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Israel Launches Strikes in Syria after Crash of Jet; Korean Diplomacy. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired February 11, 2018 - 02:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. says it's concerned over a confrontation involving Israel, Iran and Syria. It says that Israel has the right to defend itself.

This comes after Israel says it launched attacks on Iranian targets inside Syria and that comes after an Israeli F-16 was downed by Syrian fire on Saturday.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is tracking events in the region. He is in Jerusalem.

Oren, this has been a difficult cycle of military action and retaliation to follow. So run us through what's happened so far.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As well as an escalating cycle of rhetoric, which is all too common in the region. But this all starts at roughly 4:30 Saturday morning local time. That's when Israel says a drone from Syria, through Jordan, penetrates Israeli airspace in Northern Israel.

That drone, which Israel says belonged to Iran, was then downed by an Israeli helicopter. Israel retaliates, striking with attack jets; the drone's command-and-control center in Syria. When it's doing that, Syria launches antiaircraft missiles downing an Israeli F-16.

That is the first time in some 3.5 decades that an Israeli fighter jet, an F-16, has been downed by antiaircraft fire. So it is no doubt a big occasion as is this sudden escalation. Israel retaliates once again, striking a dozen targets in Syria, that it says are Syrian and Iranian targets.

That so far is where the military escalation stands. It has held at that point since sometime yesterday around midday or thereabouts.

Then comes the escalation in rhetoric. Israel says it will do everything it needs to defend itself and blames Iran and Syria for this escalation. Iran fired back, saying these allegations are too ridiculous to be assessed and said that it's in Syria to consult with the Syrian military.

Too responsible also pay attention to, of course, the U.S., as you mentioned, siding firmly with Israel on this, saying Israel has the right to defend itself. But the Russians with a slightly different approach, staying right in the middle between Israel and Syria, saying we do not want to see anymore escalation from this point on.

And that is where this stands right now -- Cyril.

VANIER: Oren, it is just after 9:00 am local time where you are and as you told us earlier, this is going to be a key day. It has been quiet over the last few hours. It's going to be important to see what happens throughout the day. You will keep us apprised.

Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem. Thank you very much.

The other big story that we're following for you today, the fallout from the Olympic diplomacy. So the U.S. vice president is back in Washington now after several days in South Korea for the opening of the Olympic Games.

On his way back, Mike Pence said there is, quote, "no daylight between the United States, South Korea and Japan" in their stances on North Korea. A senior administration official also says the vice president purposely ignored members of the North Korean delegation. We will get into that a little bit later.

Meanwhile, back in South Korea, we're seeing more protests against North Korea. Paula Newton joins us from Seoul. She's clearly in the thick of it.

Paula, tell us more.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in the middle of a Sunday afternoon protest here in Seoul. These people are angry about what is going on. They're all angry about the diplomacy. I want to give you a little bit of sense of the flair for what's going on here. They have had North Korea's flags in their hands and they've been burning them. You have to keep in mind that North Korea's flags are illegal in this country, just to have them.

And then obviously police don't want them to be burning them. What these protesters have been doing is trying to agitate police. The police have been there for several hours now. There are a little bit over 200 of them.

But I'll just give you a sense of the protesters actually in behind us. What they do is every once in a while they provoke the police and they charge at police with at times North Korean flags, pictures of Kim Jong-un, pictures of Moon Jae-in. And they try and burn them.

Loudly and critically they are saying they do not like the way the Olympics are going. They continue to call them the Pyongyang Olympics. And say that they will (INAUDIBLE) to hijack these games. And they say that over and over again.

Cyril, I have to remind you this is (INAUDIBLE) very robust protests (INAUDIBLE) South Korea. (INAUDIBLE) protests are not out of the ordinary. What's different now, Cyril, is whether or not this actually permeates to other South Koreans and there's a lot of angst about what's going on with North Korea right now.

While some people (INAUDIBLE) others, like the protesters behind me, there are other people kind of now starting to sympathize --


NEWTON: -- with these protesters and saying, yes, what is South Korea giving up for this kind of peace with North Korea?

And it seems that North Korea doesn't have to give up anything, not even its nuclear weapons. What's interesting here, Cyril, is to try and see what -- how this sessions is going into Moon Jae-in, the president here, his approval ratings.

And that will make a difference, everybody watching very carefully because, remember, whether he visits Pyongyang or not, he will have to carry with him the goodwill of South Korea to really want this peace and (INAUDIBLE) with this peace. And that's why he and everyone else will be watching his approval ratings very carefully.

But a very vocal crowd here (INAUDIBLE) Cyril. We've been at this for a couple of hours now and they wanted to make this a peaceful protest. The government gave them full authorization to be here and to protest.

But every once in a while, they come through the crowd here and continue to try and mix it up with police, literally taking North Korean flags or pictures and burning them in the faces of police.

So quite a bit of a spectacle going on here now -- Cyril.

VANIER: Paula, we've been seeing these anti-North Korea protesters since pretty much the beginning of last week.

Have they been energized now that there actually has been an invitation for South Korea?

NEWTON: (INAUDIBLE), more than anything else, not just the invitation. I asked them earlier. But it's just the way the entire (INAUDIBLE). The entire spectacle of it annoys them, (INAUDIBLE) to no end and they're saying that look, we've been warning you. This is the anti-North Korea protesters, we've been warning you, South Korea's government, that this is what would happen, that they would hijack our games.

And now (INAUDIBLE) their games have been truly and wholly hijacked and that's why they're here. Again, these protesters that are -- they're out here a lot on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, protesting what's going to be interesting is whether or not that carries forward to the (INAUDIBLE) population, whether they, too, turn against these kinds of peace overtures to North Korea, feeling that they're giving up too much and North Korea doesn't have to give up anything.

(INAUDIBLE) weapons that they have. So it's going to be (INAUDIBLE) really the way this takes hold after the Olympics are done. Just to let you know, we're back here at the police line. They said they continue to every few minutes storm at police. Again, police are doing the best they can to keep everyone safe and obvious not get caught up in this because they know the protesters are trying to get them going, trying to agitate them.

VANIER: Hey, Paula, you were just walking through a sea of flags just seconds ago. There was of course the South Korean flag but there was also the U.S. flag. Tell us a little bit about that.

NEWTON: Yes, and I'm glad you mentioned that because I wanted to point out that they will have said things to us, even in the crowd. They'll say things like we want the United States to annihilate North Korea.

Now these are exaggerated comments. You have to think these are right-wing protesters here, very hawkish protesters here in South Korea. What is (INAUDIBLE) here is that they do not want South Korea and the United States to come to any disconnect between what their military posture is and what their policy is.

And they are very pro-American. Many of these people very thankful that the protection of the United States gives them for the security architecture that in place here now for decades.

And they do feel as if North Korea has succeeded in putting that wedge between South Korea and the United States.

VANIER: Hey, Paula, Paula Newton, thank you very much. Now you just -- if people are joining us now, I just want to fill them in on what you've been doing. You've been walking among protesters, anti-North Korea protesters in downtown Seoul.

They're angry at all this Olympic diplomacy that we've been seeing with of course that breakthrough coming yesterday with the North inviting the South to visit them officially in Pyongyang. Paula Newton, you will keep us apprised of developments in the coming hours. Thank you.

Aid agency Oxfam is facing allegations that some of its senior employees paid for sex in Haiti. Apparently, this occurred shortly after the earthquake there in 2010. Of course that means at a time when the Haitian population was at its most vulnerable.

An investigation by "The Times" newspaper in London alleges Oxfam covered up the alleged misconduct. "The Times" also says a confidential Oxfam report found that, quote, "children may have been among those sexually exploited by aid workers."

Now CNN has not independently reviewed the report and the aid agency says that allegations involving underage sex workers were never proven. British government officials say Oxfam did not inform them of the sexual allegations involving minors.

Oxfam is also denying a cover-up, saying it launched an --


VANIER: -- internal investigation as soon as it learned about the allegations. Oxfam says four staff members were dismissed and three others resigned.

Two White House aides who quit last week over allegations of domestic abuse apparently still have the sympathy of the U.S. president. Former staffers, Rob Porter and David Sorensen, both denied the accusations against them.

However, their denials just do not square with the testimonies of their alleged victims. Porter's first wife, for instance, released this photo of a black eye that she said he gave her in 2005.

We get more from CNN's Ryan Nobles in Washington.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House dealing with yet another public relations crisis; this time involving two now former staffers who are pushing back against claims of domestic violence.

One of those staffers, Rob Porter, the former staff secretary, a very important job in this White House, resigned earlier this week.

And then, on Friday, it was David Sorensen, a speech writer who said that he approached White House officials, knowing that he had similar accusations against him, and tendered his resignation so he wouldn't be a distraction to the administration.

And the president himself, seeming to defend both of these men without mentioning them by name in a tweet sent Saturday morning.

He said, quote, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true or false, some are old, some are new, there's no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?"

The president not mentioning the victims in this case and there's not a whole lot of clarity yet as to when the White House learned about these accusations, particularly with Rob Porter, and why it took so long to address them and waiting until media reports surfaced before taking formal action.

Now as the White House is dealing with this particular piece of controversy, they're also dealing with the fallout from a decision by the administration not to release that Democratic memo that was a response to a Republican memo having to do with the FISA court and the way the FISA court conducts itself.

And the president weighing in on that, as well, in a tweet, saying, quote, "The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo, which they knew, because of sources and methods and more, would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for a lack of transparency. Told them to redo and send back in its proper form."

Of course, the president seems very concerned about how the Department of Justice and FBI have viewed this Democratic memo. He didn't seem to share those same concerns for the Republican memo which he allowed to go forward with no redactions, despite the fact that the DOJ and FBI did not want the memo to come out at all.

Now what Democrats are concerned about is that they agree that redactions are probably necessary for this particular document. But they're worried those redactions may be politically motivated as opposed to protecting confidential information.

So at this point, it is a waiting game. The memo is back in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee, where they will address some of these concerns. We're not sure if and when the memo will ever come out.

But, the White House says they are inclined to release that memo as long as their concerns are addressed -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.


VANIER: And with that we'll wrap it up for now. Thanks for watching. Up next on CNN, "MARKETPLACE AFRICA." Stay tuned.