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Gaza's Al-Quds Hospital Almost Out of Fuel; Number of Palestinians Displaced Nears 1.6 Million; Potential Deal to Free Many More Hamas Hostages; U.S. and Chinese Presidents to Meet in California Next Week. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired November 11, 2023 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, more explosions in Gaza overnight, as hospitals there say the situation is dire for patients, staff and citizens.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) disperse. You will be placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Pro-Palestinian demonstrations shut down New York's Grand Central Station with more protests around the world expected today.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): And later, could The Rock really be the next U.S. President?

Why some believe it's not such a crazy idea.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: We begin in the Middle East and a warning from the Al-Quds Hospital in northern Gaza, saying it's very close to running out of fuel to power its generators.

In a statement earlier the Palestine Red Crescent said 500 patients are at risk of losing vital medical care and people in the ICU and infants in incubators will likely die. It is appealing for immediate aid, especially fuel. The aid group Doctors without Borders says it's lost contact with its staff at Gaza's largest hospital following Friday's strike. Israel denies hitting Al-Shifa Hospital, saying it was a misfired rocket launched inside Gaza that was aimed at IDF troops near the hospital.

Other hospitals and care facilities have also been caught in the fighting, including this strike near the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza. All remaining health facilities are said to be critically low on supplies, especially fuel.

The U.N. says the number of displaced Palestinians within Gaza is now close to 1.6 million, as pressure mounts on Israel to implement a cease-fire. CNN's Oren Liebermann reports from Tel Aviv.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In waves of humanity, Palestinians fled. Tens of thousands made their way along Salah al-Din Street in Gaza. A six- hour humanitarian corridor for a brief window to escape, as the Israeli military urges Palestinians to move south.

According to the Palestinian ministry of health, in the West Bank, which draws a vigorous from Hamas-controlled health ministry and Gaza, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7th.

On Wednesday, Barbara Leaf, that U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, told the House committee, the overall casualties may be higher.

BARBARA LEAF, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: And it could be that are even higher than are being site. It will not only after the guns fall silent.

LIEBERMANN: Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced some of the harshest U.S. criticism yet of Israel's campaign in Gaza.

BLINKEN: Much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure the humanitarian assistance reaches them. Far too many politicians have been killed. Far too many have suffered these past weeks.

LIEBERMANN: On Friday, the Israel Defense Forces move deeper into Gaza City, targeting Hamas leadership and their center of power. The IDF says it has struck more than 15,000 terror targets in Gaza, and seized about 6,000 weapons.

LT. COL. JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: Near the heart of Gaza City, our troops are preparing to launch additional attacks against Hamas infrastructure, again, not against the civilian population. They aren't the enemy. But Hamas is.

LIEBERMANN: Gaza's medical system edging towards collapsed faced another dangerous as Israel carried out strikes near hospitals in that northern part of the strip. The Israeli military now surrounded the Al Nasr Hospital in northern Gaza, according to the hospital director, with tanks, visible on the streets outside.

The staunch U.S. support for Israel has come with a cost. A State Department cable obtained by CNN warns that U.S. support for Israel is being seen in Arab countries as material and moral culpability, what they consider to be possible war crimes.

Despite growing international calls for a cease-fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will continue until Hamas is defeated and cannot return.

The fight, not only on one front. Tel Aviv under a barrage from rocket fire triggered red alerts and interceptions. On Israel's northern border, the IDF says it struck Hezbollah targets after an anti-tank missile injured three Israeli soldiers at a military post.

And for the first-time, Israel used its most advanced law range air defense system, the Arrow 3, to intercept an oncoming attack over the Red Sea.


LIEBERMANN: Meanwhile, conflicting accounts of damage to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, one of the largest if not the largest hospitals in the Gaza Strip. The World Health Organization says the hospital was damaged by a bombardment, blaming Israel.

The IDF denies any involvement, saying they didn't carry out a strike there and, according to their information, they say it was a failed rocket launch that damaged the hospital. Social media video showed people suffering from injuries, lying in and around the hospital area.

This very reminiscent of what happened three weeks ago. Conflicting accounts of damage to the (INAUDIBLE) a hospital that the U.S. and others say was a failed rocket launch that caused tremendous damage there. Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces say they will keep operating in Gaza as the operation deepens -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, in Tel Aviv.


BRUNHUBER: Iran's president is speaking out against the Israel-Hamas war. He's traveling to the joint Arab-Islamic summit. Ebrahim Raisi says the situation in Gaza is the most important issue in the Islamic world and requires decisive action.

Both the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will take part in the emergency talks. This as Arab and Muslim nations reiterate demands for Israel to stop its bombardment. Clare Sebastian joins us now.

We'll start with the massive diplomatic effort from the Arab and Islamic world to come up with solutions.

What's the latest?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim, this is going to be a large meeting, the Saudi Arabian government made the decision with the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to join together the two separate extraordinary meetings that were supposed to take place and make them into one.

I think we will be able to see a unified message from the Arab and Islamic world, calls for a cease-fire, a rejection, based on comments we've seen from the Arab League, of these humanitarian pauses as some kind of substitution for a cease-fire.

That will be significant, this diplomatic push. But also, I think, very significant that we're seeing Iran's president taking part in this summit, not only because of the optics of this, the rapprochement we're seeing with Saudi Arabia, a very new development in the relationship but also because, of course, Iran wields significant power in this region.

And this conflict being the primary backer of Hamas, Hezbollah and Houthis in Yemen. I think part of this will be an effort to prevent a widening war. I think certainly on the Iranian side they're putting a lot of store on this. Raisi saying he wants to see words, not actions.

He also said last week that if the meeting in Riyadh is not effective, he said, I seriously consider the possibility of the spread of this conflict. So he is looking for something concrete to come out of this.

And certainly, this is something that the U.S. will be watching extremely closely because we know, certainly from diplomatic cables that CNN has seen, that anger is rising in the Arab world toward the U.S. for its backing of Israel. And certainly, we've also seen targeted attacks on U.S. troops in the region. So a lot riding on this, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: A lot riding on this. As we're seeing the situation in Gaza, particularly the situation around its hospitals is growing even more dire.

SEBASTIAN: Yes, this is now sort of escalating into a calamity for these hospitals, which were under immense pressure anyway. You know, we've heard for weeks now from aid agencies that they are at risk of running out of fuel, of supplies.

Quite a large number, more than half, according to the latest data from the Palestinian health ministry, had already closed down operations. This was already a health system at breaking point.

And now hospitals in the north being surrounded, that disputed strike in the region of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as well. It's likely the number of hospitals that have closed down will go up.

The Palestinian Red Crescent is warning that the Al-Quds Hospital is within three hours of running out of fuel. Then those in ICU would lose their lives. I think this is going to ramp up diplomatic pressure against Israel, who continues to claim they're laser focused on (INAUDIBLE) Hamas operatives, equipment, installations, infrastructure, all of that. But it will see opposition rising. We're expecting protests in various European countries, also here in the U.K., pro-Palestinian protests today.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, we'll be watching for that, Clare Sebastian in London, thanks so much.

Meanwhile, we're hearing word that diplomats are trying to hammer out an agreement that would lead to a large number of hostages being freed from Gaza. CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House with details.


MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A senior U.S. official tells CNN that the parties involved in the ongoing negotiations to try to secure the release of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza are --


LEE: -- working toward a deal that would entail a days-long sustained pause in fighting, in exchange for a large group of hostages being freed. I'm told that if a deal were to be struck, the hostages would leave Gaza over the course of multiple days in stages, with the first priority being given to the most vulnerable populations.

Including, of course, children and women but in a sign of how delicate and how challenging these negotiations are, this senior U.S. official saying that a deal has been close before but there's no certainty at all.

I'm also told that many, many details still would need to be worked out and that, even in the best-case scenario, that deal would still be at least days away.

Israel, of course, has been unrelenting in its Gaza offensive. And Israeli officials have made clear in recent days that they believe an aggressive offensive is the key to getting these hostages out of Gaza -- MJ Lee, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: In New York City, several people were arrested during what was a largely peaceful demonstration in support of Palestinians.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Police didn't provide details on the number of people arrested or what the charges were. A CNN producer estimates more than a thousand people took part in the march, which began on Friday afternoon.

And as the march progressed into the evening, Grand Central Terminal was temporarily closed as protesters crowded the streets outside the famous train station. CNN spoke to some of the people taking part in the rally in New York.

And one protester says he feels there's a major disparity in how Israeli deaths are treated as opposed to the deaths of Palestinians, listen to this.


AMIN JALUDI, PROTESTER: Right now -- right now we see a double standard going on between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which, what happened on October 7th was terrible.

But it doesn't justify killing 10,000 plus Palestinians, which the majority of them are children. And that's what we're here for, is for equal rights, equal standards and equal justice for everybody.


BRUNHUBER: As protesters in London prepare to march in support of Palestinians today, the British prime minister says police have assured him that coinciding events to mark Armistice Day won't be disrupted.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): You're looking at protests over the situation in Gaza and the West Bank held earlier in the week. Rishi Sunak originally wanted to ban a similar demonstration on Saturday in case protesters vandalized historic war memorials.

Armistice Day commemorates the end of World War I with a traditional memorial service held at Whitehall in Central London. A pro- Palestinian rally will now go ahead under the watch of some 2,000 officers. Sunak says he's been promised all Remembrance services planned for this weekend will be safeguarded.


MARK ROWLEY, METROPOLITAN POLICE, LONDON: The Remembrance events will not be disturbed. Whatever protest and events go on, we will do our utmost to protect those because they are so critical. People shouldn't be in fear they're going to be compromised. We'll do everything possible to make sure they're not.

The second point about protests, though, there will be a protest this weekend. Parliament is very clear about that. The law provides no mechanism to ban a gathering, a static protest, a rally, anything like that. There's no mechanism whatsoever to ban such a thing. And if the organizers want that, then it will happen.


BRUNHUBER: A number of protests planned for U.K. train stations have been banned. The prime minister says they've been designed to, quote, "disrupt and intimidate."

North Korea is slamming the U.S. secretary of state after he reiterated concerns over North Korea's ties with Russia. Both the U.S. and South Korea have accused Pyongyang of giving weapons to Russia for its war against Ukraine.

In Seoul on Thursday, Antony Blinken called on China to do more to constrain North Korea. North Korean officials say Blinken's remarks are escalating political and military tensions in the region, adding the U.S., quote, "should be accustomed to a new reality of relations between North Korea and Russia."

President Biden will get a chance to press Xi Jinping on North Korea and other issues when he meets the Chinese president in California Wednesday. Both leaders will be in San Francisco for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and it will be their first face-to-face meeting this year. David Culver has more.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's worth noting nothing fundamentally has changed between the U.S. and China. This is still a very fraught relationship. Still there are a couple of places where we could see agreements from this meeting.

One being climate, the other being enhanced communication efforts --


CULVER: -- between the two country's militaries, which help defuse tensions and prevent conflict. This would president Xi Jinping's first visit to the U.S. since 2017.

And since that time U.S.-China relations have been in a freefall. It's compounded by the pandemic, China's cozy relationship with Russia amid its war in Ukraine as well as tensions in the South China Sea, mounting pressure over Taiwan, not to mention concerns over U.S. national security.

The suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down earlier this year, that only made things worse. So this is really a test to see if these two leaders can stop the downward spiral. China needs this, too.

Its economy is suffering. They've got a housing market that's in crisis, youth unemployment at record highs, so much so they've stopped releasing official figures, and for the first time in 25 years a deficit in foreign direct investment.

International companies now uneasy about putting money into China. So these are major concerns for an authoritarian leader, whose Communist Party's unofficial agreement with its people's is financial opportunity in exchange for social stability.

The fact that Xi Jinping is traveling to U.S. soil, that's also really significant. This has taken months to pull off. While the summit is slated to happen on the sidelines of APEC in San Francisco next week, there have been multiple subnational visits and meetings to make this happen. Biden's cabinet secretaries from State, Treasury and Commerce have all

traveled to Beijing in recent months. China's foreign minister Wang Yi visiting D.C. last month. And even California governor Gavin Newsom in Beijing a few weeks ago and met with president Xi.

So there is no way that this is going to settle all the issues between the U.S. and China but this is happening at a time when the world is in desperate need of stability, particularly between the two global superpowers -- David Culver, CNN, Los Angeles.


BRUNHUBER: All right, much more to come here on CNN NEWSROOM. We'll tell you about the campaign fundraising investigation that prompted the FBI to seize the electronic devices belonging to the mayor of New York City.

Plus, the new House Speaker and other Republican leaders are working this weekend on a plan to avoid a government shutdown next week. We'll have details in a report from Washington after the break. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Electronic devices belonging to New York City mayor Eric Adams have been seized by the FBI. He hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing, but two phones and an iPad were taken as part of a federal investigation into whether his mayoral campaign conspired with a local company to funnel foreign money into campaign coffers.

CNN's Gloria Pazmino explains.


GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is certainly a significant escalation of the investigation into whether the mayor's 2021 campaign conspired with foreign nationals to help funnel donations into campaign coffers.

As you know, foreign nationals are not allowed to make political contributions here in the United States. And last week we learned that the mayor's chief fundraiser was raided by the FBI. She has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

But almost a week later, we have learned that FBI agents approached mayor Eric Adams on a New York City street and presented him be a warrant to seize electronic devices. The mayor was delivering a speech at a public engagement on Monday evening.

After he left there, sources close to the mayor tell me the FBI agents approached him in public. They asked his NYPD detail to step aside. And then they got into the mayor's city-issued vehicle and presented him with this warrant.

The mayor then turned over his devices, two cell phones and an iPad, and then he went home later that evening and collected more electronic devices, including two old phones, and turned them over to the federal authorities.

Now we should make it clear that the mayor has also not been accused of any wrongdoing. And here's what he had to say in a statement.

He said, "As a former member of law enforcement, I expect all members of my staff to follow the law and fully cooperate with any sort of investigation. And I will continue to do exactly that. I have nothing to hide."

Now following the raid of the mayor's top fundraiser last week, the campaign conducted a review of records to determine if there had been any sort of wrongdoing. They apparently came up with some information showing that there was wrongdoing by one person. That's according to my sources close to the mayor.

What is less clear is whether or not that wrongdoing amounts to criminal activity. That will be determined by the investigation. But this is certainly getting closer and closer to mayor Eric Adams.


BRUNHUBER: And an attorney for Adams also released a statement, which read in part, quote, "The mayor has not been accused of any wrongdoing and continues to cooperate with the investigation."

The new Speaker of the House of Representatives is expected to release his plan to avert a looming government shutdown later today. But a source tells CNN a timeline for a potential floor vote next week is fluid. Melanie Zanona with this report.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're about a week away from a government shutdown and at this point, still no clear idea how House Republicans plan to avoid it.

The new speaker, Mike Johnson, is aiming to release bill text on Saturday with the hopes of a floor vote on Tuesday. And also there will be a House Republican conference call at 11:00 am on Saturday to brief members on whatever that plan is and to try to rally the divided Republican conference around it.

So far Johnson has been really keeping his cards close to the vest as he weighs what is going to be a very consequential decision for the new speaker. His conference so far is split over which direction they should take. In the one corner, there's moderates and appropriators, who want a more clean --

[04:25:00] ZANONA: -- straightforward stopgap spending bill. And in the other corner, there are more conservative hardliners, pursuing this much more complicated idea that would extend funding for government agencies for various lengths of time, essentially teeing up multiple fiscal cliffs.

That option would be dead on arrival in the Senate and would risk a government shutdown, which Johnson said he does not want on his watch. But at the same time he does not want to infuriate his right flank, especially so early on in his tenure.

It's a very similar dynamic that his predecessor, former speaker Kevin McCarthy, was facing, although we are hearing that conservative hardliners are willing to give Johnson a longer leash to govern. No doubt this is a big moment for the new speaker and one that's going to tell us a lot about how he plans to govern -- Melanie Zanona, Capitol Hill.


BRUNHUBER: To commemorate Veterans Day, the president and the first lady are welcoming veterans and members of military community to the White House today.

Joe and Jill Biden will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery as part of today's events that honor the over 18 million Americans who have served in the U.S. armed forces. Former president George W. Bush also shared a very special message for veterans. Let's listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Stay positive because, if you study world history or U.S. history, we go through cycles of being down. And yet Americans ought to realize how blessed we are to live in this country. And, yes, the damages are grim and, yes, there's violence. But ultimately love overcomes hate.


BRUNHUBER: Still ahead, the staggering number of Palestinians killed in Gaza by the Israeli military is prompting accusations of war crimes against Israel. We'll have a report from Tel Aviv after the break. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM. The Israeli military is denying it was behind the strike that hit

Gaza's largest hospital on Friday. The IDF claims the explosion at Al- Shifa Hospital was caused by a misfired projectile launched inside Gaza, targeting nearby IDF troops.

The World Health Organization put out a statement, saying it was, quote "extremely disturbed" by the attack.

Other Gaza hospitals and care facilities have also been caught in the fighting, including this strike near the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza. All remaining health facilities are said to be critically low on supplies, especially fuel.

The U.N. estimates about 30,000 people fled northern Gaza on Friday during a four-hour safe passage, allowing movement to the south Strip.

Now as pressure mounts in the U.S. and abroad, the Biden administration appears to be making a subtle but notable shift in its stance toward the Israeli government's war plans. And human rights advocates are raising concerns over whether Israel may be breaking international laws with its continued bombardment of Gaza.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports from Tel Aviv.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lifeless body in Mohammed Alaloul's arms is his child, killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp. But it takes three more small bodies to tell the story of this man's loss. Four of his five children were among the 47 people killed in that same strike.

A spokesman for the Israeli military would only say it struck military targets embedded in the residential neighborhood. This is a lie, Alaloul, a photojournalist, tells me. The Israeli army targets the safe civilians in their houses, targets children, women, evacuees. Where are the resistance fighters they are targeting?

At least 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in 34 days of war in Gaza. More than 4,500 are children, by definition, civilians. Altogether, women, children and the elderly account for nearly three quarters of the dead, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The staggering death toll, catapulting international outcry and tepid American pressure to new levels.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many have suffered these past weeks. DIAMOND: Israel says it abides by international law and aims to minimize civilian casualties, pointing warnings to civilians to flee south.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: But I can tell you one thing, we're going out of our way to prevent civilian casualties.

DIAMOND: Israeli officials instead blame Hamas for using civilians as human shields.

NETANYAHU: This question should be placed on Hamas. And the more it's placed on Israel, the more you're going to see this repeated again and again and again.

DIAMOND: International law experts agree that Hamas is committing war crimes.

CLIVE BALDWIN, SENIOR LEGAL ADVISOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: It is unlawful under the laws of war to put civilians into harm's way. But even if Hamas are doing that, that does not remove Israel's obligations at all times to minimize the impact on civilians.

DIAMOND: Human Rights Watch hasn't formally accused Israel of war crimes in any individual strike but they are raising serious concerns.

BALDWIN: The totality of civilian loss, including civilian destruction, raises a lot of very serious concerns about what Israel has done, whether the laws of war have been respected and if they've been deliberate or reckless attacks that violate the laws of war, that that amounts to war crimes.

DIAMOND: The Israeli Human Rights Group, B'Tselem, is more blunt.

ROY YELLIN, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC OUTREACH, B'TSELEM: Israel has committed war crimes. Israel has failed to provide us with proof in previous times, in previous rounds of war in Gaza, that the military advantage that it's going to get by striking those residential homes is going to outweigh the collateral damage.

DIAMOND: The Israeli military declined to make one of its commanders or lawyers available to answer these questions on camera. A senior IDF official insisted its strikes are proportionate.

Those include strikes on Jabalya, which leveled entire buildings and killed at least 100 people in back-to-back strikes, according to doctors at the nearest hospital.

The target, a senior Hamas commander, multiple Hamas militants and an underground command center, according to the IDF.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But you know that there are a lot of refugees, a lot of innocent civilians --


BLITZER: -- men, women and children in that refugee camp as well, right?

LT. COL. RICHARD HECHT, IDF SPOKESMAN: This is the tragedy of war, Wolf. I mean, we -- as you know, we've been staying for days, moved south.

DIAMOND: Six days after his children were killed, Mohammed Alaloul is back at work. But he won't ever feel the tug of his son, Qinan (ph), before he walks out the door. Baba, stay at home so we see you he was told the day of the airstrike, please stay, Baba, don't go -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.


BRUNHUBER: If you'd like information how to help with humanitarian relief efforts for Gaza and Israel, please go to and find a list of vetted organizations that are providing assistance. That's at

Russia's war on Ukraine isn't letting up. Still ahead, how Russia could benefit as global calls for cease-fire in Gaza are taking the focus away from Ukraine. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: Now to the latest on the war in Ukraine. The U.K. says it has trained more than 30,000 Ukrainian men and women to become soldiers, calling it the largest military training program in the U.K. since World War II.

It launched in June last year, bringing in people with little or no military experience. The course lasts at least five weeks and teaches them how to survive and be effective in front line combat.

Britain's prime minister praised the new recruits, saying the training program, quote, "has changed the equation of this war."

Ukraine claims two Russian landing craft have sunk after a sea drone attack in occupied Crimea. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has more.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Ukrainian naval drones near the coast of occupied Crimea. Kyiv says they hitched two Russian landing ships destroying the vessels, a key blow to Putin's navy, Ukraine's military intelligence tells CNN.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): According to updated information, they were sunk and can't be repaired, he says, armored equipment was also destroyed , in particular a BMP on board, one of the landing craft.

CNN can't independently verify the incident and so far, Moscow has not commented on it.

But Kyiv says they are continuing to pile pressure on Russia's forces, Ukraine saying its troops recently struck this corvette in the port of Kerch with several cruise missiles.

And the military intelligence service is claiming responsibility for assassinating a former pro-Russian militia commander in the occupied city Luhansk.

On the ground, though, the going remains tough. The Ukrainians acknowledging they're barely making any progress, even as they release this drone footage purporting to show massive losses of Russian armor near the town of Avdiivka.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I am sure that we will have success. It's difficult.

PLEITGEN: While both sides continue to bleed man power with little territory changing hands, the Russians seem eager to get former fighters of what was the Wagner private military company once led by Yevgeny Prigozhin who was killed in a plane crash in august, back on the battlefield.

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov posting this video, showing his forces training together with Russian mercenaries, some with Wagner patches on the uniforms.

The units practicing everything from infantry assaults to medical evacuations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin himself checking out military dune buggies at the Russian army southern command in Rostov-on-don with his defense minister and his top general. This is the very building Wagner fighters occupied during the group's short-lived mutiny in June.

Putin has long advocated for Wagner fighters to get back on the battlefield.

Today, you have the opportunity to continue your service to Russia by signing a contract with the defense ministry, he says or other law enforcement for security agencies or to return home.

The Russians claimed hundreds of thousands have already signed up to fight in Ukraine while Kyiv vows to stand its ground no matter how many soldiers Moscow sends -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


BRUNHUBER: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says continued support from NATO and the U.S. is crucial has more attention turns to the Israel-Hamas war.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I think that the next year, with the challenges -- because this is the year of your elections -- and now again we see the critical situation in the Middle East.

So I think your help is very important for the next year. And that is crucial. And I think, even if we manage all the thing that I said, the gap will be minimized in our budget.



BRUNHUBER: Joining us now is James Nixey, the head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House.

Thanks so much for being here with us. The Biden administration says essentially that supporting Ukraine and Israel is not a zero-sum game; the U.S. can do both at the same time without costing support for the other.

Is that true, do you think?

JAMES NIXEY, RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAMME, CHATHAM HOUSE: It's partially true. Certainly if the U.S. and its current administration has a ring fence or a tentative (ph) ring fence, a package of $61.4 billion just for Ukraine security assistance and provision, it is an attempt to sort of future-proof or even Donald Trump-proof its support for Ukraine.

On the other hand, inevitably, it does mean -- it does suggest a division of attention. And there is a pie. And if that pie is halved or quartered, then there is less support for Ukraine. So I think, yes, it is an unwelcome new element for Ukrainians, because they realize that the world's attention, the world's press, even, is distracted elsewhere.

BRUNHUBER: And, you know, the U.S. and the West were already struggling to supply Ukraine with weapons.

If they have to supply Israel with weapons that Ukraine needs, things like drones, artillery rounds, things like that, what concrete benefits might that have for Russia?

NIXEY: Very much so, especially as Russia is increasing its weapons, by managing to ramp up domestic and Indigenous supply of arms production and, of course, it's managed to recruit considerable support, material support from both Iran, notably in the context of this war, and from the North Koreans as well.

So it's not so much as the tables have turned and Russia suddenly looks likely to win this war. It's just that Ukrainians are finding it a much harder slog. And the Israel-Hamas war is very uncomfortable new element, not least because many in the West, not so much in the U.S. and Europe, they find it much more difficult to overtly support Israel.

And that means it's just a much harder proposition to get the full support that Ukraine once had.

BRUNHUBER: And we heard in that clip President Zelenskyy sort of referring to U.S. election year, politically as well.


BRUNHUBER: I mean, it's not an easy path to get more U.S. support. The fractured Republican Party is divided on giving more support to Ukraine but fairly unanimous in favor of giving it to Israel. Some literally saying that Ukraine funding should be redirected to Israel.

NIXEY: Yes, historically the U.S. has been close to Israel for over 60 years; whereas, they really only have been pro-Ukrainian the last two, very much since the war started in Ukraine.

So Israel is ultimately more important to most U.S. administrations. That's not the case in Europe. At the end of the day, Americans are supplying over 70 percent of the kit. So this is a very dangerous time for Ukraine.

It is finding it a much harder proposition on the battlefield, on the front line than before. Just last week, its commander of its -- chief of its armed forces, Valery Zalyzhny, said we were at a stalemate, something Ukraine has never admitted before, even though the President Zelenskyy denied it.

BRUNHUBER: From Russia's point of view, are you surprised how much Russia has supported Palestine in the conflict against Israel?

And is the motive to help distract the West from its war in Ukraine?

You mentioned Russia getting more weapons from Iran.

Does that play into it?

NIXEY: Yes, from Russia's point of view, of course, this is proprietors (ph). It is -- Russia is a spoiler in the international system. There's been more conflict, more fissures, more fracture and that's all to Russia's benefit.

But, yes, it has managed to play its Middle Eastern policy very well over the years, it's managed to have good relations with all Middle East governments, unlike most of us in the West.

And although that's come at the expense of Israeli relations recently, Russia (INAUDIBLE) relations have deteriorated. And yes, we've seen a Hamas delegation arrive in Moscow.

And the Israelis are beginning to think that the Russians were somewhat behind the October 7th attacks. No proof of this yet but it may yet come out. But certainly the Russians are pro-Palestinian in this particular squabble.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We only have 30 seconds left. But I want to ask you this, because in both conflicts for Israel and Ukraine, time is an enemy. On the one hand, Ukrainians may suffer from war fatigue, going on for a near now.

On the other hand, because the Israel-Hamas war has resulted in the deaths of so many civilians, we're seeing a quicker backlash against that war, which seems to be growing.

How do you see that playing out?

Which conflict do you think will suffer more from sort of time playing a bigger role, do you think? NIXEY: I can't comment on the Israel-Hamas war. But certainly the longer that the Ukrainian war goes on and the more it will benefit Moscow. Moscow has the ability to put in the hard yards and wait it out; whereas the West's support for Ukraine is uncertain.

BRUNHUBER: We'll leave it there. Thanks so much for your insights, James Nixey, really appreciate it.

NIXEY: Thank you.


BRUNHUBER: Officials have declared a state of emergency in a part of Iceland over fears of a possible volcanic eruption. Police are telling residents to leave a town in the southwestern part of the country.

They said that's because nearly 800 earthquakes were recorded in the area on Friday alone and they're getting more intense. The island is, of course, prone to volcanoes and quakes. Its civil protection agency says a magma tunnel is taking shape under ground.

Although there are no signs it's near the surface, it's not clear whether or where lava could break through.

Up next, will The Rock be living in the White House?

Dwayne Johnson says both parties want him to run for president. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Seems that both Democrats and Republicans have asked actor and producer Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to consider a new role, President of the United States. Earlier this week The Rock shared details about who approached him on a podcast with Trevor Noah. Listen to this.


DWAYNE "THE ROCK" JOHNSON, ACTOR AND PRODUCER: The beginning of the year -- at the end of the year, rather, in 2022 -- I got a visit from the parties.


JOHNSON: Asking me if I was going to run and if I could run.


BRUNHUBER: The former professional wrestler turned movie star ruled out a run for now but he didn't rule out a future White House bid. As Tom Foreman reports, The Rock, of course, wouldn't be the first celebrity to choose to enter the world of politics.


JOHNSON: You have two choices.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blasting into a presidential election in which polls say many voters don't like either main candidate, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, actor, wrestler, superstar is hinting at a run.

JOHNSON: If that's truly what the people want, then, of course, I will consider it.

FOREMAN: If he does, he'd follow former President Donald Trump and dozens of other celebrities who have considered, tried and sometimes succeeded in spinning their fame into political gold.

The one he might most want to study, Ronald Reagan, who used his skills from film, TV and radio to pick off one political challenger after another, proving that his actor's sense of timing --


FOREMAN: -- and humor --

REAGAN: I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.

FOREMAN: -- could carry him all the way to the White House and, with a robust agenda popular with his party, keep him there.

That pattern has been repeated at lower levels.

Fred Grandy turned nine years on "The Love Boat" into eight years as a congressman from Iowa.

Sonny Bono was a pop star, then a mayor, then a congressman from California until his untimely and accidental death.

AL FRANKEN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: But I don't think that's how it works.

FOREMAN: Which Minnesota senator started out as a comedian?

FRANKEN: That's right, me, Al Franken.

FOREMAN: And, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger pressed his strongman person into --


FOREMAN: -- eight years as governor of California.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR AND FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: I want to represent everybody. I want to be governor for the people.

FOREMAN: So is The Rock ready to enter the political jungle?

He's tipped his hat to a presidential run before, although always with hesitation.

JOHNSON: I love our country and everyone in it. I also love being a daddy. And that's the most important thing to me, is being a daddy.


BRUNHUBER: Well, Swifties would likely be thrilled if Taylor Swift ran for the White House. But for now they'll have to settle for multiple Grammy Award nominations.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The pop star became the first person to be nominated for a seventh time in the Song of the Year category with this hit, "Anti-Hero." Swift now surpasses other musical giants, including Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie, who got six nominations in the category.

And Swift got a total of six nominations this year. But it was singer- songwriter SZA who had the most Grammy nods with a total of nine. The Grammys were handed out February 4.


BRUNHUBER: As King Charles prepares to celebrate his 75th anniversary -- his 75th birthday on Tuesday, he's taking a moment to address the hunger crisis in the U.K.

The king spoke to "The Big Issue" -- that's the magazine sold on the streets by homeless people -- and announced the launch of the Coronation Food Project.

With the cover, King Charles was photographed by famed British photographer, Rankin, who has taken portraits including everyone from the queen of pop, Madonna, to the late Queen Elizabeth II, Charles' mother.

I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back with more news in a moment. Stay with us.