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World Central Kitchen Pauses Gaza Operations After 7 Workers Killed In Airstrike; Israel Airstrikes Iranian Consular Building In Syria, Iran Vows Response; Hackers Stole Russian Prisoner Database To Avenge Death Of Navalny; Israeli Troops Exit Gaza's Shifa Hospital, Leaving Rubble And Bodies; Trump's Net Worth Plunges $1 Billion As His Media Stock Tumbles; Some Israelis Choosing Jail over Military Service; Erdogan Dealt Major Blow as Opposition Party Wins Big; United Airlines Asks Pilots to Take Unpaid Leave; Caitliln Clark and Iowa Return to Women's Final Four; "Oppenheimer" Opens in Japan after Delay. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 01:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome. I'm Paula Newton, the head right here on CNN Newsroom. A strike in Gaza kills multiple foreign aid workers with the World Central Kitchen.

Iran promises to respond to the deadly attack on its consulate in Syria why it blames Israel and the US.

And a CNN exclusive, how hackers broke into the Russian prison computer network with the message, Long Live Alexey Navalny.

And we do begin this hour in Gaza where at least five aid workers. have been killed in an Israeli military strike. World Central Kitchen says those killed Monday were members of its team and in a statement made clear humanitarian aid workers and civilians should never be a target.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said an Australian aid worker was among those killed. He said Zomi Frankcom was doing extraordinarily valuable work and says his government is seeking accountability.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, AUSTRALIAN PRIE MINISTER: We certainly have already contacted the Israeli government directly. We are contacting the Israeli ambassador to ask for accountability here. The truth is that this is beyond any reasonable circumstances. Someone going about providing aid and humanitarian assistance should lose their life.


NEWTON: World Central kitchen founder Jose Andres posted on X saying he is heartbroken and grieving for their family and friends. He called those killed angels and called out the Israeli government, saying it, quote, needs to stop this indiscriminate killing and needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers.

The White House is also reacting to the strike and is urging Israel to swiftly investigate what happened. The Israel Defense Forces says it is conducting a thorough review to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.

Now Iran is blaming Israel for a deadly attack on its consulate in Damascus, Syria. An Iranian diplomat says Israeli F-35 warplanes targeted the building with six missiles, causing major damage. An Israeli military spokesperson wouldn't comment on the strike, but said the building was not a consulate or embassy, but a military building of Iran's Quds forces.

The New York Times cites four unnamed Israeli officials who acknowledge that Israel carried out the attack. CNN cannot independently verify that reporting. Iran says at least seven people were killed in the strike. They include two senior commanders of the Islamic Republican Guard, Revolutionary Guard, pardon me. Russia, Saudi Arabia and a number of Arab countries have condemned the attack and Iran is now vowing revenge.


HOSSEIN AKBARI, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA (through translator): We told you before, the Zionist entity knows very well that such crimes and any kind of crimes will not remain without response.


NEWTON: Now, Iran's foreign minister, meantime, says U.S. support for Israel makes it, quote, answerable for the attack. More now from CNN national security correspondent Natasha Bertrand.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Iran says its consulate in Damascus, Syria, was attacked by Israel on Monday, leaving at least seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officials dead, including two senior commander.

Now, Iran's ambassador to Syria said the building was targeted with six missiles from Israeli F-35 warplanes. But the Israelis have neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the strike, which has raised fears of an escalation in the region as Iran has vowed to respond decisively.

Now, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense forces, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told CNN that he would not comment on the attack other than to say that according to Israeli intelligence, the building that was hit was actually a military building being used by the IRGC rather than a civilian consulate.

CNN cannot independently verify either Iran or Israel's claims, but State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. has been in touch with regional partners to determine what happened here, and he reiterated that the U.S. does not want to see the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalate beyond Gaza.

But it remains to be seen whether and how Iran will retaliate here. Iran-backed proxy militias who were attacking U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq almost daily up until February have not launched any new attacks in nearly two months.


But the concern now, of course, is that could change now that Iran is vowing revenge. Natasha Bertrand, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: With me now is Trita Parsi. He is the executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Good to see you. As we continue to try and parse exactly what's happened here in the fallout. Now, you believe these targeted assassinations are in fact a significant escalation in the Middle East conflict.

What I want to ask you, though, is what kind of fallout do you think we can expect?

TRITA PARSI, AUTHOR, "LOSING AN ENEMY": One of the most immediate fallouts may be that this uneasy ceasefire that has existed now for six weeks between the United States and militias in Iraq and Syria, prior to that, were targeting U.S. troops on a daily basis and, as you remember, killed three us troops in a base in Jordan and Syria.

That has been as a result of pressure by the United States on these militias, but also by Iran. And now the Iranians have sent a message to the U.S. through the Swiss it appears that the Iranians are holding the U.S. responsible for what Israel has done just as much as Israel holds, or the U.S. holds Iran responsible for what Iraqi militias do.

And the message appears to have been, or may have been that this truce is now over and we may see an increase, a resumption of attacks by Iraqi militias and Syrian militias against us troops. And that would mean that the Israeli attack on Iran actually has put a target on the backs of American troops in the Middle East.

NEWTON: Yes, and as you point out earlier this year, there was quite a significant attack, and I want to get to that in a moment. But first I want to ask you about your opinion that you've already, you know, elaborated on, that Israel is in fact, engaged in a deliberate, you call it deliberate and systemic effort to destroy existing laws and norms around warfare.

Is the issue for you the fact that this could have been an Iranian consulate or embassy of sorts?

PARSI: No, it's the systematic approach in which almost every law of war, every normal war have now been broken by the Israelis over the course of the last six months. Targeting of hospitals, even assassinations of patients inside of hospitals, forced famine, an attack on a consulate or an embassy. I mean, even during times of war, the rule is you do not attack or bomb embassies of other countries, even the country that you may be at war with.

All of these norms and laws have been broken by Israel over the course of the last six months, and it's gotten to the point in which it doesn't appear to be accident. It appears to be a systematic effort to essentially undo the norms and laws around the world or at a minimum put Israel above them, create a new normal in which Israel is not held to the same laws of war that exists for everyone else.

NEWTON: You know, Israel will argue that it's dealing with a rogue state one hand and terrorists on the other, right on its borders. I do want to get back to the issue, though, of Israel's, pardon me, Iran's proxy war against Israel, the United States and the West.

You know, it's been quite bold. We just discussed that attack right earlier this year where three U.S. army soldiers were actually killed and more than 30 service members injured in a drone attack in Jordan. I mean, obviously the U.S. believes Iran ordered that attack.

What do you believe is the proper response then? Because as you point out, we may be pivoting here to quite an escalation.

PARSI: Well, first of all, whether Israel is dealing with a rogue state or terrorism does not mean that international law does not apply to it. It certainly seems to be trying to create a reality in which it is not held to international law, but it is, and it doesn't matter who it is fighting in those type of circumstances.

In regards to what the U.S. response should have been, it's very clear that these escalations by the Iraqi militias who are supported by Iran, no doubt are coming as a response to what is happening in Gaza. The demand of these militias, the demands of the Houthis, has been a ceasefire in Gaza.

During the six days in November in which there was a ceasefire in Gaza, there were zero attacks by these Iraqi militias and a significant drop of the activities of the Houthis as well.

So if we actually put us interests first and try to make sure that us troops are protected, a much more effective way of protecting the troops would have been to actually get a ceasefire in Gaza rather than escalating as the U.S. did.

Now, that short term escalation has had an effect, at least up until now, in which the attacks by the Iraqi and Syrian militias dropped. Not those by the Houthis, however. But that may now have ended as a result of Israel targeting the Iranian consulate in Damascus.


NEWTON: Yes. And this could, in fact, have chilling consequences right throughout the Middle east, if, indeed you are correct. Trita Parsi, always good to have you with us. Appreciate it.

PARSI: Thank you so much for having me.

NEWTON: U.S. officials tell CNN the Biden administration has not seen any operational plans from Israel regarding a proposed ground military ground operation in the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1 million civilians are now sheltering. That news comes following a virtual meeting of senior us and Israeli officials that's been described as productive.

We're told top us officials urged their Israeli counterparts to pursue a different course of action in Rafah that would target Hamas but limit civilian casualties.

We're also learning that the Biden administration is close to approving the sale of as many as 50 American made F-15 fighter jets to Israel. Sources say that deal is expected to be worth more than $18 billion and would amount to the largest U.S. foreign military sale to Israel since the October 7 attacks.

Now, the jets would still need to be built and would likely not be delivered to Israel for four to five years in the future.

Now, the United Nations says it's planning a mission to Gaza's largest hospital as soon as it's able to following the withdrawal of Israeli forces. That word coming from the Israel Defense forces when it ended its 14 day siege on Al Shifa hospital, uncovering the scale of devastation left behind. And you can see some of it there.

Israel's defense minister is praising what he called determined and professional action inside the medical complex. But Gaza's civil defense said scenes of, quote, atrocious crimes by Israeli forces cannot be overlooked.

Now these satellite images show what the hospital complex looked like before the two week raid. And there you see what it looks like now. CNN's Nada Bashir has more details, but a warning many of the images in her report are graphic.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): As dawn breaks over Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital, the full extent of this latest nightmare becomes clear. Building scorched, some still ablaze, others riddled with bullet holes or completely destroyed.

Below, bodies lay crushed and decomposing. Under torchlight limbs are found tangled amid earth and rubble. This is the aftermath of the Israeli military's 14-day siege on what once was Gaza's largest hospital.

Please, God, enough. This woman screams. How much more can Gaza's civilians be forced to endure?

Medical crews tell CNN they arrived on Monday morning to find hundreds of bodies scattered around the complex. Others have been left wounded, starving and desperate for help. We spent days without food or water until the military gave us a few food cans, but they were not enough to feed all the patients, Jana says. They would give each patient just a quarter of a water bottle each day. The bombardment and shooting was constant.

The scale of the destruction wrought by the Israeli military here seems impossible to quantify. In the surrounding area, entire families trapped in their homes for two weeks under near constant bombardment. Upon the Israeli military's withdrawal, Arafat Alolu (ph) was finally able to return home, only to find that his wife and seven children had been killed.

The Israeli military has described the siege on Al Shifa as a precise operation targeting how militants, some 200 of which they say were killed, though CNN is unable to verify this figure. Weapons and intelligence documents are also said to have been found on the complex, which had been housing hundreds of civilians when the siege began. The IDF maintains that soldiers distinguish between militants and civilians.

But such claims stand in stark contrast to the troubling testimonies and videos CNN has received from countless civilians and medical staff who are trapped in and around the hospital.

We can't estimate the number of medical staff who were targeted in what we can only call executions, this medical official says. In earlier testimonies shared with CNN, civilians described being stripped, bound, and blindfolded in the cold before facing interrogations by Israeli soldiers.


Reports of beatings are also widespread. For days, medical staff within the hospital told CNN they couldn't even move between buildings on the complex for fear of being targeted by Israeli snipers. Every day a patient would die, Mousa says. The occupation soldiers used us as human shields inside the hospital.

More than 300 bodies have so far been recovered, according to authorities in Gaza. But that figure will likely only rise warnings that Al Shifa could soon be turned into a graveyard now a gut wrenching reality.

BASHIR: CNN has reached out to the Israeli military for comment on our report. In a statement on Monday, the director of the World Health Organization reiterated that hospitals must be respected and protected and not used as battlefields.

The United Nations, meanwhile, says it is planning a mission to Al- Shifa hospital as soon as they are able to gain access in order to provide urgent medical support and to assess the damage caused to the medical complex. Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


NEWTON: So Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is temporarily shutting down news network Al Jazeera's operations in Israel. On Monday, Israel's parliament approved a law allowing the government to shut down foreign networks deemed a threat to national security.

Netanyahu posted on social media that, quote, terrorist network Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. Israel has claimed the network played a role in the October 7 attacks. Al Jazeera says Netanyahu has provided no legitimate proof of the claim. It also says he's jeopardizing its reputation as well as the safety and rights its employees.

Ahead for us, a CNN exclusive. Hacktivists take on the Russian government to avenge the death of Alexei Navalny. Plus, shares of Trump media plunge after major losses last year were revealed what analysts are saying about the true value of Truth Social.


NEWTON: The Kremlin is rejecting allegations that Russia is behind the Havana syndrome that's affected U.S. and Canadian diplomats abroad. Now the denial follows a report from the Latvia based think tank The Insider, in collaboration with 60 Minutes and Germany's Der Spiegel.

Havana syndrome is a mysterious medical condition experienced by dozens of U.S. officials with symptoms that include migraines, nausea and memory lapses. Here's more from the insider's lead investigator.


CHRISO GROZEV, LEAD INVESTIGATOR, THE INSIDER: We had been investigating this unit for years, ever since 2018, when they were behind the poisoning with Novichok of Sergei Skripal in the UK.


I had an understanding of what they do. I knew that they were going after people to debilitate them, to assassinate them, to blow up things. But there was just a hypothesis that maybe they're also behind this operation, which had one big question, a gap in the knowledge, who could have done it? Who could have been at so many places around the world where American diplomats were falling prey to this syndrome?

And then we discovered in the mailbox of one of these commanders from this unit, which was leaked by Russian hackers to us back in 2019, but only upon its review last year, I discovered this document, which was essentially a receipt. It literally said, here's 100,000 rubles to you, commander, for having tested and developed a non-lethal acoustic weapon.

And this was the moment that I thought, OK, well, this is the connection that makes it very obvious that this team wanted to do that they had the capability.


NEWTON: Now, CNN cannot independently verify this claim. The U.S., in fact, is standing by its assessment that a foreign adversary is unlikely to behind the attacks. A group of anti-Kremlin activists says they successfully committed a

major breach of Russian security by hacking into computer networks tied to Russia's prison system. The activists told CNN they meant to avenge Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in an arctic penal colony in February.

The hackers were able to steal a trove of data about hundreds of thousands of Russian inmates and their relatives. They also say they broke into the state owned online commissary system, where family members buy food for inmates and they temporarily slashed the prices of goods. Sean Lyngaas has more details.


SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: CNN is reporting exclusively on a big breach of the Russian prisoner system, in which hackers claim to have stolen data on about 800,000 prisoners and their contacts to avenge the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Hours after Navalny's death in an arctic penal colony in February, the hackers plastered Navalny's photo and anti-Kremlin slogans on the website of a prison contractor, according to data and screenshots reviewed by CNN. The hackers say they're hoping the data can lead to a better understanding of Navalny's death, which western leaders have condemned and held the Russian government responsible for.

Russia's war on Ukraine has been accompanied by a surge in politically motivated hacking, with both pro Ukraine and pro Russia hackers looking to make a statement. I'm Sean Lyngaas in Washington.


NEWTON: Former U.S. President Donald Trump has posted a $175 million bond as he appeals his civil fraud judgment in New York. Trump and his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, were fined for fraudulently inflating the value of his assets to obtain better loan rates.

The bond was originally $464 million, but a court lowered it last month. Posting bond means that New York's attorney general cannot try and seize true Trump properties to cover the judgment, at least not until the state appeals court hears the case in September.

The judge in Donald Trump's hush money trial has expanded the gag order against the former president. It will now prevent Trump from discussing the judge's family and the Manhattan district attorney's family. Over the weekend, Trump attacked the judge's daughter in social media posts.

Judge Juan Merchan says Trump's rhetoric is a direct attack on the rule of law and it could make those involved in the case a free for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Shares meantime of the Trump media and technology group plummeted Monday after the company disclosed losses of more than $58 million last year. That, in turn, caused Donald Trump's personal net worth to fall by more than a billion dollars. CNN's Matt Egan breaks it down for us.


MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: We knew that this stock would be volatile, but wow, this has already been quite the rollercoaster ride. Trump Media disclosing it lost $58 million in 2023, generated very little revenue, just over $4 million. Some context Twitter generated more than 100 times as much revenue in 2013, the year it went public.

This is why some experts say the multibillion dollar valuation on Trump media defies logic. One professor told me that this stock is a bubble. Another called it a meme stock. The Trump media's losses are so severe that accountants warned the red ink raises, quote, substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern. Now that's Wall Street code for we might not be able to survive.

We should note, though, that warning that likely predated last week's blockbuster merger, a deal that allowed Trump media to receive an influx of $300 million in cash. Matthew Kennedy from Renaissance Capital, he told me that this cash infusion, that should remove the going concern risk here.

Still, though, Trump media's troubles, they've continued in recent months. Monthly active U.S. users on iOS Android, they plunged 51 percent year over year in February to 494,000.


That's well shy of the 75 million users on X, the company formerly known as Twitter. Even Threads has 10 times as many users as Truth Social. Investors should fasten their seat belts because the wild ride here is likely just getting started.


NEWTON: That was Matt Egan for us. Now some young Israelis are choosing to go to jail instead of serving in the military. One of them explains why. That's ahead on CNN.


NEWTON: And welcome back. You are watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Paula Newton in New York. We want to update our top story for you now.

World Central Kitchen now says it has confirmed that seven members of its team have been killed by that IDF airstrike in Gaza. The aid organization says it is pausing its operations in the region. Its CEO says the victims include workers from Australia, Poland, the U.K., a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada and the Palestinian territories.

The IDF says it is carrying out an in depth examination at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident. And we will bring you much more on this at the top of the next hour.

Pressure, meantime, is mounting on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Jerusalem again on Monday.

Now, they've been calling for Netanyahu's resignation and demanding new elections, blaming him for failing to secure the release of the remaining Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.


ARIEL FARKASH, ISRAELI PROTESTER: I want elections. We need to get the people to choose a new leadership for this country. We cannot continue in the path that we're going. It's obvious that everything that is driving him is basically his own dictatorship.


NEWTON: Dozens of demonstrators were also camped outside the Israeli parliament or Knesset. They are planning to stay there until Wednesday when the spring recess begins.

Meantime, some Israelis say they're so upset by what they've seen and heard of IDF actions in Gaza that they would rather go to jail than go to war. CNN's Melissa Bell spoke to one man on his final day of freedom, a warning some of the images you are about to see are disturbing.



MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In Israel too, there are those who object to their government's handling of the war in Gaza.

Among them Ben Arad, who as an 18-year-old is due to enlist this week for his mandatory military service. Instead, he tells the crowd he's choosing to go to jail.

We caught up with him in Tel Aviv on his very last day of freedom.

BEN ARAD, ISRAELI REFUSING TO GO TO WAR: I don't refuse because I'm afraid of being hurt or killed in military accidents. I have a very, very deep disgust of the things that I'm seeing happening.

BELL: Things he says that Israeli media doesn't dwell on but that he seeks out on international networks and online.

ARAD: I think something that really broke my heart was the flour massacre. So seeing people trample each other to get food, I mean you just can't deny at that point that there is a famine going on and people are hungry.

BELL: So on Monday, Ben will hand himself in, becoming one of only a handful of so-called refuseniks to make their decisions public since the war began.

In a country where military service marks the start of every Israelis grown-up life aside from those exempt on religious grounds, the war has made avoiding it a political act.

ARAD: I've been called a traitor. I've been told that I need to be deported or I've been asked why I don't just move. I mean but it's not, not such terrible stuff. I haven't gotten that yet. Like I'll get that when I go to jail.

BELL: Yet Ben says he's determined to give up his freedom in order to remain free of a war that he simply doesn't believe in.

Melissa Bell, CNN -- Tel Aviv.


NEWTON: I want to bring in Steven Cook, who is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies with the Council on Foreign Relations. Good to see you, Steven.

You know, you wrote earlier this year that Netanyahu, in your words, is a failure and could still be Israel's next winner. Now, you argued at the time that Netanyahu's political redemption was still a possibility.

I'm curious given all the protests we're seeing and everything that shifted, do you still feel that way?

STEVEN COOK, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I do think it's a possibility. Israelis elect their leaders in very different ways than Americans elect their leaders.

Americans vote directly for a leader and the most popular running wins. In Israel voters vote for a party.

And right now, if you take a look at the polling, although Netanyahu and his party suffered as a result of October 7 and the ensuing war, more seats are allocated to parties on the right than parties on the center or left which would imply that Netanyahu is still the leader of the largest party on the right end of the spectrum and would have a better chance to form a government, than his rivals in the center or the left.

So while he remains profoundly unpopular, there still is a way due to Israel's electoral laws that the next prime minister of Israel could be named Benjamin Netanyahu.

NEWTON: What I also found interesting and still very relevant is that you pointed out that the poll cited at the time earlier this year, that nearly two of every three Israelis oppose a two-state solution. And of course, it goes without saying that a majority of Israelis want Hamas completely destroyed. Why do some still see Netanyahu as being effective on both counts?

COOKS: Well there's been a rally around the flag in Israel, not necessarily a rally around Netanyahu himself. But they do support the prosecution of the war and the goal of destroying Hamas.

They do also oppose a two-state solution. That number is up dramatically since October 7. The Israelis, after the horrifying events of October 7, have come to the conclusion that from their perspective the Palestinians really do not want a two-state solution. They want a one-state solution, which is the destruction of Israel.

That may or may not be accurate, but that is the way in which at least two-thirds of Israels view the conflict right now and thus are not prepared to give consent to their government to negotiate a two-state solution.

NEWTON: You know, Israel's tactics in Gaza are under increasing scrutiny. I mean, if we talk about the protests, obviously, many in Israel want to see those hostages home and they're saying enough is enough. They blame Netanyahu now for that.


NEWTON: At the same time, you know, you see the conditions in Gaza, recently at Al Shifa Hospital even, and it is difficult to fathom a way forward for Netanyahu right now when it comes to what he says is his next move, right? That he's going to move into Rafah on a ground campaign.

Would he have support for that from within Israel, given the fact that there are still hostages being held.

COOK: He does have support for a ground operation in Rafah. It is true that there are very significant protests against Netanyahu.

It's actually two streams of protests coming together. The families of the hostages as well as those who are generally opponents of Netanyahu who have come together over the course of the last couple of days and will continue their protests.

But at the same time, overall, the Israeli public -- I should say, I'm sorry -- does support a move into Rafah. They have concluded that they -- it's impossible for them to live next door to Hamas. The prospect of yet another October 7th attack is too much, and that there are parts of Israel that had been rendered uninhabitable by Hamas due to the October 7 attacks. And Israelis don't want to live that way.

So that once again, while the government remains unpopular, the aims of the government in this war remain broadly supported by the Israeli public.

NEWTON: How do you think we should interpret the protests that we see on the ground then in light of everything that you said.

COOK: Well, I do think it is a significant challenge to the government, and I think that there is a tremendous amount of pressure to do everything possible to bring the hostages home.

The Israeli government has been forthcoming in hostage negotiations. Hamas has really been a problem here because the hostages really are their only bargaining chip.

But nevertheless, if one can imagine what it's like to have a loved one who's being held hostage for the past six months it is reasonable to understand how people are angry, believing that their government hasn't done enough.

The other part of the protest are people who are angry that the Ultra- Orthodox community in Israel young men of army age had been exempted from military service when much of the rest of the country is sacrificing a tremendous amount for -- in this conflict.

And they believe that Netanyahu should not work out a compromise and that the Ultra-Orthodox should serve. This is the wellspring of the current opposition to the government.

But nevertheless, I think Israelis despite these divisions, very much want to prosecute this war in a way that will bring Hamas' ability to threaten their security to an end.

NEWTON: Yes. If that is even possible at this point.

Steven Cook, we will leave it there for now. Thanks so much.

COOK: Thank you.

NEWTON: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party suffered a major election defeat after the main opposition groups swept local elections in key cities.

CNN's Scott McLean takes a look at what this means for Erdogan's decades' long grip on power.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If there were any doubts about this man's ability to win, they were put to bed last night. Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul from the secular opposition, CHP Party was reelected by a comfortable 11-point margin, a gap few polls could have predicted.

"Hello Istanbul," he says. 16 million Istanbulites have won. Congratulations. There are no losers in this election.

But Imamoglu's win is a huge blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's religious conservative ACT Party, which not only failed to win back Istanbul but even lost Erdogan's home district.

Imamoglu is widely seen as one of the few, perhaps the only, opposition figure strong enough to beat Erdogan in a presidential race.

Originally from the Black Sea city of Trabzon, Imamoglu moved to Istanbul for university, then worked with his family's construction company. Two decades later in 2014, he was leading a small district of Istanbul. Then five years later in 2019, won the race for city mayor by a razor-thin margin, after a court overturned the results and ordered another vote, Imamoglu won the second time around by an even wider gap. He later faced charges of insulting public officials stemming from the aftermath of the bitterly-contested race. He's been convicted and sentenced to more than two years jail time on the charges that many believe are politically motivated. Erdogan has denied any link.

The appeals process is still winding its way through the courts.


AHMET KASIM HAN, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, TURKISH DEMOCRACY FOUNDATION: Turkish electorate has a tendency to side with the one who is being victimized, and probably Imamoglu from all of would be regarded as such.

MCLEAN: Erdogan has been in power for two decades, but now perhaps the biggest threat to his rule has just gotten stronger.

Scott McLean, CNN Istanbul.


NEWTON: United Airlines pilots could soon be getting some extended time off, but they won't be getting paid. The latest problems with Boeing jets are putting the airline in a staffing bind. We'll have that next from CNN.


NEWTON: United Airlines pilots are being asked to take some time off this spring without getting paid. Now in memo from the union the airline said it was looking to reduce staffing by offering voluntary unpaid leave for the month of May that could possibly extend into the fall.

Now the development indicates the fallout from Boeing's production crisis is having a big impact on United operations. 81 percent of the airlines mainline operations are Boeing jets.

Joining me now to discuss all of this is David Soucie. He is CNN safety analyst and a former safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Good to see you, David, as we continue to try and figure out --


NEWTON: -- what the fallout is going to be from all of this.

You know, these are extraordinary times for Boeing and now United. This is in no way an isolated incident. What do you make of it? And how much more of this do you think we can expect in the months to come.

SOUCIE: I really think Paula, this is just the tip of the iceberg with, as you mentioned, the crisis, I'm calling it a safety crisis out there. Boeing is going to continue to impact not only the pilots, but the parts manufacturers and everyone along the line.

This is a well-oiled machine, maybe not oiled enough, I guess over time. But what's happened is that every -- it so relies on everything from all the way from supplies of the materials to build the parts, to the parts to how they go together. And right now -- but right now its impacting people down the line.

But like I said, is just the tip of the iceberg. It's going to get worse.

NEWTON: And when we say it's going to get worse passengers can expect to be affected, right? Whether they fly United or not, given the fact that so many airlines around the world use those Boeing airplanes.

SOUCIE: Absolutely. Two-thirds of the airplanes that are flying right now that we all rely on to get around on are Boeing aircraft. And it would take decades to replace that or to change that ratio.

So looking at how this happens -- I got to tell you though, to me, it really is testament to the fact that they are committed to slowing this production line down, to making sure that there are no mistakes, they're not pushing things forward like we've seen over the past five, six years of pushing, pushing, pushing.


SOUCIE: Right now, they are truly committed to not delivering an aircraft until they've gone through every single step of the way. They're even shutting down the production line, which in my history of 35, 40 years I've been in this industry, I've never seen Boeing actually shut down that line.

They continually move it forward. And if they miss something in a certain phase, they'll bring travelers in, people that come in and fix what was missing or parts that weren't arriving on time. They would continually move that airplane down the road.

They're not doing that now and its costing them billions of dollars.

NEWTON: Yes. And it is reassuring, of Course, from a safety perspective. But how frustrating do you think this may get for passengers that are affected one way or the other, whether it means that they don't get the flights that they want, whether it means there are delays or also just the -- I don't know if you've noticed it David, certainly the expense of flying is something that people are noticing even more so now.

SOUCIE: You're right. I mean, the more flights that happen, the cheaper they are to get. And so the prices will be impacted. They'll go up. Just supply and demand will cause that to happen.

But one of the big things too that we have to watch for is our patience as fliers. We have to be understanding and know and set our own expectations to know that there are tens of thousands of professionals in this industry trying to do the best that they can. And we have to stay patient with that and understand that were not the only ones flying and we all rely on each other to get to where were going.

So I hope everyone keeps that in mind because it is going to be challenging times, trying to get from place to place.

NEWTON: Yes, challenging and expensive. Of course, the ultimate goal here is safety and this has been an industry that really has quite a record of safety.

I want to ask you as an expert here, there is a cottage industry online right now at this hour a minority -- minority of passengers doing all they can to avoid Boeing planes. What would you say to them?

SOUCIE: Well, you know, there's a thing called confirmation bias. And what that means to me and I've been exposed to this as an accident investigator and we're trained to not do this.

But what confirmation bias does is it says that if you're looking for something, if you intend that you're going to find something, guess what, you will find it. If you wanted to look at Airbus, you wanted to avoid Airbus or look at just the things that happened in Airbus, you would see those things too. If you wanted to look at a sausage factory and say, this isn't the right way to build a sausage, you don't want to know about a lot of the stuff that happens.

What you need to remember is that there is triple redundancy built into every airplane, no matter what you see is happening. I mean, even when you look at the wheel that fell off the airplane, that looks like some tragic thing that has never happened before. And that's just simply not true.

The reason that its designed that particular airplane with six tires on it is because its designed to land with two. So I know it sounds funny to say, but if that tire comes off, it's still built to be safe. No one died from that incident. No one died from the door plug that fell out. People are not dying from Boeing airplanes.

We need to get a perspective and understand that things do happen. We're human beings and things will continue to happen whether it's Boeing, whether it's Airbus or the new Chinese airplanes, you're going to still see things happen because we are human beings.

And I think you could go down the rabbit hole here and start looking for things that really aren't there.

NEWTON: Yes, good advice, David. And I really am interested that you said that this production line is going to be putting safety first above all else. And I think that's a lot our viewers will be interested in hearing in the months and years to come.

David Soucie for us, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

SOUCIE: Thank you, Paula.

NEWTON: Iowa and superstar Caitlin Clark are in the Women's basketball final four. They defeated last year's champion, LSU 94 to 87. The game was a rematch in fact of the last year's championship game, which LSU won.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has more now from Albany, New York.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iowa and Caitlin Clark headed to the final four in Cleveland. It was an incredible game and everybody was comparing it to last year's national championship game between these two teams.

And it felt exactly like that with the pacing, with the fact that there was just scoring on both ends. And of course, the rivalry.

I mean let me tell you, Angel Reese actually put a crown on the bench while Caitlin Clark is warming up, and Caitlin Clark would hit a three, you would stare at Angel Reese in the face. It had all of those hallmarks, all of the drama. And in the end, of course, Iowa beat to LSU clinching their spot in the NCAA final four.

And I got to say Caitlin Clark really brought it, 41 points in this game. And when I tell you that this place erupted anytime that ball was in her hands and when she hit those threes, it really did. It was just incredible to watch. She made an NCAA all-time record for three- pointers made in a career.


GINGRAS: And let me tell you, she is a role model. If you could see all the young girls and boys who waited after this game to get her autograph, it was just incredible to see and just shows you how much not only Caitlin Clark, not only Angel Reese, but other women basketball players have changed this sport for the better.

In Albany, I'm Brynn Gingras, CNN.


NEWTON: Still to come for us, Oppenheimer premieres in Japan months after the rest of the world was able to see it, how residents are reacting to the film.


NEWTON: So Japanese moviegoers can now finally watch last year's summer blockbuster, "Oppenheimer" after an eight-month wait.

Universal Pictures decided against showing the film in Japan initially out of concern over its reception by the only country you'll remember to have experienced the horrors of nuclear war.

CNN's Hanako Montgomery has our details.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After months of delay, the father of the atomic bomb's life story finally took to the big screens in Japan, the very country where his invention wreaked terrifying devastation. The film, highly-praised globally, was met with favorable reaction from some Japanese viewers.

KUMIKO FUKUDA, JAPANESE MOVIEGOER (through translator): I was interested in this movie because it shows the expressions and emotions hidden behind the eyes of both American and the Japanese who saw the atomic bombs. It doesn't just show the tragic story, which I think is easier to depict.

MONTGOMERY: But left others with a bitter aftertaste.

MR. KAWAL, JAPANESE MOVIEGOER (through translator): Of course, this is an amazing film which deserves to win the Academy Awards in the United States. But the film also depicts the atomic bomb in a way that seems to praise it.

And as a person with roots in Hiroshima, I found it difficult to watch. I'm not sure this is a movie that Japanese people should make a special effort to watch.

MONTGOMERY: Omitting images of the ghastly wreckage caused to Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bombs, lethal weapons that killed over 200,000 people, was a conscious decision from director Christopher Nolan.

At a New York film screening, Nolan said that he didn't include those images because Oppenheimer himself didn't fully see how his invention incinerated whole neighborhoods and people.

The film took eight months to release in Japan amid controversy over an unofficial marketing campaign that critics said trivialized the 1945 nuclear attacks. But the criticism hasn't deterred viewers entirely.

During opening weekend in Japan, the movie grossed $2.5 million U.S. Abroad, the highly-lauded film won seven Oscars this year, including the coveted Best Picture and Best Actor Awards.

Christopher Nolan, who also took home Best Director, will receive a knighthood in Britain for his services to film.

But despite the film's global accolades, Japanese viewers tread lightly, wary of how the West remembers and depicts history from 78 years ago, a past far from forgotten in Japan.

Hanako Montgomery, CNN -- Tokyo.


NEWTON: Officials in Canada's Niagara region or declaring a state of emergency ahead of Monday's total solar eclipse. Now thousands of visitors are expected to pour into Niagara Falls to catch the rare event.


NEWTON: The region is on the path of totality, where for a few minutes the moon will block out the sun entirely.


NEWTON: Niagara Falls is known for its stunning views. The number of people expected to visit the famous waterfalls may soon become a spectacle in itself.

It's a prime viewing site for the solar eclipse on April 8. As it crosses North America, passing over Mexico, the United States and Canada.

JIM DIODATI, MAYOR OF NIAGARA FALLS, CANADA: Even though we get 14 million people every year, it's over the year, it's not all at one time. To get 1 million at one time would be by far the biggest crowd that we've ever had.

NEWTON: Canada's Niagara Region has declared a state of emergency so that emergency services can prepare for the influx of people. Hotels, stores, and restaurants are gearing up for the visitors which are estimated to outnumber the locals.

Ontario's Niagara region has a population of nearly half a million people. But some business owners say they're looking forward to some extra company.

GABRIEL GABRIE, PIZZERIA OWNER: We're expecting to have a full house for the first time in a long time. They're coming up for the winter season. So it's an exciting time.

NEWTON: By the time the eclipse is fully visible over Niagara Falls at approximately 3:18 p.m. Eastern time it will be nearing the end of its trek across the continent, which happens when it passes over the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It will be the first total eclipse in Canada since 1979 and the last time the contiguous U.S. will see one until 2044.

So it's a sight many people say they don't want to miss.

JASON HARLOW, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO: Having that collective feeling of oh, the sun's gone and seeing something that's so rare and so beautiful to see the stars come out in the day. Yes, something that my kids will remember their whole lives.


NEWTON: Indeed, I remember the one from 1979. So you'll want to join us next Monday for the total solar eclipse as it travels from Mexico across America and into Canada.

Our special coverage starts at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

I want to thank you for watching. I'm Paula Newton.

CNN NEWSROOM continues next with Rosemary Church.