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CNN NEWSROOM

Airstrike Collapses 13-Story Building in Gaza; 71 Bodies Pulled from Ganges River; Nepal Faces Oxygen Crisis and Government Collapse; U.S., European Allies Stage War Games amid Russia Tensions; Israel Declares State of Emergency in City of Lod; HFPA Controversy. Aired 2- 2:45a ET

Aired May 12, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, I'm John Vause, you're watching a third hour of CNN NEWSROOM, live from CNN headquarters here in Atlanta.

Coming up, as rocket fire and airstrikes escalate, Israelis and Palestinians appear to be heading to an all-out war.

Plus, what happened in India is prologue for Nepal. Hospitals now turning away new patients because of a shortage of oxygen.

And exclusive access: CNN reports on U.S. Navy SEALs taking part in war games in Eastern Europe and sending a clear message to Russia.

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VAUSE: It is 9 am in Tel Aviv and Gaza following a night which saw no letup in violence, the likes of which has not been seen in years. Israel declared a state of emergency in the town of Lod after protests escalated into riots.

The city has a mixed Arab and Jewish population. Border Police battalions have been dispatched as reinforcements. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have now fired at least 500 rockets in the past 48 hours.

Israel has responded with airstrikes, including one that brought down a 13-story building in Gaza. The IDF says it was targeted because Hamas used office space in the high-rise.

Palestinian health officials report that the strikes have killed at least 35 Palestinians in Gaza, including 12 children. Hamas retaliated for that strike with rocket fire on Tel Aviv, neither side show any sign of being willing to back down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): Hamas and the Islamic Jihad will pay for this and they will pay a heavy price.

ISMAIL HANIYEH, SENIOR HAMAS POLITICAL LEADER (through translator): If Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it. And if it wants to stop, we're also ready. If they want to remove their hand over Jerusalem, we are ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN has extensive coverage of this escalating crisis over the coming hours. And CNN's Hadas Gold begins the coverage from the Israeli side of the border with Gaza.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sirens, let's go, let's go, let's go.

GOLD (voice-over): In Ashkelon and other neighborhoods near the Gaza border, the warning sirens sound all day long. As Hamas and Islamic jihad launched rocket after rockets against targets in Israel, with around 500 fired so far.

A senior member of Hamas' political bureau saying in a written statement Tuesday that Hamas' response is to stop the Israeli occupation's violation and to halt the implementation of its aggressive schemes in Jerusalem.

Undeterred by Israel's crushing air strikes in response and vows of harsher retaliation.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): After a situational assessment, we have made the decision to further increase both the intensity of the attacks and rate of attacks. Hamas will receive blows that it did not expect.

GOLD: Tensions have been building for weeks. A major flashpoint, protests over threatened evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at Islam's third holiest site, the Al- Aqsa mosque has broadened into a level of anger and deadly violence in the region not seen in years.

The all too familiar sight of this long-standing conflict of grief and anguish returning as mourners bury their dead in Gaza, not only Israel's intended military targets but also the young. At least ten children among the 28 killed thus far in strikes. Israel says it's investigating any civilian casualties with more than 150 civilians injured.

And while Israel's air defense or Iron Dome has intercepted most of the incoming rockets from Gaza, direct hits in Ashkelon left two Israeli women dead and dozens more injured, stoking the very real fear of the growing scope and reach of these weapons on Israeli civilians.

And while protests pop up in various cities around the globe against the force of Israelis' air response on Gaza and against the possible evictions in Jerusalem, Western nations are uniformly condemning the rocket attacks and are calling for a de-escalation in tensions, a call that has so far gone unheeded.

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GOLD (voice-over): And with Tuesday night's new rocket barrage of Tel Aviv and the retaliation all but certain to come, a death toll all but certain to rise -- Hadas Gold, CNN, Ashkelon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Elliott Gotkine is just south of Tel Aviv, live for us, the target of a number of those strikes.

In the past there has been speculation about the number of rockets that are launched by militant groups in Gaza. But it seems now that Hamas has a substantial arsenal and is willing to fire en masse.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, well, they've always had substantial arsenals and they've always shown a willingness to fire en masse. Now the IDF spokesman was saying just earlier this morning that there was something like 1,000 rockets that have been fired from the Gaza Strip into toward Israel since this latest flare-up began, adding that about a fifth of those fell short, in other words, that within the Gaza Strip.

They managed to take out most of these rockets with the Iron Dome missile defense system but, as we can see here, some of them will inevitably get through when so many are being fired at once. This was about 9 pm last night, when sirens were standing in Tel Aviv and its environs.

A rocket landed just, here you perhaps see the crater. You see the charred remains of the vehicle and the house -- and there was a lady, a lady by the name of Meir bin Shabbat (ph) in her 60s, who, her neighbors told us, just arrived around this time and did not make it inside in time and she was killed.

You can actually still smell the kind of fumes of petrol and the charred remains of vehicles. They've been absolutely obliterated here in what is ordinarily a very quiet and peaceful residential street.

So what we saw last night was obviously a ramp-up in rocket fire in the Gaza Strip. And as we heard from defense minister Benny Gantz last night, he said this is just the beginning. And I think, we can assume that what this means is what we have seen over the last couple of nights is only going to get even more intense -- John.

VAUSE: Yes, Elliott Gotkine in Tel Aviv.

Earlier, I spoke with Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch. Assuming the current round of violence continues, what he would expect to see in terms of the death toll, especially in Gaza.

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OMAR SHAKIR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: When you have this sort of combustible leadership and you have a solution where the Israeli government is pursuing discriminatory evictions, mobilizations, throughout the occupied territory in Israel, you have a confluence of factors that could lead to bloodshed, repression and, unfortunately, could continue for days.

VAUSE: The Israelis make the point that if Hamas didn't place their rockets, the missiles in residential areas and use civilians in Gaza as human shields, then they would not have to target those areas and the civilian death toll would be significantly lower.

How much responsibility does Hamas have for that high civilian death toll in Gaza?

SHAKIR: Look, Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip over well over a decade. We've documented war crimes, including the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructures, grossly disproportionate strikes.

We are investigating these attacks; it's too early to make a legal assessment about them but our track record of Israel using excessive and disproportionate force makes it clear that they deserve the overwhelming blame.

We're talking here about a 25x7 mile, 40x11 kilometer strip of land of 2 million people. When you target civilian buildings, when you use explosive weapons with wide area effects, you're bound to have civilian harm.

VAUSE: Hamas did not win the last conflict, they claim they did but they simply (INAUDIBLE) rocky theory they were still standing by the end. The real losers were basically the civilians, the kids of Gaza, the grandmothers and so in Ashkelon, the civilians who died there.

So why would Hamas go through another round with Israel when really the death toll in Gaza is so very high, despite what Israel does?

I think we have to put the events in Gaza in the proper context. These events began over what happened in occupied East Jerusalem, where the Israeli government is seeking to evict Palestinian families from homes that they've lived in for generations as part of a government policy in Jerusalem, to maintain a sizable Jewish majority, systematically oppressing Palestinians through land grabs, through boxing them in to enclaves and these other actions as well as the excessive force used at the al-Aqsa mosque.

Of course Hamas, opportunistically seized the moment as a chance to brandish their own credentials. So It's something that doesn't help the Palestinians shift to (INAUDIBLE) in Jerusalem but really the core here, we have to remember, began over this government policy, which has been years and decades in the making to take over Palestinian land and to resettle it by Jewish Israelis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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VAUSE: Michael Oren was Israel's ambassador to the U.S. for 4 years.

Ambassador Oren, thank you for being with us.

MICHAEL OREN, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Good morning, good morning.

VAUSE: Quite the night there for you in Tel Aviv I, guess with the air raid sirens, what was it like from your point of view?

OREN: Right from the window to my left, I could see them landing that hit the bus. The entire sky was lit up by rockets. One fell about 100 meters from here because we could hear the screaming from people. It went on all night, it was quite a long night.

VAUSE: I want you to listen to the Israeli defense minister, Benny Gantz, he's also a retired military official, about the scope of this operation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The IDF has been acting in full force over the past 24 hours, in hundreds of strikes, weapons production sites, tunnels and towers that have been serving terror organizations have crumbled. They will keep crumbling, there are many more targets, this is just the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You know, the defense minister talked about hitting production sites of weapons, as well as tunnels, towers. The IDF also hit an apartment building, at least one of them, home to militant leaders but also civilians and children. Surely, there are other ways to target those militant leaders without such a high civilian death toll.

OREN: Actually there isn't, unfortunately. Israel can blow up as many tunnels, bunkers, storehouses it wants to, it's not going to impact Hamas and Hamas's goals in this conflict, which is to show that Hamas is the strong leader of the Palestinian street. Hamas desires well before the state of Israel desires to take over the West Bank, to take over the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, those are the goals.

And frankly Hamas is doing not a bad job up until now.

(CROSSTALK)

OREN: -- for doing that and that is by taking the battle to Hamas as leaders. Here's the problem, Hamas leaders are hiding beneath hospitals. They're hiding beneath schools, they're using the civilian population and the most vulnerable civilian population as a human shield.

So in fact, there is no way to get at them other than risking a high level of civilian casualties.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Many across Russia are now mourning the 7 children and two adults killed Tuesday, during a rare school shooting. President Vladimir Putin is now moving to tighten already strict gun laws. CNN's Fred Pleitgen now reports from Moscow.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a tragic day here in Russia, that, in the end, left 9 people dead, at least 7 of them children, in that school shooting.

All this took place in the town of Kazan, which is about 850 kilometers to the east of Moscow. We are hearing from authorities is that this unfolded around 9:30, am, when the gunman burst into that school and started to open fire.

Now one of the things that we have to point out is that, for the children, this was actually the first day back at school after a public holiday. And are some harrowing account of what apparently happened in that school. Eyewitnesses talked about children running out of that school and some even jumping out of windows as high as the third floor to try to make it to safety.

Now Russian authorities were on the scene fairly quickly, state TV showed images of special police forces there on the scene and also, a lot of ambulances as well. Still very much unclear whether or not the motive of the shooter was.

But it's one of the things that we still have to keep in mind is that events like this, mass shootings, school shootings, very uncommon here in Russia. The level of gun ownership, nowhere near as high as, for instance, countries like the United States.

And so, all of this, of course, causing a lot of pain, a lot of outrage, especially in that community. Vladimir Putin was informed about would happen very quickly. He took action very quickly. He dispersed some of his ministers to go there on the scene and help out.

But the Russians are also already talking about making gun laws and gun ownership laws more restrictive here in this country. They are trying to prevent events like that happening in the future, as of course, the city of Kazan and other parts of this country, it remain in mourning -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: India and Nepal continue to see unprecedented numbers of daily COVID deaths and many hospitals are forced to turn patients away details, in a moment.

Also ahead, U.S. and European military exercises and CNN has rare access to U.S. Special Forces and the war games they're playing, sending a message to the Kremlin.

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VAUSE: A short time ago, India released the latest official COVID numbers, setting another record high in daily deaths. More than 4,200 people reported dead on Wednesday. The overall death toll has passed a quarter million.

Total cases, more than 23 million. Meantime, 19 Indian states are recording a COVID positivity rate of more than 20 percent. In 6 states, it's above 30 percent. Almost half those tested are coming up positive.

Officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the variant identified in India is causing the testing spikes. The World Health Organization says infections are increasing in a number of countries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, COVID-19 TECHNICAL LEAD, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We are classifying this as a variant of concern. We will continue to see variants emerge. We will continue to see variants of concern around the world and we must do everything we can to really limit the spread, limit infections, prevent the spread and reduce severe disease and death with the tools that we have at hand.

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VAUSE: Nepal has recorded the highest daily number of new COVID deaths. The lockdown in Kathmandu has been extended for several more weeks. The government is close to political collapse. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and beds. Anna Coren has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So close to receiving help but still struggling to breathe, COVID patients line up outside of hospitals in Nepal, begging for oxygen supplies or an available bed. Hospitals are starting to turn patients away and doctors are raising the alarm about what they're calling a crisis of oxygen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the global community needs to step up forward from now on. It's the lack of oxygen that is going to bring about a huge catastrophic year.

COREN (voice-over): In desperation, people are even taking to Twitter to beg for help, including Surajan KC, whose parents are both in the hospital with COVID-19; his father in ICU.

SURAJAN KC, SON OF COVID-19 PATIENTS: With Dad, it's up and down because his oxygen level is not stable. We're just waiting and watching whether he's going to recover soon. So we are just hoping every day that he gets well soon, so we can bring him home.

COREN (voice-over): Even though his parents now have hospital beds, that does not guarantee a supply of oxygen.

SURAJAN: It is pretty scary, especially when it comes to oxygen, because even if you find beds in hospitals, I've heard that so many hospitals are telling the patients to -- that they have to find oxygen for their patients by themselves.

COREN (voice-over): One group of volunteers is trying to help by connecting these patients with oxygen supplies and beds, using a website and social media to fill the gaps, in a system, which they say, is failing the people.

EEDA RIJAL, COVID CONNECT NEPAL: It's a humanitarian crisis at the moment and we who are working on the front line, we've seen that surge and we don't understand why the government has not been able to see this.

COREN (voice-over): But their work is getting harder. After new directives were issued, stating that only the government can approve oxygen distribution from factories, aimed at preventing hoarding in private homes but strangling supplies with red tape.

To try to meet the increasing demands in this impoverished country of more than 30 million people, Nepal's oxygen manufacturers are being asked to ramp up production.

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COREN (voice-over): And China is sending in 20,000 oxygen cylinders and 100 ventilators.

Climbers attempting Everest are also being asked to save their oxygen canisters so they can be re-filled for the hospitals. Doctors also believe these climbers should be donating full oxygen canisters to help this crisis. There are more than 3,000 small canisters of oxygen currently on the mountain.

Despite the unfolding disaster in the hospitals, the caretaker, Nepali prime minister told CNN on the weekend, the COVID situation is, quote, "under control," a response which angered many Nepalis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are not getting better, people are not getting oxygen, people are crying out for help. And the head of this country comes up and says, oh, everything is fine, like Nepal is normal, everything is under control, while people are dying out in the streets.

COREN (voice-over): The prime minister on Monday lost a vital vote of confidence, after more than 200 lawmakers gathered in parliament, despite the risks of large gatherings.

So his government, like the fragile health care system, is heading for collapse and front line workers are being left to cope with the onslaught. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been sleepless night for the last 7 days and

so I'm thinking as (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been working 24/7 and, the thing is, taking a break has never been an option, because people's lives are at stake at the moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Anna Coren is with us live from Hong Kong.

What impact will this collapse of the caretaker prime minister and his government have, coordinating everything to do with this pandemic response?

How influential has the government actually been in trying to control the spread and what will the implications be?

COREN: The government has ineffective. People on the ground, Human Rights Watch, has said that this is a looming catastrophe, what's unfolding in Nepal right now.

Much of the country is in lockdown but, from what we are hearing, people are not adhering to this lockdown. International flights have been banned until the end of the month. Obviously, measures are being taken to try and contain the spread.

But the positivity rate, testing rate, is something like almost 50 percent, which means one in every 2 people being tested is COVID positive. Nepal is a very poor country. It does not have the infrastructure that India has. It doesn't have the health system India has.

We look at the burden that's placed on India; that's 10 times worse in Nepal. Nepal also relies on India for medical supplies and liquid oxygen. The oxygen supply has been completely cut. It's having to rely on China. We know they are sending in 20,000 oxygen cylinders.

But so much more is needed because people are dying. Experts say nearly one person is dying every 6 minutes in Nepal. The supreme court has stepped in and is ordering authorities -- because we have to remember the caretaker prime minister is just a caretaker -- ordering authorities to set up a national task force to work out the distribution of oxygen and medical supplies, because they are in such short supply.

But the situation unfolding in Nepal is basically a replica of what we've been witnessing in India.

VAUSE: With even less of a capacity to deal with it than India. Anna, thank you for the report, Anna Coren in Hong Kong.

As the crisis continues, there are ways you can help. Please go to cnn.com/impact. There, you can find out how.

Annual war games between the U.S., NATO and European allies have always had an eye on Russia. This year's military drills are also sending a clear message to Moscow, from a region where tensions continue to rise, especially after recent military endeavors by the Kremlin.

Alex Marquardt has been given rare access to elite U.S. Special Forces for this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: At the same time that Russia is ratcheting up tension with Ukraine, the U.S. and its NATO allies have launched large-scale military exercises all across Europe.

These exercises have been planned for a while now. But this timing is not lost on anyone. Over the past few days, we've covered a number of these exercises at sea, on land and in the air and got exclusive access to some of the most elite U.S. forces.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): A team of U.S. Navy SEALs, rifles drawn, move quickly through the pitch black of a warehouse on the Black Sea.

[02:25:00]

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Laser sights, invisible to the naked eye, finding and taking out enemy fighters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, two down, two down. All right, let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Break up. Break up. Break up.

MARQUARDT: Tonight, the dead wounded and bullets are not real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up. Hurry up.

MARQUARDT: But part of an elaborate series of NATO military exercises involving almost 30,000 soldiers from 26 countries. MAJOR GENERAL JOE JARRARD, DEPUTY COMMANDER OF THE U.S. ARMY IN EUROPE AND AFRICA: It's just showing everybody that we have a capability and we can use it when necessary.

MARQUARDT: CNN got rare access to some of the most elite U.S. troops in the world. Taking part in a unique training called Trojan Footprint that is across Eastern Europe, working the forces from Spain, Georgia, Romania, Ukraine and more.

It could not come at a more tense time for this region with Russia recently ratcheting up its aggression, sending tens of thousands of troops and a massive deployment of equipment to the border with Ukraine, prompting fears of an invasion and harsh condemnation from Europe and Washington.

Back in Romania, this display of strength and cooperation clearly hoping to send a powerful message. DAVID MUNIZ, U.S. EMBASSY IN ROMANIA CHARGE OF AFFAIRES: When we are strong, when we are united, it has a real chilling effect on shall we say the kinds of things that could happen. And so, in this way, you cut down on the chance for mystery.

MARQUARDT (on-camera): Even as Russia pulls back some of its troops from the land border with Ukraine, they've been stepping up their activities out here in the Black Sea. Their warships have been carrying out exercises, they've been harassing Ukrainian vessels and closing down parts of the Black Sea to other foreign ships as well.

(voice-over): The Navy SEALs lead the training in those waters. While Ukrainian soldiers practice alongside these American Green Berets and faces we aren't allowed to show.

(on-camera): When you talk to troops from other countries like the Ukrainians, like the Romanians, how important do you think it is for them to feel that American support?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's pretty significant. It shows that we're serious working in exercise like carbon footprint. It is important whether whatever is going on around the world.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Which is why these massive exercises take place at sea, in the air and on land.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) 05 correction, 50 meters north, over.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): A dynamic display of partnership and firepower. Punctuating the loud message of a united front in troubling times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 34-1, good hits, target destroyed.

MARQUARDT: This is a military base for NATO's newest and 30th member, North Macedonia, a small country in a growing military alliance that Vladimir Putin is determined to undermine.

Two other countries that are taking part in these exercises, Georgia and Ukraine, which are not yet NATO members, have been invaded by Russia in recent years. So that threat from Russia is very real.

And everybody I've spoken with over the past few days, has talked about the importance of projecting strength and solidarity -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, North Macedonia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: After the break, the argument why the White House has to do more than sit on the sidelines calling for de-escalation as violence continues in Israel and the Palestinians militants, Hamas.

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[02:30:00]

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VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. I'm John Vause.

After a dramatic escalation in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, after an overnight exchange of rocket fire and airstrikes, authorities have declared a state of emergency in the city of Lod after protests turned violent.

The city has a mixed Arab and Jewish population. Border police are being sent as reinforcements. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are firing longer range rockets into Tel Aviv and to the city's south, a bus was set on fire after it was hit by militant rocket fire. Local media reports 7 people were injured.

Israel has ramped up airstrikes on Gaza. Palestinian health officials report at least 35 people have been killed, including 12 children.

The White House is expressing serious concerns about the violence and the president is monitoring the situation. Phil Mattingly has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As tensions continue to boil over, violence escalating in Jerusalem, the White House urging de-escalation. White House officials making very clear that Israel has every right to protect itself against rockets fired by Hamas but also urging the Israelis to take care to pay attention to the treatment of the Palestinian people.

It is a delicate balance, a delicate thin line to walk, for the White House. And White House officials acknowledge that but they are making clear that they are reaching out, trying to do their best to roll back the situation. Take a listen.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Since last, week he has directed his team to engage intensively with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as leaders throughout the Middle East. His team is communicating a clear and consistent message in support of de-escalation and that is our primary focus.

MATTINGLY: Now one of those officials, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, referencing national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking to his counterpart in Israel , also speaking to several other officials in the region, trying to figure out if there are pathways to put an end to the violence as it continues to escalate or at least try and de-escalate things over the course of next several days.

So far though, no clear pathway forward to that. Still waiting for one clear statement or at least public statement, from President Biden. At least on camera, public statement, at this point in time.

One thing that we did learn on Tuesday was that President Biden has sent a letter to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, this is a response to a letter that the president sent to Biden earlier this year. We have no details about what is in that letter but it's very clear that the 2 sides are communicating, at least in some way, shape or form, whether that has any influence or impact on what is going on right now, is unclear.

But it is very clear that the White House is concerned about what they are seeing and they are calling for de-escalation and want something to change and change fast and the region that is forever problematic when it comes to U.S. officials dealing with the Middle East -- Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Shibley Telhami joins me now. He is a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

Thank you for being with us.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: My pleasure.

VAUSE: We've heard these calls for calm and de-escalation coming from the U.S. and it seems that's basically diplomatic speak from Washington to Israel. It has a green light to go ahead. Just don't go crazy. Because if the U.S. really wanted to bring an end to the violence right now, there are a lot of levers to pull, especially when it comes to Israel. It seems the Biden administration is not ready to do that yet.

TELHAMI: I don't think the Biden administration was expecting this kind of crisis. They came in thinking this was not a priority issue for them, for understandable reasons. The president is preoccupied with the economy, the pandemic, racial issues.

To the extent that he is focused on the Middle East, they're focused more on the Iran nuclear deal over which they had a disagreement with Israel already, the Israelis oppose returning to the Iranian deal.

That's one reason why I think the Biden administration was reluctant to open another front with Israel. They thought they could deal with the humanitarian issues, renew aid, change some of what Trump did.

Obviously this has been forced on them and it looks like they were not prepared to deal with that. I say that not because they are doing nothing -- they do a lot behind the scenes, they're obviously trying to lower the temperature.

[02:35:00]

TELHAMI: But the fact is, they have not taken a public posture that meets the moment and that's really one of the big problems they face right now.

VAUSE: The other problem with Palestinians is they have never been more isolated than they are right now after the normalization agreements between Israel and the Gulf Arab states. TELHAMI: This is the moment. It's really interesting you point that

out. Back in 1988, when the First Intifada started, it was because Arabs were preoccupied with the Iran-Iraq War and no one was paying attention to the Palestinians and so they took things into their own hands.

In 2000, it was after the failure at Camp David. And it looked like there was no chance of a deal that the Second Intifada erupted. Now, obviously, this could lead to another intifada. But the fact that no one was really paying attention to them and obviously the situation is not acceptable, that's the seed of another intifada.

Obviously, people thought, with all the normalization deals, that our public doesn't care anymore about this issue. That's not what we see now. We are looking at how Jerusalem galvanized not only Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, it has also galvanized people in much of the Arab world in ways we haven't seen in a number of years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Our thanks there to Shibley Telhami.

For months, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded in Tigray with reports of atrocities and human rights abuses emerging in the military conflict. Now a CNN team is on the ground, traveling across the Tigray region to be the first journalists to enter the besieged sacred city. But it was not easy. Here's CNN's Nima Elbagir at one checkpoint.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We get out of the car with our hands up and identify ourselves to the Ethiopian soldiers.

ELBAGIR: Hey, hey, hello, hello; CNN, CNN. We are CNN, journalists. We are journalists. Sir. Tell us --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before ask our commander.

(CROSSTALK)

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The soldier spots our camera. They are incredibly tense.

ELBAGIR: It's OK, it's OK. We --

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The soldiers close in on us.

ELBAGIR: We aren't there.

(CROSSTALK)

ELBAGIR: We are.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): As we are pulled to one side, we turn on our covert camera.

ELBAGIR: Unless we are detained, unless we are detained, we are not giving them the camera.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: See the rest of their journey and find out what they uncovered. Tune in Thursday starting at 5 am in London, noon in Hong Kong. You will see the report only on CNN.

Still to come, canceled: next year's Golden Globes are off the air with speculation they may not be back, with a scandal over a lack of diversity.

But seriously, would one less Hollywood awards show be such a bad thing?

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[02:40:00]

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VAUSE: After months of almost never-ending scandals, it seems the Hollywood Foreign Press Association may now be facing a reckoning after revelations of a total lack of diversity among its members. That means the very existence of the group's Golden Globes awards is now in doubt.

Especially after megastar Tom Cruise returned three Golden Globes in protest and actress Scarlett Johansson has accused HFPA members of bordering on sexual harassment.

She says, unless there is necessary, fundamental reform within the HFPA, I believe it's time we take a step back from it and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole.

Earlier, I spoke with Rebecca Sun, a senior editor at "The Hollywood Reporter," who says it's no surprise that meaningful reform of the group has never really happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REBECCA SUN, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": After the "L.A. Times" investigation came out and a week later the Golden Globes happened, three members of the HFPA took the stage and gave this extremely brief and perfunctory statement, saying, yes, we will get some Black people.

That that was their takeaway shows that they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the true spirit of inclusion means. Every move they have made so far is a very superficial type of Band-aid that they are looking to put on. I think that's why they've never done it before. They have truly not seen the need. VAUSE: Award season is already a soul-destroying series of self-

congratulations, navel gazing and backslapping.

If the Golden Globes wants to go away, does it really matter?

SUN: You know, I don't think so. To be honest, I think people will adjust. I think the general public, who kind of just watches this fun, kind of weird awards show every year, there is so much content, they will be fine.

The industry, there is such a glut of awards nowadays that, even though the Golden Globes has been sort of afforded this weird sense of import, it's like the pre-Oscars, at the same time, everyone in the industry knows that, as my colleague put, the HFPA is kind of this weird, small little club -- and people will get used to it. If the Golden Globes go away, we will get used to it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Our thanks to Rebecca. We will get used to it.

We will also get used to the bright lights of Broadway once again. They will soon be back on. The three most popular shows, "The Lion King," "Hamilton" and "Wicked" raise the curtain September 14th. It's been more than a year since Broadway went dark because of COVID-19.

The reopening will be at 100 percent capacity but adhering to CDC guidelines. With more shows later this year, many of the roughly 100,000 Broadway workers who've been sidelined by the pandemic will once again be back at work.

And that is good news.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. Thanks for watching.