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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Mideast on Alert; Death Toll Rising; Inside Syria; Adoption under Seige; Flying into Beirut

Aired July 20, 2006 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ...ending right in the embassy here in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, a city which is really ground zero. There are Israeli drones over the last hour or so we've been hearing -- unmanned Israeli drones flying overhead. We heard a loud explosion about 40 minutes ago. There's a lot happening, a lot to get to in this hour.
Let's start off the hour with the latest updates in our "War Bulletin."

Today, the leader of Hezbollah turned up on television, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, not killed in yesterday's massive Israeli air strike, on Al Jazeera, apologizing for a rocket attack yesterday on Nazareth and northern Israel. That attack killed two Israeli-Arab children. That's why he's apologizing. Nasrallah called them quote, "martyrs for Palestine."

Israeli Defense Forces saying two apache helicopters collided late today near the Lebanese border. Differing reports on casualties. The Israeli Defense Forces telling the "Associate Press" four soldiers were hurt; Arab media reporting fatalities.

And here in Beirut, the Marines came ashore, part of the growing effort to get Americans out. According to the State Department, about 2,200 were evacuated today, bringing the total so far to little more than 3,800.

Of course, CNN's Nic Robertson has been covering this conflict really from the get go. Let's take a look at the latest developments here in Beirut and throughout Lebanon with Nic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A week after the war began, this is what the Lebanese are hearing and watching on TV. The increasing destruction of their country. More than 200 Lebanese killed, according to the government. Of that total, only one Hezbollah guerrilla confirmed dead.

In Israel, 15 civilians and 14 soldiers killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks. Two kidnapped soldiers still missing. Hezbollah is proving it's still in the fight by firing more rockets on Israeli towns, at times firing from inside civilian neighborhoods. And so Israeli jets pursue Hezbollah, hitting warehouses, car parks, and truck stops. In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said both sides could bear criminal responsibility for targeting of civilians.

LOUISE ARBOUR, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: The scale of civilian casualties in this conflict raise very serious questions about breeches of the laws and customs of war.

ROBERTSON: And now a new escalation, propaganda. After Israel claimed to drop 23 tons of bunker busting munitions on Hezbollah's leadership, Hezbollah showed reporters the site, claiming the target was nothing more than a mosque under construction. Neither side believes the other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think information coming from Lebanon is totally unreliable.

ROBERTSON: Caught in the middle. Civilians, forced from their homes.

Ali (ph) and his wife and four children say this school is their second shelter since fleeing bombing in south Lebanon.

We have nothing. The children will have to sleep on the floor tonight, he says.

(On camera): Every day the situation seems to get worse. For many here, Lebanon feels look a country, teetering on the verge of chaos. The stakes of staying are more arising. Leadership objectives, superseding suffering.

(Voice-over): Syria's food shortages too, particularly for the displaced. Aid Worker Cassandra Nelson back from what was a village of 5,000, now home to 37,000.

CASSANDRA NELSON, MERCY CORP: Things like rice and sugar, lentils and chickpeas. These are things that make up the kind of the core of the diet here are not available.

ROBERTSON: As night fell over Beirut, so did the bombs. Flashes illuminating the skies.

(On camera): Well, that was another blast going off a secondary echo there. We're right in the center of the city. I think the blasts are going off in the southern suburbs. The streets are pretty deserted down here. I see the sky being illuminated. It just flashed a big sort of bright orange over there.

(Voice-over): And so the war continues. The people of this country able to watch the losses mount on TV, all out of their windows.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You know, Nic, obviously, most of the explosions that occur, occur in the south of Beirut which is a Hezbollah territory. It is difficult, though, for the Israelis to really target accurately in those areas.

ROBERTSON: We can hear them in the drones looking very carefully at what's in there. The difficulty for them is, is they're looking for the leadership of Hezbollah. How can they tell who it is, what vehicle they're traveling in, where it is they're going.

They know their intelligence which buildings that they've lived in before, which buildings they regularly use. They can watch those.

But they're also looking for military hardware. The Hezbollah fighters are guys that just live in regular apartments. How you to single those out? So we've seen them going after the Spiritual Leader Fayyad (ph). We've seen them going after Nasrallah.

We've seen them taking out now truck stops. We've seen them taking out car parks, areas where perhaps they think that missiles are being stored. They -- just the other day, hit some missiles being trucked into Lebanon. Apparently, the secondary explosions given off after that strike told them that they had hit a truckload of missiles.

COOPER: And we're looking at some video that Hezbollah gave to journalists yesterday. You got a tour, an exclusive tour the day before. And a remarkable tour it was. Hezbollah saying look, Israel is targeting civilians. But, I mean, their headquarters, they're living among civilians.

ROBERTSON: They are. I mean, their fighters are part of a civilian population. They don't put on a uniform and go out and go and parade on a playground, apart from some of these, obviously these big Hezbollah days we've seen them coming out on the street. That's the only day you're going to see them in numbers together, apart from on the battlefield. So it is, it's tough to find them.

And we have seen Hezbollah in places around the country, hiding their weapons near the U.N. We've seen the U.N. being hit by Israeli strikes because Hezbollah is putting their weapons close by. We're seeing Hezbollah putting their weapons close by civilian houses.

Now the civilians are coming out down there in the south, and saying, yes, we support Hezbollah, carry on, do what you like. We hear that on the streets here in Beirut from the sympathizers. But the fact is they are hiding their equipment in the houses and this makes it very difficult for the Israeli air force to precisely target.

We've seen very precise targeting. I saw a bomb the other day that had gone off targeting a truck. I mean quite literally, it had blown up underneath the truck, destroyed that truck, nothing around it. It's a very precise target. But, sometimes they get it wrong too.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, appreciate it. Thanks. Great reporting over the last couple days.

CNN's Paula Newton has been reporting on the intensifying conflicts down along the Lebanese-Israel border. Israel's Herrett's (ph) newspaper reporting just recently, the last 24 hours, that there may be as many as several thousand Israeli ground troops on the ground in southern Lebanon. We cannot independently confirm that.

The Israeli Defense Forces have been saying all along that it is just pinpointing strikes, smaller operations going on. Whatever the scale, whatever the number of Israeli troops on the ground, the intensity is certainly ratcheting.

Paula Newton takes a looks at that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Explosions boom from hilltops. Heavy machine gunfire echoes across the valleys. The Israelis are battling a phantom force in enemy territory.

Hezbollah fighters take shots at an Israeli tank and then vanish, only to bait the soldiers once more. And so the shelling begins. Over and over Israeli shells pound Hezbollah positions.

These are the hills of southern Lebanon. For years the site of border skirmishes. Today, a real battlefield.

The Israelis moved into southern Lebanon early in the day trying to cleanse the border area of Hezbollah cells and rocket launchers. Blowing a smoke screen for cover, apache helicopters fired decoy flares as they move in to provide air support.

(On camera): And still the guerrilla fighting force of Hezbollah remains stubborn, trying to take on Israeli forces whenever they set foot into southern Lebanon.

(Voice-over): Confronted with tanks, the guerrillas have a crude but effective arsenal -- antitank missiles, mortar rounds and heavy machine guns.

Early on two Israeli soldiers are wounded. The military ambulance moves in and CNN is told to move out.

Troops like these have been scrambling to take on Hezbollah in recent days. The Israeli government says it wants to avoid a full scale ground invasion.

Back on the hills, the fighting continues. At least two Israeli soldiers are dead, several more injured. Even outgunned and outnumbered, Hezbollah will not go quietly.

Paula Newton, CNN, on the Israeli-Lebanon border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, CNN's Christiane Amanpour is along that border.

Christiane, what's the latest on the fighting?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the fighting that we have been talking about for the last couple of days at Aviveem (ph). This is where the biggest seat of clashes is between Israel and the Hezbollah.

And you heard Paula talk about apache helicopters who were in support of the ground troops. Well, two of those crashed just near there, inside Israeli territory overnight in the early hours of the morning. And the Israeli Defense Forces say that there was one dead and the others were wounded. We don't believe it was under hostile fire, but they're still investigating that. Believe it was just a crash of those two helicopters.

We also saw the air force in its air strikes today. We talked to some of the fighter pilots who said that it is incredibly difficult to go off to the sort of small mobile rocket launches and things which are the military emplacements that threaten northern Israel the most. We talked to some of the fighter pilots there. We couldn't show their faces or reveal their names fully. But they did say they were concerned about that.

And also Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who is the Hezbollah leader, after this claim that Israel had dropped 23 tons of bunker busters, including some of those pilots we talked to today, he appeared on an interview with Al Jazeera television, basically claiming that Israel had not harmed Hezbollah's capability and basically showing himself to be still there.

Israel, some say, here, some sources say may have taken out as much as half of Hezbollah's capability. But still those rockets are coming, even though they're less tonight than they were the previous night.

COOPER: Christiane, appreciate that report. Thank you very much. We'll check in with you throughout the next several hours.

I'm joined now here in Beirut.

Hey, how are you?

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), Sarah Lawrence Professor Fawaz Gerges. You came here really with your family for holiday for the summer, wanted your kids to study Arabic and of course got caught up in all of this. A blend of politics and personal and your professional life.

What do you make of this, John Bolton of the U.N. saying you can't make a cease-fire with a terrorist group. How do you -- who do you negotiate with? Who do you make a deal with? How can you trust them? Think that's accurate? Think that's fair?

FAWAZ GERGES: Well, I mean, I think the Lebanese government at this point, Anderson, is calling for a cease-fire on humanitarian basis. I think, as you know, there is a humanitarian crisis in the making. And Fouad Siniora, the prime minister, is saying just give us a few days. Let's try to resolve this particular problem. I think the Lebanese government has made a decision to deploy the Lebanese army into southern Lebanon to really begin the process with Hezbollah.

COOPER: You think they have? You think they...

GERGES: I really think the strategic situation has changed for good. I don't think Hezbollah can maintain the status quo in Lebanon any longer.

COOPER: So in that case, that's a success for Israeli forces?

GERGES: Well, yes, but you see, Anderson, what you need to do, the longer the Israeli military campaign goes on, the more it undermines the Lebanese government, undermines the institutions that are needed to really help Lebanon stand up on its feet.

And also the longer the campaign continues, the more difficult for the Lebanese government to exert pressure on Hezbollah and say listen, we are the legitimate government, we are the sovereign government to replace Hezbollah in the south and other places as well.

COOPER: I talked to Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak last night, and he said essentially, look, you have a cease fire, you basically just are giving time for Hezbollah to regroup, to rearm, to reorganize.

GERGES: Anderson, the misunderstanding is that Hezbollah is a militia. That somehow it's a rotten tooth you can pluck out. This is the understanding. Hezbollah is people. Hezbollah is a social movement. You cannot just get to the Hezbollah even if you want to.

And this is why what you need to do is a political vision. You want to empower the Lebanese government. How do you do so? By not destroying the infrastructure that supports the Lebanese institutions. You want to give the Lebanese government some time, some space, at least to begin the process to exert pressure on Hezbollah, deploy the army into the south and convince the Lebanese people that Hezbollah miscalculated monstrously.

But the longer the Israeli campaign continues -- in fact, the Lebanese public opinion appears to be turning against Israel, rather than against Hezbollah, in particular as a result of the hammering by the Israeli air campaign.

COOPER: I don't think a lot of people in the states understand just sort of how crushing it is for Lebanese people to see what is happening now in Beirut. I mean, this is a city which is such a cosmopolitan city. People call it the Paris of the Middle East. It is a city which has been reborn over the last several years. Billions of dollars poured in here, billions of dollars in debt taken under to rebuild. And now, you know, the shops are closed. It is -- it lays in ruins.

GERGES: You know what's really very painful for me as a Lebanese-American it pains me so hard because I lived through the first years of the war, 1975, 1979. So much hard work, so much pain, so much suffering. I mean, look at Beirut. It's a ghost city. This is one of the most important parts, probably anywhere in the world. The summer is a festive reason the country really has -- it's going to take the country several years to recover materially.

What I'm more concerned, Anderson, if the campaign continues, if the institutions are undermined, if bigger fault lines, sectarian fault line, will likely emerge in the country and wrap the country apart. In fact, I'm of course concerned about the material destructions in Lebanon. But unless a cease-fire is achieved, unless the Lebanese government takes hold again, this fault line, this sectarian fault line could really destroy the country, which as you know has gone through so much suffering.

COOPER: There are some Lebanese politicians who have said that this is Syria continuing to try to meddle in the affairs of Lebanon. This is Syria trying to destabilize Lebanon, using Hezbollah. Do you think that's fair? Do you think that's true?

GERGES: Anderson, no one, no one can deny the role of Syria and Iran in the Hezbollah factor. Hezbollah is armed and financed by Iran and Syria.

But the second is, tell me, there's the leader of Hezbollah saying Nasrallah can't take direct orders from Syria and Iran? Nonsense. Hezbollah is one of the most important political forces in the country. Yes, it has a power and military force, but Hezbollah has more autonomous since Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000.

Yet, yet, Hezbollah is influenced by the Iranian and Syrian perspectives and unfortunately for Lebanon and for Hezbollah, Hezbollah tends to sometimes follow, at least the ideological mindset of both Iran and Syria.

COOPER: Fawaz Gerges, we appreciate your perspective. Thank you for being on tonight.

GERGES: Thank you.

COOPER: Good luck to you.

When we come back, Israeli air strikes targeting Hezbollah leadership positions. They say they dropped some 23 tons of explosives, trying to decapitate the leadership. Did it succeed? Well, apparently not because Nasrallah appeared tonight on Al Jazeera. We'll tell you what he said, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Multiple images of war from Lebanon, from Israel, from all over the region. Some of the fighting and results of it. The casualties we have been seeing in last 24 hours.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta arrived in Larnaca, Cyprus, a short time ago. We are coming to you live tonight from Beirut. Larnaca, Cyprus, is an island about 150 miles off the coast of Lebanon. That's where a lot of the evacuees from Lebanon are heading.

Let's go to Sanjay right now. Sanjay, you've been looking into the medical treatment, not only the evacuees have been getting, but also that the -- and probably more importantly and more to the point, that the hundreds of injured people here in Lebanon have been getting. How is it going from a medical perspective?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's interesting. First of all, obviously the numbers are pretty startling in terms of the injury to death ratio. It's about three to one, which is pretty high in terms of the number of deaths. You know, some 250 or so, the number of people who have died; 650 to 750 the number of people who have been injured.

Obviously, we're here in the Port of Larnaca. I know you were here as well, Anderson, just yesterday. The French ship that people were talking about so much has left. And I'll just point out over here, actually just pulling in is an Indian ship, holding about 680 passengers. You can still see the tugboat actually pulling this ship in. They are being -- they are evacuated as well from Lebanon. A lot of day laborers, as you know, in that part of the world. Those people are being evacuated and will get airplane rides back to India.

The medical campaign is going to be very difficult, Anderson, in terms of how overall you're going to take care of these people for weeks. People talk about the initial injuries. Obviously, the booms and the explosions, those have consequences. But the thing that is sort of startling to me, Anderson, you have some big hospitals in Lebanon. You have American University, for example. It's a very big hospital. But in terms of actually taking care of people who are already chronically ill, how do you get the supplies, how do you actually get those people to the hospitals? This starts to take the shape -- the definition, if you will, of a humanitarian disaster. This is how it starts in the first place -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, I mean, you talked to hospitals, you talked to doctors throughout Lebanon. Do they have supplies? Are they able to communicate with each other? Do they have what they need?

GUPTA: Well, you know, they do for the time being, but every single doctor we have talked to bar none have said it is starting to get worse. I mean, you know, at first they didn't know how long this was going to last. Obviously they still don't. But in terms of supplies, certainly some of the supplies they have could last a few weeks. But there are things that are perishable, Anderson, in terms of blood products, for example, blood components that you need for transfusions, especially important in the case of trauma.

So, in one hand you have an increase in trauma. On the other hand, you have a decrease in blood products. You can see the problem starting to develop and how it might possibly get worse as well.

COOPER: I know you're going to be taking a firsthand look at hospitals here in Lebanon, in the coming days. Sanjay, we look forward to that. We'll see you here in Beirut very shortly.

CNN's Alessio Vinci went down to south Beirut, a Hezbollah controlled territory, to take a look specifically at the site that Israel say they targeted yesterday, dropping something 23 tons of explosives. They say in an attempt to eradicate, to decapitate the Hezbollah leadership. Hezbollah says it wasn't that at all and that the bombs missed their mark. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI (voice-over): This is an area of Beirut where Hezbollah rules. It's off limits to Lebanese army and police. You don't see anyone walking with me because (UNINTELLIGIBLE), stationed by Hezbollah, don't want to be filmed.

But there are dozens of them, all constantly checking our documents. And because it is a Hezbollah stronghold, this area, southern Beirut, has taken the brunt of the Israeli bombing.

Locals tell us that in rapid succession, seven Israeli missiles hit this building, which they say was a mosque under construction. A sign on site suggests the same. And from what was left standing here, there was no doubt that this was an unfinished structure.

Israel, though, says it destroyed the headquarters of the Hezbollah leadership.

(On camera): The Israeli military says it dropped 23 tons of explosives on this target alone. That would be about 100 times more than a 500 pound bomb which is considered a large shell. Now, the attack took place between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., Wednesday night. And at that time, back in downtown, we did hear a large explosion, perhaps louder than usual.

(Voice-over): A CNN team trying to get to this location shortly after the attack was quickly turned back by edgy Hezbollah militia men, suggesting perhaps the target was sensitive.

The building under construction does have a large underground basement. But nothing here suggests the structure was being occupied by the Hezbollah leadership, or by anyone else for that matter. Locals say no one was killed as a result of the attack. Indeed, most residents left this area days ago. The streets are virtually deserted and the few who stayed behind, by their own admission, say they are Hezbollah sympathizers, ready to pick up a gun and fight if necessary.

Should the conflict escalate, you would be people who would be fighting on their side?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

VINCI: Right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

VINCI: In the Middle East, the boundaries between war zone and civilian areas are often blurred.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Beirut. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: More from Beirut in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, of course, more and more Americans are fleeing from Beirut. Here are the latest developments in our "War Bulletin." At least 2,200 U.S. citizens were taken out of Lebanon on Thursday. Since the crisis began, 3,850 Americans have been evacuated. There are, of course, still thousands in Lebanon.

Lebanese prime minister says more than 330 people have been killed and over 1,000 injured. Israel says Hezbollah attacks have left 16 Israeli soldiers, 15 civilians dead. CNN cannot confirm the numbers from either side.

Also, two Israeli apache helicopters collided near the Lebanese border. The Israeli military says now that one soldier was killed.

We wanted to talk more about Hezbollah, their capabilities, what it is like trying to eradicate them as Israel is trying to do at least militarily.

We're joined now by Gary Bernsten. He led the CIA's Hezbollah unit. He's also the author of the book, "Jaw Breaker." He joins me now from New York.

Gary, thanks for being with us. You know, some on this program have asked the question, Israel says that they're not targeting civilians. And yet we're seeing a lot of civilian damage. They say they're pinpoint targeting Hezbollah leadership and Hezbollah military assets. If that is true, why are there so many civilian casualties?

GARY BERNSTEN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, Hezbollah's Islamic jihad organization, a terrorist element in Hezbollah, placed most of their headquarters buildings and office buildings in apartment buildings and they surrounded themselves with civilians as human shields.

COOPER: And they do that intentionally?

BERNSTEN: They did that intentionally, yes, to make it difficult for the Israelis. And they knew that by doing so, the Israelis would be very hesitant to attack those locations.

COOPER: Hezbollah is a complex organization. I mean, there's the political wing. You make a distinction between a military wing and a terror wing. Describe that.

BERNSTEN: Well, you have the military wing, which is in the south, which is of course exchanging rockets with the Israelis as they fire, you know, artillery and aircraft attacks on them. The Islamic Jihad organization, that terrorist wing led by Imad Mognia (ph), you know, has its headquarters up in Beirut and has operatives that they send out around the world to do attacks as well. And they've done major attacks in places like Buenos Aries. They participated in the Khobar Towers attacks in '96 on the United States, hijacked aircraft, but it's a different part of Hezbollah, that organization.

COOPER: We heard today on Al Jazeera, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, saying that Hezbollah will in the future deliver surprises when they choose to. What you to think he meant by that?

BERNSTEN: Well, you know, Hezbollah had put out, you know, has infrastructure around the world, and some of that has been destroyed or has degraded over the years. They'll probably try to reconstitute that. And if they lose their military capability in the south of Lebanon, they'll probably respond with attacks abroad.

COOPER: How involved do you think Iran, Syria was in the decision by Hezbollah to kidnap these two Israeli soldiers?

BERNSTEN: Well, I think it was probably a decision that sort of was made at a local level and went out of control. You know, they sort of didn't understand what the response was going to be. But Iran controls, you know, a lot of resources that go to Hezbollah. They carry sway with them, they do training, they give them money, they do operations with them on the ground. They were with them on the ground when they did Khobar Towers attacks. So Iran's in there close with Hezbollah.

COOPER: And in terms of military capabilities in the south for Hezbollah, how mobile, how autonomous are these units? How easy is it for them to, you know, set up a Katyusha rocket and then break it down to move?

BERNSTEN: Well those units would be acting independently right now. If the command and control has been knocked out and they still have the rockets, they'll keep firing them until they're gone. And then they'll probably withdraw from those positions.

COOPER: Gary Bernsten, we appreciate your expertise. Thanks for your perspective.

BERNSTEN: Pleasure being with you, Anderson.

COOPER: When we come back -- we'll talk to you no doubt in the coming days as well.

Syria, how involved are they in Hezbollah? And what impact might this have on Syria's relations in the Arab world? We'll take a look at that when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's us in Syria talking to people on the streets of Damascus last year back in March. People saying that they were free to speak; yet, mysteriously, they all seem to have the exact same opinion, all of whom -- all of which was basically praising their government. Very critical of what was happening at that point in Beirut. People in Lebanon, calling for Syria to get out and Syria did in fact leave, pulling out their military and their intelligence assets.

Now there are a number of players here in Lebanon who see what is happening as Syria trying to reestablish control, trying to destabilize Lebanon.

We asked CNN's Tom Foreman to take a look at the Syrian connection.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Even as Syrians fill the streets to cheer on Hezbollah, the United States says the governments of Iran and Syria should help reel in the terrorist group. At least experts say Syria is a pipeline for weapons and money flowing from Iran to Hezbollah. Syria says otherwise.

IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Hezbollah is not a puppet of Syria. We do not pull the strings of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is part and parcel of the Lebanese social fabric. They are the Lebanese National Resistance Movement, fighting against the Israelis.

FOREMAN: Some analysts believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is waiting for a more formal official invitation to help resolve the crisis in Lebanon, which many Syrians consider historically a natural part of their country.

Until last year, Syria's military had 15,000 troops placed there. Political pressure forced them out after a Lebanese leader who opposed the Syrian presence was assassinated.

But Syria still wants to have influence over Lebanon. According to Martin Indyk, who has studied the Middle East for 30 years.

MARTIN INDYK, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: The Syrians have an interest in seeing Lebanon burn because of their expectation that sooner or later, the United States, France, Russia, will come to them and ask them to help. And when that happens, they will have an entree back into Lebanon.

FOREMAN (on camera): A renewed Syrian presence in Lebanon could widen Syria's economic, political and military strength. And Washington doesn't want that. And Washington knows Syria wants leverage to convince Israel to give back the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel, taken in war almost 40 years ago. So, the United States has not made that formal request for Syria's help with Hezbollah.

NICHOLAS BURNS, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: The problem is, we disagree with them. They prefer to arm and finance a terrorist group and we oppose that terrorist group. And so therefore the Syrian government is the one that has to change its stripes here.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Analysts say not likely without some sort of trade. Syria's government may not be openly standing with Hezbollah fighters right now, but it doesn't seem ready to stand against them yet either.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, I traveled to Syria back in March of last year, March of 2005. This, of course, was during the pro-democracy demonstrations here in Beirut, back in March. A million people in Beirut, pouring into the streets, calling for Syria to get out, and Syria did pull out its military and intelligence forces.

I traveled to Damascus and quickly learned that no matter where you go in Damascus, as a foreigner, you're always being watched.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Driving into Syria from Lebanon you see pretty quick who's the boss. Dotting the highway, billboards of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his late father Hafez, who ruled Syria for nearly 30 years.

Bashar al-Assad, like his dad, maintained power through a vast intelligence network. Dissent isn't tolerated, the press is tightly controlled. Everyone here is very aware they're being watched.

Separating Lebanon from Syria is like separating the soul from the body, she says. They'll stay together because the Lebanese can't make it on their own.

This man insists Israel is behind anti-Syria demonstrations in Lebanon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Israel is behind all this dirty games that is going around in politics. You know and every other journalist and all the media in the United States, it's owned by Jews, it's pro-Jewish.

COOPER: When you hear Americans or President Bush talking about democracy in the Middle East, what do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I say it like a director, shame on you, Bush.

COOPER: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don't like Bush because it's very racist.

COOPER: He's very racist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the democracy in...

COOPER: Come over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just, I want to show you the name of the -- the point of view. Where's his democracy in Iraq when killed a lot of people, Iraqian people. And where is this democracy in Abu Ghraib jail, for example...

COOPER: While Bashar al-Assad rules with absolute authority and can't be voted out of power, Syria says it's a democracy. Not surprisingly, everyone on the street seems to agree.

(On camera): So you really believe that Syria is more Democratic than the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I believe...

COOPER (voice-over): Yes, yes, she says. Syria has more democracy than any other country in the world.

(On camera): Really? So, if you said something against the government here, you wouldn't be worried?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, black is...

COOPER (voice-over): No, she says, with all my heart and emotion, I salute President Bashar. He's a wonderful leader.

The people we talked to said they could criticize the president if they wanted to, it's just, he's so good, there's nothing to criticize.

(On camera): What do you think about the government here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they're doing...

COOPER: No complaints?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no complaints.

COOPER: When you talk to Syrians on the street, they all tell you pretty much the same thing. When the cameras are rolling, they say we love our president, we have no complaints.

When the cameras are gone, however, and the government minder is not around, they'll tell you a very different story. One man just said to us, I can't say what I really think on camera. We live in a dictatorship. If I said that, the secret police would come and pay me a visit.

That, of course, is how it used to be in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. And until a few months ago, Lebanese were afraid to speak out against Syria.

Change has already come to those countries. The question now is when will it come here and how?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that was Syria, my trip to Syria back in March of 2005. Of course, Syria, now, being blamed in part for what is happening right now in Lebanon.

We'll have more of the Syria connection in our coverage throughout the week.

Coming up, strange story out of Nazareth, Israel too. Arab- Israeli children killed, their funerals today. A scene of drama and horror and tears, when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Covering from many different angles on this story, of course. These images, actually, from off the web, from U2.com. That's said to be an air raid siren in Tiberia.

In northern Israel, in the town of Nazareth, Paula Hancocks reports on a funeral that took place today of two children killed by Hezbollah rockets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Abdul Riyad Diab (ph) kisses two of his children for the last time, killed by a Hezbollah rocket as they played in the street. But he doesn't blame the direct hand that killed them.

He accuses Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense minister, saying they are responsible for what happened with Hezbollah. He adds Olmert says he's defending Israel, so what is Hezbollah doing? Three-year-old Rabia (ph) and 7-year-old Mahmud (ph) are the first Israeli-Arabs to be killed by a Hezbollah rocket. But many choose to blame the Israeli operations rather than the Arab weapon.

A small protest gathers to call on the government to stop its operations in Lebanon. Some drivers show their support. Others clearly disagree.

NABILA SPANIOLI, FAMILY FRIEND: Most of the people when they think about terror, they think about terror of individuals or groups. And they don't speak about -- we think that what is happening right now in...

HANCOCKS: Nazareth is home to Israel's largest Arab community. There is anger among many Arabs because they say there are no air raid sirens. Anger there is little shelter if the rockets fall again.

RAMEZ JARAISY, NAZARETH MAYOR: We don't have public shelters, it's part of the whole situation of the Arab minority in Israel. It's not only the issue of shelter.

HANCOCKS: Many Israeli Arabs have complained of being treated like second-class citizens since the creation of the Jewish state.

Towards the end of the first day of official mourning, anger has left Abdul Riyad Diab (ph). He accepts condolences, vacantly trying to make sense of losing two of his children in a split second. Now he tells me, no matter who I blame, it will not bring back my kids.

Arabs being killed by Arabs only complicates a furious debate, a debate brought to the forefront once again by one father's pain.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Nazareth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, Thursday evening on Al Jazeera, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, apologized for the deaths of those two Arab-Israeli children, calling them martyrs for Palestine.

We're going to have a lot more from the region in a moment.

First let's check in with John Roberts for the day's business headlines -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson.

Call investors fickle, after a running of the bulls on Wednesday. The bears took over today. Investors were spooked in part by what else, uncertainty over interest rates. The Dow and the NASDAQ each losing a little less than 1 percent. The NASDAQ lost 2 percent, weighed down by slumping profits of Chip Maker Intel.

Speaking of slumping, Ford Motor Company today posted unexpected losses for the quarter -- $123 million worth. Much of the red ink coming from weakness right here in the United States, as well as our neighbor to the north, Canada. And over the long run, industry watchers say plans to close 14 plants and cut 30,000 jobs in North America might not in the end be enough to turn things around.

Meantime, Toyota is paying the price for being too successful. Federal law calls for tax credits to buyers of gas, electric hybrids, such as the Prius, but only on the first 60,000 vehicles sold. With Toyota selling hybrids like hotcakes, those credits will shrink from about $3,100 per customer right now to about $1,500 in October. And they could vanish entirely by late next year. Get them while you can -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks for that.

When we return, the story of an American woman who came here to Beirut to adopt an infant son. Now mother and son are trapped. A piece of paper, all that is keeping them from leaving this country. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Among the thousands of Americans trapped here in Beirut, an American woman who came here to adopt an infant son. A piece of paper was all that kept her and her baby from getting evacuated. Today there some good news.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a choice no mother should have to make -- between her safety and her child. Laura Gabriel chose her son.

LAURA GABRIEL, MOTHER: I was feeding my son dinner, and a bomb went off. There was gunfire and, you know, one or two bombs that went off 200 feet in front of me. And it's just so frightening.

KAYE: It's hard enough to care for an infant under normal circumstances. Many times harder in a war zone. On top of that, Laura was told by the Lebanese government, if she wanted to get out, she'd have to leave the baby she only just adopted behind.

GABRIEL: It was a little insulting to motherhood that I would be asked to leave my son in a place that's being bombed. You know, it's not an option. I don't have anyone to leave him with.

KAYE: You see, Laura has spent two months caring for this little Lebanese boy and the adoption is final. But his travel documents were incomplete. And the bombs only added to the bureaucratic delay.

(On camera): What stood in the way of Laura's safe return with her son to their home near Boston was a single piece of paper. You could call it a Lebanese identity card, required by the government to get a passport. Laura and her husband have been pleading with both the Lebanese and U.S. governments to move the process along before time runs out.

(Voice-over): Early Wednesday, things looked uncertain. Her husband Scott, waiting anxiously back home near Boston.

SCOTT GABRIEL, FATHER: I'm really afraid that if they don't get out on these last evacuations, that somehow they're going to be stuck there and in a war zone.

KAYE: Then later, a phone call in the middle of the night. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had granted the little boy humanitarian parole. Mom and child were free to leave Lebanon.

L. GABRIEL: I'm so proud to be an American. They just worked so hard to get us out of here all together, safely. And be able to come home and be reunited with all of our family in the U.S. I'm sorry.

KAYE: The Gabriels have named their new son Logan after Boston's Logan Airport. The two will be evacuated by helicopter or boat Friday morning. Hoping to arrive at Logan Airport safe and sound and soon.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Luckily they didn't fly into Teterboro Airport. They would have had a son named Teterboro. When we come back -- it is great that they were able to get out, though. Of course, many thousands remain here in Lebanon.

When we come back, how the Marines are trying to get as many as they can out through the air. An exclusive look at the air bridge they've established from Cyprus to Beirut, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We arrived in Beirut today, got an exclusive look at the air bridge the U.S. Marines have established between Cyprus and Beirut. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Today the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon began in earnest. Early in the morning, we hitched a ride on a Marine Corps helicopter flying into Beirut.

(On camera): On Sunday, Marines began evacuating Americans out of Beirut. They created this air bridge that links Cyprus to Beirut. And using these large Marine Corps helicopters, they've been able to get out as many as 400 or 500 Americans as of Wednesday night. It's now Thursday, the big ships have come, and today they say they will be able to get out as many as 3,000 Americans.

(Voice-over): We flew over one of the ferries now regularly bringing foreigners out of war torn Lebanon.

(On camera): By now we've all heard the figure that there may be some 25,000 Americans currently living in Lebanon, but the problem for the Marine Corps and for the U.S. Embassy officials trying to plan this evacuation is that they simply don't know how many Americans actually want to get out.

(Voice-over): The flight takes just one hour. The ferries can take up to 12. Beirut only becomes visible moments before you land, suddenly appearing outside the rear hatch. When the chopper landed at the U.S. Embassy, we rushed off. Nearby, anxious Americans waited to board.

Embassy personnel made sure all the passengers had helmets. Even the youngest were protected. They then were quickly ushered onboard.

(On camera): It's the first chopper flight out today. From the time it landed to the time the Americans boarded and it took off was probably about five or 10 minutes maximum. It's able to carry 30 American at any one time. And there'll be three more flights out of Beirut today.

(Voice-over): In a nearby embassy lounge, another group of Americans waited for their flight out. Tired, anxious, some still sat glued to the latest news.

Amanda Martinez and her friends came here on holiday.

AMANDA MARTINEZ, DEPARTING BEIRUT: I have mixed emotions leaving. It's bittersweet. I'm happy to be going home, to reunite with my family and my friends, get back to my life there. But it was very sad to say goodbye to people here who have no way to evacuate and are going to be staying here.

COOPER: For you, what was it like seeing that chopper?

ALISON WEAVER, DEPARTING BEIRUT: Makes me feel proud. Just really proud to be an American that we have -- that we can get the people out and I know that we'll be back and I know we'll be here to help and I know that our people have big hearts and we're here to help.

COOPER (voice-over): Outside, another chopper arrives. The U.S. has flown in the patriarch of the Lebanese Maraniss (ph) church, assigned to Lebanese, say State Department officials, but the U.S. government is not abandoning them.

And another group of Americans is ushered onboard. A few more steps, a few more minutes and they're safe. It has been a long week, a difficult journey. But now this group of Americans finally headed home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Thanks very much for watching 360 live from Beirut. We'll be in Lebanon tomorrow, as well.

Soledad O'Brien is in Jerusalem, starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern, on "AMERICAN MORNING."

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

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