Return to Transcripts main page


As One Syrian City Liberated From ISIS, Another Continues to be Bombarded; The Unspeakable Tragedy of Yemen's Forgotten War. Aired 11- 11:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2016 - 23:00:00   ET



[23:01:24] CLARISSA WARD, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight as one Syrian city is liberated from ISIS, another continues to be bombarded. Is there any hope

or belief for the beleaguered civilian of Aleppo.

Former Danish Prime Minister now head of Save the children Helle Thorning- Schmidt, joins me live.

Plus the unspeakable tragedy of Yemen's forgotten war, millions suffering hungry in this place and not even children in hospitals are being spared

from the onslaught. We go to the capital stand up.

Good evening everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Clarissa Ward in London.

Celebration in Syria.

As the town of Manbij is liberated from ISIS. Man cut their beards and women burn the face covering the cup.

In Eastern Aleppo too, there has been some cause for celebration as food supplies begin to trickle in after rebels broke a government siege.

The joy is guarded and the reality of war is closed at hand. Supply roads are limited and fighting has killed dozen of civilians over the weekend.

Two million people remain in Aleppo without electricity or water, according to the U.N.

The Red Cross today describes Aleppo as quote one of the most devastating urban complex in modern times.

Well, joining me now to discuss to humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and across Syria is Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark and head

of Save the Children. Thank you so much.


WARD: For being on the program with us. We've heard now in the last two weeks more than 300 civilians killed. You just heard 2 million without

electricity, without water. How frustrated do you feel right now?

HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT, FORMER DANISH PRIME MINISTER: Well I think it is right that we describe this as one as an unspeakable humanitarian abuse.

This is a situation that in modern times we have not seen a cease like this, where so many people are affected and where so many people have died.

And I'm surprised when I look at Aleppo right now or other cities that are still people be able to maintain a life in there. For this a very the

resilient people, very brave people and they actually try to piece a life together. It is impossible for them if they don't -- if help doesn't reach

them very, very soon.

WARD: And to that end, has Save the Children been able to get any aid into the city?

SCHMIDT: Yeah, we are able to help of be able with partners inside Syria. There are some amazingly brave Syrian NGOs helping inside Syria. So we

actually capable of running schools, some of them are actually on the ground schools. We're working in basements to make sure that even though

there's bombardment, children can go to school. We won't help specific needs, maternity facilities and we also have more about a health

facilities. And we do that through partners.

So there is possible to get people in there. Well, we have to remember that the people working in there. They are doing it with great, great


WARD: And what is the situation been like for you and other NGOs during this month long siege. How much harder? Has made it a possible to get any

aid in there?

SCHMIDT: Yeah, it is very, very difficult. And that's why we are urging the international community to urge the U.N. Security Council to get a

cease fire.

[23:05:04] Last week there was talk of a three hours cease fire. That just won't do -- you cannot get into on the ground, get into Aleppo and Idlib

and other places, get to the warehouses, distribute what you have to distribute. Get the injured out of there. It cannot happen in three


So that's why we are asking, we need at least 48 hours. And even that we have to be frank is not enough. What we need is real pressure on the

countries in the Security Council, the war in parties to stop these atrocities. What's happening there should not happen in 2016. And what is

-- what living in the Security Council is pressure, pressure and more pressure.

WARD: And yet we see so little action, I mean you mentioned that three hour window. This of course was one of the proposals from the Russian

side. They agreed to cease fire for three hours. What even happen with that? Did any aid manage to get through? Did the damning stop firing?

SCHMIDT: No, I mean three hours, you can't work with three hours. And you have to remember, even three hours, our people actually -- if there cease

fire, is it safe to go in? It isn't. So three hours, I wouldn't even describe it as a serious cease fire. You have to have at least 48 hours

because this is transport that you do on the ground. You have to get in with this help. You have to distribute it. You have to assess it, get the

injured out. A lot of children are injured here. And they don't have any medical experts to help these children on the ground in there.

So, no, we need at least 48 hours. And I think if we can't do more at this stage let's get to the Security Council, let's pressurized the war parties

in there. And let's make that happen. I urge all political leaders to help with that.

WARD: But haven't -- hasn't the international community been trying to do just that? Hasn't there been -- if feels like there's been pressure on the

U.N. for years to do something about this.

SCHMIDT: Absolutely. But that shouldn't stop us right now. Look at the people who are in there. I mean we don't have exact figures because it's

impossible to have.

But we have an idea that more than one-third of the injured are children. And what injuries do you get when you are bombarded? You get head

injuries, you get burn injuries, serious, serious injuries. They cannot be treated because the hospital might have been bombarded. The experts are no

longer there. So we have such a serious situation there. And is not for nothing that this is thing describe as one of the most, most serious

situations in modern times, that is why this is now that we should pressurized for this 48 cease fire.

WARD: The Russians had also talked about establishing humanitarian corridors. Of course the U.N. was not big on the idea because it would be

the Russians who were implementing these corridors.


WARD: To your knowledge were these corridors open, did people use them?

SCHMIDT: No, I mean we had not been able, as far as I know to use the humanitarian corridors.

We get Syrians aid organizations into help and we help them to do things on the ground. And luckily help gets to this people. But you could just

imagine that we have one week where six schools were bombarded, another week where seven health facilities were hit.

So in that situation what do you do? What do you do with the people who are seriously injured if there's no health facilities to go there. And I'm

just in all of the people at who still working in there, the medical staff, the teacher that are still there. People are still trying to peace

together a life even though they don't have fuels to get electricity for their maternity clinics or their schools. They don't have -- they have

very little access to clean water, very little access to food actually. But still receive pupils actually trying to dodge sniper attacks to get in

to schools, passing over a very difficult checkpoints to get to the exams.

We see very brave people in there. But there is a limit to how much they can take as well. And that's why we -- this a humanitarian situation that

should call, all of us to act right now. And were urging the Security Council give this 48 hours cease fire. But that's not enough we need to

make, move even further.

WARD: I spend a lot of time in Aleppo. And I talk to a lot of civilians who were still there. And there's an enormous amount of frustration, with

the international community, with the United Nations. There's a sense of abandonment. A lot of people feel they've been left to die. How do you

understand this complete paralysis, it seems like to help this people?

SCHMIDT: Well, I mean it's -- the bottom is politics. And that war has its own logic. And -- at -- town which is the siege like this has its own

logic. For that's students (ph) stop us all for having a little bit common sense. And I'm urging the war in parties are there and there are a few in

that area.

This -- it's very complex in there, urging the war in parties to stop. And I believe that the Russians still there. They need to be part of the

solution as well to -- first of all create the cease fire.

[23:10:05] WARD: And how the Russians so far been part of the solution do you think?

SCHMIDT: Well I don't want to go into that, that's high politics. What I'm concern about right now is that we have a mens suffering. We have

complete over stepping of humanitarian law, because it is actually illegal and it's not right either to attack civilian, areas such health, health

areas, health facility, schools and other civilian infrastructure. It is illegal.

So, now, I hope that the Security Council will step up. Try one more time. It doesn't work for me to say we tried it. We will stop here. You can't

stop here. You have to keep trying. And what really helps is political pressure and then after that more political pressure.

WARD: And other NGOs who are joining forces with you and really trying to apply that pressure. I mean, how much time are you spending or hanging

people at the U.N. saying, "You've got to do something."

SCHMIDT: Well, we'll keep doing it and I know that Save the Children, we're definitely not alone. And all the international aid organizations

working in Syria, we know that this is needed right now.

So, I think there has been a very, very clear common voice from all the INGOs saying, "This needs to stop now." What's happening in Aleppo is not

legal. It's not acceptable. And we can stop it with the cease fire. And after that, we to have more political stop -- talks to put an end to this.

WARD: One other thing I wanted to ask you about briefly while we have you on the show. In the last week, we've seen Denmark take on the more

expanded role with coalition against ISIS.


WARD: How do you feel about that expanded role? Do you see that's a positive thing for your country?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think it's been important all along to have an act - to have allied action against ISIS. But if you want to talk to Danish

government you should ask them, what -- how -- what they are doing. But I felt all along and I did that as prime minister. I involved Denmark in

strong alliances to help combat ISIS. And I think that's a wise thing to do.

WARD: And with Save the Children, are you involved as well in any of the refugee crisis here in Europe?


WARD: And how you feel about Denmark's handling of that, because of course, they've taken slightly different approach to Germany.

SCHMIDT: Well, this is a big European issue. And I think, it is safe say that your European countries need to step up more to be cut of the solution

of the refugee crisis. Just few weeks ago, I went Greece. I saw refugee camps down there. I met young people, children who lives in what do -- we

prescribe as detention centers. We might not describe it like that in official language. But I mean, they sure feel that they are not allowed to

live. So, we can't have that on European ground. And I feel that all European leaders including the Danish government need to help solve this


WARD: Thank you so much for being on the program.

SCHMIDT: Thank you.

WARD: Now, a story of survival for two of Syrian children. There wasn't much hope for now Nawras and Moaz. An incredibly wear pair of conjoint

twins born on heavily shield area of Douma.

But, thankfully after an appeal to the World health Organization, the Syrian and Arab Crescent manage to evacuant the twins, taking them to a

children's hospital near Damascus where so far they are said to be in good health.

When we come back, we go to another Middle East turn crisis point. We're on the ground in Yemen after strikes reported on a hospital and a school.

Back after this.


[23:15:14] WARD: Welcome back to the program. Another 10,000 children will die. That is the stark warning from UNICEF about Yemen, a conflict

that has already killed over 1,000 children in just over a year.

Since March 2015, a coalition lead by the Saudi Arabia has undertaking military operations in the country after who the rebels ceased the capital

city of Sana'a. Citizens have been under blockade for months, leading to wide spread hunger.

Today, doctors without boarders report one of their hospitals was hit by air strikes in Hajjah province, killing or wounding at least 20.

This was after at least 10 children were killed in an air strike on a school over the weekend. Saudi Arabia denied responsibility for that

attack, saying its planes bomb they who the training camp.

Hisham Al-Omeisy is a Yemeni political analyst. He joined me from Sana'a where he has been helping received victims of the air strikes.

Mr. Al-Omeisy, thank you much for joining us. Now, you have spent the day near the scene. I believed of this air strike that reportedly hit a

school. What can you tell us about this strike?

HISHAM AL-OMEISY, POLITICAL ANALYST, YEMEN: Well the air strike happened couple of days ago in a school in Aden which is basically in Sana'a in the

Houthis strong hold and killing 10 people, wounding scourge. I believe there were 28 people.

And unfortunately, because there's no hospitals in Aden, the last one was bombed in August 2015 by an air strike. So the people from Aden have to

look for hospital nearby.

When they went to the hospital near by over the past two days, they were specifically told to avoid hospitals in the vicinity because there are --

it could be bomb by an air strike as well.

So, they Saudi province the capital Sana'a, people on Sana'a some (inaudible) with those groups. They went to the outskirts of the city to

receive this people. They're basically greeting parties. So, we greet them on the outskirts offering to help.

WARD: The Saudi lead coalition is adamant that they hit a military training camp. Is there any truth to that statement at all?

AL-OMEISY: Unfortunately, they exaggerated that. Yes, the Houthis do employed child soldiers.

However, the kids who are killed in air strikes were age 6 to 12 and 13 years old. Those -- At that age, they are not employed of it. They cannot

fight any wars. You give them an A.K. an A.K. 47 is totally there are kid who is six years old. He cannot be administer entry.

So, to be honest it's preposterous. They can't claim that they were militia is in training is preposterous. UNICEF have issued a statement.

The U.N. Secretary John has issued a statement. And doctors without boarders also issued a statement say that that's school was a neurologist

school between (inaudible) and militia training school.

WARD: And now we're hearing reports of another strike on in a MSF supported hospital. Tell us what you're hearing about that?

AL-OMEISY: You heard that some of the victims on Aden actually traveled to a nearby hospital in Hajjah, in Abs which a government area that would hit.

And about 3:45 p.m. Yemen time, an air strike hit the hospital. And now we're hearing reports that 17 people have been killed and scores injured.

And that was actually on sight the Doctor without Boarders as well as the aid agencies from UNICEF and as well as other U.N. agencies.

We'll not know the final count until all the people have been pulled from the ruble.

WARD: You mentioned that the Houthi Forces are using child's soldiers in this war. What sort of a role are they playing?

AL-OMEISY: To be honest, it's not exclusive to the Houthis and all the war in parties Yemen (ph) council, this included the Yemen government itself.

However, the Houthis are the biggest party to choose council use. Usually they use them to none check points. And that's their jobs running areas

and usually (inaudible) within cities. Get over to use them in the battle lines. They will need older, harden soldiers for the battle front.

WARD: Hisham AL-Omeisy, thank you so much being on the program.

AL-OMEISY: Thank you.

WARD: The Saudi lead coalition has fought in air campaign in Yemen since 2015 on the side of President Hadi where he is currently an exile in the

Saudi Kingdom. The human cast of the Yemeni civil war have been heavy by all accounts. But, what hope is there a piece and reconciliation.

I asked Hakim Almasmari, Editor in Chief of the Yemen Post when we spoke to via Skype in Sana'a.

Mr. Almasmari thank you much for joining us. It sometimes feels like you Yemen is the forgotten war. Why isn't world paying more attention?

[23:20:10] HALKIM ALMASMARI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, YEMEN POST: That's very simple. It's a poor country. And fighting a war with a very the rich and

powerful country which is a Saudi neighbor next door. So, it's easy to forget the poor when you're fighting -- when they're fighting the rich.

As of now, it's been 16 months a war in Yemen. And over 400,000 air strikes, 90 percent of the casualties have been civilian nearing 10,000

civilians killed.

WARD: Do you have a sense of the proportion of how many of these attacks or casualties rather are from the Saudi like coalition as supposed to

Houthi forces on the ground.

ALMASMARI: The casualties are from both sides, civilians wise. There are attacks on civilians from the Houthis and from the Saudi air strikes. But

what's makes the Saudi air strike casualties be great is that 90 percent of those killed have been by the Saudi air strikes. And for example, today

you have at least 30 killed by Saudi air strikes. You would have two or three killed by Houthi clashes in another place around Yemen. But the high

death poll among civilian by air strikes usually gives them the most attention because it comes as a massacre or in big bunch of civilian


WARD: And gives us a sense of the humanitarian situation in Sana'a because we know that the only problem here is not just the air strikes but the

blockade. We've seen horrifying images recently of malnourished children. What is daily life like in the capital?

ALMASMARI: It's unbearable. It's very sad when you see millions of mil -- it was already the poorest country in the Middle East.

Right now, 80 percent of the country and I'm saying at least 22 million people civilian sleep hungry in Yemen right now. Millions of jobs are

lost. The infrastructure distracted through this see right now in Yemen. Poverty is -- which unbelievable the levels price hikes over 300 percent

because there were blockades. People are living on something on a daily basis. Hundreds of kids have died only from hunger over the last couple of

months in Yemen.

It's just unbearable when see this situation happening on a daily basis and no option or nothing to do just to end this war. And it only continuously

increase and increase and the civilians are the paying the price of war and not the Houthis.

WARD: Are there any prospects for international aid to be able to get in sometime in the near the future. There have been talks about allowing

humanitarian flights in again. Does that look feasible?

ALMASMARI: There are or there was until last week and stun me again from tomorrow or there are limited humanitarian aide enter Yemen. But again you

have 80 percent of the country, 23 million hungry people. So, the international aid is very limited. And the international supports -- yes,

international NGOs, the U.N. has done a great job.

But it's a catastrophe here in Yemen. And their efforts are slim comparing to what Yemen needs today. Imagine children millions of them sleeping

hungry, crying from hunger that is the situation of Yemen today. People thought of this war would continue for months. It's not entering month 17.

And U.N. peace talks have somewhat of a dead end.

The Houthis are not being influence by this war. They just announced the government, their own government yesterday. So, they're not suffering.

It's the people of the Yemen who are suffering. The civilians who are suffering and those who are hungry and drying are the civilians and not the


But as I said earlier, the casualties of civilians are up on both sides the Saudis and the Houthis. But what's makes it tragic that majority of the

Saudi attacks have high civilian death tolls. And that's what's causing an uproar around the world today in Yemen.

WARD: And you mentioned those U.N. peace talks that fell apart last week. Is there any hope that they might be resuscitated?

ALMASMARI: We were told by top senior officials who were involved in the U.N. peace talks a couple of weeks ago, that these talks are expected to

resume in a couple of weeks. But the can the people bear it. The attacks were the last two days have been over a thousand air strikes. It's

unbearable right now. People are hoping that the U.N. peace talks come out fruitful because that's the only way that they feel a chance for peace is


WARD: A desperate situation. Mr. Almasmari, thank you so much for being on the program.

ALMASMARI: Thank you for having me.

WARD: Coming up, so much needed golden moment as the Olympics continue to be a bright spot in a two often dark. We imagined the great, the clothing

and of course the gold of Rio's Summer Games.

[23:24:49] That's next.


WARD: And finally tonight, we imagine the world where the race into Olympics history becomes a photo up for one legendary sprinter. As Usain

Bolt became the first runner to win the 100 meter in three successive summer games. He made the smiles for the cameras as he pushed pass the

competition and got a seventh Olympic gold.

Of course he's not the only Olympian making a meal out of their success, images of athletes taking a bite out of their medals is a photographer's

favorite, making some people wonder why?

Well, the agile tradition is said to come from the practice of biting into the precious medal to check if it was the real deal. And if the athletes

really were checking they'll be disappointed only just over one percent of the medal are actually gold.

Over in the pool, one Chinese diver didn't get a chance to bite in to a gold medal. But along with her silver He Zi also got diamonds as her now

fiance, and fellow Olympic diver Qin Kai took the plunge and popped the question, a risky move in front of the eyes of the world but it paid off in

the second marriage proposal of these Olympics which just six days to go this years summer games. Well, have to see if someone makes it third time


And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can listen to our podcast, see us online and follow me on Facebook and Twitter

@ClarissaWard. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.