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Israel Vows To Try To Avoid Civilian Casualties; Gazans Struggle To Find Food Amid Looming Famine; Maryland Governor: "Long Road Ahead Of Us" After Bridge Collapse; Ukraine Targeting Russian Oil Refineries; U.N. Report: World Wastes More Than One Billion Meals Every Day; Obama, Clinton, Biden Call for Two-State Solution; Russian Security Aware of ISIS Threat Days in Advance; Impact of War on the Children of Gaza; FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Sentenced to 25 Years; Gershkovich Spends One Year in Russian Detention; King Hails Power of Friendship amid Cancer Treatment. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 29, 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 says its military is preparing to enter Rafah as the growing threat of famine across Gaza claims another young victim.

Anti-war protesters disrupt U.S. President Biden's big ticket fundraiser featuring his two Democratic predecessors.

And Ukraine stepping up its drone campaign against Russia's oil refinery.

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

HOLMES: It is 8:00 a.m. in Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his military is preparing to enter the city of Rafah in southern Gaza. His comments coming out of meeting with the families of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hamas. The Israeli leader saying only powerful military pressure will ensure that all hostages are freed. Rafah is now home to about 1.4 million Gaza residents told by Israel to evacuate to safety there. The U.S. has repeatedly discouraged an Israeli ground operation there.

Meanwhile, in northern Gaza, the siege of Al-Shifa Hospital is now in its 12th day, Israel has yet to respond to CNN inquiries about reports of abuse and neglect of medical staff. Israel says it has eliminated about 200 of what it calls terrorists since the siege began.

Israeli forces are also conducting military operations in and around Al-Amal Hospital in southern Gaza. They say they've discovered hundreds of weapons and apprehended dozens of terrorists.

I spoke earlier with CNN military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and asked him what a military occupation of Rafah would look like and how risky it would be for civilians.


LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, from the standpoint, the first thing you got to consider, Michael, is what's the enemy doing there. And Israel is claiming that there are four battalions or more of Hamas operating from inside or underground Hamas, and especially that there are many senior leader, Hamas leaders there, including Sinwar. And as well as the potential for the 130 plus remaining hostages.

Now, Israel believes these are the last remaining Hamas strong points within Gaza, even though they'd still been fighting in Khan Yunis.

So, what you're talking about is the potential for a massive operation. The Israel started an air campaign in that relatively minor air campaign on Monday, but you're going to see them looking to destroy complete the destruction of Hamas in this area. And it's going to be very tough because as you said, there's a hundred -- 1.2 million people living above those subterranean tunnels and shafts that are in this area.

HOLMES: As a military man and you know, I was with you in Iraq, so I know what you've seen, or some of it. But what do you make of the level of civilian casualties and the level of destruction of buildings in terms of the issue of proportionality because you served in high population areas like Mosul and so on in Iraq?

HERTLING: Yes, but nothing's like this, Mike. I just got to say, yes, we were in Mosul, in Tikrit and Kirkuk and several large populated cities. But we didn't have an enemy that had built his defensive position under the main elements of those cities.

You know, there was a report today that the Israeli Defense Forces found that additional 300 terrorists in the Al-Shifa Hospital, an area that's been receiving a lot of attention.

The Hamas has purposely built their defenses underneath things like hospitals and schools and mosques and civilian structures. So, when you're talking about prying them out of those locations, you have to go in both with explosive devices as well as with human beings with soldiers.


HOLMES: A closer look now at the dire situation for Palestinians in Gaza, the U.N. humanitarian group calling on Israel to expand supply routes into the Strip, so that large scale aid can be delivered to Gazans who are quite literally starving.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh now with more on their daily struggle to find food and a warning, you may find some of the images in this report disturbing.



JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video filmed 11 days ago at a northern Gaza hospital, captured little Mohammed's (ph) final days. His labored breaths and all that staff tried to do to keep him alive.

On Thursday, 6-year-old Mohammed became the 24th Palestinian child to die of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza. And the fear is many more vulnerable lives could be lost. Hunger is in every corner of this besieged territory.

The pain visible in the eyes of mothers like Najlaa (ph), who has helplessly watched her children go hungry for months. Her husband, Mahran (ph), has fought the unthinkable, throwing his children in the sea, he says, to spare them this torture of an existence. Dante's (ph) family endured months of bombardment in northern Gaza, but it's a looming famine there that's pushed them out of their home.

If you grab a bag of flowers, 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 never tasted before, food that animals refused 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.

My children were crying every night asking for a piece of bread, Najlaa says. We were 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 Dante's 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 are now facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to a U.N. backed report, with famine projected to arrive in the north any day now. And this man made crisis where Israel has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, something it denies.

People every day 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 leaves. It's today's meal. What else can we do? She says. It's the indignity of hunger, avoidable suffering as the world watches on.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: A former U.S. State Department employee says many American civil servants are shocked and appalled by U.S. action supporting Israel. And now Sheline wrote an opinion piece for entitled: Why I'm resigning from the State Department. She says she believes the U.S. government has made a political calculation to maintain extreme support for Israel despite what she calls it's illegal behaviors.


ANNELLE SHELINE, RESIGNED IN PROTEST FROM U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT AND FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT FOREIGN AFFAIRS OFFICER: Hamas is a terrorist organization. I just think that the way Israel and as well as the United States have been involved in conducting this war, it could have been done in a very different manner. The levels of the casualties that we're seeing, the use of starvation as a weapon of war, the fact that the United States isn't using its leverage to insist that aid get in and that a ceasefire be put in place.


HOLMES: Spokesperson Matthew Miller says there is a broad diversity of views inside the State Department and people have the opportunity to make their views known.

In South Africa, an 8-year-old is the sole survivor after a bus fell off a cliff. She's said to be in serious condition and receiving medical treatment.

The accident happened on Thursday on a mountain pass in Limpopo Province. Crews are working to recover the bodies of the rest of those onboard, 45 people who were traveling to a conference to celebrate Easter.

Officials say the bus driver lost control and collided with some barriers on the bridge and that reportedly caused the bus to go over the edge, falling some 50 meters to the ground below when it then caught fire.

Maryland's governor is admitting the state has a very long road ahead as a salvage operation gets underway after the collapse of the Key Bridge. Governor Wes Moore telling reporters that recovery efforts for those still missing is the main focus as divers battle murky water conditions. Officials are also working to reopen the channel and restart traffic to and from the port before of course ultimately rebuilding the bridge.


GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): The Dali is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower and the Dali has the Key Bridge on top of it. We're talking 3000-4000 tons of steel that's sitting on top of that ship. So, we've got work to do.


[01:10:14] HOLMES: The U.S. federal government says it is giving the state $60 million as what they call a down payment for cleanup work and rebuilding to start.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is bringing in the largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard to help clear debris.

CNN's Brian Todd now with more from Maryland.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New video into CNN showing the final moments before the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on Tuesday, killing six people. This surveillance footage caught the last vehicles to dart across the bridge before the cargo ship rammed into one of its supports. Officials are now focused on getting the port back in business. Longshoremen Union head Scott Cowan says the closure will hurt all of Baltimore and beyond.

SCOTT COWAN, INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN'S ASSOCIATION: The warehouses, the trucking community and all the -- all the stuff around the city that is connected to the port. It's 100,000 jobs that are indirectly not connected to the port and 15 to 20,000 jobs directly connected to the Port of Baltimore.

TODD (voice-over): The port's commerce will remain at a standstill until hundreds of millions of tons of twisted steel and concrete are cleared from the Patapsco River.


TODD (voice-over): Damien Tucker has been loading shipping containers onto cargo ships at the port of Baltimore for 20 years.

TUCKER: Many of us in Longshoremen live paycheck to paycheck like many other people in this economy. We have to work 60 and 70, 80 hours a week to make a decent living.

TODD (voice-over): Cowan says the work at the port is going to dry up soon.

COWAN: There's a little bit of cargo left that some of our people are working, some of the processors are still working. But that cargo and that processing will eventually dry up and they will -- they will be out of work as well.

TODD (voice-over): But it's not just in the port.

TODD: We're here on the Chesapeake Bay, south of Baltimore just across from Annapolis, Maryland, where, as you can see, there are several tankers, cargo ships and other vessels just anchored here waiting for guidance on where to go.

TODD (voice-over): The National Transportation Safety Board laid out a dramatic timeline.

MARCEL MUISE, MARINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: Audible alarms were recorded on the ship's audio -- bridge audio.

TODD (voice-over): Just two minutes elapsed between the ship's pilot making the mayday call until it crashed into the Key Bridge. And the 21 member crew has been on board since the collision.

COWAN: The ship needs to be maintained and they have to have people aboard that ship at all times.

TODD (voice-over): It was carrying roughly 4,700 cargo containers including 56 with hazardous material.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: 764 tons of hazardous materials, mostly corrosives, flammables and some miscellaneous hazardous materials, class nine hazardous materials, which would include lithium ion batteries.

TODD (voice-over): NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said some of those containers spilled into the water.

HOMENDY: We have seen sheen on the waterway.

TODD (voice-over): CNN has identified some of the six workers who were killed Tuesday. A fellow construction worker who was scheduled to work Tuesday night but had swapped shifts told CNN the men were likely taking a break from filling potholes on the bridge when it collapsed.


TODD (on camera): While officials have said some hazardous material did spill into the water, both the EPA and the Coast Guard say there is no threat to drinking water and no airborne contaminants.

Brian Todd, CNN, Baltimore.

HOLMES: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, how artificial intelligence is helping Ukraine fight against Russia on Moscow's home turf. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: The White House is not ruling out a House plan that would structure aid to Ukraine as a loan. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has been working with the Republican backers of Ukraine aid on a package that also includes restrictions on the U.S. border with Mexico. He spoke by phone with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday. Zelenskyy says he reminded Johnson of the "dramatic increase in Russia's air terror" over the past few weeks, and he urged quick passage of a new aid bill.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I spoke with the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Mike Johnson about what is most crucial for protecting lives and international security now. I informed him about the current situation on the front lines, about the continuation of Russian strikes on our cities. The terror is only escalating and can only be stopped by the physical force of our defense.


HOLMES: Ukraine is not taking Russia's increased attacks lying down. Its forces stepping up their drone campaign against Russian oil refineries with the help of artificial intelligence.

CNN's Clare Sebastian with details on that.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Flying straight for Russia's biggest moneymaker, this precise hit, one of more than a dozen Ukrainian drone strikes reported on Russian oil refineries since the start of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We've already reduced both production and processing by 12 percent. So, we continue to work while the gas station country continues to burn.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): Attacks like this which CNN has geo located to the high capacity Ryazan (ph) oil refinery may experts say do more harm than sanctions to Russian energy.

HELIMA CROFT, ANALYST, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS: From the beginning of the war, we made -- the U.S. made the decision to try to keep Russian oil on the market because no one would support Ukraine in a winter of discontent.

SEBASTIAN: And now the weapons have stopped coming.

CROFT: Right. That is the question, has the bargain broken down because aid for Ukraine is being held up in the United States Congress. And then, does this mean that Ukraine has a limited window to try to change dynamics on the ground.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): Russia has admitted oil refining output is down and it's temporarily banned gasoline exports to preserve supplies.

Meanwhile, global oil prices have risen around 12 percent since the start of the year, the U.S. official telling CNN these attacks are now being discouraged.

CROFT: If this was an election year, there might be more willingness to endure this. Like, that's why Washington is calling Ukraine right now.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): Two years ago, Ukraine would not have had the technology to do this. Some of the refineries hit are over a thousand kilometers from its territory, a big leap in terms of range. This puts around three quarters of Russian refinery output in Ukraine's reach according to RBC Capital Markets. As to their ability to avoid this fate being downed by Russian Germans (ph), a source close to Ukraine's drone program telling CNN artificial intelligence is now in use in some of the refinery attacks.

NOAH SYLVIA, RESEARCH ANALYST, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: They have this type of thing called machine vision, which is a form of A.I. to our understanding. All you have to do is you take a model and you have it on a chip and you train this model over time to be able to identify images, geography and the target.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): It also allows for a high degree of precision. Look at this strike, geolocated again to the Ryazan oil refinery, a second hit on one specific tower.

SYLVIA: From what we've seen, some of it is they're striking targets that need a lot of Western technology and Russia has a much more difficult time procuring this technology.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): And yet, experts say Ukraine is still exercising some restraint. These blue dots are Russia's key Western oil export terminals, around two thirds of its oil and oil product exports pass through these ports according to RBC.

CROFT: If we simply had one major export facility hit, I think the impact on markets would be substantial.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): For Ukraine, the risk here is not just U.S. disapproval, but Russian revenge amid signs Ukraine's own energy sector is once again in its sights.


Clare Sebastian, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Now, the Kremlin was reportedly not entirely in the dark about the deadly terror attack near Moscow. Coming up, a report that its security services knew in advance the attack could be in the making.


HOLMES: Welcome back, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM with me Michael Holmes. The International Court of Justice says the catastrophic conditions in Gaza continue to deteriorate with famine setting in.

It's demanding Israel do more to get humanitarian aid into the territory, that includes access to food, water, shelter and medical supplies.

Israel is criticizing the decision as, "cynical" and blames Hamas us for the situation in Gaza, accusing the group of commandeering, hoarding and stealing aid.

Meanwhile, the U.N. humanitarian group is appealing for large scale aid deliveries into Gaza by land. The group says Israel must open more access points and supply routes. The U.N. reports more than 1.1 million people are struggling with food insecurity.

Now, after hearing about famine in Gaza, you might find this next story infuriating, it is about an absurd amount of food waste. More than one billion meals are wasted every day. At the same time, nearly 800 million people go hungry around the world.

The startling statistics coming from a new United Nations report. It says households, restaurants and other services throw out about a fifth of their available food, with 13 percent of the world's food lost between the farm and the dinner table as well. Most wasted food ends up in landfills and breaks down into methane, a greenhouse gas that fuels climate change.

All right, let's talk more about this with Dana Gunders, the executive director at ReFED, a nonprofit dedicated to ending food loss. She joins me from Truckee, California. Good to see you.

The statistics that we just went through are mind boggling. A billion meals wasted each day, 800 million people are going hungry. Why is that happening? What's gone wrong?

DANA GUNDERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, REFED: You know, it's really just -- it's a market failure of the whole system all the way from the farm to grocery stores and into our homes. Where there's food lost all along the chain. Sometimes it's because something doesn't look quite right. Sometimes it's because prices are so variable. And sometimes it's because it hasn't been kept cold and it can spoil whether at the markets or at people's homes, it's really a tragedy, one billion meals a day.


HOLMES: It is, it's nodding. And the household side of it, too, is I mean, all of us in our day-to-day lives at home, the average person waste, I think it said 79 kilograms, that's 174 pounds of food each year. I mean, how do we change our behaviors so that does not happen?

GUNDERS: You know, there really are some very easy ways, planning your meals can work really well. Freezing food is very effective. You can freeze all sorts of food, things like milk and bread and maybe half a jar of pasta sauce. It's like a magic pause button on your food.

And also, making sure that we use everything in our refrigerator before we go out and buy more food is important as well.

HOLMES: Yes, I wanted to ask you more, because I know that you're you and ReFED are all about ideas and solutions. So, how does it get changed? What needs to happen in the big picture, not just households and how feasible are the solutions?

GUNDERS: Yes, well, you know, I think one thing is that this is not just one problem, we really need a suite of different solutions.

But there are some effective policies out there, such as not allowing food to go into landfills, and really making sure that we at minimum, can recycle the nutrients that are in the food and into compost and back into the soil.

We are seeing businesses use some of the new technology that's out there to do a better job of forecasting, and how much food they need, and really being much more precise about matching the demand with the supply.

And then, there's some great solutions that are kind of last minute sale deals, you know, there are apps that can help restaurants or grocery stores sell food at the last minute, so that they don't need to then throw it out.

HOLMES: Yes. And then when it comes to policy, you know, when reading the report, a 21 countries have included food loss and waste in their national climate plan. So, that's a according to the report.

Despite the fact that it generates eight to 10 percent of global emissions. This is talking about methane, almost five times more than the emissions from the aviation sector. Another mind blowing statistic.

Do you think people understand those impacts? And with only 21 governments having it as a matter of policy, what do governments need to do?

GUNDERS: Yes, no, I don't think people understand the impacts. And it's not intuitive. But really, that methane is coming from the food rotting in the landfills. And creating almost two thirds of all the methane that comes from landfills is coming from food.

So, it would be fantastic to see more governments really make commitments around this and see it as the opportunity it is because when you save food from going to waste, not only do you save the greenhouse gases, not only do you save the food and you're able to feed people, you also save the land.

You know, there's a huge amount of land that is going to waste to grow all this food that never gets eaten. And there are biodiversity consequences, soil consequences and others.

So, it really should be higher priority. And there's also a huge economic benefit to many stakeholders involved.

HOLMES: You know, my mind goes back to the 800 million who are not getting enough food. It just makes you wonder, what does it say about us humans when, you know, so many have so much and wasted while so many go without?

GUNDERS: Yes, it's absolutely true. People are not going hungry because we don't have enough food in this world. People are going hungry because we're not getting it to them.

HOLMES: Yes, well put. Dana Gunders in in Truckee, California. Really appreciate you making the time. Thanks so much.

GUNDERS: Thank you so much for having me. HOLMES: Now, just hours ago, the U.S. president said Saudi Arabia and Arab countries are "prepared to fully recognize Israel for the first time". But he stressed that there has to be a post Gaza plan.


The remarks came during a huge fundraiser for Joe Biden's reelection campaign billed as an armchair conversation with Democratic predecessors, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. All three presidents calling for a two-state solution.

The event inside New York's Radio City Music Hall were disrupted several times by pro-Palestinian demonstrators demanding a ceasefire. At one point, they were scolded by Obama who suggested they talk less and listen more.

Hundreds of others rallied outside protesting the Biden administration's handling of the war in Gaza. The Biden-Clinton-Obama fundraiser said to have raised more than $25 million.

And the Trump campaign is trying to top that figure with its own fundraiser early next month. Sources say they hope to rake in at least $33 million. Donald Trump was also in New York on Thursday attending the wake of a police officer killed this week. During brief remarks, Trump calling for what he described as a return to law and order.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The police are the greatest people we have. There's nothing and there's nobody like them and this should never happen.

I just visited with a very beautiful wife that now doesn't have her husband. Stephanie was just incredible. Their child brand new, beautiful baby. They're as innocent as can be and doesn't know how his life has been changed.

But the Diller family will -- you'll never be the same. You can never be the same. And we have to stop it. We have to stop it. We have to get back to law and order. We have to do a lot of things differently because this is not working, this is happening too often.


HOLMES: Officer Jonathan Diller was killed during a traffic stop on Monday. New York's governor ordering flags on state buildings to be lowered to half-staff.

Russia says it has detained a 12th suspect in last week's terror attack near Moscow. ISIS claiming responsibility for the shooting and arson attack, which left more than 140 people dead. The terrorist group's spokesman praised the attack on social media Thursday and urged supporters to strike elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the U.S. giving a clearer timeline about its warnings to Russia that a terror attack could be coming. Washington says it gave a heads up to Moscow multiple times, including more than two weeks in advance.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: On March the 7th at 11:15 in the morning Moscow time, following normal procedures and through established channels that have been employed many times previously, the United States government passed a warning in writing to Russian security services.


HOLMES: Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to ignore the U.S. warnings before the attack. He called them a provocation. But now an activist group in London says Russian security services were aware that ISIS might have been preparing to strike.

CNN's Matthew Chance with that story. And a warning, some images in his report might be disturbing.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's the worst terror attack in Russia in 20 years. And new evidence suggests the Kremlin's own security services were aware of an ISIS threat.

Internal Russian intelligence documents obtained by the London-based dossier center warned of an increased likelihood of an attack in Russia just days before the assault.

According to the investigative organization, ethnic Tajiks could be involved, radicalized by ISIS-K. That's the Central Asian offshoot of the terror group, claiming responsibility for the attack near Moscow with statements, photographs, even this propaganda video filmed by the attackers themselves.

The Kremlin hasn't responded to CNN's request for a comment on the Dossier Center report. But U.S. warnings to Moscow were dismissed by President Putin himself as a provocation intended to intimidate and destabilize Russian society. The Kremlin seems determined to blame Ukraine which adamantly denies any involvement for this destruction and bloodshed.

Suspected Islamist may have carried out the attacks says Moscow but it was supported by Kyiv and Russian investigators now say they've extracted evidence from the battered suspects.

SVETLANA PETRENKO, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE: Working with detained terrorists, studying their technical devices, evidence was obtained connecting them with Ukrainian nationalists. We have confirmed data the perpetrators received significant amounts of money and cryptocurrency from Ukraine.


CHANCE: But it's hard to take the Kremlin fighting a brutal war in Ukraine at its worst, critics say, maybe using the tragedy in Moscow to bolster flagging support for a conflict costing tens of thousands of lives, and to mask the shortcomings of its own intelligence services too focused in recent years, say critics, on Russia's political opposition like supporters of the late Alexey Navalny and not enough on the Islamist threat.

For the Kremlin, that's a damaging criticism. President Putin here visiting a military helicopter base north of Moscow, that has long cast himself as the guarantor of Russian stability and security.

Now, more than ever, to many Russians that guarantee seems threadbare.

Matthew Chance, CNN -- Moscow.


HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.


Returning now to the dire situation in Gaza and a U.N. humanitarian group is appealing for large-scale aid deliveries into the Strip by land. The group says, Israel must open more access points and supply routes. The U.N. reports more than 1.1 million people are struggling with food insecurity.

All right. Joining me now from Gaza is James Elder, the global spokesperson for UNICEF. I'm glad we're able to make contact.

I've been following you and your posts. And you've spoken of children, teenage girls whose lives were so bad, they were hoping to be killed. I mean, that is unimaginable. What is it like to hear something like that?

JAMES ELDER, GLOBAL SPOKESPERSON, UNICEF: Yes, unimaginable is spot on Michael. And there are just the unimaginable is I fear becoming slightly normalized here. But of course, those -- here things like that it puts a shutter through someone, and everyone is in tears, honestly, in tears during these kinds of sessions to get a sense of those girls' lives beyond, if you can hear the drones now or the bombardments last night, I'm sure there'll be bombardments facing them today. But even a regular day, if there was such a thing without bombardments and because a ceasefire has not been enacted, Michael that there's not.

For a girl, its 850 people to a toilet. For an adolescent girl, it's three-and-a-half thousand people to a shower so that the conditions, the dignity being denied these young women is kind of like we haven't really seen before. And feeling, five months -- five months. At least couple of weeks for me is very hard to endure that the lack of certainty, not knowing if you lie there at night, how far the bombs are.

Thats what they've had. And of course, so many of them have seen parents killed.

HOLMES: Yes. There was a UNICEF report that says perhaps 13,000 children are now

dead -- children. So many others orphaned or wounded in horrific ways, the famine warnings as we know, are there.

You've been back there for a while now after having been out for a little while. How much have things changed between visits?


ELDER: They've deteriorated massively as you say. The escalation, the consistency of numbers of children -- if we look at the average of those reported 13,000 plus, 80 children a day that's being consistent killed. 80 children killed.

The nutrition situation, of course, has just rapidly declined in ways that we haven't really seen before for a single population, the speed at which its done and the devastation. I've seen cities now that are unrecognizable. I go with colleagues who are drivers who've lived here their whole life, who cannot work their way around their city because the landmarks which they would have used are simply gone.

So everything continues to get worse. Two days ago, I was in the north and I was looking back at footage realizing that there is some footage I can't share now because a child in that footage has now died of malnutrition and dehydration.

So unfortunately, Michael, everything (INAUDIBLE) we warn when you have these sustained attacks, a lack of aid, a lack of a ceasefire, remembering a lack of a ceasefire also means the hostages aren't going home.

Everyone's life has unfortunately deteriorated into levels that I didn't think I'd see, but again.

HOLMES: Yes. You've been posting some powerful images on Instagram and X and I want to -- I want to share with people. One was this young boy in a hospital. I think his name was Muhammad. And you said, quote, "This is the face of a post Security Council resolution for a ceasefire." Explain that sentiment. What Muhammad represents.

ELDER: So European hospital here in Rafah, a city of children is now the biggest functioning hospital. I went there two days after the Security Council resolution and the ICU is absolutely full of children with the wounds of war after heavy bombardment in that 48 hours after the Security Council resolution.

So there was so much hope. Everywhere I go across Gaza, Michael in English or Arabic, people ask for a ceasefire. That they cannot understand that the world may not know what's going on ceasefire. So when that announcement was made there was a breath, there was a palpable relief, but that hope has been drowned out by bombs.

So I was surrounded by children who'd been quite possibly now killed when I saw the state of them and spoke to doctors, doctors in tears, doctors saying what has this child done? So it was to try and show that the ceasefire that the world hoped, we need to be aware that right now it's meant nothing.

Hostages are still here. Bombardments continue, restrictions on aid continue.

HOLMES: Yes. And to that very point, even in the face of opposition from any number of allies, including the U.S., Israel does seem determined that a military offensive in Rafah will go ahead. What could such an operation lead to? I mean you know, you've also said Rafah is quote, "unrecognizable" as it is.

ELDER: Yes it would lead to potentially the biggest catastrophe of this war. And as you rightly said at the start, reports of more than 13,000 children killed.

Everywhere you go here, Michael, its people asleep on streets, in tents on the beach, areas that were agricultural, utterly full of people. They're holding onto life because, of course, as I mentioned, those numbers have access to basic sanitation.

They still have bombardments, but a ground offensive when they've already moved four or five times that they're coping capacities have been smashed, but mostly there's nowhere to go.

It's important the world understands unlike every other war, I think anyone can imagine, no one wants to leave their home. But if it comes to that and the choice is leaving your home for safety of your children. You go.

People of course, can't leave Gaza. They can't go anywhere. Rafah is their last hope. All this discussion is terrifying for people and with very good reason.

HOLMES: We've only got a minute or so left, but I wanted to ask you something else because you've touched on it and I think its important. You know, people there telling you -- Gazans, do they feel forgotten by the world? Do they understand why more hasn't been done to help them?

ELDER: It's a great question, something that I found very revealing and it gives me a chill now, Michael was I was in the north and I was on the street. It is very, very hectic on the streets. They are completely closed off from the world. Its past the last checkpoint.

And every person in English or Arabic was saying, "food, food, food, water, medicine, food, food". Now of course I know these things. But I was listening and they kept saying it. Why do they keep telling me they needed food, water, and medicine? They assume the world doesn't know because if the world knew how could this possibly be happening?

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. Eloquently put.

James Elder with UNICEF appreciate the work you're doing there in Gaza. Thanks, James.

ELDER: Thanks, Michael. HOLMES: Well, a quarter of a century in prison, that's the sentence for former crypto king Sam Bankman Fried for one of the biggest white- collar crimes in U.S. history. The 32-year-old founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, is appealing his conviction.


HOLMES: Before announcing the sentence, a New York judge said, quote, "There is a risk that this man will be in a position to do something very bad in the future. And it is not a trivial risk."

The judge also agreed with prosecutor's claims that Bankman-Fried wanted to be a politically influential person, and that propelled his financial crimes.

He was found guilty last year of stealing billions of dollars from FTX customers and defrauding investors and lenders to his trading firm.

CNN's Kara Scannell now, with a closer look at the case.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The judge said that the sentence that the prosecutors want was too much, but he did want to send a message and a specific message to Sam Bankman-Fried because he said that even when Sam Bankman-Fried spoke in court and said that he was sorry and that he had made mistakes. He said I made a series of bad and bad decisions, the judge said, he has never expressed remorse for what the harm he has caused these victims.

Some victims have said their entire life savings were wiped out. Others said that they needed the money at the time for medical reasons. They couldn't use it because it was it was gone.

So the judge focused on that and also Bankman-Fried's own testimony during the trial and that of his co-defendants in the case who had pleaded guilty, saying that Bankman-Fried viewed everything as the proposition of taking risk. And the judge said he was playing the game here, that the risk of him getting caught was less than the risk of him getting away with it.

And that is why the judge said he needed to make -- to take him out of the game by that sentence. And that quote you read is so spot on because the judge was saying he needed to make sure that Bankman-Fried couldn't do this again because he even noted that once FTX filed for bankruptcy Bankman-Fried was already starting to spin a new narrative, and the judge said that Bankman-Fried needed to be he sent to prison and get this message.

So when Bankman-Fried's prison term is up, he will be 57 years old. He's 32 years old today.

And you know, his parents were there in court as they have been throughout so much of this case. They just said afterwards that they are heartbroken and Bankman-Fried's lawyer says that they will appeal.


HOLMES: Kara Scannell there reporting.

Still to come on the program. King Charles makes a poignant Easter address as he recovers from cancer. Find out what he said and what he did not say.


HOLMES: Well it's been exactly one year to the day since the Wall Street journalist Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia. The newspaper will mark the anniversary in its print edition on Friday by leaving part of its front-page blank. That represents the missing articles Gershkovich never wrote because of his detention.

The headline says in part his story should be here, the crime journalism.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin says ongoing contacts about his possible exchange must be conducted in absolute silence or they'll be less likely to succeed.

As Fred Pleitgen reports, Gershkovich remains defiant in his own way.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No media allowed at Evan Gershkovich's most recent court hearing in Moscow. Just this short clip by the court's press service. Despite a year in a Russian jail, a defiant smile from "The Wall Street Journal" reporter. No surprise, his detention was extended yet again through June 30th.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia ripping into the verdict.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue. They are not a different interpretation of circumstances. They are fiction.

PLEITGEN: Evan Gershkovich was arrested and charged with espionage a year ago while on assignment in Yekaterinburg central Russia.

Maria ZAKHAROVA, SPOKESWOMAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I do not know if there are any other cases, but the allegations made by our intelligence services today were not related to his journalism.

PLEITGEN: "The Wall Street Journal" and Gershkovich's family strongly deny the allegations.

Polina Ivanova of the "Financial Times" is one of Evan's best friends and still keeps in regular contact with him writing letters.

POLINA IVANOVA, "FINANCIAL TIMES": He's doing remarkably well. He is absolutely staying strong. He's not allowing himself to, you know, to wallow, to get too upset by everything. In fact he spends most of his time in letters to us trying to make us feel better.

PLEITGEN: Gershkovich faces a jail stint of up to 20 years if convicted but CNN has reported that Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan were part of a proposed prisoner swap with the now dead opposition Alexey Navalny.

The Russian president taunted on his reelection day that he approved the swap on the condition he get back a high-profile Russian intelligence officer imprisoned for murder in Germany Vadim Krasikov.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet. I said I agree but unfortunately what happened happened.

PLEITGEN: For those close to Evan, that means the waiting continues, outcome, uncertain.

IVANOVA: When you (INAUDIBLE) and talk about it in, you know, very clear terms that this is what they want to see happen, that they're looking for a deal. You know, it just gives you hope that at some point this will -- that he will be home. He needs to be home. He needs to be back with his family with his friends.

PLEITGEN: Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Berlin.


HOLMES: Pope Francis is displaying humility as we get closer to Easter this Sunday. For the first time, the pontiff washing the feet of only women during an annual ritual on Thursday at a prison in Rome. Many of the women were in tears as the frail Catholic leader cleansed them from his wheelchair.

Foot washing happens on the Thursday before easter. It recalls when Jesus washed the disciples' feet the night before he was crucified.

And to commemorate in the U.K., King Charles recorded an audio message about the power of friendship in times of need.

It's his first public remarks since his daughter-in-law, the Princess of Wales, was diagnosed with cancer and comes as the King himself undergoes treatment for the disease.


KING CHARLES III, BRITISH MONARCH: Ladies and gentlemen, it is for me a great sadness that I cannot be with you all today. The Maundy service has a very special place in my heart. It has its origin in the life of our Lord, who knelt before his disciples. And to their great surprise, washed their travel-weary feet.

And as we have just heard in doing so, he deliberately gave to them and to us all an example of how we should serve and care for each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: The King's statement was recorded last month, and while it did not directly refer to the health of himself or Catherine, he made a point to recognize the work of public health and welfare services in the U.K.

CNN's Nada Bashir has more now on why his message feels so poignant right now.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, typically the King would be in attendance at this church service himself, but he is of course, undergoing cancer treatments so has instead shared an audio message.

Now this message was recorded in mid-March, and while it did not directly address his cancer diagnosis, nor that of the Princess of Wales, it did address the importance of acts of friendship in times of need and touched on the king's gratitude for welfare services and organizations in the country.

KING CHARLES: In this country, we are blessed by all the different services that exist for our welfare. But over and above these organizations and their selfless staff we need and benefit greatly from those that extend the hand of friendship to us, especially in a time of need.

BASHIER: Now this was the king's first public address since Catherine, the Princess of Wales, shared her shock cancer diagnosis last week. At the time, the King said he was proud of Catherine for her courage in speaking as she did and confirmed the two have remained in close contact over the last few weeks.

The King, of course, revealed his own diagnosis in January and has since taken a step back from public-facing royal duties as he undergoes cancer treatment.

Thursday's church service marks another engagement in which Queen Camilla has appeared on behalf of the King, but he is expected to be at the Easter church service on Sunday morning at St. Georges Chapel in Windsor.


BASHIR: There will be a smaller event with the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children not attending.

Nada Bashir, CNN -- London.


HOLMES: In other British royal family news, a controversial statue of the king's father, the late Prince Philip is set to come down. Have a look at it now, this is Cambridge Don, the faceless bronze statue is 13 feet or nearly four meters tall. It was intended to commemorate Prince Phillips 35-year tenure as the chancellor of Cambridge University. And here's a side-by-side comparison with what Prince Philip actually

looked like, if you needed that. The statue was not only branded as ugly, it also failed to receive planning permission according to the local council.

Well, Queen Bee, also known of course, as Beyonce, has dropped her highly-anticipated country album, Act II Cowboy Carter. That's being released at midnight local time Friday all around the world.


HOLMES: Beyonce's take there on the classic Dolly Parton song. Parton has said she's a big fan of Beyonce, and does a voice intro before the song.

There are 27 tracks on the album, including two previously released singles "Texas Hold 'em" and "16 Carriages". Cowboy Carter features collaborations with a host of artists including Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus, and the rapper Post Malone.

The 2024 Major League Baseball season is finally underway here in the U.S. and Shohei Ohtani did not disappoint in his first game as a Dodger in Los Angeles. Fans greeting the Japanese superstar with a standing ovation in his first at-bat. And he finished the day with a walk, a single and a double as the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals seven to one. Ohtani, the highest paid player in the majors with a ten-year $700 million contract. Not bad.

Thanks for watching, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with my friend and colleague Kim Brunhuber next.

I'll see you tomorrow.