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CNN International: One Killed, Several Wounded in Shooting in West Bank; Negotiators Working to Reach Hostage Deal Before Ramadan; CNN Investigation: Israeli Forces Fired on U.N. Food Convoy; U.K. Hits Russian Penal Colony Officials with Sanctions for Navalny's Death; Woman Accused of Treason for Supporting Ukraine; Navalny's Widow Vows to Continue Husband's Cause. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be a robust sanctions package. We are always looking at additional ways that we can choke off the Russian war machine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: CNN can exclusively reveal that this truck carrying vital food headed for northern Gaza was hit on February 5th by an Israeli shell despite an agreement to provide a safe route.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what I will serve my country until the victory.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world and everyone streaming us on CNN Max as well. I'm Max Foster, Bianca is off for today but we will get to those stories in a moment.

We want to begin with breaking news out of the occupied West Bank where at least one person is dead and several others wounded after a shooting on a highway. Israeli authorities say three people shot at vehicles that were standing in traffic. Nic Robertson has details from the scene of the shooting in the West Bank.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This is the vehicle the police say the attackers arrived in. There were three of them. The traffic was all stopped in a traffic jam as people were coming up this main highway here into Jerusalem early in the morning.

Three people, three attackers got out of this vehicle according to the police. They dispersed into the traffic and started shooting. And if we come up here you can just see one of the vehicles that was shot at loaded up here being ready to be taken away.

The rear windscreen shot out. There are bullet casings on the floor over here. From where I'm standing you can see blood on the ground where some of the victims were injured.

This main highway would have been really busy in the early hours of the day when the attack took place. At least one person killed so far according to medical authorities. Another woman seriously injured as far as we know in the early part of the day.

Five people total shot according to medical officials. And they say other people in a state of shock. Somebody else got heavy bruising as they were trying to escape the scene.

But what makes this particular attack different from some of the recent shootings we've seen is that there were three attackers arriving together and then assaulting people as they were stuck stationary in their vehicles trying to get to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv beyond to go to work.

Nic Robertson, CNN, in the occupied West Bank.


FOSTER: As the airstrikes and fighting continues, there's growing fears of starvation in northern Gaza. The Palestine Red Crescent Society says children and the elderly are dying because they don't get enough food. Some families only get one meal the whole week. The World Food Program is halting aid delivery to the area due to safety concerns for its staff.

The Hamas-run Ministry of Health says Israeli attacks killed at least 118 people in the past day. An airstrike allegedly hit this home in Rafah, killing a doctor and his family. The U.K. and Jordan airdropped four tons of life-saving aid to a hospital in northern Gaza. The packages of food, medicine and fuel were sent with trackers to ensure it reached the hospital's safety safely.

Meanwhile, the CIA chief is expected to travel to Paris on Friday to continue negotiations with the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Bill Burns is expected to meet with officials from Israel, Egypt and Qatar.

He's already made multiple trips to Europe and the Middle East as the lead U.S. broker in those hostage talks. The Biden administration are working to secure a deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, which is next month. Israel has threatened to launch a ground offensive into Rafah in southern Gaza at the beginning of Ramadan if the hostages aren't released.

Elliott's been trying to track all of this, because obviously these are very confidential negotiations, but what do you imagine the sticking points are?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: We know that Israel doesn't want to release all of the thousands of Hamas, of excuse me, Palestinian prisoners that Hamas has demanded. It also doesn't want a complete cessation of hostilities, and it doesn't want to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.


And those were all some of the demands that Hamas was making in its counter proposal in response to the last time that Bill Burns and his counterparts in Israel, Egypt and the Qataris were in Paris to develop this so-called framework for a hostage deal.

So the hope now, and we heard this from Benny Gantz, member of the war cabinet, just yesterday, saying that there were early signs that perhaps progress may be being made towards another hostage deal. And so I think if minds were not concentrated before this meeting, prospect of an Israeli ground operation in Rafah, then they certainly are now. The U.S. trying to forestall such an operation.

Benny Gantz again saying that if those hostages are not released, then Israel simply will not stop fighting, that this will continue. And that includes this ground operation in Rafah, which Israel has described as the final bastion of Hamas.

FOSTER: I mean, some aid getting through, but it's having to be airdropped, isn't it now? It's so desperate. What do you understand the humanitarian situation to be in Gaza?

GOTKINE: Well, the humanitarian situation we know is desperate. That airdrop we're talking about was from the Jordanian Air Force delivering British aid to a hospital in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The problem right now seems to be more a question of distribution than actually the quantity of aid there.

The World Food Programme, as you were just saying a moment ago, has suspended deliveries because of the breakdown of law and order. So a lot of trucks, a lot of aid deliveries are being now looted. They're being fired upon.

And as a result of that, there's been a suspension of this aid. And Israel, one of the government spokesmen for Israel, Eylon Levy, tweeting out that there are hundreds of trucks inside the Gaza Strip already on the other side of the Kerem Shalom crossing. And it's not a question of Israel not allowing the aid in. It's a question of the aid being distributed.

FOSTER: I think all the aid agencies would argue not enough aid has got in.

GOTKINE: That is what they're arguing. And Israel is saying that there is enough aid in there. It's just a question of distribution. And certainly what is happening because of this breakdown in law and order and the World Food Programme, among others, suspending its deliveries, is that we're just seeing a trickle of that aid getting to where it needs to get to. Much more needs to get in.

And the hope is that if there is a hostage deal, that that will enable a surge in humanitarian aid to prevent the starvation and other issues that are affecting all of those desperate people in Gaza. FOSTER: On the ground, some aid convoys appear to have been attacked

amid the fighting. As Elliott was suggesting, a CNN investigation found Israeli forces fired on a U.N. truck carrying food as it sat stationary at an IDF checkpoint. Katie Polglase has our exclusive report.


KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER (voice-over): This is how desperate the people in northern Gaza are.

This aid truck filmed at the end of January is one of the last to enter the region. And here's why. Aid so often caught in the fighting.

POLGLASE: Now CNN can exclusively reveal that this truck carrying vital food headed for northern Gaza was hit on February 5th by an Israeli shell, despite an agreement to provide a safe route. CNN has seen the internal U.N. incident report and the correspondence between the U.N. and the Israeli military that show the route of this convoy was agreed upon in advance.

POLGLASE (voice-over): And with starvation imminent for many across Gaza, experts say hitting a food truck is a potential war crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looking at it with the available facts, it's really difficult to see how this could be a legal attack. And so at minimum, it would look like a very serious violation of international humanitarian law. Whether it's also criminal then depends on questions of intent.

POLGLASE (voice-over): The truck set off as part of a U.N.-marked convoy of 10 up Al Rashid Road in the early hours. It reached an IDF holding point at 4.15 a.m. Stationary for over an hour, it was then hit at 5:35 a.m. Fortunately, no one on board was killed. The U.N. says they were hit by Israeli naval gunfire.

And in satellite imagery taken just two hours after the attack, CNN identified ships that could only be Israeli naval boats. They've been deployed along the coast and are attacking Gaza from the west.

JULIETTE TOUMA, UNRWA: We share with the Israeli army the coordinates of the convoy. And only when the Israeli army gives us the OK, the green light, does UNRWA move. And the purpose of this deconfliction process is to make sure that aid convoys don't get hit.

POLGLASE (voice-over): It's not the first time this has happened. Many other aid trucks have been hit since the beginning of this conflict. The U.N. says northern Gaza is still home to reported 300,000 civilians. UNRWA says half of its mission requests to the north have been denied since January. And since this latest attack, they have taken the painful decision to stop trying to deliver aid to the north at all.

The IDF says it's helping to coordinate humanitarian relief in Gaza. But aid agencies say they face repeated delays, while some staff are detained and even tortured. [04:10:00]

A U.N. mission in December described one aid worker who said he was stripped, beaten and blindfolded.

Even when convoys are allowed through, some routes are simply not passable. This large crater blocking Al Rashid Road just weeks before it was designated by the IDF as the main route permitted for humanitarian vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Such large percentages of the population are at such dire need, at such immediate risk of starvation. From that perspective, it's really hard for me to understand what kind of potential military rationale could be advanced to justify actions like this.

POLGLASE (voice-over): As the humanitarian crisis deepens, the question is whether Israel will be held accountable in a court of law for depriving so many in Gaza of aid.

POLGLASE: Well, CNN did reach out to the IDF for comment on this piece multiple times and they are yet to respond. They did respond on the day of the incident, February 5th, saying they were looking into it. But this forms part of a concerning theme.

Just on Tuesday, the World Food Programme said they were also pausing missions to the north because one of their convoys came under fire in Gaza City. And with the International Court of Justice saying that Israel must take immediate measures to provide humanitarian assistance in Gaza, it really calls into question whether they are adhering to this.

Katie Polglase, CNN, London.


FOSTER: As the deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas continues, so too does a dire humanitarian crisis. CNN has gathered a list of vetted organizations that are on the ground responding. You can find details on how you can help at a special section of our website. Please go to

In the coming hours, the International Court of Justice will continue with hearings on the legal consequences of Israel's policies and practices in Palestinian territories. On day three of the hearings, the U.S. said the World Court should not order the unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories. More than 50 countries are voicing arguments.

The UAE's envoy to the U.N. argued Israel's presence is, quote, illegal and cannot remain without consequence. But the U.S. said the October 7th attacks served as a reminder that Israel's security must be guaranteed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD VISEK, ACTING LEGAL ADVISER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: Any movement towards Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza requires consideration of Israel's very real security needs.

Regrettably, those needs have been ignored by many of the participants in asserting how the court should consider the questions before it.


FOSTER: Israel is not participating in the hearings. The U.N. General Assembly asked the World Court back in 2022 to issue a non-binding opinion on the issue, but no decision is expected for months on that.

Still ahead, new sanctions for officials at the Russian penal colony where Alexei Navalny died. We'll hear from the British prime minister.

Plus, a dual U.S.-Russian citizen facing treason charges over her donation to a Ukrainian charity.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from London.



FOSTER: Russia is trying to keep up the momentum in eastern Ukraine after its capture of the town of Avdiivka. CNN Geo located this footage yesterday showing Russian troops hoisting a flag in a village about 30 kilometers to the south. Russian military bloggers claim Ukrainian troops have pulled out of there.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin along with his top general have handed out medals to the soldiers who fought in Avdiivka.

But Ukraine says it's still holding on to the areas recaptured last year which are also under military pressure. That includes this area in southern Ukraine which Russia has been trying to overrun for weeks.

Kyiv is also denying Russia's claim that it made gains against Ukraine's bridgehead on the left of the Dnipro River.

Meanwhile the international fallout over the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is growing. It's been six days since he died suddenly of a penal colony in Siberia after a brief walk according to the Russian prison service.

Now the U.K. is slapping sanctions on six individuals from that prison banning them from traveling to the U.K. and freezing their assets. Here's what Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had to say about Navalny.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: He died for a cause to which he dedicated his whole life, freedom and to return home knowing that Putin had already tried to have him killed. That's one of the most courageous acts of our time. Together with our allies we are considering all options to hold Russia

and Putin to account.


FOSTER: Later this week the U.S. will unveil its own sanctions against Russia intended to hold Vladimir Putin accountable for his invasion of Ukraine and the death of Navalny.


MATTHEW MILLER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It will be a robust sanctions package. We are always looking at additional ways that we can choke off the Russian war machine, that we can deny the Russian military industrial complex components that it needs to use to fund its war effort. As well as to hold accountable those involved in it.


FOSTER: Russia is adding insult to injury for people mourning Navalny's death. An independent human rights group reports some men detained at vigils in St. Petersburg were handed military draft summonses.

We're learning new details about the dual U.S.-Russian citizen detained in Russia on treason charges. Russia's federal security services accuse Ksenia Karelina of collecting money to buy medicine, equipment, weapons and ammunition for Ukraine.

Her employer in Los Angeles says she donated $51 to a Ukrainian charity in the U.S.. Karelina posted a picture on social media after she received her U.S. citizenship in 2021. But her boyfriend says she was not a political person who only went to Russia to visit relatives.

CNN has a team of reporters covering all the developments for you including CNN's Clare Sebastian who joins me live here in London. Just tell us a bit more about her so we understand her journey and you know what her motivations might have been for this donation.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I mean the impression that you get from hearing her boyfriend who spoke to CNN last night and you know from her social media presence is that this was entirely unexpected. She was not a political person, she was not an activist, her boyfriend said she never even watched the news, she was an esthetician, a semi-professional ballerina who lived in Los Angeles and as you showed just there got her U.S. citizenship in 2021.

So how this unfolded, her boyfriend says they both traveled to Istanbul to celebrate the new year there. After that he had bought her a ticket to go back to Russia to Yekaterinburg where she's from to see her family. She hadn't seen them in a long time, she was feeling homesick. He obviously feels quite bad about buying that that ticket now. But she went back and she was detained straight away at the airport. This suggests that there's a lot of scrutiny on anyone coming into the

country with a U.S. passport. She was then released though he says and but they did keep her phone. Now he then spoke to her two days before she was supposed to fly back to the U.S. and he talked to Brianna Keeler about that call.


CHRIS VAN HEERDEN, KSENIA KARELINA'S BOYFRIEND: She said babe, it's -- it's -- it's all good. I spoke to them and they said I can come and get my phone and it's all good. And I remember the last hour before all of this happened she was so excited and relieved that nothing is wrong and she can go home. And it was it was a Friday morning in Russia which means it was Thursday night here. I went to bed and I woke up the next morning and I never heard back from her.


SEBASTIAN: So right now the situation is that she has been accused of really serious charges of treason. We don't -- it's not entirely clear what it's based on.


As you said the her employer in the states said that she donated $51 to Ukrainian charity. Russia's FSB is accusing her of essentially funding Ukrainian organizations that then use that money for the war.

The state department as of now says it has not been granted consular access to her and of course as we know, Max, anyone carrying a U.S. passport in a Russian jail in this situation where Russia's overarching foreign policy is confrontation with the U.S. is currency.

FOSTER: On the battlefield clear that the momentum is well behind the Russians right now.

SEBASTIAN: This is this is where we're at right now. I mean Russia obviously took out Avdiivka about a week ago. They've managed to push a little further.

We have footage that was geolocated on Wednesday as you showed showing a village just west of another hotspot on the front line Marinka. They're pushing up in the north around Kupiansk down in the south around the areas, the very few sort of string of villages that Ukraine was able to take in this counteroffensive.

Now Ukraine's resistance is fierce. They claim to be inflicting very heavy losses on Russia and they are denying some of the Russian gains that are being claimed. They're also we know digging extensive fortifications.

Because frankly, Max, that's really all they have left in the absence of more Western weapons supplies. They have to dig in. They have to hold on to the gains that they have. They just do not have the capacity right now to counterattack and Russia is taking advantage of that. FOSTER: OK, Clare, thank you so much.

Navalny's widow Yulia Navalnaya is vowing to continue her late husband's work and oppose Vladimir Putin's rule in Russia. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has this profile of an emerging political leader faced with a daunting task.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Using her late husband's catchphrase a grieving Yulia Navalnaya has picked up the mantle of Alexei Navalny.

JULIA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEI NAVALNY'S WIDOW (through translator): I should not have recorded this video. There should be another person in my place.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): These the last images showing Navalny alive smiling the day before his sudden death in an Arctic penal colony which Russia says it's still investigating.

NAVALNAYA (through translator): Putin killed half of me half of my heart and half of my soul. But the other half of me remains. And it tells me that I don't have the right to surrender.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Navalnaya for years avoided the political limelight. But a glimpse of her strong character shown through as Alexei was poisoned in Russia in August 2020. As she stared down the men keeping her away from her ailing husband in hospital.

NAVALNAYA (through translator): We demand the immediate release of Alexei Navalny. Because right now in this hospital there are more police and government agents than doctors.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Odessa Rae spent months working on a CNN documentary about that poisoning and grew close to the family.

ODESSA RAE, DOCUMENTARY PRODUCER AND FAMILY FRIEND: She was very strong from the minute I met her and she had the capacity to handle different situations with a lot of poise and strength.

She just holds herself and holds that same belief for the future of Russia.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Yulia remained an anchor of support for Alexei never leaving his side as he recovered in a hospital in Germany. Even returning to Russia with him despite the dangers. A final kiss as he was taken into custody at the airport.

RAE: She's just one of the strongest women I have ever known. You know, to watch what she's gone through and to see her strength. It's an inspiration to everyone. I mean, I don't know many people like Yulia and Alexei.

But since Alexei's death it's only Yulia and she's made clear she will continue his work challenging Vladimir Putin's iron fist rule over Russia.

NAVALNAYA (through translator): I thought long and hard if I should come up here or go and be with my children. I thought what would Alexei have done in my place and I'm sure that he would have been standing here on this stage.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Fred Pleitgen, CNN Berlin.


FOSTER: Donald Trump is facing criticism for comparing his legal problems in the U.S. to Alexei Navalny's persecution in Russia. Here's what he told a Fox News town hall in South Carolina on Tuesday.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's happening in our country too.

We are turning into a communist country in many ways and if you look at it I'm the leading candidate. I never heard of being indicted before. I got indicted four times. I have eight or nine trials.


It is a form of Navalny. It is a form of communism or fascism.


FOSTER: We could spend the rest of the hour -- you can spend the rest of the hour detailing all the differences between Trump and Navalny, of course. But for now we'll just point out that Trump is not condemning Russia or Vladimir Putin for Navalny's death. He also refused to join other world leaders in condemning Navalny's poisoning in 2020.

Now U.S. President Joe Biden had some choice words for Vladimir Putin on Wednesday while attending a fundraiser in San Francisco. Mr. Biden called the Russian president a crazy SOB while talking about threats facing the world today.

In response the Kremlin called the remarks shameful and a huge disgrace on the United States. The president also criticized Donald Trump who recently compared his own legal troubles to the death of Alexei Navalny.

Mr. Biden told reporters in part, quote, he's comparing himself to Navalny and saying that because our country's become a communist country he was persecuted just like Navalny was persecuted. If I stood here 10 to 15 years ago and said all of this you'd all think I should be committed.

Now the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is now waiting on a ruling from a high court in London on his right to appeal his extradition to the U.S. On the second and last day of hearings Assange's wife and dozens of supporters gathered outside the courthouse.

CNN's Melissa Bell has more on that story.


MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The end of two days of hearings in to Julian Assange's last-ditch attempt to get the chance to appeal his extradition to the United States. Two days of hearings that ended for now without a decision. The judges have reserved their judgment giving no time frame as to when it might come.

Essentially, Julian Assange's lawyers are arguing that he should be given leave to appeal a decision that had been made back in 2021, reconfirmed in 2022, stamped by the Home Secretary at the time, that he should be extradited to the United States. The U.S. of course seeing him on espionage charges relating to the release on Wikileaks of which he was the founder of classified military documents back in 2010-2011 that the United States argues had led to the lives of people being endangered.

Now the U.S. government's council argued that in fact Julian Assange had gone beyond ordinary journalistic practice. These documents had not had not had any redacted names. His lawyers, Julian Assange has argued on the contrary that his extradition would set a difficult precedent for journalism and freedom of speech generally.

The arguments went on for a couple of days. For now we don't know what the outcome will be. We wait to hear when the judge's decision will come.

Either his request for the possibility to appeal his extradition will be accepted which will mean that the legal proceedings will continue in the United Kingdom or they will be refused. In which case the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States will start and he could be in the U.S. within a matter of weeks.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


FOSTER: Ukrainians pledged to keep fighting despite recent military setbacks, Still ahead, we talked to soldiers who suffered heavy battlefield injuries but still want to go back to the front line.

Plus, rising tensions between China and Taiwan. We're live in Beijing with the latest on that.