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Netanyahu Orders IDF To Make Evacuation Plan In Rafah; Deepening Concern For Rafah Amid Threat Of Israeli Offensive; Biden Fires Back At Special Counsel Report Questioning His Memory; Vote Count In Pakistan Continues After Unexpected Delays; Is A Ceasefire Deal Still Possible Between Israel And Hamas?; Is Bamboo The Future Of Construction?; "Mountain Boy" Raises Awareness Of Neurodiversity. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 10:00   ET



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

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A zone of bloodshed with no escape. That is a dire warning from one aid group about what could happen

if Israel sends ground troops into Rafah. That prospect is setting alarm bells ringing in the United States which is warning of a potential disaster

if a ground operation happens without proper safeguards and planning for civilians.

This is what Gaza's southern most city looks like right now. Rafah has effectively become a tent city, housing a million Palestinians or more

forced to flee the fighting in northern and central Gaza. They are now bracing for Israeli offensive after Israel's prime minister warned ground

troops will move into Rafah soon.

Just getting new word about what Netanyahu's plans might be. We've got multiple angles to cover here. Nic Robertson back with us this hour

monitoring the situation from Tel Aviv. Nada Bashir is in Cairo with the very latest on how will this impact negotiations for hostage release and

any truce at this point. And Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon with more on U.S. concerns about this expected Israeli offensive in Rafah.

Nic, I just need to get to you quickly because we have just had word from Netanyahu who has directed as we understand the military to plan for the,

and I quote here, "evacuation of the population from Rafah alongside the defeat of Hamas in that southern Gaza city." He said that the Israeli

Defense Forces would soon go into Rafah, Hamas' last bastion.

What do we make of what we have just heard?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, it sounds like a holding statement from the prime minister's office perhaps in response to

what he heard from President Biden last night that it was over the top, the military's response, Israel's response inside of Gaza. So here he is

essentially deferring responsibility for what happens inside Gaza, to the 1.3 million civilians in Rafah, by saying that the military needs to come

up with a plan.

He said it would be foolish to think that we could have victory over Hamas when there are four battalions of Hamas left in Rafah. So clearly again

indicating that he wants to go ahead with a miliary push into Rafah, or at least that's very, very strong signaling on that part for saying that he

will call on his military chiefs to put to him a plan to make those civilians safe, to evacuate them.

But as we have seen over recent operations where there were efforts to evacuate civilians in Khan Younis where the operation there, the military

operations been going on all these two months, the civilian death toll continues to be high, the suffering continues to be high there. But he does

seem to push the emphasis on to the military.

We know that U.S. secretary of defense had a conversation, a phone conversation earlier today with Yoav Gallant, the defense minister here.

And in that conversation they did talk about the military situation in Gaza as a whole and about what the military is doing to avoid civilian

casualties. But there's a segment of the population here in Israel that just doesn't believe that what the prime minister is saying and what he's

proposing really washes.

The prime minister also says that he prioritizes the safety and security of the hostages and they now want to meet with the prime minister. They've

written a letter saying we want to meet with the prime minister and the War Cabinet because we don't take those words face value anymore. We think that

the priority for the prime minister is in essence the military priority. And here are a couple of those very upset family members.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): And don't talk to me about morality. And that we can't give them more terrorists, because you know

what? It doesn't (EXPLETIVE DELETED) matter. There are 135 human beings still breathing who are in horror. And this is not moral. So please save

those who are alive because we won't be able to bring back the dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm very afraid and very concerned that if you continue with this line of destroying Hamas there

won't be any hostages left to release.


ROBERTSON: And I was just talking a couple of days ago with families of hostages. They all feel this way. They feel that their lives are on hold.

That the army and more particularly the prime minister's office do not take enough care for their loved ones, and they believe that everything else

should be subjugated if you will to the need to get them out. They want the military operation put on hold.

ANDERSON: Nada, let me come to you and I just want to reiterate because this is just in to CNN that we have heard from the Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu's office just in the past few minutes. We have heard that he has directed the military, the IDF, to plan for the, and I quote

here, "evacuation of the population" from Rafah alongside, the statements says, the defeat of Hamas in that southern Gazan city.

We know that the U.S. is extremely concerned. Biden, as Nic points out, suggesting -- Joe Biden suggesting that what is going on now is over the

top. We know that there are more than a million people crammed up against that Egyptian border.

You're in Cairo where the Egyptian government has said any Israeli military operations near the Egyptian border poses dangers to a great number of

people in Rafah. It is not clear what Benjamin Netanyahu means when he says that he has directed the military to plan for the evacuation of those down

in Rafah. We do know that Netanyahu and others in his government had wanted to push civilians into Egypt itself.

What are you hearing at this point?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that that would certainly be a red light. And on the face of it, it is hard to fathom, hard to picture where

these civilians could be evacuated to and how. From the outset of the war in Gaza, we have hearing from the Israeli government warning civilians,

ordering them to move south. We have seen the vast majority of Gaza's 2.3 million population now concentrated in that southern region.

An estimated 1.3 million are concentrated, taking shelter in the city of Rafah. This has not only been a place for many taking shelter but also a

vital gateway for aid to get in via Egypt. We've seen queues and queues of trucks for months now, lining up, trying to get what limited aid is able to

get into Rafah through that crucial crossing. And of course we have seen limited evacuations as well via the Rafah Border Crossing.

So this is a huge point of concern. We have been hearing those alarm bells being sounded by a number of internationalists and also aid agencies as

well. We've heard from the Norwegian Refugee Council warning of the bloodshed that we could see in Rafah as a result of a ground operation with

nowhere for civilians to escape, nowhere else for them to turn.

And of course important to note that while we are hearing those warnings of ground forces approaching further towards Rafah, we have seen airstrikes

being carried out by the Israeli military for some time now in and around the Rafah area. So of course there has already been a huge amount of

devastation and suffering in Rafah. We've heard from UNICEF warning there is an estimated 600,000 children taking shelter in the city and of course

there have warnings from the United Nations as well.

Take a listen to this statement from the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: And I'm especially alarmed by reports that the Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah, where

hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety. Such an action would exponentially increase what is

already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.


BASHIR: Now we have been hearing warnings from the Egyptians, from other regional leaders around what that could look like if we did see a group

operation in Rafah. And of course the idea of Palestinians being pushed across the border into Egypt has been expressed as a red line for Egypt and

for others in the region including the Jordanian government as well.


A red line that could of course go against aspirations for a viable Palestinian state or even a viable two-state solution if that were to be

the case. And you have been seeing tensions mounting between alliances of Egypt and even the United States over aid getting into the Rafah Border

Crossing. You heard from Biden on Thursday saying that it was actually Egypt's fault that we saw a delay in aid getting in.

The Egyptian presidency has since responded and has placed responsibility on Israel for carrying out airstrikes, for damaging that crossing. They say

that was the cause behind aid delays getting into the Rafah Border Crossing. But of course the idea of a ground operation is seriously raising

alarm bells, not least from the civilians on the ground in Gaza.

ANDERSON: Nada Bashir is in Cairo.

Well, let's just remind you, folks, there is a Hamas delegation currently, as we understand it, continuing talks on negotiations for hostage release

in return of course for Palestinian prisoners and a truce very specifically. This is a delegation now back in Cairo after a counter

proposal provided by Hamas to Israel was refused by Israel. A number of the issues that Hamas had raised in that proposal, described as delusional as

far as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is concerned.

Oren, let me bring you in. I'm just looking at providing some context for our viewers here.

Dallas and San Antonio each have populations of just more than of a million. I'm trying to give our viewers a sense of just how many people are

crammed down in the south of the Gaza Strip now, on the Gaza enclave. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has just returned from a trip to the

region. I think it's fair to say he left empty handed.

I mean, you know, there was there were clearly no wins for Blinken either on the sort of foreign front or domestically where this is playing very

badly, of course, for the Biden administration. We do understand while he was in the region, and that counter proposal was on the table from Hamas

that he told the Israelis that they absolutely should not or certainly the U.S. does not support a push in to Rafah without significant planning. And

that was a caveat.

Just explain what you are hearing in D.C. at this point.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, it's worth noting the order in which this played out. First, Israel's military informed

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken when he was in Israel that they intended within the coming weeks to go into Rafah. And only after we hear

significant criticism from the U.S. directed at Israel that they don't have a plan and they need a plan for the civilians there do we now, just in the

last few minutes, hear from the government of Israel and from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the military should come up with and needs

to come up with a plan for all the civilians there.

Some 1.3 million people there. That's more than half of Gaza's population who have fled to the south looking for safety. And only after we see

significant U.S. pressure and significant public statements from the Biden administration does Israel publicly say that the military needs to draw the

plan for the civilians there. We heard President Joe Biden say yesterday that there is too much starvation, too much suffering, and too much risk to

the Palestinian population in the south there, and it has to stop.

Here is what the National Security Council said yesterday about Israel's operations here and about what needs to happen.



protecting civilians at that scale in Gaza military operations right now would be a disaster for those people. And it's not something that we would



LIEBERMANN: And we heard this -- and we heard the State Department reiterate that as well, saying that without serious planning, the U.S. does

not support the Israeli military going into southern Gaza, going into Rafah. And we have heard those sorts of warnings and those sorts of


The real question, Becky, is, does this have any influence or effect on Israel's military operations? We have heard from the U.S. that they expect

Israel's military move into a phase of operations that are of lower intensity and presumably would result in fewer civilian casualties amongst

the Palestinian population. And the question, are we really seeing that play out on the ground? And it's hard to see that if it is happening.

ANDERSON: And it is very unclear at this point what total victory against Hamas, which is the reason for this threatened operation, would look like.

We are still trying to get to the bottom of that as we once again and I just want our viewers to know because this is just coming to CNN -- thank

you, Oren -- in the last few minutes.


Benjamin Netanyahu has directed his military, the IDF, to draw up a plan for, and I quote here, "the evacuation of the population from Rafah." Again

we're talking about a million people. There is nowhere left to go. And they are squeezed up against the border with Egypt. This is a tented city at

this point. There had been talk certainly enthusiasm and ambition from Netanyahu and the right-wing of his government, the very right-wing of his

government to actually displace those Palestinians into Egypt.

It's not clear whether the evacuation of the population from Rafah, which is now the direction from the prime minister suggests that, or whether it

is that population is to be evacuated elsewhere in Gaza.

But let me tell you, having been covering this story for 126 days and listening to our reporters who are still there in Israel, in Cairo, those

who have been on the ground and working with our sources in Gaza because of course Western journalists cannot report from Gaza it is unclear where

those civilians would go.

We continue to report on this story and do whatever we can to get to the bottom of the facts.

The U.N. agency UNRWA says much of Gaza's population is on the verge of famine, but half of the requests to deliver food to the north have been

denied. More than a dozen nations suspended funding, of course, after Israel alleged several of the agency's staff were involved in the October

7th Hamas attacks. One of those nations is Australia, whose foreign minister says Israel still hasn't given her all the facts of the report

that they have described to the head of the agency.

The U.N. is setting up an independent review. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls UNRWA the backbone of aid in Gaza. And by the way beyond

it's the backbone of aid for Palestinians across the region. And Guterres says it can't be replaced.

Well, a special counsel has decided that he will not bring criminal charges against U.S. President Joe Biden for mishandling classified documents. But

the special counsel's report added fuel to what are concerns about Mr. Biden's age after it called him a well-meaning elderly man with a poor

memory, and I quote the special counsel there. The president insists that his memory is fine.

For more, let's bring in CNN's senior White House correspondent MJ Lee.

MJ, you were at a press briefing and you asked President Biden about voter concerns about his age and mental sharpness. He didn't like the question.

He was pretty annoyed. Just explain what happened.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, it was very clear to those of us in the room and clearly anybody that was watching that this

was a president who was angry and frustrated at the way that this investigation was handled and particularly that description you just

mentioned of the president being an elderly man with a poor memory. The president making clear in this pretty extraordinary press conference how

vehemently he takes issue with so many of the details in this very long report.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How in the hell dare he raised that.

LEE (voice-over): A fiery President Biden flashing anger and frustration after an explosive investigation into his handling of classified documents

was finally made public.

BIDEN: I've seen the headlines since the report was released about my willful retention of documents. These assertions are not only misleading,

they're just plain wrong.

LEE: Just hours after Special Counsel Robert Hur released the findings of his 15-month investigation, the White House hastily adding presidential

remarks from the White House. Biden taking issue with not only the media's coverage of the report, which concluded no criminal charges would be


BIDEN: I was pleased to see he reached a firm conclusion that no charges should be brought against me in this case.

LEE: But also bristling at the many allegations in the report of Biden struggling with memory problems. The special counsel writing that Biden

would likely present himself to the jury as a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.

BIDEN: I'm well-meaning and I'm an elderly man, and I know what the hell I'm doing. It was totally --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How bad is your memory? And can you continue as president?


BIDEN: My memory is so bad I let you speak.

LEE: But in that same setting, Biden mixing up the president of Egypt with a different world leader as he discussed the situation in Gaza.

BIDEN: The president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in.

LEE: Critics of the president quickly seizing on the unflattering descriptions of Biden in the report, but the president trying to swat away

broader questions about voters' concerns about his age and mental fitness.

Mr. President, for months when you were asked about your age, you would respond with the words watch me. Well, many American people have been

watching, and they have expressed concerns about your age.

BIDEN: That is your judgment. That is your judgment. That is not the judgment of the press.

LEE: They've expressed concerns about your mental acuity. They say that you are too old. Mr. President, in December, you told me that you believe there

are many other Democrats who could defeat Donald Trump. So why does it have to be you now? What is your answer to that question?

BIDEN: Because I'm the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.

LEE (voice-over): One line of questioning in particular from Special Counsel Hur deeply angering the president.

BIDEN: There's even reference that I don't remember when my son died. How in the hell dare he raise that? Frankly, when I was asked the question, I

thought to myself, it wasn't any of their damn business. Let me tell you something, I don't need anyone -- I don't need anyone to remind me when he

passed away.


LEE (on-camera): So you saw there the president getting emotional as he was talking about the death of his son Beau. And we are learning this morning

that yesterday in a private setting, the president also erupted in anger saying in a meeting that how would I effing forget that referring to when

his son Beau died.

So, Becky, this is a White House and this is a president fuming about the fact that the special counsel investigation released almost 400 pages when

ultimately it decided not to press forward with criminal charges against the president -- Becky.

ANDERSON: It's messy. MJ, it's good to have you. Thank you very much, indeed.

Right. As Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, returns from this region of the Gulf and Middle East pretty much empty handed we talked with

a veteran hostage negotiator who says Israel has no choice but to come to a deal. More on that coming up.

And Pakistan seems no closer to declaring a winner in what has been its controversial general election. I'll be joined by Pakistan's former

ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani after this short break. Stay with us.



ANDERSON: You're looking at live pictures from Santiago in Chile where a state funeral is taking place. The former president Sebastian Pinera, he

was piloting a helicopter when it crashed into a lake in southern Chile earlier this week. Authorities say that he drowned. The 74-year-old

billionaire politically a conservative, served two terms as Chile's president.

Well, the U.N. chief is urging everyone in Pakistan to stay calm. That is because the vote count there has been hit by let's call them delays. This

all comes one day after the country's controversial general election, counting still in progress, we are told some hours after the polls closed.

Now many analysts say this is among Pakistan's least credible elections.

With me now is Ambassador Husain Haqqani who was Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. He's also the author of the books

"Pakistan Between Mosque and Military," and "Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding." Both

of which I have read, both of which are excellent.


ANDERSON: It's good to have you back. Good friend of the show. Let's start with, you know, what we understand to be going on as we speak. Counting

continues with the U.N. chief has said stay calm in a very sort of British way, but things behind the scenes aren't calm. I mean, as you understand it

now, what does it look like the result that is pending here?

HAQQANI: First the numbers. The numbers obviously show that Imran Khan's allies performed much better than expected. They overcame all the

repression. They overcame all the challenges that were thrown in their way. And they still got elected as independents, though. The single largest

party, although it is a very small bloc in parliament at the moment, is former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party which was expected to run away

with the election and it didn't.

The country will probably have to cobble together a coalition. If Imran Khan was a compromising kind of guy, which he isn't, then he would have

seen this as an opportunity to negotiate his freedom, to negotiate part back to power. Instead he will take this as a victory and therefore will

actually upped the ante, which basically --

ANDERSON: From behind bars which is where he is at present.

HAQQANI: From behind bars which is where he is at the moment. The opposition -- the political parties, which are his opposition, created the

whole crisis by toppling him through a vote of no confidence in parliament will have to form a coalition. But they also now have problems with one


Now, in Pakistan, the single biggest and most powerful political actor is the military.

ANDERSON: Correct.

HAQQANI: And while those who have voted for Imran Khan have actually shown their disaffection with the military and have reacted to the high

handedness of what they see as the Pakistani establishment. The fact is that the outcome benefits the establishment because once coalition building

starts and a weak government is formed, then the establishment will be all powerful.

And these guys who have been elected as independents, first of all, many of them are open to manipulation now because it's not a party. Second,

Pakistan's political system gives bonus seats reserved for women and religious minorities to political parties based on their share of the vote

share in every province.

ANDERSON: What's the -- if things are shaping up as you described and, you know, I've got no reason not to absolutely 100 percent believe you here,

what are the consequences here for Pakistan?

HAQQANI: Well, first of all, instability. It has had several years of instability. Imran Khan's period in power wasn't very stable. The period

before that wasn't very stable. The military had hoped that this election by managing it and keeping the outcome predictable, they will have a

government that will be able to at least pay attention to the economy.

Pakistan has to pay back $78 billion over the next two years in loans. It needs a stable economy. Yet, the personalities of all the major political

figures in Pakistan right now are very egocentric. And so the compromise that is needed to deal with the real problems is not likely to come


Now, Imran Khan and his supporters could -- could say we've been cheated out of a great victory and so therefore we are going to protest and not

accept the election results.


That, if that happens, then again if they go violent, what is the outcome? Somebody will have to put the violence down. And again, the military will

become the central actor.

ANDERSON: This was always a controversial election. It was delayed. We've pressed politicians time and time again, certainly the caretaker government

about when this electron would happen. It at least has happened. This of course is the year of elections, 2024. Some 60 countries, ostensibly

democratic countries go into the polls.

But this has been controversial in the run-up. This is now -- this controversy around just how free and fair this has been. Much talk about

whether, you know, this has been rigged or not. Certainly, if it's being rigged, the outcome certainly isn't what those who might have rigged might

have wanted.

HAQQANI: Absolutely. I think --

ANDERSON: But these are just allegations at this point. Ultimately, how concerned are you about Pakistan's future at this point?

HAQQANI: Well, I have always been concerned about Pakistan's future. My books show it. Look, nobody there who is in a position of power wants to

think long term. So, you know, Imran Khan could actually say, I'm the winner, now listen to me. But the fact remains that he still doesn't have

an absolute majority of the vote. I have as many people voted against his candidates as voted for them. Similarly, the other political parties,

nobody really has overwhelming support.

It's a polarized, divided, fragmented country. And in a country like that, you always need to sit down and find solutions, and people don't like doing

that in Pakistan. They want to outmaneuver each other and they want the game to be a winner take all game.

ANDERSON: This is really crucial stuff because, as you rightly point out, $78 billion in loans.

HAQQANI: Absolutely. Exports not rising. The Pakistani rupee in a bad way. Pakistan's international standing poor. Pakistan's relations with most

foreign countries not particularly good.

ANDERSON: Good to have you, sir. We'll have you back. Thank you very much indeed.

HAQQANI: Pleasure.

ANDERSON: Well, the war can wait. The hostages cannot. Those words from an Israeli activist who has a long history of negotiating with the

Palestinians. We talk with him ahead.

A new indie film made here in the UAE is raising awareness of autism through the acting debut of an extraordinary young Emirati.

We're taking a very short break. Back after this.



ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Time in the UAE is 35 minutes past 7:00.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken departing the Middle East for the fifth time since the war in Gaza began. This time voicing optimism there's

still room to reach a deal to free the hostages and put a pause to what is this relentless fighting and bombardment. Benjamin Netanyahu, though,

describing a proposal put forward by Hamas as delusional. Now he says the only way to free the captives is a total Israeli victory over Hamas.

So as concern deepens for civilians in the city of Rafah amid the threat of an Israeli assault, tonight we ask, is the window for a deal closing? With

his thoughts on that, Gershon Baskin, a former hostage negotiator for Israel joins me now.

Good to have you, sir. I'm delighted that you've made time for us tonight.


ANDERSON: You say a ceasefire deal would be a huge victory for Hamas, but Israel you say has no choice. Just explain the conceit of your argument if

you will.

BASKIN: Right. I think rather than a ceasefire, I was talking about the end of the war. If the war were to end with an Israeli withdrawal and Hamas

still in control of Gaza, that would be a huge defeat for Israel and a huge victory for Hamas. And personally, I think that's dangerous for the

Palestinian people in Gaza in the West Bank. I think it was dangerous for Jordan and for Egypt as well.

On the other hand, Mr. Netanyahu talks about a total victory. There is no total victory over Hamas if Israel reoccupies Gaza and kills many thousands

of more Palestinians and remains there enabling Hamas and other radicals to engage in armed insurgency. There is a deal on the table that can give us a

pause and release some of the hostages and allow each side to reconsider its steps and possibilities while the international community led by the

United States may be able to come up with a plan that can lead us out of the war and to a better situation for us all.

ANDERSON: Well, you come at this with a great deal of experience not least in negotiating with Hamas, the release of Gilad Shalit. Are you saying you

don't regret that deal and the precedent that its set, although you have taken an awful lot of criticism for that? Michael Segal writing an opinion

piece for the "Wall Street Journal," February 6th, said, and I quote here. He says the 2011 deal with Hamas that freed Gilad Shalit led to the taking

of hundreds more.

And he writes, "Both Israel and the U.S. need to return to the simple principle that decisive victory is the best way to restore peace." Just

explain for our viewers why if you do not agree with Segal, why it is that you don't agree with him?

BASKIN: You know, the central problem is not Yahyah Sinwar, or the fact that Israel made a deal to release an Israeli soldier after five years and

four months in captivity, the longest any Israeli has been held in captivity in Israel's history. The problem is that we have been led to

believe by our leaders that we can occupy another people for 56 years and expect to have peace or that we can lock 2.2 million Palestinians in a

territory like Gaza with 80 percent poverty and expected they'll be quiet.

The release of Gilad Shalit from Gaza after five years and four months there enabled Israel to engage the Palestinian people with the process of

trying to figure out how we're going to share this land rather than Mr. Netanyahu trying to make the Palestinian issue disappear from our horizons

and convincing the world that Israel can live in peace with its Arab neighbors without dealing with the most core issue of this conflict, which

is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Let's face it, Becky, there are seven million refugees and seven million Palestinian Arabs living on the land between the Jordan River and the

Mediterranean Sea. There is no way to erase one of the people there. We all must have the same right to the same rights. And we have to confront that.

And I would say, since we're talking on an American owned station, that it is the job of the United States to lead the way.


Mr. Biden has an opportunity to recognize the state of Palestine and to stop talking empty words about a two-state solution for 30 years. We have

to make Palestine real for the Palestinian people. And we have to engage in a regional framework that will design and architecture for security,

stability, economic development, prosperity, dignity.

ANDERSON: Well, your words will be well-received by Palestinians and by many people around the region that I am working in and from at present.

Certainly the U.S. has been somewhat not backed by Saudi of late who are being quite explicit about a pathway for the Palestinians being absolutely

embedded into any normalization of relations with Israel at this point. And that is, you know, obviously something we understand to be critical, a

critical pillar for the Biden administration at present.

I want to get your response to what we have heard just in the last half an hour or so. Benjamin Netanyahu has directed the IDF to draw up a plan for

the evacuation of the population from raffling. And let's just be clear. There's a population the size of Dallas squeezed up against the border of

Egypt at the bottom of the Gaza Strip at present. And there is a threat of a ground offensive, ground troops going after Hamas in Rafah where they

alleged the main military heads are at present.

And this has been described by everyone, including the U.S., as a disaster where there are not some planning to be had. Many described that threat of

an offensive in Rafah as a negotiation tactic in any deal going forward from Netanyahu. What do you make of what we've heard in the last hour? And

do you believe that was a negotiation tactic?

BASKIN: I'm not sure. It could be. We have to understand that everything that's said publicly by both sides is part of the negotiations. There is no

ultimate military solution to release the hostages. The more we wait, the more hostages will be killed. Of the 136 hostages Israel has already

document the death, the killing, the execution of 31 of them. Behind the scenes, the number is quite higher.

If the Israelis were to encounter the Hamas military leadership and political leadership in the tunnels or bunkers underneath Gaza, they are

most likely surrounded by hostages and a gunfight or an explosion could take place that would kill the soldiers, the Hamas leaders and the

hostages. There is no military solution to get all the hostages home. There can only be a negotiated agreement with Hamas.

There is a possibility, even with the Hamas response for a negotiation, there is some room there. Secretary Blinken was correct in stating that if

it is possible to separate phases one, two and three in the agreement and to negotiate first phase one, and if Hamas were to reduce its demands in

the kind of Palestinian prisoners it wants to free, there could be a 45-day pause in this war, which enable both sides to take a break.

They're both fatigued. They both need to rethink their steps. And perhaps during that time, the United States and the Qataris and the Egyptians and

others could come up with a plan that could avoid the attack of Rafah and the 20 percent of Gaza where 1.5 million people are located.

ANDERSON: It's good to have you on, sir. I mean, it felt increasingly clear when Antony Blinken left this region that Washington's influence was

extremely limited with the Benjamin Netanyahu government. But -- well, certainly members of it. But it does -- there does seem to be something

some chink of light at this point which will, you know, which clearly mediators are going to hope to take advantage of.

It's good to have you, sir. Thank you very much indeed for making the time for us tonight.

Coming up, the search for climate friendly construction materials. Could bamboo be the key in the future? That is coming up after this. Stay with




ANDERSON: The construction sector and building operations are responsible for more than a third of the world's carbon emissions. You heard me right.

While all governments and businesses look for solutions in new technology we travel to Guatemala to see how one social enterprise is turning to one

of the planet's oldest building materials.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the east of Guatemala, nestled between Honduras and Beliz, the forest of Punta Brava

held rich possibility. Abundant in a material that could be key to a revolution in architecture. Economically and environmentally friendly

bamboo is one of the fastest-growing materials on the planet, with some species growing by up to three feet a day.

TONO AGUILAR, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, CASSA: It's really a plant with unparalleled potential.

WEIR: At the forefront of this movement is Tono Aguilar, an astrophysicists who pivoted from solving the mysteries of the universe to focusing on our

own planet's problems.

AGUILAR: Ten years ago when I wanted to start an enterprise that created social and environmental impact, I was aware that construction was one of

the leading causes of pollution worldwide. Also, the construction industry greatly excludes a lot of vulnerable people. There's a big housing crisis

here in Guatemala so I thought construction was the best place to start.

WEIR: Since founding his company Cassa in 2013, Tono has overseen 110 projects building homes, clinics, schools, even a shopping mall. Each with

a focus on climate friendly materials like bamboo.

AGUILAR: Bamboo is one of the unparalleled plants on earth that can help us solve both human issues and environmental issues. As opposed to a tree that

takes 20 any or 30 years to grow bamboos are ready to harvest in five years. And when you harvest that, what happens is that another one grows.

It wants you to harvest it.

WEIR: A recent report from the U.N. Development Program foresees coastal flooding susceptibility increasing fivefold over the course the century,

putting communities like this one at Punta Brava, at serious risk.

AGUILAR: Bamboo has long lengths where it maintains its structural integrity. So that allows us to build houses elevated over the ground. All

of coast is subject to flooding. Thanks to climate change, it will continue to flood more and more so people really need to think in these low-income

communities about how they're building the houses.

WEIR: Cassa's working with the World Bamboo Organization to run workshops for the local community and how to plant, cultivate, and harvest bamboo to

maximum effect.

SUSANNE LUCAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD BAMBOO ORGANIZATION: Our ancestors knew the benefits of bamboo. The indigenous peoples have used bamboo since

the beginning, and we moved away from that into more contemporary materials that now we realize have hurt the planet. Using that old knowledge with

recent innovations and technologies, improved engineering, it's an excellent example of using an old material for our new problems.

AGUILAR: We need to build with carbon negative building materials. And amongst the bio fibers, bamboo is king and queen. So I have no doubt that

in a few years we'll start seeing larger structures in urban settings using engineered bamboo. And we're excited to continue spreading knowledge about

this wonderful planet.



ANDERSON: It's part of our "Call to Earth" series. And for more, you can go to We'll be right back.


ANDERSON: For tonight's "Parting Shots," how much do you know about neurodiversity? Well, coined in the 1990s by sociologist with autism, it's

the idea that people perceive the world in many different ways. Well, a new film made here in the UAE, "Mountain Boy," is exploring the idea. It's

about an Emirati boy with autism played by Naser Al Messabi, an actor with autism, appearing in his first movie.

I caught up with him, the producer and the director at the UAE premier.


ANDERSON (voice-over): "Mountain Boy" tells the story of Suhail, a young Emirati boy with autism. Suhail is shunned by his father to live alone in

the mountains of Fujairah after his mom dies during childbirth. He embarks on an epic journey to find his mother's family in Abu Dhabi. Producer

Nancy Paton, who has a son with autism herself, was committed to find a boy of determination to play Suhail's role.

NANCY PATON, PRODUCER, "MOUNTAIN BOY": I was really, really worried and then we had nine come and Naser and his sister were the last to come that

day and they walked in. And as soon as he walked we all went, oh, my god, that's him. Like that's Suhail. And he auditioned with his sister. Yes. And

he was very shy then. Now you're not shy at all.


ANDERSON: You take on the issue of neurodiversity. How difficult was this as an issue to deal with a sensitively as you did really?

PATON: Bringing that awareness. I think it's very easy to put people in a box and just ignore it. And, you know, with my son, it was just easy, he's

difficult, it was different, you deal with it where it's actually we that have to change and we have to be sensitive and aware. Kind of wanted to

make that point with a film that it is possible because we gave him that opportunity instead of saying no, he can't do it because he's a -- he can't

be an actor, where actually he can and he is. Right?


ANDERSON: Yes. And you're going to do more --

PATON: He learned the lines.

ANDERSON: Amazing.

AL MESSABI: And I learned that I was in the movie.

ANDERSON (voice-over): In the film, Suhail finds a companion in a dog, Barakah, to help him through the daunting road ahead.

AL MESSABI: He's my dog in the movie, yes. He was walking with me and he was also a famous dog.

ANDERSON: Zainab Shaheen is a 27-year-old Emirati filmmaker from Fujairah. This was the first feature film that she's ever directed. So the producers

brought in an international team to support her. But it was her understanding of the landscape that brought this story to life.


ZAINAB SHAHEEN, DIRECTOR, "MOUNTAIN BOY": Mountains at Fujairah they are like something I feel like my soul lives through the mountain, like I feel

like I wanted to show it to the world internationally, not only for UAE and not only for GCC or Arab people. I wanted to show the world the real UAE,

through my eyes, through my lens.

ANDERSON: Zainab was paired with seasoned director of photography Denson Baker, a first-timer in the UAE.

PATON: It's great for Zainab to have that experience, but also really great for Denson because he came to hear without knowledge of the country and now

loves it. Just to show what this country does have to offer. It's not just glitz and glam, it's also nature, environment, culture, inclusivity,

diversity, and tolerance really in the end.

ANDERSON: Through Naser's journey as an actor and Suhail's journey across the country, "Mountain Boy" shows us that there is a place of belonging for

all of us.


ANDERSON: That's it for CONNECT THE WORLD this evening. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. Have a very good weekend.