Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Slow Exodus of Americans From Lebanon; Middle East Cease-Fire Weeks Away?; Israeli Tanks Move Into Gaza Strip
Aired July 18, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we begin with breaking news tonight -- new developments on another front in this ongoing war, and the latest from Cyprus, ground zero of the American evacuation of Beirut -- hundreds of Americans already evacuated, but thousands more still stuck in Lebanon.
ANNOUNCER: Not enough flights. And where are the ships?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very slow. Very slow. If it is that amount that they're saying, 25,000, I have no idea how they're going to get them out of there.
ANNOUNCER: Americans left wondering, if the French can do it, if Sweden can do it, why can't we?
Weeks, not days -- Israel signals a longer war. Hezbollah says, bring it on. What about the president?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is this provocation of Hezbollah that has -- has created this crisis. And that's the root cause of the problem.
ANNOUNCER: From all sides, the message is talk later, fight now.
And 10,000 rockets in southern Lebanon, will it take a ground war to root them out?
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, crisis in the Middle East, day seven.
Reporting tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean, here is Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: And thanks very much for joining us.
Much of the focus of the last several days has been on Lebanon's southern border, the northern border of Israel. That's where much of the fighting has been. There are new developments tonight, breaking news developments, tanks rolling into Gaza in -- in Palestinian territory. We're going have a live report from Matthew Chance coming up shortly. We're joining you tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus. This is really ground zero of the evacuation of Americans and other foreign nationals from Lebanon. All throughout the day, we are seeing more and more Americans arriving here, more and more foreign nationals, on a day that has seen many developments throughout the region. And we're going to bring you all of those tonight.
But for those Europeans and Americans still trapped in Lebanon, the evacuations are not going fast enough. Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): Rushing to get out of Lebanon, hundreds of westerners pack cruise ships, trying to flee Beirut, as the fighting rages on for a seventh day.
Some of the 25,000 Americans in Lebanon say the U.S. government has been slow to evacuate them, while other governments have already come to the rescue -- Democrats in Congress today charging, once again, another failure for the Bush administration.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Let's hope that -- that saner minds will prevail, and they will see the light, that, as families across the country watch on TV, and with great anxiety, the fate of their family members in Lebanon, that they know that this is not just another manifestation of the Katrina mentality.
COOPER: But the wait may soon be over. U.S. Chinook helicopters airlifted more than 100 Americans today, and a cruise ship is docked in Beirut, ready to evacuate up to 1,000 more.
REAR ADMIRAL PATRICK WALSH, U.S. 5TH FLEET COMMANDER: We will take on passengers and depart at first light tomorrow morning.
COOPER: Israeli warplanes today pounded targets in eastern and southern Beirut, killing at least 11 Lebanese soldiers. Hezbollah also struck, launching a dozen rockets into the coastal town of Nahariya and rattling Haifa with a barrage of explosions. This afternoon, President Bush aimed tough words at Syria, saying he suspects the country may be using Hezbollah to gain more footing in the region.
BUSH: Syria is trying to get back into Lebanon, it looks like to me.
COOPER: Diplomacy efforts are under way. Today, Israel's foreign minister, after meeting with the U.N. delegation, said an effort to end the conflict had begun.
But she said no cease-fire could happen until the three Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah and Hamas are returned.
COOPER: Let's give you the latest information on what we know about the evacuations as they now stand. We're coming to you tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus. This is the place that many of the ships that have been leaving Lebanon are arriving. Cyprus is an island off the coast of Lebanon. It's about 150 miles off of Lebanon.
And -- and it is here that we have been seeing, over the last 24 hours, hundreds of Europeans and Americans landing. On -- on Sunday, Americans, Chinook helicopters, Marine Corps helicopters, began airlifting some American citizens, several dozens.
There are now about 350 Americans who have left Lebanon under the auspices of the U.S. government. The -- the evacuations, though, we're told, tomorrow, Wednesday, will ratchet up, and ratchet up big- time, the U.S. saying they may be able to bring out as many as 2,000 people or more tomorrow on as many as two ships that they hope will arrive and begin ferrying people out.
Right now, here I am in the port of Larnaca. And I can Just show you a -- a lot of activity with -- with boats. There is a -- a French cruise ship which is just about to take off right now. There is a tugboat approaching it. It is going to be pulling it out of this port. That ship arrived with about 800 or 900 Europeans, and about 50 or so Americans earlier this morning.
Then, next to it, this ship has just arrived. It is a Norwegian- chartered freighter. It has as many as 800 Swedish people on board. We're told that there may be as many as 150 Americans, many of those American students who are studying at the American University. We are going to talk to some of them who are just arriving over the course of this next two hours.
Over here, you have a -- a Greek frigate, which has brought Greek citizens away from Beirut. And, then, there is another ferry that is going to be leaving for Beirut very shortly -- again, U.S. hoping to really ratchet up the -- the evacuations of American personnel from Beirut over the next 24 hours.
But, again, the bottom line is, there are 25,000 Americans over there. As many as 10,000 may need to get evacuated, and there is no telling how long that may go.
As we said at the top of the program, we have breaking news on the -- what is called the second front, Israel sees as the second front in this two-front war that they say they're fighting. Much of the attention has been on the northern border with Lebanon. We focus now right now on what is going on in Gaza.
CNN's Matthew Chance is there.
Matthew, what is happening?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much.
Well, as much of the focus, of course, Anderson, is on Lebanon, it seems that Israel has not forgotten that second front, of course. Within the last few hours, Israeli tanks have rolled across into the central Gaza Strip. And there is fierce fighting under way between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Mughazi refugee camp in the center of the -- of the Gaza Strip.
It is not quite clear at this stage to us what the exact tactical reason for this particular ground incursion is. But, certainly, over the last several weeks, Israel has been embarking on several large- scale operations in the Gaza Strip. Since the capture of the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit on June the 25th, just last month, it has been putting pressure on the Palestinian militants to try and get them to release him.
They believe he's being held somewhere in the Gaza Strip. They -- this operation may be something to do with that. They have a second strategy as well. And that is to try and put pressure on the militants again to stop firing those makeshift Palestinian rockets into southern Israel, which have been such a thorn in the side to citizens of Israel over the past several months, and, indeed, the past several years.
And, so, it seems that, according to the Israeli military, this is a continuation of those ongoing operations -- Anderson.
COOPER: And, Matthew, we're seeing just these new pictures of the tanks that are roll -- that are rolling in that you have been talking about.
How -- how constant has the Israeli shelling, Israeli military activity in -- in the region been over the last 24, 48 hours?
CHANCE: Well, it has been pretty constant.
It has obviously not been at the same kind of intensity that we have been witnessing inside Lebanon and in -- and in areas of Beirut. But there has been, along the north of the Gaza Strip, an almost constant barrage of tank and artillery fire into the fields from which those makeshift rockets that I mentioned are launched into southern Israel to try and deny the Palestinian militants any areas where they can safely go and launch those -- those missiles.
There's also been sort of successive ground operations that have been going into various areas of the Gaza Strip. Just yesterday, the Israeli tanks, Israeli forces, left the northern Beit Hanoun area of the Gaza Strip.
Now they have come into this other area. So, we are seeing pressure being kept up continually on the Palestinian militants. The effect of that has been, not to get release of Corporal Shalit yet, nor to stop the missiles flying into Gaza.
But it has degraded the infrastructure in -- in -- in Gaza, to such an extent that electricity has been cut off because of the power stations that have been hit. Water has been severed. There is very poor sanitation. And, so, for -- for ordinary Palestinians, Anderson, life has become even more difficult than it was anyway. COOPER: Matthew, days ago, we saw Hamas turning people out for a demonstration in support of -- of Hezbollah. Have there been more demonstrations? What is the power of Hamas at this point?
CHANCE: Well, Hamas is very strong, of course, amongst the Palestinians. Hezbollah are very popular as well.
It seems that, almost every day, there is some kind of pro- Hezbollah rally. Just yesterday, we attended one, you know, people waving those bright yellow flags of Hezbollah, holding up photos of Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.
People -- Hezbollah is very popular with people here, for -- for a couple of reasons, the first one being, of course, that they see Hezbollah as the one group that is standing alongside the Palestinians and standing up to Israel. They're inflicting pain on Israel. And that's very popular amongst many Palestinians.
But there's a more pragmatic reason as well. And that is that they believe, Palestinians believe, that Hezbollah is capable of putting enough pressure on Israel to get it to strike a really good deal that would see many of the thousands of the Palestinian prisoners that are held in Israeli jails released, in exchange for those three Israeli servicemen, who, of course, being held by Hezbollah, it is believed, and the other one, as I say, being held here in the Gaza Strip.
They see these as the best bargaining chips the Palestinian people have had with the Israelis for years.
COOPER: A fast-moving story.
Matthew Chance, thanks for covering that angle right now in Gaza. We will continue to check in with you over the next two hours.
Now our focus moves further north, to Beirut, to Lebanon, where so much of the Israeli military has been focused -- more shelling today, of course, more deaths throughout Lebanon, as there was elsewhere, not just in Beirut, but also in -- in the south of Lebanon.
CNN's Nic Robertson got an exclusive tour with Hezbollah representatives in the section of Beirut which they control, a section which has been heavily bombarded by Israeli warplanes, by Israeli rockets as well.
Nic Robertson now with that exclusive tour -- take a look.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Tyre, the port city in the south of Lebanon, took a pounding from Israeli bombs Tuesday. Civilians were caught up in the carnage.
Other Lebanese towns and villages in the south and east of the country were also targeted, and, as it has every day since the bombing began last Thursday, Beirut's southern suburbs, the heartland of the Islamic guerrilla organization Hezbollah, part of which, until now, kept off-limits to outsiders.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Where are we going now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we are moving to where Israeli jet fighters bombed what it called Hezbollah headquarters.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In a reverse of recent policy, Hezbollah took CNN on an exclusive fast-paced tour of the most sensitive bomb sites.
(on camera): You are really worried about another strike here right now, yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course.
ROBERTSON: How dangerous is it in this area at the moment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very, very dangerous. It's -- we are now the most dangerous place in the most dangerous moment.
ROBERTSON: In civilian housing.
(voice-over): Israel says it targets Hezbollah's leadership and military structure. Hezbollah wanted to show us, civilians are being hit.
(on camera): What was here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just look. Shoot. It is civilians, buildings. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?
ROBERTSON: Are you going to have -- go for this cease-fire? Are you have going to hand back the soldiers they asked for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We always teach Israel a lesson. We always teach it a lesson. Now we will teach Israel a lesson again. I tell Ehud Olmert we will not surrender. We will not surrender. We will not surrender. Dignity.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Fearing renewed bombing, we move off again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. (INAUDIBLE) Hurry up. Then we have no (INAUDIBLE) every moment. Hurry up.
ROBERTSON: As we run past the rubble, we see much that points to civilian life, no evidence apparent of military equipment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This, I will show you something.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shoot me. Shoot...
ROBERTSON: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is here where they said Sayyed Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, is living. This is wrong.
ROBERTSON: This looks like a bunker...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was...
ROBERTSON: This looks like a bunker-busting bomb has been used here to go down below ground level.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was destroyed by Israeli -- the Israelis are coward. They don't come to fight us face-to-face. They come with jet fighters from high above in the sky.
ROBERTSON: Is -- is that what you want them to do, fight you face-by-face?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they have -- if they are brave enough, face -- face us. You know, we want you -- we want to fight you face- to-face.
ROBERTSON: How -- how long is this going to...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't dare to do it.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): I have more questions.
(on camera): They -- but they say you're killing civilians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now there is jet fighters. We have to move.
ROBERTSON: You all right, Shams (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
ROBERTSON: Now we have been told we have to get out of the area. They believe that more Israeli planes are coming and that we need to get out of this area right now for our safety.
(voice-over): As we leave, my questions are still unanswered. Has Israeli bombing degraded Hezbollah's military, as Israel claims? We track down a senior Hezbollah politician.
DR. ALI FAYYAD, HEZBOLLAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE (through translator): Hezbollah's infrastructure remains completely sound. What will show this to be true in the resistance continued ability to launch rockets. I can say we're still in the middle of this battle.
ROBERTSON: A battle that, in Beirut's normally densely populated southern suburbs, at least, is turning the city into a war zone.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTSON: And that's the difficulty that faces the Israelis as they attempt to degrade, as they say. And that's their aim, degrade the military capabilities of Hezbollah. This is not a regular army in military barracks, who are standing out on the street corners in uniform.
This is a -- a movement that lives inside house, a guerrilla group that lives inside houses in suburban areas. And that is why there is so much damage. And, tonight, again, Anderson, there has been heavy bombing in that same area where we were.
We have heard some huge, resonous -- resonating explosions going off in that same area, again, very, very big blasts -- Anderson.
COOPER: A remarkable tour.
Nic, thanks. We will check in with you a little bit later on in the course of these next two hours.
We also want to welcome our international viewers who are watching CNNi around the world, as well as, of course, CNN domestic in the United States.
Now we turn our focus to -- to -- back to Israel, to the Israel- Lebanon border.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour getting the Israeli perspective with -- with an Israeli military unit out on the border.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All the Israeli bombardments of this past week have not yet silenced Hezbollah. The seaside town of Nahariya, which is just five miles from the Lebanon border, got the worst of it today. Twelve rockets hit here. One struck a small apartment building, causing some injuries. Another struck a home and killed a man.
Three rockets fell in the Haifa area -- no reports of casualties. For four days and four nights, this Israeli artillery unit has kept up a steady onslaught on Hezbollah positions just across the border. And their mission is not nearly done.
BRIGADIER GENERAL GAL HIRSCH, NORTHERN FRONT BATTLE COMMANDER, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: The directive is dismantle, attack, destroy the abilities of Hezbollah, and clear the threat from the Israeli citizens.
AMANPOUR: Brigadier General Gal Hirsch is the northern front battle commander.
This is about never again letting Hezbollah build up missiles and military that can attack up north, as far south as Haifa, and maybe even beyond. Every shell that is fired, every barrage of their multiple-launch rocket systems is aimed at pushing Hezbollah back, to never again let them occupy positions right here on the border with southern Lebanon. It is about creating a buffer zone.
Indeed, for Commander Hirsch and his men, this is do or die.
HIRSCH: We cannot fail. We don't have any other choice. We cannot live under this umbrella of terror missiles. And we will attack and attack and fight for our lives.
AMANPOUR (on camera): The commander of the northern operations up here says that they are, right now, in the first phase of this operation.
He said there are contingency plans for a possible phase two. And that could involve elements of some kind of ground operation inside Lebanon. He says there are additional brigades and divisions ready, should the order come. And this whole offensive could last several more weeks.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN, with elements of the Galilee Division in northern Israel.
COOPER: And now Christiane joins us live.
Christiane, the -- the Israeli soldiers, military officials you're talking to, do they feel the -- the -- the operation is successful? Do they feel they are degrading Hezbollah's military capabilities?
AMANPOUR: Well, they -- they say yes, but they won't give us any concrete sort of percentage of how much they think they have degraded it.
And, as we have seen, these rockets keep coming in. I mean, obviously, it is a completely disproportionate battle, because you have got rockets, and then you have got this sophisticated heavy artillery from this side, and the Air Force from this side. So, it is not the same. But, of course, they're very worried about those rockets coming in.
And their aim is to get this situation, so that it is never like what it is again, in other words, so that they never again have an armed militia sitting on their border. And those artillery units we were with were earlier during the day, but we're quite near one now. And it has been going on all night, and even as day has been breaking, heavy artillery fire directed almost constantly at positions in southern Lebanon, mindful of the fact that most of this stuff they're targeting and trying to look for is small and sometimes mobile, and it is a big challenge for a conventional army.
COOPER: Christiane joining us live from the border region -- Christiane, thanks. We will check in with you as these developments move.
You can see, also, just behind me, this French ship is now departing the port here in Larnaca, Cyprus, again heading back to Beirut to pick up more Europeans, possibly more Americans. That ship arrived earlier today. About 150 American students have just arrived here in the port. We anticipate talking to them some time, if they get off the ship in time, over the next hour-and-a-half.
You can hear the French ship signaling it is leaving this port.
When we come back: We have talked about the military aspects in this, the last several minutes. Now we are going to focus on the diplomacy, what is happening on the diplomatic front -- when we return from Cyprus.
COOPER: Some of the violence in Lebanon -- Israelis hitting targets in southern and all throughout Lebanon. We have been seeing this. And as this eighth day of the conflict begins here, no doubt, there will be more violence and more bloodshed.
The diplomatic aspects, that's what we want to look at now -- the U.S. saying restraint, calling for restraint on the part of Israel, but not calling for a cease-fire.
CNN's John Roberts takes a look at the diplomatic dance now going on.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The destruction and death in the Middle East about to enter its second week, President Bush today outlined a very clear diplomatic goal.
BUSH: I want the world to address the root causes of the problem. And the root cause of the problem is Hezbollah.
ROBERTS: That means a solution must go well beyond a cease-fire. So, when Egypt's foreign minister stressed the urgency of ending the fighting...
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: It is imperative. We have to bring it to an end as soon as possible. Thank you.
ROBERTS: ... Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, not yet.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: When it is appropriate and when it is necessary and will be helpful to the situation, I am more than pleased to go to the region.
ROBERTS: So, what is the holdup? Shouldn't Rice rush to the Middle East to put out the fire before it spreads? According to Israel, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, right now, it is -- it is not a time.
ROBERTS: Not the time, because Israel wants to make sure Hezbollah is mortally wounded first. EDWARD WALKER, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: I think what we're seeing is a serious effort on the part of the Israelis to solve a problem they have had for many, many years.
ROBERTS: Ed Walker, a veteran of Middle East negotiations, says, right now, neither side is interested in ending the fighting.
WALKER: And in negotiations, timing is everything. And you have got to pick the time when you can actually get something out of it. And I don't think you can today.
ROBERTS: And diplomacy, it appears, will involve far more than just the two major players.
BUSH: And in order to be able to deal with this crisis, the world must deal with Hezbollah, with Syria, and to continue to work to isolate Iran.
ROBERTS: At the moment, there is no focus in how to deal with the crisis. The U.N. and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are pushing hard the idea of a U.N. force to bring peace to Lebanon.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: That can stop the bombardment coming over into Israel, and, therefore, gives Israel the reason to stop its attacks on Hezbollah.
ROBERTS: Hold on, says the White House; a U.N. force should only go in once hostilities have ended.
And, while many countries want the conflict to end now, the U.S. is content to give Israel more time to weaken Hezbollah. But, with civilian casualties growing on the Lebanese side, there is a risk Israel could quickly squander what goodwill it has with moderate Arab states.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think there is a balancing act here. And it is not likely that the White House will stay quiet and comfortable with these Israeli tactics too much longer.
ROBERTS: The task for Condoleezza Rice will be to build international pressure on Syria and Iran to get Hezbollah to back off. Middle East experts believe, the intense diplomacy won't begin until next week, and an end to hostilities perhaps not until three weeks after that -- Anderson.
COOPER: John Roberts, thanks very much for that.
When we come back, we are going to talk to Israel's ambassador to the U.N.
But, first, we want to take a look at how Israelis feel about the ongoing military operations. There is a new poll out. Here is the "Raw Data." A new poll some of 513 Israelis that was published in an Israeli newspaper today shows that 86 percent of them believe the offensive is justified. Eighty-one percent want the fighting to continue. And 58 percent of Israelis believe the battle should not stop until Hezbollah is destroyed. The poll is the first since the recent fighting began.
When we come back, we will talk to Israel's ambassador to the U.N., live from New York.
COOPER: You're looking at pictures of Americans being evacuated by helicopter from Beirut. We have seen numerous flights over the last several days. But only about 300 or so, 350 Americans have so far been evacuated.
And what you're looking at right now live is a picture here in Larnaca, Cyprus, of Norwegians and what we believe may be as many as many as 150 American students getting off a ship, being loaded onto buses arriving here in Cyprus, the first leg of their journey home back to the United States and back to their homes throughout Europe.
I want to focus on the diplomatic aspects now from the Israeli perspective, what needs to happen for the fighting to stop for their objectives to be met.
We're joined now in New York by Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Dan Gillerman.
Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us.
DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Thank you for having me.
COOPER: The objectives -- the objectives, this is -- this goes far beyond just bringing back three Israeli kidnapped soldiers. What does Israel want?
GILLERMAN: Well, our first priority is to bring our boys home and to stop the shelling of our cities. But as you said, it now goes far beyond that. The Hezbollah needs to be totally eliminated and incapable of doing what they're doing at the moment.
When you see the magnitude of the arsenal of arms, over 13,000 rockets which have been amassed by this Hezbollah over the last few years, you understand that this is a cancer which is growing in the heart of Lebanon. We have to excise this cancer.
And when you start operating on a patient who is suffering from a cancerous growth, you don't stop that operation in the middle and let that fester inside him and eventually kill him.
COOPER: You say Hezbollah needs to be completely eliminated. Previously Israel has been talking about just disarming. There is a political wing to Hezbollah. They have seats in the parliament in Lebanon. Are you saying you want to completely eliminate them as even a political force in Lebanon?
GILLERMAN: No. When I say eliminate, I mean totally disarm them, dismantle them so that they never again have the capacity to do what they're doing now, not only to Israel, but to Lebanon and to the whole region.
Hezbollah is an agent of Iran and Syria. It is really the bloody fingers and the long arms and twisted minds of those two countries who are trying to poison the whole region and terrorize the whole world. Hezbollah must be disarmed and must be made incapable of ever again amassing this kind of arsenal and ever again attacking Israel or destabilizing Lebanon.
I mean, our aim is not just to make Israel safe, but to make Lebanon free. I think the Lebanese people who've suffered for 30 years under oppression, being raped by tyrants from the north and terrorists from the south, deserve this, too.
COOPER: Disarming Lebanon, though, disarming Hezbollah, is that really something that can be accomplished militarily? I mean, obviously, they have support from Iran, from Syria, according to military experts. Obviously, they have popular support among some in the population of Lebanon.
Can Israeli really disarm Hezbollah militarily, or is it a political solution that has to be found?
GILLERMAN: Well, I think we are on the way to achieving it. I think we've hurt Hezbollah very, very badly. I think we've quite...
COOPER: How badly? What percentage do you think of their military capabilities do you think you've eliminated?
GILLERMAN: I wouldn't like to put percentages on it. As you know, I'm not a military man. But I think we're very close to breaking Hezbollah's back.
I think that Hassan Nasrallah has grossly miscalculated. I don't think he anticipated this. I think he's made a huge mistake. He's gone a bridge too far and he's paying the price.
But I agree with you that I don't think that the ultimate disarmament of Hezbollah and making it impossible for them ever to emerge again as a terror organization capable of what they're doing lies also in a political solution and lies in the international community, actually, enforcing what they've been demanding for nearly two years.
And that is the demands of Resolution 1559, that Hezbollah is totally disarmed and the Lebanese government exerts its sovereignty over the whole of Lebanon and deploys its forces in the south. I think that's that Lebanon needs. That's what we need and what the region needs.
COOPER: Quickly to John Roberts in New York -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Anderson.
More than 14,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq so far this year. That's according to a new United Nations report. More than 5,800 civilians died in the months of May and June alone. Needless to say, kidnappings and torture also remain widespread.
The second tropical storm of the season is gathering force off of the coast of North Carolina. The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Beryl's winds reached 40 miles an hour. Beryl is expected to turn northwest today or tomorrow.
And a young child was critically injured after a cruise ship off of the coast of Florida listed hard to one side shortly after leaving port. The ship, the brand new Crown Princess, has returned to Port Canaveral for repairs to its rudder.
Earlier we talked with one passenger, Jennifer Sha, who was on her state room balcony at the time of the incident. She says the real shock came when she went out into the hallway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER SHA, PASSENGER: A huge rush of water came running down the corridor from the flooding swimming pool, so that was very, very frightening. Because that seems reminiscent of any horror movie you've ever seen in your life.
I stepped back in my room, closed my door because I believed them to be watertight. I went back out onto the balcony. By that time, the ship was ready to be straightening itself out.
ROBERTS: So you weren't injured yourself. Did you see or hear of any passengers who were injured?
SHA: Well, yes. I went to the pool area, and it was absolute chaos. Broken glass everywhere, all the chairs were toppled. There were lots of people who were hurt and just mostly it was the terror on people's faces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Ironically, the ship was scheduled, in its open air top deck theater, to show "Titanic" tonight.
The Port Canaveral Fire Department says up to 10 people have serious injuries and at least 30 have minor injuries.
Now let's go back to Larnaca, Cyprus, and here is Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: John, thanks very much.
Want to apologize for the technical glitch tat we had while talking to Israel's ambassador to the U.N. Technology is an amazing thing. It brings us live reports here from Larnaca, Cyprus. Sometimes technology lets us down. When we come back, the war from Hezbollah's perspective, next.
COOPER: And welcome back. We have some breaking news to report. CNN has confirmed earlier wire story reports that Israeli ground troops have moved into Southern Lebanon. We do not know the full extent of this operation. We do not know if this is just Special Forces units. We do not know how large scale this is.
All we know, CNN has confirmed and wire stories are also reporting that Israeli troops have moved into Southern Lebanon.
We asked Tom Foreman to take a look at what a ground operation in Southern Lebanon might look at. Take a look. Might look like. Take a look.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israel is trying to wipe out Hezbollah's rockets, the old short range ones which can reach only 10 or 12 miles into Israel; the new midrange rockets, which have been hitting Haifa about 20 miles inside the border; and even longer range rockets that they suspect exist and could reach all the way to Tel Aviv, about 75 miles in.
(on camera) Israeli intelligence believes the bulk of Hezbollah's rockets are hidden in this triangle, in the south and east of Lebanon. This is where Hezbollah operates, not in the whole country. So it's a limited area.
How many rockets? Look at this. Down the southern border, they think there may be about 10,000 of those short range rockets hidden in bedrooms and office buildings and garages and sheds, under the ground, all that sort of stuff.
Up here toward Beirut, though, they think there may be about 300 of those longer range, more advanced rockets. Those are the ones they really want to get.
Right now Israel is pounding all the places that they think these things may be hidden, because frankly, they think the rockets are the backbone of Hezbollah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without rockets and missiles, Hezbollah is nothing. It's 5,000, 6,000 armed men with middling level of training. So if the Israelis decide that they're not being successful at reducing the inventory, then they'll cross the border.
FOREMAN: But a ground invasion of this area, if Israel tried to come in and surround Hezbollah, would be tough. This is mountainous terrain. It's covered with all sorts of little villages. Military analysts say each one would have to be secured and searched, and each one could absorb 300, 400, 500 troops. That's a lot of people.
On top of which, look at the nature of these buildings. They're made of stone. If homes and building here were made of plywood or wallboard, you could shoot through them. Because they're made of stone, they offer easy safe hiding places for snipers and insurgents, where it's hard to get at them. And likely, that's what Hezbollah would become. An insurgency that would grind on.
Could the Lebanese army help? Maybe. They could come in from the north. But so far they've indicated they can't handle Hezbollah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea of a pincer, of a squeeze by the Israelis advancing into Lebanon from the south and the Lebanese army stands firm and holds and squeeze Hezbollah, that could be hoped for and wished for. But it's not -- doesn't seem to be likely.
FOREMAN: Add to all of that the enormous international political pressure that Israel would feel if its troops stormed Southern Lebanon and just took over the joint. That's why it is not happening, Anderson. And that's why it is not likely to happen in the near future.
COOPER: Tom, thanks very much.
What is happening, and this is breaking news, and I'm just going read it to you over the wire, this report from CNN's Karl Penhaul, Israeli ground troops have launched a cross border incursion on the ground into Southern Lebanon, according to Israeli Defense Forces.
A spokesman telling CNN early this morning, quote, "A number of Israeli troops are on the ground in Southern Lebanon, close to the border." The spokesman said their mission is to destroy Hezbollah outposts there.
Again, it sounds like it is a relatively small operation at this point. But we're trying to get more details. We will bring them to you, of course, as we get them live here from Larnaca, Cyprus.
When we come back, we'll hear from a Hezbollah spokesman, what he says about this latest movement by Israel, as well as their perspective on how their forces are holding up.
We'll also talk to an American student who just landed here in Cyprus, escaping the violence -- violence in Beirut. Stay with us.
COOPER: And you're looking at a live picture of southern Beirut. We have seen some explosions there already there this morning. We're trying to get some sort of confirmation about what areas in particular have been hit.
Also, we have just been reporting this breaking news that, according to a Israeli Defense Force spokesman, a number of Israeli troops are on the ground on Southern Lebanon close to the border, a spokesman telling CNN their mission is to destroy Hezbollah outposts there. Joining us now from Beirut is Ibrahim Mousawi, the news editor of Al Minar TV, the Hezbollah TV station, the station that the Israeli government tried to knock off the air with -- with attacks earlier this week. But it's still broadcasting.
Mr. Mousawi, appreciate you joining us. First of all, your reaction to the news that there are Israeli ground troops now who are doing some sort of cross border operation in Southern Lebanon?
IBRAHIM MOUSAWI, NEWS EDITOR, AL MINAR TV: Well, we have been hearing this news ever since the -- this new aggression has taken place. At an early basis they say the Israelis are trying to do new incursion or maybe an invasion to Lebanon.
I believe this news have not been confirmed yet. And we haven't heard any reaction from Hezbollah or from the Lebanese security officials about it.
COOPER: What Israel has said -- we just had the Israeli ambassador to U.N. on moments ago, who said that basically what they want is, beyond just the return of their three kidnapped soldiers, beyond the secession of rocket attacks from Southern Lebanon. They want to disarm Hezbollah.
What would it take to disarm Hezbollah, which was called for in a U.N. resolution, 1559, the disarming of all militias, all private armies in Lebanon. Hezbollah is the only one left who still has their weapons. What will it take to get Hezbollah to disarm?
MOUSAWI: Well, it comes to Lebanon, the official level, everybody acknowledges here and recognizes Hezbollah not as a militia with arms but as a resistant legitimate movement and ministerial statement of this cabinet, of this new government has given the legitimacy and has given the authorization for Hezbollah to continue its -- the complete liberation of the occupiers of Lebanon.
Hezbollah recognized its policy that they want to continue to fight until the complete liberation and until they ensure that the release of the Lebanese hostages in the Israeli prisons. In the last operation that took place, where two Israeli soldiers were taken captives, has been publicly and openly acknowledged.
And they talk about Hezbollah leaders. Everybody knows about it here in Lebanon. They tried several times before to carry operations to take Israeli captives. Some Hezbollah fighters were killed in this operations. Before Hezbollah has taken Israeli captives and made swap with the Israelis. The same thing is happening now.
When they did this operation, Hezbollah said this is a limited operation in time and space. We don't want an escalation. We want only to make embarrassing position (ph) and a swap.
The Israelis have responded to this by bombarding the bridges, the civil establishments, the seaports, and other residential areas heavily. And it was after two days that Hezbollah started to respond and to send rockets into the occupied territories. COOPER: Why should Israel enter into negotiations directly or indirectly with Hezbollah, a group which has kidnapped its own soldiers?
MOUSAWI: It's not that they kidnapped. You're talking about resistance that is trying to ensure the release of Lebanese hostages in the Israeli prisons that they have been there for more than 28 years. This is a resistance trying to attack a military force of the occupation. It's not a matter of kidnap. It's capturing Israeli soldiers to make a swap.
And why to negotiate? Why to talk to a terrorist organization, as they say? They have done this before. You're talking about a terrorist state, of Israel, is committing daily actions of terrorism against the Lebanese.
COOPER: Does Hezbollah still want the complete destruction of Israel?
MOUSAWI: Hezbollah acknowledged and recognized and the openly goals of Hezbollah is to liberate the occupied territories, the Lebanese occupied territories to ensure the release of the Lebanese hostages and to maintain a certain defense strategy, where the Lebanese territories and sovereignty are in tact. And not under continuous daily Israeli aggression.
COOPER: Ibrahim Mousawi, appreciate you joining us today on this very busy morning.
We're joined by CNN's Karl Penhaul, who has more information on this military operation going on along the Lebanese-Israel border.
Karl, what do you know?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm in the port city of Tyre in Southern Lebanon right now. And throughout the night we've heard helicopter movement.
First of all, one helicopter moving overhead and then, towards dawn, we heard a number of helicopters, some of them hovering off in the distance, east and southeast of the city of Tyre.
At that point we talked down an Israeli spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, and he did confirm that a number of ground troops, Israeli ground troops had crossed the border into Southern Lebanon.
He declined, though, Anderson to say how far across the border those troops have come. You'll know that the city of Tyre is about 10 miles from the border between Lebanon and Israel. And it would indeed be surprising, according to one military expert I talked to, that Israeli troops would be this far north.
That said, the Israeli Defense Force spokesman said that the mission of those troops on the ground were to destroy a number of Hezbollah outposts. And he did describe these missions were very close to the border, declined to say exactly how close to the border, Anderson.
COOPER: Karl, we've got to take a quick break. We'll check back with you momentarily. And we will get a reaction from Israel's ambassador to the United Nations to this latest news. Stay with us.
COOPER: Some of the people being evacuated now from Beirut. I'm actually joined by an American student who is here who's literally just gotten off the boat, Penny Mina (ph).
How was it? How was the trip over?
PENNY MINA (PH), STUDENT: The trip over here was pretty -- I don't know, how shall I say, on a freight boat. We were all kind of crammed upstairs, sleeping on the cold floor, but we were just happy to be getting out and getting out safe.
COOPER: What was it like, the process of getting evacuated? Were you frustrated? I mean, we've heard a lot of frustration from people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were pretty frustrated. The embassy contacted us yesterday and said, "We're leaving tomorrow." Then they called back and said, "We're not -- you're not evacuating."
Then today we -- or yesterday rather we got 20 minutes notice to get our things together and just pack up and go. But they actually -- once we -- the rubber hit the road, basically, we had buses waiting for us. They took us directly to the port. And we got on the boat and we just had a little paperwork to do and then we're off and...
COOPER: What were you studying in Lebanon?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Arabic. The language and the culture. And we sure got a lot of it.
COOPER: It is a remarkable city. It's a remarkable, incredible city. What was it like to suddenly see it transformed into a war zone?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, it was pretty devastating. Being half Lebanese, I was able to see what my relatives have been seeing for the past so many years. And so it touched me a little bit more. I don't know. I'm pretty sure that it kind of had the same effect on a lot of just American students or non-Lebanese, too. They are really -- everyone is pretty emotionally drained from the whole experience.
COOPER: I know you're exhausted. We appreciate you joining us. We're going to let you get some sleep. Penny Mina (ph), thanks very much. And we'll check back with you, maybe later on today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
COOPER: Thanks very much.
There's still some 25,000 Americans in Lebanon. We'll be following their progress over the next couple days.
But we have breaking news to report when we come back. An ongoing Israeli military operation, Karl Penhaul from CNN reporting ground troops, some form of ground troops in Southern Lebanon. We'll find out how extensive it is. And we'll get reaction, immediate reaction from the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. when we return.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com