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Isa Soares Tonight

First Ship Carrying Life-Saving Aid Reaches Gaza Coast; Biden Backs Schumer On Speech Critical Of Netanyahu; Judge Rules Fani Willis Can Stay On Trump election Case; Voting Underway As Putin Expected To Secure Fifth Term; Israel Sending Delegation To Qatar For New Round Of Talks; CNN Speaks With Hamas Official; Judge Rules Fani Willis Can Stay On Trump Election Case. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 15, 2024 - 14:00   ET




ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone. I'm Isa Soares.

Tonight, desperately needed food aid arrives in Gaza for the first time by ship as a new maritime corridor is tested.

Also ahead, a judge rules that the prosecutor on Donald Trump's Georgia election case can stay on the trial, but only if a former lover is removed.

Details on that decision and voting is underway in Russian election that is sure to see Vladimir Putin win yet again.

But first tonight, it is a welcome sight for people on the brink of famine after five months of war. The first ship to bring life-saving aid to Gaza

has now arrived. Workers are unpacking the 200 tons of food on board, transferring it to smaller boats that will take it ashore.

The charity, World Central Kitchen, says several crates have already been delivered. In some parts of Gaza, Palestinian civilians have been risking

their lives to pick up aid, yet another deadly attack has been reported in Gaza City, on crowds desperate as we have shown you for food.

And we warn you, the next video is disturbing. The health ministry says, at least 20 people were killed and more than 150 wounded by Israeli shelling.

Israel denies that. It says its preliminary review found armed Palestinians open fire instead.

While Israel's war cabinet meantime has approved long threatened action, their words in Rafah, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says the

IDF is preparing to evacuate the population there without giving really any further details.

Our Jeremy Diamond is following all of these developments for us from Jerusalem, joins me now.

And, Jeremy, finally some good news that first aid ship has arrived. The first pallet of aid has been offloaded. What more can you tell us about the

distribution and the promises key here of more aid?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Well, those pallets were offloaded today in Gaza after a multi-day journey by

this ship that was carrying, what will eventually amount to more than 500,000 meals for desperate Palestinians in northern Gaza.

We understand, according to the Israeli military, that 130 pallets of humanitarian aid were offloaded from those ships, transferred into World

Central Kitchen trucks. The Israeli military saying that they helped coordinate this.

But now, there are questions about exactly how this aid will be distributed and the safety of that, because we've seen so many instances, of course, in

which these aid trucks have been swarmed by desperate people in part of northern Gaza where we have seen cases of malnutrition just rapidly,

rapidly rising at this time.

And, of course, beyond that, we are also seeing deadlier incidents involving the collection of humanitarian aid.

Last night, the Gaza Ministry of Health says that 20 people were killed, 155 wounded by what they say was Israeli shelling of a -- a food

distribution point, the Kuwaiti roundabout in Gaza City.

The Israeli military, for its part, denies that it carried out that attack. It says that it's -- it carried out a review that there was no tank fire,

airstrikes or gunfire.

They've also released a video now that shows at least one gunman firing into the crowd. But this doesn't explain the devastation that we saw in

videos of the aftermath of this, the rubble, the dust, people wounded and injured, covered in dust from what appears to be a much more significant

explosion than simply gunfire.

And eyewitnesses on the ground say that they heard what sounded like tank or artillery fire. Many questions still remaining about that incident on

the ground.

SOARES: In the meantime, we have heard that Prime Minister Netanyahu has approved plans for action, his words in Rafah.

We have reaction from Secretary Blinken. I want to play that. We can talk off the back of that. Have a listen.


ANTHONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: President Biden has been very clear that given the large number of civilians in Rafah, about 1.4

million, many of whom as the Foreign Minister said, they've been displaced from other parts of Gaza. We have to see.

A clear and implementable plan, not only to get civilians out of harm's way, but also to make sure that once out of harm's way, they're

appropriately cared for with shelter, with food, with medicine, with clothing and we've not yet seen such a plan.



SOARES: Secretary Blinken there.

So, Jeremy, when Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he's approved plans for action in Rafah, do we know what that means? Is the action referring to the

evacuation of the population to these humanitarian enclaves that you and I were talking about this time yesterday?

DIAMOND: It refers to a dual plan, as the Israeli government has been referring to it, to both evacuate the civilian population from Rafah, but

also to carry out this major military offensive into what Netanyahu has described as Hamas' last bastion.

But in terms of details of this plan that was approved by the Israeli Prime Minister, we really don't have many. All we have is the Israeli military

this week, telling us that civilians would be moved to what they've described as humanitarian enclaves in central Gaza, where there would be

food, shelter, and field hospital setup in partnership with other countries.

But this is an enormous operation to carry out. Just the evacuation alone, I'm told, would take at least two weeks. And there are major questions

still, as the Secretary of State was pointing out there, about the feasibility of moving so many people, one and a half million Palestinians,

many of them already displaced from other parts of Gaza, to move them out of that city before a military offensive.

And we have seen in the past, as Israeli plans to evacuate other cities in Gaza, have simply not gone according to plan. So there is a legitimate

reason why there are so many questions about how the Israeli military will actually carry this out. And so far they have yet to actually answer many

of those publicly.

SOARES: Yes, indeed. Jeremy Diamond there for us in Jerusalem this evening. Appreciate it.

Well, even as Israel prepares for the rough result, it is sending a delegation to Qatar, raising hopes that a ceasefire might be reached.

Israel and Hamas have been indirectly negotiating through international mediators.

A diplomatic source tells CNN that efforts to secure the release of hostages and broker a truce are moving, quote, in a positive direction.

But Israel says the latest Hamas position has unrealistic demands. We'll have much more on these critical talks in about 20 minutes or so time.

While U.S. President Joe Biden appears to be siding with the top Senate Democrat in calling for new Israeli elections, made Majority Leader Chuck

Schumer, who is Jewish, slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his speech. Really roughly at this time here yesterday on our show.

Schumer came under fire for that by top Republicans, as well as Israel's ruling party. Here's what Mr. Biden said about Schumer earlier.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He made a good speech. And I think he expressed a serious concern, shared not only by him but by many



SOARES: Well, Mr. Biden made those comments, as you can see right there, alongside Ireland's Prime Minister Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is in

Washington, ahead of St Patrick's Day this weekend.

His government has been calling for a Gaza ceasefire for months. And Mr. Varadkar had this to say about Israel's use of American weapons. Have a



LEO VARADKAR, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: The president was very clear that the U.S. would continue to support Israel and to assist Israel to defend

itself. So I don't think that's going to change. But I think none of us like to see American weapons being used in the way they are. The way

they're being used at the moment is not self-defense.


SOARES: Well, senior White House correspondent MJ Lee is in Washington for us.

And, MJ, while there is clearly respect and friendship between both of these men, it is planned that little -- the little snippet of what we heard

there really lays out the differences over Israel, with the Taoiseach being very blunt today about American weapons being used in Gaza.

Tell us about the meeting. What came out of that?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, I think we get such a great look at how dire the situation right now in Gaza is. Just based on

the fact that you have this meeting between President Biden and the Taoiseach.

And this annual meeting is typically a little bit more light-hearted. It's festive and celebration of St. Patrick's Day. And instead, you have this

meeting that was overwhelmingly, you know, focused on the situation in Gaza and the Israel-Hamas war.

And, actually, when you heard the two leaders speaking, you saw many areas where the two leaders are actually in sync. Both of them called for an

immediate ceasefire. But, of course, important to note, the president has only called for a temporary one. The Irish Prime Minister has called for a

permanent one.

They sort of were on the same wavelength when discussing the need for more humanitarian aid to get into Gaza and talking about the civilian casualty

and just the humanitarian crisis overall in the strip.


But you're totally right that you could see the tensions that are also at play here, particularly when we saw the Taoiseach making that comment about

American weapons that are being used in the war.

He said none of us like to see American weapons being used this way. And he said that it is clear to him that those weapons are currently not being

used as a way of providing self-defense for the Israeli people.

And, you know, we are, of course, in such a critical moment in this war and as such in such a critical moment for the Biden White House when it comes

to this conflict, particularly given the comments that we heard from the Israeli Prime Minister's office earlier today, where they said that they

have made preparations to make this military operation expansion into Rafah.

They said that they had some kind of civilian evacuation plan, but the White House over here has made clear that they have seen no such plan. And,

remember, it was just about a week ago that we heard President Biden telling a reporter that he sees it as crossing of a red line if Israel were

to go into Rafah.

And other U.S. officials have said they must see a credible evacuation plan that secures the safety of the many, many people, the many civilians in

Rafah before any kind of military operation were to begin there.

And, honestly, there is a lot of skepticism here that such a plan is even possible given that we are talking about some estimated 1.4, 1.5 million

people, many of whom actually fled there to get away from the fighting up in the northern part of Gaza.

SOARES: Yes, yes.

LEE: So just a really precarious and tense situation, for sure, when it comes to discussing this war and where we are in that conflict.

SOARES: Indeed, people have been displaced so many times.

And, look, I mean, one area that we know both men do agree on or do see eye-to-eye on, MJ, is the -- is Ukraine, right?

The Taoiseach here seek any reassurances from President Biden about the military aid for Ukraine, which, of course, is being held up by political


LEE: That's right. I mean, I think the only reassurances that President Biden could offer is, again, that they're on the same page that Ukraine

needs to have more security assistance.

But the assurance that President Biden can't exactly offer right now, when it comes to Ukraine aid, is what's going to happen on Capitol Hill when it

comes to this package? He has repeatedly called on the House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring up Ukraine aid on the House floor.

We've seen no signs that the House Speaker is interested in doing that. And, you know, that is a part of why a few days ago here in the U.S., we

saw the administration announcing an additional $300 million in U.S. assistance.

That money came from unanticipated cost savings from the Defense Department. And the White House has been very clear. This is a very modest

amount. And it's only going to last a couple of weeks for Ukraine.

SOARES: MJ Lee, appreciate it. Thank you, MJ.

Now, Fani Willis can stay but Nathan Wade has to go. That is the ruling from the Georgia judge presiding over Donald Trump's election interference


The judge basically said that Willis can continue to prosecute the case. But only if Wade, that's a special prosecutor, withdraws.

He rebuked Wills (PH) for what he -- Willis, for what he called a tremendous slap, lapse in judgment for having a romantic relationship with


And though the judge said that relationship had an appearance of impropriety, he said it was not enough to remove her from the case.

CNN's Ryan Young is now with us from Atlanta.

So, Ryan, technically, I mean, this is perhaps a win for Willis and their office. But the judge had very -- some very harsh words we just showed

there to both Willis and his special prosecutor. Walk us through the kind of key points here.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a harsh rebuke. But when you think about how this is played out, especially in the

courtroom, honestly, I'm sure every prosecutor across this world would want to avoid some of the public information that was brought into this.

Fani Willis and Nathan Wade have known each other for quite some time. And at some point, Nathan Wade, who's the special prosecutor, was getting a


And during that time, he and Fani Willis started a relationship. Now, of course, there are some people who are trying to figure out exactly when

this relationship started. But what we do know is while he was under her, she is the boss, they started traveling across the country. They went to

Aruba. They went to Miami. They went on several different trips.

And Nathan Wade made over $600,000 as a special prosecutor. And so according to Donald Trump's team, they're wondering if she was profiting

from this prosecution.

Now, as far as Fani Willis said, she paid him back in cash because she never want to be beholden to a man. But this really got up to a point where

people are trying to pay attention to exactly what happened.

And when you listen to how fiery Fani Willis was in court a few weeks ago, you can understand this has taken a personal toll on her. Take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So your office objected to us getting Delta records for flights that you may have taken with Mr. Wade.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: And -- well, no, no, no. I object to you getting records. You've been intrusive into people's personal

lives. You're confused. You think I'm on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I'm not on trial, no matter how

hard you try to put me on trial.


YOUNG: Yes. You can feel her heat in that. And the judge, McAfee, actually put out a statement that says, in this ruling here, why Fani can stay.

"There has not been a showing that the defendant's due process rights have been violated or that issues involved prejudiced the defendants in any way.

Nor is any disqualification of a constitutional office necessary when a less drastic and sufficiently remedial option is available."

So, again, she gets to stay as long as he steps down. Now, of course, Donald Trump's attorney, Steven Sadow, really hit back pretty fast and

pretty hard. He actually says in a statement, "While respecting the court's decision, we believe that the court did not afford appropriate significance

to the prosecutorial misconduct of Willis and Wade, including the financial benefits, testifying untruthfully about when their personal relationship

began, as well as Willis' MLK church speech."

And I want to bring that up because that's where race got infused into this. Fani Willis went to a church and started talking from the pulpit,

just about the fact that she felt like a lot of this has been turned around because that Nathan Wade was black.

But, obviously, with the 14 defendants and the former president all involved in this case watching it, you can understand why the public may

have questions about a personal relationship.

They both say that --


YOUNG: -- a personal relationship is now over. But at the same time, even the judge says that someone could assume that maybe it has continued.

We're not sure when Nathan Wade may step down. We're looking to see if we can get some comments from that -- from Fani Willis' office. We know

they're not going to do a news conference today. But hopefully, there'll be a statement to try to figure out what happens next.

I do want to note though. This is something that everyone should remember. They wanted to try to get this to trial before the election --


YOUNG: -- in November. That is the big key here. And with this, there's a big slowdown.

So that August date is already starting to slide. This is a racketeering case. It could take months, maybe even six months to see the jury in a case

like this.

We've already seen that happen in Fulton County recently.


YOUNG: So this could really postpone it for quite some time.

SOARES: Ryan Young, I really appreciate you breaking it all down for us. Thanks, Ryan.

YOUNG: Appreciate it. Yes, no doubt.

SOARES: And still to come tonight, Russians head to the polls to pick their next president, but do any of the candidates really stand a chance against

Vladimir Putin? That story, up ahead.



SOARES: Well, as Russia heads to the polls to pick its next president, videos are emerging of protesters spoiling dozens of ballot papers. This

CCTV footage shows one young demonstrators, you can see there, appearing to pour ink into a box of voting slips.

Millions of Russians have already voted in the three-day election, which is expected to see Vladimir Putin secure a fifth term with only minimal


CNN's Matthew Chance was at a polling station in Moscow earlier today, and he brings us this report.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Russians are certainly going through the motions when it comes to this presidential

election. They're coming here to register their votes here before casting their ballots at the ballot box over there.

There's also the option of electronic voting. There are various machines that have been set up. People can vote on apps as well.

But make no mistake, the outcome of this presidential election in Russia is inevitable. Vladimir Putin is expected to win a fifth presidential term.

And that's because the opposition in this country have not been permitted to take part.

There's been a brutal crackdown on dissent across Russia. Opposition supporters have been silenced. Their leaders have been exiled, jailed or

dead. Alexei Navalny, of course, died in his arctic penal colony last month.

There's an official choice of candidates, but none of the other three people on the ballot sheet are particularly against the Kremlin, or have

any particular public support going into this vote.

Now, one of the things that we are watching carefully for is any possibility of protest. The widow of Alexei Navalny has called for Russians

to gather en masse at polling stations at a particular time over the weekend.

The authorities have issued a stern warning, saying that anybody in Russia who engages in unsanctioned protests during this Russian election period,

will be facing dire legal consequences.

Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


SOARES: And our thanks to Matthew for that report.

Let's get more now, Nina Khrushcheva is Professor of International Affairs at the New School. She's also the great granddaughter, former Soviet

leader, Nikita Khrushcheva.

Nina, welcome to the show. Good to see you.

This is, of course, the first presidential election since the invasion of Ukraine. You said recently, I just want to quote you, whatever the details

of the journey, the destination is the same, more President Putin.

In other words, it's a given, really, that he will be reelected for another term. So why is this still important? What should we be looking out for


NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, THE NEW SCHOOL: Well, it is important that Russia is going through the motions that the Kremlin

decided that they needed to have this show of performance of a referendum on Putin. And they've been talked about tremendously -- a tremendous amount

of time about the commander in chief in this particular situation, which is the war in Ukraine.

It's very important that the nation unites and whatnot. So they really need to show that that 80 percent that the polls have been showing is going to

be 80 percent people having a mandate or people giving the mandate to Putin to do whatever he needs to do, wants to do, or plans to do in the next six


So it is the show of legitimacy rather than anything else.

SOARES: And we did hear, and Matthew mentioned that just in the clip before you. We heard Mr. Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, who has taken up, I

think it's fair to say, the core since her husband's death. She has been saying calling for a boycott of the elections.

Do you think this will be significant? Do you think they -- we will see protests over the coming days?

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, we're already seeing. It's actually quite remarkable how many times they've been even reported. I mean, these are the things that we

know that somebody threw ink at the bulletins.


KHRUSHCHEVA: Somebody -- Molotov cocktails at this school where the polling stations are. Somebody actually just set fire on -- in a polling booth and

whatnot. So there's many examples of protests.

The question is, when they go on to protest on the 17th, I mean, that particular moment, a particular day when the crowd's supposedly would come

out to show that they're against Putin, whether the crowds would show up, first of all, because they were strongly warned not to, or what will happen

when the crowds do show up, how much and how public the crackdown will be. Because I don't think that Putin is interested in a public crackdown, but

what would be the consequences?

So these are very important tensions that are taking -- that are taking place because surely the Navalny -- Alexei Navalny's funeral showed that

there was a lot of opposition brewing somewhere under the surface.


SOARES: And I think it's worth it, if you can, pointing out here to our viewers, that, you know, it's kind of ironic in many ways, Nina, that we're

calling this an election, because -- I mean, there isn't really a credible opposition, given that most of his critics have even been jailed, exiled,

or killed.

So, is there any other voices there, anyone there who can oppose him?

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, I mean, elections, we just used to call them elections, but nobody's basically whose getting another term. He's -- it's not even a

president. I mean, basically, the leader of the country's goal is pretending to have a public support.

There was a presidential candidate, supposed presidential candidate, Nadezhdin, who actually the Kremlin allowed to run, and then -- but he was

a clear anti-war candidate. He said he's anti-Putin candidate. He's for free elections. He's for transparency. And so he's against the war.

And sure enough, he gathered more than 200,000 signatures and he has support. The next thing we know, the signatures were deemed unacceptable,

and he's no longer a candidate.

So there's one person from New People, it's called -- his name is Davankov, maybe some sort of an opposition, but really, is this the enjoyment (PH) of

Vladimir Putin for another six years?

SOARES: OK. So he's going to win that. That is clear. How is he going to -- what's he going to do? How is he going to use this victory?

I mean, is this -- is this a question of him trying to seek a vote of confidence from his people about the war in Ukraine? Is this -- is this how

he's going to do it?

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, it's sort of a vote of confidence. I mean, he doesn't care because that's another thing. I mean, they can -- they can be

opposition all they want. They can just draw these numbers.

I mean, they will have as many -- the numbers that they need to have. I mean, we don't know whether it's going to be 80 percent or 80 percent plus

percent, but I'm sure that that's the numbers that are going to be given --


KHRUSHCHEVA: -- and voted.

So that's -- we don't know. I don't think it's even a vote of confidence. It's the pretend vote of confidence, is to say, look, 80 percent voted for

me. And if you are who are not, you are not patriots, you're not supporting the country, you are against the nation and whatnot.

So this is just legitimizing the continuous course to basically barely cause course of action against Ukraine, and the crackdown on anything that

is not Putin. I think that's what we're going to face. There would be more repression, more oppression, and more sort of a cause. Russia is a unique

civilization and anybody who says otherwise is going to be jailed for that.

SOARES: Nina Khrushcheva, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thank you, Nina.


SOARES: And still to come tonight, we'll explain why there's at least faint hope for a cease firing Gaza, even as Israeli officials call the latest

Hamas proposal absurd. That's next.


SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.

Returning now to our top story, Israel says it will send a delegation to Qatar for a new round of indirect talks with Hamas. That news keeping hope

alive that a deal can be brokered to secure the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire. An Israeli official telling CNN they expect very

tough negotiations, calling the latest Hamas proposal extreme and absurd.

But it's apparently at least a starting point. Our Alex Marquardt joins me now from Washington and more. So, Alex, Hamas now issued a counterproposal

in these negotiations. Do we know what's in that counterproposal?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We are getting a sense of what's in that, Isa. And everything we're hearing today really

highlights the fact that this is far from a done deal. It is moving forward.

So, in that sense, there is some optimism. We heard from Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier today saying that there is a sense of possibility

and of urgency. But the Biden administration has been saying for a long time that the ball is essentially in Hamas' court.

It is on them to respond, that Israel had basically agreed to this framework. And, Isa, now we have a counterproposal from Hamas, which I

should note Israel is essentially dismissing out of hand, calling it ridiculous and absurd. But this is what we've learned, that in an initial

stage of a multi-phase deal, that Hamas would agree to release the elderly, the sick, the wounded, and female hostages. There are believed to be around

40 of those.

And in exchange, Hamas is demanding that some 700 to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners be released from Israeli prisons. That is a huge number that

Israel may end up balking at.

And then in later phases, and I think this is where it gets really complicated, Isa, Hamas is saying that Israel must agree to a permanent

ceasefire and a withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza. That is something that Israel has so far refused to agree to, saying they want to continue their

fight against Hamas. They're saying they want to go until complete victory. And, of course, there's all this talk about Israel wanting to undertake an

offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Isa.

SOARES: Alex Marquardt with all the details there. Appreciate it. Thank you very much, Alex.

Well, for the first time since Hamas launched the October the 7th attacks on Israel, CNN has conducted an on-camera interview with Hamas official.

Our Jeremy Diamond spoke with Basem Naim, a member of Hamas's political bureau.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What conditions are those hostages being held in and what assurances can you provide their families of their well-


BASEM NAIM, HAMAS POLITICAL BUREAU: I cannot now reassure you anyone because all these war prisoners are facing the same bombardment and

starvation our people are facing on the ground. Therefore, we have repeatedly called for a ceasefire to be able to care for them, to collect

more data about them and to go or to engage into a prisoner deal.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The Israeli government believes at least 32 of the hostages are dead, their bodies still held as bargaining chips. But now

there is growing concern for the fate of the remaining female hostages.

DIAMOND: The United Nations said that it found, "clear and convincing information based on firsthand accounts that women being held hostage by

your organization, Hamas, have been raped, have been tortured, have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment."


What do you say to that?

NAIM: First of all, the lady, Patton, has said this is not an investigation committee, this is a data collection committee. She hasn't seen -- she

hasn't -- she was not able to show any proof and solid evidence from an eyewitness in the report.

DIAMOND: These are firsthand accounts by former hostages.

NAIM: Yes, but she hasn't met any of the victims. She has heard from someone who has heard about this.

DIAMOND: That's because they're still being held hostage by your organization.

DIAMOND: Look, I can -- I think the photos and the videos, the footages we have seen after releasing the women released inside Gaza are in

contradiction with all what Ms. Patton has said.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But those images of hostages being released were pure propaganda, with some hostages instructed to smile and wave on the cusp of


And this is the United Nations report. "Based on the firsthand accounts of released hostages, the mission team received clear and convincing

information that sexual violence, including rape, sexualized torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, occurred against some women and

children during their time in captivity."

DIAMOND: Do you deny that any women being held hostage by Hamas have been raped or tortured or subjected to sexual violence?

NAIM: Absolutely.

DIAMOND (voice-over): That absolute denial coming even as Naim previously said he cannot account for the fate of the hostages. His talks that could

lead to their release appear to be at an impasse.

NAIM: I think we cannot talk about breaking down of the negotiations. There are still some talks, some communications, but we cannot talk about serious

negotiations at this moment because we are waiting for the Israeli response about our proposals.

DIAMOND: And your proposal, as far as I understand it, is still calling for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of all troops from Gaza. Is that


NAIM: I think this is the natural or the minimum demands we can ask for after this long, six-month aggression, that we reach a permanent,

comprehensive, declared ceasefire, total withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the occupied territories in the West and the Gaza Strip, and the right

of all Palestinians displaced from their houses to return back to their houses before October 7th.

DIAMOND (voice-over): In a statement, an Israeli government official said "Prime Minister Netanyahu's government has freed 112 hostages to date and

is committed to free all the hostages.

Once Hamas's delusional demands come down to earth, there can be another humanitarian pause for a hostage release deal." Some Israeli officials

believe Hamas is stalling, hoping to incite more violence during the month of Ramadan.

DIAMOND: Let me ask you this. In Hamas' latest statement, you call on the, "brave masses of our people to continue to clash with the Zionist

occupation," and you put it in the context of Ramadan, which you call the month of jihad and resistance. Are you holding out on a ceasefire because

you hope to inspire more attacks against Israel?

NAIM: What we are calling for is clear. We are people under occupation. We are looking for our freedom and dignity. And we have all the right and all

the tools to reach these goals, starting by political diplomatic tools up to armed resistance.

DIAMOND: But you're not answering my question. Are you hoping to inspire more attacks, including terrorist attacks against civilians during the

month of Ramadan?

NAIM: Please don't talk about terrorism, because I think what is committed against us is a state terrorism. If we have to talk about terrorism, we

have to define it. What we are doing is resistance against the oppression, against the occupation. And, again, I think this is a guaranteed right in

the international law that all people under occupation have the right --

DIAMOND: Not when you target civilians.

NAIM: -- with this occupation. No, we are not targeting civilians. I don't think that --

DIAMOND: Hamas doesn't target civilians?

NAIM: I think a settler who is carrying an M-16 or gun in TV studios or in the streets or who is burning our people in Huwara while they are sleeping

or inside the West Bank are not -- are not civilians.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But Hamas does target civilians. On October 7th alone, Hamas militants stormed into Israeli homes, killing hundreds of men,

women, and children, a massacre that unleashed a devastating war.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Jerusalem.


SOARES: And still to come tonight, bad choices and an odor of mendacity.

[14:40:01]Georgia judge has harsh words for to -- Fani Willis in a major ruling. We'll explain what this might mean for the future of Donald Trump's

election interference case in Georgia.


SOARES: And returning to one of our top stories happening in the U.S. state of Georgia. We are waiting for District Attorney Fani Willis to respond to

Judge Scott's ruling. Judge gave Willis a choice, either she leaves the Donald Trump election interference case, or the special prosecutor, Nathan

Wade, resigns.

The judge is keeping the case alive by refusing to remove the DA, but his ruling comes with some very harsh words, saying an odor of mendacity

remains over the circumstances of Willis' romantic relationship with the special prosecutor. We have a lot to break down from this important ruling.

Joining us now with her reaction, the Wall Street Journal's Senior Political Responder, Molly Ball. She joins us from Arlington, Virginia.

Molly, welcome to the show. I mean, the top line seems to be here, that Willis can continue prosecuting the case, a former president and his co-

defendants, and it's clearly a legal win. At least it looks like a legal win for her.

But has her relationship with the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, has that changed the integrity of the case? Has that wounded the case at all


MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL RESPONDER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think it's wounded the case both politically and legally. I mean, as you say, we still

have not heard Fani Willis respond to this ruling by the judge and say whether she will dismiss the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, from the

case, which the judge said was the condition on which she could stay on the case.

So, it's not a complete victory for her. It muddies the waters politically, substantially. As you say, the judge in his ruling called her judgment into

question with some very harsh words, saying he couldn't be sure she was telling the truth when she testified and when Nathan Wade testified, and

also rebuking her for a lot of the public statements that she's made about the case.

She's gone out there in public multiple times and accused her -- you know, the defendants in this case of racism, and the judge smacked her down for

that, said that that was inappropriate, and even seemed to suggest that if the defendants were to seek a gag order, that he would welcome that. So

that would then limit the statements that she and others could make about the case, which I think would also limit the political relevance of it.

And then lastly, we don't know if this will cause further delays in the case. We've seen all of Trump's criminal cases have been dragged out in

part as a deliberate tactic by his lawyers, so if this case gets further delayed, that could also have political implications.

SOARES: And on that point, Molly, I mean, the former president has throughout, and not just with this case, as you were pointing out, been

kind of testing the U.S. justice system.


Sowing distrust in the legal system, even questioning how these cases came about, the people behind them. How may his camp here spin this politically,

you think?

BALL: Well, in this particular case, we've seen them, you know, hailed -- they criticized this ruling because they would have liked to see Fani

Willis kicked off the case entirely, but in rather measured terms, because I think they do see that this is a partial victory for them.

And I think the larger context is, again, that in all of these cases, they have been filing motion after motion, in some cases seemingly sort of long

shot, or tendentious or far-fetched legal action, that in some cases have been successful, either in actually winning or in just creating delays.

We saw just yesterday, the judge in the Florida-based federal case about Trump's handling of classified documents denied one of the lawyer's

motions, but she's taking her sweet time ruling on this flurry of other motions that they have filed, challenging everything from the wording to

the statutes themselves. So it's created this cloud of mistrust.

And I think, as you say, the way that he has taken all of these cases as a talking point in his campaign, used them to argue to his supporters that

the whole system is corrupt and that he's being victimized, that has really undermined a lot of Americans' faith in the entire justice system.

SOARES: Yes, I mean, look, and I think we have a graphic to show here, kind of a calendar of all the cases, if we can bring that up. Well, here we go,

Trump's legal cases, so what's on track, the two cases there, and delay expecting the documents, classified documents trial, Georgia election

interference trial, and the other one, of course, the federal election interference trial, that is on hold.

But, you know, with Willis, Willis is saying with the Georgia election interference, Willis was saying that she's pushing for a trial in August.

But if we look at the timing of those cases and we just looked at some of those, I mean, the reality may be, and explain this for our international

audience here, Molly, that the majority of Americans won't even get to hear or see any of the evidence until after the election. I mean, that is major.

BALL: Exactly. I mean, the election is in November and many of these cases, at the very earliest, could be tried in the summer or fall. The case that

was supposed to be tried first, the New York-based case about the payoffs, the hush money payments to an adult entertainment figure, that case was

just delayed and that was the one that was supposed to go forward potentially this month.

Now there's no way it goes forward for at least another month after that. And so, you know, if Americans were hoping to have the information from

these trials to see potentially verdicts in these trials in determining their vote, we've seen in many polls many Americans say that they would be

less likely to vote for Trump if he were convicted of a felony. But if these trials don't happen, if any potential conviction doesn't happen until

after the election, that is information that people won't have when they go to cast their votes in November.

SOARES: Molly Ball, appreciate it, Molly. Thank you very much.

While in Michigan, a jury has convicted the father of a school shooter.

James Crumbley was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. His son Ethan is serving a life sentence for killing four fellow students at a school in

2021. James' wife Jennifer was found guilty of the same charges in a separate trial. The parents now face up to 15 years in prison.

And still to come tonight, European leaders are sending a, "crystal clear signal to Moscow." We'll have that message and what's at stake next.



SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Three European leaders are meeting now in Berlin to discuss military backing for Ukraine after weeks of friction

between the Allies. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, you can see there,

known as the Weimar Triangle, says it falls to their countries to mobilize Europe to provide fresh aid to Ukraine.

It is a show of unity after Mr. Macron's suggestion of deploying Western troops to Ukraine earned him criticism from Chancellor Scholz. Mr. Macron

has doubled down in his stance, arguing that Europe should prepare for war if it wants peace. Have a listen.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): If Russia were to win, the lives of French people would change. We will no longer have

security in Europe. Who can think for a second that President Putin, who has respected none of his limits and none of his commitments, would stop



SOARES: President Macron speaking last night there.

While Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen joins me now from Berlin. And, Fred, this is, in many ways, isn't it, an opportunity for

the leaders to smooth things over as well as coordinate their message here following what we heard from President Macron about potentially boots on

the ground in Ukraine.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was a lot of back and forth and almost infighting between Berlin and Paris over

the past couple of days because it wasn't only just those comments from Emmanuel Macron about ground troops that really caused a stir here in


It was in the other direction as well. The French were pretty angry after Olaf Schultz when he said he is denying the Ukrainians German cruise

missiles called the Taurus because he doesn't want to make the Germans party to the war. And he said that the Germans simply can't do things that,

for instance, the French are doing and hinted that the French have ground troops already on the ground inside Ukraine to handle those cruise missiles

that the French have given to the Ukrainians.

So, there was a bit of an issue between Mr. Macron and Mr. Scholz. But today, you're absolutely right, Isa, the two trying to show some unity and

also trying to move things forward really as far as arming Ukraine. There was a lot of talk about ammunition, about getting ammunition not just from

within the European Union but getting it from outside the European Union if the production can't be scaled up quick enough.

That seems something that the parties are all on the same page about. And then also using windfall profits from frozen Russian assets to pay for all

that is also something that both Macron and Olaf Scholz said their agreement about. Of course, Donald Tusk as well.

I want to listen in to some of what both Mr. Scholz and Mr. Macron had to say today. Let's listen in.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): A crystal clear signal goes to Moscow. The Russian president must know that our support for

Ukraine will not ebb. We stand united by Ukrainian's side. Thank you.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): It's our future, our security, which is at stake in Ukraine. We are doing this out of

solidarity for the people of Ukraine whose territorial integrity is being threatened.


PLEITGEN: And I think one of the things that both Olaf Schultz and Emmanuel Macron realize is that both of them are going to have to stick together if

they want to continue to support Ukraine in the way that they have before. Because of course, Isa, the big elephant in the room is the uncertainty

about further military aid from the United States.


And of course, looking forward to the presidential election in the United States as well. Certainly today, you're absolutely right, they did try to

absolutely show unity and they wanted nothing to get in the way with that. One of the reasons may be why they also didn't take any questions after

that press availability, Isa.

SOARES: Frederik Pleitgen there for us in Berlin. Good to see you, Fred. Thank you.

Well, there's loads of buzz over a tennis match in California. I don't know if you've seen this. Take a look at the court in Indian Wells on Thursday.

Yes, that's it. A swarm of bees interrupted the game between the number two seed, Carlos Alcaraz, and the number six seed, Alexander Zverev.

The bees, oh my goodness, also appeared to take aim at the umpire and play had to be briefly suspended. A beekeeper was reportedly brought in before

play resumed to try and to get control of that.

Alcaraz, believe it or not, I believe he was stung, right? He was stung, but he still went on. He was OK. You can see him battered, scratching head,

but continue to focus and play, and you go on actually to win the match. I'll leave you with that. I mean, I would not be sitting there watching

that match. No way. I would have gone off and left by then.

That does it for us. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here. And NEWSROOM with Jim Sciutto is up next. Have a wonderful weekend. I shall

see you on Monday. Bye-bye.