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Quest Means Business
Death Toll Climbs As Middle East Violence Continues; Inflation Fears Send U.S. Stocks Sharply Lower; Gas Station Outages Worsen Across Southeast U.S.; Republicans Remove Trump Critic Liz Cheney From Top Post; IOC Says It's Moving Full Ahead With Tokyo Games; Anti-Government Protests In Colombia Enter Third Week. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired May 12, 2021 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: We are into the final hour of trading on Wall Street and it is a rough session for the Dow Jones, off nearly 500
points. Those are the markets. These are the main events.
The death toll is climbing in the Middle East as the violence continues between Israelis and Palestinians. We'll be live in Jerusalem. What you're
seeing there is massive destruction in Gaza.
Fears of sharply rising prices in the United States have sent stock markets in the opposite direction.
And as India records its deadliest day of the pandemic, we will hear from Europe's C.D.C. Chief about the risk from new variants. Are you protected
even if you're vaccinated?
Live from London. It's Wednesday the 12th of May. I'm Hala Gorani. I'm filling in for Richard. This is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
Tonight, the United Nations is warning that growing violence between Israel and the Palestinians is at risk of escalating into a full-blown war.
Palestinian officials say 65 people have now been killed in Gaza after three days of Israeli airstrikes, more than 330 people have been injured.
Fears now that the number of casualties could rise in Gaza's largest most crowded city.
Just a few hours ago, Israeli forces reduced a 14-story building there to rubble. Take a look at the video.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
GORANI: This is the Al Sharuk Tower. It used to house businesses and media organizations. Tuesday night airstrikes brought down a residential tower.
That makes three high-rise buildings destroyed by the Israeli military in as many days.
The military wing of Hamas says it has launched at least 130 rockets in retaliation. Israel says seven of its people have been killed since Monday.
And the level of violence across the country is extremely worrying, sirens are routinely blaring in cities and towns across Israel.
And Israel is sending reinforcements to mixed Jewish and Arab cities and putting curfews into effect. This is really a big crisis.
Ben Wedeman is in Jerusalem with the very latest on what's going on.
And Israel is basically saying we are not going to stop our attack on Gaza until it is completely quiet. They seem to be preparing for an operation
that will last at least for many more days, if not weeks.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It appears the Israelis are determined to carry on with an offensive against Gaza. Now,
how big, how broad? It is still not clear. It is not clear if they have an appetite for a repeat of the seven-week war we saw in 2014, but certainly,
politically, it seems to be pointing in the direction of a further escalation.
And of course, after the Israelis brought down that building, the Sharuk Towers, the military wing of Hamas responded with around 130 rockets fired
into Israel. Not clear at this point how many of them actually reached their target. But nonetheless, what we're seeing now over the last 72 hours
is an unprecedented rate of escalation.
I was reading earlier that in the last 72 hours, a thousand rockets have been fired out of Gaza compared to in the seven weeks in 2014, four
thousand rockets; and therefore certainly, things do not seem to be going in the right direction.
And as you mentioned, these disturbances in Israel proper between Jewish citizens and Palestinian citizens of Israel indicate a level of communal
unrest that is unprecedented in the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, we did see some disturbances and fatalities among the Israeli
But the breadth of the unrest within Israel now would indicate that there is much more to it than merely tensions in Jerusalem because of forced
evictions of Palestinians and the back and forth between Gaza and Israel itself.
WEDEMAN: But in all of this, it's the civilians who are paying the highest prices.
WEDEMAN (voice over): Once more hell is unleashed in a small, crowded place.
As Israel's fire and brimstone rain down on Gaza, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets roar out of Gaza into Israel.
A conflict left to fester again has burst into flames.
"We heard an explosion, two rockets, one after another," says Gaza resident. Ra'fat ar-Rifi. "I found my 18-year-old granddaughter dead. My
son was injured in the head and his other daughter had a broken leg."
By Wednesday, midday, more than 50 people had been killed in Gaza according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Among them, at least 14 children.
Hundreds have been wounded.
In Gaza where 80 percent of the population are refugees or their descendants, once more, they are made homeless.
"At 6:00 in the morning, we were told to leave because they were going to bring down the building in front of us," says Abdel Aziz Abu Sharia. "We
ran out and waited in the street for four hours and in the evening went back and found everything destroyed. There's nothing left."
Neither the militant factions nor Israel show any signs of backing down. Israel has mobilized reserves and is moving tanks toward Gaza. While Hamas
has put out videos of its rocket teams, the message, clear.
Escalation appears inevitable and all the death and suffering that go with it.
WEDEMAN (on camera): And there does seem to be the beginnings of a form of diplomatic efforts to resolve this crisis. We understand that a senior
State Department official is on his way to the region, according to the State Department to speak to both sides.
But both sides clearly does not include anybody in Gaza since the United States refuses to speak with Hamas. So, he'll be coming speaking with the
Israelis and speaking with Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority who, in this particular crisis, doesn't seem to be playing much
of a role -- Hala.
GORANI: Well, how much influence does he actually have, Mahmoud Abbas, at this stage? But lost in all this in a way are these protests against these
forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. These are protests that had spread throughout the country.
Now, Hamas appears to have just hijacked the narrative by starting to shoot these rockets into Southern Israel and it has become once again that
What happens to these demonstrations against the evictions in that East Jerusalem neighborhood now?
WEDEMAN: Well, they continue. In fact, we've seen that two of the sort of, the loudest voices of protest were expelled from Sheikh Jarrah in East
Jerusalem earlier this evening by Israeli Police.
The court case that was supposed to settle this issue was postponed by a month, and like most of the issues here, you will have these outbreaks of
mega violence which obscure the fundamental problem here, which is many people will tell you, the occupation, which is a constant irritant to the
population, certainly of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and this will -- isn't going to go away regardless of what happens between Gaza and Israel -
GORANI: All right, Ben Wedeman, our senior international correspondent live in Jerusalem. Thanks very much.
Lod is southeast of Tel Aviv near the top of your screen there, I believe we're going to show you a map. Let's put that up. It's a town where Jewish
-- there you have it -- it is a town where Jewish people and Arab-Israelis live together. Hamas says it is now launching 130 rockets at Ashkelon,
Netivot and Sderot, cities just north and east of Gaza, an additional 20 rockets are being launched towards Sderot, less than a mile from Gaza.
Hamas says it's in response to the, quote, "assassination of leaders and the targeting of civilian facilities." We've just learned a six-year-old
Israeli boy was killed in Sderot when a residential building was struck.
GORANI: Aida Touma-Sliman is a member of the Joint List faction of the Israeli Knesset. She is in Acre, Israel and she joins me now on the phone.
What is the situation where you are tonight in Acre? I understand that you've been hearing some explosions, some -- there's been some disturbances
from your vantage point. What are you seeing, what are you hearing?
AIDA TOUMA-SLIMAN, MEMBER OF THE JOINT LIST FACTION OF THE ISRAELI KNESSET (via phone): Well, we have -- good evening, first. We have a very terrible
situation in the mixed cities. Acre, Lod, Haifa and Bat Yam and Jaffa, tonight since morning we've been warning also the police officers that are
responsible and the leadership of the police that there are social media groups of right-wing, ultra-right-wing fascist Jewish citizens who are
organizing themselves under the slogan "We are attacking the Arabs tonight. We are going to slaughter Arabs tonight."
And the police have been promising that they are very well organized for the situation.
Now, in my city there were three major groups like these who were attacked Arab population, Arab neighborhoods, and shops and restaurants, and they
are setting places on fire. And of course now, the Arab population went out in order to help each other. And now there are clashes in the streets, and
the police is throwing bombs and teargas, and the situation is really terrible.
We are very, very worried about this deterioration. In my opinion, Netanyahu and his ministers are responsible for this escalation and
therefore, in the incitement that has been going in the last month against the Arab-Palestinian population and the Palestinians.
GORANI: If I can -- apologies for jumping in because, I understand from your description just how difficult and tense and violent the situation is,
specifically in some of those mixed cities that have both Arab and Jewish residents.
As a member of the Knesset. I'm sure you've been thinking long and hard how to put an end to this. What is the solution? If you could just implement
any solution, which would it be?
TOUMA-SLIMAN: Well, first of all, I think that for my regrets, there are very bad use of the situation and the escalation that started a month ago
with beginning of Ramadan month and the attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque and the situation in Sheikh Jarrah, and later on, on the protests against what
is happening, the escalation with the rockets coming from Gaza and the war launched by Netanyahu's government on Gaza is deteriorating the situation
First of all, I think it's very crucial now to ceasefire first of all between the Israeli army and on Gaza to reach kind of a ceasefire and to
hold the police responsible of settling down the situation and secure the population.
There is no way to live in this fear of a program. I am talking to you now, I am locked in my house, it's happening in front of my house, and there is
no way to go out. The teargas is filling the houses, and the situation is insecure.
There has been attacks on Arab citizens in different cities today.
GORA: Can you describe -- can you -- sorry, Aida Touma-Sliman, can you describe what you see when you look out your window? Describe what is
happening. Because you're in the middle of all this. You're actually experiencing this violence personally and directly. What are you seeing now
from where you are?
TOUMA-SLIMAN: Now, there are clashes. The police is running behind young people who heard the news about the attack on different Arab neighborhoods.
They went out as if, I don't know, trying to reach out for the population who was attacked by Jewish right-wing activists.
And now the police is running behind them. They are throwing bombs and throwing teargas and even rubber bullets on those young men. Until now, in
the beginning of the night there was also clashes between the right-wing Jewish young people and the Arabs who were attacked by them.
TOUMA-SLIMAN: It looks like they were throwing stones. Now, they have very bad injured two people, one Arab and one Jew. And I am not sure that the
police is able or even willing to control the situation.
I'm really, really worried about this city. The same is happening in Haifa. The same is happening in Lod.
There are attacks on different citizens in different locations of Arab citizens.
TOUMA-SLIMAN: I think they mentioned now that there -- the settlers who are coming from the settlements in the West Bank with their arms coming inside
Israel to the mixed cities, for my regret, the ministers and -- the Minister of Interior Security in the morning say very clearly that Jews who
have weapons are extra forced to help the police in their work, meaning giving militias, giving people who are armed to take the law in their
GORANI: Aida Touma-Sliman, a member of the Israeli Knesset, speaking to us from Acre, a city really in the throes of Arab-Jewish violence. This is not
the only city --
TOUMA-SLIMAN: Excuse me, I have to say something.
GORANI: Say something, please.
TOUMA-SLIMAN: They are trying to move the protest that started against Netanyahu's government policy and attack on Gaza into a war between Jews
and Arabs. There is no war between Jews and Arabs. There are fascists who are attacking citizens.
GORANI: All right. This is the view from our guest, Aida Touma-Sliman joining us from Acre in Israel with a very tense situation.
Thank you for joining us, and for taking the time as this member of Knesset, Miss Touma-Sliman was describing she can see what's going on
outside her window, the teargas filling up her apartment in her building with a lot of worry not just from this guest, from other people that this
is a level of violence we haven't seen in a very long time.
This is Arabs against Jews, Arab-Israelis against Jews. This is what's happening against Gaza. These are the rockets also coming from Gaza into
Israeli cities and towns.
It is also these protests against what Palestinians see as forced evictions by Jewish settlers, and this is also another aspect of this story.
So in Israel and across the Palestinian territories, crisis after crisis, very, very serious concern as to where this will lead us.
When we return, we're going to be talking about another story as the U.S. faces outages at some gas stations, oil executives are pleading with
Americans not to panic buy, but of course we'll have more on our coverage of the hostilities between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza and across this
country as fears of all-out war intensify. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Welcome back to the news out of Israel in a moment. But first, U.S. markets are falling for a second straight day. The Dow is down nearly 600
points, more than 600 points, back below 34,000. The NASDAQ is down more than two percent on the day. It's fallen seven percent since hitting an
all-time high in late April. Inflation fears are one of the reasons why.
We learned today that the price of consumer goods in the U.S. rose 4.2 percent year-over-year in April. It's the sharpest monthly increase since
Paul La Monica joins me now from New York via Skype. And the question is how do we know that this is some temporary adjustment? Because the economy
is catching up with some of its -- the COVID issues it had last year. How do we know that this isn't a longer-lasting inflationary issue facing the
PAUL LA MONICA, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: It's a great question, Hala, and I don't think we know yet, which is why investors are so nervous and you're
seeing this level of selling today.
The Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, he has been arguing pretty consistently that these are transitory forces at play. And to that end, you look at
those CPI numbers this morning that came out, used car prices surged, and that's partly because of the well-publicized problems with chip demand that
is affecting new car sales and people are going to back work. So maybe that is transitory.
Air fares, they also shot up as people start to travel more. Maybe the airlines taking advantage of the fact that people are willing to go on
vacations again. But it's not yet clear if this is going to pass or if it is the start of a longer-term trend, especially since wages have been
GORANI: What is the implication of a longer-term inflationary trend for the U.S. economy? What could we be looking at? Higher interest rates?
LA MONICA: Yes, I think that is the big question and probably why investors are so nervous. Because, again, Hala, on the face of things, having wages
go up is good news, the economy is rebounding from the depths of the COVID- 19 recession. People are getting vaccinated, people are going back to work, and they have more money in their paychecks as well.
But if the Fed which has been, you know, really stubbornly saying that we are not going to raise rates any time soon, we're going to keep them near
zero. If they now have to on the fly change that mindset and start raising rates more aggressively, more rapidly, I don't think the market is prepared
GORANI: Yes. Because the last thing you want is an inflation coupled with an economy that is not growing. That would be a disastrous scenario.
Paul La Monica, thanks very much.
LA MONICA: Yes, you bet.
GORANI: Yes. Absolutely. We'll speak to you. Thank you.
There's panic at the pump. Lines at gas stations are getting longer in the U.S. as the price of a gallon of regular pushes above $3.00 a gallon for
the first time in six years. Now, these prices sound awesome if you live in Europe, but in the U.S., they are not.
U.S. officials and oil executives are pleading with Americans not to hoard gas in the wake of the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline. Nevertheless, the
demand yesterday was 14 percent higher than a week ago, up far more in some places. In fact, outages are being reported across the country, and as
early as today, nearly a quarter of filling stations in North Carolina were out of gas -- out -- 15 percent of stations in Georgia and Virginia were
out of gas.
CNN correspondent, Nick Valencia is on the ground in Brookhaven, Georgia for more on that. It's like scenes out of the '70s. What's going on?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Hala. In fact, I did talk to one driver earlier today who said that she lived through 1972 where she
had to wait 18 hours. That's not really the way people are waiting today though, about ten minutes. But really, the irony of this all, Hala is that,
as people worry about the shortage of gasoline, they may actually be contributing to that shortage.
What we're seeing here is the definition, the very definition of panic buying. And I talked to the manager here where we are at this gas station
and they said, they're not running out of gas, but they are cutting off some pumps before they get to what they call the safety stacks.
They are worried about running out of premium gas, but it was just about an hour ago that we saw a tanker come through here and deliver more premium
and regular gasoline. But I'm going to step out of the way here so you could see just what I talked about. The definition here of sort of
organized chaos and panic-buying as people, most of them coming through here according to the manager at this station are topping off their tanks.
It's not necessarily that they've run out of gas for their personal vehicles. They're just worried about news that there could be a shortage.
How long will this last? We don't really know, and I think Americans are playing it better safe than sorry right now, waiting for news that the
issue with the Colonial Pipeline has been resolved.
The facts are, though, is that they are pumping more gas than a daily average, about 3,500 gallons per hour is what this gas station says that
they're going through. It's not quite survival mode. Yesterday, they said it was worse. They almost ran out of gas here.
Other stations around the area, we were at one earlier this morning in an Atlanta suburb and they ran out of gas at about 11:00 a.m. So, it is
clearly becoming an issue as the days tick by, and what is very clear to us, though, is that people are panicking and it is much like we saw at the
beginning of the pandemic when there was so much uncertainty about what life would bring.
People heading to the gas pumps, trying to fill up, stock up on household supplies. Today, though, this is what they're doing. They're stocking up on
gasoline and they're filling their tanks here out of fear that there will be a shortage ahead -- Hala.
GORANI: All right, panic buying, thanks very much.
Next, more on our top story. A U.N. envoy warns of a possible full-scale war as fighting in the Middle East escalates. The very latest coming up
next, we will be right back.
You're with CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE FAISAL BIN FARHAN AL SAUD, SAUDI ARABIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I'm open too because as I said, we've always wanted or we've for some time wanted
to, you know, work together to play a greater role in our own security. So that's -- I think that's (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Hello. I'm Hala Gorani. There's MORE QUESTIONS BUSINESS in a moment. We'll have more on the escalating violence in the Middle East. I'll
speak to the editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post. And the head of Europe's CDC tells CNN social distancing will continue for the time being
with the continent, not yet quite ready to reopen. Before that, these are the headlines this hour.
The U.S. House Republicans have voted to remove party member Liz Cheney from her leadership post. Cheney has been a fierce critic of former
President Donald Trump, and has challenged his lies that the election was rigged. She says she will continue to oppose Mr. Trump's influence on the
party and called on Republicans to do the same.
The International Olympic Committee says it is moving full ahead with the Tokyo games this summer. The IOC spokesperson said there are now very much
in an implementation phase. The announcement comes despite rising COVID-19 cases, and widespread opposition within Japan itself.
Protest in Colombia is stretching into the third week with no sign of letting up within 40 people have reportedly been killed in the unrest,
which started when the president proposed a new tax on people already impoverished by the pandemic. Tuesday the President announced a tuition cut
for lower income students in response to the protests.
In the United States, as CDC advisory panel has voted to recommend giving Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to children as young as 12. The CDC's director
will likely sign off on the emergency use authorization. Advisors recommended it could be used for 12 to 15-year-olds.
A reminder of our breaking news this hour. Israel says it won't stop it's vowing to step up its campaign against Hamas and Gaza despite a warning
from the U.N., that further violence could lead to a full-scale war. In a statement Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "We'll hit them like
they've never dreamed possible." Palestinian officials say at least 65 people have been killed in Gaza.
A short time ago Israeli forces struck a 14-storey building there and reduced it to rubble. And at least seven Israelis have been killed within
the last few hours. A six-year-old boy died when a rocket hit a residential building in Sderot close to Gaza. A nighttime curfew is now in place in the
mixed Jewish Arab town of Lod.
Yaakov Katz is the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post. And he joins me now. Where is this heading, Yaakov Katz?
YAAKOV KATZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JERUSALEM POST: I think that's the question, Hala, that a lot of people would like an answer to at the moment.
Unfortunately, it does seem that we're still in this escalation. And this round of violence is not yet over. Both sides Israel and Hamas and Gaza
have so far rejected proposals, mostly from the Egyptians to engage in some sort of ceasefire talks, which is how things usually end in these types of
cycles of violence that we've unfortunately and sadly have gotten accustomed to in recent years.
But I think that Israel still has some targets that wants to go after. Let's remember Hamas on Jerusalem Day, right? On Israel's national holiday
fires rockets at Israel's capital of Jerusalem, then fires rockets the following day into Tel Aviv, the largest barrage of rockets ever fired in
history into the center of Israel. They're continuing to fire rockets, they're continuing to kill Israelis and to wound dozens. This is something
that Israel cannot allow to continue in Hamas.
I think Netanyahu who is right here needs to pay a price be deterred, be weakened, so that this won't happen again for as long as possible.
GORANI: The problem is, civilians are suffering. Hamas is still able to procure rockets, but ordinary Palestinians can't get basics. Kids are being
killed on both sides. So I mean, though, Benjamin Netanyahu is announcing the continuation of this operation. This is not without tremendous civilian
pain on the Palestinian side.
KATZ: And on the Israeli, Hala, right. We have thousands of --
GORANI: I agree with you but you -- but that's what I was saying.
GORANI: It's not just -- it's not a precise --
KATZ: -- with over a million Israelis who are stuck in their homes and sleeping in bomb shelters.
KATZ: That six-year-old boy that you mentioned earlier, he was inside a safe room where he was supposed to be protected. And that rocket penetrated
and killed him in his bed. Right? So these rocket attacks are continuing. Israel cannot allow this to happen. I don't think any country would allow
this to happen. And we have to ask ourselves and you spoke about the Palestinians and guys who can't get their hands on basic foods, right?
How much money do -- if we think about it for a moment, do these rockets that Hamas, this over about 1500 rockets, some of them long range, how much
money does all this cost? Where is this money coming from? Why is this money not being spent? And the poor Palestinian people and I agree they are
poor, and they don't have those basic needs.
But the reason they don't have them, Hala, is because the Hamas terrorist organization which holds Gaza hostage is using the money and resources that
it has to buy rockets, to throw across the border to kill six-year-old kids in their bed. They're not using it for their own people.
GORANI: And Yaakov, I think a lot of Palestinians would agree with what you just said about Hamas. And I think the people who were protesting against
the Sheikh Jarrah evictions are not necessarily Hamas fans. You yourself tweeted, temple mountain Sheikh Jarrah where this week's convenient excuses
So, the people who feel there are victimized, that they're evicted that Jewish settlers are taking over their homes unjustly, those are two
separate issues on the same Palestinian side but they're two different groups of people.
So what happens to those protests that are happening in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of Israel as well against these evictions?
KATZ: Look, I can't get into the legalities of Sheikh Jarrah because I, you know, that's going to be decided by court. But I visited there this week.
And I can tell you that at the end of the day, when we strip aside the politics and the ideology on both sides it's a human tragic story, right?
These are families, Arab families who lived within parts of what's now proper Israel for the establishment of Israel in 1948.
They became refugees. Jordan had them settle in this land in 1956. This land apparently had been owned by Jews in the late 19th century. And now
they might face eviction again and might become again refugees. That's a tragic story for those people. But this is not the reason why there's
violence in Gaza.
The reason there's violence coming from Gaza, is because that piece of territory is run by a terrorist organization, which since its establishment
in the 1980s is bent on one thing, and that is the destruction of the Jewish state. They tried to do it.
And they do it with resources instead of investing in their own people. They want to try and kill myself, my family which had to go into a bomb
shelter here in Jerusalem on Monday.
GORANI: Yes. And again, I think Palestinians would agree with you that Hamas is hijacking the demonstrations, hijacking Palestinians, desire to
continue to stay in homes that they believe are legitimately theirs. And then there's this very worrying trend of mixed cities and towns where Arabs
and Jews are -- I mean, the level of violence is extremely worrying. What could this lead to? Because you have a situation here, where you have
neighborhoods that are at each other's throats?
How do you stop it? I spoke with an Arab Israeli member of the Knesset and she said the police doesn't seem really to be interested in necessarily,
you know, keeping the two sides apart. Do you agree with that?
KATZ: I think it's terrible. I'm -- we're watching to see where the police are with the righteous of footage just moments ago from a suburb south of
Tel Aviv, where in this case, Jewish extremists attacked an air of a motorcyclist and started to beat him. There was a story in a city up north
in Akko just near Haifa, where an Arab mob attacked a Jewish man. And he's now in critical condition.
What's happening in Lod which is now under curfew. Look, Israel and Jews and its Israeli Arab citizens have for decades gotten along and lived in
coexistence. What's happening now is something that is going to set us back for decades. We have to get this under control as soon as possible because
Israel really at the end of the day, there's a delicate social fabric here, that you don't want to lose sight of the importance of this, it really is
And this I would believe, Hala, is even going to cause us more damage than what's happening right now in Gaza, because Gaza will end. At one point
Hamas will want to ceasefire, Israel want a ceasefire and we'll go back to that delicate, tense situation. What's happening here is something that
causes damage for decades to come.
GORANI: Is Netanyahu taking advantage of this politically? Because I mean, he's not able to form a government. He's popularity has been, you know,
teetering on the edge for him. He's facing some legal issues. If he isn't able to form a government and remain Prime Minister, is he stirring up some
KATZ: You know, I can't answer that question because I don't know.
KATZ: But here's the problem. The question itself, the fact that we Israelis have to wonder and I wonder just like you, whether our prime
minister who might be on towards the end of his term after serving for so long, might be willing to play with people's lives is something that
suspicion. The fact that we're even asking that question shows the problem that Israel is facing right now with the political instability when you
have a leader who is facing -- who's on trial for severe corruption charges.
This is the problem. This is a problem that I've written about this problem that others have written about. But when we start to suspect every decision
that that leader makes, it means that we don't know what's sincere and then when we're facing existential issues when people's lives are on the line we
can't be asking those questions. We have to believe in our leadership. And that's a problem. That's a fundamental problem today for Israel's
GORANI: Yaakov Katz, the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post. Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate your time on the program this evening.
As India's COVID-19 crisis gets worse, one company is hosting quarantining patients instead of hotel guests. We'll speak to the hotels group chief
about their relief effort next. We'll be right back.
GORANI: Well, more of India is imposing strict lockdowns to contain the country's horrific second wave of COVID-19. At least 33 of India's 36
states and territories have now enacted some form of curfew, some form of restriction or lockdown. On Wednesday, officials reported more than 4200
new deaths from COVID-19. 4200 new deaths in one day. That is the highest number yet in a single 24-hour period.
Beds, hospital staff medical supplies, they're all in short supply and in the middle of these shortages, some businesses are trying to help. The
Indian Hotels Company has transformed several of its hotels into quarantine centers for example. It's working with hospitals to house people with mild
or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. Puneet Chhatwal is the Managing Director and CEO of the Indian Hotels Company. He is now in Frankfurt, Germany and
joins me now live. Thank you, sir, for being with us. So what are your hotels doing to help?
PUNEET CHHATWAL, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND CEO, INDIAN HOTELS COMPANY: Well, thank you for having me, Hala. The important thing is that we started
helping already since the last 14, 15 months.
CHHATWAL: So when the pandemic broke, we were able to host as many as 70,000, room nights, approximately more than 100,000 bed nights. Just tell
-- I would say until March of last year, so the medical staff did not have to commute long distances, especially in the City of Mumbai. Over and above
that, we were able to serve three million meals to the migrant workers, to the tired and fatigued medical staff.
And we thought that it was all getting over. And then we started with all that activity all over again. And on this occasion, we have partnered in
the key metros with the hospitals so that the shortage of beds is not felt as much. So we've converted almost 1500 rooms already and the target is to
get to 3000 rooms over the next couple of weeks to host, you know, asymptomatic positive COVID patients who want to quarantine or even with
And the attachment to the hospital enables that in case the condition of the patient was to deteriorate, we could immediately transport the patient
to the hospital.
GORANI: Just so I'm clear these rooms are free of charge? I mean, you're incurring the cost?
CHHATWAL: It depends, Hala, the charges are the same as that of the hospital. But a lot of the work that we did in the first phase was
primarily subsidized through the Taj Public Welfare Service Trust, which was formed in the aftermath of the terror attacks of 2611. So we were able
to raise a lot of money, which we're still doing, and I don't think money would be a criteria or ever has been for us to host -- to host, the needy
and to serve the community.
GORANI: So, with this, you're not doing is doing this for any -- for any profit. This is -- you're doing this at cost, I presume?
CHHATWAL: We are doing it at cost. Absolutely, you're spot on. And the costs are subsidized either through the patients or to the Taj Public
Service Welfare Trust.
GORANI: Now, when you say you host either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people who want to quarantine, they can still be contagious.
What are the rules in place to make sure they do not infect other people in your hotels?
CHHATWAL: We have similar protocols in place as the COVID facility would have. So the hotels have been emptied, the ones which have tied up with the
hospitals, there are no other guests staying in hotels, there is a medical facility on site, there are doctors, there are nurses. And, you know, some
of the staff has been trained also to help or the nurses in case that was - - there was a need.
And, you know, all the, you know, hazmat suits to everything that you can think of in terms of all the sanitation facilities needed are being
provided on site.
GORANI: Yes. And how is this -- I mean, obviously, just a year ago, I'm sure you couldn't imagine a year and a half ago, that your hotels would be
basically transformed into quarantine and essentially medical facility. I mean, facilities, if you're housing, people who are infected with COVID,
even if they're asymptomatic, or simple or mildly symptomatic. How does that impact the operation of your -- of your -- of your Hotel Group at this
CHHATWAL: Well, interesting question, Hala. I think I have to take a step back and say, I think for the humanity in general, we have to understand
that the hospitality industry, globally, or India in particular is not the only victim. The virus, in fact, is the common enemy, which we have to
collectively defeat. And with that spirit, we are doing what we can. So we have almost 150 plus hotels in operation in India.
So if 10 or 15 or 20 of them get into the service of the cities and the states and the -- and the service to the nation. I think that's fine,
whether we had thought of it or not, but at the moment, this is what is needed. And we are very happy to help.
GORANI: All right. Well, I hope that it provides some relief for all these hard working medical staff and India is going through such a terrible time
right now. So any help, I'm sure is greatly appreciated. Puneet Chhatwal, the managing director and CEO of the Indian Hotels Company joining us from
Frankfurt, thank you very much for being with us this evening.
GORANI: Well, speaking of countries that are suffering, neighboring Nepal is in the middle of managing the country's worsening outbreak. The
government is on the brink of collapse and a court has a war on the two crises that the country is currently facing.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the second way to COVID wreaks havoc in the impoverished Himalayan country of Nepal, Human Rights Watch is warning
of a looming catastrophe. Deadly infections and deaths are reaching record highs with much of the country now under lockdown. The nation's under
resourced hospitals are at breaking point. Patients are being turned away due to a lack of beds and an acute shortage of oxygen.
Doctors there are warning of an oxygen crisis. Nepal Supreme Court has issued an interim order for authorities to set up a national task force to
ensure the coordination of oxygen and medical supplies. Previously, India was its main supplier, but now it's being forced to look elsewhere for
help. China is sending in 20,000 oxygen cylinders and 100 ventilators but it's a drop in the ocean considering the amount of medical aid required to
counter this devastating second wave.
Only 1.2 percent of Nepal's population has been fully inoculated which only adds to the crisis. Health officials say the positivity rate is nearly 50
percent, meaning one in every two people is testing positive for COVID. This national emergency comes at a time of political crisis in the country,
after the Prime Minister lost a vote of confidence on Monday, following his comments that the COVID situation was "under control."
The opposition now has until Thursday night to form a government. If unsuccessful, Sharma Oli will remain caretaker Prime Minister until
elections can be held the earliest by the end of the year. Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.
GORANI: Thank you, Anna. We'll be back with more in just a moment, including from the Middle East where there are fears of an all-out war.
Stay with CNN, we'll be right back.
GORANI: Moments left only to trade on Wall Street, it's been an absolutely dreary day for the markets. If you follow the markets, you will know this.
The Dow is down almost 700 points, investors are worried that higher inflation numbers could lead to federal high -- Federal Reserve hike in
interest rates. Well, it's pretty much a sea of red across the Dow 30. Only two stocks have managed to hold on.
Merck and Chevron, even so they're not up by much. Tech stocks are getting slammed. Apple, Intel, Microsoft all of them are down. The NASDAQ is off
more than 2-1/2 percent.
We're continuing to follow the escalating violence in the Middle East. We'll be live in Jerusalem in a moment. Our coverage continues after a
break. This is CNN. I'll see you on the other side.