Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Russians Reel From Terror Attack; Bringing Awareness To Cancer; Protesters Demand Release Of Hostages; Biden Signs Spending Bill, Partial Government Shutdown Averted. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 24, 2024 - 01:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM:

Russians come to grips with one of the worst terror attacks in years. Despite no evidence, Vladimir Putin still managers you try to connect it back to Ukraine.

And after a heartbreaking diagnosis for the princess of Wales, we'll find out from a doctor how her cancer diagnosis could bring more attention to this devastating disease.

And as negotiators tried to secure a deal for the remaining Israeli hostages, protesters demonstrate in Tel Aviv demanding their released.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: Russia says the death toll from Friday's terror attack near Moscow is now 133 and is expected to rise. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. Outside the concert hall where the shootings happened, People have been leaving flowers and stuffed animals.

And in Moscow. People have been lining up to donate blood for the injured. Some survivors of the attack in video released by Russian officials are talking about their medical treatment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm now in my ward after a surgery. I had an injury to the neck, burns on my face and my hand. No later than 30 to 40 minutes after the attack was I already lying on a surgical table.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was given first aid and painkillers very fast, then brought to a burn treating department. The doctor showed a lot of care and provided health for anything that I needed. I think the treatment is going well

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: CNN chief global affairs correspondent Matthew Chance has returned to Russia to cover this tragedy. He has more now on the attack and the aftermath.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, I've come back to a country that is shocked by what's happened over the past couple of days, number of confirmed dead in the attack on the Crocus City Hall has risen to more than 130 people according to official figures. All day, mourners have been laying flowers. Outside the burned out building near Moscow, while inside emergency teams continuing to sit through the debris say they expect to find more bodies and we've more than 140 people injured, the death toll is expected to rise.

In a nationwide security operation, investigators say at least 11 people have already been detained, including the four gunman suspected of carrying out the mash shooting on Friday night. State media has been broadcasting grisly images of some of the men tied up and blooded being manhandled and interrogated. One suspects speaking broken Russian is shown allegedly confessing to carrying out the attacks in the Crocus City Hall for money.

Well, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the assault, posting images of what they say are the attackers with their faces covered. The terror group says the attack was a normal part of its war against countries fighting Islam. U.S. officials say they have no reason to doubt ISIS claim.

But the Russians President Vladimir Putin who's been vowing revenge for what he calls a barbaric acts has attempted to link the attacked to Ukraine, saying preliminary data suggests that gunman attempts to escape their across what is an extremely militarily -- heavily militarized border. That's something Ukrainian officials strongly deny, once senior official there telling CNN that the Kremlin is trying to implicate Ukraine to rally domestic support here for its brutal war, and to provide an excuse for ramping up attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities.

Matthew Chance, CNN, in St. Petersburg.


HOLMES: Stanislav Kucher is a former Russian TV host now working as editor in chief of the "Samizdat Online". He joins me now from New York.

Thanks for doing so.

I wanted just not by asking what you make of what were being told about these suspects. And importantly, what appears to be at least some attempt by Russia to invoke Ukraine into the narrative, the messaging from Putin so far.

[01:05:05] What are your thoughts?

STANISLAV KUCHER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SAMIZDAT ONLINE: Well, nothing surprising to me because as soon as they heard about the horrible terrorist attack and I began reading Telegram channels of Putin's leading propaganda peddlers and it was obvious from the very beginning that they would blame Ukraine no matter what.

They'll do their best to find the so-called Ukrainian trace and so when Putin spoke and address the nation today, it was no surprise to me whatsoever when he pointed out that the car with terrorists -- with the terrorists was making toward the Ukrainian border. In fact, it turned out just an hour later that the car was stopped. Both so two to the border with Belarus, not Ukraine, but who cares?


KUCHER: And like -- even yesterday, even already yesterday, you could read on the Russian media implications that Ukrainian trace would eventually be found and it didn't take Dmitri Medvedev, Russia's former president, long to boast a few paragraphs on his Telegram channel, a pretty popular one read by millions, by the way, where he said that if it turns out that the terrorists are from Ukraine, or if Ukraine is behind this, than we should respond severely, harshly, cruelly, death for death.


KUCHER: That's a very bad and what he wrote.


HOLMES: And it was interesting because the defense minister -- the defense minister did announce his past week that they would be more Russian battalions created a bigger army. Do you think Putin could be using some spurious Ukraine link in order to justify a broader mobilization of troops, especially given the loss of the manpower on the battlefield?

KUCHER: Absolutely. The most important thing now is not even who actually -- who actually did that but what the consequences will be, what Putin will use this as a pretext for, and modelization and other wave of modelization or restoring death penalty in Russia because right now, Russia is a member of the European Council, which means it has a moratorium on death penalty.

HOLMES: Right.

KUCHER: So these are the two most probable consequences.

HOLMES: And when it comes to ISIS, has claimed responsibility, of course, and its put out videos and photographs and so on. I -- yeah, Russia is an ally in many waves of the Taliban, which ISIS-K is targeting, how much of a target is Russia for ISIS-K, ISIS-Khorasan?

KUCHER: Well, that's -- that's a very difficult question because you should better ask ISIS spokespeople about that because -- I mean, ISIS is obviously an organization forbidden in Russia and seems like Russian propagandists don't buy this version about ISIS, like Margarita Simonyan, Putin's chief mouthpiece, yesterday wrote that it's not ISIS. It's kochli (ph), and kochli is a very rude, diminishing word that Russians use to address Ukrainians.

So another Russian TV broadcaster, TV host Olga Skabeyeva was also famous propagandist in Putin's Russia. She wrote that we don't believe it's ISIS, in Russian. We're confident that Ukrainians are behind this.

So right now, again, they are they're not even considering the ISIS version.


KUCHER: And they're saying that even if it's ISIS, then is definitely the Ukrainians are behind them.

HOLMES: We're out of time, but really appreciate it. Stanislav Kucher, thanks so much.

KUCHER: Thank you.

HOLMES: Tributes pouring in for the victims of that attack near Moscow in St. Petersburg, Russia. People leaving flowers and toys at a makeshift memorial. There was a similar picture in Ukraine's occupied city of Donetsk where the small memorial was created next to a sign that said Russia.

And in Germany, people left flowers and candles outside the Russian embassy in Berlin. Chancellor Olaf Scholz taking to social media to condemn the attack. Other world leaders also with sharing their condemnations or offering condolences. They include the president of France, the prime minister of India, and the leaders of China and North Korea.


We're getting word of new Russian attacks on western Ukraine, including the Ukrainian capital. Kyiv's mayor is reporting explosions in the city and says Ukraine's air defenses are active. He also urged residents to take cover and not leave their shelters if they are in them. The mayor also says missile fragments fell in one area in the capital and emergency crews were headed to the scene.

We're also getting reports that Russia launched about 20 missiles and seven attack drones on Ukraine's western Lviv oblast early on Sunday. That's according to the mayor of the city of Lviv. He said that the target was critical infrastructure and no hits were reported on the city itself.

But Poland said those strikes prompted the activation of its allied military aircraft. Poland saying all necessary procedures, procedures to ensure the security of Polish air space have been activated. The prince and princess of Wales are, quote, enormously touched by the public support she's received after revealing she's been diagnosed with cancer. That's according to a statement from Kensington Palace. It comes as good wishes and sympathies are been pouring in from around the world.

CNN's Max Foster with more from London.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: A massive shift in sentiment here in the U.K. from Friday into the weekend. If we go about to Friday morning, we're really that peak point of speculation and fear about what happened to what people calling the disappearing princess on social. But then we have that extraordinary video that came out on Friday entirely Kate's idea I'm told and she described what happened after what she now describes a major surgery in January, a recovery process, then the news they found some signs of cancer and into chemotherapy in late Friday.

And then there was really key process for the princess which is how to deal with the children, to reveal it to them, to help them understand it. And then at that point they could reveal it to the world.

So that announcement was very much timed for the end of the school term, which point they could reveal it to the world whilst protecting their children so they really calling for privacy at this point, we will be seeing Prince William at public engagements, but not nearly as much as were used to. Kate will try to go out in public engagements if she can, but really she's not going to be out full time until she's been given the all clear from doctors.

So they're calling for everyone to respect their privacy, the media, but also the public. And then you have a question about what happens at this place, Buckingham Palace. You know, there's a huge amount of pressure at the top of the royal family right now. There were four senior royals in full-time public duties. Now we have two.

They are Queen Camilla and Prince William, both of whom have partners who have spouses, who have cancer and they have families to worry about, but they also have to represent the monarchy. But as the late queen, Queen Elizabeth, used to say, you have to be seen to be believed if you're in this role.

So they understand, they have to represent monarchy out in public. But they're going to balance that with the really tough traumatic time back at home. That's a big challenge going forward, but they're asking for public patience really as they go through that process.

Max Foster, CNN, Buckingham Palace.


HOLMES: Dr. Karen Knudsen is the CEO of the American Cancer Society as she joined me now. And thanks for doing so. I mean, let's start with this, Kate spoke of, you know, telling the children the news. I know you've spoken about that process. It must be such too difficult thing for any parent to have to do.

DR. KAREN KNUDSEN, CEO, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: It absolutely is, you know, and so as a result, we actually provide some guidance about this on our website at the American Cancer Society because it is in fact such a common challenge and a question. You know, obviously, what to say to children depends on the child themselves, the relationship, and the age.

But there are some guidelines that I think are common to any conversation. One is to see just honest about what's going on. But to, of course, do that in language that people can understand words that children can understand. It's important to, of course, balance too much and too little information. So be true since parent in a way that you think is appropriate.

But some common things that often people forget. One, don't forget to tell the children about physical changes that may happen, better to get ahead of that story so that they know ahead of time what to expect. We find that that is a really important concept. Let them ask questions.

And then finally understand that sometimes children blame themselves and will not necessarily communicate this to you. So get ahead of it, let them know that it didn't no way is their fault or is any reflection on them. And it's just something serious that their parent is battling.


But it's not the fault of the child.

HOLMES: And processing it together very important and very difficult when you're a member of the royal family, of course.

On the medical side, we do not know what type of cancer it is, which actually in some ways perpetrate some level of speculation, but, you know, what -- what type of cancers do you normally see that might be spotted after abdominal surgery.

KNUDSEN: Yeah. So there are a few different types of cancers that might fall into this general category when one would be the gastrointestinal cancers like colorectal cancer, and others like gynecologic cancers like ovarian cancer could be described as abdominal surgery. But what we do understand is that she had the cancer diagnosis after the surgical intervention and then subsequent chemotherapy that she described as preventative chemotherapy.

So, that's not necessarily a word that we usually use, but we, when we listened to her speak, we think it sounds like adjuvant therapy, which is intended to eliminate any remaining cancer. There could not be removed on surgical intervention either because it's just microscopic and couldn't be seen or couldn't be accessed. HOLMES: Right.

KNUDSEN: So, this is -- yeah.

HOLMES: No, actually -- you answered the next question on preventative chemotherapy. In general, can chemotherapy be prophylactic or preventative or does it suggests spread to other parts of the body or potential spread

KNUDSEN: Yeah. Will the intention is to prevent recurrence after surgery. So the intention here is to ensure that after surgical resection you can obviously remove the cancer that you can see. But there's always the chance of microscopic cancer cells that have just, just slightly gone beyond the surgical margin or evaded beyond that space.

So in this case, the prevention is preventing that cancer from becoming clinically meaningful by attacking it through chemotherapy, whatever was remaining after the surgical intervention.

HOLMES: Yeah. I want to take advantage of you being the CEO of the American Cancer Society. Do you expect or even hope that from this awful news for Kate, that it creates a conversation for others who either have cancer or worried about it, or their families, perhaps people turning to more screenings, becoming more aware?

KNUDSEN: Absolutely. I'm so glad you asked that question, you know, as we look at cancer trends over the last several decades, we are alarmed by the rise in early onset cancer. Cancer is happening and people have an earlier age than we would normally expect.

So trusting yourself and your body, being seen if something doesn't seem right. But also every time you're at your primary care physician asking that question, what is the right cancer screening plan for me? Have the conversation prompt -- prompt the conversation yourself, because it is much more than just about your age. It's about your age, your family history, and your own medical history and exposures to develop the right -- this right screening plan for every individual. And that's so important because we know that early detection saves lives, saves lives.

HOLMES: Dr. Karen Knudsen, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

KNUDSEN: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

HOLMES: Israel's defense minister traveling to the U.S. for critical meetings in the coming days, just as a CIA director wraps up hostage negotiations in Doha, what happened at those high level talks when we come back.



HOLMES: U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. He spoke during a visit to the Rafah border crossing on Saturday and called the long lines of blocked aid trucks, quote, a moral outrage. Guterres said nothing justifies the horrific attacks by Hamas on October 7, but added that nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people either.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: It's time to truly flood Gaza, with life-saving aid. The choice is clear, either search or starvation. Let's choose the side of help, the side of hope, and the right side of history.


HOLMES: Hundreds of people rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday calling for the release of the hostages still held in Gaza. It comes as top officials from the U.S. and Israel had been in Doha trying to work out the hostage deal with Hamas through mediators.

CNN's Paula Hancocks with the latest on those negotiations.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're being told that steady progress was made. But there are still differences to be worked out. This coming from a source briefed on the matter saying that the CIA Director Bill Burns leaving Doha on Saturday night.

Now we also understand from a diplomat whose close to these talks that the Israeli security chiefs also leaving on Saturday night, but they've left technical teams in place.

Now the past when technical teams have taken over, it's either to hammer out the details or its time to wait for some kind of response from Hamas. We don't know which is the case on this particular occasion.

Then what we did here from this diplomat was that there were some areas where there is still a difference of opinion, specifically on the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and also on Israeli military repositioning in Gaza. Now, we do know that Hamas has said previous mislead during these negotiations that they want all of the Israeli military to leave the Gaza strip when there is a temporary ceasefire in place, something which the Israeli government and military he has said is simply not possible for them to do.

So what we are hearing is steady progress, but there is a fact that still needs to be worked out. Now, we also know on Sunday that the Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will be heading to the United States on the invitation of the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.


He'll also be meeting we understand what the U.S. secretary of state, and also with the national security advisor, Jake Sullivan. The topic we're being told is the hostages in Gaza, how to get those hostages out and also how to make sure more humanitarian aid can get into Gaza, given the fact that the U.N. is still warning of an imminent famine in parts of the Gaza Strip.

There will be a separate Israeli delegation that will go and the Biden administration will try and convince them that there are alternatives this to this major ground offensive in Rafah that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they will be carrying out shortly.

Now, also, there was so another tragedy in Gaza City at the Kuwait roundabout. This is an area where we know many desperate people are waiting for food. It's an area where some of the aid convoys come through, which is why people are congregating. They're hoping to be able to get some food or water.

Now we hear from officials in Gaza that 19 people were killed and more than 20 injured. They say that if the Israeli military opened fire on those people that were waiting for the aid convoys to come through. Now, as we often have in these cases, we have a very different narrative from the Israeli side, the military saying they are reviewing the incident, but they say that they were helping this convoy and the convoy was attacked and looted and they did not open fire.

So as we often see, two very different narratives to what happened. But at the end of it all, there were many deaths and many desperate people still waiting for food and water

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Doha, Qatar.


HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. "INSIDE AFRICA" up next for our international viewers. For our North American viewers, I'll be right back with more news for you.



HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM with me, Michael Holmes.

The death toll for Friday's terror attack on a concert hall near Moscow is 133. And Russia says it will rise further. Inside the hall, a look at the distraction from the shooting and the massive fire there. Crews clearing debris, looking for more victims as well.

Russia says it's arrested before gunman, who they say carried out the attack. ISIS claiming responsibility. But Vladimir Putin is suggesting without any evidence that Ukraine played a role.


PUTIN: All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attacks or those who shot and killed people were found and detained. They tried to hide and move towards Ukraine, where according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side across the state border. A total of 11 people were detained.


HOLMES: The United States, which warned Russia about a possible attack a few weeks ago, says there is no evidence Ukraine was involved and Ukraine firmly denying any role in the attack.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What happened in Moscow yesterday, it's obvious that Putin and other scum bags are just trying to find someone else to blame. Their methods are always the same. We've seen it all before, destroyed buildings and shootings and explosions and they're always looking for someone to blame.


HOLMES: Earlier, I spoke with Daniel Byman, director of the security studies program at Georgetown University and asked him about how Russia's president dismiss the U.S. warnings about a terror attack, and whether that dismissal will hurt Putin.


DANIEL BYMAN, DIRECTOR, SECURITY STUDIES PROGRAM: So to the extent that Russians are able to access that information, to me, that's quite damning. There was very specific information. The U.S. embassy released it and told Americans and others to watch out. And it seems like Russia did not follow through.

So, it's not just that they failed, is that they were warned and they failed.

HOLMES: Assured or do you expect the U.S. might declassified or released its intel about the ISIS threat, if nothing else to blunt the notion of Russia blaming Ukraine?

BYMAN: That's possible. The United States though, will be very careful because whatever source it's getting this apparently quite good information from it's going to want to protect. And if be classifying risks that the United States probably won't do it, but they might at least provide some more details

HOLMES: How else might Putin leverage this, especially, you know, invoking Ukraine and so on, even without evidence, can you see it as a pretext, perhaps through have a general mobilization?

BYMAN: It's possible he'll use this as an excuse to kill Russians. Look, Ukrainians are so evolved not only attacking our military, they're attacking concert hall. And as a result, tried to either increase recruitment or the ferocity of military attacks. But Russia is already doing almost all it can against Ukraine and Putin has already encountering some desperate political situations when he tries to call up more reserves. So he doesn't have two options, right?

HOLMES: Good point. I mea, all of this does come literally days after the Russian election, you had 87 percent of the vote to Putin ostensibly. His messaging is always been, he's not going anywhere. He's the only one who can provide security for Russia.

What is something like this due to his messaging, his reputation on the street, especially so soon after the election?

BYMAN: So, it is embarrassing to them, and it does undercut reputation as the protector of Russia. He's going to try to show strength. He's going to try to both tell Russians that he's there and protect them and do some visible efforts to show that he's striking back. But there's no question this makes him look bad.

HOLMES: Daniel Byman, great analysis. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

BYMAN: Thank you for having me.


HOLMES: Well, it all went down to the wire, but the U.S. has dodged a partial government shutdown after the Senate passed a new spending bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning. President Joe Biden later signed the bill into law.

Kevin Liptak looks at the law itself and another congressional battle looming in Washington.


KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Biden's signature on this government funding bill does take the threat of a government shutdown off the table until September. But it really does punctuate what was quite a tortured saga over the last several months to secure funding bill that would provide funding for the federal government, for the fiscal year 2024. And in a statement, President Biden emphasizes that this keeps the government open. He says that invests in the American people and strengthens the economy and national security.


But he also acknowledges this was a compromise not everyone got everything that they wanted and you are seeing both sides emphasizing what they say they're getting out of this bill. For example, there are 2000 new Border Patrol agents funded as part of this package, 8,000 more detention beds for migrants. And you hear Republicans emphasizing how this bill strengthens security on the southern border.

What you hear Democrats emphasizing is the billion dollars for federal childcare and education programs like Head Start and the $120 million for cancer research. Also included, new money for Alzheimer's research. What this bill also does is cut funding to the U.N. that's responsible for getting aid to the Palestinians. The Biden administration has accused some members of that agency of aiding Hamas.

Now, in that statement, President Biden does point to the next big funding battle on Capitol Hill, which is this fight over more aid to Ukraine. And you'll remember, President Biden has requested 60 billion in additional assistance for Ukraine that has stalled on Capitol Hill as many Republicans particularly those closely aligned with the former President Donald Trump say that they won't approve any more assistance to Kyiv, President Biden has said that this isn't necessary and you are hearing ever more urgent calls from the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has said that if American aid dries up, that Ukraine could lose this war.

Now, the House has gone on break for Easter for two weeks, so we won't see any movement on that Ukraine aid in that span. What we do understand is that the House Speaker Mike Johnson has tasked members of the house with coming up with some options for providing that Ukraine aid. But it remains its very unclear at this moment how that will move forward.

And in a statement, President Biden says that it's time to get this done.

Kevin Liptak, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Well, the clock is ticking on a huge deadline for Donald Trump. The former president now, only a day away from having to post nearly half billion dollar bond in his New York civil fraud case. This week, Trump claimed he had some money to cover the sun, but his lawyer later clarified he doesn't actually have that much cash on hand.

Investors did approve a deal on Friday that made his struggling social media platform Truth Social a public company, but that is just the first of many steps before Trump could actually see any cash from such a deal.

Meanwhile, New York's attorney general is now taking steps to possibly seize Trump's assets and properties if he can't pay up.

Earlier, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein touched on how the Republican presidential candidate's financial dilemma may make him more susceptible to foreign interests.


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Any of our colleagues who are the national security alum, who come on these shows would tell you that when counterintelligence experts are looking for weak links, they are always looking at people in the national security apparatus who are financially strained. And here we are looking at something we haven't seen before, a president, a potential president who is facing this kind of financial crush, even if it might be relieved down the road by this Truth Social public offering.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Turning to another of Trump's legal cases, district attorney Fani Willis is defending herself after she recently avoided being dismissed from prosecuting Trump's election subversion allegations here in the state of Georgia.

Here's CNN's Rafael Romo.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis spent her Saturday at an Easter egg hunt. The event was put together by WAVE, on organization of law enforcement officers dedicated to helping children and the homeless throughout the year.

Willis was surprisingly candid regarding questions about last few months of her life and career putting for Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump, and the scandal brought about by her prior romantic relationship with special prosecutor she appointed for the case.

After everything that's happened, we wanted to know if she feels e needs to reclaim her reputation. This was her reply.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I don't feel like my reputation needs to be reclaimed.


Let's say for the record, I'm not embarrassed by anything I've done. You know, I guess my greatest crime is I had a relationship with a man, but that's not something that I find embarrassing in any way, and I know that I have not done anything that's illegal.

ROMO: The racketeering case was delayed by two months following the revelations about her personal life, her decision making credibility was also damaged in the eyes of Judge Scott McAfee, but the embattled Fulton County district attorney said the main case was not delayed because her team never stopped working on it.

WILLIS: No. My team is continuing to work in and I think the media and especially organizations like your own up been paying attention. All while that was going on, we were writing responsive briefs. We were still doing the case and the way that it needed to be done. I don't feel like we've been slowed down at all. I do think that there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.

ROMO: CNN reported exclusively on Thursday, Willis plans to press ahead with her goal of putting Donald Trump on trial before the November election. According to three people familiar with her plans, she also intends to ask the judge presiding over the Georgia criminal case to schedule a trial date as soon as this summer.

And finally, let's remember that Willis is seeking to get reelected in November.

Rafael Ramos, CNN, Atlanta. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: As the threat of famine looms in parts of Gaza, many families are close to starvation and running out of options. Their heartbreaking stories after the break.


HOLMES: The CIA director was in Doha on Saturday for hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas Israel has reportedly agreed to a so-called bridging proposal from the U.S. regarding the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released for every hostage held by Hamas. That's according to CNN analyst Barak Ravid.


He says that the delegations are now waiting for a response from Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is heading to the U.S. this week for meetings with top officials, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan. The White House says the two will discuss the hostage deal and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

And that situation in Gaza has become ever more dire. Many Palestinians having to just scavenge for food, morsels to try to feed their families some eating grass and animal feed and drinking polluted water. There's virtually no freshwater.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh with latest on the growing hunger crisis in Gaza and a warning her report is disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pain in the eyes of a mother who's helplessly watched her children go hungry for months. The father who's thought the unthinkable, throwing his children in the sea, he says, to spare them this torture of an existence and Mahran's family endured months of bombardment in northern Gaza, but it's a looming famine there that's pushed them out of their home, walking 18 hours to make it to central Gaza

If you grab a bag of flour, someone can kill you to take it, Mahran says. Our daily meal for our children became things we hadn't heard of before, like ground soybeans and a wild plant that we'd never tasted before, food that animals refuse to eat, we ate.

What they'll do, where they'll go, they don't know. All they want, right now is to feed their little ones.

Starvation is what brought us here. Were still tiredness, Najlaa says. We came very hungry. My children were crying every night, asking for a piece of bread. We're dreaming of white bread.

We were eating animal feed. For the first time in five months, they say, the children are having real food, even if only plain bread. This is what then tastes family left behind in the north, scenes that tell of the desperation of so many who also just want to feed their children as they brush the little aid that's made it into this part of Gaza. More than a million Palestinians now are facing catastrophic levels of hunger according to a U.N.-backed report, with famine projected to arrive in the north any day.

But death from hunger has already arrived. Some of Gaza's most vulnerable children with medical conditions have died of malnutrition. Even amid an international push for a ceasefire, many more could die in this man-made crisis, where Israel has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, something it denies. Hunger is in every corner of this besieged territory.

It's the holy month of Ramadan, a time when Muslims fast, when extended families traditionally gathered around at sunset to break their fast together. For so many, like, (INAUDIBLE), this Ramadan has been a painful reminder of what they no longer have and loved ones lost.

On better days, if one can call them that, they receive a little pot of lentil stew at this makeshift camp in Central Gaza. Today, she managed to get some potatoes, with no cooking gas. It takes her an hour to cook.

Her family's not had a proper meal since October I really want meat. I want pancakes, little Sarah says, I want to go back to Gaza City, live in a house. We had a home. Now we're in a tent.

Parents can shield their children from the bombs and now hunger.

Life is harder than you can ever imagine, Hamza says. I can't even be a father to provide for my children. We just wish we would die, so we don't have to go through this life. The little they get is a lot more than most have these days.

But even that could soon be gone with warnings, famine was sweep across Gaza in months, as every day more people find themselves scavenging for food, forced to pick wild plants to boil and eat. This grandmother can't hold back her tears as she washes weeds and leafs. That's today's meal. What else can they do, she says, it's the indignity of hunger avoidable suffering as the world watches on.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.




HOLMES: Two storm systems are dumping heavy snow on parts of the U.S. after much of the country experienced its warmest winter ever recorded. CNN meteorologist Elisa Raffa has the forecast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We're finally going to get a little bit of a dose of winter in places where its been missing for the last three months.

Here's a look at all the cities that had top ten, top five, top warmest winter on record, you could see all of the red dots and when you look at it by state, there were a lot of states in the upper Midwest and Northeast, all the red ones that you see here that had their top warmest winter statewide. Now you flip the switch and it looks like were going to finally get some snow and a lot of these places that have been dealing with deficits.

Right now, that current snow depth footprint is pretty low. Across the Upper Midwest, we've got some recent snow from Saturday up in New England.

But when you look at a place its like Minneapolis, snowfall forecast through Tuesday could dump eight to 14 inches of snow. So far, for the entire winter, December, January, and February, they've only gone about 11 inches of snow. So, just incredible that they could see just in a few days what they've gotten in their whole season.

This is a storm that's going to do that. Its going to develop out of the Rockies on Sunday, it comes with a lot of wind. We're looking at blizzard conditions likely up in the northern plains from the Dakotas to Minneapolis, because we will have some heavy snow and that wind blowing around.


On the warmer side of things, you've got some heavy rain and then you fuse do you that kind of red outlined area, we could be looking at some strong and severe thunderstorms as well, damaging winds, large hail, maybe even a few tornadoes. All of this on Sunday, this continues to push east. By Monday, we're still looking at some heavy snow wrapping into Minneapolis, even down as far south as Omaha. And that's severe threat continues to work its way east along the gulf coast, with the heavy rain, the threat of damaging winds and some hail as well.

The rain takes its way eastward as we head into Tuesday. But again, the snow, I mean, look at all these pinks that are showing up. We can easily get totals of six to 12 inches. Some of those higher totals could be approaching a foot and spots very seal all of this pink lined up.

And when you again compare it to the season, a place like Fargo in the Dakotas has only gotten eight inches of snow so far this entire winter, and they could get that again with this one event. Same thing for Aberdeen, eight inches of snow so far this winter with a six to 12-inch forecast in their Minneapolis, like we mentioned, 11 inches so far this season, even Duluth has gotten 15 inches so far, for their winter and they could top that just in the coming days.

HOLMES: All right. Baltimore Orioles fans are mourning the death of the team's owner. Peter Angelos died on Saturday. According to his family, they say he had been ill for several years and in quote, the family thanks. The doctors, nurses, and caregivers who brought comfort to him and his final years. Angelos had owned the Orioles since 1993, but agreed in January to sell the team in a deal that still needs to be finalized. Peter Angelos was 94 years old.

Before we go, the mega millions jackpot in the U.S. now more than a billion dollars and estimated $1.1 billion to be exact. It crossed that billion-dollar mark after no one picked up the winning numbers on Friday night. The last time the jackpot was this high was August last year? But that $1.6 billion prize was the largest jackpot ever. The next drawing is Tuesday. It's mine.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. Anna Coren, my friend and colleague, has another hour of news coming up, next.