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CNN International: Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping Meet in California; IDF: Targeting Hamas Headquarters in Al-Shifa Hospital; No Evidence Offered Yet of Any Tunnel Network Under Hospital; Congress Passes Funding Bill, Averts Government Shutdown. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2023 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Max Foster in London, Bianca off this week, but just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will continue to compete vigorously with the PRC, but will manage that competition responsibly, trust but verify, as the old saying goes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inside Al-Shifa Hospital, Israeli forces are facing their biggest credibility test in Gaza so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This terror network is something that is very expansive all over the area. Once we find it, we will share it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have good news for the American people. This Friday night there will be no government shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The swamp won. The speaker needs to know that. I can tell you Republican voters are tired of promises to fight.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

FOSTER: It is Thursday, November the 16th, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 1:00 a.m. in San Francisco. Where in the coming hours, the presidents of the U.S. and China will take part in events around the APEC summit, a day after the two leaders met face to face for high stakes talks.

Well, the U.S. President, Joe Biden, is describing that meeting as constructive and productive as they aim to ease months of tension between the two countries. On Wednesday, the two men agreed to restore high level communications between the countries' militaries. They also agreed to crack down on illegal fentanyl production, as many of the chemicals used to make the drug were exported from China. But still, it's clear deep divisions remain. When pressed on whether he trusts Xi, here's how the U.S. president responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trust but verify, as the old saying goes, that's where I am. And you know. We're in a competitive relationship, China and the United States. But my responsibility is to make it make this rational and manageable so it -- so it doesn't result in conflict.


FOSTER: There's one comment though, following President Biden's news conference, that caught the attention of Chinese officials. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, after today would you still refer to President Xi as a dictator? This is a term that you used earlier this year.

BIDEN: Well, look, he is. I mean, he's a dictator in the sense that he is the guy who runs the country that is a communist country, that is based on a form government that is totally different than ours.


FOSTER: CNN's Beijing bureau chief Steven Jiang joins us now. Well, it was a comment he didn't necessarily have to volunteer. He did. And I assume it's gone down pretty badly there.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: That's right. But Max, remember, it's not the first time he used that word to describe Xi, but obviously this time in public. And just shortly after that high stakes bilateral meeting, as you mentioned. So this is getting a lot of attention. And the Chinese certainly don't like it. And the Foreign Ministry has responded calling this remark extremely erroneous and also described it as irresponsible political maneuver. And blaming people with ulterior motives trying to undermine U.S. China relations, but without naming names.

But on the other hand, you've also seen their sensors trying very hard to scrub this episode from Chinese social media platform while they're state media very much trying to focus their wall-to-wall coverage on the more positive aspects. And Xi himself, we have seen him actually have that marketed shift in tone when he not only when he was speaking to Biden, but also when he addressed some of America's more prominent and most prominent business leaders later on in San Francisco at a dinner banquet. Saying China wants to be America's partner and friend. And that neither side should view the other as the primary competitor, otherwise it would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So overall, you know the outcomes were nothing unexpected because a lot of these agreements are low hanging fruits -- the things you mentioned. But they are still very timely and even urgent, especially when it comes to military-to-military communication at a time when the two forces are having a growing number of close and dangerous encounters here. So that kind of restoration of dialogue would help prevent miscalculation or even potential conflict.


But still, that's also why a lot of analysts think the outcome can only be best described as a tactical stabilization because fundamentally how they view themselves and the other strategic intentions that has now changed. Xi himself even made a point of telling Biden that if the U.S. attempts to suppress or contain China, then it's not going to work. He did seem to leave out the second part of that line that he did utter here domestically previously. That is, if that's the case, China will not, will not hesitate to fight back -- Max.

FOSTER: One positive clear outcome seems to be that the two militaries are talking again and that can only be a good thing. Not for just those two nations, but the world, in fact.

JIANG: That's right. And remember, a lot of these communications were cut off last summer after -- actually a year ago, after then, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went to Taiwan and also the ouster of the former Chinese defense minister, who is under U.S. sanctions, removed the major roadblock in that process.

So a lot of this process agreements on Thursday, in a way, are returning things to back where they were a year ago. But still, given the stakes and given all the political and economic challenges, not just these two countries face, but also the whole world. You simply cannot afford to have the world's two superpowers and two biggest economies to be at loggerheads in such a -- for such a protracted period of time. So in that sense, this is still very, very significant. A very positive step forward -- Max.

FOSTER: Indeed.

Well, despite widespread condemnation, the Israel Defence Forces pushing ahead with its incursion into Gaza's largest hospital. It's yet another -- it has yet to offer any undeniable proof though of the Hamas tunnels and terror headquarters allegedly hidden under that complex. But the Israeli Government has promised to reveal more evidence in the days ahead and amid mounting pressure to justify the raid.

On Wednesday, the IDF revealed combat equipment inside the hospital that it says was used by Hamas, along with other technological assets. The military group calls claims about uncovering weapons, a blatant lie and propaganda.


JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESPERSON: These weapons have absolutely no business being inside a hospital. The only reason they're here is because Hamas put them here. Because they use this place like many other hospitals and ambulances and sensitive facilities inside the Gaza Strip for their illicit military purposes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOSTER: Well, CNN's Nic Robinson has a closer look at the complicated

operation underway at that hospital and what has and what hasn't been found.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Inside Al-Shifa Hospital, Israeli forces are facing their biggest credibility test in Gaza so far. After weeks of claiming its basement is a network of Hamas bunkers, the IDF moved in in the early hours of Wednesday morning. But 24 hours later, no evidence of Hamas's subterranean network here has been presented.

REAR ADMIRAL DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON (through translator): We found weapons, intelligence materials, military technologies and equipment. In addition, a military command post was located.

JONATHAN CONRICUS, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Israeli troops breached here a few hours ago. This is where patients come in order to get MRI services.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): We have no independent access to Al-Shifa hospital so far.

CONRICUS: If you follow me behind the MRI machine. I'll show you what our troops exposed just minutes ago.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): An IDF spokesman gives an unchallenged tour of what he claims they have discovered.

CONRICUS: There is a -- an AK47. There are cartridges and ammo. There are grenades in here, of course, uniform and all of that. This was hidden very conveniently, secretly behind the MRI machine.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): CNN cannot independently confirm the IDF's claims, but two days ago, when CNN was taken by the IDF to the Al- Rantisi Hospital in Gaza, we posed this question when shown another alleged Hamas weapons cache.

ROBERTSON: But some people, they would look at this and then question the reality of what we're -- what you're showing us.

HAGARI: I see this is hard evidence that you see here. And when we entered the hospital, you asked me, why did you open the back of the hospital like that? Because we knew the terrorists were here.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Unlike Al-Rantisi Hospital, Al-Shifa still has staff inside. Seen here a few days ago. But reaching them has been made near impossible as communications were cut as the IDF went in. One doctor did manage to get a call through.

DR. AHMED EL MOKHALLALATI, SENIOR PLASTIC SURGEON AT AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL: The whole hospital is totally, like here, like, me say, in a way handicapped. Like, no one is operating. No one is seeing anyone.


It's like all waiting for what the endpoint of this one. Are we going to survive this moment or not?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And a local journalist inside the hospital, reached by CNN, said he had seen the IDF, quote, conducting search and interrogation operations with the young men amidst intense and violent gunfire inside the hospital. CNN cannot independently verify these accounts. Hamas dismissed an earlier IDF claim that found weapons at the site as propaganda. On a tour with troops Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared emboldened by taking the hospital.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): They told us that we would not enter Shifa. We've entered. And in this spirit, we say a simple thing. There is no place in Gaza that we will not reach.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Absent proof of Hamas's bunkers in Al-Shifa, Netanyahu may find that reach curtailed as international outrage at the IDF offensive mounts. Nic

Robertson, CNN, Sderot, Israel.


FOSTER: That outrage not coming from the United States. On Wednesday, the U.S. president said he has called on Israel to be incredibly careful with this operation. Adding that he was absolutely confident that Hamas was running a command center under the hospital and called that a war crime.


BIDEN: Here's the situation. You have a circumstance where the first war crimes being committed by Hamas by having their headquarters, their military hidden under a hospital. And that's a fact. That's what's happened.


FOSTER: CNN's Scott McLean covering all of this live from Istanbul. It's interesting to see the reaction, as far as America's concerned. Because it did say that it had its own intelligence, that there was this command center, but now it's also expressing concern about how that's being investigated.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the U.S. says it has, it's putting in its intelligence that there is this command center under the hospital. Obviously, the Israelis almost three weeks ago, Max, gave this presentation to the media saying that its intelligence showed that there was this sophisticated multi-level tunnel system underneath of Al-Shifa Hospital that's being used by Hamas as a command-and-control center.

And you heard President Biden there in that clip that you just played, say that this is a fact. And perhaps President Biden knows something that we don't. But at least according to what's been publicly presented, the evidence that's been publicly presented that it is not a fact. There is nothing that shows -- at least at this stage -- anything resembling this kind of sophisticated tunnel system or command control and center underneath of the hospital. The Israelis say that there is more evidence yet to come. And even this morning the IDF spokesperson justified Israel's actions thus far by saying this.


LT. COL. AMNON SHEFLER, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: We have already found 300 shafts that go into those tunnels, most of them booby trapped. And including in the vicinity of that hospital. Now some of these have been also closed by Hamas and others will be revealed when we find them.


MCLEAN: Now Hamas has denied that the Israelis even found weapons on the site of the hospital, calling it a blatant lie and propaganda. And of course, there was a lot of scrutiny on Israel, and there will be a lot of pressure on Israel to prove that the allegations that they have made thus far are in fact true.

International law is complicated. And of course, like law is up for legal interpretation as well. But broadly speaking, hospitals are protected. They only lose their protected status if they are used to commit acts that are harmful to the enemy. And even if that is the case, Israel, under the Geneva Convention still has to warn them to stop doing what they're doing or give people time to have -- actually evacuate the hospital before they move in. And the Geneva Convention also says this. I'll read it.

It says: The fact that sick or wounded members of the armed forces are nursed in these hospitals or the presence of small arms and ammunition taken from such combatants which have not yet been handed to the proper service, shall not be considered to be acts harmful to the enemy.

Now, of course, this will be widely debated. But the bar here you can see is high. I also spoke to an expert about the Geneva Convention and hospitals not long ago. And he said look, Israel also has to take into account a range of other factors, including proportionality. And the difficulty here, Max, is that what is proportional to Israel may not be proportional to someone else. So all of this -- there is a lot of gray area surrounding all this. But the bottom line is there is certainly a lot of pressure on the Israelis to prove that they can actually find something that resembles what they've alleged.

FOSTER: Yes, it's interesting that sound bite, wasn't it? The tunnels will be revealed when they find them. So their intelligence is clearly that there are tunnels there somewhere, but they don't actually know specifically where they are.


MCLEAN: Yes, yes, precisely. And this is the difficulty and they say that that, you know, this operation is still going on. They're continuing to be on the site and maybe it's more complicated than what they've presented thus far.

But yes, there's going to be pressure ramping up over the hours and days that come. The longer Israel goes on without presenting evidence, the more pressure that there's going to be on them. Not only on the Israelis, not only on the IDF, but I think on the United States and the West as well. Which, you know, if you look at, say, many leaders across the Middle East, including President Erdogan, they say that the West is really embolden Israeli actions by sort of giving them carte blanche to do whatever they like.

Obviously, leaders like Biden have said that they need to be careful and so on and so forth. But that's not necessarily the message that's coming or that's being heard loud and clear in this part of the world that Israel needs to show some kind of restraint when it comes to civilians in Gaza -- Max.

FOSTER: Scott McLean in Istanbul. Thank you.

Police in Washington clashed with protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. It happened outside the Democratic National Committee building on Wednesday night. Have a look.

Capitol police say six officers were treated for injuries after a standoff with some 150 people who were, quote, illegally and violently protesting in the area.

Activists refute that account, saying the protests were peaceful, but police attacked them with pepper spray.

Some house office buildings on Capitol Hill were temporarily locked down during that protest that that you see.

Now, when Hamas militants broke through the border fence and began the terror attack on October the 7th, many of them were wearing GoPro cameras to document that assault. Some of these videos were then shared as Hamas propaganda, but not all of them. CNN has obtained video from one of these cameras from the Israeli military. The IDF says it shows the reality of what happened, which many have called Israel's 9/11. In one long continuous video, it shows 100 minutes of horror. We have to warn you, some of what you're about to see is very graphic. CNN's Oren Liebermann takes us through it.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An explosion --


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): -- before dawn on October 7th. The time is here and the attack is underway.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Allahu Akbar, God is great, they chant -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adhhab yaminan.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): -- as they cross the breached fence.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Adhhab yaminan, adhhab yaminan, adhhab yaminan!

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Go right, go right, go right, they say. Less than two minutes later, they crossed the second security fence. They are in Israel, heading towards a kibbutz. The sun is up, and a day that will reshape the region has begun.

This video comes from the body cam of one of the terrorists who took part in the attack. It was obtained exclusively by CNN from the Israel Defense Forces.

For the first time, we also see video inside Hamas tunnels before the attack. It is a look into a network of tunnels with what appear to be supplies stored in the darkness. Writing on the walls in Arabic says, what's hidden is far worse.

Above ground, the gunman fires his first shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adhhab ya rajul! Adhhab ya rajul!

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Go on man, go on man, he screams.



LIEBERMANN (voice-over): They stop on the way. More than a dozen militants gather here to prepare for the next assault. One has several rocket-propelled grenades on his back. Minutes later, a group advances across an open field, moving towards the village of Kissufim. The gunman charges the last bit and spots an Israeli soldier on the ground.





LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Others join in celebration. Moments later, he is more composed as he turns the camera on himself. He says his name and that he's 24 years old. He's a father. He says he killed two Israeli soldiers. He asks God for victory and well-deserved martyrdom.

On motorbikes now, they keep advancing, moving together along empty Israeli roads, or nearly empty.


The man cheers as he sees bodies on the road. His is not the first wave.


He rounds a corner. Here, we have seen this place before, among the first videos to come out after the attack. This is dashcam video from a car on the same road moments earlier. The car approaches a group of militants who opened fire. The car coasts. Its driver almost certainly dead by now. It is just after 7:40 in the morning.


After a quick reload, the group approaches a military base near the kibbutz of Re'im.


For 65 minutes, since crossing the Gaza fence, they have had nearly free reign in Israel. The gunman closes the distance with a weapon he took from an Israeli soldier, opening fire --


-- and fire comes back. This man's part of the attack comes to an end. The terror is just beginning.

Oren Liebermann, CNN in Tel Aviv.


FOSTER: Now an early Christmas present from the U.S. Congress, as members pass a bill to avert a shutdown and keep the government running for a couple more months. A report from Capitol Hill after the break.

Plus, Russian military recruiters turned to prisons to find fresh blood for the war in Ukraine. How convicted murderers got a chance to buy their freedom by using a gun. Those stories are much more when we return.



FOSTER: Just 49 hours before a government shutdown, the U.S. Senate passed a stopgap funding bill approved the day before by the House. Here's Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I am pleased that Speaker Johnson realized he needed Democratic votes to avoid a shutdown. If the speaker is willing to work with Democrats and resist the siren song of the hard right in the House, then we can avoid shutdowns in the future and finish the work of funding the government.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOSTER: The bill will keep parts of the federal government running until the mid part of January. President Biden has promised to sign it, but there are plenty of unhappy Republicans. CNN's Manu Raju has details from Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, just a day after the House approved a bill to keep the government open until early next year, the Senate took final action as well, passing that measure on a bipartisan line. Sending it to Joe Biden's desk and averting a government shutdown for now. It'll be 2024, the next time there's a fight and a potential scare of a government shutdown.

But that doesn't mean there is an enormous tension in the ranks and concerned about what comes next about the tension. A number of Republicans, particularly people on Speaker Johnson's right flank, were concerned, were critical, highly critical of his decision not to include spending cuts in his plan. That's because if he included spending cuts, Democrats in the Senate and the White House would not go for it. Therefore, Johnson decided to essentially pick a fight with his right flank. And now members on that hard right bloc are warning him not to do it again.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Well, I mean, I think that's sort of like strike one and two and the swamp won. And the speaker needs to know that. I can tell you Republican voters are tired of promises to fight. We want to actually see change. And so, you know, we'll see what happens.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): That's extremely concerning to me and it's a big disappointment. This is not what we should have been doing. At the very minimum, there should have been a CR with a one percent cut. I'm also more concerned about where we're going.

RAJU: Now, Johnson has said that this approach is essentially a two- step approach. Approve funding through for some federal agencies until mid-January. Approve funding for other federal agencies until early February. Says that that will give them more leverage to enact their year long spending bills.

But here's the problem. Under Speaker Johnson's very brief tenure, there are three annual spending bills that essentially had to get pulled from the House floor because of divisions within the ranks. So the question is, when Johnson has confronted these issues early next year, how does he was -- how does he resolve it? And will his fate be similar to what happened to Kevin McCarthy, who had to push along short-term stopgap bill without spending cuts, lead to the end of his speakership? That's a concern potentially down the line for Speaker Johnson as Congress decides to punt on this issue of government funding, avoiding a shutdown, but only for now.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


FOSTER: Still to come, the FBI's warning that the U.S. is in a dangerous period as terrorist groups may look to leverage the Israel Hamas conflict to launch an attack on U.S. soil.