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Israeli Strike Kills Eight in Northern Gaza; Israel Admits Killing Two Palestinians and Burying Them with a Bulldozer; Evan Gershkovich Has Spent One Year Behind Bars in Russia; Biden Campaign Raises Record $25 Million. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2024 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to all of you watching us around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Israel's prime minister says his nation's military is preparing to enter Rafah, despite calls for a pause in the fighting. What's at stake as the U.S. and Israel prepares to resume talks. Meanwhile, Israel's defense minister says they'll continue to target Hezbollah leadership following a series of strikes in Lebanon and Syria.

Plus, it's been a year and "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich is still in a Russian prison. What we know about the U.S. push to bring him and other Americans home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from Atlanta this is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: With Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting his military is preparing to enter Rafah, U.S. officials now say talks with Israel about what happens next in Rafah could happen as soon as Monday.

They were supposed to happen earlier this week, but Netanyahu called them off after the U.S. refused to block a U.N. resolution. It had called for a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Now this was the scene in Rafah on Friday. You can see Palestinians going through the rubble of a building destroyed by an Israeli strike.

In northern Gaza, Hamas government officials say an Israeli airstrike on a civilian vehicle killed eight people. At least five of them were children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They kill women and the elderly, people who are not at fault in this war. They're innocent people. We're talking about children. This is a little girl.

What has she done wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There were massacres every day, even against children.

What do the Israeli forces want?

What do you want, Netanyahu?

You are a children killer. You are a criminal.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The Israeli military operation around Al-Shifa Hospital has now been going on for nearly two weeks. Israel says it's, in its words, quote, "mitigating harm to civilians."

Gaza's health ministry says IDF strikes have killed medical personnel and patients as well as civilians taking shelter in the hospital and its grounds. One witness says he saw more than 100 bodies in the streets.

Gaza officials are asking for international agencies like the U.N. and Red Cross to rescue the civilians in and around the hospital.

Now further south, the IDF says it's continuing operations in Khan Yunis. Israel says soldiers eliminated dozens of terrorists and found weapons near the Al-Amal hospital.


BRUNHUBER: A short time ago, CNN spoke with Dr. Ghassan Abu Sittah, a British Palestinian surgeon, who has first-hand experience working in Al-Shifa Hospital. And he's been in touch with people who are enduring the siege.



A young plastic surgeon who I'd worked with have not -- has not been heard from for the last seven days, along with his mother. And we fear for his life as we fear for the lives of all of our colleagues who were at Shifa Hospital.

The patients who -- and the internally displaced who had sought refuge inside the hospital are also trapped without water, without food.

And there's a dire need to evacuate them. The International Committee of the Red Cross needs to intervene to try to get these civilians and these medical staff out. Their lives are at stake and grave danger. And we need to intervene now.


BRUNHUBER: The Israeli military has acknowledged it shot two Palestinian men in Gaza, then buried their bodies with a bulldozer. The admission came after news outlet Al Jazeera published heavily edited video that says it shows the incident. And we have to warn you, this video is disturbing. And have a look here.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): You can see one man walking along a beach. Al Jazeera reports that this man and another were waving what appeared to be white clothes. At one point, the man raises his hands in the air. Later, he falls to the ground apparently after being shot.

The video then cuts to a scene where an Israeli bulldozer is burying two bodies in sand and debris. It's not clear if these are the bodies of the two men shown earlier. Al Jazeera says they are.

The Israeli military says the video shows two separate incidents. And here is their statement.

"The first incident occurred in the southern part of the corridor after the suspect did not respond to a warning shot. The force fired to his direction, and he was shot and slightly wounded."

The IDF says that man was released after receiving medical treatment and being questioned.


Regarding the second incident, the IDF says, "Two suspects with bags on their backs, observed our forces and approached them in a suspicious manner. After not responding to a warning shot, the forces conducted live fire toward them as a result of which they were killed.

"The bodies were moved from the area using the documented tool out of fear of there being explosives on the suspects and risk to the forces."

CNN has asked Al Jazeera for an unedited copy of the video.


BRUNHUBER: Israel is warning that it plans to pursue the militant group Hezbollah, quote, "anywhere and everywhere it goes."

Israeli military officials claimed to have killed a high-ranking Hezbollah commander in an airstrike. Now this comes after Israel says 20 rockets and two anti-tank missiles were fired toward Israel from neighboring Lebanon on Friday. Hezbollah announced it was retaliating for what it claimed were Israeli attacks on Damascus and Aleppo.

The IDF tells CNN it struck the missile launcher and what it claims was a Hezbollah military compound nearby.

Israel is criticizing a new report that claims half of Gaza is on the brink of starvation. The report came from the IPC, a group created by U.N. bodies and major relief agencies. It says northern Gaza will decline into a full-blown famine within the next two months. Israel says the report is inaccurate and contains multiple factual

flaws. The government accuses Hamas of stealing food aid being brought into Gaza to help feed civilians. Meanwhile, ordinary Gazans are growing increasingly desperate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hope to secure food today. We hope no one will stop us and that we will be able to get food with ease without having to crowd around the items. If we can at least get a can of beans or hummus to support ourselves, we hope that we will eat today.

For most people, hunger has consumed them. They have no energy anymore.


BRUNHUBER: At least 12 people drowned on a Gaza beach Monday as they went into the water to try to retrieve international aid parcels, airdropped into the sea.


BRUNHUBER: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is warning Kyiv will have to give up more ground without U.S. military aid.

Zelenskyy told "The Washington Post," Ukraine's goal is to keep the front lines stable so it can prepare for a new counteroffensive later this year. But without U.S. support, he said Kyiv will be short of key weapons, including air defense, Patriot missiles and artillery rounds. He says it could result in a step-by-step retreat by Ukrainian troops.

About $60 billion in aid has been held up by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Speaker Mike Johnson has now committed to bring a bill up for a vote after the Easter break.

Meanwhile, the White House says, Russia's targeting of Ukrainian energy infrastructure is a, quote, "terrible reminder of Putin's efforts to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people."

On Friday, Kyiv's minister of energy said Moscow launched another massive attack in at least three regions. This comes as Russia's investigative committee is still trying to blame Kyiv for the terror attack on Moscow's Crocus City hall last Friday, claims Kyiv promised a reward to the gunman who killed at least 143 people and injured 382 more.

Ukrainian defense intelligence says the attack was planned as a way to justify severe strikes against Kyiv.

U.S. President Joe Biden says Washington will keep trying to bring "The Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich home. He spoke on Friday, exactly one year since Gershkovich was detained in Russia for alleged espionage.

He's the first journalist since the Cold War to face those charges, which he and the newspaper deny. As Matthew Chance reports, Russia wants to keep him in pretrial detention for at least three more months.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was our latest brief glimpse of Evan Gershkovich appearing in a Moscow court this week.

In the past, we've been kicked out of the courtroom.

CHANCE: You can see Evan Gershkovich is in there. Hi, Matthew, from CNN. Are you holding up alright?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

CHANCE: OK, what do you want us to do?

CHANCE (voice-over): This time, journalists weren't even allowed in. There's the detention of the Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges was extended for another three months. Outside the U.S. ambassador marked a bleak anniversary.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: This verdict to further prolong Evan's detention feels particularly painful as this week marks the one year anniversary since Evan was arrested and wrongfully detained in Yekaterinburg for simply doing his job as a journalist.

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

CHANCE (voice-over): But incarceration behind the walls of Lefortovo prison in Moscow is a grim fact. U.S. officials say they're negotiating with Moscow for his release. Even the Kremlin confirmed this week contacts on a prisoner swap are continuing.


To the Russian president, the 32-year-old American newspaper reporter, is a tradable asset.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): We're willing to solve (ph) it. But there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached.

CHANCE (voice-over): And this is who Putin has hinted he wants in return. Vadim Krasikov, a Russian operative, jailed in Germany for killing a Chechen dissident in a public park. So far, the Germans have been reluctant to set him free.

But the Kremlin knows painful agreements have been reached in the past. In 2022, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner, convicted of possessing cannabis in Russia, was swapped for Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms trafficker.

PAUL WHELAN, DETAINEE: I want to tell the world that I'm a victim of political kidnap and ransom.

CHANCE (voice-over): Russia's also holding other Americans, among them former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, convicted of espionage and jailed since 2018. U.S. officials have designated Whelan and Gershkovich as unlawfully detained.

TRACY: If the Kremlin has any desire to salvage Russia's integrity and international esteem, they should do what is right and release Evan and Paul immediately.

CHANCE (voice-over): But the Kremlin may want more than just integrity and esteem in exchange for its most valuable bargaining chips -- Matthew Chance, CNN, St. Petersburg.


BRUNHUBER: All right, still to come, after a turbulent four years of diplomacy involving a historic visit, high-stakes summits and, quote, "love letters," North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is preparing for a potential second Trump presidency.

Also ahead, voters in Turkiye head to the polls on Sunday as the president's party tries to regain cities it lost in 2019. Stay with us




BRUNHUBER: Republican Nikki Haley suspended her presidential bid earlier this month. And now the Biden campaign is making an appeal for her supporters with a new ad aimed directly at them.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Nikki Haley has made an unholy alliance with RINOs, Never Trumpers, Americans for no prosperity. She's sitting there like. She's gone crazy. She's a very angry person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you bring these Nikki Haley voters back into the team?

TRUMP: I'm not sure we need too many.


BRUNHUBER: The campaign says the seven-figure ad buy will run on digital platforms and use Republican primary data to target mostly suburban areas, where Haley performed well against Donald Trump.

Now it comes as the Biden campaign is fresh off a record-breaking fundraiser Thursday night in New York that featured two former Democratic presidents and raised a whopping $25 million. Network cameras weren't allowed inside the event. But the Biden campaign released a selected clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This guy denies there's a global warming. This guy wants to get rid of not only Roe v. Wade but -- which he brags about having done -- he wants to get rid of the ability of anyone, anywhere in America, at every check choose (ph).


All the things he's doing are so old -- speaking of old --



BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, the legal team for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is appealing a ruling Friday that allowed Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis to stay on the Georgia election subversion case.

Trump, along with several co-defendants, are asking the Georgia Court of Appeals to overturn the decision. In addition to the dismissal of Willis, they want the entire Fulton County DA's office to be disqualified.

Trump and 14 others face multiple charges in connection with efforts to reverse Georgia's 2020 election results.

Trump's attorneys also filed responses Friday related to a gag order in New York's criminal hush money case. Trump's attorneys said the language and recent requests for that clarification of that order amounted to a plea to expand it and asked to file legal briefs against it.

Trump has made multiple social media attacks against Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the case. He also attack the judge's daughter.

As the U.S. presidential election year heats up, Americans aren't the only ones contemplating another potential term in office for Donald Trump. Foreign leaders are also looking ahead to the possibility. And as CNN's Will Ripley reports, that includes North Korea's authoritarian leader.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDNT (voice-over): In Pyongyang, North Korea, Kim Jong-un is preparing for a possible second presidency of Donald Trump.

TRUMP: It's an honor to be together.

RIPLEY: He went viral in 2018, gushing about the North Korean leader.

TRUMP: He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same. RIPLEY: Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton posted that clip along with this warning: Donald Trump wants Americans to treat him like North Koreans treat Kim Jong-un Get ready.

If Trump wins in November, Bolton thinks Kim may invite the president to visit Pyongyang, an invite the close-aide-turned-Trump-critic says, his old boss could very well accept.

TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury.

RIPLEY: From fiery saber-rattling to historic summit and surprise meetings, all ending in bitter failure. Trump's first term was a roller coaster for U.S.-North Korea relations. The big question, would Kim actually consider a second round of Trump's style diplomacy?

What do you think was going through Kim's mind after Trump walked out and he had actually promoted this meeting ahead of time to his people, which is something North Korean never does?

And do you think that Kim is likely to forget that feeling anytime soon?

JOHN DELURY, PROFESSOR, YONSEL UNIVERSITY: I think coming out of the Hanoi meeting, Kim Jong-un on that long train ride felt burned and he had to simmer in the juices of the fact that you can't really count on Donald Trump at the end of the day to seal the deal, that Trump will walk. I mean, that's the lesson learned.

RIPLEY: These days, Kim's cozied up to President Vladimir Putin, supplying the Russian strongman with weapons and ammo for his war in Ukraine.

TRUMP: He wrote me beautiful letters and they're great letters. We fell in love.

RIPLEY: Trump shared 27 of those love letters with journalist Bob Woodward, revealing a relationship that sour when diplomacy disintegrated in 2019.

In his last known letter to Trump in August of that year, Kim wrote, "If you do not think of our relationship as a stepping stone that only benefits you, then you would not make me look like an idiot that will only give without getting anything in return."

DELURY: There was always this gap between the seriousness that Kim Jong-un brought into the process versus the theatricality of it for Donald Trump.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Some compared the whole thing to a made for TV reality show.

Now many wonder, could there be a second season? -- Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BRUNHUBER: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to make his first trip to the White House since Joe Biden took office. Turkish media reports the trip will happen on May 9th.

The visit comes as ties between Turkiye and the United States have been strained due in large part to Erdogan's opposition to Sweden and Finland's entrance into NATO.

Also at issue, Turkiye's growing closeness with Russia and Ankara's long-standing ties with Hamas. On Sunday, voters across Turkiye will head to the polls to vote in municipal elections. President Erdogan's party is hoping to reclaim some of the cities it lost in the 2019 election, including Istanbul. More now from CNN's Scott McLean


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you don't hear the signs of local election season in Turkiye, then surely you'll see them.



MCLEAN (voice-over): Everywhere you look, billboards, banners and bunting, the many, many faces of the candidates and one prominent face who isn't on the ballot at all, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan's AK Party is aiming to win back Istanbul after losing it in 2019 in a bitterly contested and eventually rerun election, won by this man, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu. He is from the opposition CHP Party and is now Erdogan's most powerful rival.

And pundits think will have the clout to challenge his party in the next presidential race, especially if he can win back his job as mayor this weekend.


MCLEAN (voice-over): "I promise you that in Istanbul there will be a whole new level of trust and accountability," he says.

Local elections come at a time when the economy is sputtering. Inflation is out of control and interest rates just hit 50 percent.

"I voted for the AK Party twice but I won't this time," this man says.

"What can a retired person do with a 10,000 lira pension?

"Rent is 15,000. I can't pay the rent on my house."

MCLEAN: There are dozens of candidates vying to be the mayor of Istanbul and the outcome of this election will depend heavily on what happens with the smaller parties, from the left-wing, pro-Kurdish Dem Party to the ultra-nationalist Victory Party and, trust me, there are plenty of others in between. And all of these smaller parties will be siphoning off support from

the main two, the incumbent mayor and the secular CHP Party and President Erdogan's more religious conservative AK Party.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Across town, the former bureaucrat and minister, Murat Kurum, is rallying AK Party supporters. He has few personal ties to Istanbul but plenty of support from President Erdogan.

"This is a Murat Kurum promise," he says. "This is a Recep Tayyip Erdogan promise."

MCLEAN: Do you feel like you're voting for Murat Kurum or really just voting for an extension of Tayyip Erdogan?

MCLEAN (voice-over): "Of course, Recep Tayyip Erdogan," Adga (ph) tells us.

"We love him with all our hearts."

AHMET KASIM HAN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, BEYKOZ UNIVERSITY: No more two out there is comparable to him. But Imamoglu actually forces that myth.

MCLEAN: What happens if Imamoglu wins?

HAN: So Erdogan will feel probably compelled to run himself. He will be the only sort of political gladiator out there who would be able to win an up and coming candidate like Imamoglu.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The next presidential election isn't until 2028. But if Imamoglu wins, the unofficial campaign season may start this weekend -- Scott McLean, CNN, Istanbul.


BRUNHUBER: We'll be right back.




BRUNHUBER: As Easter weekend services get underway, there was a high profile absence by Pope Francis. According to the Vatican, the pope didn't attend the Stations of the Cross of the Colosseum in Rome Friday night.


Instead, he followed the service from his residence to preserve his health for Saturday's vigil and Easter Sunday mass. Earlier on Good Friday, Pope Francis did preside over celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica.

Eggs have long been a custom of the Easter holiday. They're a symbol of life and rebirth. Well, this year, a conservation group in South Africa is urging people to consider a new kind of Easter egg, one that supports the renewal of endangered birds.

CNN's Michael Holmes reports on a campaign hoping to replace Easter baskets with incubators.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dipped, dyed, chocolate and, at times, exquisitely painted, eggs are a big part of celebrating Easter in many parts of the world. And one conservation group is hoping to add a new tradition to the holiday.

NICKY SHADBOLT, SANCCOB VOLUNTEER: When everybody is also thinking about chocolate and Easters and fluffy bunnies and so forth, we would like people to be focused on (INAUDIBLE) and you can even adopt an egg (INAUDIBLE) so much more symbolic of Easter.

HOLMES (voice-over): They might not be the fuzzy yellow chicks associated with Easter but the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds says it needs help funding the care of more than 200 African penguin eggs that were rescued from two different colonies.

The group is asking people to adopt an egg to pay for the cost of incubation and raising the chicks before they return to the wild. Some experts say rearing new healthy birds is the key to the survival of the penguins that once thrived in South Africa.

RONNIS DANIELS, RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, SANCCOB: The African penguin is quite close to extinction. By 2035, according to scientists and with the endangered status, it really is important that we do everything we can to protect the species.

HOLMES (voice-over): Ronnis Daniels says the African penguin population has less than 10,000 breeding pairs left. That's down from a total population of 1 million African penguins about a century ago.

One of their biggest threats is commercial fishing, which has depleted foods sources like sardines and anchovies that penguins eat. The organizations says it takes four months to raise a healthy chick from an egg. And any help this Easter, in the spirit of the holiday, could hopefully breathe new life into a struggling species -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: I've seen those penguins in the flesh. What a great cause.

That wraps this hour's CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "LIVING GOLF" is coming up and then I'll be back with more news. See you then.