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Ceasefire Appeals Ignored in Israel-Gaza Conflict; Massive Cyclone Kills At Least 40 Amid COVID Crisis in India; Hong Kong COVID Hesitancy; Hong Kong's Vaccine Stockpile Grows as Residents Refuse Shot; U.S. Pursuing Intensive Diplomacy Behind the Scenes; Macron to Visit Rwanda for First Time at End of May; Some Japanese Towns Ditching Plans to Host Athletes. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 19, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm John Vause. This is another hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

And coming up, as international pressure grows for a Gaza ceasefire, Israel and Hamas seem a long way from de-escalation.

There are a few places where getting a vaccination is easier than Hong Kong. So why are so many there refusing to get the shot?

And welcome, not welcome. Towns and cities across Japan closing their once open doors to international Olympic athletes. We'll tell you why.


VAUSE: Despite days of diplomatic talk about cease-fires and de- escalation, the sounds of war is growing as Israeli airstrikes pound the Gaza Strip, and Hamas militants fire rockets into Israel, while another front appears to open on the West Bank, the deadly clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers, all the while a lopsided death toll continues to rise.

More than 200 dead in Gaza, while in Israel, a dozen people have been killed. Israel says it's targeting Hamas rocket launchers, tunnel networks in the homes of senior militants in Gaza, and to the north, thousands of Palestinians fill the streets in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, protesting in solidarity with Gaza residents. At least four people were killed during violent clashes with Israeli police.

The international push, though, for an end to the violence is now ramping up. The European Union's foreign policy chief calling for an immediate cease fire.

Josep Borrell says the E.U. supports Israel's right to self-defense, but that must be done in what he called a proportionate manner.


JOSEP BORRELL, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and implementation of a cease-fire, not only agreed, but implement a cease-fire. The purpose is to protect civilians, and to give full humanitarian access in Gaza.


VAUSE: Jordan, Egypt and France all working together to find a diplomatic solution. Jordan's foreign minister urging the U.S. to play a leading role in a cease-fire deal. Egypt is also pledging $500 million in Gaza reconstruction. And France, now planning to circulate a new resolution for the U.N. Security Council, calling for a cease- fire and that is despite U.S. opposition.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: With regard to the United Nations, we're not standing in the way of diplomacy. On the contrary, as I said, we're exercising it virtually nonstop. The question is, would any given action, or any given statement actually advance the goal of ending the violence and moving to a better place? And that's the judgment that we bring to bear, each time we're considering what -- what action to take.


VAUSE: The escalation and fighting between Israel and Hamas is the deadliest since these two sides went to war in 2014. That was a 50 day-long war which left more than 2000 and Gaza. So far, this conflict has gone for 10 days.

We have more now on the latest developments from CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Close to the Gaza border, Hamas is deadliest attack on Israel so far. Two people killed instantly, 7 wounded, all overseas farm workers. Hours later, firemen still dousing the flames from the mortar and the rocket attack, the conflict itself heating up.

After the first night without rocket fire into Gaza for a week, Tuesday turning violent. Further up the border, an Israeli soldier hit by a mortar round, as a humanitarian aid began entering and Gaza for the first time in days.

The border quickly shut, the aid stopped, an agreed pause in hostilities suddenly over. Barrages of rockets, soon pounding Israel southern cities. Many intercepted, some getting through. And apartment hit in Ashdod.

Israeli airstrikes also resuming, saying they are targeting Hamas commanders.


The death toll according to Hamas-run health ministry now over 210 people, including 63 children.

According to Israeli defense officials, 80 to 90 percent of Hamas' rocket making capacity destroyed, 60 miles of tunnels damaged, saying their intent is to avoid civilian casualties, and reduce Hamas' ability to launch future attacks.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I'm sure all our enemies around see what price we're charging for the aggression against us, and I'm sure they'll learn the lesson too.

ROBERTSON: In the West Bank, a Palestinian national strike called residents angry at Israel's actions and Gaza suffering, shuttering stores, emptying streets. Trailing violent in Ramallah, the Israeli police say they were shot at by protesters. And in Jerusalem, too, Palestinian also clash with Israeli police, who fired rubber coated bullets and rounds, dozens of protesters injured, according to Palestinian health officials, as their frustrations particularly with the United States, to end the conflict as it grows.

RIYAD MANSOUR, PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO U.N.: Shame on the Security Council, that met several times and was unable even to say, a single word in an official document against this aggression.

ROBERTSON: Behind the scenes, U.S., French, Egyptian, Qatari and Jordanian diplomats working hard for that cease-fire. Close to the front line, everyone waiting for what comes next.

Nic Robertson, CNN, close to the Gaza border, Israel.


VAUSE: And protests on Tuesday were not limited to Ramallah and East Jerusalem. Cities and towns across the West Bank, Palestinian set fire and threw rocks at police. Many complained about restrictions on movement, as they try to travel between work and school, comparing Israel's treatment of Palestinians to apartheid in south Africa.


SAMI ABU SHEHADEH, ARAB ISRAELI POLITICIAN: The demonstration is against the Israeli aggression, we are against the Israeli attack on our people, in Gaza, the West Bank, Sheikh Jarrah, within the agreed line.


VAUSE: And around the world, demonstrators have been marching in support of Palestinians from New York to Beirut, Berlin and Madrid in Europe.

Elliott Gotkine is live again for us this hour in the southern Israel, in the town of Ashdod, the city of Ashdod.

So, Elliott, I guess the question now is the push for some kind of diplomatic here, diplomatic cease-fire, some resolution. Both sides obviously dug in. What do we know about developments by the Egyptians, by the Americans? And where they stand, and what their chances are getting some kind of pause in the fighting?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: John, I think there's definitely hope that momentum maybe building, there were reports in the Israeli media saying that a cease-fire had in fact been agreed, brokered by the Egyptians. That it would come into effect on Thursday. That was then denied by senior Hamas leader that spoke with CNN, Ishat al-Rishak (ph), also a member of Hamas' political bureau, saying that these reports are simply not true. But there are ongoing efforts at brokering some kind of cease-fire.

Now we also know that the presidents of Egypt and France, along with the king of Jordan held a virtual meeting yesterday, and agreed to push forward with their efforts to try to broker a cease-fire. And the U.S. says, that it is engaged and President Biden we just heard the other day expressing his hope that some kind of cease-fire could be reached.

Now, obviously, it requires more than just hope or blind optimism, that there will be discussions going on behind the scenes. We also understand that up until now, there have been a couple of stumbling blocks, Israel we understand, has been demanding that Hamas go first. That it cease rocket fire for three hours, before undertaking its own cease-fire. That was dismissed by Hamas we understand.

And then subsequently Hamas demands that Israel seize would describes as provocations and Al-Aqsa, also a resolution to the issue of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, which is one of the spots for this later round of fighting, that that be revolves as well.

So, neither side happy with the kind of preconditions that the other side wants to impose on them, that doesn't mean that a cease-fire can't be reached, but both sides right now seem to be intent on fighting and these really are for saying, overnight it used more than 50 fighter jets in a 25-minute attack on 40 targets, including, you know, underground tunnels, including attacking Hamas commanders, and apartments housing Hamas members who with RPGs, with shoulder-fired missiles as well.


So, everything continues for now. Business as usual unfortunately in that respect, but the efforts do seem to be gathering pace. And as I say, there's hope and optimism that at some point soon, that will be achieved.

VAUSE: In terms of domestic politics for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, two weeks ago, he was out of a job and looking at some trouble there at least with those criminal charges against him, and also politically. That's turnaround quite significantly, hasn't it? He now seems to be the most powerful man in Israel.

GOTKINE: Well, he's still prime minister -- interim prime minister if you want to get technical but he is still the leader of Israel. So although it didn't look very good for him in terms of being able to remain in power, as the opposition still, even now has the mandate to try to form a governing coalition. The fact that the right-wing Yamina Party led by Naftali Bennet now

seems to have ended negotiations with the block that opposes Prime Minister Netanyahu, there's even suggesting that another right-wing party that's made by policies, if you like, when running in the last elections was opposition to Netanyahu, there are reports that perhaps they are now coming around if there can be some kind of agreement over rotating the prime ministership.

So, certainly, they don't call Netanyahu the magician for nothing. He hasn't yet pulled this one out of the hat, but whether he can try and form a government this time around or whether we go into fifth elections later this year, and as a result of the current situation, he gets more support. That is a possibility. But he's certainly trying, as we've seen many, many times in the past, John, you write off Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at your peril.

VAUSE: Yeah, I know. Elliott, thank you. Elliott Gotkine there in Ashdod.

Well, Israel's broad goal here before ending the military offensive is to try and degrade Hamas' ability to manufacture and fire rockets, a goal which was not achieved seven years ago during the last conflict.

I spoke with Karl Schembri, the regional media adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, how a cease-fire could be achieved.


KARL SCHEMBRI, REGIONAL MEDIA ADVISER, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: Two million people who are living under siege in the Gaza Strip, we have millions more living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem facing a forced evictions, these are all underlying factors that are -- that have remained there every time that there was a de-escalation.

So as you rightly say, this is the ingredients that are going to stay there unless they are tackled. And that is -- that is also leading to these kinds of escalations, with terrible devastating impacts on human life. Only yesterday, we have concluded that just out of the 60 children killed, 11 of them were children we were helping, assisting with trauma from previous violence.

Imagine, they've already been through other escalations. Daily violence as well. This is -- the life inside the Gaza Strip is an extremely terrifying one when you're living under siege in that way, very militarized. It is no place for children to grow up in.

And that's what we're saying. They should end. They shouldn't be living under siege.

VAUSE: If you're a child living in Gaza, and you're under 12 years of age, you've seen what? For wars now.

SCHEMBRI: Pretty much, yes, that's correct.

VAUSE: And that has to have an incredible -- taking a toll -- an emotional toll, to say the least.

SCHEMBRI: I mean, that's the kind of children we've been working with. And, I mean, we give our attention to Gaza unfortunately in moments like this, where there's a huge flare up, where all the buildings are shaking, and the fire is raging.

And, yes, the daily -- daily experience in Gaza for these children, is a terrifying one, they get nightmares. We work with children who get absolutely terrifying, violent nightmares, that make them unable to function, totally abnormal for a child of that age, and these children killed between 5 and 15 years of age, where all kids with their parents, with their siblings, with our neighbors, inside their homes.

The violence, there's no escape from it. This is not like going to some frontline, where you can -- which you can avoid. This is the front line coming to your bedroom.

VAUSE: Yeah, in 2012, a U.N. report said that Gaza would be for the most part, unlivable by 2020. Virtually, no reliable access to safe drinking water, standards of health care, education will continue to decline and the vision of affordable and reliable electricity for all will have become a distant memory.

Another report, 2017, Save the Children, 90 percent of the drinking water was unfit to human consumption, electricity available for just two to four hours, water-borne disease spiking, health emergency services are breaking down.

Another report from the following year: Unemployment, 52 percent, the highest in the world.


I mean, add to that, whatever devastations being caused by this latest round of Israeli airstrikes, Gaza goes from a humanitarian catastrophe to a disaster, then to what? Hell on earth?

SCHEMBRI: That is an accurate description, really. And I think what strikes us because we are humanitarians will step in when the bombs stop falling. Governments will deliver and pump money into -- into Gaza for reconstruction, quite generously, normally. And we appeal to them to do that. But until, once that is done, a few years down the line we are back to square one.

And throughout these years, they will be living in exactly the nightmare you've been -- you've been even talking about. I'm drinkable water, no freedom of movement, we're talking -- you've mentioned a lot of the physical infrastructure, civilian infrastructure, hospitals destroyed, unable to cope.

Try and think of what that does to the dignity of a parent raising their children, who can never travel, move out of this little strip of land, not even to the other side of the Palestinian territory, in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, someone who has never met someone outside of Gaza. Those 2 million children -- 2 million people, who have now been living under such restrictive conditions. What is that going to do for coexistence? What do you think that is going to -- how is that going to contribute to a peaceful coexistence with your neighbors, if you just limited to such a tiny stretch of land which is ultimately the subject of airstrikes every other year?


VAUSE: India has reported more than 4,500 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest one day number since the pandemic began. Add to that, at least 40 killed by a monster cyclone which also destroyed roads and buildings, is impacting coronavirus relief efforts.

In the meantime, search and rescue crews are trying to find survivors from an oil barge, which sank off the coast of Mumbai.

CNN's Anna Coren following all this from Hong Kong.

It was a storm no one really wanted. It was -- you know, one of the cyclones of the best of times, and this has probably came at the worst of time for India.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I double blow at his been described by the Red Cross, John. Certainly for those families that had been already afflicted by COVID, to then be dealing with this cyclone Tauktae and the devastation that it has left.

I just want to give you an update on the search and rescue operation off the coast of Mumbai. We've just heard from the Indian navy, they say that they have now rescued 186 people from that barge, that sank. Seventy-five are still missing. There are 3 naval vessels out at sea, about 70 kilometers off the coast of Mumbai, searching for those missing people. There's also an aerial operation in progress as well.

There is also missing vessels John off the state of Gujarat, and Gujarat is where Cyclone Tauktae made landfall on Monday night.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is going to be visiting the state of Gujarat, which also happens to be his home state today. He's going to be doing an aerial survey of the devastation, he's going to be meeting with the chief minister to discuss the cleanup and also plans to get the vaccination program back up and running. It had to be suspended in the lead up to the storm.

The state of Gujarat have been seeing rising cases, COVID cases in the last couple of weeks. So the storm could not have come at a worst time. You know, hundreds of thousands of people had to be evacuated from low lying areas, crammed together in these infatuation shelters. And even though they're supposed to be wearing masks and social distancing that's near impossible, and a natural disaster setting.

We also heard from the prime minister yesterday, and we have to remember that he has been missing from public for over three weeks. We've now heard from him twice in the space of a week. He said that the vaccination program in India, which as we know has been in a serious short supply, is going to be ramped up, at a very large scale. He said, quote, the fight is to save every single life. We also heard from the chief executive of the Serum Institute of

India, which is one of the largest manufacturers of vaccine in the world, it pointed out that it was not exporting vaccines at the expense of its own people. Its focus now very much on the domestic market.


And that COVAX, which you know, is the program that's meant to supply vaccine to the developing world to nations in Africa, to poorer countries. That is now on hold, they won't be delivering supplies John until the end of the year.

VAUSE: Well, Anna, thank you. Anna Coren there live for us in Hong Kong with the latest.

Well, we're following coronavirus outbreaks across Asia, both Taiwan and Thailand fighting a big increase in the number of cases. Very different situations, will take it both at a live report from Taipei in just a moment.

Also in Hong Kong, vaccine hasn't seized coming to widespread. Why does so many people have a lack of government and the stress, perhaps in the government?


VAUSE: Well, Taipei has accused Beijing of blocking access to coronavirus vaccines. And it comes as Taiwan fights its most severe outbreak of the pandemic so far. And less than 1 percent has been vaccinated.

CNN's Will Ripley live for us in Taipei with the very latest on this.

It does seem odd that a country that had to act together in such an incredibly smart way from the very beginning has so few people vaccinated at this point in the game.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, John, and there has been not a whole lot of urgency in terms of getting vaccines here, simply because people were living life as if it was normal just a matter of days ago. But now that you have in the last week more than 700 new cases, the biggest sour of infections since the pandemic began, you have this heightened since of urgency and you had new focus on what has really been a back and forth, it's been going on for months, between the self-governing island of 23 million people and mainland China. And that has been playing out just this week.

On Monday, China's Taiwan affairs office put out the statement saying they'll do anything they can to help Taiwan with this epidemic, then Taiwan's mainland affairs office immediately shot back saying, cut the pretense here. We know that this is not a genuine offer of help, because if were genuine, Taiwan says to mainland China, then why are planes being flown through the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait to intimidate the country. In fact, there was a tweet out just today from Taiwan's presidential spokesperson, I'll read it for you. It says: Taiwan access to vaccines continues to be slowed down by Chinese interference, while they insist we buy Chinese made ones. If you really want to help, please don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall.

So, there was this thing back in February where Taiwan says it tried to 5 million BioNTech doses and that deal fell apart. There was -- there was language at the time from Taiwan's health minister suggesting that there might have been Chinese obstruction involved in that deal falling apart, no comment from BioNTech. But I do know, John, that Taiwanese diplomats are now on a full court press, trying to get help from the United States and other partners to speed up getting those doses, into this country as quickly as possible.


They've ordered 5 million so far, but only 300,000 have arrived. And those AstraZeneca doses are rapidly running out.

VAUSE: And we have a situation in Thailand yet again, another country in Asia that was doing pretty well with dealing with this pandemic in the early stages, and now, they're seeing a record surge and the number of new infections. And in particular, it's happening, these outbreaks are occurring in prisons.

RIPLEY: Yeah, the highest number of deaths in a single day, the highest number of infections in a single day. And what is a stunning figure out of Thailand is that of those new daily infections, 70 percent of them came from eight prisons. These are overcrowded prisons where the COVID-19 infection is spreading like wildfire, particularly, there's on prison in Chiang Mai where Thailand authorities report a stunning 60 percent of the inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

So, what Thailand is doing is they're hoping to prioritize vaccinating some 300,000 inmates. They're even pulling doses away from other areas and trying to get them into those prisons, to get as many prisoners vaccinated as possible, because when you have overcrowded prisons, combined with questionable access to health care for people who have very severe cases, you could have a very serious humanitarian situation on your hands, in Thailand, with so many people essentially locked in this Petri dish for COVID-19.

VAUSE: Will, thank you. Will Ripley there live for us in Taipei.

Well, just weeks from now, Kenya's supplies of COVID vaccines will be exhausted. The East African nation has not received as many doses as it wanted and had expected. Health experts warned a lack of vaccines in Kenya as well as other developing countries endangered global efforts to end the pandemic.

CNN's Larry Madowo has more now from Nairobi.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have been to a hospital in Nairobi that's setting up its own oxygen production plant at a great cost because they're afraid when the fourth wave hits the country as has been predicted, the country will be left exposed, similar to what happened in India.

The challenge for Kenya and many other African countries, they're on the verge of running out of vaccines. They have been receiving vaccines at low cost or discounted from COVAX. That is the World Health Organization initiative that's providing vaccines to countries that needed and cannot necessarily afford it, except COVAX realized (ph) vaccines mostly from the Serum Institute of India which has not been exporting vaccines since as far back as March because of India's own COVID crisis.

And now, the Serum Institute of India saying it might not be able to export vaccines at least until the end of the year. That would be catastrophic for countries like Kenya that rely on it to inoculate its populations. COVAX says it hopes that maybe the Serum Institute can begin exporting by the third quarter, even though that time was far different from what the Serum Institute can realistically do according to its own statement.

But what it means is that people who are need in this part of the world have now been vaccinated, while children in the wealthier countries are being offered vaccines. Something the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Andrew Pollard, has called morally wrong to do so when there's so many people in need in this part of the world, and it means, as long as they're not vaccinated, the viruses might mutate and make it to the rest of the world.

Larry Madowo, CNN, Nairobi.


VAUSE: Well, there are no vaccine shortages in Hong Kong. It seems the government can't even give this stuff away.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout explains why.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brian Tam wants nothing to do with the vaccine. The worst public health disaster in the last 100 years may still be raging, his business hit hard by pandemic restrictions, but the restaurant owner just won't take the COVID-19 jab.

BRIAN TAM, RESTAURANT OWNER (through translator): I have never been thought about taking it because I don't trust the government and its data.

STOUT: Hong Kong should be an easy vaccine success story. It secured 22.5 million doses from Sinovac, Pfizer BioNTech and AstraZeneca, more than enough for a population of 7.5 million.

An orderly rollout has been underway since late February and it's free. But most people here are choosing not to get inoculated. As of mid- May, only 12 percent had been fully vaccinated, and experts say at least 70 percent need to be inoculated to reach herd immunity.

Public health experts say one factor behind vaccine hesitancy is the low perceived risk of COVID-19, given the region's early containment success. Another is fear, reports of a handful of deaths after vaccinations has spooked many, though experts have found no link between the deaths and the vaccine.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: I do confess, we could do much better in terms of vaccination. We have enough supply. I said, we have administered 2 million doses, but we have another 2 million doses in our store room.

STOUT: Unused COVID-19 vaccines are also piling up in Japan due to red tape, poor planning and vaccine hesitancy.

ELAINE TSUI, LECTURER, HONG KONG BAPTIST UNIVERSITY: This vaccine hesitance is happening everywhere. It relating to how much that we trust the information we received.


STOUT (voice over): But in Hong Kong, there's another dynamic at play -- deep mistrust of the government during a time of tightening Chinese control.

JOHNSON LI, CHEF (through translator): Basically all my friends are pro democracy. They don't trust the government and will not take the vaccines.

STOUT: As infections skyrocket in India, vaccines are in high demand. Some countries in Africa fear they could become the next India as vaccine supplies dwindle there.

As unused doses accumulate in Hong Kong, the government is rolling out incentives like a chance to visit bars and clubs until 2:00 a.m. for those who have taken the jab. But Lee is unwavering.

(on camera): Do you know what people in India would give to have access to a free COVID vaccine?

LI: In India if you don't take the vaccine, you will die. But in Hong Kong if you don't take it, you might not die. We are not at that point where we have to gamble. STOUT (voice over): Again and again, health experts say until every city is safe from COVID, no city is safe. But that's enough to sway these vaccine holdouts.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN -- Hong Kong.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Well pressure is building to end the violence between Israel and Hamas. A ceasefire still remains elusive and we will explain why in a moment.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

A new front in Israel's conflict with the Palestinians -- protesters gathering in the West Bank, demanding an end to Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The demonstrations turned deadly as Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces and Arab Israelis held a general strike across Israel and the West Bank as well.

Meantime, rocket fire from Gaza into Israel resumed after a brief pause. And Israeli jets have responded with punishing airstrikes. The Gaza health ministry run by Hamas reports more than 200 people have died.

In Israel, the death toll stands at 12 after two migrant workers just across the border from Gaza were hit by a projectile. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim responsibility for that and diplomatic efforts to end this fighting so far have had little success.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We think by going forward, that there's something including at the United Nations that would actually effectively advance the objective. We would be for it.


BLINKEN: But right now, we are very focused on this intensive diplomacy with the objective of bringing the violence to an end, and as I said, trying to build something positive in its wake.

RIYAD MANSOUR, PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED STATES: Shame on the Security Council that met several times and was not able even to say a single word in an official document against this aggression and to stop this aggression although there is consensus among them calling for stopping this aggression and for a ceasefire.


VAUSE: Earlier, CNN asked the Israeli prime minister's senior adviser Mark Regev about the frustrating lack of progress towards a ceasefire, and if prolonged fighting means Israel will lose more support from the United States.


MARK REGEV, SENIOR ADVISER TO BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We are on the receiving end of these rockets, of course we want quiet restored. But of course, it has to be done right and not wrong.

If it's done in a way that Hamas can claim victory, that Hamas just has time to rest and regroup and then to attack us in a week or in a month, then nothing is achieved.

We've got to come out of this with a protracted period of peace and quiet that's good for Israel, that's good for Palestinians too.

Our intelligence is reporting to us that Hamas is eager for a cessation of hostilities because Hamas has been hit hard by our military forces. We have taken out, as you reported earlier -- we've taken out their underground structure that they spend so much time building. They had this whole series of tunnels connection with each other that was part of their strategic objective to use to attack us and to defend themselves if we attack them.

We've taken out their command and control We've taken out their communications. We've taken out their arsenals. We've taken out their rockets. We've taken out their ability to make more rockets. We've hit some of their most technologically significant sites.

We're hitting them hard. We have taken out a few of their commanders as well, which is a good thing. We're hitting them hard so, of course, they want us to stop.

The question is, if they just get used to the idea that they can shoot thousands of rockets at Israel and then the international community demands Israel stops, then why would they ever stop shooting rockets at Israel if they can get the international community to protect them.


VAUSE: We've also heard from Jordan's foreign minister on why a ceasefire is taking so long.


AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Our understanding is that it is Israel who is still saying no to a ceasefire. And we need to continue to hammer down with the demand that a ceasefire has to happen. And we have to look once again at why we are here. And I think the conclusion that we all must get to is that the status quo is untenable.

The current escalation has exposed the absurdity of false presumptions of the past that you can jump over the Palestinian issue and that you can marginalize the Palestinian issue and have peace. I think we need to look at the current escalation from a broader perspective, why we are where we are here.

The immediate reason is that the, again, illegal measures that Israel has taken, first in trying to illegally evict the people of Sheikh Jarrah from their homes, then the escalation and encroachment on the Mosque al-Aqsa el Mubarak (ph).

We were warning then that stop because this is pushing the region towards an escalation that none of us want. Our messages were not heeded. Our warnings were not listened to.

But beyond the immediate reason, I think what's happening speaks to the fact that the level of frustration, with the absence of political horizon, the consolidation of occupation, the disownment (ph) of the two state solution by some Israeli politicians as the only path forward -- all contributed towards the creation of an environment that led to the current explosion.

It is in all of our interests to stop, to pause, to get back to the root conflict and accept that occupation is the root of all evils. If we are to have peace and stability, we have to stop the occupation. We have to respect the holy sites in Jerusalem. We have to respect the human rights of Palestinians to freedom, to dignity and to statehood. This is where the real issue is . This is the reality that everybody is going to have to realize.

So now, we need to focus on two things. One, stop the aggression, stop the provocations, make sure that we get toa ceasefire. Make sure that we do help the people who are tremendously suffering and have endured more suffering than any people have had to in the world.


SAFADI: And secondly, call a spade a spade and accept that as long as you have occupation, we're not going to have peace and the responsibility of all of us is to work together towards creating horizons for peace, reengaging in negotiations, moving forward toward the two-state solution which would address the legitimate rights of all and ultimately realize the peace that's a right for everybody in this part of the world.


VAUSE: Well as often the case, a shooting war between Israel and the Palestinians is at the very least a distraction from domestic political problems, in particular those which have swirled around Benjamin Netanyahu for months, notably his failure to form a coalition government. Before this crisis began, his future was very much in doubt.

As CNN's Hadas Gold reports now, my how 10 days can make quite a difference.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Israeli flags draped the ruined facades of buildings in Ramat Gan just outside Tel Aviv, clearing rubble after a rocket turned this residential street into chaos.

SIGAL LEVIN, ISRAELI RESIDENT: We heard this like really loud landing. We saw the mess like this whole place was just in ruins and people were screaming. You just can never really tell when something is going to happen.

GOLD: Split second decisions become a matter of life or death. A man killed standing behind this door. As the conflict between Israel and Hamas enters its second week, the political stalemate in Israel of four elections and still no permanent government, pushed aside.

ERAN HOLZ, ISRAELI RESIDENT: In every time of trouble, people don't think about the political issue and the things that divide us. We are all united and help each other to overcome. GOLD (on camera): There have been no opinion polls yet on how Prime

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has handled the situation. And although many may feel united now, the conflict has completely changed the political calculations here.

(voice over): Naftali Bennett, head of the small right-wing party Yamina was poised to leave his former boss and join the anti Netanyahu bloc. But as the conflict escalated and Israel began an intense military campaign Bennett veered back, announcing he would negotiate with Netanyahu over a potential right-wing government, dashing the hopes of bringing an end to the prime minister's 12-year reign.

On the streets of Ramat Gan, despite the feelings of unity as rockets rained down, political divisions and instability have not been forgotten.

This pensioner whose electric shop was destroyed by the rockets says Netanyahu caused the situation, blaming him for the last two years of political chaos. Fear and frustration, with no end in sight.

LEVIN: Both sides are suffering. That's what people forget. I just want it to stop, because I feel like no one is doing anything to make it stop.

GOLD: Hadas Gold, CNN -- Ramat Gan, Israel.


VAUSE: Still to come, maybe a new era in relations between France and Rwanda after one of the most painful chapters in modern history. There are signs of a new breakthrough.

That's next.




EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): I can confirm that I will be traveling to Rwanda at the end of May and that the focus will be on politics and remembrance as well as economics, health and the future.

And so we are also keen with President Kagame to write a new page in the relationship.


VAUSE: French president Emmanuel Macron there confirming he will visit Rwanda for the first time. What's being seen as a potential breakthrough in relations of both countries. Rwanda says it welcomes France's acceptance of its role in the 1994 genocide -- after a commission set up set on fire.

Mr. Macron's concluded Paris, had been blinded by its colonial attitude.

CNN's Jim Bittermann has more than. And a warning -- his report contains some graphic images.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was one of history's worst episodes of ethnic cleansing. In a frenzy of violence in the spring and early summer of 1994 mostly (INAUDIBLE) Rwandans were massacred by Hutu militias and the Rwandan military.

According to some government estimates more than 1 million were killed in just 100 days. And countless left permanently disabled from horrifying and brutal machete attacks.

Western countries like France which supported the Rwandan government hesitated to intervene, refusing to even label the massacre is what reporters at the time clearly knew they were.

While the world has wondered whether or not to call it genocide, for fear that under international law, it might have to do something to stop it.

BITTERMANN: That has (INAUDIBLE), the end of lunch and back in 1994 has cast a long shadow over French and Rwandan relations ever since.

But more recently friends has taken steps to come to term with its deeds of commission and omission.

Perhaps the most important step was a publication in March of a nearly 1,000-page report by a historical investigation commission created by President Emmanuel Macron which was given access to diplomatic and military dispatches form the era.

A member of that commission says that it concluded that while France bears have a heavy responsibility for the genocide, it was not complicit in it. Nonetheless the report makes it clear that French officials on the ground had graphically worn their superiors in Paris what support for the Hutu government could lead to.

CATHERINE BERTHO LAVENIR, REPORT CO-AUTHOR It will lead to mass slaughters, some warned even it would lead to genocide. And the question if that they were neglected.

BITTERMANN: French which set an intervention force to Rwanda at the time, turned a blind eye to the slaughter of the local population. And according to the commission report by supporting the Hutu government it assisted the perpetrators in getting away. Some of those who are part of that operation like former army officer Guillaume Ancel (ph) said the French military could and should have done much more.

But the French president's office at the Elysees Palace had ordered the military to remain strictly neutral.

GUILLAUME ANCEL, FORMER LIEUTENANT COLONEL: We provide support before, during and after the genocide to demand who committed the genocide, in term of law, it's a kind of collaboration. Maybe in history it's not complicity but in terms of law it is very, very, very dangerous what we did. And on my sense unacceptable.

BITTERMANN: According to the commission, not only did Paris ignore the predictions and recommendations of its diplomats and troops in the field, but those who objected sometimes found their careers cut short or impaired.

Last month in an interview with France 24 the Rwandan foreign minister said the commission report has gone some distance towards reconciling differences between France and Rwanda.

VINCENT BIRUTA, RWANDAN FOREIGN MINISTER: A strong foundation on which you can build a better relationship in the future, a relationship between both countries.

BITTERMANN: Even so, while government may reconcile with the past, some survivors and relatives of the victims are not so quick to do so, like Jessica Mwiza (ph) who lost her grandfather and grandmother during the genocide.

JESSICA MWIZA, VICE PRESIDENT, IBUKA FRANCE: : We need to talk about justice. Who did what? Who say what? And what were the other politically and militarily in '94, this is really important for us.

BITTERMANN: 27 years after the tragic event, some of the Rwandans accused of participating in the genocide have been tried and convicted, but others are still alive and living freely in France and elsewhere.

No matter what the French and Rwandan governments may decide about their future relations, for some of those who suffered personal losses in the massacres, there can never be a full reconciliation until the guilty are prosecuted and locked away.

Jim Bittermann, CNN -- Paris.



VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN, why a growing number of Japanese towns and cities are ditching a program to host Olympic athletes from around the world.


VAUSE: We have this just in. The head of the International Olympic Committee says both the Olympics and the Paralympics will go ahead in a safe manner and that athletes have worked hard, they deserve a commitment from Tokyo officials. All of this coming amid growing pressure from many in Japan to cancel or postpone the games because of the pandemic and a growing number of confirmed cases.

For more, let's go to Blake Essig who is in Tokyo for us, I think, for more on this. And you know, this is the definitive statement I guess that now we are what -- 70 something days away. This is happening whether you like it or not.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, John, I mean that sentiment hasn't changed. The IOC has maintained for months and months that these games are moving ahead as scheduled and really haven't deviated from that. But with each passing day it seems that the Tokyo Olympics get dealt a new blow -- protests, petitions and most recently a second doctors group which includes 6,000 Tokyo-based physicians all call for the games to be canceled.

And over the past few weeks dozens of cities across Japan have abandoned plans to host athlete training camps all because of COVID- 19.


ESSIG (voice over): Things were different when Belize's national band last visited Yokoshibahikari.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is unthinkable now. Nobody is wearing masks.

ESSIG: That was nearly two years ago. Back then, Hidei Chike (ph) and Kaori Akiba (ph) threw a party at their resort after inviting the band to celebrate the town's decision to host athletes from the small Caribbean nation in the buildup to the Olympic games.

This is a small town and we have very little chance to communicate with people from abroad. So we were looking forward to it.

ESSIG: But COVID-19 had other plans, with cases on the rise across Japan and seemingly no end in sight to the pandemic, Yokoshibahikari's mayor was forced to make a choice, the health of his people, or the Olympics.

HARUHIKO SATO, MAYOR, YOKOSHIBAHIKARI: My biggest mission is to protect the town people's life and health, so I made this decision without any hesitation.

ESSIG: Part of the reason to pull out as host, his town has no PCR testing, which is a requirement in the Olympic playbook outlining COVID-19 countermeasures.

In addition, he says medical resources are limited and the public hospitals aren't capable of treating patients requiring treatment for COVID-19.

SATO: We hear about the medical collapse in Osaka, and I'm afraid the same thing may take place here.

ESSIG: While disappointed, Dr. Akide Taogawa (ph) says he understands the decision was made to avoid potential risk.

DR. AKIDE TAOGAWA (through translator): This hospital is the only in- patient facility in town. So if this hospital was tied up with COVID patients, we cannot operate regular medical care at all.

ESSIG: So far, at least 45 out of 528 host towns and Olympic teams have pulled out from participating in the program because of the pandemic, with some officials saying more are expected to follow.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's putting people at risk.

ESSIG: Superstar athletes have started to cast doubt. Recently medical professionals, business leaders, and a majority of the Japanese population have called for the games to be canceled.

But will it make a difference? Olympic scholar John Horn says it already has.

JOHN HORN, OLYMPIC SCHOLAR: I think the criticisms from athletes and from elsewhere do matter because they leave a mark on this Olympics. It's going to be impossible to remove.

ESSIG: Reputational damage that Horn says could be amplified if the games are held.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want it to happen, but say there is a spike in COVID cases as a result of the games. Well, it would be devastating.

ESSIG: An Olympic story that for now is dominated by the dark cloud of COVID-19.


ESSIG: Well, Japan still battling a fourth wave of infections and a severe strain on the medical system is getting worse, John. The big concern from the public and medical professionals has to do with what could happen when tens of thousands of athletes and support staff enter Japan for the Olympics especially when only about 1 percent of Japan's population is fully vaccinated.

VAUSE: Just a couple of what ifs here in all this.

Is it still ultimately up to the athletes if they will travel there and if they will compete? And also what if the Tokyo committee decides suddenly there's too much pressure and they want this to not go ahead, can they make that call or is it now locked in with the IOC?

ESSIG: So I spoke with Olympic scholars who told me that, you know, even though Prime Minister Suga last week came out and said that the final decision whether these games happen or not is up to the IOC, they told me that that is not necessarily true that the Japanese government -- Tokyo, Tokyo's government can make the decision to pull the plug. But if they do that, the IOC has the potential to sue the national government in the Tokyo government leaving them with a big bill, you know, for the cancellation of these games.

And of course it is up to the athletes whether or not they want to come. And I think that one of the big factors of whether these games actually happen or not is whether you have national Olympic committees decide that they can't send people because of the concerns surrounding COVID and athletes safety. Or if big name athletes start to drop off. Again at that point you're going to have to recognize that this is a unique situation and something has to be done, John.

VAUSE: Blake, thank you. thank you for the update on all of that.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. CNN NEWSROOM continues after a very short break. Rosemary Church will take over for me.

Thank you. Thank you for watching.