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Deadly Strikes Reported Gaza's Al-Amal Hospital; IDF Warns Residents in Central Gaza to Leave Immediately; Israel Issues Warnings over Lebanon Border Clashes; Palestinian Red Crescent Calling for International Support; U.S. and Mexico Discuss How to Curb Surge of Migrants; Paul Whelan Marks Five Years in Russian Detention; Call to Earth: Coral Gardeners; U.K. Storm Damage Consistent with "Small Scale Tornado"; Top Climate Crises of 2023. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 28, 2023 - 10:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Hello and welcome to the show. I am Becky Anderson, it is 7 pm here in Abu Dhabi.

Even as the U.S. calls on Israel to move to the next phase of its war on Hamas, the reality on the ground inside Gaza is as brutal as ever. Dozens

are dead in the latest strikes. Lebanon-Israel border also heating up as the U.S. becomes increasingly involved in the region.

How far will the Biden administration go to prevent a spillover?

The U.S. has announced its latest and for now last package for Ukraine as Congress struggles to agree on the future of aid in the fight against


And a bumpy landing in high winds. The storm system hitting the United Kingdom is the latest in a string of extreme weather events. We will look

back on the key climate moments of 2023.


ANDERSON: We begin tonight with a fresh warning from the Israel Defense Forces as it tells parts of central Gaza to get out immediately. Right now,

just days before the end of the year, Israel suggests that there is no end in sight for this war.

In the meantime, most international voices are calling for a cease-fire and continue to do so. The U.S. is encouraging Israel to shift to a new less

intense phase. But the reality on the ground in Gaza is a rising death toll and more carnage. CNN's Nada Bashir is across all of this for us tonight.

You're live out of London. You spent much of the last three months in Israel on the West Bank and in various other areas around this region.

Even as much of the United States calls for Israel to enter the next less intense phase of this war, what we are seeing is the latest deadly round of

strikes that at least seemed to show that things are as intense as ever, both from the air and on the ground in Gaza.

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The messaging, Becky, we have been getting from Israeli officials is that they are not moving toward a

less intense phase of this war.

In, fact Israeli officials, both in the government and military, say they are intensifying the war, that there is a long fight ahead and they are

expanding their military operations both on the ground and in the air.

Just today we are learning from health officials on the ground in Gaza that 50 people have been killed across the Gaza Strip. A number are said to have

been killed, according to health officials, there around the Al-Amal Hospital in the southern region of Khan Yunis.

As you mentioned, they have issued fresh warnings to those in central Gaza, telling them to evacuate south. But as we have seen, a number of the

regions in southern Gaza designated as safe zones for civilians to evacuate to have now been repeatedly targeted by airstrikes.

There is mounting concern that there is nowhere safe for civilians to turn to anymore.

We have heard early this morning a warning from the U.N. human rights office that these evacuation orders coming from the Israeli military do not

relieve the Israeli government of their obligation under international law to protect the lives of civilians inside the Gaza Strip.


Of course today we have also had an update from the Israeli military with regard to an earlier strike on the refugee camp, a devastating strike that

took place on Christmas Eve. At least 70 people killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Today the Israeli military said that it caused unintended harm to civilians after striking two buildings which they say were adjacent to areas where

Hamas operatives were located.

That was a devastating airstrike and the IDF says it is looking further into it, carrying out investigations. But the refugee camp has repeatedly

faced airstrikes, come under airstrikes by the Israeli military as have a number of other refugee camps and civilian areas inside the Gaza Strip.

As we continue to hear the calls for civilians to move to safer areas, to move southward, there is real concern that this intensification of the war,

which the Israeli military has said will focus on the south, we are only going to see civilian death toll mounting higher and higher.

Already, according to Hamas run health ministry topping 21,000.

ANDERSON: It seems the Israelis are intent on continuing this assault. And they have flagged this will continue for months while we hear, from

Washington, calls for a less intense phase to start and calling for the protection of civilians.

The narrative does, from Washington, seem different from the reality of course we are seeing on the ground.

Let's discuss these images, Nada, that we are seeing of Palestinians in detention, stripped. At least two of them are kids.

What do we know?

BASHIR: This video has been circulating on social media for some time. It's unclear when exactly it was shot. But CNN has geolocated it to a

stadium in central Gaza. As you mentioned, Becky, it appears to show dozens of men, teenagers and two children.

They have been stripped to their underwear, hands above their head. Many of them blindfolded, others with their hands tied behind their backs. In part

of the video you also see women who are clothed but blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs, sat beneath a football goalpost.

The Israeli flag hanging above them as military vehicles roam the stadium behind. Now of course, we have heard those reports of mass detentions in

this area.

The U.N. Mediterranean human rights monitoring organization says this is a region that has been looking into as regard to reports of the detention of

children as young as 12, the elderly and women who have reported abuse and harassment.

This has raised concerns. The Israeli military says it strips detainees in order to ensure that they are not carrying explosives.

Of, course seeing that these individuals have been stripped for prolonged periods of time, as it appears to show in the video and placed in stress

positions according to human rights groups, humiliating and dehumanizing positions, this has raised alarm bells.

But the issue of detention has been going on for some time now. Earlier this month we had a warning with regard to this issue from the U.N.'s own

human rights office. Take a listen to the statement issued earlier this month from the U.N. human rights office, saying they had received numerous

disturbing reports from the north of Gaza.

Mass detentions, ill treatment and enforced disappearance of possibly thousands of Palestinian men and boys and a number of women and girls at

the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces, most who were rounded up as they were attempting to move south.

Again, where the Israeli military has told civilians to take shelter, or were taken during operations conducted on their homes, hospitals and

schools and other places of refuge.

The statement goes on to say that they've received numerous reports of the ill treatment of civilians, some of which they say, the human rights office

of the United Nations, could amount to torture if confirmed.

This video has certainly raised serious concern around the issue of detention, particularly the detention of children, who have already

experienced so much trauma throughout this war.

ANDERSON: Good to have you, Nada, thank you.

To a stark warning from the Israel war cabinet, one that is adding to fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

Israeli minister, Benny Gantz, says the situation at the border with Lebanon demands change, change Israel is willing to enforce should the

international community fail to do so. This follows the latest crossborder exchanges of fire, with Lebanese media reporting three deaths overnight.


Israel says its military will work to remove Hezbollah fighters from the border if attacks continue.


BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI MINISTER (through translator): The situation on Israel's northern border demands change. The stopwatch for a diplomatic

solution is running out. If the world and the Lebanese government don't act in order to prevent the firing on Israel's northern residents and to

distance Hezbollah from the border, the IDF will do it.


ANDERSON: This comes after the defense minister suggests, in the past couple of days, that Israel is now fighting on seven fronts. This is multi-

pronged as far as the defense minister is concerned.

One of the fronts is the border with Lebanon. Let's get the reaction to this from Washington. Let's discuss what it means in terms of the

potentially widening conflict. CNN's national security reporter, Natasha Bertrand, and CNN Politics senior reporter, Stephen Collinson, joining us


Natasha, let's start with you. We often say the U.S. is the only voice that can influence Benjamin Netanyahu; very specifically, the prime minister of


What, if any influence, is Washington exerting when it comes, for example, to the situation on the border with Lebanon?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. is working really hard to try to prevent a new front in this war from opening,

particularly from Hezbollah launching a full on war against Israel and Israel launching a full-on war and occupation of southern Lebanon.

This is something that the U.S., the White House, they have been sending emissaries back and forth to Lebanon, to Israel, to try to find a solution,

a diplomatic solution to the fighting. But both sides of this conflict have not been helping matters.

We see that Hezbollah continues to fire into Israeli territory, forcing the displacement of tens of thousands of Israelis who live there along the

border. And we see the Israelis have been firing back, of course, hitting Hezbollah; in many instances actually hitting the Lebanese armed forces.

That is a real concern for the Biden administration because U.S. officials believe that any diplomatic solution is going to need the buy-in and

support of the Lebanese military. The fact that Israel has been striking them, we are told, on more than 30 occasions, has not been sitting well

with the Biden administration.

Which has warned the Israelis, look, we need things to remain quiet here. We need you to focus on the war in Gaza. You cannot manage a new front on

the northern border, just given the level of intensity of the war going on in Gaza right now.

So the U.S. has been telling them, do not hit the Lebanese armed forces. Sure, some strikes may be accidental. But don't make this any worse than it

needs to be. Clearly the Israelis, they are getting extremely frustrated because there is not a diplomatic solution that has come to the forefront

just yet.

But the U.S. really making an effort here to try to prevent this from opening on multiple fronts because, as we have seen, regional intentions

are extremely high right now. There are a number of U.S. coalition troops and forces throughout the Middle East being attacked.

The Red Sea, of course, is on fire. And so the U.S. really trying to keep things contained in Gaza at this point.

ANDERSON: "We are in a multi front war. We are being attacked from seven different arenas, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Iraq, Yemen and


Those are the words of the defense minister at a meeting of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defense committees.

Stephen, let me bring you in. I want to read for our viewers a portion of your excellent analysis.

Quote, "The rising possibility of U.S. combat deaths and the worsening security situation from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, stretching through

Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel, represents an unwelcome, new foreign crisis as President Joe Biden's reelection year dawns."

Clearly the U.S. does not want a wider regional conflict. For that reason, it is seeming that we had avoided that.

Why is the region heating up again?

And what options does the U.S. president have at this point?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, I think the reason it is heating up is because this conflict, as you say, shows no sign

of abating.

The longer it goes on, the more the pressure builds, the more incentive there is for Iranian proxy groups, which are seeded throughout the region,

to use their position to attack U.S. troops, which are exceedingly vulnerable.

That's one of the reasons you saw the president launch an air attack on Hezbollah militant (INAUDIBLE) attack on Christmas Day.


The question becomes, I think, in Washington, whether actions like that are sufficiently giving enough deterrence to these Hezbollah militia groups and

other Ukrainian proxies.

The administration is however very careful about going further because it fears that it could escalate a situation which is already becoming very

tense. So that is one reason we have seen this intense pressure on the Israelis.

Prime minister Netanyahu's close advisers spent hours in the White House the other day, although it does not seem to have made a great deal of

difference. The problem for President Biden is he is very exposed politically as well as the position of the United States being exposed in a

national security sense.

Any sense that the region is slipping out of control, that the U.S. is getting back entangled in the Middle East, could be a real problem in his

election year and placed directly into former president Donald Trump's attacks that he is weak and is not up to the job.

One caveat, I would say, for all of the U.S. diplomatic pressure and for all of its forces that were deployed to the region to try to head off a

conflict, the record of U.S. foreign policy over the last 20 years shows that Washington's capacity to influence the Middle East in a good way is

often not very deep.

It does not stretch as far as, perhaps, some people in Washington think it does. If we're talking about Lebanon, that even stretches right back to the

Reagan administration. So a very vulnerable political position for the president.




ANDERSON: It is remarkable. Washington had asked the region to fight its own conflicts, regional solutions for regional conflicts. We had seen that

narrative emerging to a certain extent, a real sense of de-escalation around this region.

But I say that with a caveat. The issue of the Palestinians and Israel's policy of "mowing the lawn" when it came to -- I use that term in quotes --

when it came to its deal with Gaza, had been warned about around this region.

And it's really interesting now to see the U.S. coalition of the willing, hoping to secure the Red Sea, which does not include regional allies,

because they do not want to be seen to be siding with the Israelis when it comes to this conflict going on, specifically in Gaza.

But it could spill out. It's complicated staff, multi-led, as ever, in this region. It's really good to have both on board to help us join the dots on


We are heading toward the end of the year. Around this region, many, many, many people had hoped we would be looking at a cease-fire by now. That is

the core effort around this region and has been since the beginning of this most recent conflict. We are nowhere close to that at this stage.

So we only have to hope we could see some sort of progress at the beginning of 2024. For the time being, if we don't speak again, thank you both. Have

a good new year.

The head of the World Health Organization says it is imperative that the U.N. Security Council's resolution on Gaza becomes a reality. This is their

latest resolution that they got through with an abstention from the United States.

This was very specifically geared toward humanitarian aid. It was penned by the UAE, supported by the Arab Group and it puts on the ground -- or should

put on the ground -- a special coordinator for U.N. aid, helping U.N. mechanisms, to ensure that this aid that is simply not getting through

quickly enough, can get through more expeditiously.

Writing on, X the WHO director general, and I quote, said, "Day after day, the needs of Gaza's war-ravaged people grow peril, ill health, hunger,

thirst, lack of shelter. These should not be the norm for millions of people. But, sadly, they are."

He went on to urge U.N. Security Council members to, quote, "create pauses in hostilities and humanitarian corridors."

That was very specifically what was written into the text of the U.N. resolution that was passed last week.

Even without a pause in fighting, the WHO and other agencies are undertaking what are dangerous missions to deliver aid into Gaza, like

here, at the Al-Amal hospital in Gaza's south.



ANDERSON (voice-over): You are looking at an aid delivery by the Palestinian Red Crescent from a couple of weeks ago. This week, the area

around that hospital was hit by Israeli strikes. Today alone, killing at least 10 people according to the Red Crescent staff and 31 people in the

past two days.

They are now calling for the international community to help protect the hospital, given the perilous state of Gaza's health care system. Nebal

Farsakh is a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent. She's joined me a number of times on this show and my colleagues over the past couple of


You are in Ramallah, in the West Bank tonight and we do very much appreciate your time.


ANDERSON: What are your teams on the ground going through to get this aid in, to get aid delivered?

So I want to talk about what we need to see happen next and the U.N. resolution, which needs to be operationalized quickly.

But talk to us about today, this week, last week, what is going on?

NEBAL FARSAKH, SPOKESPERSON, PALESTINIAN RED CRESCENT: Since the beginning of this war and since the start of the aid getting into Gaza, the Red

Crescent teams and volunteers are working to receive the aid from the Egyptian Red Crescent.

This aid trucks are having food, water and relief items (ph) as well as medicine and medical supplies. Since October 21st until December 22nd, we

received around 4,760 aid trucks. That have food, water and any items and medicines and medical supplies.

But this is still not enough. It does not even scratch the surface. And it does not meet 10 percent of the needs. That is why we hope the U.N.

resolution will allow for more aid to get in, more aid to get in safely and efficiently, as well as to have humanitarian aid access.

Because basically the humanitarian suffering in Gaza is just unprecedented. The entire population is now lacking food, water, shelter and have no safe

place to go to. This means that people are starving. They are dehydrated and they are at risk of getting infectious diseases, respiratory and skin

infections as well.

ANDERSON: Yes. Talking to diplomatic sources around the time this U.N. resolution was pushed through last week, it was very, very clear that the

fact that half of the population is on the verge of starvation was absolutely front and center of the minds that were drafting this resolution

and supporting this resolution.

Here's the deal: the Americans and the Russians abstained, which meant that the humanitarian resolution got through.

What happens next?

What do you understand the resolution to have enabled?

What is it going to take to make it work at this stage?

What do you understand needs to happen to get that aid flowing much quicker than it is at the moment?

FARSAKH: We need the aid to get through all the borders into Gaza. And we also need to have safe access as humanitarians to deliver the aid to the

people who are in desperate need of it.

Having continuous bombardment across Gaza does not allow all the humanitarian agencies to deliver the aid efficiently to the people who are

in need of it. And more importantly, the aid needs to get into all the people in Gaza, including those who are trapped in Gaza City and the north.

Because Israel is denying access to humanitarian aid to the people who are living in the area and Gaza City and the north. These areas are not empty.

They have around 800,000 civilians who are still there.

And those people are completely denied access of humanitarian aid. They are in desperate need of food, water as well as medical services. The area of

Gaza City and the north, all the hospitals in that area are completely out of service.

That means people there are denied medical services as well. Unfortunately, when I say trapped, because there is literally people -- even with

disabilities and injured people who can't evacuate, walking four or five hours to go somewhere in the south.


The question is, even in the south, it is not safe. People are getting bombed in Rafah, where Israel is forcing people to go to. You just

mentioned today the hospital; the Palestine Red Crescent Society had a new bombardment right near our hospital. It resulted in the killing of 10

people as well as the injuries of 21.

This is the fifth attack at the hospital in less than a week. Yesterday, another attack bombardment, happened right in front of our hospital. And

it has resulted to dozens of casualties, including people who are displaced inside our hospital and the Palestine Red Crescent headquarters.

We have 14,000 people who are taking shelter inside our facilities. Unfortunately, it has been crazy for them, having to come through every

single day, panicked and fear of continuous bombardment that is happening on an ongoing basis.

Now our greatest fear from a direct attack to the hospital and to have the same scenario that happened to our hospital, Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City,

which went out of service unfortunately after it had been targeted, besieged and denied access of militant and medical supplies.

ANDERSON: Understood. This UA-penned UNSC humanitarian resolution, passed by 13 votes with two abstentions -- look, it may not be perfect. But it is

supposed to provide a mechanism to get this aid flowing from land, air and sea.

We need to see that happen quickly and effectively in order to prevent further stories like those that you are just describing. It's good to have.

You thank you very much, indeed, for joining us today.

So important, that we understand what's going on on the ground as we push to hope that more aid will get in.

Still to come, U.S. and Mexican officials hold critical talks to discuss new ways to stem the migrant surge at the U.S. southern border. That is

after this.




ANDERSON: "Very productive and very good."

Those the words used to describe what U.S. and Mexican officials have said is how to curb the surge of migrants at the border.


Mexico's president said an agreement was reached on reopening the U.S. border crossings that have been temporarily closed by the Biden


As the U.S. Congress grapples with border security, the Biden administration approved $0.25 billion in U.S. military aid for Ukraine. But

long-term support remains in jeopardy. The White House has made it clear that that is the end of the line for Ukraine aid until Congress approves



ANDERSON (voice-over): What happens or does not happen on the left of your screen directly impacts what happens on the right, on Ukraine's front line.

Fred Pleitgen has more.



FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia's most recent claimed battlefield victory, driving Ukrainian forces

to the outskirts of Marinka on the eastern front.

The prize, though, dust and rubble as the vicious fighting has turned the town into a wasteland.

Still Russia's defense minister claiming this is significant progress for Moscow.

"The Russian army is constantly taking more favorable positions and expanding control territories in all directions," he said. "We are

consistently moving forward, achieving the stated goals of the special operation."

Russia says its forces are now pressing in the entire east, looking to encircle the Ukrainians in Avdiivka, increasingly laying waste to that city

as well, Ukrainian authorities still operating their show.

"We've been bringing humanitarian aid and food here for a long time," he says. "People have already left. I hope there were no casualties. This is

what Avdiivka looks like. There's nothing here."

Kyiv says the Russian army is suffering catastrophic losses during their assaults. But Ukraine's military also acknowledges their own large-scale

counteroffensive started this summer has essentially stalled, a situation compounded by severe ammo shortages.

Ukraine desperately hoping Congress will end its impasse and greenlight further U.S. military aid after months of delays. Ukraine's top general, in

a rare press conference, says he's confident the assistance will come and that, on the whole, foreign military help for Ukraine has made a huge


"We had rather ambitious goals in 2023," he says. "I was not disappointed by the level of assistance in 2023. Of course, it was not everything. But

it allowed us to conduct confident military operations."

While gains on the ground remain incremental for both sides, the air war continues, Russian missiles and drones striking in Kherson and in Odessa,

killing two people.

And Moscow now admits Kyiv's air force managed to strike a large Russian landing ship but only vaguely says the vessel suffered damage. Ukraine,

though, claims the ship and its cargo were completely destroyed.

"Footage on air now is impressive indeed," the air force spokesman says. "A warship was destroyed, most likely a warship with a set of ammunition,

powerful ammo."

A key strike for Ukraine but, on the front lines, the war grinds on in the harsh eastern European winter, little territory changing hands but many

soldiers on both sides killed and wounded.

PLEITGEN: The Ukrainians do acknowledge that the Russians really are pressing along the eastern front. But they also say that the Russians are

suffering immense casualties, saying the Russians lost about 3,000 soldiers in just a week's time, with 1,000 of those killed. The Russians themselves,

of course, not giving any exact numbers.


ANDERSON: Still to come. You're watching CNN. It has been five long years for American Paul Whelan, who is detained in a Russian prison. His latest

plea for help is coming up.





ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. Time here, 36 minutes past 7:00 in Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

It's a difficult day for former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan. It's been five years since he was wrongfully detained in Russia. He was visiting a

friend's wedding when he was arrested in Moscow on December 28th, 2018, and imprisoned on espionage charges, which he has consistently and vehemently


In a new interview, Whelan tells CNN he wants President Biden to do whatever it takes to secure his release.


PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN, PRISONER IN RUSSIA: I would ask President Biden to pull out the stops, cross the red lines and do whatever needs to be done to

get this case resolved and to get me home. If my life is not worth that effort, then I don't know what is.


ANDERSON: I want to bring in Jennifer Hansler, who has been following Whelan's story for five years.

What weighs on Paul the most, as you understand it?

How is he holding up five years into this ordeal?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: Becky, Paul is incredibly frustrated and exasperated at the fact that he is still in Russian

detention after five years. He described it as surreal.

I spoke to him half a dozen times in the last couple years. This is the most frustrating and concerned I have heard him throughout the course of

our conversations. He feels as if he has been left behind.

And while he acknowledges that there are efforts underway to try to secure his release, for example, a significant proposal, in the words of U.S.

officials to bring both him and Evan Gershkovich home, which the Russians rejected, he wants the process to move much more quickly.

And he is concerned about his ability to get back to the life he left behind in the United States. Take a listen to how he described it to me.


WHELAN: It's a concern for me that I won't see them again. I mean it's- - you know, I never -- I never thought I would be here not to see my cat, not

to see my dog, and they've both passed away. Relatives have passed away. Friends have moved on. I'm very concerned that I won't get home to see my



HANSLER: So this is the most blunt I've heard him describe his situation over the course of those conversations. He said he is struggling with

depression, that the whole experience has been absolutely demoralizing.

But he does turn to letters of support and books to try to keep his mind off his ordeal. And the U.S., of course, says this is an effort they are

undertaking every day to try to bring him home -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Good to have you, Jennifer. Thank you.


The Colorado Republican Party is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to keep Donald Trump's name on the state's 2024 primary ballot. Remember, this

follows an unprecedented ruling by the Colorado state supreme court that disqualified the former president from holding that office under the U.S.

Constitution's insurrection clause.

Trump himself is expected to appeal. Meanwhile, any time now, we could find out if Maine will become the second state in the United States to remove

him from next year's state ballot.

Up next, CNN's Call to Earth. We head to a remote atoll island where the local community is revitalizing its coral reef with a little help from this

week's Call to Earth guest editor.




ANDERSON: Throughout this week, Call to Earth, which is a series that we run regularly on CNN, is turning the spotlight on French Polynesia and one

of the Coral Gardeners, an organization working to restore coral reef ecosystems.

It's part of the Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative. Today, founder Titouan Bernicot takes us to a small island in the middle of the South Pacific

Ocean, where they are helping empower the local community and train the next generation of underwater gardeners. Have a look at this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): So this is it, huh?

TITOUAN BERNICOT, FOUNDER, CORAL GARDENERS (voice-over): Right. This is the island.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Titouan and his childhood friend, Tiano (ph), are headed to the remote ringshaped atoll of Ahe, part of the Tuamotu

Archipelago, the largest group of coral islands in the world. It's just over an hour flight from Tahiti. But it feels worlds away.

BERNICOT (voice-over): This is maybe the place I love the most on Earth. All the corals and the visibility is insane. This place is magical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Their host, Estabaja (ph), is a coral gardener in training himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Welcome to the Tuamotu abyss (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): One year ago, Titouan brought a crew here to help the local community build the island's first coral nurseries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): (Speaking foreign language).


BERNICOT (voice-over): They saw the corals, the reef and the fish changing over time. And the lagoon becoming less and less healthy. And they were

scared. So they asked for help. They wanted to do something. But they didn't really know where to start.


BERNICOT (voice-over): It's 5:00 am in the morning. It's hard to believe because it's already bright. And we are starting our day. There's no time

off when you're a gardener.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The duo are playing the part of cleanup crew this morning. There are ropes from abandoned pearl (ph) farms that

have washed ashore, which can be upcycled for use in coral nurseries.

They also need to finish removing metal sheets from a nearby reef which can block sunlight and slowly kill the coral underneath.

BERNICOT (voice-over): And that is a process I love. You repair a bit what the human did and you try to get a new life to that part of the reef and to

see the result and to come back a year later and to see that the corals are growing up. It's a good feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Across the lagoon, on the south end of the atoll, the community is gathering at the village meeting room.

BERNICOT (voice-over): And with Estabaja (ph) and Tiano (ph), we were able to talk a little bit more about the work we do every day and why it's so

important to help save the coral reef ecosystem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Following a friendly competition along the village shoreline --

BERNICOT (voice-over): The winners of the 1202 (ph) workshop 2023 are --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): They loaded up the boat to check on the nurseries created one year ago.

BERNICOT (voice-over): So we dove in with the island, kids we went straight to the coral nursery and, bam, voila.

You see that after a year we chose the nursery sites accordingly. And, that the corals, they were striding (ph).

For me, saving the planet, conservation needs to be fun. It needs to be hands-on. That is how you revolutionize conservation here. It is to make it

accessible. And that is how you start the movement.


ANDERSON: Be sure to watch CNN's half hour special, "Call to Earth: Reviving the Reef." That is this Saturday at 11:30 am in London if that is

where you're watching here.

Right here in Abu Dhabi, the time will be 3:30.

We will be right back.




ANDERSON: The U.K. Met office says storm damage reported in Greater Manchester in England is, quote, "consistent with a small scale tornado."

Police say there is significant storm damage. There were more than 200 high wind reports across the British Isles on Wednesday. A yellow warning for

high winds remains in place across parts of the U.K. today.


The system has caused widespread flooding. Heavy downpours are expected to continue in some areas.


ANDERSON (voice-over): And take a look at this, incredible video of a plane trying to land at Heathrow. That extreme wind having a very real


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, oh, oh, stop that, stop that. Oh.


ANDERSON: Typical British commentary there.

As this year draws to a close, let's take a look at some of the catastrophic climate events and at least one breakthrough that marked 2023.

Here is CNN's Bill Weir with the top 10 climate stories of the year.



BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Starting our list at number 10, the water whiplash that became a signature of 2023 in the

American West.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you're seeing here is an attempt to try to get ahead of the storm that continues to pound California.

WEIR (voice-over): After years of megadrought, rivers in the sky unloaded on California, turning dust bowls into raging floods that took at least 20

lives and filled the mountains with record snow. But not enough to end the drought.

At number 9 is COP-28 in Dubai.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allow me, please, to declare the meeting adjourned.

WEIR (voice-over): Where the world came together and, for the first time in three decades of climate talks, agreed to transition away from fossil


Over 130 nations were hoping for a more ambitious phase-out of oil, gas and coal but petrol states like Saudi Arabia would not agree. Scientists warn

that, to meet the ambition of the Paris Accord, planet-heating pollution must be cut by more than 40 percent by 2030. A rate four times faster than

the current pace.

At number 8, the Mediterranean storm Daniel blasted parts of Greece with over an inch of rain an hour on its way to drowning thousands of people in


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everywhere you turn, it's apocalyptic scenes here.

WEIR (voice-over): Entire neighborhoods in Derna were washed into the sea, a tragedy that scientists say was 50 times more likely on an overheated


At number 7, over a dozen young people successfully sued the state of Montana for ignoring their constitutional right to a clean and healthful

environment by developing fossil fuels. For the dozens of states and cities taking big oil companies to court for their role in climate change, it was

a key win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got this, guys. We love you.

WEIR (voice-over): number 6 is the summer of smoke, brought by a record- shattering scale of Canadian wildfires. An area the size of Missouri burned

North of the border.

WEIR: If you get any glimpse of the sun at all on these surreal days, it's this apocalyptic bowling ball in the sky.

WEIR (voice-over): American air quality in some cities was the worst in generations, closing schools and filling emergency rooms.

Number 5 is the ocean water around Florida, reaching hot-tub temperatures of nearly 100 degrees in July, Bringing devastating new levels of coral

bleaching into the cradles of Caribbean sea life.

That warmer water is also jet fuel for hurricanes and, at number 4, rapid intensification became a watch word phrase of 2023.

WEIR: The water has come up and over that that sea wall and we're getting sprayed every minute or so.

WEIR (voice-over): Storms like Idalia in Florida's Big Bend, Otis in the East Pacific and Hilary in Southern California showed us how modern storms

are getting stronger and faster.

At number 3, Phoenix, Arizona, gave us a new definition of heat wave, with 31 straight days at or over 110 degrees. Temperatures hot enough to kill

cactus plants also took the lives of at least 100 people, a grim new record. That is just one facet of a warmer globe.

At number 2, Earth's record temperatures, the highest in 120,000 years. A few days in 2023 were a full two degrees Celsius warmer than pre-

industrial levels and, if that becomes the new average, science warns of cascading collapse.

And at number 1, the Maui wildfires.

WEIR: We're just pulling into Lahaina now, just getting our first glimpse at this town after hearing these nightmare stories. It is worse than you

can imagine.

WEIR (voice-over): Generations of water theft, invasive grasses and recent drought created the fuel. Downed power lines are suspected of providing the

spark and hurricane winds fanned the flames until most of beloved Lahaina was turned to ash.


With around 100 souls lost, it is the deadliest fire in modern U.S. history. And the battle over how best to rebuild has just begun -- Bill

Weir, CNN, New York.


ANDERSON: On this show, we are determined to focus on what we can do to reverse this climate disaster that we so clearly are seeing this year.

Solutions are not just big-picture global statements like those that we covered here at COP28 in the UAE earlier this month. That made Bill's list

of key climate moments in 2023.

They are also the individuals who are making a difference in their lives and in their field, like the coral gardeners we saw in today's Call to

Earth. It's important to remember, when we list those dire climate headlines of the year, that we can make a difference.

We can all keep working to make a difference. So let's go into 2024 determined to do more.

That is it for CONNECT THE WORLD today. Stay with CNN. "STATE OF THE RACE WITH KASIE HUNT" is up next. Some same time, same place tomorrow, see you