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Report: Ceasefire Talks Resume Sunday In Cairo; Trump Posts Video Showing Image Of Biden Hog-Tied On A Truck; Governor: Reopening Baltimore Port Could Take Weeks. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2024 - 03:00   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to our viewers watching around the world. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong.


Well, ceasefire talks is set to resume between Israel and Hamas in Cairo today, as thousands protest in Tel Aviv against Netanyahu's government and its efforts to bring the hostages home.

A plea from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for more air defenses from allies like the United States and Europe.

And it's not Italy's most famous leaning tower, but work is underway to stop it from toppling over. We'll talk to an expert in Bologna about plans to save the Torre Garisenda.


COREN: Egyptian state media is reporting that ceasefire and hostage talks involving Israel and Hamas are due to resume in Cairo on Sunday. The last round of talks happened in Doha earlier this month.

On Saturday, Jordan's foreign minister told reporters that Israel must allow more aid into Gaza to prevent famine. He was in Cairo meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt and France.

In Tel Aviv, on Saturday, thousands of protesters were on the streets.


They chanted "bring them home now", demanding that all hostages in Gaza be released, and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be removed from office. Well, police say a large number of protests is set fires and blocked roads. Officers used water cannons on some of them, 16 people were arrested. Protest organizers say that next weekend, they plan to protests outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.

The head of the World Health Organization says thousands of Palestinians urgently need to be evacuated from Gaza for medical reasons.

Well, CNN's senior international correspondent, Melissa Bell, has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another day of violence across the Gaza strip with fierce fighting around the Shifa Hospital now, the subject of an Israeli siege for the last 13 days. There has been fighting as well around the Gaza Strip elsewhere with huge medical needs according to her, the world health organization who says that it is some 9,000 Palestinians who are now in need of urgent evacuation from the strip in order to get the care they need, given that there are only now ten minimally functioning hospitals across the territory.

It comes as an Israeli delegation prepares to head to Washington. Its possible that could happen as early as Monday in order to meet after the canceled trip last week with American officials, what the United States is hoping to do is urged them to find ways of voiding the full- scale assault, the ground offensive on Rafah that Israel has been threatening to carry out.

Shortly we heard again from Benjamin Netanyahu this week explaining that it was necessary in order to flush out those last four Hamas battalions that are believed to be holding out there. It is the fate of the 1.2 million Gazans currently huddled in and around the city and desperate conditions intense. And what their feet would be should such an assault went ahead that weighs heavily on the minds of the outside world.

It comes, of course, as there is a glimmer of hope for the hostage negotiations. We under sand that Israel will be sending its negotiators back both to Qatar and to Cairo in order to pick up those negotiations where they'd left off. The hope that Hamas can be convinced to make concessions on a couple of the most outstanding points, the most difficult points in these negotiations, the question of the return of civilians the north of the Gaza Strip and the question of the continued presence of Israeli soldiers, and of course, the question of the long-term fate of the territory beyond the six- week ceasefire at the heart of a potential deal.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Jerusalem.


COREN: Earlier, I spoke with Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. State Department Middle East negotiator and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. I asked him about the looming famine in Gaza and why the Biden administration isn't putting more pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu to allow more aid into the enclave.


AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: I think the administration has finally accepted to reality that most of these really public part of the security establishment, the extremist government in Israel is simply not willing to facilitate massive amounts of aid as long as Hamas holds hostages. [03:05:20]

The Israelis are convinced that Hamas is diverting a fair portion of this aid. If the Israelis wanted to, the port of Ashdod is only within what, 20 miles from northern Gaza. That port is amply equipped with screening facilities to handle an enormous amount of assistance which because then be trucked in.

But after five months, it's quite clear that the Israeli government doesn't have the will, they may have security concerns to basically open the floodgates and obviously it creates a huge problem. I also think the administration realizes now that there's very little they can do. They've pressed very hard, they've got one additional crossing point opened in the north.

But the truth is that the only way to prevent catastrophic starvation and famine is to downshift the Israeli military campaign. And the only way that's going to happen is if in fact you can get a six-week pause through an Israeli Hamas negotiated agreement.


COREN: Ukraine's president is pleading with allies for more air defenses as Russia ramps up attacks on the Ukrainian power grid. Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the allies know what Ukraine needs and what's at stake.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Russian terrorists are now targeting such vile strikes to cause the energy bleeding of Ukraine. We gave all the necessary signals to our partners, all the specific requests to everyone who has the necessary air defense systems, to everyone who has the necessary missiles, America, Europe, our other partners. Everyone knows what we need. Everyone knows how important it is right now to help us protect ourselves from these blows, at this very moment.


COREN: Well, Mr. Zelenskyy spoke after a series of strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure in recent weeks. Ukraine's largest private energy company says 80 percent of his generating capacity is now offline. And five hour out of its six power plants have been very badly damaged.

Well, people in occupied Crimea have honored the victims of last week's terrorist attack near Moscow. They laid flowers and lit candles at a memorial to the more than 140 people who were killed Russia now says all but ten of the dead have been identified. More than 550 others were wounded. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Russia is still pointing a finger at Ukraine without showing any evidence. Kyiv strongly denies any involvement.

Well, it's just after 10:00 a.m. in Turkey and voters are heading to the polls in nationwide municipal elections. You are now looking at live pictures while the vote is seen as a referendum on prison, Erdogan's control of the country after two decades in power. He's looking for his party to reclaim control of the city of Istanbul as his major rival, Ekrem Imamoglu, to expand the power of the opposition five years after defeating Erdogan's AK Party in Istanbul and Ankara.

The election results are expected to be shaped in part by the country's economic woes. As Turkey faces rampant inflation near 70 percent.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is facing criticism after he posted on social media a controversial video showing an image of President Joe Biden tied up in the back of a pickup truck. Mr. Biden's campaign has condemned to the post saying, Trump is inciting political violence.

CNN's Steve Contorno has more.


STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Former President Donald Trump, once again, drawing accusations that he is encouraging violence against a political opponent. This time for a social media post involving President Joe Biden. In this video that Trump posted the Truth Social on Friday, it shows two trucks driving on Long Island, decked out in pro-Trump decals and flags and this image of President Joe Biden hogtied on the back of a truck.

Trump posted that video to his social media site Truth Social on Friday. On Saturday, his campaign defended it, telling CNN in a statement quotes that picture was on the back of a pickup truck that was traveling down the highway. Democrats and crazed lunatics have not only called for despicable violence against President Trump and his family, they are actually weaponizing the justice system against him.


The Biden campaign meanwhile, wasted little time responding to this. They told CNN in a statement, quotes, this image from Donald Trump is the type of crap you post when you're calling for a bloodbath or when you tell the Proud Boys to stand back and standby. Trump is regularly inciting political violence and it's time people take him seriously, just ask the Capitol police officers who were attacked, protecting our democracy on January 6.

These kinds of violent images are commonplace among some Trump supporters and you can find them often at his rallies, certainly online. And yes, even on the back of vehicles. But it is still striking to see them coming from a former president and someone who is seeking the White House once again. Of course, this has become common place for Trump going all the way back to his 2016 campaign for president. And through this week when he has repeatedly attacked one of the judges who is overseeing his case in New York. Steve Contorno, CNN, St. Petersburg, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COREN: After the break, heavy lifting in Baltimore harbor. How engineers are planning to remove some 5,000 tons of wreckage from the bridge disaster.

Plus, Italy's other leaning tower. We'll bring you the latest on why Bologna Garisenda Tower could be on the brink of collapse. That's after a short break.


COREN: Well, turning to the Baltimore bridge collapse site where a massive cleanup operation is underway. Engineers and divers are carefully examining the wreckage and you are looking at live pictures. Although officials say reopening the disrupted port could take weeks.

CNN's Gloria Pazmino has more.


GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're learning more about the first critical steps officials here will be taking in what is certain to be a long recovery process. They are expecting that they'll be able to lift every part of the north side of the bridge that remains. That is going to be a critical step because they are trying to reopen a part of the channel, so that boats and ship traffic can begin to start flowing once again, at least around the wreckage of the Dali, which is going to take a much longer time to be removed from where it's been sitting since the bridge collapsed earlier this week.

The governor has made it clear that this is going to be a multifaceted and complicated, dangerous operation that they have to go detailed by detail to make sure that they can get it exactly right. There is several pieces of heavy equipment that have arrived in the area to help in that process. And there is more than 1,000 engineers spread out across the entire country looking at the wreckage, trying to come up with the best plan to start lifting those heavy pieces of metal that are resting on top of the boat in order to begin the cleanup process.


All of those -- all of this is going to be essential to make sure that divers can get back into the water and help search for the recovery of the bodies that have yet to be found. We spoke with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier trying to understand just how this process is going to play out.

Take a listen.

SCOTT A. SPELLMON, COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: That vessel looks small from where were standing here on the shore. That vessel weighs on the order of 95,000 tons. The bridge span that's behind us, that one I mentioned were going to sever, that piece weighs 5,000 tons alone. So that's a lot of downward pressure on that vessel already. The -- so you're correct. We have one of the largest cranes here on the Eastern Seaboard arrives 23 -- 11:00 p.m. two nights ago. And so, imagine we're going to have to cut those steel sections into much smaller components to lift them out safely and efficiently.

PAZMINO: So safety is certainly the first priority. The governor making it clear that he is committed to making sure that divers get back into the water as soon as it is safe for them to do so. So the recovery mission can continue. There are four families that are waiting to hear and waiting to see if the bodies of their loved ones will be recovered. It's the last thing that they're hoping they can get so that they can hopefully get some closure after this tragedy.

Local officials here, said that they are committed to making sure that happens.

In Baltimore, Maryland, Gloria Pazmino, CNN.


COREN: Well, now to Italy's other leaning tower. The Garisenda tower in Bologna dates back to 1109 when its construction began. It's now tilting more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, with scientists saying its at high risk of collapsing. But the race is on to say the landmark with a $20 million restoration project.

Well, joining us now live from Bologna is engineering professor Paolo Foraboschi of the Architectural University of Venice.

Paolo, great to have you with us.

We all know its more famous cousin in Pisa. But tell us about the Garisenda and its risk of collapse.

PAOLO FORABOSCHI, ENGINEERING PROFESSOR, ARCHITECTURAL UNIVERSITY OF VENICE: Unfortunately, Garisenda Tower is a threatening the collapse -- about to collapse. But the reason is different than the tower of Pisa. In this case, the week point is the masonry because Garisenda Tower is made of alpha sandwich masonry and for that reason, it is weaker.

Moreover, the core of the sandwich masonry it was made of both the lime mortar, which is week not the roman for instance, the Roman mortar, the lime mortar. So it is a weak and what that threatening the collapse is the more the masonry of the base.

On the contrary, the Tower of Pisa, the risk was at the soil. So the problem is that different, in this case.

COREN: OK. Paolo, in the past, this tower, the Garisenda, was actually shortened to brick by brick. What methods will be used this time to stabilize it?

FORABOSCHI: To shorten the tower

COREN: Would stabilize the tower, what are they going to do to fix Garisenda?

FORABOSCHI: To fix the Garisenda from the structural perspective is not so difficult. What is difficult is the restoration criterion. The way we want to operate because structural worker means -- implies altering the tower. So we have to decide what we accept that. Once we have decided the architect or the recession criterion, the structural work to strengthen the tower is a consequence. So, it's not so difficult.

COREN: And, Paolo --

FORABOSCHI: Sorry, the engineers who are working on that problem are of the top level.

COREN: I was just going to say, I presume that you are a part of that team. What is the timeframe of this -- of this operation? Twenty million dollar operation. And when do you believe that the tower will be reopened to the public?


FORABOSCHI: That operation has been split into two phases. Now, the problem is to guarantee safety to the bases around the tower because the collapse of the tower would involve a great area

Then we will day they will think about the way to strengthen the tower. Now, the first problem is to protect the area from the possible collapse because we are in center. So the density of houses, of buildings is a high.

COREN: Of course, Paolo, this tower was built in the 12th century. Tell us about Garisenda's history and its cultural importance in Bologna and for Italy.

FORABOSCHI: Garisenda is very important. Bologna is called -- the symbol of Bologna are the two towers. The Garisenda Tower, and Asinelli Tower. Asinelli Tower is the tallest one. It is about 100 meter.

And it is a strange because I think that the Asinelli Tower is the boldest, the most daring, the bravest structure in the world ever built. And on the contrary, now the problem comes from Garisenda which is short and, and I thought it was less dangerous. However, Garisenda and Asinelli are the symbol of Bologna.

And Garisenda was mentioned by Dante Alighieri twice, so once in the Divine Comedy. And so, it is really important. Bologna in the past was full of towers, more than 100 towers around at the beginning of the 15th century. Some of them unfortunately collapsed. Other were shortened and now can't be see any longer.

So, Garisenda and Asinelli are the towers that remained on the remind us about that the period, again, the symbol of Bologna. So they are very important. It is, they are also the geometric center of Bologna because of the plan of Bologna as the radial streets and the center and the geometric center is denoted given by those powers. So it is really, really important.

COREN: Yes, I've been to Bologna many, many moons ago, Paolo. Look forward to returning and seeing that the tower restored, but thank you so much for your time, Paolo Foraboschi in Bologna. Many thanks.

Well, a traditional Easter gift for children is costing more this year. The price of chocolate bunnies and other sweets is rising. Why consumers are feeling the bite, when we return.


COREN: Well, celebrations are set to start soon at the Vatican, marking the holiest day on the Christian calendar when the faithful believe Jesus, I should say, rose from the dead. You are looking at to live pictures of Vatican City.


Well, Pope Francis is expected to preside over Easter mass in St. Peter's Square and give his traditional "Urbi Et Orbi" blessing translated as for the city and the world.

The pope persevered through the two hour Easter vigil mass on Saturday, his voice sounding raspy and out of breath at times. There have been concerns over his health recently. He skipped the Way of the Cross procession on Friday, the Vatican calling it a bid to preserve his health ahead of other holy week events.

A beloved tradition over this holiday weekend is receiving chocolate, Easter bunnies, except this year, those cute little confections are a little bit pricier as the cost of cocoa soars. Retailers are doing their best to keep increases from taking a bite out of profits.

Ivan Rodriguez explains.


IVAN RODRIGUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For chocolatiers, the last several months have been nonstop.

JOCELYN DUBUKE, CHEF AND OWNER OF JARDI CHOCOLATES: You get Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, a little bit of break, Easter and now things kind of slow down a little bit.

RODRIGUEZ: Jocelyn Dubuke is the owner and chef of Jardi Chocolates. She's tasked with making chocolate confections of different flavors, shapes and colors. But this year, since the price of cocoa has gotten significantly more expensive, she's rethinking the kind of treats she makes and how she makes them. Like this marshmallow chocolate bunny.

DUBUKE: It's a chocolate cookie with a vanilla bean marshmallow and then it's covered in milk chocolate.

So, for the, you know, 30 grams that you're getting, only 18 grams of that is chocolate, which means it's a much lower ingredient cost for me, much lower labor for me as well, which means that I can pass along those lower costs.

RODRIGUEZ: In January of 2023, Dubuke was paying $13.50 a kilo for chocolate. This week, she's paid $15.71 a kilo.

DUBUKE: So, that's a 16 percent increase. The white chocolate, like I said, has gone up 35 percent in less than a year.

RODRIGUEZ: And with no end in sight for when prices could normalize, Dubuke will have to continue finding creative ways to create delicious chocolate while keeping her business afloat.


RODRIGUEZ (on camera): It's an uncomfortable situation sometimes for chocolatiers. Chef Dubuke told us that at times, consumers feel like they're the only ones seeing the price increases, especially at a time when everything feels like it's getting more expensive. But she says she's lucky her customers have been understanding.

Ivan Rodriguez, CNN, Atlanta.

COREN: Well, thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS" is next , and then Kim Brunhuber, my colleague, will be up in about 30 minutes time with more of CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us.