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Fears Of Regional Escalation After Violent Attacks; Concerns Of Wider Conflict As War Rages In Gaza; CNN Hosts Republican Town Halls With Ron DeSantis And Nikki Haley; Ex-Olympian Free 11 Years After Shooting Girlfriend; North Korea Fires Artillery Rounds Off West Coast; Freed Israeli Hostage Describes 50 Days Of Hamas Captivity; Interview With Tetris' Henk Rogers. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired January 05, 2024 - 10:00   ET



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

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, it is. This hour the Middle East is tense after what has been a violent week in multiple countries. We

are going to dive deeper on that this hour for you. First up, though, your other headlines this hour.

And South Korea's military says North Korea has fired roughly 200 artillery shells of its west coast. South Korea responded with a shooting exercise of

its own and asked people to shelter. Former Olympic sprinter and convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius is being released on parole from prison in South

Africa. It's been more than a decade since the double amputee shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

And ahead of the Iowa caucuses on January 15th, CNN last night hosted town halls with two of the leading candidates. We'll have a review of what they

have planned for the coming weeks.

Welcome. You are with us for the second hour of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Anxiety mounting as fears spread that the Israel-Hamas war could really ramp up and possibly engulf this region. Almost every day this week has

brought another violent incident. Nobody wants to see this escalation, but tensions have skyrocketed Tuesday when a senior Hamas official was killed

by a suspected Israeli strike in the Hezbollah controlled area of Beirut. Then on Wednesday, a double bomb attack in Iran killed dozens of people.

Even though ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack, it could put pressure on Tehran to act against Israel in response. And on Thursday, the

U.S. killed a militia leader in Iraq, who Washington accused of carrying out attacks on U.S. troops. So it's against this backdrop of escalating

tension that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken flies back into the region for what will be his fourth visit since October 7th and that violent

Hamas attack on Israel.

One of the questions that Blinken, the world, the U.S., want answered, is what will become of Gaza once the war between Israel and Hamas ends? A

public spat has emerged over that issue within the Israeli government. The far-right finance minister slamming a day-after plan floated by the defense

minister. Yesterday, he says it falls short of providing security to Israel. Well, that plan called for no Israeli civilian presence in Gaza

after the war, with a multinational task force involved in the territory's, quote, "rehabilitation."

Let's get a view on this from Nic Robertson in Tel Aviv and Oren Liebermann from the Pentagon.

Let's start with you, Nic. The last couple of times Antony Blinken was in region, he tried to get a conversation going about the day after these guns

go silent in Gaza. And frankly he was not backed by this wider region who want to see a cease-fire in this Gaza conflict. They haven't got that, and

Blinken certainly coming into a region which at least has begun to talk about the day after.

What do we know about the internal divisions at this point in the Israeli cabinet?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, and I think to your broader point there about Blinken knowing that in the region there's

this push for a cease-fire, there's nothing that the defense minister has laid out there that talks about a cease-fire as part of a process moving

forward through the different military phases to the day after phase inside Gaza. And the day after phase is drawing criticism.

The criticism is that it looks like the day before and the criticism is that the Israeli government needs to think more outside the box and think

about allowing Palestinians who may want to leave Gaza to go and resettle somewhere else. And that is something that's been heavily criticized.

There's also comments that have been heavily criticized by the United States so far.


And it's something that for many countries in the region has also publicly appeared to be -- appeared to gain no traction whatsoever. So in those

terms, Secretary Blinken knows that this is going to be a difficult trip. The internal political machinations here, do they threaten to bring down

the current cabinet right now? It doesn't seem so.

That there's still unity in the War Cabinet, as long as the War Cabinet, defense minister, prime minister, and Benny Gantz, part of this government

of national unity, if they hold together, and they are holding together right now, then despite what those outside the War Cabinet are saying and

criticizing about the defense minister who's in the War Cabinet about his plans, then the political situation sort of holds its ground for now.

But there is no doubt that there is discourse about this, and even Benny Gantz today appealed to the prime minister saying, look, when it comes to,

you know, the discussions that the military is having right now about an investigation why there would be security breaches on October 7th

specifically to address security concerns and operational matters right now, that the prime minister really, in guiding this discussion, needs to

decide, is he for unity and security, or is he going to follow a political track?

So these tensions and machinations exist just below the surface. The defense minister also speaking today about how important it is to resolve

the northern border, and that will be on Secretary Blinken's agenda as well. The tensions that are rising with Hezbollah, and listening to Hassan

Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, today speaking again saying that there will be a response to Israel's killing of a Hamas leader in Beirut just a few

days ago.

And that could very well affect the northern part of Israel, along that border area. And to that point, the defense minister has said this. He said

there is only one possible result, a new reality in the northern arena, which will enable the secure return of our citizens, which is what Hassan

Nasrallah were threatening against there. There is a short window of time for diplomatic understandings, which is we prefer. He's also gone on to say

that if there's no diplomatic understanding, then of course there will be a military reality created.

ANDERSON: Yes, and we know that Amos Hochstein, one of the key players in Biden's sort of, you know, internal group, working across this regional

bar, has been in Beirut, trying to work the diplomatic sort of routes through this. You're right to point out that Yoav Gallant has made a lot of

noise about that northern border. He also said, just in the past week, that Israel is now fighting on seven fronts. And it includes that northern

Israeli border, the Southern Lebanon border as one of those fronts.

Thank you.

Oren, let's bring you in at this point. Ahead of Blinken's trip, the U.S. grappling with Iranian proxies amid concerns about a wider Middle East war

breaking out. I've just suggested that Yoav Gallant has already said Israel is fighting on seven fronts at this point. The U.S., of course, involved in

an attack on an Iranian proxy in Iraq. They're running a coalition in the Red Sea trying to ensure the Houthis don't get completely out of control


As Blinken arrives in the region, what will his priorities be, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Primarily trying to find some sort of way to either ease the tensions, even though that certainly seems

unlikely given what we've seen over the course of the past couple of months, or at least contain these conflicts from becoming open war. Many of

those seven regions that the Israeli defense minister was talking about are included either in Blinken's visit or in his interests.

I think if I remember correctly, the Israeli defense minister mentioned the Houthis in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran and one other front there in

the West Bank, he said. So Blinken himself will be visiting the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Israelis, the Palestinians and more, trying to find any sort

of common ground here to keep the region frankly from exploding, and that will be his challenge.

Partially U.S. is sort of trying to triangulate or calibrate its own position. How to respond to attack on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. There

have been about 120 now over the past of couple of months. How to respond to Houthi attacks on international shipping lanes in the Red Sea. The U.S.

has shot down several dozen missiles and drones launched from the Houthis at this point. Is it time, and the U.S. has been under pressure, the Biden

administration has been under pressure to do this, is it time to respond to the Houthis and carry out a strike in Yemen?

But that risks not only inflaming the area and open conflict with the Houthis in Yemen but it also risks the possibility of destabilizing the

sort of cease-fire between the Saudis and the Houthis and nobody is interested in doing that.


There has been -- there have been, I should say, agreements between Israel and Lebanon in the past making sure those don't fall apart and seeing if

you can get back to some kind of status quo there that calms that border. These are all the challenges Blinken faces. None of them are easy but at

this point you can see he's certainly trying here with the repeated visits to the region. And the question remains, can he make real progress? And at

the center of all this is of course the Gaza war which is nearing the three-month mark here in just a couple of days.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Good to have you, sir.

The Biden administration facing a lot of critics from the right side of the aisle. They say that they have not got their eye enough on what is going on

out of Tehran. And I want to turn to what's going on inside of Iran at this point. But as I say, a lot of critics saying, keep your eyes focused on

Iran. People around this region that I am in here, in the Gulf, a lot of critics of Israel suggesting that Israel is trying to draw Iran into this

conflict at this point.

Iran's president and other top officials are vowing revenge at funerals for Iranians killed in twin explosions on Wednesday in Kerman. Israel claimed -

- I'm sorry, let me very specifically underscore who claimed responsibility. ISIS claimed responsibility for those bombings. ISIS

claiming responsibility for those killings. At least 89 people were killed as thousands visited the grave of slain Iranian military commander Qasem

Soleimani. The interior minister told state TV a number of suspects have been arrested.

Let me bring in Paula Hancocks who's been following this part of the story. And I want to underscore again that it's ISIS who has claimed

responsibility for the attacks. There were some speculation before that claim of responsibility that Israel may have been behind the attack.

We've been talking about the risk, the fear of an escalation of violence in this region just as Secretary of State Antony Blinken comes back into the

region for the fourth time since October 7th. And I have been suggesting that, you know, those who are critics of the administration Anthony Blinken

works for are saying keep Iran in your crosshairs because they are very much the instigators of what is going on through the proxies, the Iranian-

backed proxies in this region.

What happened, though, in the past 48 hours in Kerman in Iran is very specifically not tied specifically to this conflict at present, is it?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. I mean, when you're looking at the wider implications you're looking at U.S. and Israel versus

Iran and the proxies. This particular event at this point does appear to be internally Iranian. Now ISIS has claimed responsibility for what has really

been the deadliest attack in Iran since 1979.

We're getting a few more details. We know now 89 were killed in those twin blasts. And many of them were young. I mean, we're hearing that 30 of them

were under the age of 18. Nine of them under the age of 10. So these twin blasts were designed to kill civilians and innocents. ISIS has claimed

responsibility. Now what they have said is that they had twin suicide bombers, they were brothers who carried this attack out.

It doesn't tally exactly with what we heard from the interior minister. He said yesterday that he believed one was a suitcase bomb that was detonated

remotely. But we have heard through state media that Iran has made a number of arrests. We hear over five provinces at this point. We don't know more

about the individuals or the potential affiliations. But at this point it does appear, if in fact this claim of responsibility is accurate, this is

an internal Iranian issue but it comes at a very tense time for the region.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely. Good to have you. Thank you.

Well, coming up, Oscar Pistorius is a free man again. Details ahead on his release from prison more than a decade after killing that shocked the

world. Plus, an uptick in tensions on the Korean Peninsula. We'll have details in a live report from Seoul. Stay with us.



ANDERSON: Former Olympian, Oscar Pistorius, is being released from prison in South Africa. It's now more than a decade since Pistorius shot and

killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The double amputee Olympic sprinter is being released on parole after serving more than half of his 13-year

sentence for murder. Pistorius will be bound by parole conditions until 2029.

David McKenzie joining us from Western Cape, South Africa with more on this.

And David, what do we know about the terms of Oscar Pistorius parole and the response from the Steenkamp family, if you will?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, it certainly is strict terms. And that's what you would expect from a convicted murderer

-- for a convicted murderer. He can't leave the house at the moment. He has no right and is not allowed to speak to the media. For a man who was in the

public eye for so many years, he will basically fade from public view as he has. It must be said for several years. This was an extraordinary case that

gripped the world attention.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Back in 2012 this was Oscar Pistorius. A world-class athlete and role model. Overcoming incredible odds. His legs amputated

below the knee at 11 months because of a birth defect, The blade runner competing at the able-bodied London Olympics in 2012.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's done magnificently well and I think everybody is proud of him.

MCKENZIE: Months later, Oscar Pistorius's global fame became a sordid global notoriety.


MCKENZIE: On Valentine's Day 2013, he killed his up-and-coming model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Shooting four times through the locked bathroom

door, the police finding him bloodied and in shock. Pistorius said it was an accident and he thought Reeva was an intruder. The state charged him

with premeditated murder. His trial a riveting courtroom drama followed by millions.

GERRIE NEL, PROSECUTOR: I will vote my case to say that when you got up, you had an argument, that's why she ran away screaming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wasn't breathing.

BARRY ROUX, PISTORIUS'S LAWYER: Is the state saying that within two minutes on the state's version on the shooting or five minutes on our version, in

the traumatized state of mind he worked out this grand scheme? It doesn't make sense.

MCKENZIE: The defense claimed Pistorius was a vulnerable now broken man who deserved leniency.

ROUX: He suffers from an anxiety disorder. We know that uncontested evidence was that whenever he stomps his balance was seriously compromised,

and without anything he would not be able to defend himself.

NEL: You killed a person, that's what you did, isn't it?


NEL: You killed Reeva Steenkamp, that's what you did.

BARRY STEENKAMP, REEVA STEENKAMP'S FATHER: I don't wish that on any human being, finding that what happened. It devastated us.


MCKENZIE: After a nearly 50-day trial stretched over seven months.

THOKOZILE MASIPA, JUDGE, PISTORIUS TRIAL: The accused is found not guilty and is discharged. Instead he is found guilty of culpable homicide.

MCKENZIE: Pistorius placed in a private cell in this prison's medical wing, released after just a year, one-sixth of his sentence, to his uncle's

mansion under house arrest.

But Pistorius's legal woes didn't end there. On appeal, his conviction converted to murder, he was sent back to prison. His sentencing for murder

then extended by the same appeals court. Reeva's family saying she could now rest in peace. Oscar Pistorius, for years in the public eye for the

right and very wrong reasons faded from public view until now.


MCKENZIE (on-camera): Well, Reeva Steenkamp's family, Becky, has said that the pain is very real and raw. Her mother, in fact, releasing a statement

just in the same hour that he was released from prison and staying to that same mansion where his uncle lives, she said that she doesn't believe the

story that Oscar Pistorius told of the killing of Reeva Steenkamp. And certainly even if you get past the worldwide attention that was placed on

this trial, the verdict, and all the appeals, it's ultimately a story of a very real family tragedy that has impacted the Steenkamps more than anyone


ANDERSON: Good to have you, David, thank you. David is in Western Cape.

Let's get you up to speed on some of the other stories that are on the radar right now. And it's been a new year of extreme weather for people in

parts of Europe. Hundreds of flood warnings are in place in the United Kingdom while Scandinavia is seeing record low temperatures. In northern

Sweden, the temperature sank to minus 43.6 degrees Celsius.

Russian state media reporting two people wounded after Ukraine attacked Russia's Belgorod region on Thursday. The Russian Ministry of Defense said

10 missiles and 37 drones were fired and say dozens of Ukrainian drones were destroyed over Crimea.

Tesla is recalling more than 1.5 million cars in China. That's to fix a problem with the driver assistance system as it's known, which is being

linked with an increased risk of collision. Now last month it recalled all two million of these cars in the U.S. for similar reasons.

Tensions heightened in the Korean Peninsula after North Korea fired roughly 200 artillery shells into a maritime buffer zone early on Friday. The South

Korean military called it and I quote here, "a provocative act," and responded with its own exercise of naval fire. People in South Korea's

northwestern islands were asked to shelter while that took place. China, calling for calm, asking both parties to exercise restraint.

CNN's Marc Stewart has been tracking these developments for us all day and he joins me now from Seoul where it is just after midnight.

What are you hearing there?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, it's a new year, but it is the same pattern between North Korea and South Korea. Very much this tit-for-tat.

You do something to me, I'm going to do something back. And that's what we saw today. Now as to what prompted North Korea to fire that artillery, most

likely we can deduce this to the fact that earlier this week South Korea was conducting military exercises on the ground and in the water.

That is perhaps what triggered all of this. But this is this ongoing back and forth and at times in recent days we've heard some very strong

statements from North Korea. More of that in a moment, but first let's get a listen to how South Korea is digesting all of this. We heard from a

military spokesperson earlier today. Let's take a listen.


COL. LEE SUNG-JUN, SOUTH KOREAN JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR (through translator): We sternly warn North Korea that they are

fully responsible for this escalation of the crisis. And we strongly urge them to stop it. Our military is tracking and monitoring the latest

situation in close cooperation with the U.S. and South Korea and will implement measures in response to North Korea's provocations.


STEWART: So as is typical, toward the end of the year or the beginning of a new year, North Korea will let the world know where it stands. And on the

last day of last year, North Korea released some statements to the effect that, one, it wants to increase the number of satellites.


I think as many as three spy satellites it would like to launch in the months ahead. Why is that significant? These are satellites that will help

it deliver and execute and develop its long-range missile program. In addition, we heard a statement from North Korea saying that it does not

want or does not see the unification between the two Koreas. And then it also described the relationship between the two nations as hostile.

So, Becky, whether or not this pattern is going to continue, whether it will escalate to another level, we just don't know. But in many ways this

is following a script that we do see time after time, year after year, especially at the beginning of a new calendar year.

ANDERSON: Yes, it's interesting, isn't it? You're spot on there. It's not like we haven't seen this cycle before. And where it goes, of course, is

what's important. Thank you.

Still to come, the race for the White House. It runs through Iowa. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis are making their closing arguments to voters there.

What we learned from last night's town hall with these prospective Republican candidates.

And a freed Israeli hostage recounted harrowing experience to CNN in her first international interview. More on that after this.


ANDERSON: You're with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson.

All right, in the race for the White House, two Republicans hoping to win their party's nomination for president took center stage in CNN's town hall

on Thursday. Both Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley took more direct shots at frontrunner Donald Trump than they have certainly up until now. All this

just 10 days before the first nominating contest. And that's what this is, this caucus in the state of Iowa.

Jeff Zeleny shows us what happened.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is time to move past President Trump and it is time to start focusing on how to strengthen America.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You don't want it to be a referendum on Trump and the past. You wanted it to be a referendum on

Biden's failures.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis sharpening their arguments against Donald Trump and one another 10

days until Iowa voters render the first judgments of the Republican presidential race. In back-to-back CNN town halls last night, DeSantis

raising questions about Trump's electability and the uncertainty surrounding the mounting legal challenges against the former president.

DESANTIS: Whatever maybe beneficial in the primary doesn't mean it's beneficial in the general election. And I think a 2024 election where the

Democrats get to run against a candidate that is going through all this stuff, that is going to give the Democrats an advantage.

ZELENY: Haley arguing she's the most electable Republican candidate of all.

HALEY: Americans don't want to another nail-biter of an election. And that's what we'll get. Look at any of the polls.

ZELENY: Even as she sought to put to rest a controversy that's been following her over failing to say that slavery sparked the civil war.

HALEY: I had black friends growing up. It is a very talked about thing. We have a big history in South Carolina when it comes to, you know, slavery,

when it comes to all the things that happened with the civil war, all of that. I was over -- I was thinking past slavery and talking about the

lesson that we would learn going forward. I shouldn't have done that. I should have said slavery.

ZELENY: In the aftermath of a deadly shooting Thursday at an Iowa high school, just 30 miles away from the site of the town hall, DeSantis and

Haley both said new gun laws weren't the answer.

HALEY: Instead of living in fear, let's do something about it. We have got to deal with the cancer that is mental health. We have to.

ZELENY: DeSantis said he supports a Florida proposal to eliminate a three- day waiting period to buy a firearm. A law passed following the 2018 shooting at Parkland high school that killed 17 people.

DESANTIS: We shouldn't have to be on a mandatory waiting period. Instant checks will do the job.

ZELENY: From immigration to the economy to foreign policy, the Republican rivals presented their own views, rarely criticizing one another to the

degree they have on the campaign trail.

DESANTIS: Biden's weakness invited a lot of the problems that we're seeing around the world. When I'm president, it's going to be totally different.

You know, we're going to lay down very clear markers and people are going to know don't mess with the USA.

ZELENY: Haley drew gentle boos from the audience at Grand View University in Des Moines.

HALEY: Oh, my gosh.

ZELENY: Over a statement she made earlier this week in New Hampshire.

HALEY: You know Iowa starts it. You know that you correct it. You know that you continue to go --


ZELENY: With a smile, she downplayed that comment.

HALEY: New Hampshire makes fun of Iowa, Iowa makes fun of South Carolina, it's what we do. So, I mean, I think the problem in politics now is it's

just like too serious and too dramatic.

ZELENY: Haley and DeSantis are locked in an increasingly bitter fight to emerge as the leading alternative to Trump. Their collision course has left

Trump in a frontrunner's lane of his own as he heads back to Iowa today. He's eyeing more than a victory in the caucuses. He's looking for a

decisive one. Trump's advisers tell CNN complacency among his supporters poses a bigger challenge than any of his rivals.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got to be sure that we put this thing away. The poll numbers are scary because we're leading by so

much. The key is you have to get out and vote.


ANDERSON: Last word that's Donald Trump. With the Iowa caucuses getting closer, he is campaigning in the state at events in multiple cities today.

The Republican frontrunner, and he is the frontrunner by some distance, is urging his supporters not to be complacent over his large lead there and to

show up and vote. Well, these campaign stops happening as Trump deals with multiple legal issues and ballot challenges elsewhere.

And of course President Biden will be using tomorrow, the anniversary of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, to make the case for his

presidential reelection. Biden is scheduled to speak later today near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, an historically significant site from the

time of the American Revolution and its fight to break free from tyranny.

We'll be sure to keep an eye on this and let you know about any important comments from him here on CNN of course. Well, Israel has announced the

death of another hostage today. Tamir Adar was among those kidnapped by Hamas on October 7th. 25 of the people abducted that day are now believed

to be dead. Three others who have been missing since October 7th are now believed to be held captive by Hamas, making 107 hostages still in Hamas's

hands or certainly being held in Gaza.


Well, dozens of hostages were freed during what was a temporary pause in fighting in November. One of them says she endured psychological warfare

during the 50 days she was held captive by Hamas in Gaza. Doron Asher was taken along with her two daughters during the Hamas terror attacks of

October 7th. Now reunited with family, she is telling her story to CNN in her first international interview. She described the harrowing experience

and the moment she was released during a temporary pause in the fighting.

CNN's Bianna Golodryga has more from Tel Aviv.


DORON ASHER, HELD HOSTAGE BY HAMAS (through translator): They absolutely put on a show. To dress me up in nice clothes and shoes before I was

released. When my girls and I were barefoot for 50 days and we were cold because we were wearing short sleeves in November. It's one big show.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doron Asher opening up and revealing what really happened to her and her two young daughters while

held captive by Hamas for nearly 50 days.

Once you got into Gaza, what happened?

D. ASHER (through translator): We got into our hiding place, an apartment that belonged to a family. We were inside their room without the ability to

get out, of course, closed door, closed window. And after 16 days, they relocated us to another place, a so-called hospital.

GOLODRYGA: Did anyone tell you what was going on, why you were there? Were they members of Hamas?

D. ASHER (through translator): They didn't give us a lot of information. They mainly tried to say that Hamas wants to release us, but in Israel no

one cares about us, which wasn't true. We didn't believe most of the stuff that they were saying.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): And of course it wasn't true. Just over the border in Israel, Doron's husband Yoni never gave up hope.

YONI ASHER, HUSBAND OF DORON ASHER: We are begging for your help. My babies Raz and Aviv doesn't have much time.

I got to see how hell looks like. I don't know if there are any more tears left in me. But -- it is not coming, I'm afraid they will forget me. I am

afraid they won't recognize me.

D. ASHER (through translator): The stuff that they have seen on October 7th, I couldn't hide from them. It's like we were in a horror movie. But

after that, it was very important to me that they wouldn't feel danger. And I told them, there are no terrorists anymore, and we are with good people

who are guarding us until we can return home.

GOLODRYGA: Were they good to you? The people?

D. ASHER (through translator): They didn't physically harm me, but there was a lot of psychological warfare.

GOLODRYGA: Like what?

D. ASHER (through translator): That we won't return to live in the kibbutz because it's not our house, it's not the place where we belong.

GOLODRYGA: Did you know if they were Hamas or just citizens in Gaza?

D. ASHER (through translator): They didn't give me a lot of info about them. I don't even know their names. I guess that the father is with Hamas,

but they didn't even give me much info. I just know he worked in Israel in the past, and that's how he knows Hebrew, and that's how we communicated.

GOLODRYGA: Were there other children there?

D. ASHER (through translator): Yes, he had children and grandchildren. And basically, his children were watching us 24/7. I asked every day about my

family, if they knew anything about Gadi, about my brother, about my brother's baby girl. They didn't give me any answers.

GOLODRYGA: Why do you think they moved you after 16 days?

D. ASHER (through translator): I think they tried to gather hostages together because the day that we arrived at the so-called hospital, other

hostages arrived there as well. And that was the first time that I met other hostages.

GOLODRYGA: Why do you keep saying so-called hospital?

D. ASHER (through translator): A hospital needs to treat sick people, it doesn't hold hostages.

GOLODRYGA: Could you hear the IDF bombing? Did you know was going on and were you worried that by mistake, that you and your girls would have been

in danger, as Israel was trying to retrieve you?

D. ASHER (through translator): I heard fighting, and yes, we were scared. The noises were very strong, very loud, but at least that's how we knew

that something was going on, in order to get us back home, to put the pressure on Hamas to release us.

GOLODRYGA: What did you fear the most when you were there?

D. ASHER (through translator): Surprisingly, it was the day that we were released. They were smuggling us out of the hospital, and they got us on

Hamas vehicle to get to a meeting point with the Red Cross. We waited a long time for the Red Cross, and we were very scared because we didn't know

what was going on. No one gave us any info. Once the Red Cross vehicles had arrived, thousands of Gazans, thousands, children, elderly, everyone came

in and started to climb up on the cars, and bang on the cars.

I was holding my girls and I was scared of the lynch mob. And this was the first time that Raz has said to me after a month and a half of me

protecting her, mommy, I'm scared.


GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Today, the girls are back in kindergarten, and with family therapy for the most part are readjusting well.

D. ASHER (through translator): There was one day that they saw a tractor here, and they asked if the evil men are here. And I had to tell them, no,

the tractor doesn't belong to the evil men. The evil men are in jail.

GOLODRYGA: And while they mourn their grandmother, Doron says the healing cannot really begin until all of the remaining hostages are released

including Gadi Moses.

D. ASHER (through translator): The world has to understand the reality that the hostages are in. I don't want to think of how they are treating men

there, how they're treating the young women that are there. People who kidnapped children and old people are not human.

GOLODRYGA: Bianna Golodryga, CNN, Tel Aviv.


ANDERSON: You can find more on CNN's reporting on Israel and Gaza at And you can also get more from our "Meanwhile in the Middle East"

newsletter. Subscribe to that using the QR code below. That's coming up now. That is an inside look at the region's top stories and what they mean

for your world. Comes to your inbox three times a week straight from CNN's Middle East experts. Well worth signing up for. We are back after this.





ANDERSON: Well, those are the excited gasps of a 13-year-old from Oklahoma who appeared to beat the video game Tetris in a YouTube video that has gone

viral. Willis Gibson is believed to be the first human gamer to reach level 157 of the classic video game, nearly 40 years after it came out.

Now the game is simple. Rotate and fit together falling blocks of varying shapes to create solid rows. You all know. The further you get, the faster

the blocks fall. Tetris was created in 1984 by Soviet engineer. The story of its Cold War interception turned into a movie that came out in March.



TARON EGERTON, ACTOR, "TETRIS": Poetry, art, and math all working in magical synchronicity. It's the perfect game.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't get it.


ANDERSON: Actor Taron Egerton plays video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers and the story of how he secured the rights to Tetris takes us behind the iron

curtain into a world of deceit and treachery. Henk's determination to bring Tetris to the masses symbolic of the fascination gamers had and still have

with the classic game. And Henk Rogers joins us now live from St. Louis in Missouri.

Firstly, just what is it about Tetris, Henk, that captivates the world decades after it was first invented?

HENK ROGERS, CHAIRMAN, THE TETRIS COMPANY: Well, I think that the basic difference between Tetris and other games is that Tetris is a constructive

game. You're not shooting and killing anything. And this makes it a game that works for the rest of us. I mean, non-gamers.

ANDERSON: Your story in the film about parachuting into Soviet Russia to get the game is essentially is just remarkable. Just give us a sort of

quick 1-2 on how that all unfolded.

ROGERS: I was a publisher of computer games in Japan at the time and Game Boy came back out and I thought Tetris was the perfect game for Game Boy.

And it turns out I was right. And so I got on a plane, went to the Soviet Union with a tourist visa and searched out the people who had the

copyrights and met the author of Tetris so that's 1989. And the movie kind of depicted the -- how can I say, the danger of me going there at that


ANDERSON: Yes. And listen, I mean, you know, we're talking about my era, I remember when it first came out, I remember Game Boys. I mean, you know,

and I -- you know, anybody who is too young to know how dangerous things were behind the iron curtain back in the day should get to see this movie.

And I want to take a moment to watch the scene from the film which depicts the first time you laid eyes on the Game Boy. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The game isn't just addictive. It stays with you. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Henk, only 10 other people in the world have seen what you're about to see. It's called the Game Boy packed to the Tetris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you get us the rights?


ANDERSON: It's still making me laugh. You clearly had an eye for potential. Just -- yes, just talk us through what was running through your mind at the


ROGERS: Well, am I going to pull this off or am I going to end up in a gulag? That's what was running through my mind. I really had no idea. It's

like going to North Korea today and walking into a ministry. It is not allowed. So I was doing things which were not allowed. And I got away with


ANDERSON: And you had the foresight to pair Tetris with the Game Boy. And again, I mean, we live in a world, in an era of gaming, of e-gaming now,

and it all feels so familiar. It wasn't. Take us back, Henk. It wasn't back in the day. You're a pioneer, effectively.

ROGERS: Well, you know, one way of looking at it is I was a pioneer. But if you look at it from today I was a dinosaur, you know, that was a period in

the game industry when we were still programming in machine language and you can tell by, you know, this kid that broke the game that he went into

an area of memory, of the computer memory, that the programmer never envisioned it would end up in. And that's why the program crashed. And

regardless --


ANDERSON: It certainly didn't crash -- Henk, yes. Yes. It certainly didn't crash when I had a go earlier on. Look, I'm going to show the viewers --


ANDERSON: This is clearly not my forte. I will say is I clearly did not spend a misspent youth on a Game Boy because if you have a look at what I

achieved today, it was pretty rubbish. Let's have a look.


ANDERSON: Where am I going? Oh, no. No. Blocked out. Oh, my goodness.




ANDERSON: OK, I'm not 13, clearly. And I struggled at my ripe old age. How good is this 13-year-old kid to get to that stage of the game, Henk?

ROGERS: Are you kidding me? I mean, how many years has it been? We're talking about 1989. 1989.


ROGERS: That's an incredible amount of time.

ANDERSON: 35 years. 35 years.

ROGERS: 35 years it's taken somebody to get to his level. And there are several kids at his level now, but, I mean, that is such an amazing

accomplishment. And what it does is it shows me serious determination. So young people in these computer games they happen -- they show us serious

determination. And it's this determination that we need in the world today to fight climate change.

This is the mission that I'm on now is to end the use of carbon-based fuel. And these young people are showing us the way because if they can beat

Tetris we can beat climate change.

ANDERSON: This is fantastic. I have to ask you, how good are you at Tetris?

ROGERS: I would say I'm better than you.


ROGERS: But it isn't difficult. In the day of Game Boy, you know, you go to the very end of the game, you get the space shuttle to come out, and I've

done that many times. So I guess I'm in the top 10 percent. But nowhere near these kids.

ANDERSON: Yes, of course you do. You get the space shuttle. I've never seen that space shuttle. I never have, I never will. But nowhere as good as the

13-year-old is what you're saying. What a pleasure, what an absolute pleasure to have you. The movie is fantastic. Good to have. And let's talk

again. Let's talk again about your climate change solutions and the work that you're doing because I think that's fascinating. We'd love it on the

show. We'll have you back, sir. Thank you.

You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. There's more ahead.


ANDERSON: Britain's Royal Mail is spicing up your letters with a stamp collection commemorating the Spice Girls' 30th anniversary.


ANDERSON: Wow. It's really taking us back tonight 30 years. The collection marks the first ever issue of stamps dedicated to a female pop group and

makes them the sixth music group to be featured in a dedicated stamps issue in the U.K. proving the group's girl power legacy is forever.

There is a lot to be said about the power of a nap. Check out this sleepy panda cub stretched out on the grass in China. The keeper at the Star Giant

Panda nursery was gently trying to rub its tummy to get the one-year-old to wake up.


The research base released the footage late last month. It's known for its work in protecting and breeding giant pandas. Red pandas are the endangered

wild animals which are exclusive to China.

Well, in tonight's "Parting Shots," the star of the Dakar Rally first run in 1979. The rally sees cars, trucks and bikes careening over sand dunes.

It happens over 12 stages. One of those will take drivers around 48 hours. The rally will be taking place in Saudi Arabia for the fifth time.

Competitors started today in Alula, you see the impressive 8,000-kilometer route here, before ending at Yanbu on January 19th. And that is tough. Good

luck, everybody.

That's it for CONNECT THE WORLD. Stay with CNN. We'll be back same time same place tomorrow. Coming, the "STATE OF THE RACE" with Kasie Hunt is up