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Isa Soares Tonight

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin Visits Israel As U.S. Pushes For A Change Of Strategy; Ukraine Struggles To Make Progress On Battlefield; CNN Investigates An American Charity And Its Links To Anti-LGBTQ Laws In Africa; Putin Warns Of "Problems" With Neighboring Finland; U.K., Germany And France Call For Gaza Ceasefire; U.S. Faces Calls To Back Ceasefire In Gaza. 2-3p ET

Aired December 18, 2023 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, the U.S. Defense Secretary visits Israel

discussing the future of Gaza with top Israeli officials. His trip comes amid mounting international pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the

bombardment of Gaza. We have the very latest for you.

Then, Ukraine struggles to make progress on the battlefield as U.S. and EU funding is stalled, what that could mean as Russia's war grinds on. Plus, a

CNN investigation into an American charity and its links to anti-LGBTQ laws in Africa. That is coming up later.

But first, this evening, the U.S. Defense Secretary says he did not come to Israel to dictate timelines or terms for the war on Hamas, but he is urging

greater precautions to minimize the catastrophic loss of civilian life we are seeing in Gaza.

Lloyd Austin visited Tel Aviv today, meeting with top officials including Prime Minister, as you can see there, Benjamin Netanyahu. Austin says U.S.

support for Israel's security is unshakable, pledging to continue providing weapons for the war. He also discussed how Israel could transition from

high intensity operations to more precise and surgical strikes, a sensitive subject after President Joe Biden accused Israel, if you remember, of

indiscriminate bombing.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: Democracies are stronger and more secure when we uphold the law of war. And I've -- as I've said,

protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral duty and a strategic imperative. So we will continue to stand up for Israel's bedrock

right to defend itself.

And we will also continue to urge the protection of civilians during conflict, and to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.


SOARES: Meantime, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 150 people were killed in Israeli attacks today in just a span of a few hours.

Most of them in Jabalia. It also says dozens of people taking shelter at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City have been killed.

Let's get more on all of this, and bring in our Will Ripley who joins us this hour in Tel Aviv for more. Will, good to see you. Let's start with

what we heard there from Lloyd Austin. He talks of Israel transitioning, well, to a less intense phase in the war.

What does this mean in practical terms, and how soon will this happen? Because U.S. have been putting pressure on Israel to do just that for some


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you have the death toll, Isa, inching closer and closer to 20,000, a staggering, unthinkable number.

And yet, here in Tel Aviv, they point the finger directly at Hamas, that they say is a terrorist organization using civilians and their homes as

shields, victimizing the people of Gaza.

And that the bombardment they say here in Israel is essential to essentially destroy this network of underground tunnels, a labyrinth of

tunnels including what Israel claims is the largest Hamas tunnel that they've ever seen, big enough to hold a makeshift train and with wide

vehicles to drive through.

So, you know, up to 50 meters deep, and even pointing to tunnel entrances underneath in some cases, a children's bedroom. Lifting up the child's bed

to show the entrance to a Hamas tunnel. In other words, Israel trying to justify their bombardment, which has resulted in extensive civilian

casualties, saying it's not the Israelis, but Hamas.

The leadership of Gaza that is putting civilians in harm's way. But when you look at the pictures of people so desperate for food and supplies that

they are climbing up on aid trucks, just trying to get their hands and fighting over the few scraps of food and medicine that are available, we

were driving just a few kilometers from Gaza today.

We saw a large plume of smoke rising up, and so, you have this Israeli frustration. They're the ones that on October 7th had scores of their

unarmed young people, essentially massacred at a music festival, paratroopers coming in, rockets raining down. They're firing back. They're

fighting disproportionately as they said they would do to try to eliminate Hamas.

But at the same time, they are now facing the reality that as the civilian death toll piles up in Gaza, and the sentiment continues to point towards

Israel as playing a larger role here as an aggressor than a victim, it's really a difficult situation that they're finding themselves in right now,

Isa. So the United States --


SOARES: Yes --

RIPLEY: Trying to continue to support Israel in the face of mounting criticism about the body-count, the civilian body-count in Gaza which is

undoubtedly rising every single day.

SOARES: Yes, international criticism, international pressure as well, Will, but I want to domestically, what the mood is like since you've been there

from those you've been talking to, given, of course, what we are seeing in the last few days, those three hostages, who -- Israeli hostages who were

killed by -- mistakenly by the IDF.

What is the mood like that like right now? Because we've seen protests over the weekend, quite large protests against Netanyahu.

RIPLEY: Well, clearly, there are questions about why the IDF violated its own combat protocol by opening fire on what were reported to be these three

shirtless Israeli hostages waving a white cloth with a simple message written in Hebrew asking for help.

A plea for help written with leftover food, saying, help. Three hostages, and yet, all three of them were gunned down. It raises questions about how

the IDF forces are acting as they go, you know, door-to-door, and these combat operations on the ground in Gaza.

So, what it's really doing is, it's intensifying pressure on the Israeli prime minister on the government here to secure the release of around 120

hostages that remain in Gaza. But I can tell you the sentiment on the ground is people overwhelmingly want to see this job done. They want to see

Hamas rooted out and destroyed because they feel if that doesn't happen, Israel will only fall victim in the future to yet another horrific attack.

So the horrors really are happening on both sides. The horror here on October the 7th, and the ongoing horror in Gaza. And as it is so many times

as we see history repeat itself, a sad, bloody cycle of violence once again playing out here. And the children and the civilians and the innocent

people caught in the crossfire as they have been so many times. Isa.

SOARES: That's right, so much darkness right now. Will Ripley, we appreciate it, great to see you, my friend, thank you very much. Well,

warnings from aid groups are growing more dire as hunger and disease spread in Gaza. Human rights watch is accusing Israel of using starvation as a

weapon of war.

A charge Israel calls a lie. Hospitals are also increasingly coming under attack including them sheltering displaced civilians. And I want to warn

you our next report has some very disturbing scenes.


SOARES (voice-over): Sheer terror inside southern Gaza's Nasr Hospital, an artillery strike has just hit somewhere in the building. With the power

cut, people inside rush with flashlights and mobile phones to try and find where and who has been struck. Here, they find her, wrapped in a blanket is

the body of 13-year-old Dina Abu Mosem(ph).

She had been recovering from an amputation at the hospital following a previous strike in Khan Yunis, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry

of Health in Gaza. Weapon remnants found by her bed were consistent with an Israeli illumination shell, a weapons expert told CNN.

CNN reached out to the IDF, but is yet to receive a response. In the destroyed grounds of Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, another

heartbreaking goodbye. This hospital had been under siege for days by Israeli troops who claimed it was operating as a command and control center

for Hamas.

They withdrew from Kamal Adwan on Saturday, saying in a statement, quote, "their activity in the area was completed", and released video of a small

amount of weapons they apparently found there. According to the U.N.'s Office for Humanitarian Affairs, quote, "an Israeli military bulldozer

flatten the tents of a number of internally-displaced persons outside the hospital killing and wounding an unconfirmed number of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have been displaced, and today, they demolished buildings, killing doctors, leaving nothing behind. They

haven't even spared the doctors. Look, my son is here under the rubble and I can't reach him.

SOARES: The IDF has not yet commented on this allegation. Over the weekend, a W.H.O. chief said that, quote, "attacks on hospitals health personnel and

patients must end". As medical facilities and those inside continue to bear the brunt of this war.


SOARES: Well, there are hundreds of people sheltering inside Gaza's Catholic Church where conditions are reportedly deteriorating.


Among them, family members of British MP Layla Moran who are beyond desperate and terrified. That is according to the lawmaker. And Layla Moran

joins me now. Layla, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Just give our viewers a sense of what you are hearing from those members of your

family that are sheltering inside the Holy Family Parish. What are they telling you?

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

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

need to evacuate. It's unclear why.

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

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

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

SOARES: Give us a sense, Layla, of how many people are inside that are sheltering in that church? And what conditions have been like? You say in

the last tin of corn. Just talk us through what you have been hearing from them.

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

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

are sleeping on mattresses on the floor, and have been for some time.

But the situation has massively deteriorated in the last week. There were snipers, they were shooting at people, you'll have seen that the pope

revealed the names of two women who were killed. One had two bullets to the chest, one, a bullet to the head, simply for needing the toilet, and

another was injured.

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

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

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

We are a week away from Christmas, and I'm not sure they're going to survive. They've been told to leave, but it's not clear where?

There are no other churches outside of Gaza city. And whiles this isn't about Christians only, they are Gazans and they are --

SOARES: Yes --

MORAN: Palestinians, and this --

SOARES: Right --

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

that you want to pick a fight with the pope? Is this the time that you want to forcibly displace Palestinians from where they've chosen to seek

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

safe. They have nothing --

SOARES: Yes --

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

from that building is baseless. What are they doing?

SOARES: And you mentioned the pope, we did hear from the pope. And I just want to play this little clip from the pope so that viewers hear what he

had to say. Have a listen to this.


JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO, POPE, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): Unarmed civilians are being bombed and shot at. And this has happened even

inside the Holy Family Parish compound where there are no terrorists, but families, children, and sick people with disabilities and nuns. The house

of mother Theresa's nuns was damaged. Their generator hit. Some say it's terrorism. It's war. Yes, it's war. It's terrorism.


SOARES: Now, the IDF has refuted that their snipers were behind this. They're telling CNN -- they told CNN in the last few minutes that they only

-- the IDF only targets terrorists and terror infrastructure, and does not target civilians no matter their religion. What do you say to that?

MORAN: Well, I've seen the whole of that statement, and there were three parts to it, that's the last part. The first part talks about a church in

the area where they are still carrying out an investigation. The second part talks about another area altogether in Gaza, and they seem to be

conflating the two.


I would say to them this, the evidence, I think is irrefutable. We have pictures, we have firsthand witness accounts, and we will be handing those

over to the ICC, the International Criminal Court. But I would also say, this is morally the right thing to do. Is this really what they want to do

a week before Christmas to a --

SOARES: Yes --

MORAN: Minority group --

SOARES: Yes --

MORAN: Within Gaza? And my plea, my desperate plea is beyond the immediate bilateral ceasefire that I and my party are calling for in the British

parliament, but also, my plea is, is this really what they want to do? Do they consider this morally right? And do they really think this is going to

help their ends?

This is not right and they need to stop. I asked them to leave the church alone, to leave my family alone. And my plea to Biden, who professes to be

a Catholic, is, can he stand for this? Please do something.

SOARES: And Layla, can I finally just ask you, you've got -- it's extended family, right? But then, I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong here,

there's also children, they're taking refuge here or teenagers.

MORAN: It's not my extended family --

SOARES: This is right, go ahead.

MORAN: My extended family themselves are three generations, including 11- year-old twins. There are children there. These are children. The women who were killed, if anyone dares to look at the pictures, and they could not

look less like Hamas fighters. There are no Hamas fighters there, and they never have been.

And they've been there over 60 days, they would know by now. I don't understand what the IDF are doing. They are clearly trying to evacuate, but

I would also say that forcible displacement itself is meant to be, I understand, a war crime. I'm not a lawyer, I'm a teacher, I was a physics

teacher before I was an MP.

SOARES: Yes --

MORAN: And hence why I am encouraging my family to refer to the International Criminal Court. But this is deadly serious. And I use that --

those words advisedly. Please, stop killing innocent civilians. It helps no one, not least the state of Israel.

SOARES: Layla, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Please, keep us posted and hope -- I'm hoping for your -- and praying for

your family's safety. Thank you very much, Layla, I appreciate it. Now, oil giant BP is among the latest company to halt shipments through the Red Sea,

following attacks on commercial -- on vessels by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for recent strikes on two ships. During his visit to Israel, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced plans to

help counter the threat. This is what he said, have a listen.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: Regarding the Houthis, these attacks are reckless, dangerous and they violate international law.

And so, we're taking action to build an international coalition to address this threat. And I would remind you that this is not just a U.S. issue,

it's -- this is an international problem and it deserves an international response.

And that's why I am convening a meeting tomorrow, a ministerial meeting with fellow ministers in the region and beyond to address this threat.


SOARES: And CNN's Anna Stewart joins me now with more. And Anna, we're looking here at the significant number of companies who have now halted,

right, the travel through the Red Sea. Talk about their decisions, how long they're going to hold this for.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: So this -- that you see here, some of the biggest shipping companies in the world, also BP. They also -- they're

going to pause transit through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea due to all of the risks that they're seeing with attacks on commercial ships.

Now, let me show you a map of the Suez Canal so you can see where the risk lies. It's here, Bab al-Mandab, this is a strait off of Yemen, and this is

where Houthi militants are firing aerial attacks on commercial ships. Now, most of those or many of those have been intercepted by U.S. and U.K. Naval


SOARES: Yes --

STEWART: There have been so far, no casualties. But of course, this is now a risk that these shipping companies simply cannot take. The problem is,

the Suez Canal, Isa, is so important. It accounts --

SOARES: Yes, so critical, right?

STEWART: Yes, it accounts for around 30 percent of global container trade around the world. And we'll show you the next map and we'll see why it's so

costly to avoid it. Because you have to go all the way around the West Coast of Africa.

You have to go down past the Cape --

SOARES: Wow --

STEWART: Of Good Hope. Now, to show you as an example, this is a ship going from Rotterdam to Singapore, because this is the Suez Canal linking

essentially Europe with Asia. Now, this trip --

SOARES: How long would that take?

STEWART: Well, it would now take about a week or more longer, it's 40 percent longer by nautical miles.

SOARES: And not just longer, it's also more costly --

STEWART: It's costly for fuel, and also means that the ship from Rotterdam is going to arrive in Singapore a week or more late. That will impact the

next shipment.


What you get if this continues is of course, a big pile-up of containers, a backlog at ports, and that can disrupt supply chains.

SOARES: So, let's go back to the companies if we can, what are they saying? What are -- how are they voicing this concern? And how long are they going

to pause this for?

STEWART: So, at the moment, they're all saying, this is a pause, and then they're going to keep monitoring, essentially, the security situation. And

I think there is a lot of hope to see whether there's some way the security can be bolstered in the region by international allies.

As I said, some Naval warships have already intercepted many of these missiles and drone attacks. Whether or not that will be enough for

insurance companies to ensure big ships --

SOARES: Yes --

STEWART: The oil tankers going through the Suez Canal remains to be seen. But for now, it looks like a big pause. There are many ships in the Suez

Canal right now, many of those will continue their transit, but it will likely get emptier as the days go ahead.

SOARES: What impact is this having, if any at all, on oil prices, Anna? Because we know the geopolitical pressures, this sort of thing always has

some sort of push, doesn't it? On --

STEWART: Right --


STEWART: And BP is one of the companies that say they're no longer --

SOARES: Yes --

STEWART: Going to transit. So, you can see here the impact on oil prices. Now, Brent, Crude was actually up around 3 percent earlier today, a

significant reaction. Now, this isn't just to do with the ships, of course, having to use a lot more oil to --

SOARES: Yes --

STEWART: Navigate their way around the Cape of Good Hope. This is also to do with the fact that the Suez Canal is so important in the Middle East,

for the region, for the trade of oil and gas. Right now, we have a glass of oil, OPEC-Plus actually agreeing to cut down on oil. So, I think that's

keeping a lid on prices right now. But depending on what happens, and how sustained --

SOARES: How long it lasts, yes --

STEWART: This issue is, this is one to watch.

SOARES: I know you'll keep an eye on and across it. Anna, I appreciate it, thank you very much. And still to come right here tonight, a harsh Winter

and low morale. We'll have more on how Ukraine troops are trying to soldier on without new western aid. That story, after this short break.


SOARES: Well, another harsh Winter is settling in as the fight continues along Ukraine's frontlines. It's been nearly two years since Russia's

invasion, but six months into Kyiv's closely-scrutinized counteroffensive, no significant progress has been made.

One reason for this, Ukraine's financial lifeline appears to be hanging by a thread. Hungary has blocked further European new aid, plus, a critical

aid package continues to stall in U.S. Congress, raising fears about how long Ukraine can hold out without U.S. as well as NATO help. CNN's Nick

Paton Walsh reports from Ukraine where troops are struggling under the waves of Russia's assault. Now, we warn you, some of these images are




NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): This was where the billions were meant to spell a breakthrough. But where the

counteroffensive was supposed to have kicked Russia to the sea this Summer, now, it is mud, death, deadlock, and the remnants of American help


(on camera): It's notably a different mood here, dark, frankly. In the Summer, they were buoyant, feeling like they had the world at their back,

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


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

other side are not so lucky. Two Russian spotted moving a load, they guide in a mortar strike, there were just so many Russians now.

"Usually more meat means more men", the commander says. But sometimes, their machine struggles to handle it, and sometimes they have success.

Batteries die fast in the cold, Russian jamming seems to damage them too. So the battery is dead.

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

(on camera): In a matter of months since we were here in the Summer, how much more damage has been done.

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

injured, it's unclear if Russia treats them differently. Another Ukrainian drone aims for a foxhole.

What they've struggled with are the waves of Russian assaults.

(on camera): Dozens of Russian prisoners, well-trained and equipped, backed up by armor who they say are given a mix of drugs.

(voice-over): They show us this graphic video of a wounded Russian. His legs severed, seemingly high enough to smile through his fatal injuries.

Still, they claim they have held hard one ground, but at a huge cost.

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

they started making their own attack drones and outnumber ours, but they use them badly like a kids toy." (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)



WALSH: They say a drone has hit a trench, and blown up a gas heater.





WALSH: The silence, the wait for news -- agony.





WALSH (on camera): Does it feel like the casualties are getting worse? "Every casualty makes a difference", he says. "That affects everyone's

morale. It's very painful for me." Sergei(ph), aged 48, was one of four Ukrainians to die in that area that day, and about 50 that week.

They haven't had to really talk about losing in this war, but this is what it looks like. It's not just drones, this Russian video seems to show a new

threat. Gas caused it, flammable, the Ukrainians have had nine instance on this front, killing one. Here are two survivors.

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

flames, this gas burns, blinds you. You can't breathe. It shoots down your throat immediately. We didn't even have a second.

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

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

(on camera): And those injuries inside your mouth?

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

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

Walsh, CNN, Orikhiv, Ukraine.


SOARES: Well, Russia's president is warning there will be, quote, "problems with neighboring Finland after it joined NATO this year. In an interview on

Sunday with Russian state-owned media, Vladimir Putin had this to say "They," meaning the west, "took Finland and dragged it into NATO. There

were no problems, but now there will be, because we will now create the Leningrad Military District there and definitely concentrate military units

there. The Russian president went on to say that Moscow has no desire to spoil relations with NATO.


And on the show tomorrow, I will be speaking to the Finnish Foreign Minister.

And still to come tonight, the U.S. faces mounting pressure to back a ceasefire in Gaza. I'll speak to former U.N. Human Rights Chief Mary

Robinson about why she says the U.S. is becoming isolated. That interview after this break.


SOARES: Welcome back everyone. Israel is facing new pressure to implement a ceasefire in Gaza. The top British and German diplomats, David Cameron,

Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday they wanted a sustainable ceasefire. Just days earlier, their country has abstained from a U.N. vote calling for

an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

France also won support in fighting. The French Foreign Minister was in Israel on Sunday calling for a new humanitarian truce. And the Israeli

government is seeing demonstrations and rallies from its own citizens. They are demanding the government do more to bring hostages home.


This amid news Israeli troops shot and killed three Israeli hostages by mistake.

Well, Mary Robinson served as Irish President and is the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights. She's also the chair of The Elders. It's a

group founded by Nelson Mandela to promote peace as well as human rights. And Robinson is warning the U.S. about not doing enough to promote a

ceasefire with its ally, Israel. She says, "President Biden's support for Israel's indiscriminate bombing of Gaza is losing him respect all over the

world. The U.S. is increasingly isolated with allies like Australia, Canada, India, Japan and Poland switching their votes in the U.N. General

Assembly to support an immediate humanitarian ceasefire."

And to discuss this further, Mary Robinson joins me live from Dublin in Ireland. Mary, welcome back to the show. As we've just laid out there, we

are starting to see a shift in language from world leaders. How do you interpret the shift, Mary, in tone? And do you think it can move the needle

at all?

MARY ROBINSON, FORMER U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: Yes, I agree with you that there is a definite shift. I think in part it was helped by

the fact that most members of the Security Council went to the Rafah Crossing that must have heard of the sheer misery, the sheer starvation

basically of the Gazan population now under the constant bombardment.

And, you know, it gives me no joy, no pleasure at all to have to be critical of President Biden. He happens to be a close personal friend. I

know him for a long number of years. We were very warm with each other when he visited Ireland. But sometimes you have to speak truth to power. And

it's not just Israel that's losing international support, as America has warned. It's America. It's the United States by being too close to a

government that is not leading well. And the government of Israel at the moment is not leading well with this heavy bombardment and indiscriminate,

you know, breaches of international humanitarian law.

SOARES: And you've mentioned President Biden and, of course, as a viewers will know, it's Israel's strong supporter, he has been voicing concern,

Mary, over Israel's tactics in Gaza as of late, saying Israel should do more -- must do more to minimize harm to civilians in Gaza. He even called

it, even said that Israel has been engaged in indiscriminate bombing in the strip. How would you assess those words? I mean, is this the beginning of a

rift you see here between President Netanyahu, Prime President Netanyahu and President Biden?

ROBINSON: Well, the problem is that the repetition of calling on Israel, and rightly calling on Israel to be more restrained not to have

indiscriminate bombing to protect civilians in war, that's classic. That's the rules of international humanitarian law. But Israel, this government, I

keep separating, this is not the people of Israel, this is this government. It's not listening. And it's not -- and, you know, the very fact that they

killed three hostages who were bare-chested so they were showing they had no weapons on them, just as a shoot-to-kill approach.

You know, and I think, unfortunately, the more the United States is linked as being complicit in this, the worse for the United States and actually

the worse for the world.

SOARES: And despite those words from President Biden, we've also heard from the Biden administration that it has no plans, Mary, to place conditions on

military aid to Israel, despite pressure from lawmakers. I mean, how much - - what leverage does the U.S. have here?

ROBINSON: Yes. Yes, that was a more recent statement he made as that was called on the United States, which has the leverage and indeed the United

Kingdom, to not have unlimited, unconditional arming of Israel at this stage because of what it's doing. You have to push restraint. If you're

calling for restraint, put your own restraint by putting it on, you know, the voting on any military support for Israel and any armaments being

provided. And instead, President Biden sadly went outside Congress and provided recent armaments to Israel. And that doesn't play well, to be

honest, internationally, because it's showing support without conditions while calling for restraint. And it's weak. It shows that the United States

is not able to enforce its own, you know, desire that Israel would be more restrained.

SOARES: And if this -- you say it's weak, if the U.S. position remains the same, Mary, and we've heard from the Defense -- Israeli Defense Ministry

that the war could --


In Gaza can last more than several months, from your geopolitical perspective, how much damage, Mary, does this do to the U.S. reputation in

the Middle East and beyond?

ROBINSON: Well, let's, you know, look at the -- there is a U.N. Security Council resolution. I don't know whether they'll vote on it tonight or

until now, it might be tomorrow morning. Tomorrow our time, maybe late in the night or maybe tomorrow. This is really important. There is an

increasing pressure for a sustained cessation ceasefire, whatever we might call it, and that is so badly needed. I mean, we're talking about so many

human lives now, so many children. So many children have already been killed and wounded, and so many women, so many of the elderly, so many

families shattered. And so the killing has to stop, and we have to allow much more sustained, longer term, humanitarian aid to get in to do all of

the things that need to be done most urgently.

But also, this gives time to think, what exactly is the end game? Because this indiscriminate bombing without any purpose to it, but no plan for the

future is not making Israel safe. It's not helping at all to provide security for the people of Israel who I understand are, you know, very

beleaguered after those horrendous attacks on the 7th of October, and they have been, you know, unconditionally condemned by The Elders. And we feel

for the families that have lost hostages. We've talked to them, we've listened to the hostage -- the families, and we're on their side of wanting

time to negotiate. It was during negotiations that hostages were released, over 100 hostages were released. Let's get back to that. That's where we

should be.

SOARES: Mary Robinson, always great to get your insight and perspective. Thank you, Mary. Good to see you.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

SOARES: And still to come tonight, several countries throughout Africa are passing anti-homosexual bills. We'll take a look at the legislation and the

surprising group tied to some of it. That is next.


SOARES: Well, since 2021, politicians in several African countries have pushed for legislation, outlawing homosexuality. Some of the bills call for

long jail terms or even life in prison. The bills claim they're protecting family value.


CNN has been investigating this and there are all one American charity place in all of this. Here's David McKenzie with more.


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

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

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

MCKENZIE: How are you doing?


MCKENZIE: Thank you for having us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALI, RESEARCHER: This is Africa. And what it takes to be close to just stand next to the president of an African country in Africa, it means it's

not random.

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

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

to protect the ongoing work.

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

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

a Family Watch International representative made repeated changes to draft versions of the homophobic bill together with members of parliament, even

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

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


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What do you have to say in response to that?

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

Period. It's just absurd.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

NAURIKI: There are very minor cases.

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

graphic to show. It's an epidemic of hate inspired by the laws. In Kenya, human rights groups say that attacks on the community have at least doubled

in the last two years with more than a thousand incidents up until August. The proposed law here is the most sweeping yet.

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


You become a criminal.

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

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

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

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

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

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


SOARES: Well, we are taking a short break. We'll be back in just a few minutes.


SOARES: Welcome back. The Japanese defense ministry says North Korea has launched a ballistic missile with the potential to reach the United States.

The ministry says the missile that was launched could have a flying range of over 15,000 kilometers. That's more than 9,000 miles unless a missile

would need to be fired at a flatter trajectory than it was to reach the United States.

In Northern Australia, the heaviest rains in decades have left the city of Cairns virtually cut off. Storm Jasper, which made landfall last week,

triggered floods and forced hundreds of people out of their homes. The premier of Queensland says some people spent the night stranded on their

rooftops and in one town, rangers pound -- rounded up, as you can see two and a half meter crocodile that got swept with the floods.

CNN's Michael Holmes has the details for you.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The toothy smile of a saltwater crocodile, perhaps more comfortable than most beneath rushing

floodwaters, the 2 1/2 meter long reptile spotted by children in a park Monday in the rain drenched Australian town of Ingham. Rangers were quick

to capture the crock and haul it safely out of the public space.


Australia's public broadcaster, the ABC, quickly named the animal Jasper after the ex-tropical cyclone which made landfall last week and has since

dumped on Australia's tropical far north. For days and nights, heavy rains and flash flooding have forced rescues like this. As of Monday, first

responders were averaging more than 40 rescues an hour. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology downgraded its rain warnings Monday, but major flood

warnings remained in place. Help couldn't depart from the tarmac at Cairns Airport on Monday, the biggest town in the region, a tourist hotspot, now

almost entirely cut off. The extent of the damage hidden beneath the water where more crocodiles may lurk. Michael Holmes, CNN.


SOARES: And that does it for us for this evening. Thanks very much for watching. Thank you for your company. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS

BUSINESS" with Richard Quest is up next. I shall see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.