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Quick Guide & Transcript: Fighting erupts in Tripoli, Whales stranded in Sacramento River

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(CNN Student News) -- May 21, 2007

Quick Guide

Fighting in Lebanon - Learn about fighting between soldiers and militants on the streets of Tripoli.

Lebanon 101 - Review several events that some say are part of a power struggle in Lebanon.

Whale Watching - Check out a mother humpback whale and her calf that are stranded in Sacramento.



CHRISTINA PARK, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: We're kicking off a brand new week of CNN Student News and we're glad to have you with us. I'm Christina Park. Fighting in the streets: Violence rages in one of the largest cities in Lebanon, as army troops engage in a deadly battle with militants. Checking out the wildlife: Hundreds of curious people head to the water to get a peek at two humpback whales who are 90 miles off course. And recovering from the storm: After a powerful tornado nearly wiped their town off the map, the class of 2007 comes back to Greensburg, Kansas, for its graduation ceremony.

First Up: Fighting in Lebanon

PARK: First up today, gunfire rages in Lebanon, as army troops battle a militant group with suspected ties to al Qaeda. Authorities say the clashes were set off by raids, as police searched for suspects in a bank robbery. And now, dozens of people have died in some of the worst violence the country has seen since its 15-year-long civil war ended in 1990. Phil Black has more on the fighting in the Middle Eastern nation.


PHIL BLACK, CNN REPORTER: Lebanese troops tried to arrest members of the Fatah al-Islam militant group, but they fought back. Streets in and around Lebanon's second largest city became the scene of an urban battle. Gunmen holed up in buildings, firing from windows and rooftops, while soldiers on the street replied with an awesome barrage of firepower. Here, Lebanese troops direct their weapons on a building with suspected militants inside. Thousands of rounds and a rocket propelled grenade.

Residents sought shelter from the crossfire, but some, including children, were reportedly among the casualties. People rushed to recover soldiers cut down in the fight.

Fatah al-Islam fighters also attacked army positions at a nearby refugee camp, home to around 30,000 Palestinians. Lebanon responded with reinforcements, including tanks. In a statement, the militants said they would "open the gates of fire" if the army did not back off. But a Lebanese minister said the uprising was beaten before the day's end.

AHMED FATFAT, LEBANESE GOVERNMENT MINISTER: I can say under control, about 90 percent under control. It will be 100 percent in due time. We still have two very small positions for Fatah al-Islam.

BLACK: The Lebanese government says Fatah al-Islam has links to al Qaeda and is supported by Syria. Syria denies this. But some Lebanese politicians believe this violence was designed to unsettle United Nations' plans for an international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of Lebanon's prime minister, Rafik Hariri, two years ago. Syria has also denied involvement in that killing but still opposes the tribunal. Phil Black, CNN, London.


Lebanon 101

PARK: Now you know who's involved in the violence taking place in Lebanon right now. But you still might have some questions about why they're fighting. It could seem like part of the global battle against al Qaeda. But Josh Levs explains there's a lot more to it, including what some people say is a power struggle for control of the country.


JOSH LEVS, CNN REPORTER: February 14, 2005. Twenty-three people killed in a Beirut bombing, including the clear target: former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a top critic of Syria's military presence in Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese call for the ouster of the Syrian army, whose troops had originally come as peacekeepers during Lebanon's civil war years earlier. Under increasing pressure, Syria pulls out. A preliminary United Nations investigation later that year finds evidence indicating Syrian involvement. Syria denies it. Summer 2006. Israel's war with the Shiite militant group Hezbollah in south Lebanon leaves Lebanese factions jockeying for power. Hezbollah members pull out of the cabinet. Hariri's son accuses Hezbollah and its supporters in Syria of trying to block an investigation.

HARIRI'S SON: They tried to create a little bit of uncertainty in Lebanon.

LEVS: Hezbollah and Syria deny such an effort.

HEZBOLLAH'S MOUSSAWI: I can accuse you of anything, but you have to bring one shred of evidence about the authenticity, the validity of your accusations.

SYRIA'S MOUSTAPHA: We do not interfere in purely Lebanese domestic issues.

LEVS: The government is in crisis. And it reaches no agreement about a tribunal for the assassination. This month, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a U.S. ally, asks the U.N. to set up an international tribunal. The U.S., along with France and Britain, creates a draft resolution to do so.

U.S. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN SEAN MCCORMACK: We believe that it is important to move forward with the tribunal.

LEVS: Hezbollah insists it does not oppose the idea of a tribunal. But the group warns that an international agency like the U.N. should not interfere. Now this: Lebanese forces battle Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda. Lebanon insists the militants get orders from Syria. But Syria has repeatedly denies fomenting violence in the country. So the fighting takes place amid an uncertain future for Lebanon. And if the current government ultimately loses power, it means Washington loses a key ally at a time the United States needs leverage in the Middle East. Josh Levs, CNN, Atlanta.


Is This Legit?

CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is This Legit? A baby humpback whale can weigh as much as a ton at birth. That's two thousand pounds of truth! And their gestation period is a whole year!

Whale Watching

PARK: With the weather warming up, the water's a popular destination. But it's a couple of super-size visitors that are drawing a crowd to the Port of Sacramento. A mother humpback whale and her calf took a wrong turn and ended up there. And as Kara Finnstrom explains, the issue now is how to get the wayward whales headed in the right direction.


WHALE WATCHER: I've been here since ten o'clock. I don't even have breakfast or lunch.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN REPORTER: Whale mania has taken hold of Sacramento.

WHALE WATCHER: Look, look. There it is.

FINNSTROM: These whale lovers don't care that it's hot. They don't care that it's dusty. They don't care that police have told them to stay away for their own safety. They're flocking here by the hundreds, coming with lawn chairs, with dogs, even with sodas and hats for sale.

WHALE WATCHER: Anything could be going on in Sacramento and half the police force is here, it seems. It's all anybody cares about right now is the whales.

FINNSTROM: The whales and how to get them back to their ocean home. Now wildlife experts from around the globe have a new plan. If the whales don't take the initiative by Tuesday, they will.

FINNSTROM: They'll shift their approach from gently luring them back using humpback whale sounds like these, to more aggressively herding the whales with the clanging noises of pipes on boats. Most humpbacks detest the sound. The hope is they'll swim away from it towards the sea. But there are no guarantees.

ROD MCINNES, NOAA: We want to keep them out of the tributaries, not only because we want to keep them on a straight route to San Francisco Bay and beyond, but there are shallows, and we don't want them to get stranded.

FINNSTROM: So this is going to get tricky. They could go into the tributaries if that's what they decide to do.

MCINNES: Yes. That's why I say where they are right now, we've got some time to think and plan. And when we start moving them, they are at risk.

FINNSTROM: At risk of being stranded in shallow waters, where their heavy bodies would no longer be buoyed and their sheer weight could crush their internal organs. While wildlife officials prepare for every scenario, the plight of this mother and calf is captivating this city. So as much as local officials may encourage the crowds to leave, they know many will only go home when the whales do. In Sacramento, Kara Finnstrom, for CNN.



PARK: We've mentioned a couple of different locations in today's show. So teachers, if you want to have your students locate Lebanon or search for Sacramento, why not try our downloadable maps? Just cruise on over to to check them out.

Before We Go

PARK: Before we go, a special high school graduation. If you were with us earlier this month, you know a major tornado leveled the town of Greensburg, Kansas, destroying 95 percent of the buildings in the community. But some traditions carry on, and even though their school is lying in ruins, Greensburg High's Class of '07 put on their caps and gowns and picked up their diplomas Saturday. 1,500 family members, friends and neighbors crowded under two large tents on the town's golf course and cheered on the 25 new graduates. One senior spoke about her class's place in the town's history during the commencement ceremony.

GRADUATE: We know that we are the last graduating class from the old Greensburg High School. Everywhere we go, we're gonna remember that.


PARK: And we offer our congratulations to those graduates as well. That wraps up today's CNN Student News. Thanks for watching. I'm Christina Park.



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