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Mideast on the Brink

Aired July 16, 2006 - 22:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Special show tonight, "Mideast on the Brink." Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Larry, it's truly on the brink. Thank you very much. Larry a remarkable hour and hour ahead. Our correspondents all around the region. The Middle East on the brink, day six has begun of what many believe here is an escalating conflict here in the Middle East.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Death and devastation. Hezbollah calls for an open war against Israeli. It promises surprises yet to come.

Bombs, blood, bodies, all out mayhem in the Mid East. Innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs. The U.S. (inaudible).


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT: And who caused the problem is Hezbollah and Syria and the Iranian connection.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Left behind in Lebanon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a desperate woman, a mother, a wife. (inaudible)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans far away from home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said, Sajed (ph), I don't know what to do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Caught up in the chaos. This is a special Sunday night edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Mid East on the Brink."

COOPER: And thanks for joining us in this region on the brink. We are in Haifa, Israel. We already hear Israeli warplanes overhead. It is not yet dawn here. It is just about 5:00 a.m.. And there is no telling what will happen over the course of this next hour. It has been a day of bloodshed already here in Haifa, Israel's third largest city, it's about 30 miles south of the Lebanese border. It is on the coast. It is a city which was hit by Katyusha rockets several days ago and just yesterday, the bloodiest attack here in Haifa yet. More than -- some 20 Katyusha rockets hitting the area, one of them striking a train depot. You see the pictures. Eight people dead in that train depot, more than 10 wounded. There is much blood shed on both sides of this border. More than 100 Lebanese civilians have been killed, several hundred wounded according to Lebanese authorities. And the bloodshed, it is worried, is just beginning. Here's what we know at this hour.


COOPER (voice-over): The gates of hell opened on Lebanon. That from the country's prime minister on the fifth straight day of Israeli air strikes and artillery fire. He said that before darkness fell. And a long, loud night punctuated by more explosion in the city. Hezbollah hit, as well, and hit hard. A rocket fired from Lebanon exploded inside a train depot in Haifa, Israel. Eight civilians were killed.

Israel's other focal point, Gaza. Hours ago, warplanes targeted and blew up part of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry. The building was empty. We'll have the latest.

And watching from afar but deeply concerned, the G-8 leaders meeting in St. Petersburg issued a joint statement today urging Israel to exercise restraint.


COOPER (on camera): Restraint, of course, not something we are seeing much of at this point on either side of the border. We are hearing now some sort of explosions far in the distance. Again, it's very hard to tell whether that is incoming Katyusha rockets as we have seen more than 400 Katyusha rockets fired over and in to northern Israel in the many days of this conflict. Or whether those booms are Israeli artillery fire into southern Lebanon or even bombs being dropped by Israeli aircraft.

We have seen all of that over the last several days of this conflict. And we have correspondents all throughout the region, Nic Robertson is in Beirut this morning. CNN's Christiane Amanpour is in Jerusalem and CNN's Aneesh Rahman is along the Lebanese-Syrian border which is seeing large numbers of people streaming across trying to get out of Lebanon, trying to get out of the danger zone and into Syria. We'll have reports from all of them. Let's start, though, with what will be no doubt another dramatic day in Beirut and CNN's Nic Robertson. Nic, what's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I'm just hearing emergency service vehicles, sirens coming past this area heading towards the south of Beirut where the Hezbollah stronghold is, that's where the main international airport is, and that's what was struck late last night. The flames from the fuel depot that was hit have been burning all night. The sirens going off right now as I'm talking to you.

But throughout the country, it is the human toll that has been mounting.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Across Lebanon, the human cost of the war is rising. According to Lebanese broadcaster LBC, 20 people were killed and 50 wounded in this attack on the southern port city of Tyre, bringing the casualty toll to around 130 people killed. And close to 300 wounded.

Among the dead, eight Canadians, according to Canada's foreign minister. Most attacks reported were in southern Lebanon, close to the Israeli border. Where the Hezbollah guerrilla group holds sway and continues to fire missiles into Israel, killing Israeli civilians.

Into this area Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets telling people to evacuate their homes and leave the south. In the Hezbollah strong holds in southern Beirut, missile raids in the morning targeted buildings associated with the guerrilla group.

(on camera): This is an indication of the type of bombing that's going on in the southern suburbs of Beirut. This building here did house Hezbollah's radio station, but when you look around here, you can see there are a lot of civilians that live in this area. Hezbollah's leader appeared on TV claiming not to target civilians but threatening unlimited confrontation with new secret weapons.

HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): The Zionist enemy is ignorant of what we have and is ignorant of what we have on all levels. What we have is a force that we are proud of it. And we're proud that we are not penetrated by the intelligence.

ROBERTSON: On the empty streets of southern Beirut, Nasrallah's words had an ominous echo. Hezbollah appears to be closing ranks on outsiders. There are a few people outside their houses but it's mostly deserted. What we're noticing driving around here are young men on motor scooters, some of them working for Hezbollah, checking up on who's in their area.

(voice-over): At the U.S. embassy, two helicopters brought specialists to get up to 25,000 Americans out to safety.

JULIET WURR, U.S. EMBASSY, BEIRUT: It will definitely happen the next few days. When will depend on the conditions. That's what this team of people who have arrived are going to help us look around and see how's the best way of doing it. So very soon it will be happening.

ROBERTSON: For a while, diplomacy took a brief front seat. Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora met with the European Union foreign affairs security chief Javier Solana. There was a noticeable lull in strikes in Beirut but no concrete progress towards a cease fire. Only the request Hezbollah stops its violence and hand back the two Israeli soldiers it abducted last week. JAVIER SOLANA, E.U. FOREIGN AFFAIRS CHIEF: I ask you to do it, do it rapidly, every day counts.

ROBERTSON: But even before Solana and Siniora's press conference was over, attacks in Beirut restarted. A fuel storage tanker at Beirut's international airport the apparent target this time, the flames fanning Solana's fears violence will escalate.


ROBERTSON (on camera): And it did escalate through the night. Two Lebanese army bases near the port city of Tripoli in the north also hit, a number of casualties there, many of them killed. Anderson?

COOPER: Nic, what is the total number, is it known, of civilian casualties? I mean, one of the things that was interesting in your report is talking about how enmeshed Hezbollah targets are in civilian neighborhoods.

ROBERTSON: Very enmeshed. Difficult to separate the two, they are grown out of the population in these densely packed southern suburbs, so to pick out targets there very, very tough. It is precise bombing. But there is collateral in the streets. It's almost inescapable.

The death toll of civilians is on the order of 110-120. Many of those who were killed overnight seem to be Lebanese soldiers. But the Lebanese army won't say how many at the moment. They're being very, very careful with national security information, even rescue workers in the city won't tell you things. They're being very careful about giving out critical information. There's a real sense of war here now, Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, Israel is attempting to drive some sort of a wedge between Hezbollah and the Lebanese population as you showed over the weekend, they dropped leaflets, you know, saying questioning whether Hezbollah is really doing anything good for the people of Lebanon, calling them essentially snakes. Is that working? Are people rallying around Hezbollah in Lebanon or are there divisions?

ROBERTSON: You know, taking the military solution to dealing with Hezbollah and hoping that the political process here in Lebanon continues this fledgling democracy, it's a very tough tight rope to walk. And you get that when you talk to people here. Because they will tell you while Israel attacks Lebanon, they feel it as Lebanese, this is an aggression against the country and will lend their support to those they see as defending the country, Hezbollah. This is people who would not necessarily support them under normal circumstances.

So you can see how it drives people towards Hezbollah. This could change over time. There are plenty of people here who don't like Hezbollah. There is no doubt about that. But as the government here looks for ways to disarm Hezbollah in the future, its political ops appear to be narrowed when more of the population supports Hezbollah during this process, Anderson. COOPER: Hezbollah of course has a role in the Lebanese government in the parliament, also a major employer all throughout the country of Lebanon in addition to their military, what the U.S. calls terrorist activities. Nic, we'll check back in with you later on throughout this hour as we will with all our correspondent.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Haifa where on Sunday, it saw perhaps the bloodiest day in this city's recent history in the last several days. A Katyusha rocket falling to a train depot, eight killed there. Pools of blood were seen. Paula Hancocks reports.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Panic in Haifa Sunday as Hezbollah launched at least 20 rocks into Israel's third largest city. Those who were on the streets ran for cover when the sirens sounded.

It was Hezbollah's deadliest rocket attack on Israel in more than a decade. A train maintenance depot in Haifa's industrial zone. Eight Israeli railway workers died, more than 20 injured.

(on camera): This is where the rocket came through the roof of this train depot. There were about 30 people working in here at the time of the blast this Sunday morning. And you can see exactly where the rocket hit. Now, anything that was left in that hole was taken away to be investigated. And to discover exactly where the material came from. Now the people who managed to walk out of here alive said there were no sirens and no warning.

(voice-over): Arnie (ph) survived and tells me he tried to help the friends he had worked with for many years. Israel's former army chief instantly pointed the finger of blame. This was not the only rocket that hit Haifa, but it was the most deadly.

MIRI EISIN, ISRAEIL GOVERNMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Israel for the last six years has gone through cycles with Hezbollah. We're not in a cycle now. We are in a war and we are determined that at the end of the Hezbollah will not be on our northern border.

HANCOCKS: Israel deployed Patriot missile batteries in the northern Israeli town of Safed Sunday, a town that is being hit by numerous Katyusha rockets. The missiles have already been employed in Haifa to try and intercept rockets from Lebanon. A heightened alert spread Sunday to Israel's most populous city, Tel Aviv. Just a precaution according to authorities.

GENERAL YITZHAK GERSHON, ISRAELI ARMY: The areas south to Haifa will be alerted by a siren. And when that siren is heard, they would have a minute at least to enter structures, lower floors, security rooms which will significantly reduce the ability to hurt the body and soul.

HANCOCKS At least a dozen Israeli civilians have been killed so far in hundreds of rocket attacks. Hezbollah warns this is only the beginning. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Haifa, Israel. COOPER: There is that feeling here on both sides of the border this may be only the beginning. Both sides ratcheting up the rhetoric, ratcheting up the attacks on both sides of the border. Christiane Amanpour is in Jerusalem reporting the situation from there. Christiane, what's the latest?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, after that attack on Haifa today where eight Israelis were killed the Israeli Cabinet led obviously by the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met in session. Prime Minister Olmert said these attacks would have far- reaching consequences for Lebanon, for the government of Lebanon and for the situation there.

And overnight, just a few hours ago, we had reports from Israeli officials that in fact, more Hezbollah rockets had come into this area and in fact, reached their furthest target south, a town of Afula and is the furthest south we're told these Hezbollah rocks have reached.

In the meantime, of course, Lebanon or rather Israel is walking a thin line as it admits and as others have said in trying to push back Hezbollah, cripple its missile and rocket capability as much as possible while trying not to do first of all, trying not to hit civilian targets which there have been quite a few of, but also trying to not to cause the government of Lebanon to fall quite yet, the fledgling democracy in Lebanon.

The deputy the prime minister Shimon Peres in the last hour spoke to CNN's Larry King who asked him first off whether -- what his reaction was to accusations that Israel was overreacting.


SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, if somebody would fire a missile from Burbank to Hollywood, would you overreact in trying to defend your land? I mean, we were attacked. Without any provocation, for no reason. By an irresponsible group of terrorists. I do not believe there is anybody responsible that would like to see Israel submit to it or lose its heart because of it.


AMANPOUR: The general consensus over the past few days has been around the international community that this was an act of war provoked by Hezbollah. But of course, that brings with it great fears for widening this conflict. Blaming Iran and Syria for supporting Hezbollah. People are very concerned about what in fact this might mean. The United States has called for Hezbollah to disarm, has called for the Hezbollah militia there to release the two Israeli soldiers that they kidnapped and seized a few days ago.

But there has been reaction in Iran, as well, from the supreme leader there, Ayatollah Khamenei.


AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI, SUPREME LEADER OF IRAN (through translator): The president of America says Hezbollah must be disarmed. Of course, they want this, but it won't ever happen. The Lebanese people are proud of Hezbollah because they know that Hezbollah's strong arms have not allowed Zionists to do whatever they want whenever they desire to Lebanon.


AMANPOUR: Now, what is in store ahead? As I said, the prime minister of Israel has said that the latest attack, the attack on Haifa killing eight civilians would have far-reaching consequences for Lebanon. On the other hand, the Israelis have always been, you know, doing their, what they feel is necessary for national security while keeping an eye on the reaction from the international community. Some have suggested that they may have a few more days of being able to keep this bombardment up and trying to do as much damage to Hezbollah's military capability as possible before the weight of the international community comes down on trying to seek some kind of resolution and solution to this.

At the moment, international community not calling for a cease fire. At least the United States and Britain not yet calling for a cease fire. But urging restraint. Anderson?

COOPER: Christiane, in terms of the Israeli government position, this has moved just beyond trying to get back those two kidnapped soldiers, hasn't it?

AMANPOUR: It has always been that. They obviously want those soldiers back, but for them, it is a strategic necessity to get an armed military group that is still interested in military action, Hezbollah, away from its northern border. And what they want to see is finally, what should have been implemented awhile ago, and that is UN Resolution 1559, which calls for all militias to be disarmed.

Hezbollah has managed to slip under the radar for various reasons, both military and political. And has managed to keep its arms and has managed to avoid the act of disarmament and people are now wanting for that resolution to be fully implemented. At the same time, mindful that this government that's in place in Lebanon, which is pro Western and obviously very pro democratic, is very fragile and that they are very concerned about toppling and causing this government to fall because who knows what would come next.

And this government, at the moment at least, feels that it is not strong enough it demand what needs to be done in disarming and moving back any kind of military presence from Israel's northern border.

I spoke to a Lebanese diplomat who said it's not possible to do this while under fire. That there needs to be a cease fire in order to implement the mechanisms that would eventually lead to some kind of resolution of this military situation.

COOPER: Christiane, we'll check with you later throughout this hour. Thanks for that report.

Coming up, we're going to hear from several different actors in this deadly drama. A spokesman for the Israeli foreign minister, we'll also hear from Syria's ambassador to the United States. That's coming up. Also, the Americans trapped in the middle of all this. Americans in Lebanon trying to get out. How many are they, and how is the U.S. government going to get them out? There are some plans in the works. We'll have the latest ahead on this special edition of 360, "The Mid East on the Brink."



COOPER: Some Israeli soldiers who are bunked down for the night here. This is a bomb shelter underneath one of the hotels in Nahariya. This bomb people has room for about 300 people, and that is about as many people who are inside the hotel right now. Most of them are foreign journalists and a few soldiers. They have put mattresses down on the floor. All throughout the day, they've been telling anyone who does remain in this town should spend the night in a bomb shelter like this.

Of course, it's not all soldiers and journalists who are staying here in the bomb shelter tonight. There are also families. And of course that means kids. They built a playground in this bomb shelter.


COOPER: It's now Monday morning here in Haifa, Israel. Monday morning here in Haifa, Israel. About 20 minutes after 5:00. We are hearing it sounds like Israeli warplanes moving overhead. We have heard explosions, distant booms all throughout this morning in the last hour or so. So we don't know if it's incoming or outgoing fire.

There of course is violence on both sides of the border. Bloodshed here in Israel. And massive amounts of casualties, as well, so far in Lebanon, more than 100 according to the Lebanese government, and the number of wounded is even greater than that.

I want to talk to representatives from several sides in this conflict. Joining me right now is Imad Moustapha, Syria's ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Mustafa, we appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.


COOPER: What happens today? Where do you see this conflict going?

MOUSTAPHA: Well, you know this conflict will continue until the United States, which is the only country in the world that has any sort of leverage on Israel will convince the Israelis to shop the death toll in Lebanon, to stop destroying and killing innocent civilians in Lebanon. As long as the United States refuses to interfere, I am afraid and I am very sorry to say this, that the death toll will continue to rise.

COOPER: Ambassador, you say the U.S. is the only country which has influence in Lebanon and Israel.

MOUSTAPHA: I said on Israel.

COOPER: The United States says -- on Israel. The United States says that your government has a direct impact on Hezbollah as well as the Iranian government, the United States says that your government, the Syrian government, allows weapons to be transshipped from Iran over your territory and that you supply military aid and financial aid to Hezbollah. What say you?

MOUSTAPHA: Well, the United states always looks for a third party to blame when everybody in the world knows that Israel is committing atrocities today in Lebanon. The government of Lebanon, rushed to the United Nations Security Council yesterday pleading for help so that the world community can interfere to stop these massacres in Lebanon.

The United States did not accommodate this request. This is the issue. And instead of working hard towards achieving, attaining a cease fire, they want to blame a third party here or there. Syria has nothing to do whatsoever with this current crisis in the Middle East, and I don't think it's useful to look for a third party while the big elephant in the room is the Israeli atrocities.

COOPER: From the Israeli perspective, the big elephant in the room is Hezbollah, a group which is not a governmental group, the government of Lebanon has said that they don't really have control over Hezbollah, didn't know that they were going to launch this attack. Should any country allow an organization to have a unilateral foreign policy, to have military capabilities? Should any country, Lebanon, allow a group to - allow a group to -- an independent group to launch attacks from its borders?

MOUSTAPHA: Since you are quoting the government of Lebanon, the prime minister of Lebanon today appeared on CNN. He mass has pleaded with the world community and asked everybody in the world to interfere so that Israel will stop destroying Lebanon for the third time in 20 years.

This is the third time Israel is putting Lebanon ablaze, is putting Lebanon - is destroying the whole infrastructure of Lebanon, is killing scores and scores of civilians in Lebanon. Something should happen. Instead of looking elsewhere for the blame, please remember, please remember that there are thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese illegally imprisoned today by Israel. Nobody cares for them. As if the Arabs are not human beings and the Israelis are human beings.

Two Israeli soldiers are captured by Hezbollah. The gates of hell open in Lebanon. Thousands of Lebanese, Syrian and the Palestinian citizens are imprisoned by Israel but those are subhuman beings. Nobody care for them at all.

COOPER: Ambassador Moustapha, we appreciate your perspective and appreciate you joining us this evening. Thank you very much. Hope to talk to you in the days ahead. Also now joining us, spokesman for the Israeli foreign minister, Regev. Appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much. Just listening to the Syrian ambassador, what are your thoughts?

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: Well, he's like saying it's all my country's fault. I presume that's the Syrian position. It's always Israel's fault.

But I think if you look at what the international community is saying, what came out of the G-8 summit, what the UN resolutions are, there clearly is an international consensus that Hezbollah has to be disarmed. That's not only an interest of my country, that's an interest for everyone who wants to see a democratic and free Lebanon. That's good for the region, that's good for peace. There are two UN Security Council resolutions on the books 1559 and 1680, both of them call for Hezbollah to be totally disarmed and it's about time those were implemented.

COOPER: Mark Regev, a spokesman for the foreign minister, what is Israel wanting at this point? For your government, this has gone beyond just trying to get back three Israeli soldiers who have been kidnapped.

REGEV: Correct. This is much larger than a hostage crisis. On early Wednesday morning when Hezbollah attacked Israel with a rocket barrage, crossed the border, shot up some of our soldiers, killed some, took others hostage, that was an act of war. And it must be remembered Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government. The Lebanese government as much as we understand their problems, they are legally culpable here for this act of aggression.

What do we want? We are acting today firstly and foremostly to defend our citizens, we are trying through our military strikes to neutral neutralize the ability of Hezbollah to reign terror on our cities with rockets and missiles. Secondly, we understand that the real solution here is diplomatic. And we urge the international community to galvanize behind its own resolutions, those two UN Security Council resolutions and implement those resolutions expeditiously. That's the solution.

If you disarm Hezbollah, that's good for the region. It's good for Lebanon, it's good for Israel, it's good for everyone.

COOPER: Hezbollah said on Sunday that they do not target Israeli civilians with their Katyusha rockets. They are saying they are firing at Israeli soldiers. I'd like to hear your perspective on that. And what about the large numbers of civilian casuals in Lebanon, more than 100 according to Lebanese officials, Lebanese government. You just heard the ambassador saying that Israel is targeting civilians.

REGEV: I think if you look what we're doing, we're trying surgically to hit the infrastructure of the Hezbollah terrorist organization, to take out their rockets, take out missiles and we're trying to disrupt the ability of the Syrians and the Iranians to rearm Hezbollah with new shipments of weaponry. And Anderson, some people has to be said here that's very important. I mean, some people think of this Hezbollah group as some sort of ragtag battalion of militia with a few rifles and maybe one or two bazookas. Hezbollah has more up to date weaponry than a lot of conventional forces. That land to sea missile that took out our small naval craft, that was a very state-of-the-art piece of military technology supplied by Iran transferred through Syria. We have to disarm this organization and have got to stop the Syrians and Iranians from using this proxy to cause a Middle East crisis whenever they think it's convenient for them.

COOPER: Mark Regev, appreciate your perspective and thanks for joining us again. We'll talk to you tomorrow most likely. Thanks very much, Mr. Regev.

Coming up, we'll take you to a nighttime look at what it's like on front lines on the Israeli-Lebanese border. I spent some time with an Israeli artillery unit. We'll show you what they are doing all day and night firing shells, responding and hitting targets in southern Lebanon and beyond.

Also, the Americans caught in Beirut and those trying to free the border. A live report from the Lebanese-Syrian border as thousands of people try to stream across seeking safety trying to get away from the missiles from the rockets, and from the blood shed. This special edition of 360 "Mid East on the Brink" continues in a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Causing to the Israel military, the Lebanese resident who live in that part of Lebanon were warned earlier that they should leave their homes. They gave about two to three hours warning that this military offensive would be escalated and it was time for them to leave their homes.


COOPER: And welcome back. Dawn is now breaking here in Haifa, Israel. Day six, Monday morning of this ongoing crisis. The Middle East on the brink, a special Sunday edition of 360. Thanks very much for joining us.

I spent several days ago a couple hours with an Israeli artillery unit right along the border with Lebanon, an artillery unit which has been up around the clock and no doubt continues to be up around the clock responding and firing at targets determined by commanders elsewhere, targets in southern Lebanon and beyond. Here's what I saw.


COOPER (voice-over): On a rocky slope along the Lebanese border we found an Israeli artillery company readying for battle. They're arming the shells they'll soon fire at targets in southern Lebanon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been three days.

COOPER: Captain Boaz is the company commander.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time Hezbollah engages fire, we have to respond so they give us like a target, a point.

COOPER: So your command sees where the Hezbollah rocks come from, and then you try to respond on that spot?


COOPER: Since the crisis began, they've been firing back and forth all day and night.

(on camera): Captain Boaz has received a call, the command to fire. They're now listening to the radios, getting the exact coordinates as they're plotting on their map and will give the command here to actually fire. The whole process takes just a matter of minutes.

(voice-over): Once the targets have been acquired, the artillery units are told to prepare. They've now fired up the American made M 109 artillery piece. Both batteries are ready to fire. They have the shells in place, just waiting for the final go ahead from Captain Boaz.

(voice-over): When the firing begins, there's little warning.

(on camera): That's the first shell they've fired. We're not sure how many they plan to fire. More than 200 Katyusha rockets have landed in northern Israel since this latest crisis erupted. The Katyushas re notoriously inaccurate. They're basically point and shoot, that's why they're more likely to hit civilians than they are any Israeli soldiers.

The Israelis have the advantage of better firepower.

(voice-over): Tonight's target is some nine miles away.

right now they're use something American made M-109 artillery pieces. It can fire shells a great distance with great accuracy. For the Captain Boaz, the shelling has become routine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just want to see our guys come home. The three kidnapped soldier, one in the Gaza strip, two in the north, we just want to see them come back home. I mean, nobody wants war. We just want to live in peace and quiet.

COOPER: Tonight, of course, there will be no peace and quiet. Another call comes in from command, another order to fire. A brief flash lights up the night sky. And darkness once again takes over.


COOPER (on camera): Hmm. Well, when we come back on this special edition of 360, some news from home. The latest on the wildfires out in California. One massive fire, hundreds of firefighters. We'll take you to the front lines.

Also ahead tonight, Americans caught in the crossfire here in the Middle East in Lebanon trying to get out, waiting for the U.S. government to come up with a plan. The latest ahead.



ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the area of Beirut that people are fleeing from. We are in the southern suburbs of the capital. A place that you had to be populated heavily by Shiite Muslims. As you can see behind me, constant shelling by Israeli forces. This is the aftermath. We can still smell the burning rubble. This town is beginning to look like Beirut during the civil war.


COOPER: And welcome back to this special edition of 360, a special Sunday edition. "Mid East on the Brink." I'm reporting to you now from Haifa, Israel, a town which was hit hard. Eight civilians, workers in a train depot, were killed here on Sunday when a Katyusha rocket fell through the roof of that train station. That train depot that was just one of some 20 Katyusha rockets fired into this area on Sunday alone.

Of course, we've seen hundreds in northern Israel. And there have been untold numbers of shells fired on Lebanon in the south and all throughout even up to the Syrian border now. The conflict seems to be escalating on both sides. Rockets and missiles firing deeper and deeper into Israel and into Lebanese territory. Reports all throughout this next half hour, first let's get you up to date what's happening right now.

It is just after 5:00. We are already hearing some explosion throughout this morning as dawn approaches on Monday morning here in Israel. Israel and Hezbollah are still returning fire. Both sides vow to intensify attacks.

On Sunday's deadly incidents, an Israeli air strike killed 20 people in the port of Tyre. Fifty others were wounded. The fighting continues into Monday morning. However, the last few hours, just in the last couple of hours, Israeli warplanes launched new strikes against the Beirut airport and targets across southern Lebanon continue to come under fire.

Meantime, a Hezbollah missile strike on a train station in Haifa, as I mentioned, killed eight people. Israel says the latest rockets fired by Hezbollah, they say are newer and more powerful than those seen in the past. The missiles they say are being supplied by Syria and Iran.

On the other front in this violent region, Israel tonight destroyed a wing of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building in Gaza, the building was first hit by Israeli air strikes on Thursday. This is now the second time it's been hit. Palestinian sources say no one was in the building during that latest attack. Let's go to CNN's Aneesh Raman in a moment. But first let's check in with Melissa Long for the day's other developments in other news. Melissa?

MELISSA LONG, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Anderson. We start in Russia, where the Middle East crisis is dominating the G-8 summit. President Bush and world other leaders issued a statement blaming Hezbollah and Hamas for the fighting but also urging Israel to show moderation.


BUSH: All sovereign nations have a right to defend themselves against terrorist attacks. However, we hope that there is restraint as people respond. And one of our concerns, of course, is the fragile democracy in Lebanon.


LONG: The G-8 summit wraps up tomorrow. Monday's talks should cover some missed grouped including high oil prices and the standoff with Iran.

G-8 leaders are also dealing with North Korea. The country is heating up the rhetoric over its missile tests. A day after the UN Security Council condemned the recent launches, Pyongyang says the vote could provoke a second Korean War. North Korea also vows it won't be bound by the resolution which demands Pyongyang suspend its ballistic missile program.

Flames are still raging across Southern California tonight. And the weather forecast is not promising. A chance of thunderstorms means possible lightning could trigger new fires.

And a heat wave has some parts of the country marking record temperatures. The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings from Las Vegas to Chicago to parts of New Jersey. The mercury topped 100 degrees across much of South Dakota today.

The man suspected of blowing up his New York town home in a suicide attempt has died of his injuries. Police believe Dr. Nicholas Bartha rigged the blast Monday to prevent his ex-wife from getting any money from the home's sale. He allegedly sent her an e-mail saying and I quote, "I will leave you the house only if I am dead." That blast wounded 14 people.

And NASA declares the space shuttle Discovery safe to come back home. The crew is scheduled to land in Florida in less than 12 hours. But the weather may not cooperate. Showers are in the forecast and flight rules for bid a landing attempt if there's rain nearby. If tomorrow doesn't work, NASA will wait till Tuesday and could use the backup site in California. Those are the headlines. Now let's go back to Anderson Cooper on the front lines of the crisis in the Middle East. Anderson?

COOPER: Melissa, thanks very much. CNN's Aneesh Raman has been reporting for sometime along the Lebanese-Syria border. The situation there is very tense. You have thousands of people streaming trying to get out Beirut, trying to get out of other parts of Lebanon, and trying to get into Syria. Let's check in with Aneesh right now. Aneesh, what are you seeing?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, just about 20 minutes ago, we heard a series of explosions, seven by our count, border guards are saying about five to 10 miles from where we stand inside Lebanon. That is the violence. That is why scores of people have been making their way into Syria, simply to stay alive.


RAMAN (voice-over): It is for many the only way out. Crossing from Lebanon to Syria, young and old, they are fleeing the violence. Wael (ph) and his wife Nicola (ph) left to keep their one-year-old daughter Thala alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bombs all over the place. Beside my house, there was bombs just about 500 meters.

RAMAN: Many Lebanese here like Ali who spent hours going through immigration saw the bombs start to fall too close. "I carried five people to the hospital myself," he says, "after a bomb exploded just near to me." They were civilians who were hit women and children. I saw it with my own eyes. It was terrible.

The majority here are poor Syrians, workers in Lebanon. This group carried everything they had on their heads and walked home.

"We left our lives there behind," this 65-year-old woman told me. "I just want to live. If I die, I want to die here in Syria."

(on camera): Officials here estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have made their way through this border crossing over the past few days. They say it has never been so busy, each person carrying with them stories of the violence taking place within Lebanon.

(voice-over): Understandably, the road into Lebanon was virtually empty except for a few Lebanese. This man lives in Saudi Arabia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My home, my land, my family. From everything. I'm am (inaudible).

RAMAN (on camera): Everyone here supports Hezbollah?


RAMAN (voice-over): It wasn't just them. Literally everyone we met here supported Hezbollah. They say the Israeli attacks will only strengthen that allegiance, but no one took joy in what is taking place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem, it's between them. But when they kill kids, I thank God my kids are here now. But many kids there.

RAMAN: For Lebanese here like Wael and his family, the hours ahead are riddled with uncertainty. They don't know when they'll return home and don't know whether the safe haven they found in Syria will soon become the next front in this escalating war.


RAMAN (on camera): And Anderson, just a snapshot of how things have changed at the border. Usually there are no taxis here and if I turn the camera a little bit there is a string of about 15 of them and they'll grow in number. They are expecting the throngs of people that are going to start coming in here in the next few minutes and the next few hours. Another day where thousands will flee the violence to try and find safety here in Syria.


COOPER: Aneesh, thanks. And of course, the U.S. government is telling those Americans, some 25,000 Americans according to the State Department who are in Lebanon right now, mostly in Beirut, to stay put, to not try to make a dangerous journey on the road because it is simply too risky at this point. The U.S. government trying to come up with some sort of solution, some evacuation plan to get those Americans who do want to get out. It's not all 25,000, no doubt about that. Trying to figure out an evacuation plan. We'll probably see that in the next several days and have a report from an American. Talk to an American who is trapped in Lebanon right now. Hear their perspective on the current crisis and what it's like being there right now.

Also ahead, I'll show you the aftermath of that blast here in Haifa, eight people dead. Train workers trying to fix a train in a depot when all of a sudden, a Katyusha rocket came flying through the ceiling. We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid for your children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. Sure. It's a big responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect that this was going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't. It was really a shock.


COOPER: Well, among the 25,000 or so estimated Americans right now in Lebanon, there are many who are trying to get out, many desperate to leave. But simply don't know exactly how to do it right now. Joining me now on the phone is Caroline Shamoun. She and her two sons are in Lebanon. She would like to return home to Texas. Her husband Paul is very worried about her and trying to get her out as quickly as possible. Caroline, how have you been?

CAROLINE SHAMOUN, AMERICAN STRANDED IN LEBANON (on phone): We're not doing good. That's all. We're being very miserable here.

COOPER: What are you seeing around you? What is it like? Do you have food? What is life like?

SHAMOUN: So far, we have food. We're in a little safer section, but it's still last night, we were sitting outside, and just the kids were outside. We thought we were safe and they start with hearing the airplanes and they're bombing and we see the lights and just ran and hide in the shelter. It was very scary. We met with many other American people in the shelter hiding and the kids were very afraid and crying, and they start praying to get out of here as soon as possible.

COOPER: I know your husband in Texas, Paul, wants you back and wants the kids back as soon as possible. Do you have any sense of how you're going to be able to get out?

SHAMOUN: We're expecting any call from the U.S. government and to support us and take us like other countries, they already support their people. And we're waiting for that to get call to go meet somewhere and just leave through Cyprus or any other choice they think is safe.

COOPER: There have been some who have left overland driving to through Syria, the U.S. government says that's not a good idea. There has been bombings on the main road. Have you given thought to doing that or are you going to hold tight till the U.S. government comes up with a plan?

SHAMOUN: We thought -- We went to a travel agency and made reservations the first day and then the second day we heard, the day we were supposed to leave. We find out it's not safe at all. Especially for the American people. And for the ones that don't have visa and American passport, it's not safe to go to Syria. We backed out and thought it's safer to stay here. And here about (ph) don't go to Syria.

COOPER: Caroline, I appreciate you talking to us and wish you and your children well. And I hope you get back home soon with all those others trying to get out. Caroline Shamoun. Thank you very much. We'll check in with Caroline throughout these next several days and just chart her progress in trying to get out of the country and get back to Texas. When we come back with this special edition, the Sunday edition of 360, the aftermath, what it looks like now at that train depot where eight Israelis were killed just yesterday. Stay with us.


COOPER: ... eight people there wounded more than 10 others -- now we're hearing some -- we're hearing some shelling. I'm not sure if that's incoming or outgoing. I don't know if you can hear that. We're hearing a steady succession of booms off in the distance. It also looks like there's sort of a rainstorm coming in. So visibility is pretty much diminished. We can see just down to the port.

The leader of hezbollah yesterday said they are not targeting Israeli civilians. The Israeli government takes issue with that and says the Katyusha rockets and just about any military expert you talk to will tell you the Katyusha rockets are notoriously inaccurate. They're basically point and shoot. You can't really pinpoint a specific location. So when the leader of Hezbollah says they don't target Israeli civilians, factually it's not really accurate to say that because you can't really target precisely with a Katyusha rocket.

The siren has now gone down. And we're not hearing any more explosions. So it sounds like it's all clear. But again, this is a pretty typical occurrence here in Haifa. Haifa is the third largest city in Israel. When the rockets hit here on Thursday, there were two rockets which hit on Thursday. That was the first time Katyusha rocks have fired so deep inside of Israel, Haifa is about 30 miles or so south of the Lebanese border. The Israeli government now has put out not a statement of emergency but a state of warning, a heightened alert to people as far as south as Tel Aviv, which is about 60 miles south of the Lebanese border. And again, we're hearing more sirens now. Different siren in a different location. Not sure what to make of that.

We're seeing a couple people on the street bringing what looks like luggage, probably either going to a bomb shelter. It's become sort of a nightly occurrence, people spending evenings in the bomb shelters, some of them families, children. But a lot of people, the people who live, residents in this neighborhood, residents in Haifa, many of them have already left, trying to move to points further south in the city. But even in Tel Aviv, people in Tel Aviv have now been warned they may be struck, that even though there about 60 miles or so south of the Lebanese border, it is possible they could be struck by rockets, as well.

And that would be, of course, that would be the deepest incursion. That has not yet occurred. There are a number of areas of interest, targets here in Haifa. That are interesting. For Hezbollah. There's a refinery here. There's also a pretty significant port. One of the Katyusha rocks which fell yesterday hit a train depot. I went there a couple hours ago to see what the aftermath was like. Take a look.


COOPER: At least 20 Katyusha rockets hit the Haifa area on Sunday. The one that caused the most damage hit here, the train depot. You can still see one of the train cars that was being worked on. The windows are shattered. There is glass still all around. In fact, all around here, there's debris. A lot of broken lights. Over there by the far train, that's where eight people died. Ten others were wounded here in this depot.

You really get a sense though walking around the power of this one Katyusha rocket. If you look up at the ceiling, there's a huge enormous hole that was made by the rocket when it fell. Katyusha rockets are notoriously inaccurate. Today the leader of Hezbollah said they don't target civilians only fire their Katyushas at Israeli soldiers. Certainly that was not the case today. And every military expert we've talked to point out that Katyusha rockets are incredibly inaccurate. You can't really pinpoint a target, you just point in a general direction and fire. There's no telling where the rockets are actually going to land. You can see the strength of the impact though here in the train depot.

It's probably about 2 1/2, 3 feet deep made by one rocket. Yura Lieberman (ph) was one of the photographers on the scene, what did you when you first got here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I came to the spot, the scene was closed. Here there was a whole line of bodies, maybe six bodies. There was a pool of blood back in the entrance, probably of the wounded and people started to collect the pieces, some religious volunteers who collect the pieces of the bodies.

COOPER: You're saying people were collecting pieces of the body. What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the religious people who are volunteers and they come to collect the pieces of bodies.

COOPER: Because all the pieces have to be recovered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, in Judaism the pieces have to be covered to be buried in one place. So and under the religious ceremonies and stuff.

COOPER: That's probably what these globs are left behind by I guess the emergency workers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact they explain that inside the missiles, they put small balls of metal so it can hit more people.

COOPER: So all these holes are actually ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pieces of metal.

COOPER: Shrapnel and metal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming off of the rocket. There was exploded there, so it's kind of a distance for it.

COOPER: Joining us now, we're continuing hearing some sirens intermittently here in Haifa. Nic Robertson joins us now on the phone live from Beirut. Nic, what are you seeing and hearing?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Anderson, just in the last couple of minutes here, two very big explosions in Beirut. Sound like they're coming from the southern suburbs, where we've seen those strikes against Hezbollah targets in the southern suburbs out towards where the airport is.

I'm looking now across the skyline towards those southern suburbs. There appears to be some smoke drifting up...


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