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CNN International: Ukraine Forces Retreat From Lastochkyne, Near Donetsk; Zelenskyy: Russia Could Attempt New Offensive In Spring; Palestinian Authority Prime Minister And Government Resign. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 08:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello everyone, and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Amara Walker. This is CNN Newsroom.

Just ahead, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sits down with CNN and issues a stark warning about what happens if new U.S. aid for Ukraine does not come through. Plus, details are emerging about a potential prisoner swap involving Alexei Navalny. One of his aides says an exchange was on the table right before his death. We are live in Moscow for the latest. And hitting the trail hard, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley faces a grueling schedule and tough odds ahead of Super Tuesday.

And we begin in Ukraine where there are new signs Kyiv is losing ground on the battlefield, both sides, the Ukrainian forces have retreated from a village northwest of Avdiivka, the eastern town that Moscow captured more than a week ago. Now, Kyiv says the move will help it stop Russian forces advancing westwards. Meanwhile, local officials say at least four people were killed in Russian strikes over the past few days, two of them in the north eastern region of Sumy. It comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the second anniversary of Russia's invasion by sitting down with CNN's Kaitlan Collins and stressing the importance of U.S. aid.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: So, you see the difference that U.S. aid makes, is what you're saying.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Yes. It means that that this year, if we don't get anything, we will not have any success. And also, I --

COLLINS: You won't have any success?

ZELENSKYY: Any new success. And I think the route will be closed with Ukraine, because to defend it, it's also about some ammunition, some air defense and some other systems. And that's why without it, and without it, we can't count on this.

COLLINS: That's a really stark comment. You're basically saying that there will be no new success for Ukraine if there is no new U.S. aid. Essentially, this all depends on U.S. aid.

ZELENSKYY: Steps, success, forward will depends on U.S. aid. Yes. Not defending, not only defending, because if you defend, just defend, you give possibility to Russia push you, yes, small steps back, but anyway, you -- we will have this steps back, small one, but when you step back, you lose people. We will lose people.


WALKER: All right. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is joining me now live from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. I mean, a stark warning there from President Zelenskyy. You've been covering the war since the very beginning, more than two years ago. What are your thoughts on what he had to say - what Zelenskyy had to say? And what's the outlook for Ukraine if they don't get further aid, $60 billion from the United States?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTL. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Ultimately, Zelenskyy has for the last month been trying to tread this very difficult path between not immediately expressing to Ukrainian troops and the population here that they don't get that aid they've done for because it's very possible they won't, and they'll have to rely on meager European contributions to get them through. But, at the same time too, sounding the alarm to Western allies about how urgently this all is. Now, I think in that interview, he certainly made that point, suggesting that in the gap between what Ukraine wants to be able to do and what it will be able to do if it doesn't get the aid, that many more millions of lives will be lost.

But, I think it's also important to point out, we are today seeing the slight possibility of what Russian momentum on the battlefield looks like. The key thing he said to Kaitlan there is, without that ammunition, we also can't defend. And we've seen that on the front lines too. Without the ability to use artillery to pound Russian positions on the offensive, by definition, Ukraine finds itself way more vulnerable than it would have done months ago. And around Avdiivka, a town we talked about over the past 10 days, Ukraine announced the withdrawal of its forces from there after a months-long bloody battle two Saturdays ago.

Well, we're seeing today recognition from Ukraine that it has pulled out of a small village, a tiny thing, you probably wouldn't notice it if you drove through it, frankly, Lastochkyne, three miles to the northwest of Avdiivka. Ukraine have pulled out of that. Now, they have packaged this as essentially a strategic decision again, like Avdiivka, to pull back to more easily defendable positions. But, ultimately, this is Russian pressure continuing and yielding results.

Now, when Avdiivka fell, Ukraine said the Russians have got forces there. They can continue to pressure. The Russian said, we've got enough momentum. We're going to keep moving forwards, and that has now been realized in Lastochkyne and that is indeed also leading to suggestions from some pro-Russian sources that actually they're able to pressure the next villages along as well.

[08:05:00] Now, many Western analysts think that Russians simply haven't got the juice for any kind of breakthrough. But, the slow relenting attrition we're seeing are multiple positions along the front line, it's not just Avdiivka. They've been trying south of where I am, near Robotyne, one of the key successes of the southern counteroffensive, again, a tiny village, frankly. They've been trying to push there too. They're trying around Kharkiv. They're trying around Bakhmut. A lot of bids to yield some kind of momentum. And this is happening just when Zelenskyy is having to give this lengthy appeal for aid.

It's a position, sadly, of weakness for Ukraine because of failure by the West to do what they promised they were going to do. And it is now translating into territorial changes, and starkly, as he said, the likelihood of many, many Ukrainian lives being lost, because Russia will now feel significantly more resurgent.

WALKER: Yeah. And Putin has had quite a number of victories in just the last few weeks with the death of Alexei Navalny, the fact that the U.S. aid remains stalled in Congress, and of course, the loss of Avdiivka. What do these conversations amongst average Ukrainians sound like? I mean, what did they tell you about morale and what they're feeling these days?

WALSH: Yeah. I mean, you never really think to talk to a Ukrainian soldier who sort of have a grasp of congressional maths. I'm not saying that's universal. But, in my new shy of a rump of extremists, Republicans holding up an aid package and not even allowing it, frankly, to come to a vote, that's not even something they can contemplate till the end of this week. That is something remarkably has become part of the Ukrainian consciousness here. They're having to work out quite how the U.S. is going to push that through.

And when we were here in December, seeing that initial strange behavior on the Hill, there were certainly an impact on morale. I remember one medic saying to me, without that, we're just done. I'm out of here. And that's translating now slowly into, I think, a recognition amongst Ukrainians that for the first time in two years things may not go the way they had hoped. There has been such a sense of resilience and resourcefulness. We're watching people make up for the lack of artillery shells by fashioning $500 drones with huge batteries and RPG shells zip tied to them, because they haven't had the artillery shells they using in the past.

And so, yeah. I think there is a real sense of gloom here amongst many Ukrainians, but they don't really have a choice but to fight on, Amara.

WALKER: They don't have a choice. But, their tenacity is remarkable. Nick Paton Walsh in Zaporizhzhia, thank you.

Now to a political shake-up in the Palestinian government, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister and his government have resigned. Mohammad Shtayyeh says the next stage and its challenges require new political arrangements. It's not clear when the resignation will take effect. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has not responded to the resignation. Now, this is happening as the Israeli military presents a plan for evacuating civilians from areas of fighting in Gaza. The proposal does not specifically mention the city of Rafah where Israel has been talking about a potential ground offensive. The UN Secretary General is once again sounding the alarm, warning that a ground attack on Russia will be "the final nail in the coffin" of the UN's aid operation in Gaza.

CNN' Nic Robertson is live in Tel Aviv with the very latest. Hi there, Nic. So, tell us more about the resignations that we're seeing in the government of the Palestinian Authority? What this all means?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think if you take this in the context of the pressure that the United States has been putting on the Palestinian Authority to reform, and those are the words used by Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he was here in January, has been back -- he was back in February as well, of course, but in January, he said that it was important for the Palestinian Authority to reform. When he was leaving after that trip, he said he'd got assurances from the Palestinian Authority they would reform.

This is part of, if you will, the necessary changes that would need to happen within the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian leadership writ large to realize the Palestinian vision of a two-state solution, which is the U.S. vision of a two-state solution, which is the vision of an off-ramp to the current tensions at the moment, and something that the United States believes it's got support for in the region if there is a viable path to a two-state solution, and independent Palestinian state.

So, you could read this as the first steps towards that. However, it's going to take big political change in Israel to realize that because the government here is opposed to it. And I don't think anyone is expecting massive change in the Palestinian Authority in the short term. What the Prime Minister talked about was a government of national unity.


Well, that's gets at this issue of having a body that can administer Gaza when eventually Israeli forces pull out, although we don't see the precise roadmap for that at the moment. And he also said that it would involve rather not so much focusing on parties, but competencies, technocrats. You could look at it that way. But, all of this is unclear. And it's talk at the moment. It's not substance. But, it is interesting that later this week, many different Palestinian groups and factions will be meeting in Moscow whereby they'll all be able to come together and hash out how they view it.

And I think it's worth noting, this week or two weeks ago, rather, I was speaking to a respected pollster in the -- who comments on the Palestinian Authority's popularity or lack of it in the West Bank. He is in the West Bank. And his data is used by the State Department as well. He said to me, look, right now, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has a disapproval rating of about 92 percent. The Palestinian Authority is not popular in the West Bank right now. These changes are, I think everyone there would agree necessary. WALKER: And Nic, we were just talking about the world bracing for a ground invasion into Rafah, which is really the last remaining area of refuge for civilians, more than 1.3, I believe, civilians in Gaza. I mean, what will this mean on the ground? What are the evacuation plans if there is even any place to evacuate to that's considered safe?

ROBERTSON: Yeah. I think when we heard from the UN Secretary General speaking in Geneva today, where he was talking about Rafah is, this is the main point, the core, I think you call that, of the humanitarian operations for the whole of Gaza because this is the easiest to access the two crossings, Kerem Shalom and the Rafah border crossing, very close to Rafah, 1.5 million people are estimated, Palestinians estimated to be there now. So, the bulk of the Gaza population is there. So, this is where the bulk of the distribution has been. So, if that goes into the situation that we've seen in Gaza City or in other parts of Gaza where the IDF goes in with a massive ground force, the idea that there can be distribution of food and water to people just goes out the window.

Now, this idea that the civilian population could be moved out of the way is something the Prime Minister here continues, Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to talk about it. He was saying just a few minutes ago that he got a briefing from his chiefs of staff inside their security cabinet last night. Now, he didn't go into detail. The IDF has not gone into detail. The only sense that we can have of what an evacuation plan looks like is what the IDF has done previously in Gaza, which is warn the civilian population in certain neighborhoods. You need to get out. You need to get out now. You need to take this route and go to this place.

But, what we've seen happen in that scenario, that version of an evacuation plan, civilians get killed in their homes, killed on the roads for the safe places, and killed in the safe places. It is not a failsafe everyone gets to be safe and live to the next day scenario. But, what's precisely planned this time, we haven't seen that yet.

WALKER: Yeah, and the proof is in the numbers with just the devastating civilian death toll continuing to rise. Nic Robertson, great to have you. Thank you very much.

And later this hour --


HAFETH ABDEL JABBAR, FATHER OF 17-YEAR-OLD TAWFIC ABDEL JABBAR: When do I see him again? What do I see my 17-years-old again?


WALKER: Anguish, struggling to get justice for his 17-year-old son killed in the occupied West Bank. Our Nic Robertson will bring us a story of a Palestinian-American family later this hour.

Well, we're getting new details about the possible circumstances surrounding Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic just days before his mysterious death. CNN has learned Alexei Navalny was close to being part of a prisoner swap. A close advisor to the Russian opposition leader announced they were in the final stages of negotiations the night before Navalny died, though CNN cannot independently verify the claim.

CNN' Matthew Chance joining me live now in Moscow. Tell us more.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Amara, hi. That's right. Well, it's been rumored for some time that Alexei Navalny, the late Russian opposition leader, was part of a negotiation to see him swapped as part of a broader deal that would have seen U.S. citizens in Russian jails, namely Evan Gershkovich, The Wall Street Journal reporter, and Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine, who are sort of incarcerated here, swapped for a Russian national. His name is Vadim Krasikov, and he is convicted of murder in in Germany and he is in a German prison.


Well, that's a prisoner swap deal that's been negotiated and talked about behind the scenes for some months now. And as I say, it was rumored that Alexei Navalny would have been part of that swap as well. Well, this is the first time that Alexei Navalny's team have come out publicly and said, yes, that is the case. There were negotiations underway for Alexei Navalny to be part of that swap that is being talked about between Russia, the United States, and Germany. What Navalny's team are also saying is they're saying this is the reason why Alexei Navalny died, because they say that the negotiations to finalize that swap had reached their final stage, the day before Alexei Navalny was declared dead in that Arctic penal colony in the far north of Russia.

Now, obviously, there has been a verification of that from the Kremlin. They've said allegations that they have anything to do with the Navalny's death are obnoxious and they've rejected it. And there has been no verification from either the U.S. or the Germans that Alexei Navalny was part of that negotiation. But, it does add another interesting claim and twist to the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the death of Alexei Navalny. There has been one slight other development as well, Navalny's team saying that the final farewell by which, we think they mean that funeral, is going to be taking place for Alexei Navalny at the end of this working week. They haven't given an exact day yet. But, that's going to be Friday or Thursday. Again, not clear yet.

But, whenever it is, if it is a public farewell, that could be a major flashpoint in terms of people coming out for anti-government, anti- Kremlin posts protests. Alexei Navalny, of course, was able to bring tens of thousands of people out onto the street when he was alive. His funeral may be another opportunity or another flashpoint, if you like, for anti-government protesters to come out and protest at what's happened.

WALKER: I'm just curious, Matthew, I mean, do you -- what do you make of the timing, though, of Navalny's death and hearing about these potential talks that there may or there were negotiations of this prisoner swap, the fact that Navalny could have potentially walked out alive out of that penal colony, and also a little bit more about Krasikov, this Russian national. I'd imagine he would have been quite a high-profile prisoner?

CHANCE: Well, look, in terms of the timing, I mean, it was unexpected. We saw Alexei Navalny in prison for many, many years. I think his sentences added up to about 30 years in prison. He was sent to a very harsh penal colony in the Arctic, north of Russia. And every time he appeared on camera, even though he seemed in good spirits, you could see him getting thinner. You could see him looking more pallid. And so, there were concerns consistently about his health.

And the circumstances of his death have not been fully explained. We understand from Navalny's team that Navalny's mother, Lyudmila, who has been at that penal colony and has seen his body and taken reception of it as well, signed his official birth certificates on which it said he died of natural causes. But, obviously, the suspicion amongst Kremlin critics and amongst supporters of Navalny is that that's not the case. And there was something else at play. But, there is no way for us at the moment to sort of investigate that without sort of an independent autopsy, which I think is not being given by the authorities.

In terms of the Russian citizen, Vadim Krasikov, who the Russians want back, I mean, they've made no secret about that. I mean, Vladimir Putin has himself spoken on several occasions about wanting this individual, Krasikov, back from German custody, where he was convicted of murder some years ago. He is sort of said to be sent -- said to have been sent by the Russians to carry out a hit against a Chechen dissident inside a park in Germany. He was convicted of that murder. And so, yes, this is the one individual who the Russians want more than anyone else to be returned as part of any possible prisoner swap, Amara.

WALKER: Matthew Chance, great to have you. Thank you so much.

Turning now to U.S politics where the primary calendar is heating up, and only a few days after Donald Trump won the South Carolina primary, voters in Michigan will head to the polls on Tuesday. Now, Trump's week also features a pair of important hearings in his criminal cases. His last remaining challenger for the Republican nomination, Nikki Haley, will be all over the country, both to visit states that vote in coming days and to raise money for her campaign. Yes, it is still going. There was however a setback for Haley over the weekend, quite a big one. One of her biggest fundraisers -- funders saying it would no longer support her financially after she lost the South Carolina primary.


CNN's Alayna Treene is tracking the race and the Republican Party. It's been a hugely busy week of fundraising and campaigning ahead. Tell us more about what this means in terms of some of her funders pulling out, because the money was still flowing up until the South Carolina primary, and she has been saying she will go all the way through Super Tuesday. ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: She has. And one of the key reasons, Amara, that Nikki Haley has been able to hang on through this primary is because she had continued to receive a lot of money from donors, particularly donors who still want an alternative to Donald Trump. But, as you mentioned, she did face a huge setback this weekend, the Koch network announced in an email to staff yesterday that they were going to be pulling their funding for Nikki Haley following her loss in South Carolina. And instead, they want to train their focus on races essentially that they believe are more winnable, which is House -- excuse me, House and Senate races.

So, that will be a question. Can she financially continue on? Because that is, again, really the main reason she has been able to stay in this race so far, despite not winning in any of the early nominating contests. Now, when you listen to Haley, her big message moving forward is that she continues to want to give voters a choice regardless of how she has been performing. And she has also continued to remind voters that in a potential general election rematch against Joe Biden, the recent polls show that she would do better than Donald Trump at beating him. Take a listen to how she put it in Michigan yesterday.


NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The issue at hand is he is not going to get the 40 percent if he is going and calling out my supporters and saying they're barred permanently from MAGA. He is not going to get the 40 percent by calling them names. He is not going to get the 40 percent by trying to take over the RNC so that it pays all his legal fees.


TREENE: Now, Amara, she was talking about a general election there. Of course, she still has to get through a primary. And the math on the delegate side, at least in the primary, is definitely not with Nikki Haley. But, I will just quickly add that one thing that a lot of people are looking at is Donald Trump's trials. He is facing a series of trials this year, and there is a question of whether a potential conviction, if there is one, and if any of these even ultimately go to trial, could potentially change the dynamics of the race. And that's another reason why some people are encouraging her to say, barring any crazy mishap that Donald Trump has or if something happens to him, potentially, she could be the one to slide in and claim the nomination.

WALKER: Right. Yeah. I've heard that theory, and of course, it'll depend on how much money continues to flow into her campaign. Right?

TREENE: Right.

WALKER: Alayna Treene, great to see you. Thank you.

Still to come, Donald Trump wants the Supreme Court to pause one of his trials. So, what are his chances? We will take a look.


WALKER: And we want to show you some live pictures coming from Madrid where farmers are joining the ongoing protests across Europe.


There they are, a large group. The farmers object to cheap imports from outside the European Union. Similar protests are also being held in Brussels over EU regulations that they say hurt their bottom line, and they also say the EU has not done enough to meet their demands.

We could find out in the coming hours whether the Supreme Court will pause Donald Trump's election interference case. Now, Trump's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to step in and allow him to appeal a lower court's decision that said presidential immunity did not apply. Well, that opens him up to charges for actions that he took while he was President. No word yet if Trump's request will be included in the Supreme Court's orders for today, which will be released next hour.

Katelyn Polantz joining us now from Washington with the details. OK. So, what are we expected to hear from the court today, then?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Amara, it's always hard to predict what the Supreme Court will do and when they will do it. Today, they do have a plan to issue orders. We don't know what those will be until they're announced, and then they'll have oral arguments. So, the court is sitting today, and any day that they're in or actually any day really, there could be some sort of resolution in what's happening in Donald Trump's criminal case related to January 6 and the 2020 election.

On the table before the Supreme Court is this application where Donald Trump is wanting them to look at questions of presidential immunity. Essentially, he wants them to say he can't be tried. He can't be charged for the 2020 election actions, the conspiracy obstruction counts he is facing. He can't go to trial because he should be protected because it happened while he was the President. Now, we don't know much at all about what the Supreme Court is doing with this. They heard from him two weeks ago when he went to the Supreme Court, it put everything on hold in his case. And until we hear for the Supreme Court with some sort of resolution, we don't know if Donald Trump is going to be going to trial or not going to trial at all. Everything is on hold while this is in the hands of the Supreme Court.

So, silence, basically, for the last two weeks.

WALKER: Yeah. Bracing -- everyone is bracing to hear what the court will do. Obviously, very, very high stakes. Katelyn Polantz, it's great to see you. Thanks so much.

Coming up, the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen embryos are children. After the break, I'm going to speak with an IVF patient and a fertility specialist about the impact of that decision on families.

Also, as violence worsens in the West Bank, CNN talks to the father of a slain teenager about how he gets through each day.




WALKER: It has been nearly a week since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos created through -- in vitro fertilization -- excuse me, commonly known as IVF, are children under state law, allowing parents to sue a clinic for the wrongful death of their minor child if an embryo is destroyed. The ruling prompted three providers to pause IVF treatments citing concerns over their potential liability.

Now, the Alabama Supreme Court decision came after lawsuits by three couples who sued for damages after alleging their frozen embryos were dropped on the floor and then destroyed at one clinic. U.S. President Joe Biden called the ruling a direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And here is what Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley had to say.


HALEY: I personally believe an embryo is a baby. Not everybody is going to agree that an embryo is a baby. But, that's why parents need to be able to have the decision on how they're going to handle those embryos. And they need to know that they're going to be protected, that they're not just going to be discarded by accident or that someone is not properly taking care of them.


WALKER: Former President Donald Trump called on lawmakers to preserve access to IVF.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious little beautiful baby. I support it. The Republican Party should always be on the side of the miracle of life and the side of mothers and fathers and beautiful little babies. They have to be on that side.


WALKER: Many Republicans may say that they support IVF, but it's unclear, and they're not saying where they stand on this ruling in Alabama.

Joining me now from Alabama is Rebecca Matthews. She is an IVF patient in Montgomery. And Dr. Mamie McLean, she is a fertility specialist. She is joining me now live from Birmingham, and her fertility closed or suspended its services as a result. Welcome to you both, ladies.

Rebecca, I want to start with you, and I do want to read a portion of the opinion from the Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker in this ruling where he repeatedly invoked religion inside of the Bible, and a part of it reads, "We believe that each human, being from the moment of conception, is made in the image of God, created by Him to reflect His likeness. It is as if the People of Alabama took what was spoken of the prophet Jeremiah and applied it to every unborn person in this state: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Before you were born I sanctified you", Jeremiah 1:5.

I know you have children through IVF. You are also a Christian woman who leads Bible study for women struggling with infertility. And I just wonder, how do you reconcile, Rebecca, you as a Christian woman, and your journey to create life with science?

REBECCA MATTHEWS, IVF PATIENT: Yeah. I am a Christian. I did have to use IVF to have my two beautiful miracle children. At the end of the day, I believe that science is a gift from God. I believe that IVF is a gift from God. And I also believe that this is a decision that I need to make with my doctor, with my partner. And at the end of the day, the government doesn't need to step into that decision.

WALKER: Dr. McLean, what was your reaction when this ruling came down? Just your thoughts, because I know your clinic, Alabama Fertility, suspended IVF treatment because of the legal liability. But, what are your thoughts on the fact that this judge invoked so much religion, his Christianity into the ruling?

DR. MAMIE MCLEAN, REPRODUCTIVE ENDOCRINOLOGIST AND FERTILITY SPECIALIST, ALABAMA FERTILITY: Well, we were in utter disbelief when we read the ruling, when we found out about it. And ultimately, regardless of his religious beliefs, this is affecting women in our clinic. We believe that it is a fundamental American right to decide whether to become pregnant, when to become pregnant, and for you to be able to decide with your physician how best it is for you to become pregnant, regardless of your religious beliefs.

WALKER: Rebecca, I'm curious to know what your conversations have sounded like, because I would imagine you are in touch with other IVF patients or patients who may be considering IVF. What are they saying to you?

MATTHEWS: Yeah. I have both ends of that. People have been reaching out to me and they're heartbroken and they're scared and they feel backed into a corner the horrible thing about infertility and infertility treatment is that it takes time, and that's invaluable to an IVF patient.


And now, instead of having to wait on their body to respond to medicines and their hormone levels to get right, now they're having to wait on our government and on a group of people who are telling them, well, now your time is going to be even longer. And that's devastating for them to hear. And on top of that, now they're having their options be fewer and fewer. And it's just -- it's heartbreaking for them.

WALKER: Well, I can empathize because I went through IVF, and my children are a result of that. I have two beautiful children as a result. And I know that it takes years for some people. IVF is not always successful. And you're dealing with so many different kinds of medications that you're injecting into your body. And Dr. McLean, I wonder what this means for your patients who you had to tell, hey, we have to suspend treatment because we don't know what this means for us in terms of criminal liability. But, I would imagine that means some patients were in the middle of injecting themselves with all kinds of hormones, now just have to stop.

MCLEAN: The direct result of this ruling is fewer pregnancies and fewer babies. My patients who had their transfers canceled last week should be finding out that they are pregnant this week.


MCLEAN: So, we are already seeing fewer babies that will be born in Alabama.

WALKER: What were -- what went into this decision to suspend treatment? Because obviously, it must have been very difficult for you. I know the patient-doctor relationship, when it comes to fertility, is a very close and intimate one.

MCLEAN: The relationship is intense. These are strong bonds that we form with these families. This decision was made over the course of many days' time, after multiple meetings, between physicians across the state and then multiple lawyers, including a specialized reproductive lawyer. When the largest healthcare system in the state of Alabama with access to the best and brightest lawyers and malpractice told their clinic that it had to close because a legal risk was too great, that spoke volumes.

WALKER: What were the concerns in terms of criminal liability?

MCLEAN: So, if an embryo is a child, then what we do in the IVF lab is just simply not possible. Many, in fact, most embryos don't develop and grow into a healthy embryo. And then, ultimately, when a frozen embryo transfer is performed, there is always a risk that the embryo will not survive thaw. So, will we be liable for wrongful death in the instance of kind of normal situation in the IVF lab? That risk was simply too great to ask of our clinic and our embryologist?

WALKER: Yeah. That's a shame, and those are valid questions. And Rebecca, I know, I mean, you had a total of, what was it, 12 embryos that were implanted within you, but you only had two children, right? So, obviously, some of these embryos did not grow the way that you had hoped to. Tell me a little bit about that journey. And now you do have one embryo in the freezer and what you plan to do now that they are considered children.

MATTHEWS: Yeah. We worked with Dr. McLean specifically for quite a few years to grow our family, and ultimately we ended up putting a number of embryos into me, the majority of which ended in pregnancy, but sadly, would later turn into a chemical pregnancy or a miscarriage. Dr. McLean has been in the room with me to give me really horrible, sad news. And she knows that better than anyone how hard this can all be. So, now that we have one embryo left, we thought we had some time to make a decision about what our plan was for that embryo.

But now, it seems like our options are dwindling. It feels like we're being pushed into a corner a little bit. And ultimately, when the dust settles on everything that's happening, and hopefully these bills will be able to get pushed through and this won't be a problem anymore, but if they don't, my plan is to sit down with Dr. McLean in time and come up with our best plan.

WALKER: Until then, you'll have to keep them in the freezer, I'd imagine.

Dr. McLean, I do want to play some sound for you from the Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Texas, obviously, is a notoriously conservative state. I'm sure you'd know. He said he supports IVF, as a lot of Republicans are saying. They're not talking about this ruling, though. And he didn't call for a law to protect IVF treatment. Here he is.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The IVF process is a way of giving life to even more babies. And so, what I think the goal is, is to make sure that we can find a pathway to ensure that parents who otherwise may not have the opportunity to have a child will be able to have access to the IVF process and become parents and give life to babies.



WALKER: You also have the Attorney General of Alabama saying that they have no intention of prosecuting IVF families or providers. Does any of that give comfort to you? And what do you hope will happen next?

MCLEAN: So, we are so grateful that these Republican and Democratic lawmakers are pro-family. This is something that both of our sides can agree on. This is a human issue, not a political issue. But, ultimately, the only path forward to allow advanced fertility care in Alabama is for either the Supreme Court to revisit its ruling or for there to be a significant legislative solution.

WALKER: Dr. Mamie McLean and Rebecca Matthews, thank you very much, and I really appreciate you sharing your very personal story with us. We wish you all the best. Thank you.

MCLEAN: Thank you.

WALKER: All right. Just ahead, an anguished father is asking when he will ever see his 17-year-old son again, killed in the West Bank. CNN is there talking to the father who is now searching for answers.


WALKER: This just into CNN. A U.S. air man has died one day after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell was an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force. In a video of the incident obtained and reviewed by CNN, he gives his name and says "I will no longer be complicit in genocide", before self-immolating. The embassy says no staff members were injured.

Well, grief can be all too constant of a companion and we found that's true in the West Bank where violence has grown alarmingly. Our Nic Robertson met with the father of a slain Palestinian American teen Tawfic Abdel Jabbar. He was shot in the West Bank last month. And his father says the family is still struggling for answers.


JABBAR: So, this dirt road you see here --

ROBERTSON: The one down here?

JABBAR: Yeah, this is where Tawfic was shot at.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): An American father, Hafeth Abdel Jabbar, showing us his family land where he says his son was murdered by an Israeli settler in January.

JABBAR: He wasn't going to do anything at all, simply a barbecue, Friday prayer and come back home. And he is not a terrorist. He is an American-Palestinian kid full of life, wanted to do so much in his life.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): His son, Tawfic, was 17-years-old, studying towards his dream job, NASA engineer. The family left Louisiana last spring, returning temporarily to their roots in the occupied West Bank. They visited their ancestral hilltop village home most years.

ROBERTSON: All around the village, there are murals of Tawfic remembered, immortalized, and underneath it says "the smiling martyr".

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Tawfic's trauma increasingly common in the West bank.


ROBERTSON: And this is getting worse since October 7.

JABBAR: And it is getting worse since October 7, way worse.

ROBERTSON: They're turning it more like in to Gaza.

JABBAR: Exactly. They want to turn it to Gaza. You see the bullet?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): A month after Tawfic's death, Hafeth is struggling to get justice, the single shot that killed his son, an exploding bullet entering the back of his head clear, in the CT scan of his brain. Photos of the crime scene and an investigation by the Palestinian Authority document 10 shots. A video shows what Hafeth says is a soldier taking the final shot. An eye witness says a settler took the first shot. Israeli investigators say an off-duty police officer and an off-duty soldier will also present at the time of Tawfic's killing, but have yet to charge any of them. They say the investigation is ongoing.

JABBAR: That's the problem that I'm facing right now, that we all face in here, that when they do such a thing and they're not stopped and they're not questioned, it's OK for them to do it again and again and again, and that's what keeps happening here. This is not the first kid that got shot and killed in the same area.

SARI BASHI, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Since October 7, nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers. There are currently 9,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons and jails.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Sari Bashi is an Israeli human rights expert living in the West Bank, has been tracking Israeli security force tactics there for more than a decade. Hamas' brutal October 7 attack, she believes, became a watershed for unprecedented Israeli violence in the West Bank.

BASHI: We have seen things piloted in Gaza and later moved to the West Bank. In terms of the levels of violence, the airstrikes, the drone strikes in Gaza, are starting to become much more frequent in the West Bank.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And not just more aggressive and more frequent, but more audacious too, not to mention possibly illegal, according to UN experts, like this covert Israeli Special Forces up in a hospital that killed three militants believed to be planning an attack. The hospital says the man was sleeping when shot. IDF diggers gouging up West Bank streets, rendering them unusable, akin to Gaza's battle-torn thoroughfares also deepens fears the West Bank is worsening. The impact of Israel's actions, according to respected Palestinian pollster, Khalil Shikakai, is enabling groups like Hamas,

KHALIL SHIKAKAI, PALESTINIAN POLLSTER: The West Bank is becoming more militant today than Gaza was before the war or today.

ROBERTSON: Because of what the Israeli government is doing here.

SHIKAKAI: Because of what the Israeli government is doing, what the army is doing, and what the settlers are doing.

JABBAR: Why are we supporting such a regime like that?

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Hafeth is angry President Joe Biden isn't doing more to pressure Israel to rein in radical settler leaders like Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose party has called for the annexation of the West Bank. The Israeli government maintains its military operations, only target terror suspects, but settler violence has spiraled in recent months.

JABBAR: These officials on TV from the Israeli government is making these comments and passing some weapons from Ben-Gvir to these settlers, that's why they feel like they can do anything without being charged or without being stopped. ROBERTSON (voice-over): Impunity that is repping irreversibly through his family.

JABBAR: How can they forget their brother? Can they ever forget their brother? Can they ever forget who shot their brother? No. Well, I told my wife I want to have another Tawfic, and I want my older son to get married and have another Tawfic.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Across the square from his family home that predates Israel's creation by more than 70 years is the town cemetery --

JABBAR: Tawfic's.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): -- where Tawfic is buried, a feet from two of Hafeth's uncles whom he says were killed by settlers 36 years ago.

JABBAR: That's my message to them, to the Israeli government, we're not going nowhere. Even if you put all of us right here, generations will come and free this country from you guys.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Defiance, yes, but beneath it a father struggling.

JABBAR: When do I see him again? When do I see my 17-years-old again? When do I get to see him again? That's the minute that I -- right now write about. I don't think about money. I don't think about businesses anymore. I don't think about anything else other than, when do I see my son again?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Nic Robertson, CNN, the West Bank.



WALKER: Mexico City is facing a severe water crisis. Experts say the taps could run dry in many areas just months from now. The city of nearly 22 million people is struggling to cope after years of low rainfall blamed on climate change. It's also dealing with the impact of chaotic urban growth. One resident tells CNN, water shortages are not uncommon in his neighborhood. But, he says it feels different this time.

I want to bring in our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir. He is joining us now from New York. Bill, it's always great to see you.


WALKER: So, is it different this time? I mean, what's causing the crisis?

WEIR: Well, it's a lot of human activity over the centuries, and then, of course, a warmer planet making the water cycle much more unpredictable. When the Aztecs first developed what is now Mexico City, it was on an island in a chain of lakes. Then when the Spanish, the conquistadores came, they drained all that water. They saw it as the enemy. That mindset sort of persisted as Mexico City was built. Lots of concrete, lots of sprawl. So, when the water falls, it runs off and doesn't sink into the aquifer. About 60 percent of Mexico City's water comes from that aquifer, which has been overpumped so dramatically. The city is sinking at up to a foot and a half a year in some places there. The other portion of the water comes from outside the city is often pumped uphill, or 40 percent of that water leaks through leaky infrastructure as well.

So, these compounding problems as El Nino and La Nina cycles, change weather patterns there. It sort of varies it. But, overall, 22 million people depending on this water system at a very high elevation, over 7,000 feet, is leading up to what some are worried about a day zero where they could ultimately run out. It wouldn't be like Cape Town, South Africa, a few years back because they only had one source of water. There are multiple sources. But, folks who watch this are really concerned because it's the middle of the dry season, and there is months to go before relief could come.

WALKER: That's alarming, 22 million people as well. Is anything being done about this? What are officials saying?

WEIR: Well, the President said back on Valentine's Day that they were working on the problem. CONAGUA, the national water managers, have decreased the amount of water that can be pumped from that aquifer by up to 25 percent. The mayor of Mexico City, she says that it is fake news, the worries about a day zero perpetrated by her political opponents there as well. But, who is to say? This is -- at this current use, really the ones who are sounding the alarm saying unless nothing changes here, that's when we will run out of water. But, we can make adjustments, stormwater management, wastewater management, those sorts of things, just changing the mindset about how every drop is precious. We have some amazing deeper reporting on But, it's certainly a story worth keeping an eye on.

WALKER: I mean, how does this official say it is fake news when the residents there are actually experiencing the shortage, correct?

WEIR: Yeah. I mean, it's just like anywhere else. There is the haves and have nots. The wealthier neighborhoods have seen no interruption. Some folks pay $100 for a water truck to fill up their tank wherever they happen to live.


So, it's sort of where you are on the socioeconomic level right now because there is always a source to get water into the city. It could get more expensive as the longer this goes on. The officials can say, don't worry about it. There will always be water here. But, the evidence might be contrary depending on where you live.

WALKER: Just frightening. Bill Weir, thank you very much for bringing that to us.

And thank you for joining me here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Amara Walker. Connect with World with Eleni Giokos is up next.