they are doing, why they are impeaching Mayorkas. In their impeachment articles, which they unveiled yesterday, they said he has not maintained operational control of the border, that he has not enforced laws on the books, and that he's lost the trust of the American public, all of which Democrats and constitutional experts say is a policy dispute and does not rise to a high crime or misdemeanor.

But the other element at play here, the reason they are pursuing these impeachment articles now is politics. Speaker Mike Johnson has been under pressure from his right flank. The base has been urging and itching for revenge really after Donald Trump was impeached twice when House Democrats had control of the House.

And so now you're seeing moderate Republicans lining up behind this. Speaker Johnson promising to move quickly to put this on the floor, even while he promises to reject the Senate compromise deal, which could help stem that flow of migrants at the border, that same flow of migrants, which now Republicans in the House are saying they want to impeach Mayorkas over, Jake.

TAPPER: Melanie Zanona, thanks so much. Let's discuss all of this with our political expert, David Axelrod. Listen to something Republican Senator James Lankford, who's been leading the negotiations, said about what's happening.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (D-OK): It is interesting. Republicans four months ago would not give funding for Ukraine, for Israel and for our southern border because we demanded changes in policy. So, we actually locked arms together and said we're not going to give you money for this. We want to change in law. And now it's interesting a few months later, when we're finally going to the end, they're like, oh, just kidding. I actually don't want to change in law because of the presidential election year.


TAPPER: He doesn't single out his own party, the House or Donald Trump in that comment there. But I mean, he's at war with his own party.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. Well, his own party is at war with him because Donald Trump lit the fuse. You know, the Oklahoma party is censoring him for working on a solution to a problem that everyone agrees, needs a solution. It's -- and I think what's going to happen next, Jake, is and you saw that it was previewed by J.D. Vance today. They're going to start going to Republican senators saying the House will never take this bill up. Don't walk the plank and support it or you'll get into the same hot water that Lankford's gotten into.

Also, that Donald Trump can preserve this issue for November. This is exactly what angers people about politics. They have a sense that too often politicians would rather weaponize a problem than solve it. And this is precisely what's going on right now.

TAPPER: And Jonah, as David just mentioned, on Saturday, the Oklahoma Republican Party approved a resolution condemning and censuring Senator James Lankford for his role as a chief negotiator in the Senate border security talks. Again, empirically, this is the most conservative of all the immigration compromises that I've covered in the last 25 years. They're accusing him of playing fast and loose with Democrats.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, I mean, look, the censuring of Lankford is just embarrassing because in the (inaudible), we're talking about how people are opposed to this compromise. They're not opposed to this compromise. They're opposed to a compromise, period, right? And that's essentially Lankford's sin here. Now, I have lots of friends who are very worried about some of what the reported details, these 5,000 daily crossings number.

Remember, Jay Johnson had said 1,000 a day overwhelms the system. That is a legitimate policy disagreement. The problem is that Trump is not offering a legitimate policy agreement.


GOLDBERG: He's just saying if there's a problem with it, if they do it, it's bad.

TAPPER: Let's listen in to the judge here in South Carolina.


JEAN TOAL, CHIEF JUSTICE, SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT: -- and two, prejudice suffered by the defendant, specifically that the Hill improper comments to the juror or jurors influenced the juror to vote to convict defendant Murdaugh. The facts, did clerk of court Hill make comments to any juror which expressed her opinion of what the verdict would be? Ms. Hill denies A, and so the question becomes, was her denial credible? I find that the clerk of court is not completely credible as a

witness. Ms. Hill was attracted by the siren call of celebrity. She wanted to write a book about the trial and express that as early as November 2022 long before the trial began. She denies that this is so, but I find that she stated to the clerk of court, Rhonda McElveen and others, her desire for a guilty verdict because it would sell books.


She made comments about Murdaugh's demeanor as he testified. And she made some of those comments before he testified to at least one and maybe more juries. Did clerk of court Hill's comments have any impact on the verdict of the jury? I find that the answer to this question is no. Each member of this jury took their involuntary assignment very seriously. They obeyed the instructions of the court. They obeyed their oath. These good and decent citizens of Colleton County stood to their duty and rendered their verdict without fear or favor.

It was a difficult task. Eleven of the jurors very unconditionally said they either heard no comment or if they heard a comment, it had no effect. One juror was ambivalent in her testimony. She was then examined on her previous affidavit in which she said the effect, if any, that she had was pressure she felt from other jurors. The cases are myriad that pressure from fellow jurors is a part of the normal give and take of jury deliberations.

The court is not to inquire in any way about what is said in those deliberations. But the juror who was somewhat ambivalent, said on her oath at the time of trial twice and said on her oath before me in these proceedings that she stood to her oath. The clerk of court allowed public attention of the moment to overcome her duty. I have read the entire transcript of this lengthy trial. Not an easy task. I have studied in detail all of the authorities cited.

I have independently researched the case law, learned treatises, and scholarly articles on the subject. Although there is certainly a split in the federal circuits and in the states on the standard of review, I simply do not believe that the authority of our South Carolina Supreme Court requires a new trial in a very lengthy trial such as this on the strength of some fleeting and foolish comments by a publicity- influenced clerk of court.

This is a matter within the discretion of the trial judge. And I am the trial judge at this moment. I do not feel that I abuse my discretion when I find the defendant's motion for a new trial on the factual record before me must be denied. And it is so ordered. I will file a fuller order which denies this motion on the grounds I have recited on the record before me as a trial judge and the authorities that have been cited by all parties in this matter.

To that end, I will hold the record open. I direct that within four business days of receipt by the attorneys in this matter of a transcript of these proceedings, a proposed order by the state denying the defendant's motion for a new trial with citations be sent to me and to opposing counsel. I will allow the defendant four business days from receipt of the state's proposed order to lodge objections and or submit an alternative proposed order.


TAPPER: Okay, we're gonna break away from Judge Jean Toal there. There it is, the big news. Judge Toal has denied the motion for a new trial for Alex Murdaugh. The disgraced former attorney from South Carolina, is serving two life sentences for the murders of his wife and youngest son. CNN's Diane Gallagher is outside the courthouse in Columbia, South Carolina. Diane, what happens now?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, what's going to happen in the immediate moments here is that Alex Murdaugh is going to go back to prison. He is still convicted of killing his wife and his son. He is a convicted murderer serving two consecutive life sentences. We do expect his attorneys to come out and speak in just a few moments. They signal to us that they will hold a press conference as soon as they leave the chambers there.


And they signaled just before the judge came out that they did think they might lose this particular quest to get a new trial. Now, legally, what may happen next is the fact that they already had an appeal at the Court of Appeals that they were beginning. They had to get that suspended so they could try and get this new trial. So, we'll likely see them attempt to go and go for that appeal afterward.

Now, again, even if Alex Murdaugh had been given a new trial, he wasn't going to get out of prison. He's serving a 20-year sentence as well for a slew of financial charges that he committed against former clients, family members, his former housekeeper's family, people like that. There's also federal sentencing that he's awaiting as well. So, he wasn't going to get out of prison, but this is a blow to the Murdaugh team. I will say also a blur, excuse me, a blow to clerk of court, Becky Hill.

The judge essentially saying that they did not find her credible today in listening to that, but it was not so much that he thought, that the judge thought that they had surpassed that very high bar that the judge set for the defense team, that they had to determine that any sort of influence from Becky Hill actually impacted the verdict itself. And that juror, juror Z, as they were calling her, who said that she did feel influenced by Becky Hill's comments, also had said earlier that she actually felt influenced by the other members of the jury.

And so, Jake, they decided that perhaps those were conflicting statements. She was a bit wishy washy there. There are two state investigations into the clerk of court right now, one of them related to the potential of jury tampering. So, Becky Hill, while her actions may not have gotten Alec Murdaugh a new trial, she is definitely not necessarily out of the woods in terms of what may happen to her as related to this trial, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Diane Gallagher outside the courthouse in Columbia, South Carolina. Thanks so much. Let's bring in attorney and legal affairs commentator, Areva Martin. Areva, the allegation by this one juror is troubling, but it's also just one juror. The other 11 said they were not influenced by the court clerk. She apparently has said that she was influenced by the court clerk and also was influenced by the other jurors pressuring her. Were you surprised that the judge decided to not allow Murdaugh a new trial?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not surprised at all, Jake, particularly given the factual record that was created during the hearing that the judge held on this matter. The judge needed to hear from those jurors that in fact they had been influenced as it related to their decision to hold Murdaugh or to come back with guilty verdicts for Murdaugh on the double murder of his wife and son.

And in the absence of those jurors stating that pretty plainly and pretty affirmatively, I expected that the judge would rule in the way that he did. But as the reporter said, very scathing comments about this former clerk and what the judge said, her celebrity seeking activities.

TAPPER: Is it common for a judge to grant a request for a new trial, let alone one as high profile as this one, based off one juror's allegation?

MARTIN: Very difficult to get a new trial, Jake, under what I'll call usual circumstances. But definitely when you have allegations like in this case about juror tampering, the judge would have needed to see a lot more and probably not only an affirmative statement from that one juror, but perhaps even from others. So, the judge did say that there's some split decisions in South Carolina on this issue and even in the federal courts. So, I expect we'll see this going up on appeal.

TAPPER: All right, Areva Martin, thank you so much. The decision just coming in, a judge denying the request for a new trial brought from Alex Murdaugh, the former attorney convicted of killing his wife and son. Keep it here for reaction on "The Lead" and online at We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: And we're back with our "Politics Lead," President Biden facing multiple foreign policy challenges as he seeks a second term for the White House. To some, include convincing Congress to send Ukraine aid, getting American hostages out of Gaza, and now how or if to retaliate against Sunday's drone strike in Jordan that killed three American soldiers and wounded more than 40 others.

Jonah Goldberg's back with me along with former Obama administration official Nayyera Haq. Nayyera, President Biden and the administration are blaming Iranian-backed militant groups for the drone attacks, Iran of course denying any involvement whatsoever. Realistically, like where's the line in terms of retaliating but also -- and deterring, but also not getting into a war with Iran and prompting World War III.

NAYYERA HAQ, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF CABINET AFFAIRS, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, there's a strategic answer to that in military context, and then there's a political answer to that. The strategic one is don't go after Iran inside its own territory, go after the other proxies. Have it as a tiered response so it's not just boom, there's a series of consequences that these proxies will feel.

But politically, Biden does have to look responsive. He has to look strong. It's part of why after during the drawdown of Afghanistan in his first year when American soldiers were killed, he retaliated quickly. We find out only days later that was actually not ISIS-K members who were killed, but an aid worker and his children. So, the swift response can often lead to serious consequences.

TAPPER: So, Jonah, some Republicans are attacking Biden, saying he needs to be tougher against Iran and its proxies while others are going after each other. So, look at what Tucker Carlson posted on X or Twitter about Republican Senators Lindsey Graham in South Carolina and John Corner in Texas, both, you know, target Iran, hit Iran now, hit them hard. And Carlson writes, "Effing lunatics." This is the debate right now within the Republican Party.


GOLDBERG: Yeah, look, I mean, Tucker Carlson has proven horseshoe theory correct in many ways. He has embraced the sort of far, far left foreign policy world view these days. And I just want to say to sort of -- to get back to this topic, love Nayyera completely disagree with that.

TAPPER: That's why you're here, to disagree.

GOLDBERG: The whole point of being -- the whole point of being a superpower is that when smaller countries attack us, they should be afraid that we'll escalate. We should not be afraid that Iran escalates. Iran is using these proxies and because they're proxies, they don't care if the proxies get hit. That's -- they're disposable. They are like drone bees.

TAPPER: You know, it's an old saying for people who follow the Middle East that Iran is willing to fight to the death of the last Palestinian.

GOLDBERG: That's right. And so, the whole reason we're in this is because I think the Biden administration has been suffering from what they call mirroring in foreign policy. They think Iran is afraid of a war with the United States when really, it's the United States that's afraid of a war with Iran. And so, our responses to it -- but our responses to it have been, I mean, talking about proportionality on (inaudible), we've been doing proportionality for months now.

We've been attacked over a hundred times. It is time to actually send a signal to Iran that they pay a price when they authorize these proxies to do this.

HAQ: Oh, but the price actually can be paid as I said absent going into Iran proper --

GOLDBERG: Yeah, because (inaudible).

HAQ: Because the real, right, the real -- the real --

TAPPER: It's like Iran (inaudible).

HAQ: -- contrast.


HAQ: The real contrast is that American soldiers were killed not on U.S. soil, right. Hassan Soleimani was a targeted strike on an Iranian leader in Syria.

TAPPER: Right.

HAQ: Right. So those are the ways --


HAQ: But the proxies, right, the idea of immediately going into an invasion of Iran is not militarily feasible. They have a significant military apparatus, certainly not for a president who has said he does not want to have forever wars.

GOLDBERG: I don't want to invade Iran.

TAPPER: Do you agree though that what Biden has been doing so far, it has not been deterrent?

HAQ: Clearly it hasn't.

TAPPER: Right.

HAQ: We've had more than 160 of these back-and-forth tit for tat responses. So that idea of escalation needs to be a response that is considered significant. But also, I would say, it is not what feels significant to the American public of shock and awe. It needs to be significant to Iran, as well as other adversaries in the region.

TAPPER: But you have, literally, Cornyn and Lindsey Graham saying, attack Iran not just the Houthis or Hezbollah or whatever the names of the Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq or Hamas, not them but Iran. That's what Cornyn was calling for.

GOLDBERG: I hate the phrase take them seriously not literally, but I think that's what they're trying to get at. I mean, the fact is that it needs to be a disproportionate response that Iran feels, that is a serious response. It can't be a response that just moves the goalpost a millimeter because that's how we got into this situation already.

HAQ: And so, we're actually not disagreeing, though I know you really wanted to today. It's the idea that the proxies and their networks are valuable to Iran. Otherwise, they would not be leaving their entire national security apparatus to be funding and supporting them so, start there. GOLDBERG: Right, but the Soleimani case is a good example. Soleimani was an Iranian. He was the head of the IRGC. Those guys travel around to police their proxies. We can kill them on foreign soil and we should kill a lot of them.

TAPPER: All right.

HAQ: Also known as he's agreeing with Tucker Carlson.



TAPPER: No. Because I don't think Tucker Carlson would be in favor of the IRG, but I don't speak for Tucker, so who knows? Anyway, thanks to both you, Nayyera and Jonah. Great to have you here.

Coming up next, CNN back in Gaza, invited by Israel's military, the elaborate tunnel system. The IDF wanted to show us, and then there are of course parts that they did not want to show us. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Back with our World Lead now. A week after a CNN investigation into the Israeli military's destruction of cemeteries in Gaza, the IDF invited CNN's Jeremy Diamond to what they say was a Hamas tunnel underneath a Gaza cemetery. Then they refused to show him exactly where the tunnel entrance was in the crater that was once a graveyard.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is no ordinary quarry. It's where the living once buried their dead. Gaza's Bani Suheila cemetery, hollowed out by Israeli excavators.

DIAMOND: These were all graves. This was a cemetery. But the military says that they were forced to come in here because they discovered a Hamas tunnel running right underneath that cemetery.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But the Israeli military failed to prove that stunning claim during a three-hour tour of the area. They invited us here a week after we first uncovered this graveyard's partial destruction using satellite imagery, part of a CNN investigation that found 16 cemeteries in Gaza damaged or destroyed by the Israeli military.

BRIG. GEN. DAN GOLDFUSS, IDF COMMANDER, 98TH DIVISION: This whole area here is a military compound from the mosque over there underneath the graveyard, all the way down north and south. My forces, the beginning, who tried to flank this area were fired from this area again and again and again. They couldn't understand why.

DIAMOND: So that's how you determine that there was a tunnel here because you were being fired upon? GOLDFUSS: Yes, sir.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Our journey to investigate the Israeli military's claims begins in the rubble of what they say was a residential building.

DIAMOND: Even just standing at the mouth of this tunnel, you can feel the humidity just like emanating here. And this is the way that we go into what they say is an extensive tunnel system in Bani Suheila.

DIAMOND (voice-over): We descend into a dark, seemingly endless labyrinth.


DIAMOND: There's just tight spaces like this in certain parts of this tunnel. But then you get here and you have full headspace pretty much. All throughout it, you can see that there's electricity, there's telecommunications. The Israeli military says that this tunnel system actually leads to a Hamas Command Center, which they say was used by Hamas fighters to coordinate their attacks.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The Israeli military says this is that command center. Multiple rooms equipped with plumbing and electricity, maps like this once lining the walls.

DIAMOND: You can see a kitchen here equipped with a sink, running water with the pipes running through the tunnel wall. You have a fan, plates. I mean, you could imagine this being in a house, but instead it's deep, deep underground. Where are we right now? I mean, what's above us?

GOLDFUSS: So we're in the headquarters of a Hamas commander. Above us is a cemetery that I showed you from the outside.

DIAMOND: If you look at the satellite imagery of this cemetery, there is a wide area that the military has cleared. Why is that necessary in order to uncover these tunnels?

GOLDFUSS: We have to reach the tunnels. We have to reach the tunnels. We have to uncover the tunnels. We have to prevent from the enemy to flank us.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But there's no way for us to verify whether we are actually beneath the graveyard. General Goldfuss takes us back out of the tunnel, but not into the cemetery. Instead, we leave the same way we came in, before walking back to the enormous hole where the cemetery once stood.

GOLDFUSS: Please, hold on a second.

DIAMOND: Yes. We're asking the general if we can actually see the shaft to the tunnel.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But the answer is no.


GOLDFUSS: There's all kinds of machinery, which I don't want you to take pictures of, the security mark forces.

DIAMOND: But what about if we don't film it, we just look with our eyes?

GOLDFUSS: And then you might fall in. The whole thing can collapse, where you have to walk to the edge, the edge is not secured, it can collapse. There's machinery, so on. It's not something I'm going to take a risk on. Sorry.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The Israeli military later provided this drone footage showing the tunnel shaft we entered and another one nearby. CNN geolocated the footage using this satellite image, this outline shows where the cemetery once stood and these are the two tunnel entrances, clearly outside the graveyard. As for the tunnel they say they found here where the cemetery once stood, the military never provided any evidence.


DIAMOND (on camera): And, Jake, we pressed the Israeli military multiple times for that evidence, but instead, they released a press release today that actually poked more holes in their story. The story that General Goldfuss told us when we're in that underground command center. He said that we're just below the cemetery, but the press release a map that the Israeli military released today actually places that command center well outside the bounds of that cemetery. More questions than answers. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv, Israel, for us. Thank you so much.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 20,000 babies in Gaza have been born into this war. Coming up next, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is giving us the perspective of these mothers and the dire situation in which they now live.



TAPPER: Back with our World Lead, aid organizations are outraged at what they call a, quote, reckless decision by major government donors to suspend funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, after an Israeli intelligence report alleged that of the 13 staffers associated with the horrific October 7th terrorist attack, six infiltrated Israel that day, four kidnapped Israelis, three got texts the night before to prepare for the attack, though their participation in the massacre was not confirmed and at least one supplied logistic support.

Now, as the future of the largest aid organization in Gaza hangs in the balance, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh brings us the stories of Gaza's most vulnerable mothers and their newborns. And we must warn our viewers, you may find some of this content disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Born into this world all alone, no parents by her side, only a stranger's touch for the baby with no name. Delivered by C section last month to a mother already gone, fatally injured in an explosion. She's been in an incubator since, stable now, but still fragile, doctors say.

She's one of the nearly 20,000 born into this war. Every 10 minutes, a baby is born in Gaza, the U.N. says. Gaza is where the blessings of life are now a curse. Omiezan (ph) is five months pregnant. Like most Gazans, her family is homeless. This, the toilets of a school turned shelter, is where they live.

This is our life in the toilets, Omiezan (ph) says. We lay our mattresses and sleep here. Omiezan (ph) and her husband can hardly feed their children. There's not enough for their unborn child.

I'm in my fifth month craving foods, but there's no food, no flour, nothing, she says. She's not had her iron supplements, not even a checkup in months. We wanted to check if there's a heartbeat, but there are no hospitals. They're only dealing with emergencies, she says. There are no scans to see if the baby's alive or not. Life is nonexistent for pregnant women.

Gaza's few remaining hospitals are overwhelmed with a seemingly endless flood of war casualties. There's no chance of carrying out routine care, and the estimated 50,000 pregnant women and their unborn babies are left out in the cold. They're already precarious situation before the war, now dramatically worse. About 40 percent of all pregnancies are now high risk, the aid groups say, miscarriages, stillbirths, preterm labor and maternal mortality are much more likely.


For first time mothers like Hyam (ph), the excitement is overshadowed by this miserable existence that's now her life, soon to be her babies. Being pregnant with your first child should be nice, you eat, you rest, you sleep. But I didn't get any of that, Hyam (ph) says. Instead, she's had to flee several times, taking shelter in overcrowded hospitals, walking miles, searching for safety.

After walking for many hours, I was exhausted, she says. The baby was very weak. They told me I should be staying in the hospital, but there was no room, so I had to leave. She's now in this tent, sleeping on a sand floor. How will I give birth in war when I have nothing for the baby? No formula, no diapers? We are in a tent and it's very cold for us. What will life be like for a tiny baby born into these conditions?

It's hell. This burnt out classroom in what's left of northern Gaza is the only shelter Najud (ph) could find. She barely made it through the bombardment and labor and struggling to keep her newborn healthy, clean and warm. We want to clean the classroom, but there's no disinfectant, Najud (ph) says. There's no healthcare, no clinics, no vaccinations for the baby. War has separated Najud (ph) from her husband. She's only been able to reach him once when she told him they had a baby girl, Habiba (ph). Najud's (ph) mother spends her days trying to find what she can to feed her daughter.

This is my first grandchild. It's supposed to be happiness, she says. But I couldn't celebrate. I wanted to prepare so many things for her to celebrate her arrival, my precious first granddaughter. She didn't even get the new clothes I bought her.

It's never been harder to be a mother in Gaza. All you can do is hold your baby tight and hope you both survive this nightmare.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Jomana Karadsheh for that report.

Up next, we go to Ukraine and look at footage from a GoPro camera strapped to a Ukrainian soldier while he is in the trenches in battle. What he told us about the fight with Russia. Plus, the moment a CNN crew came under fire. Stay with us.



TAPPER: More now in our World Lead fight in the forests, the landscape in parts of eastern Ukraine is proving to be one of the toughest aspects in Ukraine's defense against Putin's army. The trenches in which Ukrainian soldiers hunker down are cold and wet as Russians bomb and strike them with artillery. CNN's Fred Pleitgen and crew even came under fire themselves trying to get to this area. A warning, some of the images we're about to show you in this report are disturbing.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): All out warfare in unforgiving terrain. Forest battles in eastern Ukraine mean facing a near constant Russian onslaught. Vladimir Putin's army trying to break through Ukrainian defenses. Dmytro is one of those holding them up.

The situation is very active and very tense, he says, because the enemy has much more equipment and manpower. Basically, every day they try to storm the positions. A dead Russian soldier and a destroyed tank show just how close the Russians have come. It's a fight for survival and against the elements. The trench cold, wet, and soggy, the only heat coming from candles the soldiers cower around, gathering strength to face overwhelming Russian firepower.

They shoot direct fire. Planes are flying. Basically, they have it all, he says. But probably the worst are tanks. When they fire, you don't even hear it. You hear an airplane when it comes over with a tank, you're in God's hands.

Artillery fire, another threat here, as we found out when we came under fire trying to make it to the area.



PLEITGEN: And this is unfortunately something that when we work here in the east of the country, happens all too often. We were getting ready to film here and then all of a sudden we heard what appeared to be outgoing artillery, but then a shelf came in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots vehicles are 100 meters guys, 100 meters.

PLEITGEN: One hundred meters, got you. We're now trying to make our way out of here as safe as possible. That means we have to keep distance between our cars, but we also, of course, have to keep moving the entire time to make sure that we can get out of here, hopefully safely.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): We believe a Russian drone spotted us and directed the artillery fire, but two can play that game. Naziri (ph) is a Ukrainian drone pilot. He guides Kyiv's artillery guns targeting Russian infantry, but also armored assault formations, including main battle tanks. He says ammo shortages mean he has to be extremely precise.

It's no secret we're starved of artillery shells. He says we try to work as efficiently and accurately as possible to hit the enemy's firepower, trying to fight back any way they can on one of the toughest battlefields of this war.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Jake, the Ukrainians say by and large on that front line, they say that they're holding on. In fact, troops there told us that they destroyed more than 40 tanks and armored vehicles in the span of just a couple of days. And yet the Russians keep coming. And one of the big issues right now for the Ukrainians is increased use of heavy Russian aerial bombs that they say can wreak havoc on those trenches that you saw there.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Breaking news this afternoon, new framework on a deal to release more hostages held by Hamas, the specifics on that ahead. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now in our World Lead, a broad framework for a hostage release deal and a potential ceasefire has been agreed to by negotiators in Paris, according to an official who is familiar with the talks. The U.S., Israel, Egypt and Qatar were part of the negotiations. The basic framework was delivered to Hamas today. Israeli officials say there are still details that need to be worked out and that there are concerns about, quote, conditions that are not acceptable. We will see what happens next.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is getting more specifics on this possible framework. And you can look for his report live next in The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, which is starting now. I'll see you back here on The Lead tomorrow.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news.