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U.S. Strike Kills Iran-Backed Militia Leader In Iraq; Benjamin Netanyahu Dismisses Hamas Counterproposal As "Delusional"; CNN Speaks With Parents Of Hostage Held In Gaza; Voting Underway In Pakistan After Turbulent Campaign Season; Ukraine's Mobilization Bill Clears First Hurdle In Parliament; Supreme Court To Take Up Colorado Ruling To Disqualify Donald Trump; Supreme Court to Take Up Colorado Ruling to Disqualify Trump; China Seizes on U.S. Divisions to Warn of Looming Civil War; Southwest Iceland Volcano Erupts for Second Time This Year; Prince William Thanks Supporters After Father's Cancer Diagnosis. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired February 08, 2024 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world and to everyone streaming us on CNN Max. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, the U.S. carries out another retaliatory strike in the Middle East, taking out a militia leader who Washington blames for a deadly attack on U.S. troops. And the White House says more strikes could still be on the way.

Polls open in Pakistan under the shadow of controversy and political violence. We are live in Islamabad with the latest.

And Kyiv struggles to mobilize new soldiers, nearly two years of war have led troops decimated and exhausted.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: It is 10:00 a.m. in Baghdad, Iraq where a U.S. military strike has killed a commander of an Iran backed militia group behind the deadly attacks on American forces in the region. U.S. Central Command says a drone hit a vehicle in Baghdad Wednesday, killing the Kataib Hezbollah leader. Iraq was not told in advance about the strike.

Sources tell CNN the militia leader was in charge of the group's logistical support including drone and rocket operations. Kataib Hezbollah issued a statement early Thursday, mourning the commander's death. The group is part of a broader movement backed by Iran that has carried out attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East. A drone strike in Jordan last month killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded dozens more. CNN's Elliott Gotkine is following developments for us. He joins us live from London. Good morning to Elliott. So, what more are you learning about this U.S. military strike that killed the man behind that deadly attack on U.S. forces in Jordan, and what might come next?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, you'll recall, of course, that in the wake of that deadly attack on that U.S. outpost in Jordan, that Kataib Hezbollah said that it was going to cease its operations against U.S. forces, in its words, to avoid embarrassing the Iraqi authorities.

But clearly, it was designed to avoid blowback for that attack. And clearly, as this drone strike by the U.S. shows, it hasn't worked, the U.S. carrying out its precision strike on a moving SUV in a neighborhood of Baghdad, killing the commander.

And also, according to the Iraqis, killing one other person as well, but no additional collateral damage, or other casualties that we are aware of in wake -- in the wake of that attack.

Now, Iraq isn't too happy with it, it is once again as it referred to the previous strikes by the U.S. in Iraq and also in Syria as a violation of its sovereignty. It described this as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and said it was going to undermine the understandings between the United States and Iraq.

And that comes at a very crucial time because the U.S. is soon due to start talks with Iraq about the future presence of U.S. forces in Iraq as its part of this U.S. led coalition against ISIS.

So, there are a few unanswered questions about all of this, which is what more is the U.S. going to do in response to this attack on its outposts in Jordan on the killing of three U.S. soldiers? When will it decide that it has done enough and presumably, there will now be a response from Kataib Hezbollah, which could result in tit for tat strikes, and of course, the U.S. adamant that it doesn't want to see an escalation into a region that it is already pretty much on fire.

But we don't know what this will result in. We don't know how it will impact U.S.-Iraqi relations, as I say, at a very delicate time when it's about to start talks about the future of its relationship and its presence in Iraq.

But certainly, this is another part of America's response to the killing of those three U.S. soldiers. It says it's not the end. And that will just mean more strikes both on facilities belonging to Iran backed militias, and probably also on other leaders that it holds responsible, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, thanks to Elliott Gotkine joining us live from London.

Turning now to Israel where U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is suggesting negotiations could still move forward on a ceasefire and hostage deal in Gaza. That optimism even though Israel's prime minister has dismissed a counter proposal from Hamas as delusional. CNN's Jeremy Diamond has details from Tel Aviv.



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ball is back in Israel's court and its being swatted right back.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We haven't committed to anything. We haven't committed to any of the delusional demands of Hamas. There is supposed to be a process of negotiations between the mediators, and from what I see from Hama's reaction, they are not there.

DIAMOND: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissing Hamas's counterproposal for a ceasefire that would see dozens of hostages released from captivity.

Instead, he is vowing total victory.

NETANYAHU: Surrender to Hamas' delusional demands would not lead to freeing hostages. It would just invite another massacre.

DIAMOND: The latest Hamas position outlines three phases, each lasting 45 days, beginning with the release of women, children, sick, and elderly hostages, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, an intensification of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza's population centers, in line with a prior Israeli framework.

But Hamas's proposal also calls for the release of all Palestinian prisoners detained since October 7th, a nonstarter for Israel.

Phase two would see the release of all male hostages and soldiers, as well as the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza.

Dead bodies from both sides would be returned in phase three.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reviewing the proposal with Israeli officials.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: While there are some clear nonstarters in Hamas's response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached and we will work at that relentlessly until we get there.

DIAMOND: As negotiations dragged on, no respite for those trapped in Gaza. Overnight, ambulance crews in central Gaza rushing to the scene of another Israeli airstrike, searching through the rubble, rushing survivors to the hospital. But in Gaza, even the hospitals are no guarantee of safety.

DR. AHMED MOGHRABI, NASSER HOSPITAL: Hello. Good morning, my friends.

DIAMOND (voice over): Speaking from inside Nasser Hospital, Dr. Ahmed Moghrabi describes the scene at the hospital's main gate.

MOGHRABI: This is the gate of the hospital and how the people are standing, you know.

DIAMOND: Snipers on rooftops. People trapped in fear.

MOGHRABI: Nobody can move outside of the hospital. You see the people how they are standing. They can't -- they can't go. If anybody would go outside of this gate, he would be killed. See.

DIAMOND: On the street, outside the hospital, a lifeless body explains that fear. Locals say she was shot by a sniper.

From Khan Younis to Gaza City, the sounds of gunfire sparking panic. Hundreds of people waiting for humanitarian aid trucks now suddenly running for their lives. As confusion turns to fears, some rush one- way, others run the other but nowhere seems safe.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.


CHURCH: Joining me now from Jerusalem, Rachel Goldberg-Polin and John Polin. And they are the parents of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin. Thank you so much for talking with us at this very difficult time for you and your family.

I do want to point out to our viewers that you are in a taxi right now on your way to meet with U.S. we -- I think we've lost the signal. We're going to pursue this to discuss the hostage deal efforts.

And I want to start by getting your reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu calling Hamas's response to the ceasefire proposal delusional and saying he hasn't committed to anything. Rachel, what does that mean to you?

RACHEL GOLDBERG-POLIN, MOTHER OF HOSTAGE HERSH GOLDBERG-POLIN: Well, obviously, as parents of a hostage who has now been held for 125 days in captivity, we are devastated if people are not being open to the mediation process.

I don't think that either side should be shutting down the other side. I don't think that helps anyone. And we have hundreds of thousands of people suffering in this -- in this crisis. And I don't think that our leaders should be shutting down anything on either side.

CHURCH: And John, Prime Minister Netanyahu insists that Israel's aim is a complete victory over Hamas within months. What's your response to that and how committed do you think he is to getting your son and all the other hostages safely out of Gaza?

JOHN POLIN, FATHER OF HOSTAGE HERSH GOLDBERG-POLIN: So, (AUDIO GAP) if we're talking a matter of months, (AUDIO GAP) what we know is every day (AUDIO GAP) more of them are dying. So, I for months doesn't make me feel good about getting out too many of the hostages alive. [02:10:33]

CHURCH: OK, we clearly having a few problems but we're going to stay -- to stay with them in the hope -- unless we -- if I can just get to some guidance from the control room, we haven't --

All right, we're going -- we will actually try to reconnect. So, talking there with Rachel Goldberg-Polin and John Polin, their son Hersh, are one of the hostages. In actual fact, one of the hostages who lost part of his arm on October 7th when Hamas took their son.

All right, let's move on for now, we'll try to reestablish contact. Israeli officials say U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is raising concerns with Israeli leaders about its planned military offensive in Rafah.

Israel has ordered hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to evacuate to the south, and most have ended up in Rafah near the border with Egypt.

Now, the Hamas run civil defense directorate says its crews are covered a number of bodies after Israeli airstrikes targeted properties crowded with displaced people. CNN cannot independently verify this report. Israel calls Rafah one of the last remaining Hamas strongholds.

The city is now home to at least 1.3 million people, more than half of Gaza's population. Many are living in tents or out in the open. The U.N. Secretary General is warning of disastrous consequences if Israel's military moves in.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECURITY-GENERAL: I'm especially alarmed by reports that Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety. Such an action would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare, with untold regional consequences.


CHURCH: The U.N. says about 75 percent of Gaza's population is displaced and facing acute shortages of food, water, medicine and shelter. Malnutrition is up 12 fold across Gaza since the war started on October 7th.


SAMI KOUTA, GAZA RESIDENT (through translator): Our children are dying from hunger. What should we eat? Should we eat grass? We have nothing to eat. We demand that they bring this aid and help us. Where should we go? Our children are freezing in the cold.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows, CNN has a list of vetted organizations that are responding on the ground and you can find details on how you can help on our website

Well, right now, voting is underway in Pakistan's general election. The election comes as the country struggles with political controversies, economic uncertainty and frequent militant attacks. The key players are veteran leader Nawaz Sharif who's trying to make a comeback following years of self-exile amid corruption charges and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari son of slain and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

While popular former leader Imran Khan, whose party won the last election remains imprisoned on multiple convictions and banned from contesting the vote.

Violence ramped up ahead of the elections with at least 30 people killed in twin blast near campaign offices in Balochistan province on Tuesday and a candidate being shot dead while campaigning last week.

And the government has suspended mobile services across the country during the elections due to incidents of terrorism.

And CNN's Sophia Saifi joins me now live from Islamabad with more, good to see you, Sophia. So, security concerns are among the many challenges ahead today of course, how is the voting going so far?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Rosemary, it has been peaceful so far. There have been really big concerns regarding possible militant attacks. I mean, it's still only noon at the moment. There's still about five hours left before polls close.

We have been getting some chatter about some attacks and attempted attacks but not many casualties so that it is relatively peaceful at the moment. We were at the polling station early in the morning at around 8:00 a.m. And people have started streaming in.


There hasn't been any sort of chaos at any polls reported yet. But the main issue at the moment is the widespread nationwide internet -- sorry, mobile phone outage. You cannot make any phone calls. You're not getting data on your phones. This was something that was of concern to digital rights activists in the lead up to this election. They said it would influence voter turnout, it would -- it would make voters panic.

We haven't seen that so far, we'd obviously find out in a couple of hours what the voter turnout has been. But from what we're gleaning and what we've seen on the ground here, it has been relatively peaceful. There are concerns of some sort of protests if the votes weighs in the favor of one party or another.

So, we'll just have to wait and see whether this huge electoral exercise, fifth largest democracy in the world, 128 million voters out to vote today to choose the new government. We're hoping it goes peacefully, but we'll have to see for the next couple of hours, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Sophia Saifi joining us live from Islamabad. Many thanks for that.

All right, we have reestablished contact with Rachel Goldberg-Polin and her husband, John Polin. And they are the parents of the hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

And before we were cut off, we were talking about your reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who essentially calling the response from Hamas delusional.

I just wanted to move on because this could represent a setback for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, you're actually in a taxi right now on your way to see Antony Blinken.

So, he met with Netanyahu Wednesday in an effort to secure a hostage deal in exchange for a ceasefire. But Blinken says there's still room to maneuver and says he will work relentlessly to find an agreement.

I'm hoping they can still hear me, we lost contact again.

All right. OK, we will try it. We'll see how we go. Obviously, it's very difficult at this time. They are actually on their way to talk with Antony Blinken to try to find out where things stand with this negotiations for a hostage deal in exchange for a pause in fighting and more humanitarian aid.

So, talking there with Rachel Goldberg-Polin and John Polin, and we'll see whether we can reestablish contact. But let's take a break for now.

Still to come, Ukraine moves ahead with its plan to close the gap in military manpower with Russia. But its mobilization bill is not popular with everyone even though the military can use all the troops it can get.

And Donald Trump's legal team heads to the Supreme Court today, after two States declared him ineligible to hold office back. With that and more in just a moment.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. U.S. aid for Ukraine and Israel faces a key test in about 10 hours when senators are expected to hold a vote to advance the bill without its provisions on immigration reform.

Republicans blocked the larger combined package on Wednesday, rejecting the bipartisan deal which would have enacted strict border measures. They bailed on the package under pressure from right wing members and the house and Donald Trump, who is making immigration a central campaign issue on his race for the presidency.

The new foreign aid bill includes $60 billion for Ukraine, and more than 14 billion in security aid for Israel among other provisions. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had this warning for lawmakers, take a listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If there's one other person besides Donald Trump who is rooting for chaos in the Senate, it is Vladimir Putin. If we fail in this moment, if we abandon our friends in Ukraine to Vladimir Putin, history will cast a shameful and permanent shadow on senators who blocked funding.


CHURCH: Five people were killed in Russian drone and missile attacks across Ukraine on Wednesday. Kyiv was hit causing power outages and a massive fire to residential high rise. Some survivors from that building say there is next to nothing left of their homes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The windows were broken. There is no kitchen, no balcony, total devastation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our child was sleeping. My wife is on the balcony, boom. And that's all.


CHURCH: The attack left close to 40 people wounded across Ukraine. Officials say air defenses shot down about two thirds of the Russian drones and missiles, which is lower than the more than 80 percent intercept rate during many previous strikes.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine is desperate for more air defenses and is pleading with allies to send them.

Ukraine's controversial mobilization bill which would allow more people to be called up has cleared the first hurdle in parliament. It passed its first reading on Wednesday and it could become a law if it passes a second one scheduled in about two weeks.

Mobilization is a major bone of contention in Ukraine, but as Fred Pleitgen reports, its military is desperate for more troops.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The explosions are dangerously close as the drone team from the 92nd assault brigade set up their bird, attach the bombs and head off into battle.

While drone technology is often seen as the realm of tech savvy youngsters, one of the pilots here is over 50.

One way or another, everyone should serve, he says. It is our duty to defend our land, our families, our motherland. If you do not want to fight, what kind of citizen are you?

Ukraine is badly outgunned by the Russians but the reality is they're also outmanned. Unable to recruit enough soldiers willing to join the military, especially younger ones. Decimated and exhausted, Ukraine's top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, has called for a new mobilization drive, maybe including up to 0.5 million people.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is unconvinced. And sources tell CNN he has informed Zaluzhnyi he'll be fired with differences over troop numbers a key reason why. Mobilization is unpopular and in front of Ukraine's parliament, some are protesting for their spouses to be de- mobilized.

Antonina (PH) says her husband is too old to be serving this long.

My husband is 43 years old, she says. It is difficult for him to endure all this time on the ground, jumping from shells and performing all those tasks at the front line. And there are many people like him.

I'm here for my dad to come back, her son says.

But on the front lines, like in this rocket launching unit, some say they need more people to give those who've been in combat, nearly nonstop, a breather. The commander of this launcher is 59. In Ukraine, people can only be drafted until they're 60.

All of Ukraine is at war and each and every man who thinks he lives in Ukraine must go through it, he says. It's irreversible. People here are tired.

Ukraine's parliament is working on a law to make mobilization more appealing and possibly allow soldiers to exit the military after three years. But back at the drone unit, they don't believe the talk.

There should be no illusions, he says. Also, among soldiers whom politicians have given hope that there will be demobilization, there will not be any.


Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


CHURCH: The U.S. Supreme Court is about to take up the first case that could impact this year's presidential election. A crucial hearing to determine whether states can disqualify Donald Trump, we'll take a look.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

In the coming day, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether Colorado can disqualify a Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump because of his role in the January 6th insurrection. The Constitution's 14th Amendment says Americans who engage in insurrection are banned from future offers.

CNN's Paula Reid reports on the high stakes hearing.


PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): What started as a long shot bid to bump Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot with a fringe legal theory has ended up at the highest court in the land. Thursday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether to disqualify Trump from holding office because of his role in the January 6th Capitol attack after a landmark decision from Colorado's top court, which concluded the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban applies to Trump.

ERIC OLSON, ATTORNEY FOR COLORADO PLAINTIFFS: Trump engaged in insurrection, and therefore cannot appear on the ballot.

SCOTT GESSLER, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Frankly, President Trump didn't engage. He didn't carry a pitchfork to the Capitol grounds. He didn't lead a charge.

REID (VOICE OVER): In the years-long lead-up to the case, the challengers looked for states where they believed they could succeed based on a constitutional provision that hasn't been tested since 1919. Their efforts have been met with mixed results, with only Maine and Colorado taking him off the primary ballot. Even California opted to include Trump.

Trump's team insists that states should not be able to deprive voters of their choice of candidates.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This whole thing is rigged, election interference.

REID (VOICE OVER): But now, after turning several recent hearings and other cases into campaign stops --

TRUMP: I want to be at every trial day.

I want to watch this witch hunt myself.

REID (voice over): Trump is not expected to attend the Supreme Court arguments. That change-up is part of a more disciplined approach the team is taking to this historic case.


Arguing on Trump's behalf will be Jonathan Mitchell, a Former Texas Solicitor General. This will be his sixth appearance before the High Court.

JONATHAN MITCHELL, FORMER TEXAS SOLICITOR GENERAL: Supreme Court justices are ultimately political appointments.

REID (voice-over): And this case is not just a test for Trump, the Justices have also been under intense scrutiny over questions about ethics and partisanship. And for Chief Justice John Roberts, his legacy is on the line, as someone who tries to steer the court clear of the politics that divides Washington.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms. We do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation.

REID (voice-over): Roberts under pressure to build consensus.

NOAH BOOKBINDER, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: This case puts the court in a tough position any way around. I think they would rather not be thinking about these issues. But it's what the democracy requires and what the constitution requires at this moment. We think the court is going to rise to that occasion.

REID: After Thursday's oral argument, the Trump team is going to need to quickly pivot to another issue that they would like to bring before the justices. They only have until Monday to tell the High Court that they want to appeal Tuesday's decision that found that Trump does not have presidential immunity to shield himself from the election subversion case brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

It's unclear if the justices are going to want to take up that issue, or it's just another example of how influential the Supreme Court will be throughout this 2024 campaign season.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR OF "CNN NEWSROOM": Earlier, I asked Legal Analyst Joey Jackson, how he expects this historic case to play out?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So this is huge and the reason its huge is we are talking about a frontrunner for the Republican Party potentially being removed from the ballot. That would be unprecedented. And so here we go, to the extent that you have now arguments before the court, what happens is, is we have the United States Supreme Court, there are nine justices, six of which are what we call conservative. They more are inclined to support and vote with Republicans. That's the conventional wisdom.

You might think law is law, right? But there's a lot of gray area in the law that would allow for interpretation. And so, of interest to me is going to be whether or not the court does get political, but whether they preserve their reputation and they act in a way that is purely based upon the law. So then, you have to ask, Rosemary, what is that law?

The law relates to the 14th Amendment Section 3, which indicates that if you've engaged in an insurrection, you cannot hold office. And so, there will be many questions around whether or not it applies to the president, whether or not holding office is the same as running for office. There will be questions as to the interpretation and whether states can interpret or Congress. And so, it proves -- I think it will prove to be a very dynamic conversation between the attorneys and between the justices who are sitting, hearing the argument.

CHURCH: And we'll have that entire interview with Joey Jackson coming up in the next hour. Well, fake news headlines about the U.S. and Texas being on the brink of civil war spreading through China and its media censors are doing very little so stop the spread of disinformation. But why does the Chinese government want this message out there? CNN's Will Ripley explains.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a world where information is power, where fact and fiction collide, a digital drumbeat of disinformation from China. The U.S. State Department says, threatening in the very fabric of the free world.


RIPLEY (voice-over): One of Beijing's latest campaigns focusing on Texas, a tidal wave of disinformation surging across social media in China in recent weeks, zeroing in on tensions between Texas and the White House over illegal migrants spilling over the border from Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Texas declared independence from the United States --

RIPLEY (voice-over): Chinese social media users captivated by videos like this, speculating about Texas declaring independence. Online chatter of a looming U.S. civil war, getting hundreds of thousands of likes, shares, and comments, mostly untouched by Beijing's army of online censors.


RIPLEY (voice-over): And not an isolated incident. The State Department says, releasing its first-ever report on what it calls the "People's Republic of China's Information Manipulation."

RUBIN: When you look at the pieces of the puzzle and you put it together, you see a breathtaking ambition on the part of the PRC to seek information dominance in key regions of the world.

RIPLEY (voice-over): What the U.S. calls a multi-billion-dollar coordinated campaign of distortion and disinformation devised by the Chinese government, exploiting divisions within the United States.


RIPLEY (voice-over): China's foreign ministry firing back, accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy for being the first nation to weaponize global information. Beijing blasting the State Department Report as disinformation that misrepresents facts and truth, labeling America an empire of lies. The U.S. says China's digital authoritarianism accelerated in recent years, magnifying perceptions of chaos in America. A welcome distraction, analysts say, for Beijing's communist leaders grappling with a growing pile of problems at home.

From China's real estate crisis, new homes never finished, prompting protests by angry buyers to a plunging stock market, skyrocketing youth unemployment, and rapidly aging population -- Beijing and Washington battling for information dominance.


RIPLEY: One key point on this fake news of a looming civil war in Texas. This is not the first time, just the latest example on the Chinese internet of information being twisted and manipulated. The U.S. says it is part of a much bigger campaign by the Chinese government and almost Orwellian attempt to poison the information space crucial for democracies to function, weaponizing disinformation, exploiting existing fault lines in the U.S. and beyond, and trying to reshape global opinions, all to benefit China.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

CHURCH: Prince William is speaking publicly for the first time since the shocking disclosure of King Charles' cancer diagnosis. What the Prince of Wales is saying about his father, after the break


CHURCH: All right. We are bringing you these live remarkable images coming in from southwest Iceland, right now, as a volcano has erupted for the second time this year. Plumes of toxic smoke are rising into the early morning sky, as rivers of bright orange lava pour out of the earth. The previous eruption this year began on January 14th and lasted about two days. Nearly 4,000 residents had to evacuate their town of Grindavik as lava reached its outskirts and burned some homes there. It is not clear if this most recent eruption might impact the town, but we will of course, continue to monitor this story and bring you any new developments.

Britain's Prince William says he is grateful for everyone's kind messages since his father, King Charles was diagnosed with cancer. On Wednesday, the Prince of Wales met with actor Tom Cruise and air ambulance staff at a fundraising dinner for London's Air Ambulance Charity, where he is a patron.


CHURCH: It's the first time the prince has spoken publicly since his father's diagnosis and his wife, Princess Catherine's abdominal surgery.


PRINCE WILLIAM, PRINCE OF WALES: I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you also for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days. It means a great deal to us all.


CHURCH: The shocking revelations about the king's and Princess Catherine's medical conditions have raised concerns about how the royal family will cover public duties now that two senior members are essentially on medical leave. CNN's Anna Stewart has more now from London.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was back to work on Wednesday after a few weeks off. Prince William had been focusing on taking care of his wife and children while the Princess of Wales continues to recover from her surgery. Now, he'll likely have even more work on his plate given the king is stepping back from public- facing engagements while he undergoes cancer treatment. And while Prince William is no stranger to public engagements, we may see him performing more formal and ceremonial roles in the coming weeks, like Wednesday's investiture.

In many ways, this is a glimpse into the future for the prince who only took on the role of heir apparent less than two years ago. Meanwhile, the king will be working from home or perhaps that should be homes. Currently, it is Sandringham. And according to "10, Downing Street," the prime minister had his weekly audience with the king by a phone call on Wednesday.

In stark contrast to Prince William's public engagements, Prince Harry was barely seen. He was spotted in the back of a car, he had arrived from California to see his father. As we understand it, the meeting was brief, only around 45 minutes. And according to U.K. media outlets, Prince Harry has already head home.

It does reminder of how slimmed down the royal family has become in recent years. And now, with two key members off sick, there is certainly more work to go around.

Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


CHURCH: An ancient scroll burned and buried almost 2,000 years ago is finally revealing some of its secrets, thanks to AI. The unopened scroll, which looks more like a block of charcoal, is one of hundreds that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. But it's so charred that it would crumble to pieces if anyone tried to open it. So instead, researchers used artificial intelligence to virtually unroll the scroll and then decode some of the first full passages, which appear to be the writings of a philosopher musing about the sources of pleasure in life and urging people to enjoy them.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. "World Sport" is coming up next. Then, I will be back in about 15 minutes with more "CNN Newsroom". Do stick around.