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Isa Soares Tonight
Senior Hamas Leader Killed In An Explosion In Beirut; Japan Airlines Jet Burst Into Flames After Colliding With An Earthquake Relief Plane At Tokyo's Haneda Airport; Main Opposition Leader In South Korea Survives Knife Attack; Deadly Attacks On Ukraine Kill Five, Injure Scores; Israel's Supreme Court Strikes Down Controversial Change; List Of Jeffrey Epstein Associates Could Be Released Today. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 02, 2024 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, a senior Hamas leader is killed in an
explosion in Lebanon's capital Beirut. We will have more on this story in just a moment. Also ahead, a Japan Airlines jet burst into flames after
colliding with an earthquake relief plane at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
And stabbed in plain sight. Shocking scenes in South Korea where the main opposition leader has survived an attack by a man with a knife. But first
this evening, we are tracking for you developments in Lebanon where Hamas says one of its senior leaders has been killed in an explosion.
The blast happened in the Lebanese capital of Beirut as Israel wages war against the Palestinian militants further south of course in Gaza. Hamas
has been quick to say Israel killed deputy political and military leader Saleh al-Arouri. But we are still waiting to see if the Israelis come out
and officially confirm or deny responsibility.
People started gathering in front of the Beirut explosion site where at least three other people were reportedly killed. This is a developing story
for you. Our Nada Bashir is in Beirut for us this hour with the very latest. So, Nada, what do we know at this stage happened here, and give us
more context as to who is Saleh al-Arouri within the Hamas structure?
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Isa, there certainly is a developing situation, but this is also a significant escalation on what has been weeks
of mounting tensions between Israel and Lebanon. Of course, the killing now according to Hamas of Saleh al-Arouri is a significant escalation.
He is a top Hamas official, the deputy of Hamas' political bureau, but also considered one of the founding members of the al-Qassam Brigades; Hamas's
military wing. We have seen that statement from Hamas now, accusing, as you mentioned, the Israeli military of carrying out what they've described as a
strike on the suburbs of southern Beirut, killing Saleh al-Arouri.
At this stage, no confirmation from the Israeli military. CNN has reached out to the IDF, but they have at this stage declined to comment. And it's
unclear what caused this blast exactly, but of course, important to note that we have over the course of this war in Gaza heard from Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to target all senior Hamas officials, not just in Gaza, not just in the occupied West Bank, but wherever they may
And there has been concern that, that could lead to this conflict spilling over more broadly into the region and elsewhere. We have just in the last
two hours or so -- we also heard from Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, he took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to
congratulate the Israeli military on killing, in his words, Saleh al- Arouri.
SOARES: And al-Arouri was based in Lebanon, but he was actually born -- correct me if I'm wrong here, in the West Bank, right? He was born -- and
I think we have images from Ramallah today, if we can bring it up, of crowds gathering, almost a protest taking place following on from the
senior leader of Hamas being killed in Beirut.
We've also heard in the past, Nada, from Hassan Nasrallah; the Hezbollah chief who had warned about targeting officials, you know, outside -- or in
Beirut and elsewhere. He was expected to speak tomorrow, Nada. Is this -- that going ahead? And what are the fears here regionally with us?
BASHIR: That speech is certainly still expected to go ahead, but of course, that was planned before this incident. Many will be looking to see what
Hassan Nasrallah has to say with regards to this latest incident tomorrow. But of course, as I mentioned, this has come off the back of mounting --
SOARES: Yes --
BASHIR: Tensions, in particular between the Iran-backed group Hezbollah and Israeli, the Israeli military more specifically. Over the last couple of
weeks, we have seen now the Israeli military carrying out repeated strikes on villages in southern Lebanon, at the border which separates southern
Lebanon from Israel.
We've seen -- they say they have been targeting Hezbollah sites in this border region, but of course, a number of civilians have been killed
including journalists who were reporting by the border. In turn, Hezbollah has also said it has targeted Israeli targets across the border as well,
and that has continued over the course of this war.
And there have been repeated warnings over the potential for those skirmishes on the border to escalate for the conflict to spill over more
broadly into the region --
SOARES: Yes --
BASHIR: We heard just last week from Benny Gantz, a member of Israel's war cabinet, he said that time is running out for a diplomatic solution. And we
also heard from the Israeli Foreign Ministry saying that while they are looking to exhaust all political options, if Hezbollah isn't pushed away
from the border, the Israeli military would take matters into their own hands.
And that has really raised alarm bells for the potential for an escalation more broadly between Lebanon and between Israel. We heard today from the
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, he condemned the attack by Israel, but he also accused Israel of trying to draw Lebanon into what he described
as a new phase of confrontation.
SOARES: Nada Bashir for us this hour in Beirut with the very latest. Nada, I appreciate it, thank you very much. Well, want to stay in the region
because Israel is drawing down the number of soldiers on the ground in Gaza, in anticipation of prolonged fighting. Israeli defense forces say
they now have control of Hamas, of the Hamas stronghold in Gaza city.
They also claim to have discovered on the ground Hamas bunker which was used, quote, "to manage the war in the Gaza Strip." Now, CNN has not been
able to verify those claims. Meantime, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society -- several -- says several people were killed and others wounded after
Israel bombed its headquarters in Khan Yunis.
CNN reached out to the IDF for comment on that. Well, tensions, as you can see remain high along one of the most vital waterways after Iran announced
it was sending a warship to the Red Sea, the ships mission is still not clear, and oil prices are becoming more volatile.
That follows a decision by global shipping giant Maersk extending a pause on moving cargo through the Red Sea after recent attacks, if you remember,
by Iranian-backed Houthi fighters. Let's put all of this, these transits into context. I want to welcome Colin Clarke; he's director of Policy and
Research at the Soufan Group; an Intelligence and security consulting firm.
Colin, great to have you back on the show. Let me start up with this -- start up first of all with this developing story that we're getting out of
Beirut that a senior Hamas leader has been at explosion. How significant is this? How much of a blow is this to Hamas?
COLIN CLARKE, DIRECTOR OF POLICY & RESEARCH, SOUFAN GROUP: Well, first of all, thanks for having me. You're right. There's been a lot of developments
even in the last 48 hours. I think the strike in Beirut is quite significant. One, it's symbolic. It shows Hamas that the Israelis will
target Hamas leaders wherever they are, not just in Gaza, but across the region and indeed across the world.
I think more importantly, this is a shot directly at Iran. Saleh al-Arouri was someone that was known to be close to the leadership in Tehran. And
this is a clear message that the Israelis will not sit back and allow Hamas to continue planning for another strike.
They are on high alert. They won't be caught off guard again. And I think the concern that I have and that many in the Biden administration have is
that this violence will continue to spill over --
SOARES: Yes --
CLARKE: Across the region borders and escalate further.
SOARES: And Colin, as our Nada Bashir, our correspondent in Beirut was saying, you know, for months, and we've seen that here, we've reported on
this, you and I have discussed this, we have seen heavy exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and Hezbollah.
But along Lebanon's southern border, but this took place in Beirut. I mean, how do you see Hezbollah responding to this? Does it respond? And if it
doesn't respond, what does it say about its credibility here?
CLARKE: Well, we'll find out a lot more after Nasrallah's speech. But one thing you can count on, and that's Hezbollah will respond. The question
really becomes what form will that response take? And will --
SOARES: Yes --
CLARKE: That be kind of long-range missiles into Israel proper? Which Israel will then be forced to respond, to leading to a whole cycle and
escalation and counter escalation.
SOARES: Look, on your point on what you said regarding Israel, Israel had said, right? That post-October the 7th, they would go after the top
echelons of Hamas leadership. And it seems they are sticking to that promise, even though they're not acknowledging that it was them behind
this. So, if you're Hamas leadership in the -- in Qatar, how do you read this?
CLARKE: I think if you're Hamas leadership anywhere in the region or anywhere in the world, you've been put on notice. We know that this is
Israeli policy, targeted assassinations, they've taken out Hamas leaders in the past, going back many years, they'll continue to do so, and will see if
this indeed drags in Hezbollah or further brings into the mix the Houthis in Yemen, a rough militia group in Iraq.
There's a lot more activity in Syria against IRGC troops force personnel. And let me just conclude with this. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the
assassination of Qasem Soleimani. So another symbolic day --
SOARES: Yes --
CLARKE: In the region that could lead to more bloodshed.
SOARES: You mentioned the Houthis, of course, I wonder whether regionally, this will, Colin, shift equations at all. Because you know, we've had --
we've seen the Iranian Navy dispatch a military destroyer to the Red Sea.
How -- what are the intentions here from Iran?
CLARKE: Well, it's the kind of show some muscle and to push back against what's been an overwhelming -- overwhelmingly muscular U.S. deterrent
response to the region. But the more assets you have in place in and around the gulf, in and around the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the higher
the chances there are for miscommunication and miscalculation, and that's one of the things that I'm concerned about at the moment.
SOARES: Let's turn then to Gaza. The U.S., as our viewers would have known, been following the story, it has been for some time now December of -- even
November of last year been pressing Israeli officials, Colin, to turn the intensity, the battle in Gaza from high intensity to low intensity, I think
was their words, in terms of a military operation.
We've now heard the IDF is drawing down the number of soldiers in Gaza, yet, the war, according to Israelis, is expected to continue for many more
months, their wording. What do you expect the strategy to be here from Israel?
CLARKE: It's a great question. And I'm wondering if the Israelis are kind of shifting from a counterterrorism-led approach to something more akin to
counter-insurgency, where they look to control larger swaths of territory in Gaza, even with a leaner force.
But then enabling special operations to do precision strikes, potentially raids. Remember, the hostages are still a major issue. So there is so much
still on the table as the Israelis attempt to shift into what they see as the next phase of this conflict.
SOARES: Colin Clarke, always great to get your analysis and expertise. Thanks, Colin, appreciate it.
CLARKE: Thank you.
SOARES: And some breaking news to bring you. Harvard's President Claudine Gay says she's stepping down just 6 months into her presidency. She has
faced weeks of anger after highly criticized testimony before Congress on anti-Semitism.
She failed to effectively denounce threats of violence against Jewish students on campus, and has more recently faced allegations of plagiarism.
A house panel has opened investigation into her academic work. Claudine Gay says "it has become clear that it is in the best interest of Harvard for me
to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual." Of
course, we will stay on top of that breaking news for you.
And still to come here on the show, a fiery plane collision in Tokyo, that hundreds managed to escape from. We'll have all the details after a break.
Richard Quest joins us. Plus, a brazen knife attack in broad daylight sends a South Korean opposition figure to the hospital. How it all unfolded next.
You are watching CNN.
SOARES: Well, in Japan, an investigation is now underway after a fiery collision at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Officials are trying to determine who
is responsible for this deadly crash. You can see the moment of impact right here when a Japan Airlines plane collided with a coast guard aircraft
trying to reach survivors of the massive earthquake that hit the country on Monday.
We'll have much more on those relief efforts in just a moment. Remarkably, all 379 people aboard the commercial jet were evacuated, but five crew
members on the smaller plane were killed. CNN's Will Ripley has more on how all of this unfolded from Tokyo.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Japan Airlines jet touches down in Tokyo, the cabin calm until passengers look out the
windows. "We saw fire coming out of the engine, and I found it strange", Toshi Yamaki(ph) tells CNN. Within seconds, black smoke billowing through
The Airbus A35900 packed with nearly 400 passengers and crew, including parents with young children. He says some passengers were scared,
especially the kids and women, the scene outside even scarier. People on other planes captured the chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just as we were starting to just pick on speed, we heard a big bang. And I turned, and I saw that flame that was making a
trace, and then we saw the flame, that was in flame.
RIPLEY: The runways full for a Tuesday evening, Haneda Airport, in the heart of Tokyo, handling extra holiday traffic and a Japan coast guard
plane with six crew members carrying badly-needed relief to parts of Japan jolted by a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake.
The quake causing widespread destruction dozens of deaths just hours into the new year. Japan's Transportation Minister says the coast guard captain
was badly hurt, five other crew members killed. A very different outcome for the Japan Airlines jet with just seconds to spare, 12 crew members
safely evacuated all 367 passengers, including eight children under the age of two, only a handful had to go to the hospital.
Everyone walked away as flames fully engulfed the plane. For a nation obsessed with transportation safety, one burning question, how could the
new year begin like this?
SOARES: And as we mentioned earlier, Japan is also reeling from a deadly earthquake that struck the country's west coast on Monday. At least 57
people are now confirmed to have died according to public broadcaster "NHK". The 7.5 magnitude quake devastated roads, as you can see, buildings,
as well as communication services.
And it triggered tsunami alerts as far away as eastern Russia. These have now been lifted along the western coast. Rescue efforts are ongoing despite
multiple aftershocks, but access remains limited to areas further north. CNN correspondent Hananel(ph) -- Hanako, pardon me, Montgomery has been at
one of the earthquake evacuation centers. She filed this report.
HANAKO MONTGOMERY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been more than a day since the powerful quake. But for Minai(ph) and her mother, the impact
still very fresh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Thinking about it now still makes me tremble. My heart was pounding. My mind went blank, we just scrambled
things like our wallets and ran outside.
MONTGOMERY: Minai(ph) was visiting her family for new year's when the quake struck. Her mother's house now unlivable because of the powerful impact.
The pair luckily able to escape unharmed. But with a constant aftershock, they're still far from safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I feel like even now the building is shaking. Whenever an aftershock happens, I think of the main quake and
my body trembles.
MONTGOMERY: But it's not just the tremors people here have to worry about. Other than a roof, there is little else.
(on camera): There is no heating right now so people are sleeping on mats. They're using thick blankets to stay warm. There is also no running water.
So the Japanese self-defense forces are just outside this building handing out water to locals.
(voice-over): This water, a life-line for dozens here and thousands across the region.
Left without supply or simply without homes after Monday's powerful quake, the devastation difficult to comprehend at night, but clearly visible from
the sky. In Wajima, the shock-flipping multi-story buildings on their side and razing entire blocks to the ground.
Tsunami waves forcing large vessels onto the shore and fires adding to the destruction. Amid it all, authorities desperately searching for the dozens
still trapped beneath the rubble.
YOSHIMASA HAYASHI, CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY, JAPAN (through translator): Prime Minister Kishida instructed us to once again put lives first,
understand the situation of the damages and make an utmost effort to save people in emergency rescue operations.
MONTGOMERY: Urgent efforts slowed down by the devastating impact. The quake destroying access to the most impacted zones and making these already
remote areas nearly impossible to reach. Hanako Montgomery, CNN, Nanao.
SOARES: Well, the leader of South Korea's main opposition party is recovering after he was stabbed in the neck during a brazen knife attack in
Busan. Lee Jae-Myung underwent surgery at the Seoul National University Hospital. The Democratic Party's spokesperson says he is now conscious and
resting in intensive care.
Joining us now from Abu Dhabi is CNN's Paula Hancocks. So Paula, what more are you learning? How did this happen?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, this was brazen, as you say. It is an attack that happened in daylight, Lee Jae-
Myung was surrounded by candid supporters, by reporters as well, and he was actually being captured talking to those reporters on live television when
it took place.
So what happened, there's a man that police say was in his 60s, approached Lee Jae-Myung, saying that he wanted to have an autograph. He then lunged
at him, attacked him and stabbed him in the neck with a 7-inch blade.
Now, you can see from the video that Lee Jae-Myung himself falls back, collapses to the ground. The assailant is tackled by security around Lee
and he is arrested. Now, according to police, they are looking for a motive at this point. They have not publicly said why they believe that this has
But Lee himself was down in Busan, so just on the south coast of South Korea, and he was there really campaigning. He's a few months out from
local elections in South Korea. And this is what politicians are doing at this point.
So this is now raising questions about what happens in South Korea, which is the public can get very close to high-profile lawmakers, including Lee
himself. And we have seen some of these attacks in recent years with high- profile lawmakers as well.
So there are many questions as to whether or not that has to change. Whether security has to be stepped --
SOARES: Yes --
HANCOCKS: Up. For Lee's point of view, he's currently in intensive care. He had a vein reconstruction surgery because it was believed at the time that
his jugular had been damaged in that attack. But at this point, the latest we have is he is recovering in intensive care. Isa.
SOARES: And what do we know about the assailant, Paula?
HANCOCKS: Not very much at this point. We have been told by police, he is a man, he is in his 60s. We can see from the video that he has presented
himself as a Lee Jae-Myung supporter. He is wearing a head banner, which shows that he supports him, obviously, being able to assimilate into the
supporters group at that point.
But beyond that, we really don't have very much at all. And as I say, it's not the first time, Isa, that this has happened. Just last year, Lee's
predecessor was actually hit in the head with a hammer by someone who did not agree with his political point of view.
It is a very polarized political scene in South Korea at this point. That will obviously be one potential motive that police are looking for. But as
of this moment, they don't have a motive and they haven't said why they believe he carried this out.
SOARES: I know you'll stay across it for us. Paula Hancocks, great to see you, thanks very much, Paula. And back now, we'll have much more back on
Japan, and have much more now on the remarkable evacuation we told you in the last few minutes.
I want to bring in our business editor-at-large and anchor of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS", Richard Quest. And Richard, we were listening to a report there
from our Will Ripley in Japan, and something he said is, how could this have happened?
Why is -- why were there two planes, really, Richard, in the same place at the same time. What questions were going through your mind as you saw those
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: All right, so, you -- let's deal with the escape first. Textbook, everything happened exactly as it was
They were able to evacuate the aircraft within 90 seconds, with half the doors inoperable, because they were told not to use the back doors, only to
use the front. So in a sense, you could say, hell, I mean, it all worked as it should. But that's still miraculous nonetheless. Now --
SOARES: Yes --
QUEST: On the question of how this happened, well, clearly, somebody screwed up. Now, is it the air-traffic controller? Is it -- who either
didn't stop a plane or granted permission to the other to move. Is it the pilots of one of the planes who didn't hear properly or misheard?
And therefore the plane landed when it shouldn't have done, or the dash-aid came across the runway when it was -- had been told to hold and wait. We
don't know! What we do know, of course, is that there will be plenty of transcripts --
SOARES: Yes --
QUEST: Of everything that happened. So getting to the heart of why the proximate cause, i.e., Airbus hits-dash-plane, that will not be difficult.
SOARES: On the evacuation, were you surprised, first of all, Richard, that, you know, that those on board, 379, were able to survive? They got out of
this alive. I mean, took what? Two minutes, less than two minutes?
QUEST: Ninety seconds is what the regulations require. I am surprised when things go as they're supposed to go.
QUEST: The so-called ability for it to all screw up is always tremendous. But you remember, Air France, an A 340 landed at Toronto's Pearson and went
right down the runway on flames, everybody got off. So, there are plenty of cases -- there are cases where this has happened. I think my surprise is
that everybody did. If you had --
SOARES: Yes --
QUEST: Said to me, 70 percent did, I would have said that was a good result. The fact that --
SOARES: Yes --
QUEST: A 100 -- it's a bit the same as with them -- "the Miracle on the Hudson". The fact that a 100 percent got off within that period of time.
That is the miracle. But the plane is built for this. The number of exits, the fiery-hardened material, the carbon fiber from which it is made, the
procedures, and I will say one thing, you know, next time, Isa, you are told to look where your nearest --
SOARES: I shall be paying attention.
QUEST: And remember it --
SOARES: I will not be looking down, yes --
QUEST: But it may be behind you, and that's what these things did. People think it's just a little bit nonsense. Well, there are 300-plus people --
SOARES: Yes --
QUEST: Who are very glad that the crew knew what they were doing, the plane was built properly. The procedures -- remember of course, the fire brigade
is there, so they're damping down immediately. Is it a miracle? Yes. But the miracle is that the system worked.
SOARES: System works and kudos, of course, to the crew for --
QUEST: Oh, absolutely.
SOARES: Making sure that everyone got out safely.
QUEST: Because --
SOARES: Richard --
QUEST: I'm absolutely certain somebody along that line tried to take their overhead thing and were probably told, put that down, but probably in
stronger language than that.
SOARES: I'm pretty sure of that too. Richard Quest, great to see you, thanks, Richard --
QUEST: Thank you. Thank you.
SOARES: And still to come tonight, Russian missiles pummeled Ukraine in a large-scale overnight attack. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic
Robertson will join me to discuss. That is next.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.
Ukrainian officials say at least five people died and 112 were injured Tuesday as Russia stepped up attacks overnight, in eastern Kharkiv and
central Kyiv regions were hit the hardest.
The barrage of missile launches led Poland to activate fighter jets to protect its airspace. And this comes after Russian president Vladimir Putin
vowed to intensify strikes on Ukraine in the new year. Nic Robertson joins me with more developments.
A pretty bleak start for Ukrainians after almost two years of war. Talk us through what the last 24, 48 hours have been like.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's been a lot of missiles incoming between drones and missiles. I think what the Ukrainians were very
happy about today is that they were able to shoot down 10 out of 10 of the hypersonic Kinzhal missiles --
-- fastest missile. They shot down 10 out of 10 of these. They had 500 missiles and drones in the last five days, which is something of a record
in and of itself. The tit-for-tat at the beginning of last week when the Ukrainians sank a Russian warship.
It was an important warship. They sank it.
The Russians responded with 158 missiles Friday. The Ukrainians responded Saturday by shelling Belgorod. There was a high civilian death toll there.
The Russians upped the ante that evening Saturday evening. Sort of went quiet at new year. Then, boom, now we are into it.
So this is really setting a trend at the moment that Putin is keeping his word. He's doubling down, big strikes and, look, I think a big takeaway
here is that these strikes from Russia are not aimed at the front lines. He's not trying to shift the front line. It is all the cities, all the
SOARES: How do you interpret that?
Like you said, President Putin very openly vowed to strike hard, right, against Ukraine.
What are you hearing from your contacts, Ukrainian officials, to the timing of this?
ROBERTSON: I think there are several things. One there can be the retaliation for the warship. It can be because Putin has got an election
coming up. There is no other person who's going to win. It's going to be him.
ROBERTSON: He likes to dot the I's and cross the T's. He wants to make it look like he's delivering the perfect war and the perfect electoral
And to have that narrative that he is winning, that they are inflicting damage and pain on the Ukrainians. They say we are only going after the
military industrial complex. But the civilians under the bombs in Kyiv tell CNN today that it is a different story.
We heard from the head of armed forces in Ukraine, CNN today. Doesn't speak very often. He was quite blunt and frank about the success they have,
shooting down these Kinzhal missiles, these hypersonic missiles. U.S. made Patriot air systems did that.
But he said we need more. Without these, civilians die. We need more. This is a concern for Ukraine. I think this optimism on Putin's part here, when
he sees a diminution in support from the West and the money from the U.S. and Europe, this is --
ROBERTSON: -- double down, this is psychological.
SOARES: Absolutely. It speaks to what we heard from President Zelenskyy's New Year message pointing the fingers almost at the West. You need to step
up. We need more.
And the timing of this, of course, the last batch of support and financial support from the United States, your diplomatic contacts, what is the sense
you are getting from those in Europe, at least of what this year, how tough this year maybe for Ukraine?
ROBERTSON: Really tough. Putin has sort of withstood -- Putin was concerned about last year. But he could've lost ground and he didn't. The failure of
the West to provide Ukraine weapons early last year gave Russia time to dig in.
Ukraine wasn't able to exploit those new weapons and take ground. I think this has emboldened Putin. And he sees the divisions in the West. That
emboldens him further.
And he's emboldened by the fact that this U.S. presidential election next year and it's possible there could be a Republican president, possibly
president Trump by the end of the -- a president Trump by the end of the year.
For Putin, that would be better than what he faces right now. So he's going to exploit all those weaknesses in Ukraine. Putin, it feels he's got a much
better year coming up --
SOARES: And not just the United States; even in Europe there seems to be divisions over funding for Ukraine.
ROBERTSON: Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, stopped the E.U. just before Christmas on agreeing to a $55 billion package over four years
for Ukraine. This is something they need.
Over four years, you can plan all the money that is coming in at the moment is we will give you this and we give you that. And it's big money and it's
very useful. But it's not structured. This was going to be structured.
That is blocked. Orban blocked it. The E.U. does have some work-arounds and will perhaps come up with a plan B that could release $20 billion but it
won't be a structured or they might just allow what they've been doing already to continue to keep flowing. But it's not the structure that
Ukraine really needs.
SOARES: The structure, it needs it quicker and more of it. That is obvious. As always, great to see. You thank you very much.
Still to come tonight, Israel's supreme court has struck down a highly controversial amendment that would have limited the power of the high
court. We will tell you what that means for the country just ahead.
SOARES: In Israel, the supreme court has struck down a hugely controversial amendment to the so-called reasonableness law which limited the power of
the high court. The move deals a major blow to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The justice minister calling it "opposite of the spirit of unity," during the ongoing war with Hamas. The narrow 8-7 vote is indicative of the deep
divisions over the law. This move could reignite those fierce tensions in the country.
Last year tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets every week, as we showed you on the show, to protest the government's laws. Journalist
Elliott Gotkine reports from Tel Aviv.
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a bombshell.
In an eight to seven ruling Israel supreme court struck down legislation that removed its powers to
throw out government decisions on the grounds of reasonableness. We rejected the amendment because of the severe and unprecedented blow it
represented to the core characteristic of Israel as a democratic state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had argued the change was required to restore the balance of power between the executive and the court. The law
was the first of a multipronged government plan to weaken the judiciary to be passed by the Knesset last year. The supreme court's decision could now
reopen the deep divisions in Israeli society.
The country convulsed by months of protests and even fears of civil war.
With Israel now almost three months into an actual war, after the Hamas led terrorist attacks of October 7th, those divisions had felt a lifetime away.
Indeed Justice Minister, Yariv Levin, the architect of the government's judicial overhaul plans a sale the timing of the court's decision, saying
it was the opposite of the unity the country now demanded.
Strange as the timing of the supreme court's decision may appear, it had no choice to have its justices officially retired three months ago but had
until this month to submit their final ruling. When the reform was introduced last year, massive crowds regularly took to the streets to decry
Prime Minister Netanyahu's plans, which they saw as a serious threat to the country's democracy. In Israel which has no written constitution the
supreme court served as one of the only checks on the executive and legislative branches of government?
In an interview with CNN in July Netanyahu rejected the notion the overhaul poses threats to democracy but declined to say whether he would abide by a
supreme court ruling that went against him.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Will go into unchartered territory. And I really would like to believe that they won't do that. And
the reason is that, first of all, we're all subject to the rule of law. The Prime Minister is subject to the rule of law. The Knesset or Parliament is
subject to the rule of law. The judges are subject to the law; everybody is subject to the law.
GOTKINE (voice-over): The court's decision marks a major loss for a Prime Minister still facing a corruption trial and outrage for failing to prevent
the Hamas led massacres of October 7th. But with no end in sight to the war in Gaza, Netanyahu has more pressing concerns than another spat with the
supreme court. That fight will be for another day -- Elliott Gotkine, CNN, Tel Aviv.
SOARES: Let's bring in outgoing editor and chief of the "Jerusalem Post," Avi Mayer.
Great to see you. Welcome back to the show. I remember 2023, the whole, pretty much the whole of 2023 until October 7th, of course, being dominated
by this story.
How significant in your view is this ruling from the supreme court, the high court?
AVI MAYER, OUTGOING EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "JERUSALEM POST": As you said, it is hard to believe that just a few months ago this was the issue that was
tearing Israel apart. It feels so very distant, so very far away.
It is significant in that this is a ruling that had been anticipated for quite some time. Many have quietly forgotten it was actually in the works
because of the events of October 7th and the war that has ensued.
It is significant because this was the first legislative piece of the government's judicial reform, which many had somewhat assumed was somewhat
dead due to the events of recent months.
And it does seem to have blown a significant aspect of that to smithereens. We don't know whether it will be possible for the prime
minister to restart it. His allies have said this will not halt their efforts to reform the court and to rebalance what they view as an imbalance
between the court and the government.
We will have to see whether that does in fact happen in the months ahead.
SOARES: I suppose the question becomes and then, will the government respect the ruling here?
Because prime minister Netanyahu really never answered this question as he was asked on numerous occasions over this.
MAYER: That is the million dollar question. It has been of concern to many Israelis in the months since the ruling, since the decision was made by the
Knesset, by the government back in the summer.
Whether the court would in fact rule it a violation of Israel's constitution or the basic laws that govern the country and if, so whether
the government would abide by that ruling or in fact try to overrule itself.
And we don't know what will happen. My bet would be that the government will in fact abide by it. It does not need this distraction at this time.
We will see what happens, whether the government decides to restart this process as the dust settles as the war comes to and end. My bet is the
government judicial reform is dead at this point.
SOARES: Yes, interesting, because, of course, we haven't yet heard yet from Netanyahu, prime minister Netanyahu on this. This was his flagship policy.
And I do wonder whether this potentially could test the cohesion of the current emergency government.
MAYER: I think that is certainly true. I think the partners of the prime minister, including Benny Gantz, who's the primary rival and now a part of
the emergency government, have criticized the government, have said that this is not in fact something that they should be engaging at this time.
This is not the time to engage in judicial reform; it is time for cohesion and to focus on the war effort. My sense is that again, this is not
something that the government has any appetite for at the time.
The focus is on eradicating Hamas' military capability and bringing hostages home. No one has any appetite for a war between the government and
the supreme court. My notion would be at this point the government will abide by it and perhaps live to fight another day.
SOARES: And they have plenty on their plate, it seems. Our top story this hour, of course, a senior Hamas leader has died in an explosion in Beirut.
What has been the reaction to this within Israel, you think?
MAYER: Several officials have welcomed this Hamas mass terrorist's death. He was responsible for some of the worst terrorist outrages in Israel's
history. He was one of the cofounders of Hamas' terrorist military wing and its deputy commander until his death earlier this evening.
Officially Israel has not commented on whether Israel is behind his death. But it has said it is ready for any eventuality and remains focused on the
task of eradicating Hamas' military capability at this time.
SOARES: We shall see, of course, how much. Clearly a blow to Hamas but in terms of retaliation, what we will see, of course, from Hezbollah, we will
see from every reaction on. That
Avi, it was great to get your insights. Thank you very much.
MAYER: Thank you.
SOARES: Today lawyers for former U.S. President Trump are expected to file a pair of appeals to keep his name on the ballot in two states. It comes
after the state of Colorado, Maine, ruled Trump ineligible under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which bars insurrectionists from holding office.
The Colorado decision could make its way to the Supreme Court, placing Trump's legal and political future in the hands of three justices, he, by
the way, appointed.
Authorities have released new details in the deadly New Year's crash in Rochester, New York. Police say the suspect, Michael Avery, rented a
vehicle and spent hours buying gasoline before crashing into traffic outside a concert venue, seemingly on purpose.
After he died Monday night, the FBI says no suicide note or journal has been found. The suspect's hotel room and authorities have not found a link
to terrorism. Two people in another car were killed. Nine pedestrians were hurt just outside the Kodak Center.
Still to come tonight, the names of alleged associates and victims of the late child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein could be released today. We will
have the very latest next.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. The names of the alleged victims and associates of Jeffrey Epstein are to be made public. The unsealing could
happen as soon as today. A federal judge in New York ordered the release of more than 150 names last month.
It was the latest filing in the settled case by the Virginia Roberts Giuffre chief there, an American woman who accused Jeffrey Epstein and his
former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, of sex crimes. While the case was settled in 2017, there has been an ongoing effort to unseal the records.
Epstein was indicted in 2019 on sex trafficking charges over accusations that he sexually abused underage girls. The multimillionaire died by
suicide in jail while awaiting trial. CNN's Kara Scannell now is following this story, joining us live from New York.
Kara, if your name is on that list, what could that potentially mean?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These documents that are going to be unsealed, we are expecting hundreds, maybe even thousands of pages.
Unfortunately, it will not be one neat list.
It is documents that they obtained throughout the course of the litigation. It could be deposition transcripts, it could be calendar entries, flight
manifestos. All of this rich information that they had gotten.
Giuffre, through her lawsuit, she has made big allegations against a number of prominent men, saying that she was forced to have sex with them,
probably most famously accusing Prince Andrew of that.
They reached a settlement in a lawsuit where he agreed to pay a substantial amount of money to a charity. We are expecting to see a lot of names in
this. And it's not necessarily going to be that it is for a bad reason or one of the men that she has accused.
There could be people that work for Epstein. People who were secretaries who might be cc'd on things. Also we are expecting there to be a number of
other accusers. After Giuffre went public with her allegations, other accusers also came forward.
A number of them have also had written references vaguely to them in some of her litigation. We do expect to see some other people that have come
forward and their names will become public.
The reason why the judge is doing this is because she said that so much information has already become public, either because accusers went public
on their own or because the information came out during Maxwell's criminal trial.
That was one of the reasons she was saying that it was OK now to release the information so they can get a fuller picture of Epstein's life.
SOARES: I think that's important context there. In many ways, Kara, we will probably get a better sense of his world, right?
How about the legal consequences here?
The potential legal consequences or fallout from this?
SCANNELL: I think that the potential initial line of fallout here could just be bad PR for a number of people who were referenced in this. They
would be dredging up issues that they thought they might've put to bed.
As far as the legal consequences, the federal prosecutors who brought that case against Epstein and Maxwell spent time interviewing dozens of accusers
and women in connection with this, including Giuffre, asking them what they had in their allegations of being assaulted and anybody else that would've
assisted in that.
In the end they only brought an additional case to Ghislaine Maxwell, not any of the other alleged recruiters or other women who are part of this
machinery or any of the men who may have had sexual relations with underage women and girls.
Unless there is some bombshell allegation here, it seems like a lot of this material has already known by prosecutors. We might not see anything from a
criminal standpoint. It is always possible that there could be additional civil litigation that stems from this. But again, we will have to wait and
see exactly what is in this material.
SOARES: Kara Scannell, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
History, believe it or not, is being made at the World Darts Championship. Let me say that again, Luke Littler is the youngest player to ever reach
the semifinals at the age of 16.
The teenager beat 51-year-old Branden Dolen (ph) 5-1. Littler is now one of the favorites to lift the Sid Waddell trophy on Wednesday. First, he must
play former world champion Rob Cross in the semifinals. You can see that I know very little about darts. Congratulations to him.
Two amazing tennis returns in wins at Australia at the Brisbane International. Rafael Nadal beat Austria's Dominic Thiem in straight sets.
It was the first singles match in almost a year for the 22-time grand slam champion. He struggled as you all know with injuries for most of the last
On the women's side, a big win for former world number one Naomi Osaka. She beat Germany's Tamara Korpatsch in the first round. The four-time grand
slam champ's last match it was in 2022. She took time off to prioritize her mental health and have a baby. Great to see them both back.
Finally, 2024 is going to be a great year supposedly for growing hair apparently. Go to cnn.com for all of those stories on our "Style." that is
a little teaser for you.
That does it for, us we are running out of time. Stay with us right here. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next.