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Gaza Talks In Cairo Make Significant Progress; Ukraine Denies Russian Claim It Struck Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant; Japan's PM Speaks With CNN Ahead Of U.S. Trip; Yellen Visit China For Top-Level Economic Talks; Excitement Builds Ahead Of Total Solar Eclipse In US, Mexico And Canada. Egyptian State Media: "Significant Progress" in Cairo Talks; Report: Israel Using A.I. to Identify Bombing Targets in Gaza; Remembering the 1994 Rwandan Genocide; Mexican Presidential Debate; Newest NCAA Women's Basketball Champion. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 08, 2024 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. Coming up here on CNN Newsroom. Israel and Hamas could be heading towards a ceasefire deal, as we are learning that there could be significant progress in talks to pause the fighting and bring home hostages.

Japan's Prime Minister explains to CNN why he's been edging away from the country's pacifist constitution ahead of a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. We'll have a live report from Tokyo.

And the moment that millions have been waiting for is almost here. A total eclipse of the sun is just hours away. We'll look at how some folks are getting ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from Atlanta. This is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: We begin this hour with word of significant progress in talks between Israel and Hamas over a ceasefire and hostage deal. Egyptian state media reporting that the latest round of negotiations in Cairo have been quote, bringing points of view closer together.

Amid the ongoing talks, thousands took to the streets in Jerusalem on Sunday to demand the release of the remaining hostages held in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it is Hamas' demands that are preventing their release.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Hamas extreme demands were intended to bring about an end to the war while leaving the group intact. It will not happen. Israel is ready for do. Israel is not ready to surrender. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Now those comments coming as the Israel Defense Forces say they quote far from stopping operations in Gaza. Even as the military withdraws some ground forces from the southern city of Khan Younis. A critical development as Israel's war against Hamas passes the six month mark. CNN's Nic Robertson following developments from southern Israel.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: So what you're looking at here are tanks from the 98th Division. They pulled out of Gaza overnight Saturday into Sunday and what the IDF is saying here, they've pulled out the significant force and 98 Division from Han units in the center of Gaza. They've been fighting there for more than three months now, since December last year.

The IDF is not saying that this is an end of the fight. They say they are leaving significant forces in the north of Gaza, the 162nd Division, the Nahal Brigade remained in the north of Gaza. But these troops here are being pulled out for recuperation and preparation for future operations that the IDF describes this as effectively marking an end of ground operations in Gaza in their current form.

And in that way, that sort of statement and the movement is potentially significant around the negotiating talks in Cairo where the CIA chief, the Mossad chief, the head of Egyptian intelligence, Qatari Prime Minister are expected to further explore how they can get a ceasefire, how they can get the hostages released from Hamas. There have been so many different sticking points, potentially though this offers maybe to change the dynamic but the very clear implication from the IDF is that option to go into Rafah remains on the table.

And we've seen along the border here today, airstrikes continuing to go into the Khan Younis area. You can hear the fighter jets won't fight. I just heard an explosion there and you hear the fighter jets overhead. So this war is far from over. This movement though for the 98th division that is significant. Nic Robertson, CNN in southern Israel.


HOLMES: And U.S. President Joe Biden is taking a tougher stand warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he needs to do more to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza or face policy consequences from the US. That warning came last week during a phone call. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez with more on what was said between the two leaders.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: CNN is learning new details about a pointed call between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that call coming at a pivotal moment only days after World Central Kitchen employees were killed and an Israeli attack in Gaza. Now according to sources, President Biden placed additional pressure

on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his policies in his war against Hamas. That included merrily getting more humanitarian aid into Gaza by opening a land crossing a port and also ramping up supplies.


Now according to a source, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to that saying that there would be more done. But the President went a step further saying that it needed to be done soon. And indeed, hours after the call these really security Cabinet approved of the measures on the White House have so far welcomed the moves and the changes that they've seen thus far acknowledging that there has been frustration and that more needs to be done.

But what is clear is that the U.S. is steadfastly supporting Israel, and its right to defend itself and defend itself. Difference now is that they are more willing to change their policy if Israel doesn't change what it's doing. Of course, what that would be, still remains an open question as well as what metrics the U.S. is using to determine if Israel is making the necessary changes. Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: A group of American doctors who spent more than a week working in northern Gaza say that hospital conditions there are miserable and unimaginable. The video you're about to see is graphic. It might be hard to watch but it is reality. The doctors volunteered most of their time at the Kamal Adwan Hospital. The scene of a controversial IDF raid late last year, when little to no aid is getting through.

They say patients like this one are often lying on floors in their own blood through there are not enough beds. Mass casualties are arriving daily, sometimes 10 to 20 at a time, and the facility is running on solar power since there is no fuel for electricity otherwise.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is calling Iran and octopus of terror. He says quote its head as in Tehran, then it sends its tentacles all around Israel and the Middle East. Bennett telling CNN that Iran has been using its proxies in several countries in the Middle East to carry out attacks against Israel. His remarks come after an alleged Israeli strike on Iran's embassy compound in Syria killed seven officials last week.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for the attack but says the target was in their view a military building used by Al Quds forces.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the U.S. is ready to respond swiftly against any attacks by Iran or its proxies. Iran vowing to retaliate after that deadly strike in Damascus. And U.S. officials say they're on high alert and preparing for a significant Iranian attack in the Middle East that could come as soon as this week. Here's more from Chuck Schumer.


CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I know the President and his team are working hard to prevent escalation and are prepared to defend any attack and respond swiftly if necessary. Tensions in the Middle East are very high. That's why we want to pass the National Security supplemental. It's critical. And we are all urging Speaker Johnson to put it on the floor of the House.


HOLMES: Ukraine's president is giving his strongest starkest warning yet about the state of the war against Russia without military aid coming from the United States.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If Congress does not help Ukraine, Ukraine, we lose the war and we need to find a public format for this. If Ukraine loses the war, other states will be attacked.


HOLMES: Volodymyr Zelenskyy also says Russia will soon be quote, more and more insistent on dragging nuclear weapons into this debate.

Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee says Russian propaganda has absolutely spread through Congress, particularly among some of his Republican colleagues. A number of hardline House conservatives have refused to back a $95 billion aid package, which includes 60 billion in assistance for Ukraine.

Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out drone attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant facility on Sunday. The plant in south eastern Ukraine is under the control of Russian authorities. The UN's nuclear watchdog says the facility's main reactor took three direct hits and that one person was killed but it says nuclear safety has not been compromised as of now.

The agency earns urged restraint saying the incident raises the risk of a major atomic accident. Ukraine denying any involvement.

And those conflicts the wars in Ukraine and Gaza are among the concerns Japan's Prime Minister says he had ahead of a trip to Washington this week for a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden. Fumio Kishida says the spiraling tensions in various parts of the world are causing Japan to move away from decades of pacifism and towards putting a stronger focus on defense. He spoke with our correspondent in Tokyo Hanako Montgomery who joins me now from there. Tell us more about what he told you.


HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael. During our interview with the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida yesterday, he discussed why it was important to improve and strengthen bilateral relations between the United States and Japan. He said that during the state visit this week, he would like to upgrade those relationships further in several different key areas including defense, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and space.

This is what he told us yesterday during the interview.


MONTGOMERY (voice-over): The world at a historic turning point, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tells me ahead of a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden this week, the longtime partners will upgrade their defense relationship to the next level. In the backdrop of mounting international security challenges.

FUMIO KISHIDA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In our neighborhood, there are countries that are developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons and others that are building up the defense capabilities in an opaque way. Also, there is a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force in both the East China Sea and South China Sea.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Kishida says soaring geopolitical tensions forced Japan long a pacifist country to change its defense posture moves not seen since World War II. Under his leadership, Japan plans to boost its defense spending to 2 percent of its GDP by 2027. And purchase weapons including U.S. made Tomahawk cruise missiles, acquiring counter strike capabilities for the first time in decades.

MONTGOMERY: So if Japan has a security pact with the United States, why does it need counter strike capabilities?

KISHIDA (voice-over): Missile related technology is evolving year by year. As missiles become more sophisticated, Japan must constantly consider what kind of technology is needed to protect the lives and livelihoods of its citizens.

MONTGOMERY: And you've asked for a summit with Kim Jong Un. But there seems to be some mixed messages coming from North Korea about its engagement with Japan. What is your current level of communication between your administration and North Korea?

KISHIDA (through translator): We believe that resolving various concerns between Japan and North Korea and stabilizing relations is important not only for the interests of our two countries, but also for peace and stability in the region. For this reason, we believe that it is important to hold a summit meeting. And under my supervision, I've been conducting high level outreach to the DPRK.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): Following the U.S.-Japan summit, the two nations will convene with the Philippines, the first trilateral meeting of its kind to address rising security threats from North Korea weapons testing and aggression in the South China Sea.

KISHIDA (voice-over): We're not targeting China specifically or a specific country. As Japan, we've been working to strengthen the Philippine maritime enforcement capabilities. We're also providing them with defense related equipment.

MONTGOMERY: You mentioned that it's not directed towards any one country. But wouldn't you say that the Philippines is gravely concerned about China's actions in the South China Sea.

KISHIDA (voice-over): It's true that there are some developments, as you pointed out, I think it's important for the Philippines to defend its sovereignty to protect its own territory, territorial waters, and airspace. I believe that these things are very important to maintaining and strengthening a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law.

MONTGOMERY (voice-over): The U.S. and Japan and enduring bond confronts its pivotal moment as the volatile world seeks to unravel their global sway.


MONTGOMERY: Now, experts I spoke to said that it seems as though before the state visit and during the state visit, the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden seem to try to cement as many agreements and PACs as possible ahead of the U.S. presidential elections in November where we could potentially see a change in political party.

I asked Kishida yesterday whether a change in the U.S. president would affect U.S.-Japan relations relation, and he said that no matter the president, he would still like to see strong bilateral relations. Michael.

HOLMES: Fascinating interview. Hanako Montgomery there in Tokyo. Thank you.

Now the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is wrapping up a trip to China for talks on U.S. and Chinese economies and partnerships for the future. Yellen has met with both local and national leaders over the weekend. She says it's a continuation of the dialogue between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping which was started in November at the G20 summit.


CNN's Beijing bureau chief Steven Jiang has the latest for us. He joins me now. Good to see again, Steven. So yes, Janet Yellen had a long list. How much of that? Did she check off?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Michael, if you read government readouts from both sides, they're definitely trying to put some positive spin on these new initiatives they're launching, to have conversations on topics ranging from anti-money laundering to quote unquote, balance to growth in the domestic and global economies, presumably a platform where they can discuss the issue of Chinese industrial overcapacity, which is a key item on Secretary Yemen's agenda that's about China dumping, it said shipping made goods and products, especially green tech products on the global markets to depress prices, and negatively affecting other economies, including the US.

The Chinese, of course, have been strongly pushing back on this saying this is a purely politicized accusation aimed at smearing China's seeing this kind of practice in terms of companies selling goods after satisfying domestic needs on overseas markets -- to overseas markets. That is a practice that the U.S. and other economies have been doing for decades.

And so the other issue Yellen has mentioned, as raised, of course, is a warning that Chinese not to provide any material support for the Russian defense industrial complex to aid Moscow's war effort in Ukraine something Mr. Biden has raised with Mr. Xi as well.

And but as we speak, though, the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov actually has arrived in Beijing for more talks with his Chinese counterparts, presumably to strengthen their so called No Limit partnership. So, the Chinese obviously have made a strategic choice because of their shared grievances with Moscow against this American dominated world order. And they're determined to reshape it.

So, it's good that Yellen is here and having all these talks with his Chinese counterparts after that deep freeze for the past few years, but fundamentally, though, it's very difficult to see how that's going to change this relationship because of the strategic differences between the two sides, especially in the U.S. election year, Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Steven Jiang, appreciate that. Wrap up for us. Thanks so much there in Beijing.

We have a quick break when we come back on the program, the latest on the total solar eclipse that will be seen across North America in the coming hours, and how to stay safe when viewing.


HOLMES: A long awaited cosmic event is almost here in the coming hours of solar eclipse will make its way across Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. It'll be visible to 32 million people in the U.S. along the path of totality as it's called. And about 99 percent of Americans will get a glimpse of at least a partial eclipse.


But weather reports are predicting clouds and severe storms in some parts of the country. Meteorologist Elisa Raffa with the latest forecast.


ELISA RAFFA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We're watching those clouds so closely on the path of totality. It looks like we have a storm system though developing on the southern end of the path where a severe risk is growing for damaging winds, large hail, even isolated tornadoes from Texas into Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. The good news is though it looks like the storms do blow up after the eclipse. We've got a couple of showers kind of right as the eclipse is starting that partial eclipse and then they blow up right after that peak, probably after three or four o'clock so you might have a one to two hour window to seek shelter if you're in a place like Dallas outside to watch the eclipse, though it will come with cloud cover.

Mostly cloudy skies in Dallas temperatures in the 70s. 1:42 is your total solar eclipse time, then it ends at three and those storms will fire up shortly after. It's all part of the system that kind of stalls right near that path of totality, bringing you some showers from Middle Tennessee, and then over towards the Carolinas.

We do have some clouds that will come with it from Texas into Louisiana on the southern end of the path, some clearing across the Ohio Valley. And even some clearing in New England to also looks like a pretty good spot to catch the total solar eclipse.

We're looking at some places like little rock where we'll have some mostly cloudy skies a little bit close to that system, your totalities at 1:51, place like Rochester also finding some mostly cloudy skies with your peak at 3:20.

Now what's so cool about this too is we will find temperatures taking a dip while you have the peak totality of that shadow, because it's cutting off the energy from the sun. So those temperatures are going to briefly come down and will pop back up once the shadow moves away from the sun and we get those temperatures to rebound.

So something that we'll have to watch out for closely. So not only will you experience the total darkness in totality, you'll experience that temperature drop the relative humidity increases as the temperatures dip closer to that dew point, the winds could have decreased too, and so could your cloud cover.


HOLMES: All right, but despite the forecast droves of people are expected to watch the Eclipse. Our Miguel Marquez tells us what umbraphiles or diehard Eclipse chasers are hoping for.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sun, sun, sun, clear skies, that's what we've been hoping for the weather reports are getting better and better as it goes on. This is the Great Lakes Science Center, some 30,000 plus people will be pouring into this area. It's also home to NASA's Glenn Research Center Cleveland is, it's the only NASA facility in the country that's in the path of totality. So NASA is here in force.

3:17 pm or 3:13pm when the eclipse starts, it'll be right up there the totality for three or four, almost four minutes here. The last time that Cleveland had an eclipse, a total eclipse 1806. The next time after this, you will have to wait till 2444. That's 420 years. So, people here in Cleveland are ready for it. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOMES: For more, I'm joined by astronomer Tom Kerss. And it's good to see you, Tom. You've been busy preparing for all this year you flew in from the UK to Dallas.

Now, let's start with this The Path of Totality, which by the way should be the name of a movie, how wide is it? How dark will it get in that belt? What don't feel like and look like?

TOM KERSS, ASTRONOMER: Well, if you've never seen a total solar eclipse before you're in for a treat, and if you have seen one before, you know you're in for a treat. So the totality, the path of totality is the line that is traced across the surface of the earth, in this case from Mexico through America and up into Canada. And it's about 115 miles wide. And that is essentially where the very center of the moon shadow silently slips across the face of the earth.

So if you're standing in the Path of Totality, the center of the moon shadow will pass right over here you will find yourself in the moon shadow itself, which from space looks very dark, and from the ground also looks very dark. In fact, it's been compared to a sort of artificial night really, it's a natural kind of night, but a very short one that lasts just a few minutes and you'd be forgiven for thinking that night has fallen.

And in fact, you might find that wildlife around you thinks that night has fallen as well and birds like to go and roost and then wake up again. So it's a very strange experience. For some people it's spooky, but for me it's just kind of overwhelmingly awesome. I mean it's almost a spiritual experience almost a religious experience.

HOLMES: I'm sure it is -- I know what about for those outside the bar. I mean I'm in Atlanta area, In Georgia in the southeast for example no path of totality for peons like me, what will we see?


KERSS: Well, the beauty of the solar eclipses like this is that of course, we do get this path of totality, which means the absolutely spectacular total solar eclipse is visible to, in this case millions of Americans. But when you are outside of the Path of Totality, there's an opportunity to see what we call a partial eclipse. And in Georgia, you're not that far away, in fact, so you will have the opportunity to see a very spectacular partial eclipse.

Now, the important thing to understand about a partial eclipse is that you can't look directly at the sun during this phase, it would be dangerous to do so. So you need to make sure you have a safe way of viewing that. But if you do have some eclipse glasses, for example, or an eclipse viewer, or if you can project the image of the sun, you'll be able to see the sun take on a crescent shape as it is partially covered up by the face of the moon.

HOLMES: Are you surprised at the level of public interest in this eclipse? I mean, there's been massive fervor surrounding it. I mean, huge numbers of people traveling to that path of totality. Hotels have been booked for months in advance blanket media coverage isn't surprising, or is it you expect that?

KERSS: Well, there's two answers to that. I think that obviously, we live in an age where the news of such events gets around, I mean, an eclipse can now have its own hashtag, it can be a viral sensation. And of course, the phone cameras that we all carry these ubiquitous cameras is so good, that people can just whip out a camera out of their pocket and take an extraordinary photo event like this in the sky, which would have been a bucket list phenomenon for just a few people before.


KERSS: But I think it's worth remarking as well on the unique quality of the United States. I mean, Americans, I love being in the U.S. for eclipses, because Americans love eclipses and being a very large landmass. They do scoop up a lot of eclipses like this.

Now, it is also worth pointing out that the next time an eclipse anywhere near as spectacular as this happens in the U.S., that won't be for another 21 years. So I think part of the surge of interest in this eclipse is just understand that if you're in the U.S., and you don't want to travel outside of the U.S., you really want to make sure you get to see this one because it might be the last one you get any opportunity to see.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, good point. Now you've described it and you touched on this earlier, you've described it as a unifying event for people. What do you mean by that?

KERSS: Well, I think I'm going to eclipse gives us the opportunity to reflect on the world that we all share. Maybe we don't think about this every day. But the moon is actually an important object in our lives. It's intimately tied into the history of our joint culture. But it's also tied into the history of life on earth. And the moon is one of three objects that are so important to us, the others being the earth, of course, and the sun, and the sun, the Earth and the Moon are all coming into an alignment for this particular special event.

So it's an opportunity for us to reflect on this little part of the cosmos that we call home. It's also just an extraordinary and thrilling and overpowering event to witness with other people. And it's something that you'll share with your friends and family for the rest of your life. So in my opinion, it's probably the least unifying thing that you can see in the sky.

HOLMES: What a great way of looking at it. Astronomer Tom Kerss. Good luck. Enjoy it. You've got your camera there behind you. You're all set. And good to go. Thank you for making the time.

KERSS: Thank you, Michael. And I hope you get a great view from Georgia.

HOLMES: Very why. Join us later today for the total solar eclipses that traveled from Mexico across the U.S. and into Canada experienced the total eclipse from numerous locations along with plenty of science and excitement along the way. Our special coverage starts at 12:00 p.m. in New York that's 5pm in London APM in Abu Dhabi.

Well a new rounds of negotiation kicks off aimed at reaching a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas. We'll have the latest developments coming up.

Also CNN's Christiane Amanpour looked back on the genocide in Rwanda and the atrocities that shocked the world 30 years ago.



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM with me, Michael Holmes.

Egyptian state media now reporting significant progress, as they put it, in talks over a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal. Delegations from Israel and Hamas headed to Cairo for negotiations that are said to be quote, "bringing points of view closer together".

CNN's Ben Wedeman filed this report before that latest word about progress being made.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The stage is set for a new round of talks in Cairo aimed at reaching some kind of ceasefire in Gaza, given an additional sense of urgency by the U.S. following President Biden's Thursday phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden urged Netanyahu to try and reach a deal. The prime minister already facing growing domestic demands to bring the hostages home. President Biden also urge Qatar and Egypt, the principal mediators in these talks, to pressure Hamas as well.

The basic outlines of the deal have been on the table for months. That first a ceasefire, Hamas wants a permanent one. Israel clearly looking for a temporary halt in the hostilities. Second, an exchange of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails. What needs to be worked out is the ratio of Palestinians for every hostage.

And finally, the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians to their homes in northern Gaza, if that is, they have homes to return to.

CIA director William Burns is in Cairo along with a Qatari foreign minister. The Hamas delegation is led by senior leader Khalil Al- Hayya.

Israeli officials tell CNN their delegation to Cairo will have an expanded remit to negotiate the details though the final decisions still rests with the cabinet. Failure once more to reach an agreement will have deadly consequences.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN -- reporting from Beirut.


HOLMES: Now as CNN has previously reported, the Israeli military has been using artificial intelligence to help identify bombing targets in Gaza, sometimes with little human oversight. That's according to an investigation by "Plus 972" magazine and local call and online publication run jointly by Israelis and Palestinians.

It found that the A.I. based tool is called Lavender and was known to have a 10 percent error rate. It alleges that the Israeli army systematically attacked targets in their homes, usually at night when entire families were present.

The investigation comes amid intensifying international criticism after Israeli strikes killed seven aid workers who were delivering food to Gaza. The U.N. chief says he's concerned about the findings.



ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: I'm also deeply troubled by reports that the Israeli military's bombing campaign includes artificial intelligence as a tool, in the identification of targets particularly in densely-populated residential areas resulting in a high level of civilian casualties.

No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms.


HOLMES: The Israel Defense Forces have not denied the use of A.I. on the battlefield in Gaza, but in a statement they say contrary to claims, the IDF does not use an artificial intelligence system that identifies terrorist operatives or tries to predict whether a person is a terrorist. Information systems are merely tools for analysts in the target identification process.

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist and author of the book "The Palestine Laboratory". He joins me now live from Sydney, Australia. Good to see you again, Antony.

I wanted to talk with you about facial recognition as well in a moment, but first this reporting by "Plus 972 magazine" about this A.I. system. And it says that, you know, humans maybe taking 20 seconds to confirm the A.I. data.

Israel says it doesn't use it to make life and death decisions, but you've reported extensively on Israeli military tech. What do you make of the reporting?

ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN, JOURNALIST: I think it's very credible. And the journalist behind it Yuval Abraham has a good track record. He's an Israeli journalist, so I think the reports are credible. And essentially what the report says and in great detail to make thousand-word story which follows up another story he did a few months ago which also explained how A.I. was being used by Israel.

Essentially, the overriding message is that after October 7, Israel, and this is a quote from one of his sources, is looking for revenge.

And Israel was looking for targets and over many, many months, they will gain that information, huge amounts of data from their own intelligence, from drones, from Americans who also were providing information from Pine Gap which is a us military base in the center of Australia, which has also been used by the Americans to help the Israelis.

All this data feeds into a system. And what essentially the report shows, this is also backed up by my reporting in the last years, because Israel been using A.I. in warfare before October 7, not on this scale though, is that precision is not the aim here.

But the idea was to go after potentially low-level Hamas operatives. It's important to note that how does it define what a Hamas operative actually is and civilian casualties were not a concern.

And as soon as this report came out, a few days ago, international lawyers and the U.N. expressed profound concern because without proportionality, these are war crimes, mass war crimes, and tens of thousands of people died in the first month based on this.


There was also a "New York Times" reporting on the widespread use of facial recognition. That was picked up by the Israeli media and elsewhere, as well. You've written in your book about this technology and the company quoted in the article.

What are your chief concerns about facial recognition use in the context of Gaza where by all accounts the reporting is it's been very widespread.

LOEWENSTEIN: It is widespread. And facial recognition technology is being used across Palestine for years. As you say, I looked into this, particularly in the West Bank. And I'd been seeing footage, both video and photos after October 7 from Gaza of Israeli tech that was presumably for this kind of purpose, facial recognition technology.

And we discovered through that "New York Times" report, but also my own sources that this is done to document every single Palestinian there so the 2.2 million Palestinians, their information, their dates, their biometric data. And it's not done with consent.

It's important to note that and it also says in that story, which also backed up my own reporting that often its imprecise that its trying to find, so Israel claims, Hamas operatives when often Israel does not actually know who is Hamas and who is not.

And more importantly, how they define that is incredibly overly broad and the company behind that you mentioned Core Side (ph) has worked extensively with repressive police forces around the world and including occupation forces in the West Bank. So a pretty dark record.

HOLMES: Yes. And to the point you were just making there, there have been several Palestinians detained who say they had been previously cleared or that there was no reason for their detention.

We know from other cases around the world that facial recognition technology is far from infallible. But the thing is in Gaza misidentification could mean not just wrongful detention, it could mean death.

LOEWENSTEIN: And in fact, there's been a lot of reports in the last few days by Israeli media, particularly Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, which has found that some of the prisons that Israel has been running in Israel itself or in detention camps in Gaza.


LOEWENSTEIN: One doctor, Israeli doctor who was a whistleblower who was anonymous in this report essentially found that the torture by Israeli forces on Palestinians was so bad that they amputate limbs.

This is how bad -- and as another journalist called it Israel is having its own Guantanamo Bay, which is totally sealed off, no Red Cross visits, no investigation, no oversight. This is what's happening away from the public.

And again, some of those prisoners were then released without charge, without any other accusation and they were picked up with facial recognition. That would be enormously worrying.

We're almost out of time, I wanted to -- real quick though, your book, "The Palestine Laboratory" talks about Israel in a way testing technologies in the Palestinian territories and using the results to boost exports of that technology.

Real quick, is that what you're saying with this sort of stuff?

LOEWENSTEIN: Well, hugely to the point where were already seeing stories in the international press of Israeli A.I. companies that are battle-tested in Gaza -- that's their words, trying to sell them, promote them, that they have been battled tested. There was a major Israeli arms fair -- sorry, a Singapore arms fair one month ago where Israeli tech is again, had been battle tested in Palestine, was going to be sold globally.

This is what's happening. These are being tested live as we speak on Palestinians for a global market. So you will see in months and years ahead, huge amounts of this repressive tech in other conflicts around the globe, unless there is an arms embargo impose as a U.N. Human Rights Council last week called for against Israel.

HOLMES: Fascinating. Antony, always good to see Antony Loewenstein there in Sydney.


HOLMES: Appreciate it.


HOLMES: Now, a new report released by the World Bank and the United Nations on Friday, put the estimated cost of damage to critical infrastructure in Gaza at around $18.5 billion.

The report found an estimated 26 million tons of debris and rubble have been left in the wake of the destruction. And that could take years to clean up. Nearly all of the primary roads have been destroyed or damaged, 92 percent according to the report.

More than a million Palestinians have lost their homes, 75 percent of the population is displaced, many of them more than once.

The report also found that young children are facing life-long consequences to their development with every child in Gaza, of course, out of school now as most of the schools are destroyed.

Well, Rwandans are remembering the genocide that devastated their nation 30 years ago when an estimated 800,000 people, mostly members of the Tutsi ethnic minority, was slaughtered during a 100-day spree of killing and raping, acts committed by Hutu extremists.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour looks back on how the violence unfolded, the international community's failure to act when it knew it was happening and the reconciliation period that followed within Rwanda.

A warning: many of the images are disturbing to watch.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: a genocidal rampage that wiped out nearly 1 million People in just 100 days. men, women, and children hacked to death with machetes, clubs and bare hands. When extremists from Rwanda's dominant tribe, the Hutus, set out to exterminate the Tutsi ethnic minority 30 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They threw grenades at us. And started hacking us all over our body.

AMANPOUR: The systematic campaign of mass murder was sparked after the Hutu president's plane was shot down April 6, 1994.

And when I first traveled there, the scale of the atrocities was only just emerging.

Investigators have now turned up evidence to suggest that the massacre of Tutsis was preplanned by the Hutu-led government, the un report calls that slaughter genocide.

While the international community failed to act, hundreds of thousands fled for their lives, the scenes were biblical. To neighboring Tanzania, to Zaire year, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The genocide finally ended when the Rwandan patriotic front took control of the country. That army was led by Paul Kagame, who eventually became president and remains so today.

Did you expect the international community to intervene?

PAUL KAGAME, RWANDAN PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Well along with (inaudible), that's why they were here.

AMANPOUR: And why do you think they couldn't and didn't?

KAGAME: They didn't care.

AMANPOUR: A 2022 Freedom House report found that while Kagame's regime has maintained stability, it has also suppressed political dissent through pervasive surveillance, intimidation, and torture. Kagame denies any of those accusations.


AMANPOUR: After the bloodshed in 1994, I saw the country's jails overflowing with alleged perpetrators.

Everyone in prison claims to be innocent. Human rights workers say at least one in five people may have been falsely accused.

The government pursued a policy of unity and reconciliation, which often sees perpetrators and victims living side-by-side, as I witnessed when I returned to Rwanda years later.

Iphigenia (ph) was preparing a plate of food and serving it to Jean- Bosco Bizimana, one of the men who murdered five of her children.

It's amazing for us to sit here and share food with families who've been through so much. Did you expect Iphigenia to forgive you and give you mercy?

JEAN-BOSCO BIZIMANA, ONE OF RWANDAN MURDERER: it felt that they were forgive me.

AMANPOUR: As for international accountability in 1998 President Bill Clinton apologized to the victims.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did not act quickly enough after the killing began. We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name -- genocide.

AMANPOUR: But the scars run deep in Rwanda and mass graves are still being found 30 years later, a painful reminder of the country's darkest hour.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN -- London.


HOLMES: Coming up here on the program, Mexico's presidential candidates squared off in a debate ahead of a monumental presidential election. We'll tell you about their first debate in a live report after the break.


HOLMES: Mexico's presidential candidates have just wrapped up their first debate ahead of the general election in June. The topics were their platforms on education, health care, fighting corruption, and ending violence against women.

The front runners are both women meaning that Mexico may soon have its first-ever female president.

CNN en Espanol's anchor, Gabriela Frias, joins me now from Mexico City. Great to see you Gabby.

An important debate for the candidates. What's your takeaway on how it went?


Well, it's hard to tell. It's going to be tough for the citizens to make up their minds and decide who won the debate. That's up for grabs because this debate was based on questions that the public just submitted through social media. Over 24,000 questions were submitted from those were chosen of couple of hundred and eight and then 30 were chosen.

But this debate had a number of challenges to begin with. The criticisms and critiques that both women candidate exchanged. Xochitl Galvez, the opposition candidate accused the ruling party candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum of being corrupt and pretty much using her past as the former governor of Mexico City and some cases that were highlighted during the debate.


FRIAS: One of them was the collapse of a school during the earthquake of 2017 and also the handling of the pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic.

On her part, Sheinbaum accused Galvez of being a liar and being part of a pact between the political parties that are part of that alliance that it represented -- that represents Galvez, that is the pre-Pan (ph) and the PRD parties.

That was pretty much half of the debate was just around those criticisms. So the public just heard more of that rather than the proposals or the debate of the proposals. Topics, as you mentioned -- the health topic, also transparency, the fight against corruption amongst others.

In 21 days, we'll have a second debate. But for the moment, who won the debate? It's hard to tell Michael. Both candidates were on the defensive side.

And Jorge Alvarez Maynez, from the third party Movimiento Ciudadano pretty much used his time to highlight how these two candidates represents the worst of the political class of Mexico, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes.

Gabby, I also wanted to ask you, of course, we've been following this row between Mexico and Ecuador over the extraordinary entering of Mexico's embassy in Quito. A lot of anger in the region. What's the feeling about what might be next in terms of development. You're there in Mexico.

FRIAS: Michael, the region is really polarized. So these would happen in the last couple of hours, is that ideologically similar governments, and I'm talking about, for example, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua who even broke relationships with Ecuador after this spat in Quito are pretty much using this as a means to unite ideologically.

What we know that will happen already is that the Organization of American States will hold next week, Monday and Tuesday, special sessions on two key topics, the asylum and international law regarding asylum because as you know the former vice president of Ecuador was being held at the Mexican embassy in Quito despite him being already, you know, already accused of corruption. That's one.

The next day, the session will be towards what happens when a different country enters an embassy, which is exactly what happened in Quito with the embassy of Mexico. So we already have sessions on this topic, and you can expect many more.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, it's an extraordinary situation.

Gabriela Frias in Mexico. Gabby, good to see you. Appreciate it.

After the break, Women's college basketball has a new national champion as March Madness begins to wrap up.

We'll be right back.


HOLMES: Well, it was sweet revenge for South Carolina. The Gamecocks now have their third NCAA women's basketball national championship. They dashed Caitlin Clark's title dreams with an 87-75 victory over Iowa.

The Hawkeyes knocking South Carolina out of the tournament last year. That's the revenge part of this.

Donning her Iowa jersey for the last time, Caitlin Clark said despite the loss she doesn't have time to, in her words, sulk and called her team's season special.


HOLMES: CNN's Brynn Gingras has more on this much anticipated showdown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here on the court at Rocket Mortgage fieldhouse in Cleveland where South Carolina's still celebrating that national championship win.

Dawn Staley, their coach, cutting down that net as she led her Gamecocks to an undefeated season. That has not happened since 2016.

But (inaudible) it was an incredible game. Both teams going back and forth. The Gamecocks leading at half and really, Iowa Hawkeyes couldn't come back from that.

Of course, Iowa Hawkeyes led by 22 Caitlin Clark, any time that girl scored everyone was out of their seats. That is though the last time that Caitlin Clark will be putting on a jersey for the Iowa team not able to clinch a national championship.

You know, she said that winning would be the cherry on the top. But what she really hoped for is that she has made people feel and love the game of basketball, that she has inspired younger generations.

And there is no doubt that that is the case, even Dawn Staley saying that she has elevated this game.

But what a win for South Carolina, undefeated in the national championship.

Brynn Gingras in Cleveland, CNN.


HOLMES: One city in Mexico is already buzzing with activity ahead of the total solar eclipse in the coming hours. The beach city of Mazatlan saw an increased number of locals and tourists on its beaches over the weekend, including astronomers and scientists who showed up with equipment to get ready for the celestial event. The eclipse will extend across Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

And one reminder again about our eclipse special here on CNN. Join us later today for the total solar eclipse as it travels from Mexico across America, and into Canada. Experienced the total eclipse from numerous locations along with plenty of science and excitement along the way.

Our special coverage starts at 12:00 p.m. in New York, 5:00 p.m. in London, 8:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes.

My friend and colleague Rosemary Church, picks up coverage after the break.