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Isa Soares Tonight

Biden Honors 3 U.S. Soldiers Killed In Jordan Attack; Ukraine's Army Chief Says Design Of War Has Changed; El Salvador Gets Set To Head To The Polls As Its President Is Poised For Re-Election; School Shooter's Mom Returns To Stand To Face Prosecutors; UN: "We Fear For What Comes Next" In Rafah"; U.S. imposes Sanctions On 4 Israelis Over Violence In W. Bank. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 14:00   ET



RICHARD QUEST, HOST: It is a Friday, you are most welcome, I am Richard Quest, Isa is off for this evening. Tonight, a solemn moment as President

Joe Biden is meeting the families of the American soldiers who were killed in Jordan, expecting to oversee when their bodies are returned home, the

dignified return, as it is known, from the president and the first lady.

Ukraine's Army chief is not holding back to an exclusive frank assessment to CNN of where the war is at the moment, all at the same time as the

rumors are, he's about to be sacked. And El Salvador gets set to go into the polls, the president is poised for re-election.

The controversial crackdown on gangs and how that cool-down would play into the result. Any moment now, President Biden is to attend the dignified

transfer as it's called, the remains of three soldiers who were killed last Sunday in the drone attack in Jordan.

The dignified transfer will take place at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Earlier in the day, the president met with the families of the

soldiers, the president flew there, of course, from Joint Base Andrews. A dignified transfer is best described as that solemn moment when the remains

of those who have died in the service of their country are transferred back to their relatives, and indeed back to the military.

The fallen members are Sergeant William Rivers, Specialist Kennedy Sanders and Breonna Moffett. Now, both of them have now been promoted to the rank

of sergeant. CNN's Oren Liebermann is with me from the Pentagon. And the dignified transfer is exactly what it says. It says -- but it is an

extremely -- besides just solemn. It is a significant moment because it is the country saying, you know, welcome home under the most terrible of


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. These are -- these are never easy to watch, I can't even imagine what it's

like to participate in these ceremonies. This is the second time President Joe Biden has had to participate in a dignified transfer of remains.

The first was after the Abbey Gate bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members at the end of the Afghanistan withdrawal just a few days before the

U.S. was officially out. That ceremony very difficult to watch, it obviously lasted quite a while, because there were 13 killed here.

So now, several years later, he is attending one more after a drone on Sunday struck and killed three U.S. service members in Jordan. Sure, the

number might be smaller here, 13 versus 3, but the ceremony no less easy just because of that, again, as you point out, these are solemn events.

President Biden met with the three families for a while for about an hour, if I'm not mistaken, just a short time ago, that meeting wrapped up about

45 minutes ago, and that will lead to the dignified transfer of remains of these three soldiers, Sergeant Jerome Rivers, Sergeant Kennedy Sanders and

Sergeant Breonna Moffett.

The last two of whom were posthumously promoted from the rank of specialist. So, a difficult moment, certainly one that no president wants

to take part in, in the sense that you never want to see service members killed.

But President Biden has made the trip to Dover Air Force Base, first to be with the families, and then second, to pay his respects as these three

soldiers come home under the most difficult circumstances.

QUEST: Yes, I'm just looking, and most presidents at some point have had to do this. I can certainly recall Donald Trump having to do -- I think he

did it on a few occasions, where he had to do it, and they treat it with the utmost solemnity. I think the one thing that people don't understand is

that the weight that rests on the commander-in-chief's shoulders when they come face-to-face with people dying as a result of their actions.

LIEBERMANN: It's incredibly difficult, and that's something the commander --

QUEST: Yes --

LIEBERMANN: In-chief has to bear as the head of the military, as essentially the boss who made the decisions that puts service members in

the situations where they come under attack from the enemy.


And now, of course, it is Biden who has to make the decision on how to respond, the response we very much are expecting. It is also worth noting

that Biden himself is from Delaware, so this is Biden going to his home state, Dover Air Force Base, an enormous facility, I used to live in Dover,


This is where the dignified transfer of remains happen as service members who have died overseas, died in the service of their country are brought

back to Dover for the dignified transfer of remains. So, Biden is intimately familiar with Dover Air Force Base itself, and unfortunately

now, has to go through another one of these ceremonies and the burdens that the command brings with it there.

QUEST: The president also in his own hand tends to write to the families, doesn't he? And this is not unique in the United States, the British Prime

Minister was, writes a handwritten note to those who have fallen, and I am sure that can be -- that will be -- it's replicated in Germany, France, and

many other countries.

LIEBERMANN: There is definitely an effort to communicate, to try to reach out to the families. Biden has spoken with the families, and again, he met

them in person at the beginning of this day as this day played out at Dover Air Force Base -- worth noting, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also


The couple of times we've heard from Austin this week, including a press conference that he held just yesterday, this was the first thing he brought

up, the sorrow, the grief over three U.S. soldiers who were killed in this attack. And it's something that weighs on the commander-in-chief, it's

something that weighs on the Defense Secretary who is just under him in terms of chain of command of the military.

They know what it's like to be a soldier in harm's way. Certainly, Austin does as the former commander of U.S. central command. So it is -- it is a

burden they have to take here and we'll see soon when the video comes back of the dignified transfer of remains.

QUEST: Any idea when we're going to see that, Oren?

LIEBERMANN: It should be soon, but I can't promise a time right now.

QUEST: All right, Oren Liebermann, I'm grateful to you. Of course, behind all of this is what will be the U.S. response to last weekend's attack in

Jordan. The president said he's made his decisions, but we've yet to see exactly what that means in concrete action.

Brett Bruen is the former U.S. diplomat and President of the Global Situation Room. He's with me now. What are you expecting? Well, we'll deal

with the dignified transfer in just one second. I just want to talk to you about the likely response, from the military response.

BRETT BRUEN, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL SITUATION ROOM: Well, Richard, I think we've heard previews of what to expect that they are developing a strategy

that will disable, will diminish some of those Iranian proxies capabilities who carry out strikes that -- like the ones that took the lives of three

U.S. service members.

I think what we've also heard is that, that will take place over a series of days, even weeks. But ultimately, Richard, what the administration has

told us is not to expect, that this will enter Iranian territory, that this will be of such a scale as to incite Iran to take another retaliatory step.

And I think what we've heard from Tehran quite frankly, are efforts to try and both disavow and as well, perhaps, to pull back some of their

extracurricular activities in the region.

QUEST: You know, I always recall, and I'm not making light in any shape or form, but I always remember that episode of "The West Wing" where the

fictitious president had to have a proportionate response to a military attack. And Martin Sheen acting as president says you know, I'd love to

know what your proportionate response is supposed to be.

And this is a real life example of it now, isn't it? Because everybody says the response of President Biden has to be proportionate. But what is

proportionate in these scenarios?

BRUEN: Well, it is quite frankly just like that episode of "The West Wing" and the White House has said as much that they don't want to provoke or to

provide Tehran with an excuse to try and inflame any further the situation in the region.

But a proportionate response, at least, from my days as a diplomat, would be one that significantly reduces Iranian proxies capabilities to carry out

attacks. And I think in terms of the legacy of those three U.S. service members to say that we were able to save lives, that we were able to reduce

the attack, so many of them on U.S. facilities in the region as well as the shipping vessels that are passing through the Red Sea, that would be seen,

I think from many observers as a successful, as a proportionate response.


That hopefully also ensure that Iran got the message, and perhaps reined in some of its activities.

QUEST: This example that we're going to see over the next few days, there's also -- again, it's a real politic versus -- of which you are so

familiar, right? But it's almost -- it's telling -- it's almost doing something, but making it clear that the other side knows you're doing it

because you have to, and you don't expect or hope for escalation as a result of it.

And I'm thinking recently, Pakistan, Iran, who both lobbed missiles over each other's border in the last couple of weeks, but neither side did it

with an intention. You know, the intention was to give the other side a bloody nose, but not to raise the ante.

BRUEN: So, Richard, you've been around these situations long enough to know that diplomacy is a delicate dance, and in some ways, it's a tango.

And you're trying to mirror the actions of the other person on the dance floor. And in the objective, going back to the Peace of Westphalia, which

really enshrined some of those, if you will, modern rules of diplomacy in warfare, where we said look, there is a right of nation --

QUEST: Yes --

BRUEN: States to be able to respond in a limited fashion if they are injured, and I think that is what will play out over the coming days and

weeks. It will send a message. It will create a cost for some of those irresponsible actions that Iran and Iranian proxies were involved with. But

what Biden and his team had been clearly telegraphing over the last several days --

QUEST: Yes --

BRUEN: Is we do not, and our actions are not taken in an effort to try and escalate the situation. Some observers, I would count myself among them,

think they probably have overdone it on that --

QUEST: Right --

BRUEN: Score, because you don't want to diminish the significance of --

QUEST: So --

BRUEN: What you're weighing. And that's --

QUEST: Right --

BRUEN: Certainly has been the case in some of these statements.

QUEST: Right, stay with me. We do now have some of the early and first pictures from the dignified transfer. This is the moment when the U.S.

President and the first lady attend the transfer. It's -- regretfully, it's a very well-worn path where everybody knows what's -- going to have a real

pause for a second.

Now, what happens here, of course, is the president and the senior military officers, and this is the core of the president's awesome responsibilities.

The decision of sending men and women into harm's way, and when things go wrong as they did in Jordan for whatever reason that investigations will

show, then the moment requires the president to acknowledge that which has happened and on behalf of the country, as he stands there now receive back

their remains which will then be transferred to the families for either military or private burial.

Brett, as you watch, and you think and you ponder and you know what the president has planned ahead. How do you square that circle?

BRUEN: You know, the first thing that comes to mind, Richard, is that Biden told the United States out of Afghanistan in an effort to try and

stave off just these kinds of dignified transfers. There had been so many over the course of decades about the war in Afghanistan, also Iraq and the

broader war on terrorism.


I mean, I remember having served a year on a forward operating base in Iraq, the other side of this, when there were members of U.S. military that

fell in it, had to be transferred back through Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, and then on to Dover. This -- you know, it occupies your thoughts

late at night when you're sitting in that trailer as these service members were at the time of the strike.

What would it be like if I were to fall and my family were to get the call and have to show up for one of these ceremonies. And yet, as you pointed

out before in your conversation, with Oren, there is a modicum of comfort. There's a modicum of recognition.

The fact that the president, the senior military officials go out to pay their respects and to recognize the sacrifice that is required in order to

address the threats that the U.S. allies face. This unfortunately, has over the last two-and-a-half decades been a ceremony we've seen many times.

But with the president's presence, with the presence, obviously, of the press focused on it. It is a stark -- a sorrowful reminder that we still

live in very dangerous times, and we stand on the precipice of an important decision that will be implemented in the coming days.

QUEST: Maybe even in the coming hours. And we saw there, of course, also the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, I believe, who's also present. I'm

grateful, Brett, thank you very much. Thank you, I appreciate it. Thank you. We're staying with matters military, but of slightly different tone.

And then usually frank assessment of the problems facing Ukraine in its battle against Russia. And it comes on a man running the war. Ukraine's

Army chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi has told CNN, Ukraine must prepare for a decline in western support and instead, turn to emerging military

technology to win.

He wrote an exclusive opinion piece, he said, "we must contend with a reduction military report from key allies. The number one priority here is

mastery of an entire arsenal of relatively cheap, modern, and highly effective unmanned vehicles and other technological means."

He did not comment on the rumors that he could be out of a job following a rift with President Zelenskyy. Fred is with me, Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv. In

so many ways, what he says is a statement of the bleeding, obvious they would say, you know, we can see that the difficulty they're going to have

of getting more money, but it's his solution of these quicker, smaller, cheaper methods that he obviously knows what he's talking about. But is he


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think you're absolutely right. I think he knows what he's talking

about, but I also think, Richard, that, he is speaking from someone who has seen the evolution of these technologies as this war has gone on.

One of the interesting things that Valerii Zaluzhnyi also wrote in that article. He said, look, no war is like any other war. They're all very

different in many ways, and the one thing that really stands out with the war that we're seeing right here is the evolution of some of these unmanned

technologies in many ways -- of course, in many cases, drones, where many people at the beginning of all of this thought that all these were

consumer items that wouldn't make a difference on the battlefield.

And I think there's two things that we're seeing here. I think first of all, you're absolutely right. Valerii Zaluzhnyi facing that reality that

the Ukrainians in this war, probably in the medium-term, maybe in the long term, are going to be both outmanned and outgunned by the Russians.

He talks about that waning support, and I think the evolution part of it is, is that for the Ukrainian military, it is now beginning to seep in

that, maybe they do need to put more trust into some of these, what many people thought were consumer drones at the beginning of this, and make this

part of their military doctrine.

I think that's what he's talking about. There's some really interesting quotes in all this. I want to read you just a little bit of one, where he

says, "in 2024, we must focus our main efforts in three areas, introducing a new philosophy of training and warfare which takes account of

restrictions and assets and how they can be deployed, and mastering combat capabilities as soon as possible."

In other words, taking these technologies, these cheap drones that we've seen on the battlefield a great deal in an ever-expanding world and making

them part of their military strategy. I think that's really the new thing for them. It's been very interesting to see on the battlefield over the

past almost two years that we've been covering this war, Richard, is really the proliferation of very cheap drones units, often losing 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9

drones a day on these missions.


And at the same time, these drones making a big difference on the battlefield, and the Ukrainians, at least, according to General Valerii

Zaluzhnyi, hoping that they can be maybe not a game changer, but maybe give them a bit of an edge or at least level the playing field a little bit

against overwhelming Russian firepower, Richard.

QUEST: Glad to have you. We'll talk more as we see more pictures coming in tonight, thank you very much. As we continue, a large gas explosion in

Kenya's capital. Several people are dead and hundreds more have been injured. We will have a report, we'll be in Nairobi.

And President Biden and former President Trump appear to be on a collision course towards a November showdown. The new CNN poll numbers.


QUEST: Explosion has killed three people and injured more than 270 others in Nairobi and Kenya.




QUEST: At the moment, the authorities say a gas truck apparently exploded at a plant believed to hold cooking gas. The fire was intense and immense.

And now CNN's Larry Madowo tells us there's a criminal investigation.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A huge ball of fire ignited over Nairobi's night sky.


MADOWO: The screams of onlookers piercing through the sound of flames. Emergency workers racing to the scene after a gas truck exploded at what

officials are calling an unlicensed plant late Thursday evening, burning down a warehouse and damaging surrounding homes. The tears of this woman

falling onto a lost loved one, multiple dead with hundreds of others wounded.

EDWIN MACHIO, SURVIVOR (through translator): The fire caught up with me from almost 1 kilometer away as I was escaping. The flames from the

explosion knocked me down, burnt me on my neck and back as you can see.

MADOWO: Nairobi police are calling it a crime scene and opened an investigation on Friday. Nearby residents watching in silent shock as crime

investigators dig through the ash that less than 24 hours ago were their homes.


Businesses hollowed-out, the scars of the flames burned in these shop walls, the extent of the damage spreading for miles.

(on camera): The gas explosion burnt down everything in its wake, distracts several structures, several hundred yards in every direction. One

of the sixth-floor rooftop, almost funded yards away, broke down this wall, and most dramatic of all, a car that was blasted all this way.

Parts of the car here, the rest of it is strewn all across this area, and we're just a mile away from Kenya's main airport as we see a plane landing


(voice-over): Residents of that building telling me of their frantic escape.

JEREMIAH NGESA, SURVIVOR: We, down, and the fire on top of us. So the gate was closed, but we -- there was a stampede. We hurriedly tried to get out.

I think very many people were actually injured at that moment.

MADOWO: Government officials already dubbing the incident as a consequence of corruption, vowing to shut down the unlicensed company who was operating

inside the cooking gas filling plant.

ISAAC MWAURA, SPOKESPERSON, KENYAN GOVERNMENT: It is totally immoral for one to risk lives of fellow Kenyans just for profit, mere profiteering. It

is not acceptable for such facilities to be resident within residential areas. Because these are innocent hustlers who are going through their

business on daily basis.

MADOWO: Rebuilding the damage could take months or even years. But in the hours ahead, families now having to face their reality of grief. Larry

Madowo, CNN, Nairobi.


QUEST: And now as I promised you, more pictures have been coming to us from the moment of dignified transfer when President Biden and first lady

Jill Biden attended at Dover Air Base, the remains of the three soldiers killed last Sunday by the drone attack in Jordan.

And there we see moments ago, those caskets will now in the fullness of time, as you can see, they're being transferred from the military

transport, they'll be taken inside the hanger where the service and memorials will be said.

President there, the president, the first lady, the Secretary of Defense, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all branches and brigades

represented. This is CNN.



QUEST: Convicted teenage school gunman is back on the stand. Jennifer Crumbley and her husband were both charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Her son Ethan killed four students, and injured seven in the high school shooting in 2021. She was cross-examined today when she defended her

decision to buy her son a gun.


PROSECUTOR: That gun was gifted by you and your husband to your son on November 26th.


PROSECUTOR: How about when you posted on Instagram his new Christmas gift?

CRUMBLEY: Correct. I explained yesterday that it was for him to use at the shooting range. We didn't just hand him a gun as a "here you go, son." It

was something he could use when we went to the range as a family together.


QUEST: CNN's Jean Casarez is with me. Now listening to her there well- coached on those answers as to what to go, and I think, you know, we've heard others say that there's a lack of, I don't know, empathy, sympathy,

whatever you might call from her answers, but she was clearly giving a minimum necessary.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She was very short on her answers. Her voice never really changed. It was monotone, you could say. But on the

other hand, she never got flustered. She gave the answers on cross- examination as you were just focused on. He tried to break her. He didn't really break her. Did he show some inconsistencies? Yes. Will that be

brought up in closings? One would think.

Now here's what has happened. The prosecution has just finished its closing. It was about an hour long. They're going to take a break. The

defense is going to come on and give their closing. There should be a rebuttal closing from the prosecution. But the prosecutor really focused on

this was Jennifer's gun. And when her son was practicing that Saturday before the shooting, there was one person with him when he was practicing

to kill the four students. It was Jennifer. So, really focusing in on that.

I want you to listen to the prosecutor as she starts her closing arguments. It's all about emotion.


KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Listening and watching and thinking about four young kids being gunned down in their school is not

easy. You listen to every witness. You examine the evidence. And I suspect that many of you feel the way that we do. That it's difficult.

But we owe it to the victims and their families to say what really happened.


CASAREZ: So now the question is why are they bringing in the four victims? It's horrible. But this is not Ethan Crumbley's trial who shot the gun.

This is the mother's trial because one of the elements of involuntary manslaughter here in the United States is that you have to prove that

Jennifer Crumbley, herself, caused the deaths of those four students by her gross negligence to her son all the way around.

QUEST: And, you know, you've covered enough trials to know that you go for the emotion. But everything the prosecutor said then, I mean, they've still

got to tie the gross negligence to her.


QUEST: They've still got to get that level of Jennifer Crumbley's actions to be at that height.

CASAREZ: And that's the question. That's the pivotal question right there. Because if the jury doesn't believe beyond a reasonable doubt of what

you're saying, there's reasonable doubt and that's an acquittal. So -- and there's only one charge. There's not child neglect here. There's not a

lesser included. There's just the one charge.


All or nothing.

QUEST: From -- you've heard the evidence. And I would never be so presumptuous as to ask, you know, how you would find. But how -- do you

believe from having heard the evidence that it is a strong case that the prosecution has put forward?

CASAREZ: We never know what a jury is going to do. The nexus you're talking about to show and find beyond a reasonable doubt that growth negligence,

high standard. Think of the jury. Many parents are on that jury. I mean, there was evidence that came in on your text. You only say I love you three

times and love is talking about something else at one point. So, parents are saying, gee, how often does my teenager tell me he loves me? So there's

a lot of things that the jury may say, you know, yes, bad parenting is one thing. But to have her blamed for the deaths, that she's responsible for

the deaths, that's tough. We'll see.

QUEST: And the fascinating part of what you've just said, Jean, is that it goes both ways. There'll be parents who will identify immediately with

those who were murdered and the others who will also identify, but say, hey, that could have been me.

CASAREZ: That's right.

QUEST: Yes. Absolutely.

CASAREZ: That's right. Because it opens up the door to have many charges for many parents, which brings me to one last thing you just said. There's

always a mistrial when they can't find a unanimous decision.

QUEST: Jean, fascinating. Thank you so much. Very grateful.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

QUEST: Now as we continue, the U.N.'s humanitarian office, OCHA, is issuing a new urgent warning about Rafah, which is in southern Gaza. Israel's

vowing its troops will soon reach the town and they're pressing ahead in the war in Hamas. Now the U.N. says Rafah is now sheltering more than half

of Gaza's 2.3 million people. The town's under -- is a pressure cooker of despair in the fears of what happens next.

One man there says if Israeli tanks keep coming, people will have two choices. Stay and die or climb the walls into Egypt. Thousands of those in

Rafah recently fled to face fighting in nearby Khan Yunis, and many Palestinians have been displaced again and again as they keep moving,

searching for safety.

Now look at the satellite analysis here. How much of Gaza has been damaged? In some cases completely leveled in the war. The video shows what used to

be enabled in northwest Gaza. There's not a single building left. Not even the paved roads remain.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Tel Aviv. It is very difficult for the Israeli authorities to somehow put forward a justification for this

level of destruction, which, you know, look, we were talking a moment ago about proportionate in terms of how the U.S. will respond to the drone

attack in Jordan. But this also comes again this question of proportionality.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And it's something that so many of Israel's allies and partners are struggling with as their

populations are struggling with it. And this is something that President Biden, who's in an election year, is acutely aware of. That an element of

the progressive younger generation that he might normally expect to readily come out and vote for him with a little persuasion, a little time on the

stump, is really put off from it. And the protest that he meets are a real indicator that there is a [00:03:36] 35 nonise. And we've heard a noise

from civil servants, more than 800 who've signed a letter transatlantic calling on their governments to take -- calling their governments and

telling them that, look, what you may be doing here ma ybe making the situation worse.

I think when you understand that's happening, and when you understand how people feel about it, the popular mood, the sentiment, the big

demonstrations seen around the world, that does get to that issue. But it is a determination that the Israeli government, that they'll crush Hamas.

They say they're going to defeat them. And they believe that what they have done is justifiable to themselves and therefore should be to everyone else.

That this is what it takes to take on a terrorist organization, as they say, one that they say would be a threat to the wider world. That's their

justification. But it clearly has a lot of people doubting it.

QUEST: So, in this scenario, where, again -- I mean earlier in the week we had the Israeli saying they may have to go back into the North in various

parts that sort of tidy up and mop up as they would say. And now you've got right at the South, the sheer length and breadth. What does happen next?

ROBERTSON: I think it's an open question.


What the IDF say they're going to do and what their political leadership has told them to do is to go all the way to the border with Egypt, and that

includes Rafah. I think there was a certain level of expectation. If you remember, back in November, when the IDF thought they'd finished in the

North, and we now know they haven't because they do have big, ongoing operations there. But they had that humanitarian pause for about six days

at the end of November that allowed for the release of 100 hostages almost.

I think there was an expectation that when the IDF got done with a big operation in Khan Yunis, which is the second city, it's in the South, just

beyond it is Rafah, that might be when there would be another humanitarian pause or pause. Of course, Hamas is demanding a complete cessation of

violence, but that might have been a period where the hostages could have been released.

But I think what the IDF is facing now is that pretty much they're going to have to make that next military step into Rafah, and it's going to be so

hard because they're under increased scurrility from the international community. The ICJ has told them they must protect human lives and the

governments will have to report the ICJ in about three weeks. So many of the civilians that are now crowded, half that 2.2 million crowded into this

tiny border area are living in tents out in the open. They're not even in concrete or stone structures.

And this is the area where most of the hostages are believed to be held below ground, where most of the Hamas leadership is believed to be under

the ground. This is the high value area for the IDF to go into. I think I've explained quite clearly there that if you go in with full military

force with people in plastic sheeting tents, it would be a very, very ugly picture.

QUEST: Nic Robertson, I'm grateful. Nic Robertson's in Tel Aviv, where it's nearly 10 o'clock tonight.

Now, on Thursday, the U.S. sanctioned four Jewish settlers who have said it attacked Palestinians in the West Bank. It does represent a significant

shift, it would appear, in U.S. foreign policy, if not into entirely towards Israel, the country, but certainly into those involved.

Steven Cook's with me, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Steven, how much of a shift is this versus

symbolic versus real?


never sanctioned Israeli individuals, although going back to the 1990s, President Clinton did label certain groups extremist groups. So, I think it

is an important first step for the Biden administration. I think it's an important signal to the Israeli government that the president of the United

States takes very seriously the kind of violence that Israeli settlers enabled by ministers in the Israeli government and embedded by ministers in

the Israeli government.

Takes this very, very seriously and is willing to actually take action. That is something that we have not seen before.

QUEST: How does Israel respond other than saying, well, we're not, you know, you're wrong and we don't accept this? Bearing in mind, this is all

about settlers. And it's not only about the settlers going violently against the Palestinians, but it's also underlying the sheer philosophy of

the settlements.

COOK: Yes. So, it's a difficult situation for the Israeli government, which was clearly the American intent. Thus far, Prime Minister Netanyahu's offer

to kind of measured response, indicating that the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces and Israel's internal security agency, the Shin Bet, are on top of

this situation and that three of the four individuals sanctioned have already in the Israeli legal system.

At the same time, Netanyahu's partners, the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, his public security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, both of whom are

settlers have responded rather aggressively to this -- to these sanctions, in part because they may be next. But I think we raise an important point

because the Israeli government, particularly this Israeli government, is interested in advancing the project of settlements and in fact annexing

territory in the West Bank. So it's clearly -- if this has not sent the message and President Biden has to sanction more individuals, we're looking

at another point of tension between Washington and Jerusalem.

QUEST: OK. The issue that you've just raised is one of escalation on the sanctions point. And what it would take for the U.S. to take that very

major decision to sanction somebody who's, pardon the phrase, important?


COOK: Yes, I think the threat of sanction is important, particularly for these two ministers and the fact of the matter is, is that President Biden

can do this by executive order. He doesn't need congressional approval for it. So, it is a tool that the administration can use to signal to the

Israeli government. And I think, you know, thus far we'll have to see how Israelis actually respond on the ground. I suspect that they will crack

down on some settlers. But, of course, as I pointed out, you have two ministers who are determined to resist and continue to enable and abet

settler violence.

QUEST: Grateful for you, sir. Thank you, putting in a perspective in a busy day. Thank you.

To come, we have more. El Salvador's holding a presidential election this weekend. The incumbent's expected to be reelected, though not without some



QUEST: El Salvador's presidential election takes place this Sunday. Nayib Bukele is expected to easily win another term and largely part due to his

crackdown on gang activity. The critics say that crackdown comes at the price of civil rights. Stefano Pozzebon reports from Bogota.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Jacqueline Zelaya breaks down in tears when she talks about her niece, Joceline, who was just 20 years old

when she was murdered in the streets of San Salvador. The pain still fresh seven years after she was killed.

Back then, El Salvador was close to being a failed state. With the highest murder rate in the world, it was gangs like the infamous Mara Salvatrucha

or MS-13 who set the rules. To these days, Zelaya doesn't know who killed Joceline. She is sure, however, on who turned the tide on crime.

Nayib Bukele became president in 2019 and quickly tied his name to a security crackdown that sent tens of thousands to jail and effectively

taking the gangs off the street. A state of emergency was declared in 2022, granting the government exceptional powers to deploy the army and allowing

the police to detain any citizen without charge for up to 15 days, besides curtailing civil rights such as due process.


The government claims that El Salvador is finally safe and Bukele is cruising to re-election this Sunday. But his critics, such as human rights

watch, accuse him of mass indiscriminate detentions and even torture.

POZZEBON: At CNN, we spoke with a woman who was arrested on November 11, 2022. The police claimed that she was part of a gang. She denies the crime

and says that she never saw a judge. Six months later, she was found not guilty and was released, but she says that she was put through inhumane

conditions inside the prison. We're hiding her identity for security reasons.

POZZEBON (voice-over): The government admits that thousands of innocent people may have been imprisoned by mistake, but doubles down on the

crackdown and points to the deaths of policemen in the line of service as a reason to carry on. Neither Human Rights Watch, nor other shamers in jail

will say anything about the lives of our heroes or their families who are now hopeless without them, leaving the door wide open on the tight line

between security and individual freedoms.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


QUEST: From the world to outer space, like we've never seen it before, the web telescope has captured these 19 images, spiral galaxies in

unprecedented detail. They show stars, gas and dust with an intricate structure of each galaxy. The galaxy center features clusters of old stars,

supermassive black holes. The astronomers say they're excited to study the massive number of stars revealed by the web's new images.

As you just look at them, just pause for one second and think, whilst we are prattling on about this, that and the other, and then (INAUDIBLE)

rather ordinary sort of lives, or exciting lives, and all this is going on up there. It's only Friday.



QUEST: As I leave you this evening for the moment, the sad pictures, as we saw President Biden fulfilled his most solemn of duties as the U.S.

Commander-in-Chief. The caskets of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice returned home to the United States at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The

President and the first lady attended. It's called the dignified transfer. It was the remains of three soldiers killed last week by the drone attack

at Jordan.

And there's the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs and the variety of senior military officials.

And that's our report for this hour. I'm Richard Quest. I'll be back in just a moment. It's "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." This is CNN.