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Jewish Visitors Allowed at Jerusalem Holy Site Sunday; Concerns Grow Over Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis; 14 Dead After Cable Car Plunges into Mountainside; Kenya Aims to Aid Conservation, Identify Threats; Artists in Hong Kong Navigate Changed Political Reality. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 24, 2021 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: With a fragile ceasefire holding, Jewish visits to the Jerusalem's Temple Mount resumed Sunday for the first time in weeks. The site is known to Muslims as the "Noble Sanctuary." Clashes there between Palestinians and Israeli police earlier this month helped trigger the recent cross border fighting. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will travel to the region in the coming days to meet with his Israeli and Palestinian counter parts. He says that for now the U.S. is focusing on humanitarian aid in Gaza. But talks must eventually turn to a peaceful political solution.


ANTHONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: President Biden has been very clear that he remains committed to a two-state solution. Look, ultimately it is the only way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state. And of course the only way to give the Palestinians the state to which they're entitled. But I hope that everyone takes from this, if that if there isn't positive change, and particularly if we can't find a way to help Palestinians live with more dignity and with more hope, the cycle is likely to repeat itself.


CHURCH: The U.N. is allocating more than $22 million for relief efforts in Gaza. The Palestinian officials estimate reconstruction will cost tens of millions. Ben Wedeman is in Gaza City. He joins us now live. Good to see you Ben. So how daunting and difficult will it be to rebuild Gaza in the midst of the humanitarian crisis and a pandemic?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be daunting, Rosemary. Given there's been an Israeli Egyptian blockade on Gaza since 2007. It's always been difficult to get building material in, and of course, money is, obviously, in short supply in this impoverished strip of land. Home to two million people where the unemployment rate is running at almost 50 percent. And despite secretary Blinken's cautiously optimistic words, when it comes to the possibility of resolving this conflict and putting an end to this cycle of one war after another, most people here are deeply pessimistic.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Not for the first time, and probably not for the last. Gaza is digging out. It's over, for now. The rubble will be cleared, and perhaps, the damage repaired. Yet one man-made catastrophe after another has taken a heavy toll.

Not far from the wall separating Gaza from Israel, children of the extended Al-Attar family searched for traces of a life shattered.

Asma Al-Attar's aunt and three children were crushed to death when a bomb slammed into her home. Because the bombing around us was so intense, doors, and windows, we're falling on us. We ran to the inner room, she recalls. The last bomb was on this house. Asma was able to crawl free.

The people in this area, mostly farmers, but their land, often used by militants to fire rockets into Israel.

In the Awdi hospital, plastic and re-constructive surgeon Ghassan Abu Sittah is conducting one of eight operations on this day. He first travelled to Gaza as a young medical student in the 1980s and has come back regularly ever since. His task here, never ending.

DR. GHASSAN ABU SITTAH, RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGEON: You start running into patients who are injured in multiple attacks. So, I've had patients who've had injuries since the 2014 war, then injured in the great return marches, or then injured in previous conflicts, and then again, in this conflict. And so, you have a kind of -- it becomes like an endemic disease. War injuries become like an endemic disease in Gaza.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): In the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Rezek Abu Safer (ph) waits for a truck to take his furniture away. His home still intact after bombs obliterated the buildings just next door. But it's now in danger of collapse.

Sisyphus struggled to push the boulder up the hill, only for it to roll to the bottom, only to push it back up all over again.

The relief of surviving this war, no guarantee you'll make it through the next, says Gaza resident Rima Abu Rahmah.

RIMA ABU RAHMAH, GAZA RESIDENT: There is no other option. We have to keep living. We have to rebuild it again and again. Until, one day, maybe we can be free.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): In the absence of some sort of resolution, such is Gaza's fate.



WEDEMAN (on camera): And the worry here in Gaza at the moment is that what with continuing tensions in Jerusalem around the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood where Palestinian families are under the threat of forced eviction, the tensions around the Haram al-Sharif or the Temple Mount that this could lead to another explosion. Just like we saw two weeks ago. And the worry is that unlike, you know, there was seven years, Rosemary, between the last war and this war, but it may be the next war might come much sooner -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: That is the big worry. Ben Wedeman joining us live from Gaza. Many thanks.

Well the United States plans to restrict visas to those linked to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the decision Sunday under the measure the U.S. would block visas for any current or former Ethiopian or Eritrean government officials. Members of the security forces or anyone involved in undermining the resolution of the crisis in Tigray. No one was named as a specific target.

CNN has investigated atrocities being committed there, including sexual violence, mass killings, and the blocking of aid to an area on the brink of famine.

Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in person for a court hearing today. That is according to local media reports. She faces at least five charges, including violating a state secrets law. Suu Kyi and other government officials have been detained since the country's military ceased power back in February. That news coming as a human rights group says at least 818 people have been killed by security forces since the start of anti-coupe protests. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reports the real number of deaths is likely much higher.

A deadly disaster in the Italian Alps coming up. We will get the latest on a cable car accident that killed more than a dozen people.

Plus thousands in the Democratic Republic of Congo have lost their homes. The trail of death and destruction a volcano left behind. That's next.




MARCELLA SEVERINO, STRESA, ITALY MAYOR (through translator): It is a terrible moment for me and for our community and I think also for the whole of Italy. Especially in this moment where we were just beginning to restart. These people thought they were going on nice day out. We are encouraging everyone to get out. To stay outside so we can recover from this terrible moment that everyone has lived through. Instead, this is a fateful destiny. A terrible disaster.


And that was the mayor of Stresa, Italy speaking after a horrific cable car accident. Fourteen people were killed and we're also learning that authorities are opening a multiple manslaughter investigation. CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau joins us now live from Rome. Barbie, what is the latest on this tragic cable car accident?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well you know, they're really sorting through the pieces this morning trying to understand just what went wrong. Why there wasn't some sort of a cable safety cable that stopped the cable car, which was traveling at only half capacity due to COVID regulation. Why it broke loose and why there wasn't some safety mechanism in place.

There's a five-year-old still fighting for his life right now in a hospital in Turin. But of course, he lost both parents in this tragic accident. Authorities have opened, as you mentioned, the manslaughter investigation. Now that gives them extra breath in terms of the access of information about the company that ran the cable car service and about the service itself. So they'll be looking at all (INAUDIBLE). The autopsies are being conducted today. The families will be given back the remains of their loved ones in the next few days or so and we expect those funerals to take place from where these people -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: It's just hard to grasp what a nightmare for though families. Barbie Nadeau bringing us the very latest from Rome, many thanks.

Well the trail running community in China is mourning the deaths of 21cpeople after extreme weather hit a 100 kilometer mountain race on Sunday. Frigid temperatures, hail, rain and gale force winds set in hours after the race began. Some runners suffered from hypothermia, while others went missing. Eight people were hospitalized. One survivor says he and about 50 others had to take shelter in a cabin and wait for rescuers. Other describe a harrowing experience.


WANG JINMIN, MARATHON PARTICIPANT (through translator): At the beginning, I still had a little bit of strength in my hands so I could pinch myself. But later my hands and feet no longer had feeling. I bit my tongue and my lip with my teeth. My hands were already on the ground. So I lowered my head and hit my hand vigorously to maintain a certain level of clarity. I thought I must see my family again.


CHURCH: In Central Africa, a frantic search for hundreds of children missing and feared separated from their families after a deadly volcanic eruption. This is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Smoke and lava covering the landscape where entire villages used to be. The volcano erupted this weekend killing near the major city of Goma, killing at least 11 people and sending thousands of others running for their lives.


FURAHA GRACE, LOST HOME TO VOLCANO (through translator): We were in the market and then we had to run without any belongings. When we returned to the city, the houses were burned and so people were left destitute. I got into an accident and got hurt. So we're appealing for assistance and especially for food. We need food because we don't know where we're going to get it from.


CHURCH: About 8,000 people crossed the board into neighboring Rwanda for food and shelter after the eruption. Humanitarian officials say people are not yet panicking but they are very worried. Geologists say seems to have stopped erupting for now.

Kenya's population has grown in recent years and that along with poaching and climate change has been disastrous for the country's wildlife. Just ahead, how Kenya is taking action to reverse course.

Plus, we'll show you how Hong Kong's art community is navigating the national security law passed in China last year. That's just ahead.



CHURCH: In the past few decade, many factors have played a role in the decline of wildlife in Kenya. And with COVID making conservation even more difficult, the country is taking action by conducting a wildlife census. CNN's Larry Madowo joins me now from Amboseli National Park in Kenya. Good to see you, Larry. So how extensive is this wildlife census? How will this work exactly?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, Kenya is counting every animal from a dik-dik to an elephant. A dik-dik is only slightly larger than a regular house cat. And they're going to go all over the country to get an estimate of some of the smaller animals and the large animal like an elephant, they'll count one, two, three and then try and get a number. We don't even have a ballpark because the country has never done something like this.

Now the fact it is investing in this multimillion investigation in the middle of a pandemic where most Kenyan's are not even vaccinated, speaks it how seriously the country takes tourism as a major source of foreign exchange. It contributes about 10 percent of all the jobs in the country. And I joined the Kenya Wildlife Service here at the Amboseli National Park.


MADOWO (voice-over): A hippo getting a break from curious eyes now that the pandemic has stopped the most tourists from coming here. He's being tracked along with a 1,000 other species, officials watching closely for an irreversible decline in numbers.


It's Kenya's most ambitious conservation effort.

NAJIB BALALA, KENYAN MINISTER OF TOURISM: We didn't get the tourists to help us to contribute to conservation, we lost a lot of livelihoods because there are no tourist here. The parks are closed, and we could not help the communities around this area.

MADOWO: So Kenya lost 80 percent of your tourism revenue because of pandemic?


MADOWO: How long will it take to recover?

BALALA: The prediction is that until 2024 so we need to rethink and remodel our way of doing things so we can survive if tourism rebounds.

MADOWO (voice-over): To do that, they're using aircraft, GPS trackers, camera traps, and a whole lot of manpower to know exactly how many are left.

STEPHEN NDAMBUKI, WILDLIFE RESEARCH SCIENTIST: I feel that I'm really empowered. And I feel that -- I feel that we are contributing to the conservation and getting out data that can be used to inform the officials on conservation matters.

MADOWO (voice-over): Five hours a day, seven days a week researchers are in the air combing through every inch of the country's rolling landscapes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are just kilometers away from the Kenya Tanzania border. We're about 350 feet above ground. This is a good patrol hyphae space and we'll be able to count, observe and report any animals that they see.

MADOWO (voice-over): The census will track the consequences of climate change, poaching, and human wildlife conflict. Back on the ground, there's a growing power struggle with a Masai people who gave up land for some of Kenya's most famous parks. Their livelihoods depend on their cows. But during COVID-19 when tourism completely dropped, the income for the villages has disappeared.

NOAH LEMAIYAN, MAASAI HERDSMAN: Has disappeared, sure.

MADOWO: And what are people doing now?

LEMAIYAN: They used to be to make some bracelets, necklaces but not any income. If for example, our women have small need, we have to sell one cow to buy for them the food.


MADOWO (voice-over): The team here suspects erratic weather is affecting animal routines.

DR. PATRICK OMONDI, DIRECTOR OF BIODIVERSITY, KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE: We have seen wildlife going into places they have not been in 50 years. We have seen a lot of changes resulting from mainly climate change. Like for example within Amboseli, we never used to have permanent lakes and it's something that we are investigating as scientist, but it's also now lessened the habitat available for animals. MADOWO: This wildlife census will cover all of Kenya's 58 national parks and reserves on land and on water. The result will provide the largest ever source of data for Kenya conservation and tourism.

MADOWO (voice-over): The government says it will help protect the millions who depend on this for their survival.


MADOWO (on camera): The Amboseli Park here is best known for its elephants. They have about 1,800. And the unique thing that they know each elephant by name. They can trace its family tree, which is special to Kenya. It's nowhere in the world. But the rest of this 1,000 species in the country, they just didn't have data about that. So when this exercise is over in two months, they'll have a better sense of what they're look at. Unfortunately, we didn't get any elephants in the background. Had some monkeys but they got shy when we came to you -- Rosemary.

Absolutely, just the spectacular images in that report. That was really wonderful. Thank you so much for bringing us that. Larry Madowo in Kenya, appreciate it.

Well in Hong Kong, art is increasingly falling prey to politics and to China's sweeping national security law. Especially protest art which has virtually disappeared. CNN Kristi Lu Stout shows us how Hong Kong's art community is having to maneuver this new political reality.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): She's known as Hong Kong's Lady Liberty, a white statue of a pro-democracy protester, goggles and a gas mask, a symbol of defiance on display. Not in a gallery, but in a children's clothing store, that's been searched by national security police.

A number of artists have their creations on display. Artist Kacey Wong is here with store owner Herbert Chao (ph) to unbox his latest work.

KACEY WONG, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think having a place like this to feature resistance art, as well as art that represents freedom and democracy, is very important. I mean the platform is getting smaller and smaller in Hong Kong.

STOUT (voice-over): So far the national security law has targeted opposition activists and pro-democracy figures but art has also fallen prey to politics.

STOUT: Since the law was imposed last year, there has been the virtual disappearance of protest art. The cancellation of a film screening about the 2019 pro-democracy protest and a very public debate about the upcoming M+, a museum touted as Asia's answer to the Tate Modern.


STOUT (voice over): The museum's 8,000 item collection includes work by Chinese dissident artist A Weiwei, including a 1997 photograph of him holding up a middle finger to Tiananmen Square.

When asked about the collection, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told officials to be extra cautious in making sure exhibits don't breach the new law.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE (through translator): I'm sure staff are able to tell what is freedom of artistic impression, and whether certain pieces are really meant to incite hatred or to destroy relations between two places and undermine national security.

STOUT (voice-over): Hong Kong has been a vibrant international arts hub. Each year it hosts the Asian edition of Art Basel, the world's largest art fair. Despite the new political climate, organizers are confident that the fair will stay.


after this, I mean especially with the pandemic and the fact that we can do a show, everyone is really putting in an effort to make Hong Kong shine this week.

STOUT (voice-over): As the more formal art world navigates a new reality, grassroots artists continue to do their work. and while the law does not explicitly address political art, many local artists wonder, what are the red lines.

WONG: Hong Kong right now is the most dangerous place, more dangerous than Beijing. It's because the flexible red line in Beijing everybody knows what can be talk about and what cannot be mentioned. But in Hong Kong, nobody knows what that dangerous topic really is.

STOUT (voice-over): Throughout his career Wong has consistently created political artworks. In the studio we see props of his covert art, a performance series of Wong in provocative disguises at Hong Kong protests, artistic pushback to political pressure before the national security law.

Today Wong installed work about COVID-19 in a children's store. Tokens of the pandemic cast in resin, all made inside these new red lines.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN -- Hong Kong.


CHURCH: And thanks for your company. I'm Rosemary Church, "EARLY START" is up next after a short break. Do have a wonderful day.