CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

NEWS STREAM

Unrest in Syria; NATO Admits Aircraft May Have Bombed Rebel Tanks in Libya; Thousands Live in Refugee Camps After Fleeing Libya

Aired April 8, 2011 - 08:00:00   ET

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


KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: Welcome to NEWS STREAM, where news and technology meet.

I'm Kristie Lu Stout, in Hong Kong.

Now Libya's rebels are on the retreat. Gadhafi's forces push on amid reports that NATO may have accidentally killed the people they have pledged to protect.

And four weeks after the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the ground shakes with new intensity as a familiar fear gripped people all over again.

Now, I want to give you some breaking news coming out of Syria this hour. Now, the Reuters news agency is reporting that security forces have used live ammunition to disperse thousands of protesters in the southwestern city of Daraa. It's saying at least two people have been wounded during the unrest.

Now, Reuters tells us that protests have erupted in the central Syrian city of Homs. This comes one day after the country's President Assad fired the governor of that city's province.

Now, let's speak now to Wissam Tarif. He's a human rights activist in the Syrian capital of Damascus. He joins me on the phone from there.

WISSAM TARIF, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Yes, I'm here.

STOUT: And what are you hearing about the protests in your country.

TARIF: Well, we have seen protests today in Damascus in the area of (INAUDIBLE) and Duma, as well. Duma's protest is still going on.

We have also protests in Hamah, in Baniyas, in the coastal area of Syria. Unfortunately, we have just received confirmation a researcher (ph) in Daraa that Waseem Masalmeh was killed by security forces when they opened live ammunition in the area between the Mahab (ph) area and the old part of Daraa.

They opened with ammunition this past Thursday. And Waseem Masalmeh has been killed a few minutes ago, and many other people have been injured. We don't have a number yet. We are trying to know more about what's happening in Daraa as we speak.

STOUT: OK. You're reporting that shots have been fired, live ammunition, on the protesters in Daraa. The number of wounded, unknown, but at least one person has been killed. Is that right?

TARIF: Yes, that is correct. One person has been killed.

STOUT: OK. Are arrests also under way? What are you hearing about that?

TARIF: Please, can you repeat that?

STOUT: Are arrests also being made this day in Daraa?

TARIF: Oh, yes, lots of people have been arrested in Daraa, also in (INAUDIBLE) and Damascus, and also people who were arriving from Harasa (ph) and other areas, to Duma, and Damascus, were detained, that is true.

STOUT: All right. Wissam Tarif, the human rights activist, joining us on the line from Damascus, giving us his gauge on the situation there in his country.

Unrest and protests still under way, as you heard just then. We were unable to confirm that, obviously. But live ammunition, he reports, is being used on protesters in the Syrian city of Daraa, resulting in at least the death of one person.

We'll continue to monitor the situation there.

Now, meanwhile, to Libya. NATO is on the defensive after admitting that one of its aircraft may have bombed rebel tanks in Libya, killing at least four people on the wrong side. But the alliance has stopped short of apologizing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAR ADM. RUSSELL HARDING, NATO DEP. COMMANDER, OPERATION UNITED PROTECTOR: Two of our strikes yesterday may have resulted in the deaths of a number of TNC forces who were operating the embattled tanks. The incident took place northeast of Brega, where fighting had gone back and forth on the road to Ajdabiya. The situation in the area is still very fluid, with tanks and other vehicles moving in different directions, making it very difficult to distinguish who may be operating them. In addition, until this time we had not seen the TNC operating tanks.

It's important to stress that our mission is to protect civilians. And we will continue to strike forces that could potentially cause harm to the people of Libya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now, Thursday's incident adds insult to injury for opposition fighters who had previously accused NATO of failing in its defensive commitments. And the fallout is the last thing either party needs, as pro- Gadhafi forces push further east.

While government troops stifle any signs of western Libyan cities such as Zawiya, and hold Misrata under siege, the eastern battlefront has moved beyond what were the rebel-held towns of Ras Lanuf and Al-Brega. Al-Brega had been in contention over recent days, but Gadhafi forces have now pushed on to Ajdabiya.

And this right here on the screen, that is the new frontline. And just 160 kilometers to the north -- that's within about 100 miles -- is the rebel capital of Benghazi.

And as the rebels cling to what territory they have, a former CIA operative has told CNN that the no-fly zone in Libya is not working. Robert Bear (ph) says that NATO will have to put troops on the ground.

Now, with the latest from the frontlines, let's go to our Ben Wedeman. He joins us now live.

And Ben, first, how are rebel forces reacting to that deadly air strike by NATO?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're reacting angrily. We saw a press conference by Abdel Fatah Younis, the chief of the military forces of the Transitional National Council in Benghazi.

They had to warn (ph) NATO that they had tanks in the area and they were planning to move forward. And on the ground, speaking with the rebels, their ammunitions are a little less refined than we heard in Benghazi. Some of them saying we simply don't want NATO, because this kind of (INAUDIBLE) is the last thing they actually need.

Now, I'm in Ajdabiya (INAUDIBLE) limit of opposition control is the edge of the city. They are apparently firing wildly from the western gates of the city at anything that approaches. And it continues to be a very chaotic situation with, of course, their forces having very little in the way of training or communications equipment. So, oftentimes, they're firing on their own people because they don't know when they see a car approaching the checkpoint of Ajdabiya, whether it is friend or foe -- Kristie.

STOUT: Now, last night, Ben, you were on our air reporting about that chaotic retreat of rebels and civilians from Ajdabiya. Where did they flee to and what is the situation today?

WEDEMAN: Well, what we saw yesterday, Kristie, was that all the inhabitants of Ajdabiya fled the city in the direction of Benghazi, which, as you said, it's about 160 kilometers from Ajdabiya. And that's where they're going.

Many of the fighters fled as well. And there's an additional problem. There's no fuel in this area (ph). So, the closest place to refuel is just about 125, 130 kilometers (INAUDIBLE) constantly have to leave the frontlines, go back, refuel. And it's not (INAUDIBLE) way to run a military effort under these circumstances. And of course, now, they have less trust in NATO forces as well, which only further complicates this situation.

STOUT: All right.

Ben Wedeman, joining us there on the frontline.

Our apologies for the technical difficulties there, but we were able to hear in the end Ben's report talking about the frustration among rebel fighters, about NATO, and also about the challenges of fueling and refueling.

Now, within the past few hours, Reuters news agency has reported renewed violence in the city of Misrata, where the conflict has been at its worst. That news comes soon after the World Food Program said that some humanitarian aid had reached the port.

Now, with more on this story, let's toss it to our Nic Robertson in Tripoli.

And Nic, first, more on Misrata. Any more details of the government's bombardment of that city?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't have any new details of what's happening in Misrata. We know that the World Food Program released a press statement last night saying that they had taken humanitarian aid by ships into Misrata, and that seems to be the only way that the rebels there have communications or connection (INAUDIBLE). They are surrounded by government forces.

We're actually on a government trip to Misrata at the moment. We went on one about a week and a half ago. When we went last time, we were only able to get two (INAUDIBLE) from the city center, not able to get to the city center, not able to see the rebels there or the civilians leaving in the city center.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen did get on a food (ph) supply ship to the city a few days after our visit, because it is the hospital rebels using that, saw (INAUDIBLE) civilians in the city. It's not clear if we'll be able to do that (INAUDIBLE) government officials today. But they say that we should be able to get them (INAUDIBLE) that is now mostly under government control. The last trip, again, we weren't able to get around the city as we wanted to.

What we're seeing on this journey as we drive, and what is different to the last time we made this journey, is that the government checkpoints on the highway seems manned by more professional, yet tired and younger-looking soldiers generally than we saw on our previous trip -- Kristie.

STOUT: OK. Nic Robertson joining us live on the line there.

Thank you very much for that update, Nic.

Now, thousands of people, mostly foreign nationals, have fled Libya since the fighting began. And the majority have ended up in refugee camps along the Tunisian border. And as our Fred Pleitgen found out, many of them are not sure when or even if they'll be able to go home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A month and a half into the crisis in Libya, and the food lines at the Shusha refugee camp on the Tunisian side of the border keep getting longer. The number of people here has almost tripled in recent weeks, the U.N. says. Most are from sub-Saharan Africa. "We've been here for 25 days," this man from Chad says, "and we've not been able to leave the country."

International aid groups have managed to send more than 100,000 foreigners who fled Libya home since the conflict began, mostly by chartering planes. But it's becoming more difficult, the U.N. says. Air travel has become more expensive since the coalition began enforcing a no-fly zone and airliners have to fly around Libyan airspace. Donations are also dropping according to the U.N.

ZIAD AYAD, OFFICIAL, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: It's important for us to continue to encourage the international community to provide support at the same rate that they have since the beginning of the crisis. It's important for us to maintain the momentum. We continue to sort of extend our gratitude to the Tunisian government for their hospitality and generosity since the beginning of the crisis.

PLEITGEN: The border between Libya and Tunisia remains busy as people continue to pack up their belongings and go.

(on camera): We're right at the border between Libya and Tunisia right now. And the U.N. estimates that there's still about 1,500 people a day who come across these borders. Most of them are workers from Africa, and many of them, of course, want to return to the countries that they came from.

(voice-over): But some can't return to their home countries. This man is from Ivory Coast, which is also in a crisis. He shows me the tents he's been staying in for three weeks.

"It's impossible to return to Ivory Coast," he says. The situation there is just as bad as in Libya. It's impossible."

While most of those we spoke to said the conditions in the Shusha camp are good, with enough food, water and medical supplies available, they also said after their nightmare in Libya, they finally want to get away to any place they can call home.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, at the Shusha refugee camp, Tunisia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now, the wife of detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is appealing to the government for information. Lu Qing's letter has been posted online. And, among other things, she asks authorities for her husband's location and current condition.

Now, Ai Weiwei has not been heard from since Sunday. Beijing says he is being investigated for economic crimes, but did not provide specifics.

And a new editorial in the communist newspaper "The Global Times" criticizes Western media coverage of the vague charge. It says this: "They depict anyone conducting anti-government activities in China as being innocent, and as being exempt unconditionally from legal pursuit."

But the article ends with a curious statement sure to raise some eyebrows. "Authorities should learn to be more cautious and find sufficient evidence before detaining public figures next time."

Now, yesterday, we showed you the words that Chinese netizens use to avoid government censors and to discuss Ai Weiwei. Now take a look at some of the images that they are using.

Now, a Twitter user who goes by the name WenYunChao uploaded this "Missing" poster. Now, these posters have reportedly been seen taped up to street lamps in Berlin.

Now, up next here on NEWS STREAM, shaken and shocked in Japan. A strong aftershock makes survivors of last month's quake and tsunami feel vulnerable again.

Plus, tens of thousands of demonstrators gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Find out why they are back there.

And no deal. Shutdown looms for the U.S. government as lawmakers battle over the budget.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Now, another powerful earthquake has rocked northern Japan. The area has been hit by dozens of strong shocks since the major March 11th earthquake, but this one, it was the biggest yet and it was deadly.

The 7.1 magnitude aftershock killed at least three people and injured more than 130 others. It was centered near Sendai, on the northeast coast. But buildings, they shook all the way to Tokyo.

Now, witnesses say it lasted for up to a minute and a half. The quake prompted a tsunami warning that was canceled shortly after being issued.

Now, the aftershock did some damage at the Onagawa nuclear power plant, and officials have reported a small leak of radioactive water from a spent fuel pool. But they say it does not pose a risk to human health.

Now, over at the troubled Daiichi plant in Fukushima, regulators say that they have not found any new damage. Workers were evacuated for around eight hours, but have resumed their battle to keep the overheating reactors under control.

Now, meanwhile, Japan's government has lifted restrictions on vegetables and milk from some parts of the disaster zone. The chief cabinet secretary says testing shows that they are now a low radiation risk.

Now, some survivors of the March 11th disaster say that they were just starting to feel secure when this fresh quake hit. And Paula Hancocks finds out how they are handling an all-too-familiar fear.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thursday night, after 11:30, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocks Japan. Customers in this Sendai restaurant in the northeast hold on to chairs or get onto the ground as lights sway wildly with the tremor. And then darkness.

The recent aftershock has knocked out power to around four million households in and around the tsunami-affected region. Schools and shops were closed. A handful of buildings were badly damaged. Trains, stopped in their tracks, and traffic lights were out. This is a familiar sight, but one that Japan had hoped was in the past.

At this hardware store in Kitakami, 90 kilometers from the coast, an employee announces what is sold out. Batteries, generators and stoves, all gone by 9:30 in the morning.

Those in the queue described their frazzled nerves after Thursday's quake. This woman says, "I was terrified. Then the light went out and it was pitch black. That made it even worse."

This man tells me, "It's overreacting to be standing in line again, but I need to buy some food for security."

Kanako Konno tells me, "I'm very worried and anxious. I think more earthquakes are definitely coming."

Hospitals away from the tsunami-hit zone are functioning on backup generator power, although nonessential surgeries are on hold. The director tells me, "People in this area were just starting to feel safe. So this big aftershock is now affecting people psychologically."

(on camera): Everyone we've spoken to so far says that they don't believe that that was the last big aftershock, and that certainly has them on edge. But even though many of the shops are shut today, they say there's not this sense of panic that there was after March the 11th, as they've had time to prepare and buy supplies.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Kitakami, Japan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now, the aftershock made hundreds more people homeless. Tens of thousands are currently living in shelters. Let's find out what the forecast holds for them.

(WEATHER REPORT)

STOUT: You're watching NEWS STREAM. We'll be back right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now, day one of golf's Masters, and a couple of Europeans are leading the way.

Kate Giles joins us now from London with all the highlights -- Kate.

KATE GILES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Kristie, very big performance for Europe there on day one of the Masters.

Now, there hasn't been a European water at Augusta since all the way back in 1999, but after round one, it is Europe setting the pace for the local boys, northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and a Spaniard, Alvaro Quiros. They both led the standings after day one.

Now, round two is, of course, just getting under way, but let's, first of all, get you caught up on all that action from round one.

That was certainly a great start for the day for two-time U.S. Open champion Ratif Guston (ph), who got an eagle in the first hole. Now, he finished the front 9 at 5 under par, but he did fare far worse on the back 9, eventually finishing the day at 2 under par. Still, an amazing start in his round.

Rory McIlroy set the pace from early on. This tip at the third led to the second of 7 birdies in his bogey-free round. Very big performance from the 21-year-old.

Now, looking for his fifth Masters victory, but his first professional title since 2009, Tiger Woods had a mediocre round. He finished sixth off the pace at 1 under par.

Phil Mickelson fared slightly better. This chip at the 8th gave him his first birdie. He would finish a shot ahead of Woods, 5 off the lead, at 2 under par.

2009 PGA champion Y.E. Yang had a great round. Have a look at this lovely approach at the 13th. It just rolled right up to about a foot from the hole, giving Yang an eagle. He was tied for the lead at one point, but after a couple of bogies later on, he would drop to 5 under.

Well, the late charge of the day came from Alvaro Quiros. His approach at the 7th led to a birdie, one of his eight on the day. Quiros ended the day tied for the lead, at 7 under, with Rory McIlroy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RORY MCILROY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: It's a great start. You know? It's great to be able to go out and play the golf that I know I'm capable of. But, you know, I've still got 54 holes to go, and I realize that more than anyone after what happened at St. Andrews last year.

So I've got a lot of hard work ahead of me, but as I said, it's a great start.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GILES: Now, we are of course going to start seeing some movement on the leader board as these guys now tee off for round two. This, though, is a snapshot of what we had at the end of round one. Spain, Northern Ireland, South Korea and the United States, all represented at the top of the table. How about that?

It is of course worth noticing, by the way, that the world number one, Martin Kaymer, is nowhere to be found. He finished tied for 93rd. And it looks like he may well struggle to make the cut again.

Now, Asian fans will be hopeful for their first-ever Masters winner. That (INAUDIBLE) showing South Korean's Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi.

Japan's Ryo Ishikawa opened with a 71. And, of course, you may well remember that every cent that he makes this year, he's already pledged that he will give that all to the relief effort back home in Japan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYO ISHIKAWA, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER (through translator): When I'm playing golf, I can concentrate on my goals. But as soon as I get out of the course, that's when I start to feel worried about the Japanese people and the situation in Japan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GILES: OK. Let's go on with football. And I'm afraid I've got bad news for Liverpool fans.

The club's captain and their influential midfielder, Steven Gerrard, has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Now, Gerrard has not long returned to training after a groin operation in early March, but he sustained a similar injury last week. His manager, Kenny Dalglish, has said that despite a week of testing, they're still not really sure of the exact cause of the latest injury. But he did confirm that he is gone for the rest of the season.

And Kristie, I know that as I say those words there, your producer is wiping away the tears from his cheek.

STOUT: Oh, he is. The Kleenex is already out in the control room behind me.

Kate Giles, live in London.

Thank you so much for that.

Take care, Kate.

Now still ahead here on News Stream, after the uprising Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square once again and we'll tell you what is prompting these renewed protests.

And can Obama stare down a shutdown? We'll be live in Washington as politicians battle to cut spending before they'll allow any more bills to be paid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You're watching News Stream. And these are your world headlines.

Now violence is reported to have erupted over recent hours in the Syria cities in Daraa and Amph (ph). Now protests in Daraa have, according to a doctor that spoke to CNN, killed four people and injured more than 300 others.

The protests broke out after Friday prayers in the city as ten's of thousands broke out after Friday prayers in the city as tens of thousands of Syrians spilled out into the streets. Now the country has been caught up in the wave of anti-government unrest that has swept the Middle East.

NATO is on the defensive after admitting one of its air craft may have bombed rebel tanks in Libya killing at least four people. Now the alliance has stopped short of apologizing. Now the commander of the rebel forces says that there was tension between the allies despite the apparent mistake.

The U.N. is telling Ivory Coast's self-declared president to seize his last chance for a graceful exit. Now Laurent Gbagbo is still hunkered down in his basement in Abidjan refusing to cede power. And forces loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara have laid siege to Mr. Gbagbo's residence.

Now the Japanese government is lifting restrictions on the sale of fresh food from the area near the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. It says radiation levels in spinach and milk have staid below legal limits for three weeks in a row. The overall food safety standards are not being relaxed despite appeals from farmers.

And this -- this was the scene in Egypt's Tahrir Square on Friday morning. It was the scene of gruesome battles as well as jubilant celebrations earlier in the year as Egyptians united to topple then President Hosni Mubarak. But it is not over yet, as you can see crowds are again gathering with new demands of the ruling military council.

Now it is being called a day of trial and cleansing. Our Ivan Watson has been at Tahrir Square all morning. He joins us now live from Cairo. And Ivan describe the scene.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These are huge numbers again. Tens of thousands of people, Kristie, that have gathered in Tahrir Square, much larger than the last week in part because in addition to the secular and liberal groups that have gathered here to protest, this week the Muslim Brotherhood has joined on board as well to increase demands, their frustrated that the revolution is not moving as fast as they would like, that Hosni Mubarak himself has not been brought to justice. And there's a lot of accusations against the ruling military council that they are actually protecting the former president.

Another change we've seen is what seems to be an online campaign by a number of former army officers that are now saying the current ruling military council. Take a listen to what some of these men have to say, Kristie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. HATEM ABADI, FORMER EGYPTIAN AIR FORCE OFFICER (through translator): All we demand is that we go protest peacefully in military uniform so that the people and the marshal know that Egypt and the armed forces have men that will say no and stand with the people.

CAPT. SHARIF OSMAN, FORMER EGYPTIAN ARMY OFFICER (through translator): I would like to tell the supreme council that we are going down with the Egyptian people on April 8, 2011. Us, the army officers on duty and off duty are going to Tahrir Square with our uniforms in a way that will bring joy to all of Egypt. Tantawi, you will not be able to steal the revolution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: Now this is the direct -- this is a direct challenge, Kristie, to the ruling military council. And breaking a taboo. People face prison charges if they criticize the Egyptian military.

Now the army responded to CNN saying that anybody caught wearing a military uniform would immediately be placed before a special military tribunal and basically arrested.

Now I have not seen any army officers or personnel in uniform in this huge square, this throng of people yet so far, but it does seem the interim government is trying to make some gestures to satisfy the demonstrators. Yesterday, the chief of staff -- longtime chief of staff of Hosni Mubarak was arrested, Zakaria Osmi (ph) for 15 days on corruption charges. And on Sunday, Mubarak's son Gamal is expected to appear in front of a corruption investigation committee of the Justice Ministry. That'll be a big step for Egypt -- Kristie.

STOUT: And Ivan, is this massive display of people power there in Tahrir Square this Friday, representative of the mood of a nation, of Egyptians who have had enough of the ruling military council?

WATSON: It's difficult to say at this point whether this represents the entire nation. What you do have, really for the first time in weeks, is all of the disparate groups, Kristie, that united in January and February, many of them coming together again for the first time, that coalition, to get the Muslim Brotherhood on board with the secular revolutionaries, to get even the Salafi groups that have emerged since Hosni Mubarak's overthrow mixed in with the demonstrators. That does show unity and a united frustration with the speed of change and the investigations into Mubarak regime.

Another point here, Kristie, is some of the activists have said that if they don't see Mubarak brought to justice within the next week they're going to try to organize a march on Sharm el-Sheikh, that Red Sea resort where Hosni Mubarak has been living on his estate since he stepped down on February 11. And that would definitely raise the stakes in this confrontation between the demonstrators in the streets and the ruling military council.

STOUT: Ivan Watson joining us live on the line from Tahrir Square here in the Egyptian capital. Thank you, Ivan.

Now an Israeli air strike targeted a group of Hamas militants Friday morning in Gaza killing two people and critically wounding a third. At least seven Palestinians have been killed since a Hamas attack on an Israeli bus on Thursday. And this back and forth violence underscores the constant tension there.

But through it all, there's an occasional glimmer of hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have children from every corner of Palestine. And every day there is more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: Now this is Moral. It's a newly released film that deals with the conflict. One of the movie's stars was recently shot and killed. Now Juliano Mer-Khamis was an Arab-Israeli actor, director and peace activist. His work divided some, but as Kevin Flower reports it also brought many others closer together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN FLOWERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They came from Israel and the West Bank, Jews and Arabs together to pay tribute to a man whose deep roots on both sides of a bitter conflict give him the insight to touch the lives of many.

Juliano Mer-Khamis was the son of an Israeli-Jewish mother and an Arab-Christian father. It was from them that he inherited his love of the arts and a sense of social justice.

AVI NESHER, FILM DIRECTOR: Above anything he was an artist, and an artist's job is to sir the pot, it's to get things moving, it's to get people thinking, it's to provoke.

FLOWERS: Avi Nesher directed Mer-Khamis in his first breakout acting job.

NESHER: I mean, he had a real shot at Hollywood. Big time agents made him offers. He was thought to be the next Antonio Benderas. He was very handsome. He was very charismatic. He really could have had a great career. And he gave it all up, because he wanted to make a difference.

FLOWERS: Mer-Khamis chose to make that difference in the streets of the Jenin Refugee Camp, one of the West Bank's toughest neighborhoods where in 2002 the Israeli military and Palestinian militants fought a bloody battle that left dozens dead and the camp a wasteland.

Along with a former Palestinian militant leader, Mer-Khamis opened the Freedom Theater, a safe haven for Janin's children to learn about the arts and empower them to rise above the all too familiar stereotypes of the conflict.

Mer-Khamis spoke about his philosophy in a 2009 documentary about the theater.

JULIANO MER-KHAMIS: As human beings if you give them meaning, if you give them something to live for, they're not going to become terrorists, they're not going to be -- they're not violent. They're not genetically violent. They don't look for virgins in the sky. They don't kill because they were born killers.

FLOWERS: And it was this belief in the revolutionary power of the arts that framed his view of the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

MER-KHAMIS: I don't believe in guns. I don't think the gun can free Palestine. But I believe that culture, poems, songs, books can free Palestine.

FLOWERS: It was this conviction, and an unwillingness to bend to the demands of orthodoxy, that friends say likely led to a gunman shooting him five times outside the theater he founded.

Police are investigating the murder. But regardless of who and why Mer-Khamis was killed, his friends, family and students who miss the man passionately believe that through art, peace and freedom were possible.

Kevin Flowers, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now the movie Miral was based on a popular novel by a Palestinian born author. And earlier, Rula Jebreal spoke to CNN about why she thinks Mer-Khamis was targeted and killed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RULA JEBREAL, AUTHOR: I feel that Juliano is still alive, because his mission, his legacy is still there. And it's in the hearts and the minds of many kids that he saved. He represented co-existence and forgiveness. And that's something that was threatening actually to both sides -- to Hamas, to the extremists. It was also threatening to the Israeli authority, because he challenged them on one face saying, you know what, if you give these people the right to live, the right to survive, the right to express themselves, the freedom that they desire and deserve and the dignity, they will not be suicide bombers.

So both sides really didn't like Juliano. He was very outspoken. And he was one of the few people that left his house in Haifa in Israel and went and he wanted to live and took residence in the camp of Janin. When he acted in our movie, the first thing when he came to the set, he said -- said, you know, we are making a culture of revolution here. And this will start today with this movie, with the books, with the theater.

I heard his friends talking about Egypt and Tunisia. And he said, we started all of this in Janin with the theater. We started this everywhere in Palestine way before Egypt, way before Tunisia. But our voice is still not heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STOUT: That was Rula Jebreal, author of Miral.

Now coming up here on News Stream, could the U.S. government be heading for a shutdown? We're into the final hours before tonight's midnight deadline. We'll be at the White House with the latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now Syria's weeks long protests have flared into violence again. A doctor in the city of Daraa tells CNN that security forces fired on anti- government demonstrators killing at least four. Now a crowd of 20,000 people have been marching from the mosques after Friday prayers. And Daraa has seen several deadly clashes since last month.

Now in the U.S. the government is playing a dangerous game of deal or no deal. The U.S. president Barack Obama is trying to avoid a partial but extensive shutdown of the federal government. If there was no agreement on a new budget for the rest of the year, that could happen at midnight on Friday. Now so far, the word coming from Mr. Obama's meetings with congressional leaders is -- progress, but ultimately no deal.

Now with an agreement seemingly hard to reach, there is little confidence that the U.S. government will continue operating as usual after midnight on Friday.

Well, Mr. Obama and congressional leaders say that everyone will keep at it trying to thrash out a deal.

Dana Bash tells us what is holding things up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will come to order.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the biggest disagreements is not over government spending, but policy.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) OHIO: Some 40 or 50 policy restrictions that were attached to our bill...

BASH: So-called policy writers, Republicans call essential and Democrats call non-starters. The most divisive is over abortion. A GOP plan to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion procedures in addition to other women's health services.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NEVADA: This is a budget. This is to keep our country running. This is not a woman's health bill.

BASH: Planned Parenthood staged a rally outside the Capitol to protest.

CECIL RICHARDS, CEO PLANNED PARENTHOOD: They don't want to allow Planned Parenthood to serve the 3 million women that we see every single year. 97 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides are preventive care.

JOHN FLEMING, (R) LOUISIANA: I certainly don't think that taxpayers should subsidize abortions. It's -- if a woman chooses to have an abortion, it's legal to do that in this country, but I don't think taxpayers should be put in a position to have to pay for those abortions.

BASH: Another major sticking point? How much spending to cut. A Democratic source tells CNN they have finally found tentative agreement on slashing $34.5 billion from the rest of the this year's budget. But a Republican source says there's no deal.

BOEHNER: There is no agreement on a number. There is no agreement on the policy issues that are contained with this.

BASH: Then there's the critical issue of what programs and agencies to cut. Democrats say they're trying to find spending cuts with the least impact on those who need it most. So they're pushing for things like temporary one year cuts in programs. Some examples, cuts in wetlands protection and Pell Grants for summer school and graduate students.

Republicans call that smoke and mirrors.

BOHENER: Our goal is to make real spending cuts.

BASH: Some examples of what Republicans what to cut -- money for food inspectors, Head Start education programs and funding for housing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Let's take a look at what happens if there is a U.S. government shutdown. The last time it happened, 200,000 passport applications were stalled. And cleanup stopped at 609 toxic waste sites. Another big concern, paychecks could stop for U.S. troops, including those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, although they will eventually get paid.

But some essential services like national security would continue operating. So would air traffic control and many other federal workers would also stay on the job, including those who control government financial systems.

Now all this week in our urban planet series, we're looking at ways to make growing city's more livable. And today, we go to Mumbai where the government is pushing ahead with its plan to tear down one of the city's infamous slums. Now that plan has Mumbai's poorest residents worried about their futures.

Mallika Kapur spoke to the architect behind the controversial project.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mumbai, India's commercial capital, home to 19 million people, almost a million live and work in Tarabe (ph) a strolling, bustling city within a city. Spread over 500 acres, it's been called Asia's largest slum.

Most people around the world will know this as the slum in which Slumdog Millionaire was filmed. What a lot of people may not know about Tarabe (ph) is that it is the hub of Mumbai's recycling business.

Below that bridge is an informal garbage dump, an eyesore for some, a lifeline for Lekshme (ph) who says she earns around $4 a day by picking out bits of plastic from garbage. She sells the plastic to small factories where it's crushed, treated and resold. Others segregate cardboard, tin, metals, glass -- but this extraordinary way of recycling could soon end. Any day now, Lekshme (ph) could lose her job and her home.

The government is pressing ahead with a plan to redevelop Tarabe (ph). That means demolishing these shacks and replacing them with high rise blocks equipped with water and toilets. Thousands of displaced slum dwellers will get flats here for free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the apartment blocks.

KAPUR: According to plans drawn up by architect Mukesh Mehta, the redeveloped Tarabe (ph) will have gardens, clinics, schools, shops and space for residents to run small businesses. This won't just benefit the slum dwellers, Mehta says it will eventually benefit India's economy.

MUKESH MEHTA, ARCHITECT: If 33 percent of urban population lives in slums, they might live in subhuman conditions, but still they are a drain on the economy. Tomorrow, they start becoming the contributors to the economy. If 33 percent of urban population starts paying taxes, isn't that a huge thing?

KAPUR: "It will definitely help my business," says this garment exporter who lives and works in Tarabe (ph). Sometimes people hesitate to come to this area because it's so dirty. When it's redeveloped, more buyers will come to my workshop.

It's a controversial plan, many residents and charities oppose it. They say it benefits the wrong people.

VINOD SHETTY, ARCHITECT: It is not people centric. The entire plan is based on the fact that land is going to be released which can be sold for profit by the developer.

KAPUR: I'm sure when the redevelopment will start, Lekshme (ph) gets on with her job. She says she doesn't have the necessary documents to secure a flat in the new Tarabe (ph) so once the current shanti is wiped out, she'll lose her home and her livelihood.

Mallika Kapur, CNN, Mumbai.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STOUT: Now still to come here on News Stream, do you remember this? The statue of Michael Jackson unveiled at the ground of Premier team Fulham. And you think it couldn't get worse, right? Well, we've got another one for you.

And in the words of Jacko, it's bad -- really, really bad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STOUT: Welcome back.

Now the calendar reads April, but mother nature seems to be rewriting many expectations. Pedram Javaheri is at the world weather center following an impressive warm spell in many parts of Europe -- Pedram.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kristie, it's well, well deserved out there in parts of Europe, because in December if you recall we were talking about the snow showers, the cold temperatures across much of Europe. And day after day we accumulated snow showers.

And just to show you the jet stream set-up, the weather pattern up there in the upper levels of the atmosphere, storm systems typically travel in the winter season, they're from west to east and also in the southern region of Europe. So a lot of activity. The coldest temperatures stay north of southern France areas around the U.K. on into the Netherlands getting some storm showers.

But work your way towards the spring season and the reputation to be pretty cool, certainly nothing like we're seeing right now. The storm track shifts right overhead for portions of the U.K.

Now that's been a different story. The current set-up, this is the satellite imagery, notice the clouds pushing well north of the United Kingdom. That's a summer-like setup developing. There's a broad areas of high pressure develops overhead. Warm temperatures for far western Europe. Work your way towards central Europe, those storms are being forced on into portions of Germany where wind gusts in Copenhagen, would you believe it, pushing 70 kilometers per hour right now while it's gorgeous, gorgeous conditions out across portions of London there.

And again, you can take a look at this, the current sustained winds -- there's the latest readings, 63 kilometers an hour -- Copenhagen towards Manchester, London nice and tranquil, about 7 kilometers per hour. The way they like it. Sunny skies there and warm temperatures expected.

And again, some travel delays certainly possible across central Europe and into the Baltic peninsula. So keep that in mind.

But notice this high pressure system in place that gradually begins to expand as we head toward Saturday and eventually towards Sunday. Even warm temperatures for our friends in Germany. And we'll call it mostly sunny skies as well. But temperatures -- how a bout this -- some 6, 7, maybe 8 degrees above average for some. Looking at sunny skies up until about Monday a few clouds come in, temperatures again staying above average there in London. And a similar story out of Paris there. We'll call it sunny across the board and also take a temperature trend of some 10 degree above seasonal values.

So April feeling a little like early June in some places. And it's deserved out there, Kristie.

STOUT: All right Pedram. Thank you very much. Take care. Have a great weekend.

Pedram Javaheri there.

Now, you may remember the time we brought you news of a statue that is, in the immortal words of the man depicts, bad. Now this (inaudible) sculpture, it was unveiled outside the London football stadium by the Egyptian tycoon Mohammed al Fayd, a friend of the late king of pop. Well, it doesn't quite rock my world, but it's got to be starting something.

Now it seems that artistic fans of Michael Jackson won't stop until they get enough. Now the latest effort is this, at an east London recording studio depicting the dangerous incident at Berlin when Jackson dangled his baby's son out of a hotel window. And for bad taste, you just can't beat it.

And if the craze of bad Jacko sculptures makes you want to scream, I can only tell you that you are not alone.

And that is News Stream. But the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.

END