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CNN International: Babies Evacuated From Gaza Hospital Arrive In Egypt; PRCS: 28 Neonatal Babies Arrived In Egypt From Gaza; PRCS: 31 Babies Were Transferred Sunday From Al-Shifa Hospital To Emirate Hospital. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, fears with the spiral of dozens in newborn babies evacuated from Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital. We will have a live report from Egypt where doctors are assessing them right now.

Then, the IDF invites journalists, including CNN, to visit the tunnels beneath Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital that Israel claims housed Hamas terror networks.

Plus, the queen of Latin music strikes a surprise last-minute deal to avoid a multi-million dollar tax fraud trial. What we're learning about Shakira's deal, coming up in just a moment.

Well, the first group of premature infants who were evacuated from Al- Shifa Hospital in Gaza are now inside Egypt, where they'll receive emergency medical treatments. The ambulances crossed over a short while ago and were greeted by health workers with incubators. The Egyptian government says 28 neonatal babies arrived. The World Health Organization adds that all of them are fighting serious infections with 11 in critical condition. One of the fathers who was reunited with his newborn son spoke to CNN about what his family has endured.


ALI SBEITI, FATHER OF BABY FROM AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL (TRANSLATED): Thank God. We now feel that our son is safe after not seeing him for more than two weeks. We didn't know whether he was dead or alive, especially when communications were disconnected with the doctors. They called us in the beginning to tell us that the child feels better and that we can come to take him. But, the Israelis had already cut Salah al-Din Road, and we were in Nazareth. We can only pray for his safety and he is here safe. I am taking him home. But, may God help the rest of the parents.


FOSTER: CNN's Eleni Giokos joins us live from Cairo. What's the latest you're hearing on the condition of the babies, and how they're being treated, Eleni. ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, from what we understand, the good news is that 28 neonatal babies are now in Egypt. The Egyptian Health Minister and his team were on the ground together with many ambulances, with incubators, ventilators. And the source tells me that the critical conditions, the ones that really need intervention, will be bought to Cairo.

And they're still of course assessing their state right now, together with what we heard from the WHO that 11 are in critical condition, and all fighting infections at this point. But, we've seen the images of the incubators being wheeled over the Rafah border and into those ambulances.

Let me tell you, Max, the Egyptians have been waiting for over a week now for the arrival of these neonatal babies, and frankly have been on high alert every single day, and every day being disappointed that they weren't able to evacuate out of Al-Shifa. They were eventually evacuated out of Al-Shifa when you had that safe corridor that was created and then moved to the Emirati Hospital where they were stabilized. That was an important step. And we heard, as you said, from the father that was finally reunited with his baby.

Now, in terms of the numbers, 28 neonatal babies. Initially, the Egyptians were talking about 36 that they were expecting. A doctor in Al-Shifa had said that some tragically died. We know the stories, Max, the lack of oxygen, lack of incubators.

We saw the images of babies being transferred by hand and to another part of the hospital, and then using hot water bottles to keep them warm, and essentially alive and running out of oxygen. We just also heard from one of the mothers that was -- that dealt with his entire ordeal, and she says that during the siege there was no milk. Her condition worsened, and she went back to zero. She was talking about her daughter that was in Al-Shifa.

So, you understand a little bit about what they experienced in Gaza's once largest hospital and just how absolutely catastrophic the conditions were there, and now saying she is finally safe. Only four mothers accompanied those 28 babies together with six nurses. That's according to sources on the ground.

So, the question now becomes, and we'll get more information as the story develops, where are the rest of the parents? Do they have family members? Have they survived? What is the fate of these children?


And of course, the most important thing, fragile health conditions right now to try and stabilize them, to try and get them into a better state, and then the future. What does that hold? What does it mean for them down the line? But, these, Max, are the tiniest victims of the war that is currently raging in Gaza.

And listening and hearing through the week just what they experienced, not only in Al-Shifa, but just to try and keep these babies alive, absolutely harrowing and distressing. But, everyone happy, including the Health Minister, saying that he is relieved and happy they're finally in Egypt.

FOSTER: Absolutely. Eleni, thank you so much is joining us from there. Now, Israel is providing more evidence that it says proves Hamas was using Al-Shifa Hospital as a base of its terrorist operations. The IDF released a video that it says shows a hostage being taken into Al- Shifa through the main entrance. The video appears to be dated October 7. The IDF also provided video of Israeli soldiers investigating a tunnel at Al-Shifa. It's arguably the most compelling evidence thus far, though there may be a network of tunnels below the hospital. CNN there hasn't been able to independently verify the contents of either of these videos.

I want to bring in Clare who has been looking at them. They seem pretty convincing. Are they enough to convince the world of what the Israelis have been alleging?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are very compelling. The tunnel video in particular, Max, is very compelling, although none of them are conclusive at this point. And I think if you listen to the IDF spokesperson, for example, who spoke to our Oren Liebermann, who was taken by the IDF to see this tunnel shaft by the Al-Shifa Hospital, they said things like we assume that this goes all the way into the hospital right now. They haven't gone all the way through that tunnel. There is still a blast proof door they say that they haven't opened because they believe it to be booby trapped.

So, they're still investigating. They're still involved in this operation. But, it is compelling. You see as sort of evidence of a staircase or a ladder there. It is concrete lined, then goes into a sort of a long corridor. Looks clearly something that has been purposefully constructed there.

This is clearly part of a major effort along with that CCTV video, Max, for Israel to show the world that it is, if not already there, on its way to meeting that very heavy burden of proof that is needed to show that the hospital has essentially lost its protected status under international law, because as Israel has long been claiming and Hamas has long been denying it is being used for military purposes.

FOSTER: In terms of the video of the hostages, as we understand going into the hospital, does that prove anything, not necessarily I mean the hostages are being held captive there, it could just mean they're being treated there?

SEBASTIAN: Yes. This is an interesting one, because there is two different videos, right? There is one that shows an injured, purportedly a hostage that we only have the IDF's word for that, being taken in which I suppose there are some medical staff moving around, could potentially show complicity in -- from the medical staff at the hospital if they are helping bringing in hostages. The second one perhaps more compelling shows an uninjured hostage being, we don't know if it's hostage, purportedly hostage, being brought in and relatively roughly treated, which could suggest that, given this person was not injured, the hospital was being used for purposes by Hamas outside of medical purposes. Potentially risky to be putting out these videos. This is a delicate moment. We know that the hostage negotiations are progressing, and are getting closer than they ever have, according to a U.S. official to a deal. So, I think this shows potentially this could send a signal from Israel that they're still looking to rescue hostages by military means, not just negotiate their release. So, it is delicate, but it is also -- that shows this ongoing campaign by Israel to try to get the point across that this operation at the hospital is justified.

FOSTER: OK. Clare, thank you.

We're going to turn now to the war in Ukraine, because the U.S. Defense Secretary is in Kyiv meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Lloyd Austin told Ukraine's leader that "The United States of America is with you." This is Lloyd Austin's second trip to the Ukrainian capital since Russia invaded in February last year.

Colombian pop star Shakira has reached a deal to avoid a tax fraud trial in Spain. That trial was due to start today. But, at the beginning of court proceedings, the judge announced a last-minute agreement. Prosecutors had accused Shakira of not paying more than $15 million in Spanish income taxes. The singer has previously called the allegations false. Journalist Al Goodman joins me now from Madrid. It does suggest that she has admitted something of a deal has been reached.

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: That's right, Max. The compliance agreement was read aloud by the presiding judge in the courtroom, and all the parties there, including Shakira, had to say out loud that they agree to it. This agreement says that she has already paid the approximately $15 million in unpaid Spanish taxes. She has already paid that back. In addition, the settlement says she has to pay another $7.9 million, which represents half of the defrauded amount.


That's the word that's in the agreement "defrauded amount". Prosecutors had asked for eight years in prison if she had been convicted on all of the counts. Instead, this agreement says that she gets three years but she avoids jail by paying additionally separately a $470,000 fine. Now, all of it was over in just 10 minutes. That's instead of a four-week trial that would have had like 100 witnesses.

After this was done, she issued a statement. It says this. She says "She was ready to face trial and defend her innocence." But, she came to the conclusion that it is not a triumph to win if the price that they are doing is to steal so many years of your life. She said, "I had two options. Keep fighting until the end, taking my peace of mind and that of my children, stop making songs, albums and tours without being able to enjoy my career and the things I like, or agree, close and leave this chapter behind."

Now. Max, she was, just a few nights ago, was in Spain's southern city of Seville where she performed on stage and won a few more Grammys to her already really heavy trophy chest of Grammy Awards. There were adoring fans in that crowd. It's a different kind of crowd than she faced in the courthouse this day. Max.

FOSTER: OK. Al, thank you.

Sources tell CNN that a possible deal to secure the release of some of the hostages being held by Hamas as maybe days away. They say a recent draft of a possible deal proposes a four to five-day pause in fighting for the initial release of some 50 hostages. Here is what U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor John finer told CNN's Jake Tapper.


JON FINER, DEPUTY U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We think that we are closer than we have been perhaps at any point since these negotiations began weeks ago, that there are areas of difference in disagreement that have been narrowed, if not closed out entirely, but that -- the mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed certainly applies here.


FOSTER: CNN's Arlette Saenz signs joins us from the White House with the latest. Obviously, this is a very complex negotiation, many nations involved, but it would be great to see some of those hostages released.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Max, and there really has been cautious optimism from administration officials here about the potential for a release of hostage. But, as you heard Jon Finer there, warning that there are still many details that need to be wrinkled out and fine-tuned here. But, the crux of this potential deal that CNN is learning about is that there is a draft of a proposal that would call for a four or a five-day pause in fighting in order for Hamas to release around 50 hostages. That is according to sources who are familiar with the talks. But, there have been many fits and starts throughout these negotiations that have been going on for weeks now.

There are major concerns about some of the humanitarian aid that would be going into Gaza, and trying to figure out how many trucks of aid would be going, and how they would inspect these trucks, and how to ensure that that assistance would be going to civilians and not to Hamas fighters. Now, Israel sources, they say, it has about a list of about 100 hostages that they initially want to see released, but Hamas has indicated that they would be OK with releasing closer to 50 hostages over that multi-day pause. There is also the possibility that there could be other pauses down the road to release other hostages as well.

But, this is a very fluid and sensitive situation on the ground there, and in these negotiations. You have senior administration officials from the White House who have been working with counterparts like the Qataris who have really been the main go-between between Israel and Hamas in these talks. The U.S. is hopeful. President Biden himself telling reporters he wouldn't say exactly when he believes these hostages would get out that he wants to ensure that these negotiations can still go over smoothly. But, at the same time, as there could be a potential pause in fighting, President Biden himself has again resisted calls for a ceasefire. That is something that there has been a growing call for in the international community and among some here at home. The President saying that a ceasefire is not a road to peace that that would just give Hamas an ability to retool and rebuild their infrastructure, their supplies. But, the U.S. at this time is trying to press for this release of the hostages as this now conflict has been going on for weeks now.

FOSTER: Arlette, thank you.

Still to come, Argentina electing a new President who shares a likeness with Mr. Donald Trump. How Trump is responding, when we come back.




FOSTER: In Argentina, a right wing former TV pundit, Javier Milei, has won the country's hotly contested presidential runoff election. Milei won at least 55 percent of the vote, beating out rival Sergio Massa. The President-elect's campaign drew comparisons to Donald Trump's in the U.S., where it promises to "break up the status quo and do away with the central bank" similar to Trump's slogan "drain the swamp". X CEO Elon Musk and Trump, both congratulated him on the victory. Trump posting on social media "Make Argentina Great Again." Milei echoing the message, saying his victory marks the end of Argentina's decadence.


JAVIER MILEI, ARGENTINE PRESIDENT-ELECT (TRANSLATED): I want to tell Argentina that today begins at the end of the decadence of our country. Today, we begin to turn the page of our history and return to the path that we never should have left. Today, we go back to the path that made this country great.


FOSTER: Journalist Stefano Pozzebon joins us now from Bogota. I mean, quite an extraordinary rise to power for someone that wasn't part of the establishment, and it's got some pretty right-wing views.

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Yes, indeed, Max. He was not -- he didn't enter politics until 24 months ago. He is really new to the scene. But, in this electoral campaign, he has received the decisive support of the former Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, who ruled the country between 2015 and 2019, and who allied himself with Milei to defeat the ruling power -- the ruling coalition, the center left.

I think this election is really interesting, Max, because every election is local. And we know that Milei has been propelled to victory, because frankly the Argentinian economy is in total disarray. The country is battling the worst economic crisis over the last 20 years. Inflation is at over 140 percent.

And so, the voters have clearly backed the new guy who has promised to, just like you said, tear the house down, and at the same time create a new economic model for the country. However, it's also an election that turns the tide against the some convincing victories that we have seen in Latin America for the central left, and the progressive, Chile, Brazil, Colombia have now have won -- the central left has won in these countries in the last few years.

And now, you have Javier Milei, a clearly right-wing, extreme right- wing candidate convincingly winning in Argentina with a clear mandate. And of course that could turn the tide, not just in South America, but also in the rest of the continent. And we know that we have a very important election coming up next year where an ally of Milei, Trump, will be probably on the ballot. Max.

FOSTER: And how connected are these different groups? Are they working together? Do we see a new force emerging in the Americas?

POZZEBON: Well, that is the great question. We have said multiple times that one thing is to win an election and another thing is to actually govern. And of course, Milei with these a firebrand messages saying that, for example, he wants to cut down the stage and sometimes -- cut down the state and sometimes exemplifying that by appearing at political rallies, wielding a change show to explain to -- represent the cuts that he wants to make to the public sector, has clearly portrayed a new message and a successful message for the voters.


Now, however, his majority in the Argentinian Congress will be very, very thin. He will have to make some concessions and enter the dark arts of politics for trying to propel his policies. And for example, we know that he wants to dollarize the economy in Argentina. Will that actually happen? That remains right now an open question.

Surely, the supporter of the former President Mauricio Macri and of another right-wing losing candidate, Patricia Bullrich, who decisively put their weight and their tank of votes behind Milei, has been decisive in this election. And of course, that equilibrium of power between Milei and the right-wing establishment that eventually he allied himself with will be what determines the fate of Argentina over the next four years. Max.

FOSTER: Stefano Pozzebon, appreciate your time. Thank you.

Coming up, the Earth's anger showing itself in Iceland, as residents there brace for a possible volcanic eruption. Details after the break.


FOSTER: A fishing town in Iceland staying on high alert with the possibility of a major volcanic eruption at any time. The town with around 3,400 residents has been evacuated, and people have only had brief opportunities to return to their homes to gather their belongings. CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports from Iceland.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Nature's brute force punching through the ground, cracking roads and houses here in Grindavik, southern Iceland, ahead of what could be a massive volcanic eruption threatening the entire town. Residents are on the run, like Paul Petersson who evacuated his wife and three small children.


PLEITGEN: You had to leave quickly or --

PETERSSON: Yes Friday night.

PLEITGEN: What was that like?

PETERSSON: That was horrible.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Iceland is in what's called a hotspot where magma often breaks through the Earth's crust which can result in massive eruptions. And what happens here can affect large parts of the globe. In 2010, ash spewed into the atmosphere by a volcano here, brought transatlantic air travel to a virtual standstill for weeks. Iceland's government says this time around the effects could also be devastating with both Grindavik and a geothermal power plant nearby which provides energy to Iceland's main International Airport and the possible path of lava.

PLEITGEN: The authorities here are highly concerned about the town of Grindavik, it of course has been evacuated a few days ago, but also about the geothermal power plant here in this area, and they are working 24/7 to try and dig a trench to redirect the lava if it comes to the surface.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Government experts here acknowledge they're not certain the trench would prevent lava from damaging the power plant. The main problem isn't even the size of the possible eruption, but the fact that it's so close to urban areas, Geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson from the University of Iceland tells me.


MAGNUS TUMI GUDMUNDSSON, UNIVERSITY OF ICELAND: It's so close to the town of Grindavik and the power plant and that is the main concern that it could damage one or both of these facilities.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Because the eruption could happen any time, Grindavik residents can only return for a few minutes on some days to retrieve personal items from their homes.

PLEITGEN: Are you hopeful about the situation that maybe the town will be spared if the big eruption happens?

ELIZABETH OLAFSDOTTIR, GRINDAVIK RESIDENT: Regarding our house, no, not really, because the lava tunnel is laying very close to our house. So, I -- we are expecting to lose everything if it will erupt.


FOSTER: Fred Pleitgen reporting for us there.

Now, in the U.S., two turkeys from Minnesota are heading to the White House for the annual presidential pardon ceremony. They are Liberty and Bell. They made their debut at the historic Willard InterContinental Hotel on Sunday. They waddled through the Crystal Ballroom beneath grand chandeliers and gold crown molding. They got ready for the crowds and loud noises by listening to music, including hits from Taylor Swift and Prince, and they are very lucky turkeys. They didn't realize it.

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