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CNN International: World Central Kitchen Says 7 of Its Workers Killed in Gaza; Iran Vows Decisive Response to Consulate Attack in Syria; Trump Attacks Judges, Prosecutors Ahead of Criminal Trial; Crews Build Temporary Channel to Help Clear Baltimore Bridge Wreckage; Scale of Devastation Emerges After IDF Exits Al-Shifa Hospital. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 02, 2024 - 04:00   ET




ANTHONY ALBANESE, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is beyond any reasonable circumstance that someone going about providing aid and humanitarian assistance should lose their life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Despite the film's global accolades, Japanese viewers tread lightly, wary of how the West remembers and depicts history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's just a generational player, and she just makes everybody around her better. That's what the great ones do.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world. I'm Eleni Giokos. Max Foster has the day off. It's great to be with you today.

It's Tuesday, April 2nd, 12 p.m. in Abu Dhabi and 10 a.m. in Gaza, where the World Central Kitchen says at least seven of its workers have been killed in an Israeli military strike.

The organization says a convoy was hit, leaving a warehouse where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid. World Central Kitchen's CEO calls it unforgivable. Australia's prime minister identified one of the victims as Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom. He said his government is seeking accountability.


ALBANESE: We certainly have already contacted the Israeli government directly. We contacted the Israeli ambassador to ask for accountability here. The truth is that this is beyond any reasonable circumstance, that someone going about providing aid and humanitarian assistance should lose their life.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GIOKOS: World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres posted on X saying he is heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends. He called those killed angels and also called out the Israeli government, saying it, quote, needs to stop this indiscriminate killing.

Now, 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.

CNN's Scott McLean is following developments from Istanbul for us and joins us live. Scott, look, we're looking at the aftermath of the strike, a really tragic incident. Tell me what we know right now, because we've heard from World Central Kitchen and what they experienced. We're still waiting for, you know, news from Israel and why they targeted this convoy.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and there's going to be a lot of questions at this stage, Eleni. Look, what we know at this point is that the victims were from Australia, the U.K., Poland. One is a Canadian-American dual citizen and there's a Palestinian as well.

And the U.K. Foreign Office says that it is urgently seeking more information about what happened and about its citizen. The Foreign Office says that it has been calling for international law to be respected and for the Israelis to be more careful to make sure that they are not hitting civilians in the way or certainly not targeting civilians.

We have some new video of the aftermath of this from Reuters. And frankly, it is tough to watch. You can see a hole blown in the top of one of the vehicles with a logo clearly on the roof of that car. The inside is completely incinerated. I mean, it's impossible to imagine how someone could have survived. And clearly they hadn't.

We have the statement now from World Central Kitchen as well. They say that seven of their workers were killed. They say that they were traveling in what they call a deconflicted zone. They had just unloaded aid cargo to a warehouse and they had this convoy of three vehicles. One was a regular soft skin vehicle. Then you had two of them, which were armored vehicles.

And again, they also say, and the video shows this as well, that the vehicles were very clearly marked with the logos and the insignia of World Central Kitchen. And what's more is that they say that they had coordinated their movements with the IDF. The CEO of World Central Kitchen said this.


This is not only an attack against World Central Kitchen. This is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable.

You mentioned that Jose Andres put out this statement calling the victims angels, saying that he had worked with them. Zomi Frankcom had been in a video put out by World Central Kitchen just about a week or so ago showing some of the cooking that was happening in Deir al-Bala. We also know that one of the victims is a Palestinian driver named Saif Issam Abu-Taha.

And Zomi Frankcom was also, you know, very active in her work. The Australian prime minister pointed out that she had worked in the aftermath of the Australian brush fires and around the world, and she was also in Morocco for the earthquakes last year. And at that time, she actually did an interview with CNN. Here's part of what she said.


ZOMI FRANKCOM, AUSTRALIAN AID WORKER, WORLD KITCHEN: At the moment, World Central Kitchen, we have eyes in the sky. So we've been doing aerial assessments and feeding at the same time.

And we have also teams who are going into the high Atlas Mountains on high clearance four-wheel drives. And so at the moment, we're still assessing what that need is, but we do know that it is great.


MCLEAN: So the Australian prime minister says that he is seeking accountability and answers from the Israelis. Again, he called this completely unacceptable.

All we have from the Israelis at this stage is a brief statement that says it is, quote, conducting a through review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic event.

We have also heard from Hamas that says that this is more evidence that Israel is targeting innocent civilians and trying to terrorize aid workers into not doing their work on the ground.

And remember, World Central Kitchen had the blessing of the Israelis to bring in aid by sea. They built this temporary jetty off the coast of Gaza in order to get the aid onto the land. They had sent their second shipment just on Saturday. It either had arrived, and that's what they were unloading, or if it hadn't arrived, then it won't. Because the World Central Kitchen says that it is pausing its operations in the region at the moment, and it will make decisions about the future of its work in the region very soon.

And again, Eleni, this is not the first time either. You have UNRWA, another huge essential aid group, working in Gaza. They say that 165 of their workers have died since the war began.

GIOKOS: Yes, a really tragic incident. I mean, the World Central Kitchen had prepared, from what we understand, millions of meals since the war began. A really tragic story. Scott McLean, thank you so much for bringing us the latest on that.

Well, reaction is pouring in after the death of those seven aid workers in Gaza. Matthew Hollingworth, a country director for the World Food Programme, said on X that aid workers provide, quote, truly life-saving food assistance while also bravely managing terrible risk each day. They should not have to.

And this is from Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who said they were mourning with their colleagues at the World Central Kitchen.

And he went on to say, quote, nowhere else are so many aid workers killed. There must be an immediate ceasefire. Enough now.

Meantime, U.S. officials tell CNN the Biden administration has not seen any operational plans from Israel regarding a proposed military ground operation into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than one million civilians are sheltering. That news comes following a virtual meeting of senior U.S. and Israeli officials that's been described as productive. We're told top U.S. officials urged their Israeli counterparts to pursue a different course of action in Rafah that would target Hamas, but limit civilian casualties.

And we're also learning the Biden administration is close to approving the sale of as many as 50 American-made F-15 fighter jets to Israel. Sources say the 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 7th attacks. The jets would still need to be built and would likely not be delivered to Israel for at least four to five years.

Iran is promising a decisive response to the delay 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. Now 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 Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Russia, Saudi Arabia and a number of Arab countries have condemned the attack.

Iran's foreign minister says U.S. support for Israel makes it answerable for the attack. More now from CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Smoke and tensions rising. Iran's consulate in Damascus reduced to smoldering rubble. Its ambassador claiming Israeli jets fired six missiles at it.

Saying, we told you before, the Zionist entity knows very well that such crimes and any kind of crimes will not remain without response. At least seven people killed, two of them senior Islamic Revolutionary

Guard Corps, IRGC commanders. One of them, according to Iranian state media, a very senior veteran of the elite military, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a former commander of the IRGC land and air forces.

Israel rebuffed the allegations.

REAR ADM. DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: I'm not going to comment to that strike, but I want to tell you that in the last six months, Iran is making this region escalate. According to our intelligence, this is no consulate and this is no embassy.

I repeat, this is no consulate and this is no embassy. This is a military building of Quds forces disguised as a civilian building in Damascus.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Nevertheless, it marks an escalation in already supercharged tensions. The first such alleged Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic building in Syria and the highest ranking Iranian Revolutionary Guard member killed since U.S. forces killed Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani January 2020. Back then, Iran responded by attacking U.S. forces in Iraq.

Their options will be narrower now, prescribed by concern of significant escalation should they strike Israel, where tensions will likely be highest, is along Israel's northern border. Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, has been trading escalating rocket, drone, missile and artillery strikes since Hamas's brutal October 7th attack.

The United States has been pressuring Israel and Lebanon not to trigger a full war, as Israel's government warns time for diplomacy is running out and hawks press for action. A supersized poster of Soleimani strung above the embassy gates and another in the rubble of the consulate, a reminder of the IRGC's lauded status.

This attack, like Soleimani's, won't be forgiven, forgotten.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


GIOKOS: 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 to seize Trump properties to cover the judgment, at least until the state appeals court hears the case. Now, that is scheduled to happen in September.

The judge in 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. The judge says Trump's rhetoric could make those involved in the case afraid for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin tells CNN that this is part of a Trump legal defense and political campaign. Take a listen.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This whole defense is a political defense as much as it's a legal defense. That's why he goes to all the hearings. He doesn't have to go to the hearings. This idea that he's a martyr, that he is being the victim of a witch hunt, that is part of his campaign. And, you know, now being gagged is another way that he is saying, I am a victim here, not a perpetrator.



GIOKOS: Well, among the witnesses expected to testify, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, former Trump aides Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway, as well as former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who told CNN she had an affair with Trump and was paid not to reveal it. Trump's hush money trial starts on April 15th, but today he'll be back on the campaign trail in the battleground state of Wisconsin.

CNN's Kristen Holmes looks at how his legal troubles are playing out in the political arena.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump is set to return to the campaign trail Tuesday with visits to the critical battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin. But his focus appears to be on his impending criminal trial in New York.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is all about election interference.

HOLMES (voice-over): Upping his combative rhetoric, Trump spent the Easter holiday attacking perceived enemies in a series of social media posts.

Writing, quote: Happy Easter to all, including crooked and corrupt prosecutors and judges.

And going after the judge overseeing his New York hush money case and his daughter by name as he seeks to discredit the case against him.

TRUMP: I have a Trump hating judge with a Trump hating wife and family.

HOLMES (voice-over): The remarks come as judges around the country are voicing concern over Trump's attacks on the men and women assigned to hear his cases.

REGGIE WALTON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: We do these jobs because we're committed to the rule of law and we believe in the rule of law. And the rule of law can only function effectively when we have judges who are prepared to carry out their duties without the threat of potential physical harm.

LADORIS CORDELL, RETIRED CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE: 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.

HOLMES (voice-over): Trump also sharing a video that featured an image of President Joe Biden tied up in the back of a pickup truck. The former president saying in the Friday social media post that the video was filmed a day earlier on Long Island, where Trump attended the wake of an NYPD officer who was recently killed during a traffic stop.

TRUMP: We have to get back to law and order.

HOLMES (voice-over): The Biden campaign responding in a statement, quote: 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.

Some Republicans taking issue with Trump's posts, but falling short of condemning the former president.

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Want us to raise the bar of civility and how we treat the other side of the aisle for sure. Now, I don't think he was inciting violence, but it is representative of the political dialogue we have today.

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): At the end of the day, the former president, current president and on down, all of us have a responsibility to check our language, to watch what we're saying and to focus on the issues at hand.

HOLMES (voice-over): The video marking another instance of Trump using violent and grim imagery in his campaign messaging.

TRUMP: If I don't get elected, it's going to be a bloodbath. They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done.

TRUMP: The radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.

HOLMES (voice-over): President Biden saying today he believes that his candidacy offers a clear contrast with Trump's dark rhetoric.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just think people are so tired of the negativity that is propagated that they just they just want to get engaged. They want to change things. And I'm optimistic. I really am. HOLMES: Donald Trump's trip to Michigan and Wisconsin will be the

first time we see him back on the campaign trail in weeks. These are both critical battleground states. Donald Trump won them in 2016 and lost to Joe Biden in 2020. They are both considered essential to the pathway back to the White House.

Kristen Holmes, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.


GIOKOS: While President Biden and Donald Trump were making campaign stops, independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sat down with CNN for a one on one interview about his campaign. He had lots to say, like claiming President Biden is a, quote, much worse threat to democracy than Donald Trump. The man indicted for efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., U.S. INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The real issue things that we need to do to save our country, they can't do them. And if you vote for President Trump or President Biden, they both had their chance. You're going to get more of the same.

If any -- if somebody needs -- if somebody actually wants change, wants to actually alter those issues, they're going to vote for me.

I can make the argument that President Biden is a much worse threat to democracy. And the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent.


GIOKOS: Well, Kennedy is still fighting an uphill battle to get on ballots across the U.S. And so far, he's only officially on Utah's ballots, but meets the threshold to submit for a handful of other states.


The owner of the ship that rammed a bridge in Baltimore is asking a court to limit its financial liability. The MV Dali hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge last week, causing it to collapse. And as you can see, the ship is still stuck under debris from the bridge.

And the ship's owner petitioned a court Monday to cap its financial liability for the damage at $42 million.

The collapse killed six construction workers who were on the bridge at the time. Now, four of the bodies have not yet been found.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden is planning to visit the scene on Friday. Right now, crews are working to clear the wreckage of the bridge, a

process that is difficult, delicate as well as risky. Brian Todd has the details for us.


GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): We're talking about a situation where a portion of the bridge beneath the water has been described by unified command as chaotic wreckage.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cleanup crews cleared enough concrete and steel debris from the Patapsco River to form a temporary shallow channel, with enough clearance for emergency vessels working on Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse cleanup.

MOORE: Every time we move a piece of the structure, the situation could become even more dangerous. We have to move fast, but we cannot be careless. We've already lost six Marylanders to this crisis. I refuse to lose any more.

TODD (voice-over): Despite the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers starting to lift out thousands of tons of steel from the river.

REAR ADM. SHANNON GILREATH, U.S. COAST GUARD: These girders are essentially tangled together, intertwined, making it very difficult to figure out where you need to eventually cut, so that we can make that into more manageable sizes to lift them from the waterway.

TODD (voice-over): The Port of Baltimore won't get back to business until the main channel is cleared for cargo ships.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Even as they try to clear this one passageway, they're at the same time doing all the engineering analysis to open the deeper channel.

TODD (voice-over): Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen and Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Hsu met with port workers on Monday.

JULIE SU, ACTING SECRETARY OF LABOR: There's tremendous economic displacement.

TODD (voice-over): She says the government should be supporting the thousands of workers who rely on the port. But --

SU: We saw during the pandemic that our safety net for workers, when they are put out of a job through no fault of their own, is inadequate for everything that we need to do.

TODD (voice-over): Meanwhile, divers, crane drivers and technicians clearing debris have a long road ahead of them.

OSCAR BARTON, DEAN, MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING: This is not something that could be done by the faint of heart.

TODD (voice-over): Dr. Oscar Barton heads the engineering school at Morgan State University. He says before anyone can even get close enough to physically move any wreckage above or below the water.

BARTON: They're going to do some surveying before they start to do any excavation.

TODD (voice-over): The first crane operation finished Monday morning and another is planned, pending weather.

MOORE: Specifically pending lightning. And they will be lifting an estimated 350 ton piece from the bridge.

TODD (voice-over): Larry DeSantis was driving back from work on the bridge that Tuesday morning.

LARRY DESANTIS, DROVE ACROSS BRIDGE MINUTES BEFORE COLLAPSE: I was right by him. I saw all of them. You know, just a minute before they probably died.

TODD (voice-over): He was one of the last to cross the bridge just minutes before it collapsed, killing six people.

DESANTIS: It's hard to believe, you know, that something like that could happen that quick, could have been on there.

TODD: The White House has announced that President Biden will travel to Baltimore on Friday to survey the damage and meet with local officials. Meanwhile, the bodies of four people who are still unaccounted for and believed to be deceased still have not been recovered.

Brian Todd, CNN, Baltimore.


GIOKOS: A new ruling by Florida's Supreme Court will soon make it extremely difficult for women to get an abortion in the state. Justices voted Monday to uphold the state's ban on abortions after 15 weeks. That approval allows a six-week abortion ban approved by Florida lawmakers last year to take effect in 30 days.

Now, the change will have a devastating impact on abortion access in the southeastern U.S.


DR. CHERISE FELIX, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: For people that live in Florida, the closest state they're going to be able to get to is Virginia. For people that are in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, they're looking at places like Illinois. They'll have to go to Illinois, would be the closest access point.

So Florida is an important state, not just for Floridians, but for the southeast region of our country, with all those people that need help and that are coming here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GIOKOS: But soon, Floridians will have their own say on the issue. In November, they'll vote on a proposed amendment to the state's constitution that would protect women's right to an abortion in Florida. Now, if approved, it could potentially undo both bans.

Spring in the northern hemisphere is bringing some unstable weather to parts of the U.S. The Storm Prediction Center reported more than 85 storms across the central part of the country late Monday.


Three tornadoes were reported in Texas, in addition to more than 50 reports of large hail. Residents in the Ohio River Valley should be on the alert for flooding. And cold air is bringing April snowfall across the Great Lakes today and into the interior northeast on Wednesday.

Anti-government protests are continuing to rock Israel. Why demonstrators are demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should step down. That is coming up just after the break.

Plus, Trump media tanks after major losses come to light. What analysts are saying about the true value of Truth Social.

Plus, she's one of the biggest stars in basketball. See how Iowa's Caitlin Clark led her team into the final hour.


GIOKOS: Welcome back. And the United Nations says it's planning a mission to Gaza's largest hospital as soon as it is able to, following the withdrawal of Israeli forces. That word coming after the Israel Defense Forces ended its 14-day siege on al-Shifa Hospital and covering the scale of the devastation left behind.

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. These satellite images show what the hospital complex looked like before the two-week raid and what it looks like now.

CNN's Nada Bashir has more details. But first, a warning. Many of the images in her report are graphic.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As dawn breaks over Gaza's al-Shifa Hospital, the full extent of this latest nightmare becomes clear. Buildings 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 were trapped in their homes for two weeks under near constant bombardment.

Upon the Israeli military's withdrawal, Arafat al-Lulu 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 Hamas 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 were 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, nurse 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.

Nada Bashir, CNN, London.