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England To Further Ease COVID-19 Restrictions On Monday; Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; California Vaccinates Kids Aged 12 And Over; Taiwan Sets COVID-19 Case Record; U.S. Afghanistan Exit Puts Interpreters' Lives In Jeopardy; U.S. Gas Shortages; Rombauer Denies Medina Spirit Triple Crown. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired May 16, 2021 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Deadly violence continues in the Middle East. Israel says it bombed the house of the Hamas leader in Gaza, early-this morning. We'll have details from the region, in a moment.

This as U.S. President Joe Biden calls for deescalation. Speaking separately with both the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian Authority president.

And a clarification from the CDC now urging schools to keep requiring masks for the rest of the school year.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to all of you watching us here, in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: The Israeli military says it has struck the home of the Hamas leader in Yahya Sinwar southern Gaza. He is the head of Hamas in Gaza and lives south of Gaza City. The IDF says he wasn't hurt in the airstrike.

The attack on the Hamas leader came just hours after Israeli warplanes bombed a high-rise building, where several news organizations had offices.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and other media outlets were given one hour to evacuate. Families living in the building also fled. The Palestinian health ministry says 174 people died in airstrikes, more than 40 children.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER (voice-over): This is what it looked like from the Israeli city of Ashdod, about midway between Gaza and Tel Aviv. In Israel, the death toll rose to 10 on Saturday, as one of those rockets struck a residential neighborhood in Tel Aviv, killing an Israeli man.


BRUNHUBER: The Israeli military claims it blew up the high-rise building because Hamas intelligence assets, in their words, were operating there. But the head of the Associated Press, whose bureau was destroyed, said it had no indication of Hamas activity in the building. We get the latest from CNN's Ben Wedeman.


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. 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.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Hadas Gold joins us on the Israeli coast.

So first of all, just what's the latest from where you are?

I understand, we were showing those pictures of the rockets flying near there.

What can you tell us?

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So Ashdod is about 25 kilometers from Gaza and similar to Tel Aviv, has been experiencing its fair share of sirens. Last night, Tel Aviv, in the middle of the night, was getting some rocket attacks. In total, the Israeli military says that since this conflict began, we are in the seventh day, approximately 2,900 rockets have been fired.

But the death toll and devastation in Gaza has been rising. In Gaza, we are just getting word that overnight, 26 people were killed according to the Palestinian ministry of health there. That brings the total to 174 deaths, including 47 children.

In Israel, 10 people have been killed, including two children and a soldier. Now the Israeli military says it's continuing to strike targets in the Gaza Strip; specifically, places like rocket launchers as well as buildings that, it says, is housing Hamas intelligence and other Hamas assets.

And as we saw yesterday, one of those buildings that they struck was a building that housed media, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

Now the Israeli military called ahead and said they gave the people of the building enough time to evacuate the building. And the Associated Press and Al Jazeera said that none of their staff were harmed but they came very close.

Now this is getting a lot of condemnation and a lot of tension around the world. The Israeli media says that this building was housing Hamas intelligence. They have not, yet, provided the evidence for what that intelligence was.

The Associated Press is asking the Israeli military to give that to them, because, according to the AP, they say they had no indication that Hamas was in that building.

Images, which it says shows use civilians and civil infrastructure to hide behind -- I believe we have those images we can show you -- these are images the Israeli military says proves that Hamas uses civilian infrastructure to hide its rockets, to hide its assets, to hide its offices.

And that, they say, is what was happening in that media building, that Hamas was hiding behind outlets like the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, in order to conduct their business.

But there's been a lot of condemnation, not only from the Associated Press, from organizations like the Foreign Press Association here in Israel, as well as the Committee to Protect Journalists, about this situation. The AP's saying now people will know less about what is happening in Gaza because their offices were destroyed.

President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have, also, expressed concern. Biden speaking to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, recently, raising concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforcing the need to ensure their protection.

But Kim, for a lot of people, there is a question about the sort of risk/reward, about targeting a building, about targeting a lot of these buildings in Gaza because especially when it comes to the media.

What was the intelligence assets they say Hamas was host in this building?

When and if we will see the evidence from Israel about why they decided to destroy where media is housed, versus some other sort of strike but -- but the action here continues. Israel says it's continuing to target military locations in Gaza.

So far, this morning, there have not been sirens. But that -- that can happen, at any moment here. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. That can change quickly. All right. Thank you so much for your reporting there, Hadas Gold in Israel, appreciate it.

And as we mentioned, the escalating violence has forced the Biden administration to launch a diplomatic effort aimed at restoring calm in the region. CNN's Arlette Saenz has details on that from the White House.


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. 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.


SAENZ: 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.


BRUNHUBER: So as we have been reporting, journalists had to flee their offices right before an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Israelis say the building had Hamas assets. But the Associated Press said it had no indication Hamas was present or active there.

Now this video captured the frantic moments leading up to the attack, as journalists scrambled to get out.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Al Jazeera was among the outlets with offices in the building. Here is a response from an Al Jazeera English anchor, on air after the bombing.



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


BRUNHUBER: The president of the Associated Press says Israel notified them of the strike an hour before it happened and he spoke earlier to CNN.


GARY PRUITT, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Our folks are doing their best to report from their locations at home. But also the world's media has been incredibly generous in offering help and support and office space, for us to operate on a temporary basis while we seek additional office space.

But it is a difficult situation right now. It certainly impairs our ability to report. It doesn't silence us but it certainly hurts.

We have been in that building for 15 years. We had no indication Hamas was operating out of that building. We do check back, to the best of our ability, because, of course, we would never knowingly endanger our journalists.

But can we say for sure?

No, we can't. But you know, our goal is to report neutrally from Israel, from Gaza, report the facts, not take sides and try to stay out of the crossfire. Today we did not.


BRUNHUBER: And that was Gary Pruitt, the president and CEO of the Associated Press.

Well, the CDC is loosening the mask guidelines for Americans fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But layers of federal and local regulations are causing confusion.

And where does that leave schools and students?

That's coming up.

Plus, Taiwan has shattered one of its COVID-19 case records, the previous high, well, just a day earlier. Now they're seeing new measures and panic buying. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says schools should continue masking for the rest of the academic year. Health officials say that's because there's not enough time for students to become fully vaccinated, before the summer break. The agency says it'll update its guidance for schools, in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the CDC says schools that offer in-person learning should prioritize wearing masks and social distancing when possible.

The U.S. recently opened up the Pfizer BioNTech COVID vaccine for kids as young as 12. And that's helping schools reopen further and get children one step closer to normalcy. CNN's Paul Vercammen reports from a California clinic, where teens are getting their shots.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the first weekend in the United States, where 12- to 15-year olds could get their Pfizer vaccine. And here, in Los Angeles County, they came stumbling in here, in some ways, with bed head, with Star Wars T-shirts on, Nintendo shirts, their Vans shoes.

And underneath this tent is the observation area, where adults and teens are after getting their shot. The teens expressed they were looking forward to their second Pfizer shot and hanging out with friends and going places. And here's what it was like for them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first shot. It kind of hurt, at first. But, after a second, it doesn't really hurt as much. So -- but definitely, move it around because if you move it around, it doesn't hurt as much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm excited. I can't wait to finally go back to living normal life. Like, going to Disneyland. Number one, go swimming, of course. And just be able to get out of the house. We're, you know, social people, so we love being out of the house. So I'm excited.

VERCAMMEN: And you have a vacation planned?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm going to Zion, Utah. I am going to go with my best friend, Zee. We have been best friends since we were very little. And it's really fun to always hang out with her.


VERCAMMEN: Also, developing in California, the mask rules. There's big confusion in the restaurant business as to who has to wear a mask and who doesn't. And we spoke to the director of county health here in Los Angeles, about that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you are walking around, waiting on line, going to the restroom, in a common area, please, go ahead and put that mask on to protect everybody else. Also, workers who work in restaurants are covered under CalOSHA and they do need to keep their mask on.


VERCAMMEN: No doubt, after they get their second Pfizer shot, those 12- to 15-year-olds who just got vaccinated are going to want to go to their favorite restaurant. Well, one thing about Los Angeles County, it sure has a lot of those 12- to 15-year-olds a half of a million of them.

And that's why county-health officials are so adamant about making sure they get shots in their arms -- reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.


BRUNHUBER: England is about to take the next step out -- out of its path towards lockdown. It's lifting many-more coronavirus restrictions, beginning on Monday. Places like pubs and restaurants will have the option of allowing customers to dine inside.

But the rise in COVID cases, caused by the India variant, is casting a shadow over the country's plans. [05:20:00]

So for more on this, let's bring in CNN's Phil Black, in London.

Phil, there seems to be more and more pressure on prime minister Boris Johnson to delay that plan to relax COVID rules tomorrow.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim. It's almost as if there are two different coronavirus scenarios playing out in the U.K. at the moment. One, as it is, which is overwhelmingly positive -- excuse me. But the other, based upon what might be because of this new variant, first identified in India.

And that's where there is some concern but tremendous uncertainty. As things stand across the U.K., the situation is overwhelmingly positive. All the key indicators have trended in the right direction for some time now.

As transmissions have really fallen away and the vaccine program has been expanded, significantly, to the point where it now offers some protection at least to around 69 percent of the adult population, it is huge progress, compared to where the U.K. was at the peak of this most recent wave back in January.

And it is on the basis of that story, that governments in England, Scotland and Wales, have decided to proceed with lifting some restrictions tomorrow. Big restrictions, really. These are the restrictions that have stopped people from mixing indoors for months.

So once again, people will be able to get together in homes, bars and restaurants. In England, people are told they can even hug, if they're responsible about it. So these are moves that, in themselves, carry risk.

But then, on the other hand, there is this new variant, which the government has confirmed is more transmissible. But the reason why there is so much uncertainty is because we don't know how much more transmissible. That is expected to become clearer, in the coming weeks.

So as we wait for that information, the government is, in a sense, betting that its current strategy of rolling out the vaccine as quickly as possible while, at the same time, aggressively testing, hunting down cases of new variants and making people isolate to slow its spread, those two things, together, it hopes, will create a situation that continues to be manageable.

As the vaccine is, eventually, rolled out and coverage is expanded to enough of the population to ensure that a new variant can't run away and do significant harm, that is based on the assumption, though, that this new variant is only somewhat more transmissible.

If it is significantly more transmissible, then the government admits it will have to make some difficult decisions in the weeks ahead -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Thanks so much, Phil Black, in London.

Taiwan reported 207 new COVID infections on Sunday, a pandemic record. All but one were locally transmitted. One's from India. The self- governed island is tightening social-distancing restrictions for Taipei and nearby areas. And many people started to stockpile groceries when they heard the news.

Journalist Andy Lee joins us from Taipei.

Taiwan had long been considered a COVID-success story.

Is that about to change?

ANDY LEE, JOURNALIST: Yes, Kim, that's a very good question. The Taiwan government has been doing a good job, so far, until now. And the people of Taiwan would like to think the government will continue to do a good job at the present and in the future.

However, that said, the situation seems to be in dire straits right now in Taiwan, because, Saturday in Taiwan, 180 confirmed cases. And Sunday, here, in Taiwan, the government officials came out with the latest numbers. It stands at 207.

So the numbers are increased. And in fact, Kim, the government of Taiwan has updated the level of alert from level two to level three, which means five persons indoors, no go. Ten persons outdoors, no go.

So in fact, the gyms will not be open. Night clubs will not be open. The karaokes will not be open. However, schools are still on. Offices are still on because people are still -- have to go to work, like children still have to go to school.

If you do a total lockdown, as of now, it's going to really hurt the economy. So people in Taiwan right now are on pins and needles. Fingers crossed, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. And you bring up how people are reacting. I mentioned people are stocking up.

Any fears that we'll see there, what we saw here in the U.S., early on in the pandemic, shortages of staples and so on?

LEE: Right. People are worried. So people -- yes, as you have mentioned, are stocking up. Now I asked my wife to go to the supermarket. And she came home telling me, Andy, the shelves were gone in literally minutes. People were stockpiling on grocery items, such as tissue paper, rice.

And I had to go to the pharmaceuticals before that. I called them up.

How many boxes of face masks do you have left?


I say, I'll take 10 of them. And I was there in less than 10 minutes. So people are stockpiling up. In addition to that, on the streets here in Taiwan, people are not going to restaurants to dine in. However, there are long queues outside of restaurants. People are doing takeaways.


LEE: Given the number of COVID cases is still accelerating, if numbers are accelerating, that means we are not, yet, at the peak. So we don't know where the peak is. Fingers crossed. And in addition, when people go to shops here in Taiwan, they have to sign up, their names and their telephone numbers, in order for traceability. Back to you, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much, journalist Andy Lee, in Taipei. Appreciate it.

India's overall COVID-positivity rate is down. But cases in rural areas are still soaring and the country still has the second-highest number of known-coronavirus cases in the world. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout on where things stand.


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.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up, protesters in the Middle East are showing solidarity for Palestinians. We will have a live report from Beirut, ahead.

Plus, working for U.S. troops in Afghanistan is a risky business for local interpreters and others. But things could become even riskier, when the U.S. finishes its withdrawal. That's ahead. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: And welcome back to all of you watching us here, in the United States, Canada and around the world. Israel's military says it has bombed the home of a Hamas leader in Gaza. An Israeli official says Yahya Sinwar wasn't hurt when an airstrike hit his home. It appears to be one of many attacks on Gaza over the last several hours.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Explosions have been tearing through the enclave, as thick smoke rises into the sky. Palestinian health officials say at least 26 people have been killed in airstrikes, just today. Israel says it's targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad as they launch rockets at Israeli territory.

This footage, from hours ago, shows rockets streaking out of Gaza over southern Israel. At least one Israeli was killed by a rocket strike on Saturday.


BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, Israel is facing heavy criticism for its attack on a building housing media offices in Gaza. Israel says the building also had Hamas assets.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): We have been seeing an outpouring of rage and solidarity for Palestinians in cities around the world. Now these scenes are from Jordan. Hundreds of people rallied there for a second day near the King Hussein border crossing.

In Lebanon, on Saturday, mourners buried a man killed the day before. Lebanese authorities say he was killed by Israeli gunfire after he tried to cross the Israeli border fence. Israel's military says its tanks fired warning shots at people damaging the fence.


BRUNHUBER: Salma Abdelaziz was at the demonstrations, along the Lebanese-Israeli border Saturday, and she joins me, now, from Beirut.

Salma, take us through what you have been seeing there, where you are and, more broadly, across the region. SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: Yes, Kim. Yesterday, we were along

Lebanese-Israeli border. I know we have footage to show you of what we saw play out. And, yes, we did see people being bused in but a lot of people were just arriving with their families, with their children.

Of course, there were flags being waved for some of the political factions here, the yellow flag of Hezbollah, the green flag of the Amal movement, other political movements. But you also just saw regular Lebanese flags, Palestinian flags. Everyone there really standing in solidarity, they say, with the Palestinian people, particularly because they were commemorating Nakba Day.

This is the day, annually, each year, where people commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced in 1948 around the creation of the state of Israel. Many of their descendants were at these protests yesterday. And they said they felt the world, at large, was not listening to their cause.

But they were particularly aggrieved with Arab governance. Now what turned into some chants on this hilltop quickly moved into small groups of men, working their way down these hills right up to that border fence with Israel.

They started throwing rocks, sticks, bottles, really anything they could get their hands on, Kim. And then, they started climbing that wall. Lebanese troops moved in to disperse those crowds. It ended quite peacefully.

But we hear what appeared to be Israeli gunfire and we later found out from the national news agency here that two men were wounded due to Israeli gunfire. But again, everybody went home; by and large, a peaceful movement.

But there is a sense that Arab governments are not doing enough and that's because there is a big shift here. First, you are dealing with a post-Arab Spring Middle East. Many governments fear large gatherings, fear mass protests.

Take, for example, Egypt, Cairo; human rights groups will tell you the president would simply not be happy to see big crowds.


ABDELAZIZ: You might have seen bigger crowds actually yesterday in London, where there is no restrictions, than you would have seen here in cities in the Middle East.

Also you have several countries, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Morocco, others signing normalization agreements with Israel, which means they want to see criticisms against Israel during this time really muted, really simplified. They want to try to push this into a more normalization agreement framework.

And that's why you are seeing a much calmer response. Again, it really shocked me to see the size of demonstrations in London when, really, in a lot of cities here across the Middle East, it was much quieter. And that's what protesters told me yesterday along the border. They said they are disappointed in their leadership. That's why they are there, to make sure the that Palestinian people know they, still, have solidarity.

And it's important to remember, Kim, those people, many of them were descendants. They said their relatives, their grandparents, came from Palestine. So this was a very close issue for them, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely. Well, interesting observations you make there. Thanks so much for your reporting. Salma Abdelaziz, appreciate it.

Now I spoke earlier to a senior consulting research fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House and we spoke about how badly the violence could escalate. Listen to this.


YOSSI MEKELBERG, SENIOR CONSULTING RESEARCH FELLOW, MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA PROGRAMME, CHATHAM HOUSE: Only a week ago we spoke only about Jerusalem and you see how it moved to Gaza and what is happening in Israel.

It shows the fragility of the situation, how quickly it can escalate and deteriorate from more limited conflict or clashes to something much bigger.

But now, between Hamas and Israel, (INAUDIBLE) the founding of Gaza, the rising number of casualties, the conflict will go on, even there is a cease-fire taking place. The question what happened the day after there is a cease-fire.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, that is exactly the question. I want to focus on that, where we go from here.

You have written, quote, "The lesson from the last few weeks is that the gridlock in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the stalling on a two-state solution is creating the conditions for the most extreme elements in the conflict to thrive and trigger more suffering and misery."

So even if Egypt were to broker a cease-fire here, that won't solve the underlying issues that brought us here, in which, according to what you wrote there about the rise of extremism, makes it more likely it will happen again.

MEKELBERG: I'm a humble student of history. Look what happens. Also, the Oslo years, 27, 28 years of so-called peace process and we get increasing violence because there is not enough courage to get to the underlying issues of the conflict.

Now it has to be a fair and just solution. I tend to think that two- state solution in one form or another, different what we envisaged 27 years ago maybe in a confederate (ph) system can still work. What can't work is the situation in which Gaza is located, the West

Bank is occupied, as is Jerusalem. The rights of so many millions of Palestinians deprived and the same we see actually in Israel, where you have a group of people, the majority with full rights and the minority that are discriminated and second class citizens.

This is what (INAUDIBLE) is not sustainable and this has to be resolved in a very courageous way. You almost need to change your (INAUDIBLE) system (INAUDIBLE) and look for a massive upgrade.


BRUNHUBER: U.S. troops are drawing down their numbers in Afghanistan. But questions remain among them.

What will happen to local Afghans who worked for Americans, who may be targets after they leave?

That's ahead.

Plus, Pope Francis holds a special mass for Myanmar Catholics. We will have a live report from Rome coming up. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: In Afghanistan, the withdrawal of U.S. military forces is raising big questions about those who could be left behind. Now we're talking about Afghan citizens, who worked for the U.S. as interpreters and in other critical jobs.

Along the way, they not only put their own lives on the line, they also saved thousands of American lives, according to a former U.S. National intelligence director. Now they fear they will be targets for militants when the U.S. leaves.

The former director, James Clapper, wrote this about Afghan interpreters in a recent CNN op-ed.

"What they did made a difference between mission success and failure and between being killed or surviving to fight another day. We can and must do the right thing here."

In his op-ed, Clapper also made it clear what he means by doing the right thing. He said the U.S. government and private contractors should help interpreters resettle in the U.S. and in an interview with CNN earlier, he said staying in Afghanistan is hardly an option for them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The Taliban have already targeted them. And so there are records of hundreds of these people that have been assassinated, murdered by the Taliban and retribution against their families as well.

So there's no question what the Taliban intent is. And the reason why these were crucial to the Taliban standpoint is, this was the bridge, the means by which U.S. forces in the field could communicate with the locals.

So if the translator is killed, which the Taliban regarded as critical, that then cut off the bridge of -- the conduit of communication between the U.S. forces and the local people. And, you know, in a situation where they're trying to -- to borrow an expression -- win the hearts and mind of the local people.

There are two things here that need to be done. One is the processing by the State Department; perhaps the Department of Defense, I don't know, could lend a hand with resources. So the more people that are there to adjudicate cases in Afghanistan, to get them through the 14- step process, the better.

Then the other thing that has to happen is, once they are processed and they're authorized to come to the United States, is settling them someplace that's safe and secure for them.

There's not sufficient government funding to do that. That's why No One Left Behind has called on the contractors, the companies who employed these people for many years in a variety of tasks.


CLAPPER: Not just translators but construction workers, electricians, people that worked in dining halls, et cetera, any number of tasks, all of whom now are going to be at severe risk when we leave.

There's the two aspects, the processing and the settling.


BRUNHUBER: According to the U.S. State Department, about 11,000 people have applied for special immigration visas to the U.S., including many Afghan interpreters and other workers.

A short time ago, Pope Francis celebrated holy mass with Myanmar Catholics living in Rome. He's made numerous calls for peace in Myanmar since the military seized control in February. Some reports say nearly 800 people have been killed by the military's security forces during its crackdowns on protests against its rule.

During today's mass, the pope said that prayer is the only weapon for keeping love and hope alive, amid the weapons of death. So for more on this, let's bring in CNN's Delia Gallagher, who's in Rome.

Now, Delia, one might not normally associate Myanmar with Catholicism, given that the country's so heavily Buddhist. So take us through the importance of -- of what was happening today.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kim, this was a mass for Catholics of Myanmar who are living here in Rome. There were about 170 priests and nuns and seminarians, mainly who are studying here in Rome.

But obviously, it was a mass with a message to the people of Myanmar. I just want to tell you about one touching moment at the end of mass, when a priest from Myanmar got up to thank Pope Francis.

And he said, at this moment, when the international community has abandoned us, the hearts of the people of Myanmar are overflowing with gratitude for the attention that Pope Francis has paid to their country.

The pope, of course, also, spoke. As you mentioned, he told the people not to lose hope. He said, Jesus is also praying with them to help free them from the power of evil.

It was not a political speech, Kim. This was a during a mass. But nonetheless, support for the people of Myanmar, support that the pope has been showing ever since the February 1st military coup. He's spoken on various occasions here at the Vatican, one in March, after that picture of the Catholic nun kneeling on the streets of Myanmar in front of the military.

The pope here at the Vatican said, I, too, kneel on streets of Myanmar and say, stop the violence.

In addition, of course, the pope in 2017 visited the country. He was the first pope to visit Myanmar. And he met with democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi then. He met with military leader, General Huang.

So obviously, he doesn't have the kind of leverage that a state would have. But what he can do is bring attention to the situation, keep the attention on the situation in Myanmar, show his support for the people of Myanmar and call on the international community, as he has done several times here at the Vatican, to step up and take action to help stop the violence in Myanmar. Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thank you so much, Delia Gallagher, appreciate it.

The fuel crisis in the U.S. is starting to ease. But in some places, things are far from back to normal. That's next. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: The major U.S. pipeline that was hacked in a ransomware attack last week has been up and running for a few days now. But it is still a huge challenge to find gas in some areas.

In Washington, D.C., outages were reported at more than 80 percent of gas stations on Saturday and not just there but across the southeast, as CNN's Natasha Chen reports.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gas stations like this one here in Charleston, South Carolina, don't currently have fuel. But the overall situation is slowly improving across the southeast.

In fact, near us other gas stations got new supply of fuel overnight. On Saturday morning, Colonial Pipeline said its systems are now at normal operations but it could take several days, up to two weeks in certain places, for there to be a sense of normalcy.

Fuel flows through that pipeline at about 5 miles an hour. In the meantime, a handful of Southern states are under states of emergency. That lifts weight restrictions for trucks delivering fuel. These declarations also help states prevent price gouging from happening.

Authorities are also urging drivers not to panic buy, because hoarding gas could prolong this issue and make matters worse. According to the app Gas Buddy, which is crowd sourced from drivers self-reporting prices and outages, the highest percentage of gas stations without fuel is in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., followed by the state of North Carolina. Just under half of gas stations in Georgia and South Carolina are without gas -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


BRUNHUBER: India, the tiger, who was spotted roaming a Houston, Texas, neighborhood last week is now safely in the hands of the city animal shelter. The big cat was surrendered to authorities Saturday. Authorities provided details about his condition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The animal likes attention. But in no way, shape or form should you have an animal like that in your household. That animal's only nine months old. It already weighs 175 pounds. Full grown, that animal can get to 600 pounds.

It still had its claws. And it could do a lot of damage, if he decided to. Luckily, for us, he's very tame. And he will be going to a sanctuary tomorrow, where, hopefully, he will live the rest of his life in a very safe environment.


BRUNHUBER: Houston police say the big cat belonged to this man, Victor Hugo Cuevas. But his attorney denies that claim.

An 11-1 long shot came from behind to win the second leg of U.S. horse racing's Triple Crown. Rombauer surged down the straight at yesterday's Preakness Stakes to overtake the favorite, Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.


BRUNHUBER: The colt failed a post-derby drug test and could still be stripped of the Run for the Roses title if other tests confirm the earlier finding. The Triple Crown's last leg is in three weeks at Belmont Park in New York.

The late basketball legend Kobe Bryant was inducted posthumously into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday. Bryant, his daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash last year.

Another superstar, Michael Jordan, escorted Bryant's widow, Vanessa, to the stage so she could accept the honor. She paid an emotional tribute to her late husband who played for the Los Angeles Lakers.


BRYANT: 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.


BRUNHUBER: Vanessa Bryant shared these images of her, a photo of her husband and other family members at the Hall of Fame, writing, "Love you always."

What a touching tribute to a legend and one of my favorite players of all time.

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For our viewers in the U.S. and Canada, "NEW DAY" is just ahead. For everyone else, it's "AFRICA AVANT GARDE."