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Hamas-Controlled Health Ministry Says 19,600 Dead In Gaza; Life As A Refugee In Gaza's Holy Family Parish Church; White House Says Ukraine Aid Runs Out By End Of Year; Russia Using Tear Gas On Battlefield; Financial Aid Going To Australia's Cyclone Jasper Victims; Israel-Hezbollah Feud Escalates; Same-Sex Couples May Receive Informal Blessings According to Vatican; Nonprofit's Links To Anti-LGBTQ Laws In Africa; NASA Transmits Cat Video 19 Million Miles To Earth Via Laser. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 19, 2023 - 10:00   ET



JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Right now, the United Nations Security Council is in session ahead of a likely vote on a resolution

calling for a halt to hostilities in the Israel-Hamas war.

This meeting, coming with the deteriorating situation, of course, on the ground in Gaza. The Hamas-controlled Palestinian health ministry says the

death toll in Gaza has surpassed 19,600 people.

A doctor in Jabalya in northern Gaza reports another 16 people killed and 70 injured, just in airstrikes today.

Another doctor at one of Gaza's few partially functioning hospitals says the facility is under siege by Israeli troops for a second straight day.

Israel has maintained Hamas operates out of hospitals, which of course, the group has denied.

The United Nations says Gaza is now the world's most dangerous place for journalists, making it extraordinarily difficult to document the suffering

there. The U.N.'s coordinator for the Middle East peace process has left the Palestinian Territories after Israel refused to renew her visa.

The Israeli foreign minister earlier cited what he called the bias of the U.N., quote, "for the decision to expel Lynn Hastings."

Will Ripley is watching developments in Tel Aviv.

As you can see, the pressure mounting on the Israeli government and continues to do so, particularly with the Defense Secretary in the region,

of course, having talks there. And we continue to see violence on an hourly basis in Gaza. The suffering continues.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the death count continues to tick up. That number, 19,600, so close to 20,000, of course,

from the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, just paints a very disturbing picture of the mass number of civilians who are dying here.

And in some instances, not just Palestinians. You had, over the weekend, those three Israeli hostages, who were killed when troops opened fire from

a distance, despite reports that they were shirtless, waving a white cloth and even had written an SOS message in Hebrew, asking for help, on a white


Scattered leftover food was used to paint that message. Just a dire situation for those Israeli hostages, for the Palestinians on the ground,

for the patients at hospitals that are barely functional. Some 150 patients reportedly having to evacuate to the courtyard of the hospital.

Their companions, the people who were with them, like their family members, perhaps mothers and fathers, taken away, stripped, interrogated,

reportedly, according to a doctor at the hospital. So the humanitarian situation in Gaza is extremely grave at this stage.

But Israel, claiming that these steps are necessary to root out and get rid of the Hamas leadership, something that they say must happen to bring about

the end of this war.

Now Hamas, still holding well over 120 Israeli hostages. They are saying that none of those people will be released until the war ends. So you have

these two sides that deeply distrust each other; you have a fighting raging on; the death toll, ticking up.

And even though the United States and many others, a real chorus here, calling for a cease-fire to end hostilities, it's hard to see that

happening in the short term, Julia, even as all sides are looking and trying to figure out what path forward, what path to peace there could

possibly be at this stage.

CHATTERLEY: We're going to continue to watch for that U.N. Security Council meeting later on to see perhaps what they can come up with too. In the

interim, to your point, the Israeli government has long said this is about ensuring the safety of Israelis and taking out Hamas.

But also, of course, trying to recover their remaining hostages that are in Gaza. The political fallout though, perhaps, becoming clear. A new poll by

the Israel Democracy Institute suggesting that a significant majority of people want elections as soon as this war is over.

RIPLEY: Right, that sentiment was expressed even in the immediate hours and days after October 7th.

The massive Israeli security apparatus that failed to detect this attack, on a holiday, when people had their guard down, the slaughter of hundreds

of unarmed, largely Jewish young people at the Nova music festival was the equivalent for Israel of 9/11.

In fact, proportionally, to their population, it was even more devastating than 9/11, in terms of the number of people that were killed, not to

mention the hostages who are still enduring unspeakably horrible conditions right now, whether they are being held in the rubble of homes, whether

they're being held in dark tunnels.

Certainly in information blackout, their families, now for more than two months, waking up in fear, if they even slept at night, wondering what's

going to happen.


So you had Israelis at the moment, of course, wanting this war to come to a resolution and the end of Hamas. But then, the reckoning may come here.

People, wanting politicians -- in particular, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu -- to be held accountable for the lapse in security.

Of course, Netanyahu has not taken responsibility publicly at all for what happened. And instead, he continues to insist that the war will be fought,

the war will be won. What that means politically for him at the conclusion of this, whenever that is, whatever it looks like, remains very much an

open question, Julia.

CHATTERLEY: Certainly. Just for complete clarity, just to point out, this poll was just over 600 people, a phone vote as well. We have to keep in

mind these numbers. Great to have you. Will Ripley there.

Now Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us monitoring the intense negotiations underway at the United Nations ahead of that vote on Gaza.

Arlette, great reporting from you on this. What it seems to be coming down to is some kind of language type adjustments, that, at the very least,

perhaps, might allow the United States to abstain from this vote and see it passed, unlike the last time this was tried.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Julia, we are still waiting to hear what the final text of that expected language will be. But it does come as

intense negotiations were still ongoing this morning over that resolution, relating to halting hostilities in Gaza.

It comes amid international pressure from the community about Israel's tactics being used in Gaza and the influence it has had on civilians there.

Now we are told that there's actually supposed to be a vote on this matter yesterday.

But that vote was delayed, to try to get the negotiations going a bit further. There's particular interest in trying to get the United States in

a place to either support the measure or abstain from it and allow it to pass.

And it appears that that conversation has centered around some of the specific language in that initial draft, which called for a cessation of

hostilities, to get further aid into Gaza.

Diplomats were hoping that potentially just changing that language to suspension of its hostilities might be one factor to get the U.S. to either

support or abstain it and allow it to pass.

This does come as the U.S. in the past has vetoed resolutions relating to cease-fires or calling for cease-fires in Gaza. So if the U.S. were to

allow such a measure to pass, it would send an important signal to Israel, as there has been this mounting international outcry about their tactics

being used in Gaza.

So we are still waiting to hear what the final language of this text will be, whether the U.S. will sign onto it or simply abstain or potentially

veto it.

Many are closely watching to see where these talks will land when it comes for calling for a cease-fire, as they are trying to get further aid into

Gaza at this time, to ease some of the suffering happening there at this moment.

CHATTERLEY: Maybe even just a suspension of hostilities. Arlette Saenz, we'll continue to watch it with you. Thank you.

Now take a look at some of these images. They are shared by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.


CHANCE (voice-over): They show damage to the Gaza church where it says two women were killed by an Israeli sniper on Saturday. You can see fire, smoke

and a damaged building, where a convent housed 54 disabled people.

The patriarchate said in a statement that it's time to end this senseless conflict. The Israeli military has suggested it does not believe it was

responsible for the two women's deaths.


CHATTERLEY: Now the situation is, quote, "beyond desperate" for the people sheltering there. British MP Layla Moran told CNN on Monday that several

members of the Moran family took refuge in the Holy Family parish church in Gaza.

Just take a listen to her conversation with my colleague, Isa Soares, where she tells us about her family situation.


LAYLA MORAN, BRITISH MP: Thank you for having me. I've literally just got an update, so I apologize for being emotional. They are -- they are quite

literally down to their last can of corn. It is -- I don't -- I have run out of words. It's beyond desperate. They've been told by the IDF that they

need to evacuate. It's unclear why.

These are Christians, seeking sanctuary in a church the week before Christmas, having been there for more than 60 days. My family -- extended

family -- and some are my mother's cousins -- they were bombed in the first week after the October 7th atrocities and they've been in that church ever


It is beyond terrifying what is happening. And we are now absolutely desperate. There are no words anymore, I'm afraid.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Give us a sense, Layla, of how many people were inside that sheltering in that church and what conditions

have been. Like you're saying their last tine of corn. Just talk us through what you have been hearing from them.


MORAN: It's my understanding is there's roughly 300 people in that -- it's a church complex, so it's a church, it's a Sunday school complex and it's

also a nunnery, which looks after disabled people in that whole area. When they first moved there, there was roughly 100, now there's about 300.

They are sleeping on mattresses on the floor and have been for some time. But the situation has massively deteriorated in the last week. There were

snipers, they were shooting at people.

You'll have seen that the pope revealed the names of two women who were killed. One had two bullets to the chest, one, a bullet to the head, simply

for needing the toilet and another was injured.

They are reporting earlier in the week a white phosphorus, bullets on the ground, this is deadly serious in its most literal sense. And where we are

now and what has been worrying me all along, I've lost a family already -- member already, in my extended family, to dehydration.

And he was 81 but he was fit and well before all of this and he passed away three weeks ago because of that, not been able to get to a hospital.

We are a week away from Christmas and I'm not sure they're going to survive. They've been told to leave but it's not clear where. There are no

other churches outside of Gaza city. And whilst this isn't about Christians only, they are Gazans and they are --


SOARES: Yes --

MORAN: -- Palestinians and this --

SOARES: -- right --

MORAN: -- equally applies to everyone else in the region. I would simply say this to the Israeli government, is this, the week before Christmas, the

time that you want to pick a fight with the pope?

Is this the time that you want to forcibly displace Palestinians from where they've chosen to seek sanctuary?

Which I think anyone who is Christian or, you know, I'm not. But I mean, I think all of us would want to go to a public building and feel safe. They

have nothing --


SOARES: Yes --

MORAN: -- to do with Hamas. They've only been allowing Christians into the church complex who they know. And so, the assertion that Hamas is operating

from that building is baseless.

What are they doing?


CHATTERLEY: To Ukraine now. We're waiting the next hour to hear from Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It's his annual end of year news

conference. It comes as the U.S. promise of supporting his country for, quote, "as long as it takes," could mean just 12 more days.

The White House warns U.S. aid for Ukraine will run dry at year's end if Congress doesn't approve a new package. The Defense Department wrote a

letter to lawmakers, saying additional aid would be in America's interest too.

Critical funding from the E.U. also on the line. It announced a special summit will be held in February after a European aid package for Ukraine

was blocked last week.

Now with the additional funding stalled, Ukraine's counteroffensive in the east has all but stalled too. And the mood on the battlefield has changed

dramatically as a result. Nick Paton Walsh has been on the front line -- and a warning, some of the images in his report are graphic.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In no doubt, the imminent disappearance of U.S. and possibly E.U. aid from

Ukraine is acutely felt, particularly on the front lines.

They're already rationing ammunition and I think fearing a day ahead, when the drip of billions, frankly, they've relied upon to prosecute the defense

of Ukraine from Russia's invasion, potentially disappears.

Last-minute dealmaking is not going to happen this year. And so, we may enter 2024 with Ukraine running out of money. This comes too, at a time

when Russia is clearly resurgent in many front line positions after Ukraine's southern counteroffensive simply did not deliver in the way that

Kyiv had hoped.

We've seen ourselves along that southern front line, quite without means, quite how Ukrainians are struggling to have the equipment, to have the

personnel to sustain an extraordinary casualties, which we witnessed ourselves.

WALSH (voice-over): This was where the billions were meant to spell a breakthrough but where the counteroffensive was supposed to have kicked

Russia to the sea this summer. Now it is mud, death, deadlock and the remnants of American help vanishing.

WALSH: It's a notably different mood here. Dark, frankly. In the summer, they were buoyed, feeling like they had the world at their back moving

forward. Now it's slow, dangerous and a real sense of, well, despair, to be honest.

WALSH (voice-over): Forty Russian drones swarmed one Ukrainian trench here in a day. Down here in this tiny basement, the rule is do not get seen. The

other side are not so lucky. Two Russians spotted moving a load. They guide in a mortar strike.


There are just so many Russians now.

Usually more meat means more mints, the commander says. But sometimes their machine struggles to handle it. And sometimes they have success. Batteries

die fast in the cold and Russian jamming seems to damage them, too.

This is Orikhiv, whose streets reek of crushed lives and how much horror Moscow is willing to bring to be seen to win.

WALSH: Within a matter of months since we were here in the summer, how much more damage has been done?

WALSH (voice-over): If you stop thinking about Ukraine, be sure Putin hasn't. At command, they watch a wasteland. Treelines now bare. The dead,

the injured. It's unclear if Russia treats them differently. Another Ukrainian drone aims for a foxhole. What they've struggled with are the

waves of Russian assaults.

Dozens of Russian prisoners, well trained and equipped, backed up by armor, who they say are given a mix of drugs. They show us this graphic video of a

wounded Russian, his legs severed, seemingly high enough to smile through his fatal injuries. Still, they claim, they have held hard one ground but

at a huge cost.

"Yes, as we say in the army," he says, "the counteroffensive was smooth on paper but we forgot about the ditches. Colossal changes are taking place.

They started making their own attack drones and outnumber ours. But they use them badly like a kid's toy."

IHOR, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER (through translator): Excuse me. What's happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Heavy injuries.

IHOR (through translator): From what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Dexter, Dexter, I'm Bremya, do you copy?

WALSH (voice-over): They say a drone has hit a trench and blown up a gas heater.

IHOR (through translator): Begin the evacuation, begin the evacuation. Evacuate with a small vehicle. Did you move already?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We didn't.

IHOR (through translator): Why not?

Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): No transport, no transport.

WALSH (voice-over): The silence, the wait for news, agony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Already dead.

IHOR (through translator): Copy, is he dead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes.

IHOR (through translator): It's over, evacuate him, no rush. We can't help him already.

WALSH: Does it feel like the casualties are getting worse?

Every casualty makes a difference, he says. It affects everyone's morale. It's very painful for me.

Sergei, aged 48, was one of four Ukrainians to die in that area that day and about 50 that week. They haven't had to really talk about losing in

this war. But this is what it looks like. It's not just drones. This Russian video seems to show a new threat, gas, caustic, flammable. The

Ukrainians have had nine incidents on this front, killing one.

Here are two survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): At first, I saw smoke. We ran out from the trench and the gas suddenly caught fire. The trench was in flames.

This gas burns, blinds you. You can't breathe. Shoots down your throat immediately. We didn't even have a second.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You inhale it twice, then you fail to breathe.

WALSH (voice-over): Medical reports confirm their poisoning. And a Ukrainian official told CNN a form of CS gas was being used.

WALSH: And there was injuries inside your mouth, where?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): On my cheeks, everywhere inside the mouth. My face is swollen and covered in red marks.

WALSH (voice-over): It is an ugly, savage world, even on a TV screen where there seems little Moscow won't do but too much the West won't.

WALSH: We asked the Russian ministry of defense for comment about the use of gas there and received no response. Some Western analysts have looked at

the continued reports of being from Ukrainian front line positions about the use of riot control agents, relatively low level irritants, like CS


And speculate perhaps Moscow is trying to see how far it can go in violating the chemical weapons convention and seeing what international

reaction can be. But this is yet another weapon they are willing to bring to the fight, as their use of drones seems to multiply enormously, another

problem for Ukrainian forces.

This is going to be a very bleak winter ahead for Kyiv, even, indeed, if they start getting money back from their Western allies. On the front

lines, they are seeing Moscow determined, numerous and increasingly better equipped. A stark time, indeed, for Ukraine -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kyiv,




CHATTERLEY: Compare and contrast: for Russian president Vladimir Putin, wavering Western support for Ukraine might just be a game-changer in a war

which began nearly two years ago. But Putin also facing growing unrest at home with some of the families of drafted soldiers speaking out and

pleading for their return.

Not an easy thing to do in Russia as Matthew Chance reports.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On state television, Russian troops are shown on the rampage, advancing near

Bakhmut in Ukraine, seizing land, they say, pushing Ukrainian forces back.

The new soldiers don't seem to know what to do, says this Russian commander.

But concern over the plight of Russia's own mobilized troops is beginning to stir. Ordinary families, with men serving in Ukraine, are now pleading

for them to return.

"We just want our husbands and sons to come home," says this woman, a brave call in a country where dissent is barely tolerated.

But the partial motivation of Russians, which began last September, was always an unpopular move. As men were bused into military service, hundreds

of thousands more fled the country to avoid the draft, either sent to Ukraine are still there.

Men like Alexander (ph) from Voronezh, who says he was drafted in January this year, now he wants home.

"We're all so tired," he says in this social media post. "Our backs and knees hurt. No one cares about the money or the benefits," he says. "We

just want to be allowed home. Everyone really wants that."

The Kremlin is in no mood to ease off this war. With U.S. aid to Ukraine blocked in Congress, there's a feeling here that Western resolve may

crumble, bolstering Vladimir Putin as he registers to stand virtually unopposed for yet another presidential term.

"That which divides us must be put aside," Putin insists, in his first campaign speech. "Russia will be sovereign or not there at all," he adds.

Among Putin's hardline supporters, and there are many, the prospect of his continued reign is being celebrated.

"We don't need any other president," one of them shouts.

But New Year's celebrations elsewhere are muted.

"Bring my husband back, bring my dad home," say the festive messages on this tree. The year is drawing to an end. But Russia's conflict in Ukraine

drags on -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


CHATTERLEY: Just ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, the pictures are enough to make you do a double take. What Iceland's government is saying about safety

as it copes with a major volcanic eruption.

And rescuers in China are scrambling to find survivors after a deadly earthquake. Details on that, next.






CHATTERLEY (voice-over): A volcano in Iceland is erupting with dramatic bursts of lava, as you can see there. It is near the town of Grindavik,

which was evacuated weeks ago. The Icelandic government says the eruption actually poses no threat to life and there is no disruption to flights.

Officials say they're not even surprised to see the lava flowing. Melissa Bell has more.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we've been seeing over the course of the last few minutes, this is an eruption that began at 10

pm. You're right, no surprise at all.

Authorities have been warning of this for more than a month. They've seen that seismic swarm, as they call it, when there are thousands more

earthquakes in the 24 hour period. Evacuations have taken place from that town, that fishing town of Grindavik; 4000 people evacuated, in all.

They have been allowed home during the day. Now they're being kept away. You can see in those pictures, really, just how spectacular the scenes are

there on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland. That began at 10 pm yesterday.

What we saw is that fissure, the main crack emerging. It's now four kilometers long. For a while, you were seeing 200 kilometers of lava

erupting and emerging from that crack every single second, so many hundreds overnight.

What we are hearing, the very latest, though, is that Grindavik may yet be spared from the lava flows. We understand from local authorities that

they're now heading toward the north and east, therefore away from the town itself.

Icelandic authorities have said that obviously the main priority here is to protect human lives although infrastructure a crucial consideration as

well. Go back to 2010, remember the chaos that was caused by the volcano eruption. No suggestion of that for now, this time.


CHATTERLEY: Now to northwest China and the death toll from an overnight earthquake has risen to at least 126 people. That's according to state

media. It's believed to be China's deadliest quake in nearly a decade.

Hundreds of people have also been hurt after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake hit the Gansu province. The good news is, electricity, though, has now been

restored to the region, according to authorities. Marc Stewart has the details.


MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under a dark sky and enduring subfreezing temperatures, rescue crews shovel through

debris, desperately looking for survivors. The 5.9 magnitude earthquake in northwest China struck late at night while many people were sleeping.

The survivors are carefully carried out from the rubble and rushed to the hospital. They are lucky to be alive, as the death toll is rising.

Surveillance cameras captured the moment when the Earth shook.

According to state media, the tremors lasted nearly 20 seconds and felt more than 60 miles away from the epicenter. Video on social media shows

people inside buildings, running down stairs, fleeing to safety as lights across the region shook from the ceiling.

At a local school, students inside a dormitory are forced to break open a locked door to escape while others poured into the streets, still in shock,

standing in the dark. Amid frigid temperatures, these students are told to run and jump so they don't get too cold.

And fires are set on a playground to keep warm. The cold weather gripping the area is yet another obstacle to the victims. As the sun rises, the view

from above reveals the extent of the damage.

Homes in nearby villages have collapsed. Thousands across the region are damaged. In some places, water and electricity have been cut off. Mobile

signals have also been impacted, making rescue efforts even more difficult.

While rescue teams still scurry to find survivors, there is fear that this quake may be the deadliest to hit China in nearly a decade -- Marc Stewart,

CNN, Beijing.


CHATTERLEY: OK, coming up here on CONNECT THE WORLD, threats are flying between Lebanese militants and Israeli officials.


Cross-border attacks and thousands fleeing from their homes, we will take a look at the chances of a border escalation to all-out war -- next.




CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Julia Chatterley, and your headlines this hour.


CHANCE (voice-over): One of the world's largest shipping companies says it will send ships around Africa, rather than sail through the Red Sea, even

though it is a far longer route. Maersk says it's pausing all transit now through the Red Sea. That's because of an increased attacks on commercial

vessels by Houthi militants from Yemen.

Australia's government says it will provide financial aid to flood victims. This comes in the wake of former Tropical Cyclone Jasper, which made

landfall last week. The funding will go to people impacted by flooding in the northern state of Queensland, where rescues are still underway.

France is looking to sanction what it calls extremist settlers in the West Bank. Earlier today, the French foreign minister said, quote, "I've seen

with my own eyes the violence committed by certain extremist settlers in the West Bank, against Palestinians." She condemned the violence and is

urging Israel to also take action.

CHATTERLEY: Now one of the few hospitals in Gaza that is still partly operational has been under siege by the Israeli military for a second day.

That's according to a doctor there in Gaza City, who spoke to CNN.

The Israeli military insists it only targets hospitals if they are also being used by Hamas or other militants.

And across the enclave, the death toll from the war is now nearing 20,000 people. Again, that's according to the Hamas-run ministry of health in

Gaza. For more than two months, Israel has been fighting a lower intensity conflict on a second northern front against the powerful Lebanese militia,


More than 100 Lebanese, mostly fighters, and at least 13 Israelis have died in the fighting. Tens of thousands of civilians on both sides of the border

have fled the conflict. And there are fears it could escalate into full- scale war between these arch enemies.


Ivan Watson reports from Beirut.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A funeral for fighters killed in action in the streets of Beirut. Thousands gathered

to honor three militants from the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah.

All casualties, organizers say, of an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon. Hasan Salman is a 23-year-old Hezbollah fighter. His chest still

raw from a fresh tattoo of his dead friend's name.

WATSON: What was your friend fighting for?

HASAN SALMAN, HEZBOLLAH FIGHTHER: Fighting for our county. For our countries to protect our country.

WATSON: Do you think the war will continue?

SALMAN: Yes, it will continue till we disappear them.

WATSON (voice-over): The crowd chants Death to America. Death to Israel.

WATSON: Why are you proud?

SARAH, HEZBOLLAH SUPPORTER: Yes, because we stand beside Palestine or stand beside the pastor to let all the world know about what is it that you're


WATSON: Are you afraid that more people may be killed in this war?

SARAH: That make us more strong.

WATSON (voice-over): Hezbollah is an Iranian backed Shiite Muslim militia officially labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., the U.K. and the

Arab League. It's also a sworn enemy of Israel.

Soon after Hamas fighters attacked Israel from Gaza, Hezbollah began launching cross border rocket and mortar attacks on Northern Israel

depicted in this Hezbollah propaganda video.

Israel retaliates with artillery and airstrikes. The deadly cross border conflict has continued for more than two months, United Nations

peacekeepers deployed here say both sides seem to be holding back.

LT. COL. STEPHEN MCEOIN, U.N. PEACEKEEPER: Our assessment is that for the time being, neither side wants to escalate to full war but again, that's a

question I suppose for the belligerent, belligerent parties.

WATSON (voice-over): In his speech last month, Hezbollah's leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah said his fighters are essentially a diversion, drawing

Israeli troops away from Gaza.

HASSAN NASRALLAH, SECRETARY GENERAL, HEZBOLLAH (through translator): The Lebanese Front traduced a large part of the forces that were used to attack

Gaza and attracted them toward us.

WATSON (voice-over): Israel's prime minister recently issued a stark warning.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): If Hezbollah decides to open an all-out war, then within its own hands, it

will turn Beirut and southern Lebanon, which are not far from here, into Gaza and Khan Yunis.

WATSON: How much appetite do you sense within Lebanon for a new major conflict with Israel?

MICHAEL YOUNG, CARNEGIE MIDDLE EAST CENTER: Absolutely zero. No one wants a conflict in Lebanon.

WATSON (voice-over): Lebanon is still reeling from a years-long economic crisis. Though it is the most powerful political force in this deeply

divided country, analysts argue even Hezbollah can't afford a wider war.

YOUNG: I think Hezbollah realizes that Lebanese society could not absorb a greater conflict. And on top of that I think they realize that their own

power in Lebanon would be greatly diminished.

WATSON (voice-over): So far Hezbollah says it has lost around 100 fighters in this border conflict. Any mistake could make this war much, much worse -

- Ivan Watson, CNN, Beirut.


CHATTERLEY: Coming up, for, us homophobia is increasingly creeping into law books across African nations. We will look at allegations that it's the

trend being driven from outside the continent.

And a wish finally granted for those long hoping for change in the Catholic Church. The Vatican's landmark decision on same sex couples -- next.





CHATTERLEY: Now it's been a long time coming but it's now official. The Vatican announced Monday that priests can offer informal blessings to same-

sex couples. Vatican correspondent Christopher Lamb has more.


CHRISTOPHER LAMB, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: A Vatican ruling signed off by Pope Francis has given priests permission to offer blessings to same-sex

couples. This is a significant development, given that, two years ago, the Vatican said that it was not possible to offer blessings to same-sex

couples because the church cannot bless sin.

However, in this ruling, the Vatican says that it is possible to offer informal blessings to same-sex couples and unmarried couples, provided that

they take place outside of formal church services and do not confuse the church's traditional teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.

This ruling is part of the pope's long-running attempt to offer a more pastoral and more sensitive and more compassionate approach by the church

to same-sex couples. And it marks a significant and important development in the church's ministry in this area -- Christopher Lamb, CNN.


CHATTERLEY: Despite that, in parts of Africa, the LGBTQ community is seeing a rise in discrimination and even violence. Harsh penalties are being put

into place to protect so-called family values. A U.S. nonprofit allegedly working behind the scenes is under the microscope. David McKenzie has an

exclusive report.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are in Nairobi, tracking the impact of hate.

MCKENZIE: So we're heading to a safe house that has been arranged for Ugandans that have fled Uganda into Kenya trying to get asylum.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): We are shielding their location, hiding their identity for their safety.

MCKENZIE: How are you doing?


MCKENZIE: Thank you for having us.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): No one is sure how many have fled. But the numbers have surged. In safe houses like this, their wounds are still fresh.

ADRIAN: He felt like if he can cut me into pieces, it would be better.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Adrian's own father tried to kill him, he says, for being gay.

ADRIAN: These are knives. He stabbed me. In Uganda, when they kill someone in an LGBT community, it's not a big deal.

SYLVIA, ASYLUM SEEKER: My mom came herself and she told me, "You know what, you're not welcome here. You are not part out family."

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Betrayed by their families, pursued by the police, they fled into Kenya on foot or by bus, often in the dead of night. Now

they're afraid to go out. They keep the curtains shut from prying eyes.

Since 2021, politicians have pushed a new generation of disturbing homophobic bills in Uganda, Ghana and Kenya. Some even calling for hefty

jail terms, including life in prison for same-sex relationships and identifying as queer. All of them to protect so-called family values.

For months, CNN has been investigating the influence of American charity Family Watch International, headed by this woman, Sharon Slater. For years,

the organization has been advocating across Africa for family values and against educating young people about LGBT issues and sexual health.

ALI, RESEARCHER: This is Africa.


And what it takes to be close to just stand next to the president of an African country in Africa, it means it's not random.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The president, Yoweri Museveni, of Uganda at a sex education conference in Entebbe in April. The conference included

politicians pushing the homophobic laws. This opposition researcher has tracked Slater's organization for years. We agreed to conceal his identity

to protect the ongoing work.

ALI: She presents herself as an expert. She presents herself as a consultant.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): A source with direct knowledge of their involvement says they were much more instrumental than just consulting.

The source says a Family Watch International representative made repeated changes to draft versions of the homophobic bill together with members of

parliament, even suggesting clauses that should be added to the text. A CNN producer found Sharon Slater at the United Nations in New York.

QUESTION: Sharon Slater, there are allegations that Family Watch International is pushing homophobic laws in Africa.


QUESTION: What do you have to say in response to that?

SLATER: It's absurd. Totally, totally absurd. I've got documents I can send you later to show that I have not been involved with any of those laws.

Period. It's just absurd.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Family Watch International provided this document to CNN, an extraordinary endorsement of Slater's work by President Museveni.

He says she played no part in, "originating, canvassing or supporting the law," instead suggesting a safe haven for homosexuals. The final law allows

for the rehabilitation of offenders, including widely discredited conversion therapy.

TOBIAS NAURIKI, EMPOWERED YOUTH COALITION: Gay people and lesbian people are human beings like me.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): We tracked down a youth leader in Nairobi with close ties to Family Watch International.

NAURIKI: Our law would be happy for them to be punished but what I would recommend is to respect and uphold those laws.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Family Watch International said he is not authorized to speak for the organization.

MCKENZIE: So you are happy with these laws being pushed is what you're saying?

NAURIKI: Yes, I'm happy for the laws being pushed.

MCKENZIE: I've seen people who are fearing for their lives on this continent because of these laws.

NAURIKI: There are very minor cases.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The awful reality is this. CNN has tracked a severe spike in abuse of LGBTQ Africans. Often put on social media, often too

graphic to show. It's an epidemic of hate inspired by the laws.

In Kenya, human rights groups say that attacks on the community have at least doubled in the last two years with more than a thousand incidents up

until August. The proposed law here is the most sweeping yet.

PETER KALUMA, KENYAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: When you engage in those acts of LGBT, which are prohibited in Kenya, you become a criminal.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The MP sponsoring the bill has Sharon Slater's book on Family Values on his shelf.

MCKENZIE: Family Watch International is not specifically helping with the drafting of these bills.

KALUMA: No, they can't. That would be to say I don't have my own brain.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): In the safe house as the hate spreads, they fear their space is running out.

ADRIAN: I feel at any point, I'm left nowhere to go. If I go outside there, they will notice that I am LBGTI, sooner or later I'll be dead.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): David McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi, Kenya.


CHATTERLEY: Still to come, the governor of Texas just signed a bill that makes entering Texas illegally a state crime. It was already a federal

crime. We are following reaction and what this might mean -- next.






In Texas, Republican governor, Greg Abbott, signed a border bill that makes entering Texas illegally a state crime. The new measure grants local police

the power to arrest illegal migrants and for judges to issue orders sending them back to Mexico.

Abbott says the new law will dramatically decrease illegal immigration, a huge issue in the United States. Democratic House members say the bill

oversteps the federal government's powers. And critics fear it will lead to racial profiling. The law is expected to take effect in March of next year.

Rosa Flores has more.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Inaction has decimated America.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the stroke of a pen, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed into law what ACLU dubbed as one of the

most radical anti-immigrant bills ever passed by any state.

ABBOTT: Senate Bill 4 is now law in the state of Texas.

FLORES (voice-over): SB-4 creates a new state crime for illegal entry into Texas, gives local police the power to arrest and judges the power to

remove violators.

ABBOTT: But the problem is far more than just numbers.

FLORES (voice-over): After multiple attempts, the controversial measure passed a Republican-led legislature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an un-American.


FLORES: Without a fight by the Democratic minority that erupted into this on the House floor.

STATE REP. ARMANDO WALLE (D-TX): Y'all don't understand the shit that y'all do hurts our community.

FLORES (voice-over): After Republicans cut debate short.

WALLE: And y'all don't understand that. You don't live in our (INAUDIBLE) skin.

FLORES (voice-over): That is Texas State Representative Armando Walle from Houston -- an American with Mexican roots.

He says he fears SB-4 will lead to the racial profiling of Latinos across Texas.

WALLE: Why do we and those of us who look like me, why do we have to carry our passports around?

FLORES: So you think that U.S. citizens could be arrested under SB-4?


FLORES (voice-over): The Republican authors of the bill said there was no need to safeguard the measure against racial profiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Racial profiling is against the law anyway.

FLORES (voice-over): Texas has now determined the cost of SB-4. Some county governments fear it's an unfunded mandate.

STATE SENATOR JUAN HINOJOSA (D-TX): We don't agree with the cost that's being shifted over to our local taxpayers.


FLORES (voice-over): Thirty former immigration judges issued a statement, saying the measure is not lawful because immigration is plainly a federal

function. Texas Republican Senator Brian Birdwell voted against the measure, saying it is unconstitutional.

STATE SENATOR BRIAN BIRDWELL (R-TX): We are setting a terrible precedent for the future by invalidating our obedience and faithfulness to our


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe SB-4 is completely constitutional.

FLORES: For Americans outside of Texas --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Representative Walle --

FLORES (voice-over): -- Walle warns SB-4 could be used to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's 2012 so-called "show your papers" law,

which upheld that immigration is a federal function.

WALLE: This is their road map now, now that they have a much favorable Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not in conflict with the precedent set in Arizona versus U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always visited the Mexican restaurant to buy their tortillas.

FLORES (voice-over): As for Walle, who lost the fight against the law but was one of the strongest voices against it.

WALLE: It fills me with pride, because I've had elderly people today tell me that they were proud that somebody stood up to them, stood up for

somebody who didn't have a voice.


CHATTERLEY: Rosa Flores there, thank you for that report.

The social media platform known as X, formally known as Twitter, is now under investigation by the E.U. for disinformation and a lack of

transparency. The E.U. commissioner posted the allegations against X on X, on Monday.

X has already been warned over this information and illegal content linked to the Israel-Hamas war. Now how X dealt with that content as well as the

effectiveness of the community notes fact-checking system will be under investigation. So, too, the paid verification system unveiled under its new

owner, Elon Musk.

Now before we let you go, NASA continues to push the boundaries of technology, this time, transmitting a video from deep space, nearly 19

million miles back to Earth, using a laser.

And the star of that video?

Well, meet Taters the cat. The ultra-high definition video shows the cat chasing the dot from a laser pointer. The promise of this technology is the

distance between the spacecraft which beamed that video and the observatory in California that received it. Just to be clear, that's about 80 times the

distance between Earth and the moon.


That laser transmission reached Earth in less than two minutes. NASA believes this technology could help push the limits of space exploration,

with the ability to quickly send data, images and videos.

Now a final update on our top stories. We await news from the U.N. Security Council meeting. Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, has suggested that Israel

would be willing to agree a new truce with Hamas to secure the release of more hostages and increase the amount of aid into Gaza but said that the

militant group was standing in the way.

Any further headlines on that or developments, we will bring them to you.

That just wraps up CONNECT THE WORLD. I'll get my teeth back in. I'm Julia Chatterley, thanks for joining us. Stay with CNN. "STATE OF THE RACE WITH

KASIE HUNT" is up next.