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Gaza Border Opened for Aid Trucks; Israel-Hamas Fragile Cease- Fire Enters Second Day; Vaccinations Pave Way for U.S. Mass Events; Taiwan COVID-19 Cases Spike. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2021 - 03:00   ET

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


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Coming up here on the program, the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is on day two and is holding right now. What U.S. President Joe Biden says was the key strategy.

Hope amongst the violence. Meet the Arab woman whose life was saved by an Israeli man's kidney.

And who's in, who's out and why one player could make international history. All the latest on the PGA Tour.

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HOLMES: It is now 10:00 am in Israel and Gaza. The cease-fire that began early Friday entering its second day. But all is not quiet.

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HOLMES (voice-over): Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem ended with Israeli police sweeping through the plaza in an aggressive show of force. We'll have more on that in just a moment.

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HOLMES: Meanwhile, a key border crossing with Gaza was opened on Friday to allow humanitarian aid in. Among the shipments, a mobile hospital. The U.N. announced it is sending more than $22 million worth of aid, including food, medical supplies and COVID vaccines. For more on Friday's unrest in Jerusalem, CNN's Nic Robertson.

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NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Islam's third holiest site, a flashpoint again between Palestinians and Israeli police, the violence testing a fragile ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli government. Conflicting accounts: police say protesters threw rocks and Molotov

cocktails first; Palestinians say police attacked them with rubber coated bullets and stun grenades as they celebrated the gains of Hamas' 11-day conflict with Israel.

On Israel's beaches, hit by Hamas rockets just days ago, calm but no fanfare for their leaders and disappointment over the ceasefire agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They think they have to go inside with the tanks with everything to finish one time and finish with the Hamas. Take it out from our Gaza.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So, what do you think about the ceasefire?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shame.

ROBERTSON: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think it's never going to end. It's never going to end. We have once in a while to tell them we're here. They can't do whatever they want. They can't just, you know, all the bombing and everything, we don't leave. We don't leave.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For now, the ceasefire holding and prime minister Netanyahu defending his decision, with his own political future in question.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Just as I promised, we harmed most of Hamas' capabilities far beyond what their commanders imagined, a huge crush that changed the rules of the game.

ROBERTSON: Israeli troops guns covered, artillery shells packed, already lining up to leave the fields around Gaza. And inside Gaza were ceasefire celebrations that went late into the night, frustrations, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This truth is for everyone but us. This truth is for people who are comfortable, who are sitting in their homes, who do not have murders, who do not have destruction.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): More than 240 Palestinians dead, according to Hamas health officials; tens of thousands without homes, according to the U.N. Still, a victory, according to Hamas leaders.

ISMAIL HANIYEH, HAMAS POLITICAL LEADER (through translator): Today, we conceded this battle as the quantum leap in the history of the conflict with the enemy.

ROBERTSON: Likely these troops will be out of here quite soon. Likely this year, next year and in a few years' time, they will be back. The cease-fire, little more than that. And confidence here seems low that politicians on either side of the divide have what it takes to tackle the region's real issue: land rights -- Nic Robertson, CNN, close to the Gaza border, Israel. (END VIDEOTAPE)

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HOLMES: Now many, many U.S. presidents have been confronted by the difficult situation in the Middle East, Joe Biden no exception. CNN's Phil Mattingly has more on how he navigated a path to a cease-fire.

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PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for President Biden, it was a week that served as a split screen of sorts. What the administration actually wants to focus on in its foreign policy and what it inevitably was going to have to focus on, at least at some point, in his foreign policy.

As for the latter, that was obviously the conflict in the Middle East. An explosion over the course of an 11-day period that led to the deaths of hundreds in fighting between Israel and Hamas.

And where that ended up with the president, well, it was days of what the White House said repeatedly was quiet but intensive diplomacy, diplomacy, the president in a press conference on Friday made clear, he believes was effective in reaching an outcome, an outcome in a much shorter time period than the last time tensions flared up in the region back in 2014.

He also gave some insight into his relationship with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now keep in mind, these two have known one another for more than 40 years, obviously an extensive relationship, one that several people involved with the relationship said has a level of trust and even a level of friendship.

And Biden, over the course of the conflict, called Netanyahu six different times and the tone, particularly towards the end, shifted, with the president taking a harder line with the prime minister. However, the end result was what Biden wanted and this is how Biden framed things.

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JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But what I can assure you, though, is, last time, it took 56 days and six months to get a cease-fire. I'm praying this cease-fire will hold. I take Bibi Netanyahu, when he gives me his word, I take him at his word. He's never broken his word with me.

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MATTINGLY: Biden made clear that he expects significant support, and the U.S. will play a role in providing significant humanitarian aid to the Gaza area, trying to ensure what was damaged or destroyed over the course of the 11-day period is rebuilt -- or at least has the funds to do so -- while also ensuring that Hamas gets no access to those funds.

That is always a difficult needle to thread but that is what the president laid out. It's also important to note the president was meeting with the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in. And that has been a focus that the administration wants to keep its eye on.

Obviously, the second leader visit to the White House, the first by the Japanese prime minister; the Indo-Pacific is the area Biden administration officials have made clear is where they want to shift the foreign policy focus, which, for so many administrations, has been focused on the Middle East.

They want to focus on a rising China. They want to focus on increasingly competitive China and U.S. allies in that region. That was the genesis for having the South Korean leader to the White House so early on.

And with that visit, the president laying out some details in his perspective on dealing with the most important issue for South Korea and the Korean Peninsula, the nuclearization of the North Koreans.

The president making clear he's taking a very different pathway than his immediate predecessor, who met with Kim Jong-un in Singapore and tried to reach a grand bargain to denuclearize the peninsula.

He's also made clear he wants to take a different approach than other predecessors as well, saying he wants his approach to be carefully calibrated, to be flexible, to see how things go.

And when asked if he was still willing to meet with Kim Jong-un, with preconditions, the president said -- didn't take it off the table. He made clear, however, that he was going to be in a very different place than former president Trump, saying that his teams would have to have a sense of where Kim Jong-un stood on the issue of his nuclear arsenal and where North Korea planned to go in terms of changing the direction of things.

But, again, he didn't take it off the table. Some sense of where the president stands on obviously a crucial issue in the region, an issue the president himself named as probably the gravest security threat that he was facing as president.

He also named a special envoy to South Korea, something the South Korean president commended the president for doing, said they were aligned on several different issues.

But clearly, for a president that wanted to shift the focus to the Indo-Pacific, this week a reminder that, while that is definitely still occurring and that is definitely still the administration's focus, old areas of conflict, old areas that have bedeviled previous administrations, well, they obviously aren't going away anytime soon -- Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.

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HOLMES: Now I spoke earlier with Professor Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and that now that a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is in effect, I asked him what the new administration can do that previous ones could not going forward. Here's his reply.

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SHIBLEY TELHAMI, ANWAR SADAT PROFESSOR FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: It is a question of what you have as your political aim. If you are aiming for an end of conflict and a two- state solution as Biden said, I don't think that is likely to happen. Most analysts don't think that is possible. I've done a poll on this, which shows that a majority of Middle East experts don't think that is possible. And for any foreseeable future.

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TELHAMI: Certainly, Biden doesn't have the bandwidth, with all of the things that are on his plate, to deal with it at that level. But there are important things he can do. Number one, the humanitarian. He's already spoken about that, about reconstructing Gaza.

And that is a good thing, obviously, because they don't need tremendous amounts of humanitarian help. But think of the absurdity of this. Here we are, as taxpayers, paying for the weapons that created the destruction and then we are paying for the rebuilding what was destroyed by those weapons. It's an absurd reality.

Nonetheless, it is one we face. But it is what a lot of people have come to conclude. The focus should be on the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, the equal rights, the civil rights in the immediate future.

Interestingly, Biden, for the first time in his language, called for equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. You might think what you hear is equal rights; of course, we stand for equal rights. But on Israel-Palestine, that has not been policy. This is something new.

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HOLMES: Let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, who is going to tell us there is some hope.

Hadas, it's a powerful story, given the tensions. Tell us about it.

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, beyond even the conflict with -- between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, there have been disturbing incidences of violence within Israel, between Arabs and Jews in many of these mixed cities, that has been very worrying for many Israelis.

But we discovered that, despite such headlines, there is still good will and still humanity amongst people.

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GOLD (voice-over): Randa Aweis waited nine years for the organ donation that would save her life. An Arab Christian born in the Old City of Jerusalem, relying on dialysis as her kidneys failed. Then the call came in the midst of conflict. Her life would change

forever and become a symbol of hope and coexistence during turbulent times.

RANDA AWEIS, KIDNEY RECIPIENT (through translator): When I went into the operation, I didn't know who gave me the kidney. After the operation, they told me I had the kidney of Yigal.

I said, "What?

"How can that be?

"How did I get the kidney?"

They told me I got a present. (INAUDIBLE) I said, "Good."

I was moved. In a war, a Jew gave a kidney to an Arab.

GOLD (voice-over): Yigal Yehoshua, for a week, fought for his life after being badly beaten by a group of young Arab Israeli men, caught up in the wave of violence pitting Jews and Arabs against each other on the streets of Israel as Israel and Hamas traded fire.

His brother eulogizing that, with his death, Yigal had given life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He believed in coexistence. He said to me it would not happen. He believed, if you put your head out, everything will be fine. (INAUDIBLE). And the worst thing happened.

GOLD (voice-over): His body embarking on its final journey but his legacy living on in others.

Randa's surgeon, Dr. Abed Khalaileh, a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, says he and his colleagues simply treat everyone as human beings.

DR. ABED KHALAILEH, HADASSAH HEBREW UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER (through translator): We are experiencing a difficult time in every place in this country. The period is reflected in everything which is happening around us.

GOLD (voice-over): In his line of work, the sorrow of death leads to new life, where he hopes peace will prevail.

KHALAILEH (through translator): We deal with everyone equally. There is no black and no white. Everyone is equal with the medical attention they receive.

GOLD (voice-over): For Randa, a new lease on life and plans to visit Yigal's family to thank them again in person and to carry on a message.

AWEIS (through translator): We should live together. We should have peace. We should be happy.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GOLD: And, Michael, what I really took away from all this, especially from the very impressive surgeon, Dr. Khalaileh, is not only the importance of becoming an organ donor and how much that can change so many people's life but how, at the end of the day, no matter the headlines, everyone is simply just a human being -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. Should be a lot more than that. More trouble, by the way, at the Al-Aqsa mosque. But the Israeli-Gaza cease-fire holding so far.

What do you see as the level of optimism there?

GOLD: Well, the cease-fire is holding. I think that should be the biggest headline out of all of this. There were some clashes yesterday at the Al-Aqsa compound shortly around the noon prayers.

[03:15:00]

GOLD: There were hundreds of Palestinians who had gathered there. They were chanting. They were waving the Palestinian flags but also Hamas flags and Islamic Jihad flags. There was a violent confrontation with Israeli police who at one point entered the compound.

They fired stun grenades and rubber bullets. They were trying to forcibly clear people from the compound, including journalists from the compound. The Israeli police said they were responding to rioting and people throwing stones as well as a Molotov cocktail at them.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said there were 20 people injured. We know there were several arrests. Despite that confrontation, it was calm the rest of the day, quite calm around the Al-Aqsa compound.

But I think it goes to show you that although the cease-fire is holding and I think that is the biggest headline, a lot of tensions, a lot of the issues that were part of the triggers that caused this latest conflict, they are still very much a tinderbox that could be set aflame at any moment. Michael.

HOLMES: The question, when will they be addressed?

Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thank you.

We're going to take a quick break here. When we come back, Taiwan scrambling to find more COVID vaccines as local cases surge. Coming up, why the self-governed island is not relying on one of its closest neighbors for their supply. We'll be speaking with Will Ripley when we come back.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: Vaccines are paving the way for the U.S. to further relax COVID restrictions and reopen mass attended events. California says it will drop all capacity limits for businesses and social distancing requirements starting June 15.

Cases have been plummeting with nearly half of the state's eligible population now vaccinated.

And in New York, most capacity guidelines have already been lifted. Madison Square Garden will host 15,000 basketball fans indoors on Sunday to watch the New York Knicks take on the Atlanta Hawks.

Go Hawks.

Let's take a closer look at U.S. vaccination progress. Nearly 128 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. That's just over 38 percent of the total population. And while there's still many, many more left to be vaccinated, some people are already starting to think about when they might need to get a booster shot.

That's something Dr. Fauci says could be on the horizon.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: We are planning for the eventuality that we might need to boost people. We don't know whether we will have to do it and when we will have to do it.

There's estimates, well, it may be a year. It may be a little bit longer. There's no set rule now that says, in six months or in a year, we're going to require a boost.

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HOLMES: Now while some countries like the U.S. have an abundance of vaccines, Taiwan is quickly running out. Less than 1 percent of its population has been inoculated. The self-ruled island now asking the U.S. for help.

This comes as Taiwan is facing its worst outbreak of cases since the pandemic began. More than 320 new infections reported Saturday. CNN's Will Ripley live for us from Taipei.

And those numbers comparatively not huge but, for Taiwan, it's hugely worrying, right?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is because we're seeing an exponential increase, Michael, in the number of particularly local cases, compared with just over a week ago. The new numbers out just within the last hour, let's bring them up so we can show people how much things have changed just over the last eight days here in Taiwan.

Last Friday, the total cases were 1,290; local cases just 164. Today, total cases nearly 3,900; the local total, more than 2,700. That is a 16-fold increase. Also two new deaths confirmed here. Deaths were about a dozen when I

arrived here on the island about a week ago. Now 17 people confirmed killed.

And we've reported, Michael, you and I, from countries where the numbers have started off at this level and things can get out of control very quickly. That is certainly what they're trying to prevent here in Taiwan. But they're running into some obstacles and the vaccine issue is probably the biggest that they face right now.

HOLMES: And on that very subject, Taiwan asking the U.S. for help but you've also got vaccine politics in play because of the China-Taiwan tensions. Explain that one for us.

RIPLEY: So you have the mainland accusing Taiwanese lawmakers of using the COVID-19 vaccine situation as a political tool, a tool of manipulation, because, yes, the United States is planning to donate tens of millions of doses and Taiwan is raising its hand for a share of those.

Mainland China, though, has been offering for quite some time to donate some of their China-made vaccines. Lawmakers are pointing to a law that China-made vaccines cannot be used for human consumption.

But here in Taiwan, they are vehemently against the idea of China-made vaccines coming here and going into arms, especially considering the Chinese -- what they view as Chinese interference in getting foreign- made vaccines into the country.

You have a situation where Taiwan has ordered tens of millions of doses, yet fewer than 1 million have arrived, just 700,000 in country. Those supplies are expected to run out fairly quickly.

There are orders for more foreign-made vaccines that could be coming in the subsequent months and there is also a push to develop locally manufactured vaccines. In fact, two vaccine manufacturers here in Taiwan are in stage II trials and could be available to consumers in late July if they get emergency use authorization.

But from the Beijing point of view, they say it's unnecessary to try to get these foreign-made vaccines when China-made vaccines could be coming in. But from the Taiwanese perspective, of course, this is a self-governing island of 23 million that does not consider itself a part of the mainland, even though the mainland feels differently.

[03:25:00]

RIPLEY: They look at Chinese flyovers in the South China Sea and other forms of political and diplomatic isolation from the mainland, Michael, and they say they're not interested in China vaccines. They want China to stand out of their way.

HOLMES: Vaccine politics. Good to have you there, Will Ripley, in Taipei. Appreciate it.

Now a strict new lockdown now in effect in Argentina as that country tries to combat a surge in COVID cases. CNN's Matt Rivers with the details on the restrictions.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are now new restrictive lockdown measures in place in Argentina as a result of what that country's president is calling the worst moment of the pandemic for that country so far.

Last week we saw multiple single day records for new infections set and these new restrictions are being put in place because of that. The restrictions, including the closures of all nonessential businesses; schools are closed. Only essential workers will be allowed out each day from 6 am to 6 pm. When the president announced the measures earlier this week, here is a little bit of what he said.

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ALBERTO FERNANDEZ, PRESIDENT OF ARGENTINA (through translator): Today more than ever we need to take care of each other.

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RIVERS: The president says he is aware of the fact that this country's economy is already struggling. He knows these restrictive measures will not help with that situation. But he says he really has no choice. He cannot let case numbers like this, death numbers like this, become normalized.

If you look this situation in Argentina is really quite bad. Take a look at the graph here and you can see that the average infections reported each day in both the United States and Argentina, they're at roughly similar levels despite the fact the United States has a population roughly 7 times greater than Argentina's -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

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HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. For our international viewers, "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS" is next. For viewers in the United States, I'll be back with more news in just a moment.