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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; U.K. to Flex Vaccination Drive against Variants; Kenya Suspends Vaccinations Due to Shortage; Japanese CEO Urges Government to Cancel Games. Aired 1-1:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2021 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes and I appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a new front opens in the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians as the West Bank suffers its deadliest day in years.

A warning to rich countries, as Kenya's vaccination centers stand empty.

One of Japan's most powerful CEOs tells CNN that holding the Olympics would be a suicide mission.


HOLMES: Days of shelling by Israeli forces have now killed at least 126 Palestinians in Gaza, including more than 30 children. That is according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israel says its artillery and airstrikes are targeting Hamas and Gaza, particularly a network of tunnels used by the group.

The IDF claims at least 75 militants have been killed so far. But civilians of, course and their homes are being hit as well. Israel says some 2,000 rockets were lunched from Gaza since Monday, causing 8 Israeli deaths, the impeachment defense says it has destroyed 90 percent of those incoming rockets.

The Israeli military offensive in Gaza causing repercussions across the region.


HOLMES (voice-over): On Friday, violent clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank led to its deadliest day in years for Palestinians, at least 10 were reportedly killed. CNN's Ben Wedeman was in Bethlehem when the clashes there exploded.



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And now the West Bank, where, in Bethlehem, a new generation of Palestinians has taken to the barricades, facing a new generation of Israeli soldiers.

Friday saw the most intense confrontations in years between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces throughout the West Bank. Palestinian officials reported the highly daily death toll here and years with hundreds injured.

WEDEMAN: Somebody has just been wounded here. They are coming our way. Let's step aside. It is a woman who has been hit.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Countless are the stones thrown here over the years, beyond calculation the number of tires burned. Countless the tear gas canisters that have rained down on this street.

WEDEMAN: The Israelis tear gas shooting volley after volley of tear gas, trying to break up this protest. It's just one of the protests going on across the West Bank.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The message on this day, one of solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza and inside Israel.

"If one of us is wounded, we are with them," says this young man, who declined to give his name. "We support them as if the entire Palestinian people were wounded."

Bethlehem resident Shoki Aisa (ph) took part in protests in his youth and shares that message.

SHOKI AISA (PH), BETHLEHEM RESIDENT: It is a unity of Palestinians with the cry that we have rights. We are not going anywhere and we will continue until we get rid of that (INAUDIBLE) and have our individual states.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The woes of this troubled land passed from father to son -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Bethlehem, on the West Bank.


HOLMES: Journalist Neri Zilber joins me live now from Tel Aviv.

Nearly a dozen of Palestinians killed in the West Bank, the largest number in years, as we just heard from Ben Wedeman. These funerals will be in the hours ahead, which can often themselves be a spark for more violence.

What are the greatest concerns there at the moment in terms of escalation?

NERI ZILBER, JOURNALIST: That's right, after a bloody week with tensions in Jerusalem, all-out fighting in Gaza and then intercommunal riots inside Israel between Arabs and Jews, the West Bank escalated itself yesterday. [01:05:00]

ZILBER: As you mentioned almost a dozen dead with a real fear that the funerals themselves will lead to further clashes with Israeli security forces.

But really today, is May 15th, a major day on the Palestinian political calendar, Nakba Day, the Day of Catastrophe, where Palestinians mark the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Traditionally it's a day of marches and demonstrations and clashes in and of itself. After the events of recent days, especially in the West Bank itself yesterday, today could actually be worse.

HOLMES: Yes; I'm curious, what are the IDF capabilities or challenges in dealing with all of this, because usually in these situations, it's the IDF versus Gaza but you're talking about the West Bank now, incidents at the borders with Jordan, Lebanon, missiles coming in from Syria and a lot of these Israeli Arab towns seeing violence as well.

This is as widespread as it has been in my memory.

ZILBER: That is undoubtedly true, Michael. It will be a major test for the Israeli military and Israeli police and security forces. We should remember, a few days ago, in order to quell clashes and unrest and the Israeli city of Lod, the Israeli government actually moved 9 companies of border police from the West Bank into Israel proper to help reestablish security.

So the West Bank itself maybe shorthanded itself. It will be a major challenge, a major challenge.

HOLMES: All right, I appreciate it, journalist Neri Zilber there for us in Tel Aviv.

CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller joins me now from Washington. He is also a former State Department Middle East negotiator and a senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment.

It's funny; you and I have covered this conflict, literally for decades, a cycle of rinse and repeat. There's a war every few years, hundreds, thousands killed, mostly Palestinian. And here we are again. Nothing changes.

What is it going to take to change things at a fundamental level or we will do this again in another few years?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that's the point. The real tragedy here is that the pain of death and destruction is all -- it is horrible to begin with but there will be no purpose to it.

Because at the end of this round, whether it is a week or 2 weeks, probably brought to end by an Egyptian cease-fire, Israel and Hamas will not be able to coexist in the sense that they are going to negotiate a long-term interim agreement. On the broader problem between the government of Israel in the

Palestinian Authority, the mistrust is so profound. In gaps on the core issues, Jerusalem, border security, refugee, end of conflicts, Grand Canyon-like in the character and the politics on each side, so toxic that the odds of any kind of political process, to follow this, are literally negligible.

HOLMES: To that point, you and I both know the 2-state solution is effectively dead from a lack of political will. It's a pipe dream. One state solution is being suggested but Israel won't go there because of the Jewish majority would be lost.

What are the other solutions?

This surely cannot continue.

MILLER: Well, all conflicts don't have ends and the reality is, most likely, because Israelis and Palestinians have a proximity problem and their lives are inextricably linked together, it's going to toggle backward and forward in the foreseeable future between the 2 state solution, that is probably still too important to abandon, on one hand, and a 2 state solution that is simply impossible to implement on the other.

Therein lies the conundrum of this conflict. I see no way. There is an argument that people have made, that only external pressure, international pressure, can solve this issue. The reality is, the vaunted international community is simply unwilling and unable -- look at Syria, for example.

HOLMES: You talked about lives being inextricably linked. That is true.

But would any of this be happening if there had not been a crackdown at the Al-Aqsa mosque or these moves to evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah?

What is your take on that central issue in all of this, the potential eviction of Palestinian families from homes in East Jerusalem, which critics, say is a deliberate creeping settler encroachment on East Jerusalem, to change the demographics and what that represents?

MILLER: Little doubt about that. I think one of the reasons that the Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa had so much appeal is because it embodied the 2 kinds of identities that resonate with Palestinians and even Arab citizens of Israel.


MILLER: The issue of dispossession, on one hand, the displacement, and the issue of Jerusalem on the other, it is a powerful mix. The fact is the Israelis over policed. I think in large part their actions were irresponsible. As a consequence, they gave Hamas a terrific gift, because now it is not Abbas, Mahmoud Abbas that is the defender of Jerusalem. He is irrelevant. He cannot control Jerusalem and Palestinians. He cannot control Arab citizens of Israel and he can't control Hamas.

Hamas has now stepped up to make a bit, a broad bid ideologically and politically, to present itself as the redeemer, however long it takes, of the Palestinian national cost.

HOLMES: You can certainly argue that Israel and some ways needs Hamas, both as a visible enemy and also because, without them, there would be chaos in Gaza. Israel does not want that, either.

I did just want to touch on this real quick if you can, this intercommunal violence in Israel's mixed cities, where Jews and Arabs live together. Really unusual, very concerning, fabrics of communities inside Israel's borders being rent.

MILLER: It is the most disturbing and unique feature of this round of Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. Not since the pre-state period in the '20s and '30s have Jews and Arabs witnessed this kind of communal violence, driven, in part, by Israeli under policing of Palestinian cities and towns, where crime has developed and the proliferation of weapons has increased, and, in some respects, over policing in an effort to quell these riots.

But against the broad canvas of a community that still feels itself unintegrated, discriminated against and second closes citizens, so it's head spinning in its complexity and in its poignancy.

HOLMES: Aaron David Miller, always a pleasure. Thank you so much, I appreciate the analysis.

MILLER: Michael, thank you.

HOLMES: We will take a quick break. When we come back cases of the coronavirus strain first identified in India spreading rapidly in the U.K. Now British officials say they have a plan to fight variants with increased vaccinations.

Also, vaccination centers like this one Kenya stand empty, as the country watches the vaccine supply run out. We will bring you the warning doctors have for the rest of the world. That is when we come back.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

The race between the virus and the vaccines may be about to become a great deal tighter. Boris Johnson issuing that stark warning after cases of the Indian COVID variant doubled in England in a week.

He said the government will accelerate its vaccination rollout in response. Britain is due to enter the next phase of reopening on Monday. Mr. Johnson said that will go ahead as planned.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I do not believe that we need on the present evidence to delay our road map and we will proceed with our plan to move to step 3 in England for Monday.

But I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress and could make it more difficult to move, to step four in June. And I must stress that we will do whatever it takes to keep the public safe.


HOLMES: Now in the town of Bolton in northwest England, they are taking no chances, ramping up its vaccine rollout there. Door to door testing and mobile testing units are also being deployed. Bolton has been hit hard by the rapid spread of the Indian variant.

Meanwhile, India reports 325,000 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday. For 3 weeks India has posted at least 300,000 cases a day mostly without the prime minister publicly addressing the crisis.

Narendra Modi finally broke his silence on Friday in a virtual meeting, saying India was now on war footing and describing the virus as an adversary.


NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): In front of us is an invisible enemy. And this enemy has many faces. Because of coronavirus, we have lost a lot of our loved ones.


HOLMES: The crisis in India also being felt in Africa. India's suspension of vaccine exports means little supply is making it to the continent. That is prompting a warning for wealthy countries from one of Kenya's top scientists. CNN Jomana Karadsheh reports from Nairobi.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the scene at Nairobi's Kenya International Hospital just a few days ago, a constant stream of people eager to get their first dose of the COVID- 19 vaccine.

They were the lucky ones, receiving some of the country's precious last shots.

KARADSHEH: This is what it looks like right now. This hospital was administering the highest number of COVID-19 vaccines in the country on a daily basis, and they had to suspend the campaign and don't know when they're going to be able to resume again.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Kenya has relied solely on the global vaccine alliance COVAX, that has provided the African country with just over 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India.

But with India facing its own COVID catastrophe, it has halted all vaccine exports. The painful impact already being felt across COVAX dependent nations like Kenya. This country is going to run out of vaccines in a matter of days.

Busy vaccination centers across its capital city now deserted.

KARADSHEH: We have been to several health care facilities and hospitals here in Nairobi. We just cannot seem to find one still offering COVID-19 vaccines.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Those desperately searching for a first dose are being turned away. This mother of 2 does not want her to show her face. She's been to every major hospital in the city. She is now trying smaller clinics.

She says losing a close friend to COVID-19 was a terrifying experience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having lost someone who is younger than me. It is very serious. It is important to be immunized. I'm supposed to put food on the table. I cannot stay at home.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): This 57-year-old person was supposed to get his second shot next week but the government has pushed back all second doses by at least 4 more weeks. The government's promised those who had their first shot, there will be a second one but with a June delivery now in doubt no one really knows when the next consignment will arrive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are told to get the vaccine, because if you get corona it will not be severe. What I hear is that corona keeps increasing. That is why we are eager to get a second dose.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): The World Health Organization has warned vaccine delays risk opening the door to a new wave of infections on the continent and the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we are seeing in India, like the pyres and the fires, bodies being burned, either packing (ph) we might actually see a mass grave.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): Dr. Ahmed Kilegi (ph), one of Kenya's top scientists, has been warning that African countries could be the next India. He says no health care system in Africa can deal with a surge like the one that is devastating India.

DR. AHMED KILEGI (PH), TOP KENYAN SCIENTIST: What is happening in India is I think a red flag for the whole world that for the 3rd world countries, the poorer countries, when they are spared the first wave, and the second wave in terms of the mortality, we might actually see something worse if something is not done. KARADSHEH (voice-over): He says it is time for wealthier nations to

rethink their vaccination strategies.

KILEGI (PH): It makes no sense to give teenagers in schools vaccines in richer countries when we know there are people who are superspreaders, of likely superspreaders across the world, who have not been vaccinated. This are the likely breeding grounds for new super variants. This is a global village. And none of us are safe until all of us are safe.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): It seems once again Africa is being left behind. But with this persistent virus, what happens in Africa likely won't stay in Africa -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Nairobi.


HOLMES: We are going to take a quick break. When we come back, Olympic dreams meeting a pandemic reality in Japan. A lot of pushback against hosting the games this year, including from a top CEO, who is not mincing words. That is coming up next.




HOLMES: Ireland's health service has shut down its computer systems after being hit by would they call a significant and sophisticated ransomware attack. The health service executive says it is having a huge impact, especially on X-ray appointments.

He says they're working with security partners to assess the situation and, of course, this security breach comes on the heels of a similar attack in the U.S. on a major fuel pipeline. The Irish prime minister says his country will not cave into the demands of the hackers.


MICHEAL MARTIN, IRISH TAOISEACH: And I think we're very clear. We will not be paying any ransom or engaging in any of that sort of (INAUDIBLE) on that. It will take some days to assess the impact and that is the proper way to do this. We will make those assessments over time.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, Japan's prime minister is trying to calm fears about the Tokyo Olympics. The games are scheduled to start in just a few short months from now but coronavirus still spreading rapidly in Japan.

The growing number of prefectures, including Tokyo, are in an extended state of emergency. On Friday, the government adding three more to the list.

Despite the rising cases, Japan's prime minister says it is possible to hold the games responsibly.


YOSHIHIDE SUGA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will thoroughly take anti infection measures for athletes and event officials so they can participate in the games safely and, at the same time, we will protect our peoples lives and health. This is our principle in holding the games.


HOLMES: More than 7,800 athletes have secured spots to compete in the Olympics but protesters, doctors, even business leaders in Japan say holding the games this year is flat-out dangerous.


HOLMES: Selina Wang talks to one of the country's top CEOs, who tells us why.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The CEO of Japan's leading e-commerce company Rakuten is urging the Japanese government to cancel the Olympics. In an exclusive interview, he tells CNN that hosting the Olympics this summer would be a suicide mission.

With the Olympics just 10 weeks away, public opposition against the games is snowballing. What the Rakuten CEO told me amounts to the strong public criticism against the games from a corporate leader in Japan.

Do you think Japan should host the Olympics this summer, considering the rising COVID-19 cases in Japan and the strained medical system?

HIROSHI MIKITANI, RAKUTEN CEO: I have been very, very, straightforward about this issue. And the fact that we have sold in (ph) for the vaccination, it's dangerous to host the big international event from all over the world. So it is -- the risk is too big. I am against having the Olympics this year.

WANG: Do you think it is still possible that they could be canceled?

MIKITANI: I think everything is possible. You know, I see -- I've talked with many governments (INAUDIBLE) of other countries. And many people is not really supportive of hosting the Olympics this year.

WANG: Why do you think the government has been so forceful in this determination, that they will still go ahead, despite the public opposition, including from business leaders like yourself?

MIKITANI: I do not know.


MIKITANI: To be honest. I call it -- this a suicide mission, to be very honest. And we should stop it. I am trying to convince them but not successful so far.

WANG: I also asked the Rakuten CEO what grade he would give the Japanese government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its vaccine rollout. He said he would rate it a 2 out of 10.

Japan has so far only fully vaccinated about 1 percent of its population. But a petition to cancel the games online received more than 350,000 signatures in just 9 days. Meanwhile even a doctors' union in Japan is urging the government to cancel the games, saying they are worried the games could become a superspreader event, even without any spectators.

But the prime minister reiterates that the Japanese government is determined to host the games this summer. That is even as the prime minister expands the state of emergency in Japan to 3 more free prefectures, amid a continued surge in COVID-19 cases -- Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. "AFRICA AVANT-GARDE" is up next. I'll be back with more news from around the world. You are watching CNN. I'll see you in a bit.