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CNN International: IDF Launches Operation At Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital; Biden & Xi Meet Ahead Of APEC Summit; Russia Claims To Have Destroyed Ukrainian Drone; U.K. Supreme Court Blocks Rwanda Deportation Plan; Google Harnesses Power Of A.I. For Weather Forecasts. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Hello, you're watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London.

Just ahead, the very latest from Gaza, where Israel has launched a, quote, "targeted operation" inside the biggest hospital, hunting for Hamas militants and possibly hostages. Then there's been a Russian strike on a multistory building in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk. We'll have a live report from Kyiv.

Plus, U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, are preparing for a high stakes meeting later today in California. We'll have the new ideas coming out from that, from Beijing and from San Francisco.

Hospitals are not battlegrounds, says a top U.N. official, but that's precisely what Gaza's largest hospital appears to have become. A local journalist says Israeli tanks and military vehicles are in the courtyard of the Al-Shifa complex, amid tense gunfire. And the supervisor of the ER department says Israeli soldiers are inside the hospital buildings. And that he's seen people handcuffed and blindfolded.

The IDF says its operation is precise based on necessary intelligence.


REAR ADM. DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAELI ARMY SPOKESPERSON: Based on intelligence information and an operational necessity, IDF forces are carrying out a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in the Shifa Hospital.

The IDF is conducting a ground operation in Gaza to defeat Hamas and rescue our hostages. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the civilians in Gaza.


FOSTER: Well, the Palestinian health minister based in Ramallah calls the raid at Al-Shifa a new crime against humanity. CNN's Nada Bashir following the story from Jerusalem. We're just sort of hearing bits coming out from there, aren't we? But they appear to be scouring the hospital looking for Hamas militants.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. You heard the IDF spokesperson. They're saying that it is Israel at war with Hamas, not with civilians, but it is civilians that are getting caught up in this war, particularly at the Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest hospital, where, as we know, there are still hundreds of patients inside this hospital and estimated to be around 700 patients.

And of course, there are also hundreds of medical staff there. Thousands of civilians believed to be dotted around the complex, attempting to take shelter around the Al-Shifa Hospital, which has for some time now been facing increased bombardment on the vicinity of the hospital, as well as ground fighting nearby.

That has been acknowledged by both the IDF and Hamas. And now, of course, this overnight raid, which we have seen taking place, raising concerns around the security and safety of civilians inside Al-Shifa.

We heard from one doctor inside the hospital speaking in the early hours of the morning, describing the situation as being deeply fraught. Doctors and patients told to stay away from the windows, to take cover in voice messages shared with CNN from doctors inside the hospital. You can hear the gunfire and clashes outside.

So this is a deeply terrifying moment for many inside the hospital. As we know the humanitarian situation inside the hospital has been deteriorating rapidly. For some time now, this hospital has been essentially rendered inoperational because of the ongoing bombardment and the ongoing siege. No fuel, no power to keep the hospital going, no oxygen in the hospital's neonatal unit.

And, of course, while we have heard those repeated calls from Israel saying that they want civilians to evacuate, that they have allowed for an evacuation corridor on the eastern side of the hospital, many doctors have been telling us this is simply impossible.

There are many patients in this hospital who will die if they attempt to evacuate them, who require constant and urgent care within the hospital premises. And there is deep concern that this ongoing bombardment and now this raid could put many lives at risk.

As you mentioned, Max, we have heard condemnation from some international organizations, including the U.S. humanitarian chief already just a bit from his statement this morning, saying the protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and all civilians must override all other concerns. Hospitals are not battlegrounds.

But, of course, as we know, the IDF has said it is targeting what it has described as a Hamas command and control center beneath the hospital. That has been echoed by a U.S. official. But important to underscore, CNN hasn't been able to verify these claims, and this has been staunchly denied by both Hamas and doctors within the hospital. So, of course, huge concern around the situation facing patients there. And as we know, this is one of many hospitals, the vast majority of hospitals now in northern Gaza that have been rendered in operation on as we have seen in southern Gaza where the IDF is telling civilians to evacuate. Those airstrikes are continuing and hospitals there are also deeply overrun. Max?


FOSTER: Nada, thank you.

Let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's in southern Lebanon. He's been watching flare ups between Israel and Hezbollah, but is also someone with deep experience reporting on the conflict in Gaza.

Ben, we've got, you know, we're relying on information, aren't we, from the Israeli government saying that there is a base there at the hospital, Hamas saying there isn't. And also people in the hospital saying they haven't seen any sort of weaponry within the hospital.

You spent a lot of time there. You've been treated there as well. You've been a patient there. I mean, what was your experience of how it was being used and what we know?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was there in October 2000 when Israeli forces shot me in the back in Gaza. Spent several nights there. And, you know, I can tell you, we all know it's the biggest hospital in Gaza. It was first built during the mandate period under British control.

But in 1983, it was renovated by the Israelis, and they built underground operating theaters and tunnels there, obviously, just for the functioning of the hospital. And I've spent lots of time in the hospital, in operating theaters, both as a patient and as a journalist spoken to many of the doctors, many of the patients there.

First and foremost, it is a hospital. And having spent a lot of time there, it's not as if you see armed men going in and out or any Hamas leaders. So it's really difficult to say at this point whether there is any truth to the Israeli claims, to the American claims, that it is some sort of command and control center for Hamas.

But what it clearly is at the moment, it seems if, you know, Gaza is hell, the Shifa Hospital is the center of hell. There have been dead bodies rotting outside there for days now. According to eyewitnesses who have spoken with CNN, dogs and cats were eating the flesh of those cadavers. And clearly, the staff is under stress, trying to keep people alive under the most difficult conditions without much in the way of power, medicine, running water, food.

And the whole point is that in the middle of all this are caught not only the patients, the staff of the hospital, but hundreds and thousands of civilians who thought that taking refuge in, the area of the hospital would be safe, but it is clearer than ever now that it is not safe at all. Max?

FOSTER: Ben Wedeman in southern Lebanon, thank you.

Now the Chinese President Xi Jinping is in the U.S. ahead of a meeting later with President Biden. The high stakes meeting follows months of tension between their two countries. U.S. officials say Mr. Biden's aim is to turn down the temperature and restore communication between the superpowers, especially between their two militaries.

The meeting comes ahead of this week's APEC Summit in San Francisco. That's where our David Culver is. Obviously, this is a much bigger event than just this meeting, but this is the pivotal meeting, isn't it? Not just, you know, for the U.S. and China, but for the whole world. This needs to go well.

DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Max. And happening on the sidelines of APEC, you have 19 other economies and their leaders that are going to be here for APEC looking at this meeting today and certainly hoping for that global stability in what is obviously a world that desperately needs it right now.

But we know these two leaders are waking up here in San Francisco, planning to meet in a few hours from now at an undisclosed off site location. And they'll have about four or so hours together to talk. I mean, it doesn't seem like nearly enough when you look at the long list, an overwhelming one at that, of the tensions between the U.S. and China.

Things that have really surfaced in just the past six years since President Xi's last visit to the U.S. Certainly a different tone for this one as well. Now, as far as what the U.S. is hoping to get out of it, we've heard reports of a desire for a crackdown on fentanyl that's really linked directly to China in that the precursors, the ingredients are made there and then sent to Mexico and ultimately smuggled into the U.S.

Also, there's a heavy focus on trying to reestablish communications between the two countries militaries. That's been severed in recent months. As well as perhaps an agreement on climate. So these are topics that maybe there will be some sort of resolution on between the two countries, perhaps an agreement.

The question will be, will that then turn into substance and will action followed yet to be determined? But it's interesting being here and seeing the tone certainly around the arrival for President Xi Jinping. We know optics are very important in China. It's something I saw firsthand living there for three years and realizing that how state media portrays things is going to be also very important because that's for the domestic audience.


And as we were standing here reporting yesterday evening and President Xi Jinping was arriving in his motorcade, we started to hear loud cheers and some music coming across speakers. And so, producer Yong Chong ran over there and this is what he saw. It's big crowds carrying massive Chinese flags. It seems convenient because sometimes those flags would obscure some of the protesters and the recorded music, nationalistic Chinese music, was drowning out some of the protesters there as well. And if you look at how Chinese state media is now reporting President Xi's arrival, it is seen as a warm welcome.

You see many U.S. officials are being cited as having welcoming President Xi to the U.S., his first visit in six years. And that's certainly what they want to portray going into this meeting. But still, what comes out of this meeting is yet to be determined. And even if it is rhetoric at first, the question will be, what sort of substance do we see afterwards, Max?

FOSTER: Absolutely. David, thank you.

While diplomacy may be the goal today, behind closed doors, President Biden spoke frankly about China, saying, in his words, they've got real problems. His comments come at a -- came at a campaign donor event on Tuesday. Mr. Biden appeared to be referring to China's economy, which is facing high youth unemployment and a real estate crisis as well.

Let's get more from China. We're joined by Marc Stewart. He's in Beijing. It'll be important for the global audience, this event, but Xi will also be considering how it'll play out to the domestic audience, their leader on the world stage.

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Max. And this is a time when Xi Jinping is not only having to be strong for China, for all of the economic ailments that you listed, but he's also trying to make a point that there are other world views out there.

He is proposing and actively talking about this notion of a new world order, an alternative to the West into the American way of doing things. So he certainly will likely be thinking about that as he not only meets with President Biden, but also other world leaders.

Now, on the topic of President Biden and those remarks that he made about Xi Jinping, at this point, it does not seem to be derailing or delaying this much anticipated meeting between these two leaders. I mean, as you mentioned, these economic issues here are going to be paramount. And part of that solution in China's view is bringing in more foreign investment.

So despite some of those words that were said, he will still likely welcome that meeting with President Biden. It is a point that came up a conversation -- during conversation today during a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing.

Let's take a listen now to spokesperson Mao Ning.


MAO NING, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): I think perhaps there aren't any countries in the world that don't have problems. With China's leadership of the Communist Party, the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and everyone united, we are confident that we can achieve better development and have brighter prospects.

We hope that the United States can also seriously solve its own problems and bring better lives to the American people.


STEWART: This is not the first time President Biden has made some less than flattering remarks. In fact, at one point, several months ago, he referred to Xi Jinping as a dictator, and that was not well received.

But at this moment, Max, these conversations are happening. And as David Culver mentioned in an undisclosed location, so there is a lot of secrecy. So I think on both sides of the Pacific, we are anxious to see what is said and see what these readouts have to say.

FOSTER: OK. Marc, thank you.

We're going to go to Ukraine now, where officials report a Russian strike has killed one person and injured at least two. It happened in the Donetsk region, where a residential building was struck. Rescuers pulled five people, including a child from the rubble. Others may still be trapped.

Meanwhile, Russia is claiming it destroyed a Ukrainian drone in the country's western Smolensk region. Ukraine has launched a series of drone attacks inside Russia in recent months, but has generally not acknowledged involvement.

Joining me now from Kyiv, CNN's Senior Editor Nathan Hodge. Nathan?

NATHAN HODGE, CNN SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, Max. This grinding war of attrition in Ukraine has continued out in the country's east and a much anticipated offensive or counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces has yielded only incremental gains. But there has been some good news for the Ukrainian government just in the past day.

Andriy Yermak, who is the chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces had gained a foothold in the country's south on the east bank of the Dnipro River.


Now, just over a year ago, Ukrainian forces liberated the city of Kherson on the other side, on the west bank of the river from Ukrainian forces. And this was a major, major advance for Ukraine. But there hasn't been that kind of progress in recent months.

Now this foothold is about all the information that we have. In recent weeks we've seen hints that possibly Ukrainian forces were staging raids across the river. And Ukraine -- and Russian military bloggers saying that they had seen an uptick of activity here. But this is the first real acknowledgement from a senior Ukrainian official who's now been traveling in Washington that Ukraine seems to be making gains. But again in the south, you know, the situation is particularly tenuous for the residents of the city of Kherson, which has remained under almost daily shell fire from across the river by Russian forces. And officials down there telling us that since the liberation of the city, over 400 people -- over 400 civilians have been killed in these regular attacks, this regular shelling by Russian forces.

So clearly, you know, for the Ukrainians, who are very keen to maintain U.S. and Western support, being able to show that they've made some kind of advance, and that they've gained what they say is this foothold across the river, is going to be a key bit of news, Max.

FOSTER: Nathan, thank you.

Still to come, a major blow to Rishi Sunak's migrant policy. The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled against the government's plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. The details when we come back.


FOSTER: We're tracking a major ruling from Britain's Supreme Court just a few hours ago. The court blocked a controversial plan by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak aimed at encouraging migrants -- discouraging even migrants. Sunak had wanted to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, but the High Court unanimously ruled that Rwanda was not a safe country to send the migrants to, noting that some asylum seekers might find themselves sent back to the very country that they had fled.

Clare has been looking at this. I mean, it's a very complex case. It's been running and running and running, and it's a big problem this, isn't it, for Rishi Sunak. And we'll talk later on that. But they're not saying the principle of sending away asylum seekers is wrong.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's not the idea of sending them to a third country in itself. It is the question of Rwanda in particular and what happens when they get there. Let me read you a bit of the judgment.

They said, "There were sustained grounds, substantial grounds rather, for believing that there were real risks that asylum claims would not be properly determined by the Rwandan authorities. There were, therefore, real risks of refoulement", which if you didn't know what that is, is the technical word for the forced return of asylum seekers or refugees to their country of origin, where they are at risk of being persecuted.


So like, this has been a very busy week for British politics. This is now another problem for the government because they have expended, you know, north of 18 months untold political capital, apparently more than 170 million on this legal case. And, you know, Rishi Sunak has just been heavily criticized by the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, that he just sacked for irresponsibility, and magical thinking, not having a credible plan B if this policy was rejected by the Supreme Court. Take a listen, though, he is unwavering. This is what he said in Prime Minister's questions times.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The government has been working already on a new treaty with Rwanda, and we will finalize that in light of today's judgment. And furthermore, if necessary, I am prepared to revisit our domestic legal framework.

Let me assure the House, my commitment to stopping the boats is unwavering.

ALL: Yes.


SEBASTIAN: So they're going to keep pursuing this, they say. And he would even be prepared to revisit the U.K.'s legal framework. Suella Braverman and others have been pushing the U.K. if this Supreme Court judgment didn't go in their favor. The government to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights, joining a somewhat unlikely club of Russia and Belarus.

This could potentially be a hint that he's not taking that off the table since the ECHR rights are enshrined into U.K. law. Now, human rights groups are obviously celebrating this refugee groups. The Rwandan government though is not at all happy saying they take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers.

FOSTER: OK, Clare, thank you.

We'll be back after a short break.



WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tottori is the least populated prefecture in Japan. Home to only about 0.44 percent of Japan's 124 million people. Stretching 10 miles along its coast, something you might not expect, desert. A sand dune was formed more than 100,000 years ago, reaching heights of 150 feet. What better way to take it all in and from above.

(on-camera): If you would have told me a month ago that I was going to be paragliding over sand dunes in Japan, my first thought would have been, huh? There's sand dunes in Japan? How did I live here for four years and not know that? And then my second thought would be, hell yes, let's do it.

I love you, mom.

(voice-over): The feeling is surreal. Sailing over this vast, rugged expanse of sand. The sad truth is, it's shrinking. The dunes, just 12 percent of the size they were 100 years ago. A tree planting project launched in the 1940s to prevent sandstorm damage. Our local guide, Noriko Fujimoto, says it's been so successful, many dunes have disappeared.

Here, the greenery is actually threatening. What's left?

NORIKO FUJIMOTO, LOCAL GUIDE (through translator): Do you see the weeds? When the sand is covered with grass, you can no longer see these beautiful patterns.


In order to protect the scenery, citizens are volunteering to do the weeding. So everyone's trying to protect the dunes and their beautiful scenery.

RIPLEY (on-camera): What is your favorite thing about this place?

FUJIMOTO (through translator): I think it's the wind ripple called humam (ph). I like the combination of the quiet sound of the waves and the pattern of the waves.

RIPLEY (voice-over): A fittingly spectacular sunset rounds off our time in Tottori. Further proof to me, if you travel just a bit further than your average tourist, you can get a front row seat to some of the world's most surprising and unspoiled beauty.

Will Ripley, CNN, Tottori Prefecture, Japan.


FOSTER: Having the time of his life, Will Ripley. All this week, we are exploring Japan off the beaten path in CNN's new travel series which is Next Big Step.

Now before we go, a formal development that has implications for everyone from climate scientists to people simply planning their weekends. Google says it's created weather forecasting technology using AI that offers a faster and more accurate way to predict the weather.

In a study published in the Journal of Science, Google's GraphCast, an A.I. model was found to give more accurate day-to-day forecasts and better predictions of severe conditions like hurricanes. The model even outdid an industry gold standard simulation system.

Well thanks for joining us here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. World Sport with Amanda is next.