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Israel Bombards Gaza with Artillery Fire, Airstrikes; COVID Cases Dip in Delhi, Remain High Across India; Pressure to Cancel Olympic Games Grows Within Japan; COVID-19 Surge Impacts Mt. Everest Climbers. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 14, 2021 - 00:00   ET


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live around the world from the CNN center. Hello, I'm John Vause.


Coming up this hour: airstrikes now, artillery fire, as Israeli ground troops mass near the Gaza border, as Hamas continues to, indiscriminately, fire rockets into Israeli territory.

Payday. Hackers were paid millions of dollars after plugging up one of the biggest oil lines in the U.S.

And even at the top of the world, COVID cannot be avoided. Now, officials are accused of burying reports of an outbreak on Mount Everest.

Hopes of a pause in the escalating violence between Israel and militants in Gaza appeared to be dashed for now. A senior Israeli official tells CNN a ceasefire is not on the table.

At the same time, thousands of Israeli troops now massing near the border, with heavy artillery and tanks firing into the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Israel says ground forces have not crossed into Gaza, but preparations are underway for a ground incursion, which one military commander said could happen at any moment.

Gaza residents living just across the border have been told by Israel to remain inside shelters.

Overnight, more than 100 rockets were fired indiscriminately from Gaza, landing in and around Tel Aviv and other cities. So far, at least seven Israelis have been killed during the five days of conflict.

The IDF says the Iron Dome aerial defense system has intercepted about 90 percent of the incoming fire.

Even though Israel insists it's taking great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, the death toll in Gaza stands at 109, including 28 children. Airstrikes have allegedly hit a missile production site and Hamas naval facility, as well as Hamas security ministry, police buildings, banks, and the homes of senior Hamas commanders.

And the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says the strikes on Gaza are not done yet.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The defense activity of Iron Dome batteries is giving us an offensive space, and the Israeli Defense Force has already attacked hundreds of targets and will soon pass 1,000 targets. They continue striking Hamas while defending our citizens. We'll take more time, but with great firmness, and offense, as well as defense, we will achieve our goal of bringing back calm to the state of Israel.


VAUSE: Netanyahu is also condemning a wave of mob violence, which is spreading through cities and towns across Israel. He's granted police emergency powers to impose curfews to try and stop clashes between Arabs and Jewish citizens, who have lived side by side for decades.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Hadas Gold, reporting from Jerusalem.


HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Hamas and the Israeli military wage battle in the skies over Israel and Gaza, tensions are escalating, with the Israeli government downplaying the prospect of an immediate ceasefire.

LIOR HAIAT, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: If we cease the fire right now, Hamas will gain or will get to its goal and its objective of hitting Israel and not paying a price. We have, we will attack the Hamas infrastructure.


GOLD: Back on the ground, an alarming level of rage spilling into the streets beyond Jerusalem. Mob violence spreading through mixed Arab and Jewish cities like Lod, Akko and Bat Yam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I saw death, death. Do you know what death is? People jumping at me with stones, throwing stones at me.

GOLD: Arab citizens attacking a man they think is Jewish. Jewish citizens attacking someone they believe is Arab. The communal violence reaching such a fevered pitch, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily warning rogue vigilantes to stop or face dire consequences.

NETANYAHU (through translator): I do not care at all if your blood is boiling. It's boiling; it's not interesting. You cannot take the law into your own hands. You cannot come and take a simple Arab citizen and try to lynch him, just as we cannot see Arab citizens doing this to Jewish citizens. This will not stand. GOLD: Police getting reinforcements on horseback, in riot gear, in

cities like Lod to quell the unrest.

As sirens ring constantly, a warning from above of incoming rocket fire. The Iron Dome stopping 90 percent of the more than 1,800 rockets fired into Israel thus far, according to the Israeli military.

With Israeli air strikes targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza, the casualty count rising with each exchange. The displaced in Gaza growing, with every building reduced to rubble. The threat in the skies so grave that many western airlines have canceled airlines to Tel Aviv.

And, on a new front, Hamas releasing a sick propaganda video, launching what it says are suicide drones. Drones that Israeli forces say they have shot down.

Diplomatic efforts underway overseas, with nations weighing in on the conflict and urging calm. While in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, signs popping up urging peaceful coexistence.

SUBHI TALAIB, RESIDENT OF LOD, ISRAEL (through translator): We need to live here together. Coexistence. We need to be together, partners. To be partners to each other.

GOLD: In the meantime, the barrage of rockets ongoing. While along the Israeli-Gaza border, tanks in position take aim and fire.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: Live now to journalist Elliott Gotkine in Tel Aviv for more.

Elliott, we also know that there are at least efforts to broker some kind of ceasefire. There are Egyptian mediators who have spoken with Hamas officials in Gaza. They've crossed into Israel by land and have held negotiations, I believe, with the Israelis. They seem to have made little progress. What do we know about that?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Yes. I mean, they are making efforts, and traditionally, this is a role that Egypt -- Egypt has played, relatively successfully, in brokering ceasefires between Israel and Hamas.

But as we heard from the foreign ministry spokesperson, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman yesterday, you know, a ceasefire isn't something that Israel wants to go for just right now. So it's hard to see how even, if they can get Hamas and Hamas leaders to agree to a ceasefire, for one to actually take place, if -- if you know, the other side isn't -- isn't in line with that.

At the same time, we -- you were mentioning before the -- the prospect of a ground encourage remains on the table. The idea that it's been on the table all along. It's just that yesterday, the IDF tweeted out that Israeli air and ground forces were attacking Gaza, making everyone think that a ground incursion had already begun.

It swiftly rolled back from that. It doesn't mean that one isn't going to happen, but there are a couple of reasons, both military and political, why that seems unlikely, at least in the next couple of days.

First of all, analysts say that, just with a single division of armored infantry amassed on the border with the Gaza Strip, and 9,000 reservists have been called up so far. They say there just isn't enough to really carry out a successful ground operation.

And the political reason is that a ground incursion would, inevitably, lead to a number of Israeli casualties. And that's not something that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who's clinging to office by the skin of his teeth, really wants to be responsible for. He is a very risk-averse prime minister, and given now that the opposition's hope of forming a coalition government has been diminished, with one of the right-wing parties going back, seemingly, to Netanyahu's side, that increases the prospect of a fifth election.

And so Netanyahu really doesn't want to do anything that would diminish his popularity, something which Israeli soldiers coming back in body -- body bags would inevitably do.

VAUSE: The situation with the airport and international carriers, which now rescheduling flights and not landing at Ben Gurion, that's a significant blow to Israel. Because it's always been important to the Israelis to have that airport operational. And it really is the -- sort of the -- you know, the only pathway to the outside world.


GOSKINE: Right. I mean, Ben Gurion is basically the main airport for Israel. There is an airport in Eilat, to which -- towards which militants fired rockets yesterday.

And when it has to close, that is very important for Israel. It is a big deal.

And I should also say, in some of the broader context, it was round about now that Israel was hoping to reopen the country to the world following the COVID pandemic. Israel is the world leader in terms of vaccinations. They were due to open up the country. They were expecting a barrage of tourists coming into the country.

And obviously, now, with everything that's going on, that seems unlikely.

I just -- want to just mention one other thing. We mentioned the ethnic violence going on between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. Here in Jaffa, I don't know if you can see, on the roof just over there, there are some young men who said that they've been there all night. They're taking shifts to protect the mosque here.

They say that some Israelis came here last night. There was a fight around 2 o'clock in the morning, local time. We know that there were further clashes in other cities around Israel.

And I, myself, witnessed on my way here to Jaffa, in the southern part of Tel Aviv, someone throwing a rock into a car window. I believe the occupants of the car were Israeli Jews. I didn't catch a good look at the assailant. But it just shows that tensions are still running high here.

And there are concerns, not only that there is, obviously, the fight between the Israeli army and the militants of Gaza, but that tensions show no sign of abating here in Israel either.

VAUSE: Elliott, thank you. Elliott Gotkine there in Tel Aviv. Thank you.

Well, the Biden administration says it has been in contact with leaders across the region since the violence began. Here's the U.S. president, when asked if the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has done enough to stop the unrest.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There has not been a significant overreaction. The question is how -- how we get to a point where -- they get to a point where there is a significant reduction in the attacks, particularly the rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centers.

But I expect I'll be having some more discussions. And it wasn't -- we haven't just spoken with the Israelis; with the Egyptians, the Saudis, and others. So we're -- it's a work in progress right now.


VAUSE: A U.N. Security Council meeting, which is scheduled for Friday on the conflict, has now been delayed. According to two U.N. diplomats, Washington was opposed to a discussion in an international forum.

The U.S. has also blocked the council from releasing statements on the violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

U.N. mission (ph) tweeted that the meeting will now be held Sunday morning.

Still to come, the search for vaccines continues in India, leaving one state to turn to the global COVAX program for help. We're live from Delhi in a moment.

Also, the Colonial Pipeline in the U.S. up and running again after a humiliating cyberattack, a very effective one. And at what cost? We'll have more on that when we come back.


[00:15:26] VAUSE: While India has now reported a staggering 24 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, the union territory of Delhi is seeing a decline in daily new infections, with a positivity rate which has now dropped to 14 percent, down from 35 percent just a few weeks ago.

But overall, India's infection rate remains high, and vaccines are scarce. India's government says it's securing an additional 2 billion doses. But until then, at least one state is turning to the global COVAX program for help.

CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley, live in Delhi for us with more on this. And wasn't India meant to be producing vaccines for COVAX?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: India does produce vaccines for COVAX, but the state has -- has recognized or worked out that it's cheaper to get through the COVAX program then it is to buy locally, due to the affective subsidy, really, that the government of Narendra Modi gave to the COVAX program as part of what now seems to be perhaps ill-advised vaccine diplomacy back in the day.

Before India saw this massive surge, India was an exporter of vaccines and very popular as a result of this, with other countries in the developing world, particularly in Africa, who are very reliant on that program.

But there now is a shortage across India of vaccines. Here in New Delhi, John, in the last few days, the beginning of this week, rather, they only have about two or three days of vaccinations. And indeed, when they opened up vaccinations on May to 1st to anybody over the age of 18, there were signs at most of the hospitals, including CSN (ph), "Please don't turn up, because we haven't got any to give you."

That has slightly improved. They're now at about 2.8 percent of the population vaccinated, of course, miles behind the rest of the world.

The numbers here, those are fairly reliable numbers. The infection rate numbers and even the death toll numbers here are believed by experts to be woefully under-reported. So we shouldn't set too much store by the recent either increase or decrease, really, in infection rates, at least, because of course, very few people here, relative to the population, get tested. Only people who are ill get tested, and there are extreme shortages of tests, particularly in places like Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state here, where rural communities and cities have been extremely badly hit.

The official death toll is around about 4,000 people a day. Again, we've seen with our own eyes that could be an underestimate of a factor of at least 100 percent, if not, according to some estimates from experts, up to 20 or 30 times an under-estimate. I think that, anecdotally, I would say, is probably an exaggeration, but numbers here extremely hard to come by accurately.

But at the same time, the central government here is hitting back and has recently just put out a series of -- or a statement via the Internet and Twitter sort of trying to address what it believes are kind of recent myths.

But above all, what it hasn't addressed is what is not a myth here. Right across the country, there remains, John, weeks into this second surge, a chronic shortage of oxygen, including here in the capital.

VAUSE: The situation, we're told, was now the government was actually getting under control, but totally not the case, at least not yet.

Sam, thank you. Sam Kiley in Delhi.

Well, less than three months before the Tokyo Olympics and public pressure to cancel the games is now growing across Japan. Coronavirus numbers are rising. And at least 35 host towns have canceled deals to house athletes.

But the Olympic committee says the games will go on, for now.

Blake Essig in Tokyo live for us. There is a determination to hold these games, despite what the public opinion might be.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it seems like it's full steam ahead. While the International Olympic Committee remains confident that the games will go ahead on schedule, pointing to test events with overseas athletes that they say were held successfully, there is a growing number of voices that aren't so sure.

Now, earlier today, a petition with more than 350,000 signatures collected just this past week, calling for the games to be canceled, was submitted in person to Tokyo's metropolitan government and by email to the IOC.

Recently, tennis superstars Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori and Serena Williams cast doubt that the games should take place. At least 35 host cities have canceled plans to welcome athletes from around the world in the buildup to the games.

But it's not just these cities canceling. It's also Olympic teams. Most recently, USA track and field. They canceled their July training camps, saying that they don't see an end in sight to the pandemic and expressed concern for the safety of athletes.


Now several local governors have also recently come out and said that they will not free up bed space in hospitals for athletes. And just yesterday, the head of the medical doctors' union in Japan, which consists of 130 doctors, said that the Tokyo Olympics should not be held. He went on to say that having people from all over the world could make Tokyo a place to develop the virus. And even without spectators, a safe and secure games is not possible.

Now as for the current COVID-19 situation across Japan, it's getting worse. Cases are on the rise, and the number of severe cases has once again set a new record. The government is expected to decide later today if they will add another three prefectures to the current state of emergency order, and if they do, that will bring the total to 10 prefectures and another three are also expected to be added to a list of locations under a quasi-state of emergency order.

So if that happens, John, it will bring that total to 10 prefectures.

VAUSE: Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there, reporting live in Tokyo. Appreciate it. Thanks, Blake.

Well, there are new revelations about the ransomware attack on the Colonial oil pipeline. Two sources tell CNN the company paid money to cyber hackers, while two other sources say the gang previously identified as DarkSide was demanding almost $5 million.

But so far, there are no sources which have told CNN how much of the money -- how much company money was actually paid. I think I got that right.

The cyberattack crippled the pipeline for six days, causing gas shortages across the southeastern United States. Even though oil is now flowing again, many gas stations remain shut down, out of supplies.

Juliette Kayyem joins us now. She is a CNN national security analyst who served as homeland security assistant secretary under President Obama. Juliette, as always, it's good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. So if the actual amount of ransom paid was $5 million, if that was the amount, experts say it was a bargain. Because demands of 25 to $35 million are more likely for a hack on this scale.

But does it actually really matter if it was $5 million or whether it was $5? You know, it's rewarding bad behavior, and that tends to encourage more bad behavior.

KAYYEM: That's exactly right and why most people in the field are against paying this ransomware. There's a number of reasons why.

You are essentially, if you're a company that pays it, you are paying a criminal enterprise. I mean, there's no better way to put it.

The second thing is, remember, there is an exchange going on here. So you're paying, as a company, for some sort of technology that you are going to be dependent on to sort of clear your -- to clear your data. That seems very, very risky.

And so overall, don't pay ransomware. But here is the weird thing about this. And I do have a lot of questions, as well as some answers for you.

That is a very, very low sum of money, regardless of how Colonial responded and whether it should have responded that way. And so 5 million may be all we hear about. But that -- I mean, honestly, for companies like Colonial, that's like -- you know, that's like chump change.

VAUSE: The other weird thing about this is that the group responsible for the hack actually issued a statement on their website. And they're kind of distancing themselves from any governments out there, as well as sort of apologizing for what they did.


VAUSE: The statement, which was reported by Vice news, read, "Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society. From today, we introduced moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future."

KAYYEM: Right.

VAUSE: And on that issue of having direct links with any government, here's what President Biden had to say.


BIDEN: We do not believe -- I emphasize, we do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack, but we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia.


VAUSE: Here's my thing. The U.S. went to war with the Taliban for 20 years for harboring Osama bin Laden, who was a Saudi national. So what would have happened if this criminal group used a bomb and not a cyber-attack? Would the U.S. give the Kremlin a pass?

KAYYEM: No, and I think -- I think this is the beginning of us stopping from separating a cyberattack from an attack. It's just an attack.

Now, in this instance, as you said, it is complicated. The company -- the hackers seem to want to walk away from what happened. I think they did not anticipate that Colonial would take everything offline.

We have to get better about both our understanding of what the consequences of a cyberattack could be, which is including taking, you know, gas offline, but also what tools we can use in response.

I think President Biden's statement was judicious and may be accurate in the sense that he wants to say there is a criminal enterprise in Russia.

I think from the Russian perspective, the fact that the hackers are not getting punished, or we don't believe that they are getting punished, is proof that Putin at least acquiesces to their existence.


So if we learn that there's some sort of punishment towards them, then -- then we can believe that the Biden administration really did put heavy pressure on the Russians to clean this up, that this was literally a bridge too far.

VAUSE: Right. There's what happened after the attack, but then there is how this attack was allowed to happen --


VAUSE: -- in the first place. And gain, listen to President Biden here on infrastructure.


BIDEN: Let me say that this event is providing an urgent reminder of why we need to harden our infrastructure and make it more resilient against all threats, natural and manmade.


VAUSE: So, just how weak, I guess, are the security structures in place right now within this infrastructure that would allow these hacks to take place? And what needs to be done?

KAYYEM: So there is a lot that can still be done. And I think Colonial is going to have to explain how it was seemingly so vulnerable, given how much it owned, you know, 45 percent of New England and the northeast region's oil distribution system.

So there's -- you can't -- you have to assume breach. This is the way we think now in security. In other words, you try to fortify your wires and your networks, and you have things called like layered systems and get rid of single -- single points of failure, all the wonky words that people like me think about.

But I think also, Colonial has taught -- taught us that, if there is a breach, we have to have a way in which we can respond without bringing the whole system down.

For someone like me looking at what happened, it seemed like Colonial's only response was an on-off switch. And that just can't be, given the interconnected world that we have. So there's going to be a lot of lessons learned out of this.

VAUSE: We'll see. Juliette, as always, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

VAUSE: When we come back, preparations appear to be underway for an Israeli ground offensive into Gaza. Thousands of Israeli troops now on the border and Israeli artillery and tanks firing into the Gaza Strip.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. It's coming up to 7:30 in the morning on the Israeli-Gaza border, with thousands of Israeli troops have been massing.



VAUSE: Gaza is now under intense bombardment from Israeli artillery and tanks, as well as airstrikes. The IDF says it's targeting Hamas military sites, has struck more than 600 so far, including an alleged site for making rockets.

According to Palestinian health officials in Gaza, 109 people have been killed, including 28 children.

The Israeli military says no troops are currently inside Gaza, but a ground invasion is being considered. A decision could come within days.

Israeli civilians near the border have been told to stay inside shelters. At least seven Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza.

Israel says 2,000 rockets have been fired in all, but hundreds have fallen short, many landing in Gaza. Of those that crossed into Israel, the IDF says about 90 percent have been intercepted by the Iron Dome.

CNN's Ben Wedeman was reporting live from the Israeli city of Lod when sirens warned of incoming rocket fire from Gaza. Here's what happened.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, the Israeli government is very alarmed at the prospect of that. In fact, now I'm hearing the siren for incoming rockets.

And of course, now the soldiers of course, now the soldiers here are taking cover. And if we just turn around here, I can show you that the Palestinians in -- in front of the mosque are cheering and shouting, "Allah Akbar."


So you can see, there's a very great divide between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Israelis when it comes to the situation here. In fact, somebody has just let off of a firework. And I guess you could say to cheer on these rockets.

What is this? Hold on. There I can -- Yes, all right, well, I'm seeing some rockets. Yes. Yes, we're seeing rockets sort of flying over our heads, and it appears they've been -- they've been intercepted by the so-called Iron Dome system.

We might want to -- we might want to move to a better location, just in the event something falls from the sky.

And I'm hearing gunfire, as well. That seems to be celebratory gunfire from some of the Arab residents of this town. Also, as a form of celebration for rockets that are fired. That's a firework that you just heard.


VAUSE: Staying with the story now, Rami Younis joins us now from the region. He's a Palestinian journalist and filmmaker.

Rami, thank you for being with us. There's now this added Israeli firepower from artillery and tanks just across the border in the north. It seems to add a whole new element of destruction and death. Do you know what's been happening the past few hours in northern Gaza? What have you heard?

RAMI YOUNIS, PALESTINIAN JOURNALIST/FILMMAKER: Well, it's not just what's been happening in northern Gaza, to be honest. I haven't been able to get that much sleep tonight. I've been following up on news from the seat of Haifa and the city of Lod, what they call the Hebrew mob.

We've been seeing unprecedented events in the last couple of days within Israel itself. Last night things really escalated, as during the day, we saw Palestinian houses, apartments being marked by right- wing rioters so that they can come and attack them later on tonight.

I mean, I repeat, this is something plenty way too familiar from history. Palestinian houses are being marked now.

VAUSE: What do you mean the marked? In what way?

YOUNIS: Like -- like you know, they're putting a signal on them. Like marking them with something on the outside, marking the doors, marking a nearby post.

VAUSE: Tagging them.

YOUNIS: Yes. So that settlers could move in later and -- and attack them. We've been seeing, you know, in the city of Lod, police have announced that they lost control of the city, two or three nights ago. They announced the city was under curfew.

Yet, they allowed Israeli settlers to riot and to harm Palestinians in the city. And we have countless evidence showing them, the Israeli police officers, escorting these right-wing rioters as they attack mosques, as they attack people's homes, sometimes even attacking with them.

This is something that the Israeli mainstream media will not show you, but, I mean, fortunately -- fortunately, maybe, it's not easy to say fortunately these days, but -- but there's social media, and it's very hard to hide things now.

VAUSE: Very quickly, CNN has yet to confirm that, but as you say, there is social media video out there and images. I'm sure that, you know, it will be released, it will be public relatively soon. This is very unusual situation when it comes to --

YOUNIS: That's the thing. It's being released now. It's being released now. And this is what we need to be talking about right now. We are calling -- I mean, friends of ours are asking us, you know, that we, journalists, the people who speak to international media, that this is the time to call for international protection.

I'm not a Palestinian in Gaza. I'm not a Palestinian in Ramallah, not even Jerusalem. I'm talking to you from -- I don't want to expose my exactly location, but I'm calling you from within Israel.

And Palestinians here feel that they want international protection. Because can you imagine what it feels like to be attacked, also by the group that is supposed to be protecting you, which is the police?

It is just -- it is very hard to fathom what it means to be a Palestinian right now. Whether it's in Gaza -- to be honest, as a human being, I know we're journalists, we're supposed to keep -- to keep track of the news, and following up with the news, but I just couldn't.


VAUSE: I understand. I mean, this is a very difficult situation for -- for a lot of people who are -- who are under fire, under attack, who are living in appalling conditions right now, who are living in fear. That can be said on, you know, both sides of the border. But obviously, clearly, there are clear differences here in what is happening in terms of just sheer devastation and death toll.


But the situation in so far as Palestinian Israeli citizens, who are living in Israel, who are, you know, rising up as part of this, as this continues on, and there have been these clashes with mobs. I guess you can get into a back and forth about who started what, but this has -- this has never really happened before, at least not in living memory, that certainly what I can see.

Why is it taking -- why is it happening now? What was the trigger here for this?

YOUNIS: Years of pent-up anger and rage towards the government and in mixed cities, and this is why we saw what we -- we're seeing what we're seeing right now, in mixed cities. I mean, I can give you Lod as an example.

Lod is a city that used to be Palestinian before 1948. After the occupation and the founding of Israel, it became a mixed city, meaning a city where Jews and Arabs lived together.

For the past 15 years, a group, a right-wing group have been openly trying to Judaize the city, Judaize the city meaning giving it more of the Jewish nature, thus asking more Jews to move to the city so they could have more Jewish residents.

House demolition of Palestinians rose a lot, and we started seeing 10 or 15 house demolitions a year, since 15 years ago. So, I mean, after this very racist mayor, and add to this police

brutality. D add to this years of neglect in allocating funds and whatnot. You get so many years of oppression that are now coming out.

And mind you, this started as a popular uprising. This all started in Jerusalem. People took to the streets in all of Israel, all of Palestine, and all of the towns, the Palestinian towns in Israel. And they were protesting for Al Asa mosque, and for Jerusalem.

Israeli brutality, Israeli police, especially in mixed cities, made these protests violent. Now, we're seeing -- we're not seeing protests anymore. We're just seeing clashes. You know what? We're not even seeing clashes any more. We're seeing one side, who is staying -- who is staying locked in their neighborhoods, in their homes, protecting their neighborhoods and their homes, while they're being attacked by settlers and police.

VAUSE: Rami, I've got to leave it there. We are running short on time.

YOUNIS: Thank you.

VAUSE: But you raised some issue there, something for us to look into. Thank you for being with us. Palestinian journalist Rami Younis, thank you, sir.

YOUNIS: Thank you.

VAUSE: And we should note, we'll have the Israeli perspective next hour. I will speak with Ron Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington.

Well, still to come, Mt. Everest welcoming climbers back to its famed peak, but adventures could be facing more than they actually bargained for. We'll hear from one mountaineer sounding the COVID alarm.



VAUSE: With India's coronavirus crisis quickly spreading quickly across Nepal, there's concern the government there may be downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic in an attempt to minimize the impact on the tourism industry, which is only now reopening.

CNN's Anna Coren spoke with a mountaineer about what he has been seeing.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost 6,000 meters above sea level in the Himalayas is where Alex Txikon feels most at home. The 39-year-old Spaniard traverses the crevices of the Khumbu ice fall, a short distance from Mount Everest base camp. It's part of his preparation for his fourth attempt to summit Everest without oxygen.

ALEX TXIKON, CLIMBER: I come many times here. I love this country.

COREN: After canceling last year's climbing season as a result of the pandemic, the government of Nepal announced earlier this year it was open for business.

More than 400 permits were issued, a record number. And at $11,000 U.S. a permit, a welcome windfall of more than $4 million for the government of this impoverished nation.

But, as more than 1,000 climbers, Sherpas and staff began arriving at base camp, word was spreading of India's second wave, surging across the border into Nepal. And suddenly, there was an outbreak of COVID cases on the mountain.

TXIKON: Many people sick. A lot of people, from one day to the other, they're disappearing. And nobody says nothing, but a lot of people are -- it goes down, and we can see that it is corona.

COREN: The government maintains there have been no COVID cases at Mount Everest, despite the evacuation of dozens of climates to hospitals in Kathmandu, who have then tested positive. There is still no COVID testing facility at base camp.

BILLI BIERLING, HIMALAYAN DATABASE: The government were trying to keep the COVID cases under the carpet. And I'm afraid the worst-case scenario has become true.

COREN: For Alex Txikon, he wasn't taking any risks. After 12 days at base camp, he decided to pull the pin.

TXIKON: I want to climb Everest without oxygen, and if I catch the corona, come one or come two, I start with the symptoms, it's so dangerous. I feel myself that the Nepal government is playing with our lives.

COREN: The chairman of the biggest tour company on Everest told us earlier this week more than 30 of their Everest clients tested positive. The company, on Thursday, announced two climbers, a U.S. and Swiss national, had died Wednesday during their Everest attempt, the first deaths of the season. Usually, there are about 10 deaths a year. Exhaustion is being blamed. Officials won't confirm if the bodies will be tested for COVID.

TXIKON: We lost one life. Who is positive from corona? This has become a big, big problem for the Nepal government, in my opinion, because they are hiding the reality.

COREN: A team from the Bahrain royal family was among the first foreign group to summit Everest. The Indian government also had a large team of climbers. They joined for a photo op with little social distancing.

While climbers chase their Everest dreams, an oxygen crisis is unfolding across the country, with hospitals running out, as the second wave devastates Nepal. The government is calling on climbers to return used oxygen cylinders

to help COVID patients. But it's a drop in the ocean, considering the scale of this calamity.

Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


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