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Austin Visits Israel As United States Pushes For A Change Strategy; Anger In Israel Over Hostages Mistakenly Killed By The Israel Defense Forces: Oil Giant B.P. Suspends Shipping Through Red Sea; Al Jazeera Journalist Dies After Israeli Attack In Gaza; Hong Kong Activist Jimmy Lai Faces Trial Under National Security Law; united States Official: Israel Flooding Some Hamas Tunnels In Gaza; Austin Visits Israel As United States Pushes For A Change Of Strategy. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 18, 2023 - 10:00   ET




JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Israel, getting a new dose of pressure from its biggest supporter. The U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd

Austin, meeting with top Israeli officials today, as the Biden administration presses for a more targeted approach in Israel's offensive

against Hamas.

And the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, telling CNN, more than 100 people were killed in Israeli attacks and Jabalya, in northern Gaza,

just in the past 24 hours.

And on the humanitarian front, a senior Israeli official say, some 478 trucks passed inspection and entered Gaza on Sunday, and aid entered the

enclave from the Israeli Karem Shalom crossing for the first time since October 7th.

Natasha Bertrand is at the Pentagon for us, Jeremy Diamond will join us from Tel Aviv in just a moment's time.

Natasha, let's just discuss what the message is once again that the United States continues to deliver on what they're hoping to hear in terms of

concrete steps and the shift towards a more concerted and targeted offensive against mass.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Julia, they really want to see this phase of the operation come to an end by the end of this

year, if not by early next year. And that is because, of course, this high intensity stage of the military operations in Gaza against Hamas have

killed thousands and thousands of Palestinian civilians, something that the U.S. really wants to see be avoided, to say the least.

And so, Secretary of Defense Austin is going to be speaking to his counterparts, the Israeli Defense Minister, as well as Israel's war

Cabinet, about their assessment of what their remaining military objectives are in this current phase of the operation and how realistic it is for them

to move into a next phase, a more targeted phase that really goes after senior Hamas leaders using intelligence driven analysis that allows them to

spare civilian casualties, which of course, we've seen on a very, very large scale over the last several months.

The secretary of defense is expected to say in his remarks today, of course, that he stands 100 percent behind Israel, that the United States

continues to support their campaign to eradicate Hamas and to degrade it to such an extent that they cannot launch an attack on Israel like they did

ever again on October 7th. But, at the same time, you know, Austin has said repeatedly that the Israelis have a moral imperative as well as -- as well

as a strategic one if they want to be able to get to any kind of lasting peace to really try to protect to the extent possible, the civilian

population in Gaza.

And so, that's going to be really the priority for Austin when he finishes these meetings today. And we expect to hear a bit more from him during a

press conference that's expected very soon.

CHATTERLEY: Yes. And we're just looking at images now, of them, actually. So, the moment that we're at that press conference begins, of course, we

will -- we will take our viewers to it, and hear from them live following those meetings.

We were talking last hour about one of the other discussion points, which is the security situation in the Red Sea, and perhaps what steps can be

taken in order to try and protect shipping cargo through that region in light of Houthi attacks and a step up in violence that we've seen. What

more do you think can be achieved on that front?

BERTRAND: Well, the Secretary is hoping in his meetings this week with Bahrain and with other regional partners to develop an -- a multinational

naval task force that can basically serve as a protection force for some of these commercial vessels that are operating in the Red Sea, and that

continue to be attacked by these Iran backed Houthi rebels who are launching missiles, drones, rockets, from Yemen towards these vessels.

They say -- the Houthi say, in response to Israel's war in Gaza. Saying that they are essentially retaliating for the international community and

Western support for Israel in this war.

However, it is important to note that many if not most of these vessels have absolutely no links to Israel. And so, the U.S. has said that the

Houthis, and Iran, which supports the Houthis are basically using this as an opportunity to attack Western interests and international interest in

that Red Sea region and really just interrupt international shipping and commerce for their own personal gain and for their own personal objectives.

And so, the U.S. is going to be putting together they hope this taskforce that is going to bolster security in the Red Sea region. However, it's

unclear just how much countries are going to be willing to devote resources to this kind of task force, because it is a very dangerous situation.

The U.S. Navy has had to respond to a number of distress calls by these vessels that have been hit, sometimes by ballistic missiles other times by

drones and rockets, by the Houthis in Yemen, and it has placed, of course, the U.S. forces that are on the ships in danger.


There have not been any casualties or damage to these ships as a result of the attacks. But of course, there are concerns that things could escalate

even further. And so, Secretary Austin is going to be discussing, of course, the U.S. desire to not see this conflict between Israel and Hamas

in Gaza, escalate any further throughout the whole region. But of course, this is a main side effect, U.S. officials believe what is going on there.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, it's all part of the broader story, and the bigger picture here,

Natasha, very quickly, I want to just get your perspective, again, on the negotiations, the talks, the hopes, at least, the pressure of trying to do

more to bring come back to the table over hostage negotiations.

What more can you tell us from the U.S. side, as far as sort of that pressure, the hope, perhaps, that, that can be facilitated in some way in

the coming days?

CHATTERLEY: Well, the U.S. has been trying really hard to get these talks back on track. And in fact, just this morning, we're reporting that the CIA

director Bill Burns, he is in the region to kind of restart talks on these negotiations with the Qataris. And they hope that things will develop to

the point where they can get all parties back to the table.

The U.S. said last week that they were not necessarily optimistic about that, but it seems as though there could be some more movement because the

head of the Mossad, Israel's military intelligence agency, he has been meeting with the Qataris as well to try to get these back on track.

And so, there are more than 100 hostages, including Americans that are believed to still being held -- being held in Gaza. And this all comes,

these tensions over the hostages released after Israel mistakenly killed three hostages during a military operation in Gaza on Friday.

So, it's going to be a key priority, as well as for Secretary Austin, who is going to be visiting Qatar and discussing the issue as -- issue of

hostages with his counterparts there.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, absolutely. And Natasha, thank you for that. Natasha Bertrand there from the Pentagon.

And I want to bring in Jeremy Diamond now from Tel Aviv.

Jeremy, and I'm sure you were just hearing the end of that. We were talking about the hopes, at least, for further conversations and discussions about

potentially being able to see more hostages released.

There is clear outrage, I think, and as we discussed last hour, devastation over the IDF accidentally killing three of their own Israeli people in

Gaza. It's just amping up the pressure for more negotiations and pressure on Israel and the prime minister himself.

I think the big question is how persuasive and what difference does it make to his actions and decisions in practice?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is no question that the Israeli soldier who killed -- mistakenly killed -- shot and killed those

three Israeli hostages on Friday inside Gaza, it led to spontaneous demonstrations over the weekend.

Thousands of people marching on Israel's defense and military headquarters in Tel Aviv to demand that the Israeli government reach another deal to

free the more than 100 hostages, who are still captive in Gaza. And the Israeli prime minister, in particular, is coming under intense pressure,

but also intense criticism, including from several former hostages who have accused him of lacking sufficient intelligence and information about the

whereabouts of hostages, of not doing enough, not prioritizing the release of hostages enough, and instead, being more focused on his own political

survival, and of course, on the war effort that he is undertaking inside Gaza.

And so far, we have heard the Israeli Prime Minister really try and claim that the military campaign in Gaza is helping to pressure Hamas to release

more hostages. But we also saw, of course, on Friday, the pitfalls of that military campaign, which really made the worst fears of a lot of hostage

families come true, as they have been concerned for weeks now that this military campaign could put their loved ones in danger.

And not only have former hostages described coming under artillery, shelling and bombardment from the Israeli military while they were being

hostages -- held hostage, but now of course, we also have this incident from Friday.

CHATTERLEY: Yes. Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv for now. Thank you so much for that.

Now, as we've been discussing, a U.S. Navy warship responded today to the latest attack on the commercial vessel in the Red Sea.

A U.S. military official says the USS Carney seen here, answered a distress call from a ship that was attacked by multiple projectiles. Houthi rebels

have been targeting shipping interests in the Red Sea, calling it a pressure tactic to get Israel to allow aid into Gaza.

And just the latest oil giant B.P. today, becoming the latest company to suspend red sea shipping operations due to what it calls a deteriorating

security situation. Anna Stewart is back with us this hour. And Anna, I think the message here is clear. If you can't protect your cargo, if you

can't protect your people, then, better not to travel there at all. But the problem is it has huge consequences for global supply chains and costs.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These shipping companies have not taken this decision lightly. The Suez Canal is no stranger when it comes to

security and risk issues. But clearly, the acceleration of these attacks that we've seen over the last week have meant that these big companies

really have no other choice, at this stage. There is the risk premium, as you said, there is also the real risk to life.

Now, the issue is to try and get from Europe to Asia, this was a lucrative shortcut. And to go the long way round, I think we have a map where we can

show you just how much longer it is. It's around 40 percent longer to go around the west coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope. That means a

huge pressure on shipping capacity, of course, much more in terms of the cost of fuel that it would take to do that, because that trip is going to

take a week or more longer.

So, this has implications for all of these companies for shipping rates, for freight rates, that feeds into inflation. This is the sort of scenario

that if sustained, will impact us all worldwide, as it could cause increase the cost of all sorts of goods.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, and when you're talking about an oil giant like B.P. it has a -- has a profound impact immediately on oil and energy prices more

broadly, as you were saying last hour.

Anna Stewart, thank you for now.

Now, all of this comes as calls grow louder for a pause in the fighting in Gaza. On Sunday, the French foreign minister was in Tel Aviv to talk about

prospects for a, "new humanitarian truce", which she says could facilitate the release of hostages and the flow of aid.

The Israeli public too is losing patience. Protesters have been turning out to plead with their government to bring the more than 100 remaining

hostages home from Gaza. Their angst amplified by the IDF's accidental killing of three hostages as we've been discussing already. Some relatives

of the captives fearing their loved ones could now be next.

And hundreds of people gathered in Gaza's second largest city, Khan Yunis over the weekend for the funeral of Al-Jazeera journalists Samer Abu Daqqa,

The news network said he died Friday from wounds he received in an Israeli attack. One of Abu Daqqa's colleagues described the father of four as a

joyful person who loved life.

Al-Jazeera calls his death "an assassination", and is accusing Israelis military of deliberately targeting its journalist. Israel strongly denying


Al-Jazeera has now started the process of referring Abu Daqqa's killing to the International Criminal Court.

Melissa Bell has more. And a warning, her report does contain graphic and distressing images.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sounds of yet another family in Gaza torn apart by grief. Nothing that seems can shield the civilians here from

the nightmares of this war, neither age, nor location, nor profession.

Journalists are meant to be protected, a reflection of the importance of their work shining a light onto the dark horrors of a conflict now in its

11th week. Instead, it has now taken yet another journalist's life.

Samer Abu Daqqa, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was killed according to the network in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

WAEL DAHDOUH, AL JAZEERA GAZA BUREAU CHIEF (through translator): We made the report, we filmed, and we were done. The civil defense was with us.

While we were leaving, they hit us with a rocket.

BELL (voice over): For Al-Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief, injured in the strike alongside his colleague, the cost of this war was already

unimaginable. Wael Dahdouh lost his wife, daughter, son, and grandson in an Israeli airstrike in late October, learning that his family had been killed

while on air.

His 15-year-old son, Al Jazeera said, had hoped to become a journalist like his father.

The network issued a statement Friday, saying, that it "holds Israel accountable for systematically targeting and killing Al Jazeera journalists

and their families."

HISHAM ZAQOUT, AL JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT (through translator): This is a new crime against Palestinian journalists that adds to the crimes of the

Israeli occupation.


BELL (voice over): CNN cannot independently verify the allegations. On Saturday, the IDF told CNN, it has never and will never deliberately target

journalists. But just days ago, CNN's own reporting and analysis suggests that it was Israeli tank fire that killed Reuters journalist in southern

Lebanon in October. The IDF says the incident is still under investigation.

Within Gaza, Abu Daqqa is one of the more than 60 journalists killed since the conflict began, according to figures from the Committee to Protect

Journalists, making this the deadliest war for reporters since tracking began in 1992.


Now, Wael Dahdouh, who buried his own family just weeks ago, is grieving once again, and once again, saying goodbye as the light of Gaza's

journalism shines a little bit fainter.

Melissa Bell, CNN.



Still to come, Hong Kong media mogul, Jimmy Lai, appears in court on charges of violating the city's National Security Law. More on that

landmark trial ahead.

And Ukraine is no stranger to struggle in its battle against Russia. But now, its troops are trying to soldier on without new Western aid. Our

report from Kherson, just ahead.


CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. A court is adjourned for the day in a trial of jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai. He's been tried

in the Hong Kong sweeping national security law, facing charges linked to Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. And he's now-shuttered pro-democracy


China's foreign ministry spokesperson described the proceedings as, "fair, reasonable, and lawful."

Hours before the trial started, the United States and the U.K. issued statements calling for Lai's immediate release. Kristie Lu Stout has more

on a case that's drawing global attention.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Considered by many as a father figure to Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, Jimmy Lai always knew,

his actions might attract the ire of authorities, but he didn't let it faze him.

JIMMY LAI, FORMER CHAIRMAN AND FOUNDER, NEXT DIGITAL: I think it's a good idea anytime, any situation that you are in to fight for your freedom.

Because without freedom, you have nothing left.

LU STOUT (voice-over): In a recent media briefing, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not holding back in their criticism of Lai, calling him,

"one of the most notorious anti-China elements bent on destabilizing Hong Kong."

After numerous delays, the former media mogul returning to court to finally face trial under Hong Kong's sweeping national security law.

Since that legislation was imposed by Beijing in response to massive social unrest and anti-government protests, authorities have cracked down on

dissent. Today, most of Hong Kong's political opposition are either in prison, like Lai, or have fled the territory.

As the founder of the Apple Daily, once Hong Kong's largest pro- democracy newspaper, which regularly challenged the government, Lai is the most high-

profile critic of Beijing, charged under the national security law.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on multiple counts of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security, as well as a

single charge of sedition under a law that dates back to Hong Kong's colonial past.

76-year-old Lai has been in custody for the last three years, and his son is concerned that incarceration is taking its toll.


SEBASTIEN LAI, JIMMY LAI'S SON: I think psychologically he's very strong, but there is -- there always is that element, there's nobody escapes the

gravity of age. And at his age, he is at a tremendous amount of risk being in maximum security.

LU STOUT (voice-over): For its part, the Hong Kong government says that all cases concerning offenses that endanger national security, including Lai's,

are handled in a fair and timely manner.

In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson said, "Without commenting on individual cases, the Hong Kong SAR law enforcement agencies have been

taking law enforcement actions based on evidence and strictly in accordance with the law in respect of the acts of the persons or entities concerned."

Lai was a fixture at the student-led pro-democracy and anti-government demonstrations that brought central Hong Kong to a standstill in 2014. When

millions of people took to the streets in 2019, Lai was there once again.

Just months later, Lai was marched out of his own newsroom when more than 200 police officers raided the Apple Daily's headquarters. A year on, Lai's

printing presses fell silent as the paper shuttered, a blow to media freedom in Hong Kong. Lai's legal challenges have mounted ever since, his

lengthy rap sheet worn as a badge of honor after a lifetime of demanding democratic reform.

Kristie Lu stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


CHATTERLEY: And to Ukraine now, where the war-scarred country says it's neutralized nearly a thousand mines in the past week. They were found in

the Kharkiv, Kherson, and Mykolaiv regions since the start of the full- scale Russian invasion nearly two years ago.

Kyiv says it's neutralized nearly 92,000 mines. Kyiv's also keeping a close watch on Washington too, where U.S. senators are struggling to reach a deal

on immigration reform. And that impasse means vital aid for Ukraine will remain stalled on Capitol Hill.

Nick Paton Walsh reports on how Ukrainian forces are doing whatever they can with dwindling resources to fight off Russia's ongoing assault.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Out of Kherson City, passed the bridge, the Russians invaded and

left on, you reach a new phase of hope and anxiety in this war.

Down on the edge of the Dnipro River, on whose isolated right bank, lone groups of Ukrainians are making rare advances into Russian occupied land.

But it's tiny tools, hand-rigged donated drones, and small gains.

The U.S. is stalling on the big money Ukraine needs to make the breakthrough the West wants. And you can feel the anger at that here. It is

relentless work.

And I think it will be very difficult without American help, he says. Our supplies are also ending, so we need theirs.

We've had days so busy, we launched 15 to 20, and I got 10 minutes rest between flights, the pilot says. I never imagined this would be my war.

It's the PlayStation generation headsets directing cheap single-use drones on a one-way flight into Russian lines.

WALSH: It's just saying that the weather's cleared up, the fog was just settled over the river, and the Russians are very aware of this threat. And

you can see them now trying to find a target.

WALSH (voice over): This keeps the Russians off the roads by day and helps Ukraine take ground. Now, they maneuver towards a Russian checkpoint,

killing here somehow remote, yet also intimate.

Another prize target emerges, their Russian equivalent drone unit hiding in a red roofed house worth sending two drones at. The first, as it closes in,

taken out by jamming. The second picks it up.

At night, another unit, elsewhere near the city takes over. Thermal imaging helped them find Russians hiding in the woods across the river near Krynky,

a village where Ukraine has a valuable foothold. This unit, too, were hunted, and used a cheap device to spot the frequency used by a Russian

drone passing above.

This operator dons a new cloak, as he launches a drone off the roof. See how it reduces his heat signature, probably invisible to the Russians


The night in battered Kherson City is no respite for civilians. Sirens, yes, but also a series of Shahed Russian attack drones.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lights off, lights off.

WALSH (voice over): They close on us. The motor wind lower, as it passes over our heads. Anti-aircraft guns pierce the blackout. There really is

little life to be enjoyed here. And what's left to Russia is that the news, there are rare food handouts. They're fast gone.

The shelling is relentless. A woman injured here the night before, her neighbor knocked off her feet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I don't drink, but yesterday, I drank a bottle of wine. We all have our guardian angels. We, women here are


WALSH (voice over): Kherson, liberated last year, is still in the grip of the war. And unless they push the Russians back, a dark and bloody normal


WALSH: In the summer, we saw kids out here playing, and it's not just the bitter winter that's forced them indoors, it's the fear of artillery

strikes at any time with a protective wall now built around the children's playground. The sense really of a city getting ready for a bit more of life

underground, some of it in bomb shelters.

WALSH (voice over): Especially here, at the maternity hospital, still open for tiny miracles, and readying this basement to be their new ward.

Built by the Soviets for a nuclear war, it's now a shelter, because the floors above have been hit again and again.

But there are sparks of life here, even if this is the view Yevgenia (PH) had when she gave birth just seven hours earlier.

YEVGENIA (through translator) (PH): It's not scary. We've got used to the shelling. I've been here since the start of the war and occupation. We'll

only leave if the heating goes off.

WALSH (voice over): Kira (PH) conceived in spring, when an end to the war was imaginable, but born into a city lost to Russia's slow grind to


Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kherson, Ukraine.


CHATTERLEY: And still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD, the Israeli military says it's discovered a four-kilometer tunnel, Hamas's biggest in

Gaza. A closer look at that, next.

And in Northern Australia heavy rain and floods is sweeping all before them, including this crocodile that had to be taken to a new home. That's




Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Julia Chatterley.

And your headlines this hour: 61 migrants have drowned following what the International Organization for Migration is calling a quote tragic

shipwreck off the coast of Libya. Women and children are among the victims. The U.N. agency says the boat left the city of Zuwara, with an estimated 86

people on board.

The ruler of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf al Ahmed al Jaber al Sabah has died at the age of 86. The emir had ruled the Gulf State for three years. He was

admitted to hospital in November for emergency treatment, according to the state news agency.

And the South Korean military says a long-range ballistic missile was fired Monday from the Pyongyang area with a flight range of around a thousand


Japan's Coast Guard believes the missile fell into the waters, west over Rishiri Island in the Hokkaido region. Just a day earlier, North Korea

fired his short-range ballistic missile that flew about 570 kilometers before falling into the water.

Now, efforts to restart talks on releasing more Israeli hostages are underway. That's according to a U.S. official. The CIA director is meeting

today in Poland with Qatar's prime minister and Israel's intelligence agency chief over the matter.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is in Israel meeting with top officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The U.S. is looking

for clear details on how Israel is assessing its current phase against Hamas, and how it plans to transition to the next phase of the war.

Austin's visit comes just days after blunt remarks by President Joe Biden, calling on Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza. We are expecting

a press conference from the U.S. defense secretary and his Israeli counterpart momentarily, and we will take that you to that the moment it


In the meantime, the Israeli military says it's found Hamas's biggest tunnel in Gaza. It says it took the tunnel a few weeks ago, but delayed

announcing it until Sunday. The IDF claims it was used by Hamas go troop movements and a launching point for attacks.

Israel says a tunnel is around four kilometers long, and has electricity, ventilation, and communication systems.

And according to a U.S. official, the IDF has been testing ways to damage Hamas's tunnel system by flooding them with seawater.

It's a risky operation, though, as Nic Robertson reports.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): The tunnels themselves are big, big enough for fighters and their weapons. Seen

here in this Hamas propaganda video, which was also posted by the Israeli Defense Force.

They are reinforced with concrete, too.

Two years ago, Hamas claimed to have built 500 kilometers, more than 300 miles of them. The tunnels are spread all over Gaza -- this map, over two

years old.

The IDF says they discovered 800 tunnel shafts so far and have destroyed 500 of them. The entrances are often well-hidden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a 20-meter tunnel.

ROBERTSON (voice over): As I was shown by the IDF near a Gaza hospital -- really well hidden, which means the tunnels can be really hard to find.

ROBERTSON: The idea of flooding the tunnels using the abundant seawater that's along that many miles of Gaza's Mediterranean shore is, apparently,

a creative idea not just to destroy Hamas and, quite literally, flush them out, but also to reach the parts of tunnels that might never be discovered

from above ground.

Now, it's not without its risks. There could be hostages in those tunnels. There are very few details about how precisely the water is getting into

the tunnels, how much water, how fast it's going in, or what you do if you suddenly discover you're flooding hostages other than the IDF say they have

begun carefully testing it, and that this method is being trialed on a limited, limited basis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tunnel.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Some of the tunnels are thought to be five floors deep. Some of the hostages who were freed have described them, this elderly

hostage, helped by her daughter.


YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ (through translator): We began walking inside the tunnels with the wet ground. It was moist all the time.

SHARONE LIFSHITZ, DAUGHTER OF YOCHEVED LIFSHITZ: There are a huge, huge network of tunnels underneath. It looks like a spiderweb.

ROBERTSON (voice over): The IDF says it will proceed cautiously to make sure they are not flooding tunnels where the hostages are being held.

ROBERTSON: It's significant that more than six weeks into the ground campaign, the full scale of the tunnel problem is only now really becoming

apparent. Even controlling the streets above is not enough to locate all the tunnels. So, flooding seems to be the new best option to really probe

the extent of the invisible subterranean network, both destroying Hamas hiding there and denying it their use.

Of course, a key caveat in success here is, if you can't find the tunnel, and it's not connected to a system you're already flooding, how effective

can you be about flooding it and knowing that you're hitting, destroying the whole of the tunnel network. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


CHATTERLEY: Pope Francis condemned the deaths of a mother and daughter who were sheltering inside a Catholic Church in Gaza. The Latin Patriarchate of

Jerusalem says the women were killed by an Israeli sniper. The Pope described it as, "terrorism" during an address on Sunday, and lamented

that, "unarmed" civilians are targets for bombs and gunfire.

The British minister of state for the Middle East also condemned the killings and called on Israel to abide by humanitarian law, urging for

civilians to be protected, saying, "a sustainable ceasefire leading to sustainable peace is urgently needed." The IDF has not responded to CNNs

request for comment.

The safety of Christians and the preservation of churches are part of a wider concern across the region. This time last year, Jordan's King

Abdullah spoke exclusively to Becky Anderson about that issue. Just take a listen.


KING ABDULLAH II, KING OF JORDAN (through translator): We've always believed it's a city that should bring us all together, but unfortunately,

is used by extremists on all sides to create conflict and violence. And the violence really did pick up in the spring.

We are the custodians of both the Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. My concern is that there are challenges that the churches are

facing from policies on the ground. If we continue to use Jerusalem as a -- as a soapbox for politics, things can get out of control really, really


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You described Christianity in Jerusalem, as under fire. Can you just explain a little further?

KING ABDULLAH II: We are fortunate in this country and in Jerusalem to have the oldest Christian community in the world. They've been here for 2,000


Over the past several years, we are seeing that they have become under pressure as a community. So, the numbers are dropping, which is, I think,

an alarm bell to all of us.


CHATTERLEY: King Abdullah II of Jordan speaking there.

Now, as we mentioned earlier, U.S. aid for Ukraine and Israel is on the line as Senator struggled to reach a deal on immigration reform. They're

tied together in a package that was introduced back in October, but it's still stalled in the U.S. Congress. Democrats are hoping to have a vote

this week before the holidays. But many Republicans say that's simply not going to happen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): From our Republican and Democrat negotiators who are really diligent doing a great job. And then basically what the White

House involved, committed to getting this border under control. That's what I'm really very hopeful for. And I think we're going to see something next

week, and we'll stay there until we get it done.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The bottom line here is we feel that we're being jammed. We're not anywhere close to deal, it will go into next year.


CHATTERLEY: Republicans are insisting on border policy changes before releasing any money for Israel or Ukraine. 15 Republican senators are

demanding a special conference meeting in January to discuss the negotiations.

And Donald Trump is vowing a harsh crackdown on illegal immigration if he's reelected as U.S. president. He made his case to voters in New Hampshire

and Nevada over the weekend. He doubled down on his criticism of undocumented immigrants emphasizing plans on what he called, the largest

deportation in American history.

Alayna Treene has all the details.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Former President Donald Trump ramped up his anti-immigration rhetoric. During remarks in Nevada on Sunday, he shared

stories about violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants here in the United States and vowed to devote unprecedented resources to the

southern border if he were to be reelected in 2024.

Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Given the unprecedented millions of Biden illegal aliens who are invading our

country, it is only common sense that when I'm re-elected, we will begin, and we have no choice the largest deportation operation in American




TREENE: Now, this is some of the most explicit language yet that we have heard from Donald Trump to preview his potential second term plans on

immigration here on that campaign trail. And I can tell you, my colleagues at CNN and I have reported extensively on Donald Trump's potential second

term plans on immigration.

They include rounding up undocumented immigrants here in the United States and placing them in detention camps, while they await to be deported. And I

think it's important to point out the context of these remarks. They came here in Nevada, a state that has a large migrant population, and they also

come as Donald Trump has been increasingly ramping up his violent rhetoric when it comes to immigration over the weekend.

On Saturday, we heard Donald Trump repeat language that immigrants are, poisoning the blood of our country, rhetoric that is closely associated

with white supremacy.

And we did hear the Biden campaign immediately criticized Donald Trump for those remarks. They argued that such language parroted that of Adolf


The former president also received a lot of criticism over the weekend for praising authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin to argue that President

Joe Biden is a threat to democracy.

He used that same language again on Sunday, however, did not do so in such an explicit way.

Alayna Treene, CNN, Reno, Nevada.

CHATTERLEY: OK. Coming up here on CONNECT THE WORLD, the heartbreaking story of an Afghan girl. Her life now hanging in the balance after the

Taliban crackdown on women's rights drove her to attempt suicide. That's next.



YOAV GALLANT, MINISTER OF DEFENCE, ISRAEL: -- man, soldiers, Holocaust survivors. On October 7th, we fall back and immediately set the goals of

this war: the destruction of Hamas and the return of the hostages' home with no exception.

Our common enemies around the world are watching and they know that Israel victory is the victory of the free world led by the United States of


In our -- in our war against Hamas, the Hamas terrorist organization is a war, not a war against the people of Gaza.


We are fighting a brutal enemy, the hides behind civilians. Billions of dollars have been invested in Gaza. Money that should have gone to civilian

infrastructure, and instead was used to build a network of tunnels, hundreds of kilometers long, equipped by military facilities.

Today, IDF troops are operating in Hamas hotspots across Gaza. In Northern Gaza, our troops have eliminate thousands of terrorists, destroyed military

infrastructure, and dismantle most of the battalions operating in the area.

In South Gaza, in Khan Yunis, we are precise and focus on eliminate Hamas leadership and military infrastructure. Detecting and engaging Hamas

leadership and the chain of command spanned over the phases of this war and will continue until we fully achieve our goals.

Secretary Austin, we both know the complexities of war. We both thought brutal terrorist organization, we know that it takes time. Unlike our

enemies, we are defending our values and we operate according to international law. The IDF is operating to minimize the harm to civilian


We are also working with international partners to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. Yet, anytime, we discuss humanitarian issues, we must

remember that 129 hostages were held in Gaza. This is the most humanitarian issue.

On October 8th, a day after Hamas a take his bell open fire unprovoked. The threats of rockets, missiles, and drones is unacceptable. Over 80,000

citizens have been displaced, living as refugees in their own country. We are determined to create a new reality. We starting with security in the

area based on U.N. resolution 1701, pushing back Hezbollah. We will bring back the residents of the North to their homes on the border after full

security will be restored.

We prefer to do so via understanding, ensuring that the border region is clear of terrorist and does not allow direct threats of our citizens. If

such a process will not be implemented diplomatically, we will not hesitate to act.

Today, we also discuss the growing global threat posed by the Houthis terrorist organization. Their action threatened international freedom of

navigation and their reckless behavior, firing ballistic missile, cruise missiles, and drones against Israel, can drag the region into war.

The State of Israel values U.S. leadership and we will support international efforts. At the same time, we maintain the right to take all

the actions necessary to defend our sovereignty and our citizens.

Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are funded, supported and trained by one source of evil, Iran. And unfortunately, this is only their secondary

effort. Iran's major effort is acquiring military nuclear capabilities. And this continue even now.

We are aware of their actions, and we are ready to defend ourselves.


We must take a stand. The world is watching us now. These include our enemies: Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.

The image they see today is powerful, as we stand here, united. We are resilient and determined, and we will win on every front.

Thank you once again, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for coming, and thank you for your support, and your friendship. Thank you very much.


Good afternoon, everybody. Yoav, we've been talking almost daily by phone. So, it's good to see you once again in person. And it's good to be back in

Israel, even in these difficult days, especially in these difficult days. This is my fourth visit to Israel as secretary of defense, and my second

time since October 7th.

And I know that Israel has been profoundly changed from where you were on October 6th. So, I'm here with a clear message. America support for Israel

security is unshakable, and Israel is not alone.

At a time of mourning, a real friend shows up. And I know how terrible these days have been for the Israeli people. And I know that October 7th,

touched everyone in the small democracy.

So, let me again extend my deepest condolences to minister Gadi Eisenkot, who has been sitting shiva for his 25-year-old son and mourning his nephew

after they both fell in Gaza.

On October 7th, Hamas committed one of the worst atrocities in the history of modern terrorism. As President Biden said, it was an act of sheer evil.

Innocent young people at a concert were massacred. Parents were shot in front of their children. Women were sexually assaulted. Toddlers and

Holocaust survivors were taken hostage.

And for Hamas, that was just the beginning. Hamas has clearly and loudly spelled out its vision of the future, and it is to repeat October 7th over

and over and over again. No country should tolerate such a danger, and Israel has every right to defend itself against a fanatical terrorist group

whose stated purpose is to murder Jews and eradicate the Jewish state.

Hamas is still holding hostages, including American citizens. Hamas embeds itself and hides itself behind innocent Palestinian civilians. Hamas does

not speak for the Palestinian people. And Hamas is determined to doom both Israelis and Palestinians to an unending cycle of suffering and strife.

So, make no mistake, Hamas should never again be able to project terror from Gaza into the sovereign state of Israel. And we will continue to work

together for a safer, more secure future for Israel and a brighter future for the Palestinians.

The United States will keep pushing relentlessly for the safe return of hostages in Gaza and we will continue to help Israel in its efforts to

bring them all home.

Thanks to the personal leadership of President Biden, we helped to broker a deal that got out more than 100 hostages, but this remains a top priority

for the United States, from President Biden on down, and we will continue to do everything that we can to bring home every man, every woman, and

every child seized by Hamas.

Now, the United States has been clear and consistent since Hamas started this war on October 7th. Democracies are stronger and more secure when we

uphold the law of war. And as I've said, protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral duty and a strategic imperative.


So, we will continue to stand up for Israel's bedrock right to defend itself and we will also continue to urge the protection of civilians during

conflict and to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. That's important as Israel fights to dismantle the Hamas terrorist infrastructure

in Gaza. And it will also be crucial for our work with our allies and partners after the fighting stops.

Now, we're working to ensure that this conflict does not escalate beyond Gaza. But as we are driving to stabilize the region, Iran is raising

tensions by continuing to support terrorist groups and militias. Attacks by these Iranian proxies threaten the region's citizens and risk a broader

conflict. Of course, the United States does not seek war, and we urgently call on Iran to take steps to de-escalate.

Now, in my meetings today, I also discussed the need to take urgent action to stabilize the West Bank. Attacks by extremist settlers against the

Palestinians in the West Bank must stop. And those committing the violence must be held accountable.

Now, we know that the past 72 days have been some of the most painful days in Israel's history. But it would compound this tragedy if all that was

waiting for the Israeli people and your Palestinian neighbors at the end of this awful war was more insecurity, fury, and despair.

As I've said, Israelis and Palestinians have both paid too bitter a price to just go back to October 6th. So, I discussed pathways today toward a

future for Gaza after Hamas, based upon the clear principles laid down last month by my friend, Secretary Blinken.

Israelis and Palestinians both deserve a horizon of hope. So, the United States continues to believe, as we have under administrations of both

parties, that it is in the interest of both Israelis and Palestinians to move forward toward two states, living side by side in mutual security.

Now, we know how hard that is, especially after October 7th. But ongoing instability and insecurity only play into the hands of Hamas. So, we must

think together about what lies beyond this terrible season of terror and war. And as we do, the United States will remain deeply committed to the

security and self-defense of the state of Israel.

As John F. Kennedy said in 1960, "America's friendship with Israel is a national commitment." That was true then, and it's even truer now. The

United States will remain Israel's closest friend in the world. And as I've said repeatedly, our support for Israel's security remains unshakable, and

it always will.

Thank you very much. And we'll be happy to take your questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. We'll start now with Caroline (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Secretary Austin. Welcome to Israel. It's not a secret that there is a gap between Israel and the U.S.. So, have you

set any sort of either timetable or deadline to the current phase of the Israel ground war in Gaza?

And have you heard any firm assessment from the IDF where the current phase stands?

And if I may, with regard to the north, Israel says, and Minister Gallant has just repeated that it will attack Lebanon if there won't be an

acceptable solution that will include Hezbollah withdrawal north to the Litani River. Jake Sullivan was here last week and he was quite confident

that such a solution can be achieved.

What is the U.S. position if Israel attack? And will you order the U.S. Army to strike and even destroy Hezbollah and Iranian target if required?

And Minister Gallant, it took the IDF 70 days to reach the tunnel that was revealed yesterday. How long do you think it take to totally dismantle the

threat of the tunnel in Gaza?

And if I may ask you, Secretary Austin was speaking about the day after. The American keeps asking Israel how it sees the day after. So, what do you

tell them who will role -- will rule Gaza? And will the IDF be in Gaza throughout the entire next year?