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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Crisis in the Middle East, Day Eight; New Explosions in Beirut; Hezbollah in America; Border Battle; New Explosions in Beirut

Aired July 19, 2006 - 23:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East, Day Eight." Reporting tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean, here is Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we begin this hour with breaking news. The latest and some new information on what is going on in Beirut and what has been going on there over the last several hours.

CNN's Nic Robertson is there live.

Nic, what's happening?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, Anderson, in the last few minutes, a huge blast here, a single blast that's coming just after daybreak. We've heard through the night a lot of surveillance aircraft, a lot of drone activity flying to and fro over the city.

Very interesting, the night has been mostly quiet. There haven't been a lot of blasts here. We have heard from Israelis, the Israeli Defense Forces, that they were targeting the Hezbollah leadership overnight. The Hezbollah leadership denied they had been targeted.

Again, two blasts just after dark last night. It's not clear what that single large blast was that came just after first light this morning, but we can certainly say that the Israeli Defense Forces say that they're looking for the Hezbollah leadership, those drones clearly looking for something on the ground, that strike coming just when people would be coming out of their houses at first light in the morning, perhaps driving off, but we don't know exactly what was targeted yet.

We have seen Hezbollah, though, saying that they are winning in their campaign to stop Israel, depleting their military forces and they point to the latest Israeli military incursion into the south of Lebanon as to their successes here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The raids by Israeli special forces across Lebanon's southern border are being interpreted by Hezbollah guerrillas as something positive. As proof of Hezbollah's ability to withstand Israeli bombing from the air over the past week. DR. ALI FAYYAD, HEZBOLLAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE (through translator): This reflects the failure of Israel's air assault. Therefore, Israel has no choice, but to rely on a ground assault in an attempt to dismantle these military positions. What is happening is only the beginning and has met with failure.

ROBERTSON: Air assaults continued as well. Several dozen civilians injured in and around the port city of Tyre. A food distribution warehouse in southern Beirut, bombed. In some places, fires still raging, hours after the attacks.

(On camera): The heat from the fire is scorching. This is a second car park that we have seen targeted today by the Israeli aircraft. It's not clear if they're changing their tactics so much as broadening their target list.

(Voice-over): A fire that, according to Lebanon's prime minister, is pushing his country into a downward spiral.

FOUAD SINIORA, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: The toll in terms of the human life has reached tragic proportions.

ROBERTSON: Beyond the casualties, a humanitarian crisis in the making. According to the U.N., over half a million of this country of 4 million displaced from their homes. The government says more than 100,000 need emergency help.

And, on top of that, the country's ports are blockaded, the airports blasted beyond use. Bridges broken by bombs and roads often under attack have cut off the country from the rest of the world and regular food shipments.

(On camera): For the first time, the Israelis today appear to have struck targets in one of Beirut's predominantly Christian neighborhoods. This is where the missile impacted. It appears as if it was very small. And it is an indication of the precise targeting that the Israelis are using, if in fact, it was an Israeli air strike. It also shows how carefully they are scrutinizing what goes on, on the ground here.

But in this case, though, it seems as if they missed the military target. This looks like a well digger.

Here, in Ashrafir (ph), Christian Banker Ziad Fatte tells me he believes the Israelis should have known these were not military vehicles.

ZIAD FATTE, BEIRUT RESIDENT: They have very accurate satellite. So, I am sure that it's not a mistake.

ROBERTSON: Like many others here, he thinks Israel is trying to divide Christian and Muslim, reignite Lebanon's old civil war.

FATTE: It's a Christian region. Why bombard Ashrafir (ph)? So if they want the Christian opinion to have a problem with the Muslims.

ROBERTSON: Do you think this will happen? Do you think it will...

FATTE: No, I don't think so. I don't think so, no.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It seems the Lebanese are finding unity, not because everyone likes Hezbollah, but because their country is sinking deeper into this crisis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, finding unity, Nic, but what about finding food and basic necessities? What is life like in Beirut right now?

ROBERTSON: It's becoming harder for people. It's becoming much harder. There is still food in the stores, but the prices have gone up. Cooking gas, a necessity for everyone here, is very difficult to find and it's very expensive, if you do. The bare necessities in the stores are still there, but the concern is that they're going to run out because new shipments aren't coming into the country. Fresh vegetables are making it into the city, but it's really the long term.

And there are a lot of people forced out of their homes. The government believes about 100,000, plus, in the city. International aid agencies now are realizing the situation is so bad that they're beginning to ramp up their distribution efforts and a lot of them are going to begin emergency distributions right now, today -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, I also understand we're just getting this new video of the blast, which you heard a short time ago. Again, if you can, just tell us what it was that you heard. And also, what is the latest on this Israeli statement that some six or so hours ago they struck what they said was Hezbollah leadership positions, multiple air strikes with 23 tons of explosives?

ROBERTSON: It's been a very interesting night, Anderson. And I would say it began about 12 hours ago. Just as the night was falling here, there were two loud blasts. Then we didn't hear anything for many hours. During that period, Israeli Defense Forces said they dropped 23 tons of bunker busting explosives on a Hezbollah headquarters leadership bunker. Hezbollah denies that. They say what was hit, but it was only hit by a few missiles, they say, was a religious facility under construction, didn't hit their leadership.

All night, though, and yesterday afternoon, we've heard a lot of these drone surveillance aircraft. Just about 10 or 15 minutes ago, right as dawn was breaking here, we heard one very loud blast, a singular blast. Normally they come two, threes or fours. This one was a singular blast and this comes after this night of intense surveillance by these drone aircraft. They clearly have been up in the sky looking for something.

We heard the Israeli Defense Forces last night saying that they were targeting the leadership of Hezbollah. Possibly right after daylight, people coming out of their house first thing in the morning, bang, the targeting by this bomb. We don't know what it was targeting, but we do know that those aircrafts were specifically looking for something during the night -- Anderson. COOPER: Nic, I know a Hezbollah official said to you that what Israel hit hours ago was actually a religious site. We had the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. on in the last hour on 360, saying categorically that is not the case. It was no religious site. They said Israel would likely be putting more details forward in the coming hours. We'll bring that to you, of course, live when we get it.

Nic, Thanks for that.

We now move further south in Israeli territory. Northern Israel, which saw a lot of rocket attacks today, two children, according to Israeli sources, Israeli officials, two children, Arab-Israeli children killed in the town of Nazareth. But as fighting continues along both sides of that Lebanon Israel border, CNN's Christiane Amanpour has that side of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fiercest clashes yet between the Israeli army and Hezbollah guerrillas are here in Aviveem (ph), right on the Lebanese border.

Israeli tanks pitted against Hezbollah mortars and rockets. Israel has taken casualties in this operation. Two soldiers were killed and the injured were loaded into an ambulance and rushed to the nearest hospital.

All the while, sirens wail, warning of the next rocket salvo. And it's not just humans, but hardware too. An Israeli tank is pulled, limping off the battlefield.

The Israeli military says this action is aimed at taking out Hezbollah posts along the border. Israel has sent in tanks to this battle. We've been hearing the sound of outgoing tank fire. Meantime, around the hills in this region, peppered with smoke and flames, as Hezbollah rockets are still making their mark.

Two children were killed when rockets hit the town of Nazareth. They have also, again, struck Haifa, Tiberia and all this part of northern Israel.

Villages and hillsides are billowing with smoke. Buildings here in Dishon (ph) are aflame. Overhead comes a flying fire extinguisher, dropping red powder to dampen the blaze. It circles again and again over the village, over the slopes.

Meantime, the air raid siren sounds again. As the town of Aviveem (ph), seen of the worst fighting, finally gets a direct Hezbollah hit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And obviously, Christiane, with all this fighting still going on, still raging, any talk of a cease fire seems a long way off. AMANPOUR: It does, and nobody is calling for it. And then next question is, is there going to be a real ground invasion? Nobody here is saying that that is planned, but the head of the Israeli armed forces, chief of staff said that if it had to happen, it could do. He told that to the Knesset members.

COOPER: We are also seeing a flood of refugees.

Christiane, thanks for that report.

A flood of refugees fleeing into Syria, trying to get out of Lebanon however they can, Syrian citizens, others from the region.

CNN's Aneesh Raman has that side of the story along the Syria- Lebanon border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The refugees just keep coming. Hundreds of thousands from Lebanon so far, 40,000 today alone.

(On camera): This is the scene at the border crossing between Lebanon and Syria. There are hundreds of cars backed up, thousands of people trying to flee the violence. Many of them now have nowhere to go.

(Voice-over): The first sight they see, the flags of Hezbollah. The same flags many saw in Lebanon as they fled. Here, I board a bus with a Lebanese family of 11 for the ride to Damascus.

SAMIRA (ph) (through translator): We escaped our village in southern Lebanon, says Samira (ph). They attacked us with rockets and they attacked the bridge. I saw a pickup truck filled with women and children driving on the bridge attacked. I pulled seven people by my hands and I took them to the hospital.

This Samira's (ph) family, for the past few days, saw people killed as they fled. But yesterday, when two houses near theirs were destroyed by a bomb, they knew it was time to go.

The whole world is watching, Samira (ph) says. Where are the Arab countries? In front of their eyes, they can see people dying, the destruction. Where are the Arab leaders? She wants those Arab leaders to secure the peace in Lebanon or to attack Israel. Her family has long supported Hezbollah and its war on Israel, but for now -- do you know where you'll be sleeping tonight?

SAMIRA (ph): No. No.

ROBERTSON: A half hour later, they hope to get an answer at this just created refugee center in Damascus. Here, we meet Rolla (ph), whose daughter is crying for water. She hasn't had any for five hours. They head inside this gym as Rolla (ph) tells us her children will inherit this battle.

I didn't escape, she tells me. I came to save my children, to see them grow up. And then I will send them back to fight Israel.

And as they continue to enter here, refugees stranded in this gym, their support for Hezbollah grows stronger, as does their anger towards Israel. Here, they see no peace at hand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Aneesh, it is just chaos there on the border. I mean is there any order? Is there any control? How long does it take people to get through?

RAMAN (on camera): It's taking hours. Some people, Anderson, said it took seven hours just to get through the line on the Lebanese side of the border.

On the Syrian side, it is chaos as well, organized chaos, a bit. The cars are packed, as you saw there. But the Lebanese side is what they describe as just utter chaos, throngs of people trying to go into small rooms in order to pass through. And all of that just feeds into the anger that exists among these refugees, anger at the world, that they say is turning a blind eye to the death and devastation in Lebanon, anger at the Arab leaders that they say are need but are missing. And it is a concern for the west.

It should be because among this group is growing allegiance now for Syria's president because Syria has opened its border, is giving them shelter, is finding them homes. And, of course, as well for Hezbollah. The first thing that they see when they enter are these Hezbollah flags throughout the city of Damascus. There are now pictures of the Hezbollah's head, Hassan Nasrallah.

And so as they come here, that anger is just solidifying. And you heard that woman say she's going to send her children back to fight Israel. And we heard that from a number of people -- Anderson.

COOPER: Aneesh Raman, thanks for that report.

One of the people we've been talking to over the last several days is Fawaz Gerges, a professor with Sarah Lawrence College. He's a Middle Eastern studies professor. He was in Lebanon with his family for summer holiday. Obviously, he is stuck there right now.

Fawaz, appreciate you being with us. You heard Aneesh talking about that growing anger. Is that something the U.S. should be concerned about? Is that something Israel should be concerned about?

FAWAZ GERGES, MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES PROFESSOR, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: Absolutely. In fact, Anderson, when the crisis began, many Lebanese, whom I've spoken to, were highly critical of Hezbollah. They were critical of Hezbollah for lighting the spark that really brought war to Lebanon. Now, the same people I talked to, they're becoming angry at Israel. They're becoming angry at the systemic bombing at the Lebanese infrastructure.

And Anderson, I would like you to know there is a humanitarian crisis in the making in Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of refugees, shortages of supply, a state of panic that's taken hold in the country. A really serious, serious situation, Anderson.

COOPER: What is the perception there in Beirut, the people you talk to, of the U.S. role in all of this? I mean, Condoleezza Rice, there was much made several days ago that she was going to head to the region. That trip seems to be on hold. No timetable, no date for when she may arrive. A sense, really, that the U.S. may just be holding back, watching for Israel to do what they feel is necessary. What do people think of the U.S. right now?

GERGES: You know, Anderson, across ideological lines from left to right, people in this country, in particular in the last 48 hours, seem to blame the United States of America. I mean, the slogan, the idea that I hear from really across the board is that the United States has given Israel a green light to continue its bombing of Lebanon. In fact, people are now blaming the United States, because the United States says, American officials are saying they are against an immediate cease fire.

And the consensus in Lebanon -- not just among the chattering classes, but even among your average citizens, is that the United States could stop the fighting, that the president of the United States could basically intervene and stop this madness.

So, in this particular sense, you're absolutely correct. There's a great deal of anger, not only against Israel, but also against the United States.

And Anderson, why should we, as Americans, care? Well, we should care a great deal because after all, "the United States is fighting a war on terror," quote, unquote. The United States is trying to win half the minds in the Middle East.

As you know, Anderson, Lebanon is one of the most open countries in the Arab world, one of the most liberal societies. You cannot win hearts and minds in the Middle East if you lose the hearts and minds of some of the most pro-Western people in the world, in this country, in Lebanon.

COOPER: The U.S. had said early on they were concerned and had voiced those concerns to Israel about weakening, maybe even toppling the Lebanese government which was born of the so-called Cedar Revolution last March when Syria was forced out, a popular government.

Does this Lebanon government appear weaker to you now than it did even five days ago?

GERGES: You know, Anderson, this is really a great question. On the one hand, the United States, the president himself said that he does not want Israel's campaign to undermine the pro-Western government, the government of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

On the other hand, Israel's actions in Lebanon regardless of how you describe those actions, are bringing about the very same result that is undermining the Lebanese government in the eyes of the population and weakening the foundations of Lebanese institutions. Those institutions, which you would like to go to the southern Lebanon to replace Hezbollah, to really help bring the country out of this, I mean, terrible situation.

So, yes, Anderson, the military campaign basically carried out by Israel is weakening the Lebanese government, is weakening the Lebanese institutions, and unfortunately, the American narrative is not being involved in response of the world. You cannot just hammer away at Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel is hammering away at the civilian infrastructure, the humanitarian crisis, Lebanese infrastructures destroyed, sea ports, the port, the bridges, the factories.

And this is why it seems to me that I hope and I pray that the Bush administration really reassesses its strategy and intervenes as soon as possible. Because if this war continues, you're going to have utter disruption, not only of the Lebanese infrastructure, but also the Lebanese government, which basically is the only hope to basically send the army to the south to replace Hezbollah, to bring about a cease fire and stability at the end of the day.

COOPER: Fawaz Gerges, I appreciate you joining us. And my best to you and your family. I hope you're able to get out soon, along with all the others who are trying so desperately to get out right now.

When we come back, we'll hear a different perspective from the Ehud Barak, the prime minister of Israel, a man who knows about military activity in Lebanon very well. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Scenes of fighting on the border today. You may not realize this, but this very month, 13 years ago, one of the top stories in the news was basically the same, fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

We wanted to bring on a guest in charge of the Israeli army back then, a man that went on to become Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EHUD BARAK, FORMER ISRAELI'S ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: There will be peace and quiet in the southern part of Lebanon only if there will be peace and quiet in the northern part of Israel.

COOPER (voice-over): It sounds like today, but that was Ehud Barak, then Israeli's army chief of staff 13 summers ago.

And this was Hezbollah's Leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, that very same week.

We will, he said, continue jihad against Israel.

Nasrallah is still Hezbollah's leader. Thirteen years have passed. Some of the faces have changed. The messages, however, have not.

BARAK: Israel is not ready to accept the rules of engagement that Hezbollah is trying to impose upon us. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Well that was then and this is now. Ehud Barak is now the former prime minister of Israel. I spoke to him a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Prime Minister Barak, how much more time do you think Israel needs militarily to achieve the objectives that the government has stated?

BARAK: I cannot fully predict it. It is not dependent only on our operation, but on the response on the other side. I believe that about two or three weeks would suffice. But probably it could be cut earlier by determined diplomatic action or by the world community.

COOPER: Well, that's what I'm wondering, I guess. Politically, do you think Israel has two to three weeks to continue military operations? There are some who are saying the U.S. has been slow to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region, wanting the military operation to play out.

A, is that your belief of what's happening? And do you think some sort of political pressure will curb this operation sooner than you would like militarily?

BARAK: It could be stopped earlier, it's happened many times in the past, but basically I think that the International Community could have a role, because basically there are at least two U.N. Security Council resolutions, 45 which was issued immediately after I ordered the pullout from Lebanon six years ago, and 1559, some 14 months ago.

So, it's about time to demand from the Lebanese government and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. There will be no stable world order if such simple resolutions could not be imposed upon weak dictators.

COOPER: A lot has been made about the Lebanese government, what people say is their lack of ability or perhaps will to curb Hezbollah, to disarm Hezbollah. Do you buy that? Do you think they have more capabilities than people give them credit for?

BARAK: Yes. They have much more. Unlike the situation the last 20 years, the last year have seen a democratic -- weak, but democratic government that really wants to put an end to the Hezbollah role. Hezbollah is a kind of abnormal case. It's a party that has presented in parliament, even in the cabinet. And still has its own militia with arsenal rockets and they shoot it at will at the neighboring countries. That's something unacceptable.

COOPER: I talked to a guy from Hezbollah TV, from Manar TV, yesterday who said, essentially, that they want some sort of negotiations indirect negotiations, but they want their prisoners returned, what they called their hostages. Who are these people who they want returned? In the eyes of the Israeli government, who are the people that you are holding and why not return them? Why not have some sort of prisoner exchange?

BARAK: I think it is all tactics in order to achieve a physical cease fire that will save them the tax and allow them to regroup once again and organize. We will not stop shooting until the Lebanese government will send its army to the south and serious steps will be taken to bring together all the weaponry of Hezbollah and demolish it.

But they have in our heads people who are terrorists, people who came into Israel in order to assassinate innocent civilians.

COOPER: Prime Minister Barak, I appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us.

BARAK: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We'll have more from the region in a moment. First, let's check in with John Roberts for the day's other top stories -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson.

For the first time in his presidency, President Bush has exercised his power to veto legislation. He used it to quash a bill to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The president saying to do so would cross a moral boundary. Hours later, the House fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to override that historic first veto.

New charges tonight against two Americans suspected of ties with the leader of that alleged plot against government targets in Canada. Today they were charged with conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. They were already accused of casing targets in Washington with a camcorder and then sending those tapes to a radical in Britain.

The Coast Guard wants to know why it learned about problems aboard a cruise ship not from the captain or the crew, but from a passenger's phone call. Twenty people were hurt when the Crown Princess listed sharply to one side off of the coast of Florida. It's back in Port Canaveral now, where today federal inspectors gave it a thorough going over.

And across much of the nation, a small break in the weather, but not enough and not everywhere. Temperatures still up in the 90s over much of the parts of the south and southern plains. The heat is linked to at least 12 deaths in seven states -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks for that. We'll check in with you a little bit later on.

You may think that Hezbollah is a group that's far away, but they actually may be closer than you think. Coming up, we'll look to their links to America and perhaps even inside America, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You're looking at the aftermath of an Israeli attack in the southern suburbs of Beirut. There are those who have a growing concern about the reach of Hezbollah, not only here in this region, but around the world. In particular, what sort of support they may have inside the United States. CNN's Kelli Arena takes a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hezbollah has never attacked on U.S. soil. But U.S. officials say if the situation in the Middle East escalates further, that could change.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: We are taking precautions here in the United States, and to the extent that we have identified individuals associated with Hezbollah, that we are taking additional precautions to assure that we do not face a threat from these individuals.

ARENA: Counterterrorism officials stress there is no new intelligence suggesting Hezbollah is planning an attack against the U.S., but in an advisory said to law enforcement partners late last week, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned it is possible individuals residing in the U.S. who sympathize with Hezbollah could act.

PAT D'AMURO, CHAIRMAN CEO, GIULIANI SECURITY: Hezbollah is extremely well structured, very well trained and organized in a fashion that they have significant funding from state sponsors, and would be a much more forcible entity to deal with than al Qaeda, should they decide to start conducting attacks globally.

ARENA: Law enforcement sources say there are active cells in the U.S., allegedly involved in everything from gathering intelligence to raising funds, to smuggling arms and military equipment to Hezbollah fighters.

U.S. officials say there are investigations underway in at least two dozen U.S. cities, including Detroit, Los Angeles and New York, involving at least 200 people. Those investigations are mostly focused on people allegedly providing financial support to Hezbollah through traditional criminal enterprises.

BOB GRENIER, KROLL: Those associations primarily center on areas where you have substantial Lebanese ex-patriot Shiite communities.

ARENA: One of the largest Shiite Muslim communities in the U.S. is in Detroit. In March, prosecutors there announced charges against 18 men for allegedly smuggling counterfeit goods, including cigarettes and Viagra, and sending some of the profits to Hezbollah. Two of those men plead guilty.

(On camera): Most experts do not believe that the current situation has escalated enough to prompt Hezbollah to directly attack the United States. The problem is it's not clear what the trigger could be.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: My next guest is an expert on Hezbollah, has worked very closely monitoring them. Bob Baer, former CIA officer in this region. He's also the author most recently of the book, "Blow the House Down." He joins me live from Colorado.

Bob, thanks you very much.

Bob, just briefly listening to Kelli Arena's piece, what do you make of it? Do you think Hezbollah would have an interest on targeting operations inside the United States?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I think we'll see first operations abroad, in particular Lebanon. A resumption of kidnappings, which Hezbollah was involved in in the '80s. We may see attacks against airplanes. And eventually, it could move to the United States if it escalates enough. In the '80s, for instance, we know that there were 15 shipments of explosives that were lost coming out of Lebanon. We assume that one of them went to the United States. They're very sophisticated. They're more sophisticated than bin Laden and it certainly should be a worry of U.S. law enforcement.

COOPER: There's been growing criticism of Israel for hitting large numbers of civilians throughout Lebanon. Israel says, look, they are trying pinpointed attacks, that they are targeting and most recently the Hezbollah leadership. They say they dropped some 23 tons of explosives on Hezbollah leadership positions in a suburb, a southern suburb of Beirut. How accurate can the Israelis be?

BAER: They can't be. I've been put up against the Israelis targeting these people in the past in the '80s and the '90s. Again, this is the most professional guerrilla group, terrorist group you could like in the world. Hassan Nasrallah, the chief is -- you can trust me, he is moving around every night, living with families. Targeting in the southern suburbs of Beirut is nearly impossible. And it's inevitable the Israelis are going to hit purely civilian targets.

COOPER: You say it's nearly impossible. Why? Explain.

BAER: The southern suburbs is a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Hezbollah. You can't go in without somebody noticing you, a foreigner. The Israelis can't put people in there. Their assets, agents are unreliable, many of them run by Hezbollah to put up false information so they will hit civilian targets. And the Israelis have not done very well against the key terrorist groups in Hezbollah. And I could name these people they've been trying to kill for years and have missed over the last 20 years.

COOPER: And that's -- you have no doubt about it? I mean, they are out to try to kill the top leadership of Hezbollah?

BAER: Oh absolutely. Hassan Nasrallah has blood on his hands, Israeli, American and other people, and they want to get this guy. He led this attack last Wednesday. He is a key figure. He's very close to Iran, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is a particularly bad bunch in Tehran. And the Israelis are hoping to get this guy to take the wind out of the sails of the shelling of Israel.

COOPER: Do you think the Israelis can break the back of Hezbollah militarily?

BAER: Not the way they're doing it now. The problem right now is they're getting a lot of -- Hezbollah has a lot of sympathy through the Middle East. They're saying, look, Hezbollah, this small part has taken on the giant Israel and Israel can't stop them. It's these waves of support, not necessarily killing Israeli civilians, but support for Hezbollah, which should concern the Israelis and the United States at this point.

COOPER: There are those who say, though, you know, the opposite view, that Nasrallah has basically overstepped, that he rolled the dice and the dice aren't coming up in his favor if they're disarmed, if they're pushed out of southern Lebanon. You disagree?

BAER: They would have to disarm more than just Nasrallah. There's vast support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, at the ground roots level. It runs hospitals. It runs all sorts of things that the Lebanese depend upon, especially the poor Shia. And what we're seeing, at least now, is anger. But the question is, who is going to disarm Hezbollah? The Lebanese military can't do it. They're not strong enough. It would collapse overnight if they tried. Half the Lebanese military is Shia.

COOPER: It's an interesting perspective. Bob, we appreciate your perspective from being here on the ground for so long. The book is "Blow the House Down." I'm about halfway through it. It's a fascinating read as well. We'll talk to you again, Bob. Thank you very much, from Colorado tonight.

When we come back, CNN's Barbara Starr is onboard the U.S.S. Nashville, heading toward Beirut. They already see it in their sights. We'll try to get a live report from her when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

You're looking at some of the images of the fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border and the south of Lebanon.

Of course, there are many disagreements between Hezbollah and Israel. Many disagreements over land and prisoners, as well as hostages now. Three Israeli soldiers held hostage by Hezbollah.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look at some of the more long-term disputes between Israel and Hezbollah.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): One of the areas that they're fighting over right now is a tiny sliver of land on the north end of Israel, the south end of Lebanon called Shebaa Farm. Hezbollah and Lebanon say this belongs to Lebanon. Syria and United Nations say it belongs to Syria and it's been occupied by Israel for almost 40 years.

This is only the size of the Denver airport. So, why are these people fighting so much about it? Because historically, they've always fought over land here. Look at the map at the end of World War II. At that time, many Jewish people had gathered in this area, and some had historically been there and there are many Arabs there as well who all claim this land. The United Nations divided that area this way. The blue area, the purple area going to the Jews, the gold area going to the Arabs. The Jews liked this plan. The Arabs did not. That set up decades of fighting over where the borders really should be.

In 1967, Israel was afraid that its Arab neighbors would crush in on it so it launched war outward and took over all this land, well beyond what the U.N. had given to it. And since then, it's been a long, slow grind. Many battles, many agreements, many conferences, many contracts on up to get to where we are today, which is the modern set of borders.

Why do people feel this way in that area? Fundamentally, it comes down to this. Look at the temple mount in Jerusalem. This is symbolic. Because fundamentally, Jews, Christians, Arabs, many people all feel that they have legitimate claims, political, cultural, religious, to this land. And it's not a very big land. Look at it compared to the United States. This is a small area where everyone is close upon each other. That's how big it is. No one wants to give an inch there, because they fear that if they do, they'll be giving a mile. And the truth is no one has many miles to give -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Tom Foreman, appreciate that, putting it all in perspective.

When we come back, the story of an American woman who went all the way from Massachusetts to Lebanon to adopt an infant son. Now mother and son are stuck in Beirut. A piece of paper, all that separates them from getting out. This story next when 360, live from Cyprus continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We come to you with breaking news now. As the U.S.S. Nashville heads toward and comes within range of Beirut. CNN's Barbara Starr is onboard.

Barbara, what's going on?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Anderson, we are now on a landing craft that has left -- we are making our way towards the Beirut shoreline. We expect to land at the shore in about 10 minutes. Forty plus Marines are onboard with us. They will get off this landing craft and go ashore in Lebanon and begin rendering immediate assistance to whatever Americans are at the port, to try and get them what they need, to bring them back onboard and get them back to the Nashville, but this is an extraordinary moment, Anderson. This is the first time since 1983, of course, and the Beirut bombing, that U.S. Marines are going ashore in Lebanon. They are about 40 of them with us on this very small landing craft.

As I speak to you, we are approaching the Beirut shore line. They are in all of their combat gear, helmets, vests, weapons are loaded. They certainly hope not to have to use those weapons. They believe and hope they're going into what they call permissive environment, but they are prepared for anything they say. They will stay ashore throughout the day as the small landing craft makes continuous runs between the Nashville, which is parked offshore. It's a large ship. The landing craft will go back and forth, pick up Americans and take them to the larger ship. And then that ship will return to Cyprus later tonight.

There are a number of -- a growing number of war ships in this area, Anderson, that we have seen throughout the day. Everyone hopes for a very peaceful evacuation today. But the Marines tell us they are ready for whatever happens -- Anderson.

COOPER: Barbara, we'll continue to follow the progress of that small contingent of Marines trying to help out in the evacuation throughout the morning.

We're going to have a lot more news from this region in a moment, including a behind the scenes of what it's like reporting from here.

But first, let's go to John Roberts in New York for today's other news and business headlines -- John.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Anderson.

It was another chaotic day in Iraq, the other hot spot in the Middle East. At least 18 killings in Baghdad, in Kirkuk, and 20 kidnappings. Yesterday, a United Nation's report said more than 14,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the first six months of 2006, including nearly 6,000 in May and June alone.

Another natural disaster struck Indonesia today. A powerful earthquake centered out in the Indian Ocean 119 miles west of Jakarta. It hit just two days after another offshore earthquake and tsunami left more than 500 people dead on the island of Java. At least 273 others are still missing from that catastrophe.

In West Virginia, a scathing report on the Sago Mine tragedy was released today. The findings came in a report commissioned by the governor. It said faulty mine seals, a poor communication system and delayed rescue efforts all contributed to the deaths of the 12 miners.

And when the Federal Reserve chairman speaks, investors seem to listen. After Ben Bernanke weighed in with a rosier outlook on the economy and calmed fears of rising inflation, stocks soared on Wall Street. The Dow jumped 212 points. That's the second biggest gain of the year. Blue chips closed at 11011. Good day on Wall Street, Anderson, though not a very good day in other parts of the world.

COOPER: That is certainly true. John, appreciate that.

When we come back, what it's like behind the scenes here in words and pictures in my reporter's notebook. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: They're saying there are more rockets are coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. Yes.

COOPER: So the police are now saying there may be more rockets heading this way. You can see the -- when they get word that there is more incoming rockets, they try to get everyone off the street as much as possible and against buildings, the safest place you can be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was the scene in Haifa several days ago. The young man you saw me talking to, Yoray Liberman is a photographer with Getty Images. He's been following us around, documenting behind the scenes what it's like reporting this story and we used his pictures and my words to put together my reporter's notebook for tonight. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): It has been a day of bloodshed already.

Reporting from this region, it's not like working anywhere else. It's a pressure cooker, one photographer said to me. It just never lets up. You hear the rockets land before you actually see them. In Israel sirens give you some warning, of course. But often, it's not enough.

This home was hit by one of Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets. When you see the damage, you realize these women were lucky to be alive.

When we hear an explosion, we jump into our van, try to get to the scene as quickly as possible. We've all seen the pictures, but they don't capture fully what it's really like, the smoke in the air, the adrenaline racing through your veins, the fear, the pain that deepens into resolve.

(On camera): Now another siren has just gone off.

(Voice-over): We were at the scene of this explosion when the sirens started to sound again. We took cover along the side of a building and heard more rockets land. When we got to the spot, they were taking some women out of a collapsed apartment building. No one died here, though.

On Sunday at this train depot, eight people died. You can see the hole in the roof the missile made. There was blood all over the concrete, shiny pools of it. These men were picking up pieces of the bodies. After a while, it all threatens to become routine. You have to fight against that, though. Sometimes you see all that's around you. Sometimes you just want to close your eyes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And we'll continue, of course, to keep our eyes open in the days and weeks ahead. We'll be right back with more coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to Larnaca, Cyprus. Tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern Time, the story of an American family desperate to get out of Lebanon. A California family who finally have made the long journey back to Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could not sleep because I hear an airplane going over my head and I know it's not a good sound. I know something is coming after that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That story coming up on "AMERICAN MORNING" starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern Time with the O'Brien twins, Miles and Soledad.

When we come back, we'll have more from the region.

CNN's "LARRY KING" is coming up next.

We'll see you tomorrow night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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