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CNN NEWSROOM

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Protests In India Over Scarce Supplies Of COVID-19 Drug; Taiwan Sets COVID-19 Case Record; Ethiopia Postpones Election Amid Outcry Over Tigray; Eritrean Military Roadblocks Hamper CNN Crew Traveling To Axum; COVID-19 Surge Impacts Mt. Everest Climbers In Nepal. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 16, 2021 - 00:00   ET

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


[00:00:00]

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

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM. Israel strikes a tower housing media outlets as Hamas fires rockets. It's the deadliest confrontation in years.

Lines snaking around the corner in grocery stores in Taiwan. A COVID- 19 success story now imposing new restrictions amid a surge. And CNN traveled through Ethiopia's Tigray region investigating human rights abuses. The U.S. condemning what's called atrocities there.

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HOLMES: The Palestinian health ministry says Israeli airstrikes are now killed 147 people in Gaza, including more than 40 children. It says more than 1,100 people have been injured.

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HOLMES (voice-over): Israeli warplanes on Saturday targeted this high- rise building in Gaza City. The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets had offices there and were given one hour to evacuate.

Families living in the building also forced to evacuate. An anchor for Al Jazeera English had this emotional response on air.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This channel will not be silenced. Al Jazeera will not be silenced, we can guarantee you that right now.

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HOLMES: The Palestinian health ministry reporting two more Palestinians were killed and more than 2 dozen wounded in airstrikes early Sunday. A ministry spokesperson said 5 children were rescued from the rubble.

In Israel, the death toll rose to 10 on Saturday as Hamas fired dozens of rockets towards Tel Aviv. Israel's emergency service as a 50-year- old man was killed when one of the rockets struck a residential neighborhood.

Israel claims it blew up that high-rise office of several news organizations in Gaza City because quote, "Hamas intelligence assets" were operating from the building. But the head of the Associated Press, whose bureau was destroyed, denies that claim and says it had no indication of Hamas activity in the building.

We get the latest from CNN's Ben Wedeman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An Israeli airstrike in Gaza City brings down the 12 story Jala'a tower, causing offices of the premier U.S. news agency, the Associated Press and Al Jazeera network.

Once more a massive building in Gaza is reduced by Israel's version of shock and awe to rubble and dust. The Israeli military warned that building's occupants, among them families, to evacuate before the bombing. The Israeli air force claims the building contained what it called, Hamas military intelligence assets, which, it alleges, were using media outlets as shields.

The air and artillery campaign against Gaza continues with mounting intensity as Hamas and other militant factions fire barrage after barrage of rockets into Israel. In Gaza's cramped confines, Israel's claims to be avoiding civilian casualties often seems to ring hollow as the residents of a crowded refugee camp bury their dead.

Early Saturday morning, Israeli warplanes struck a home in the crowded camp, killing at least 10 people, 8 of them children. Among them, 4 of Mohammed Hadidi's (ph) 5 sons and his wife. The only son to survive, found under the rubble, was 5 month old Armad (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

WEDEMAN (voice-over): "They destroyed the house without warning at 1:30 in the morning," said Mohammed (ph). "People were sleeping, the children were sleeping."

Saturday saw more confrontations in the West Bank between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.

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WEDEMAN (voice-over): May 15th is Catastrophe Day, marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948.

WEDEMAN: On the outskirts of a town, young men use slings to hurl stones at the soldiers. With the West Bank now aflame, Hamas has called upon the people here, in their words, to "set the ground ablaze under the feet of the occupation."

WEDEMAN (voice-over): And indeed, the fires are spreading -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Al-Bireh, on the West Bank.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And journalist Elliott Gotkine joins me now from Ashdod on Israeli coast.

That building that we saw that housed international media offices, the Associated Press, apartments as well, the IDF says Hamas had a presence there.

What does it suggest about Israel's end game, when this stops?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, in terms of that particular incident, I think it shows that Israel will attack buildings and targets in the Gaza Strip wherever it feels it needs to, no matter what the international fallout will be.

That is on the one hand; at the same time I think that we have seen that the effort will continue to attack targets which it feels it needs to, to degrade the infrastructure of Hamas and other militant groups and to reduce their ability to fire rockets into Israel.

That ability doesn't seem to have been diminished that much. I was in Tel Aviv last night; I had to run to the shelter a couple of times. But what the IDF is trying to do is take out things like weapons manufacturing facilities; you mentioned intelligence assets but also underground rocket launchers and also the underground tunnel network that Hamas use to move around and also to take cover.

So that, as well as trying to restore calm to Israel, would be a couple of the objectives and, from the militant groups' point of view, they want to continue to show that they can prevent Israelis from going about their business as usual.

Now the diplomatic wheels are in motion. We know that President Joe Biden spoke with both prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. But Netanyahu yesterday said this operation will continue as long as is necessary, warning to the militant groups, you can't hide above land or below it.

HOLMES: There's that term used in the past, that every few years that Israel will go to Gaza when rockets come out and, quote, "mow the lawn," reduce Hamas' capability.

Do you get a sense that this is more than that, that the end goal is more than just "mowing the lawn?"

GOTKINE: Well, clearly that is one of the objectives and why this latest flare-up vis-a-vis Gaza began. But the IDF said from the beginning they'd be looking at targets based on their intelligence. They knew which targets they wanted to hit.

And as part as of this operation they would be hitting various targets and that is what they have been doing. I think it is more than just taking out the militants that are firing rockets but to really degrade the infrastructure and the capabilities of Hamas and other militant groups there.

As things stand, we still see rockets flying into Israel including towards Tel Aviv, so reducing that particular ability doesn't seem to have been drastically reduced just yet. But the IDF will no doubt feel that it is making progress in destroying tunnel infrastructure, underground launchers and trying to reduce the ability of groups to do this in the future.

HOLMES: Elliott Gotkine in Ashdod in Israel, thank you so much.

Well, the U.S. as Elliott said, calling for a de-escalation of violence in the region but not much else of a concrete nature. CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House, where President Biden is trying to spearhead diplomatic efforts.

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ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Biden spent most of Saturday here at the White House, where he spent the day working the phones, having separate phone calls with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

There's growing concern about these tensions regarding Israel. The president is trying to strike a very delicate balance in extending support for Israel's right to defend itself but also expressing concerns for the Palestinian people.

I want to read you a bit of the White House readout.

The White House says that, "The president noted that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children.

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SAENZ: "He raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection."

This phone call took place late Saturday morning after that Israeli airstrike flattened that building in Gaza that was home to the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets.

But these readouts don't specifically say whether the president addressed that specific airstrike. Now it wasn't just the president making calls over the weekend. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reached out to his Israeli counterpart to talk about the situation there.

But right now the administration is taking this all hands on deck approach as they're trying to urge de-escalation in the region -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: Shibley Telhami is an Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. He joins me now from Silver Spring, Maryland. He's also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

Professor, really appreciate your time. You tweeted on Saturday, just part of the tweet I'll read it. You said, the U.S. is not a bystander in Israel-Palestine.

This leads me to this.

What does the Biden administration actually have to do so we are not here again in a few years, as we have been so many times in the past?

What leverage needs to be exerted?

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, ANWAR SADAT PROFESSOR FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Let me put it this way. The Biden administration obviously didn't expect this. It wasn't a priority for them. They were going to do this on the cheap, renewing aid to the Palestinians.

So they were surprised by it but they certainly haven't handled it well. They have not met the moment and when I say that the U.S. is not a bystander, I mean, beyond even the issue of consistency, when the president says I'm going to lead on human rights, the rule of law, international -- advocacy of democracy and you witness the evictions that everyone can see are blatant violations of international law and then you witness all this destruction and suffering and killing in Gaza and you don't even express empathy in your position, you just call on people to de-escalate, that's not leading.

But put that aside. The fact is the U.S. is implicated. Israel is overwhelmingly more powerful than the Palestinians. It's got one of the most powerful armies in the world. One of the reasons it has one of the most powerful armies in the world is that the U.S. has given it cutting-edge technology that it only gives to Israel and no one else in order to keep its superiority in the region.

One reason why Israel has not pulled out of the occupied territories after half a century is that the U.S. has defended Israel at the U.N. and used their veto power. Bottom line is, the U.S. is implicated in a big way, even separate from the $3 billion that the U.S. gives to Israel annually.

So, yes, it is a responsibility of the President of the United States to do something about it.

(CROSSTALK)

TELHAMI: -- all about rockets.

HOLMES: You've covered the region for decades, as I have; it's hard not to be cynical to think that this will end what is happening now, nothing will substantively change, the status quo will endure and we will have be having the same conversation in a few short years. Do you have any optimistic feelings left long-term or the opposite,

pessimism?

TELHAMI: Let's put it this way. I do a lot of public opinion polling. I did a poll with a colleague of mine among scholars who specialize in the Middle East. The majority of them think that it's impossible now to have two states. When we asked them, so what do you have now, 59 percent say the situation in Israel-Palestine is a one-state reality akin to apartheid.

So these specialists who don't think you are likely to get where Biden wants to go. Therefore, I think the place to start is human rights equality, freedom for all, rule of law and, therefore, rather than focus so much on the long-term political horizon, which needs to be focused on, someone has to work on that.

But, immediately, one has to work on what is needed on the ground to improve the lives of people who've been suffering, who have been under occupation for over 50 years.

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HOLMES: And to that point, is it fair to say, from another perspective, is it fair to say that the Palestinians, the people themselves, there does seem to be little to help hope for, even from their own leaders, be it Fattah or Hamas in Gaza, a two-state solution but a memory. You can argue as some do that one state does exist.

[00:15:00]

HOLMES: But without any semblance of equity. In 2018, Israel passed a nation state law which effectively excluded non-Jews as true citizens.

What are nearly 2 million Palestinians meant to make of their status in Israel, what to hope for?

TELHAMI: I think there's no question that for policies in West Bank and Gaza, they have a lot of reason to be upset with their leadership whether the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. They haven't delivered much and they've been impotent.

And as you know the protests in Jerusalem appears to have been mostly spontaneous and everybody is trying to take advantage of it. Let's be clear. The reason why we haven't had peace is not because the Palestinians have not had the best leadership.

There's an asymmetry of power and a determined Israeli right wing policy to control the territories. And even the most brilliant political leaders of Palestine couldn't overcome that. That's part of the problem.

And now of course, as you pointed out, there's another big issue for Israel and the Palestinians. That is, the eruption inside Israel itself, the 20 percent of citizens of Israel who are Palestinian have been more integrated. They are not fully equal, they have structural discrimination against them. But they certainly have a completely different status than the West

Bank and Gaza. Now what we have seen is that they have been grabbed into this fight and the rightwing extremists are provoking them because -- we know what has happened in Israel over the past several years, which has been a shift to the far right, including the dissipation of the government in a way that is clearly been detrimental to Israel itself as well as to the Palestinians.

HOLMES: You make a good point and I want to touch on briefly, if you will, because we're almost out of time. You talk about the move to the Right, all of what has been unfolding has just happened to help Benjamin Netanyahu, politically, hasn't it?

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Israel is about to have a new government, supported by, among others, Arab parties. This conflict has ended that and still, it is Netanyahu's Israel, right?

TELHAMI: Absolutely. This is part of it. Netanyahu knew that, the more friction there is with Israel and Palestine, including inside, it would help him politically. Not only by diverting attention from his legal trouble, as you know he's in trouble there, but in preventing the coalition government, though what is imminent, including one of the Arab parties that was prepared to support equalization of its opponents. Now that will work out.

I don't think even he expected that this would get out of hand like it did. I don't think Hamas expected it on their end. Obviously, this escalation took everyone by surprise and now everyone is trying to pick up the pieces.

HOLMES: I just hope we are not doing this again in 3 or 4 years, having this conversation. Professor, thank you so much.

TELHAMI: My pleasure.

HOLMES: We are taking a quick break. When we come back, Taiwan hit a new domestic COVID case record. People are now panic-buying groceries in the capital. We explain what is happening.

Also, when we come back, the U.K. has been focusing on mental health this week. Kids are talking about how the pandemic and multiple lockdowns have affected them. Stay with us.

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HOLMES: Protests gripping the southern Indian city of Chennai over shortages of remdesivir, antiviral drug, used to treat coronavirus. Hundreds of people, gathering outside a distribution center to demand access. Police, eventually, stepping in to disperse the crowds.

India's overall positivity rate is down but cases in rural areas, still, are soaring. The country still has the second highest number of known coronavirus cases in the world. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, with more, from where things stand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new daily ritual in India: police patrol a river, looking for bodies, possible victims of the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We all looking for these bodies that are in the river. And then, if you find them, we cremate them with proper rituals.

STOUT (voice-over): There are few bathers in these waters anymore. Not since the shocking images emerged of bodies dumped in the Ganges River. Scenes like this seem a world away from high-level government meetings, where authorities brief Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, with what they say are signs of progress.

Health officials say coronavirus testing has increased across the country and it's showing the overall positivity rate is down and the recovery rate is increasing. Cases are easing in major cities, with strict lockdowns, such as in Mumbai and New Delhi. But prime minister Modi had this warning for the residents of rural areas, where two thirds of the population live.

NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Corona infection is spreading fast in our villages, too. Every government is trying everything possible to stop it. It is important to raise awareness in rural areas and to work with and support our local village administrations.

STOUT (voice-over): In one rural village, people have been burying the dead in shallow graves. Some communities, so far removed, that the reach of the virus and the true numbers of the dead are yet to be counted -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Taiwan, meanwhile, is tightening social distancing restrictions for Taipei, in nearby areas, after a spike in new COVID- 19 cases. The island reporting 118 new local infections Friday, a record since the pandemic began. The restrictions will be in place through May 28th, many people, stockpiling groceries at the store.

Journalist Andy Lee is in Taipei.

I guess, Andy, Taiwan had done such a great job keeping the virus under control, how worried is the government worried about these outbreaks?

ANDY LEE, JOURNALIST: Michael, that's a great question. Taiwan has done a good job in the past but the past is the past. The worry right now is that the government is very worried, Michael, because the government has just upgraded from level 2, to level 3. Now level 3 is just the level below total lockdown. So yes, I would say the government is worried.

In fact, the mayor of Taipei only has 3 words for people of Taipei City. The 3 words are, stay at home. Michael?

HOLMES: We talked about this stockpiling.

And how are people reacting to the new measures?

What's the mood there?

LEE: Michael, stockpiling itself tells you that the people are worried. I, in fact, am quite worried. So I not only stockpiled on face masks, I asked my wife to do the groceries and stockpile on tissue, rice and other groceries.

In fact, when I go to the restaurant now for take away, I don't see any people within the restaurants but there is a long queue outside of the restaurant for food take aways. In fact, when I go to the supermarket, the shelves are almost empty.

And one other thing that tells me the people in Taiwan are very worried, because, now, at mass rapid transit within the city, trains, buses and public transport, I see few people on them. Most people are preferring their own transportation to stay away from public transportation.

Why is that?

Public transportation is a tight space, a crowded space and there is no social distancing. So I would say, people are very worried. One other fact, Michael, is that the first batch is gone here in Taiwan. People are asking, where is the next batch?

And we don't know the answer. Back to you, Michael.

[00:25:00]

HOLMES: Yes, a little bit of a worry, that. Andy, thank you, Andy Lee, in Taipei.

Now people in England will finally be able to hug each other on Monday, without violating coronavirus restrictions. The country, poised to move for the next phase or step 3, along with cautious personal contact.

The government will give the go-ahead for indoor hospitality and entertainment, including pubs, restaurants, cinemas, museums and the like. And international travel, set to reopen too, with people allowed to visit a very limited list of so-called green countries.

But on Friday, Boris Johnson did warn that a COVID variant could disrupt all of this making it difficult to move to step 4 in June. The U.K., meanwhile, wrapping up mental health awareness week, a campaign that is taking on added urgency in England, where 3 coronavirus lockdowns have taken a toll on the nation's young people especially.

Isa Soares went to a youth center in London, where children are discussing how the pandemic has affected their mental health.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since lockdown lifted and doors reopened 4 weeks ago, kids, age 8 to 18 have been coming there for a kick-about with friends, a game of ping-pong and, crucially, for this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It made my additional needs worse and then it made on top of that the anxiety as well.

SOARES (voice-over): The center has now become a place where kids can open up and begin to heal with mentoring and mindfulness sessions, a response to what staff here are calling a mental health crisis among young people.

This is reflected in the latest U.K. government data, which suggests that one in six children may now be suffering a diagnosable mental health issue, up about 50 percent since 2017.

SOARES: What did you experience during lockdown that you hadn't experienced before?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just this great cloud over my entire life.

SOARES (voice-over): For many here, that cloud never cleared. There were pressures of virtual learning and a digital divide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used to have the best grades.

SOARES (voice-over): And anxieties about contracting or passing on the virus, loneliness and isolation.

Outside of this group, doctors told us they've heard stories of chaotic home lives with some young people experiencing neglect, overcrowding and domestic abuse.

SOARES: How many of you have seen your parents break down in tears?

KALEY MCDOUGALL, HEAD OF FUNDRAISING, UNITAS YOUTH ZONE: There has been a really marked increase especially in Conondale of new households living below the poverty line often. And it must be as an impact from the pandemic, people losing their jobs, people not being able to sustain housing. So yes, it's definitely getting worse.

SOARES (voice-over): And multi-million-dollar private outposts like this are few and far between. Charities and sector workers warn of an underresourced and oversubscribed support network, which children face as stark reality, get worse or don't get seen.

CHRIS MANN, MATRON, HILLINGDON HOSPITAL: We're seeing double the amount, triple the amount of children we used to do pre-COVID being admitted. And there with a variety of self-harm. So that's children drawing attention to the fact that they've got a

concern. They've got a worry and that's their way of expressing that -- and also with eating disorders.

SOARES: 17-year-old Eesha tells me she faced physical and emotional pain as her health declined during lockdown.

EESHA PARASHARA, CENTER VISITOR: When I ate certain foods or when I ate every meal, my stomach would hurt for about an hour and a bit afterwards. And then not going to the toilet for about two weeks or three weeks. And when you see I was really bloated. And then I looked to my body in different ways. I don't want putting on weight.

Why am I not going to toilet?

Is there something wrong?

SOARES: And you never had any of this before COVID?

PARASHARA: Before COVID I -- ask anyone, I could not care less. I was a foodie. I loved my food.

SOARES (voice-over): Behind as she says, anxiety, loneliness and a constant presence of social media. Together, they became a toxic combination.

SOARES: Why were you worried about your image?

PARASHARA: Because you're at home, you aren't moving about and you're looking in the mirror every day thinking, am I putting on weight?

SOARES: Lockdown loneliness has turned the children into the collateral damage of this pandemic. Now it's no longer a question of if but how this pandemic will shape the generation -- Isa Soares, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Coming up, here on the program, people around the world showing solidarity for Palestinians. We show you how, after the break.

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HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Israelis and Palestinians gearing up for what looks to be another day of death and destruction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES (voice-over): Rescuers have been digging through debris in Gaza, searching for signs of life. Palestinian health officials say early morning airstrikes killed at least 2 more people, wounded dozens of others. Israel says it is targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad as they launch rockets at Israeli territory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES (voice-over): Now just hours ago, CNN captured this footage of rockets streaking out of Gaza. An Israeli man was killed by rocket fire Saturday near Tel Aviv.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Meanwhile, Israel facing fallout after its bombing of a building housing media offices and apartments. Israel insisted it was also a Hamas target and they gave time for civilians to escape. CNN's Nic Robertson with more from southern Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the Associated Press say that they have appealed to the Israeli government for more information about why the building their journalists were working in was targeted.

Complaints also from Al Jazeera, Israelis said they targeted the building because there were military installations with Hamas military intelligence. That's why Israeli officials say that they go out of their way to avoid casualties. And they gave warnings for everybody to evacuate the building.

That was repeated by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he had a phone conversation late in the day with President Biden. He said he laid out the actions they had taken out against Hamas and other groups in Gaza and also other planned actions.

Israel's defense minister Benny Gantz has also said that more actions are planned against Hamas. Hamas, from their point, have threatened to respond to the targeting of that building housing journalists, saying they will target Tel Aviv.

During the day, they targeted Tel Aviv with multiple rocket strikes. Most of those rocket strikes taken down by Iron Dome defensive system. However, some of those rockets to get through. A 50-year-old Israeli man killed when one of those rockets came down in a residential neighborhood.

Going into the night, in Gaza, concerns there that there could be an increased tit-for-tat because of the attack on the journalists' building. Certainly going into the rest of the weekend, concerns that diplomacy's not growing at a significant enough pace, despite President Biden speaking to Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas but the pace not picking up. The door does still seem to be open to prime minister Benjamin

Netanyahu and the Israeli government to continue their strikes against Hamas.

[00:35:00]

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The prime minister noting support from the United States to be able to retaliate to attacks coming from Gaza -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Ashdod, Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We have been seeing outpourings of rage and solidarity for Palestinians in cities around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES (voice-over): Hundreds of people protesting there in Jordan in the Jordan Valley and in the capital, Amman. Most of Jordan's citizens have Palestinian routes and have close ties with family just on the other side of the Jordan River, which is in the West Bank.

Crowds of pro-Palestinian protesters in London gathering at Marble Arch waving flags in marching towards the Israeli embassy.

French police using tear gas against several groups of protesters. In Paris, authorities have banned protesting in the capital, citing fears that the protests could turn violent. Pro-Palestinian protests in other cities like Lyons and Marseille took place peacefully.

And demonstrators in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania formed a heart in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Colombia facing outside pressure to respond to allegations of human rights abuses; 41 civilians and one police officer are dead amid a wave of protests of late. Journalist Stefano Pozzebon has the latest from Bogota.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the 3rd consecutive weekend of protests in Colombia. At least in Bogota, the marches showed no signs of slowing down despite concessions made by the president of the country to protesters.

Growing attacks overhaul that triggered the protests in the first place and canceling university fees for lower income students for the second half (INAUDIBLE).

But the first trigger is a rejection toward precise attack site (ph) These protests have now become a nationwide movement against the government and everything it represents. And these protesters are saying they are here for more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here because we support our indigenous communities, we support our afro (ph) communities, we need a better education system, we need a better health reform, we need a police reform, of course.

POZZEBON (voice-over): And allegations of police violence has become one of the loudest running cries in marches such as this but the result that the inter-American Commission of Human Rights has normally requested to send an investigative team to Colombia in order to inquiry over possible violations of human rights at the hands of the Colombian police.

And with thousands of protesters still onto the streets three weeds in and counting, an international body is demanding clarity. President Ivan Duque is facing more pressure than ever.

This with COVID-19 that is still wreaking havoc over Colombia. Just on Saturday, the country reported another record increase in deaths, with 530 victims of the virus in the last 24 hours -- for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: An international outcry is growing over the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region. Next, how it could affect the upcoming election and how CNN reporting played a role in all of that. We will be right back.

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HOLMES: Ethiopia is postponing its general election scheduled for next month. That move comes amid an international outcry over the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region.

CNN has exclusively reported that Eritrean troops, disguised as Ethiopian troops, are blocking some humanitarian aid from reaching Tigray.

In a statement Saturday, U.S. secretary of state said, quote, "The continued presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray further undermines Ethiopia's stability and national unity. We again call upon the government of Eritrea to remove its forces from Tigray."

CNN's Nima Elbagir has been reporting on the crisis for months after being given by access by the Ethiopian government. She was able to go deep inside Tigray to find out what's happening firsthand. Here is her exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been over a month now since the Ethiopian government promised the United States, the United Nations, the world, that Eritrean troops had begun their withdrawal from the Tigray region. We went to Tigray to see for ourselves whether that was really true.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): A show of force by Ethiopia's national defense force in its Tigray region, a government visibly flexing control.

We traveled outside of the capital, Mekelle, across the region, to see if the Ethiopian government has kept its promises to the world, unimpeded aid access and the withdrawal of their Eritrean allies. The conflict for control of Tigray blazes on.

Days earlier, these two grand forces fighting for regional autonomy pushed out Eritrean troops from this town. As we arrive one young man, Kassa (ph), wants to show us where his father, brother, and cousin were taken and executed just days ago. The blood is still visible. It stains the ground.

"They didn't want to wash away his blood," he says. "They wanted to leave it there."

The body they took to the graveyard but the blood, the place where his father was executed, he -- the family still wants that place marked.

Just a few meters from where Kassa's (ph) father died, his brother and cousin were executed, murdered, he says, by Eritreans, the same Eritreans who were supposed to have withdrawn.

We return with Kassa (ph) to his family. In total, just this one family lost seven loved ones less than a week ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): All of us have to run and hide when they come, even the women. They rape the women and then kill them. May God bring mercy on us because we don't know what we can do.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The Eritreans are not only still here, but a day into our journey and we've already found evidence of fresh atrocities. We hear that the holy city of Axum to the west has been sealed off by Eritrean soldiers for 12 days. We need to see for ourselves. So we head out towards Axum but don't get very far.

Something is not right. The team car behind us radios in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Locals said there was shooting up ahead.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): There's a car coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's just wait.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): A U.N. driver flashes as a warning but we decide to press on.

ELBAGIR: Hello. Salam.

Can we go ahead?

We're going to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No problem. ELBAGIR: Thank you.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): But the road ahead is blocked. We get out of the car with our hands up and identify ourselves to the Ethiopian soldiers.

ELBAGIR: Hey, hey, hello, hello, hello. CNN, CNN. We're CNN, journalists. We are journalists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's impossible.

ELBAGIR: We are journalists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's impossible.

ELBAGIR: Sir, just tell us --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before, ask our commander.

ELBAGIR: We spoke --

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The soldier spots our camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

ELBAGIR (voice-over): They're incredibly tense.

ELBAGIR: Sir, sir, it's OK. It's OK. We were --

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

ELBAGIR: We did. We asked there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't asking our commander?

ELBAGIR: Sir, sir, we asked.

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

ELBAGIR: Are we detained?

Unless we are detained, we're not giving them the camera. We'll only go to the administration, the civilian administration.

[00:45:00]

ELBAGIR: If you want to have detained a CNN team, then that's what's happened now because we're not going to the camp willingly.

They have now said that we are allowed to go and meet the general in a civilian location but it is still against our will. But we're going.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): On our way to the headquarters were able to hide our footage. And we are later released. At the local hospital we find out why the soldiers didn't want us to film.

ELBAGIR: What happened?

Yes, it's OK. It's OK. You're clearly in shock. Just take a moment to breathe. And then tell us what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were in the bus station when the shooting started. We were running, trying to get away. And that's when it happened.

ELBAGIR (on camera): This girl is so scared, she's covering her face. But she wants to tell us what happened, which is that a grenade detonated in front of a group of soldiers. And she says they started randomly opening fire on civilians.

She is clearly not a soldier. She's a teenage girl. And she says that she was shot through the leg.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): This is the main route to Axum. It's a vital supply artery. But for 12 days now, nothing has been able to pass. First checkpoint, Ethiopian soldiers led us through. Ahead, we've been warned by senior Ethiopian military sources, we'll find Eritrean soldiers.

As we crest the hill, before we reach the second checkpoint, we turn on our covert cameras.

ELBAGIR: Hello, sir, can I show you our papers?

We're CNN, journalists. We have permission to travel.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): These are Eritrean troops captured here for the first time on camera, a ragtag army in their distinctive light-colored fatigues. Some are also wearing a previously retired Ethiopian army uniform, a clear bit to sow confusion as to whether they're Ethiopian or Eritrean.

ELBAGIR: Eritrean soldiers are telling us that we don't have permission to travel, even though the Ethiopian soldiers waved us through. The other thing is Eritrean soldiers are supposed to have begun withdrawing but, here they are, manning a checkpoint and blocking us from going forward.

Hello, sir, selamat (ph). How are you?

Journalists, we have permission.

You're asking us to turn back?

OK. We've been sent back.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Both Eritrea and Ethiopia promised these troops would withdraw weeks ago. Yet this foreign force is still here and occupying, obstructing a key supply route with impunity.

After calling the interim government, military contacts and others, on our fourth attempt, we make it through. Three days after setting off, we finally arrive in Axum, a UNESCO heritage site, the holiest city in Ethiopia and a place of pilgrimage.

But even the act of worship here is a dangerous one. The war is never far away. At a local health facility, we see firsthand the consequences of this almost two weeks' siege. Two-month-old Yohanne's (ph) life has been hanging in the balance. His mother risked her life and his to get him past the soldiers encircling the city so that he can receive lifesaving oxygen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When he first got ill, it was a hard time so I couldn't bring him. There was an act of war. He got weaker, but I couldn't find transport. I had to travel difficult roads alone to get him here.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): He's not out of danger yet. The hospital electricity flickers on and off. And they are still waiting to get more cylinders of oxygen. In the almost two weeks that Axum has been cut off from the outside world, violence has spiked.

We find this 24-year-old teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR: Do you know who did this to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eritreans.

ELBAGIR: Oh, Eritrean soldiers did this. I'm so sorry.

This is just one case that we are able to catch up because we're here. But it's impossible to know how many more women this was done to while the city was closed off from the outside world.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): At another health facility, Axum Referral Hospital, soldiers walk in and out of the hospital with impunity. One spots the camera and runs off. They've run out of blood here.

[00:50:00]

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Doctors and medical students are donating their own but it's still not enough.

People who could have been saved are dying. Every patient you see here, the old, the young, the helpless, all injured in this conflict. Our journey here has brought into focus the hollowness of Ethiopia's promises. As we leave Axum, a line of soldiers encircles the hospital. There is no respite -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Axum, Ethiopia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Extraordinary reporting, we'll be right back.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VANESSA BRYANT, KOBE'S WIDOW: Congratulations, baby. All of your hard work and sacrifices paid off. You once told me, if you are going to bet on someone, bet on yourself. I'm glad you bet on yourself, you overachiever. You did it. You are in the Hall of Fame now. You are a true champ.

You're not just an MVP, you are an all-time great. I'm so proud of you. I love you forever and always, Kobe Dean Bryant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Vanessa Bryant there, remembering her late husband, Kobe Bryant, as he was inducted posthumously in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Los Angeles Lakers legend, his daughter and 7 others, were killed in a helicopter crash in 2020.

The induction ceremony had been delayed nearly 9 months by the pandemic. Bryant was presented at the Hall of Fame by another legend, Michael Jordan, a player he considered a mentor, friend and confidant. Jordan had referred to Kobe Bryant as his little brother.

Fans hoping for a Triple Crown winner in U.S. horse racing will have to wait until next year. Rombauer upset the favorite, the Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, with a burst of speed down the stretch at the Preakness Stakes.

Medina Spirit failed a drug test after the derby and could still be stripped of that title, if other tests confirm the initial finding. The Triple Crown's last leg, 3 weeks away, at Belmont Park, New York.

India's coronavirus crisis, spilling over into Nepal but with the tourism opening back up, there are concerns that the Nepali government is downplaying how serious the situation has become. CNN's Anna Coren spoke with one mountaineer about what he has seen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost 6,000 meters above sea level in the Himalayas --

ALEX TXIKON, CLIMBER: (Speaking foreign language).

COREN (voice-over): -- is where Alex Txikon (ph) feels most at home.

TXIKON: (Speaking foreign language).

COREN (voice-over): The 39-year-old Spaniard traverses the crevices of the Khumbu (ph) icefall, a short distance from Mt. Everest Base Camp. It's part of his preparation for his fourth attempt to summit Everest without oxygen.

TXIKON: I climbed more than 30 times here. I know this country. COREN (voice-over): After canceling last year's climbing season as a result of the pandemic, the government of Nepal announced this year it was open for business.

[00:55:00]

COREN (voice-over): More than 400 permits were issued, a record number.

And at $US11,000 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 day disappearing. And nobody says nothing but a lot of people goes down and we see that it is corona.

COREN (voice-over): The government maintains there have been no COVID cases at Mt. Everest, despite the evacuations of dozens of climbers to hospitals in Kathmandu, who have then tested positive. There's still no COVID-19 testing facility at base camp.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government were trying to keep the COVID cases under the carpet. And I'm afraid the worst case scenario has become true.

COREN (voice-over): For Alex Txikon, he wasn't taking any more 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 are playing with our lives.

COREN (voice-over): The chairman of the biggest tour company on Everest told us earlier this week more than 30 of their Everest clients tested positive. However, 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: If 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 (voice-over): A team from the Bahrain royal family was among the first foreign group to summit Everest. The Indian government also had a large chain 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending part of your day with me, "CONNECTING AFRICA" is up next.