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Recovery Efforts Hindered by Limited Materials; Ukraine Indicates Key Village Near Bakhmut Recaptured; North Korean Leader Heads Home after 6-Day Russian Tour; Biden to Attend Annual U.N. Gathering, Meet with World Leaders; E.U. Chief Visits Italian Island to Discuss Migrant Crisis; U.S. Judge Rules New 'DREAMers' Protections Unlawful; Women Seek Support for Children Fathered by U.N. Staff; Hijacked Buildings a Growing Problem in Johannesburg. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired September 18, 2023 - 00:00   ET


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome. I'm Paula Newton.


Ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM, bodies lost at sea. Survivors of the flood in Libya are anxiously waiting for the bodies of their loved one to be recovered as rescuers face challenging conditions.

Kim Jong-un leaves Russia, bringing back with him souvenirs you might not expect. We are live with the details of the military gifts he received.

And Lampedusa's migrant surge. The E.U. chief and Italian prime minister visit the island as they seek to find resolution at one of Europe's main foreign points of entry. We are live in Rome with the latest.

And we do begin in Libya, where cleanup continues from deadly flooding that utterly decimated the city of Derna just over a week ago. Now it's still unknown how many people have died. But the United Nations has now revised a previous death toll of more than 11,000. They now cite the World Health Organization's figure of nearly 4,000 lives lost.

The portside city looks like it was ravaged by a war, but what you're seeing here, I mean those pictures, is the result of flooding. It was really tsunami-like and that was after two major dams that burst during the storm.

Now surging waters rushed through the city while people slept, killing thousands and washing some out to sea. Search-and-rescue teams paused their work on Sunday for a moment of prayer.

Some 9,000 people are still considered missing in treacherous conditions are making the search even more difficult. As residents return to their homes and some, of course, are having trouble processing this disaster. Here's how one resident described surviving the floods.


ILHAM AL-THIBYANI, DERNA RESIDENT (through translator): Feelings I don't know what I am feeling. I cannot express it. I saw death with my own eyes. I saw my family about to die in front of my eyes. I wanted to hold onto anything. But I could only say, Dear God. Seeing my children and my husband. I saw people dying in front of me. I saw death. A moment that cannot be described as much as I try.


NEWTON: Now CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is on the ground in Derna with the latest on efforts to recover the dead.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Libyan and international teams have been working tirelessly out at sea, trying to recover the bodies of the thousands of victims of last week's catastrophic events that hit the city of Derna, and we have seen Libyan teams here trying their best to try and get out to sea, to try and reach the bodies of those victims.

But what we are hearing from the international teams that have been working on this for days now is that this has become a near impossible mission. They say that one team told us that they were able to recover more than 60 bodies since they got here.

But right now, they are not able to do this anymore. This one team says they spotted the bodies of about 300 people. But the conditions are so challenging out there for them, they say that they don't have the right equipment to reach these really hard-to-reach areas. Coves where these bodies have ended up, shallow waters where their boats can't go. And they just don't have the equipment, and the expertise and manpower to deal with a situation like this.

And what they're telling us is, while they did spot these bodies over the past couple of days, right now those bodies have disintegrated into remains that they just cannot reach, they cannot retrieve because of the health hazard.

And this is absolutely devastating for the so many families and survivors here in Derna who we are speaking to, who have told us all they want is to find the bodies of their loved ones, or the remains to give them a proper burial.

This one international team we were speaking with earlier said that they have dealt with accidents in the past, with migrant boats capsizing. They have dealt with search-and-recovery operations, where they've managed to pull dozens of bodies in the past.

But never have they had to deal with a situation, with something on this scale before, where they're looking for hundreds and thousands of bodies.


Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Derna, Libya.


NEWTON: To Morocco now, where food aid is reaching remote villages in the Atlas Mountains even as uncertainty and loss, of course, haunt the survivors of the September 8 earthquake.

Some 1,500 people lined up Sunday at a military kitchen at a camp for the displaced to receive meals. Camp residents say the military is also supplying medicine and medical treatment and facilities to sleep. However, it is not clear for how long Morocco will continue operating the camp.

The government plans to rebuild some 50,000 homes that were destroyed in the magnitude 6.8 earthquake. Residents fear that could take months, or even years.

Ukrainian forces are making headway in the East. That's according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He says Ukrainian troops liberated a key village Southwest of the city of Bakhmut on Sunday.

Now that region has been a primary focus of Ukraine's counteroffensive efforts in the past few months. This latest victory comes right before Mr. Zelenskyy heads to the U.S. to address the U.N. and meet with U.S. President Joe Biden.

He will use these new gains as evidence that Ukraine is pushing Russian forces back and that its counteroffensive is right on track.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen brings us the latest now from Kyiv.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Ukrainians say their forces are consolidating some of the gains that they've been able to make in the East of the country over the past couple of days, especially South of the town of Bakhmut.

Of course, we've been speaking about the settlement of Andriivka. There's been some pretty remarkable video that's now been released by the Ukrainian armed forces that shows their troops advancing through Andriivka, and it really is showing the utter destruction that was brought on by months of fighting that was going on there.

In fact the settlement of Andriivka is pretty much completely destroyed. It wasn't very big to begin with. But you can see on that video the ruins that those forces are advancing through.

The Ukrainians also saying that the Russians now firing a lot of artillery shells at that place, seemingly trying to stop the Ukrainians from advancing any further.

Nevertheless, they believe that these are important gains that they're making, especially as they're trying to take back Bakhmut. But of course, this is also very all very important to show that Ukraine has momentum as the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is set to head to the United States, both to go to the U.N. General Assembly. But of course, also to meet U.S. President Joe Biden.

Ukrainians once again reiterating that they need more longer-range weapons from the U.S. But also immediately, they say, ammunition. Artillery ammunition. HIMARS ammunition. Because they say there are areas on the front lines where the Russians are able to fire a lot more than the Ukrainians can, because they simply have a lot more ammo.

Nevertheless, the Ukrainians are saying they understand that the counteroffensive is difficult. It's going a lot more slowly than they would like and that certainly many others would -- would've thought, as well.

But at the same time, they do say that there is a degree of success as the Ukrainians on pretty much all areas of the frontline are putting pressure on the Russians while the Russians are on the defensive.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


NEWTON: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has wrapped up his rare six- day visit to Russia. Video from Russian state media shows Kim boarding his personal armored train Sunday, waving to local officials as a band played before his departure.

Now along with the stairwell ceremony, Kim was reportedly given a number of gifts.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has been looking into all of this for us. And she joins us now from Hong Kong.

I mean look, this visit went on so long. It really was extraordinary. And he apparently took back some souvenirs.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Yes, this was a long visit, Paula. After nearly a week in Russia, the North Korean leader is returning home by his personal train.

And he takes with him warming military ties between the two neighbors and a rather interesting selection of parting gifts, including a lightweight bulletproof vest, a set of clothing that invisible to thermal imaging cameras, as well as surveillance drones and kamikaze drones.

These are flying weapons that explode when they reach their target. And they have been used by Russia on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. And this was given as a gift to Kim Jong-un.

Now, Russia has gone out of its way to publicize this visit. On Sunday, Russian state media showed this video of Kim waving goodbye after he walked the red carpet to board his personal armored train in the Russian city of Artyom. The North Korean news agency, KCNA, commented on the visit, hailing

it, saying this -- let's bring it up for you -- quote, "A fresh heyday of friendship and solidarity and cooperation is being opened up in the history of the development of the relations between the DPRK and Russia," unquote.


Now on Saturday, we also have video of this. Kim met with the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, in Vladivostok, and that was where he inspected war planes and warships and discussed military cooperation.

Of course, it was last week at the start of the visit Kim met with the leader of Russia at the Vostochny Cosmodrome and that was where Vladimir Putin said that Kim showed great interest in space, in rocketry.

Now, we don't know what was discussed behind closed doors. But observers say that it is very clear what both parties want. Russia wants ammunition, especially as its war with Ukraine drags on.

North Korea desperately wants food aid and military technology as it defiantly proceeds with its missile program.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies in the region are deeply disturbed by this deepening alliance. Earlier this month, the U.S. had warned that arms talks were actively advancing between these two nations. But no deals have been publicly announced.

And I do want to add that South Korea and the U.S., they say military cooperation between North Korea and Russia would violate U.N. sanctions and will be punished. And the South Korean president is due to be in New York on Monday for the U.N. General Assembly.

Back to you, Paula.

NEWTON: And Kristie, just to ask here, Kim is departing but Russia has a lot more diplomacy on the table. What's on the agenda when China's foreign minister pays a visit?

STOUT: Yes. China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, is paying a visit this week. In fact, later on today, Monday, he is due to visit with his Russian counterpart, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

And according to the Russian foreign ministry, they are due to discuss a wide range of issues including, quote, "a settlement for Ukraine," as well as, quote, "security and stability in the Asia Pacific region."

Now this upcoming meeting between the foreign ministers of China and Russia follows a meeting over the weekend between Wang Yi and the U.S. national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, which took place in Malta, a meeting that was described as being constructive and could pave the way to a much-anticipated meeting between the leaders of these two superpowers, Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Back to you.

NEWTON: Kristie, thank you so much for that update.

And as you just heard Kristie say, the U.S. and China did wrap up two days of lengthy meetings Sunday. They focused on improving relations between the two superpowers.

Now, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Malta. That was interesting in and of itself.

A senior U.S. source says the men talked for 12 hours over two days and agreed to continue high-level discussions.

Now, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the talks candid, substantive and constructive in a statement released after the meetings.

Now, world leaders are gathering for this week's U.N. General Assembly in New York, where some meetings are set to begin in the hours ahead. Now among them, an informal gathering between the E.U.'s high representative and foreign ministers with Ukraine expected to be on the agenda.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend the annual meeting in person and is set to sit down with U.S. President Joe Biden during his U.S. visit.

Both presidents are scheduled to address the assembly on Tuesday. A Senate aide said Zelenskyy will meet with U.S. senators on Thursday.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Washington with more on Mr. Biden's trip to New York.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden will put his diplomatic skills to the test this week as he attends the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York City.

He arrives there on Sunday and on Monday is set to hold some campaign fundraisers before diving into those meetings on Tuesday.

The president will deliver remarks before the U.N. General Assembly, and officials say that he will talk about America's vision for leadership in the world and also make the case that countries need to work together in order to solve some of the world's biggest problems.

This is all coming as the president has tried to highlight his alliance building as a selling point heading into the 2024 election.

But there also will be a lot of attention on who President Biden will be meeting with on the sidelines of the summit. He will meet with Brazil's president, Lula DeSilva, on Wednesday, and also on Wednesday, he's set to sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This will be the first time the two men are meeting since Netanyahu came back into power last year. But it does come at a time when there had been questions about whether such a meeting would even occur after the White House has expressed criticism and frustration, with Netanyahu's government moving to make some judicial reforms in that country.

Now, when the president wraps up in New York City, he'll come back here to Washington. And on Thursday, here at the White House, he will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who also will be making the rounds among Capitol Hill. This would give the man a chance to speak in person about the counter offensive that's underway against Russia.

But the meeting also comes at a time when Biden is pushing Congress to pass more aid for Ukraine. But that is meeting significant resistance from Republicans in the House.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.



NEWTON: Still ahead for us, some new commitments to take on the migrant crisis in European countries like Italy. Details on the latest move by the European Unio chief and the Italian prime minister to help ease the situation.

And then more legal uncertainty for U.S. immigrants known as the DREAMers. We'll explain a new court ruling that says the program protecting them is unlawful.


NEWTON: A newly-discovered letter is providing damning evidence that World War II Pope Pius XII knew about the Nazi Holocaust as it was happening but kept quiet about it.

The letter, which a Vatican archivist discovered and reproduced in an Italian newspaper with the Vatican's encouragement, dates from 1942. It is from a Jesuit in Germany to Pope Pius' personal secretary.

It confirmed that the Nazis were murdering 6,000 Jews and Poles every day in S.S. furnaces at a camp in what was then Poland.

The Vatican at the time claimed its information was only vague and, in fact, unverified. But the letter contains references to Auschwitz and Dachau and suggests there were more communications that have yet to be found.

E.U. chief Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni say they are working to resolve the migrant crisis facing the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Von der Leyen visited a migrant reception center on the island with the prime minister Sunday. During her trip, she outlined a ten-point action plan to deal with the surge in migration, saying Europe and Italy are both committing more resources.

Now, this week, Lampedusa saw a massive uptick in migrant arrivals, equivalent to the entire island's population of about 7,000 people. One resident in town, a council member, says she hopes migrants who experienced a rough time during their journey get the help they need, especially children who are now arriving alone.


ELISA FRAGAPANE, LAMPEDUSA RESIDENT AND TOWN COUNCILOR (through translator): We saw people suffering. Children without parents. Maybe this is the part that hurts me the most, because you can arrive naked without clothes, and this we can recover. But when a 4- to 5-year-old child arrives alone without parents, this is when the heart really breaks into two.


NEWTON: CNN's Barbie Nadeau is live for us in Rome with more on the migrant crisis in Italy. Barbie, you know, this has been such a long- standing problem. How did things escalate in the last few days?

BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a really complicated issue. It's been a complicated issue for years and years and years.

Now, the big issue right now, though, are these arrivals directly from Tunisia to the island of Lampedusa in small boats. That's something that we haven't seen since 2011, 2012, through the Arab Spring.

So these leaders are now struggling with how to deal with it. But it must be said that when they went to Lampedusa, they didn't meet a single migrant or refugee in those camps. They did kind of a quick trip, three hours, and then Von der Leyen was off to New York for the U.N. Security Council.

But while she was there, she did lay out this ten-point plan, none of which actually deals with the issues facing the migrants themselves and the refugees themselves. But rather with how the island and Italy is going to deal with it.

Let's listen first to what she has to say and then talk a little bit about what that means.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: We have an obligation as part of the international community. We have fulfilled it in the past, and we will do so today and in the future. But we will decide who comes to the European Union and under what circumstances. And not the smugglers or traffickers.

The most effective measure to counter the smugglers' lies are legal pathways and humanitarian corridors.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NADEAU: And you know, Paula, what's really important about that is what we're dealing with are not the countries of origin for these migrants and refugees. Refugees, of course, are very different from migrants. It's an entirely different category that's being discussed here.

What we're talking about is trying to do what they want to do is deal with the problems in the transit countries. And that's Tunisia, and that's Libya.

Neither of these countries are necessarily being as cooperative as they'd like. And that would mean putting in some sort of infrastructure in those countries to hear asylum requests.

What would mean -- what that would mean, though, of course, is that all of the people who don't -- you know, don't qualify for asylum then would be left in those countries. And that's something that's not being dealt with, and that's very much why neither Tunisia, or Libya, both with problems of their own, are not being that cooperative in terms of trying to find these, quote unquote, "safe pathways."

No one's really talking about addressing the problems where they start. That's in sub-Saharan Africa for the most part. Because these boats are filled with Libyans and aren't filled entirely with Tunisians. They're filled with other people who are seeking protection, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes. As you say, such a complicated problem, especially giving everything going on in North Africa right now.

Barbie Nadeau for us in Rome. Thanks so much.

In the meantime, American DREAMers are facing a new legal setback. A federal judge in Texas has ruled against the Biden administration's efforts to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It is known as DACA.

Now, it shields undocumented immigrants from deportation who were brought to the United States as children. The order doesn't impact those currently protected, but as CNN's Camila Bernal explains, it's creating new uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of immigrants.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The success of this Mexican candy family business is, in part, thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, DACA.

IGNACIO VIRAMONTES, BUSINESS OWNER AND DACA RECIPIENT: When we got DACA it was like a boost. It was like a catalyst. And then things just happen faster. Things were easier.

BERNAL (voice-over): Licenses, loans, leases, all possible after Ignacio Viramontes began benefiting from this Obama-era program.

Now Ignacio and his two siblings benefit from DACA. They make part of the more than 580,000 so-called DREAMers in the

U.S., undocumented immigrants often arriving to the U.S. at a young age, eligible for work authorization and shielded from deportation.

But a federal judge in Texas this week ruled that a regulation intended to preserve DACA is unlawful.

JEAN REISZ, CO-DIRECTOR, USC IMMIGRATION CLINIC: The time is running out. And I think that, even if the Biden administration appeals, which I believe they will. And I think it will go all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Looking at our Supreme Court and looking at the law, I think it's likely that the Supreme Court would find it unlawful. And then it's over.

BERNAL (voice-over): Jeanne Reisz, professor and co-director of the Immigration Clinic at USC's Law School, says the ruling could force a more permanent solution.

REISZ: People are reminded of the uncertainty, how many -- how much time do they have left, years maybe. And I think it really puts pressure on reform.

BERNAL (voice-over): At the center of the issue is the scope of the president's authority. Which is why for years congressional leaders have tried to come to an agreement over immigration reform, and failed.

ALEX GALVEZ, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: I think the agreement is there but I think because of certain factions of Congress, that have taken such a position against DACA that it's very hard to come back to the middle and save face.

BERNAL (voice-over): Immigration attorney, Alex Galvez says that, at the end of the day, it's the beneficiaries of the program that suffer.

GALVEZ: The DREAMers are in limbo once again. It's a political ping- pong. Yes, DACA. No, DACA. Yes, DACA. No, DACA.

BERNAL (voice-over): The Texas ruling does not impact current beneficiaries, but it does prohibit new applications. Yet, the reality is that it Ignacio does feel impacted.


VIRAMONTES: Even though I'm -- I'm living, like, comfortably right now, it's always in the back of my had. It's like, what if one day someone decides to come and end DACA?


NEWTON: Our thanks to Camila Bernal there.

Now, thousands of people rallied across Australia on Sunday to support the recognition of indigenous people in the Australian constitution. In Canberra, protesters held signs, urging citizens to vote yes on the

referendum next month.

Indigenous Australians account for less than 4 percent of the population. They have historically faced discrimination, but the measure could give them a greater say on policies that affect them.


ALIMAH DAVIS, "VOTE YES" SUPPORTER: Our representatives, aboriginal and Torres (ph) Islander people, will have a direct, you know, line to Parliament at the moment our voices are being lost through the different levels. So by the time it gets to the top, it's either lost, or it's lost in translation.

So this way it means that we will have a -- a say in the programs and services that affect us.


NEWTON: Now, opponents of the proposal say it will bestow special privileges on some members of society while adding an unnecessary bureaucratic layer.

Still to come for us, more than two dozen women say the U.N. isn't properly supporting them after they were exploited or abused by U.N. personnel and gave birth to their children. The details from Haiti, next.


NEWTON: Welcome back for our viewers from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton, and you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

In Haiti, a heartbreaking story of abuse of power, where U.N. peacekeepers have left behind communities traumatized in the wake of their alleged misconduct.

Now, I met with several families who say they were exploited or abused by U.N. personnel while peacekeepers were stationed in the country from between 2004 and 2017, some fathering children and leaving mothers struggling with both poverty and stigma long after those peacekeepers have left.

Years later, some of the women are still fighting for some kind of financial support.

Here is our CNN "As Equals" report from Western Haiti.


GRAPHIC: It is a moral and organizational imperative to put an end to sexual exploitation and abuse. - Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary- General, 2017

NEWTON (voice-over): The U.N.'s promises weigh heavily in Haiti. At its long-abandoned compound at the coastal outpost of Port Salut, there's barely a trace of the peacekeepers that served here.


And yet, much has been left behind. This woman, who asked to be referred to as Roslyn (ph), due to the stigma of her situation, says she has been cast aside.


GRAPHIC: How can you abandon a child like that? She's without a father. I am raising her alone.

NEWTON (voice-over): "Roslyn" (ph) has a teenage daughter, who was fathered by a Uruguayan peacekeeper. The U.N. says she is one of at least 35 women who were in exploitative or abusive relationships with you and personnel.

Peace is something this mother says she has never known. She has filed a paternity claim but argues the U.N. should be held accountable, as well.

She says she has been left to raise a daughter on paltry sums authorized by the U.N.


GRAPHIC: They know the kids, they did DNA tests and everything. They know the situation of the kids with everything that is going on in Haiti.

NEWTON (voice-over): Rosmina Joseph says she was a child when she was lured into a relationship with another Uruguayan peacekeeper and became pregnant. He was sent home and served a sentence for abuse. That's according to a U.N. document.

But Rosmina wanted us to see her home, a place where she says dreams once stood, a plot for a house. Still, a barren foundation. She has no money to build here.

She lives on this patch of land in nothing more than a tent, clinging to proof, and staking her claim, that the U.N. is also responsible for the harm done to her and her 12-year-old son.

NEWTON: Do you think he understood that you were a child?


GRAPHIC: Yes, he knew I was a minor. It started when I was 16. I became pregnant in January, I was 17.

NEWTON (voice-over): Rosmina says while her abuser was punished, that does not absolve the U.N. of its responsibility.


GRAPHIC: It would be much better if they had worked directly with us. They know they can help. They're just not doing it.

NEWTON (voice-over): We sat down with a half dozen families, some who have received money, mostly for schooling. But all had the same complaint: that they were made to feel like beggars, not victims of exploitation and had to wait years for little money that does not meet the needs of their children.


GRAPHIC: Do you know what hurts me the most? Every time you call them, the way they treat us it's like, they treat us like we're nobody.

NEWTON (voice-over): Zokashi Jean-Baptiste (ph) says she and her son have been victimized all over again. First fighting for paternity tests, then financial support, submitting receipts for expenses to the U.N. Waiting months or years for money that arrives sporadically or not at all.

If money is granted, the U.N. decides how she should spend it.


GRAPHIC: If you get the money to pay for school, and the child dies of hunger when he's back from school, what would you do?

NEWTON (voice-over): By the U.N.'s own admission, allegations of exploitation and abuse have been a predictable problem in U.N. missions around the world.

In 2017, the U.N. secretary-general launched what he called a new approach, pledging zero tolerance for future abusers. And he appointed Jane Connors as the U.N.'s first victims' rights advocate. Her expertise is matched by a fierce will to help.

But she acknowledges the limitations of the U.N.'s system.

JANE CONNORS, VICTIMS' RIGHTS ADVOCATE FOR THE UNITED NATIONS: The U.N. doesn't provide compensation. And the U.N. is in a position to essentially create, in cooperation with the member state, in order to reach the desired objective. I would love to see more progress, but I think you can't -- you can't argue that there's been no progress.

NEWTON (voice-over): Connors says the U.N. has helped, with school fees, some medical expenses, and assisted with some paternity claims at the behest of an initiative from the secretary-general.

CONNORS: I think we have made some progress with regard to the children going to school, with regard to some of the paternity claims that have been resolved. Some are ongoing. But we have much more to do.

NEWTON (voice-over): It has been six years since the United Nations and the secretary-general himself pledged to make the rights and dignity of victims a priority.

NEWTON: That was 2017. How far do you think you've gotten with that?


CONNORS: The commitment is there. We're improving. But it is -- it remains his imperative, and I think, as I say, more is to be done.

NEWTON (voice-over): What needs to be done, these women say, is simple. No-strings-attached financial support. They say that will restore their dignity and allow their children a measure of accountability that the U.N. has so far failed to provide.


NEWTON (on camera): And we will be right back with more news in a moment.


NEWTON: There is some outrage in Israel right now after a U.N. committee voted to label an eco -- an archaeological -- pardon me -- site in the occupied West Bank as a World Heritage Site in Palestine.

The ruins, known as Tell es-Sultan, are located in Jericho, one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the decision, calling it an acknowledgment of the city's cultural, political, and economic significance.

But Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed disapproval, saying it was a politicization of the U.N.'s UNESCO committee.

Hijacked buildings are a growing concern in South Africa after a fire last month in Johannesburg killed more than 70 people. These buildings are abandoned by landlords and taken over by gangs or other groups who lease space to low-income tenants.

CNN's David McKenzie got a glimpse into what it's like living in one of these spaces.



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Siyabonga Mahlangu (ph) takes us inside a notorious target.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): In a city infamous for crime, hijackers often steal cars. They also steal entire buildings. And when that happens, the victims call Makungu (ph) first.

MAHLANGU: You can see the situation of the property.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): But this is the only home they have.

MCKENZIE: What is a hijacked building? MAHLANGU: A hijacked building is where someone will come in and claim

to be the owner of the property and start collecting rentals from the residents of the particular building.

MCKENZIE: Like a gangster?

MAHLANGU: Yes. They are hijacking a hijacked property.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And Mahlangu says hijackers with fake papers have targeted the buildings four times. In one case, even having these women arrested and evicted until his organization beat the hijackers in court.

MCKENZIE: Are people afraid of the hijackers?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are afraid of hijackers. Because I see them. They put the security during the night. Never during the day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are threatening. It's not easy. They were threatening us, hitting us.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Stolen buildings in Johannesburg aren't new. As the city crumbled, building owners abandoned their properties. Gangs have taking over apartments or hijacked entire buildings like this one.


In the world's most unequal country, the desperate will live wherever and however they can.

MCKENZIE: If you look how tightly packed this is, and each one of these little partitions houses a family. It's like an informal settlement squashed inside a building.

How many people would live in a building like this?

MAHLANGU: Close to 500 people.

MCKENZIE: In this building?

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Five hundred people like Kobila Zulu (ph). That share just one tap.

She lives in this tiny space. But she says she can't afford anywhere else.


MCKENZIE: Why are you scared?

ZULU (ph): Because I'm staying with my children, and if here is making fire, I don't know where we are going to. Because I don't have money to pay rent. MCKENZIE (voice-over): It is a building just like this one that was

consumed by an inferno late last month. Seventy-seven people died, many of them burned beyond recognition. It's provoked a reckoning in this country, a reminder of democracy's broken promises.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they found that the building is weak, then that one is gone. Ours, they find that every time they come here, we are so strong.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The women of this building fought back. They say their secret weapon is Elsie Mafou (ph).

"I tell the hijackers that this building belongs to us," she says. But they still face a constant threat, still feel abandoned.

MAHLANGU: We'll all die without seeing the change. We'll all die. I can assure you that and promise that.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


NEWTON: Thousands of climate activists are making their presence felt and their voices heard ahead of this week's U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Now, they hit the streets of Manhattan Sunday as part of a weeklong international effort encouraging world leaders to end the use of fossil fuels.

They even had support from Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This issue is phase one of the issue. The biggest issue of our time and because of that we must be too big and too radical to ignore.


NEWTON: Meantime, in Germany, climate activists took their message to one of Berlin's most famous landmarks, spraying the Brandenburg Gate with orange paint on Sunday.

More than a dozen protesters were arrested. The group Last Generation took responsibility, saying it's time for a turnaround away from fossil feels.

And I want to thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. I'll be back with more news at the top of the hour.

WORLD SPORT is next.