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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin Accepts U.S. Invitation; U.S. to Help Rebuild Gaza; Japanese Newspaper Calling Tokyo Olympics to be Cancelled; UNRWA Plays Major Role in Helping Refugees; European Nations Avoid Flying to Belarus Airspace; European Parliament All Eyes to Dominic Cummings; Blinken Wraps Israel Visit, Heads To Egypt, Jordan. The Threat From Tehran; Polls Open In Election Seen As Rubber- Stamp For Assad; Tropical Cyclone Yaas Makes Landfall In Northeast India; George Floyd's Murder, One Year On; Burning Cargo Ship Off Colombo, Sri Lanka; Deadly Volcanic Eruption In Goma, Congo; Shepherd Saves Six Runners During Extreme Weather In China; John Cena Angers Fans In China. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired May 26, 2021 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.
Just ahead on CNN Newsroom, the U.S. secretary of state pledging to help Gaza recover from the conflict. A humanitarian worker will tell us what's needed.
Another blow to the Tokyo Olympics. A major newspaper and cosponsor call for the games to be canceled. And a fast apology after a furious reaction. Actor John Cena says he's very, very sorry to his Chinese fans after calling Taiwan a country.
This just in to CNN. Israeli President Reuben Rivlin has accepted an American invitation to visit the U.S. before his term in office ends in July. Now this news comes as the U.S. secretary of state wrapped up a meeting with Mr. Rivlin moments ago.
Antony Blinken is now on his way to Egypt where he will hold talks with the Egyptian president and foreign minister on the regional response to the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas militants. The first stop on Blinken's trip was devoted to meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Kylie Atwood has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER (voice over): A delicate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel remains in place. As Secretary of State Tony Blinken visits Jerusalem and Ramallah. Making clear that the U.S. opposes any move that could shatter the peace. ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: That includes settlement
activity, it includes demolitions, it includes evictions. It includes incitement of violence. It includes payment to terrorists.
ATWOOD: The ceasefire coming after 11 days of violence. Leaving more than 200 Palestinians dead and taking the lives of more than a dozen Israelis. Blinken called the losses on both sides profound.
BLINKEN: Casualties are off the reduced to numbers. But behind every number is an individual human being, a daughter, a son, a father, a mother, a grandparent. A best friend.
ATWOOD: Blinken meeting with leaders from both sides with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas committing to rebuilding the U.S.- Palestinian relationship. Announcing the U.S. will be reopening its consulate in Jerusalem which serves as a diplomatic post for U.S.- Palestinian relations in which the trump administration closed. And saying the U.S. plans to send more than $38 million in urgent humanitarian support to Gaza in the West Bank.
But Secretary Blinken called the violence symptomatic of a larger set of issues. Saying this during his meeting with Abbas.
BLINKEN: Asking all of us to help rebuild Gaza, only makes sense if there is confidence that what is rebuilt is not lost again because Hamas decides to launch more rocket attacks in the future.
ATWOOD: With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary Blinken discussing Israel's right to defend itself.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Thanks to President Biden and you for firmly supporting Israel's right of self-defense.
ATWOOD: And replenishing Israel's Iron Dome defense system that Israel says intercepted more than 1,000 rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ATWOOD (on camera): Another thing that came up in these meetings was Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu standing next to Secretary of State Tony Blinken reiterated Israel's opposition to the U.S. reentering the Iran nuclear deal. This, of course as the U.S. is engaged in a diplomatic process to salvage that deal.
Now Blinken acknowledged that Israel and the U.S. have differences over the Iran nuclear deal but said that they fundamentally agree that Iran should not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.
CHURCH: Elliott Gotkine joins us now live from Jerusalem. And Elliott, we just have this in at the top of the show, I want to talk to you about the significance of this invitation to the Israeli president to visit the U.S. before his term ends in July.
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Yes. So, as you say, President Reuven Rivlin held a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken this morning and one takeaway was this invitation from U.S. President Biden that Blinken conveyed to President Rivlin, which he has accepted. Now his term is due to end. This was his second term as president, and indeed Israelis are due to hold elections in the next week or so as to who will replace him.
Some will see this as a bit of snub to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is a regular at the Trump White House. But of course, the other thing to bear in mind is political situation here is very fluid. It is just an interim or caretaker government right now.
There's every chance we may have more elections later this year, and it could be argued perhaps the Biden administration doesn't want to seem to be interfering, perhaps, in the Israeli political process by inviting Netanyahu to the White House, and then perhaps having that impact the Israeli electorates view of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
So, it's not something that happens on a regular basis, inviting Israeli president to the White House. But you know, President Reuven Rivlin is the position here in Israel is really like kind of a ceremonial, more to do with foreign affairs rather than having any actual power within Israel beyond certain, you know, formal situations, such as handing mandates to political parties to try to form the next government and the like. But certainly, some will perhaps see this as being a bit of a snub to Netanyahu.
But as I say, the political situation suggests that there may be other things that the U.S. administration is bearing in mind.
CHURCH: And Elliott, what all has Secretary Blinken achieved so far in trying to solidify this ceasefire? Fragile as it is, between Israel and Hamas.
GOTKINE: Well, look, I don't think Mr. Blinken came with any particular grandiose ambitions beyond trying to shore up the ceasefire. But he did also come bearing some gifts as we heard in that report just before for the Palestinians direct aid support for the Palestinian authority, and most importantly, rebuilding some of the bridges that were burned under the Trump administration. For example, by reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which serves as a de facto mission for the Palestinians.
And for the Israelis, there was support for Israel's right to self- defense. A promise to help replenish some of the missiles used by the Iron Dome aerial defense system, a lot of which of course were used during the recent conflict. And, again, as our report noted, there are still differences of opinion as Secretary of State Blinken noted vis- a-vis, Iran, but Blinken did vowed to keep the Israelis apprised of developments, and that nuclear deal if Iran falls back into compliance, and if and when the U.S. gets back on board which would be a first step to dealing with other Iran related issues, such as its support for proxies in the region, notably Hezbollah in Lebanon. Rosemary?
CHURCH: All right. Elliott Gotkine, many thanks joining us there live. I appreciate it.
Well, Blinken's visit with the promise of U.S. aid comes at a time when Palestinians are in a dire situation. Many people lost homes as buildings and infrastructure in Gaza were destroyed in the recent violence.
And according to the Palestinian health ministry, at least 248 people were killed, including 66 children.
So, let's bring in Tamara Alrifai, a spokeswoman for the United Nations relief and works agency for Palestinian refugees. Thank you so much for talking with us.
TAMARA ALRIFAI, DIRECTOR, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, UNRWA: Thank you.
CHURCH: So, I mean, it has to be said the images of destroyed homes and infrastructure cost Gaza just simply devastating. What is the greatest need right now for the people of Gaza? Many of whom no longer even have a place to live.
ALRIFAI: The immediate need for anyone in Gaza now is to feel that they have a normal life. Those who were displaced want to go back to homes. A lot of the homes are damaged. Either partially or fully destroyed. There's shortage in electricity, one water desalination plant was hit which really restricts the access of people to clean water.
And mostly, people are just waking up to the immense destruction surrounding them. And to the way that their lives has been shattered and devastated by the fourth conflict in 14 years. Fourth conflict in 14 years that are also 14 years of a total blockade that has almost completely decimated the economy in Gaza. And a year of COVID, COVID that hit Gaza and Gazan's very, very hard.
Gaza arrived very late to the vaccination -- to vaccinations and the only vaccination, COVID testing center in Gaza was hit during this conflict. The vaccination campaign that UNRWA, the agency I represent had been engaged in -- has had to stop.
All of this makes layers and layers of hardship that Gazans have to deal with while they look at what lies ahead and while they hope that this is not just a fragile lull before the next conflict.
CHURCH: Yes. It is just so much to have to deal with, and I did want to ask you how reassured you that all humanitarian aid and assistance -- assistance will go to the people of Gaza those in need and not be seized by Hamas?
ALRIFAI: The U.N. humanitarian system, and to a large extent, the international humanitarian community in Gaza has a very sturdy system in place to ensure transparency and to ensure that the money that's channeled in is money that truly goes towards humanitarian efforts, health centers, education, social services, and now that a portion will go to psychosocial support to deal with the immense level of trauma that every person we spoke to in Gaza expressed.
There's a system in place. We are working extremely hard on ensuring that everything that we do at UNRWA but as a larger U.N. community is based on actual needs that we have assessed. UNRWA in particular, delivers its services directly to the people. So, it's UNRWA doctors and UNRWA health workers and UNRWA lab technicians. And UNRWA teachers that are there with the community with the Palestinian refugee community in Gaza.
That community is-- represents 70 percent of all of Gazans. Gaza is an extremely densely populated spot, it houses two million people in total, 1.4 million of them are Palestine refugees that UNRWA works directly with through 13,000 staff members who are almost entirely Palestine refugees themselves.
We only have 10 international staff in Gaza, everybody else comes from the community, knows the community, and helps UNRWA assess the actual needs and reach people.
CHURCH: And how confident are you and others in Gaza that this ceasefire will hold and that some form of permanent solution for peace in the region will eventually be found?
ALRIFAI: We are hopeful. But the only way to be really confident is to know that this actual ceasefire is a prelude towards a longer-term political process that will put an end to the root causes of this conflict.
It's worth remembering that what happened in Gaza was triggered by the events that happened in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah. The eviction, the force depiction of families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem triggered the reaction from Gaza which also tells us that both context are not unrelated, and only a truly genuine political approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to putting an end to the long lasting effects of that conflict will bring about a more lasting ceasefire, or even maybe peace.
We are hopeful that this is just the beginning, and we truly hope the international committee will support that. So, this is not just a humanitarian response to just another conflict while another one is in the making.
CHURCH: Tamara Alrifai, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.
Well, Blinken has some company in the Middle East this week. Russia says it's now operating long-range bombers out of Syria. Russian state media reports three of the warplanes have reached an airbase north of Damascus for training.
And this comes as the U.S. confirms a Russia summit is set for next month in Switzerland. Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin will have a lot to talk about, including Russia's role in cyberattacks. Here's what the White House says is on the agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship. And to more specific to your question, we expect that they will spend a fair amount of time on strategic stability, where the arms control agenda goes following the extension of new start.
Obviously, where both members of the P5 plus 1 as well as those negotiations are ongoing. The president will raise Ukraine underscoring America's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and he will also plan to raise Belarus and convey a great concern as he has now done publicly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Well, now to another blow for Olympic organizers, a top Japanese newspaper, one of the official partners of the Tokyo Olympics just published an editorial calling for the games to be canceled due to the pandemic.
Asahi Shimbun also accuses Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of putting on the games against the will of the public.
And CNN's Selina Wang joins us now from Tokyo where the Olympics are set to open in less than two months from now. Good to see you, Selina.
So, how much influence might this call for the games to be canceled have on the executive board meeting this hour given this is coming from an Olympic, an official Olympic partner for the games?
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary. Well, despite the growing and mounting opposition to the games the Olympic organizers have only displayed complete confidence that they think these games can be held safely and securely. This is in the face of more than 80 percent of the people in Japan calling for these games not to be held this year according to poll after poll.
But, Rosemary, this is significant. Asahi Shimbun it's one of the most influential in newspapers in Japan. And the question is, if this leads to a domino effect of other major newspapers and sponsors coming out removing their support of the games. Now the paper wrote in this editorial that, quote, "we don't think it makes sense to hold the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo this summer. The distrust in opposition towards the ruling government, the Tokyo government and Olympic officials are widespread as they haven't tried to address people's doubts and concerns. We asked Prime Minister Suga to calmly and objectively assess the situation and decide whether to cancel the event this summer."
Now for some context here, Asahi Shimbun is known to be a left-leaning publication that has often criticize the more conservative ruling party, including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration. And I spoke to Jules Boykoff who is political scientist that studies the Olympics, and he says that this is a remarkable act what this newspaper has done.
It's broken this corporate code of silence and essentially created permission for others to follow in its footsteps. And this is certainly part of this cascading pressure to cancel the Olympics, not just from the broader public but from high-profile leaders, from investors and from the medical community.
And the points that this newspaper makes in its editorial does reflect the concerns for the medical community. They point out that while some test events have been successful the scale of the Olympics is so much greater and a safe bubble cannot be guaranteed. Rosemary?
CHURCH: We'll see if more speak out. Selina Wang, many thanks.
Well, we are tracking the growing international fallout after Belarus' s diversion of a commercial plane and arrest of a dissident. The latest in a live report. That's next.
Plus, Boris Johnson's former chief advisers is ready to tell-all after leaving Downing Street on bad terms. Dominic Cummings is set to appear before parliament to talk about COVID. We will have the latest after a very short break. Stay with us.
CHURCH (on camera): Well, more world leaders are condemning Belarus' forced a diversion of a Ryanair flight leading to the arrest of Roman Protasevich, a dissident journalist on board.
Now a growing list of countries are urging airlines to steer clear of Belarus' airspace. That includes its neighbor Ukraine which is also banning flights to and from Belarus. At the same time, a new video has been released showing a Russian national detained in Minsk along with Protasevich. Now this comes one day after the detained journalist appeared in a separate video.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins us now live from Berlin. Good to see you, Fred.
So, a lot to talk about here. This international outrage intensifying with ramifications. And now this new video that's been released.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. The new video of course was heavily criticized by members of the opposition just like that first video of Roman Protasevich. They are saying that Sofia Sapega was a Russian national actually, and she was traveling with him on that flight that was forcibly or forced to land in Minsk. They are saying that that is also most probably something that was filmed under duress.
And if you look at the video, a little more closely, it certainly does look as though she is reciting some sort of script that she may have been given in that video. She says that she's working for a telegram channel, for social media channel that discloses the identities of workers of the minister of interior in Belarus which of course is something that is very much against the law there.
But a lot of criticism once again because of this. And certainly, it's something that we can see that has been expanded, the Biden administration and President Biden himself, once again last night reiterated that sanctions are in play against Belarus. He wants to see what's possible first before getting ahead of things.
Meanwhile, the European nations as we've been talking about, they move very, very quickly to decide on sanctions and other measures against the Lukashenko regime as well, Rosemary.
CHURCH: And Fred, Lukashenko is set to respond in some way. What's he likely to say?
PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, most likely he's going to remain defiant. Because of course one of the things that he does have in his corner, one of the people in his corner, is Vladimir Putin. And that as long as Vladimir Putin is in his corner he is pretty much on safe footing.
You are absolutely right. We are expecting him to speak in parliament within the next couple of minutes. And certainly, we'll see what he has to say there. But that international condemnation certainly is something that is not going to go away.
And I think one of the things that really hits Belarus hard is some of the measures that have been taken against its aviation sector, which is quite interesting because the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, he tweeted out that Europe in action, as he put it, a tweet that showed air traffic above Europe.
And what seem to be a pretty big hole over Belarus. So, we can already see that a lot of European airlines, in fact, most European airlines are avoiding Belarusian airspace. And a lot of others have said that they are going to stop flying to Minsk as well. That certainly is pretty big blow to Alexander Lukashenko, and quite frankly, to a lot of people who are traveling in and out of that country, Rosemary.
CHURCH: Yes. It will certainly have a financial impact. We'll wait to see what Lukashenko has to say about all of it.
Our Frederik Pleitgen joining us live from Berlin. Many thanks.
Well, about an hour from now, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's former top adviser will face parliament to answer questions about the government's response to the coronavirus. And after the messy falling out between the two men last year the inquiry has the potential to deal a blow to Johnson's political career.
So, let's head to London where CNN's Bianca Nobilo is standing by outside 10 Downing Street. great to see you, Bianca.
So, how is this all likely to turn out for Prime Minister Johnson do you think?
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to speak to you, Rosemary. Well, as you just alluded to, these two men had a messy falling out. And in fact, that's a very polite way to put it, as you would. Over the last couple of months, we've seen a briefing war ensuing between the prime minister and a man who used to be his closest confidant within the corridors of power.
So, Boris Johnson and his government are braced today for what could be potentially damaging revelations about the way that the government has handled the COVID pandemic here in Britain. But something like a parliamentary committee that somebody gives evidence that, is truthfully not usually in occurrence that would get anyone particular excited.
In fact, it's usually the kind of thing that might send them off to sleep. So, what is it about this committee today and this man that makes today potentially so explosive for the government? It's something that's being teased as if it were a Marvel movie or title fight and not your standard parliamentary committee.
So, I had a look, Rosemary, at why Dominic Cummings is that dangerous for the prime minister and how we got to this place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO (voice over): Machiavelli and Dominic Cummings separated by five centuries but often compared. Caricature for their cunning, ruthlessness and influence on men in power. When Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought Cummings into Downing Street as an adviser, it was divisive. Cummings disdain for the establishment and casual dress sit him apart as a maverick. He was the architect of the controversial campaign for Brexit which redrew the political map.
DOMINIC CUMMINGS, FORMER CHIEF ADVISER TO PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: You guys should give or (Inaudible).
NOBILO: His role was immortalized by Benedict Cumberbatch in an HBO drama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, ACTOR: We need to understand whoever these are. Appeal to their hearts.
NOBILO: After delivering Brexit and Johnson's 2019 historic election victory, coming seemed indispensable.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: You must stay at home.
NOBILO: The turning point came at the peak of Britain's COVID-19 crisis when the country was under strict lockdown. Cummings was forced to explain to an outraged nation why he had traveled 260 miles from London to his hometown for childcare support and have been seen visiting beauty spots Barnard Castle.
UNKNOWN: It seems as if there was one version of the rules for you and one version of the rules for everyone else.
NOBILO: Still, Johnson is stuck by his man.
JOHNSON: I think he followed the instincts of every father.
NOBILO: Although that didn't last forever.
JOEY JONES, FORMER ADVISER TO THERESA MAY: Boris Johnson is somebody who likes to be liked. Dominic Cummings is someone who rather relishes being a pantomime villain and you can see how that sort of relationship might come under strain and ultimately come apart at the seams.
NOBILO: It did, about six months ago when he quit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO (on camera): Since then a briefing war has ensued between number 10 and the prime minister's former right-hand man. Cummings compounded the scandal about whether or not the prime minister had planned to use donor money to renovate the Downing Street flat. Calling his behavior unethical, foolish and possibly illegal.
He also questioned Johnson's handling of the pandemic which has cost over 150,000 lives in the United Kingdom. On Wednesday, Cummings will give evidence to M.P.s about the government's COVID response, something he's urged parliament to investigate. It could be his most explosive revelation yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: This is the first time really that we will see that decision- making exposed in the sort of minute by minute, detail by detail fashion from somebody who was absolutely in the room and at the heart of it all.
UNKNOWN: What's your next move?
NOBILO (voice over): Advisers are never supposed to become the story.
On Wednesday we can expect Cummings to defy convention yet again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBILO (on camera): And Rosemary, we have a sense of where the potentially damaging areas are going to be today for the prime minister and for this government. And that's because Dominic cummings has been teasing his main arguments and what's now a fairly epic Twitter thread of around 64 messages.
And that's whether or not Britain was too slow to lockdown the country. First in March, and then in November. And also, and there's also a lot of discussion around this whether or not the herd immunity strategy, i.e., letting the virus run throughout the population was actually the official policy of the government.
Now number 10 denies that. They say it was never the official policy. But that's something that Dominic Cummings has been disputing, saying that the government were planning to go with that until they saw figures of unimaginable deaths of over 250,000 people dying in the United Kingdom and the health system collapsing.
So, this is a very high stakes for the prime minister today, Rosemary. And we will be watching it very closely.
CHURCH: I know you shall. Thank you, Bianca Nobilo from outside 10 Downing Street. Many thanks.
In northern Italy, three people are now in custody and face manslaughter charges for a deadly cable car accident. Officials say 14 people were killed Sunday when a cable snapped near the top of a mountain. That sent the passenger car plunging into a wooded area below. A five-year-old child is the only survivor and was listen as being in critical but stable condition.
The cable car's head of service and two others tied to the company were arrested. CNN has reached out to their lawyers for comment.
Well, strong winds, heavy rain and high storm surges, a severe tropical cyclone is slamming eastern India. A look at where the system is moving. That's coming up.
And later, how one of the stars of the new "Fast and Furious" films sparked outrage in China. And what he is doing about it.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Welcome, back everyone. Well, America's top diplomat is due in Cairo, Egypt soon for meetings with the president and foreign minister. From there he heads to Jordan. Anthony Blinken wrapped up talks with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin just a short time ago aimed at solidifying the cease-fire with Hamas. Rivlin accepted an invitation to Washington before his term ends this year.
Earlier, Blinken met with Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and is pledging millions of dollars to help rebuild Gaza after 11 days of Israeli airstrikes. Meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging the U.S. not to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of State Blinken says he is committed to keeping Israel informed on new talks, and he agrees Iran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I can tell you that I hope that the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA, because we believe that paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy.
ANTHONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We'll continue to strengthen all aspects of our long standing partnership and that includes consulting closely with Israel as we do today on the ongoing negotiations in Vienna around the potential return to the Iran nuclear agreement, at the same time as we continue to work together to counter Iran's destabilizing actions in the region.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Iran has long said it has no intention of using nuclear technology for weapons but the potential is something Israel obviously take seriously and that's not the only way Iran poses a threat to the Jewish state. CNN's Oren Lieberman explains.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORESPONDENT (on camera): The rockets might be made in Gaza produced locally by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but much of the technical know-how comes from Iran. During 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, Iran cheered for Gaza from a distance. An overt moment in the ongoing shuttle war between Israel and Iran.
Iran's supreme leader wrote on Twitter, I thank God for his aid and the honor bestowed on Palestinian fighters. I extend my congratulations for victory over Zionist criminals.
Since the end of the 2014 war, Hamas' built up an arsenal, about 15,000 rockets according to the Israeli military firing barrages that at times overwhelmed Israel's iron dome aerial defense system. The Israel/Egypt blockade of Gaza has made it increasingly difficult for Iran to send assistance into the strip.
The Israeli military believes some rocket parts are still smuggled in for assembly, but far more, Iran has focused on giving technical expertise. Weapons development and money.
ISMAIL HANIYA, HAMAS POLITICAL LEADER (through translator): I think those who provided funds and weapons to the fearful resistance, The Islamic Republic of Iran who are not fragile towards this resistance with money, weapons and techniques.
LIEBERMANN: Even so, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry told CNN they saw no specific signs of Iranian involvement during two weeks of fighting. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hardly mentioned Iran during the fighting. But he blame the regime for their overall support of militant groups.
NETANYAHU: Iran not only supports completely the Islamic Jihad in Gaza and gives them all the finance and they also gives weapons to Hamas as well to Hezbollah and they provide the scuffle in which this organizations really work.
LIEBERMANN: The normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries in recent years has pushed Iran to the sidelines of the Middle East. But this recent fighting was a chance for Iran to reassert itself in the region.
After the fighting, Palestinians celebrated what they saw as a victory over Israel, for inferior Hamas standing up to a stronger technologically superior Israel. Iran's celebrated in its own way, one day after unconditional cease-fire, they unveiled their latest drone, an apparent imitation of the U.S. predator, or repo drone which they named Gaza.
The Biden administration was also very quiet on Iran during approximately two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas but likely for a very different reason. On Tuesday another round of talks in Vienna began in Iran's nuclear program in a possible return to the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal and that the Biden administration has signaled it priority in the Middle East. Oren Liebermann, CNN, at the Pentagon.
CHURCH: Syrians are heading to the polls today in an election that seen as a rubberstamp for President Bashar Al-Assad. He is expected to easily win a fourth term in office but Western nations are condemning the election as neither free nor fair. The U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy are urging countries to reject the vote as an attempt by the Assad regime to regain legitimacy after a decade of war against its own people. The Syrian Civil War has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven 11 million from their homes.
A powerful tropical cyclone is slamming Northeast India, cyclone Yaas made landfall just a few hours ago with hurricane force winds, heavy rainfall and storm surges several meters high. More than one million people have been evacuated at least two deaths have been reported in West Bengal from electrocution and dozens of homes have been damage. This is the second intense storm to hit the country within two weeks.
So let's turn to our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri. He's been watching this very closely. Pedram, as we mentioned, this cycle has made landfall, where is it exactly now?
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Yes, eastern areas of Odisha on to West Bengal is where the current location is. Made landfall as you noted in a couple of hours ago, it came ashore as a category one equivalent, meaning if it were a hurricane in the Atlantic, it will be equivalent to category one upon landfall with those 120 kilometer per hour winds.
And maybe it doesn't seem that messy, given the scale, but when you look closely to the area of interest the population density, the vulnerability across this region to tropical systems, then you realized how significant even at category one is. And of course, Rosy noted, that just about a week ago, (inaudible) landfall on the Western periphery of the subcontinent, strongest ever made landfall in that region of India. And this is the shortest duration between two tropical cyclones in modern records for India. So, eight days apart, we see two landfall in systems across the
country and of course, this one on the eastern shores there as it moves to shore. Wind still gusting to over 100 kilometers per hour across this region. But the area of concern here has always been the ingredients that were favorable for this storm to form.
Sitting at 34 degrees Celsius, the sea surface temperatures across the northern Bay of Bengal, among the warmest on our planet. That is absolutely unconducive for a storm to strengthen well beyond the category one and a lot of ways we are fortunate, because the storm system ran out of time, ran out of room here, to triangulate (inaudible) the shape across the northern bay here, kind of minimize area of tap into warm water is in strength.
Of course, as it made landfall here, this region is favorable for a lot of flooding, storm surge flooding in particular as the level since very much are just a few meters above sea level and storm surge values were expected to be around 3 meters at their highest which is high enough here to push water into near the top of the first storey of a structure.
So, with all that said we know the damage is going to be significant. We look back just a year ago, (inaudible) made landfall across this very region, Rosemary. Came ashore with winds also around the same range as a little bit stronger, 150 KPH in that case, and a left behind over $10 billion in losses. So we know just how susceptible this region is and of course we know what is happening right now on the ground across these nations. So, so it's something we are going to be following very carefully.
CHURCH: Yes, it is dealing with multiple crises right now. Many thanks to our Pedram Javaheri, bringing us up-to-date on that tropical cyclone. I appreciate it.
One year after the murder of George Floyd, his family meets with the U.S. president to meet a growing push for police accountability. We'll be back with that in just a moment.
CHURCH: There was grief but there was also -- there was smiles when the family of George Floyd spent time with the U.S. president on Tuesday at the White House. They gathered one year after Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer. The meeting was private, but some of Floyd's family members spoke out afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: He's a genuine guy. He always speak from the heart. And it's a pleasure just to be able to have a chance to meet with him when we have that opportunity too. We are just thankful for what's going on, to be here today is an honor. You know, to meet with the president and the Vice President and for them to share their concerns to our family and for them to actually give an ear, to our concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The Floyd family is also set to meet with negotiators for the police reform bill that's under consideration in the Senate. Many who have marched in protest of police brutality and racial injustice say change is taking too long. Omar Jimenez shows us the situation in Minneapolis and how Floyd is being remembered there.
UNKNOWN: What do we want?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A year after George Floyd's murder was captured on camera over several agonizing minutes, America is still searching for change to last generations. In Minneapolis, a day of celebrating the life and legacy of Floyd was mixed with somber reflection.
UNKNOWN: We are here and it's been a year. It's been a troubling year, a long year. But we made it.
JIMENEZ: She and others later paused for a moment of silence. The mayor of Minneapolis joining in.
JACOB FREY, MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR: George Floyd is going to save the world. He's going to change the world. He is going to make sure that we look internally at ourselves, acknowledge our shortcomings, and make sure that we all do better from here.
JIMENEZ: It's not just in Minneapolis. Places across the country like Atlanta, Dallas, and more honoring the sobering anniversary. The symbolism is unquestionable. The long term impact remains in question.
BRIDGETT FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SISTER: My message to the president, get your people in order. So that is my reason of not being in D.C. today, and it's OK. Because I have no doubt in my mind that bill is going to get pass. And when it gets pass, that's when I will make my way to D.C.
FLOYD: I think things have changed. I think it's moving slowly, but it's making progress. I just want everything to be better in life. Because I don't want to see people die in the same way my brother has passed.
JIMENEZ: Minnesota state representative John Thompson's friend, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by a twin cities police officer in 2016. That officer was found not guilty of manslaughter charges the following year. Thompson feels the pace of policy change hasn't kept up with reality.
JOHN THOMPSON, MINNESOTA STATE HOUSE: Nothing's changed, just names. It's going to be another name added to these long list of names until we get some real accountability pieces put into law here in this state. We could've saved George Floyd's life in 2016 when Philando was murdered. We could've saved Daunte Wright's life when George Floyd was murdered, had we just like looked at police accountability pieces seriously and said we are going to put an end to this right now.
JIMENEZ: But others who had tried to work with police for reform say the momentum from the year that's past could lead to a meaningful future.
What's different in Minneapolis and what is different in the fight that you all are trying to wage?
IAN D. BETHEL, PASTOR, NEW BEGINNINGS BAPTIST MINISTRY: The difference now is that there is more awareness of the atrocities that the Minneapolis police department has been getting away with for decades. That's the difference.
JIMENEZ: Omar Jimenez, CNN, Minneapolis.
CHURCH: A burning cargo ship off the coast of Sri Lanka is expected to sink at any moment, and officials fear more than 300 metric tons of oil and other chemicals could be spilled into the sea. Specialists from the Indian coast guard and the Netherlands are on the scene to help. The big concern now for Sri Lanka is protecting about 30 kilometers of delicate coastline, which includes of a protected home to marine life and mangroves. CNN's Anna Coren has more.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Big black smoke billows over a container ship in the (inaudible) sea of the coast of Sri Lanka. As the MV express pearl burns out of control. An oil slick spreads along the water's surface, an impending natural disaster potentially unfolding.
The Singaporean vessel carrying more than 1,400 containers of cosmetics and chemicals, including 25 tons of nitric acid caught fire last Thursday, after an explosion on board. The crew thought they had contained the blaze until there was a second explosion on Tuesday. Two people were injured, the Sri Lankan navy managed to safely rescue all 25 crew members.
DHARSHANI LAHADAPURA, HEAD OF MARINE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION (through translator): Because of the rough seas and heavy winds last night, the fire intensified. There was also an explosion in one of the containers, with the explosion the fire spread rapidly.
COREN: The ship which had left a report in India bound for Singapore had been waiting for entry into Colombo port. It was anchored 9.5 nautical miles off the coast when the explosion occurred. Due to the intense heat of the ongoing blaze, authorities are unable to get close enough to put out the fire. The fear now according to the states fisheries minister is that the
ship containing 320 metric tons of oil could sink causing an environmental catastrophe.
Nearby, Negombo Lagoon, one of the largest in Sri Lanka is home to more than 5,000 fishermen who depend on this pristine marine environment for their livelihood. Debris from the ship has already washed up on the coast and the community has been told not to engage in any fishing activities.
The navy and coast guard have begun erecting oil booms to prevent an ecological disaster. However, the government has confirmed to CNN that they do not have enough oil booms to contain the potential spread.
A team from the Netherlands has been assisting with the operation. A preliminary investigation by the navy indicates the fire started after a chemical reaction on board. Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.
CHURCH: Relentless aftershocks are keeping people on edge in the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring Rwanda just days after a deadly volcanic eruption. Cracks in the earth are still emerging in the Congolese city of Goma. On Tuesday, a government spokesman said serious tremors are still coming from Mt. (inaudible). And authorities are not sure whether it's the result of a Saturday's eruption or if they could be signaling a new one. But a local volcano expert insists the situation is improving.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CELESTIN MAHINDA, DIRECTOR, GOMA VULCANOLOGICAL OBSERVATORY (through translator): Earthquakes, they have been observed since it started and we are continuing to feel them but it's also changing and decreasing. These fractures extend towards the lake, we are convinced that this will not continue and we are continuing to follow the situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: The eruption over the weekend killed dozens of people and separated hundreds of children from their families. The Red Cross is working to reunite them.
A shepherd in China is being credited with saving six trail runners from extreme weather conditions. Now you may recall 21 runners died during Saturday's ultra-marathon race, and others went missing after the weather turned cold with icy rain and gale force winds. Now, according to Chinese media, the shepherd had been working near a section of the running trail and was able to guide five runners to a cave for shelter. He even found a sixth runner lying on the trail and carried that person to the cave on his back. Here's more of his incredible story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZHU KEMING, HELPED RESCUE SIX RUNNERS (through translator): They were all shivering, badly. They sat on this bed, and I told them to warm themselves with the bed covering. But that wasn't enough for them. So, they gathered closely to keep warm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And while he is being praised as a hero, the deadly race has spark public outrage and scrutiny of the organizing committee's preparation efforts.
A pro wrestler turned Hollywood star is asking China for forgiveness. How a casual remark about Taiwan sparked outrage in the world's biggest movie market. We will explain.
CHURCH: The big question, will China forgive John Cena? The Hollywood star gave an impassioned apology to the Chinese people Tuesday by Weibo and in Mandarin.
Cena says, he is very, very, very sorry for calling Taiwan a country during a promotional interview for the latest film in the Fast and Furious franchise. Cena, who is starring in F9 claims he misspoke. But the incident shows how mindful Hollywood and businesses have become about political sensitivities in China.
So, let's head to CNN's Will Ripley. He joins us live from Taipei. Good to see, you Will. So, John Cena has been blasted by many for what is perceived as a gravelling apology to China in Mandarin. What is the latest on all of this?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): You got to feel for John Cena, Rosemary. Hear the guy who has been trying to study up on Mandarin because he knows the Fast and Furious franchises is so darn popular in China. He looks at it as a way to connect with the Chinese fans. So, let's give an interview in Mandarin, from a broadcaster here in Taiwan.
And then he says something that most of the world would view as an innocent mistake, he says Taiwan is the first country where you can watch this movie. And all of a sudden, the sky falls out because in China, you do not refer to Taiwan as a country. This is an island that China claims.
Taiwan doesn't necessary feel that way, they've been governing themselves for more than 70 years since China civil war ended. But it is such a redline issue for China, and not just Taiwan, but also Hong Kong, Tibet, that anytime that any celebrity or any business crosses the line, this becomes a hot topic.
And in China, a lot of people are proud of their country. There's certainly a lot of nationalist vibe on Weibo which is China's largest social media platform which may explain that more than 70,000 replies to John Cena's, some have said gravelling apology, but he can't really win, because in China, they are saying, well, you didn't go far enough because you didn't say that Taiwan is a part of China. But he did say I'm very, very, very, very, four or five very sorry about this.
But that wasn't enough for some. And yet there are others in the west that are going to say this is just capitulating and that, you know, China is just continuing to kind of use its economic firepower because you know, F9 made $136 million over the weekend just in China. It helped propel it to the, you know, the biggest pandemic box office opening for a Hollywood hit.
And if they boycott the movie, that means dollars are lost. And Vin Diesel, one of the, you know, stars of the franchise, was even talking about how they want to film part of the franchise finale in China, because they know what a big fan base they have there.
So, just this little slip of a tongue, his effort on the part of a western pro wrestler and actor to speak in Mandarin and connect with the fans has really backfired. And it's happened before, it's happened in hotel chains, it happened to airlines, it's happened to fashion brands. And it's happened to Hollywood movies that are, you know, they hit the wrong button there in the mainland as they get canceled.
It's the equivalent Rosemary to cancel culture. But in China, cancel culture can mean more than being shamed on social media. It can mean big monetary losses and that's why I suspect we see John Cena doing this sort of thing and why we would probably will see other actors doing something similar if and when the situation happens again, because it almost certainly will.
CHURCH: Indeed. Money makes you do a lot of things you might not want to do in other circumstances. Thanks for joining us, I appreciate it. And everyone out there too, thanks for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. I will be back with more news in just a moment.