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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Crisis in the Middle East
Aired July 16, 2006 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, new attacks on an Israeli city this morning. The Mid-East crisis is spiraling further into chaos. Another barrage of rockets hit the port city of Haifa less than three hours ago. An attack there earlier today killed eight people.
You're looking at smoke right now, just minutes after that rocket hit. Israeli's prime minister warns of far-reaching implications. We do have live reports from Haifa and Jerusalem just minutes away.
Well, Israel did unleash more attacks on Lebanon today in its offensive against Hezbollah militants. Among those targets, a power plant south of Beirut. That strike sent plumes of black smoke billowing over the city. You see it right there. We're going to go live to Beirut for the latest just ahead.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And, Betty, new developments in Israel's other offensive, Israeli tanks rolled into northern Gaza overnight. The military moved in after launching three air strikes. Israel says it is redeploying its forces into northern Gaza to hold Palestinian rocket attacks.
Speaking from the G8 summit in Russia, President Bush urged Israel to show restraint as it strikes southern Lebanon. The president says the Mid-East crisis should show the world that Hezbollah is disrupting the peace process.
Another working session of the G8 summit begins next hour. We will have a live report in 20 minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAK GIL YON, NORTH KOREA U.N. AMBASSADOR: We totally reject the resolution which was adopted at the current meeting of the Security Council.
NGUYEN: North Korean's U.N. ambassador flatly rejects Security Council condemnation of recent missile tests. A resolution approved yesterday does impose sanctions on Pyongyang. North Korea's foreign ministry went so far as to warn that it was a prelude to a renewed Korean war. We'll keep on top of that.
Now to southern California. Fire-scarred canyons could face a new threat today and that is flooding. Heavy rains are expected in the Yucca Valley area, where a massive wildfire, as you see, has burned more than 100 square miles. The rain may help douse those flames, but lightning could also start new ones.
This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: From the CNN center right here in Atlanta, this is CNN's "Sunday Morning," July 16th, 7:00 a.m. in Atlanta, 2:00 p.m. in Israel, where the offensive against Hezbollah is now in its fifth day.
Good morning, everybody. What a busy morning it is. I'm Betty Nguyen.
HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for being with us. We also want to welcome our international audience watching this morning via CNNI. We're also joined by Anand Naidoo again this morning, collecting all of our reporting from the international desk as news develops. Anand, good morning.
ANAND NAIDOO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, Betty, good morning from me. Yes, as you pointed out, there's been a major escalation in the violence in the Middle East overnight.
Our team here at the international desk has been monitoring the situation, working the phones, monitoring all those video feeds coming in, talking to our correspondents. We have correspondents all over that area, in the region, watching the situation over here.
We are also watching about nine Arabic language television stations. We're monitoring what they are broadcasting in the area. There are people behind me. We have teams of journalist, translators, senior producers watching this so we know exactly what the Arabic world is seeing and reporting over there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAIDOO: Now, let me bring you up to speed on what has been happening overnight. There's been a second barrage of rockets that rained down on the northern Israeli city of Haifa and that's within the last few hours. That followed an earlier attack. That earlier attack killed eight people.
Hezbollah, the militant organization that is based in south Lebanon has claimed responsibility and Israel's prime minister warned after that attack, and I'm quoting here, "far-reaching implications."
Residents of northern Israel have been warned to take cover in bomb shelters and the military is also urging residents as far south as Tel Aviv to be on the guard.
Israel meanwhile has renewed its attacks in the wake of that Haifa bombing. Israel has being pounding targets in Lebanon, especially in the southern suburbs of Beirut, which are the stronghold of Hezbollah. One strike hit a power plant south of Beirut.
Now, the head of Israel's northern command has warned that there could be more heavy attacks on south Lebanon. (END VIDEO CLIP)
NAIDOO: And before I get back to you, Tony and Betty, I'm watching the wires here and I can see something that's just moved now. Air raid sirens, as I'm talking to you right now, air raid sirens have gone off in Haifa.
We're going to watch that situation and bring the details to you as soon as we get it.
HARRIS: OK, Anand, appreciate it. Thank you. Once again, our correspondents are all over the region bringing you the latest on the Middle East crisis. We'll have live reports this hour Paula Hancocks in Haifa, Israel, Matthew Chance in Jerusalem, Nic Robertson in Lebanon, and Aneesh Raman, near the Lebanese border with Syria.
Now, our plan at this moment was to bring you Paula Hancocks. And there she is. OK, Paula, we understood that just a few moments ago, you had to sort of literally run for cover because of new activity in Haifa. Good morning to you.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony. That's right, just a few moments ago we had an air siren here suggesting that there were going to be more incoming rockets and so everybody has to take cover when that happens. We know most people in Haifa at the moment are staying indoors. They've been told not to go out. They've been told to stay in bomb shelters if that siren goes off, because that means there is incoming rockets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANCOCKS: Now, this is where the rocket hit a little earlier on this morning. This is a train depot in the industrial zone of Haifa. And you can see the damage there. This is the roof where this rocket actually impacted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANCOCKS: There were about 30 people working, maintaining these trains at the time it hit. We know that eight of them lost their lives and another 20 were seriously, were wounded, one of them critically.
So at the moment, across northern Israel, there are a tremendous amount of alerts, of sirens, of Katyusha rockets hitting and landing. This particular area, this is Haifa, this is 60 kilometers away from the Lebanese border. So it's a fair way down and we know that this is longer range missiles than have been sent in the past.
Now, the former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, came a little earlier to have a look at the damage and he said that he believed this missile contained Syrian ammunition. He said the Iranians are supplying Hezbollah with weapons and technology and Syria is taking part.
Tony? HARRIS: Paula, give us a sense of what it is like on the streets there of Haifa. This is a beautiful, beautiful city and for this city to be under attack has to be shocking to the residents there.
HANCOCKS: Yes, this is a seaside resort. It's the middle of the school holiday at the moment. This place should be heaving with tourists and with the people who live here. But the majority of the streets are empty.
People are not going out. People are not wanting to be out in open areas. The police are telling them not to go out into open areas. The beaches are empty. And every time one of those sirens sounds, everybody runs for cover, even the police, the ambulance service men.
I mean, you can see the damage that these rockets do and the fact that eight people have died here in Haifa, the most that have died in these Katyusha rockets or whatever rocket this was, really is an escalation in what's happening.
Now, the officials here say they're trying to take the tip of the rocket out from underneath one of these trains, that hit in between the two trains, because they want to find out exactly what this rocket is so they can discover exactly who supplied it.
HARRIS: OK, CNN's Paula Hancocks. Be safe, Paula, in Haifa for us. Paula, thank you.
NGUYEN: So that's the situation in Israel. Let's take you now to Lebanon. Bombs rock Beirut. Israel is keeping up its attacks on targets in Lebanon.
I want to go live now to senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, in the Lebanese capitol. Nic, what's the latest there?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, about 20 minutes ago, there were two loud explosions we could hear from the center of the city. Most of the rockets and bombs that have been falling on Lebanon have been falling in the south of Lebanon, along close to the border with Israel, and in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Hezbollah stronghold.
Most of the missiles that have been falling this morning in the daylight hours and overnight, we understand, were falling in the area of the Hezbollah headquarters in the southern Beirut suburbs.
Also, we understand that a power station south of the capitol has also been hit. A few days ago, its fuel depots were targeted. Now, the power station itself has been hit. There have been three statements released by Hezbollah today, the first statement saying that they took responsibility, they were responsible for the attack on Haifa that killed at least eight people. They say that they used the Rad II and Rad III missiles and this was in response, they said, for the continuing attacks overnight against Beirut. They've also said in a second statement today that if the attacks against them continue, then they will begin to target fuel storage depots in Haifa. They've said until now they've stayed away from targeting those areas, but in their second statement today, they've said the fuel depots in Haifa are now legitimate targets. And in their third statement today, they claim responsibility for another attack on the town of Haifa in Israel.
That's the latest that we have from Hezbollah. The missiles, it seems the bombing raids continue here, but we also understand that Israeli planes have been dropping leaflets on the south of Lebanon, as well as bombs, telling people to get out of their homes, to leave the south of Lebanon.
Now, we had heard that messages like this were being dropped to specific villages over the last couple of days, telling villagers to get out of those specific villages. But now the warnings are coming down on leaflets telling people to get out of the whole of south Lebanon.
The Lebanese army saying this is psychological pressure that the Israelis are putting on their citizens.
NGUYEN: Nic, we've been looking at some pictures of that power plant that was bombed. Talk to me about the situation there, as for the people, how are they faring with power being knocked out?
I know where you are, it appears people are still milling about you as if daily life continues to go on despite the bombings.
ROBERTSON: Betty, it's much, much quieter than it would normally. Sunday would typically be a quiet day in Beirut, but there would be many around.
A lot of the streets of Beirut are eerily quiet. There are people packing up and trying to leave, trying to get out of the country. Those that can afford to do it are packing up and doing it.
There are people living now in bomb shelters. Schools have been opened up for places for people to get out of the bombing. The area in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the area around the Hezbollah headquarters is a predominantly urban area where lots of people live.
Many people there have collected in makeshift bomb shelters. The death toll so far is at 93, 262 people wounded and given the number of explosions and detonations that are coming from a predominantly civilian neighborhood, the death toll, therefore, is relatively low and that's an indication most people are staying off the streets, trying to stay out of harm's way, collecting in places where they feel safe or simply trying to get out of Lebanon, period.
NGUYEN: Well, we urge to you stay out of harm's way as well, Nic. We'll checking in with you throughout the day. Thank you. Nic Robertson, joining us from the Lebanese capitol.
HARRIS: And, Betty, we've been getting early reaction from Jerusalem on the latest attacks in Haifa. Let's go to Matthew Chance now in Jerusalem. And, Matthew, good day to you. What's the view from Jerusalem?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNTATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, Tony, this latest salvo of missiles being fired by Hezbollah into Haifa is the deadliest missile strike from southern Lebanon in at least a decade. And so it's provoked quite an amount of anguish amongst the Israeli cabinet.
They've been meeting throughout the course of this morning here, local time, discussing what they should do. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, coming out in a televised address to the cabinet, saying that he feels for the people in the north of the country and the situation they're enduring.
He's promised there will be far-reaching implications or consequences to this act carried out by Hezbollah. It's not entirely clear the extent of those consequences, what it will be, though. We already know from Nic Robertson there that Israel is continuing its air strikes in and around Beirut and, of course, across the rest of southern Lebanon.
But the big concern is whether this Israeli operation will be expanded outside the borders of Lebanon. Well, I asked that question to a member of Israel's security cabinet, Isaac Herzog, about whether air strikes against Syria were being considered. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAEL SECURITY CABINET MEMBER: We made it clear that we are not dealing with Syria at this stage. Syria is not in the loop and other reports on that are exorbitant. We are dealing with Lebanon.
We believe that the Lebanese government ought to take full control. It's a government of a sovereign nation, recognized by the United Nations, part of the family of nations which enables a coalition partner basically to hijack it and do whatever it wants with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: So the Israeli government there playing down the possibility of air strikes on Damascus. There's been a lot of speculation about that and concern expressed by leaders around the world.
They are, though, deeply concerned about the range of these missiles that are being fired from southern Lebanon, worried enough, in fact, to raise the level of alert in Israel's biggest city, Tel Aviv. They say they're not expecting any missiles to land there eminently, but they want the citizens of Tel Aviv to be more aware than they were previously.
So there's a big concern about what kind of missiles these are and exactly what the range of these missiles are.
HARRIS: Matthew Chance for us in Jerusalem. Matthew, thank you.
And stay with CNN throughout the day for continuing coverage of this Middle East crisis. Also, this programming change. CNN's "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer begins one hour earlier today, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Senior officials from Russia, Israel and the United States will be among Wolf's many guests for the three-hour program.
Also, be sure to watch "This Week at War" with John Roberts beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
NGUYEN: Stories across America this morning. More wildfires all across the west. This one in eastern Washington state. Fire crews last night attempted to rein in a 200-acre fire. They had help from residents whose homes were threatened. But firefighters hope to have the wildfire contained a little bit later today.
Smoke billows over parts of Minnesota, as well, and the state faces another day with temperatures in the 100s. The heat is helping fuel this fire in the Boundary Waters canoe area. For now, though, Minnesota has pulled out water scooping planes and is letting the 1,500-acre fire just burn itself out. State and fire officials say it is just simply too dangerous to send in crews.
HARRIS: Opening ceremonies of the gay games in Chicago last night drew tens of thousands of people and more than 300 sponsors. The sheer number of sponsors like Nike, Craft, Gatorade, indicates corporate America is eyeing the once taboo gay consumer sector, 12,000 athletes are expected to compete from over 70 countries.
NGUYEN: Well, how to respond to the crisis in the Mid-East. That is what the U.S. and other countries are pondering right now. Still to come, a live report from the G8 summit, as world leaders scramble to come up with one single voice, hoping that somebody listens.
HARRIS: And, later, a potential showdown between President Bush and his own party over stem cell research. Jacqui Jeras, good morning.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, guys. Waking up to some toasty temperatures across much of the country. Feeling OK across parts of the northeast, but enjoy these 70s, because this is as good as it's going to get for about a week.
We'll tell you how hot the temperature will be coming up. A look at Philadelphia, under a heat watch tomorrow. We're going to be pushing the century mark. More on that coming up.
ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN "Sunday Morning" with Betty Nguyen and Tony Harris.
HARRIS: Good morning again, everyone. Updating our breaking news coverage of the Middle East crisis. A second barrage of rockets hit the Israeli port city of Haifa within the last few hours. This followed an earlier attack there today that killed eight people.
Hezbollah claims responsibility. Israel's prime minister warns of far-reaching implications. Residents of northern Israel have been warned to take cover in bomb shelters. The military is also urging residents as far south as Tel Aviv to be on guard.
Israel renewed its attacks on targets in Lebanon today. One strike hit a power plant south of Beirut and our correspondent in Beirut, Nic Robertson, reports two loud explosions about 30 minutes ago.
This eruption of violence casts a long shadow over the G8 summit underway in Russia.
CNN's White House correspondent Ed Henry is traveling with the president and he joins us live from old St. Petersburg. And, Ed, this was supposed to be an economic summit. Has there been much talk about global economics?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Only a little bit really, Tony. Good day to you.
They were also supposed to talk about energy security, infectious diseases around the world, education. They're getting very little attention, as you noted. Instead, this agenda being dominated by this escalating violence in the Mid-East.
President Bush, a short time ago, wrapping up a working lunch with his seven counterparts within the G8 here at the summit in St. Petersburg. Earlier today, President Bush had a one-on-one with his close ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and they addressed reporters after that.
And one thing that was notable is Mr. Bush repeatedly dodged questions about whether or not he supports Lebanon's call for a cease- fire. Also notable is the president today put a little more pressure on Israel than he did yesterday, saying it needs to be, quote, "mindful of the consequences" for the potential to overreact to the current situation.
That's a little different from yesterday, when President Bush appeared with President Putin from Russia at a joint press conference. Mr. Bush focused all of his comments on Hezbollah and didn't mention Israel at all. At that appearance, Mr. Putin put the blame on both sides and then later in the evening, last night, Mr. Putin had a solo press conference, where he turned up the heat on Israel. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We do get the impression that the aims of Israel go beyond just recovering their kidnapped soldiers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, after those comments last night from President Putin, President Bush today, when he was asked about Lebanon's call for a cease-fire, twice dodged that question, but said, more like Mr. Putin, that he believes there is some responsibility on both sides. Take a listen to what he had to say today.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message to Israel is that as a sovereign nation, you have every right to defend yourself against terrorist activities. And again, I repeat, this started because Hezbollah decided to capture two Israeli soldiers and fire hundreds of rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon. That's the cause of the crisis.
And so our message to Israel is, "Look, defend yourself, but as you do so, be mindful of the consequences." And so we've urged restraint.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: So you see the president putting responsibility on both sides there, but then after that answer, he was asked a third time if he supports Lebanon's call for a cease-fire. Again, he didn't answer.
Well, a short time later, the Bush administration sent out Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She spoke to reporters off camera and she basically said, perhaps with reluctance, is that the administration is concerned that what they want is a sustainable, what she called a sustainable end to the violence and their concern that if there was a, quote-unquote, "cease-fire" perhaps within days, Hezbollah, the terrorist organization, could start firing rockets again and she said basically that would put the parties back at square one and really wouldn't gain anything.
So you can see the administration reluctant to embrace a cease- fire just now.
HARRIS: Wow, but a cease-fire would certainly make sense, if for no other reason than to get your American citizens out of harm's way. But we'll be talking about this with you, Ed, throughout the course of the morning. Ed Henry, in old St. Petersburg. Ed, thanks.
NGUYEN: Well, in the meantime, there are new developments in the crisis in the Mid-East. Let's get straight to Anand Naidoo at the international desk.
I understand some sailors have been found.
NAIDOO: Yes, Betty, thanks a lot. International desk right here behind me is monitoring the situation minute by minute. Let me tell you, that story that we had been reporting, that was the Hezbollah missile attack on an Israeli warship which was off the Lebanese coast.
Initially, the Israelis said that four of their sailors had been missing. And yesterday, early yesterday, they told us one body had been recovered. Now, we've just heard the Israeli defense forces have told our people in Jerusalem that they have found the other three bodies that went missing after that missile ship was hit and, as I mentioned, the body of the fourth sailor was found on Saturday, yesterday.
So four Israeli sailors have died in that incident. Betty?
NGUYEN: All right, thank you.
Well, the Syrian government solidifies its stance side-by-side with neighboring Lebanon. CNN's Aneesh Raman is stationed in Syria near the Lebanese border in an area called al-Jadida. I want you to walk me through what's going on right there right now, Aneesh.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. This is the main one of three border crossings between Lebanon and Syria. This is where we're told hundreds of thousands of people have come through to escape the violence in the past few days.
This is a representative sample. These men are Syrians, workers, poor workers in Lebanon. You can see they've carried only this, just a bag, all their belongings. Besides that, they've left families that are walking hours on end from Lebanon into Syria to escape the violence.
Other people that have come through, diplomats, ex-patriot tourists from Kuwait, from Saudi Arabia, this is essentially one of the only ways to get out.
Now, you'll notice cars, as well. Some buses have come through. That is despite the Israeli air assault on the main highway that comes in to Damascus. We're told, for people, they're able to skirt around that and still make their way here into Syria.
Now, the Syrian government is well aware they are at the center and intimately intertwined with what is happening between Lebanon and Israel. The Syrian government is trying to downplay their connection with Hezbollah, something that has come under mounting international pressure.
The U.S. president saying that Syria should step in and rein in Hezbollah. The Syrian government, as well, today issued a statement saying that if Israel attacks Syria, Syria would respond with unlimited force at a time of their choosing.
So this is the gateway through which this entire conflict could exponentially become worse. And at the moment, this is the face of the humanitarian side of what is happening. Lebanese families that are coming in, Syrians that are coming back home, they tell us explicitly they would rather die at home than in Lebanon, and all of the tourists that are trying to simply flee the violence.
NGUYEN: Well, Aneesh, let me ask you this. We understand that the Israeli government bombed the Lebanese side of one of the borders. So how far around do these people have to walk to get to that crossing that we're seeing right now?
RAMAN: Quite a distance. If you see behind me and you can see a couple of buses, as I was saying, clearly, they're still able to drive through.
This gate behind me is the final gate of about four that these people are going through. Beyond us, maybe a half a mile down is where the passports are checked and beyond that is the Lebanese side. That is where we're told there are huge crowds of people waiting up to four hours at that one location in order to get through the Lebanese side of this border and come through to Syria. Hundreds of thousands of people over the past few days.
In the course of this morning, and they've been open since about 7:00 a.m. local, it's about 2:30 p.m. local now, thousands of people have been making their way and many of them, if we can turn around slowly, they just walk their way into Syria and into Damascus. They don't have cars. They have walked their way this far and they are just walking, carrying one bag, everything they could take from Lebanon, simply trying to escape the violence and the bombs that continue to drop.
NGUYEN: Well, Aneesh, talk to me about what these people are saying once they cross that border. What have they experienced in Lebanon over the past few days as this crisis has just escalated?
RAMAN: As you see, the bombings, the stories of those who were literally meters away from bombs that have fallen, from explosions that have taken place., we've been here all morning.
A man with a 5-year-old daughter voiced his disgust with having her so close and fled because he did not want her to have to see that kind of violence. Now, I've asked all those who have come whether they still support Hezbollah, those that did before, given that Hezbollah is part of what is going on, the rocket attacks onto northern Israel. And it does seem, at least at this border crossing and those that I've spoken to, to be rallying support among those who supported Hezbollah before.
There is a lot of blame on Israel here. There are stories of just casualties that are on the street. They blame the media for not reporting more of what is happening in Lebanon, to the Lebanese people.
The Lebanese, obviously, have some reservations coming into Syria, given the complicated history the two countries had. So the majority of people we've seen have been Syrians and Syria does have strong support within its population for Hezbollah.
The government has strong ties, ties that it is now trying to downplay amid this crisis. But the people are fearful, whether they've left Lebanon and the bombings there, whether that will soon come here.
NGUYEN: Aneesh Raman doing some really wonderful reporting for us in Syria, near the Lebanese border. We'll be checking in with you as well, Aneesh. Thank you.
HARRIS: Makes it pretty plain, doesn't it?
NGUYEN: It does, very clear.
HARRIS: Stranded in Lebanon with no means of escape and communications down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYNTHIA BARDOLE, MOTHER: The thing that I feel the worst about is that I didn't realize what information a parent needs to have before they allow a child to leave the United States.
HARRIS: An Iowa family is distraught over their daughter's safety in Lebanon. That story is coming up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JERAS: But, first, get this. Frying eggs on the sidewalks of Philadelphia.
HARRIS: That hot?
JERAS: Yes, and the heat wave, get this, though, it's spreading. Your weekend forecast is straight ahead. Yes, that looks pretty hot already.
HARRIS: Is that Skuykill, is that what that is, the river there?
JERAS: There are two rivers that come together there and, yes, one of them is the Skuykill, the other one eluding me at this exact moment. It's early. I haven't had my coffee yet.
NGUYEN: It's only 7:30 in the morning. Why are you testing Jacqui so early, Tony?
JERAS: It's going to be hot, I can tell you that.
NGUYEN: That's what she can tell.
HARRIS: Well, how about this? We'll send her that Stevie Wonder album, "Hotter Than July." It is certainly as hot as we've seen it in a long, long, long time right now.
NGUYEN: Can they really fry eggs on the sidewalk there? Is it that hot?
JERAS: Nom, not in Philly today. In fact, they're actually under a heat watch for tomorrow. HARRIS: For tomorrow.
JERAS: Yes, for tomorrow.
NGUYEN: So you can get prepared a day ahead.
JERAS: Don't get me wrong, it's going to be hot in Philly today. But tomorrow's going to be a whole heck of a lot worse. So we're comparing today to maybe 93 degrees or so and tomorrow pushing 99, maybe 100. You add the humidity on top of that, yes, it's downright uncomfortable.
JERAS: Yes, miserable for everybody. I do want to show you some of the records that we had from yesterday, all of this heat. Really this high pressure ridge kind of started out in the southwest, built its way across the plains states yesterday and is now going to continue to drift on off to the east.
Pierre, South Dakota, a 117 degrees yesterday. Not only was that a record for the date, but it's the hottest temperature ever recorded in Pierre. Same story there for Duluth, Minnesota, 96, the hottest temperature since the 1800s. So that's a long, long time we've had that record.
And we are starting out with temperatures quite warm. Look at all the 80s on the map this morning already. You know, that should be more like your daytime high, right? It's 86 in Minneapolis, where it's 75 in Kansas City, 77 in New York City. So you can see some of these yellows on the map where it's not too bad, but this is all going to be heading into your neighborhood, unfortunately.
Philadelphia, we saw that beautiful live shot there, and you can see those triple digits moving on into the picture. High temperatures today are going to be in the 90s to near a 100 degrees all across the nation's mid-section.
And all in this area right here we do have heat advisories in effect. It includes you in Little Rock, into Memphis, into Kansas City. St. Louis under an excessive heat warning. The heat index will be between a 100 and a 115 degrees this afternoon. So that's dangerous heat.
Now is the time you want to get up, you want to get outside and do any of your exercising, because this afternoon it's just going to be too dangerous to do that.
There you can see the high temperatures as we head into tomorrow. So no real breaks here.
We're going to see occasional cool-downs, say, into the upper Midwest and then occasionally especially into New England, but this is a long-term heat wave that we're talking about, guys. So we're talking about through Friday probably. So now is the time to prepare. Check on your pets, check on your elderly neighbors.
HARRIS: Good point.
JERAS: And just exercise in the morning or late at night.
NGUYEN: That's a really good point, too, because I've tried to do that in Texas, 100 degree heat in the afternoon, thinking I could do it, I almost had a heart attack. I mean, I was exhausted from just running around the block.
HARRIS: And then there's the air temperature and then there's that other number which is a combination.
JERAS: The heat index.
HARRIS: The heat index, right. That's the humidity and everything else.
JERAS: That's what gets you, right, and that's going to be into the one-teens in many areas.
HARRIS: Be careful, be careful.
JERAS: Stay inside, turn up the AC. That's what you need to do today.
HARRIS: Watch CNN today, yes.
NGUYEN: True. Do that any day, though.
Ahead, we do continue our coverage of the cries in the Middle East. Our international desk is working the phones and in contact with all of our correspondents stationed all over the ground in the region.
We're going to continue to bring you the latest information as it comes in to us.
HARRIS: Plus, as more American citizens try to get out of Lebanon, a woman watches news coverage and waits by the phone for word on her daughter. Her story in 12 minutes.
HARRIS: And good morning again, everyone. Here's the latest out of the Middle East. Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets at the Israeli port city of Haifa. Eight Israelis were killed.
Israel's prime minister says the attack will have far-reaching implications. Israel unleashed more attacks in Lebanon today. Among the targets, a power plant south of Beirut. There were no reports of casualties in that strike.
We will go live to Lebanon in two minutes. NGUYEN: Israel has redeployed forces in northern Gaza. But before going in, three separate air strikes were launched overnight. Israeli military officials say the move was an effort to quell terror infrastructures in Gaza.
Mid-East violence is front and center at the G8 summit roundtable. President Bush says he sees the escalation of violence as a movement of clarification, showing Hezbollah's role in disrupting the peace process. The president takes part in a second working G8 session beginning next hour.
HARRIS: North Korea accuses the U.N. Security Council of "behaving like gangsters." The council unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday condemning North Korea's recent missile tests. North Korea's U.N. ambassador says his country totally rejects the Security Council's resolution.
Two merged wildfires in southern California are still out of control, 4,000 firefighters are struggling to contain it. Today's weather outlook is bittersweet. Rain is expected, but there's also the threat of a monsoon and that could cause massive flooding.
For complete coverage of breaking news and today's top stories, stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.
Updating our breaking news, the dramatic escalation in the Middle East crisis. A second barrage of rockets hit the Israeli port city of Haifa within the last few hours. An earlier attack there today killed eight people.
Israel's prime minister warns of far-reaching implications. Hezbollah militants say they attacked Haifa in response to the latest Israeli strikes in Lebanon. One today hit a power plant south of Beirut.
And Israel says it has recovered the bodies of three sailors missing after Hezbollah attacked one of its warships. The body of a fourth sailor was found yesterday.
The U.S. state department is still actively assisting American citizens trying to get out of Lebanon. An Iowa woman is among those waiting frantically for word from her 18-year-old daughter. Cynthia Fodor, with CNN affiliate KCCI, has her story.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CYNTHIA FODOR, KCCI (voice-over): Linda Bardole is glued to the news, but she turns away, almost afraid to watch.
What has been going through your mind?
BARDOLE: The worst possible thoughts, you know. They're hiding in this mountainous territory. There's no way to get her out of Lebanon. There's no safe exit.
FODOR: When her 18-year-old daughter, Sydney, left with another Roosevelt grad to visit friends in Beirut, there was no sign of danger. The family last heard from her right after the bombing began.
BARDOLE: The families had to flee Beirut. They realized that war was eminent.
FODOR: They went into hiding in the mountains. Bardole says she always depended on cell phone communication, which is no longer possible.
BARDOLE: The thing that I feel the worst about is that I didn't realize what information a parent needs to have before they allow a child to leave the United States.
FODOR: She says parents of kids who travel need to make sure they write down passport numbers, exact dates into and out of the country, precise contact information there. She had none of that to give to the U.S. embassy or Iowa Senators trying to help.
BARDOLE: She has to be registered as a missing resident of the United States and then they can send the Marine Corps in and they will, at some point.
FODOR: Bardole has been told the Marines will try to locate Americans and airlift them out, which may be difficult since no one knows where the family is hiding.
For now, this mom can only pray, watch and wait for some sign of hope that her daughter will make it out and make it home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: OK, if you are an American in Lebanon and you need some help getting out, here's a number to call, country code 01, area code 202-501-4444, or if you have loved ones in Lebanon, call this number in the U.S., 1-888-407-4747.
NGUYEN: I want to take a look at some video that we're just getting in via Israeli television, one of the many channels that we are watching as we cover this crisis in the Middle East.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: We were watching moments ago, you're seeing a lot of smoke right now, but it was showing Israeli tanks -- there you go, right there -- firing.
Now, we don't have any description as to exactly where they're firing or where this is coming from. All we know is this is some new video that's coming in. But as you know, the attacks have kept up overnight.
And let me just give you a roundtable of the death toll and of those wounded so far in this crisis. For Israel, there are 21 dead so far, 100 wounded. And for Lebanon, 93 dead, 262 people wounded. And the shelling, as you see, continues to go on.
But I wanted to clarify here what we're seeing is video coming into Israeli TV. We don't know if this is something that happened while we were sleeping overnight, which is daytime for them, or if this is something that is happening currently right now.
But no doubt, this crisis does continue to escalate and the firing continues back and forth between Lebanon and Israel.
HARRIS: Well, the picture on the right seems to indicate real time, seems to indicate real time, 2:43 p.m., would be real time in Lebanon.
NGUYEN: So these apparently are live pictures coming out of Israeli TV. Of course, we are working our international sources. Our international desk here at CNN in Atlanta is on the phone with correspondents. They are also monitoring the wires and the Web sites to determine the latest information coming out of there.
So as soon as we can get some more context for you about the pictures we're showing, we will bring that to you.
HARRIS: These is amazing.
NGUYEN: No doubt, I mean, things are happening by the minute and they have since Wednesday, since all of this really fired up over the Mid-East.
HARRIS: And, Betty, we're putting it on television in real time.
NGUYEN: Real time.
HARRIS: This is actual fighting, the actual crisis as it is playing out right now, live on television, real time, 2:44 in Lebanon. As you see, the shelling continues and this is a position in Israel and obviously tank fire into Lebanon.
We'll continue to follow the developments on the ground as they unfold before our eyes.
And still ahead this Sunday morning, the wealth of information on the Middle East crisis is just a click away. If you need additional resources, just go to CNN.com.
Nicole Lapin, from the dot-com desk, will highlight some of the -- actually this is rich content that you will find and is at your disposal for to you check out on your own, by yourself.
And coming up right after the break, the huge logistical challenges of trying to leave Lebanon and what various governments are doing for their citizens to get them out of harm's way.
We'll be right back.
HARRIS: It's 7:48 Eastern time here in the U.S. Updating our breaking news, a dramatic escalation in the Middle East crisis. A second barrage of rockets hit the Israeli port city of Haifa within the last few hours and an earlier attack there today killed eight people.
Israel's prime minister warns of far-reaching implications. Hezbollah militants said they attacked Haifa in response to the latest Israeli strikes in Lebanon. One today hit a power plant south of Beirut. And Israel says it has recovered the bodies of three sailors missing after Hezbollah attacked a warship. The body of the fourth sailor was found yesterday.
NGUYEN: Well, the U.S. is just one of many countries trying to get its citizens out of harm's way in Lebanon. CNN's Gary Nuremberg explains why evacuation is difficult, at best.
GARY NURENBERG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Getting Americans out of Lebanon is a bigger challenge in the summer.
UNKNOWN MALE: There are quite a number of Americans in Lebanon, because as you know, we have a big American Lebanese community and many are there for the summer.
NURENBERG: With Beirut's airport and some major roads knocked out, the state department is trying to find the safest way to evacuate Americans who want to leave.
It issued a statement saying it's working with the Pentagon on a plan to get Americans to the island of Cyprus, where they could get commercial flights home. The French are also looking at Cyprus.
BERNARD EMIE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO LEBANON (through translator): We are thinking of a system that could help in leaving the country through a ferry that links Lebanon to Cyprus.
NURENBERG: Other countries have already begun to help their citizens leave. Swiss citizens boarded buses in Beirut. So did some Saudis. Some Americans, who were told by the embassy to register online and to wait for instructions, are scared.
UNKNOWN FEMALE: There's a lot of stories. We are afraid. We don't know what to do here.
NURENBERG: Military sources tell CNN the Pentagon is making contingency plans that could include getting Lebanon's permission to fly Americans to ships offshore. Many of the Americans in Lebanon have dual citizenship.
GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I just don't know that 25,000 will willingly want to be a part of the evacuation and I can't even begin to guess what percentage of that will come forward and say, "We want to leave."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN: OK, so if you're an American in Lebanon and need to get out, you need some help getting out, here's the number to call, 0-1- 202-501-4444, or if you have loved ones in Lebanon, call this number in the U.S., that number is 1-888-407-4747. HARRIS: And we want to get you back to the international desk, Anand Naidoo. And we have been wondering if there was any conversation going on anywhere with regard to brokering some kind of a cease-fire in this crisis, Anand, and you have some news that maybe some of at least that conversation is going on.
NAIDOO: Right, Tony. There is some news. There is some diplomatic development now. The Associated Press is reporting that Lebanon's government has been told by the Italians -- now, the Italians are playing the role of diplomatic middleman here.
They've been told by the Italians about Israel's conditions to stop the offensive and Israel says its conditions are that those two kidnapped soldiers be released and that Hezbollah withdraw from the border area, that's the border with Israel. That Hezbollah militants withdraw from that area and release those two captured soldiers and then Israel will stop the offensive.
We've just had this now from the Associated Press. That's just moved on the wires. So there is some diplomatic movement there, Tony.
HARRIS: Anand, take a second and, because this is a major development, walk us through what the AP is reporting once again.
NAIDOO: What the AP is telling us is that Lebanese government has been -- or, rather, the Italians have relayed this to the Lebanese government. So Italy is obviously playing the role of the middleman here.
What the Lebanese government has been told by the Italians is that the Israelis will stop the offensive, which has escalated dramatically over the past few hours, as we've been reporting, Israel will stop their offense if the captured Israeli soldiers are released and if Hezbollah militants withdraw from near the Israeli border.
So those are the conditions that the Israelis have put down for this offensive to stop, for the violence to stop.
HARRIS: OK, great, great. And I know you'll keep watching that for us, Anand. We appreciate it.
NGUYEN: All right, so, in the meantime, as these discussions are going on, more shelling is going on. There are folks stuck in Lebanon, Americans, some 25,000, but there are also students stuck, as well, in Israel, not just Lebanon.
We have a student in Haifa University and she is here to talk about the situation there. Her name is Maya Osterman. She's from Fort Myers, Florida.
I understand you guys have been in bomb shelters just in the past few days. Tell me what you've been experiencing, Maya.
MAYA OSTERMAN, HAIFA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Well, we were in the bomb shelters Thursday when the first bomb hit and everything was fine in the beginning, you know. They told us we were going to be safe, return to classes.
And then I woke up this morning to go to class and there were two bombs going off, which is never a very nice thing to hear. So then over the loud speaker they tell us, you know, "Immediately go to the bomb shelters, shut everything."
So everyone ran into the bomb shelters. We've been stuck there all day, you know, constantly hearing bombs going off, trying to listen to the radio, though, you know, we don't know that much Hebrew. So it's very hard to understand.
It's pretty chaotic right now. We don't know what we're doing yet. We haven't been let out of the bomb shelters. So we don't know what's happening with the university. We don't know what's going to happen with the program.
So it's chaos and it's confusion and we have no idea what's going to happen here.
NGUYEN: Well, I understand classes have been canceled, obviously, because of what is going on and that students and staff members, thousands of you guys are in the bomb shelters.
You mentioned you're getting little word about what's going on. What are you seeing and what are you hearing as to what is happening between Israel and Lebanon and the recent developments over the past few hours?
OSETERMAN: Well, you know, we can't see anything. You have no windows.
NGUYEN: You have no television, you have no TV access?
OSTERMAN: We have no TV access. Our Internet doesn't work. All we have is radio, that's in Hebrew. So I have a couple of Israelis in the bomb shelter with me who have been explaining that the situation is getting worse, that they believe that they're not just Katyusha rockets anymore, but that they're a little more advanced and that there's a possibility that they can reach Tel Aviv right now.
We've just been instructed to stay in the bomb shelters until further notice. But you're hearing it constantly, you know, it sounds almost, like someone explained it, as from the "Jurassic Park" movie, when the dinosaurs are running, that huge boom is exactly what it sounds like and, you know, it's coming throughout the day pretty constantly.
NGUYEN: So you know it's going on around you. You can hear it, but you have no idea how close it is and...
OSTERMAN: Yes, we have no idea how close it is. We can't see it. I mean, the one on last Thursday was only four miles from the campus, but you know, the thing is is they can't tell us where they're hitting, because then that's going to help the Hezbollah with their aiming. So we're not able to know where it is. All we heard was that eight people were killed this morning somewhere in Haifa, but other than that, you know, they can't tell us anything.
NGUYEN: Yes, I can confirm that to you, that eight Israelis were killed in rockets in Haifa today.
Well, you're in a state of limbo. We wish you the best. Stay safe.
OSTERMAN: Thank you.
NGUYEN: Stay in the shelters and, of course, hopefully, all of this, there will be some kind of peace deal brokered soon. Just know efforts are being made for that as we speak. Maya Osterman, from Fort Myers, Florida, joining us from a shelter there at Haifa University.
A lot of developments going on this morning. More shelling, more rockets firing back and forth. We're going to keep you on top of every single bit of this.
In the meantime, Italy is trying to help broker some kind of a cease-fire. We'll have the latest on that as well. You're watching CNN's "Sunday Morning."
NGUYEN: Now in the news, Hezbollah rocket attacks hit the Israeli port city of Haifa today. Eight people are dead. Israel's prime minister warns of far-reaching implications. We do have a live report from Haifa in about six minute.
Meantime, Israel unleashed more attacks on Lebanon today in its offensive against Hezbollah militants. Among the targets, a power plant south Beirut. That strike sent plumes of black smoke; you see it there billowing over the city. We'll go live to Beirut for the latest just ahead.
And new developments in Israeli's other offensive, Israeli tanks rolled into northern Gaza overnight. The military moved in after launching three air strikes. Israel says it is redeploying its forces into northern Gaza to halt the Palestinian rocket attacks.
HARRIS: World leaders meeting right now at the G-8 Summit in Russia. A call for leaders gathering in Old St. Petersburg for restraint in the Middle East. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tells reporters a cease-fire is not enough. We'll have a live report from the summit in about 15 minutes.
North Korea defies the United Nations. The country's U.N. Ambassador flatly rejects the Security Council resolution and says missile testing will continue. The binding resolution bans all U.N. member states from selling material or missile technology to North Korea.
And in southern California, fire-scarred canyons could face a new threat today. Flooding and heavy rains are expected in the Yucca Valley area where a massive wildfire has burned more than 100 square miles. The rain may help douse the flames but lightning could also start new ones.
This is CNN the most trusted name in news.
NGUYEN: From the CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. It is July 16th, 8:00 a.m. at CNN Headquarters right here in Atlanta and 3:00 p.m. in Haifa, Israel and Beirut, Lebanon. Good morning, everyone. I'm Betty Nguyen.
HARRIS: And good morning, I'm Tony Harris. Thank you for being with us.
We are also joined by an Anand Naidoo we happen to have him again this morning manning the international desk as news develops. Anand good morning.
NAIDOO: Good morning Tony, Betty. Yes we are watching the situation minute by minute. A fast-developing story let me bring you up-to-date of what's been happening in the past few hours. There's been a second set of rockets that has been fired on the northern Israeli town of Haifa. Earlier barrows of rockets killed 8 people, wounded 17 people. Hezbollah the military organization that is based in south Lebanon has claimed responsibility for those killings for launching those attacks on northern Israel.
The Israeli prime minister speaking after those attacks were launched warned of what he called far-reaching implications. He was not specific, but he said far-reaching implications. Residents in northern Israel have been told to take cover in air raid shelters. The military is also urging people, residents in Israel as far south as Tel Aviv to be on the guard. Remember that yesterday there were rockets that were fired into Israel and went as far south as the towns of Tiberius, these are the sea of gallery there, and these are coastal towns.
Israel continued to renew its attacks in the aftermath of those rocket attacks. It pounded targets in south Lebanon, hitting infrastructure and hit a power station, a power plant south Beirut and the head of Israel's northern command warns there will be more attacks and it warns residents to move out of that area in south Lebanon. There could be more attacks.
There has been some diplomatic movement. We just heard from the Associated Press and Reuters that Lebanon has been told by Italy, this has been relayed by Italy of the Israeli conditions to stop the offensive and those Israeli conditions are that there is two captured Israeli soldiers be released and that Hezbollah militants near the border of Israel withdraw from that area. They must withdraw from near the Israeli border; those two soldiers must be released for the offensive to be stopped. That is what is happening right now.
HARRIS: OK. Anand appreciate it. Thank you. We are tracking dramatic developments in the Middle East crises. Rocket attacks in Haifa the latest Israeli strikes on Lebanon, the political reaction from Jerusalem and new allegations today amongst Syria's possible role in the crises.
NGUYEN: Our correspondents are standing by with the latest on the Middle East crises. We are going to hear from Alessio Vinci in Beirut, Paula Hancocks in Haifa, Israel, Paula Newton in Jerusalem, Aneesh Raman along the Syrian border with Lebanon and we'll go live to Ed Henry at the G-8 Summit in Russia. You see them all there. We will be taking them live shortly.
Events are escalating as you've been hearing in the Middle East. A second barrage of rockets hit the Israeli port city of Haifa today. An earlier attack there killed eight people. Israel's prime minister warns of far-reaching implications. Hezbollah militants say they attacked Haifa in response to the latest Israeli strikes in Lebanon. One of those strikes today hit a power plant south of Beirut. You see it there.
Israel says it has recovered the bodies of three sailors missing after Hezbollah attacked one of its war ships. The body of a fourth sailor was found yesterday.
HARRIS: More explosions heard in Beirut within the last hour. Israel is keeping up attacks there and warns of heavy attacks in southern Lebanon. Let's get the latest on the situation in Beirut right now. CNN's Alessio Vinci joins us live. Alessio good day.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Tony. As you know, the Israeli defense forces have concentrated their attacks primarily on the southern outskirts of Beirut as well, of course, as the southern Lebanon there, but in the city, in the capital of Beirut they have primarily bombarded dozens of towns in the southern outskirts of Beirut because that's where the Hezbollah headquarters are set up. That's where the predominantly Shiite Muslims are living and we just returned from that area and look at these pictures.
It is a scene of utter destruction. Entire areas there completely devastated. There are no people now, there's no one around. Most of the shops have been destroyed, some of them completely. There is a thick black smoke. The air is almost unbreathable. It is really, really an unbelievable scene of destruction and where have all of the people gone? Most of the people have moved away from that area and have been either taking shelter from relatives living away from that area or they have been taking shelter in nearby schools. We understand that volunteers are organizing shelters and the schools are closed. This is the summer period and they're getting organized there. We talked to them.
A lot of people are telling us they couldn't stay home because the floor of the apartments were shaking like an earthquake, they told me and now that they know that Hezbollah has shelled Haifa, they are expecting even more bombardment coming from Israel. Now those, of course, who can afford it, are trying to leave the country as quickly as possible. We've seen long lines in front of the French Cultural Center there to register. We understand the French are working on an evacuation plan as well as the Americans and the Italians and those who can afford it are buying tickets, bus tickets to go on their way to Syria.
Of course, the airport is closed. There was a sea blockade and naval blockade so no one can lead through the usual routes, so they are taking buses on the Syrian border and that road is also extremely dangerous because it has been bombed several times by the Israeli air force and clearly the people who were about to board those busses are very nervous.
Why are you crying?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's risky now to reach (INAUDIBLE). We're going bus through many obstacles, it won't be easy.
VINCI: Are you afraid for your children?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Sure. It's a big responsibility.
VINCI: Did you expect that this was going happen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not at all. It was really a shock.
VINCI: Do you think you will come back?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so.
VINCI: Who are you leaving behind here? Do you have family here? Yes. I live in Lebanon. I love Lebanon and I hope I will come back very soon.
VINCI: Tony, they say that when there is a war there's always someone profiting from it. We understand a bus ride from here, from Beirut to Damascus used to cost about $10. These people are charged $125 each to be able to get out of here.
HARRIS: Now they're getting gouged. Alessio, help us understand the news developments in this story. Israel is getting word to the Lebanese government through Italy that the firing, the shelling can stop if the soldiers, the captured Israeli soldiers are released. You're on the ground there in Beirut in the capital, is this government in a place, in a position to broker that release of those prisoners from Hezbollah even if it wanted to?
VINCI: Considering the little influence they have on Hezbollah, probably not. However, we do understand and we have not confirmed it yet that the Lebanese prime minister is going meet with the Hezbollah leadership here at some point today and it is possible that that kind of negotiation will be taken into consideration. Obviously, we do know that the Israelis have put up very difficult demands on the Lebanese government, not just obviously the release of the two soldiers, but also the dissolvement of Hezbollah which is an entire problem all together here in this country.
The Hezbollah the only militia group that has not disarmed since the end of the civil war here. The Lebanese government having very little influence over that group and so the prime minister himself alone certainly will not be able to at least broker a disarmament, but definitely there is a possibility here that the two sides -- that the prime minister and the Hezbollah leadership will be talking about the possibility of releasing those two soldiers, but we have to wait and see what will happen and what will come out of that meeting.
HARRIS: That is an interesting footnote. Alessio Vinci in Beirut. We'll be following that angle of the story as well. Alessio thank you.
NGUYEN: In the meantime to our viewers, grab a pen to write this information down. If you have a loved one in Lebanon and you're watching us from overseas, call the U.S. State department. Here that number, it's on the screen as well. The number is 0-1-202-501-4444. If you're here in the U.S. call 1-888-407-4747 or you can simply go online to register that loved one at https://travelregistration.state.gov. It's at the bottom of the screen. There's the Website once again.
HARRIS: Coming up in 15 minutes, Gary Nurenberg in Washington out lies the state department and Pentagon plans for getting Americans out of Lebanon.
NGUYEN: The latest on the attacks in Haifa. The Israeli port city hit twice today by Hezbollah militants. One of those attacks killed eight people. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Haifa and she joins us live. Paula I know that you heard some shelling a little bit earlier. What's the situation there now?
HANCOCKS: Well, Betty, this is the train depot where one of those rockets hit early on this Sunday morning and this is where eight people died and 20 more people were wounded. If we look inside this depot this is where the Israeli railways actually maintains the trains and there were 30 workers in here at this point. You can tell exactly where this rocket hit the ceiling, the ceiling pretty much destroyed and eight people working underneath it and underneath the trains were killed in this attack.
Now we know that there have been further rocket attacks on Haifa itself. Just about an hour ago one hit just north of here. This is about 30 miles or 45 kilometers south of the Lebanese border and we also know that other northern Israeli towns are being hit by Katyusha rocket. We had the northern defense minister of Israel Shaul Mofaz who came to assess the damage and he said that he believed Syria was involved in this. He thought the ammunition in this particular rocket was from Syria but the rocket being looked at to find out exactly who is to blame.
NGUYEN: CNN's Paula Hancocks there in Haifa. We appreciate that, Paula. I understand a news conference is going on right now in Haifa. Is that shelling that we're hearing right now, Paula, really quickly?
HANCOCKS: Sorry. Sorry. No. It's not shelling at the moment. It's just panels that -- obviously in the explosion that are hanging off at the moment. They're trying to move people back in case some of the panels fall off.
NGUYEN: All right. Good information there. OK now let's go to Anand at the international desk, things are happening by the moment. A news conference is going in Haifa. We're going to take a listen. Anand what do you know?
NAIDOO: Well I will tell you what we know. Betty, right now the Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz is holding a news conference in Haifa. Remember that Haifa was the city where those rockets landed earlier today killing 80 Israelis and wounding up to 12. Let's take a listen to this news conference from the Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
AMIR PERETZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): City dignitaries, chief of staff, the members of the personnel are doing wonderful work here in the home front and everyone who has come to this important meeting. I consider this encounter to be an important meeting and this is taking place at what is possibly one of the most important times that has ever faced Israel. I want you to understand for a long, long time the terrorist organizations have countered on the weakness of the home front.
For a long time the terrorist organizations based themselves on the assumption that there wouldn't be a government in Israel that would react with the appropriate degree of firmness and resolution because no one would take the risk of there being harm and injury to the home front and the harm and injury is serious and it's painful and I wish to send my condolences to those who have been affected and I wish to say to them that no one should, god forbid, think for a moment that their sacrifice was in vain. Not at all.
There's something else I want the families to know. Everyone who has attacked and harmed the city of Haifa and the Israeli home front will pay a very expensive, a very costly price for this. Everybody who speaks to me, the mayor, certainly and practically every single citizen who calls me says the same thing. If we have already started this war, this battle then finish it off properly, go through with it and that is my intention to do everything to ensure that the reality will change so that there will not be a situation in the state of Israel where the home front is threatened in such a blatant and provocative fashion.
What I want you to know is this. Hezbollah is extremely surprised, extremely surprised. It is surprised at the fact that it didn't believe we would attack those places, those places of shelter that citizens gave their missiles. They thought that they put a rocket in a home inhabited by a family would lead to a situation where Israel would continue to hold back. They're surprised that we have dared attack. The most sensitive headquarters of Hezbollah. This has is something that has never been done in the past, but they are surprised by the determination of the home front.
They don't hear Israeli citizens panic stricken demonstrating against the governments and calling upon the government to call off this important and necessary action that's been carried out by the Israeli armed forces. Quite the opposite and suddenly, what do they see? They see, he's (INAUDIBLE) a country, which is united, and it's very important for this attitude to continue to prevail because this is what will be decisive. Who are the Israeli soldiers who are now operating for all of us? They're the people on the home front. The families, and I think one can genuinely say that we now have a situation where the army is fighting for its home. That's the situation. That's the picture.
Every one of our children who is on the front now knows that they're fighting for their home. They see that their homes are there. Their homes are our homes, our families are being attacked and we have not the slightest intention of enabling this situation to continue. We have also today given our promise that every single source of firing, irrespective of where the firing comes from, that must be clear, anyone who is in position where they are firing from around them should know they are in a position where they themselves are likely to be hit.
Any source of firing that will be identified will be dealt with, with the appropriate force and intensity in order to hit those sources. I want you to know that we are working with the highest ethical code, do not forget there's another front in the south and it's not by chance that the number of rockets, missiles in the south has gone down immensely and the number of hits has gone down greatly because the ITF forces have operated. They have located sources of firing. They deal with them and they lead to a situation where people run away. They look for the firing areas and we don't allow them to get a foothold and set up new sights for firing, but what I want you to know is this so that you can be proud of our army.
I met a soldier in the south and he told me that he saw before him a terrorist with an RPG in one hand and a child in the other and he decided not to shoot the terrorist, and I say to you that is an army of which we can be proud because that is a moral code where there's an Israeli soldier who says I'm not going to shoot because the terrorist is using this child whom he is holding, but it's not the same as someone who has a launcher at home to send a rocket at Haifa. It's not the same as villages --
NAIDOO: That is the Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz addressing media in Haifa, Haifa the scene of that attack earlier where Hezbollah rockets killed eight people and injured 12. The defense minister there warning that those were responsible for the rocket attack will pay a costly price. Tony, he also said that Israel is not facing one of the most decisive moments in its history.
HARRIS: Hot, hot rhetoric this morning, Anand thank you.
The going is slow for Lebanese citizens trying to escape the Israeli bombs raining down on Lebanon. CNN's Aneesh Raman is live at the Syrian border with Lebanon. Aneesh good morning to you.
RAMAN: Tony, good morning. One of the main entrance points between Lebanon and Syria behind me is the border crossing where hundreds of thousands of people we're told have been flowing into Syria in the past few days. The majority are Syrians within those are Lebanese though who are fleeing the violence, expatriates, Arabs. Syrian officials say they're being relaxed about the visas. You see cars coming as well, beyond this on the Lebanese side is the main access road that was hit by the Israeli air assault. The busses we've seen and the cars say they're able to get around it. We've seen a lot of poor Syrian workers who are carrying what little they have just a bag on their head who is walked hours from Lebanon and who are spending hours on the other side, you see Hezbollah supporters coming back. There a poster of him. Joining me is Rael (ph). Rael (ph) is from Lebanon. His wife is on the other side and he's waiting for her. Describe the scene in Lebanon.
RAEL (ph): It's extremely dangerous, very dangerous. I was waiting there and my wife since three days until now. (INAUDIBLE) I to come here.
RAMAN: Have you seen explosions?
RAEL (ph): Yes. There was a bomb just -- almost close to our home. That got really dangerous. While I was on the border and that makes everything dangerous. They wanted to bomb the border points and I'm trying to get my wife and my daughter. They're on the road now.
RAMAN: Do you blame Hezbollah on some level for what's happening? Their rockets going into northern Israel are part of this problem if not a big part?
RAEL (ph): Everyone in Lebanon expect -- they support Hezbollah. Now after this extremely dangerous bombs that makes everyone --
RAMAN: So growing support perhaps within Lebanon. The stories are startling of people who made it out Tony. Syria not a commonplace people come to for refuge.
HARRIS: Aneesh Raman for us, Aneesh appreciate it. Great job this morning for us. Thank you.
NGUYEN: It continues to go on. The situation, the crises, in fact in the Middle East. We are covering every angle of it, as you've been seeing this morning. Our international desk is hard at work once again this morning. They've been manning their stations overnight watching all of the developments and, of course, we will bring that information to you just as soon as we get it. We'll be right back after this break. You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: I want to bring you up-to-date on the U.S. plans to evacuate Americans out of Lebanon. First of all, senior U.S. officials say details of an evacuation plan well they are still being worked out. So nothing will be announced for at least a couple of days. Now, with that said, they add American citizens will still have plenty of time to get out if they want. Although there are an estimated 25,000 Americans in Lebanon, U.S. officials expect only several thousand to actually leave when this opportunity comes. For more on U.S. evacuation plans for Lebanon we go straight to Gary Nurenberg in Washington. Talk to me about the possible scenarios Gary that the state department is looking at to get these Americans out of Lebanon.
NURENBERG: Good morning Betty. These plans are clearly on the minds of America's top diplomatic leaders. Secretary of State Rice telling reporters in Russia earlier this morning that the U.S. has what she calls both plans and contingency plans, quote, should we need to get people out, end quote. The language clearly indicating that no final decisions have been made, but clearly indicating that the United States is planning to get as many Americans out as want to come.
Many, as you know, have dual citizenship and as you said it is unlikely that the majority of those 25,000 would choose to leave, but thousands will and they're waiting now for word from the government on exactly how that will happen.
NGUYEN: We understand that it could take a couple of days but this has under discussion for the past few days. So what's taking so much time?
NURENBERG: There's a lot of coordination involved here between the state department and the defense department should an evacuation happen. We'll be relying on American military forces to carry out a large part of the operation. It is a matter of getting those forces in place, once the plans are made on exactly what the evacuation plan will be. There are a number of scenarios, as you know. One is getting permission from the Lebanese government to fly American planes into the country at an airport other than Beirut which as you know is out of commission in order to carry those Americans who want to get out perhaps to Cyprus where they can get commercial flights home.
As you know Betty the American Embassy is expected to remain open even should there be an evacuation and staffed with American personnel, but the state department has given family members and non- emergency personnel permission to leave. So the Embassy would be up and running although with a smaller staff.
NGUYEN: It's one thing to have permission to leave and it's another thing to actually have a way out of the country as you've seen the shelling going on. We've spoken with many people, Gary, that are simply stuck in Lebanon. Americans who you can hear the fear in their voices. They don't know what to do. What do you know to tell them and their families here in the U.S. to do as they wait and they're in limbo right now for word on any kind of evacuation?
NURENBERG: Embassy personnel in Lebanon are suggesting that everyone who is in Lebanon go to the state department Website for the Lebanese Embassy there and register so that the United States will know exactly who you are and where you are. There's some concern that many of the people who are in Lebanon now from the United States don't have access to the web. So the state department is informally asking family members that if they want to go to the Website and register their loved ones that would be a helpful thing to do as the U.S. tries to compile a list of those who would choose to leave if an evacuation is available.
NGUYEN: Gary Nurenberg joining us from Washington and for those family members overseas and here in the U.S. you can go to CNN.com and we have the information, the phone numbers and we also have the Website where you can register your loved one.
In the meantime we are watching the developments in the Mid East. We are monitoring it minute by minute. Right after this break we'll bring you an update on what is going on. You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
HARRIS: Just a quick programming note: those of you who are tuning in for HOUSE CALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, because of the continuing crisis in the Middle East, we are going continue our coverage of that crisis, and we will not be airing HOUSE CALL at this time. Once again, because of the continuing developments in the Middle East, we are going to stay on the air with live coverage of those developments. And HOUSE CALL that you're used to seeing at this time will not air.
Let's get the latest now from Jerusalem. CNN's Paula Newton is tracking developments there, and she joins us live -- Paula.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tony, we just heard from Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, saying to Israelis that this is one of the more decisive moments in Israeli history. And what he's trying to do, Tony, is prepare Israelis for what will take weeks, if not months, to try and neutralize the situation in Lebanon, specifically Southern Lebanon.
We now know that the Israelis have dropped leaflets in Southern Lebanon to let them know to get out of the area and that they feel that within just a matter of hours there will be a very dramatic and destructive air assault on Southern Lebanon.
And Tony, I'll tell you what they're doing. They are trying to knock out multiple mobile rocket launchers that are really hidden among villages and civilian populations. Now that's according to the Israeli military. They've spent years trying to gather this intelligence, and if they're to be believed, they wanted to hang back on this kind of aerial assault, specifically because these rocket launchers are in civilian communities.
What they're saying now is that there's no holding back. After Haifa was attacked, they will continue with this next dramatic escalation -- Tony.
HARRIS: Paula, help me square this circle, if you would, please. We have those -- that rhetoric, hot rhetoric from Israelis -- from the Israel defense minister, and yet we than there is at least some conversation, some diplomatic move afoot to bring this crisis to a close. So square that for us, if you would, please.
NEWTON: Tony, from everything I heard from the Israeli military and I'm just going by what I heard, really, most recently, last night and this morning, it doesn't matter if there are any diplomatic talks in the hours ahead. Southern Lebanon will be bombarded.
What they want to do is neutralize Hezbollah, and there's no turning the clock back on this, Tony. If they do -- if, you know, the soldiers by some miracle show up on the Israeli border within minutes, perhaps, but I doubt that's going happen. And the Israelis have told me time and again in the last few days that this is an opportunity for them to get rid of an irritant, Hezbollah, that they feel is threatening their security and their people.
HARRIS: So let me be clear about this. As to your conversations and what you've been hearing from the Israelis, even if the captured soldiers were released, that this offensive might continue to move forward, because this is a moment in time where Israel believes it can wipe Hezbollah off the map?
NEWTON: Certainly they haven't said that categorically. What they have said is that this is an opportunity, and they don't expect those soldiers to show up any minute now. And in the meantime, those air strikes are eminent.
We also know that this is as of yesterday. This is before Haifa was attacked. Even then the prime minister was refusing to meet with U.N. mediators. And it was pretty much a given among the diplomatic community that Israel was going to take about a week or so to continue its aerial bombardment before international negotiators, peace brokers could get anywhere with them.
They were -- they have a conviction here, and they seem like they're going to plow ahead with it, especially since Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel, wouldn't even meet with the U.N. officials.
HARRIS: That's very, very interesting. Paula Newton with a view from Jerusalem for us. Paula, we appreciate it. Thank you.
NGUYEN: In the meantime, Israel is seeing rockets fly into its territory. In fact, Haifa received an attack this morning killing eight people.
And speaking of Haifa, Maya Osterman is a student at Haifa University. She's from Fort Myers, Florida, but right now she is in Haifa in a bomb shelter, and she joins us by phone.
Maya, talk us to about what you've heard and what you've seen over the past few hours.
OSTERMAN: There's definitely been a lot of bombs. It's extremely scary. We still don't know very much. We actually just went out of the bomb shelter and are able to go into the apartments of where the bomb shelter is. So we've gotten a little bit more area.
The bomb shelter is actually one of the rooms in the apartment. So we get a little more freedom. I am actually right now in my room packing, because I'm going to Nifronyakos (ph) to be with my family for the weekend to kind of get away from Haifa for a couple of days.
NGUYEN: Have you even considered getting out of Israel while this is going on? Has that even crossed your mind?
OSTERMAN: No. I really -- I really hope it doesn't have to come to that. It's beautiful here. I love it. I don't want Hezbollah to win and scare people away. So until I'm told to leave, I'm planning on staying here.
NGUYEN: It sounds like you are in support of what is going on. Tell me what you're feeling about this situation, and what are you hearing from students around you?
OSTERMAN: It's definitely -- it's all everyone can talk about and I think it's pretty mutual about the feeling, you know. We've been reading the news, and we've been discussing and talking. And, you know, the Hezbollah, they broke one of the rules and they abducted soldiers, which is something you don't do, and we all feel that Israel is doing exactly what they should be doing, that they're not overreacting in any way and that these are terrorists and that is something that needs to be dealt with immediately, and it needs to be dealt with to the extreme measures. And I think that what's happening needs to be done.
And you know, it's horrible, the casualties that happened, and I think the huge problem is that people say that it's not a fair war and that it's not even-sided, because Israel is attacking too much because there are more Lebanon casualties.
But what people need to remember is that Lebanon, they're using their civilians as, you know, protection and they're using their civilians to save Hezbollah. Israel is only trying to attack military. So it's not very even any way. So it's hard to tell what is going on, from where I am and what I've seen and what I've heard, I feel that Israel is doing exactly when they need to be doing.
NGUYEN: Well, we appreciate you sharing your point of view. Obviously, there are those around the world who may feel that this is a disproportionate attack, on -- considering the situation of the circumstances. But of course, you, obviously, have your own personal view, and right now the key is staying out of harm's way.
We wish you the best. Stay close to that shelter.
OSTERMAN: Thank you.
NGUYEN: Should any rockets come your way.
As we know, Haifa has been attacked twice today. One of those attacks killed eight people, and we'll stay on top of all that. We were speaking with Maya Osterman, who is a student at Haifa University. She is from Fort Myers, Florida.
In the meantime, as all this goes on, there is more to tell you about, new developments out of this situation. Let's go straight to Anand Naidoo at the international desk.
Anand, what do you have?
NAIDOO: Betty, as you pointed out, that attack killed 12 people, wounded 17 in the Northern Israeli city of Haifa. And shortly after that attack, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned of far- reaching implications.
And as Paula Newton just reported, now the Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, also says that those who were responsible for that attack would pay a costly price. Peretz said that Israel will attack all sources of fire, regardless of location. And analysts are saying this could mean that they will attack any area in Southern Lebanon.
Now, the Lebanese cabinet has also been talking about this as the conflict escalates. The Lebanese cabinet says that the country is now facing what it calls real destruction. It also accuses the Israelis of using weapons that are internationally prohibited.
So there are tough words on both sides.
We're going to take a break right now. We'll have more on this when we get back.
NAIDOO: We're watching events in the Middle East unfold on a minute by minute basis here at the CNN international desk. Let me tell you what's happening.
Events are escalating in the Middle East crisis. A second barrage of rockets hit the Israeli port city of Haifa today. An earlier attack killed eight people, wounded 17. At that time, the Israelis -- Israel's prime minister, rather, warned of far-reaching implications.
And just in the past few minutes, the Israel defense minister, Amir Peretz, warned that those who are responsible for that attack on Haifa, those who are responsible for the deaths of those Israelis would pay, quote, "a costly price."
Hezbollah militants say they attacked Haifa in response to the latest Israeli strikes in Lebanon. Israel has been pounding targets in South Lebanon during the past few hours. One of those strikes hit a power plant south of Beirut, hitting out power to many parts of the city.
Israel says that -- also that it has recovered the bodies of three sailors missing after Hezbollah attacked one of its warships. The body of a fourth sailor was found yesterday. That's four sailors who were killed in that attack on the warship.
And let me update you on the total casualties. After five days of violence. The violence started on Wednesday, after five days there are almost 300 people that have been killed on both sides: 262 Lebanese and on the Israeli side, 24 people have been killed -- Betty, Tony.
NGUYEN: All right. Thank you, Anand.
Well, we do continue to follow these developments, in fact, this crisis in the Mideast from all of the angles: on the ground, on the phone and of course, online. Nicole Lapin is here to tell us what resources you can find online to figure out what's going and what's happening over there and how quickly it's developing -- Nicole.
NICOLE LAPIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, anyone who is following the story, it can get a little bit confusing with all the names and all the places.
One name we've certainly heard a lot about as of late, Hezbollah. So who exactly is Hezbollah? What kind of group is it? It means "party of God" in Arabic, and Islamic Resistance is their military ring. You can find that and some lesser known tidbits in this explainer online.
And then you can look at the map detailing the region. You can see Haifa in Israel, where Hezbollah rockets have hit already.
And, you know, this region isn't really new to violence. Get a little perspective on the crisis and how it plays out in history. We've got this timeline for you, and it traces back to the region, to the '60s with the Arab-Israeli War.
And also if you want a little bit more of a visual perspective, just go to CNN Pipeline, and there you're going to find the very latest video of all of the fighting that's going over there. And we're also going to bring you news from various sources. So sometimes we'll bring you Al Arabiya, or sometimes we'll bring you Israeli television.
So we'll all going to have that updated every -- you know, day and night on the latest on CNN.com. So, Betty, check that out if you guys want a little more perspective.
NGUYEN: Some good information. Nicole Lapin from dot com. Thank you for that.
And there is much, much more to come. I mean, these things are developing by the minute, Tony, as you well know.
HARRIS: Sure, absolutely. So what we'll do is we'll take a break. We're going to give you a look at our international desk now: teams of journalists, analysts. Anand Naidoo is bringing it all together for us. We will get another update from the international desk in just a couple of minutes.
Once again, you're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
NGUYEN: Well, the U.S. State Department is still actively assisting American citizens trying to get out of Lebanon. An Iowa woman is among those waiting frantically for word from her 18-year-old daughter.
Cynthia Fodor with CNN affiliate KCCI has her story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... with at least 60 rockets today...
FODOR (voice-over): Linda Bardole is glued to the news, but she turns away, almost afraid to watch.
(on camera) What has been going through your mind?
LINDA BARDOLE, MOTHER: The worst possible thoughts. You know, they're hiding in this mountainous territory. There's no way to get her out of Lebanon. There's no safe exit.
FODOR: When her 18-year-old daughter, Sydney, left with another Roosevelt grad to visit friends in Beirut, there was no sign of danger. The family last heard from her right after the bombing began.
BARDOLE: The family had to flee Beirut. They realized that war was imminent.
FODOR: They went into hiding in the mountains. Bardole says she always depended on cell phone communication, which is no longer possible.
BARDOLE: The thing that I feel the worst about is that I didn't realize what information a parent needs to have before they allow a child to leave the United States.
FODOR: She says parents of kids who travel need to make sure they write down passport numbers, exact dates into and out of the country, precise contact information there. She had none of that to give to the U.S. embassy or Iowa senators trying to help.
BARDOLE: Just be registered as a missing resident of the United States, and then they can send the Marine Corps in, and they will at some point.
FODOR: Bardole has been told the Marines will try to locate Americans and airlift them out, which may be difficult since no one knows where the family is hiding. For now, this mom can only pray, watch and wait for some sign of hope that her daughter will make it out and make it home.
NGUYEN: Tough situation.
So if you are an American in Lebanon and need help getting out, write down these numbers. Here they are. The number to call is 0-1- 202-501-4444. It's on your screen.
Now, if you have loved ones in Lebanon and you're here in the U.S., here's a number you can call: 1-888-407-4747.
HARRIS: More explosions heard in Beirut within the last hour. Israel is keeping up attacks there and warns of heavy attacks in Southern Lebanon. Let's get the latest on the situation in Beirut right now. CNN's Alessio Vinci is there for us. And Alessio, let us -- let us start our conversation by harkening back to the words in Haifa from Israel's defense minister, saying the job will be finished, that there needs to be a change of aye the realities on the ground and that the work being done in Lebanon, where you are, by Israeli soldiers is important and necessary action.
Alessio, it sounds like there is much more to come.
VINCI: That is correct, Tony. And this is certainly something that people around here, especially in the southern area of Beirut, where the vast majority of Israeli strikes have taken place here in the capital. In that area, of course, the Hezbollah headquarters, as well as the area usually densely populated by Muslim Shiites -- Shiite.
Now, we've just returned from that area there, and as you can see from these pictures that we just filmed, it is a totally devastated area. That place usually is densely populated with people walking the streets, going about their business, shopping, and as you can see, it is absolutely a ghost town.
We have seen stores that are completely destroyed. We have seen several buildings collapse. We understand that those buildings were directly hit where residences and offices of the Hezbollah militia group.
That attack, you may remember a few days ago, targeting the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who was -- who escaped unhurt from that attack, and after that he made a very fiery television audio appearance, basically, declaring war, all-out war on Israel.
Also, where have all of the people gone? Well, most of the people from that area are either moved nearby, staying with relatives. And we've seen also a lot of them being relocated to schools in the nearby areas, perhaps a bit more safer.
And we've seen them gearing up. We've seen people bringing some food, some mattresses. They are really beginning to live as people displaced within their own city; not only within their own country, within their own city.
We understand that they're arriving by the hundreds every hour, by the hundreds every hour in these schools.
Now, of course, these are people who cannot afford to leave the country. There are some people who are beginning -- who have began already to leave the country.
And we also saw earlier today some busloads going to Syria because, of course, you cannot leave by plane. The airport is closed. You cannot leave by boat. There is a naval blockade. So the only way out is to go through the border to Syria. There are two ways out. While both of those main roads have been constantly bombarded by the Israeli military. And so any journey from here going towards Syria is very risky, as one person just told me earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VINCI: Why are you crying? You seem to be...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's risky now to reach Qatar. We're going to pass through many obstacles. It won't be easy.
VINCI: Are you afraid for your children?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Sure. It's a big responsibility.
VINCI: Did you expect that this was going to happen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not at all. It was really a shock.
VINCI: Do you think you're going to come back?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so.
VINCI: Who are you leaving behind? You have family here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I live in Lebanon. I love Lebanon and I hope I'm going come back very soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VINCI: And, Tony, they say that when there is a war there's always someone who makes a profit. Well, we understand that that bus ride from Beirut to Damascus used to cost about $10. Those people were charged $125 a person to be able to board a bus.
HARRIS: I am so struck -- Alessio, I am so struck by the scene behind you. We'll talk about it more next hour, but the shot behind you, a virtual ghost town at a time when Lebanon should be enjoying a high holiday season, summer season.
But we'll talk about that next hour. We've got to get to a break.
More to come of our continuing coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. Much more from our international desk and Anand Naidoo in the next hour. We will be right back. You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
HARRIS: OK, you are looking at some of the latest images of the volatile situation in the Middle East. Israeli tanks preparing for battle.
An attack on a power plant in Lebanon. Aftermath from overnight missile attacks in Haifa.
If pictures are, indeed, worth a 1,000 words, these are images that scream at the world today.
It is Sunday, July 16th. And good morning, everyone, from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Tony Harris.
NGUYEN: And good morning, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for starting your day with us. We do have reporters all across the globe covering this breaking story minute by minute.
Paula Hancocks is in Haifa, Israel. You see them there. Alessio Vinci in Beirut, Lebanon. Aneesh Raman, in Syria, along the Lebanese border. Ed Henry is in old St. Petersburg, Russia, at the G8 summit. And Gary Nurenberg is in Washington with the latest on efforts to get Americans out of Lebanon.
But, first, here's a check of some of the other stories making news today.
Mid-East violence does top the concerns of world leaders meeting right now at the G8 summit in old St. Petersburg, in Russia. The leaders are urging Israel to use restraint and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tells reporters a cease-fire is just not enough.
We will have a live report from the summit in about 30 minutes.
Storms, they are in the forecast today for southern California. And that could be both good and bad news. Rain will be welcome relief in battling this massive wildfire in the mountains around the Yucca Valley, but too much rain could cause flooding in the now bare canyons. Lightning could also spark more wildfires.
Remember that doctor suspected of blowing up his old townhouse rather than letting his wife benefit from its sale? Well, he has died. Dr. Nicholas Bartha suffered critical injuries in a blast six days ago in New York City. His ex-wife told police she had received an e-mail from him shortly before that blast, warning he would only leave her the house if he were dead.
Now, a view of earth from some 200 miles in space. Isn't that beautiful? "Discovery" astronauts await NASA's green light for their return trip. Early testing today showed no problems with "Discovery's" hydraulic flight control system. Mission control says it does look generally pretty good for a morning landing in Florida, but depending on the weather, of course.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer will have the latest with "Discovery's" crew. In fact, he's going to talk with them a little bit later this morning on "Late Edition," which begins at 10:00 Eastern.
CNN, the most trusted name in news.
HARRIS: Events are unfolding by the minute in the Middle East crisis and our correspondents are following the situation across the region and here at home.
Paula Hancocks is in Haifa, Israel. Alessio Vinci is in Beirut, Lebanon. Aneesh Raman is in Syria, along the Lebanese border. Ed Henry is in St. Petersburg at the G8 summit. And Gary Nurenberg is in Washington with the latest on efforts to get Americans out of Lebanon. CNN's Anand Naidoo is at the international desk tracking it all and he joins us now with the latest developments.
NAIDOO: Tony, in addition to all those correspondents who are located in all those key areas throughout that region, we have the assignment desk here which is watching everything on a minute-by- minute basis and we have a team of journalists, translators, producers who are watching the Arabic television stations.
We're watching nine Arabic television stations right here, monitoring them, so we cover every angle, we get some context, we get every perspective on the story as it breaks.
The events have been escalating in the past few hours. A second barrage of rockets hit the Israeli northern town of Haifa. That's after a first barrage hit that town and killed eight people, wounded 17.
At that time, shortly after the attack, the Israeli prime minister warned of what he termed "far-reaching implications." He was not specific, but he said "far-reaching implications."
And in the past 20 minutes, the Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, warned that those who were responsible for that attack on Haifa would pay a costly price.
Now, Hezbollah militants say they attacked Haifa in response to the latest Israeli strikes in Lebanon. Israel, for its part, has been hitting targets in south Lebanon. They've continued over the past few hours hitting targets. One of those strikes hit a power plant south of Beirut, wiping out power to a wide area in the southern part of the Lebanese capitol.
Israel also said that it has recovered the bodies of three sailors missing after Hezbollah attacked one of its warships. The body of a fourth sailor was found yesterday. So that's four people who died in the attack when that missile hit the Israeli warship, which was in the waters off the Lebanese coast.
Now, there have been diplomatic moves. Lebanon has been told by the Israelis, through Italy, Italy playing middleman here, Lebanon has been told of the conditions, of Israeli conditions to stop the offensive. Israel wants those two captured Israeli soldiers released.
Israel wants all the Hezbollah militants who are situated near their northern border with Lebanon to be moved away from that area.
Those are the two conditions that Israel says it wants fulfilled before it will stop the offense. Those two conditions, again, those two soldiers must be released, the captured soldiers, and Hezbollah militants who are situated near the border must move away from that area.
So that is the situation at the moment. After five days of violence, five days of this conflict, started on Wednesday, the casualty toll is almost 300, 262 Lebanese have lost their lives, 24 Israelis have died. Tony? Betty?
HARRIS: Anand, appreciate it. Thank you.
The Israeli port city of Haifa came under attack today with deadly results and Israel is warning of serious consequences.
CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us live from Haifa with the very latest. And, Paula, it seems to me, if we're talking about these attacks in Haifa, we are learning more about the enhanced capabilities of these Katyusha rockets.
HANCOCKS: That's right, yes. Here in Haifa, it's the third largest city in Israel, and we're about 30 miles or 45 kilometers south from the Lebanese border. So these Katyushas, if they are Katyushas, certainly have some range.
Now, we heard from the former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, a little earlier, and he said he thought the ammunition could have been Syrian. They've taken the rocket away to test it at the moment, but you can see the absolute impact of the rocket that hit about 9:00 in the morning local time.
There were 30 workers in this particular train depot at the time, maintaining the trains. Eight of them were killed instantly, one has been critically injured, and more than 20 have been injured in this particular attack.
And of all of the hundreds of rocket attacks we've seen in Haifa and northern Israel, this is the most deadly we've seen so far.
We also just had the defense minister, Amir Peretz, come a couple of minutes ago to assess the damage and he said, "If someone threatens Israel, then we will hit back," suggesting that this is not going to be the end of it, suggesting that as this attack has happened, then retaliation will be very close after.
HARRIS: And, Paula, what's your sense of support for the actions being carried out now by Israel, the military, by Israelis?
HANCOCKS: Well, there's a real split down the middle. You have some people who have actually been rallying outside this particular plant itself, even though sirens are going off every now and then and there are more incoming rockets.
They've been standing outside protesting the fact that Israel is carrying out military operations in both Gaza and in Lebanon. And then on the other side, you have people who are absolutely terrified and who want to make sure that the military going into southern Lebanon on this particular occasion do get rid of Hezbollah, do make sure that Hezbollah is not going to be camped out on their northern border and threaten them in the future. So very different opinions we're hearing at the moment. Some very fearful, some very angry. But there's hardly anybody on the streets at the moment. The police have told people to stay in their homes. Shops are shut, hotels are shut for the most part, as well.
There's nothing happening and when the sirens go off, police say you do have to get into a bomb shelter or a safe house, of which there are many bomb shelters in Haifa and in many of the cities across Israel since 1991 and the Gulf War.
Most houses after that made sure that they did have a safe room or a bomb shelter after SCUD missiles came into Israel about 15 years go.
HARRIS: What a tense situation. CNN's Paula Hancocks for us in Haifa. Paula, thank you.
NGUYEN: So what's it going to take to end this escalating violence? Well, let's talk to Mari Eisen. She is the Israeli government spokeswoman. She's calling us from Haifa.
One thing I want to ask you is the latest information that we're getting that Italy is sending word to Lebanon of the Israeli conditions to end this.
Why go through Italy and what kind of a deal is Italy trying to broker?
MARI EISEIN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESWOMAN: I'm not sure if specifically Italy is trying to broker. Israel has been open and up front on the conditions to end this.
Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, is deployed all along Israel's northern border. The Lebanese government needs to take responsibility for the Lebanese country, for the Lebanese land. We will not allow a terrorist organization to be deployed on our northern border.
That is the one condition that you heard. The additional one, Hezbollah, five days ago, started a war against Israel, one completely unprovoked. They came across the border into sovereign Israeli territory, rudely kidnapped two Israeli servicemen, and, at the same time, killed additional civilians, attacked the entire line of towns and villages all along the northern border.
These have to stop. Israel will not return to where we were five days ago with the terrorist organizations deployed on our border trying to define what goes on here.
NGUYEN: OK, but at the same time, Israel has also received criticism that it is overreacting, that its reaction to the kidnappings is disproportionate to what Hezbollah has done.
What is your reaction to that? EISEN: I think that we can all see very clearly that Hezbollah is a clear and very tangible threat to Israel. They started an unprovoked attack last week and at the end of day, they think that they can change and define the rules of the game.
Israel, for six years, has sat back. Hezbollah has tried to attack before. Sadly, this started with a very harsh beginning, with the kidnapping of our two soldiers, with the killing of additional soldiers inside Israeli territory.
No more. Israel is determined to bring this to an end. Israel is determined that when this war ends, we will not have Hezbollah troops on our northern border.
If you look at the extent of the threat, I ask you, what should Israel do? We're attacking Hezbollah targets. We're trying to hit them in Lebanon where they are. The Lebanese government has to stand up clearly, and I hear some of the ministers already are, and talk about...
NGUYEN: But can the Lebanese government stand up? Do they have the power to stand up?
EISEN: I think we all watched over the last year at the amazing things that the Lebanese government did for the Lebanese people. This isn't for Israel. The Lebanese government stood up to the Syrians. The Lebanese government, certainly, with international backing, countries like Italy, like the E.U., like the United States giving them backing for the implementation of the United Nations Security Council 1559.
We definitely think they could do much more and they're not doing that now.
NGUYEN: In the meantime, let me get you on record. What is the goal here? Is the goal to wipe out Hezbollah?
EISEN: The goal is, for Israel, peace on our northern border and peace on our northern border is not Hezbollah deciding to stop firing. Peace on our northern border is no more terrorist organizations deployed along the northern board of Israel and allowed to do whatever they want.
They've taken the Lebanese government hostage. They've taken the Lebanese people hostage and, sadly, they tried to take Israel hostage. Israel says no more.
NGUYEN: Even Condoleezza Rice says a cease-fire may not be enough. Do you believe -- and, in fact, your defense minister said this is one of the most decisive times in Israeli history. Do you believe that a cease-fire right now is just a Band-Aid to a bigger problem?
EISEN: I think that the reason that Israel has responded to the issue of a cease-fire by saying return the servicemen and end all of the firing of the rockets and the deployment of Hezbollah on our northern border is very clear.
We're not willing to go back to where we were last Wednesday. We want to make sure that the different conditions...
NGUYEN: Mary Eisen, are you still there?
EISEN: ...Hezbollah. Yes, I am.
NGUYEN: OK, the audio is coming in and out. Let me ask you one more quick question, just so that we can get it very clear for our audience.
What is it going to take to bring about a cease-fire?
EISEN: What that's going to take is for the Lebanese government to come out clearly demanding the implementation of Resolution 1559, the returning of the two Israeli servicemen, and the complete desist of any deployment by Hezbollah on our northern border.
NGUYEN: All right. Mary Eisen, the Israeli government spokeswoman, joining us on the phone from Haifa. We appreciate your time today.
HARRIS: Well, Israel responded to the attack on Haifa with more strikes on Lebanon today. CNN's Alessio Vinci joins us live from Beirut with the latest. And, Alessio, I think you may have heard the comments from Mari Eisen just a moment ago.
It sounds like the return of the soldiers alone won't end this crisis and the comments from Israel's defense minister inside the half-hour seemed to indicate that there is more fire headed your way.
VINCI: That is correct, Tony. The people in this country are certainly bracing for more, especially after that rocket attack in the town of Haifa.
And we certainly have seen evidence today in the southern suburb of Beirut which has taken the brunt of the Israeli military offensive, at least here in the capitol of Beirut.
We just returned from that area earlier today and, if you can see some of this video that we just brought you back, it is a scene of utter destruction.
There are entire areas over the southern suburb of Beirut which are completely devastated. Some buildings have collapsed. We understand from the Israeli military that those buildings were housing the offices and residences of Hezbollah military leaders and that's why they had to be destroyed.
But that is an area, as you can see from the pictures, it used to be densely populated. There are a lot of buildings, one next to each other, and those houses, those buildings, those apartments were either destroyed or abandoned. The stores on the ground floor empty, with broken glass. There was thick, black smoke rising from the rubble, really, really an uncomfortable situation there. And as you can see from some of the pictures, absolutely empty.
And where have all of the people gone? Well, those who can afford to leave the country, they are either going to stay with some relatives in the nearby areas of Beirut, or we have seen already people being set up in schools.
It is the summer period here. The schools are, of course, closed and so the classrooms have been set up to welcome the thousands of residents from that area of Beirut who are in need of shelter.
And we spoke to some people over there, very interesting. I met a teacher there who actually told me that it was quite ironic that he had to go back to a classroom, but not to teach, but actually to protect his children from the Israeli strikes. Quite a poignant moment over there.
Also, of course, there are people who are trying to leave the country and they're doing so, obviously, by the only way available and that is by road, because obviously the airport is closed and there is a naval blockade.
And so the only way out of here is by car or by bus towards Syria, a very dangerous road to take, because that road and both roads, actually, have been constantly shelled by the Israeli military.
So every time people board a bus, they're extremely, extremely nervous.
HARRIS: OK, Alessio, it seems to us that the position of Israel is that Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora has to meet with Hassan Nasrallah, who heads up Hezbollah, and there needs to be some kind of an agreement brokered between those two men to dismantle Hezbollah before there is any hope of a cease-fire here or any hope that this crisis will come to an end soon.
Is there a meeting in the offing?
VINCI: We do know that the Israeli cabinet is meeting with several officials here in the capitol of Beirut today. We do not know who they are exactly, but we do know, of course, that there are two Hezbollah ministers within the cabinet.
So, clearly, there is a line of communication here between the Lebanese prime minister and Hassan Nasrallah.
The problem, of course, is that what Israel is asking Lebanon to do, it is something the Lebanese government has been unable to do in the last year, forget about for a second the kidnapping of the two soldiers. The disarmament of Hezbollah is a major problem in this country.
As the Israeli spokesman has told us earlier, Resolution 1559 calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah, but no one in this country, in terms of the Hezbollah supporters and those two ministers within the government which are necessary in order for the government to exist, want to disarm.
And it is important to note, perhaps, that the Hezbollah militia group is the only militia group that has remained armed ever since end of the civil war here. So one of the reasons why, of course, the Lebanese prime minister cannot force Hezbollah to disarm is because they have no power against that organization. They have even no control over the southern part of this country bordering with Israel, in which Hezbollah is basically in charge.
And that is why, on the political point of view, the prime minister of Lebanon faces himself in a situation in which, on the one side, he has disavowed, if you want, the kidnapping of the two soldiers, but at the same time, he is stopping short of criticizing Hezbollah, which is his party's government.
HARRIS: And as all of the talking goes on and on, we're watching pictures. Clearly, the people on both sides of this are suffering. Alessio Vinci, thank you.
NGUYEN: And there are new developments to tell you about. In fact, we have some breaking news to bring to you. CNN's Anand Naidoo is at the international desk. What do you know so far, Anand?
NAIDOO: Betty, we're just getting this right now. LBC, the Lebanese border crossing organization, is reporting, in a news flash, the arrival at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon of a team that is going to help with the evacuation of U.S. citizens.
We've just been getting this. The arrival of a team at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon to help with the evacuation of U.S. citizens.
Now, we have been reporting that there are some 25,000 United States citizens who are living and working in Lebanon. Earlier, we heard plans that the U.S. has to move those citizens, not all of them, some of them out of Lebanon if the situation escalates any further, to the island of Cyprus.
There was talk of them setting up an air bridge from Lebanon to Cyprus to get those citizens out.
Of course, the difficulty is that it's very difficult for planes to land and take off in Lebanon because the airport has been bombed by the Israelis.
So now we are hearing that a team has arrived at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon to assist with the evacuation of U.S. citizens. We'll get more details on this in the minutes ahead and we'll bring that to you, Betty.
NGUYEN: That's important news. We've been watching this and we heard a little bit earlier today that we wouldn't hear for another couple of days about this exact evacuation plan, but now that a team is there and is going to be working on this. Specifically, they're in the embassy in Lebanon and we are going to stay on top of that and see if this can happen a little bit sooner than a lot of people are saying it might happen.
So thank you for that, Anand. We'll be watching. And, of course, we have all those numbers for those trying to get in touch with family members and make sure that they are on the list of evacuees.
We'll have that at CNN.com, if you're interested in that.
HARRIS: Moving ahead, we want to give you a couple of programming notes, inviting you to stay with CNN throughout the course of the day as we continue our coverage of this Middle East crisis.
Coming up at the top of the hour, a special three-hour edition of CNN's "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer. That's beginning at the top of the hour.
I'm curious now about this notion of team, who is making up this team. But Wolf will certainly have that and perhaps we'll get more information on it before we hand things over to Wolf.
Senior officials from Russia, Israel and the U.S. will be among Wolf's many guests today. That's followed by CNN's "This Week at War" with John Roberts. That's beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
NAIDOO: Good morning again from the CNN international desk. International desk has been monitoring more than half a dozen television station, Arabic language television stations in the Middle East to see what they're reporting on the conflict in Lebanon.
And we've just heard from LBC, that's the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, they're reporting in a news flash the arrival of a team at the United States embassy in Lebanon to assist with the evacuation of U.S. citizens. This is the first we've heard of that. LBC, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, reporting that a U.S. team has arrived in Lebanon to assist with the evacuation of U.S. citizens there, some 25,000 U.S. citizens in Lebanon.
Now, events have been moving very fast in Lebanon in the last few hours. They've been escalating. The violence has escalated. There's been a second barrage of attacks on the northern Israeli town of Haifa.
An earlier attack killed eight people and wounded 17. At that time, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned there would be far-reaching implications. And in the past hour, the Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, warned that those who are responsible for that attack would pay a costly price.
Hezbollah militants said that they were responsible for the attacks and it was in response to the latest Israeli strikes in Lebanon. Israel has continued strikes through the night. In the last few hours, they've hit a power plant south of Beirut, knocking out power to large parts of the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Another development, Israel says that it's recovered the bodies of three sailors missing after Hezbollah attacked one of its warships. That warship was off the Lebanese coast in the waters. It was hit by a missile. Initially, Israel said that four sailors were missing. They recovered the body of one yesterday. Now they've just announced that they've recovered the other three bodies.
The casualties after five days of violence, 262 Lebanese have been killed, 24 Israelis have been killed.
There has been some diplomatic movement. Lebanon has been told by the Israelis, via Italy, of the conditions that Israel wants fulfilled for this offensive to be stopped. There are two conditions they want fulfilled.
One is that those two captured Israeli soldiers be released. The other is that Hezbollah militants who are operating near the Israeli border be moved away from that area.
Those two conditions must be fulfilled before Israel will stop this offensive.
NGUYEN: Thank you, Anand.
HARRIS: Anand, thank you.
And still ahead, you're certainly at the right place for all of the latest information on this very volatile situation in the Middle East. Our coverage includes a three-hour special "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer, the "Crisis in the Mid-East," starting at the top of the hour.
NGUYEN: But first, next here on CNN Sunday, raging wildfires out west. For those of you just waking up in California, we're going to take you live to the scene and show you what is happening right now.
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NGUYEN: Take a look at that. Fire crews in southern California continue to wage war against a huge, sprawling wildfire about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Now, rain storms could help today.
CNN's Dan Simon joins us live from Pioneertown, where it's already just too late for some homeowners, unfortunately.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, indeed, some homeowners are coming back to find their houses basically in ruins. About 60 homes have been destroyed by this fire.
As you mentioned, rain is in the forecast today, which would be a huge relief for those weary and tired fire crews and, also, for the people who live in this area. But there is a concern, actually, for flash flooding should that rain actually come.
In terms of where we stand with the fire, the bigger Sawtooth fire, the more worrisome of the two, is about 50 percent contained. Crews have made really good progress over the past couple of days. The eastern edge of the fire is now a focal point. The western edge where all those homes are, the big Bear Mountain community, they seem to have escaped all of this. Right now the flames are not headed in that direction. So good news there for the people who live in this area, but of course, folks who are coming back to their homes, as I mentioned a couple dozen homes, nearly 60 homes have been leveled by this fire and we're going to have more for you later as the day progresses. Back to you.
NGUYEN: Just devastating. Dan Simon, thank you for that report.
The key, though, is get the weather helping out and the relief in that area.
HARRIS: Well, let's find out what weather conditions are going to be like over the next couple of days as firefighters get a handle on this situation. Jacqui Jeras upstairs in the Weather Center.
Good morning Jacki.
JERAS: Hey guys. Well as Dan mentioned, we're looking for a little bit of rain into that area today, which can help but also possibly could hurt as well because we're going to see lightning strikes with some of these thunderstorms as they pull on through which could ignite more fires. In addition to that, with the thunderstorms it shakes up the winds a little bit, so we can see erratic, very gusty winds to help fan these flames, but the rain's certainly needed. We have a little upper level system pushing through the region here. The best news out of all this, though, is that the humidity is higher today so it's not quite so tinder dry throughout much of the region. But the temperatures are still very, very hot. In fact we had about half a dozen record highs into southern California yesterday. We also had a number of record highs across the nation's midsection. This is a big heat wave that is gripping much of the nation and this will be sticking with us for a good part of the week ahead. In fact, at least through Friday, likely.
NGUYEN: All right Jacqui, we appreciate it.
HARRIS: We were wondering just a moment about this team that and Anand Naidoo was talking about.
NGUYEN: And it has just arrived in Lebanon.
HARRIS: Just arrived. NGUYEN: At the Embassy there.
HARRIS: And who is making up this team? Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is on the line with us and she has more information.
Barbara, good morning.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Tony. U.S. military officials in the region now confirming to CNN that a U.S. military team has indeed landed at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. This is a small group of military people. Their job now will be to put the finishing touches on this plan to evacuate Americans stranded in Lebanon.
It's our understanding, at this point, the team landed a short while ago. The plan called for them to come in by CH-53 Marine Corps helicopters flying in from Cyprus. Those helicopters usually fly, of course, off Marine Corps amphibious war ships, but there are no ships, U.S. Navy ships off Lebanon at the moment. Cyprus being the nearest location they could fly from. And make no mistake, those helicopters most likely did come in armed. They come with troops, door gunners that man 50 caliber machine guns. They would have been scanning the horizon constantly as they approached the Embassy for any type of small arms fire, any type of rocket threat against them.
They have landed at the Embassy. It's our further understanding from our sources, they have taken out a very small number of Americans from the Embassy, those that the ambassador had identified as non- essential personnel. All of that not officially confirmed by the U.S. Embassy at the moment that evacuation, that word is expected to be forthcoming.
But Tony, putting this military planning team on the ground at the Embassy is pretty typical of the next step in what the military calls a noncombatant evacuation. They put military people on the ground inside an embassy and they do that last step, planning and coordination, of course, to get the Americans who are stranded to safe locations, places where the military can pick them up and then bring them to other locations where they can fly them out or get them possibly on small boats or ships out of Lebanon.
So what this really indicates is the military, today, is continuing with all the planning steps, putting into place, Tony, all the things that they need to do so, if and when that final order does come for an evacuation of Americans out of Lebanon, they will be ready to go. They'll have everything in place and they will be able to take Americans out of there.
From the sources in the Pentagon and in the military that we've talked to, they don't think at this point, clearly, that all 25,000 Americans in Lebanon are going want to leave, but they do feel they have an obligation at this point to be prepared to evacuate as many Americans that want to go and as many that can go. So what we do know is that the military is continuing now to put all of those assets into place. As the State Department said publicly yesterday they are going try and establish an evacuation route out of Lebanon into Cyprus, but if it grows to be a significant military operation, the military says they may be looking at other options as to how they would do this and they are very aware, Tony, that U.S. troops could be going into a very tough situation. They want to -- you know, it's an extraordinary thing to say U.S. troops going into Beirut again, but if they go into Beirut to get Americans out they want to get in and out as quickly as possible the tell us this morning. They want to get in and out without having have to fire a shot, but they will go in, they tell us, completely ready to defend themselves if there is a threat -- Tony.
HARRIS: OK Barbara, just a couple of points of clarification here. So this is the Pentagon working in conjunction with the State Department. My understanding is that the State Department has oversight in this area, correct? So this is a coordinated...
STARR: Let's help -- right, that's a really good point, Tony. Let's help our viewers understand how this all goes because this is not something that is done on an ad hoc, on the fly basis. This is something that the military practices all of the time that they have actually done many times around the world when Americans find themselves in the middle of conflicts in third countries.
What has to happen is the State Department, the ambassador on the ground makes a decision that it is not safe for Americans to remain. He then authorizes the departure of embassy personnel and helps to make arrangements for other Americans to leave.
According to our State Department producer, Leaf Robin (ph), who's been following this very closely, no one expects the U.S. to wholesale pull out of Lebanon. The embassy's not going to shut down. Americans will still remain, but at the request of the State Department the military is making the arrangements to help Americans who want to leave get out of Lebanon because there's really no way for them to get out at this point.
Normally, people go to the commercial airport, board airliners and leave, but that's not an available route. The roads have been bombed, the bridges have been taken out. So at the request of the State Department, what the military is doing is put now, today, and over the last several days, planning, putting all of the pieces in place and if in the next few days it comes to it, which frankly, people expect it will, they will facilitate getting Americans out. The plan now is to take them to Cyprus and then help them board commercial airliners in Cyprus to get to wherever they want to go.
HARRIS: OK, and Barbara, one last, quick point.
HARRIS: You talk about the helicopters going in -- U.S. military helicopters. Was the Lebanese government consulted on this?
STARR: Well, no one is exactly saying but, of course the really interesting point here, as your question sort of indicates, if you have coordination with the Lebanese government, does that give you, in the U.S. military a connection to Hezbollah? The threat on the ground in Beirut, the military fields would be small arms fire, small rocket fire, shoulder-fired weapons from Hezbollah elements within Beirut. Can the Lebanese government control that threat? That's something I don't think anybody in the U.S. military has a very good feeling about. I think it's probably very clear they coordinated with Israel, they coordinated with the Lebanese government, but how to control that, Hezbollah militia threats on the ground in Beirut is probably the key issue right now and the key threat that the U.S. military will face if it goes later in the week in a larger operation to take out more Americans.
HARRIS: That is -- boy, that is an interesting line of conversation. I'm sure you'll be talking to Wolf Blitzer about this situation more at top of the hour, but Barbara thank you for joining us this morning, we appreciate it.
NGUYEN: So, as we talk about Americans trying to get out of Lebanon. Lebanese citizens are also trying to escape the Israeli air strikes and they're fleeing into Syria. CNN's Aneesh Raman is live at the Syrian border with Lebanon and has been talking to us all morning long about just the flood of people trying to get into Syria.
What are you seeing now -- Aneesh.
RAMAN: Well, Betty this, group is representative of the majority of people that have come through this, the main crossing between Lebanon and Syria, they are Syrians, poor workers who've been living in Lebanon. You can see they have traveled with what little they have, just small bags. The rest their belongings have been left there. Escaping the violence, many of them have walked for hours in order to get back into this country. Now, if we go sort of behind them, you can see there behind us is the border crossing itself.
Cars are coming in which might seem interesting given that the main highway has been hit between here and Lebanon, but people tell us they've been able to route around. Busses have been coming thorough, carrying 20, 30 people. Officials tell us hundreds of thousands of people have been coming through.
There you heard someone lambaste President George Bush.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been coming in. The majority of Syrians, but they also include Lebanese who fleeing, as well as ex-patriot Arabs, Kuwaitis, Saudis, Bahrainis who were in Lebanon who are now desperately trying to get home.
Syria is involved in this whether it wants to be or not. Syria's relationship with Hezbollah is of growing international concern. They are facing mounting pressure to allow Hezbollah in. But those we have talked to, Syrians, Lebanese, Kuwaitis. A Kuwaiti man injured in a bomb attack we talked to saying they are standing behind Hezbollah, those who didn't support them before, say now amid this crisis every Lebanese supports Hezbollah because they're fighting for the resistance and fighting for their land -- betty. NGUYEN: These folks are saying they're standing behind Hezbollah yet they're coming back into Syria. Are you seeing any of them going back into Lebanon?
RAMAN: Well, we're just going to come over to this side. You saw how busy it was were I just was. On this side, this is the entrance into Lebanon -- virtually empty. This white car you're going to see -- yellow car behind me, that's the only kind of sort of vehicles we've seen go in because are taxis, they're looking to make economic advantage of the situation and pick people up. But there are some, and we should tell you, Lebanese heading into this conflict and that a short time ago, a Lebanese man from Saudi Arabia who has come back because he wants to be there with his family. He says if he is going to die anywhere it will be in Lebanon. So there are Lebanese who are desperately trying to get in to join what they say is a growing movement within Lebanon because of the anger and what they're seeing on the TVs, that is their home and they're returning home -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Yeah, these pictures are quite remarkable people carrying what little they can pack into a bag across the border to get into Syria and for them that is a way to safety with all the shelling that's going on in Lebanon. Aneesh, great reporting from there. We'll be speaking with you later today. Thank you.
And, getting out of harm's way, well we have a live report on that. Just really the efforts to bring Americans home.
HARRIS: Absolutely. We will be checking in once again with Alessio Vinci. He is in Beirut. You're watching continuing coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING, we will be right back.
HARRIS: Let's take a closer look now at how this current crisis in the Middle East might be resolved at the U.N. Kristin Silverberg is assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs which is -- which represents U.S. interests in the U.N. And she joins us from Washington.
Kristin, thanks for your time this morning.
KRISTIN SILVERBERG, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION AFFAIRS: Absolutely.
HARRIS: Well, we would love to hear from you that there are efforts underway to resolve this at the U.N. Can you share some good news with us?
SILVERBERG: We are in close consultation with all of the other delegations in New York about next steps. We're really waiting to see what comes back from the secretary general senior adviser trip to the region. They're on the ground now and we would expect a report back to the council later this week, but ultimately, we think that resolution of this will depend on full indentation of Security Council resolution 1559 which among other things, requires the Lebanese government to assert control over all of its territory.
You know, as you've been reporting for some time, Hezbollah is a large, armed element that operates essentially as a private army in the middle of Lebanon and which takes orders sometimes from foreign capitals and so we think it's absolutely essential that the Lebanese armed forces have control of the region.
HARRIS: Well, Kristin, you know the Lebanese government can't implement the resolution. They just can't do it. It's not in a position to do it and certainly even if it wanted to, it can't do it alone. Is there any help from the U.N. forces on ground that might be called upon to help Lebanon do what it might, in fact, want to do?
SILVERBERG: Well, there's a lot of international can do and is doing. You know, there's a U.N. peacekeeping force that sits on the border between Lebanon and Israel right on the blue line. There, we provide lots of bilateral support. We want to strengthen the Prime Minister Siniora's government to help him assert control of the territory. And we work closely with a lot of the our allies, the French government, the government of the U.K. and many others to help us do that. So, yes, there is a lot of international community can do to help bolster those efforts.
SILVERBERG: But do you accept the premise that fundamentally there's nothing, practically speaking, that this new government, fragile as it is, can do on its own to get it done?
SILVERBERG: No, we really don't. We've helped work with them on the things they can do. There's a national dialogue underway that's already taken some steps to move toward implementation of 1559, and we support that. We want to help them do it as quickly as possible and so we're very committed to helping strengthen the Prime Minister Siniora's government.
HARRIS: Just quickly, a tough U.N. Security Council resolution on North Korea and already the response of North Korea is defiance. You expected that, I'm imaging.
SILVERBERG: Well, it's not a great surprise. Keep in mind that this resolution demands that North Korea give up its ballistic missile program. So, it's not actually asking North Korea for acceptance or rejection of the resolution, it's mandatory. And the other thing, I think to keep in mind is that this show of defiance by the North Koreans is likely to be very counterproductive. They stormed out of the counsel yesterday. I don't think that's likely to win them sympathy from any of our allies including the Chinese or the Russians.
HARRIS: Again, probably expected, would you say?
SILVERBERG: I would.
HARRIS: OK, Kristin Silverberg, thanks for your time this morning.
SILVERBERG: Absolutely. Thanks. NGUYEN: Well, the news is breaking in the Middle East minute by minute. We're on top of all of this. In just a moment we're going to bring you up-to-date on everything that's been happening in this very busy region right here on CNN SUNDAY.
Also ahead, we sit down with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a reporter who has seen her share of stories unfold before her eyes, and what she makes of the current Mideast crisis and its relation to Africa. Stay with us.
I want you to take a look at this. This is what they call the class photo as the G-8 Summit wraps up in old St. Petersburg, Russia. They were going to be talking about a lot of things including healthcare, economics but of course all of this was overshadowed by the crisis that is just simply escalating in the Mideast. And there you have it the class photo from the G-8 Summit which pretty much marks the end of this summit as it wraps up.
HARRIS: Well, South Africa is one of many nations with citizens getting more desperate to leave Beirut and flee to Syria, the Mideast crisis has forced us to change gears with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, our former Johannesburg correspondent is here to talk about her newest book, "New News out of Africa," by Charlayne.
Boy, help with us the different perspective on this story. You know, thinking about South Africa and for years and years and years, folks thought that was a problem that there would be no solution to, the apartheid...
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, JOURNALIST: Well, these two were the most intractable conflicts in the world and everybody was saying which one is going get resolved first and then here, apartheid ended at a time when, you know, blacks and whites there were just at each other's throats, maybe not as violently, but certainly violent, as we see in the Middle East now and somehow that whole thing came together and South Africa has been trying to insert itself into this process...
HARRIS: Oh really? OK.
HUNTER-GAULT: Oh yeah, because President Mbeki and the other South African officials have brought about peace in the South African continent in the most intractable wars: the Congo, Burundi, Ivory Coast. And so they have brought Mahmoud Abbas to speak -- the president of the Palestinian authority -- to speak to the South African parliament. They are now saying they want to go there and try to bring some of that moral authority that brought about an end to apartheid to this conflict. And you look at what's going on, which you've been reporting all day and the last few days and you say how could we be talking about solutions, but the head of -- president -- prime minister of Lebanon has called on the world to get in this and South Africa says we have something that could help.
HARRIS: So, all right. Layout that model for us because we know that as apartheid was ending that young people led this change, this move to democracy and in many ways, you write in your book, are at the forefront of changing South Africa. HUNTER-GAULT: Well, it was young people and it was renaissance men like President Mandela and Thabo Mbeki who, during the years of the most violent conflict were quietly meeting with white people who thought of them as this (INAUDIBLE), the black hordes, but out of the country and all over the world they were having quiet meetings with reasonable people trying to bring an end to this conflict.
HARRIS: And as you look at the situation in the Middle East right now, so hot right now, at some point, cooler heads have to prevail and perhaps some of these quiet meetings can take place.
HUNTER-GAULT: People have to talk. The United States is trying to take the lead now, but as you've seen in editorials and others they're between a rock and a hard place. So South Africa said you've got to have a different voice and you know, as I've said, they've brought about peace on the African continent in many places, so why not, they say.
HARRIS: Charlayne, good to see you.
GAULT: Thank you.
HARRIS: I know you're in town to talk about your book and to take part in a wonderful festival that's here in town. Thank you for taking some time to talk with us and we're going to talk in just a couple of minutes.
HUNTER-GAULT: Thank you.
NGUYEN: We want to bring you up-to-date on the crisis in the Middle East. A dramatic escalation the conflict today, after Hezbollah attacked the Israeli city of Haifa. Eight people were killed and Israel's prime minister warns of far-reaching consequences. Israel responded with more attacks in Lebanon. CNN has confirmed that a U.S. military had team has arrived in Lebanon to help Americans get out of the country. About 25,000 Americans are believed to be in Lebanon, but not all are expected to leave.
And Israel says it has recovered the bodies of three sailors missing after Hezbollah attacked one of its warships. In all, four soldiers died in that attack. The body of a fourth sailor was found yesterday.
HARRIS: "Late Edition" is next followed by "This Week at War" so don't go anywhere.
NGUYEN: Wolf Blitzer will be with you for the next three hours with live updates on the crisis in the Middle East and other headlines all morning long. Have a great Sunday.
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