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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Israeli Warplanes Bomb Beirut; Bush Administration Urges Restraint in Middle East Conflict

Aired July 13, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good evening again, everyone.
Whether it's on the ground in Beirut, in Haifa, or at the gas pumps here at home, people are paying a stiff price for Israel's war on terror, and no one knows how bad it may get.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Strike and counterstrike -- trading rockets and shells and threats.

DANIEL AYALON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: This is a major, major escalation.

ANNOUNCER: The question now, can the crisis be contained?

ANNOUNCER: Message from the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's really sad. As a matter of fact, it's pathetic.

ANNOUNCER: Trying to ratchet down tension, as traders ratchet up oil prices to record highs.

And Western infernos, with the heroes fighting a three-front war, on the ground, in the air, and against the weather.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Tonight, sitting in for Anderson and reporting from CNN studios in Washington, here's John Roberts.

ROBERTS: And thanks for joining us.

It is 5:00 a.m. in Beirut and Haifa, the sun perhaps the only bright spot in the most serious crisis the Middle East has seen in years, a two-front war for Israel, a many-faceted problem for Israel and the rest of the world.

What began earlier this month with Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza and a major Israeli incursion into the territory escalated and segued north, when Shiite Hezbollah terrorists crossed over from Lebanon, killing -- kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and taking them, Israel fears, to Iran.

That was followed by Israeli airstrikes and shelling, first on southern Lebanon, then, today, against the airport in Beirut. In retaliation for that, rockets began falling on Haifa, Israel's third largest city.

Israel, meantime, is bombing roads to Syria and blockading Lebanese ports. Iran is leveling threats. And, so far, dozens of civilians, mostly in Lebanon, have died.

A lot of ground to cover tonight, starting with CNN's Alessio Vinci. He's in Beirut, where another round of airstrikes just got under way a short time ago.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: That is correct, John. We are right in the middle of it.

Within the last hour or so, we have heard Israeli jets flying overhead for a while, and then large explosions coming from the southern part of Beirut. That is an area, a neighborhood, densely populated, of course, by Muslims and by Hezbollah supporters.

We understand there by security -- from security sources here that two key bridges have been hit. A short while later, we have heard two additional explosions, much closer to this building, but we did not hear jets flying overhead, suggesting perhaps that a naval gunship is also involved in this attack. We are not able to confirm right now what was targeted.

It has been a long 24 hours here in Lebanon, John, and it does appear that, as the second day of confrontation begins, the Lebanese people will have to get ready for another long day of conflict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VINCI (voice-over): Israel promised a painful response, and it hit Lebanon where it hurts the most, the tourism industry, at the height of the summer season.

All three runways of Beirut's international airport have been damaged. All flights in and out were canceled, incoming passengers diverted to Cyprus. And after nightfall Thursday, gunboats hit a fuel depot at the airport again, while Israeli planes dropped leaflets urging people to stay away from Hezbollah buildings.

The Israeli navy is also imposing a blockade, preventing vital fuel supplies from reaching the capital's port. Residents fear a prolonged blockade and return to the bad old days, when Beirut was reduced to rubble by sectarian violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is very bad. We're expecting everything now is coming bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wasn't scared, but, when I saw everyone going to the gas stations, I thought maybe I should, too. VINCI: In southern Lebanon, closer to Hezbollah's main area of operations, people stockpiled essential supplies. Lebanese security sources say Israeli artillery and airstrikes have killed more than 50 civilians. Twelve members of one family were killed in an airstrike close to the border.

Lebanese officials called the Israeli strikes an act of war, and rejected Israel's insistence that it held the entire Lebanese government, and not just Hezbollah, responsible for the soldiers' kidnapping. Saying it is unable to rein in Hezbollah, the Lebanese government has called on the Security Council to intervene, while calling for a comprehensive cease-fire. Lebanese analysts close to Hezbollah say a truce is now up to Israel.

IBRAHIM MOUSSAOUI, LEBANESE ANALYST: The door is still wide and open for indirect negotiations, but they have to stop -- or to start a cease-fire. The Israelis, they didn't want that, it seems.

VINCI: With two Hezbollah ministers in its cabinet, the Lebanese government finds itself caught in the middle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Alessio, why was it that Israel went all the way north to Beirut to -- to -- to launch some raids and attacks, bomb the airport, when it is that Hezbollah operates mostly in the very southern part of Lebanon?

VINCI: Well, John, I think because the Israeli government wants to send a very clear message to the government here that it holds that government here -- this government here in Lebanon responsible, as a whole, and not just Hezbollah, who is, by the way, a part, of course, of this government here, with two ministers.

And Israel is also saying that it is aiming at strategic targets, that it wants Hezbollah -- it wants to prevent Hezbollah to rearm itself. And, of course, we have seen, over the last 24 hours, it targeted the airport first, and then it located the -- the port, and now a key road to Damascus, all this basically creating an isolation around Lebanon, virtually isolating the country both by land, by sea, and, of course, by -- by air -- John.

ROBERTS: Alessio, thanks very much there in downtown Beirut. We will keep on checking back with you.

And we have just learned that the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has authorized -- this is not ordered, but just authorized the departure of all non-essential embassy personnel from Beirut. Again, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has authorized -- not ordered, but authorized -- the departure of all non-essential personnel.

People in northern Israel spent another night in bomb shelters. They haven't seen it so bad since the late 1990s, when Israel occupied a nearly 10-mile buffer zone in southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah rockets rained down almost daily.

Israel withdrew from the area more than six years ago, and things grew calm, that is, until the kidnappings.

Here's CNN's John Vause.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This has been a terrifying and deadly 24 hours for Israelis in the north of the country -- more than 100 Hezbollah rockets fired from Lebanon. Dozens have been injured.

"I'm wounded; I'm wounded," yelled this TV cameraman, hit in the leg by shrapnel. The tourist town of Nahariya was hit twice within hours. A car exploded. Buildings were set on fire. One person was killed.

At least seven rockets hit the town of Safed, home to Israel's northern command -- caught in the attack, a group of American Jewish students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mom, we're all safe and sound. God is watching over us.

VAUSE: Here, in a place regarded as holy to Jews, one person was killed. Seven others were hurt.

As the rockets came down, the head of Israel's military warned of severe reprisals.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL DAN HALUTZ, CHIEF OF STAFF, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES (through translator): If -- if rockets are launched towards Israeli cities, Beirut will be included among the targets.

VAUSE: Hours after that threat, the Israeli military says, for the first time ever, two Hezbollah rockets reached the major northern port city of Haifa, about 20 miles from the Lebanese border. There were no casualties.

Hezbollah denies the missiles were theirs, though it had earlier threatened just such an attack. Nonetheless, Israel considers it a major escalation in a crisis that started after an Israeli patrol came under fire, and two soldiers were taken hostage by Hezbollah guerrillas. This is the burnt wreckage of their armored personnel carrier.

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: We are concerned that the hostage-takers, that the Hezbollah terrorists, could try to remove our service people from Lebanon and take them to third countries. We're concerned that they could be taken to Iran.

VAUSE: Since the abductions, Israel's air force has carried out more than 100 strikes across Lebanon. Its navy is enforcing a blockade off the Lebanese coast. And Israeli artillery has been shelling Hezbollah positions in the south.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: John Vause joins us live now from Haifa, where it has been an extremely long night.

And, John, tell us about the significance of these rockets being able to hit the city of Haifa.

VAUSE: Well, John, the Israeli government says that they are extremely concerned about that, because this is a densely populated city of 300,000 people.

And if they are the kind of rocket attacks here, like we have seen just a little further north, then the chances of a large number of civilian casualties is greatly increased. Add into that mix a large oil refinery complex, which stands out as a very big target -- John.

ROBERTS: And, earlier today, Israel's ambassador to the United States called it a major, major escalation.

John Vause, thanks very much.

At the United Nations today, the United States vetoed an Arab- sponsored Security Council resolution, calling on Israel to halt operations in Gaza. Meantime, after criticizing Israel for using what it called disproportionate force in Lebanon, the European Union said it was planning a peace mission. And the Arab League called for an emergency meeting over the weekend in Cairo.

In the Middle East, fighting almost always leads to talking. The trouble is, frequently, the talking leads nowhere, because the people doing the talking don't control the ones doing the shooting.

Here's CNN's Paula Hancocks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): June 22, their first embrace -- and it looked like a warm one, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at an amicable photo-op. They pledged to meet again within two weeks to talk peace, though Olmert warns that real negotiations can only happen when violence ends.

Then, just a couple of days later, good intentions are shattered. Militants with Hamas, the group that now controls the Palestinian government, killed two Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped a third, Corporal Gilad Shalit.

Israeli tanks roll into Gaza to find the missing soldier, tanks that had left only a year before, as Israel took a first hopeful step towards a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. How distant that seems now.

NABIL SHAATH, SENIOR PALESTINIAN OFFICIAL: The Israelis are doing nothing but murdering, butchering children and women in their bedrooms, in their -- in their homes, destroying institutions that are dedicated to development, negotiations, and peace. HANCOCKS: In the early hours of Wednesday, Israeli forces pushed deeper into Gaza in the search for their missing soldier. But an even bigger problem is about to erupt.

Militants with Hezbollah, the Islamic group that controls much of southern Lebanon, ambush an Israeli patrol on the border there, killing eight soldiers, abducting two more -- the motive, the same as Hamas, using soldiers as a bargaining chip to get prisoners released from Israeli jails.

It did work once before. In 2004, more than 430 Arab prisoners were released in return for one Israeli businessman and the remains of three Israeli soldiers killed by Hezbollah.

But, this time, Israel says it is not negotiating, even for soldiers it believes are still alive. And it wants to drive Hezbollah from its border once and for all.

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI VICE PREMIER: If the Hezbollah would like to come back, they will discover that they cannot come back to ambush, to kill, to provoke, to destroy every ounce of goodwill.

HANCOCKS: Goodwill, never plentiful here, is now completely gone. Israeli retaliation has targeted airports, bridges and Hezbollah.

More than 50 Lebanese have already lost their lives, leading to the inevitable retaliation from Hezbollah, killing, wounding and terrifying Israelis. Now, with the missiles flying, calls for restraint and mediation, a U.N. team is on the way.

(on camera): But, if history teaches us anything in this region, it is that mediators are rarely successful. It's only, once the fiercest fighting is over and the players are willing to talk, that even just a cease-fire becomes possible.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Some perspective now from a one-time correspondent for "The Jerusalem Post." Luckily for us, he's now the anchor of "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Wolf Blitzer sat down with me earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Wolf, you have spent an awful lot of time in that region. What are your impressions of what you are seeing over there?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Unfortunately, I see really horrible things going on right now, with no immediate end in sight.

It looks like the situation could really escalate into a much broader kind of confrontation. I'm not very optimistic. I hope cooler heads prevail. Right now, a lot of U.S. officials, as you know, John, they are pointing the finger at Syria and Iran. They are thinking Iran is trying to change the subject from its own nuclear program -- they are under enormous pressure to curtail that -- and -- and they're trying to set the stage by using their influence with Hezbollah and Hamas to cause this diversion, in effect.

But, you know, these situations that can start modest have a tendency to get out of control. And -- and I see that potential right now. I -- I hope, though, the situation calms down.

ROBERTS: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Germany today that she urges restraint on the part of Israel, as far as its response goes. When you say that this could -- this could get even bigger, are you talking about in Lebanon, or -- or could it spread outside of Lebanon's borders, potentially to Syria?

BLITZER: I could see that happening in Syria, the Israelis launching airstrikes against some selective targets in Syria.

The question, then, has to be asked, what happens next? What do the Syrians do? What do the Iranians do? What does the rest of the Middle East do as a result of that? I could easily see the airstrikes that are now focusing in on the Beirut airport, this Beirut-to- Damascus highway, this major thoroughfare between Syria and -- and Lebanon, I -- I could see that escalating.

And, you know, once you take that first shot, you better be prepared for some more.

ROBERTS: No one is saying what they could do, but, certainly, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has made threats. He said, a little while ago, -- quote -- "If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world, and this regime will receive a very fierce response."

Wolf, as you said, there are some people who believe that both Syria and Iran are behind the Hezbollah kidnappings, perhaps even the Hamas kidnappings. What do you make of this threat from Ahmadinejad?

BLITZER: I think the Israelis are taking it very, very seriously.

They have seen, in terms of their own existential threat, the major -- the major problem for Israel being Iran, especially if it -- if it were to develop a nuclear bomb. They see the Iranian influence with Hezbollah, with other radical groups, and they are very worried about it.

And I think they take that kind of threat from Ahmadinejad very seriously.

ROBERTS: The United States wields an awful lot of influence with Israel. The -- the president of the United States has voiced his concern that, perhaps, the moderate prime minister of Lebanon could be destabilized or -- or weakened because of what is going on in Lebanon.

Is -- is there anything the United States can do, besides complain about it publicly, to get Israel to show restraint, to try to put this genie back in the bottle?

BLITZER: This crisis, involving Israel, the Lebanese, the Palestinians, the Syrians, etcetera, it's clearly dominating everyone's attention right now.

And there's a lot the United States can do behind the scenes, as well as publicly. The question is, how actively does the Bush administration want to get involved?

In -- in years past, a crisis like this would see a secretary of state, or a special envoy, at least, go over to the region and try to calm things down. I haven't seen that decision yet. But I wouldn't be surprised to see one top U.S. official peel off from the president's G8 Summit at some point and head toward the region.

ROBERTS: Well, Wolf, we know that you are right most of the time, but, in terms of escalation, we hope, this time out, you're wrong.

Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: I hope I'm wrong, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Israel and Lebanon share a border and decades of animosity. But they are not evenly matched, when it comes to size and wealth. Here's the "Raw Data" for you.

Nearly seven million people live in Israel, a country slightly smaller than New Jersey. It covers just over 8,500 square miles. In 2004, Israel's gross domestic product was nearly $117 billion. Per capita income was more than $17,000.

Lebanon is about half the size of Israel in land and population. Three-and-a-half million people live in the country, which covers about 4,000 square miles, and is far less wealthy. In 2004, the country's gross domestic product was nearly $22 billion, per -- per capita income just over $6,000.

The president is overseas and under pressure for defending Israel. He's talking tough and urging restraint. Can he diffuse the conflict, while keeping U.S. troops out?

Also, behind enemy lines -- inside the Islamic militant group Hezbollah, and how their terror war has taken hundreds of U.S. lives.

And a different kind of firefight -- parts of the Western United States are burning tonight from wildfires that are getting closer to populated areas. Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect in California. We are live with the latest -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: President Bush is in Germany tonight, but, like much of the world, his attention is focused on the Middle East. But unlike many other world leaders, he is, with a condition or two, strongly defending Israel's military operation.

CNN's Ed Henry is traveling with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chancellor Angela Merkel trying to make the visiting Texan feel at home with a German barbecue, first one to carve up the boar that's been roasting for hours.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thrilled to be here. Thank you.

HENRY: But, in advance of the G8 Summit, President Bush is trying to shed the tough-guy image, playing nice on the world stage, while the White House is ripping Iran and Syria for escalating violence in the Mideast.

BUSH: It's really sad, where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress. As a matter of fact, it's pathetic.

HENRY: The president still tried to play the role of peacemaker and find some middle ground.

BUSH: Israel has a right to defend herself. Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life. Whatever Israel does, though, should -- should not weaken the Siniora government in Lebanon. We're concerned about the fragile democracy in Lebanon.

HENRY: And the president sounded downright deferential to the United Nations when pressed on how long the Security Council has to sanction Iran over its nuclear program.

BUSH: Well, they have got plenty of time. I mean, the -- the U.N. Security Council, they have got time to react.

HENRY: Compare that to the president in March of 2003, pressed on whether had to wait for the U.N. before launching the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2003)

BUSH: I'm confident the American people understand that, when it comes to our security, if we need to act, we will act. And we really don't need United Nations approval to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: But now, on hot spots like North Korea, a cautious president has changed his tune. BUSH: I'm hopeful that we can get some U.N. action on North Korea.

HENRY: The shift has come because the president's image around the world has been battered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has to come sort of with his hat in had, doing the rounds, and hope that others are willing to listen.

HENRY (on camera): That's why, for the president, there's so much riding on the G8 Summit that kicks off Sunday in Saint Petersburg, where the agenda is getting more and more crowded with global hot spots.

Ed Henry, CNN, with the president in Rostock, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: As Ed Henry reports, the president's response is twofold, standing by Israel and, at the same time, try to stay on good terms with the Arab world, definitely a tricky balancing act, especially with Iran also in the mix.

Joining me for some perspective now is "TIME" magazine columnist Joe Klein.

Good evening to you, Joe.

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Hi, John. How are you?

ROBERTS: So, it has been said time and time again today that Iran is behind this, and what Iran is doing is, it's trying to stir things up in Israel to deflect attention at the G8 Summit this coming weekend away from its nuclear program and all the talk that was going to be held at the G8 Summit about that.

What do you think about that whole theory?

KLEIN: Well, I think that it -- I think it's absolutely true.

You know, you had an extreme act here. Hezbollah crossed the border into Israel to -- to stage this raid. Hezbollah receives $15 million to $20 million a month from Iran, which is -- which comes through the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is a kind of group of freelance military religious fanatics, which have very close ties to the President Ahmadinejad.

I think what we're seeing here is Iran's emergence as a real regional power. And what we can't forget is that, over the last four or five years, inadvertently -- it's the law of unintended consequences -- but our actions in the region have empowered Iran. We have taken out Iran's two major enemies, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and, most important, Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And I think that they're flexing their muscles. ROBERTS: Right. And do you think that's also why they are so persistent in trying to pursue nuclear weapons, is that they see themselves as this emerging regional power; they have got Pakistan with nuclear weapons to the east, Israel with weapons to west, and -- and they definitely want to make sure that they're a player in that whole game?

KLEIN: Well, You know, I have -- I have spent some time in Iran. And they not only see themselves in that way, but they see themselves as one of the great civilizations in history.

And they look at Pakistan, and they say: Well, if they have them, we should.

And, by the way, this is a feeling that extends across the political spectrum in Iran, from the right to our -- you know, to the people who are most supportive of the United States, the intellectuals on the north side of Tehran.

ROBERTS: Even -- even -- even if -- it seems, even if they are in opposition to the ayatollahs, they still support this nationalistic goal of getting a nuclear weapon.

What -- what do you make of the line that the White House is trying to walk today, the president, on the one hand, saying, Israel has got the right to defend itself, and then Condoleezza Rice, on the other, saying, whoa, urging restraint here on the part of the Israelis?

KLEIN: Well, they're -- they're -- they are sending three different messages.

The main message comes from President Bush. And it's appropriate. Israel has a right to defend itself, after this extreme act, which was Hezbollah crossing the border.

Condoleezza Rice's message is to the rest of the region, saying, we want the Israelis not to go berserk, and -- and to restrain themselves.

And, then, the third message is the one that is the kind of coming, you know, subliminally and undercover to a lot of us in the press, with the administration officials saying, you know, Iraq and Syria were behind this.

And I think that the emphasis here -- not Iraq -- I mean Iran and Syria were behind this.

And I think that the emphasis here is Iran.

ROBERTS: Right.

I -- I talked with the ambassador, the Syrian ambassador to the United States, just a little while ago, who was critical of the U.S. for not getting involved, saying, every time there's been a crisis in the past, the U.S. jumps in. Now, Syria doesn't have the greatest credibility on this particular issue. But is it a mistake for the United States to be standing on the sidelines while the operation in Gaza is going on, and -- and now while this crisis is Lebanon is going on?

KLEIN: Well, we have been standing on the sidelines, diplomatically, historically, through much of the Bush administration, although I got to say, about the Syrians, if we get involved, they don't like that, and, if we don't get involved, they criticize us for that.

I think it's really significant today that both the president and the secretary of state emphasized the U.N.'s role and the U.N. mission. They're send -- the U.N. is sending over some real high- powered diplomats. Terje Larsen has a lot of experience in the region. But that doesn't replace a major American presence here, and -- and a long-term one, diplomatically, in terms of trying to negotiate a settlement among these parties.

ROBERTS: Some interesting thoughts.

Joe Klein, good to see you again. Thanks very much.

KLEIN: Good to be here.

ROBERTS: In a moment, public opinion, Arab public opinion -- we will look at the bitter conflict and find out how Arabs are viewing this new battle with Israel.

And, as we go to break, the sun and smoke rising over southern Beirut.

Around the world, this is 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: The tensions between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah may be boiling now, but they have been simmering for quite some time. From its inception more than two decades ago, Hezbollah has had Israel in its sights. And it has no love for America, either.

Here's CNN chief national correspondent, John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beirut, 1983. The suicide bombings that killed more than 200 Marines, perhaps the first time most Americans become familiar with the work of Hezbollah.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CIA: Hezbollah is often called the A-Team in the terrorist world. Prior to 9/11, they had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group in the world.

KING: Hezbollah means "party of God," and the radical Shiite group wants to eliminate Israel and develop a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran. Hezbollah is blamed by Israel and others for more than 200 attacks and more than 800 deaths since its founding a quarter century ago.

MCLAUGHLIN: It really is, in many respects, a creature of Iran. Iran gives it a lot of money. It's been estimate at least $100 million a year. It shares Iran's aims strategically.

KING: But it is more than a terrorist organization. Hezbollah is a significant political force in Lebanon, holding seats in parliament and running cabinet ministries and building public support by running social welfare programs.

MCLAUGHLIN: About 250,000 of Lebanon's 3.8 million people benefit in some way from the schools, hospitals, and other social institutions that Hezbollah sponsors.

KING: it was just a year ago, Syria withdrew its droops from Lebanon, raising hopes at the White House of a democratic example in the troubled region. But Hezbollah has ignored a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding it disarm, and effectively controls much of southern Lebanon.

So for the president, it is yet another Middle East setback. Traveling in Europe, Mr. Bush blamed Syria for the escalating tensions in Lebanon and in Gaza.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Syria's housing the militant wing of Hamas. Hezbollah has got an active presence in Syria.

KING: But most regional and intelligence experts say the far bigger worry is Iran, who is already accused of stirring the insurgency in Iraq, and now some see Tehran using Hamas and Hezbollah as proxies to stoke tensions, just as the president tries to win support for sanctions against Iran for refusing to curtail its nuclear program.

MARTIN INDYK, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: There is a direct connection between Iran and Hezbollah that is very strong and well established, and an interest that Iran has in creating a diversion from its nuclear program.

RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: I'm concerned by the evidence that that suggests of the Iranian capabilities to push and prod the diplomatic scene throughout the region. I think -- I think it's a nervous time.

KING: Whatever its motivation, the daring capture of two Israeli soldiers reopened southern Lebanon as a military battleground and reasserted Hezbollah's influence in the already volatile Middle East stage.

John King, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: Of course, Hezbollah doesn't speak for most Arabs or even perhaps many Arabs. Joining me now to discuss the broader Arab reaction to the Middle East fighting is James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute.

What effect, Mr. Zogby, is all this fighting having in the Arab world? What's the overall sense of reaction there?

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB-AMERICAN INSTITUTE: A lot of memories there. When you talk about Lebanon, you talk about a country that many Arabs have a deep affection for, and feel Lebanon's vulnerability.

Twenty years of a long civil war, and Israel in occupation of Lebanon, going back to the '70s. They remember the nightmare of 1982 when Israel crossed all the way up and invaded, finally, Beirut and thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian civilian casualties.

So, there's a lot of hurt. And this is evoking, waking a lot of memories that people have of the many wounds that Lebanon has suffered over the years.

ROBERTS: Now, when these kidnappings first happened, we saw pictures out of Southern Lebanon of people celebrating. They were lighting fireworks. They were handing out candies, as they do in the Arab world to celebrate things. Is that the overall sentiment in the area? Are people still happy about these kidnappings now?

ZOGBY: I don't think that they're unhappy. And I think that's the problem.

I mean, look, Arab leadership -- there's no love lost between Arab leadership and Iran. There's no love lost between Arab leadership and the behavior of Hezbollah or even Hamas. But on the Arab street there's a sense of being violated, a sense of humiliation that people have endured now for many years.

And so, why are they dancing in the streets? Well, they're probably dancing because they're looking at what's happening in Gaza, and the sense is that someone is dealing Israel a blow.

Now, we can argue, and I think correctly, that these behaviors are counterproductive, are provocative and reckless and create the pretext for Israel to do what it does. But the point is, is that when people are seeing Gaza, for example, now in its third week of being devastated, there is a sense that some retribution is necessary.

And so, we have here the making of a really dangerous situation, with Israel playing out its pathologies, the Lebanese and Palestinians playing out theirs, and no adult supervision. No one helping to create restraint.

And I think I heard George Mitchell earlier this evening, and I have to agree with him. America must play a leadership role to tamp this down. But instead of that, we're either holding Israel's coat or playing cheerleader, and that's not helping calm the very troubled waters we're seeing.

ROBERTS: Mr. Zogby, it has been said of the Middle East that every breakthrough is proceeded by a crisis. But not every crisis proceeds a breakthrough. Which it's going to be this time around?

ZOGBY: I don't know. It's really going to be up to this administration. It is the only agent that can help make change. Those breakthroughs that you're talking about have come about because the United States mediated and played a leadership role. If we don't, this could be spiral well out of control.

And understand that in the law of politics and violence that we're seeing play out, there's a kind of karma here. Every Israeli who's killed, yes, there's a reaction in Israel that will last a long time.

But as you're watching scores of Lebanese and Palestinians dying, seeing the civilian infrastructure of countries destroyed again, that, too, plays out now for many, many more years. There will be anger and resentment. Hezbollah, and the anger that breeds it will not disappear. Neither will that in Hamas. And what you're going to see is another generation of people growing up with a sense that revenge must be had.

Unless justice is brought to bear in this situation, and justice is about as rare a commodity right now in the Middle East as -- as you can find.

ROBERTS: Well, James Zogby, of the Arab-American institute, thanks very much for your thoughts.

ZOGBY: Thank you so much, John.

ROBERTS: Here in the United States, fires are raging. Tens of thousands of acres being scorched in the west. We'll take you there in just a moment.

Plus, he won the Kentucky Derby and was a favorite for the Triple Crown. Now Barbaro is fighting for his life. An update on his condition when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Wildfires are roaring in the west, and hundreds of people are being told to evacuate. We'll go there in a moment. But first, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories that we're following tonight.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: John, the Middle East crisis has hurt the U.S. stock market, in part because of those record high oil prices, nearing $77 a barrel today. Worries over interest rates and a slowing economy also helped to pummel Wall Street. The Dow sank nearly 167 points, closing at 10,846. The NASDAQ lost 36. The S&P fell 16. In Lake County, Florida, jury selection is halted in the murder trial of sex offender John Couey. The circuit judge is moving the process, saying an impartial jury cannot be found so close to the home of Couey's alleged victim, 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. It's still unclear whether the entire trial will be moved to a new location, as well.

In Boston the Big Dig problem worse than previously thought. Inspectors now found at least 232 areas where anchor bolts holding up heavy panels are actually separating from the tunnel roof. That's about four times the amount initially found. A woman was killed on Monday when concrete panels fell onto her car from the tunnel ceiling.

And in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, little hope tonight for Barbaro. Doctors say the condition of the Kentucky Derby champion has worsened, and his chances of survival are poor. Barbaro shattered a leg in the Preakness stakes. Another leg has become badly diseased because it's had to bear excessive weight, since the injury.

John, it's so sad.

ROBERTS: It is. It's a real shame for that horse. I know laminitis can be a real problem with those animals, and once they get it, very often that's really kind of the death knell for them.

HILL: Yes, unfortunately.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: Thanks.

ROBERTS: We'll see you next hour.

Tonight, up and down the state of California, wildfires are raging. Just a few hours ago, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put San Bernardino Country under a state of emergency. And voluntary evacuations have now become mandatory.

Yucca Valley's Sawtooth Fire has devoured 40,000 acres and nearly 100 homes and buildings. Nearby, another blaze threatens homes in Morondo Valley. That's where many residents have been ordered out. Tonight, officials fear that these fires could merge and double in size.

CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The land surrounding his home was in flames. Now it's charred with the huge wildfire still burning on the other side of the hill. But William Barbee refused and refuses to leave his house in Rimrock, California.

(on camera) Tell me how you felt as those flames were coming close? WILLIAM BARBEE, RIMROCK RESIDENT: I was scared so bad, man, it was unbelievable. Man, I've never been as scared -- I couldn't believe what was happening. The flames was running 60, 70 mile an hour. I just didn't really know what to do at the point.

TUCHMAN: Was there a point where you thought you might die?

W. BARBEE: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): William, who just moved here three months ago from Tennessee, decided to evacuate his family but stay himself to protect his home and other houses owned by family and friends.

W. BARBEE: I sprayed my house down with the water hose until I run out of water. Then, I went to the neighbor's houses and started taking care of theirs.

TUCHMAN: His wife, Debbie, who fled to safety, could not get in touch with her husband for almost 48 hours.

(on camera) What was it like for you waiting to find out if he was OK?

DEBRA BARBEE, RIMROCK RESIDENT: I cried and died for two days, looking for him.

W. BARBEE: Shut up.

D. BARBEE: Yes, it was really bad.

W. BARBEE: You did a good job.

D. BARBEE: We had no idea.

TUCHMAN: This is hundreds of acres that were in flames while you were a couple hundred feet away.

W. BARBEE: Yes. And I was right here, dude. I was trying to do the best -- thank God I didn't get burnt up or nothing, and, you know.

TUCHMAN: You're OK.

W. BARBEE: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Fire trucks continue to go up and down this canyon road. William knows it wasn't safe to stay. But he also says he wanted to protect his pets and other animals, including this mule, and this rooster.

(on camera) You're a good-hearted guy. You came here, and you wanted to save two dogs, a jackass and a rooster.

W. BARBEE: That's basically it, dude.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A mandatory evacuation is now in effect in his area, but William says he's not going anywhere, because he wants to keep an eye on the fire.

W. BARBEE: My whole saying is, my daddy told me one time, do unto others as they want them to do to you.

TUCHMAN: The golden rule amid the golden flames.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: We give you a live look now, 12,000 feet above those golden flames. The sun hasn't set yet, but you can see the flames and the smoke above Yucca Valley, California.

We came to you live from this helicopter last night. We actually saw more flames and more smoke last night. And that's because the fire is a bit more contained. Right now, we're talking 20 percent containment, compared to 16 percent yesterday. Not a huge increase, but at least it's some progress.

Forty thousand acres have been burned. So when we talk 20 percent that means 8,000 acres have been put out, but it also means 32,000 still to go.

Nearly 100 homes and other buildings have been destroyed, including a couple in that neighborhood where we were just with that gentleman. He was very lucky. Hundreds more homes are still threatened.

The problem is the terrain is so hard to get around that it makes the work very difficult. And the temperature in Palm Springs, which is about 20 miles to the south, where we took off from, was 118 degrees today. The humidity is very low. The winds have picked up since yesterday. So that makes it a very difficult situation for the firefighters.

The latest number, we were told yesterday, are 2,500 firefighters on the ground. Turns out the number is 1,350. They counted a lot of them twice. But of those 1,350 firefighters, about 900 of them are prison inmates. Sounds unbelievable. But these prison inmates, who are not, and we emphasize not violent offenders, train in the fire academy. And they are out on the front lines right now, trying to fight this huge fire that could ultimately, officials here believe, go to 100,000 acres.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Gary Tuchman flying high above the flames tonight for us. Gary, thanks very much.

And our thanks for that chopper to the good people at CNN affiliate KTLA in Los Angeles.

More on the fires ahead. We're going to move north towards San Francisco. A major fire less than 100 miles from the city. We'll put you on the front lines.

Plus, lightning. Many of the fires burning across the west tonight were started by lightning strikes. That part of the story, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Back to California now, where tonight no fewer than 13 major wildfires dot the state from south to north. In the south, residents in part of San Bernardino County are under mandatory evacuation. Meanwhile, firefighters in central and northern California are getting help from some unlikely people.

Here's CNN's Dan Simon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started as a small brush fire, then turned into a monster inferno. This fire, about 60 miles southeast of San Francisco, has consumed more than 24,000 acres and burned seven cabins since it started Sunday.

SHANE LAUDERDALE, FIRE INFORMATION OFFICER: This is rough country, and fires move very quickly.

SIMON: The terrain is so remote and steep, it's tough to get fire trucks and bulldozers up here, so crews are having to fight the fire the old-fashioned way, by hand, this group, putting out hot spots.

(on camera) More than 1,800 firefighters have responded. Nearly half of them came in trucks like this, trucks filled with California prisoners.

BOB RICHARDSON, PRISON INMATE/FIREFIGHTER: We're wards (ph) in the California state prison system, and we just -- you know, by the nature of our crimes and our behaviors, we made it into a fire camp.

SIMON: It's really hot and the work is tough, but Bob Richardson would much rather be here than his home behind bars.

(on camera) If you don't mind my asking, what are you in for?

RICHARDSON: Manufacturing methamphetamine.

SIMON (voice-over): Richardson has 20 more months before he's out. He says being a firefighter has motivated him to work hard.

RICHARDSON: It gives you, you know, something to do. You know, a direction.

SIMON: The direction of the fire has kept it away from most homes. Connie Daniel packed up her stuff and evacuated to her daughter's house until it became safe to return. The stress has worn her down.

CONNIE DANIEL, FIRE EVACUEE: Sad, with all the devastation of our landscape, coming in, it looks like a moonscape or something. It's totally changed it. And it's really sad, because it's a beautiful place. SIMON: Her goats, she says, are one reason her house, over the years, has escaped disaster.

DANIEL: They keep the grass down; they keep it thin. And, it's -- that's their job.

SIMON: With a fire of this magnitude, any help is welcome.

Dan Simon, CNN, Santa Clara County, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: A historic California fire also factors into our "Shot of the Day". In 2003, a fire consumed hundreds of homes in Scripps Ranch. The neighborhood outside of San Diego has been rebuilt, but to avoid a repeat of that disaster, the residents have called in the goats, 300 of them, to be exact. They eat the dry brush, eliminating fuel for wildfires. Each goat reportedly chows down about 20 pounds of brush a day.

Again, our "Shot of the Day". Complete with goat-herding dogs.

In the next hour the latest from the Middle East and the escalating violence that could set the entire region on fire. Israel battling militants on two fronts. New air strikes, almost as we speak. We'll get the latest from where the shells and rockets are falling.

And lost hope. Not to long ago, there was talk of peace. It seems like ancient history now. Why did the diplomacy fail?

And Hezbollah's new generation of rockets, as they're discovering in Haifa, changing the shape of this battle. All that and more when 360 continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Good evening again. New air strikes tonight on Beirut as fear grows of a wider Middle East war.

ANNOUNCER: Violence roars. Israeli forces strike hundreds of targets in Lebanon. Lebanese militants launch missiles into Israel. Tonight, could this be the start of an all-out war?

An American appeal for restraint.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Allow this situation to deescalate.

ANNOUNCER: With so much at stake, the U.S. calls for a return to diplomacy. But is it too late?

And forced to flee. A mandatory evacuation in California as fires rage out of control. Hundreds of people are told to leave. We'll take you there. Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOP 360. Tonight, sitting in for Anderson, and reporting from the CNN studios in Washington, here's John Roberts.

ROBERTS: And thanks for joining us. It's 6 a.m. in the morning in Haifa and Beirut. Another day of attacks and...

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