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IDF Says It Does Not Target Hospitals, Only "Hamas Strongholds"; Israel Proposing New Pause in Fighting in Exchange for Hostage Release; Escalation in Israel's Occupation Tactics in West Bank; Colorado State Supreme Court Deems Trump Ineligible for 2024 Ballot; "Record Number" of Indian MPs Suspended from Parliament; Volcano Erupts in Southwest Iceland; UNSC to Vote on Gaza; Judge Rules Epstein Associates' and Victims' Names Made Public; Trump Team in Iowa Working Overtime. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 20, 2023 - 10:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade, coming up this hour. Children and families are not safe in

hospitals in Gaza. That assessment from UNICEF spokesperson, as he addressed the enclave's wider health care system teetering on the brink of

collapse. I'll speak to another regional spokesperson about that just ahead.

Also, Colorado Supreme Court rules that Donald Trump is not eligible to be on the presidential ballot in that state. Why that decision was taken and

what it means for his 2024 presidential run.

In Iceland, lava flowed from an extraordinary volcano is starting to slow down but the mayor of a nearby town is telling residents they will not be

able to return to their homes before Christmas. We're live in Grindavik later this hour.


KINKADE: Amid word of negotiations for a new pause in fighting in Gaza, there are more attacks being reported today. The director general of the

Hamas-run health ministry says at least 48 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded in Israeli attacks around the Jabalya refugee camp in

northern Gaza.

He says dozens more people remain trapped under the rubble. CNN cannot independently verify those numbers.

Getting the injured in hospitals is difficult, if not impossible. The Palestinian health minister reports another hospital has ceased operations

and fewer than a third of the enclave's hospitals are even partially functioning.

Several people are reportedly killed in a series of explosions close to a hospital in southern Gaza. Israel's military maintains Hamas is using

hospitals as staging bases for its militants. Hamas says that's not true.

Israel's security agency released a video showing the interrogation of the director at a Gaza hospital. He says Hamas leadership used the facility in

the early days of the war, because they believed they would not be targeted there. It is unclear if the director was speaking under duress.

A UNICEF spokesperson voiced outrage at the conditions in Gaza's hospitals. James Elder says hospitals cannot serve as shelters for children and

families. And so-called safe zones, become in his words, the zones of disease.


JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: Truly, I'm furious. I'm furious that those with power shrug as the humanitarian nightmares unleashed on a

million children. I'm furious that children who are recovering from amputations in hospitals are then killed in those hospitals.

I'm furious that there are more children hiding as we speak somewhere, who will no doubt be hit and have amputations in the coming days. I'm furious

that Christmas is likely going to bring increased savagery in attacks as the world is distracted with its own, you know, love and goodwill.


KINKADE: I want to bring in UNICEF spokesperson, Tess Ingram, who joins us live from Amman, Jordan.

Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So nowhere in Gaza is safe, not even hospitals, as we've been reporting in recent weeks. Israel forces raided and detained hospital staff

in at least two of the last functioning hospitals in Gaza.

What is your reaction to that as well as the state of the hospitals that remain functioning?

INGRAM: It really is incredibly dire, Lynda. The attacks on hospitals, on children and sick families, really need to stop. Not only are these places

being used to treat very injured and ill people but they're also being used as shelters.

One example is a hospital called Al-Nasr, in Khan Yunis. We know that was shelled twice, in 48 hours over the weekend. There were about 1,000 people

there and 4,000 people sheltering there, including one teenager, who UNICEF had been speaking to a couple of weeks earlier.

Her name is Dana (ph). And she had had to have her leg amputated after her house was attacked. She lost both her parents, two of her brothers and,

then on Sunday, shortly after talking to us, she lost her life.

So this is the kind of real human impact of what we're seeing in the Gaza Strip at the moment.

KINKADE: It's horrific, just how many children are dying at such an alarming rate. More than 5,000 reportedly killed, thousands more injured

and well over 1.7 people million displaced. In terms of resources right now.


Your agency says children barely have a drop to drink. Explain what you mean.

INGRAM: There are global guidelines for how much water a person needs to survive in an emergency, not in a normal circumstance but in an emergency.

That's 15 liters. That's for cooking, washing and drinking.

At the moment, children in Gaza have 1.5 to 2 liters. So 15 is for an emergency, they three liters per person per day, so basic survival. And

we're talking less than two. So that's for everything. That is barely a drop to drink, when you factor in everything else.

Not only that but a lot of the water in Gaza at the moment is salty or polluted. So it really presents a risk to children's health, because

sanitation is also not up to scratch. There's one toilet for hundreds of people.

And after the rains that we had a couple of weeks ago, that really exacerbated the situation. So we're very concerned about waterborne

diseases, like diarrhea, for example.

KINKADE: And Tess, in these sorts of situations, in war, it's often children that suffer the most. You spoke about one girl that you know who

lost her parents, then her life.

Can you give us some other specific examples of children you've been speaking with in Gaza?

INGRAM: There are just so many, it's really heartbreaking. And I can only imagine what it's like to be one of the U.N. staff or one of the other U.N.

agency staff, inside Gaza at the moment, meeting these children and speaking to them.

They're also themselves dealing with their own challenges. Many of them are Palestinians and are dealing themselves with lost family members or sick

family members. I spoke to a colleague who hasn't had water to drink in more than 24 hours and has a sick child that they're very worried about.

One of my colleagues spoke to a 13-year-old girl called Raja (ph), who was saying how cold and wet she was, sleeping outside on the streets. And every

time she heard thunder, she was afraid that it was a bombardment.

So the impact on children is, from the air raids, it's from the potential diseases that are coming out at us thick and fast and the hunger that is

just around the corner as well. So many children in Gaza are really, really hungry at the moment.

So these are the stories that we're hearing from the ground and UNICEF is there, trying to do everything that it can, not only to get aid in -- and

it's really only been a trickle but it's starting to pick up a little bit more now.

But also to then distribute that aid; it's not safe for the children of Gaza and it hasn't been safe for us, which really presents a challenge in

making sure that the aid reaches the children that it needs to, while the airstrikes are ongoing, which is why we need an intermediate and long

lasting humanitarian cease-fire as soon as possible.

KINKADE: Can you give us more information about what sort of aid has gone in?

I understand 127 trucks got into Gaza yesterday.

Do you know what was aboard those trucks and what might be coming in the next few days?

INGRAM: Yes, of course. UNICEF has been delivering everything, from simple things like bottled water and soap, to more complex things like

construction materials, to repair broken pipes or desalination plants that are desperately needed for these essential services.

I know that yesterday we got in blankets to try to keep people warm in the cold as well as hygiene kits to try and help prevent some of these diseases

and sanitation issues that we're seeing. There's plenty more to come, if we can just get it across the border and then distribute it to the children

and families that need it.

KINKADE: Excellent. Obviously we are waiting on this vote at the U.N., which was delayed, calling for a pause in hostilities so that more aid can

get in.

If UNICEF had a message to those taking this vote today, what would it be?

INGRAM: Look, for weeks now, we've been calling for an immediate and long term cease-fire because that is what the children of Gaza need, for this

horror to end. I think a humanitarian pause or a suspension in fighting will be a good start. But it is not enough.

So to those voting today, I would say, please vote in favor of ending the fighting now and for as long as possible, because that is what the children

of Gaza need.

KINKADE: Tess Ingram from UNICEF, we really appreciate your time today and all the work that you and your colleagues do on the ground. Thanks so much.

INGRAM: Thank you.

KINKADE: Two hostages being held in Gaza are seen pleading with the government in a new video. It's not clear when this video was taken.


KINKADE (voice-over): It was released by Islamic Jihad on Tuesday, the same day prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with some of the hostages'

families, stating again that he is committed to bringing them home. Israel is back at the negotiation table, offering Hamas a pause in fighting for

the release of more hostages.


However, an Israeli official is tempering expectations, telling CNN the two sides are not close to a deal just yet.


KINKADE: Our Will Ripley joins us for more on all of this from Tel Aviv.

Good to have you with us, Will. Let's start with those hostage negotiations. We know the leader of Hamas is in Qatar today.

What more can you tell us, what are your sources telling you about the developments in those negotiations?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a very complicated process, because Hamas and Israel remain very far apart in

terms of what they need to get out of this deal. They both have leverage.

The fact that Hamas is still holding well over 120 hostages and the vast majority of them believed to be alive, that has really stepped up pressure

here in Tel Aviv, across Israel, for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to secure the release as quickly as possible.

Especially after the accidental shooting deaths of three Israeli hostages, by the Israel Defense Force over the weekend, families have been out pretty

much every day protesting.

And, of course, there's also the pressure not just domestically but internationally, for Israel to pause the fighting so that humanitarian

supplies can come in, hostages can come out.

But Hamas has said in the past that they're not going to give up these hostages without a permanent cease-fire, essentially an end to the war. And

from the Israeli perspective, they're not finishing their job yet.

They have not eliminated Hamas leadership, they have not prevented, to the fullest extent possible, this sort of attack, the attack that happened on

October 7th, in which hundreds of unarmed Israelis were slaughtered.

They have not been able to ensure that that kind of attack isn't going to happen again. Until they accomplish that objective, Israel says that war is

not over.

But what Israel can offer and what they have offered -- and that is being relayed to Hamas -- is, for starters, 40 Israeli hostages, prioritizing

women, the elderly, and urgent care patients, would be handed over in exchange for a one-week pause in fighting.

Israel is open, sources are saying, to extending that pause possibly longer, two weeks if more hostages are on the table with the ultimate goal

from the Israeli side of getting all of those hostages returned.

And the Palestinians, in addition to the humanitarian pause, of course, they want more than just a temporary pause. But they also want their own

prisoners handed back by Israel.

And not just teenagers and women, which was the vast majority of the handovers last time around. They want what's being described to us as heavy

hitters, which could potentially mean men who are actually facing criminal charges here in Israel, as opposed to this large amount of people who are

being held without charges at the moment.

Possibly to be used as leverage, possibly on suspicion of a crime but not yet charged and not even aware of what charges or what they're being held

for. So the two sides, both have something to gain by this moving forward. But it's not going to happen quickly.

Again, that last hostage deal took more than a month to put together, which is dampening hopes of anything happening by Christmas or during the holiday

week. But of course, there's always hope, Lynda.

And certainly the humanitarian pause is desperately needed for the people of Gaza, who as you mentioned last hour, half of them, a full half, we're

talking about 1 million people are starving right now. Just an unthinkable, an unthinkably horrible situation, especially during this time, which

should be a celebratory time.

KINKADE: Yes, exactly. Will Ripley for us in Jerusalem, good to have you with us. Thank you.

The war is on the agenda at the U.N. Security Council. We are now expecting a vote on a resolution regarding Gaza to happen today. Diplomats have said

that the resolution would call for a halt in hostilities to allow for the delivery of much needed aid.

The vote had been delayed since Monday. Presumably it's so negotiators can find language that the U.S. will accept.

Along with the war in Gaza, violence in the occupied West Bank has also spiked in the last 2.5 months. The Palestinian ministry of health in

Ramallah says the number of Palestinians killed since October 7th has now passed 300, mainly by Israeli forces but also some settlers.

Even before the war started, more than 240 deaths had been reported this year. CNN's Nima Elbagir visited the West Bank to speak with Palestinians

living in fear, of settler attacks. Here's what she and her crew experienced.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): We stop at a service station in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. A man in military fatigues demands to check our IDs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): He said I have the right to secure this area.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): But he has no identifying insignia, won't tell us who he is but he's got a gun. So we oblige. We're confused. And we're not

the only ones.



CNN obtained this video from inside Hebron, a divided city, filmed a few days after the Hamas October 7th attack.

The Palestinian man won't comply. He says he recognizes the man with the gun as a settler, not a soldier.

In this tense climate, if a soldier issues an order, you comply.

But is everyone with a gun and fatigues a soldier?

The West Bank is under Israeli military operation. It's also believed to be home to almost 0.75 million settlers, Israeli civilians living in the

Occupied Territories. Settlers consider this part of their Biblical homeland and are expanding into Palestinian Territories.

Even though the U.N. Security Council considers their presence illegal. Yet settlers are integral to Israel's security plan in the Occupied Territories

as Israel Defense Force reservists and settlement security squads.

Responding, the IDF says, security threats in settlements, towns and villages. Palestinians told CNN they consider armed settlers a greater

threat than ever before.

Their remit from the IDF is blurring the lines as settlers encroach on Palestinian land, like, here in the Palestinian village of Tuwani, where

there is a settlement at the top of the hill.

In this video, you see men in military fatigues. The IDF equips both civilian settler security squads and soldiers in the region, as you can see

here. It is almost impossible to differentiate. They point their rifles at residents and then they shoot, according to eyewitnesses.

CNN shared the images we gathered in the West Bank with a senior IDF official, who was unable to tell us who here is in the IDF and who is not.

We asked, how, then, are Palestinians expected to differentiate?

The official told CNN there have been cases of reservists who did not act in accordance with army standards, adding, "There is no place in the IDF

for such behavior. Every case that breaches army standards will be investigated."

Palestinians, the official said, should contact their local brigade. But Palestinian rights activists and local resident Basel Adra says settlers in

military fatigues are forcing Palestinians off their land.

BASEL ADRA, WEST BANK RESIDENT AND ACTIVIST: These settlers come in with their guns and they are pointing it to the heads of the residents. And they

tell them, if you don't leave in 24 hours, we will shoot you.

So the family would understand that they are not playing. It is a serious threat of killing if you don't leave your home. That led for like 35

families to leave. And these settlers have been wearing uniform also.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Settlers have heavyweight support in Israel's far- right government. Itamar Ben-Gvir, minister for national security, settler. After the Hamas October 7th attack, Ben-Gvir loosened gun permit

regulations, making it easier for tens of thousands of Israeli civilians to bear arms.

Bezalel Smotrich, minister of finance, settler, also, post attack, pushed through over US$100 million for West Bank security, including funds for

training and equipping settler security squads. But it's not just arming and equipping. We witnessed firsthand some of the restrictions the IDF

imposed on Palestinians.

Itgida's (ph) house is not even five minutes away from the other side of this checkpoint. But she can't get through.

ELBAGIR: Every day, they tell her to go back. Every day she has to do this extraordinarily long loop to try to get in. She said they are intentionally

making it difficult for us, making it so we have to cross through areas that are hostile to us, to get to our homes.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Itgida (ph) picks up a few more things before she sets off home but not too many. It is a long walk uphill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Since the 1990s, the city of Hebron has seen many curfews. The day we visited, there was a curfew in place from 7 pm until 7

am. Itgida (ph) has to go through this checkpoint. Palestinians have to be searched.

Settlers aren't normally checked. Itgida has to walk; settlers can drive. Palestinians need permission for visitors; settlers don't. The IDF says all

these measures are in accordance with their security assessments to provide security for all residents.


Settlers and Palestinians live side by side but the rules for each are very different.

Faiza and her husband have lived in this house for 14 years. They inherited it from her husband's grandparents. Their house is overlooked by an IDF

sentry post yet they fear for their safety.

FAIZA, RESIDENT OF TAL REMEIDA, HEBRON (through translator): The scene is so inappropriate and depressing for our home. You can see up here what

we've had to put in place to protect ourselves from the settlers.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): As we leave Faiza's house, we get stopped by an Israeli soldier. He says we are not allowed to walk along the main road. We

have to go back to the checkpoint to be searched again because we have been inside a Palestinian home.

ELBAGIR: I would just point out a lack of logic, which is that these Palestinian houses, the Palestinians have come through that checkpoint so

they can't possibly have brought in anything.

Just so I can understand, just so I can, please, I'm really confused as usual. So even though we went through that checkpoint -- OK. Even though we

went through that checkpoint, because we have been in the house of Palestinians, we now have to go jumping over people's garden walls.

We can't walk on the streets?

We have to go straight back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were going through the checkpoint and you stay here, it's great. But as soon as you move from different areas --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- you need to get rechecked.

ELBAGIR: Now you understand it.


ELBAGIR: Yes. So we need to get re-checked. So right to the route.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you know for next time.

ELBAGIR: OK, let's just go.

Thank you. We will see you in a bit.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): We can't get down. The access to the garden is closed.

ELBAGIR: So the path I can see is the other side of that fence. But if you can see one, I can't.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): We can't walk on the street because we've been in a Palestinian house and now we're deemed a security risk. So we are stuck.

Eventually, the soldier has to call in to his superior to give us special permission to walk on the main road.

ELBAGIR: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): We head out and back to the checkpoint, where we are searched again. A tiny glimpse into what Palestinians navigate every day.

The U.N. says that, post October 7th, over 1,000 Palestinians in the West Bank have been displaced, forced from home by security restrictions and

settler violence. The U.S. and U.K. are now sanctioning extreme settlers.

But Palestinians say it is not enough. Not when settlers can cloak themselves in the authority of the Israeli state -- Nima Elbagir, CNN,



KINKADE: Still to come, the conflict between Hamas and Israel has spiked attacks in the Red Sea, at a level not seen in decades. We'll have the


Plus Colorado's state supreme court has disqualified Donald Trump from the state's 2024 presidential ballot. Ahead, how the court's ruling could throw

the presidential election into chaos.




KINKADE: Welcome back, I'm Lynda Kinkade. We're following a stunning court decision that could have major impacts on the 2024 U.S. presidential



The Colorado state supreme court ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump is ineligible to run for president in that state next year. It disqualified

Trump from the ballot because of his role in the 2021 insurrection.

Trump's team reacted immediately, saying it would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Colorado's ruling is on hold, pending that appeal.

For more, I want to bring in CNN senior Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic.

Good to have you with us, Joan. Yet again we are in uncharted territory with this decision. A former president and a current presidential candidate

to deemed ineligible to be on the ballot in the state of Colorado. Explain this decision.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to be with you, Lynda.

First of all, section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bars anyone who's taken an oath to uphold the Constitution from engaging in an

insurrection or rebellion.

What the Colorado supreme court ruled -- 4-3, so it was a very close ruling -- was that the evidence showed that Donald Trump did indeed participate in

a insurrection and that he should be disqualified from the ballot, according to the provisions of the 14th Amendment.

Now I should say that this is not a ruling that is obvious and it conflicts with what other state courts have said. So indeed the president's lawyers

will be appealing to the Supreme Court.

There are two ways; they're actually multiple grounds on which they would likely appeal. One just having to do with how the Colorado hearing

unfolded, to say that it was set on a very fast track, this very weighty issue, and that there would be problems distinct to Colorado's process.

But the other one, Lynda, is the very large question that is going to have to be resolved by the Supreme Court one way or another.

Does this provision of the 14th Amendment cover Donald Trump?

Does it even cover a president?

And should he have to be proved guilty of insurrection in some other proceeding, a criminal proceeding?

Or can it be done through the state court?

So those are massive questions to be decided, that will ultimately come down to, will his name be on the ballot?

This comes at the same time that the U.S. Supreme Court is also considering another fundamental question involving Donald Trump.

Should he be immune from criminal prosecution?

That's underway right now by special counsel Jack Smith, regarding election subversion. Those charges are also being brought against him.

So here we are, just on the eve of 2024 and the calendar year for the presidential election that, the Supreme Court is going to decide key

constitutional questions that will have a very real effect on what names are on the ballot and the fate of Donald Trump and who would be America's

next president.

KINKADE: The other questions that have come up is whether other states might follow suit and do what Colorado has done and, of course, whether the

Supreme Court, in their decision, would make some sort of blanket ruling across the country, as opposed to just Colorado.

What are we likely to see?

BISKUPIC: I think you hit the nail on the head, in terms of all the other states that could possibly follow suit. That hasn't quite happened yet,

because it's very tricky under, first of all, as a threshold matter, state law to even challenge who gets on the ballot.

So there's a lot of variation among all 50 states. But that, your question goes to why the Supreme Court really needs to settle it once and for all,

what the 14th Amendment bars and whether Donald Trump is covered by it.

Because if they look at just what happened in Colorado, you're exactly right. Say the Colorado situation is reversed. Or even if it is upheld,

that would only affect the names on the ballot in Colorado.

So the Supreme Court is really going to have to issue a ruling that can guide the rest of America about just what it takes, what needs to be shown,

for the candidate's name to be removed from the ballot, especially, as you and your viewers know well, someone who is destined to be the Republican

nominee and who is polling very strong.

KINKADE: Joan Biskupic, good to get your breakdown on all of this. I'm sure we'll be speaking again about this in the coming weeks, thanks so


BISKUPIC: Thanks, Lynda.

KINKADE: Still ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, for the people who call a small Iceland town home, it could be a blue Christmas. We'll explain.

And rescuers are still scrambling to find survivors as the death toll rises in China after that massive earthquake. We'll have the details just ahead.





KINKADE (voice-over): Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD, with me, Lynda Kinkade. Good to have you with us. These are your headlines, this hour.

The E.U. has reached a deal on reforming its (INAUDIBLE) migration system. They say this deal will cover political elements of five E.U. goals. Some

of the issues being addressed include migrant screenings, handling of asylum applications and how to handle crisis situations.

The next step is to submit the agreement for member states for confirmation.

Nine people injured in Ukraine's Kherson region after a Russian drone attack overnight. The interior minister said four children are among those

hurt. The head of Kherson's military says 16 people have been hurt in that region over the past 24 hours as a result of Russian shelling.


A record number of Indian opposition MPs have been suspended from parliament. Advocacy group Human Rights Foundation says 141 members of the

opposition, some seen protesting in this video, will be removed for the rest the winter session. They've been demanding a parliamentary debate on a

recent security breach.


KINKADE: Israel is proposing another pause in fighting in Gaza in exchange for the release of more hostages. A source tells CNN at the moment a deal

is not close and the proposals are just the start of negotiations.

A delayed United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution meant to get more aid into Gaza is expected to take place in the coming hours, that's

according to our sources. The resolution, drafted by the United Arab Emirates, calls for a halt in hostilities to allow much-needed aid into the

besieged territory.

The U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process is once again stressing that Gaza urgently needs humanitarian assistance.


TOR WENNESLAND, U.N. SPECIAL COORDINATOR FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS: The delivery of humanitarian aid in the strip continues to face nearly

insurmountable challenges. Amid displacement of (INAUDIBLE) and active hostilities, the humanitarian response system is on the brink.

The limited steps by Israel include (INAUDIBLE) of fuel, food and cooking gas and (INAUDIBLE) for the entry of humanitarian supplies are positive but

fall short of what is needed to address the human catastrophe on the ground.



KINKADE: The conflict is expanding beyond Gaza into the Red Sea, where attacks on merchant vessels are at a level not seen in at least two

generations. That's according to a senior U.S. official.

We're told Houthi rebels in Yemen who are trained and funded by Iran, have launched at least 100 attacks on 12 commercial ships over the past month.

Many of their drones and ballistic missiles have been intercepted.

Speaking after meeting troops abroad the USS Ford, the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. and international partners demanded

Houthis cease and desist the attacks in the Red Sea. CNN's Natasha Bertrand picks up the story, from the Pentagon.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: The U.S. and its allies are scrambling to respond to a series of attacks by the Iran- backed Houthi

rebels in Yemen who have launched over 100 attacks, according to a U.S. military official, using missiles and drones on commercial vessels in the

southern Red Sea over the last four weeks alone.

Causing a dramatic impact to international shipping and international commerce because of the impact that these attacks have had on these vessels

operating there. Many companies have said that they are actually pausing their operations in the Red Sea because of the threat of coming under fire

by these Houthi militants.

So the U.S. and its allies now trying to find a way to respond that does not involve striking the Houthis directly, in Yemen, something that the

U.S. has been trying to avoid over the last several weeks.

And as a response to the attacks to date, the U.S. now says that they are going to be setting up an international coalition of maritime forces that

will essentially be in the region and in the Red Sea, available to respond and help commercial vessels if they need it.

Some of the vessels -- or some of the ships, I should say -- they will be escorting these commercial vessels if the situation warrants it.

And, of course, we have also seen the U.S. shoot missiles and missiles into the Houthi region, down a number of the missiles and drones that the

Houthis have launched targeting these commercial ships in recent weeks.

But it remains unclear whether the Houthis are going to be deterred by this new maritime coalition. They have said that they are going to continue

their attacks on these commercial vessels in solidarity, they say, with the Palestinians and in opposition to the Israelis.

However, it's important to note that many of these ships that they have attacked, if not most of them, actually have no ties to Israel at all.

And the U.S. says that the Houthis have just been attacking these ships opportunistically and they have been taking advantage, of course, of the

U.S. and allied presence in the area. They want to try to bolster their international reputation and presence there and they think they will be

able to get attention by continuing to target these vessels.

So the U.S. facing a very big problem here, growing calls for them to strike the Houthis directly. But at this point, this maritime coalition,

according to the Secretary of Defense, they say, is going to hopefully help ease the problem -- Natasha Bertrand, CNN, at the Pentagon.


KINKADE: While Houthi rebels may not be able to pose a direct threat to Israel, their actions could cause a shock to the global economy. BP

announced this week that it's closing operations in the Red Sea.

And Maersk and other shipping giants are already rerouting their vessels, sending them along the southern coast of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope.

That's expected to add weeks of transit time while also driving up energy and insurance costs.

Thousands of people in Iceland won't be able to celebrate Christmas at home, because of the erupting volcano. The mayor of Grindavik, the town

closest to the spewing lava, says there is now what he calls a housing crisis.

Officials are trying to help families to secure accommodation. More than 3,000 people were ordered to evacuate the small coastal town last month

when authorities anticipated the current eruption. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is on the ground, near Grindavik, and sent us this report.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The arctic night illuminated, as the Earth breaks apart from the fissure

bursts its molten core. Weeks of earthquakes led to this display of our planet's fire and force.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Following a volcanic eruption, there is always high levels of toxic gases. The main concern in Iceland now is the distribution

of this with the wind.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's never possible to say exactly when or if a volcano like this one, near the town Grindavik, will erupt. Officials took

no chances, though, evacuating the population after weeks of tremors.

Thousands of shakes were felt in November and all knew what they could bring. Thankfully, none were in Grindavik town when the volcano, around two

miles away, finally did erupt.

This crack in the surface of our world, close to four kilometers or more than two miles long, spewing lava. Previous eruptions in Iceland have

lasted weeks or even months.

This is as close as the authorities are going to lead us to the volcanic eruption to the southwest of Iceland, this so-called fissure rupture and.


That means an eruption along a crack that can be several miles long, rather than on a volcanic cone.

One of the good things about these eruptions is that, actually, usually, they don't spew ash into the atmosphere very high, which can disrupt air

travel internationally. In a place like Iceland, that could have massive effects.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Previous eruptions in Iceland have lasted weeks or even months. In the town of Grindavik, the earthquake damage is clear the

lava may follow.

HALLGRIMUR INDRIDASON, JOURNALIST: If this activity goes on, then the big question is, will Grindavik be uninhabitable in the long run?

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Whether people can ever move back here depends on a new set of geological circumstances being created right now.


KINKADE: You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Ahead, the judge's ruling that could blow the lid off Jeffrey Epstein's little black book. The names

of dozens of his alleged victims and associates will be made public.




KINKADE: Welcome. Back I'm Lynda Kinkade.

The names of more than 150 of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged associates and victims will be made public next year. After a ruling by a U.S. federal

judge. Epstein was indicted in 2019 and accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls.

He died by suicide while awaiting trial. Kara Scannell is in New York covering the story for us. She joins us live.

Good to see, you. Kara. The judge has ordered the release of these 150 names and redacted court documents. These are all going to be unsealed.

Can you explain why this is happening now?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is part of a lawsuit that was brought by one of Jeffrey Epstein's victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre. She

suing Ghislaine Maxwell, who was Jeffrey Epstein's longtime girlfriend and accomplice.

And as a result of this litigation, they eventually reached a settlement. But several of these organizations asked for the unsealing of these

materials, trying to uncover the mystery of Jeffrey Epstein.

So the judge has painstakingly gone through all of these documents, looking, as they are known in these filings as Jane and John Doe, so going

individually through them to decide whose material can be unsealed.

And she's decided that most of this can come out. So this will include both associates of Jeffrey Epstein as well as some victims of his in this case.


So what we're going to see here is that the judge ruling that the materials that can be unsealed are either for victims or accusers or -- as well as

the associates who have not objected to this being unsealed.

Others have given extensive media interviews or have been in media coverage or their names came out in other litigations or Maxwell's trials. So a lot

of this might already be known.

And she said that other people's identities will become clear because the material is not salacious in any way. They just happened to be referenced.

These materials could include depositions and calendars. So we're really not sure exactly the universe of it.

But that is the reason why she has decided that some of these will be made public. There are some those that the judge has said will not be unsealed.

Any materials related to them will still stay secret.

That is for some of these alleged victims who were minors at the time of the sexual assault. They have not gone public and the judge said that she

will not make them public as a result of this ruling.

KINKADE: Interesting. We will be chatting no doubt on this story. Kara Scannell, thanks so much.

The death toll in northwest China continues to rise in the aftermath of Monday's massive earthquake. Emergency crews are winding down search and

rescue efforts and shifting focus to post disaster relief. The earthquake has killed at least 131 people.

Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated; others spent the night in shelters. CNN's Steven Jiang has the details from Beijing.


STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: After rescuers dug through the debris for a second night, the Chinese authorities on Wednesday said the

search and rescue effort was quote-unquote "basically over."

There might still be some small scale operations going on according to state media focused on remote small villages not only hit by the initial

quake but also the subsequent mudslides.

Because officially there is still more than a dozen people missing. But the fact that the official casualty figures, including the death toll, have

only been revised up slightly from Tuesday to Wednesday is perhaps a reflection of the remoteness of the quake zone, sparsely populated and

mostly rural and often mountainous.

Even though the epicenter was only some 100 kilometers away from the provincial capital city of Gansu, the authorities say the focus is now

shifting to post disaster relief, including treating the injured.

Nearly 1,000 people did get injured in this quake but also resettling the tens of thousands of people forced to evacuate from their homes and farms

after those structures were either destroyed or severely damaged.

That is no easy task during the best of times in the very harsh, wintry conditions, with temperatures reaching as low as -20 degrees Celsius

overnight, hampering this effort as well.

And it may take some convincing for some of the people to get resettled since many of them are very poor farmers, telling state media they're not

only concerned about their safety but also their livelihood, including the fate of their crops and livestock.

Overall, the authorities say they have restored electricity and communication signals as well as road access to most parts of this quake

zone, hit by that very powerful tremor late Monday night -- Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.


KINKADE: Still to come, Donald Trump's team is vowing to appeal a decision by the Colorado state supreme court which disqualified him from the 2024

presidential ballot in that state. We'll have a live report ahead.





KINKADE: Welcome. Back

Team Trump and a slew of top Republicans are slamming the Colorado state supreme court decision to disqualify the former president from Colorado's

2024 presidential ballot.

The court disqualified Donald Trump from the ballot because of his role in the 2021 insurrection. Trump is vowing to take this extraordinary case all

the way to the Supreme Court just weeks before the Republican primary season kicks off. Colorado's ruling is on hold, pending that appeal.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Iowa, the state where Trump held a campaign event Tuesday night after the court's decision.

Good to have you with us, Jeff.

So you were at that Trump rally last night but he did not mention this case, did he?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Lynda, that was a bit surprising. Of course, former president Donald Trump weighs in on

virtually everything but he was silent on that Colorado ruling. He let his campaign speak for itself.

They called it un-American and they said they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, all of his Republican rivals were stepping up to

his defense, saying that voters should make a decision in the 2024 election, not judges and justices.

All of this is coming as the Iowa caucuses, which opened this Republican presidential campaign, are just 26 days away here now. We know that Trump

has many advantages, one of them is his organization and his ground game. We took a closer look.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Sometimes when you're leading by a lot, everyone says, oh, why should I go and vote?

The margin of victory is so important.

ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump is back in Iowa with that margin of victory squarely on his mind. But the outcome of the Iowa caucuses, now

less than four weeks away, may depend less on Trump than the work being done on this makeshift assembly line inside his campaign headquarters.

BRAD BOUSTEAD, VOLUNTEER: One box at a time. This is how Trump's team is trying to build a landslide, sending gold-stitched hats and carefully

curated care packages to nearly 2,000 of their precinct captains. Look right here. Here's a personalized letter from the president.

ZELENY (voice-over): Brad Boustead is a volunteer and one of those precinct captains who speak on Trump's behalf on caucus night and agree to

bring in 10 new supporters. In 2016, he supported Ted Cruz, who beat Trump here with the help of a stronger organization.

Now Boustead marvels at Trump's operation.

BOUSTEAD: Somebody's got to screw the lug nuts on the Cadillacs, so the little jobs are the most important jobs.

ZELENY (voice-over): While Trump's extreme rhetoric often sounds the same in this campaign.

TRUMP: When I'm reelected, we will begin -- and we have no choice -- the largest deportation operation in American history.

ZELENY (voice-over): His organization is dramatically different this time, driven by a sophisticated data driven effort to find Trump supporters who

have never attended a caucus before.

In the last three months, Trump has visited Iowa more than a dozen times, hitting all corners of the state in a highly targeted strategy for a front

runner not resting on a commanding lead.

From the moment you walk into a Trump event, the organization is apparent. Back at the campaign office, these commit to caucus cards are entered into

a database.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got you in there.

ZELENY (voice-over): Supporters are called within three days, which advisers say often didn't happen in 2016.

BRENNA BIRD, IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The polls don't matter. The one that really matters is caucus night, isn't it?

ZELENY (voice-over): Brenna Bird, Iowa's attorney general and one of Trump's top supporters, warns against complacency.

BIRD: I think his only danger is that people think that he might not need their vote. And that's not true. We need everybody to go out and vote on

caucus night.

ZELENY (voice-over): An army of Trump surrogates is also descending on Iowa, holding small organizing events, hammering home the same message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My only worry is low turnout.

ZELENY (voice-over): With Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley in a fight for second place. Trump is working to close down the 2024 primary on its

opening night.

JIMMY CENTERS, IOWA REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: He wants to run up the score. So caucus night looks more like a coronation than a caucus.

ZELENY (voice-over): Jimmy Centers, a veteran of four Republican caucus campaigns in Iowa, said the Trump organization may overwhelm its rivals.

CENTERS: They are quietly building a very tenacious and robust organization all across the state. I think that's going to be worth several

points on caucus night.

ZELENY: So some of the most important work happens when the former president's not here.

CENTERS: That's precisely it. And it's been happening like that for eight years.


ZELENY: So that is what some of the Republican rivals are up against. Is this going to be a caucus or a coronation?

And Jeff, just looking at this Colorado case hanging over Trump right now, what are his supporters saying about that?

And what are the other presidential candidates saying?

His supporters who we spoke to at this event last evening were certainly rallying to his defense. They say that this Colorado ruling just simply

seems to have the latest in a series of charges. They basically loved him altogether.

Criminal charges and civil charges, they believe the Justice Department in the Biden administration are trying to stop Trump.


Of course there's no evidence of President Biden or Democrats being involved in this at all. But as far as his rivals, they just started to be

making their cases against him. Now they're sort of rallying to his defense, saying that voters should make the decision in this presidential

campaign, not judges.

But just a short time ago, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, his leading rival, asked voters if they want the 2024 campaign to be filled with all

this drama, these court cases. So certainly giving some food for thought here. There is no doubt, at the end of all this, Trump is still the

commanding leader for this Republican presidential primary race.

KINKADE: It is quite incredible isn't it, Jeff, that these opposition candidates, these opposing candidates within the Republican Party, are not

trying to take Trump down on this issue but rather are backing him.

We will leave it there for now. We appreciate you as always. Thank you so much, Jeff Zeleny in Iowa.

That does it for this edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Thank you so much for joining. Us stay with CNN. "STATE OF THE RACE WITH

KASIE HUNT is coming up in just a moment.