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Israeli PM: Blinken's Visit Comes At Important Time In Dealing With Iran; Blinken: U.S.-Israeli Relationship Rooted In Shared Democratic Values; Netanyahu & Blinken Talk To Media After Surge In Violence; Video Of Nichols Beating Raises Questions About Medical Response; Tensions Mount Over Drone Strike On Iranian Military Plant; Inside NASA's Secretive Crew- Selection Process For Artemis II. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 30, 2023 - 11:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: I'm Becky Anderson. You are watching second hour of the CONNECT THE WORLD. The time here in the UAE is at eight o'clock in

the evening a very warm welcome to those of you who may be just joining us. Now at any moment now we are expecting the Israeli Prime Minister and the

U.S Secretary of State to address the media in Jerusalem.

Antony Blinken and Benjamin Netanyahu have been meeting after a surge in violence that has led to some of the worst bloodshed in years in the

Palestinian territories and in Israel. In an earlier meeting today with Egypt's President in Cairo Blinken appealed for calm. He condemned the

terrorist attack outside of Jerusalem's synagogue that killed seven people last Friday, while also cautioning against any revenge attacks as he

described them.

Well, Blinken will meet Palestinian leaders in the West Bank on Tuesday. His tour of this region, the Middle East is happening amid simmering

tensions and bloodshed that some observers in the area of fear will only get worse. Nic Robertson has the details.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): In recent days, bloodshed and killings of both Israelis and Palestinians spiking

tensions between the two risings.

NOUR ODEH, PALESTINIAN ACTIVIST: What we see right now in terms of confrontation of escalation, will look like its play compared with what

could happen next.

REUVEN HAZAN, PROF, OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, HEBREW UNIVERSITY: We don't know if this is the beginning of the cycle. And in this part of the world,

cycles begin and end without you knowing it.

ROBERTSON (voice over): A familiar cycle and a problem for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arriving during his Mideast trip this week. Israeli

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far right coalition have already responded to the Palestinian violence.

Having the home of a Palestinian gunman who murdered seven Israelis Friday sealed also with collective punishment, threatening to revoke residency

rights of attacker's families, and strengthening settlements itself already a condition of Netanyahu's far right political partners.

Blinken's message to Netanyahu also faces strong Israeli opposition to many of his coalition policies will be to de-escalate tensions with the


HAZAN: Whatever he gets, as a promise from Netanyahu, I don't know if Netanyahu will be able to deliver domestically.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Why not?

HAZAN: Because his government isn't interested in it. They're not interested in calming things down. They were elected on a platform of we

will have an iron--


ANDERSON: Well, we promised you that we would get you to Jerusalem as soon as we saw Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Secretary of State. He will now

address the media. Let's listen in.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: In other expression, the continual expression of the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United

States. It's one of the great alliances of modern history.

We share common interests which are growing by the day. We share common values to strong democracies, which will remain I assure you, two strong

democracies. This alliance is something that President Biden is committed to I've known him for 40 years.

He's a true friend of Israel, a true champion of this alliance, as are you. I'm not sure that all of Israel knows your own contribution in helping us

with missile defense in times of peril; you've actually helped us during one crisis in record time.

And it did so again. And you've also just helped us push back on the attempts to delegitimize in the United Nations. And we're grateful for that

and for your continued friendship. Your visit comes at an important time.

It's a time where many of the international community I would say most of the international community have seen the true face of Iran. They've seen

the barbarism of this regime against its own people.

They've seen how it exports aggression beyond its border, and beyond the Middle East. And I think there's a common consensus that this regime must

not acquire nuclear weapons. We've had very good discussions on forging a common policy and trying to work together to thwart the danger.

I can repeat again, something that you've heard me say many times, our policy and my policy is to do everything within Israel's power to prevent

Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them and that will remain so.

But obviously the fact that we and the United States working together is something that is important for this common goal as well in addition to

thwarting the danger we also see an opportunity to seize opportunities the opportunities of expanding the circle of peace.


We intend to deepen the peace that we've already made. In the Abraham Accords, we discuss some of the initiatives that we are considering doing

together, but also to perhaps achieve dramatic breakthroughs that.

I think could be both historic, and enormously significant in our common efforts to bring prosperity, security and peace to this part of the world,

and to and beyond. So with this in mind, I have to tell you that I also believe that expanding the circle of peace, working to close finally.

The file of the Arab Israeli conflict, I think would also help us achieve a workable solution with our Palestinian neighbors. And for all these

reasons, I welcome you once again to Jerusalem. Welcome.

ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you, Prime Minister. Thank you very much. It's very good to see you. And I want to

thank you for what has been, as always a very productive, very candid, and I think important discussion that covered a lot of issues.

Just as I did upon arrival in Israel, I had a chance to express directly to the Prime Minister, my condolences and that of the United States

government. For the seven Israelis who were killed in the horrific terrorist attack, or this week outside their synagogue.

President Biden called the Prime Minister immediately after the attack to underscore the United States steadfast support for Israel and its people a

message that I reaffirmed the meeting we just had, in the context of this attack, and escalating violence.

It's important that the government and people of Israel know America's commitment to their security remains ironclad. That commitment is backed up

by nearly 75 years of United States support.

America's commitment has never wavered. It never will. And today, the Prime Minister, and I discussed ways that we can continue to strengthen our

partnership and our shared security interests. We agree that Iran must never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. And we discuss deepening

cooperation to confront and counter Iran's destabilizing activities in the region and beyond.

Just as Iran has long supported terrorists that attack Israelis and others, the regime is now providing drones that Russia is using to kill innocent

Ukrainian civilians. In turn, Russia is providing sophisticated weaponry to Iran, it's a two way street.

Russia's ongoing atrocities only underscore the importance of providing support for all of Ukraine's needs humanitarian economic insecurity, as it

bravely defends its people. And it's very right to exist, a topic that we also discussed today.

Now, one of the most effective ways to make Israel more secure is to continue to build bridges in the region, and even well beyond the region.

That's why we've worked relentlessly to deepen and broaden the Abraham accords and other normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states.

Earlier this month, a large delegation from across the United States Government joined representatives from Israel from Bahrain, from Egypt,

from Morocco from the United Arab Emirates, in Abu Dhabi, for the first meeting of the negative forum working groups.

This was the largest gathering of Israeli and Arab officials since the 1991 Conference. These groups are focusing on issues affecting the lives and

livelihoods of all of our people food and water security, clean energy, health care, education and coexistence, tourism.

Regional security is part of a comprehensive effort to enable collaboration, not only between our governments, but also our businesses,

entrepreneurs, civil societies, young people. The Prime Minister has spoken about our ability to do big things together.

Well, Israel's greater integration in the region is very much one of them. A few years ago, this kind of cooperation would have been unimaginable.

Today, it is genuinely fostering new opportunities for people across.

The participating countries to connect, to collaborate to learn, from teaming up on cancer research to launching new startups and green energy

and drought resistant agriculture to competing in real sports and e-Sports.

Each of these interactions helps chip away at enduring biases and distrust. And this never would have happened without the leadership of the Prime

Minister. We're determined to keep building on that progress on new issues with new countries as we work to strengthen the circle of peace.

These efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians. But as we advance Israel's integration, we can do so in ways

that improve the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.


And that's crucial to moving toward our enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis, enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity,

justice, and dignity. President Biden remains fully committed to that goal we continue to believe that the best way to achieve it is through


And then realizing the vision of two states as I said to the Prime Minister, anything that moves us away from that vision is in our judgment

detrimental to Israel's long term security, and its long term identity as a Jewish and democratic state.

That's why we're urging all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm to de-escalate. We want to make sure that there's an environment in which

we can, I hope, at some point create the conditions where we can start to restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, which of

course, is sorely lacking.

We also remain committed to supporting religious coexistence and diversity, including in Jerusalem, we continue to support upholding the historic

status quo at Jerusalem's holy places, including the Temple Mount Haram al Sharif.

We're grateful to the prime minister for his repeated expressions of support for that position. One of the things that make the partnership

between us so strong is that it goes well beyond any one American or Israeli government.

Few people understand that better than President Biden, who's worked closely with every Israeli prime minister, since called emir, and Prime

Minister Netanyahu, who has worked closely with his share of American presidents quite a few.

Throughout the relationship between our countries what we come back to time and again, are that it is rooted both in shared interests and shared

values. That includes our support for core democratic principles and institutions, including respect for human rights.

The equal administration of justice for all the equal rights of minority groups, the rule of law, a free press, a robust civil society, and the

vibrancy of Israel civil society has been on full display of late.

The commitment of people in both our countries to make their voices heard to defend their rights, is one of the unique strengths of our democracies,

and others a recognition that building consensus for new proposals is the most effective way to ensure they're embraced and that they endure.

Our fellow democracies can also make a stronger, that's what the United States and Israel had done for each other over many decades, by holding

ourselves to the mutual standards we've established.

And by speaking, frankly, and respectfully, as friends do, when we agree, and when we do not the discussion that the Prime Minister and I had today

was no exception that conversation will continue.

Including with other members of Israel's government, civil society, as part of a perpetual process to defend and bolster the pillars of our democracy,

which we are both committed to. So Mr. Prime Minister, again, thanks you so much for your hospitality, for the very good conversation and for the

enduring partnership between our countries.

ANDERSON: Are going to take questions. OK, well, you were just listening to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu talking to the media in Jerusalem. We thought they might take some questions from the audience.

The audience being the gathered media, but they didn't. Antony Blinken there expresses his condolences, once again for the loss of Israeli life on

Friday. He said it is important that the government and the people of Israel know that the U.S. is committed to Israel.

And that commitment is ironclad, he said, and he urged calm. He also spoke about Iran. He spoke about the Abraham Accords. He talked about wanting to

widen the circle of peace, when he spoke about those accords.

We also heard from Benjamin Netanyahu. Let's bring in our Hadas Gold who is in Jerusalem, Kylie Atwood, who is at the U.S. State Department. Hadas

let's start with you. You're there in Jerusalem, you're on the ground what do you make of what you heard?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think for the Israelis, they'll be pleased with hearing the sort of some of the laudatory

terms from Antony Blinken reinforcing how the strong commitment to Israel and also the laudatory terms he gave to Benjamin Netanyahu.

But he definitely, I think, hinted at some of the issues that we knew he was going to bring up. You know, he talked about keeping, trying to calm

the situation on the ground here in the wake of the violence. He talked about Iran.

And interestingly, at the end, I found it really interesting how he specifically spoke about what was clearly a nod to the proposed judicial

reforms that the Israeli government Benjamin Netanyahu wants to take for that would certainly allow the Israeli parliament, the Knesset to overturn

Supreme Court decisions.

And he mentioned the vibrancy he said of Israel civil society, saying it was on full display of late clearly reference to the masses of people who

have been coming out on a weekly basis to protest those judicial reforms I mean just a couple of weeks ago we had 100,000 people out on the street.


And from Benjamin Netanyahu's side, you know, it's probably not a huge surprise that he wasn't necessarily focusing on the violence that we've

been seeing or the amount of tensions in Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

His focus is one of his main topics was, of course, Iran. And he instead of focusing necessarily on the actions on the ground, when it came to Israeli

Palestinian conflict, made a reference to how the greater integration of Israel into the region the expansion of the Abraham Accords.

It's one of Benjamin Netanyahu's top goals is to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia. He essentially said that when they do that, then essentially,

then there can be peace, or will help lead to peace with the Palestinians. Not everyone agrees with that. But that's sort of the method that he took,

right there.

You know, overall, you seem like their relationship is good. They talked about how, you know, as good friends do, they'll be very frank with each

other. And I'm sure in the coming hours we'll start to try to get some more readouts of exactly how that conversation actually went, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Kylie, your thoughts!

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, what was interesting was to hear from the Secretary of State, speaking in laudatory terms about Israel

being integrated in the region in recent years, and how that has provided opportunities.

But also being very clear in saying that that should not be a substitute for Israeli Palestinian peace and the need for there to be a lot more work

on that front. And that's something we've heard from U.S. officials.

But he made sure to say that in front of the Prime Minister, and he said that their peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is sorely

lacking, making it clear that what we have seen with the cycle of violence in the last few days here is something that is highly concerning to the

Biden Administration.

But as that all said, the Secretary of State making very clear that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is an ironclad commitment, and that the Secretary

of State plans to keep it that way, you know, mirroring some of that language that we heard from Netanyahu on Iran.

Blinken saying that the United States is committed to making sure that Iran doesn't develop a nuclear weapon. And of course, we know that will be one

of the key things that they discussed today.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. To both of you thank you very much indeed. Martin Indyk is a Distinguished Fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations,

a Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel imbued in the politics of Israel and the Palestinians for years.

He joins me now from New York. It's good to have you, sir. And I trust that you were listening to what we just heard from Antony Blinken and Benjamin

Netanyahu. So I will just ask you very simply, what did you make of what we have just heard?

MARTIN INDYK, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW ON THE COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thanks, Becky. Obviously the Secretary of State is arriving at a very

fraught time in the Israeli Palestinian relationship with the violence on both sides reaching heights that haven't been known for years. And that is

his major concern in terms of trying to find ways to get all sides to calm things down.

There wasn't a lot of that in this press conference. But there were some interesting nuances. I think, that were important. First of all, Netanyahu

basically didn't refer to the Palestinian issue. He's focused on Iran. And on, of course, Saudi Arabia, where he wants to, "Achieve dramatic

breakthroughs". Those are I think his priorities. But they can be easily overwhelmed if things get out of control in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

And that's what Secretary of State Blinken was carefully warning about. I thought it was particularly important that he referred to their cabinet

discussions meeting they weren't exactly agreed on everything. And that he warned that anything that moves the way from achieving a two state solution

is something that the United States will oppose a way of signaling that the far right agenda of some of Netanyahu's partners in the government will be

opposed by the United States.

ANDERSON: And that's really interesting, isn't it? I do want to talk about Iran, because I was fascinated to see that Benjamin Netanyahu already sort

of kind of almost avoided talking about the terrorist attack in Jerusalem just two days ago.

I mean he started on Iran and then went on to talk about widening the circle of pieces they both have described widening the opportunity for the

Abraham Accords. But it is that violence, as you say, and a signal from the Biden Administration that, you know that at the core of any supports for

Israel all that at the core of security going forward this Israel Palestinian issue. And how tough a trip is this for Antony Blinken?


I just wonder what you read into his strategy at this point.

INDYK: Well, he has essentially avoided getting involved in the Israeli Palestinian vortex. But I think it looks increasingly likely that he will

have to get involved. You know, the administration's first priority when it comes to this issue is to stop it from exploding. Stop it from distracting

them from the higher priorities that they have in dealing with Russian aggression and China's assertiveness.

And essentially, that's their approach to the whole Middle East. Let's just calm everything down. Well, it's clear that all the trends are pointing in

the opposite direction when it comes to the interaction between Israelis and Palestinians, as we've seen in the last few days.

And so, I think, against his will, and even his better judgment, he's going to be dragged into this. And his exposure now first in Cairo yesterday, now

in Jerusalem and next in Ramallah tomorrow, is I think, going to give him the ability to sense how to move forward beyond the calls for avoiding

escalation and violence to some kind of gradual, incremental, modest political process that gives some hope to the people on both sides who are

now mired in misery.

ANDERSON: Meantime, we heard from both they share a priority that Iran must not should not get an acquiring nuclear bomb. Neither spoke specifically to

the as yet unclaimed drone strike on Iran yesterday. Your thoughts about the Israeli position with regard Iran under this new government led by

Benjamin Netanyahu? And what do you make of the strike in Iran yesterday?

INDYK: So, the Biden Administration has never really raised any objections to Israel's what's referred to as its kinetic, a war between the wars

against the Iranians, which manifests itself increasingly now it strikes inside Iran itself, as well as Iranian positions in Iraq and in Syria, and

occasionally in Lebanon as well, with its proxies there.

And so, I think that that side of things, they're pretty well coordinated Bill Burns, the Director of the CIA, has just left Israel was there for his

own visit. But I think what's important is, is what Netanyahu said in his press conference about the desire to forge a common policy between the

United States and Israel.

Let's remember that there was no common policy when it came to dealing with the Iran nuclear program. Netanyahu was strongly opposed to the deal that,

that President Obama negotiated what's called the JCPOA to restrict Iran's nuclear program and encouraged Donald Trump to rip it up.

As a result of that it's proved impossible for the prime administration to get the Iranians back into the agreement, that agreement for all intents

and purposes now dead. And so there is a chance to forge a common policy, rather than the one that had them at loggerheads before, that's an

opportunity for Netanyahu, but it's not going to come without a price.

If he wants the United States on board, he's going to have to pay attention to American concerns and preferences.

ANDERSON: Understand, you believe that that was an Israeli strike on - yesterday, do you? And do you believe that that was a strike that the U.S.,

at least in principle would have been aware of?

INDYK: Look, I don't know, let's specify they're not privy to, to Israeli planning or American planning for that matter. But in the past, the United

States has not objected to Israel taking these kinds of actions. There's a long history of Israel taking such actions. And whether Israel informs

United States in advance is it depends on the case from time to time.

But overall, there is I think an understanding that Israel is going to take this kind of military action against Iran and the United States is not

going to object to it.

ANDERSON: Martin, it's always good to have you on. And I want to talk further about the Abraham accords and they gave summit the recent meetings



And, and as described by both widening the circle of peace, but we on this occasion have run out of time. We'll have you back your regular guests on

the show your insight and analysis is extremely important. Thank you very much indeed. I've got to just take a break at this point. It is important

to note that Antony Blinken's trip was always expected to be prickly.

It's his first visit to Israel since the installation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government widely considered the most far right in

Israeli history. And you can learn more about that and a lot more on the region in our newsletter, that's Meanwhile in the Middle East, just head to We'll find it all on your CNN app.

Right, are we going to be taking a break at this point? Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif before we take that break, let me get you this

story as strongly condemning a deadly attack inside a mosque in the Northwest city of Peshawar. The death toll is rising at least 46 people now

as we understand it, were killed and more than 150 wounded in the suspected suicide attack.

It happened during afternoon prayers in a mosque, which is located inside a police compound. The Pakistani - the Taliban are claiming responsibility

calling revenge for the death of a militant last year. Now CNN cannot independently verify the group's claims. Let's get you to Sophia Saifi, who

is in Islamabad, Pakistan with the very latest, and Sofia.

SOPHIA SAIFI, CNN PRODUCER: Becky, I mean, I think what's interesting in the claim of responsibility by the Pakistani Taliban is that it is a

specific faction of the TTP that has claimed responsibility for this attack. I mean, it happened during afternoon prayers. This mosque was fully

backed, the ceilings are caved in and there is still a rescue operation underway in Peshawar amidst the rubble off that mosque in Peshawar and

there are fears that the death toll can increase overnight.

We've also been told that they are funerals taking place. The Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted out saying that terrorism is now the

direct the biggest threat to Pakistan security. There is of course, an investigation underway; there has been an increase in attacks by the

Pakistani Taliban at different military checkpoints and state institutions.

Since the ceasefire between the two between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani government and army fellows spot in November of last year, there

are concerns that these attacks will continue. Islamabad, for example, has been on high alert.

For the past couple of weeks, there was an attempted suicide attack in the city of Islamabad in the last week of December, so there is an

investigation underway. The politicians of this country are repeating the same messages of condolence that they have repeated over the many, many

years when similar attacks have taken place in Pakistan.

There are accusations flying that this is because the Pakistani Taliban is situated in Afghanistan where they're finding safe havens, but we're still

waiting to see how this unfolds and whether things will get worse here in Pakistan. Becky?

ANDERSON: Sophia is in Islamabad in Pakistan. Thank you very much indeed. That's the very latest on that attack that happened earlier today. Well,

Ukraine's President visiting with wounded soldiers in hospitals as battles rage in the east and the south of his country. One official calls the

fighting a living hell, that is next on CONNECT THE WORLD.



ANDERSON: Right, let's get you more our top story this hour. The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin

Netanyahu have just talked to the media. Mr. Netanyahu saying that widening as he described it, the circle of peace created by the Abraham accords

would help the Palestinians, while the two men held a face to face meeting a short time ago in Jerusalem about the rising tide of deadly violence in

the region.

Blinken's current trip to Israel and the West Bank may have been in the works for weeks, but it couldn't come at a more pressing time. Both

Palestinians and Israelis have suffered terrible bloodshed in the last few days and fears are growing that the situation could spiral out of control.

Well to the savage and deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols in the United States. The Memphis Tennessee Police Department is permanently shutting

down its so-called SCORPION Street Crime unit. The five police officers charged with murdering Nichols were members of that unit. Warning Sara

Sidner's story contains graphic images of police brutality.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Police body camera and surveillance video are bringing into question the initial statement made by

the Memphis Police Department regarding the brutal arrest and death of Tyre Nichols the initial statement right that officers attempted to make a

traffic stop for reckless driving.

Further writing as officers approached the driver of the vehicle of confrontation occurred. As seen in the police body camera video, Nichols

was actually pulled out of the car and thrown to the ground tased and beaten.

The Memphis police department statement said that Nichols fled the scene on foot and officers pursued the suspect and again attempted to take the

suspect into custody while attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred. That second confrontation includes officers

spraying him with pepper spray and punching and kicking him repeatedly.

ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, TYRE NICHOLS FAMILY ATTORNEY: I have more and more doubts that there was any issue of reckless driving whatsoever. I think it

was narrative. I think it was a justification for the stop.

Just as they pleaded on some of the video that you saw in the second encounter, that there they were saying, did you see him reach for my gun?

That never happened. Those are all excuses. Those are all lane defenses. And just a reason for what they did, which is now we know has no basis at


SIDNER (voice over): According to the Memphis Police, the suspects complained of having shortness of breath at which time an ambulance was

called. Video shows Nichols propped up against a police car clearly in distrust while the officers stand around chatting with each other.

Medics arrive, but it is not until 25 minutes after Nichols is subdued that an ambulance arrives on the scene. This is certainly not the first time

that videos and evidence contradict initial police accounts that favor the officers involved. In the case of George Floyd, the Minneapolis Police said

Floyd appeared to be suffering medical distress.

When in reality video evidence showed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck. In the case of Breonna Taylor the initial statement from

Louisville police said she had no injuries even though six shots struck her when police entered her home using a battering ram to execute a search

warrant. The report also says there was no forced entry.



ANDERSON: CNN's Sara Sidner reporting there. Well, let's get you up to speed on some of the other stories that are on our radar right now. And

meteorologists in New Zealand are warning that the worst may be yet to come from days of torrential rainfall and floods.

24 centimeters of rain fell on Auckland on Friday. That is the wettest day in that city's history and look at these videos. Well, the forecast calls

for more rain over the next few days prompting warnings of landslides and of roads being washed away.

In China, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting more than 6000 COVID related deaths and more than 215,000 hospitalized cases in

the past week. It's not clear how many people have been infected overall since China dropped in strict COVID rules last month.

Well, the Kremlin says Russian leader Vladimir Putin the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke by phone on Monday. Among other things, they were

reportedly talking about cooperation within OPEC plus ahead of a meeting later this week.

In October, OPEC plus of course, Saudi and Russia are members of that cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day putting more pressure on energy

prices. Well, a Ukrainian commander is describing the situation in and around Bakhmut as a living hell as fighting in the east and the south of

the country intensifies.

Well, authorities also report more casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, including this attack in Kharkiv. Well, at least one person

reportedly killed after a missile turned parts of this residential building into a pile of rubble.

Well, today President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with the Danish Prime Minister in Mykolaiv; the two leaders visited wounded soldiers in hospital,

while Mr. Zelenskyy gave metals to medical staff. CNN's Sam Kiley is in Kyiv. The fighting described by one as a living hell, you've been talking

to people on the front lines, what have they been telling you Sam?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they that those are exactly the same words that I've been hearing from soldiers fighting on

the front line, both Ukrainian and foreign volunteers. One American volunteer says description that has now become the kind of synonymous

almost with Bakhmut as a meat grinder really doesn't do the level of violence there justice.

The levels of violence are very extreme. They're also very peculiar in to this piece of the frontline, Becky, because the Wagner mercenary group,

which has been dominant there in terms of the Russian effort, has been sending very large numbers of soldiers against Ukrainian forces without the

support of heavy Armor.

No tanks, no armored personnel carriers really getting heavily involved there very often, but these huge human waves were trying to overwhelm the

Ukrainians with force of numbers. And it has been partly successful. It has been combined, though with these artillery barrages, that the commander

that you referenced there in your introduction, Becky is talking about there being no buildings will be left in Bakhmut at all.

There are still several thousand amazingly several thousand civilians still living in Bakhmut, but they're saying that's impossible to get them out.

Anybody who wants to be evacuated has been evacuated. And all of the civilians now have to live underground as the city gets steadily more and

more bombarded.

Now there's also quite a lot of fighting in Bulevar, which is to the south that is a town that they believe the Ukrainians believes is part of a

Russian effort to encircle Bakhmut. And it may well come a point in the not too distant future when the Ukrainians elect to withdraw from that city,

not least because as far as they're concerned, it doesn't really represent a great deal of strategic importance.

They don't really understand quite why the Russians are focusing so much of their energies there apart from perhaps the very important symbolic nature

of trying to get some kind of a victory in the Ukrainian war after a number of losses that they've suffered as the Ukrainians launch counter offensives

around Kharkiv and then more recently, when they recaptured large amount of Kherson province and indeed the provincial capital, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Sam Kylie is in Kyiv in Ukraine for you. Well, the Finnish Foreign Minister says Helsinki is committed to getting into

NATO along with Sweden and hopes to be approved for membership by July.


ANDERSON: Now the Turkish president suggested his country might give Finland the green light, but not Sweden, have a listen.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT: Let me say something here this evening. We can give a different message about Finland if necessary. And

when we give a different message about Finland, Sweden will be shocked. But Finland should not make the same mistake.


ANDERSON: Well, Turkey of course is a NATO member and it's delaying its approval of those applications as tensions with Sweden the growing the

Turkish Government wants more than 100 people it calls terrorists to be extradited from Sweden before allowing the nation into the alliance.

Well, a drone strike on an Iranian military plant is putting major strain on diplomatic ties between Iran, Israel and Ukraine. What we're learning

about that attack and who might be behind it is just ahead.


ANDERSON: A drone strike which hit a military plant in central Iran is intensifying tensions between Iran, Israel and Ukraine. Tehran says a

number of small drones were used to attack the Isfahan site late Saturday. You can see one here in this video.

Well, Iran's foreign ministry lashed out calling the strike a cowardly act to incite instability, but it's not yet named an attacker. And Tehran has

summoned Ukraine's envoy after a top Ukrainian official appeared to connect the incident with Iran having previously shipped drones to Russia for use

in the conflict in Iran will mean in Ukraine.

So meanwhile, in various reports, U.S. media outlets are citing unnamed officials saying Israel was behind this strike. Well, Jason Brodsky is

Policy Director at the non-profit advocacy group united against nuclear Iran has been closely monitoring reaction from these major players.

He says it's extraordinary that Ukraine has not yet severed diplomatic relations with Iran. And we can talk about that momentarily. Firstly, at

this point, what do we know about what transpired and who was behind these strikes?

JASON BRODSKY, POLICY DIRECTOR, UNITED AGAINST NUCLEAR IRAN: It's great to be with you, Becky. I think that what we can say is that this was a precise

surgical operation by a foreign power, which has great capabilities of evading Iranian air defenses.

And it also sends a message that the likely power who was behind it Israel has the ability to not only concentrate on domestic matters, it's constancy

focused on a domestic debate over judicial reform and also ongoing tensions with the Palestinians.


But it is at the same time keeping an eye on Iran, and its destabilizing activity. And it fits into an Israeli doctrine, the octopus doctrine aiming

for the head of the octopus, not nearly its tentacles that proxies and partners.

ANDERSON: Jason, why now if it is a, an attack, a kinetic action by Israel, and we can't stand that up here at CNN, but that seems to be the received

wisdom. Why now?

BRODSKY: Well, I think as I mentioned, there had to be intelligence of the need to disrupt an Iranian operation or advancement and its capabilities. I

think that Isfahan is a very sensitive location for the Islamic Republic's establishment. It's the center of defense industrial production and its

missile program, its drone program and its nuclear program.

I think that the evidence in the public space indicates that this may have been focused on Iran's missile program. There's a lot of production of the

Shahab three missiles which can reach Israel and Isfahan. And there also may have been in a hypersonic element, according to Israeli media in that

location, which was a Ministry of Defense facility in Isfahan. So, these are all plausible explanations.

ANDERSON: Jason, I wonder about the timing, given that the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Jerusalem today. And of course, this was a

pre-arranged, a pre-arranged visit. I mean, he's now calling for calm, of course, because of what has happened transpired, the deadly violence over

the weekend or in the last few days between the Israelis and Palestinians.

But I'm wondering you say that there, there had to have been, intelligence might it also have been that, for example, the visit of the U.S. Secretary

of State at a time when the new prime minister and the right wing government has put Iran squarely back in the crosshairs of this right wing

Israeli government. The timing, certainly some would suggest, does seem to be convenient.

BRODSKY: Well, I think that there is a secondary message there. And let's remember, Israel does have a history of undertaking activity on Iranian

soil, coinciding with the visits of high-level U.S. officials in April 2021. Then Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Israel and we had the

strike off the explosion at Natanz nuclear facilities.

So, I think that this could be a message that Israel is sending not only to the United States, but to the world. And it also comes after let's

remember, Israel in the United States had one of the most significant military exercises ever, Juniper Oak exercise. So I think this was a

message of strength and that Israel is prepared to defend its interests, irrespective of the political winds at the time.

ANDERSON: And there is some talk amongst the experts on Iran, on Israel, and on this region, about how this may be useful in Tel Aviv, helping to

shape U.S. policy towards Tehran, what do you make of that narrative?

BRODSKY: I do, I think it is very useful. I think that Israel is increasing deterrence and sending a message to the Islamic Republic, that it's not

going to be able to advance its missile program and other military capabilities without cost. And that at a time when the United States is

focused on Ukraine, and China does help and send the message that the West' eye is not off the ball with respect to the Islamic Republic.

ANDERSON: Jason, back to the attack itself. Was there significant damage done state TV, certainly showing what they say is, is a factory back in


BRODSKY: Well, I think the Israelis say it's was a phenomenal success. The Iranians have a history of downplaying such strikes. And so, we can take

what they say, with seriously on its face. So, I think that we have to wait for satellite imagery to come out in the days ahead. But let's understand

that Iran also has an interest in downplaying what happened because it avoids pressure to have to retaliate against Israel.

But it does have options to retaliate against Israel, it could do it in the maritime sector, it could advance its nuclear program, and it could also

target U.S. troops in response for an Israeli strike. We've seen that before the Islamic Republic implement that modus operandi. So, these are

all contingencies to watch.

ANDERSON: Jason Brodsky with his insight and analysis tonight for you folks. Jason, thank you. Well still to come on this show, CONNECT THE WORLD

with me Becky Anderson.


And inside look at how NASA is picking the right team with the right staff to go back to the moon, more on that after this.


ANDERSON: Well, after 50 years, NASA is getting ready to send astronauts back to the moon in the coming months. Now so we'll announce the crew of

its Artemis 2 mission.

The selection process has been super secretive so far, the agency has only revealed that three of the astronauts will be American and one will be

Canadian. But CNN has gotten some exclusive insights. CNN's Kristin Fisher joins us now with a look at the top contenders. What have you learned?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, before I get into what we've learned, I should point out that this is not unique to

the Artemis program. NASA's crew selection process has been a secretive and confusing thing ever since the very earliest days of those Mercury

astronauts back in the 1950s and the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s.

But what I've been able to learn based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former NASA officials and astronauts is that this process,

despite the fact that Artemis is massively entrenched in Washington and has tentacles that reach all the way overseas to Europe, this is all going to

be decided in Houston, Texas at the Johnson Space Center where every NASA astronaut has lived in work since 1961.

Becky, I spoke with NASA's Administrator Bill Nelson. And he told me that Washington leadership, NASA's leadership in Washington is going to stay out

of this selection process entirely. He says it will be done by three key people at the Johnson Space Center entirely. He told me they will make the


I do not know if they've decided who the crew is, nor should I. And that is really a significant statement because it really leaves the decision-making

power with the people that know these astronauts the best. So, let's get into that list of top contenders.

And again, this is based on interviews about a dozen with people who are still within - inside NASA and some outside but these are their best

guesses. And you can see it's a diverse mix of astronauts for men for women. One Canadian on the list, the rest is Americans.

And we've said that because there was a treaty in 2020 in which the United States and Canada agreed to put one Canadian on this Artemis 2 crew. So

really, there are only three seats for NASA astronauts, 41 of them. And there's really going to be a diverse mix of astronauts on this crew and I

don't just mean gender, race, I mean professional diversity as well, Becky.

They want some test pilots because this is a test flight the first test flight to the Moon since Apollo but they also want some scientists on

board. They want a bit of a mix of rookies and veterans based on our reporting. But with a more of an emphasis on the veterans this time because

this is such a prestigious, high profile mission.

I mean, Becky this crew, this crew is going to become maybe not quite the household names that those Mercury Gemini and Apollo astronauts became.


But they are going to become the face of NASA's flagship program for several years to come.

ANDERSON: That's right. And let's remind ourselves it's not just NASA, we've got regional aspirations here in the UAE. The UAE - Rashid Rover is

darting towards the moon as we speak carrying with the space dreams of many millions of Emiratis and - to live in this country too.

And so, on the back of the mars, prop much going on in this region too. We'll have to have you here at some point; it'd be great for you to be here

and to see what's going on here as well. Good stuff Kristin.

FISHER: I would love that.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much indeed. That's it, good. While the invite is extended see you soon. I'm Becky Anderson here in Abu Dhabi in the UAE. We

are going to say good night. More though up next, stay with CNN.