Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Axios: State Department Reviewing Option for Possible Recognition of Palestinian State After War; Doctors Without Borders: Gaza's Largest Hospital Barely Functional, Sheltering 50,000 People; Witnesses Testify About Day Police Captured Parents of Michigan School Shooter. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 15:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Negotiations for a new Israel-Hamas hostage deal are at a crossroads. A tentative framework has been reached, but the two sides have yet to sign on.

Yesterday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with the Qatari Prime Minister to push the process forward. And this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East. Now, this visit comes as Axios is reporting that the State Department is going to start a review that could open the door to the United States recognizing a Palestinian state.

Barak Ravid of Axios broke that story and he joins us now. Barak, walk us through what this review entails.

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Good afternoon. So I think that something like a week or two weeks ago, Secretary Blinken ordered the State Department to start a series of reviews around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And as one U.S. official told me, since the war in Gaza broke, all of the old paradigms and old policies are up in the air and there's more willingness to review all of them, including the issue of whether the U.S. should recognize a Palestinian state this way or another, directly or indirectly, bilaterally or through the U.N. And this work is being done right now at the State Department and its results will be presented to Secretary Blinken, I think, in the coming weeks.

SANCHEZ: So Barak, the United States has repeatedly been calling for a two-state solution. Does this try to accelerate that and put pressure on Israel? Is it symbolic? Like what are the consequences, ultimately?

RAVID: So I think, again, nobody's doing it yet. It's just, you know, work being done with, you know, options being presented to the Secretary of State. But the mere fact that the State Department is considering this thing shows a shift in the Biden administration's thinking.

Because for years, the U.S. policy was that recognition of Palestine should just be a result of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Now there are people at the State Department, quite senior people, who say, you know what? We should turn it around. We should first recognize Palestine as a state and take the negotiations from there.


It still does not mean that this is U.S. policy. There's a long way to go. But it's new thinking that we haven't seen until now. And it shows you how much the Gaza War created this opening for rethinking a lot of old paradigms.

SANCHEZ: Yes, as you said, it's a new paradigm after October 7th. Barak Ravid, thanks so much for the reporting. Appreciate it.

RAVID: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Negotiators are seeking to lock in a six- week pause in fighting in Gaza, but for many on the ground, that relief may come too late. Hundreds of thousands of people no longer have a home. Many have resorted to eating grass and drinking polluted water. And hospitals are buckling.

Doctors Without Borders recently got access to al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical facility, for the first time since November. And their conclusion is that it's barely functional.

We're joined now by the Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders, USA, Avril Benoit. Avril, thank you so much for being with us. What more can you tell us about what your colleagues witnessed at al-Shifa and just more broadly, the hospital system in Gaza?

AVRIL BENOIT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS, USA: Thanks, Brianna. A couple of our colleagues were able to accompany a convoy from the United Nations that was going to deliver fuel to the north. It was a very, very harrowing journey, trying to pass through not only difficult checkpoints, but also thousands of people surrounding the convoy that was transporting only fuel, people who were desperate for food and water just to survive, and incredibly disappointed that they weren't bringing food and water.

By the time they reached the hospital, where some doctors from Doctors Without Borders have been continuing to volunteer for some time, they found a hospital that was filled with around 50,000 people sheltering in there. Hardly any materials to be able to treat the wounded that continued to come in. Barely any electricity to be able to monitor vital signs of severely wounded people.

Operating rooms hardly functioning at all, but yet trying to do the best they could with what little they had left. So a harrowing situation with a lot of desperate people.

KEILAR: And many countries, including the U.S., have paused their funding for UNRWA, for the U.N. aid group that obviously services Gaza. And this has to do with these allegations by Israel that appear to be quite credible, that 13 staffers were involved in the October 7th attack. UNRWA obviously, it partners with a lot of non-profits as well. Are you seeing yet the effect of that pause in funding? BENOIT: I don't think we'll see the effect until their operations

start to really slow down. But let's remember that this really is a lifeline. This is the only organization that is being able to do the big convoys, the transportation, doing the best they can alongside their various partner agencies, such as the World Health Organization that we work with.

We're extremely worried. I mean, the consequences of a reduction of capacity of the United Nations will be catastrophic and will have a direct impact on the suffering of people in Gaza, who, of course, are experiencing this collective punishment with a total siege.

KEILAR: Can you and the WHO and other non-profits fill the void that this leaves?

BENOIT: There's no way. And especially without a ceasefire, this is one of the things we've been calling for from the beginning.

We are working in hospitals, such as Nasser Hospital, hospitals in Khan Younis, hospitals in the south, where people were told to flee. And as our medical teams are working in these hospitals that are full of patients, 300 percent capacity, beds overflowing, call ways overflowing, discharging patients who are not really ready to be discharged just because you have to make more room. We hear explosions all around.

Our team in Nasser Hospital, for example, is there with a lot of patients and their families, unable to even evacuate to follow the orders because there's so much insecurity right around the hospital. There's just no way you can move so many hundreds of people safely through that.

And so the ceasefire is what we really need to be able to deliver aid properly to those who need it most throughout the Gaza Strip.

KEILAR: Avril, the U.S. is calling for fundamental changes before it resumes funding of UNRWA. And let's be clear, this is a difficult problem. And it's awful what these folks have been accused of who are part of UNRWA, these 13. Hamas is very much a part of Palestinian society. It's something you're navigating if you are a nonprofit there. What do you keep in mind as you, as an organization, have to do that to verify your local vendors and the people that you're working with?


BENOIT: The Ministry of Health is run by the local authority, and that is the Civilian Administration of Hamas. There's no way around that. And for sure, we make a point of never working in a hospital that's become militarized, that's being used to launch rockets, that's being used to harbor weapons or troops.

I mean, this is not something that we would ever accept, because it increases the risks to that medical facility. There shouldn't be armed people inside a medical facility, and that's a message to everyone. And it's important for us to always uphold that, because we believe very firmly that a hospital facility, and also an ambulance or a clinic, should be a sanctuary, a place where people can find safety.

Unfortunately, the conduct of this war is such that no place in Gaza is safe from the constant bombardment, attacks, orders of evacuation amidst all kinds of insecurity and threats around these hospitals.

So again, the ceasefire is what we're calling for. It's essential to be able to maintain the humanitarian assistance and to deliver it properly within those medical spaces that should be protected at all times.

KEILAR: Avril, thank you so much. Obviously, the situation is very dire in Gaza, and we appreciate your time.

BENOIT: Thank you.

KEILAR: Up next, some more revelations out of Michigan, where the mother of a high school shooter is on trial for her alleged role in his crime. Read the text that she sent her son after learning his school was the site of the latest mass shooting.



SANCHEZ: A law enforcement officer testifying today in the Jennifer Crumbley trial said that Crumbley told investigators her son is going to have to suffer.

Crumbley is being tried for involuntary manslaughter in the deadly 2021 shooting at Michigan's Oxford High School. Her son killed four classmates. Prosecutors also presented new text messages that Crumbley and her husband sent to their son after the shooting.

Let's get to CNN's Jean Casarez who's been following the latest testimony. Jean, walk us through the details in those messages.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lieutenant Sam Marzban took the stand today and shortly after that mass shooting happened, law enforcement executed a search warrant on the family home.

And Jennifer had not been charged at all, but they never like people to stay in their home when they are executing a search warrant. So they put her in the squad car and she was just having sort of informal conversations with the lieutenant that was standing there. And it was all recorded. Here is a portion of that.


LT. SAM MARZBAN, OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: She seemed irritated and frustrated. I remember taking notes down and she made a statement to me saying that lives were lost today and he's going to have to suffer.

And I found that odd the way she said it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? MARZBAN: Because she was referring to a person that was her son.


CASAREZ: So the mass shooting had just happened. So these are some comments that are just coming out of her mouth so close in time to all of that.

Well, that night, December, November 30th, the couple did not stay in their home. They went and found a hotel, motel somewhere. The next night motel that took them to they were in an industrial building. And the prosecution is saying they fled. And so, they were found on December 4th in the early morning hours on a mattress.

You're looking at this video right now. This is body cam footage. That's James Crumbley in the blue there. They're allegedly woken up. Prosecutors are trying to say that they were awake when this happened, but they are arresting them right then and there. And they are going to be taken back to Oakland County authorities. But that was the beginning of those formal charges for the Crumbleys.

Now, what we believe may be the last text that they had with their son, because remember, they haven't seen their son since this happened. But they had text to him that day of November 30th.

Ethan, don't do it. Father saying, call me and somebody else saying, hey, did you get shot? So those are the communications from Ethan's phone.

SANCHEZ: Wow. Jean Casarez, thank you so much for the update.

Stay with CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We'll be right back.



KEILAR: Now to a disturbing story that is developing outside of Philadelphia. We are learning some new details about the man who was accused of killing his father and severing his head. And then posting an extremely graphic video about it on YouTube. He was arrested overnight after police found a machete and a large knife at the crime scene.

CNN's Danny Freeman is in Pennsylvania for us. Danny, do we have any word about why this happened?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, at this point we don't have any motive from law enforcement as to why this happened. But we are learning more about, as you said, 32-year-old Justin Mohn through actually lawsuits that he's filed over the past several years. He actually sued the federal government three times in 2022 and 2023 for allowing him to borrow money for college without telling him that he might not find satisfactory work as a, quote, overeducated white man.

Then in 2019, Mohn also sued his former employer, Progressive Insurance, for being paid less than his female peers. He also said he was ultimately fired because of sex discrimination. Well, Progressive said he was actually terminated from that job because he kicked open a door and a judge in that particular case ruled in favor of Progressive.

So, Brianna, it all just continues to paint a picture of this man who's been accused of beheading his own father, then posting about it on YouTube, then running to a National Guard base about 100 miles west of that crime scene, breaking into that National Guard base with a gun before ultimately being caught.

That man, Justin Mohn, is in custody now.


He was arraigned earlier this morning on charges including murder and abuse of a body. Again, a very disturbing story, but we're learning more about the man at the center of all of it -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Danny Freeman, thank you for that report. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Our final story is about a foot pursuit unlike any other. It's about a boy seeking a size 23 shoe. That's how big Jor'el Bolden's feet are. The 16-year-old from Independence, Missouri, he's a big kid. He stands about 6 feet 5 inches tall. His mom launched a GoFundMe explaining that he's now beyond the size 22 shoe that most vendors go up to.


KEILAR: Yes, and she says a custom-made size 23 costs more than a thousand dollars. The high school sophomore told affiliate KCTV that he must wear his current sneakers since they're the only shoes he has.


JOR'EL BOLDEN, 16 YEARS OLD: They're too tight. They hurt when I walk. It's embarrassing. I don't, I don't like asking people for help.

TAMIKA NEAL, SINGLE MOTHER: I'm on a mission because he can't, he can't really go out.


KEILAR: I think this is going to help with his mission.

SANCHEZ: I hope so, yes.

KEILAR: But just to put things in context, Shaquille O'Neal, size 22. Jor'el, you got him beat.

And "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts next.