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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Israel Launches Major Attack Against Hezbollah Targets in Beirut; Thousands of Americans Flee Lebanon; Israeli Ambassador Discusses Crisis; Reporting on Conflict Different in Mideast

Aired July 19, 2006 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening to all our viewers watching on CNN International around the world and in the United States.
We are in Larnaca, Cyprus. More than 1,000 Americans have now arrived, reaching safety, fleeing Beirut, where a massive explosion, a massive Israeli airstrike, shook the city.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Gunning for Hezbollah's top man -- 23 tons of explosives with his name on it. But was he in the bunker when the bunker busters landed?

Safe and sound -- thousands of people, hundreds of Americans, finally out of harm's way. But what about the rest? Marines now weighing rescue missions deep inside the battle zone.

And talking truce, but only talking.

JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: How do you get a cease-fire with a terrorist organization? I'm not sure anybody has ever done that.

ANNOUNCER: All talk, no action -- is the U.S. giving Israel a green light to hammer Hezbollah a little while longer?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, crisis in the Middle East, day eight.

Reporting tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean, here is Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks very much for joining us tonight on this special edition of 360.

Over the next two hours, more extensive coverage than you will see just about anywhere else. We are coming to you tonight live from Larnaca, Cyprus, an island about 150 or so miles off the coast of Lebanon. We are here in the port, standing in front of the -- the -- the Ocean Queen (sic), the ship, which has brought more than 1,000 Americans over the last several hours. It arrived several hours ago. All the Americans now are off the ship. They have been processed. They are either going straight to the airport. Some of them are in hotel rooms tonight -- a long journey for them. A long, difficult several days it has been for them -- massive attacks still going on in Beirut, in southern Lebanon.

A massive explosion rocked the city of Beirut -- just another day of violence, as day eight now, day nine of this war in the Middle East continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Deadly clashes on the streets of southern Lebanon -- Israeli troops fighting Hezbollah militants, not from the air, but on the ground, in one of the most intense battles since violence erupted a week ago.

More rockets also hammered down on both sides of the border. One of the hardest-hit regions was in and around the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, where a barrage of Israeli missiles obliterated neighborhoods.

Hezbollah hit a slew of northern Israeli cities and towns, striking farther south than ever before, killing two children in Nazareth. Right now, Israel's death toll is in the double digits -- in Lebanon, more than 200 dead.

Today, Lebanon's prime minister called Israel a savage war machine, and pleaded again for a cease-fire.

FUAD SINIORA, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON: The country has been torn to shreds. Is the value of human life in Lebanon less than that of the citizens of other countries?

COOPER: Israel still emphasizing it did not start this crisis, and that no cease-fire can happen until its three kidnapped soldiers are returned.

As for a U.S. role, today, the U.S. spoke out against the idea of a cease-fire, calling the notion simplistic.

JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: How do you get a cease-fire with a terrorist organization? I'm not sure anybody has ever done that before, and I'm not sure it's possible.

COOPER: The State Department announced today that, on Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with a U.N. team that recently visited the Mideast -- no word, however, on when -- or even if -- she plans to come herself.

In Lebanon, the mass exodus continues. After a week of fighting, some Americans caught in the middle are finally going home, some 1,100 today, another 3,000 expected tomorrow. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut is struggling to keep up with as many as 500 calls an hour over the past few days. And those callers are lucky to get through. Others cannot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was impossible to contact them, either by phone, fax, or e-mail, even though we were told to do those things when we went on Friday and found out they were closed.

COOPER: Twenty-five thousand Americans were in Lebanon when this crisis began. There's no telling how many are still waiting for an answer from the embassy, and waiting for the day they can leave this hell behind them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, earlier today, there was a major attack, several airstrikes against a target in southern Beirut, targeting Hezbollah positions.

CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The raids by Israeli special forces across Lebanon's southern border are being interpreted by Hezbollah guerrillas as something positive, as proof of Hezbollah's ability to withstand Israeli bombing from the air over the past week.

DR. ALI FAYYAD, HEZBOLLAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE (through translator): This reflects the failure of Israel's air assault. Therefore, Israel has no choice but to rely on a ground assault, in an attempt to dismantle these military positions. What is happening is only the beginning, and has met with failure.

ROBERTSON: Air assaults continued as well -- several dozen civilians injured in and around the port city of Tyre -- a food distribution warehouse in southern Beirut bombed -- in some places, fires still raging hours after the attacks.

(on camera): The heat from the fire is scorching. This is the second car park that we have seen targeted today by the Israeli aircraft. It's not clear if they're changing their tactics, so much as broadening their target list.

(voice-over): A fire that, according to Lebanon's prime minister, is pushing his country into a downward spiral.

FUAD SINIORA, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON: The toll, in terms of human life, has reached tragic proportions: over 1,000 injured and 300 killed so far.

ROBERTSON: Beyond the casualties, a humanitarian crisis in the making -- according to the U.N., over half-a-million of this country of four million displaced from their homes. The government says, more than 100,000 need emergency help.

And, on top of that, the country's ports are blockaded, the airports blasted beyond use, bridges broken by bombs, and roads often under attack have cut off the country from the rest of the world and regularly food shipments. For the first time, the Israelis today appear to have struck targets in one of Beirut's predominantly Christian neighborhoods. (on camera): This is where the missile impacted. It appears as if it was very small, and it is an indication of the precise targeting that the Israelis are using, if in fact it was an Israeli airstrike. It also shows how carefully they're scrutinizing what goes on, on the ground here.

But, in this case, though, it seems as if they missed a military target. This looks like a well-digger.

(voice-over): Here, in Ashrafieh, Christian banker Ziad Fatig (ph) tells me, he believes the Israelis should have known that these were not military vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have very accurate satellites. So, it's -- I am sure that it's not a mistake.

ROBERTSON: Like many others here, he thinks Israel is trying to divide Christian and Muslim, reignite Lebanon's old civil war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ashrafieh, it's a Christian region. Why bombard the Ashrafieh? So, they want the -- the Christian opinion to -- to have a problem with the Muslims.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Do you think this will happen? Do you think it will...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't think so. I don't think so, no.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It seems the Lebanese are finding unity, not because everyone likes Hezbollah, but because their country is sinking deeper into this crisis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: And that give -- that's one of the things that gives the government here so many problems, the fact that the country unifies, because they're against the attacks, but , at the same time, the government needs to turn the population, if you will, against Hezbollah to get them to disarm. It's a very -- that's what makes the situation difficult for the government to disarm Hezbollah -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, what do we know about this -- this attack, or multiple airstrikes, by Israel jets against a target in south Beirut? I believe it happened some six hours or so ago. What do we know? Twenty-three tons of explosives?

ROBERTSON: Very interesting.

And -- and it seems as if we're getting to an -- into an era, or a time here, where there's a lot being said about what's happening, perhaps without that matching the reality on the ground.

Certainly, this is what we know. The Israelis say that they dropped 23 tons of bunker-busting explosives on the Hezbollah leadership. Now, they say that happened in south Beirut. We have been here in the center of the city. Normally, big explosions, south Beirut, we hear it. We report it. We didn't hear anything at that time.

We contacted the Hezbollah leadership. They told us that, no, what was targeted in south Beirut tonight was a religious facility under construction. Several missiles struck it. They said nothing like the 23 tons of bunker-busting explosives.

We said, OK, was your leader, Hassan Nasrallah, underneath that -- underneath that building? Was he in the bunker, as Israelis are saying, implying with this attack?

They said, absolutely not, no bunker attacked, no leadership attacked. They say, in fact, this religious facility had nothing to do with Hezbollah. What's been interesting tonight is, there's been a lot -- a lot of activity from those low-level drone spies-in-the-sky aircraft that have flown over, a lot in the afternoon, a lot in the evening -- clearly, this time, the Israelis looking for targets on the ground -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, Nic, do you actually see these drones flying over Beirut?

ROBERTSON: You know, I think they're just a little bit too high or a little bit too small for us to see. You can hear them really clearly.

I -- I have just been embedded in Iraq two weeks ago, right next to a flight line where these drones take off. They sound like very large lawn mowers. It may sound strange, but that's the size or type of engine they appear that they sound as if they have.

And you can hear them clearly, almost turning the corners, coming one way, turning a corner, going back the other way -- much lower than normal. The visibility's been much better in the sky today than any day recently.

And it -- you really get the impression, hearing them buzz around slowly in and out across the city, that they're looking for something, looking for somebody, maybe -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Just to be clear, Israel Defense Forces saying they dropped some 23 tons of -- of ordnance on Hezbollah leadership.

Nic Robertson talking to Hezbollah representatives, who said that they saw no such thing -- clearly, we have not been able to -- to independently verify what the Israeli Defense Forces are saying. We will try to continue checking on that over the next two hours or so.

Now we move further south to Israel territory, Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

That's where we find CNN's Christiane Amanpour, who's been following the action from there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fiercest clashes yet between the Israeli army and Hezbollah guerrillas are here in Avivim, right on the Lebanese border, Israeli tanks pitted against Hezbollah mortars and rockets.

Israel has taken casualties in this operation. Two soldiers were killed, and the injured were loaded into an ambulance and rushed to the nearest hospital. All the while, sirens wail, warning of the next rocket salvo. And it's not just humans, but hardware, too. An Israeli tank is pulled, limping off the battlefield.

The Israeli military says this action is aimed at taking out Hezbollah posts along the border.

(on camera): Israel has sent in tanks to this battle, and we have been hearing the sound of outgoing tank fire. Meantime, around the hills in this region, peppered with smoke and flames, as Hezbollah rockets are still making their mark.

(voice-over): Two children were killed when rockets hit the town of Nazareth. They have also again struck Haifa, Tiberias, and all this part of northern Israel. Villages and hillsides are billowing with smoke. Buildings here in Dishon are aflame.

Overhead comes a flying fire extinguisher, dropping red powder to dampen the blaze. It circles again and again over the village, over the slopes.

Meantime, the air raid siren sounds again, as the town of Avivim, scene of the worst fighting, finally gets a direct Hezbollah hit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Christiane joins us now.

Christiane, I have heard reports from Israeli defense officials, saying they believe they have degraded anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of Hezbollah's military capabilities. We don't know if that's true, of course. The Israeli military people you are talking to, how much longer do they -- they see this operation going on for?

AMANPOUR: Well, as you say, we don't know whether that's true.

And, certainly, today saw the biggest barrage of incoming rocket fire since this began eight days ago. We're not sure how long it can go on for. They're telling us as long as it takes to eliminate the threat on the border.

But, of course, there already is a lot of international concern about this massive disparity in the casualties on the Lebanon side vs. here -- about 10 times more casualties on the Lebanon side. And, already, the International Red Cross is expressing concern about civilian casualties and damage to the Lebanese infrastructure. So, we're hearing it may go on for another week or so. In the meantime, we're not sure what's going to happen next. Will there be a cease-fire? Will there be some kind of political resolution? Will there be an answer to a buffer force or not?

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour reporting from the border -- Christiane, thank you very much.

Our focus now on this program shifts to what is happening here in Cyprus, more than 1,000 Americans arriving behind me. You can still see the ship, the Orient Queen, which arrived just several hours ago -- thousands of more Americans anticipated coming over the next 24 hours or so. We will talk to the -- the Marine Corps brigadier general in charge of getting the Americans out. We will ask him why it has taken so long and what he thinks of the operation so far.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Americans arriving here in Larnaca, Cyprus, off the Orient Queen, a ship with about 1,000 Americans. As many as 3,000 will be brought back here to Cyprus tomorrow.

There have been a lot of criticisms by some, Democrats, also some people in Beirut, that the -- the evacuations, the removal of Americans, hasn't gone as fast as they would like.

I talked to the Marine Corps general in charge, Brigadier General Carl Jensen, earlier today about how the operation is going.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There have been a lot of frustrations voiced by some Americans in Lebanon, in Beirut. To -- to them who are listening, what -- what do you say? I mean, they're -- they're frustrated that, you know, getting in contact with the embassy or -- or getting out, that they haven't gotten out faster.

BRIGADIER GENERAL CARL JENSEN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Well, I will tell you, I -- I just came from the embassy. And -- and they are working 24 hours a day at the embassy to try and take care of American citizens.

As you can imagine, they're not staffed for thousands of phone calls a day from -- from American citizens who -- who may be residing there. We have a ship inbound very soon, the Orient Queen, with about 1,000 American citizens. We also transported, by air today, in excess of 150 Americans. So -- and -- and, tomorrow, we ought to have the capability in hand to move about 3,000 American citizens tomorrow alone.

COOPER: As far as you're concerned, is it moving fast enough?

JENSEN: It can never move fast enough. It can never move fast enough, until every American citizen who wishes to depart is -- is out of the country.

COOPER: I have had a number of Americans who have been evacuated ask me why has it taken so long, that European governments were able to get their people out faster. Is that fair?

JENSEN: You know, in some numbers, they may have gotten the jump on us. But -- but I don't think anybody is moving their citizens out at this point in the numbers that we are doing and we're about to do.

COOPER: And your message -- your message to -- to Americans waiting to get out of Lebanon is what?

JENSEN: We're coming. We're -- we're -- we are -- we are providing the team, the American team, and that includes, certainly, the -- the -- the Department of State and the Department of Defense. Our embassies here, are working hammer and tongs to get the lift in place to move every American that wants to come out of Lebanon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: This evacuation is one of the largest that has taken place since World War II. In the last two days alone, more than 10,000 people have been brought out of Beirut by -- and -- and those 10,000 people come from some 13 countries.

Here's a -- here's a look at the "Raw Data" on the evacuations. Here's the numbers.

As you have just heard, the U.S. evacuated about 1,500 people since yesterday. Denmark has evacuated nearly 4,100 of its citizens, the largest group over the two-day span. France has evacuated about 800. And Canada has gotten out 261 of its citizens, despite having the largest number of expatriates in Lebanon.

There's -- just the beginning, of course. There are going to be more evacuations in the coming days. The U.S. says that, tomorrow, they anticipate getting as many as 3,000 out of the country.

When we come back, we will show what -- what life is like for the Americans arriving here, and more about what is happening right now inside Lebanon.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Will U.S. Marines now have to go into dangerous Hezbollah-controlled territory in southern Lebanon to get Americans out?

That's next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Thousands of foreigners, of course, fleeing from Beirut -- but, elsewhere in Lebanon, where there are Americans, what happens to them? If they can't get to Beirut, how do they get out? We now learned today that the Pentagon is looking to the possibility of sending in U.S. Marines into dangerous Hezbollah-controlled territory in southern Lebanon to try to get out any Americans who need to get out.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre takes a look at that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. is considering sending U.S. Marine helicopters deep into Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon to extract Americans, but only if they can't get safely to coastal evacuation points, according to a senior defense official.

It's one reason four ships from the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, along with 1,200 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are en route to Lebanon, the three-star admiral in charge tells CNN.

REAR ADMIRAL PATRICK WALSH, U.S. 5TH FLEET COMMANDER: The idea is that we have the capability to extract -- extract people, no matter where their location is. And, without getting into a lot of detail, that's part of our planning effort now.

MCINTYRE: Publicly, U.S. commanders are hesitant to talk about what could be a risky mission flying over territory controlled by an organization labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. government.

The preferred option remains bussing people from the south to the port of Beirut, where they can transfer to ships. But, right now, that's not safe.

MAURA HARTY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR CONSULAR AFFAIRS: As you have heard us say before, we are really -- we do not encourage people to -- to go over land on their own at this point.

MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials stress, the current plan is for everyone to leave Lebanon from the port of Beirut, but said no options are being ruled out entirely.

BRIGADIER GENERAL MICHAEL BARBERO, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR REGIONAL OPERATIONS, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We are also forming a task force, which gives the on-scene commander the absolute flexibility to execute his mission in a very dynamic situation.

MCINTYRE (on camera): The State Department thinks there are several hundred U.S. citizens in southern Lebanon, but it's not sure. For now, officials say those Americans are in a holding pattern, until it's safe and prudent to bring them north.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, we wanted to hear what Americans back home think about the -- the situation here in the Middle East.

We commissioned a poll.

CNN's Bill Schneider has been crunching the numbers.

Bill, what have we learned?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Anderson, what do Americans want the U.S. to do? Play an active role in trying to resolve this conflict or stay out of it? Let's take a look. The answer is very clear.

Sixty-five percent say, stay out, which is more or less what President Bush is doing. But, still, only 38 percent approve of the way he's handling the issue. Now, do Americans think Israel has gone too far in its military response? Let's take a look. Fewer than a third say Israel has gone too far. Nearly half say either that its military response has been about right or Israel has not gone far enough.

Americans sympathize with -- more with Israel, 57 percent. Only 4 percent of Americans sympathize with Hezbollah. But a lot of Americans, 39 percent, say they don't sympathize with either side.

And what about the evacuation of Americans? Let's take a look at that. Fifty-three percent say the U.S. government has done a good job. Critics are calling it a Katrina-like evacuation. But the public sees a big difference. Twenty-nine percent say the Lebanon evacuation is being handled poorly. In September 2005, Anderson, 63 percent said the Katrina evacuation was being handled poorly.

COOPER: Bill, thanks very much for that -- a majority of Americans saying -- according to Bill Schneider's poll, a majority of Americans saying America should sort of hang back, stay out of what's going on here right now.

If America does get more involved -- and they said they're going to send Condoleezza Rice, although they have not set a date for when she may arrive, maybe even into next week -- we're still waiting to get details on that -- but, if they do decide to get more involved, what sort of options do they have diplomatically?

CNN's John Roberts takes a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House again objected fiercely to the idea of a cease-fire in Lebanon, insisting, anything that leaves Hezbollah in a position of strength is unacceptable.

JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I would like to know when -- when there's been an effective cease-fire between a terrorist organization and a state in the past. This is a -- this is a different kind of situation. And I -- I'm not sure that sort of old thinking, conventional thinking, works in a case like this. ROBERTS: And devising a diplomatic formula to find a way out of the conflict will be difficult, says America's former ambassador to Israel.

(on camera): There's perception that Condoleezza Rice can go in there and, by herself, save the day. Can she do that?

MARTIN INDYK, DIRECTOR, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY AT BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I think that that's an illusion, simply because we don't have the kind of leverage that we used to have.

ROBERTS (voice-over): In the past, American presidents have struck agreements with Syria to rein in Hezbollah. But President Bush has taken a harsh position with Damascus, and is in no mood to give Syria the satisfaction of face-to-face negotiations.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Rather than doing that, I think it is incumbent on the United States to use whatever moral force and moral power it has, and also let allies do the talking.

ROBERTS: So, while Israel continues its efforts to degrade Hezbollah's capabilities, the secretary of state will enlist nations like France and America's Arab allies to support Lebanon's elected government and put international pressure on Syria and Iran, the same kind of pressure that forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon a year ago.

Right now, diplomats are strictly in the idea stage. There's talk of a 12-mile buffer zone in Lebanon to keep Hezbollah off the border, a U.N. force to stabilize the country, and watch the Syrian border for arms shipments, and international support for Lebanon's military to take control, while Hezbollah is disarmed.

The big diplomatic play, says former Ambassador Indyk, can only be a team effort, and it will only work if there are substantial changes on the ground in Lebanon.

INDYK: At the right moment, the United States can turn to Israel and say: You are going to have to stop now.

But they're only going to be able to do that if they can guarantee to Israel that Hezbollah is not going to be firing rockets.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Of course, the question everyone is asking is how long will this take? Two things to consider here. The White House is extremely concerned that, if it goes on too much longer, moderate Arab states that it needs to have the support of will stop blaming Hezbollah and start blaming Israel.

And while back in 1982 Lebanon did finally kick Yasser Arafat and the PLO out of Beirut, it didn't happen until Israel had invaded Lebanon and laid siege to the capital for nearly two months -- Anderson. COOPER: And John, if Condoleezza Rice wanted to come over, she clearly could have been over here by now. There's not a problem getting flights over here. Clearly, diplomatically they have chosen not to send her right away. Is that correct?

ROBERTS: There's never a problem for Condoleezza Rice getting a flight. It's just that she says if she goes over now there's really nothing she can do. And that's true, because neither side wants to stop the fighting at this point. So she's holding back. She's keeping her powder dry until such time as she can go over there and try to be effective.

COOPER: John Roberts, appreciate that report. When we come back, more on the diplomatic angle. We'll talk to Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, when 360 from Cyprus continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some of the intensive fighting that's been going on on Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

Aside from the military aspects, of course, there are the diplomatic aspects. We want to talk about both those sides to this ongoing conflict right now with Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Dan Gillerman.

Ambassador Gillerman, thanks for being with us.

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAEL AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Good morning.

COOPER: What do you know -- good morning. What do you know about this Israeli operation? The Israeli Defense Forces saying that about six hours ago or seven hours ago they dropped some 23 tons of explosives, of ordnance from several jets on what they said were Hezbollah leadership positions in South Beirut. Hezbollah, when CNN's Nic Robertson contacted them, said basically it didn't happen. What do you know?

GILLERMAN: Well, we will not make any statement until we have all the information. Unlike the terrorists, who are very good at making statements and false statements and throwing around numbers, which I assure you are totally unreliable, we will issue a statement when we have all the information.

But I can assure you that we know exactly what we hit. I heard in one of the reports the Hezbollah claiming that this was a religious site. This was no religious site. This was indeed the headquarters of the Hezbollah leadership.

And those same people who claim that we hit a religious site are the people who just today shot rockets, fired rockets at one of the holiest places for Christianity, Nazareth, and killed two Arab children, two Israeli Arab children, 3- and 9-year-old children.

These people are indiscriminate, ruthless, and firing at St. Paul Street in Nazareth, it's just another example of the fact that they really don't care who they target. They're an engine of death which must be stopped, and we will stop them.

COOPER: How do you plan to go about doing that? How centrally controlled is Hezbollah? Would knocking out their leadership, would killing in effect their leader Nasrallah, would that stop them?

GILLERMAN: Well, I think that would blow -- that would deal them a very, very serious blow. It is true that Hezbollah is dispersed all over Lebanon. It was the Lebanese ambassador who on one of the shows the day before yesterday said, that it's very difficult to distinguish between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanon, because in his words, Hezbollah is everywhere and is part of Lebanese society. This is what makes it so difficult.

But this is what also makes it so imperative that we uproot Hezbollah and make it totally incapable of continuing the destructive, horrible, cruel terror reign, which they have reigned over Lebanon and over Israel.

COOPER: You're at the U.N. How do you see world opinion forming? And were you surprised to hear from Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt statements critical of what Hezbollah has done?

GILLERMAN: No, I wasn't surprised. I thought that was a very clear manifestation of what is happening in the world today. If you take just the last few days, you had the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, which issued a statement which was very understanding and sympathetic of Israel and actually to a great extent repeated Israel's demands.

You had a rift within the Arab League meeting in Cairo, where countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan actually condemned Hezbollah. And you had the Security Council less than a week ago meeting in the midst of this fighting without actually condemning Israel.

Now, this is part of what I feel even within the corridors of the United Nations, where the Israeli ambassador sometimes feel isolated and less than most popular. I feel a lot of understanding, a lot of sympathy for what Israel is doing for the simple reason that I do believe that, not only the democracies in this world, but even some of the moderate Arab states and much of the world realizes that we are actually doing the world's work for them. We are fighting terror.

Hezbollah is the finger on the long arm and twisted mind of Iran and Syria. They are not only destabilizing and terrorizing our region but the whole world. And if we succeed in Lebanon, not only Lebanon will be better off, not only Israel will be safer, but the world would be a safer place.

And I feel that the rest of the world understands this, which may be one of the reasons why we don't feel that much pressure and we do feel quite a bit of support for what we're doing in the international community.

COOPER: Finally, Ambassador Gillerman, if the leader of Hezbollah, Nasrallah, is alive one year from now, if Hezbollah still is in -- still has seats in power in Beirut, in the government of Lebanon, if they still have weapons, even if it's not along the southern border, is that a failure for Israel in this operation?

GILLERMAN: It's -- it's not a failure. It just means that we'll have to go on doing what we're doing. That is trying to uproot Hezbollah, trying to make Hezbollah incapable of terrorizing Israel. We will continue to do it. We will continue to seek them wherever they are. We will continue to try and make Israel safer and Lebanon freer.

And I believe that, with determination, with perseverance we do have a lot of perseverance. The Israeli public is very resolute, showing a lot of resilience, is totally behind the government in doing what we feel we must do. And when you see this deadly arsenal of weapons, which the Hezbollah has accumulated over the last few years, you realize that what we're doing today is a necessity. Maybe it needed to be done sooner.

But we will try and finish the job, because you cannot leave this to fester in the cesspool of terrorism, neither for the sake of Lebanon nor for the sake of Israel or for the sake of civilization as we know it.

COOPER: Ambassador Gillerman, appreciate your perspective. Thanks for being with us.

GILLERMAN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: When we come back, we'll have a lot more from the region, but first let's check in with CNN's John Roberts for the day's other top stories -- John.

ROBERTS: Hey, Anderson.

In Atlanta two men have been indicted on charges of plotting violent jihad and getting the training to do it. The men are already accused f having contacts with alleged Islamic radicals in Canada. The new indictments accuse the men of videotaping potential targets, including the U.S. Capitol building and the World Bank headquarters. The indictment further states that they shared those tapes with alleged terror cells in Britain.

Structural and human failures led to the deaths of 12 Sago miners. That's according to an independent report released by the government of West Virginia. It details the failure of foam blocks that were supposed to withstand explosions but instead leaked deadly carbon monoxide. And it says rescuers had no way to communicate with the trapped miners and were not sent into the mine quickly enough to go after them.

A second big earthquake has struck Indonesia this week. The 6.2 magnitude quake struck west of Jakarta just two days after another big quake off the coast of southern Java triggered a tsunami that has so far killed more than 500 people.

And the Dow had its best day of the year, investors betting that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has finished raising interest rates. The Dow was up nearly 12 percent to end at 11,011. The NASDAQ and the S&P both closed up 1.8 percent.

So despite the conflict over there, Anderson, despite the price of oil, stock market really liking what it sees.

COOPER: Interesting. John, thanks very much for that. We'll talk to john later on in the program.

But when we come back here, from Cyprus, you are watching this on CNN, of course, but those watching this conflict unfold on Hezbollah TV are getting a whole different view of the war. We'll show you what they are seeing next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Images from Hezbollah TV, a TV station and a broadcast that the Israeli government has attempted to bomb into -- off the air. They are still, however, broadcasting. Millions getting a very different story around the Arab world about this war.

CNN's Gary Tuchman takes a look at that angle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is journalism, Hezbollah style. On Al Manar, the Hezbollah TV channel, the news is often a mixture of music video, pep rally, and propaganda. Objective news is not an objective.

The translation of the words being sung are: "This is a warning to the occupiers. This is a warning to the oppressors."

When an Israeli naval ship was hit by an Hezbollah missile, this is how Al Manar portrayed it. And Hezbollah's leader added his commentary.

HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): Look at it burning and sinking with tens of Israeli soldiers.

TUCHMAN: Israel says four of its sailors were killed in the attack.

Octavia Nasr is CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs and spends many hours each week monitoring Arab and Iranian news coverage.

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN ARAB AFFAIRS EDITOR: Hezbollah TV, Syrian TV, and Iranian TV are seeing this battle of Hezbollah against Israel as a victory to Hezbollah. They are hailing the militants of Hezbollah, calling them heroes, and those who died, of them, martyrs, basically describing to their viewers a situation that is a bit different from the reality.

TUCHMAN: This past weekend Hezbollah claimed it shot down an Israeli plane.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This incident was originally reported on Lebanese television as a downed Israeli F-16. The Israelis, though, say all of their warplanes have been accounted for.

TUCHMAN: Iranian TV reported the same story. But its English language anchor had some added details.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I said before, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet has been targeted and crashed by Hezbollah resistance movement. And the two pilots are in custody of the Hezbollah.

TUCHMAN: Since then no mention of the claim. Lebanon does have a wide choice of TV channels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Israel has targeted, directly targeted the Lebanese army since last night.

TUCHMAN: And some, like the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, have worked hard to build up a reputation for journalistic fairness. But while their brands of television may differ, these channels do have something in common.

NASR: When it comes to Israel, there is no sympathy for them.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the view from Hezbollah TV.

And coming up, what does the rest of the Arab world think about Hezbollah? And has the current crisis changed that opinion? That's next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. We are live in Larnaca, Cyprus. This, of course, is where Americans are coming. More than 1,000 have already arrived on that ship behind me. But now there's a U.S. naval vessel heading toward Beirut, the USS Nashville.

CNN's Barbara Starr is on board, and I'm told she can actually see the skyline of Beirut.

Barbara, what's the latest?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, just a few moments ago we did sail within sight of the skyline of Beirut. We are approaching a coastline now on board the USS Nashville. It is an extraordinary sight, Anderson.

There is a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Gonzales, sailing alongside us for the protection of the ship. The Gonzales is between us and the Beirut shoreline.

Within about an hour the Navy will launch small craft from this boat. They will go to shore and they will try to pick up as many Americans at the harbor in Beirut as they possibly can. Hundreds they hope will be there and they will bring them back to the ship and then return later tonight back to Cyprus, taking these people back to their homes.

The security measures here are extraordinary, Anderson. One of the things that has escaped no one's attention is that U.S. Marines are now returning to Beirut for the first time in 23 years, since the bombing, of course, of Marines at the Beirut International Airport in 1983.

In fact, from this ship within about an hour 40 U.S. Marines will land in Beirut. They will go into Lebanon. They will help those Americans on shore. They will help get them to...

COOPER: And we've lost connection now there with Barbara Starr. Barbara Starr aboard the USS Nashville. she is within sight now of the skyline of Beirut. The Nashville just one of the ships the U.S. has brought into the region to bring out Americans.

When we come back, what it's like reporting this story behind the scenes, when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The scene of Hezbollah rockets being fired into Nazareth on Wednesday. Reports of two children, Israeli Arab children who died there in that attack.

We're joined now by Reza Aslan. He's with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. He's also author of the book "No God But God", a frequent guest on this program.

Reza, thanks very much for being with us.

What do you make of Hezbollah? Do you think that they have gone too far, that they miscalculated what the Arab reaction throughout this region was going to be?

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "NO GOD BUT GOD": Well, I think if you'd asked me that question maybe two days ago I would have said absolutely yes. I think it's telling that not just the reaction amongst Lebanese but also amongst governments in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Jordan and throughout the Arab world really, there's been a real criticism of Hezbollah's actions as having gone too far, this idea that they could simply go beyond the borders and simply attack Israel.

But at the same time, as I think many people have been saying, the Israeli reaction has been such that whatever anger there was against Hezbollah has seemed to just simply disappear and now most of the rage, most of the ire of the Arab world and especially of the Lebanese has been focused squarely upon not just Israel but on the United States as well.

COOPER: Thomas Friedman in the "New York times" today wrote an op-ed essentially saying that Hezbollah's leader, Nasrallah, misjudged, miscalculated, and really set back efforts, the movement toward democracy in this region, a movement which was actually giving power in the case of Palestinian territory to Hamas, a movement which gave seats in the parliament to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

ASLAN: Well, it's very true that you know, this notion that the only way to modify the extremist tendencies of groups like Hezbollah, like Hamas is to make them a part of the political process and hope that that essentially will moderate some of the more radical elements amongst them.

And we can say that, well, this experiment hasn't really worked, has it? I mean, we see what's going on with the radical parties in Iraq, the parties in Palestine and, of course, in Lebanon.

At the same time, Anderson, I think we have to understand that democracy is a very long process, and it's not going to be necessarily elections that's going to modify the behavior of these groups; it's going to be political successes.

In other words, they have to start seeing the benefits of taking part in the political process. And one can argue that in some ways, particularly when it comes to Hamas, they have yet to actually see those benefits.

COOPER: Interesting. Reza Aslan, I wish we had more time. But I do thank you for joining us tonight. Thank you very much, Reza.

ASLAN: Good to see you again. Thank you.

COOPER: When we come back, we'll have the latest from the region, live reports from Beirut, from the border with Israel. We'll try to get back in touch with Barbara Starr on the USS Nashville, heading toward the port in Beirut, and the latest on the Americans who have arrived and will continue to arrive here in great numbers today in Larnaca, Cyprus. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to Larnaca, Cyprus, where Americans are arriving, relieved, happy to be out of Beirut, but in Lebanon the violence continues.

ANNOUNCER: Close combat. Israeli ground troops enter Lebanon, trading fire with Hezbollah. As the violence escalates, so does the death toll. With thousands of U.S. citizens still waiting to be rescued.

Hezbollah at home. New fears that the terror group has sleeper and active cells inside America, helping the enemy by raising money and smuggling weapons. Could they also be plotting an attack on our cities?

And mother's mission. An American flies to Lebanon to adopt a baby boy. Now both are caught in the crossfire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are petrified to go anywhere. We are petrified to stay here. ANNOUNCER: To make matters worse, the government says she can go home but the child cannot.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East, Day Eight". Reporting tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus, in the Eastern Mediterranean, here is Anderson Cooper.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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