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Aid Group Warns Rafah Could Become "Zone of Bloodshed"; Pakistan Foreign Ministry Calls Elections Peaceful and Successful; Haitian Opposition Leader Says Government "Has No Legitimacy"; E.U. Farmer Protests; Taylor Swift Performing in Tokyo before Flying to Las Vegas. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired February 10, 2024 - 03:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong ahead on the show Israeli forces are ordered to make plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah that many Palestinians say there's nowhere left to go.

Plus the White House backing the president in full force, saying he's not forgetful and calling the special counsel's report politically motivated.

And later, Swifties unite for the final Eras tour show in Japan. We'll go live to Tokyo.


COREN: More than a million people in Rafah in Gaza south, a place that before the war had a population of around 250,000 and now on the verge of another crisis. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his military to plan an evacuation of Rafah ahead of a ground offensive.

Many Palestinians in Russia had already fled from Israel's war with Hamas in the north. Often more than once. Aid groups warning that sending IDF ground troops into the city would turn Rafah into a zone of bloodshed and destruction.

Palestinians had been told earlier the city was a safer zone. CNN's Nada Bashir is live in Cairo with more on what is happening in Gaza.

Where are these Gazans in Rafah supposed to go?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, that is exactly the question you've had from the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, who issued a statement yesterday saying there is simply no one left for civilians in Gaza to turn to.

We have seen Gaza's 2.3 million population pushed southwards from the outset of the war, the Israeli military telling civilians to move south. And many of them, at least 1.3 million, are now concentrated on the southern border.

Of course, they are facing dire humanitarian conditions in Rafah. This is also a city that has been for weeks now, Israeli bombardment in and around the city.

And of course, the fear is that this looming ground operation, as many are anticipated by the Israeli military could not only create a more dire humanitarian situation but could also place hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.

Take a look at this report, a warning to our viewers that some of the video in this footage in this report will be distressing.


BASHIR (voice over): There are simply no words, this grandfather cradling the body of his 7-year-old granddaughter, Ataf (ph), beside the shallow grave, where she will soon be buried.

I told her mother that Ataf (ph) is now above, in heaven, Ahmed (ph) says, with her aunt, her cousin and her grandmother, who are all waiting for her. You see, we have many martyrs in our family.

Ahmed says his family had been taking shelter in a school in Khan Younis when an airstrike hit. It took hours, he says, to reach the nearest hospital still able to treat little Ataf (ph), but it was too late.

Across Gaza, more than 10,000 children have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Many more left orphaned or facing life-changing injuries.

In the central city of Deir al-Balah, the airstrikes are near daily. Those who survive left to dig through the rubble with their bare hands in search of their loved ones.

Meanwhile in Rafah, once deemed a safe zone, UNICEF estimates that there are now more than 600,000 children among the over a million people in the area, many taking shelter in these sprawling tent cities.

The southern city has for weeks come under relentless airstrikes by the Israeli military who say they are targeting Hamas. But now a looming ground operation is stoking fears that Rafah could become, as one aid group has described it, a zone of bloodshed.


If by some misfortune there's an invasion of Rafah, two-thirds of the population will die, Gabr (ph) says. We can't get out of Rafah. We have no other alternative.

Israel says it is now calling for a mass evacuation of civilians in the southern city ahead of a planned ground offensive. But it is almost impossible to fathom where else these civilians can turn to. But Rafah has not only become a vital lifeline for the displaced, it is also a crucial gateway for humanitarian aid crossing over from Egypt, and many in the international community are now sounding alarm bells over Israel's warning.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: And I am especially alarmed by reports that the Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety.

BASHIR: The U.S. State Department has warned that it cannot support an Israeli military operation in Rafah without serious planning for civilians there, with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday describing Israel's actions in Gaza as, quote, over the top.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already dismissed a proposal from Hamas for a prolonged truce, which would see a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and a gradual release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Netanyahu, who described the proposal as delusional, has vowed to push ahead until a, quote, complete victory over Hamas is achieved, leaving little hope for diplomacy as negotiations continue. And little hope for what lies ahead in Gaza.


BASHIR: Those diplomatic efforts to negotiate some sort of truce or cease-fire are still ongoing. We've seen a senior delegation from Hamas traveling to Cairo for talks here. They departed yesterday.

Now two sources told CNN that CIA director Bill Burns is expected to be at Cairo next week, one source telling CNN the prime minister, as well, as the director of Israel's Mossad agency also expected to be in attendance.

Talks around a potential hostage release deal. So still a lot of efforts on the diplomatic front but clearly we are seeing Israel, so far dismissing those efforts so far and concerns around the situation in Rafah are facing those diplomatic efforts in jeopardy.

COREN: Nada Bashir joining us from Cairo, thank you.

The death toll has risen to 27 from a landslide in the southern Philippines. The area has been plagued by intense rain since late last month. Authorities say 35 people were injured, more than 80 people are still missing.

The landslide happened in a remote gold mining village on the island of Mindanao. A young girl who was pulled from the debris on Friday is reportedly in stable condition. Search and rescue efforts is still ongoing. But poor weather conditions paused the operations for a time on Thursday.

To the U.S. now where language in a report on the president's handling of classified information has the White House crying foul and pushing back.


KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The comments that were made by that prosecutor, gratuitous, inaccurate and inappropriate. The way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated.


COREN: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris slamming the report. It said charges against Joe Biden were not warranted but also sparked controversy for suggesting that his forgetfulness about some details was caused by age and lack of mental fitness.

White House lawyers say some of that language violates Justice Department rules. And a spokesman pointed out that interviews with special counsel Robert Hur took place just after the October 7 attack in Israel.


IAN SAMS, SPOKESPERSON, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE: I dispute that the characterizations about his memory that were in the report are accurate because they're not. And I think the president spoke very clearly about how he -- his mind was on other things.

I mean, he was dealing with a huge international crisis of great global consequence. And, you know, he was trying his best to answer questions in this interview because he wanted to be fully cooperative.


COREN: Well, the White House may release transcripts of the interviews with Hur. DOJ officials say the characterization at issue could have been removed but were not made for fears the department could be accused of bias.

Well, Pakistan is defending the integrity of its elections, saying they were held peacefully and successfully.


But a slow vote count and allegations of vote rigging have sparked violent protests.


COREN (voice-over): The United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union have expressed concerns about Pakistan's election after Thursday's vote.


COREN: Well, joining us now, CNN's Sophia Saifi, joining us in Islamabad.

And Sophia, this certainly was not the result that media commentators had predicted.

Where does this leave Nawaz Sharif and his hopes of forming a government?

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Anna, every analyst that we spoke to in the leadup to this election, which took place on the 8th of February, so two days ago, had anticipated a fourth historic term for Nawaz Sharif for prime minister.

But again, there was a huge delay in the results coming out. We still actually don't have a final result more than 40 hours after polls closed on Thursday. So the Nawaz Sharif's party, the PLN, has not won the most seats in parliament.

That goes to the independent candidates affiliated with former prime minister Imran Khan's party, the PTI. None of the political parties at the three major political parties of the country, including the independent candidates affiliated with Imran Khan, have won an outright majority.

So now what we're going to have to see is, is who makes a coalition. The most number of seats are again, with those independent candidates, Nawaz Sharif came out and made a rather bizarre victory speech.

However, he confessed that they, again, do not have the majority to form a government. So the party of beloved Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, him (sic) and his father have become kingmakers.

And they're going to be one of the main movers and shakers in deciding who they will join to form a government with. So it's going to take a little bit more time. There is a lot of rage and anger here amongst the very young, vibrant voters who have come out.

And what many are saying have sent a rebuke to the country's powerful military, which according to Khan's supporters and a quantum brand, Khan is well had been responsible for the crackdown on these candidates that also, as you know, lost their very popular electoral symbol, the cricket bats.

These candidates who have won a majority at -- who have won the most seats in parliament at the moment, were contesting with symbols like crockery and kitchen utensils. And even then, they've come out ahead.

So interesting times. But again, we're still waiting for an official announcement from the election commission of Pakistan.

COREN: Sophia Saifi, joining us from Islamabad, thanks for the update.

Escalating unrest in Haiti is quickly sending the country further down an abyss of chaos. The United Nations says last month was the most violent month in more than two years. CNN's Sara Sidner reports.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A state on the brink of collapse. Haitians are once again rising up in protest, demanding presidential elections that were promised but never delivered. It's been nearly three years since Haiti's president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated.

The power vacuum gains, exacting brutal violence on the population, have over-run the capital Port-au-Prince. The current prime minister, Ariel Henry, has been urging calm and says he will not step down but swaths of the population are rising up against him.

Henry took control of the country after being chosen by President Moise shortly before his assassination. A 2022 CNN investigation revealed that investigators believed Henry was at the center of it and a judge overseeing the murder case told CNN that Henri was a main suspect in Moise's assassination, something Henri has denied often.

He wrote in a series of tweets, "The divisionary tactics to seed confusion and impede justice from doing its work serenely will not stand." But Henry is largely seen as an illegitimate leader by the Haitian public. The final straw, he promised to move forward with long-delayed elections, signing a deal with representatives of political parties.

But the elections never came. Henry now saying elections will be held when the unrest and violence finally subside. Protesters are calling for him to step down. And amid desperation, some Haitians are rallying around a polarizing figure, Guy Philippe.

GUY PHILIPPE, FORMER HAITIAN REBEL LEADER: We have a government here in Haiti that has no legitimacy. No one loves them. This government, everyone knows, is helping gangs.


Killing innocent people, kidnapping and serving imperialism interests.

SIDNER (voice-over): The current Haitian government denies these allegations. Philippe brings a complicated history with him.

In Haiti, the self-proclaimed former police chief rose to prominence after leading a coup that resulted in the ousting of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, followed by an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2007.

He was only recently repatriated to Haiti after serving six years in a U.S. federal prison after taking a plea deal, admitting to taking bribes from drug smugglers. Today, Philippe's words still galvanize a public frustrated by unabated gang violence, corruption and economic despair.

For more than a decade, Haiti has suffered through an unrelenting wave of humanitarian crises. A catastrophic earthquake, where more than 200,000 people were believed killed, brought the island nation to its knees in 2010. Soon after, Haiti's misery only compounded as U.N. peacekeepers meant to bring stability, transmitted cholera, leading to a large-scale outbreak that killed more than 10,000 people.

In the following years, Haiti was continually rocked by political instability. The situation finally reaching a fever pitch with the assassination of President Moise in 2021. Several people have been arrested and are in custody for their alleged roles in the murder.

Warring gangs asserted their control over much of Port-au-Prince, disrupting the supply chain of basic necessities and displacing scores of civilians. Kidnappings and shootouts on the streets have become routine hazards of life.

Gang violence has even stretched into the rural reaches of the island, the U.N. says. In 2023, the U.N. documented over 8400 direct victims of gang violence, up 122 percent from 2022.

MARIA ISABEL SALVADOR, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HAITI: I cannot overstress the severity of the situation in Haiti where multiple protracted crises have reached a critical point.

SIDNER (voice-over): The gangs operate with impunity as political deadlock renders the government toothless and the National Police Force struggles for control.

JEAN VICTOR GENEUS, HAITIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): The Haitian people can't take it anymore. I hope that this is the last time I speak before you, before the deployment of a multi-national security support force. The Haitian people has had enough of the armed gangs' savagery.

SIDNER (voice-over): But international efforts to restore security have also faltered. For now, demonstrations led by Philippe continue to gain traction. The protests fueled by despair over the state of their lives in a state barely able to function -- Sara Sidner, CNN, New York.


COREN: Still ahead tractors, rumble past the Roman Colosseum as Italian farmers join the fight against the E.U.'s agricultural restrictions. We will have the story coming up.




COREN: At least seven people are dead, including three children, after a Russian drone attack on Ukraine's second largest city. Well, that's according to Ukrainian officials who say the attack in Kharkiv also caused large fires Friday night; 15 residential buildings reportedly burned to the ground, forcing dozens of people to evacuate.


COREN (voice-over): Well, this is the scene in hundreds of regions across Poland this weekend. Farmers are clogging roads to drive home the point that their way of life is being squeezed by E.U. regulations and competition from Ukraine.


COREN: But Poland is only part of the story. Farmers across Europe are angry. And as Michael Holmes reports, they say they won't rest until their demands are met.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Truckers roll past some of Rome's famed sites but these farmers aren't here for the scenery. It's a protest by Italian farmers, who say they're overregulated and going broke because of high energy costs and cheap imports from non-E.U. countries.


And they want to know what the government is going to do to help them. This protest deliberately kept low key

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It did not want to disturb the Roman citizen because there is a connection between us and the citizen, who is also a consumer, the one who consumes our products. Basically, we didn't want to create discomfort or make strong demonstrations.

HOLMES (voice-over): But it's a rowdy scene in Poland, where farmers blocked roads and clubbed the borders with Ukraine. The farmers say they are losing money competing with Ukrainian exports, which aren't subject to strict E.U. regulations.

Many of Ukraine's agricultural goods across Europe avoid import duties amid the Russian invasion. Their complaints heard at least by Poland's agriculture minister, who says there could be import bans for more products in the future, something Polish farmers say is only fair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We expect inspections of products entering the country. We, as agricultural producers and fruit growers, must meet many directives imposed on us. If goods enter from outside the E.U., they should also meet these requirements. There are no such controls.

HOLMES (voice-over): Hungarian farmers joining the protest movement also upset over cheap Ukrainian goods.

Spanish farmers shut down roads across the country yet again, blocking a major highway near Madrid and stranding hundreds of vehicles there.

Meanwhile farmers in Pamplona rallied outside a government building to put pressure on the government to cut down on the red tape that they say is eating away at their profits. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): In the future we're seeing

ahead, the young people will not join this sector. They just don't join because it's not profitable. Things are not OK under my point of view.

HOLMES (voice-over): The E.U. made a concession to farmers earlier in the week by scrapping a plan for a targeted 50 percent cut in the overall use of pesticides by the next decade, something agriculture groups say would have gutted their businesses.

But with little letup in the protests sweeping Europe and more farmers taking to the streets, there will likely need to be more concessions to come before these tractors go back to the fields -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


COREN: Well, still ahead, pop superstar Taylor Swift is beginning a whirlwind 48 hours, starting with the final show of her Eras tour in Tokyo before jetting off to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl. A live report from outside the concert next.




COREN: Welcome back.

Well, Taylor Swift is set to take the stage in Tokyo in about 30 minutes' time. It's part of a whirlwind weekend that sees her go from performing to a packed crowd in Japan to flying on a trans-Pacific flight, private jet, I think, and finally arriving in Las Vegas to watch her NFL boyfriend in the Super Bowl.

CNN's Hanako Montgomery is there in Tokyo, live for us.

Set the scene for us. Culturally, we know the Japanese are quite reserved. Has mania, Taylor-mania hit?

HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anna, absolutely, it for sure has. I mean, we were here on Wednesday night when Taylor Swift first kicked off the Asia leg of her Eras tour.


And let me tell you tonight, we are seeing far more football jerseys. And I don't think that's a coincidence. Of course, many of the Swifties here are very excited to see their favorite pop star up on that stage, dancing and singing.

But also many fans are wondering whether she's going to make it back in time for Super Bowl Sunday to cheer on her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, who, of course, plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Now some Swifties we spoke to earlier are convinced that she will make it back in time for kickoff.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 100 percent. And the Chiefs to win.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) they're going to win.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need a whole like on the field trophy and breaks.






MONTGOMERY: And now they say they are the work -- they're watching the football now because of Taylor Swift, Anna.

COREN: Yes. Hanako, this very public romance with Travis Kelce, explain to us the Taylor Swift effect on the Super Bowl.

MONTGOMERY: Yes, of course. I mean, we know that Taylor Swift, who has been to 12 football games this past season, has been credited with boosting NFL viewership to record ratings because more of her fans are now watching.

But it's not just about the audience that she commands. It's also the fact that she's getting more women to watch. Overall, female viewership for the 2023 regular season was up 9 percent, compared to last year.

A game back in October saw viewership among teenage girls go up 53 percent and even the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, had to tip his hat to the Taylor Swift effect because now, he said, more young people and more women were watching the game -- Anna.

COREN: And what about you?

You're watching it? You'll be watching?

MONTGOMERY: Absolutely, I mean, I have to, right, I mean, Taylor Swift, footballs, especially the Super Bowl. I mean, these are just the best of both worlds combined. This is a pop culture phenomenon. I don't think I can miss it. I hope you're also going to tune in as well, Anna. COREN: If we're not working, exactly. Hanako Montgomery, good to see

you. Thank you for joining us.

Well, a noted climate scientist is celebrating a legal victory in a defamation lawsuit that he filed more than a decade ago. Michael Mann sued two conservative writers back in 2012.

They used their blog posts to ridicule Mann's scientific research that warned about rising global temperatures


MICHAEL MANN, CLIMATE SCIENTIST: Open debate is a good thing in our public discourse, in our scientific discourse. But it is not OK to make false accusations and defamatory accusations against scientists as part of an ideologically driven agenda to discredit science that might be inconvenient to your political views.

And hopefully that will create some space where scientists feel a little bit more -- that they're more comfortable in leaving the laboratory and communicating their findings to the public.


COREN: Michael Mann, there.

Thanks for your company. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong, "DESTINATION QATAR" is next.