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Israel Opts Out Of Cairo Talks On Gaza Ceasefire, Hostage Release; Nikki Haley Beats Trump To Clinch 1st Republican Primary Win; Federal Appeals Court To Allow Controversial Texas Immigration Law To Take Effect; Harris To Meet With Israeli War Cabinet Member Benny Gantz; U.N.: More Than 350 Palestinians Killed In West Bank Since October 7; Ranches Coping With Path Of Destruction; Ghana's Parliament Passes Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill; Singapore Culture Minister Denies Rumors On Swift Concert Grant; Caitlin Clark Eclipses U.S. College Basketball Record. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 04, 2024 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. Coming up here on CNN Newsroom. Israel skips out on talks in Cairo dashing hopes of an imminent ceasefire deal in the war in Gaza despite growing international pressure.

As the candidates for US president gear up for Super Tuesday, Nikki Haley clenches her first primary victory of 2024 and how the monster Texas wildfire could affect the United States beef supply.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from Atlanta. This is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: A key member of Israel's war cabinet is now in Washington for high level talks amid growing calls from the U.S. for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. Benny Gantz is set to sit down with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, one day after he meets with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

But even as these meetings are set to kick off Israel has decided to skip ceasefire talks in Cairo, and Israeli official telling CNN that Israel is not sending a delegation to Egypt after Hamas failed to respond to key -- two key demands and Hamas source saying that the group has its own sticking points. All of this seeming to dash hopes of any imminent deal. Still, the U.S. ramping up its push to address the dire situation in Gaza.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The threat of Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated. And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire.


HOLMES: CNN's Jeremy Diamond following developments for us from Tel Aviv.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Sunday to pursue the next round of negotiations trying to strike a deal that could potentially result in a six-week temporary ceasefire. Israel though deciding not to send a delegation to this latest round of negotiations and Israeli official telling us that that's because Hamas has yet to provide a list of the Israeli hostages who would be released under the first phase of this agreement.

Israel is also waiting for confirmation of the number of Palestinian prisoners that Hamas would demand be released in exchange for those Israeli hostages. But there are differing accounts of exactly what the current sticking point is to arrive at an agreement.

A senior Hamas source telling us that they see the major sticking points as Israel refusing to agree so far to a path to a permanent ceasefire questions over the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and also the return of displaced people from Northern Gaza for them to be able to return to their homes.

Now, as all of this is happening, we are getting an increasingly clear picture of the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, particularly as it relates to hunger and malnutrition. The Palestinian Ministry of Health now says that 15 children have now died of malnutrition and dehydration in northern Gaza, several of those over just the last few days that Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, they say that there are fears of six more children reaching a similar fate.

The UNICEF in the meantime is calling for urgent action saying that there is a need for multiple what they call reliable entry points into Gaza. And that's because we know that there are only two points where aid is getting into Gaza right now from Egypt into Gaza via that Rafah crossing, and from Israel into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

But there are no crossing points that Israel has opened so far, allowing aid to go directly from Israel into northern Gaza. And that has been one of the major focuses now. We are seeing multiple countries stepping up their efforts to get more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, including the United States on Saturday, air dropping 66 bundles containing 38,000 meals from three different U.S. military aircraft, but that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall need and those airdrops while we're seeing more of them and more countries engaging in them.

It really speaks to a failure of the overall ability to get humanitarian aid into northern Gaza and that's because getting aid into Gaza via these air drops it is costly, it is inefficient, it can also be potentially risky.


Humanitarian aid officials say the real need is to allow more entry points and get that aid in via trucks on lands directly into northern Gaza. Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.


HOLMES: Doc Mohammad Subeh. Doctor is an emergency room physician who has been in Gaza for the last few weeks on a medical mission. He joins us now.

Doctor, while we've got the signal, I wanted to ask you what sorts of things you've seen, what have your impressions been there? Are there patients or experiences that are going to stick with you?

MOHAMMAD SUBEH, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Yes, thanks for having me. I mean, I think there's only so much that pictures and videos that we watch on social media and on TV can relate to us in terms of the gruesome nature of what's happening on the ground here.

I think at least in my mind, always would be the images of children with their arms and legs blown out. Crying mothers over dead babies. Just people unable to live life with dignity, I think that's something you we just can't see on video, being able to care for a lot of these patients, gives me a little bit of just an ounce of ability to feel like I'm contributing to their healing, when I know just all around the pain, it's happening.

HOLMES: And you live in California with your wife and two children. You've been doing updates on your Instagram. And I do see a lot of children and obviously matters to you, as you say, amputated limbs. What with -- having your own children, what's it been like seeing and treating wounded kids? In particular, I remember you spoke of one child having the same name as your own son.

SUBEH: Yes, I mean, as emergency physicians, it's always very difficult to treat, ill pediatric patients, it's one of the hardest things for us because it just hits differently at the heart. To see it day in and day out, to see the pain and suffering that these children are going through and having my own children, I think just makes it so much more real.

I try to treat every child here like my own. And, you know, it's not uncommon for me to just hold the baby to try to console them as we wait to locate a mother or father to come take them here. Just yesterday, I mean, my first several patients who are pediatric patients, one shot in the arm while he was sleeping in the tent, another two kids pulled out of the rubble, we're still waiting to locate their family, gunshot wound to the thigh in a three-month old, crushed extremities.

I try not to let that image of kind of transposing that onto my own children, paralyzed me from being able to do what I need to do here on the ground. But it definitely, without that element of humanity and compassion in the heart, I don't think -- I'd be able to do what I have been on the past month. HOLMES: I can't imagine and when you think about the medical resources you have when you're working in California, as an emergency room, Doctor, what is the comparison with what you have to work with there in Gaza? Have you lost patients you could have saved in California?

SUBEH: Oh, it's a night and day difference. First off in terms of our facilities. In California, we have ability, the ability to divert patients away from hospitals when we're at capacity or over capacity, where it becomes dangerous to take care of patients. Here, the healthcare infrastructure has been completely destroyed. We're essentially the only trauma facility and we're operating out of tents to take care of any traumatic injuries as well as medical emergencies. People are decompensating from diabetes, from heart failure, from hypertension, dying from pneumonia, dying from malnutrition.

And so, it's a nine day difference in terms of supplies. We don't even have alcohol swabs. If I need to put in an IV, I need to cleanse your skin very well to ensure that I don't introduce any infections. And so everything is being stopped at the borders. And one thing you witness by being here is the deliberate systematic destruction of every element of the infrastructure here.


Whether it be people's homes and sheltering, people's ability to freely move in in so called Safe Zones, the healthcare infrastructure hospitals under siege I don't know if you remember a few months ago, there was this whole big question of who bombed the hospital at the Baptist Hospital. And yet now we're seeing the complete destruction of all the hospitals.

HOLMES: And many thanks to Dr. Mohammed Subeh there speaking with me from Rafah. And a busy week ahead for U.S. politics, the U.S. presidential race heating up heading into Super Tuesday and there is some good news for Republican candidate Nikki Haley. CNN projects she will win Sunday's GOP primary in Washington DC, marking her first wins so far, but not enough to get close to Donald Trump. So we'll have to make a big showing on Tuesday to even stay in the race. 15 Republican votes in 15 states and one U.S. territory are on the line. North Carolina voters talking about their concerns ahead of the primary there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think immigration is a key issue for most Americans right now. And I think it is a big problem. And the next one would be inflation. A lot of families are suffering because of inflation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, immigration with the government I think is out of control. Crime was never -- those are three big issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Immigration will be a big one in the fall, I believe. Because we know a lot of seniors that really do have a difficult time making ends meet now. And it seems that they need some help to, you know, in addition to new people coming into the country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Colorado also votes on Tuesday. Trump's name is on the ballot, even though the U.S. Supreme Court is still deciding whether he's eligible to serve. The court could announce an opinion on that in the coming hours, but there's no guarantee.

Meantime President Joe Biden preparing to deliver his State of the Union address on Thursday. It comes at a crucial time where he is of course seeking to convince Americans to give him a second term.

More than a third of the delegates necessary to clinch the Republican presidential nomination are at stake on Super Tuesday. CNN's Eva McKend has more details on Nikki Haley strategy heading into the week.


EVAN MCKEND, CNN U.S. NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: This Despite long odds Nikki Haley continuing to crisscross the country in an effort to connect with as many voters as possible. A disciplined messenger, her message largely remains the same. She argues that she is the best person to confront President Biden in a general election. And she says that she is the unifying force that Republicans really need to appeal to as many voters as possible.

There is something to this argument when you show up at her rallies like a rally she held in Vermont. You see Democrats showing up independent voters, Republicans who say that they would rather vote for President Biden than support Trump in a general election. Let's listen.

HOPE MARTIN, BRIDPORT, VERMONT RESIDENT: I just feel at this point. We need a change in government wholesale. I voted for Biden, I voted for other Republicans at other times. I consider myself an independent.

And, you know, we need the next generation up there. Nikki has good solid values. Her record is strong. She's got good experience as governor, as ambassador and I think she (INAUDIBLE) in a new era for this country desperately needed.

MCKEND: The problem for Haley, of course, is that some of these states are winner take all states and ultimately, this Republican contest is a delegate battle right here in Vermont, in Massachusetts and in Maine, where she's been campaigning, these are winner take all states, and that means if she doesn't outright win if she doesn't get above 50 percent. That means she's not awarded any of the necessary delegates. Former President Donald Trump is on track to have the necessary delegates by mid-March. Eva McKend, CNN, Burlington, Vermont.


HOLMES: A controversial Texas immigration law is one step closer to going into effect as long as the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't intervene. The bill would allow Texas law enforcement authorities to arrest and detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally. It will go into effect next Saturday unless the High Court puts it on hold. Immigration advocates say the law will increase racial profiling as

well as detentions and attempted deportations.


U.S. homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pushed back on Republican accusations about the country's southern border.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Is it the policy of the Biden administration to allow as many migrants to come across the border in order to change the political dynamics, the electoral dynamics of America?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Of course not. And the facts indicate that that is absolutely false. Since May of this year, of last year, we have removed or returned more individuals than in any year since 2015. And we haven't even run 12 months. Over the last three years, we've removed returned or expelled more people than in all four years of the prior administration.


HOLMES: Now, those comments come days after both President Joe Biden and Republican candidate Donald Trump visited the U.S.-Mexico border.

And while the situation at the U.S. southern border is politicized the number of migrants trying to leave El Salvador for the United States is dropping. CNN's Gustavo Valdes explains why credit and blame are being given to the hardline policies of El Salvador's president.


GUSTAVO VALDES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Luis Martinez, this restaurant is a dream come true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He says, America he said he already lived the American dream. So why not also have the Salvadorian dream.

VALDES (voice-over): After three decades in the U.S., Martinez returned to his native country four years ago, fleeing the civil war in El Salvador. It was 1992 that Martinez says he entered the U.S. illegally and opened a restaurant chain. He wants to show other Salvadorans in the U.S. that it is possible to return to their country and open a business, something that just a few years ago, he would not have considered.

For years, El Salvador had little control over public safety. Local gangs, known as De Mares (ph), terrorize citizens and extorted businesses. That began to change in 2019, El Salvador elected Nayib Bukele as president, and soon afterward, he launched a crackdown on gangs and crime through a controversial security policy.

JENNIFER MCCOY, PROFESSOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Having great success and lowering homicide rates in El Salvador, but at a huge cost.

VALDES (voice-over): But Georgia State University's Professor Jennifer McCoy, an expert on Latin American Affairs, says there is concern about Bukele and his anti-crime tactics. Bukele deployed the police and army to areas controlled by the De Mares (ph) and sent thousands of suspected criminals to jail after declaring a nationwide state of exception that suspended some constitutional rights. Among them the right to due process.

The result, a drastic reduction of crimes and murders as reported by the government.

MCCOY: There are a lot of people who also live there who are worried about in are fearful themselves for being caught up in the round up of alleged people who are in gangs.

VALDES (voice-over): Marlo Nagatomo Vasquez (ph) says he was thinking about migrating to the U.S. illegally because of the lack of jobs in El Salvador. But he says things have changed. So he stayed and now has a job, and it seems like he is not alone.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the number of Salvadorans entering the U.S. illegally has decreased, especially between 2022 and 2023. When roughly 35,000 fewer migrants from El Salvador were detained, attempting to cross the border, the Bukele government takes credit for that drop in migration.

NAYIB BUKELE, SALVADORAN PRESIDENT: We change the murder capital of the world, the world's most dangerous country in the -- into the safest country in the Western Hemisphere. And the only way to do that is to arrest all the murderers. There's no other way to do it.

VALDES (voice-over): But Amnesty International warns that the international community must be vigilant to prevent abuses in El Salvador.

VALDES: Who gets to decide whether the policies in the country are right, or an abusive power.

MCCOY: Definitely the people who live there should have the first say.

VALDES (voice-over): And they seem to have decided reelecting book led to a second term with more than 80 percent of the vote. However, the election was also controversial because he was allowed to run for another term by the Constitutional Court despite the Constitution explicitly banning the presidential election in the country.

VALDES: The Salvadoran government declined our request for an interview and did not provide our response to the allegation. But in the past, Bukele has warned international community to stay away from internal issues.

VALDES (voice-over): Bukele has also become a darling of hard right conservatives around the world receiving a warm reception at one of the largest gatherings of conservative politicians in the world, where he warned of the dangers of liberal policies regarding public safety. [01:20:02]

BUKELE: We are already seeing the symptoms in the United States. Big cities in decline like Baltimore, Portland, New York, just to name a few.

VALDES: The decrease migration from El Salvador to the U.S. gives the Biden administration a little bit of good news while having to deal with a huge number of migrants crossing illegally into the U.S. in recent years. But it could also represent a challenge in how they deal with Bukele and other governments in the region who might want to duplicate his approach. Gustavo Valdes, CNN, Atlanta.


HOLMES: Coming up, Ukrainian forces are having to conserve artillery shells as they struggled to maintain their defensive positions on the Eastern Front Lines. The latest on the war in Ukraine when we come back.


HOLMES: Hundreds of mourners you see there in Moscow still flocking to the grave of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, two days after he was laid to rest. The pile of flowers reportedly stretching more than 500 meters outside the cemetery gate on Sunday. Navalny died last month in a Siberian prison, sparking accusations he'd been murdered. The Kremlin denying any involvement in his death.

The outpouring of support coming as President Vladimir Putin is set to secure another six-year term in an election with no real opposition.

Ukraine's president says his country desperately needs U.S. military aid in order to save lives, Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying defense forces are struggling with a significant shortage of ammunition and artillery on the front lines. He's pleading for more air defenses as well.

This coming as the death toll from a Russian drone strike on Odesa on Friday night rose to 12 including five children. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh brings us up to date.


NICK PATON WALSH, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The death toll in Odesa continues to rise. And it's worth just pausing a moment and naming the children killed by what some officials just made the debris from drones being taken out of the sky, but it's still the consequence of the relentless drone and aerial strikes against civilian targets in Ukraine that seemed to happen almost every single night.

Timofey (ph) was four months old. Mark would have been three, Sunday, today, had he lived to see that moment. And we're now hearing of a 10- year-old also killed during these attacks. Now, all of this the backdrop to an urgent situation here on the Eastern Front Lines. We've been seeing ourselves the intensity of the fighting around some

of these frontline towns. Remember this all started with a Ukrainian decision to pull out of Avdiivka, two weekends ago that said it was planned but it appears that their departure and the defensive lines were less well planned from what we're hearing.

Now certainly that was evident in the three villages to the west of Avdiivka which Ukraine initially said were never part of their defensive plan they were given up quite fast.


But now the areas that they said they would hold as part of those new defensive lines, they're severely under threat. And there are some Russian bloggers suggesting that Russian forces are quite deep into some of these villages that they're not that particularly consequential themselves.

But what is consequential as the idea that Ukraine said it would hold the line at a certain place and has not been able to do that. And we've heard internal criticism here from soldiers on the front line. There's been a lot of it in social media too. But essentially, Ukraine didn't prepare for the possibility of having to fall back in the way that it should have.

Some of that might have been reflected in some, I think, strange, different comments we've heard from Oleksandr Syrskyi, the new military commander in Ukraine in the job three weeks, he's now since Thursday, berated his staff for essentially not being up to the job of commanding some of these forces in Avdiivka area, he says, even made some personnel replacement.

He's praised some staff and some personnel on the ground as well. But it is odd to hear a commander point the finger quite like that at a moment as desperate as this. It is desperate because a lot of the forces we talked to say they're running out of ammunition. We were the tank unit, who -- yesterday and this day simply did not have enough rounds to fire as much as they would normally have expected to. That is extraordinary, because in the area they were with, there was a battle raging.

And so these villages under increased pressure are leaving many worried that we might be seeing Russia moving forwards past Ukraine's expectations of what it could do to defend its territory, and then possibly a change in the dynamic on the battlefield.

Too early to tell right now. But things are absolutely not what Ukraine hoped they would be on the battlefield. They're certainly not what they hoped there would be in terms of supply and assistance from the west. And it begins to feel as though Russia has the capacity to move forwards. Videos of their show them exceptionally callous about the use of their troops, very blunt and clumsy in their tactics, but still relentless, and apparently moving forwards even though it's meter by meter.

So, a troubling time we're seeing here certainly, and I think a feeling amongst the Ukrainian Front Lines that things are really not good. And it's not quite clear how long they can keep the status quo, as it is.


HOLMES: Nick Paton Walsh there. Now, Germany's defense minister have suggested on Sunday that Russia is behind a leaked conversation between top ranking Air Force officers. They were discussing a possible transfer of long range torus missiles to Ukraine.

The conversation was posted online last week by the head of Russia's state broadcaster. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the timing of the leak and the quick reaction to it suggested a certain quote, choreography that he suspects is part of a Russian campaign.


BORIS PISTORIUS, GERMAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE (through translator): The incident is clearly more than just the interception and publication of the conversation within the Air Force. It is part of an information war that Putin is waging. There's no doubt about that. It is a hybrid attack into disinformation. It's about division. It's about undermining our unity. And accordingly, we should react to it with particular prudence but no less determinedly.


HOLMES: Officials say the leak will be investigated intensively and quickly.

Still to come here on the program, the conflict in Gaza seems to be spilling more and more into the West Bank, where Israel has ramped up raids leading to more Palestinian casualties. A closer look at the rise in violence ahead on CNN Newsroom.

Also, thousands of cattle could be lost in the aftermath of the largest fire in Texas's history, and that could likely affect the U.S. food supply chain.



HOLMES: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM with me, Michael Holmes.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to sit down with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz in the hours ahead. The meeting coming amid an urgent U.S. push for more humanitarian aid and a temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez with more details from Washington.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Vice President Kamala Harris forcefully called for more humanitarian aid to get into Gaza during remarks on Sunday. She said that people in the region were, quote, starving and also called conditions, quote, inhumane. She also urged Israel to do more to get assistance into the region, saying that there were, quote, no excuses.

This has been a situation that the vice president has been closely monitoring and has been involved in discussions about the humanitarian situation, as well as the day-after planning for Gaza.

But on Sunday, she took a moment to reflect on what is happening on the ground in Gaza, saying this:

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating, we have seen reports of families eating leaves or animal feed, women giving birth to malnourished babies with little or no medical care, and children dying from malnutrition and dehydration.

ALVAREZ: Now the vice president also called for an immediate ceasefire within the context of a deal that is currently on the table. That includes a six-week ceasefire that would allow for the release of the most vulnerable hostages. That includes the wounded, women and the elderly, and allow also for more aid to go into Gaza.

Now, all of those talks are still ongoing as U.S. officials try to get a deal across the finish line by Ramadan, all of this, of course, looming over the State of the Union Address by President Biden that is set to take place on Thursday as he grapples because with this both abroad and domestically.

Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Washington


HOLMES: Well, the Gaza conflict continues to lead to more violence in the West Bank with more than 350 people killed there since October 7. That's according to the U.N.

Now, joining me now is Antony Loewenstein, an independent journalist, author and filmmaker.

Good to see you again, Ant.

I wanted to ask you about settler violence. That was increasing long before October 7th, along with growing numbers of Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF and settlers in the West Bank.

How much worse is it getting post-October 7, and why?

ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: Even in 2023, it was the largest number of Palestinians killed ever on record. And as you rightly say, the numbers are already skyrocketing. It's partly because many settlers, the more opportunistic ones seen opportunity. Much of the world's looking at Gaza, less so onto the West Bank, and the collusion that's existed really for a long time between the Israeli soldiers and settlers is becoming more and more overt. It's always been there, but it's so clear now. And obviously, the Israeli government is really pushing that forward.

So, there's really not much difference often in very many parts of the West Bank between a soldier and a settler. They're essentially assisting each other. And Palestinians have no recourse. There's no justice. There's no real federal court system. So it's really in many ways tragically akin to the Wild West.

HOLMES: And many settlers actually wearing military uniforms even if they're not --


HOLMES: -- in the military. Yeah. Yeah.

You said that many in the Israeli intelligence and political elite worried that they're losing the information battle globally online and elsewhere and that disinformation has become a big issue in Israel.

How is all of that playing out? What's the impact?

LOEWENSTEIN: One of the things that's been so clear in the last ten years, so much of the Western press in a later concern about Russian and Chinese disinformation.


And I'm not suggesting it's not a real problem. It is. But what you've seen in the last years is a growth in Israeli-led disinformation. And what I mean by that is that Israeli companies, both private and also associated with the Israeli government -- this is long before October 7, but it's certainly accelerated since, are pumping out huge amounts of false information. They're actually paying various people almost have their own troll farms essentially.

And after October 7, a lot of sources I spoke to and including it's been reported in the Israeli press, realize that particularly with the youth in many countries, they're not as losing that information war, they've lost it. And therefore, they're pumping out huge amounts of false information on TikTok, Instagram, and other set of platforms that I would argue that it's not particularly successful because so many people increasing do not engage the mainstream press and go to social media instead, and they're seeing the facts on the devastation and what's happening in Gaza at the moment.

HOLMES: And still on the issue of, you know, disinformation. If you like, I mean, you're Jewish I'm curious whether you are as others have considered the term that antisemitic as having been weaponized, that its being used to intimidate or silence criticism of government policy or military action, all of which of course, and antisemitic have you seen that?

LOEWENSTEIN: Hugely and its actually worries me and I've written about this for a long time because real antisemitism is a problem, the attack on Jews, the going after Jewish people because of who they are, because they're Jewish, that's a problem and it's growing in some parts of the world now would argue that often Israeli actions and making that worse.

But the fact is to weaponize antisemitism, to try to silence people who are critical of Israel, Jewish or non-Jewish. I mean, in Germany, the most extreme examples anyone seemingly Jewish or non-Jewish who is critical of the occupation, that was opposed to Israel's genocide in Gaza is apparently antisemitic.

If you use that term loosely, you're actually making it impossible to fight real antisemitism, which in some parts for what is undeniably growing.

HOLMES: Yeah, yeah, I wanted to ask you turn its sort of going back to the settle thing because I saw video the other day of settlers actually crossing into Gaza or in sort of symbolically trying to, you know, put up a structure as a -- as a message of resettlement. What -- what -- what are your concerns about what we know of Israeli plans for post-war Gaza?

LOEWENSTEIN: Well, they're deep concerns because there's certainly a vocal minority of settlers and those who think like them who want to essentially settle Gaza, again, to bring settlers back, they were pulled out in 2005 and that footage you mentioned was disturbing. It was the star respective much more to come.

And the vision, if you can call it that, is essentially Gaza is being leveled by Israel. It's been the case now from leaked five months and the idea is that settlers then allowed to build ideas and build homes and Israeli real estate companies are already selling land and territory in Gaza for that future territory.

I mea, the only way Israeli settlers can live in Gaza would be massively fortified. I mean, it's an impossible situation, frankly. But many in the Israeli government and, frankly, the Israeli people support this idea. And it's disturbing in the extreme.

HOLMES: Always good to get your analysis, Antony. Good to see you. Antony Loewenstein there in Sydney for us.


HOLMES: Well, Haiti has imposed a state of emergency amid a wave of gang violence that has included kidnappings, killings, and looting. A curfew has been imposed after to prison breaks over the weekend. The U.N. estimates some 3,500 prisoners escaped from the national penitentiary jury in Port-au-Prince. Officials say police confronted heavily armed individuals but were unable to stop them from freeing the prisoners. The violence left several inmates and prison staff injured.

Catastrophic wildfires tearing through the Texas panhandle could hurt the U.S. beef supply. A Texas official telling CNN, the region produces nearly 30 percent of U.S. beef.

Our Camila Bernal shows you how the fires have impacted the ranchers and the cattle. A warning, parts of this story can be difficult we got to watch (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHANE PENNINGTON, RANCH MANAGER: I'm guessing we may have found 50 dead so far. We're not find in many calves. So I know they burned up

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shane Pennington is the ranch manager at the Fields Miller (ph) Ranch in Canadian, Texas. This is also where he lives and raises his family.

As the largest wildfire in the state's history began to encircle the ranch, Pennington was forced to evacuate.

PENNINGTON: I wasn't scared of it. I was -- I was more angry, I guess, just 20 years of, you know, taking care of this and it could all be gone. I wasn't really fearful for the house. I figured it would probably be okay. I was more worried about the cattle.

BERNAL: For you, the hard decision was actually leaving?

PENNINGTON: Yes, yeah, and feeling like I didn't do enough to get them.

BERNAL: Local officials estimate thousands of cattle among area ranches will be lost to the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which has already scorched more than a million acres.

The state's agricultural commissioner, Sid Miller.

SID MILLER, TEXAS AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER: This fire was so intense, you couldn't get fire trucks anywhere close to the fire.

BERNAL: Pennington says he did not have time or a place to move the cattle.

PENNINGTON: A lot of them have been blinded by it. It burned their eyelashes, eyelids, everything and just burned all the hair off them. Their feet are coming off, their hooves. They're bloody, burned the rudders.

And, you know, even if they survive, it more likely they're going to get pneumonia. They're going to get sick. We've already had to put some better and let them suffer and just die, you know?

This is one little calf here. I don't know if he's going to be all right. His feet burned really bad.

It's extremely hard to see him suffering. I mean, they're just -- like I say, I've raised some of 'em since they were babies, you know?

BERNAL: State officials called the impact of cattle and crops catastrophic.

MILLER: We blessed over 3,000 head, which is a very small number that will double or triple easily. We've got cattle that were going to have to euthanize because of the damage to their hooves, their udders.

BERNAL: The ranch's owner says his cows bring in anywhere from $1,800 to $2,400 each, much of it for beef sales.

PENNINGTON: It's going to hurt the business extremely bad. So -- and it'll take years to recover because it takes years to put a cow herd together before they're productive and producing like they should be. And it all best to keep them alive. It's not to destroy them. And it's tough. It's really tough.


BERNAL (on camera): And you see the hate here behind me. So many people donating hey, feed, water, and, look, we were told that some of these ranchers or maybe 25 miles away from the closest small town. But these volunteers will do everything they can to get all of this to them. That's what you're seeing here. A community coming together to help those most in need.

Camila Bernal, CNN, Borger, Texas.

HOLMES: Coming up, lawmakers in Ghana passed a bill that has the country's LGBTQ citizens fearing for their safety, their freedom, even their lives. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: South Korea's government says it will crack down on doctors who are ignoring orders to return to work. For nearly two weeks now, thousands of doctors have been striking for better working conditions and pay. They are also protesting the government's plan to increase medical school admissions, saying that won't solve their most critical problems. But the strike has left hospitals and health care centers in alert. Officials say they'll begin inspecting hospitals and suspending licenses for junior doctors who continue to strike.

The U.N. human rights chief is calling Ghana's brand new anti- homosexuality bill profoundly disturbing. The measure made it through Ghana's parliament last week. Its still needs presidential approval though before it becomes law. The controversial bill criminalizes LGBTQ relationships. People with non-traditional gender identities and those who simply support LGBTQ rights.

CNN's David McKenzie with the story.



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ghanaian artist Angel Maxine fought the homophobic bill with what she knew best. Now as Ghana's most famous trans singer, she says she lives in fear, gets death threats from the public eye.

MAXINE ANGEL OPOKU, MUSICIAN: I -- I am -- I'm scared. I'm really scared. MCKENZIE: Ghana's parliament has unanimously passed a draconian anti- LGBT bill. It calls full jail time for Ghanaians identifying as gay or trans, criminalizes those who support them, requires citizens to turn them in.

OPOKU: I'm heartbroken. I feel so bad. I feel bad because we have to work so hard to speak up against it.

MCKENZIE: Since 2021, the so-called family values bill has been pushed by a coalition of politicians and faith leaders in Ghana with support from U.S. conservative groups. It's just one of several homophobic bills emerging in Africa.

CNN has tracked a severe spike in the abuse of LGBTQ-Africans often put on social media, an epidemic of hate inspired by the laws.

SAM GEORGE, GHANA OPPOSITION LEADER: There is nothing that deals with LGBTQ better than this bill that has just been passed by parliament. We expect the president to walk his talk and be a man of his words.

MCKENZIE: After the unanimous vote, President Nana Akufo-Addo, a former human rights lawyer, will be under enormous political pressure to sign the bill.

But his government is a significant recipient of U.S. and European foreign aid.

And Ghana has been on a push to draw foreign tourists to its shores with flashy advertising like this.

It's been a hugely successful campaign, especially with Americans. But it could all be under threat.

And Maxine says she's almost out of hope for their future.

OPOKU: I won't allow my identity to be criminalized. And I'll still speak against it.

MCKENZIE: But you could be sent to prison?

OPOKU: Yes, I could be sent to prison. That little time that we have right now, we have to speak against it.

MCKENZIE: Otherwise, Maxine and many others will be silenced.

David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


HOLMES: In the coming hours, lawmakers in France are scheduled to vote on adding abortion rights to the country's constitution.

Women's rights groups are planning to gather in Paris to what the vote on a giant screen. French President Emmanuel Macron scheduled the special Congress at the palace of Versailles instead of in Paris. The measure is widely expected to pass anti-abortion activists have scheduled a protest ahead of the vote.

Still to come on the program, she's just shot her way into the history books. Ahead, U.S. college basketball star Caitlin Clark eclipses a decades-old record for both women and men. Our report, when we come back.



HOLMES: Singapore's culture minister is addressing rumors surrounding a grant apparently given to Taylor Swift's promoter to secure exclusive performances of her record-breaking Eras tour on the island. It's an issue that's created some hard feelings in the region.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, tracking all of this from Hong Kong for us.

So, as Taylor Swift wraps up her Asian tour in Singapore, you got neighboring governments angry at Singapore. What -- what is the latest word from there?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Singapore's neighbors are not happy. You could say that they're seeing red amid allegations that Singapore paid for an exclusive deal to secure Taylor Swift and to secure her blockbuster Eras Tour. And today, we heard from Singapore's culture minister, who addressed the Singaporean parliament all the controversy, saying that the grant is not as high as speculated, but we need to give our audiences the backstory here.

So last week, a lawmaker in the Philippines called on his country, called on the foreign affairs department to pressure Singapore for an explanation on how they were able to secure Taylor Swift. Joey Salceda, let's bring up the statement for you. He said this quote, if this grant was given, this isn't what good neighbors do. He also goes on to say it was at the expense of neighboring countries which could not attract their own foreign concert goers and whose fans had to go to Singapore, unquote.

Now, the allegations were made public earlier by the Thai prime minister, Srettha Thavisin. He spoke at this business forum in Bangkok on February 16th, and he said that Singapore pay Taylor Swift up to $3 million per show, allegedly on condition of a Singapore-only arrangement in Southeast Asia. And he added this, the comment you see on your screen there, quote, if I had known this, I would have brought this shows to Thailand, unquote.

Now, Singapore did say it did award Taylor Swift a grant to perform there. And today, fresh comments we heard from its cultural minister, Edwin Tong, who addressed the grant saying this, let's bring up his comments for you, quote, now: There has been some online speculation as to the size of the grant. I can say that it is not accurate and not any where is high as speculated, unquote.

On citing confidentiality reasons, he didn't reveal the size or the conditions of the grant. Now, this week, we know that Taylor Swift is playing in Singapore. She's playing six sold out nights to some 300,000 fans in the city state. This is her only stop in Southeast Asia and according to an economist at Maybank, Singapore's, major bank here, 7 in 10 concertgoers are coming in from overseas. They're spending up to $370 million, U.S., in the city-state.

So, Singapore is getting this massive economic boost from Swiftonomics which its Asian neighbors know all too well. That's why you have this burden controversy.

Back to you.

HOLMES: Yeah, so they're upset at Singapore's, lets call it, maneuvering.

STOUT: Yeah.

HOLMES: But do they -- do they want to replicate that, that success?

STOUT: They do. They do want to replicate that success. And if you talk to tourism ministers around Southeast Asia, they see the value of what they see, what they call the mega event economy, which is a term that's been used a lot here in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been making moves with building up the new Kai Tak Sports Center. That sports arena on the right on the Victoria Harbor in order to accommodate a megastar like Taylor Swift, thinking that these mega events will bring in tourism crowds, will bring in mega dollars to economies like Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has also done the grants thing that Singapore has done to lure Taylor Swift. Hong Kong did use grant money to lure Lionel Messi and Inter Miami, a grant of about US$2 million to welcome them to Hong Kong for preseason friendly. We all know how that turned out. That turned out to a -- to be a PR disaster.

Back to you, Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, absolutely.

Good to see you, Swiftie. Sorry, Kristie.


HOLMES: I know you --

STOUT: You can call me Swifty anytime.

HOLMES: You're a fan. I know you are, you and your daughter.

Good to see, my friend. Thank you.

STOUT: See you.

HOLMES: I know what that is.

American basketball star Caitlin Clark is now the all-time leading scorer in the top rank of college basketball for women and men. The University of Iowa phenom state to a spot in the history books Sunday at the free throw line.

CNN's "WORLD SPORTS'" Patrick Snell shows you how it happened and explains why this record is so special.



PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Well, as you may well know, university sports and the world of college basketball are a huge deal over here in America. So it's been no surprise. There's been so much attention on the Iowa Hawkeye's Caitlin Clark.

On Sunday, the 22-year-old playing in her last regular season home game against Ohio State at a sold out Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Clark needing just 18 points to become the NCAA Division 1 all-time leading scorer in basketball, male or female, and passing the legendary Hall of Famer Pete Maravich in the process.

Well, here would come that historic moment. Clark setting the record with a pair of free throws in the final second of the first half. She would end the game with 35 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. Iowa win it 93-83, giving Caitlin a career total of 3,685 points. Quite extraordinary.

If you had a ticket for this one, you should count yourself very privilege indeed because tickets were the most expensive ever in women's basketball history.

Let's hear now from history-making Caitlin Clark herself.

CAITLIN CLARK, GUARD, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA: Everything that's gone on in the past couple of weeks and even the past couple of months, I feel like I'm so focused on helping this team win and be so great that it's like hard for me to wrap my head around everything that's going on. I think I'm just trying to soak in the moment.

A record is a record. I don't want that to be the reason people remember me. I hope people remember me for the way I played with a smile on my face, my competitive fire. Sure, they can remember the wins, but also just like the fun me and my teammates had together.

SNELL: And our congratulations, too. Well, earlier this week, you might remember Clark declared herself eligible for the WNBA draft. So she's going pro and will not return to Iowa. But first up, what she said many, many times, she'd liked to win the national title with the Hawkeyes. So we shall see how that all plays out in the coming weeks.

But Clark's place in history already cemented regardless. And for now, it's right back to you.


HOLMES: All right. Patrick Snell, our thanks.

And thank you for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on X, Instagram and Threads @HolmesCNN.

"CNN NEWSROOM" continues with my friend and colleague Rosemary Church after the break.