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CNN International: Crews Prepare to Open Channel Near Baltimore Bridge; IDF Withdraws from Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital; Talks with Israeli Officials Over Rafah Could Take Place in Washington Today; Trump Lashes Out Online, Attacks Political and Legal Opponents; U.S. Secretary of State Heading to France, Belgium. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 04:00   ET




BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): There is no victory without entering Rafah and there is no victory without eliminating Hamas battalions there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have canned products, we have flour, rice, we have dates, and this will be arriving the next days for the people of Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voters have very quickly sent a message that they are not happy. Not only has Erdogan's ACT party failed to win back major cities in this country but it appears that they are on track to also lose some areas that had been considered strongholds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never did any defendants in my courtroom show such disrespect for the court system as was shown by Donald Trump. He's literally thumbing his nose at the courts and he's making a mockery of a legal system.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world and the United States. I'm Max Foster. It is Monday April the 1st 9 a.m. here in London. We'll get to those stories in just a moment but first we're going to Baltimore where it's 4 a.m. and we have breaking news on the recovery from the bridge disaster there.

A big step being taken towards getting the shipping operating once again in Baltimore. Crews are preparing to open an alternate channel for essential commercial vessels. The Coast Guard captain in charge of the operation says it marks an important first step towards reopening the port.

It comes after the first pieces of the collapsed bridge have been lifted from the water. CNN's Gloria Pazmino is there with a closer look at the crash site and the magnitude of the task ahead.


GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So you can see we have been able to get extremely up close to the wreckage of the Dali and we're starting to really get an appreciation and a sense of just how massive this job is going to be.

You're looking at 4,000 tons of steel and concrete that are sitting on top of that bow. That is going to be the most complicated part of this operation. Moving all of that debris and taking it off the ship so that they can begin this cleanup process and then there's everything that's laying below the surface. The part that we can't see.

There is more metal, more concrete, more debris in the water and that's going to be critical because they have to be able to make that safe for the divers whose mission it is to get back into the water and continue searching to attempt to recover the bodies of those who were lost.

But as we're sitting here, you know, now finally being able to really see it and get up close to it, you really just get a sense of the enormity of the job at hand.

But all the officials here have told us that they are confident that they're going to be able to get it done. They're working together, have all of the technology necessary and they're going step by step, taking a meticulous approach to make sure that they get it right and that eventually they can reopen the port. They can start rebuilding and that this important symbol for the city of Baltimore and the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland can get cleaned up and the people here can start getting back to normal.

I'm Gloria Pazmino, CNN.


FOSTER: Well U.S. officials tell CNN that high-level talks between the U.S. and Israeli officials over Israel's proposed ground offensive in Rafah could take place in the coming hours. Those talks originally scheduled for last week. They were abruptly called off by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Washington refused to block a U.N. resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages.

It comes as Mr. Netanyahu said on Sunday that pressure from the U.S. will not stop his forces from going into Rafah. He also once again claimed the operation was necessary to defeat Hamas.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will go into Rafah and eliminate Hamas battalions there for one simple reason. There is no victory without entering Rafah and there is no victory without eliminating Hamas battalions there.


FOSTER: Well meanwhile Egyptian state media reports that negotiations over a ceasefire and a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas resumed in Cairo on Sunday. Talks had reached a stalemate in recent days according to a source.


A CNN analyst explains one key sticking point in the negotiations.


BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The main issue that is the main sticking point in those talks is the Hamas demand that Israel will basically withdraw from this area in the middle of the Gaza Strip that divides the enclave into two parts and prevents people from going from the south back to the north.

Israel is willing to allow some gradual return from the south to the north but it does not agree at least at the moment to withdraw from this corridor. And the main thing the Israeli cabinet needs to decide is whether it agrees to this demand by Hamas. Because it seems that at the moment if Israel does not agree and Hamas sticks to its position which is the case right now there's not going to be a deal.


FOSTER: Well the Israel Defense Forces says it has withdrawn from Gaza's largest hospital after a 14-day siege. The IDF says their troops have completed precise operational activity in the area of Al- Shifa Hospital, killed terrorists and located numerous weapons as well.

But a spokesperson for Gaza's civil defense says the situation is, quote, very bad and the injured and dead bodies fill the hospital grounds. He also said more than 30 injured people had to be transported to another hospital east of Gaza City.

And Nada has been monitoring this situation. What's the latest you're hearing from Al Shifa?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well this comes after 14 days of course of the hospital being under siege and it has been difficult to get on the ground information from Al-Shifa but what we have been hearing from Palestinians trapped inside and around the hospital complex has been numerous troubling accounts of what is actually going on inside.

We heard today from the spokesperson for Gaza's civil defense saying that this can no longer be described as a hospital that many of the buildings on the complex have either been completely destroyed or burnt down. We've seen those dramatic images of buildings covered in bullet holes. We've been hearing over the last two weeks from eyewitnesses on the ground about the almost constant shelling of the hospital, airstrikes in and around the area. And of course we have heard from health ministry officials in Gaza who

have said that some 400 people have been killed over the last two weeks, that more than a thousand homes around the hospital complex. Again, Gaza's largest hospital at least it once was Gaza's largest functioning hospital, more than a thousand homes have been destroyed.

Now the Israeli military has described this as a precise and targeted operation. They say they are targeting Hamas militants who are operating within the hospital. We heard yesterday from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said that the IDF had killed more than 200 Hamas militants operating around the hospital. Though of course, CNN cannot independently verify those figures.

But the IDF has also said that while it has located weapons and intelligence documents, it has also worked to ensure that no harm has been caused to civilians or medical staff in the hospital.

But that really stands in contrast to the accounts that we've been hearing from Palestinians trapped in the hospital, particularly from medical officials and doctors in the hospital. Over the last few weeks we've been hearing repeatedly from doctors telling us that they've been unable to move in and around the hospital buildings because they feared that they would be targeted by snipers, that they had seen patients and family members attempting to leave the hospital being targeted by snipers.

We've been hearing similar accounts from those who live nearby the hospital and of course we have also been hearing from some civilians who have managed to flee the hospital, who have been ordered to move southwards by the Israeli military. Many of them described facing interrogations as they were evacuating. Some including teenagers saying that they were stripped, forced to undress while they were being interrogated by the Israeli military in open squares around the hospital.

And of course, we've also been hearing about those situation being faced by those trapped inside. No water, no food and of course limited medical supplies. So this is an extremely dire situation but we have had a limited picture of what has been happening inside and now that siege is over we'll be waiting to hear more about what has been happening over the last two weeks.

FOSTER: Nada, thank you so much.

Still a struggle to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. Reuters captured this video of what appears to be an airdrop of supplies on Sunday though it's unknown where these specific supplies came from. Jordan's armed forces say they made 10 different airdrops of humanitarian aid into northern Gaza on the same day.

The World Food Programme's Executive Director Cindy McCain is calling for full access to deliver critical aid to the region.


CINDY MCCAIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: We need access. We need full unfettered access and right now we don't have that. We can occasionally get a few trucks in, we can occasionally get up all the way to the north but it's not consistent and it is not to scale either.

All of the other issues regarding maritime and airdrops and all those are all good. We need any, any way to be able to get food in in any way we can but they can't take it to scale. We really need access to the road and we need to be able to get up to the north all the way without being caught at checkpoints and turned around.



FOSTER: Well a ship carrying aid organized by the World Central Kitchen is en route to Gaza after leaving a port in Cyprus. It's the second voyage in weeks for the non-governmental organization. Last month they worked with the Emirati government and others to deliver nearly 200 tons of aid. A representative for World Central Kitchen explains what's heading into Gaza right now.


JUAN CAMILO, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN REPRESENTATIVE: We have canned product, we have flour, rice, we have dates. And these will be arriving the next days for the people of Gaza, specifically for the people of the north.

We are also doing daily trucks crossing to Gaza. We have done hundreds and we think that we need to have more routes and more ways to deliver by land. Also we are doing airdrops and now we are doing this because there is not enough aid arriving to Gaza and we need to open as many routes as possible.


FOSTER: Christians around the world observed the Easter holiday on Sunday but not every house of worship was able to celebrate as much as they'd like to. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher held a mass for congregations in Jerusalem. The site is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified with his tomb nearby.

Although more somber services were held in Gaza, people offered prayers for peace instead of holding their usual celebrations. One woman said it was, quote, a very different holiday from before reduced to prayers and rituals. A church director says not even houses of worship are safe from the effects of Israel's war with Hamas.


MUSSA AYAD, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, HOLY FAMILY CHURCH (through translator): The condition of the Christians is the same as that of other Palestinian people. Some people have been lost, some people have died. Some patients need medications. There's need for food. Of course there's a need for security because there's war. There's a military operation, strikes, shrapnel. All of these things have affected us. Some areas inside the churches

have been hit, leading to a large number of wounded people. There's pain.


FOSTER: Pope Francis recognized that pain and once again called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during his address on Easter Sunday. CNN's Christopher Lamb has details on the Pope's own health struggles and his plans around the holiday.


CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Following concerns about his health, Pope Francis has presided at Easter Sunday Mass and given his Easter Sunday message from St. Peter's in the Vatican.

Francis has been battling bouts of ill health recently and on Good Friday pulled out of a service in order to what the Vatican said was to preserve his health.

On the Easter Sunday message Pope Francis addressed various conflicts going on in the world and reiterated his call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Here's what he had to say.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on the 7th of October and for an immediate ceasefire in the Strip.

LAMB: During Holy Week and in the run-up to Easter Pope Francis presided at five major liturgies. On Thursday he went to a female prison in Rome and washed the feet of 12 women prisoners.

On the Saturday before Easter he celebrated the Easter vigil, a service of more than two hours long. Following the Mass on Easter Sunday he toured St. Peter's Square on his Popemobile greeting the pilgrims who had gathered, many thousands who were there and seemed in good spirits.

Pope Francis, 87 years old and despite his age and his health, has insisted that he will continue in the post of Pope and is refusing to consider resignation.

Christopher Lamb, CNN.


FOSTER: Here in the U.K. King Charles met with the public for the first time since his cancer diagnosis earlier this year. The 75-year- old monarch was all smiles as he greeted the crowd outside St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle on Easter Sunday.

Charles and Queen Camilla attended Easter service with a few royal family members. The outing comes more than a week after the Princess of Wales revealed her own cancer fight. The Easter Sunday holiday sparked two very different online messages

shared by the front-running U.S. presidential candidates.

President Joe Biden wished observers a Happy Easter and said, quote: With wars and conflicts taking a toll on innocent lives around the world we renew our commitment to work for peace, security and dignity for all.

On the flip side Donald Trump posted in part, quote: Happy Easter to all including those many people I completely and totally despise because they want to destroy America.

It comes one day after sharing an image of his political opponent Joe Biden tied up and bound in the back of a pickup truck.

Trump also wrapped up attacks against the judge overseeing his criminal case over alleged hush money payments.


Posting a link to an article showing his daughter's picture just days after attacking her as a, quote, rabid Trump hater. A retired California Superior Court judge says Trump knows exactly what he's doing.


LADORIS HAZZARD CORDELL, RETIRED U.S. SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: This is not normal. Attacks upon our legal system, attacks on judges, witnesses, jurors, court staff, lawyers and their families, it's not normal. I've presided over thousands of hearings and trials during my nearly 20 years as a trial judge and never did any defendants in my courtroom show such disrespect for the court system as was shown by Donald Trump.

Trump's words are clearly intended to intimidate, threaten and incite violence against the people he names in the words coming out of his mouth and on social media. So what he's doing he's literally thumbing his nose at the courts and he's making a mockery of the legal system.


FOSTER: CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein agrees that the language Donald Trump uses has a specific purpose and it's a tool he's been using since he stepped onto the political stage.


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There are voters out there, Americans out there, who are going to hear this in a very specific way. The same way as when he told the Proud Boys in 2020 to stand back and stand by ultimately translated into January 6th. There is nothing subtle about the way Donald Trump has encouraged violence as part of his political strategy really since his emergence in 2016.

You know you can go back and recall that he offered to pay the legal fees of people who beat up protesters at his rallies all the way back in his first presidential campaign. There is nothing subtle here about what he is doing. And again, it continues to be striking how few Republicans are willing to speak up and warn -- you know and reflect on the obvious dangers of the leader of their party, the undisputed leader of their party, using this kind of language and sending these kinds of signals.


FOSTER: Well coming up, Ukraine is struggling to hold its ground on the battlefield as billions of dollars of aid is being held up in Congress. How some lawmakers are trying to help. Next.

And nine months after a jury sentenced an Idaho woman for murdering her own children, her husband will be in court on the same charges.

And later this hour controversy in women's basketball. Why some say it never would have happened in the men's version of March Madness.



FOSTER: Some $60 billion in U.S. aid for Ukraine has been stalled in Congress for weeks thanks to deep dysfunction within the Republican Party.

One moderate Republican lawmaker says that may soon be over. Representative Mike Lawler told CNN Sunday that he is optimistic the issue will come up for a vote in the coming days.


REP. MIK LAWLER (R-NY): I believe there will be a vote when we get back from the Easter recess. Certainly, this is critically important for our allies. We are the leader of the free world, and we cannot shirk on our responsibility to uphold and defend democracies across the globe.


FOSTER: But there's no guarantee Ukraine will ever see that aid. Far- right Republican lawmakers are opposing any new money for Kyiv. They're even threatening to oust the House Speaker if he puts the funding up for a vote.

Meanwhile, France says it will send hundreds of second-hand armored vehicles to Ukraine. In an interview with the French media, the country's Minister of Armed Forces says the vehicles will be old but still functioning. He also says France is preparing to send surface- to-air missiles to Ukraine, which will provide critical defense against Russian airstrikes.

Russia is calling up 150,000 civilians for military service, the country's largest conscription goal since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. All Russian men are required to serve in the military for a year from the age of 18, and twice a year, Russia calls up new conscripts for service. In July 2023, Russian lawmakers voted to raise the maximum conscription age from 27 to 30. Military officials say conscripts will not be involved in the war in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Europe this week. He'll start in Paris, where he'll meet with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss support for Ukraine, the war in Gaza and the security crisis in Haiti. Blinken will later travel to Belgium for the NATO foreign ministers' meeting.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now. So is Ukraine the top of the agenda for this trip?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It seems to be. I mean, it's, as we heard from one of the congressmen speaking there, this is something that the United States needs to steady its allies, because the European Union, of which of course France is a member, has put up many tens of billions of dollars over a period of years to support Ukraine, give Ukraine the knowledge that this money is coming, so it can build and plan its defenses, and in particular the surface- to-air missiles, which can help protect it from some of the attacks from Russia.

What Blinken will likely do is tell Macron that this White House is still effort-ing getting that money to help -- match what the Europeans are doing. But these are sensitive political issues. I think, you know, we heard from the French Armed Forces Minister there, you mentioned that there's hundreds of armored vehicles, not old -- I mean, not new but old, serviceable, working.

But the sell for the French public on that, he said, look, this is more than three billion dollars in money here that's going to Ukraine, but this is not a blank check. When these old vehicles go, this is the amount of money we'll be giving to the military industries to replace those products. So these are sensitive issues at home for the French, for the United States, other allies.

But is Blinken actually going to be able to sit across the table and tell Macron, yes, our 60 billion for Ukraine to match yours from the European Union is coming?


No, it's not in a position to do that. So this is going to be a difficult moment.

FOSTER: And Macron's been outspoken as well, obviously, about Gaza. So what will be the talking point there?

ROBERTSON: Yes, I think what the French can bring to the table here and what, you know, the United States and Secretary Blinken will be looking for will be support, perhaps to bring what influence France can bear in Lebanon. Because we know that the Israeli government has been saying, look, there's a limited time window available to fix our northern border problem. About 100,000 people are still evacuated from their homes along the northern border because of the escalation in attacks from Hezbollah across the border. So Macron, earlier in the year, has spoken about this when Israel struck at a Hamas leader and killed him inside Beirut.

Macron was very clear that Israel must not escalate that problem. But what can the French do while they do have some diplomatic influence inside Lebanon? And the U.S. has a negotiator, Amos Hochstein, that's been working to try to de-escalate that tension. But the sense is, you know, people have been talking about the middle of April as a potential deadline whereby Israel says, this Hezbollah problem, we have to go after it.

Well, if the French can bring leverage on the Lebanese side to try to just tamp down the already existing high tensions, then that can give the negotiators a little bit more time.

FOSTER: I also mentioned that Haiti will probably come up. It just shows how much pressure there is on the U.S. to continue staying involved in all of these foreign issues and their resources being spread thin when there's so much opposition to that type of thinking in Washington.

ROBERTSON: And when the division politically is towards potentially, if there's a Republican victory, would be a more isolationist United States. So this is something that the Democrats understand and have to respond to that level of public opinion as well or do respond to that level of public opinion. So absolutely, the United States is scratching around to make sure that its allies are lined up.

And of course, the biggest place that it may need its allies in the future will be any potential confrontation, escalation in tensions with China, which if the United States can't put up the money to support Ukraine and isn't able to tamp down tensions itself with Israel -- between Israel and Hamas, what will it expect its allies to do if its allies don't think it's doing enough on those issues? What will expect its allies to do when the call goes out for help with an escalation of tensions with China?

FOSTER: OK, Nic, thank you so much.

Just five months after taking power, Mike Johnson's hold on the U.S. House of Representatives is at serious risk. Who and what's behind the effort to oust him and how Ukraine aid could be the deciding factor there?

And a Turkish opposition leader claims victory in Istanbul's mayoral race. Ahead, how the heavy blows dealt to President Erdogan's political party in nationwide elections could signal a big change for Turkey's future.