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Isa Soares Tonight

Biden, Netanyahu Speak After Israeli Strikes Kill Aid Workers; After Biden-Netanyahu Call, White House Gives Briefing; Israel-Hamas War; After Israeli Attacks Killed Relief Workers, Biden And Netanyahu Talk; Necessity To Safeguard Humanitarian Workers In Gaza Emphasized By White House; After Earthquake In Taiwan Kills At Least 10 People, Rescue Operations Still Underway; Supreme Leader Khamenei Warned Israel It Will Regret Striking The Nation's Damascus Consulate; 2024 U.S. Total Solar Eclipse; Next Total Eclipse In The United States Will Occur In 2044. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 04, 2024 - 14:00   ET



RAHEL SOLOMON, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: Hello, and welcome, I'm Rahel Solomon in tonight for Isa Soares. We want to get straight to our top

story. It was considered a critical phone call, still too early though to know if it will change the course of the war.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke today, it was the first time since Israeli strikes killed seven aid

workers in Gaza. And we've just learned that Mr. Biden called those deaths and the humanitarian situation in Gaza in general, quote, "unacceptable".

The White House will hold a briefing any moment now, we will take you there live just as soon as it happens. Meantime, U.S. Secretary of State Antony

Blinken just spoke moments ago. Listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: The president emphasized that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall

humanitarian situation are unacceptable. He made clear the need for Israel to announce a series of specific concrete and measurable steps to address

civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.

He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action on these steps. He underscored

as well that an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians. And he urged

Prime Minister Netanyahu to empower its negotiators to conclude a deal without delay, to bring the hostages home.


SOLOMON: Now, Israel says that the attack on aid workers was unintentional, calling it a grave mistake. But the founder of the World

Central Kitchen says that his charity's convoy was quote, "systematically bombed car-by-car" despite coordinating their movements with the IDF.

The U.S. has repeatedly urged Israel to do more to protect innocent life, but also made clear that it won't stop supporting the war on Hamas. I want

to welcome now, our chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, good to have you. Talk to me a little bit about what you're -- what you're watching for in terms of what more we learn from this call, I

imagine there's a lot that could be discussed between what happens in Rafah, what happens on the ground in terms of aid, but also of course, what

happened with this incident and these aid workers?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, Rahel, this is really a very significant moment in this war, mostly, and many critics of

the administration will say, just because foreign aid workers were killed in that terrible manner, up until now, as you know, some 196 aid workers

have been killed.

Most of those in fact, all of those Palestinian, not to mention, the 30,000 or 33,000 now, thousand Palestinians who have been killed in Gaza. So, all

of this is putting a huge amount of pressure onto Israel's allies, like the United States, like Britain for instance.

And not only is there pressure to get a ceasefire and stop this, but there is mounting pressure even from Jose Andres who actually addressed this. The

chef of and founder of World Central Kitchen to decouple, suspend allied military aid to Israel as these civilian casualties mount.

So, this is a big deal, and you heard Secretary Blinken sort of obliquely referred to the U.S. watching and deciding its policy towards Israel based

on whether Israel takes immediate steps to comply with what the United States, its main ally is asking.

Up until now, the Prime Minister of Israel has frankly refused to comply with any of this, to the surprise of many people around the world. I will

just say I spoke to the U.N. chief humanitarian official, Martin Griffiths this week, and he talked about this strike on the aid convoy.

And I asked him, is it -- is it because of a lack of duty of care? What did he attribute it to? How did he characterize it?


MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: Yes, it's a duty of care problem, but it's also a legal problem attacks on humanitarian

institutions and workers, it's prohibited under international law. So, whether it's international or not, it's a crime, and we must be very

conscious of this.

As I say, it's been happening as you know, Christiane, to our colleagues from the outset.



AMANPOUR: So, as you can hear the words that are being used, a mounting criticism in legal-ease are off these attacks. And here in the U.K., again,

a very staunch Israeli ally, we've had 600 judges, legal officials, lawyers, including former Supreme Court justices here, signed a letter to

the prime minister, saying that Britain might be -- might end up being complicit in some of this, even did not also manage its arms supplies to

Israel in a more transparent and accountable way.

So, this is what's happening now after -- and coming up to six months since October 7th in that horrendous terrorist attack where all the allies say

Israel has the right to defend itself after that attack on October 7th. But must obey the rules of the road which relate to war and civilian


SOLOMON: Now, even hearing strong language from Rishi Sunak, who recently said that the situation in Ukraine was becoming increasingly intolerable, I

should say Gaza becoming increasingly intolerable. Christiane, let me ask politically, there is a lot at stake for both leaders, both Benjamin

Netanyahu and Joe Biden here with elections coming up in November for Joe Biden, we're seeing this protest vote in state after state of young people

of Arab-Americans who are growing increasingly frustrated to say the least about the policy in Gaza.

But even in Israel, you're seeing now, Benny Gantz, sort of called for elections. I mean, there's a lot at stake for both leaders politically


AMANPOUR: There really is. And you've heard many criticisms of the Biden policy, but also you've heard many criticisms by Israel of Netanyahu's

policy. The polls show that his rating, if you like, his popularity is really at rock bottom. And I just had in my studio today the daughter of

one of the hostages, who is still being held.

And they are absolutely sure and clear that in their view, the first or you know -- the first priority of their government should be to bring the

hostages back, which they define as trying to negotiate, trying to figure out a ceasefire, trying to have whatever it takes, including a prisoner

swap to get their hostages back.

And they're very angry that it's not happening. So yes, they also criticized Netanyahu and you've heard this very early on in this war, of

essentially continuing this war, not bringing it to an end because of his own political future. So, politics is part of it, but also the incredible

humanitarian catastrophe for the hostages that remain captive under this hellish captivity, and also for the citizens of Gaza who were being killed

in unprecedented numbers, 33,000 --

SOLOMON: And yes, it's a grim milestone and for the humanitarian workers who were there to do nothing, but protect and try to provide for those

people who are still in Gaza --

AMANPOUR: Rahel, if they are -- if they disrupt and refuse to go in until they're absolutely sure, it will rest on Israel to actually send the

humanitarian aid in, because who else is going to do it?

SOLOMON: Yes, OK. Christiane Amanpour, thanks so much. We want to go to Washington now, we are joined by CNN's Stephen Collinson. Stephen, you lay

out on your piece today the politics of the situation for both of these leaders that it potentially creates existential threat to both Biden and


But the outcome of this could differ. I mean, you could argue that Biden would prefer an end to this war sooner rather than later as he continues to

see growing frustration here in the U.S., and perhaps, Netanyahu could face an election when this war comes to an end. Talk to me about that.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Exactly. Well, the impact of President Joe Biden's support for Netanyahu on his own support base that

was already pretty fragile inside the Democratic Party with a special regard to progressive voters, some African-American voters, Arab-American

voters in the critical swing state of Michigan.

This is having a big effect, and it really does cause questions about whether in a very close election, if some of those voters don't vote for

Biden, they would -- and if those voters don't vote for Biden, that would end up really hurting him as he -- as he tries to fight a close election

with President Donald Trump.

So, that's the equation for Biden. As you were saying, there's a lot of people in Washington who believe that one of the reasons that Netanyahu is

continuing in this war is because he will face an election as soon as it's over. There were new signs of discord in his own cabinet, war cabinet

member Benny Gantz on Wednesday came out and said, we should have early election in Israel in September, and that is another sign of the fragility

that Netanyahu is facing.


He's also got trouble on the right of his coalition. So, he's in a shaky political position too. So, that was the context both of these leaders came


SOLOMON: Yes, and Stephen, remind us. I mean, we even heard some U.S. leaders including Chuck Schumer indicate that perhaps there should be an

early election -- if you're looking at polling, it would suggest that Netanyahu right now, you know, sort of struggling in terms of popular -- in

terms of popularity.

COLLINSON: That's what it seems to be. There's -- we've just seen the biggest demonstrations against Netanyahu since the beginning of the war.

And I think all of this is factoring into what happened in that phone call today. The U.S. called for a specific, measurable steps from Israel to take

care of humanitarian workers in Gaza.

And that reflects the pressure on the Biden White House to try and defray some of this anger on Biden's -- in Biden's own democratic coalition. He's

being forced to move, the president, because of his own political position and the pressure he's facing in an election year.

SOLOMON: All right, Stephen, standby, we'll talk to you in a little bit. I want to go now to Washington where we are hearing from the Press Secretary

Karine Jean-Pierre. Let's listen together.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In the channel and allowing the port of Baltimore to reopen as soon as humanly possible. The

president will be joined by Governor Moore and other Maryland and Baltimore area elected officials. He'll also be joined by Secretary of

Transportation, Pete Buttigieg.

As we all know, six individuals tragically lost their lives when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed last week. They were hard workers

laboring in the middle of the night to repair potholes on a bridge that tens of thousands of travelers crossed every day. The president will meet

with loved ones of those individuals during his trip tomorrow.

The President is continuing to lead a whole of government approach in responding to the bridge collapse. As the president said, within hours of

the collapse, this administration will be with the people of Baltimore every step of the way. SBA Administrator Guzman is in Baltimore today as

part of this administration's effort to support small businesses in need.

I also want to share a very big announcement that the Vice President and the EPA Administrator Regan made today in Charlotte, North Carolina, they

announced a $20 billion in awards to expand access to clean energy, tackle the climate crisis, improve air quality, lower energy costs and create

good-paying jobs.

This investment through the EPA's greenhouse gas reduction fund will stand up a national network that will finance tens of thousands of climate and

clean energy projects across America. At least, 70 percent of these funds will be invested in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

This makes the greenhouse gas reduction fund the single largest non-tax investment in the Inflation Reduction Act to build a clean energy economy

while benefiting communities that have historically been left behind. And finally, I want to briefly preview the president's schedule next week.

On Monday, we'll -- he'll travel to Madison, Wisconsin, and discuss how he is lowering costs for Americans later in the week. The president and the

first lady will host the Prime Minister of Japan and his wife for an official visit to the United States. This will include a state dinner on

Wednesday, April 10th.

The visit will underscore the enduring strength of our alliance, the unwavering U.S. commitment to Japan and Japan's increasing global

leadership role. On Thursday, April 11th, President Biden will host Prime Minister Marcos of the Philippines, Prime Minister Kishida of Japan at the

White House for the first trilateral U.S., Japan, Philippines Leaders Summit.

In addition, President Biden will host President Marcos for a meeting at the White House on April 11th to review the historic momentum in the U.S.-

Philippines relations. Thank you for your patience with that. The Admiral is here to talk about the President's call with Prime Minister Netanyahu

and any updates that we have in the Middle East. Admiral?


busy day here. I do want to take a moment just at the start to recognize the 75th anniversary of the NATO alliance. Greatest military alliance in

the history of the world.

And you all saw the statement from the president earlier today celebrating this historic milestone of 75 years, and NATO alliance had stood together

for freedom against aggression, provided an unrivaled bulwark of security that has helped protect the American people.

And during that time, our NATO allies have come to our aid in our time of need with NATO forces serving alongside ours in Afghanistan. Today, NATO is

larger, stronger, it's more relevant than ever before. Thanks in no small part to the president's leadership. And we look forward to building on all

that progress in July when we host our 31 NATO allies here in Washington D.C. for the next NATO summit.


Now, as I'm sure you're all aware, the president had a chance to speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier today. On that phone call, the president

emphasized that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation in Gaza are unacceptable.

He made clear the need for Israel to announce and to implement a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm,

humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers. He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of

Israel's immediate action on these steps.

He underscored that an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and to protect innocent civilians. And

he urged the prime minister to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay, to bring the hostages home.

The two leaders also discussed public Iranian threats against Israel and the Israeli people. President Biden made clear that the United States

strongly supports Israel in the face of those threats. That's all I have.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Sandra(ph). First, on that last piece that you said -- you have said it from the podium several times that the -- Hamas

was the obstacle to getting some two-side deal, calling on Israelis to empower the negotiators suggests that it changes the U.S. assessment of

Israeli willingness to reach a ceasefire deal changed in the last several weeks.

KIRBY: No, look, it takes -- it takes active participation and negotiation of both sides here, and that's what the president is urging. He's certainly

in the call with Netanyahu, urging that the Prime Minister empower his team to the maximum extent possible to see if we can get this deal in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then just on the substance of the Vilnius from the President's statement there, saying that he can condition creating U.S.

support for Israel, yes. I think the Israeli operations in Gaza on what Israel does first off and what is at stake, what would be potentially cut

off from Israel for use in this war if he doesn't change course.

And second, what do you want specifically to see from Israel? What to do to protect civilians and humanitarian aid workers?

KIRBY: I'm not going to preview any potential policy decisions coming forward. What we want to see are some real changes on the Israeli side, and

you know, if we don't see changes from their side, there will have to be changes from our side, but I won't preview what that could look like. Now -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that just possible --

KIRBY: It talked about the -- I'm sorry --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that just the body calendar? Is there a specific --

KIRBY: Again, in terms of concrete steps, what we are looking to see and hope to see here in coming hours and days is a dramatic increase in the

humanitarian assistance getting in, additional crossings opened up, and a reduction in the violence against the civilians and certainly aid workers.

We want to -- we want to see that even as the Israelis worked through their investigation, that they are willing and able to take practical, immediate

steps to protect aid workers on the ground, and to demonstrate that they -- that they have that civilian harm mitigation in place.

So, again, those are broad brushes, I hope that the Israeli speak to what they will or won't do here. But again, in coming hours and days, we will be

looking for concrete, tangible steps that they're taking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, John. Just to go back to that point. In your readout, when you say the president made clear that the U.S. -- that U.S.

policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action. Could you decode that for us? What exactly is

the warning that's being issued here?

KIRBY: I think it's very clear in the language itself, Nancy. We're going to -- we're looking for concrete steps to alleviate humanitarian suffering

in Gaza. Again, I won't get ahead of what the Israeli will or won't say or announce, we're looking for concrete steps to be announced here soon.

And it's not just about the announcement of concrete steps and changes in their policies, but it's the execution of those announcements and those

decisions and implementing them. And so, we obviously will watch closely and monitor how they do on the commitments that they make.

And as I said earlier, if there's no changes to their policy and their approaches, then there's going to have to be changes to ours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think -- I think what the world wants to understand is, is the White House warning that it may remove military aid? What

exactly is the threat here?

KIRBY: I think I've stated it pretty clearly, and I'm not going to -- I'm not going to -- as I said earlier, I'm not going to preview steps, I'm not

going to preview decisions that haven't been made yet. But there are things that need to be done. There are too many civilians being killed, risk to

aid workers is unacceptable.


Now, we have certain aid organizations that are reconsidering whether they're even going to be able to continue operations in Gaza while famine

looms. So, there has to be tangible steps, let's see what they announce. Let's see what they direct. Let's see what they do.

But I'm not going to get ahead of that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to try this one more time because --

KIRBY: I reckon you would --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President seems --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we do. The President seems to have said to the Prime Minister today, make these concrete changes or else. It's the

or else that I want to make clear here. Is the president threatening to withhold aid to Israel if they do not make these changes?

KIRBY: The President made it clear that our policies with respect to Gaza will be dependent upon our assessment of how well the Israelis make changes

and implement changes to make the situation in Gaza better for the Palestinian people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how much time are you giving them to make these changes to implement these concrete --

KIRBY: Again, we would hope to see some announcements of changes here in coming hours and days, and I'll leave it at that.


KIRBY: Hours and days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, John, why today?

KIRBY: Why today? What why today for the phone call? Why --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why this apparent shift in policy today?

KIRBY: I think, look, President -- well, all of this, particularly the president, was certainly shaken by the attack on the WCK convoy and the aid

workers. As I said earlier, it wasn't the only event, there had been others like that humanitarian aid convoys coming under fire and losing people. And

the president felt strongly that it was time to talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu about his concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You characterize this call as an ultimatum.

KIRBY: I would characterize this call as very direct, very business-like, very professional on both sides. And the president laid out his significant

concerns about the direction and where things are going. And quite frankly, laid out as clear in the readout that we are willing to reconsider our own

policy approaches here dependent upon what the Israelis do or don't do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just tell us who else was on the call?

KIRBY: Well, it was a -- it was a bilateral call between the two leaders, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the president. They were the only two speakers

on the call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got Vice President Harris also dialed in?

KIRBY: Vice President did dial in, yes. Secretary of State dialed in, Jake Sullivan, yes. I don't know who was also listening in on the Israeli side,

but the discussion was between the two leaders.


MIN JUNG LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, Admiral, you're not specifying what concrete steps Israel must take exactly --

KIRBY: I gave you some -- a broad sense of it. We want to see more crossings opened up. We want to see more trucks getting in, particularly

from Jordan. We want to see tangible steps at the mitigation of civilian harm, particularly to humanitarian aid workers. But obviously, all


But we want to see that they have -- that they have moved forward on proper steps to deconflict with aid workers as they move around. That the

information flow is viable.

LEE: Sure, but that's language we've heard for weeks now. You're not talking about -- sort of telling us how exactly you will measure those

measurable steps, right?

KIRBY: What I said was, we're going to -- we're going to examine our policy approaches based on the -- our assessment of the way the Israeli

side modifies their behavior, modifies their policy and decision-making processes. And so, first of all, let's see what they say they're going to

do, and then, let's watch and see how they execute to what they say.

And I don't want to get ahead of them on what they -- what they plan to say about the changes they're going to make. But we'll base our policy

decisions based on assessment of how they execute to their policy decisions.

LEE: And you're not talking about what potential U.S. policy changes are on the table. Can you say whether the president shared that with the

prime minister on this phone call?

KIRBY: The president made clear that absent changes in the protection of civilians on the ground, absent changes to the volume of humanitarian

assistance getting in, absent any movement on a ceasefire that will allow hostages to get out and more aid to get in. Absent, you know, a calming

down that he will have to reconsider his own policy choices with respect to Gaza.

LEE: And one of the seven aid workers was obviously a dual American citizen. Did the Prime Minister offer the president an apology?


KIRBY: I'll let the Prime Minister speak to his side of the conversation. The -- I would note that the Israeli Defense Forces, their southern

commander has made a public apology for the strike.

LEE: And there was no mention of Rafah in this readout. Can you talk to us about how if that did come up and how that might have been discussed

between the two of them?

KIRBY: This conversation was focused primarily on the need to get a temporary ceasefire in place. The need for there to be a pause in the

fighting so that we can get the hostages out, humanitarian assistance. The need to see that steps are being taken to learn from this strike and to

make changes in the way civilian harm is mitigated from an operational perspective.

And they did spend time as the readout makes clear, talking about the very public threats from Iran to Israel. And the President, as I said, made very

clear to the Prime Minister that the United States support for Israel's ability to defend itself from a range of threats, not just Hamas, remains


JEAN-PIERRE: Go Dan(ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks Karine, thanks Admiral. Just a couple of things. Firstly, how long did this call last as well?

KIRBY: Thirty minutes or so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just getting back to -- I mean, Jeff's question about the -- you know, why this sort of change in tone? I mean, is there --

be growing frustration on the part of President Biden that previous messaging to Prime Minister Netanyahu just doesn't seem to have gotten


KIRBY: Yes, there's been growing frustration.

JEAN-PIERRE: Rocha(ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much Karine. John, one question on Israel and another on Venezuela. We saw in the past President Biden pushing

Netanyahu to protect civilians. But how much was really matter here when actions the same day of the attack on the humanitarian was -- the U.S. was

approving more bombs to Israel.

That you -- we are now six months into the war. How much the U.S. actions are actually encouraging Israel to not do enough to protect civilians?

KIRBY: Yes, OK, I'm kind of glad the question came up because I would tell you, when I've seen press reporting, you know, about the -- about the arms

sales and that kind of thing -- and I would just remind you that, with the exception of the immediate two months after the attack, we haven't really

sent emergency aid and military assistance to Israel. There was in the first couple of months.

But what you're seeing here is the result of a process of foreign military sales to Israel that takes years. And a lot of this material that's been

reported publicly was notified to Congress many months, if not years ago, and are in the train to get to Israel.

I think it's important to remember as I tried to mention in the last answer, that Israel still has a lot of threats it faces. I mean, we're all

focused on Hamas, and I understand that, but they still face active threats throughout the region, including from Iran, and the United States still has

an ironclad commitment to help Israel with its self-defense.

And so, a lot of these articles including the 2,000-pound bombs and the F- 35s, that's -- those are things that have been long in the train and not tied. Their sale -- the foreign military sales process was not tied to this


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I have one more on Venezuela? Because yesterday, Nicolas Maduro enacted a law, creating province of Venezuela in Guayana,

and he accused the United States of building secret military bases, aim is a cable(ph). So, what is your reaction in the U.S. considering building a

military base to support Guayana to defend their sovereignty?

KIRBY: There's no plans for a secret military base, and we've said many times that there's an 1899 arbitral ruling about the border between Guayana

and Venezuela. And we want both sides to respect that ruling, and to do it peacefully.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. You said we would hope to see an announcement of changes. I'm wondering if that is just hope or is it an

expectation --

KIRBY: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it based on a commitment?

KIRBY: We expect that there will be some announcements coming from Israel in the coming hours and days. But I want to respect their right to manage

that process on their own.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And was there any update given by the Prime Minister on what exactly happened with the World Central Kitchen on what --

KIRBY: They didn't talk about the actual strike in great detail that the Prime Minister did reiterate as his military has reiterated, that this was

on them, that the investigation was concluding, that he looked forward to seeing it, and that, you know, he would take appropriate actions to make

sure something like that couldn't happen again.

I mean, they did, obviously they talked about it, of course. But did they go through point-by-point the investigations findings? No. Because I think

the Prime Minister's office is still evaluating the actual investigation results.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just to -- try to get a technical understanding of you describe the very long process of supplying arms to Israel. If this

contingency isn't met, and there is a change in U.S. policy, how easy or hard would it be to slow down or change shipments to Israel based on

current law and all of the requirements and all the things you just described?

KIRBY: Yes, again, I don't want to get ahead of where we are. Let's see what the Israeli side does and says and what they implement and where they

go before we talk about actual policy decisions. And I'm certainly not going to close down decision space for the President of the United States.

He gets to make those decisions.

But -- I mean, obviously, as commander in chief, and, yes, the foreign military sales certainly is supported by legislation, but there are certain

authorities that you can do to manage that. But again, let's not get ahead of where we are. This is really about seeing what the Israelis say they are

going to do and then act on those changes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead, Dave (ph).

DAVE (PH): Admiral, has the U.S. lost its leverage with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

KIRBY: You know, I keep getting this question about leverage. Israel is an ally and a friend and a partner. And the President believes strongly and

has for his entire public career in the security of the Israeli people and the longevity of the Israeli state, and that's not going to change.

And I can say unequivocally, and I don't think the Prime Minister would mind me saying here, in the call today, the Prime Minister reiterated his

thanks to President Biden and this administration for the support that we have continued to provide Israel. It's a long-standing. It was before the

7th of October, and it is now.

And that supports -- that support is going to continue. But again, with respect to Gaza, we need to see certain changes. And if we don't, then

we'll have to consider changes to our own policy. But it's not about leverage. It's about the relationship and it's about the credibility. I

would even say the unique credibility that this particular president has in Israel and with Israeli leadership based on his long public service of


DAVE (PH): About this relationship, do you think the Prime Minister is really listening?

KIRBY: It was -- I think, it was evident in the phone call today. It was, a good discussion. Direct. No question, but a good discussion. And I

believe that the president made very clear his concerns and the prime minister acknowledged those concerns.

DAVE (PH): In terms of the timing of this call, we understand that this call was set up after the strike on the World Central Kitchen workers Would

you say this call was a direct result of that? Was that the reason behind the call?


DAVE (PH): And one last thing, response to Jose Andres. Chef Andres says that the convoy was deliberately targeted. Any response from the U.S. on


KIRBY: Again, I haven't seen the Israeli investigation. They have said themselves, publicly, after a preliminary investigation, that there was no

deliberate targeting of WCK and Chef Andres. They -- they're working their way through now independent follow-on investigation, which I understand is

very, very close to complete. The prime minister just talked about it broadly and reiterated today -- the prime minister reiterated today that

there was no deliberate targeting of that aid convoy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead, Nadia (ph).

NADIA (PH): Thank you, Corin (ph). Two questions. Senator Coons was very close to the president. He said that we have reached a moment where arms

restriction to Israel should be considered. Senator Warren also said that we have -- Israel has violated our own laws. Are they wrong in their


KIRBY: The President -- I think it's clear in the readout, Nadia, that the President has made it clear today that if we don't see changes to the way

the IDF is treating innocent civilians and aid workers and flowing the humanitarian assistance, that he's going to have to reconsider our Gaza

policy. So, I mean, he was very direct with the Prime Minister about that.

I'm not going to close down his decision space, as satisfying as that may be for some of you, I can't do that. But he made it very clear that we need

to see some changes on the Israeli side.

NADIA (PH): OK. I want to ask you about a very disturbing investigative report by an Israeli journalist who said that, is the White House aware of

an A.I. program called Lavender that's been used by the Israeli army to target operative in Gaza in what we call a kill zone? Where this program

has only 20 seconds of human supervision and it led to the death of thousands of women and children in Gaza. Do you think -- are you aware of

it, number one? And second, does as the White House believe that A.I. can be used in this way with that supervision?

KIRBY: I -- I'm not aware of it. You're going to have to let me take that question and we'll get back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, John. I'm going to start with the Trilateral Summit, then I'm going to move on to Rhonda (ph). First of all,

looking ahead to the Trilateral Summit next week, what are some of the priorities? And we recently heard the Filipino ambassador say that the

U.S., Japan, and the Philippines are going to start joint patrols in the South China Sea.


RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: All right. We've just been listening to John Kirby providing some details after today's call

by U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is the first call since the death of those aid workers earlier this week

after an Israeli airstrike. Aid workers that included foreign national.

Kirby saying that the call lasted about half an hour. He said that the president emphasized that strikes on humanitarian workers and overall, the

humanitarian situation in Gaza are unacceptable. He made clear the need for Israel to announce and to implement a series of concrete, measurable steps

to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers. And Kirby said, if there's no changes to their policy, then there

will be changes to ours.

Let me bring in now CNN's Stephen Collinson who has also been watching the press conference there. Stephen, what else stood out to you, any

differences in terms of language, in terms of tone from what we have heard from the administration before?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: I think this is a very significant moment in the U.S. handling of this Israel war in Gaza,

following the terrorist attacks in October. For the first time, the U.S. is introducing the idea of conditionality. It's saying that its support for

Israel will depend on how Israel conducts this war. In essence, it is trying to shape the way that, Prime Minister Netanyahu is conducting this

war, and that is something Netanyahu has long resisted.

So, it's significant for that fact alone. It looks like it could press as a change of policy if the U.S. doesn't get the answers it wants. The second

thing is the fact that we saw the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, came out immediately in Brussels to characterize this call. Now, we've got John

Kirby at the White House doing the same thing.

This doesn't normally happen after a phone call between President Biden and a foreign leader. You normally get some kind of paper readout that doesn't

tell you very much. So, that presentation in itself is an assertion of American power. It's a demonstration to the rest of the world, and also to

President Biden's domestic critics that he is changing his policy, he's listening to the criticism, and he is trying to do something to avert the

humanitarian cost of this crisis.

The question, of course, now is whether Israel will take those steps that Kirby laid out, including more humanitarian aid, opening of more crossings

into Gaza, less of a focus on civilians. What will Netanyahu do? And if he doesn't do what the U.S. wants, will the White House then be prepared to

follow up and take concrete steps?

SOLOMON: Yes. And one thing that really stood out to me is when asked, when we might learn about these concrete steps? He said he expects some

sort of announcement within hours, perhaps days, which is obviously very soon. Stephen Collinson, good to have you today. Thanks so much.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.



SOLOMON: Welcome back. It is early Friday morning in Taiwan where rescue operations are still underway after Wednesday's massive earthquake.

Officials say that the death toll has risen to 10 people, with more than 1,000 people injured, and hundreds more may still be trapped or stranded.

Rescue teams had to drop in by helicopter to pull several quarry workers to safety after the quake cut off roads in the mountains.

And near the epicenter, demolition crews are removing debris as people begin to assess the damage. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The home has become like this when it was originally a good home. It feels sad that there is no way to live in

this house anymore. Why did my home change like this?


SOLOMON: CNN's Ivan Watson has more now from -- on the ground in Taiwan.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The small city of Hualien was the epicenter of Wednesday's 7.4 magnitude earthquake. And I

think this building here is an example of just how frighteningly powerful this disaster was. It's a day later now, and already you've got work crews

ready to bring down what's left of this building. We saw videos of dramatic rescues, firemen pulling residents out of this building.

Now, make no mistake, this was a deadly disaster. The death toll has been incrementally growing. More than a thousand people injured. There are still

rescues underway in the mountains around this city where there were enormous landslides, bringing down entire mountain faces.

But take another look at Hualien, down this road. You would be hard pressed to find any other building that had significant damage. In fact, a lot of

these shops and businesses are currently open right now, the city authorities say there were at least 92 buildings damaged. They're being

inspected to see if they're still viable going forward into the future.

But Taiwan and Hualien, in particular, are very experienced when it comes to earthquakes. And I think what we're seeing here demonstrates the -- how

prepared this community is, the structural integrity of these buildings. Everybody I've talked to here has said that they have lived through many,

many earthquakes before. That Wednesday morning was the most frightening experience they had ever had. That said, it's very clear that this

disaster, if Taiwan was not so well prepared, could have been much, much worse.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hualien, Taiwan.


SOLOMON: All right. Our thanks to Ivan there.

We want to return now to our top story this hour and the increasingly fraught relationship between U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders have just finished speaking by phone for the first time since Israel's deadly strike on a convoy of aid

workers in Gaza. The White House says that President Biden called the deaths of the humanitarian workers, "Unacceptable", and stress that U.S.

policy with respect to Gaza now hinges on Israel's next steps.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been working to try and prevent escalation in the region, a task that's seemingly becoming more and more

difficult. Iran's Supreme Leader warning Israel that it will regret attacking the country's consulate in Damascus on Monday. The deadly strike

killed a number of people, including a top commander in the IRGC.

Let's get more now from our International -- Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman who is following all this from Beirut.


Ben, it appears that the IDF apparently making some changes as well, some troop changes as well, after what it called a situational assessment. What

more can you share with us?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we learned that the Israeli military today is cancelling all leaves for combat units as a

result of that so-called situational assessment. That comes a day after the call up of reservists that are part of the Israel's air defense units as


Now, also today, there was an interesting incident whereby people in Israel using GPS navigation systems suddenly, for instance, people in Tel Aviv

suddenly found themselves, at least on their GPS systems, driving through Beirut, where we are. It turns out that the Israeli army has come out and

said, in fact, they have been playing with the GPS system because they fear that any possible attack from Iran or its allies in the region might use

that GPS system for rockets, missiles, drones and whatnot.

In addition to that, we are hearing that Israel is evacuating staff from many of its diplomatic missions around the Middle East. We know that many

of them, in fact, have already been evacuated several months ago as a result of tensions resulting from the war in Gaza.

Now, tomorrow is what's known as Quds Day, Jerusalem Day. That is a day where people across the Muslim and Arab world express support for the

Palestinians and condemnation for Israel and Zionism. We are expecting to hear speeches from Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, and also

Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah here in Beirut.

We may get an indication in those speeches, perhaps, what direction Iran and its affiliates are going to go in, in the aftermath of Monday's Israeli

strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. Although we are seeing reports. For instance, "Reuters" is quoting, Iranian officials in Tehran,

unnamed officials, indicating that perhaps the Iranians are going to have a limited response to the Israeli attack, perhaps, probably to prevent an

escalation of tensions that are already very, very high. Rahel.

SOLOMON: Yes, they have been high for quite some time and continue to be high. Ben Wedeman live for us there in Beirut. Ben, thanks so much.

Well, still to come tonight, what can viewers expect during a total solar eclipse? Coming up next, we're going to speak live to an astronomer. We'll

be right back.



SOLOMON: Welcome back. Preparations are underway as millions of Americans travel to view Monday's upcoming solar eclipse from Texas to Ohio and as

far as Vermont. Huge crowds are expected to fill flights and hotels. Local governments across the eclipse zone are also taking precautions for their

residents and the visitors that they're expecting.


GOV. JANET MILLS (D-ME): We expect tens of thousands of people to travel to Maine to enjoy this incredible event, and we couldn't be more excited to

welcome them. But we want to make sure, too, that residents and visitors alike enjoy the eclipse safely anywhere in the state of Maine.


SOLOMON: Now, this is the last total eclipse in the continental U.S. until 2044. So, what can enthusiasts expect? Joining us now to discuss is

astronomer Tom Kerss time. Tom, so good to have you today. Thank you. Thank you for being here. So, explain to us --


SOLOMON: -- what exactly is happening and why is it so rare?

KERSS: Yes, we're going to witness a total solar eclipse, and it's going to go pretty much all the way across the continental U.S., which is

absolutely amazing. As you say, the next one won't be until 2044, but actually, it's going to be 2045 until anything nearly as spectacular

happens in the United States. 2024's eclipse will only just, kind of, graze a bit over North Dakota.

So, what we're seeing is the new moon passing in front of the sun. And what that gives us here on the surface of the earth is an opportunity to stand

in the shadow of the moon. And that means we witness the sun completely covered up, a kind of artificial night that lasts just a few minutes on the

ground. It really is the most spectacular phenomenon you can witness on Earth and a must see for everyone. So, I'm so glad to see that millions of

people are making the journey.

SOLOMON: Yes. And I've heard it described as a great unifier, right? Because you have millions of people all coming together to witness and

appreciate this event, this rare event. Would you describe it the same way? How would you describe it?

KERSS: Absolutely. I think it's thrilling to see an eclipse with other people around you, to be able to talk about it afterwards. It does have a

tendency to unify people because it reminds us how small we are. We're witnessing astronomical bodies in motion, on scales that are absolutely

defy the human span.

That said, we also have the opportunity to appreciate something that's very deeply human, which is the relationship between ourselves, our planet, the

Earth, the moon and the sun. All of these three things are necessary for us to be here today. So, it really is like a -- quite an amazing event in

terms of bringing people together, but also giving us a shared perspective of our place within the universe.

SOLOMON: Yes, it's both, sort of, a bird's eye view and also very intimate at the same time. So, you are in London, as we can see. As I understand it,

you have travel plans to come here and get a view yourself. Can you share with us, sort of, what your plans are and how weather might be impacting


KERSS: Yes, absolutely. I will certainly be shooting over to the United States. My partner is based in the States and the two of us are going to

travel to Dallas in Texas on Sunday, try to get ahead of the crowds a little bit. Take a car and go on a good old fashioned eclipse chase across

the Texas countryside.

The weather at the moment is looking quite interesting. But I do have a good reputation, wherever I go, the clear skies usually follow. So, I'm

hopeful that I will bring some clear skies to Texas with me. I wouldn't worry too much about the cloud cover prospects. At the end of the day, an

eclipse is a very long event. You have the opportunity not only to witness the spectacular totality if you're in the right path of the eclipse track.

But millions more across America will have the opportunity to witness the partial eclipse phases. And if there's a little bit of thin cloud that

won't spoil the view.

SOLOMON: Yes. And as we're looking at this video, sort of seeing a 2019 in Chile, we see people with their sunglasses, but these are not sort of

normal sunglasses that you get from a retailer. These are specific. Talk to us about sort of how you view a total eclipse safely in terms of your

vision and your eyes.

KERSS: Yes, safety is so important because there's a tendency to look straight at the sun. And well, if you look at the sun, your eyes hurt and

that's your brain telling you not to look at the sun. So, indeed, ideally, you want to be using some sort of eclipse viewer. This will give you the

opportunity to look directly towards the sun and to see the sun's disk, the circular shape of the sun or the crescent shape of the sun during an

eclipse, which is so strange to look at. If you don't have an eclipse viewer with you, the best way to view an eclipse safely is to project that.


So, take a piece of card, poke a tiny hole through that and hold that up. And when you look in the shadow of that card, you will see a little

crescent shape created by the eclipse where you poke that hole. Just a little bit of light spilling through. And actually, if you don't have a

homemade eclipse projector, well, just go into your kitchen and find like a colander -- I don't know if you call it a colander in the U.S. --


KERSS: -- that's what we call it in the U.K. It's that thing that you use to dry your vegetables, yes.


KERSS: If you hold that up outside, all the little holes in your colander, they will make tiny little eclipse projections. And you can even use the

shadows of leaves on trees. So, do take time to observe the shadows. Don't look at the sun directly unless you have these eclipse viewers. And if you

are in that path of totality, then yes, you can look at the sun exactly when that totality happens and you can see the solar atmosphere, the corona

of the sun reaching out into the solar system.

SOLOMON: So cool. So cool. And just so great to see how many people are taking part. It's a boost economically for so many communities. It's so

good to have you today. Thanks so much.

KERSS: My pleasure.

SOLOMON: And join us Monday for the total solar eclipse as it travels from Mexico across America and into Canada. Our special coverage starts at 12:00

p.m. Eastern in the U.S., that's 5:00 p.m. in London. Thanks for watching tonight. Stay with CNN, "NEWSROOM" with Jim Sciutto is coming up next.