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Russia Cautions U.S. Against Intervening In Syria; UN Inspectors Deliberately Targeted By Snipers; Israeli Security Forces Clash At Qalandia Refugee Camp In West Bank, Three Dead; Fire Crews Fighting Wildfires At Yosemite National Park
Aired August 26, 2013 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, HOST: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.
Now the UN says its chemical weapons inspectors are intentionally fired on by snipers in Syria.
The trial of a fallen Chinese politician ends. And now Bo Xilai waits for a verdict.
And a massive fire in one of the most celebrated natural sites in the U.S.: Yosemite National Park.
As the international community weighs a tougher response to the Syrian crisis, a United Nations weapons inspection team has come under fire on the ground in Syria. Now the UN convoy seen here leaving the hotel, it was headed to a Damascus suburb to inspect the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack. A UN statement says that the first car in the convoy was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers. No one was injured.
Now the Syrian government is allowing the UN team to look for evidence of a chemical weapons attack. Opposition groups say more than a 1,000 people died from poison gas on Wednesday.
Now according to Syrian state TV, the Assad government is blaming so- called terrorists for today's sniper attack.
Let's go live to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen in Damascus. And Fred, what is the status of the vehicle and the UN investigation after this sniper fire?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the UN says, Kristie, that the investigation is going to go on. And they've also released some more details as to what apparently happened out there, because we do, of course, know that the investigators had to get from the government-controlled part of Damascus over the front line to the rebel controlled part of Damascus on the outskirts. And apparently they were traveling through the buffer zone between those two areas, that's when the vehicle came under fire.
They said that the first vehicle, the lead vehicle of that convoy, it was six vehicles in that convoy was deliberately targeted several times. At some point, the vehicle simply stopped running. They had to go into the other direction. They said they're going to replace the vehicle and then go back and try to visit those sites.
So the UN is saying the investigation will go on.
This isn't of course the first hitch that all of this took. Before the UN investigators even managed to leave the hotel that they're staying in, the area around that hotel was shelled by mortars, one of them landing only about four blocks away from where that hotel is. Nevertheless, the UN continues to push forward. As you said, the Assad regime is blaming what it calls terrorists, which is of course the way it refers to all members, all of the armed opposition against it.
The rebels for their part have not put out a statement in this point in time, so it is still quite unclear who actually opened fire at that convoy -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Now, it has been five days since the reported chemical weapons attack. And when the UN team actually makes it and gets to the site to begin collecting the evidence, what kind of evidence and what quality of evidence will they be able to get?
PLEITGEN: Well, the quality is really a good question. I mean, the United States has already come out, and other countries as well, and they believe that the evidence on the ground there might be compromised, because what's been going on over the past couple of days is that the government has been heavily shelling the outskirts of Damascus, which is of course the place where those chemical weapons attacks allegedly took place.
So the question is does the fact that so many shells have landed in that area possibly tamper with the evidence, does it change the soil that could be taken as samples by these UN investigators. That's one of the things that they'll be trying to do. They'll be trying to take soil samples. They'll be talking to people. They'll be trying to get some of the samples that possibly doctors, who were obviously there in the initial stages after this happened on Wednesday might have gotten at that point. The UN might try to get those and then just build a case depending on that.
But again, they're not going to assess blame. They're not going to say the regime did it or the rebels did it, all they're going to try to say is these are the possible nerve agents that might have been used and this is the way they were delivered. In other words, were they brought in by an artillery shell, an airplane bomb or something else, were they released in some other form. Those are the things that the UN investigators are going to try find out.
But again, there are many countries in the international community they say they believe that right now it's too late to reach any sort of conclusion, Kristie.
LU STOUT: Frederik Pleitgen reporting live from Damascus, thank you.
Now the inspection team is to visit the suburb of Jobar, northeast of Damascus. It's part of an area known as eastern Gouta (ph).
Now neither side of the conflict denies that something happened on Wednesday, but each accuses the other of carrying it out.
Now state run TV claims government forces came across the site after they entered Jobar, uncovering a cache of gas masks, canisters and other items that could be used in a gas attack. But the opposition says the Syrian army fired rockets with chemical payloads that killed more than 1,300 people in Jobar.
Now there has been persistent army shelling of this area since the attack.
And while the world waits to see what the UN team uncovers, military chiefs from the U.S. and its allies are expected to meet in Jordan soon to assess the situation on the ground. And British prime minister David Cameron has cut short his vacation because of the escalating crisis.
For more, Matthew Chance joins me now live from London. And Matthew, how much international momentum is building for a tough military response?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kristie, there's certainly a lot of momentum building for some kind of action to take place after what many countries believe was a chemical attack perpetrated by the government of Bashar al-Assad. Indeed, the White House has said as much.
The question is the issue of David Cameron here, the British prime minister, he's cut short his annual vacation in the southwest of Britain. He's expected to come back this evening. He's going to be at his desk tomorrow morning. There's going to be a special meeting of the national security council, which we understand will take place on Wednesday.
There's also been some very tough words coming from the British foreign secretary William Hague. He said essentially on the state broadcaster here that he believes diplomacy in Syria has failed and the UK is looking at all its options moving forward.
A similar message coming from his French counterpart in Paris. Laurent Fabius saying that they're looking at all the options as well. The only option, in his words they're not looking at is doing nothing.
So it does seem the momentum from all these all these western powers - - including the United States as well, which has moved several warships to the eastern Mediterranean, giving it the capacity to strike against Syria with missiles if it chooses to do so -- the momentum is moving towards doing something, possibly some kind of military action. But that will be decided in the days ahead, Kristie.
LU STOUT: William Hague saying that diplomacy has failed, patience is clearly wearing thin. But what can the UK and its allies do to actually change the desperate situation on the ground in Syria?
CHANCE: Well, I think it's got a whole gamut of options on the table that it's considering. And indeed neither the British government, the Americans and all the French -- the main players in this -- have ruled out any of the possible military options that their military commanders have given them.
Obviously, there's a great deal of reluctance to put boots on the ground, not much appetite, particularly in the United States for any kind of full blown military intervention in the Middle East again, particularly after the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But as I say the United States has moved its ships to the eastern Mediterranean. That does give it a possibility of carrying out cruise missile strikes if it chooses to do so. It hasn't done so at this point.
There are other options as well that are also being considered. Again, the British and the French foreign minister saying that none of the military options laid out have been dismissed at this point.
LU STOUT: All right, Matthew Chance reporting live from Downing Street. Thank you.
You're watching News Stream. And still ahead, the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai is over, the verdict still to come. We'll have a live report.
And later this hour, yet another gang rape case stuns India. Mallika Kapur talks to three women in Mumbai about sexual assault and what could be done to stop it.
LU STOUT: Welcome back. You're watching News Stream.
As we've told you, UN inspectors have come under sniper fire in Syria. We are joined now by Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for the UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon. He joins us on the line from Seoul. And thank you for joining us here on CNN International.
Any more information about what happened in Damascus in the last hour or so about how and why the UN inspection team was targeted by sniper fire?
MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESMAN FOR UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: Well, what I can tell you, Krsitie, is that the first vehicle in that convoy of the chemical weapons investigation team was deliberately shot at by unidentified snipers in a buffer zone area. In other words, as they left government-controlled territory and were heading in towards territory that was not held by them.
But there were multiple shots. We don't know how many exactly. What we do know is that the first vehicle was hit to the extent that it's no longer serviceable.
The team themselves, the team members, they are safe and they returned to the government checkpoint and they will return to the area after replacing the vehicle.
LU STOUT: Do you have a timeframe on that?
NESIRKY: Not at this moment, no. What's really important here is that this team has a job to do. They are to collect samples, to interview people, to try to get to the bottom of what happened on the 21st of August to be able to say what happened, were chemical weapons used, was some kind of nerve agent used. To be able to do their work, they obviously need to be able to do it safely, and certainly not under fire. And it's clearly outrageous that this team -- they are obviously unarmed -- came under fire as they set out to carry out this mission.
LU STOUT: And before this mission, and before this sniper fire attack that took place, did the Syrian government and the rebels agree to a cease- fire to allow the UN team access to the site?
NESIRKY: All the relevant parties, including the government, including the opposition, have given undertakings that there would be a cessation of hostilities, a cease-fire if you like, for the period when the team was operating on the ground.
Now plainly, that is something that we expect all sides to live up to so that this team of technical and medical experts can carry out the work that they've been sent there to do and are very keen to carry out.
LU STOUT: Now the team, as you said, despite what happened earlier today, they will continue their mission. They do plan to go to the site of that reported chemical weapons attack. And there, they'll be able to collect soil samples, tissue samples, et cetera.
But what have they been able to investigate so far away from the site? We know that there has been the videos online of that reported attack, of course eyewitness testimony as well. Is the team any closer to finding out what happened last Wednesday?
NESIRKY: Well, obviously you're right that you don't have to be at the location to start gathering evidence of the kind that you mentioned speaking to people and so on and looking at video footage, that clearly is something that can be started.
But obviously what you do need are samples where you have absolute assurance of chain of custody. In other words, you directly collect the samples, whether it's blood, soil, or other kinds of samples. And then they are in and under your control all the way back to the laboratory. And that's what they need to do.
LU STOUT: Now the UN team is there to collect evidence and collect the samples to find out whether a chemical weapons attack took place. But as I understand it they will not determine who was responsible for unleashing these chemical weapons if chemical weapons were used. Why is that?
NESIRKY: That is the nature of the mandate that was given to them. This is a mechanism within the UN that stems from a resolution from the UN general assembly, in other words all the member states, it was later further confirmed by the security council members, the five permanent members, the 10 non-permanent members of the security council. So in other words, this is mandate given to the secretary-general by the member states. And that is what it is.
The job is to find out whether chemical weapons were used.
LU STOUT: Well, it was good to hear that the UN team was not injured as a result of that sniper fire attack. And thank you so much for joining us here on CNN International.
That was Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon joining us on the line live from Seoul.
Now, governments around the world are responding to the situation in Syria. Syrian ally Russia has warned the U.S. against any military action. Its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in fact is speaking right now. So let's listen in.
SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): ...and the declaration has it in black and white that any information on the use of chemical weapons in Syria should be thoroughly and professionally investigated and the results of such investigations should be submitted to the UN security council.
And those Jade summit (ph) participants who now shrug off this accord try to assume the role of the investigators and the security council. Per se, we have been adamantly supportive of investigating any claims that chemical agents were used or might have been used. And like investigating this situation one should analyze fully the information that circulates on the Internet and questions the use of the chemical weapons by the governmental forces.
(inaudible) has a lot of comments made by professional comment -- experts from the UK, U.S. and other western countries that state that there is no proof that these video images are unsubstantiated. In some blogs, there is information that these media images and clips were posted on the video sites are worse -- had been posted hours before the chemical attack against the opposition forces was announced by the TV channels.
Those who want at any cost to proceed with the military scenario are not satisfied with yesterday's accord reached by the Syrian government with the UN experts to organize the on the ground, or institution visits to the regions where supposedly these chemical agents, noxious agents, were used.
So these accords of yesterday are shrugged off on the pretext that it's a belated one and the opponents say that in five days one could have destroyed all the evidence.
But we have to question why our western partners that are now so concerned over the disappearance of the evidence didn't care about the preservation of the proofs when their experts in (inaudible) wanted to visit that place to investigate the supposed use of chemical weapons there on the 19th of March. There are now no concern -- at that time, there were no concerns that evidence would disappear.
But the Russian experts carried out their own investigation back then on the incident of the 19th of March in line with the criteria of the OPCW (ph) and presented a professional, comprehensive report to the UN security council members.
This is a substantiated paper as against those claims of cogent evidence that are made now that Bashar al-Assad is guilty of the scenario of the 21st of August this year.
So we have question -- because the chemical attack of the 21st of August was announced, when the experts had it by the Swedish specialist Sellstrom arrived in Damascus and had already coordinated the plan of their work and the modalities of their operation there.
And the very many serious analysts wonder is there any sense for this Syrian government to have used the chemical weapons under those conditions I have just cited? And this information announcement about the Gouta (ph) chemical attack happened at the very moment when Russian-American experts were preparing for another meeting to pre -- to convene at Geneva -- a new Geneva conference. And this hysteria will definitely work against this new meeting. This is doubtless.
Probably this might be one of the aims pursued by the sponsored of this news -- piece of news. The opposition wants no talks, this is obvious. And they say that would only agree to unconditional capitulation of the regime, of the al-Assad regime. And these approaches will be further backed by the information campaign that has now been unfolded in favor of the military resolution of the Syrian crisis.
And tracking the developments, we can see that as soon as a (inaudible) just to sort things out politically and peacefully, attempt to derail them are immediately taken.
This was the case of the oblique observers and the peace plan of Kofi Annan and the observer mission of the United Nations to Syria. And now we can see a similar attempt to subvert the Russian-American initiative as of the 7th of May this year to convene an international conference to fully implement the Geneva communique of the 30th of June 2012.
Unlike the representatives of the Syrian government who agreed to send their delegates without any preconditions, the opposition so far up to this moment, five months past the accord, did not agree. So I'd like to understand what signals oppositional leaders receive from their sponsors.
As regards to the preparation of the conference, let me cite the Daily Beast website, an American website, this statement made by the National Coalition Hamid Saleh (ph) that Americans -- what Americans say to the opposition leaders. You will sit on the table and say that you require the deposing of Assad. They will not agree. And in this case, you -- we will emerge to the scene. So if there is no resignation of Assad, we will emerge.
I hope that this is not true. Yesterday spoke with Mr. Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, and he confirmed the commitment to Washington for international conference. They keep working with the opposition. He said to ensure their participation. And I called on my colleague to make a coordinated signals and send coordinated messages to all the related parties of the conflict.
So the government, the groups of opposition that there is no alternative to a political settlement by a direct dialogue of the Geneva II conference.
This is what we do in our contacts with Damascus and all groups of Syrian opposition. And we are committed to the provision of the declaration, which is of utmost important, made (inaudible) summit when the (inaudible) that governmental and oppositional efforts should be joined and merged to combat terrorists together to make them leave the (inaudible) Syrian Arab Republic. And I believe this should be the focus of the efforts of the (inaudible) international community as against the military buildup of assault groups and inciting confrontation.
We had this movie before in Iraq and Libya. Not a single case of the military interference and intervention resulted in things improving and life standards improving or stabilization in place. On the contrary, the region is destabilized in an unprecedented way.
So everybody should be responsible, should act with utmost importance -- responsibility, pardon me -- work together in concert as was agreed by our leaders in (inaudible) summit in June this year.
Now I'm ready to take your questions. To colleagues please. The first question from Russia 24 TV channel.
QUESTION (through translator): Russia 24 TV channel Dineva Nova (ph), concerning Geneva II I'd like to ask you a question. There's been a lot of talk about this conference. And you said it's very important to hold it in the near future. Any specific dates? So when is it scheduled for?
LAVROV (through translator): As you can understand, it -- to hold a conference, one should fix the number and makeup of the participants and establish it. After the Russian-U.S. Initiative was announced on the seventh of May, the government said that it would be ready to send their delegates without any preconditions. The only aim of Russia and U.S. being born in mind that the talks should be in place, should be conducted so that the Geneva communique as 30th of June last year should be fully implemented.
The opposition did not voice any consent. First they said they wanted some additional guarantees, additional strings at the start of the then leader of the oppositional coalition, Mr. al-Khatib (ph) stated that he was ready for talks without any preconditions. Afterwards, he was quickly and immediately deposed. And the current opposition leaders state that the military balance and alignment of forces should be restored so that they can visit and attend the conference and guarantees should be provided that the delegation of Assad would have the declaration of capitulation ready and would submit all the powers to the opposition, which runs counter to the Geneva communique of last year and which is the basis of the Russian- American initiative.
Because it's this communique says that the government and the opposition groups should be in accord on the parameters of the transition period and on the establishment of the caretaker body that would prepare the future elections and constitution.
So now it's not about fixing the date, or scheduling the conference and try to persuade those who are still hesitant, the opponents of the regime who are still hesitant. The opposition is too negative to proceed with organizational matters and procedural matters. And in line with accords we have reached with the Americans, our partners with the United States try to work with them. And as yesterday Mr. Kerry assured me -- reassured me he commits to have the opposition in place at the Geneva conference in the constructive mood without any unrealistic preconditions in their mind.
As soon as we have this consent of theirs, we could proceed with the discussion of less dramatic questions like the participation of some other groups. The Kurds are interested in being represented at this conference. They want to depart of the United Syria of a single state. They want to negotiate the limits, the borders -- the frontiers of their autonomy. And the circle of external participants also must be subject to negotiation.
Iran's candidacy (ph) is the most problematic. We believe that this country plays the paramount -- the role of paramount importance as regards what happens today in Syria. And those who are indeed stakeholders to the conflict should be present at the negotiating tables.
There are some other states that are willing to participate in Geneva II conference, but they have adopted, you know, a very -- subject to a partial stances, saying that Iran does not deserve it.
But it's not about prizes to be handed out. It's not a sort of a gift giving, it's going to be a meeting of a group of states to have the highest level of representation so that all the stakeholders to the conflict should be represented at the conference.
So, you know, various timelines were named. September was named, but I believe that it's not really stick now. It's not viable. So we should first deal with substance of the conference.
LU STOUT: All right, live comments there from Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Syria's main ally, Russia, is warning the United States not to get involved in the conflict.
Now in a statement earlier, the Russian foreign ministry said that a U.S.-European backed offensive would inflame the entire region.
Now for the latest and reaction to what we heard just then, let's go to CNN's Phil Black in Moscow. And Phil, just then, a quote from the Russian foreign minister. He said, "is there any sense for the Syrian government to use those weapons?" It seemed Lavrov was calling into question whether the regime was behind the attack.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Kristie. That very much has been the Russian position all along. While they do say that the United States and other countries should be waiting for the UN team on the ground to make their own conclusions, to thoroughly investigate what happened there before jumping to any conclusions themselves, Russia from the outset very quickly made it clear that it believes the Syrian opposition was behind this use of chemical weapons attacks, as they believe they were in another earlier incident as well.
But what we heard there from the Russian foreign minister was him outlining the way that he believes, or Russia believes, this situation should proceed. That is, they're stressing the importance of allowing the investigation to take place on the ground with those UN investigators to determine thoroughly and objectively what happened there. And then they say those results should be submitted to the United Nations security council. And then from there all parties involved in this conflict, with connections to this conflict should get back to the job of trying to bring together a second international conference that would in some way negotiate a peaceful settlement.
In Lavrov's words, there is no other alternative to a diplomatic solution along those grounds.
Lavrov's comments, they were a little softer than some of what we've been hearing from the Russian foreign ministry over the last 24 hours or so as there has been increased talk, increased speculation about the possibility, a some sort of unilateral military strike by the United States and its allies, Russia through its comments through the foreign ministry have been very condemning of that possibility, saying that they would be repeating the mistakes of the past.
It's talking about Iraq and also making reference to Libya as well. And Russia has said it would -- it believes that that would further inflame a region that is already suffering, still suffering the destabilizing effects of those earlier conflicts, Kristie.
LU STOUT: And why does Russia continue to support the Syrian regime?
BLACK: Well, Russia says it doesn't support the regime specifically. Russia says that its position is based upon a strong principled opposition to the idea of regime change, either from outside force or also in the case of an angry minority leading some sort of revolution within the country. Russia says it opposes that sort of scenario on principle, but also it has a very strong practical objection. And I think this goes to the heart, really, of what motivates Russia in this situation. It believes that should the Assad regime fall, then what fills that vacuum would very likely be far more chaotic than the situation on the ground in Syria now.
And Russia believes that if you look at all the other countries that have either experienced recent revolutions through the Arab Spring or had some sort of assistance from the outside in toppling the government at the time, it believes that none of those situations have worked out for the better and that ultimately the countries and the region is far less secure because of them, Krsitie.
LU STOUT: Phil Black joining us live on the line from Moscow. Thank you very much indeed for that, Phil.
Now let's get more analysis on Russia's stance on the Syrian crisis. Matthew Chance joins me now from London. And Matthew, as we hear just more pushback from Russia, I mean, how much weight will it have on the UK and its allies as they weigh possible military action?
CHANCE: Well, I think the United Kingdom and its allies will be listening to those remarks by Sergei Lavrov with a great deal of concern. Sergei Lavrov there outlining clearly that the Russians at this point were holding the rebels responsible for any possible chemical weapons attack that took place on the outskirts of Damascus last Wednesday. The weight of opinion very much amongst the western allies is that it was the other side, the Syrian government that are responsible. The White House has said as much, saying there's very little doubt that the Assad forces that used chemical weapons.
And so the west very much blaming Assad for this, the Russians saying it was the rebels.
So, it raises the possibility that if there is some kind of military action it won't just be a strike against Syria, but it will lead to a serious confrontation between the west and Russia as well. That's obviously of a great deal of concern.
At the same time, the UK Foreign Minister William Hague has made it clear that Russia isn't necessarily going to be an obstacle. It's talked about how it would be good to get approval from the United Nations security council for any kind of military action or any kind of sanction against Syria. But he's also made it clear that Britain and its allies would go outside of the security council if they had to. Russia, of course, has a veto on the security council, and would undoubtedly endeavor to veto any resolution to carry out strikes.
And so Russia is important, but it's not going to be a road block.
LU STOUT: Matthew Chance reporting. Thank you.
Now the United States is weighing a possible response to the suspected chemical weapons attack. And there's speculation that it could include military action.
Now let's go to CNN Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon for more. And Chris, the momentum is building in the U.S. for a firm response. Could you tell us how?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. Basically, Kristie, a U.S. official told me that they don't have any credible evidence that the rebels used chemical weapons. They said none of the opposition groups, even the al-Nusra Front, which is linked the al-Qaeda, are responsible. They're putting the blame clearly on the Assad regime.
The tone in the White House has changed dramatically in the last 48 hours. It went from basically saying we've got to get the UN inspectors in to now saying it doesn't matter what they find.
LAWRENCE: The bombs are falling, the accusations flying. Now the pressure is on President Obama to defend his red line on chemical weapons which rebels claim killed more than 1,000 people in Syria.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we cannot sit still. We've got to move and we've got to move quickly.
LAWRENCE: U.S. and British officials claim Syrian forces shelled the site of Wednesday's attack so much it corrupted any evidence the U.N. might find this week. A U.S. official tells CNN behind the scenes multiple international sources have already collected evidence from that site. The official says the sources took tissue samples and other evidence shortly after the attack and it was being analyzed in secure locations.
That's why the White House tone changed so quickly from Friday's "get the inspectors in" to Sunday's "it's too late to be credible." And it's why an administration official sounded so confident in saying there is little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians.
The president's newly updated options include cruise missiles launched from one of four Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea or jets firing weapons from outside Syrian airspace.
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We are prepared to exercise whatever option if he decides to employ one of those options.
LAWRENCE: So the president has not made a decision yet, but some of the potential targets include command bunkers as well as the actual delivery systems like artillery batteries and missile launchers.
We are told that none of the options that are being considered involved anything close to trying to overthrow the regime. These would be limited options that are being considered, designed to deter any future chemical attack -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: All right, Chris Lawrence with the very latest from the Pentagon. Many thanks indeed for that update.
Now, an update on the former Chinese politician Bo Xilai. It is fair to say that Bo's five day trial it defied expectations. He is now waiting to learn the court's verdict. It's not clear when that might happen, but some observers believe that Bo's bold defense could result in a harsher sentence.
Now transcripts from the Jinan intermediate people's court have revealed some dramatic details. David McKenzie joins us live from Jinan.
And David, on the final day of this trial, Bo Xilai continued to be defiant, but the trial today took a very personal turn. Could you tell us more about that?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right.
Bo Xilai really made a personal plea as well as the prosecution saying that because he hasn't confessed his crime that he would, in fact, potentially get a harsher sentence.
Many people have been enthralled by the proceedings in the court behind me in Jinan in eastern China. They've seen a Bo Xilai that's been defiant, being the maverick that he was known as a politician and a power broker based in Chongqing in western China.
And so through those days Bo Xilai has denied all of the charges, admitted some mistakes, but said that he should not be prosecuted for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
Interestingly, though, the transcripts that we've been depending on from the court behind me, it appears that there are some questions now on those transcripts. Two sources who have close understanding of the details of this trial, Kristie, have told CNN that there are significant parts missing from the transcripts, in particular where Bo Xilai seems to come off well. So that indicates that there's been censorship from the authorities, which is also significant since today they had an editorial billing this as the most transparent trial ever in China -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: It's been fascinating to watch just which elements of this trial had been stage managed. And David, this has been called a show trial, but what has been on show? Is it the party's fight against corruption or the political struggle inside the party?
MCKENZIE: I think primarily what's been on show is the inner workings of this family and the tragic consequences of their relationships. I mean, really this has been almost like a soap opera, Kristie, and that's how most people I think in China have watched this trial unfold. The sordid details of the relationship of Gu Kailai and Neil Heywood, the businessman that she's convicted of killing. There's also Wang Lijun, the police chief from Chongqing who was a past friend of Bo Xilai and they had a falling out.
The bombshell that came out on the final day was that Bo Xilai said, according to the transcripts, that Wang and his wife Gu Kailai had an illicit relationship.
It's these low points -- or high points, depending on how you look at these things -- that have really gripped China.
LU STOUT: Yeah, there are definitely elements of a soap opera earlier today in the courtroom.
And David, what have you heard about the verdict, the possible sentencing and when it could be announced?
MCKENZIE: We believe that sentencing will happen next month, Kristie, in about 10 day possibly. They will release it just most likely in a simple statement. Bo Xilai disappeared, frankly, since March last year when he was stripped of his Communist Party credential. And he's appeared in a big way in the last five years. But we expect him to disappear again.
Technically, he could face the death penalty, that's what he could get for those alleged crimes. We believe that might not happen.
But as you say, because he made a very robust defense and didn't in fact confess to his crimes, it could mean that he could face harsher sentencing, not lighter --- Kristie.
LU STOUT: All right, David McKenzie joining us live from Jinan, China. Thank you.
No Bo's trial is obviously not the first high profile case to transfix China. More than 30 years ago it was the gang of four the mesmerized the country. The defendants included Jiang Qing, the widow of Mao Zedong, who you see right here.
And those proceedings were broadcast live on national television. And people watched as Madam Mao spoke out strongly in her own defense.
Now Bo has also contested the claims against him, rebutting the prosecution's case. But people outside the courthouse have not been able to see the charismatic former politician. Instead, transcripts and photos have been posted to the court's official microblog. And critics say Bo's trial has been less transparent than the Gang of Four's.
Now, after the break, we will explore the issue of sexual assault in India. Now CNN's Mallika Kapur sat down with three women in Mumbai to discuss a recent gang rape case there and how India is dealing with crimes against women.
LU STOUT: Welcome back.
Now we want to take you first to the Philippines. And tens of thousands, they marched earlier today in Manila all against government corruption. It is one of the largest such protests since President Benigno Aquino was elected in 2010 on an anti-corruption platform.
And in a sign of the social media age, the call to action it came from Facebook and it came from Twitter.
Now anger has mounted since a newspaper report two weeks ago about an alleged scheme to siphon some $230 million from a legislative fund. Lawmakers are supposed to use the money for pet development projects, but critics see it as pork-barrel politics.
Now, let's turn to India where a fifth suspect is under arrest in the gang rape of a 23-year-old photojournalist. Now police say that the woman is attacked in the financial capital of Mumbai on Thursday and is now in stable condition at a local hospital.
Now the case has revived fear and outrage over the safety of women across India. And it follows a deadly gang rape some eight months ago that sparked national protests.
Now many consider Mumbai to be relatively safe compared to New Delhi, but that may be changing.
Now government figures show reported rapes are on the rise there. In 2012, there were on average 19 reported rapes each month. And so far this year that number has jumped about 30.
Mallika Kapur talks to three women who share their thoughts and their fears.
MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Three women, three different walks of life. I have with me an activist, a journalist, a student. They share a city, Mumbai, and a deep sense of disappointment at recent events here.
Gayatri, let me begin with you. When you first heard about the Mumbai rape incident, did you think, "this could be me?"
GAYATRI RANGACHARI SHAH, JOURNALIST: Absolutely. You know, the girl in Delhi, this girl in Bombay, you know they're all -- it could be any of us. And so suddenly, you know, we're all sort of paying attention.
But every day you read the papers and something horrible has happened in some village or in some slum and things like that.
KAPUR: It's always been...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now it's at our doorstep.
KAPUR: Does Mumbai's police force instill a sense of confidence in you all?
NAYREEN DARUWALLA, WOMEN'S HEALTH ADVOCATE: Yes. It (inaudible) extent they're doing (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I don't think I would feel safe in Bombay even if the police force was the most efficient police force around.
KAPUR: Why not?
DEVIKA KAPADIA, CAHTEDRAL AND JOHN CONNON SCHOOL: I genuinely feel that the problem is -- it's a mindset issue. And I think that the problem is one of respect.
KAPUR: You spend so much time counseling victims of domestic violence, of sexual violence. And I know you speak to men, you counsel a lot of men. What drives them?
DARUWALLA: Well, I think what really drives them is this whole social sanction of being the man.
KAPUR: It's that superiority complex.
DARUWALLA: Yes. It's absolute superiority of existence. Like I'm a man and I can just do anything at any point of time.
SHAH: You know, we do have an extremely patriarchical culture as you were mentioning. And at the same time, you know, we are embracing modernity. So women -- and it's very interesting that the -- you know, the survivor of the Mumbai rape as well as the unfortunate victim of the Delhi rape were, you know, young women who were going out in the world and trying to make something of themselves. And the perpetrators of those crimes were men who didn't really have any sort of great options ahead for them, you know.
It just shows you how these two divergent strains in society, which is one is modernism. And sort of embracing this kind of, you know, aspirational 21st Century outlook on life is clashing with these inherited old patriarchical sexist notions of what, you know, Indian society has traditionally embraced.
KAPUR: And very often you hear people saying, well, young girls shouldn't be wearing short skirts, or they shouldn't be wearing sleeveless dresses. How does that make you feel?
KAPADIA: I think the word shouldn't implies morality of a sort. And as a young girl I resent that, because I think that the way I dress is my choice and it doesn't -- you know, make me become a certain type of person morally. I'm not good -- I'm not better if I were to wear a sari or a short skirt.
KAPUR: It does seem that every day you pick up the papers, or you look at any international website or international newspaper and they pick up a story about rape in India. Do you feel India is getting a bit of an unfair reputation?
SHAH: Rape exists everywhere. It's not as though it's, you know, more prevalent here than it is in the United States or the United Kingdom. I think the fact that these things are now coming out in India is a huge positive step, because it means number one the media is paying attention, women are coming forward, and you know, people as you said, citizens -- it's become a -- sort of a talking point in the citizens agenda.
KAPUR: Is India less safe for women travelers or for, you know, single women than any other society?
SHAH: I'm not so sure that it is. You know, it's like any other place, you have to be a little aware. You can't -- you know, you have to take precautions -- that's a sad reality of the world that we live in. But, you know, I don't' think that it's that it's getting an unfair reputation. I think the fact that this is become a talking point is a huge step in the right direction.
LU STOUT: All right. CNN's Mallika Kapur leading a discussion on the dangers women face in India.
Now let's go straight to the Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank. Israeli security forces opened fire there earlier on Monday, killing at least two Palestinians. But the two sides have two very different accounts of how it all happened.
Now Jim Clancy is there. He joins us now.
And first, Jim, the mood there -- because I know that the anger over the killings has been boiling over into more violence. What have you seen?
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were worried about that certainly happening.
The toll that we have right now is that two were killed outright at the scene of the disturbance around 5:00 this morning when security agents from Israel tried to move in and make an arrest to question one Palestinian suspect. When people -- when crowds gathered, resistance began, the army came in and the army opened fire according to the Palestinians with live ammunition.
They claim that they didn't fire anything.
You're hearing behind me the sound of those plastic bullets, as they're called. They're really rubber-coated steel bullets that are fired. They can do a lot of damage. But this kind of a standoff has been going on for about the last hour here.
We understand the toll is up to three dead, 19 wounded here. And more importantly, perhaps, the peace talks, the next round to be held on Tuesday, has now been canceled -- Kristie.
LU STOUT: Could you tell us more about the refugee camp itself? Who controls the camp? And what kind of security is usually there?
CLANCY: Well, there's about 20,000 residents of this camp that dates from 1948. These are some of the original people who were pushed out, who fled what is now Israel, who cannot return. Sentiment runs high here as the news comes in more Israeli settlements are going to be built even as the peace talks are supposed to be moving ahead.
Inside the camp today, you could see members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade carrying M-16 rifles. And there was a lot of fear those rifles could turn up here later in the afternoon. We were choked with tear gas and the smell of burning tires as the demonstrators have built barricades behind us.
These trucks are trying to turn around, but originally they were going to try to go into the West Bank, into Ramallah, where Mahmoud Abbas has his offices, the president of the Palestine Authority, and people aren't able to get through right now, so they're making this loop back. This is right at the entrance that would lead to Jerusalem here from this Qalandia refugee camp.
LU STOUT: All right, some dramatic pictures live from the Qalandia camp there. Jim Clancy reporting live for us. Thank you, Jim.
Now you are watching News Stream. And still to come, crews are fighting to protect a U.S. national treasure from a huge wildfire. Now the flames have already scorched more than 58,000 hectares. Stay with us.
LU STOUT: Welcome back.
Now in the United States, crews are fighting to protect Yosemite National Park from a massive wildfire. Let's get the very latest with Mari Ramos. She joins us from the world weather center. Mari, here's hoping the weather conditions there work in their favor.
MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: You know what, it's going to be touch and go, because the weather is not exactly cooperating. Even though we could have really worse conditions -- you know, the winds could be higher, for example the humidity could be lower -- but it's just bad enough that the winds are going to be gusting to about maybe 30 to 40 kilometers per hour, the humidity is going to remain low, you know, and so it's not really going to be helping much over the next couple of days.
The other thing is that there's still that risk for maybe those isolated thunderstorms that can pop up here and there. Right now we're looking at generally calm conditions. The wind, generally light, these are the two areas that are closest to the fire that have the reporting stations. And you can see the humidity. Not too bad, up to 60 percent, but I think once the temperature begins to warm up, we're going to see those humidity levels continue to go down.
So, this is what's happening. This is a huge fire, more than 524 acres have burned already.
And I want to show you this picture, Kristie. If you haven't seen this, this is really very dramatic. Here is San Francisco Bay right in here. All of these white things that you see here are city lights. We've seen pictures like this. Before when you see from space at night, that you were able to see the city lights, correct? Well, here you see them, we sent ahead and pointed them out for you.
Look at the difference, this is the fire itself. This right over here as much light, as much brightness as a city. And that's how large it looks compared to all the cities and towns that are here on this side of the mountains. It just gives you an idea of how expansive this actually is and how much -- how hot it's actually burning because of the amount of light that it's reflecting back out into space. Pretty amazing that we're able to see this like this, such a large fire that continues to burn.
Now there's a couple of differences, also, from this fire compared to other fires. Explosive potential for growth, that's what authorities are saying. It's very difficult terrain to maneuver in. It's very isolated areas, so hard to reach as well. And it's already beginning to approach areas that are closer to homes. There's a lot of wildlife, of course, in this region. Some of that wildlife starting to approach some of the more populated areas as the animals try to find shelter.
And then the other things is -- and I wanted to show you this up close picture of the fire, look at the flames going all the way to the top of the trees. That's also a different situation than some of the other fires where you have just underbrush that burns and the trees actually remain intact. In this case, entire growths, square mile after square mile of trees are completely burned down. And that takes a lot longer for an area to recover when you have such a large fire like this.
And then you have this other kind of thing happening, it is getting closer to this particular reservoir. This reservoir provides water and electricity. They're monitoring for the water quality, making sure that not enough soot and ash get in there. This provides water to the San Francisco area. And also, there's the potential for power outages if this area has to be shut down because the fire gets too close.
And the last thing is this -- you see all that? All that smoke? There are alerts already and advisories because of the dense mold that continues to spread across the area.
As far as rainfall, we're not really expecting anything decent as far as rain. We have the remnants of that tropical storm that moved in here across the northwest coast of Mexico, Baja, California. That system is kind of meandering around, the remnants of it bringing some scattered rain showers across Southern California, but none of this is really going to impact those areas farther to the north.
Later in the week, we may see some of those moistures kind of creep up a little bit farther north, but most of that will actually stay down here with some scattered thunderstorms across areas of Southern California, possibly, and then back over through the desert southwest.
But that area of central California that really needs it, they're not really getting anything significant.
I want to switch gears very quickly. There is another tropical storm, Fernandez, making landfall in Central Mexico, on the other side, on the Gulf of Mexico. We're monitoring that storm as well. That one bringing some very heavy rain into those areas.
Kristie, back to you.
LU STOUT: All right. Mari Ramos there. Thank you.
And that is News Stream, but the news continues at CNN. World Business Today is next.