Return to Transcripts main page


Israel Denounces U.S. Abstention at U.N.; Berlin Market Attack; Actor Carrie Fisher in Hospital; Civilians Caught in the Fight for Mosul; Bethlehem Beermaker. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 24, 2016 - 03:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A U.N. resolution against Israeli settlements has Israel's prime minister pushing back and Donald Trump not hesitating to weigh in.

The manhunt is over: the man accused of driving a truck into a Berlin Christmas market has been killed. We'll go live to Italy for how it all ended.

And Carrie Fisher is in the hospital after a cardiac event on a commercial air flight. We will have the latest on the "Star Wars" actor's condition.

It is all ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. We're live in Atlanta. Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen.


ALLEN: Our top story: Israel vows to defy a controversial U.N. Security Council resolution. It condemns Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territory and demands the construction stop.

Israel is also taking diplomatic action. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israel's ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal to return to Israel for consultations and he wants aid programs for Senegal terminated. Those countries are two of the four that co- sponsored the resolution.

Fourteen Security Council member nations approved the measure in Friday's vote. The United States abstained and that was big news. Israel wanted the U.S. to veto the resolution to stop it in its tracks. Now it's accusing the U.S. of colluding at the U.N. to force the vote.

The U.S. action highlights the Obama administration's frustration over Israel's continued settlement activity and the lack of progress toward a peace deal. Here's more from CNN's Elise Labott.


ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the Obama administration poured salt in an already openly wounded relationship with Israel, abstaining from a controversial vote at the United Nations to condemn Israeli settlements in disputed territories.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administrations throughout the history of the state of Israel that the United States did not veto it.

LABOTT: The administration's decision not to exercise its right to a veto, despite pleas from the Israeli government, prominent Democrats and President-elect Donald Trump allowed the resolution to pass. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. told the Security Council the U.S. was not abandoning Israel, even though the U.S. has traditionally wielded its veto to protect the Jewish state on votes regarding settlements.

POWER: Our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American presidents have approached both the issue and the role of this body.

LABOTT: President Obama has long held the settlements were an obstacle to peace. But the vote today in the waning days of Obama's presidency was seen by some as a parting shot against the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who at times has clashed with Mr. Obama.

After the resolution passed, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, quote, "As to the U.N., things will be different after January 20th."

Israel's U.N. ambassador said in a statement he expected his country's, quote, "greatest ally to act in accordance with the values we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution." And he said he hopes the Trump administration will be more sympathetic.

The vote brought to head a standoff between the current and future presidents over Middle East peace. It was initially delayed Thursday after a diplomatic scramble by Netanyahu, who CNN has learned reached out to President-elect Donald Trump to intervene. When Trump sent out a statement Thursday calling for a U.S. veto, Egyptian President Sisi, whose country sponsored the resolution, took a call from Trump and then put the vote on hold.

Today, other members reintroduced it. Behind the scenes, officials complained Trump's interference runs afoul of the long standing tradition that a president-elect does not interfere with an outgoing president's administration, especially in foreign policy. But publicly, the State Department has appeared unfazed.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Nobody here felt boxed in by a tweet from the president-elect. And he's perfectly entitled to express his views on these kinds of things.

LABOTT: This morning, Trump's new spokesman made clear this president-elect won't be staying on the sidelines until he takes office next month. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama and his team have been unbelievably gracious to the president-elect and his team, but at the end of the day he's not someone that's going to sit back and wait.

LABOTT: Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office is accusing President Obama's office and his administration of colluding behind the scenes against Israel, something the White House has vehemently denied. And Israel says it is looking forward to working with the --



LABOTT: -- Trump administration to negate the effects of this resolution and has recalled its ambassadors from countries who voted for it -- Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Police in Milan, Italy, ended a that gripped Europe when they killed the main suspect in the Christmas market attack in Berlin. Anis Amri was suspected of slamming a truck into a crowd on Monday, killing 12 people and wounding dozens of others. His family is asking for forgiveness.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We apologize to the people of Berlin. Those who were killed were innocent people. We ask for their forgiveness and we apologize to them again.


ALLEN: Hours after Amri was killed, video emerged of him pledging allegiance to ISIS. CNN's Nina dos Santos joins us now live from Milan with more on this developing story.

And what is really amazing, Nina, is that the police there didn't realize who they had when they confronted him.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And those two police officers, one of them was basically just finishing his training. He had only moved to this part of Italy from the south of Italy just a few months ago.

He was actually the one that fired the shot that killed Europe's most wanted man after, of course, he was on the run for three days. They just stopped him at a routine I.D. check. Instead of producing his papers, he pulled out a gun and began to fire. That's when the shots went off and he was eventually killed.

I want to point out that this is all over the newspapers, in particular the local newspaper here in Sesto San Giovanni. This part of Milan is basically a suburb in the northeast of the city and it has got this very dramatic image of Anis Amri on the floor there as emergency services were trying to resuscitate him. I've been speaking to a local taxi driver who said he arrived on the

scene around 10 minutes after 3:00 in the morning when Anis Amri had been shot and he noticed ambulances. He said that there was a young man on the floor and they were trying for a half hour to resuscitate him.

The police officers at that point had been taken away. There was no sign of a gun but there was a sign of a backpack. What we know from police is that he seems to have been alone. He was traveling with light luggage so only a backpack with a few hundred euros inside of the backpack and no cell phone.

For the moment, the investigation is very much focusing on why he came here, to this town, in the northeast of Milan, after passing through Milan City center and another bit urban area, Turin in the west of Italy.

What was he doing here and where was he going?

Was he trying to find help from somebody, was he trying to head toward the east or south?

Where was he going?

That's what we will find out.

ALLEN: Yes, he certainly traveled quite a distance without being detected but he had lived in Italy. He had started out in Italy trying to make a life for himself and things didn't go well.

DOS SANTOS: This is the tragic irony of this whole story. In fact, you heard from members of his family there just before; earlier on in the week, when he was named as the prime suspect in the Berlin truck attack, his brother had talked to the television cameras and said that he believed that his brother was actually radicalized in an Italian jail cell because Anis Amri was well known to Italian authorities, having spent four years in jail down in Sicily after having committed felonies of arson and also attacking another prisoner inside of one of these -- inside one of these detention centers.

And as a result, he spent time in jail here. Italian authorities knew him well.

The big question is, why did he head to Germany?

Why did he do what he is alleged to have done in Germany?

That's the kind that they will try to find out.

Why did he choose to come to this particular community?

Was he relying on somebody he could find here that might be able to help him?

For the moment, there's no indications that that is the case. He was said not to have been found with a cell phone on him. So obviously that makes it harder for investigators to find out who he was immediately in contact with.

But these are the kinds of avenues of investigation that they are going to be exploring as they try to piece together his story now that he is dead.

ALLEN: Yes we will certainly want to know if he was working with anyone or on his own. And I'm sure so many people are relieved he has been caught. Thank you so much, Nina dos Santos, for us live in Milan.

Let's talk more about the story. Joining me from London is Will Geddes (ph), he has spent 18 years advising and supporting corporations and government agencies in counterterrorism measures across the world.

Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. We know it is a holiday weekend. I first want to ask you, though, from what we just heard from our reporter, about what he had on and what he didn't and where he traveled, what are you thinking as we try to piece together what he was all about and who he may have or may not have been working with?


WILL GEDDES (PH), COUNTERTERRORISM CONSULTANT: This will be the most interesting part of this investigation. Obviously the most important was apprehending him, which Milan police have obviously apparently done.

It is going to be the networks. In one city he went back to, as the correspondent was saying earlier, he has some history there. So (INAUDIBLE) he has some networks.

But I think what will be interesting is to see who he was potentially communicating with or getting into contact with in terms of resources. Ultimately, although the biggest fear (INAUDIBLE) right now is what they term the lone wolf.

There is very rarely really a lone wolf. These individuals will have contacts, networks in some shape or form. And looking at Anis Amri's movements, particularly after the Christmas market attack, will be quite key right now.

ALLEN: How does this help governments to try to stay ahead of these people of suspicion, which they have just hundreds of just in Germany alone?

How does finding out why and how a person carried this out help them to avoid another one?

GEDDES (PH): I think fundamentally it comes down to looking at the makeup of each individual and it's one of the driving factors.

(INAUDIBLE) where were they first radicalized?

Who was -- was it -- was this a remote process? Was this people that they came into contact with?

And again, as we know, we are beginning to find out about Anis Amri, his radicalization is believed to have taken place when he was actually in prison and incarcerated in Sicily.

Prior to that time, he seemed to be a petty criminal. (INAUDIBLE) is in terms of looking at where they can disrupt and ideally dismantle some of these influences that are no doubt creating (INAUDIBLE) of (INAUDIBLE) by individuals who then fundamentally go out and carry out these actions.

So one of the biggest problems that we know is consistent right across Europe is the fact that a lot of radicalization does take place in prisons, where you have somewhat of a captive audience, (INAUDIBLE) who are there that can be exploited by individuals, particularly with a jihadist extreme belief.

ALLEN: All right. We will wait and learn more about him as this investigation progresses. Will Geddes (ph), thank you so much, joining us from London. Appreciate it.

In other news we're following now, "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher is in intensive care at a California hospital. The 60-year old suffered cardiac problems during a commercial flight from London to Los Angeles.

A passenger tweeted he had been sitting in front of Fisher on the plane and saw emergency personnel take her away after the jet landed. Earlier, we spoke with Michael Musto, a columnist at, who knows her very well.


MICHAEL MUSTO, OUT.COM: I just am praying that she will be fine. We are all rooting for her. Carrie is show business royalty and has been from the second she was born. Her father was this great singer, Eddie Fisher. Her mother is Debbie Reynolds from "Singing in the Rain."

Of course, Eddie Fisher dumped Debbie Reynolds for Liz Taylor, one of the most famous gossip stories of all time. And that all made Carrie stronger and funnier.

She became one of the wittiest writers and commentators about the show business scene, whoever lived, quite frankly. And obviously also is an actress from "Star Wars" and so many other things. She has done Broadway; she's done novels.

She wrote the brilliant movie, "Postcards from the Edge" based on her book and has had an interesting life with some terrible relationships, some good relationships. But she is a decent person and is just one of the most hilarious people you'd ever want to meet.


ALLEN: We hope she recovers. She recently reprised her role as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" sequel, "The Force Awakens." She also just released a new memoir. In fact, she was coming back from a book tour when she fell ill on the airplane.

Still to come here, passengers go free in Malta after their plane was hijacked. We'll let you know how that came to a peaceful end.

Also, Donald Trump shares a letter he received from Vladimir Putin.





ALLEN: Welcome back.

Russia and Syria are exchanging congratulations and thank yous over the retaking of Eastern Aleppo from rebels. Reports say Russian president Vladimir Putin called Syrian president Bashar al-Assad Friday. A Kremlin statement quotes Mr. Putin as saying this success was possible, thanks to mutual efforts of all who came together in the fight with international terrorism in Syria.

Of course, reclaiming Aleppo may well mark a major turning point in the Syrian civil war. The rebels there have been ousted.

In Iraq, ISIS carried out three attacks on a town on the outskirts of Mosul Thursday. Sources tell CNN least 16 people were killed, dozens more wounded. Our Ben Wedeman spoke with some civilians returning to Mosul. We warn you, parts of his report are disturbing.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This family returned today to find their home in shambles. A missile landed outside their house in the Eastern Mosul district of El Barini (ph). They'd fled two weeks before.

I asked Uma Ahmed (ph) how she reacted when she walked through the door.

"Put yourself in my place," she responds, struggling to hold back tears.

The front line is just a rocket's throw away but her husband, Hamed (ph), is still at about the risks.

"Here's there danger; on the other side there's danger," he says.

"All Mosul is in flame. If we die here, this is our place. It's God's will." On the street corner, the legs of a dead ISIS fighter protrude from the dirt. Those who stayed home while the battle raged around them have no regrets.

"We hung on because we knew the displaced camps are uninhabitable," says Abu Saif (ph), a teacher.

"We accepted that either we die in our homes or we make it out alive."

There's an odd feel here; soldiers and Humvees and the occasional crackle of gunfire while seemingly carefree children wander in the street.

WEDEMAN: Unlike previous battles in Iraq, this time the Iraqi government told local inhabitants to stay in their homes if they felt safe. By doing that, they prevented a flood of people leaving the city.

But the problem is the city, as the battle goes on, is still full of civilians. General Abdel Vanil Asidi (ph) concedes the presence of civilians has slowed down the offensive but insists Iraqi troops are still ahead of schedule.

The battle for the city will almost certainly go on for months, with its residents perilously close to or directly in the line of fire -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, in Eastern Mosul.


ALLEN: Investigators are interrogating two hijackers that forced a Libyan plane to land in Malta. The hijacking ended peacefully on Friday after the pair freed all the passengers and gave up. Top officials in Malta say the hijackers had threatened to blow up the plane but only had fake weapons.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They treated it as though it was a actual real grenade on board --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the aircraft. They diverted as they were supposed to. They kept the thing; they wouldn't -- it was textbook. They did exactly as they were supposed to do. And as a result it ended up with no fatalities and the aircraft is intact.


ALLEN: Investigators have not said whether the men made any demands.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is openly dismissive of a new arms race with the U.S. Putin said Donald Trump's recruitment remarks about enhancing U.S. nuclear capabilities were, quote, "nothing new."

The U.S. president-elect has not clarified exactly what he meant Thursday when he called for the U.S. to strengthen and expand its nuclear capabilities.

On Friday, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer characterized the remark as a warning to other countries not to build up their nuclear arsenals or the U.S. would respond in kind.

Meantime, Trump is sharing a personal letter he received from the Russian president earlier this month. Trump called it, quote, "very nice."

Putin wrote, "I hope that after you assume the position of the President of United States of America we will be able, by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner, to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation."

Trump called Putin's thoughts, quote, "so correct," and he said he hopes both sides can live up to those thoughts.


ALLEN: Bethlehem in the West Bank, where Christians believe Jesus was born, is the focus of Christmas celebrations every year. This year, we have a little bit of a different story regarding that.

A Palestinian carpenter is trying to find new work. He's creating craft beer, he says, worthy of the three wise men. CNN's Ian Lee has this story.


IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Something is brewing in the little town of Bethlehem, Not of milk and honey, but barley and hops. A carpenter by trade, Rafat Houary found a higher calling, brewmaster.

RAFAT HOUARY, BREWMASTER, WISE MEN CHOICE BEER: Chocolate, roasted, coriander, aromatic malt. This will give you the flavor, also the color.

LEE: The woodworker's tools repurposed. Houary's friends were skeptical when he said he wanted to change the beer landscape --


LEE: -- in the West Bank with his ales.

HOUARY: They start laughing, what you're doing. Usually they drink in the, you know, the lager, the cheap lager.

LEE: His friends quickly acquired the taste and Wise Men Choice Brewery was created. Some curious neighbors wondered how this carpenter turns water into beer.

HOUARY: They think I'm adding alcohol. I got a bottle of alcohol and added it.


HOUARY: This is funny.

LEE: More of a laboratory than brewery, concocting different flavors into six unique beers, a one man operation in the basement of this Palestinian Christian's house. He learned to brew in the United States and online, mostly self-taught.

Every beer crafted by hand, limiting him to less than 1,000 bottles a month. With Christmas almost upon us, Bethlehem pilgrims can try his special brew, deep winter ale. All of Houary's ingredients are imported, except one which we find in his garden.

One of the key ingredients for that local Bethlehem taste is sage, which gives it its signature aroma and taste.

The sage Houary tells me, also gives Bethlehem IPA it's amber color.

You can smell the sage.

HOUARY: You can smell the love.

LEE: You can taste it, too. That's good.

For Houary, it's simple. He brews what he wants to drink.

HOUARY: So use whatever you like, but let the customer like your beer.


LEE: Ultimately, he plans to grow his brewery so he can leave his job as a carpenter to attend to his flock of beer drinkers.

HOUARY: Cheers.

LEE: Ian Lee, CNN, in Bethlehem.


ALLEN: Wise men beer, just in time for the holidays. We wish him well.

All right. Speaking of Christmas, we want to check in on Santa Claus because he's getting ready for his annual Christmas trip.

Here he is here, leaving his home in Finland -- in a sleigh naturally. Santa spends most of his time, of course, at his toy workshop at the North Pole. His official residence, though, is just inside the Arctic Circle in Finland.

At the North Pole, he will gather the rest of his reindeer, make his final prep to deliver gifts to children all over the world for Christmas so we wanted to bring the kids this update and we will be following Santa's progress.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. Our top stories are right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)