Return to Transcripts main page

One World with Zain Asher

Hunger, Desperation And Months Of Conflict Leads To Devastating Scenes And Fresh Tragedy In Gaza; Immigration Battle Continues; CNN's Nick Paton Walsh Presents An In Depth Report Of Ukraine's Need For More Aid, Weapons. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired February 29, 2024 - 12:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, live from New York, I'm Bianna Golodryga. Zain is off, you are watching ONE WORLD. A toxic mix of

hunger, desperation and months of conflict has led to devastating scenes and fresh tragedy in Gaza. Gaza's health ministry says more than 100

civilians were killed when Israeli troops opened fire on crowds waiting for food in Gaza City.

Video released by Israel shows people rushing towards aid trucks. A local journalist says the panic triggered by Israeli fire caused some trucks to

ram into the crowds. Israel is saying that its troops felt under threat. Now, a warning here, some of the images are disturbing. In addition to the

deaths, the Gaza health ministry says more than 700 people were injured.

Video from the scene shows some of the dead being carried away in donkey carts. Scenes before the trucks moved in show a lot of people waiting in

anticipation. U.N. experts have been repeatedly warning that Gaza is on the brink of famine. One man on the scene, before the chaos, explained the dire

reality in Gaza.


AMJAD ELEWA (through translator): I am not ashamed to say it. It's become normal because we have reached the level of famine. Tens of children have

become martyrs because of the famine. I cannot wait until my child is martyred because of the famine. We all have reached the stage that we are

not ashamed to go and get a bag of flour.


GOLODRYGA: Israel is disputing the accounts provided by eyewitnesses and health officials in Gaza. Here's what an IDF spokesman said in the last



PETER LERNER, SPOKESMAN, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: The IDF continued to coordinate a convoy of humanitarian supplies that have been supplied by

international donors to the northern Gaza Strip. The convoy passed our positions and moved forward, it continued to go north.

And as they went north, we saw on our surveillance that a huge amount of people basically stormed the convoy and tried to overcome it. In the

aftermath of that, we've seen a mass casualty event where people were trampled, squashed, even run over by some of those truckloads, and this is

the reality that we're facing.


Meantime, President Joe Biden says the White House is looking into the competing versions of what happened, but says he's still hopeful of a

ceasefire deal.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Hope springs eternal. I was on the telephone with the people in the region, probably not by Monday, but I'm hopeful.


GOLODRYGA: Probably not by Monday, the President said, that he is still hopeful, however. Meantime, a senior Hamas member warns today's incident

could derail talks for a hostage deal and ceasefire. CNN's Alex Marquardt is in Washington, D.C., but let's begin with Chief International

Correspondent Clarissa Ward, who is in London.

So Clarissa, we're hearing two conflicting versions of what happened this morning, but it comes within hours of U.S. Aid Administrator Samantha

Power's visit to one of the two border crossings there, where she implored Israel to increase the amount of aid going in and opening additional

crossings. What more are we learning? What more are you hearing about what led up today's tragedy?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the bottom line, Bianna, is that it almost doesn't matter which version of

events actually transpired today, because the reality is that what happened on the ground in northern Gaza this morning is a product of the absolute

failure to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe that has been warned of day in and day out for many months now.

The situation in northern Gaza in particular has become completely untenable. I spoke to a U.N. official who said just last week, six children

died in one hospital from malnutrition and dehydration. The U.N. official also said that 15 percent of children now in northern Gaza are suffering

from severe malnutrition.

Just for some perspective, before October 7th, the rate was less than one percent. And if you talk to anyone in the humanitarian aid industry, they

will tell you that they have never seen such a rapid and intense escalation in levels of malnutrition in the course of their careers. At the same time,

we see that aid just has not been able to get where it needs to go.

Again, before October 7th, 500 trucks a day going in. Since October 7th, on a good day, maybe 250 trucks. Last month, less than 100 trucks a day on

average. And last week, there were four days where less than 10 trucks were able to enter. And this is all happening against the backdrop of what the

U.N., OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, is saying is one step away from an actual famine.

And it's interesting, you played that clip from the IDF Spokesperson, Colonel Peter Lerner, who talked about the two different versions of what

happened this morning. He also said in that same interview that, quote, "had very little to do with Israel.


But Bianna, as we know, international law dictates that the occupying power or country in a war zone has the responsibility to ensure that humanitarian

aid gets to civilians. And as we saw today, despite the warnings of U.S. officials that Palestinian police needed to be reinstated, needed to be

allowed to continue to accompany these convoys that were getting looted all the time -- this is not the first time we've seen this kind of looting,

when you have this sort of desperate situation, you have this kind of lawlessness, you have this kind of looting.

And you have seen from the White House and various other, you know, in the U.K., other countries as well, have warned Israel about the imperative to

try to deal with this desperate humanitarian situation and to allow for aid to be just once and for all to be allowed to be dispersed. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, the IDF says that it screens the trucks that go into Gaza. But then the international humanitarian organizations are the ones

that are responsible for distributing the aid. But as you say, a different argument has to be made about who is actually ultimately responsible for

what happens to avoid scenes like this on the ground.

In terms of who these trucks were, Peter Lerner said that there are some 30 convoy trucks. They were international donors, that these trucks were

private companies, it's what he said in the last hour.

Alex, I want to get back to you, because we heard President Biden say briefly that he's been briefed on this, he's been made aware of this. And

that it will definitely, in his words, have an impact on a ceasefire deal, which he gave a timetable for Monday, which surprised a lot of people. And

that was even before this incident today. What more are we learning on that front?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And he has slightly walked that back as he left for Texas on the helicopter earlier

today. He said that Monday is almost certainly unlikely, but that hope springs eternal.

And he acknowledged that what happened today will complicate the efforts to get to a ceasefire. I think the question that we're trying to answer today

is, does it derail those talks? Hamas indicated that it may. I spoke with one senior administration official who indicated that they may accelerate

these talks.

What is clear in speaking with sources here in Washington is this adds more urgency to getting to a ceasefire. I think, Bianna, when we talk about this

ceasefire deal, we talk about a pause in the fighting that is so desperately needed by those more than two million Palestinians living in

the Gaza Strip.

We talk about the Israeli hostages who have been held for almost five months and their potential release. But a major component of this ceasefire

deal that is being discussed is the need to get more aid into the Gaza Strip and get it to the people who need it.

So, no doubt this is adding -- this is emphasizing the priority that these negotiators have in getting to that ceasefire that hopefully will come

soon. Because, Bianna, it's not just about the amount of aid getting into Gaza. It's about where it's able to go. To add to what Clarissa was just

saying, the two entry points going into Gaza are in the southern part of the Gaza Strip -- Rafah in Egypt and Kerem Shalom in Israel.

And then, not only do they have to get into the southern part of Gaza, where oftentimes those aid trucks are swarmed, they then need to get

farther north, where there are so many people who are not in the southern part of the Gaza Strip who so desperately need that aid. And that's what we

saw today.

So, what we've heard repeatedly from the Biden administration is not only does Israel need to allow more aid trucks to get into Gaza, but they also

need to deconflict with those agencies, with those convoys to make sure that those trucks get to where that aid is desperately needed by people

throughout the Gaza Strip. Now, we did hear from Lieutenant Colonel Lerner. He also agreed with that. He said that this aid needs to get where it's

needed and that it needs to be facilitated.

One thing Israel can do is open up more crossings. There's been discussion about Erez in the north or another crossing in the north. There are ways to

get more aid into the Gaza Strip. And there is an onus on Israel to make sure that that aid gets to where it needs to be, whether there's a

ceasefire in place or not. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: It sounds like Israel is exploring, given the pressures even before today's tragedy, to open more of those crossings as well. We heard

that from Sam Power just hours before the incident today. Alex Marquardt, Clarissa Ward, thank you.

Well, for more on the situation on the ground in Gaza, let's bring in James Elder. He's a global spokesperson for UNICEF and joins us now live from

Geneva, Switzerland. James, thank you so much for joining us. Again, information still coming in. But in terms of who was providing this aid, I

know that UNRWA issued a statement.


The U.N. said that these were not their trucks. According to the IDF, there were 30 convoy trucks and they were international donors. Do you have any

idea who these donors were?

JAMES ELDER, UNICEF GLOBAL SPOKESPERSON: No. The important thing, I think, Bianna, is that they had the approval to do an aid distribution. And then,

as we've seen, irrespective of conflicting reports, we know large numbers of people have been killed. We know people were fired upon. And we know

this is on the back of immense desperation because of a critical and lethal lack of aid getting in.

We can talk spikes in child nutrition that are unprecedented. And we can point to why they're so much worse in the north. Where almost no aid is

getting. So, yes, a level of desperation in terms of people on the ground. But then we do know that as families went to finally try and get some aid

for their families, whatever happened there, they were fired upon.

And now you have hundreds of wounded people going to hospitals that are non-functioning or at least not functioning in a way that can take hundreds

of people with more of these bloodied wounds.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and this comes as the U.N. said aid deliveries were down by half over the past few months. The food program suspended deliveries.

Other U.N. aid organizations, as well for safety reasons.

I'm wondering, given the tragedy of what we've just seen unfold today, are there talks now about revisiting that strategy and doing whatever possible

to supply more aid into the north in particular?

ELDER: That's a great question, Bianna. UNICEF, for example, despite all our efforts, have not managed to get aid into the north. We've not been

able to now for a frontline organization who we know our role, our mandate is to get aid to those children who are most desperately in need to be

prevented from doing that is abhorrent and it has an impact in terms of child lives.

We're seeing a very dangerous form of malnutrition in the north, around 15 percent in children, three times what it is in Rafah in the south. Again,

clear evidence that when we're able -- when we are allowed to get in life- saving aid, it's making a difference and when we are not -- we're seeing these terrible spikes, which is, Bianna, feeding into what we've been

warning about for months.

It is not just the indiscriminate attacks from the sky, though it is certainly that. It is also now lack of water, disease spreading. Nine in

ten children have had some sort of disease, we think, in the last few weeks, disease spreading and a lack of food and medicines. We are going to

start to see this massive spike in child deaths on the ground from disease, not just from these attacks from the air.

GOLODRYGA: So, James, barring a ceasefire, the temporary ceasefire, however long that these negotiators can agree upon, that would see the

release of the hostages and the ability for aid to come in, barring that from happening, which the president himself today said he doesn't think now

will be on Monday.

What is the best route for organizations like yours to get that aid in as soon as possible? Because, as you said, there were shots fired and there

are conflicting reports about this being two separate incidents and meters apart or however this took place. Would it be safer for your workers to be

escorted by the IDF, carrying ammunition and firearms, or to be independent?

ELDER: Well, any aid delivery we do on the Gaza Strip has to have the approval of the IDF, of those forces. And this is what happens,

unfortunately, time and again, approval is granted in the last minutes, it is reneged. This is one of the reasons why, as your correspondence showed.

I spoke to their -- Bianna, we've had such a critical, a lethal lack of aid getting into children. So UNICEF will talk to anyone, will do anything that

is required if we can to massively ramp up that aid. We have it ready to go. We have people on the ground. It's not being facilitated.

Now, these are clear breaches of international humanitarian law, but this is old territory in a way. I mean, to give a human sense to what people are

enduring, just before speaking to you, Bianna, I was in touch with a young woman on the ground in Gaza who said to me that she no longer fears death.

Her fear is surviving death.

By that, she means the injuries that you won't get care for, in her words, the lack of anaesthetics. She says some nights the attacks are so great,

you can hear nothing other than the bombs, except, she says, when a family member, when a family nearby in a shelter on the street loses a family

member, has a family member killed, their cries tend to run all night. That's what's happening on the ground.

So, an organization like UNICEF, the frustration for us not to be able to get the medicines, the water, is very real.


Doesn't mean we stop, but we do need these parties to come to an agreement to allow aid agencies to try and stem the bleeding.

GOLODRYGA: Meantime, countries are dropping aid from the air, and there's even talk from a number of senators here in the U.S. for the Biden

administration to deploy a U.S. Navy hospital to provide aid, as well -- a Navy ship. James Elder, Global Spokesperson for UNICEF, thank you.

And of course, we'll continue to be covering this developing tragic story. Meantime, let's turn to the 2024 race for the White House as it heads to

the U.S.-Mexico border today. Both President Biden and former President Trump are visiting the southern border as they focus attention on illegal


Trump will be in the town of Eagle Pass, while President Biden visits Brownsville, Texas later today. Trump continues to make border security one

of the central planks of his campaign, promising mass deportations if he regains the White House, while President Biden plans to talk about how

Republicans in Congress rejected a bipartisan plan to deal with this crisis.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not about politics for the President. This is about the American people. The American

people are going to hear directly from President Biden today about what he has done to continue moving forward in dealing with this issue and how

Republicans have gotten in the way.


Now, it does appear that the U.S. Congress is set to avoid a government shutdown by at least a few days. The House is expected to vote later today

on a Stopgap Spending Bill that will keep the government operating for at least another week. Now, during that time, Congress plans to finalize the

details of a longer term agreement. Without action, several major government agencies would have been forced to shut their doors after the

close of business on Friday.

GOLODRYGA: Well, joining me now is Republican member of Congress Beth Van Duyne. She represents a district in and around Dallas, Texas. Nice to speak

to a fellow Texan Congresswoman. And for those that don't understand the size and scale of Texas, these two men will be about 300 miles apart from

each other today visiting the border.

I do want to get you, before we get into the policy, to weigh in on news that just broke of a federal court today in Texas blocking the

implementation of a Texas law that would allow state and local police officers to arrest migrants who cross from Mexico without authorization. Of

course, this ruling would have a side with the federal government in a legal showdown over this immigration battle.

BETH VAN DUYNE, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: I think you're seeing that just how different Texas is handling this problem with federal government. They're

actually recognizing that you've got millions of people who are coming over our borders illegally.

I think when you look at Texas, the fact that they've had 60 of the gotaways have been through Texas, that 40 percent of the people who have

entered our country illegally in the last three years have gone through Texas. They are happy to take matters into their own hands because the

federal government refuses to enforce the laws.

GOLODRYGA: But a federal -- but a federal judge just blocked that law. So what's your reaction?

VAN DUYNE: Yeah, well, I think what you're going to see is you're going to see more people being murdered. I think you're going to see more deaths as

a direct result of Texas not being able to protect itself. But this is all brought on by federal government policies and a federal government, a

federal administration, a Democrat administration that's refusing to enforce the laws and as an open, unsecure border.

GOLODRYGA: So, that adds to the question then of why Republicans, despite a bipartisan bill, shot down that bill and largely due to urging from

former President Trump, who is visiting the border. And many question if this is such an important issue for him, why could he not have signed off

and supported this bipartisan legislation, some of the toughest legislation on border security in years?

Well, see, I would totally disagree with you. I think it was not tough legislation at all. I think when you start looking at the legislation, what

they were trying to do is normalize the ridiculous amount of numbers of illegal crossings that we have on a daily basis. That was not positive

legislation. If you want to look at strong legislation, one of the strongest bills that you've got on the table is H.R. 2, the Secure Border

Act of 2023.

That would have ended the catch and release. It would have put back into place the Remain in Mexico Policy. It would have redone asylum laws. It

would have started building a wall. That is legitimate, actual solutions for securing our borders again.

The Border Bill that never even came out of the Senate, never got over to the House, was killed because it was a very poor and it was a very weak

bill. We have solutions on that they've been sitting on for nearly a year now that the House has pushed forward to the Senate that they've never even

brought up for a vote.

And then you've got Biden who's already threatening that he would veto it. I would say this administration was serious about protecting lives. You

know, people like Lakin Riley, who was murdered by a Venezuelan illegal immigrant who never should have been in this country, they would actually

pass that bill.


And they would work with the Republicans who want to have strong enforcement and who want to actually protect American citizens. It's not

what you're seeing happening today.

GOLODRYGA: But let me push back a little bit because this is one of the toughest bills in tackling this issue in years. It makes asylum claims more

difficult, expands detention capacity, increased fentanyl screening and pays for more border officers. If nothing else, why not at least agree to

this bill and then get something started in terms of addressing the issue and in the future push for tougher legislation, if that's what you're

hoping for?

VAN DUYNE: So, I think normalizing the fact that they were having, you know, upwards, if it was a daily basis, 8500 people, but on an average per

week, 5500 people a day, that's a travesty. And you should not put that into policy that that's something that you're willing to accept.

We can have a strong border. Under the Trump administration, when you looked at the policy that they had, they had less than 1000 people and that

was considered too many that were coming over. Why 5000? Why not 4000? Why not 1000? But if you're going to normalize a number, at least have it be a

strong number.

And what we're seeing coming out of the Senate Bill was not that at all. In addition, the dollars that he wanted to put into the additional agents were

not going to be used to actually secure the border, but to more efficiently have illegal immigrants enter our country. If they were serious about it,

they would end the catch and release program and they would re-evaluate their parole program, which is totally going against a congressional law

that has been set by having mass paroles.

And by the way, the murderer from Venezuela that killed, that murdered Lakin Riley was as a result of that parole program. That is -- that is, you

know, blood that is directly on Biden's hands.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, that murder is no doubt a tragedy and a shocking one at that. But as you know, you have former President, actually both the former

and current President there visiting the border. One President, one man, the current President can say, listen, I was ready to sign legislation. The

other was the one who shunned it.

And you have responses not only from Democrats like Governor Pritzker saying that Donald Trump doesn't want a solution. He wants a campaign

slogan. Fine. You can call that partisan. But even your fellow Texan Representative, Dan Crenshaw said that two things can be true at once.

Republicans need to get their blank stuff together. Then went on to say that Biden is doing this because of politics, as well.

But on the former, that Republicans need to get their blank stuff together, isn't that a threat and a risk that you bear by not at least enacting what

many would describe, most describe the toughest legislation presented yet that was crafted in a bipartisan manner?

VAN DUYNE: Again, I think H.R. 2 had a much tougher and it was not normalizing. But you want to talk about the dichotomy between these two

Presidents. One, just where they're going in the border. You know, Biden is down at the border right now going to one of the least on active places

that has wire, has a wall.

And where you're seeing Trump go is where they has actually been the center point of people coming over. But even more so than that, you've got one

President who's talking about what he's going to do, talking about a bill he might sign. You've got another President that for four years actually

did the job.

He put policies in place that protected our border. He put policies in place that, like, Remain in Mexico" that forced Mexico to actually work

with us, that stopped people coming in from our border illegally. You've got one who's actually done it. And you've got another one who's just

talking about it because his polling numbers are dropping before an election.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, it's only President Biden's second time visiting the border. But this is border crossing set a monthly record high of 250,000

alone in the month of December. Republican Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne, thank you for your time.

VAN DUYNE: Thank you very much.

GOLODRYGA: Well, coming up for us more on our top story, a scene of desperation and devastation in northern Gaza as thousands of Palestinian

civilians gather for food and dozens end up dead. How the tragedy could affect hostage negotiations. That's next.





DEBBIE DINGELL, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: There are people with guns shooting at people trying to bring in humanitarian aid. People are starving to

death. There is a danger of famine.


GOLODRYGA: Desperation turns to tragedy in northern Gaza, and we're now hearing contradictory claims about what may have happened.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health says at least 104 people in western Gaza City were killed and nearly 800 others injured while waiting for food.

Multiple eyewitnesses and one local journalist told CNN that the IDF began shooting soon after the aid trucks arrived. Hungry civilians swarmed the

vehicles and that many of the people killed were rammed by the trucks during the chaos.

But Israel says the stampede for aid took place first and its forces opened fire after a group of Palestinians approached another checkpoint. CNN's

Global Affairs Analyst joins me now live from Chevy Chase, Maryland. Barak, good to see you.

So, the IDF says the investigation is on-going and says that there are two separate incidents here. But no matter how you describe it, two

contradictory claims, it's clear that this is a crisis now, yet another one for the Israeli government and for the IDF, given the amount of death,

given the amount of those injured and highlighting just the desperation on the ground in Gaza.

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No doubt, Bianna. And honestly, I think that, you know, I guess we will know in a few days

more details about what exactly happened and who shot first and so on and so forth. But honestly, I don't think this is really the issue. The main

issue is that what we saw today in Gaza is Mogadishu. This is chaos. This is total breakdown of law and order in Gaza.

And Israel has occupied Gaza in the last four months, and therefore it is responsible for everything that happens there, regardless of whether it was

a stampede or if the soldiers are fired or any other version of what happened there.

And therefore, I think both the U.S. and the other members of the International Community are likely to put even more pressure now on Israel

to get a ceasefire, either through a hostage deal or without a hostage deal.

GOLODRYGA: And, you know, the point, I mean, that would just be unfathomable to think that Israel would agree to a deal without even the

release of hostages. But it speaks to the pressure, the amount of pressure on Israel, not just by Western allies, but by the United States in


And I wanted to ask you about that. I mean, do you think, if nothing else, this will lead the BB administration to do something that it has been

avoiding at this point and agree to some of the very, very high demands, painful demands of Hamas in exchange for 40 at least hostages at that?

RAVID: I think that Netanyahu is going to come under even greater pressure than he did until now to cut the deal. And I think Biden is going to press

him more. Arab leaders are going to press him more. Other Israeli allies in the West are going to press him more.


And honestly, I also think that the Israeli negotiations team is going to press him more because there is a gap between where the Israeli negotiators

are and where Netanyahu is, because the Israeli negotiators want to get the deal. They want to get the hostages out. Netanyahu, obviously, he would

love to get the hostages out.

But he has other considerations, like his own domestic politics, and it's the survival of his coalition. And therefore, I think we're going to see in

the next few days significant developments on this issue, because if there's no hostage deal soon, it will become almost impossible for the

Biden administration to continue on giving Netanyahu the support he has gotten until now.

GOLODRYGA: It also puts more pressure on the Bibi and Netanyahu administration, just in terms of whatever plans they said that they put

forward for when and if they go into Rafah, because there's been a lot of skepticism about that, what that may look like. And that's just only been

elevated now by this tragedy today. Barak Ravid, thank you so much for your time. Always great to have you on.

RAVID: Thank you, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, just ahead on ONE WORLD, the head of the Pentagon, one of the most powerful jobs on the planet, is being grilled on Capitol Hill.

We'll explain why.



GOLODRYGA: Welcome back to ONE WORLD. I'm Bianna Golodryga. Well, there was a breakdown in notifications. That's what the U.S. Defense Secretary

has been telling lawmakers in Washington today. Lloyd Austin being grilled on Capitol Hill today over a lack of transparency surrounding his January



The Pentagon Chief was being treated for prostate cancer. But for a number of days, the President and lawmakers didn't know that Austin was in the

hospital. The Defense Secretary had something to say about that.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: But let me be clear. I never intended to keep my hospitalization from the White House or from anybody

else. That's why we immediately instituted changes to the way that the authorities can be temporarily transferred to my Deputy and to the way that

notifications get made. That's also why we conducted a 30-day review of the entire process.


GOLODRYGA: I want to bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon. And, Oren, you'd been asking about this specific review now for a few weeks. And

when we would hear of it, we heard from the Defense Secretary today. What else stood out to you?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that 30-day review was wrapped up just a few days ago. Part of the issue here was it didn't say

all that much. And we saw that in some of the statements after the review was released, but also in some of the questioning here. Crucially, it also

didn't hold anybody accountable.

What we saw from today's hearing was largely along party lines. Democrats may have been critical of the decision or the failure to notify the

President and others in the administration about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's hospitalization, but they, by and large, defended Austin and said

there were more pressing concerns here to worry about from a national security perspective.

Republicans went after Austin, first pressuring him on who is responsible here. Austin was pressed by one Republican about who failed here, to which

he said, look, he went to the hospital and was in the critical care unit, and therefore it was on his staff to notify and put out the notification by

the procedures.

But when asked if somebody on his staff should be held accountable, Austin kind of waffled there and wouldn't say that there should be accountability

here. The 30-day review backed him up on that point, not holding anybody responsible.

So, some Republicans pressed on this point and said, look, we're going to keep going after this until somebody is held accountable here. Austin

saying that there is a review going on from the DOD Inspector General, and they're working on improving the processes here. But that certainly didn't

seem to alleviate the questioning on the breakdown in notification here and why it took days for President Joe Biden to know that Austin was in the

hospital and why.

So, there is still a lot of anger about the issues here. We'll see how this plays out, and we'll certainly have a chance here to ask the Pentagon in a

press briefing. It is worth-noting, Bianna, that we'd expected this to go quite a bit longer, but the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee

said they're limiting this to two hours because Austin is still recovering from the prostate cancer surgery and from the complications there. It's

uncomfortable for him to sit for an extended period of time, so the briefing was shorter than we would have initially expected.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, I was going to raise that. There had been some complications following that surgery as recently as just a few weeks ago.

Oren Liebermann, thank you so much. Well, a big win for Donald Trump when it comes to his delay and deflect legal strategy. The U.S. Supreme Court

has agreed to decide whether or not the former President is immune from criminal prosecution.

Now, it centers around Trump's actions leading up to and on the day of the January 6th insurrection. The justices will hear arguments in late April,

but a ruling is not expected until June. It's a decision that could throw Trump's trial schedule into turmoil during the presidential election

season. More to follow on this story for us.

Meantime, coming up, strong words from Vladimir Putin in his annual address to lawmakers. Hear the threat that has Western leaders concerned. And on

the ground in Ukraine, troops try to keep Russia's military at bay with fewer and fewer resources. Coming up, the measures that they're forced to

take to keep fighting.




GOLODRYGA: Russian President Vladimir Putin came out to thunderous applause before his annual State of the Nation address. It was the longest

of his federal assembly speeches at just over two hours. He told Russian lawmakers that the West risks nuclear war if they send troops to Ukraine.

The President added that Russia must strengthen its Western border. That's in reaction to neighboring Finland and Sweden joining NATO. Putin said that

the West looks at Russia's self-protection as aggression.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They state without any embarrassment that Russia allegedly intends to attack Europe. You and I

understand that they are just talking non-sense, but at the same time, they themselves choose targets for striking our territory.


GOLODRYGA: The Putin speech comes as Russian troops are making slow but steady gains on the battlefield. Ukraine's top general admits there were

miscalculations in certain areas. As Nick Paton Walsh reports, ammunition shortages are making it that much harder to hold Russia's army back.


NICK PATON WALSH, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not even tree cover means safety. They're firing to defend the tiny gains

of Ukraine's counter-offensive, but now they are outgunned by Russian troops trying to surge forwards. You can hear how many shells they fire

back. No U.S. aid means Ukrainians risk losing right here, right now.

UNKNOWN (through translator): 401- target infantry. High explosive round.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Roger that. Targeting. One round fire.

PATON WALSH: I feel like they're fighting really with one hand behind their back. Such a shortage of shells here. They get to do that, if they're

lucky, about 10 times a day.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Back in the summer counter-offensive, they would fire 80 a day. Down in the bunker, it is strange to hear men who live

underground to avoid death be so familiar with Republican procedural dysfunctionality.

ANTON, UKRAINE'S 65TH MECHANIZED BRIGADE (through translator): I hardly understand the Republican policy on aiding Ukraine. The biggest issue is

lack of ammunition. Most of my guys spent two years here.

PATON WALSH: Do you have a message for the people in Washington?

ANTON: We are very much waiting for aid. We urgently need it. More rounds equals saving more lives.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Their drone footage shows the remains of last night's failed Russian assault. This is what was a key prize in the

counter-offensive, the tiny village of Robotyne. Still Ukraine's, but now another front line where Russia is hitting back hard.

This thermal night imagery shows their latest bleak tactic. It's a quad bike carrying three Russians charging at the front lines to simply see how

far it can get.

KOKOS, 15TH NATIONAL GUARD (through translator): It's more maneuverable than armored vehicles.


It's hard to hit with artillery so we have to use drones. We heard from prisoners of war that they are given pills before assaults. They just keep

on coming and coming.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): But while Russia seems to squander infinite resources, Ukraine must be more ingenious and crowd fund. This, a three-D

printer to make tiny components for about 10 attack drones a day. Without more artillery, they say only these drones hold Russia back here. t is a

bleak and fierce fight which has mauled the nearby town of Orikhiv. Russian airstrikes have left it looking like defeat, rather than the symbol of

Ukrainian tenacity it is.

PATON WALSH: Each time you come back here it's just worse and worse and you just don't even really imagine what people can do to survive here or

what there's really worth left fighting over.

PATON WALSH: And on the road out, these. A stark warning, Ukraine is preparing for bad news. Six months ago they were trying to surge forwards

with new Western armor here. Now, they prepare to lose. Only one thing changed and it was in Washington, not in their hearts. Nick Paton Walsh,

CNN, Orikhiv, Ukraine.


GOLODRYGA: And time for that aid from Washington is quickly running out. Thanks to Nick for that report. We'll be right back.


GOLODRYGA: A recap now on the breaking news out of Gaza. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza says Israeli troops opened fire as a large crowd

waited for food in western Gaza City. At least 104 people were killed and nearly 800 others injured amid the ensuing chaos.

Multiple eyewitnesses and a local journalist tell CNN that despite civilians -- the desperate civilians swarmed the aid trucks that had

entered the city. And the journalist says that when the IDF opened fire, people tried to escape and many were run over by the trucks in the chaos.

Israel says there were two separate incidents and the stampede happened first.


AVI HYMAN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: My understanding this far, and this is unfolding as I say and developing -- my understanding, thus far, is

that humanitarian aid vehicles entered the Gaza Strip and were overwhelmed by people attempting to essentially loot, to take that aid from those aid




GOLODRYGA: The White House, meanwhile, says that it's looking into what happened, but admits the incident will complicate negotiations in the

region. CNN's Clarissa Ward joins me now live in London. And Clarissa, as we discussed earlier in the hour, there are two conflicting reports.

Put that aside, what that spokesperson just said, that the overwhelmed civilians were desperate, so desperate for aid that that in turn led to

this terrible tragedy. And that once again describes the urgent need and the lack of nutrition, food, medical supplies that are facing civilians,

especially in Northern Gaza.

WARD: That's right. And I think, Bianna, you're hearing a lot of frustration from aid agencies that have really been sounding the alarm for

months now, saying that this sort of thing was bound to happen. They have experienced this when they try to move supplies, particularly to the north

of Gaza, which is so isolated, which has been so hard hit. They are running into this all the time, not just looting, but also criminal gangs who are

taking the aid and it's being sold in markets. That speaks to the absolute desperation of the situation on the ground, which is borne out in the

numbers that we're hearing now, the U.N. talking about being one step away from a famine in Northern Gaza. One official telling me that six children

died last week in one hospital in Northern Gaza of acute malnutrition and dehydration, that the rate among children of acute malnutrition is now 15

percent as compared to five percent in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

And all of this against the backdrop of a pretty drastic reduction in the amount of aid that has been getting in, 500 trucks a day before the war

started, 250 trucks a day on a good day afterwards. And in the last week, there were four days where only 10 trucks of aid got in. And as you and I

were discussing before, you know, USAID Head Samantha Power has been in Israel.

She's been imploring. We had indications that the Israelis were planning to open another crossing -- another border crossing in the north to try to

take some of the pressure off of the chokehold in Rafah and Kerem Shalom, and also to make it easier to get that aid into Northern Gaza because it is

the most urgently needed there.

So, at this stage, everyone really waiting to see whether this tragedy is going to become a watershed moment in some way, shape or form, and is going

to precipitate some change to the status quo, which simply put, cannot sustain, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, I spoke with IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari earlier in the week, so before this tragedy today, and asked about the on-

going crisis of distributing aid in Gaza, particularly in Northern Gaza, and asked if it was Israel's responsibility in his view.

And he said it should be an international organization's responsibility in collaboration with Israel, but he said that they are looking to find the

right solutions and that the food will be distributed to the right people. We're looking for different methods because we will see different steps and

different actions in order to provide the food.

And when I asked if that was imminent, the answer I got was that yes, that there are plans in the works. This was before today, so no doubt, Clarissa,

this puts even more pressure on not only more aid coming in, but also more crossings being made available in which to bring in that aid.

WARD: No, absolutely, and I think it's really important to underscore here, Bianna. I was talking to someone from the World Health Organization.

Under International Humanitarian Law, the onus is on Israel to make sure that the civilians of Gaza do not starve to death. The responsibility is

legally theirs, and of course, international aid organizations are a big part of that process.

But I have been having many conversations with them over the last week, and the frustration is so high. OCHA, the U.N. organization that oversees the

coordination of humanitarian aid, for example, they came out last week and said that of the requests that they made for aid runs into northern Gaza,

only 15 percent of them were approved by the Israelis.

There is this very arduous, although understandable logistically, process of de-confliction. But what any aid worker will tell you is that the end

result is you cannot effectively distribute aid in this kind of an environment.


And that is why you are seeing such a full-throated, unified clarion call from various international aid organizations saying there needs to be some

kind of a ceasefire, even if it's temporary, to allow that aid to get where it needs to go.

GOLODRYGA: And to get those hostages out of Gaza at the same time, it is interesting to see proposals from members of the Senate today saying that

they are urging the Biden administration to deploy a U.S. Navy hospital ship as well to the region. We see that there are other countries that are

airdropping supplies during this desperation as well, and some asking if this puts more pressure on Egypt also to step in here.

We are learning that Prime Minister Netanyahu is speaking at the moment, but it seems that he is addressing more internal domestic issues

specifically related to his defense minister yesterday, saying that they will end draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox in Israel. But of course,

we will bring you any comments that he makes with regards to this crisis that happened just hours ago in northern Gaza, this tragedy unfolding with

over a hundred injured and killed. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.

WARD: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And that does it for this hour of ONE WORLD. I'm Bianna Golodryga. Thank you so much for watching. "AMANPOUR" is up next.