Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

CNN International: IDF Renews Airstrikes In Southern Gaza, Expands Ground Operations; U.N.: Only 100 Aid Trucks Went Into Gaza Monday Via Rafah; Zelenskyy To Appear Remotely At A Capitol Hill Briefing; White House: The U.S. Will "Kneecap Ukraine On The Battlefield" Without Additional Funding; First Draft Of COP28 Agreement Calls For Fossil Phase-Out; Gaza Health Ministry: Nearly 16,000 Palestinians Killed Since Oct. 7; Hong Kong Journalist Vanishes After Beijing Trip. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 08:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Bianca Nobilo in for Max Foster in London today.

Just ahead, the U.N. warns that there is no safe place left to go in Gaza as tens of thousands of people search for shelter in Gaza's southernmost region. Israel is continuing to strike targets right across the enclave.

Then Ukraine's president will make a last minute plea to get the U.S. Senate Republicans to back an aid package his country desperately needs before winter. Plus, burning questions remain over the fate of a veteran journalist who vanished while on assignment in Beijing.

Nowhere safe to go. The U.N. Relief Chief is warning of an apocalyptic situation as Israel intensifies its airstrikes and expands its ground offensive in southern Gaza. This new satellite imagery shows dozens of Israeli armored vehicles operating in the south, but the fighting continues in northern Gaza as well.

The IDF says its troops have completed the encirclement of the Jabalya refugee camp, calling it a raid on a Hamas command center. Meanwhile, the Israeli military says given the challenges of urban combat, an estimated ratio of two civilians killed in Gaza for every militant is, quote, tremendously positive.

According to the Hamas controlled health ministry, nearly 16,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the war. And now we're learning of the possibility of thunderstorms and flash flooding in the area that could make an already desperate situation worse.

CNN's Ben Wedeman joins me now live from Jerusalem. Ben, tell us to what extent is Israel directly targeting the areas that has told civilians to evacuate to in Gaza.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, if we go sort of back in the timeline, originally, of course, the Israelis advised everybody in the north of Gaza to go south of Wadi Gaza. Basically, normally they would go to places like Khan Yunis and Rafah, the two largest cities in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

But now, particularly, Khan Yunis is being shelled fairly intensely and around the clock. So they're being told to head toward Rafah. And what we've heard from the Israelis, they want people to go to an area called Mawasi, which is on the coast. It's a small village which traditionally has been out of the line of fire.

The problem is, according to a variety of U.N. officials and others with relief organizations, this is an area that does not have any infrastructure, has no shelter for the hundreds of thousands of people that might be expected to go there. There's no food, there's no water, there's no sanitation facilities available, and therefore, we have a situation where people are being sent somewhere, there's just no way that they can survive.

And as you can see here in Jerusalem and down in Gaza as well, it looks like it's going to be raining shortly and they have no cover. In fact, we heard from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, that's a U.N. agency here, that an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold. Bianca?

NOBILO: Ben Wedeman for us, thank you.

The U.N. says tens of thousands of Palestinians are arriving at Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah over the past two days. The U.N. says people are settling in the streets and setting up tents in empty spaces across the city since most of the shelters are full. The U.N. is warning of overcrowding and disease.

Meanwhile, not enough aid is coming into Gaza. The U.N. humanitarian office says only 100 aid trucks came through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and that is well below the daily average of 170.

Larry Madowo joins us now live from Cairo. Larry, tell us about the current humanitarian challenges that are being faced because of Israel's renewed offensive, its targeting of the south, and now we're learning some extreme weather.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The headline here, Bianca, is that nowhere is safe in the Gaza Strip and there is nowhere to go. That is confirmed from the U.N., from the World Health Organization, from the Palestinian Red Crescent, because as Israeli military operations have expanded further south, this is where people are told to evacuate to.?


But with the space completely taken up, the southernmost governorate of Rafah is now completely full, that people are, as you said, sheltering in empty spaces on the streets, wherever they can find. About 80 percent of the population is displaced.

We've heard so many warnings, dire warnings from aid organizations about appalling conditions, calling the situation apocalyptic, saying nowhere is safe to go, and that so many people have nothing at all.

This is from the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross who went to Gaza to try and highlight the importance of protecting the civilians. Listen to her blunt assessment.


MIRJANA SPOLJARIC, PRESIDENT, INTL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS: We have to find solutions to this. We can't turn away from what is evidently a moral failure in the face of the international community.

We are facing a situation here that will not be healed by sending in more trucks. We need to provide protection to the civilians in Gaza, to the women and children, to the elderly people that I saw today that have nowhere to go.


MADOWO: She calls it a moral failure for the international community. The U.N. humanitarian coordinator has said that the U.N. and NGOs alone cannot meet the needs of a population of more than 2.2 million people, especially based on the drip feed of fuel that's coming in.

The Israelis said last night that they allowed 180 humanitarian aid trucks to come in at the request of U.S. officials and in coordination with Egypt. But only about 100 is reported to have been received inside the Gaza Strip.

Even that is not, nowhere near enough. During the week long truce, about 170 average were coming in, sometimes up to 240, bringing in food and fuel and water and medicines and winter weather gear. None of that is coming in.

I was at the Rafah border crossing, Bianca, just hours before the truce expired, and there were hundreds of trucks waiting to get through from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing into Gaza. A lot of them are still there today.

Their driver's been there for about 10 days who still have not been able to get in. And so many people on the Gaza Strip are on the edge, really, with nothing. No food, no fuel, no water for their families.

NOBILO: Larry Madowo for us in Cairo, thank you.

A Palestinian man was killed in violent clashes at a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday. That is according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, which says the 25-year-old man was killed by fire from the Israeli military. The clashes follow the death of another man during a raid by Israeli Defense Forces at the camp near Jerusalem on Monday. The Palestine Red Crescent Society says 17 people were injured in that operation.

Now, to the war in Ukraine, where Russian shelling has killed two people in the city of Kherson, that is according to local officials. And this comes nearly 12 hours after Russia hit Kherson overnight, targeting residential buildings and a humanitarian and distribution center.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry says Russian missiles and drones also struck a village in the Donetsk region, injuring people and destroying residential buildings there too. With Ukraine's U.S. lifeline hanging by a thread, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will push for more aid during a remote classified briefing in Washington.

The Biden administration wants Congress to hear firsthand what is at stake with a U.S. funding bill for Ukraine still stuck in limbo. The White House is warning that the U.S. will kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield without approving it.

Our Lauren Fox joins us now from Capitol Hill. Lauren, is the expectation that this address from President Zelenskyy has any chance of moving the dial for the Republicans that do not agree with supporting this bill?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be a really heavy lift for Zelenskyy in that closed door meeting later today. And that is because the sticking points related to getting more aid to Ukraine have nothing to do with what Zelenskyy might say to them today.

Republicans are insisting that changes to border policy be included in any package to give more money to Ukraine. And that is something that Zelenskyy really can't help negotiators with. Over the weekend, talks between Republicans and Democrats stalled out. We are told that some talks are continuing.

But it's important to keep in mind that this is a dynamic that is really injecting a decades long fight over immigration into this current issue of trying to fund Israel and Ukraine in their efforts in war. And I think that that is one of the tenuous pieces of this negotiation right now, is that Zelenskyy might have a very compelling argument behind closed doors.


But the political reality here at home for Republican senators is that they have insisted and will continue to insist on those changes to the southern border policy. And it really is casting doubt on whether or not this is going to get done by the end of the year.

Chris Murphy, a Democrat who has been part of those negotiations over the border, told us last night that he's not sure that this actually gets done. And every day that goes by just makes it more and more difficult.

NOBILO: Lauren Fox for us, thank you.

Strong wording in the first draft of the COP28 Climate Summits Agreement published on Tuesday. It calls for the phasing out of fossil fuels. But there's still plenty of room for the language to be watered down in the final text. And that comes as a watchdog report shows a massive attendance at the summit this year from fossil fuel companies. More than 2,400 people connected to that industry signed up. That's quadruple the number from last year. And a major announcement from U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry at the summit on Tuesday. He's unveiled a new American-led international initiative promoting nuclear fusion, a potentially revolutionary form of clean energy.

In India, six people have died as tropical Cyclone Michaung lashes the eastern coast. Police officials say that dozens have been rescued from the heavy rains in the city of Chennai. Cyclone Michaung made landfall several hours ago in southern India and evacuation efforts remain underway at this time.

The death toll following the eruption of a volcano in Indonesia has risen to 13. This as search and rescue efforts continue. Officials say three climbers were found alive on Monday, but 10 remain missing. The Marapi volcano erupted on Sunday.

And after the break for you, the Israeli military faces new questions about civilian casualties in Gaza. The IDF says it believes they've killed around two civilians for every Hamas militant in Gaza since the ground offensive began. But a spokesperson describes the civilian death ratio as, quote, "tremendously positive".


NOBILO: The Israeli Defense Forces say they believe they've killed around two civilians for every Hamas militant in Gaza since the ground offensive began. The figures were previously reported by French news agency AFP, citing senior Israeli officials.

IDF Spokesperson Jonathan Conricus called the ratio, quote, "tremendously positive".


JONATHAN CONRICUS, IDF SPOKESPERSON: I can confirm the report and I can say that if that is true, and I think that our numbers will be corroborated, if you compare that ratio to any other conflict in urban terrain between a military and a terrorist organization using civilians as their human shield and embedded in the civilian population, you will find that that ratio is tremendously positive and perhaps unique.



NOBILO: The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza says that nearly 16,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, and that's without distinguishing between civilians and militants. The AFP also reported that an Israeli official confirmed that about 5,000 militants have been killed.

The IDF has also announced the death of three more soldiers since the ground offensive in Gaza began. And that brings the total number of IDF deaths to 72. To discuss this further, let's bring in CNN's Alex Marquardt who's live in Tel Aviv for us. Alex, you've been in many war zones, so remind our viewers about the difficulty of actually trying to ascertain any kind of numbers, like those to which the IDF are referring, and what you made of this confirmation of this civilian casualty estimate from the IDF?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, I think when you hear the words tremendously positive about this conflict, it is bound of course to raise eyebrows. We all know how difficult it's going to be to confirm any of these numbers.

One of the reasons it is so difficult is because groups and journalists don't have access to Gaza. We can't get into Gaza if we want to. So we are essentially relying on the Ministry of Health numbers that are coming out of Gaza. They're also being reissued by the Ministry of Health in the West Bank and Ramallah.

And we have noted throughout this conflict that that Ministry of Health is controlled by Hamas. Now, we should note that in past conflicts, that those numbers have essentially been echoed by the United Nations and by Israel, by the United States. And so they have been seen in the past as somewhat reliable.

But let's take a look at the numbers that are being discussed right now. Israel hasn't come out with the exact number of militants who they believe to have killed. Although you heard Conricus there confirming what the AFP had reported that is believed to be around 5,000.

And then the Ministry of Health death toll that we've heard most recently is around 16,000. But if those numbers -- if -- you could imagine that there could be a ratio that is more than two to one, that if say Israel had killed 2,000 or 3,000 militants and the death tolls around 15,000 to 16,000, you could actually see a ratio of around five civilians for every one militant.

But it is quite remarkable that Israel sees the extraordinary level of civilian death even if it's just two civilians for every one Hamas militant, as tremendously positive. Now, of course, this is just one spokesman who's not, you know, speaking for the Israeli government, but it certainly did raise eyebrows at the very least, Bianca.

NOBILO: And Alex, obviously, you are not a weather reporter, but today the weather updates for the region have huge political and military salience and of course humanitarian repercussions too. What can you tell us?

MARQUARDT: Well, the rain has just started falling here in Tel Aviv, Bianca. As you can see behind me, it's really quite gloomy, gray skies, thick clouds and fog. And it does appear poised to get even worse according to the Israeli meteorological service.

They say that the -- there's a possibility of thunderstorms, the rains intensifying throughout the course of the day and the evening, and even the possibility of flash floods. And that could mean -- that could have disastrous consequences in the Gaza Strip.

There's an estimate that as many as much as half an inch, or I believe that's around 1.5 centimeters of rain could fall in the Gaza Strip. As you know, so many people have been displaced in Gaza. 1.9 million, according to the United Nations. Many of them, hundreds of thousands of them, are not in shelters.

They're camped out. They're sleeping in the streets. They don't have shelter. They don't have aid. They don't have medicine. They don't have food or water. Many of them are suffering from disease or other types of injuries.

So as if the situation wasn't already bad enough in just a couple hours or over the course of the next few hours, you could have around 2 million people who are displaced contending with a lot of water falling on the Gaza Strip. Bianca?

NOBILO: Alex Marquardt for us in Tel Aviv, thank you very much.

Mysteries brewing in China. The press is on edge after one of the region's most respected journalists goes missing. Details after the break.



NOBILO: Carbon emissions are expected to set a new record in 2023. Scientists with the Global Carbon Project say that global emissions could rise 1.1 percent this year when compared to 2022. That's 36.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

The good news is that the U.S. is expected to cut its emissions by 3 percent while the E.U. could reach a 7.4 percent reduction. However, China is up 4 percent and India shows more than an 8 percent increase. Coal and oil emissions are also growing significantly in both of those nations.

An award winning journalist based in Hong Kong has gone missing after a work trip to Beijing. Minnie Chan's reporting has tackled sensitive subjects like the Chinese military and Taiwan. Her friends and colleagues fear that she may be the latest unexplained disappearance inside China.

CNN's Will Ripley reports.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Intrigue, uncertainty and one burning question, what happened to Minnie Chan? The Hong Kong journalist on assignment in Beijing last month vanished into thin air.

Chan was in the Chinese capital covering a global defense forum. It ended on October 31st. Soon after, she dropped off the radar. Her last report published November 1st. Delving into China's controversial role as mediator in the Gaza conflict, publicly siding with Palestinians over Israel. Radio silence ever since.

Friends trying to reach Chan on social media hitting a brick wall. Mounting messages of concern, not a single known reply.

On November 11th, a mysterious post on Chan's Facebook page. Personal photos followed by a flood of concerned comments, one from a friend and fellow journalist speculating someone else must have posted the pictures. Eerie silence from Chan fueling a frenzy of speculation she may be under the microscope of Chinese authorities.

A veteran reporter, nearly two decades at "The South China Morning Post", it's had no contact with her. In a statement, the paper says it did speak with Chan's family. Her family told us she's safe, the paper said, writing she's on personal leave in Beijing, handling a private matter. "We have no further information to disclose", the family told the paper.

Those who know her strongly believe there's more to the story. China's Foreign Ministry telling reporters they're not aware of the situation.

Known for astute coverage of Chinese defense and diplomacy, Chan interviewed a host of high ranking Chinese officials, tackling touchy topics like Beijing's military strategy targeting Taiwan. Chan also worked for "Apple Daily", raided two years ago by 500 Hong Kong police officers. A government crackdown forced the paper to close.

(on-camera): You want people to have their right.

(voice-over): I interviewed Jimmy Lai, "Apple Daily's" billionaire owner shortly before his arrest, along with other newsroom leaders, later charged under Hong Kong's draconian national security law, which rolled back civil and political freedoms, drafted in secret, imposed by Beijing's communist rulers, China's heavy handed response to the fiery pro-democracy protests of 2019.


In the years since, a crackdown on pro-democracy figures, the disbanding of political parties, and newsrooms, activists forced to choose between a life in prison at home or a life in exile abroad. And now, the mystery of Minnie Chan, raising new fears for the safety of reporters. If a seasoned journalist from a mainstream outlet can disappear in Beijing, who's next in line for China's vanishing act?


RIPLEY: This is more about press freedom in China. This is about the sanctity of reporting the truth and the consequences for journalists, who China says may cross the line.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

NOBILO: The largest iceberg in the world is on the move, and a British polar research ship crew captured new images of it. The giant frozen chunk is about three times the size of New York City, and it's floating in waters near Antarctica. The iceberg broke free from an ice shelf back in 1986, but only recently started to drift away.

Currents will likely take it to a spot in the southern ocean known as Iceberg Alley, which is full of glacial masses.

As we wrap up 2023, Oxford University Press is revealing the word of the year and it's rizz. Rizz comes from the word charisma and can be used to describe someone's ability to attract a romantic partner with their style, charm and attractiveness.

Rizz didn't get the top spot without a little friendly competition though. Swiftie, situationship and prompt made Oxford's top four list.

Thank you for joining me here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. World Sport with Amanda Davies is up for you next.