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Race Against Death For Aleppo Civilians Trapped; Suicide Bombing Kills 41 Soldiers at Military Base; A Life in Limbo for Refugees Fleeing Mosul; U.S. Drone Seized by China to be Returned; President-Elect Wraps Up "Thank You Tour"; Venezuela Extends Use of 100-Bolivar Note; "SNL" Skit Portrays Trump as Inept, Detached. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 18, 2016 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:12] CYRIL VANIER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: "Save the Aleppo children". Thousands across the world take to the streets to show solidarity while the people of Aleppo wait to be evacuated.

And let them it, the U.S. President-elect on Twitter after China claims it will return the drone it seized. Details on that ahead.

Plus, below freezing temperatures wreak havoc on U.S. highways. The forecast and how much ice is accumulating.

Hi, everyone, thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier liver on from Atlanta. And "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

Thousands of Syrians are still trapped in Eastern Aleppo in freezing temperatures waiting to find out whether a new deal to evacuate them will actually come through. They're hoping that they can make it out before they're killed in yet more fighting. And you see right there what it is that they're fleeing. The Syrian

government has confirmed the deal. There's still uncertainty though because previous deals this week have fallen through.

And this is what's going on in the ground. The Syrian government and Iran say that they are willing to let residents and opposition fighters still trapped in Eastern Aleppo right here out of the city. This is the evacuation route, you see the blue line, but they require a quid pro quo. They also want the rebels who are laying siege on these villages right here, you see Fowa and Kafria, where they want them to ease that siege so that that population, majority Shiite population, tends to be pro-regime can then in turn leave the city.

So, if that print quid pro quo happens, then we believe that the evacuation of Aleppo may well continue.

And for residents of Aleppo, this is a life or death situation. A journalist working with Channel 4 News was able to film there before the ceasefire came into effect. Reporter Matt Frei explains their footage is just a glimpse of the absolute hell that Aleppo has become. And just a word of warning, his report contains graphic images.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Are you OK, Ayah, my love?

MATT FREI, CHANNEL 4 NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tender words for a child who can't find its own. Aleppo is at grim stage of an ever diminishing cast of survivors. And these are the last of the last. Um Fatima is the only adult left of three families whose apartment block was obliterated by a Russian or Syrian bomb.

UM FATIMA (through translator): I don't know what he [Assad] hit us with. We were at home sleeping. Suddenly, the whole building just fell on us. Oh my God! All my children are gone.

FREI: Um Fatima comes across her neighbor. A teenage boy with a hat is called Mahmoud, he used to live upstairs. The baby boy he's holding is his little brother, Ishmael Mohamed, one month old.

His face is the only restful thing in this bedroom. But this is the sleep of the dead. Ishmael was suffocated in the rooms and Mahmoud doesn't want to let go of his brother's body.

UM FATIMA (through translator): Oh my God, all my children are dead. Oh my God. Help me.

FREI: Aleppo is a place where the children had stop crying. In the car, Mahmoud is still cradling his baby brother. War has reverse roads and the boy now acts like the father that he's lost.

UM FATIMA: Hammoud (ph) and Abdullah are gone.

MAHMOUD MOHAMED (through translator): Don't worry, they didn't die in vain. Don't cry. It's OK.

UM FATIMA: Hammoud and Abdullah are dead. God will revenge us against this oppressor [Assad].

The building just fell on us. That's what happened to us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They need their mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Are those your children?

FREI: A nurse led a brother and sister. They go from room to room. We don't know their names and they don't know yet if they're orphans. They left their father in the rubble and they're looking for their mother.

[03:05:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come. Let's see where they took your mother. Let's go. So you do you think she was outside the hospital?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my poor soul, my bleeding heart. FREI: Um Fatima now sees proof of the news (inaudible). "Why have

you left me?" she calls out to the daughter that she describes as her rock, knowing that this question in this place has no real answer.

And then another room, brother and sister are still waiting for news of their mother on another hospital bed blanketed with dust.

Exhausted the own words, my life beyond description.


VANIER: And there have been several protests against the atrocities carried out in Eastern Aleppo. Thousands in Turkey, near the Syrian border, demanded the evacuations resume right away.

The Turkish government says it plans to set up a camp in Syria to those who managed to leave Aleppo.

In Berlin, meanwhile, hundreds called on the international community to save Aleppo now and to stop the murdering in Syria.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think free passes should be given to those trapped in Aleppo. I have my friend whose sisters are trapped in Aleppo and I'm in solidarity for them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Because I want to show solidarity and be here right now. I couldn't sit at home. I want to be here with other people who feel the same way, who also can just carry on as normal, but rather want to somehow express that this is not normal, the genocide of taking place right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I call on our leaders. They should put away their differences. They should be united and protect the innocent people in Aleppo.


VANIER: I'm joined now by Thomas White who joins us from Amman in Jordan via Skype. Now, he's Country Director for Syria for humanitarian group known as Norwegian Refugee Council. They've been very active in helping people who fled Aleppo.

Thomas, first of all, I want to ask you about the current ceasefire deal, potential evacuation deal that seems to be taking hold groups like yours must have their air extremely close to the ground to know what's going on because your personnel, the safety of your personal depends on it. What can you tell us about this deal? And what it's likely to hold?

THOMAS WHITE, SYRIA RESPONSE DIRECTOR, NORWEIGAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: We're certainly way very hopeful that the deal will hold. I mean I think that the best priority is going to be ensuring site access (ph) for civilians out of Aleppo and to remove them from the -- at the current danger that they face, you know, every hour, every minute. VANIER: What can you tell us about what's going on inside Aleppo? When you helped people who have fled the city, what do they say about what's going on inside?

WHITES: Our teams in areas of North Aleppo are now helping people that have managed to get out of the city. Our teams in recent days have been providing shelter, tents, and household item to around 1500 people who managed get out of the city.

But now, coming out of the city, we different stories of terrific circumstances and of course, their first priority was to get out of the city itself. We start to -- one man who was the head of this household, they were around 27 families in that group. They have left Aleppo with a small bag of clothes. They spent many nuts in the open -- in freezing temperatures and had the cost-effective frontline (ph) of how much time to actually get to an area of relative safety

Of course, when they arrived, they have provided them someway warm, someway dry. But of course, they are enormously relieved to be out of Aleppo. But now, their attention turns to the days and the months ahead.

And now my only concern is point not only in Aleppo, but across country where there're people being displaced, bodies (inaudible) is that they're living in the open area exposed to the elements. And, you know, it is cold right now and these (inaudible) in Northern Syria will be killed (ph), and so the priority for us is to provide shelter for people who (inaudible).

VANIER: Thomas White from Norwegian Refugee Council. Thank you very much for taking our questions.

You can help Syrians caught up in these brutal civil wars. CNN has a list of eight organizations helping families escape the danger and receive basic supplies. So for that, you can head to to find a full list of organizations.

A suicide attack at the military base in Southern Yemen has killed at least 41 soldiers. The bomber attacked the Al-Sawlaban base in Aden on Sunday morning as soldiers lined up to get their paychecks. Two Yemeni security officials say that the attacker got onto the base by dressing as a soldier.

[03:10:06] And Turkish military officials held a ceremony for 13 soldiers who were killed in an attack in central Turkey. The soldiers were traveling in a bus on Saturday when a car bomb exploded nearby. The coffins are being flown to the soldier's home for burial.

Dozens of people were wounded in the blast and authorities have arrested 15 people in connection with that attack. The Saturday's attack is the latest in a string of deadly bombings in Turkey this year.

For thousands of Iraqis who fled the reign of ISIS in Mosul, their futures are hanging in the balance. Refugee camps surrounding Mosul are filled to capacity with people and they only provide basic essentials.

But as Ben Wedeman reports, a life of uncertainty for now is better than living in fear.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Out of the hell of Mosul under fire and into the limbo of life is a refugee. Hundreds of residents from the embattled city arrived at the camp to be eased, relieved to be united with love ones, relieved to may become alive.

Julia (ph) didn't want to show her face for fear of reprisals of those relatives still Mosul. She fled with her family at 3:00 in the morning sneaking out through (inaudible). ISIS gunmen ordered them to come back and open fire when they didn't stop.

Around 100,000 people are now in camps (inaudible). The facilities and services at these camps are already overstretched, while everyday hundreds more arrive.

At another camp nearby, they line up for the weekly distribution of heating fuels. Temperatures (inaudible), patience is wearing thin.

"We've been here since the morning for four hours," says Hasna (ph).

The camp provides much needed safety, shelter, food, water and basic healthcare at little houses. There is no school for the children, no organized activities, just a monotonous, expansive tense gravel and mud with dark clouds overhead.

Arthurn (ph) has been here for almost a month and a half. The Iraqi military drove ISIS out of his neighborhood of Samah, but ISIS mortar rounds and rockets still slam into the area.

His wife Holly (ph) tells me she and her five children can put up with the discomfort of camp life.

"It's cold in the tent, but we will hang on," she says, "It's better here than in Mosul with ISIS."

For others, this bleak existence is taking its pulse (ph) when someone shows up with bag of jackets, a mad scrambled ensues. Many here arrived with only the clothing on their bags with every extra scrap is worth fighting for.

Ben Wedeman, CNN outside Mosul.


VANIER: Still ahead on CNN Newsroom, Donald Trump's final stop of his victory laugh is the very place where his presidential campaign got off the ground. Stay tuned for that.


[03:15:30] VANIER: Both the U.S. and China say that an American underwater drone seized by China in international waters will be returned.

The U.S. says the drone similar to the one that you see here on your screen was unlawfully snatched by China's Navy in the South China Sea.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more.

MATT RIVERS, CNNS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, close of the encounters like this situation between the Chinese and U.S. navies are rare and the fact that China actually took possession of U.S. naval equipment is rarer still.

Now, the Chinese Ministry of Defense released a statement late Saturday evening, Local Time, saying that the reason they took the drone out of the water was in order to protect navigational and personnel safety of passing ships.

Well, that sound -- might sound like an innocuous enough reason for taking the drone out of the water. The fact remains that this move by the Chinese makes the U.S.-Chinese military relationship that much more tense.

The USNS Bowditch and unarmed military research ship was about 50 miles off the Filipino coast Thursday with a navy says he was conducting research using two underwater drones called ocean gliders.

Officials said the research was legal under international law. It was set to bring them back on board when officials say a Chinese naval ship trailing the Bowditch launched a small boat which swooped in and stole one of the ocean gliders. The Defense Department says the Bowditch immediately made contact to ask for it back, but the Chinese ship simply sailed away.

Friday, Pentagon officials asked again spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters, "It is ours, and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again."

The Chinese Defense Ministry responded late Saturday saying that it ship initially didn't know what the drone was and seized it for navigational safety reasons. They went on to say, "Upon confirming that the device was a U.S. underwater drone, the Chinese side decided to transfer it to the U.S. side in an appropriate manner. China and the United States have been communicating about this process. It is inappropriate, and unhelpful for a resolution, that the U.S. has unilaterally hyped the issue. We express our regret over that."

The seizure comes at a time of heightened U.S.-Chinese military tensions in the South China Sea. China has built and militarized artificial islands in disputed territory action the U.S. calls illegal.

And President-Elect Trump has made Beijing angry twice in the last two weeks. First, taking the call from Taiwan's president and then questioning the legitimacy of the one China Policy, a decades-old diplomatic staple of U.S.-China relations.

And in that same statement for the Ministry of Defense outlining the reasoning for taking the drone out of the water, Chinese officials were quick to include a paragraph or they talked about how the United States, according to them, have been frequently deploying ships and aircraft to conduct close-in surveillance and military surveys and waters facing China. And with the Chinese have long said is that these research vessels like the USNS Bowditch have actually been spying on Chinese activity in the South China Sea.

And so I think what most experts would tell you is that when the Chinese took this drone out of the water, they likely knew that they would be sending a message to the United States, and that message being that they are not happy with U.S. naval operations in that part of the South China Sea. Back to you.

VANIER: Matt Rivers from Beijing there.

Donald Trump was quick to weigh in on China's seizure of that U.S. drone. The U.S. President-Elect took the Twitter early on Saturday and called China's action "unprecedented". Later, he tweeted again, "We should tell China that we don't want to drone they stole back, let them keep it."

All right. Let's stay with Donald Trump. The president-elect wrapped up his "Thank You" tour on Saturday with a rally in Mobile, Alabama. He told the large crowds of supporters that returning to the Deep South was a homecoming of sorts.

CNN's Ryan Nobles was there.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump making good on a campaign promise returning here to Mobile, Alabama. The site of one of his first major campaign rallies was back in August of 2015, the Trump brought out a crowd of some 30,000 people. And on Saturday he told a similar-sized crowd that this is where it all began.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you very much. This is where it all began. Remember that incredible rally we had and people came out and it was like this, it was packed and incredible and people said something is going on there, right? That was the beginning. Was it? That was the beginning. And if you remember, even though you don't have to vote for me, maybe four years we'll take a look, right?

[03:20:03] But you know what? I said I'm coming back to see you in Alabama, right?


NOBLES: Now Trump gave the crowd a history lesson detailing state by state his victory on election night.

What Trump didn't do is wait into some of the complex policy issues that awaits him when takes office. He did mention China or Russia despite the U.S. relationship with both of those countries becoming a growing situation for the incoming Trump administration. Instead the President-Elect focused on many of his campaign promises, specifically how he plans to help the American economy, he did go off- script a bit, criticizing the current First Lady Michelle Obama for an interview that she recently gave to Oprah Winfrey, where she suggested that a sizable part of the country lacks hope because of Trump's election victory.


TRUMP: Michelle Obama said yesterday that there is no hope. But I assume she was talking about the past, not the future, because I am telling you we have tremendous hope and we have tremendous promise and tremendous potential. We are going to be so successful as a country again. We are going to be amazing. And I actually think she made that statement not meaning at the way it came out. I really do because I met with President Obama and Michelle Obama in the White House, my wife was there, she could not have been nicer.

I honestly believe she meant that statement in a different way than it came out, because I believe there is tremendous hope, and beyond hope, we have such potential.


NOBLES: Trump now heads doing his stay in Palm Beach, Florida where he plans to spend the Christmas Holiday with his family. It's unexpected to make any news but there is a chance that we could learn more about appointments in his administration in the coming weeks.

Ryan Nobles, CNN Mobile, Alabama.

VANIER: As Venezuela's economic woes deepen and inflation their skyrocket, its president is backing off an earlier move to pull a popular bank note from circulation.

Nicolas Maduro announced last week that the 100-Bolivar note would be discontinued. His aim officially was to fight so called "mafias" that he claimed were hoarding the notes.

A protest erupted when the currency set to replace the bills actually failed to reach many banks and ATMs by last Thursday's deadline. As the demonstrations continue, Mr. Maduro now says the old bills are good until January 2nd, the new deadline. And he blames the crisis on a global conspiracy.


NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT, VENEZUELA (through translator): We are being victimized by an international sabotage, so the new bills that are already ready cannot be transferred to Venezuela. So I denounce it. I personally have been on it at night, in the afternoon at dawn on all the details and I appreciate the immense majority of the Venezuelan people for their support on the measure that is a blow to the monetary mafias. And I ask for support from everyone. I do so in the interest of the whole nation of our economy.


VANIER: Back here in the U.S., freezing rain and black ice are making road travels dangerous throughout large parts of the country.

This is from the 55-car pileup in Baltimore, Maryland. The U.S. is getting hit with extremely cold temperatures, coupled with below zero windchills. Multi-vehicle accidents like this one have killed at least six people in three states.

Let's take a wider look at the weather here in the U.S. and the latest on the frigid conditions with our meteorologist Karen McGinnis, who joins us now with that from the International Weather Center here at CNN. Karen.

KAREN MCGINNIS, CNN WEATHER FORECASTER: This is a very dynamic weather system. Actually, it's a couple of disturbances just kind all rolled into one.

Now, we're watching these temperatures that have actually been mere record-setting temperatures along the Gulf Coast. The federal system moves through and you are going to get that "Arctic Blast".

Now, we've got another ridge of high pressure that moved in behind it and cold air plunges well into the Rocky Mountain region of the Interior West. They're battling. Just about 40 states across United States that have some sort of winter weather advisory, wind chill advisories all over the place. And especially felt across the Northeast and into Great Lakes and the Ohio River Valley.

Where you see the pink-shaded areas, that's where you're seeing that icy mixture. And one notable place is in Nashville, Tennessee. The home of country music and this is where they had been saying some near record high temperatures followed by sleet and ice.

And the picture you're looking at here is from Brooklyn, New York. They get between 6 and 12 centimeter of snowfall. Now, these temperatures that you're looking at are in degrees Fahrenheit.

[03:25:56] So Columbus, Ohio setting at just about the freezing mark, but as we head into the details, look at these temperatures in the 70s that you don't have to go very far to see those readings into the 20s. So, as sharp temperature contrasts, we also saw tornados in the state of Mississippi and into Arkansas, no reports of any vitalities associated with tat or any injuries.

I want to take you now to China. China has been battling very poor air quality. Take a look at this visibility is very poor and now there are yellow and red alerts out for the poor air quality. They are taking some of the older vehicles off of the roads there, also closing some of the factories.

This is a very dynamic and busy city and the air quality now at 222. That puts it in the red zone. Well, all the way from Beijing and a little bit towards the south, this is where were looking at the next three days, where it definitely looks like there will be much in the way of mixing in the lower levels of the atmosphere. And as a consequence, we keep that red alert in place for around the Metropolitan Beijing area at least until Wednesday, this city of about 14 million people. Cyril.

VANIER: All right. Karen McGinnis, from our International Weather Center at CNN, thank you very much.

And President-Elect Trump is providing a lot of ammunition for comedy shows in the U.S., especially for writers of the satire program "Saturday Night Live". The latest skit targets Trump's choice of Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson and his ties to Vladimir Putin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's Secretary of State Pick. Rex Tillerson is here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to come by and -- Puti? Oh, my God.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my stars, Donald, you didn't tell me Puti was going to be here. Man, have I been hoping to catch up with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As have I, old friend. So much to talk about. Right here. We're having some oil drilling here (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's no problem as soon as the sanctions are lifted we'll up our intake by 30 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you guys talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry about it.


VANIER: Thank you very much for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. You're watching CNN. Stay with us.