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Defense Minister Touts Israel Progress in Khan Yunis; Palestine Red Crescent: Girl Trapped in Car Since Monday; Kremlin Critic Vladimir Kara-Murza Now at New Penal Colony; China Bans and Erases Criticism of its Struggling Economy; Formula One Champion Lewis Hamilton to Join Ferrari Team; U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Four Israeli Settlers Over West Bank Violence; E.U. Agrees $50B Funding Deal For Ukraine At Pivotal Time In The War; Zelenskyy Fires Top Military Commander; Gas Explosion Triggers Huge Ball Of Fire In Kenya's Capital; French Farmers Unions Call To End Protests As PM Unveils New Measures. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up here on CNN.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This is very clearly the Biden administration planting a red flag.


VAUSE: As West Bank violence surges the U.S. puts Israel on notice sanctuary for Jewish settlers for their attacks on Palestinians.

Reality bites in Ukraine, the military's highest commander says troops must do more with less to defeat Russia.

And the official word from Beijing the economy last year was strong and healthy. And government censors are cracking down on anything which says otherwise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from Atlanta. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Reached out both in public and in private meetings with Israeli officials. The Biden administration has pushed for Israel to scale back its military offensive Gaza with questionable results. At the same time, President Biden has been under growing pressure at home over the high number of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza, with protesters demanding a ceasefire.

Now the White House has turned to a surge in violence in the West Bank, taking the unprecedented action of sanctioning for Israeli settlers behind attacks on Palestinians. According to the State Department, one of the settlers spoke to riot we've set cars and buildings on fire and left a Palestinian civilian dead.

Now there was part of a mob which attacked Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists with stones and clubs.


MATTHEW MILLER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have seen the level of extremist settler violence come down somewhat not come down enough. We want to see more. But the interventions that we've made have we believe made a difference, but we want to see it continue to come down which is why we have taken the actions today.


VAUSE: The sanctions are part of an executive order announced on the same day President Biden campaign for reelection in the state of Michigan, home to a large Arab American community. In recent weeks, protests over us support for Israel have disrupted Biden campaign events with demand for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Protesters gathered Thursday into Detroit holy Palestinian flags and chanting genocide Joe has got to go. In Israel, the Prime Minister has dismissed the need for punitive U.S. sanctions is part of a statement from Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel acts against all lawbreakers everywhere. So there is no room for exceptional measures in this regard, adding the absolute majority of settlers are law abiding citizens. More now from CNN International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson reporting in from Tel Aviv.


ROBERTSON: Well, that was a very fast response from Bezalel Smotrich, their finance minister also settled a leader saying that this was antisemitic. He said that how can President Biden be doing this when some of those settlers are their families are spilling blood in Gaza at the moment and playing either hostages or fighting in the IDF. So this is a real not a threat against him per se.

The White House has not saying that they're going but they plan to target anyone in the Israeli government. But this is very clearly the Biden administration planting a red flag, creating a red line saying that the escalation in settler violence in the West Bank risks raising tensions to such a level that that even bigger violence could overspill where, and to give some context on the settler violence since October the seventh.

The U.N. body you know, chair that tracks the statistics noted a tripling in the amount of settler violence in the month of October and to the middle of January from then they said there's been 430 such attacks that have involved in casualties, the Palestinians, intimidation of Palestinians, damaged a Palestinian property.

And this is what the White House is trying to do is send a very clear message that they will not tolerate this. They say that these decisions that they're taking with this executive order and other decisions are decisions that are in keeping with what they want to achieve in their foreign policies.

But this is a very, very strong political message for Prime Minister Netanyahu is government and the Prime Minister himself has said that actually the Israeli government does take to court and charge all those who commit violence within the West Bank, but again, a political message to the Prime Minister of Israel from the Biden administration, Nick Robertson, CNN, Tel Aviv, Israel.


VAUSE: Yaakov Katz is a senior columnist at the Jerusalem Post and a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute. Welcome back. Good to see you.


VAUSE: So the timing is notable. The executive order sanctioning the Israeli settlers announced the same day Joe Biden campaign in Michigan, said before home to a large Arab American community, and were many angry over Biden's support for Israel in this war with Hamas.


In recent weeks, Biden has faced repeated hecklers like this one in Virginia.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Jill and I had a chance to sit down.


VAUSE: Biden is in a close race for reelection against Donald Trump. His close embrace of Israel is costing him support among some key groups, the young voters especially. But is it too simple to dismiss the sanctions have been driven by domestic politics in the US?

KATZ: Look, we have a problem here over recent years, there is such a thing as settler violence, it does exist. However, John, it is nothing compared to the moral equivalency that the White House tried to draw out yesterday by issuing the executive order and imposing sanctions on Israelis. All of these cases are under investigation by Israel. There is a rule of law. There is a justice system in Israel.

Some of the people one of the people who was sanctioned is actually an Israeli prison as we speak. So this whole idea that the president in the White House tried to do at a time that Israel is fighting a war. I don't want to say existential but it is one of the most important force in our history against a barbaric Hamas terrorist group that has massacred over thousand Israelis.

And now because of a few cases of violence in the West Bank, which exist, this is going to make a moral equivalency. It's wrong. And I think that it is about American politics, Michigan is a swing state. It is a state that Biden could potentially lose if that large Arab percentage of residents of the state do not come out to vote for him. Not that they would vote for Trump, but they just would not vote.

And that could be the -- what would determine the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. So he's nervous. And that's what this really is about.

VAUSE: OK. I want you listen a little more from the U.S. State Department on the reasons for the sanctions.


MILLER: President Biden and Secretary Blinken have been clear that the levels of violence we have seen in the West Bank over the past few months are unacceptable. Violence in the West Bank surged to alarming levels in 2023. This includes unprecedented levels of violence by Israeli extremist settlers targeting Palestinians and their property, as well as violence by Palestinian extremist militants against Israeli civilians.


VAUSE: It's all also noticeable that for now, the too far right anti- Arab bigots holding senior Cabinet positions within the Israeli government will not be sanctioned. But should they. Itamar Ben-Gvir, minister for national security has encouraged attacks on Palestinians.

KATZ: I am not going to tolerate and I have zero tolerance, John, for any violence against anyone, and whether they're kids perpetrated by Israelis or perpetrated by someone else. And I'm also no big fan of pathologies Itamar Ben-Gvir, for that matter.

However, again, what we're seeing here is an attempt to draw a line and make some sort of balance between what's happening in the West Bank, which is a sporadic, small fringe group of people who sometimes, unfortunately, take the law into their hands.

I mean, you know, you know, John, whether you're in Atlanta or in Chicago, how much crime there is on the streets, sometimes of cities across the United States. This is unfortunately, sometimes it political driven criminal acts that we see throughout the West Bank, but it's not state run. It's not something that requires sanctions. Hamas on the other hand, that's a terrorist group that runs a state like in Gaza. These are things that are completely out of comparable.

VAUSE: OK. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is out there encouraging attacks on illegal immigrants. But I want you to one more point here. Also unprecedented the U.S. Secretary State is asking for options.

This is really related to the sanctions, asking for options on recognizing a Palestinian state Access reporter, CNN analyst Marie Kurvi (ph) is hearing this foreign sources adding that the fact that State Department is even considering such option signals a shift in thinking within the Biden administration on possible policy and statehood recognition is both sensitive internationally and domestically. Here's the response from the administration. We've made quite clear

publicly that we support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, because we do believe that's the best way to bring about lasting peace security for Israel, for Palestinians and for the region. There's been no change in policy.

No policy change yet. And it may not happen. But something is happening here. It seems with the relationship between Israel and the United States, it seems there is a frustration within the administration about the actions either taken or not taken by Benjamin Netanyahu, when it comes to simple things like, not simple things, but you know, demands to scale back the military offensive in Jerusalem (INAUDIBLE) sort of scaled back the violence in the West Bank by Israeli settlers, which has been encouraged by cabinet ministers.

So that's what we're getting to. There does seem to be a change here from Washington's point of view in dealing with Jerusalem.

KATZ: There is definitely a change in the change stems from a frustration I think that is more than just a bit of violence and sporadic violence that we see in the West Bank.


What's really at the core here is the frustration with Israel's leader, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is not outlining at all, John, a vision of what will happen the day after this war in Gaza, right. Israel is working to take down Hamas. Now you would expect the responsible leadership to then outline, OK, once this achievement is -- once this is achieved, hopefully, what comes next? What is the new rule that is going to be your governing entity inside Gaza?

Now, it should be the Palestinian Authority. And it should be a process that then leads to the Palestinian dependence that we've been hearing about for 35, 40 years. But Prime Minister Netanyahu won't have any of that. He doesn't talk about that. He's not willing to outline that vision. And that causes severe frustration between our friends, and particularly those in the United States.

That's a problem, especially when we need the U.S. support to continue to fight this war and for the challenges that might be on the horizon, whether against Hezbollah in Lebanon or Iran. That I think is what's really at the center of what we're seeing. And for the time being, this is a tactical move what we saw with the executive order and the sanctions against those extremist settlers.

VAUSE: At the end of the day, what it's coming down to is that Benjamin Netanyahu, his future, essentially relies on keeping his cabinet together, which means denying a Palestinian state and continuing the war in Gaza until the end, right.

KATZ: Prime Minister Antonio was trying to balance a bunch of different things are keeping a bunch of balls in the air at the same time, and in an amazing juggling act that I don't know, it's possible, on the one hand to keep fighting in Gaza, on the other hand, to keep working with the Americans, and on the other hand, to keep his coalition together, right.

For example, right now there's talk of another hostage swap and a release that would get back Israeli hostages, parts of his coalition that people you mentioned before Smotrich and Ben-Gvir saying, we're not going to agree to with the release of Palestinian prisoners and those numbers to get back our people. Netanyahu wants the deal. So what's he going to do? Is he going to go for it and risk his coalition? Is he not going to go for it?

I think, John, at the end of the day, we can agree that responsible leadership, they need to take risks. And it's not about politics right now. Israel is facing a conflict that really will determine the future of the security of this country and potentially the region. It's not time for politics, it's time for leadership that can be can preserve and create a safe and secure Israel. And by large, a safer and more secure Middle East.

VAUSE: Maybe Benjamin Netanyahu needs to get the memo. Yaakov Katz in Jerusalem. Thank you, sir.

KATZ: Thank you.

VAUSE: According to U.S. intelligence around U.S. leaders may have been caught off guard by the deadly drone strike on a U.S. base in Jordan. Tehran may be concerned by the actions of their proxies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen are raising the risk of direct confrontation with the US. United States has yet to respond to the killing of American troops. But the Pentagon chief confirm a multi-tiered response is coming. But it also issued this warning about rising tensions in the region.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a dangerous moment in the Middle East. We will continue to work to avoid a wider conflict in a region. But we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interest and our people.


VAUSE: European Union is hoping the U.S. will follow after Brussels unlocked more than $54 billion in aid for Ukraine. First aid E.U. leaders managed to bring Hungary on board Prime Minister Viktor Orban had been stonewalling the funding for weeks.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the money will prop up his country's long term economic stability, which he says is just as important as military aid.

Next week, the U.S. Senate set to vote on a separate $60 billion package for Ukraine, which remains stalled in Congress. Zelenskyy says the E.U. decision is a message for Washington and others.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Europe today sends a signal across the Atlantic and the world or a lower that the international rules based world order will with stand all challenges. Europe sets the tone for global affairs with its unity.


VAUSE: Ukrainian military has released a dramatic video which alleges to show the seeking of a Russian warship off the coast of Russian occupied Crimea. Ukrainian military intelligence says the guided missile ship took multiple hits overnight Wednesday to Thursday, before going down.

No comment from Russia not yet. But this is the latest in a series of Ukrainian strikes on the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which keeps us hinders Moscow's ground operations. That was earlier Ukraine says it also launched a barrage of missiles towards Crimea but Moscow claims all was shut down. Russian backed official in the region says about a dozen buildings were damaged by falling debris.

Ukraine's top general says his troops must adapt to new realities in the war including learning to operate with less foreign aid.


General Valerii Zaluzhny is rumored to be on the way out of his job express that view in an op-ed for CNN. He wrote the drones had revolutionized the entire approach to military strategies. Among other things, he said they provided real time intelligence allowing the adjustment of fire around the clock without pause, giving us the ability to deliver high precision strikes against enemy targets in forward positions and in depth.

General Zaluzhnyi is a hugely popular in Ukraine more popular than President Zelenskyy, for examples, that could be why he's reportedly out that to be fired. Brian Todd has details.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukrainian charismatic President apparently engaging in some palace intrigue amid tensions with his top commander on the battlefield. Two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pushing out his popular army chief Valerii Zaluzhny after Zaluzhny was called to a meeting at the president's office on Monday.

Zelenskyy spokesman denies that Zaluzhny he is being fired. But sources tell CNN a presidential decree could come within days. It would be the biggest military shakeup by Zelenskyy since Russia's full scale invasion almost two years ago. The reasons, analysts say it could be a political move.

HENRY HALE, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ZELENSKY EFFECT": The possibility that solution he could be a presidential candidate sometime in the future. And he's the only person in Ukraine right now that potentially rivals Zelenskyy and public trust ratings.

TODD: Why is the 50-year-old is Zaluzhny so popular in Ukraine? HALE: He was the military leader of when Ukraine rebuffed Russia's all out invasion of Ukraine back in February 2022. He was able not only to save Kyiv and mobilize the national defense but also to push back on a lot of Russian military advances.

TODD (voice-over): Aside from the politics experts also say Zelenskyy could be simply holding Zaluzhny accountable for the fact that Ukraine's counter offensive launched last year has not gone as well as many had hoped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a way for Zelenskyy not to take the blame for the lack of progress in the war over the last year.

TODD (voice-over): Zaluzhny even described the war as a stalemate in a November essay in The Economist magazine, which was said to have displeased Zelenskyy and his circle. In a new opinion piece for CNN, Zaluzhny wrote that Ukraine has to adapt to getting less military aid and rely more on technology in the war.

Who could replace the Zaluzhny as army chief? Two candidates are prominently mentioned Ukraine's land forces commander General Oleksandr Syrskyi and Kyrylo Budanov, the young ambitious head of the Defense Intelligence Directorate, who just spoke to CNN Frederik Pleitgen about his plans to strike inside Russia yet.

GEN. KYRYLO BUDANOV, HEAD, UKRAINE DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE DIRECTORATE (through translator): I believe the plan includes all major critical infrastructure facilities and military infrastructure facilities of the Russian Federation.

TODD (voice-over): According to The Washington Post, Budanov's plans to strike at Moscow last year made U.S. officials nervous. Ukrainian officials say the Russians have tried to assassinate Budanov at least 10 times. Recently Budanov's wife and bodyguards became ill from what Ukrainian officials said was a poisoning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that the Russians see him as a capable military leader as a threat and they've tried to take him out.

TODD: What are the biggest most immediate concerns for Ukraine's next army chief, the analysts we spoke to say he'll have to make some crucial decisions regarding the upcoming springtime phase of the war. He'll have to inspire confidence among the Ukrainian people, and he'll have to not be seen as a political plant of Volodymyr Zelenskyy's. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Still ahead here on CNN Newsroom, as European leaders gathered in Brussels Thursday, so (INAUDIBLE) hundreds of frustrated and angry farmers. Their long list of complaints is next.


[01:20:45] VAUSE: In Kenya, a huge fireball and gulf several houses businesses and vehicles overnight after a truckload with gas exploded in the capital city of Nairobi. Officials say at least two people were killed, more than 200 were hurt. Authorities are warning people to stay away from the area and avoid disrupting rescue operations which are ongoing at the scene.

Two major farming unions in France and are calling for an end to a week's long blockade by their members of roads into Paris. That comes after the French Prime Minister announced a raft of new measures to support farmers as well as addressing some of their problems. CNN's Melissa Bell has the very latest now reporting in from Paris.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Italy to Greece, Portugal and France, the anger of farmers has grown and spread, reaching now all the way to the heart of the EU. Too restrictive they say in terms of regulations, but with little to protect them from unfair competition, especially from duty for Ukrainian lit. Calls for action forcing themselves onto the agenda of leaders gathered in Brussels to discuss aid to Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are asking the leaders to review their laws, they talk about being greener. But if that happens, then there will be land which isn't worked anymore. And it's difficult enough as it is.

BELL (voice-over): Concerns echoed by farmers in France who reached the edge of Paris where the police have drawn a line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We can't unliving was subject to enormous constraints. And there are products coming in from outside Europe that compete with us without having to apply the same rules that were obligated to in order to produce.

BELL: Scenes like these have been playing out across the European Union. And whilst the grievances are fairly distinctive from country to country, what unites the farmers across the E.U. is in the frustration with Brussels, the red tape and bureaucracy regulations that it imposes and the facts say the farmers that it doesn't protect them sufficiently from competition from outside the EU.

SEBASTIEN ABIS, FRENCH INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AND STRATEGIC AFFAIRS (through translator): Why is it that we tell a European farmer that he cannot produce like this, but we allow food products to enter the European market which cost less, they have to produce food and increasingly, they have to offer bio energy and bio economy. They have to keep in mind, the environment, the landscape and sometimes regulations and standards. Not all measures are compatible or convergent.

BELL (voice-over): The anger has spread across the EU and beyond the disruption now represents a political threat with European elections just a few months away, and leaders rushing to announce concessions. GABRIEL ATTAL, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Our livestock farmers need specific support. That's why I'm announcing that we're allocating 150 million euros to them in tax and social support starting this year and continuing on a permanent basis.

BELL (voice-over): Yet so far, little is calm the farmers United across Europe, in their anger at Brussels, which they say is killing their livelihoods. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


VAUSE: Joining us now live CNN European Affairs commentator Dominic Thomas, welcome back.


VAUSE: OK. This is a general agreement among European leaders that farmers right now are doing it hard with Ireland's Prime Minister perhaps sympathetic. Here he is.


LEO VARADKAR, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: I'd be mum would have quite a number of heads of government here who understand the pressures that are farmers are under and whether it's increased energy costs of fertilizer costs, and new environmental regulations. It's kind of been there on there for farmers. Certainly, I think the priority for us should be implementing existing rules and regulations and not imposing new additional ones on farmers over the next couple of years.


VAUSE: There's a lot going on here. It seems it's sort of it's a complicated, multi layered globalized problem due to climate change, cheap imports, also Russia's war in Ukraine. So someone up in a nutshell, what are they facing?

THOMAS: Well, I mean, I think that the obviously yes, it's true. The European Union opened up its market to Ukraine in the context of conflict with Russia to support its economy and war effort.


Yes. And the conflict has destabilized energy markets, cost of living impact, and so on so forth. And, you know, I agree with the, you know, the Irish Prime Minister here, but I think that actually, the core question of implementing rules and regulations has been an issue. And certainly adding on to those would be, it would be a real problem.

At the end of the day, I think that there needs to be a fundamental rethinking of the balance between environmental and sustainability objectives, and the transition that small farmers are being asked to go through and the impact that it's having on them and the support that they need to be able to continue working as they are on the frontlines of these changes and transformations. And what they're talking about here is the very survivability of the

work they do. And I think that unless that is done underlying problems will persist, John.

VAUSE: Well, in France, we saw the government now promising tens of millions in euros with subsidies and tax breaks. There are also promises of allowing certain pesticides to be used in France, if they're used elsewhere in the EU, which was enough, at least for one Farmers Union, actually two is one of them calling off the blockade of roads into Paris.


ARNAUD GAILLOT, YOUNG FARMERS UNION PRESIDENT (through translator: We are calling on our networks to suspend the blockades and embark on a new form of mobilization. This new form is to say that from Monday, we are going to get down to work in the prefectures in the ministries to work on all the points that have been announced to see how they are being applied.


VAUSE: And to your point, your point about this being a much broader complicated issue, through the measures announced by the French government, they try to find a peace farmers by addressing the symptoms here, but not the actual cause of the problem?

THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, this is a far greater global issue. You've got on the one hand, small farmers trying to compete in a in a marketplace in France and globally, and with industrial farming, and they're also trying to compete with food production globally and with imports that do not have to adhere to the same kinds of rules, and regulations.

And so there is a kind of unevenness in the competitive market and their competitors are facing far slower cost basis when it comes to production. And I think unless those underlying systemic problems are addressed, then the issue will not go away, John.

VAUSE: Yes, and for many farmers in France talk it seems is cheap. They're not clearing the roads around Paris, at least not today. Listen to this.


CELINE VANNIER, FRENCH FARMER (through translator): In truth, we feel betterness. We are partly satisfied, but we're waiting to see it in writing, the government talks and talks and then we're still waiting. We're waiting for those measures to be put in writing and fast.


VAUSE: You know, given all the problems they're facing, it doesn't really matter if the government offers in writing or not, it seems that the problems here, you know, we'll keep going and going and going. And what they're doing is setting the stage for more anger, more protests, more blocking the right ways in our affairs and elsewhere across the E.U., you know, for weeks and months, if not years to come.

THOMAS: That's true. And so these issues are going to have to be addressed. So this is taking place in a context where the farmers right now are capitalizing on a very particular set of circumstances, they have popular support. And that popular support is not just for the plight of small farmers, it's taking place in a broader social context, in many ways, an outgrowth of the Yellow Vest movement, where large segments of French society are talking about the fact that they are struggling to make ends meet and an ever complicated economic situation, in a context in which the French president does not have a legislative majority in parliament and has passed a whole set of controversial legislation, notably around pension reform.

And so the farmers here have the opportunity to wait it out. But that support, they're waiting to see what exactly in concrete terms, Emmanuel Macron is going to offer them in the days and weeks to come. And secondly, what kinds of concessions they are going to get from the European Union around the application of its Green Deal objectives and so on.

And all of this is taking place in the broader context of upcoming E.U. elections, with the tremendous concern of Emmanuel Macron and other leaders that they will end up supporting and expressing their dissatisfaction at the polls by supporting far right political parties.

VAUSE: The stage is set. Dominic, thank you for the explanations and the insights. Good to see you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, protesters and police clashed outside Argentina's Congress as lawmakers debated the Presidential is controversial and wide ranging economic reforms.

Security forces use tear gas and water cannons to clear out protesters in Buenos Aires through Thursda. Workers unions, human rights groups, left wing political members all among those opposed to the bill known as omnibus.


The measures include economic austerity, privatization of public-owned companies, weakening labor protection, as well as increasing presidential powers.

But Javier Milei says it's necessary, all of it, to tackle an economic crisis. And while, controversial, recent polling shows 42 percent of support for his reforms, 51 percent opposing.

Still ahead, a six-year-old girl in Gaza is missing since Monday, along with her relatives, she came under Israeli fire in Gaza while fleeing the north. Her mother is now desperate for answers as to where she may be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Israel's defense minister has made a rare trip to southern Gaza Thursday, still an active war zone, praising Israeli troops and the progress in their almost four-month-long military offensive.

In Khan Yunis, Gaza's second biggest city, Yoav Gallant says Hamas has been left severely weakened. And the Israeli offensive will continue further south all the way to the city of Rafah.


YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The operation in Khan Yunis area are progressing and yielding impressive results. We are achieving our mission in Khan Yunis and we will reach Rafah and eliminate terror elements that threaten us.


VAUSE: New images from northern Gaza show the aftermath of Israel's offensive. Entire neighborhoods have been leveled, not one building left untouched.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza says more than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7. At least 100 in just the past 24-hour period.

Hamas officials also say more than 70,000 housing units across Gaza have been destroyed, almost 300,000 damaged. But CNN cannot independently verify those numbers.

Right now, IDF operations are ongoing in central Gaza and amid all the chaos and turmoil, somewhere in the crossfire is a little girl just six years old and she's gone missing. Her name is Hind (ph). And on Monday as her family was fleeing northern Gaza by car, the Palestinian Red Crescent says they came under Israeli fire. And Hind was the only survivor.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has more, but first, a warning: details in her report are upsetting and they're disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come take me. Will you come and take me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want me to come and take you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so scared. Please come.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A desperate call for help from six-year-old Hind, terrified, trapped in a car. Everyone around her is dead.

Hind was in the car with her uncle, his wife, and their four children trying to flee fighting from this part of northern Gaza. The horror in that car captured in this call for help from her cousin, recorded by the Palestine Red Crescent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are shooting at us. The tank is next to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you hiding?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. In the car. The tank is next to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you in the car?

Hello. Hello.

KARADSHEH: Relatives on Monday morning received a call from the family saying they'd come under Israeli military fire.

SAMIR HAMADA, HIND'S UNCLE: Rahad called me. She said Uncle, my dad, my mom, my sister and brother were killed. I'm bleeding, help me. I'm dying. I told her tie yourself with anything. At 04:00 p.m. she died.

The only one left was a little girl Hind. She said, please, I'm little, I'm injured. I peed myself.

KARADSHEH: Hind stayed on the phone with the Red Crescent for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What time is this?

She said it's Getting dark. I'm afraid of the dark.

KARADSHEH: The area was too dangerous. Hard to reach. They have to keep Hind on the phone as they scrambled to try and get a team to her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there gunfire around you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, come and get me.

KARADSHEH: As a team was finally dispatched, a psychologist was now on the phone with Hind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are all with you. We will wait on the phone with you.

KARADSHEH: But days later, they're still waiting. The Red Crescent lost all contact with Hind and its two volunteers who were dispatched to find her.

CNN gave the Israeli military details about the incident, including coordinates provided by the Palestine Red Crescent. The IDF says, quote, "We are unfamiliar with the incident described.

NEBAL FARSAKH, PALESTINE RED CRESCENT SOCIETY SPOKESPERSON: We are extremely (INAUDIBLE). We need to know what happened that they managed to save Hind. Are they arrested? That they survive? We need answers.

KARADSHEH: No one more desperate for answers than Hind's distraught mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If my daughter didn't die from the bullet, she's going to die from the cold, from the hunger.

My daughter said, Mama, I am hungry. She said Mama, I'm thirsty. I'm cold.

I call on the whole world to bring me back my daughter. I want anyone to call the army. We want our innocent little girl. Hind is too young to be going through this. She is too young.

KARADSHEH: So many so young on in this war.

But one family holds onto the hope that it's not too late to save their little Hind.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Ships in the Red Sea have again come under attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen. According to U.S. Central Command, a drone and uncrewed surface vehicle were shot down Thursday. No reports of damage or injury.

The U.S. is now warning China to use its influence with Iran to try and lower tensions in that region. And the Houthis' leader is now mocking that plan.


ABDUL MALIK AL-HOUTHI, HOUTHI LEADER: One of the signs of failure is America's attempt to seek assistance from China in order to mediate and persuade us to stop our supportive operations for the Palestinian people against Israeli ships and those associated with the Israeli enemy.


VAUSE: Last weekend, the U.S. National Security Adviser met with China's foreign minister, urging Beijing to use substantial leverage with Iran to try and stop the Red Sea attacks. It's also in Chinas economic interests, they said, to keep the ships moving through this critical waterway.

Red Sea security concerns caused a vessel carrying more than 16,000 sheep and cattle to be diverted back to Australia so it could be replenished with supplies. The MV Bahijah (ph) is now awaiting in the waters near Perth, while the Australian government decides what to do next.

The animals have been trapped onboard for nearly a month, but Australia's strict biosecurity quarantine laws mean they will not have quarantine if they were to disembark -- or they have to be out of quarantine if they get off.

Perth is enjoying a heatwave with temperatures reaching 41 degrees Celsius, about 106 Fahrenheit. But Australian agricultural authorities claim there is no significant health concerns with the livestock. The European Union is working on a plan to give Ukraine funds from interest building up on frozen Russian assets. The E.U. and allies are determined to make Russia pay at least part of the massive cost of rebuilding Ukraine after Putin's war of choice began in 2022.

Western countries hold some $327 billion in frozen Russian reserves. More than $200 billion of that is in the E.U. The financial institution holding it says it has earned $5.6 billion in interests.


VAUSE: The World Bank estimated last year rebuilding Ukraine will cost more than $400 billion over the next decade.

Former Russian dissident who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine is now in a new penal colony.

CNN chief global affairs correspondent Matthew Chance spoke with the imprisoned activist's wife and has this story.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This is the last time Vladimir Kara-Murza appeared in public.

His prison uniform flickering on a court TV screen in January because he praised Russians who, like him, oppose the war in Ukraine. He's already serving a 25-year sentence for criticizing the Kremlin.

Now, the dissident's wife tells CNN, her husband has been unexpectedly moved to one of Russia's toughest Siberian prison colonies.

EVGENIA KARA-MURZA, WIFE OF VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA: The reason for his transfer apparently was that he had been declared a consistent violator of the rules of serving his sentence.

for example, a violation that his pillow was not put in the right way on the bed. Another violation that his button on his shirt was not -- that it was not buttoned all the way.

CHANCE: So these are all -- these are all really petty, petty little, you know, violations. Why do you think the authorities are using those kinds of tactics? What are they trying to do?

KARA-MURZA: I believe that everything is being done to isolate those political prisoners who refused to be silent, even behind bars. And of course, to intimidate others.

CHANCE: For years, Vladimir Kara-Murza has been one of the Kremlin's fiercest and bravest critics. This was us in 2015 after he'd recovered from what he says was a deliberate poisoning.

But his opposition to the Kremlin never faltered, especially after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION FIGURE: this regime that is in power in our country today, it's not just corrupt, it's not just kleptocratic, It's not just authoritarian. It is a regime of Murderers.

CHANCE: And Kara-Murza is now one of several key Russian opposition figures including the most well-known Alexei Navalny who've been locked up as President Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on power.

Meanwhile, Evgenia Kara-Murza tells me she's had just seven short phone calls with her husband in the two years since his arrest.

E. KARA-MURZA: The last phone call came before just before new year. And it was 15-minute call. The first one in over half a year, I had to take away the phone from one kid after five minutes and give it to his sibling because I wanted to make sure that all three of them got to talk to their daddy.

CHANCE: It is heartbreaking for his family. And for Russia, say critics, this growing Kremlin fear of any political challenges.

Matthew Chance, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: When we come back a peace to own -- a chess own a piece of royalty. Your chance to buy some iconic costumes and props from TV's, "The Crown". That's coming up.



VAUSE: Beijing has officially declared the economy last year in China was strong and healthy. And it seems government centers are working overtime to make sure that's true erasing anything posted online which might show a slow economy, a falling stock market and an imploding real estate industry.

CNN's Ivan Watson has the story


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The world's second largest economy had a tough year in 2023. Now, one of Beijing's answers to the challenge, ban and erase criticism of it.

In December, China's ministry of state security issued this order, "resolutely crack down and punish illegal criminal activities that endanger national security in the economic security field."

Apparently that includes disappearing negative commentary from the already heavily-censored Chinese Internet.

On December 1st, this prominent economic professor Liu Jing Ping (ph) advised people not to invest in the falling Chinese stock market./

Now, all of Professor Liu's social media accounts are frozen. And when you click to follow him, you get this message which

translates, "It is forbidden to follow this user due to their violation of relevant rules.

CNN found similar freezes, temporarily imposed on at least five other Chinese economic analysts.

Also removed from the Internet this documentary highlighting economic hardship among Chinese migrant workers.

PROF. STEVE TSANG, AUTHOR, POLITICAL THOUGHT OF XI JINPING: I think the Chinese economy is at a cliff edge at the moment. I don't think it has stopped falling off the cliff yet, but it's getting into a point where things can get much more difficult

WATSON: Officially, the Chinese economy grew by more than 5 percent last year but the country's youth unemployment rate keeps hitting record highs. Then there's China's all important real estate sector, which along with related industries, used to make up 30 percent of the Chinese economy.

This is the Hong Kong office of the biggest symbol of China's real estate crisis, Evergrande. Until two years ago, this company was the largest homebuilder in China, employing some 200,000 people.

Then the company defaulted on its debt and now a court here in Hong Kong has ordered the liquidation of Evergrande.

Across the country protests as angry new homebuyers demand completion of unfinished homes that they've already paid for.

Perhaps the only other sector gloomier is the country's stock market in the past three years, the combined Chinese stock market lost more than $6 trillion.

MR. TANG, BEIJING RESIDENT: I haven't made any money out of the stock market. So I sold all my stocks.

WATSON: The Chinese economy is strong and it will stronger, says this Beijing resident.

Perhaps she got the message from this recent meeting of the country's top propaganda officials. There order: amplify bright prospects of the economy as China heads into 2024.

Ivan Watson, CNN -- Hong Kong.


VAUSE: Now a chance to own a piece of "The Crown", at least the very popular Netflix series of the same name -- with costumes, art work, furniture, and other props up for auction in London next week.

For a preview, here's CNN's Richard Quest

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: As I wonder through the collection from the series, "The crown" I can't but help feel a sense of deja vu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, save the queen.

In days of disillusion, however low we've been to (INAUDIBLE) us and inspire us. God, gave to us our queen.

CHARLIE THOMAS, BONHAMS GROUP: What same (ph) brings about this? It does work. We've got some horses you can strap them to it and off you go. It's under good authority that this is far more comfortable than the other.

QUEST: Oh, the original. Here we go.

THOMAS: It's very well-strung.

QUEST: It is. So this is the -- it's a bit bouncy isn't it, which is a lot more than the original.

Now, who is going to buy this and for what purpose do you think?

THOMAS: Yes. I mean, I can imagine this in a theme park. I can imagine it as an exhibition in a museum. I can imagine it getting going to Las Vegas.


THOMAS: So the costumes, play a really, really important passing the sale and the exhibition. And this is -- this costume here, for example, is possibly one of the most popular in this exhibition. It's, of course, the dress inspired by the Revenge Dress.

QUEST: The estimate --

THOMAS: $8,000 to $12,000. But it's just an iconic, iconic dress and, you know, the real one is unlikely coming to market. So, you know, why not buy this one?

So this is lovely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She recovered quickly for one last wave.

THOMAS: This is bigger.

QUEST: And it's wider.

THOMAS: They scaled it up because John Lithgow, who played Winston Churchill is so much taller than Winston Churchill was. So that is the level of detail that they went.

So I think this is one of the most important auction sale. And this is the model that the (INAUDIBLE) comes in Season Six. And when she comes face-to-face with her funeral model. Personally I have (INAUDIBLE) to museum. I mean, it is this is true to life as well. It was in the show. But this was made after the queen's real funeral.

QUEST: The sale of "The Crown" artifacts, knick-knacks, and memorabilia will be another test of just how successful and popular was the TV show.

Now, we have the chance to own our own little bit of royal and television history.

Richard Quest, CNN -- on the way to Buckingham Palace. Drive on.


VAUSE: In a moment, Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes for a new team. Find out which one after the break.

Also coming up this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call me "Eye of the Niner".


VAUSE: He lost his eye to cancer when he was 30 years old. And now, this diehard San Francisco 49ers fan heading to the Super Bowl hoping to see his team win.


VAUSE: Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes this year to join Ferrari next year.

Here's Amanda Davies.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The most successful driver in the history of F1, arguably the most iconic storied-team on the grid. It's a union that's waxed and waned on the rumor mill many a time over recent years.

And now it is a done deal. Speculation had really started to grow with reports emerging over the last 24 hours or so. It's now been confirmed that after what will have been 12 years with Mercedes with the most dominant run the sport has ever seen Lewis Hamilton will be leaving at the end of this season to take on his new challenge at the age of 40.

It was Mercedes who released the first statement saying he's activated a release clause in his contract with a real show of the mutual respect between the relevant parties, Mercedes, principal Toto Wolfe, talking of the pride with which they'll look back on the partnership.

[01:54:47] DAVIES: And Lewis saying, in part in his statement, "It's a place where I have grown up so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. But the time is right for me to take this step. And I'm excited to be taking on a new challenge."

Ferrari have simply then followed up with a statement saying, "Ferrari is pleased to announce that Lewis Hamilton will be joining the team in 2025 on a multi-year contract."

He's joining as a teammates hot young talent Charles Leclerc, that means Carlos Sainz is leaving. Lewis has often expressed his admiration for Ferrari and appeared in a documentary at the end of last year, paying tribute to Michael Schumacher and the team where he won the last five of his record setting seven world titles.

The romantics have long loved the idea of Lewis with a last hurrah in the red of the Scuderia, driving them to victory. Once again, they haven't won a driver's title since 2007. They won want just one of last year's races.

And also driving Lewis to that record-breaking eighth world title. Before that though, 24 races still to go with Mercedes with the season getting underway in Bahrain in the first weekend of March.


VAUSE: Jose Rey Pena is a one-eyed 49ers fan, is literally true in every way. In fact, his nickname is the Eye of the Niner because the team's logo has been imprinted on his prosthetic eye. After a childhood injury Pena battled health problems, including a series of eye surgeries until he was diagnosed with cancer at age 30.


JOSE REY PENA, EYE OF THE NINER: I had to remove my eye within six months or it was going to spread in both my eyes. I asked them if he can make me a 49er eye. That's how a diehard of a fan I am. I've been a 49er fan my whole life. My first game was back in 1987 when I was five.


VAUSE: That was enough to get him selected as the 49er fan of the year in 2022. He says he has enough memorability to fill his three-car garage.

He'll also be watching as the 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on February 11.

A one-eyed fan.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. Kim Brunhuber is up next.

I'll see you right back here next week. Thanks for watching.