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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Thousands of Americans Evacuated From Lebanon; Middle East Headed For Full-Scale Ground War?

Aired July 20, 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: We are live to you from Beirut tonight for the next two hours.
Israeli drones -- as this new day begins, Israeli drones are circling overhead. We heard an explosion here about 20 minutes ago, as day 10 of this conflict gets under way. And something else happened on day nine that hasn't happened here since 1982. U.S. Marines came ashore.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: By sea and by air, getting Americans out of a war zone that is growing deadlier by the minute.

Israel's top guns taking aim at terror -- but will airpower be enough, or is a full-scale ground war just up the road?

Also, friendly-fire hitting the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are we asking Kofi Annan to do it, when we know he can't and won't succeed?

ANNOUNCER: Conservatives want to know, when it comes to facing the axis of evil, is the president of the United States wimping out?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360: "Crisis in the Middle East, Day Nine."

Reporting tonight from Beirut, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening. Thanks very much for joining us.

Over the next two hours, we will be reporting to you live from Beirut and all throughout this region.

We arrived in Beirut from Cyprus earlier today, taking a Marine Corps helicopter across. About an hour flight, it was, arriving right in the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. And we have spent the day reporting all throughout the city.

The -- the big news here, several hours ago, a -- a videotaped interview with the chief of Hezbollah, the leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who basically said that the Israelis are lying when they said that they have eliminated about 50 percent of the military capabilities of Hezbollah. He also made a number -- number of other statements, saying that Israeli soldiers will not be returned until there's some form of indirect negotiations.

We will have more about what he said -- of course, this coming just one day after the Israelis said that they dropped some 23 tons of explosives on what they called Hezbollah leadership positions -- all of that tonight.

But, first, a look at the violence on both sides of the border -- heavy fighting in the south on the ground, and continued airstrikes here in Beirut in the air.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Day nine of the fighting, day two of the ground battle, and no sign of letting up -- Israel today insisting, its mission continues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are part of a moderate coalition of nations in the region which will confront this extreme, lunatic coalition, the axis of evil that ranges from Tehran, to Damascus, to the Hezbollah. We are aiming and focused at dismantling the capability of this organization.

COOPER: Leaflets raining down from Israeli aircraft are warning Lebanese citizens in the south to get out because of looming operations.

Israel claims its airstrikes have weakened Hezbollah's military strength by half. And it's now sending its ground troops to flush them out. Israeli special forces today clashed with Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, the air thick with noise of machine gun fire and blasts from rocket-propelled grenades.

Israeli Defense Forces say several of their soldiers have been killed -- no word yet on how many Hezbollah militants have died. Hezbollah continued its own assault, destroying an Israeli tank and armored bulldozer, and launching more missiles into northern Israel.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, appearing today on the Arabic- language network Al-Jazeera, disputed Israeli claims that his forces have weakened.

HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): They are not able, up until this moment, to do anything to harm us.

COOPER: At the U.N., Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today, stressed again that a cease-fire is urgently needed.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: While Hezbollah's actions are deplorable -- and, as I have said, Israel has a right to defend itself -- the excessive use of force is to be condemned. COOPER: Meanwhile, the pace of evacuations is picking up, Americans escaping Lebanon by the thousands -- U.S. Marines today landing on the shores of Beirut, for the first time in 22 years, to help U.S. citizens get out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was awful, and we're just glad that we're getting out of here safely.

COOPER: The USS Nashville took 1,000 Americans to Cyprus today. The Orient Queen, which evacuated 1,100 yesterday, came back to Beirut for more. And more flights are being chartered out of Cyprus to get these Americans home, at last.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, now further south, in southern Lebanon and over northern Israel, two Israeli attack helicopters collided over northern Israel today. There were casualties, defense officials from Israel telling the Associated Press four Israelis were hurt.

Al-Jazeera is reporting that four Israelis were killed. We do not have independent confirmation on either of those facts.

CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is along the -- the -- the Lebanese-Israel border, reporting on the continued Israeli airstrikes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wave after wave of Israeli fighter jets take off from Ramat David air force base, on the hunt for Hezbollah leaders, infrastructure, communications, and logistics centers. Last night, this squadron dropped 23 of these one-ton bombs on what Israel says was a Hezbollah leadership bunker in Beirut.

Captain Y. was among those doing the dropping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that it was a bunker and we know we hit the targets. I don't know the exact result or how much of it was destroyed.

AMANPOUR: Nor does the Israeli military. And Hezbollah says the target actually was a mosque under construction, and denies its leaders were hit.

(on camera): Despite more than 1,000 sorties, and despite the onslaught of the command-and-control infrastructure, it doesn't seem to have had an immediate effect on the ability of Hezbollah guerrillas to fire their rockets from near the border.

(voice-over): The military says, Hezbollah Katyusha cells can still operate relatively autonomously at the border. They can't easily be seen. And Major E. admits it's virtually impossible to get their rocket launchers from the air. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a tremendous effort to get those launchers. And, as you know, is -- it can be a -- a single guy with a rocket launcher on his deck. So it's -- it's very, very difficult.

AMANPOUR: But hunting them is the main focus up here at Israel's northern command.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't go and occupy the territory, which we don't want to do, you can't stop the one single rocket that they want to launch.

AMANPOUR: A ground invasion would be painful, as Israel already knows, from its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, that finally ended six years ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour joins us live.

Christiane, besides the -- the aerial campaign, there are troops, Israeli troops, on the ground now in southern Lebanon. How is the ground fighting going?

AMANPOUR: Well, there are. They're very small units, and they're trying, we're told, just to take out outposts, bunkers, weapons, supplies, etcetera, and, actually, we're told, clearing the brush along the border to deny them cover, or -- or -- or shelter there.

It's going, but it's going quite painfully, because, at least the Israelis say so, that they have suffered casualties, nine yesterday, and another eight or nine today, including two deaths today, the same -- the same as yesterday. So, it is -- it is difficult. And, also, they -- Hezbollah put out one of the Israeli tanks today.

COOPER: And -- and is there any timetable for -- for the -- the ground fighting? Or is that just day by day?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think it's day by day.

You know, there's a growing sort of chorus of talk about a potential ground invasion. But the Israelis keep saying, that's not what we're actually planning to do. But, if it does come to that, then, we're ready to do it.

But, of course, that, too, has traumatic memories and traumatic echoes for Israel, whose last effort at that led to an 18-year occupation.

COOPER: And any word, late word, on -- on the crash of these two attack helicopters?

AMANPOUR: Only that they were -- they did crash, two Apaches. We asked about whether it was hostile fire. And they said no, initially, that it was just an accident. And, later, they said they're investigating. But we know that there are casualties. And we know that, potentially, at least one death, if not more.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, reporting from the border -- appreciate that, Christiane.

Of course, civilians -- Israel says they are not targeting civilians. Lebanon says Israel is. Whatever the case, civilians certainly are dying, and in ever-increasing numbers.

CNN's Nic Robertson takes a look at what life is like for people on the ground in Lebanon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A week after the war began, this is what the Lebanese are hearing and watching on TV, the increasing destruction of their country -- more than 200 Lebanese killed, according to the government -- of that total, only one Hezbollah guerrilla confirmed dead -- in Israel, 15 civilians and 14 soldiers killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks -- two kidnapped soldiers still missing.

Hezbollah is proving it's still in the fight by firing more rockets on Israeli towns, at times, firing from inside civilian neighborhoods. And, so, Israeli jets pursue Hezbollah, hitting warehouses, car parks, and truck stops.

In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said, both sides could bear criminal responsibility for targeting of civilians.

LOUISE ARBOUR, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: The scale of civilian casualties in this conflict raise very serious questions about breaches of the laws and customs of war.

ROBERTSON: Ali (ph) and his wife and four children say this school is their second shelter, since fleeing bombing in south Lebanon.

"We have nothing. The children will have to sleep on the floor tonight," he says.

(on camera): Every day, the situation seems to get worse. For many here, Lebanon feels like a country teetering on the verge of chaos. The stakes of staying at war are rising -- leadership objectives superseding suffering.

(voice-over): Serious food shortages, too, particularly for the displaced.

Aid worker Cassandra Nelson, back from what was a village of 5,000, now home to 37,000:

CASSANDRA NELSON, COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, MERCY CORPS: Things like rice and sugar, lentils and chickpeas -- these are things that make of the -- kind of the core of the diet here -- are not available.

ROBERTSON: As night fell over Beirut, so did the bombs, flashes illuminating the skies.

(on camera): Well, that was another blast going off, a secondary echo there. We're right in the center of the city. I think the blasts are going off in the southern suburbs. The streets are pretty deserted down here. There's a big -- I see the sky being illuminated. It just flashed a big, sort of bright orange over there.

(voice-over): And, so, the war continues, the people of this country able to watch the losses mount on TV or out of their windows.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Nic joins us now.

Nic, all these people that we're told are -- are leaving southern Lebanon, coming to Beirut, where are they sleeping? Where are they staying?

ROBERTSON: They're sleeping in schools. Some of them are sleeping in the parks in the center of Beirut. It's all adding to a -- a stress on the system here, not just on the food, but a -- but a social stress.

In the city this -- this afternoon, we saw people arguing on the streets, angry. You can feel the sort of temperature of discontent mounting, anger at the United States for not doing more to support the people of Lebanon, not to try and bring an end to the war, anger at their government, frustrations, that really build a tension that we haven't really been seeing until now -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, I heard this explosion for about 20 minutes right before we went on air. Do you know anything about where it was or what it was?

ROBERTSON: The best indication I think we have is the south of Beirut. And that's where we have been hearing a lot of the explosions.

What we have heard this evening mirrors a lot -- what we heard last night, a lot of explosions in the early part of evening, mostly a quiet night, then, just with the first light, a very big explosion. And, as you can hear -- I can hear it right here, too, as well -- that surveillance aircraft, just, again, low-flying, slowly backwards and forwards, examining what's going on, on the ground, what may have been hit, and perhaps looking for another high-value target -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. It's fascinating. I mean, you had talked about it on air. But, I mean, this is my first night here -- to actually hear those -- those Israeli drones circling in the air -- you can't see them -- it's this very eerie feeling.

ROBERTSON: And it really is for the people on the ground. We were out yesterday, and the people -- we were in an -- we were in an area, and two people came up. One had a walkie-talkie radio. This was in the south of Beirut. We don't know if he worked for Hezbollah or what he was. But he told us to run and get in underneath the trees, because these -- the drones were flying around.

And he, for him, and the other -- and the other person with him, they were very frightened by it. They thought, if the drones were up there, then they could be targeted at any time. That's not the case. You can drive around here still. But it's certainly very eerie- making, when you know somebody can be looking right down on you.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, reporting, appreciate that. Thanks very much.

We're joined now by CNN military analyst retired General James "Spider" Marks.

General Marks, appreciate you -- you being with us. Thanks.

What do you -- what -- these drones, I mean, how -- how -- what are the capabilities of them? Does it provide real-time intelligence to Israeli forces?

BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It does.

Anderson, any use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, as you call them, is a tremendous advantage to the Israeli forces. They have surveillance pods. They're able to get live TV, both day and night. And, for the most part, these are lack of being -- I -- I don't want to be too technical here, but they're georectified, which means you can take a picture, and you can immediately transmit that data down to a firing battery, and you can put rounds on a target immediately.

COOPER: It is such a -- a strange sensation. It's the first time I have really been in a city where we hear them constantly.

Let's talk about the ground offensive going on down in the south of -- of Lebanon. It's really been going on now for some -- some two days. Can -- obviously, I guess, Israel feels that -- that, by airstrikes alone, they cannot root out these -- these Hezbollah targets.

MARKS: Right.

COOPER: How big do you think this ground operation is going to get?

MARKS: Well, Anderson, you're exactly correct, in that the IDF can't have it both ways. They can't achieve their stated objectives of trying to neuter or eliminate the military arm of Hezbollah through the air or through artillery. It's just not going to happen.

You're not going to be able to sufficiently isolate the battlefield. You're not going to be able to do it both by striking the roads, the lines of communications, and a sea blockade. They're going to have to put forces on the ground in increasing numbers.

Clearly, they don't want to be an occupying force. But this is where casualties will increase, and this is where chaos certainly will increase as well. And the optic of a humanitarian crisis becomes the one that we will see. But if the IDF wants to achieve their stated objectives, and they have got to measure their success, they're going to have to put forces on the ground, and get into that type of a fight.

COOPER: How -- how mobile, how autonomous do you think these Hezbollah units are? I mean, how easy is it to set up a Katyusha rocket position, then -- and then quickly get it down and move it?

MARKS: Piece of cake. Stick it into the back of a Toyota pickup truck, you name it. Pull the thing out, fire it, and hit the road.

It's very, very difficult. Now the whole time that that's happening, as you described earlier, you have got unmanned aerial vehicles that, hopefully, are in the right place and have the right surveillance and stare angel, and can see these activity.

So, they're not invulnerable. But they certainly can be attacked. And they certainly can -- the IDF can certainly find them, and go after them, both through the air and on the ground.

COOPER: Retired Brigadier General James "Spider" Marks, appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much, General.

MARKS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: When we come back, I'm going to show you the exclusive chopper ride we had from Cyprus to get here in Beirut, landing right in the heart of the U.S. Embassy aboard Marine Corps helicopters, helicopters were -- that were then turned around to use to evacuate American civilians out of Beirut.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some of the many different scenes we have seen over the last 24 hours, fighting, people trying to be evacuated, the damage being done, the human cost of war.

Welcome back. We are live, coming to you Beirut this morning, the beginning of day 10, the end of day nine, in what seems to be a conflict without any foreseeable end.

What -- the -- we actually arrived in Beirut about 15 or so hours ago. Some 2,200 and -- or, actually, 2,250 Americans have been, so far, evacuated out of Beirut today alone by the U.S., many more thousands, European and other foreign nationals.

Ships have started to come. The USS Nashville has taken out...

(SOUND OF EXPLOSION) COOPER: We just heard a very large explosion. I don't know if you could hear that.

We can't actually see anything. It definitely came from directly from -- directly from the south, which is a Hezbollah area. I would pan the camera over, but there's not any point, because you actually can't see any smoke or anything.

This is a -- a pretty common occurrence. I don't know if you could hear it through -- through the TV. We heard an explosion about 20 minutes before we went on air. Now, for the last 20 minutes, and -- and for the last 20 minutes of this program, we have been hearing drones, Israeli unmanned aerial drones, surveillance drones, circling overhead.

Nic Robertson describes the sound as sort of a -- a lawn mower sound. And -- and it sounds odd, but that really is what it sounds like. It's a constant sound. Then, of course, now you just heard that -- that explosion, no doubt in the south, in -- in the -- the area, parts of the city which are -- are Hezbollah territory.

The parts of the city that we're in here, this is not a Hezbollah territory. This is really sort of the -- the downtown part. It's near the water. This is the -- the business district. There are shops here. There are Starbucks here, all of which, of course, now are closed. The city is virtually empty at -- at this hour.

But we anticipate hearing probably some more strikes over the next hour or so. This is usually about the time that they do occur. We also heard a large number of strikes, probably about four or five strikes, large explosions, earlier this night, several hours ago, probably about six or seven hours ago.

But, as I was saying, this -- I mean, that's clearly an example of what the Americans who want to get out are trying to -- trying to flee. Some 2,200 Americans got out today, most of them aboard the ship USS Nashville.

But the U.S. has also established an air bridge between Cyprus and Beirut, Marine Corps helicopters ferrying Americans back -- back from Beirut to Cyprus, and points beyond.

We got an exclusive look. We actually rode on the first part of that air bridge from Cyprus to -- to Beirut earlier today. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Today, the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon began in earnest.

Early in the morning, we hitched a ride on a Marine Corps helicopter flying to Beirut.

(on camera): On Sunday, Marines began evacuating Americans out of Beirut. They have created this air bridge that links Cyprus to Beirut. And using these large Marine Corps helicopters, they have been able to get out as many as 400 or 500 Americans, as of Wednesday night. It's now Thursday. The big ships have come. Today, they say they will be able to get out as many as 3,000 Americans.

(voice-over): We flew over one of the ferries now regularly bringing foreigners out of war-torn Lebanon.

(on camera): By now, we have all heard the figure that there may be some 25,000 Americans currently living in Lebanon. But the problem for the Marine Corps and for the U.S. Embassy officials trying to plan this evacuation is that they simply don't know how many Americans actually want to get out.

(voice-over): The flight takes just one hour. The ferries can take up to 12. Beirut only becomes visible moments before you land, suddenly appearing outside the rear hatch.

When the chopper landed at the U.S. Embassy, we rushed off. Nearby, anxious Americans waited to board. Embassy personnel made sure all the passengers had helmets. Even the youngest were protected. They then were quickly ushered on board.

(on camera): That's the chopper we just flew in on. It's the first chopper flight out today. From the time it landed, to the time the Americans boarded and it took off was probably about five or 10 minutes, maximum.

It's able to carry 30 Americans at any one time. And there will be three more flights out of Beirut today.

(voice-over): In a nearby embassy lounge, another group of Americans waited for their flight out. Tired, anxious, some still sat glued to the latest news.

Amanda Martinez (ph) and her friends came here on holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have mixed emotions leaving. It's bittersweet. I'm happy to be going home to reunite with my family and my friends, and get back to my life there. But it's very sad to say goodbye to people here who have no way to evacuate and are going to be staying here.

COOPER (on camera): For you, what was it like seeing that chopper?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me feel proud, just really proud to be an American, that we have -- that we can get the people out. And -- and -- and I know that we will be back. And I know we will be here to help. And I know that our -- that our people have big hearts, and -- and we're here to help.

COOPER (voice-over): Outside, another chopper arrives. The U.S. has flown in the patriarch of the Lebanese Maronite Church, a sign to Lebanese, say State Department officials, that the U.S. government is not abandoning them. And another group of Americans is ushered on board. A few more steps, a few more minutes, and they're safe. It has been a long week, a difficult journey, but now this group of Americans finally headed home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And, of course, the evacuations really are ramping up in full force now. There will be many more today, and, no doubt, in the days to come.

The U.S. military now has a -- a pretty big presence here in the region. Let's take a look at the "Raw Data."

The U.S. has two Navy destroyers, three amphibious transport docks, and a command-and-control ship on hand. It also has deployed a high-speed vessel, a fleet-replenishment oiler, and a helicopter carrier. The Marines and Air Force are providing the helicopters, three each, six total. And three civilian ships have been hired by the military to help with evacuations as well.

CNN's John Roberts now is covering the day's other top stories from Washington.

John, what do you got?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thanks.

More chaos in Iraq today -- car bombs killing at least 11 Iraqis. Also, 38 tortured bodies were found in Baghdad.

Elsewhere, the Pentagon says U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a defensive against al Qaeda in the city of Kirkuk.

A first for President Bush -- after five tense years of saying, no thanks, he addressed the NAACP's annual convention. His talk to the civil rights group included a frank admission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For too long, my party wrote off the African-American vote, and many African-Americans wrote off the Republican Party.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Mr. Bush also told members that he wants the Senate to review the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

There is still no relief in sight for the heat wave that has killed 17 people across the country. And with the heat come the headaches. Storms knocked out electricity for some half-a-million people in the Saint Louis area. Officials warn that power could be out in some areas for up to five days.

And, off of the East Coast, Tropical Storm Beryl -- forecasters expect the storm to pass near Cape Cod -- warnings now posted for parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and eastern Long Island. Watch out, chardonnay-ville -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks very much.

So, hundreds, of course, here in Lebanon have been killed, hundreds more injured, as well as in Israel. CNN's Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is now in Larnaca, Cyprus. We will talk to him about the needs of the neediest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Those pictures from Northern Israel. Wounded Israeli troops being taken into an ambulance for further treatment.

Want to take a look now at what sort of treatment many of the civilians here in Lebanon are receiving. Several hundred have already died. Many hundred more are wounded.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Larnaca, Cyprus, monitoring what kind of care people here in Lebanon are getting.

Sanjay, how has the care gone?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's obviously a difficult situation. One of the most striking things, if you look at the overall injury-to-death ratio, it's about 3 to 1. So about three injured people for every one death. That's extremely high in terms of the number of deaths there. You know, talking around 600 people have been injured. Closer to 200 to 300 now have died. You know, the numbers keep changing. Obviously, that's pretty remarkable.

But if you look overall at the medical situation, small hospitals, some of the smaller ones in Southern Lebanon, are getting increasingly hard to actually get to because of the roads. And if patients are getting there, a lot of times because of concerns about continued bombings and explosions, they're actually taking people downstairs underground to try and perform what small operations those smaller hospitals can perform.

It's becoming difficult. It's sort of a siege, if you will, to get people to further north, where some of the bigger hospitals are. So that's the obvious problem.

Then, Anderson, you have people who are otherwise not hit by explosions or bombs, but are chronically ill. You know they may have heart disease. They may have diabetes. They may require dialysis. And it's hard to treat those people as well. So you're really getting two different things going on.

This is the nature of a humanitarian problem. This is the nature of a sort of siege-like mentality that's occurring in this area, Anderson. COOPER: How difficult is it transporting some of the more stable patients from the south up north to make room for any more casualties that they may get down there in the south?

GUPTA: We're hearing it's very difficult. And I should point out I'm going to be there in a couple, three hours myself. But you know, what we're hearing, in talking to a lot of the doctors in the south, is that sometimes it's sort of a remarkable thing.

They actually have to take patients by more of an all-terrain type vehicle, which is slow but can actually get through some of the sort of troubled areas in the south. And then they transfer them over to an ambulance as they get further north, because they have actually more stable roads as they get a little further north. So it is very difficult to try and make room.

And also you have some of the smaller hospitals, we're hearing, are just becoming so badly damaged that -- they just have no room whatsoever for any patients, because the infrastructure has been destroyed.

COOPER: It is such terrible situation. Official Lebanese sources, Sanjay, saying at least 582 people have been wounded in Lebanon. At least 258 killed. Lebanon's prime minister says that number is higher. Israel says that more than 300 Israelis have been wounded, 31 killed.

What are you going to be trying to look at in the next several days, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, you know, one of the hard things is basically trying to decide, you look at Lebanon. And we've talked to a lot of doctors who have been practicing there for 20, 30 years. Unfortunately, for many of these doctors, this is not a new situation.

But a couple of things that they're noticing is how are you going to get some of the supplies and rations in over the next few weeks, which are so critical, again, for the injured and for those who have chronic disease? How does that all happen in this sort of situation? That's one of the things I want to look at.

And also, what are the nature of these injuries, Anderson? You've seen -- you've been reporting on these booms and these explosions that are occurring there. What are the consequences beyond the obvious? How many people are affected by a single bomb, for example? And what are the nature of the injuries that are going to be lasting for several weeks to come? That's what we'll be talking about.

COOPER: Sanjay, we'll check in with you same time tomorrow. Appreciate that. Dr. Sanjay Gupta from Larnaca, Cyprus. He's on his way over, as well, to the conflict zone.

CNN's Karl Penhaul is further south in Southern Lebanon. We're going to check in with him to find out what it was like for civilians and everyone now fighting on the ground in Lebanon. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I love you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Family reunion today in Baltimore. A family that had been here in Lebanon visiting -- visiting other family members. Now returning to safety in Baltimore. Part of a long journey home. Thousands of Americans already leaving. Many more still waiting to get out.

Welcome back. We are live, of course, in Beirut. Here's what the latest developments in our war bulletin.

Today, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, issued an apology for the deaths of two Israeli Arab children in Nazareth on Wednesday.

Also, the Israeli army says two of its Apache helicopters collided hours ago near the Lebanon border. It's not known how many casualties there are from that.

And the U.S. House of Representatives announced that it is sending a bipartisan organization to the Middle East this weekend to assess the situation. The group will meet with American Israeli as well as Palestinian officials.

The fiercest fighting over the last two days or so has been going on on the ground in Southern Lebanon. That's where our CNN's Karl Penhaul is in Tyre, Lebanon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Families huddle in this makeshift bomb shelter. The TV shows the latest on the fight for Southern Lebanon.

Their own lives frozen in time. It's just too dangerous to step outside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am afraid. I come with my family here, because I am afraid. I hope that they can stop the war.

PENHAUL: A Tyrean fisherman fled two blocks from his home to shelter in this basement of an apartment building with his wife and his children.

Seven families are holed up here, 40 people in total. Yet no toilets, no running water. When I met them, they'd already been underground nine days, since the moment Israeli bombs began dropping on Tyre. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No sleeping on the floor. Dirt, everything dirty.

PENHAUL: Dirty may be, but probably safer than their own homes while Israel's running around the clock air strikes. As each day passes, Raeed's (ph), Nor (ph) and Mohammed (ph), are getting bored, but also more frightened. Their mothers know that feeling only too well.

"I feel so frightened at the sound of bombs and the air strikes. I want peace. I want the war to stop," she says.

If they look through the window of their bunker these families can see the remnants of more peaceful times, like when they were free to hang the laundry out to dry.

But the view down the street is different now. A mile and a half away you see this. Israeli warplanes pound Tyre's suburbs. Hospital cook Mona Brahim (ph) says she blames Israel and America for the destruction. She says Hezbollah fighters are heroes.

"If Hezbollah was not here, then Israel would destroy us. Hezbollah protects us here in Lebanon," she says.

For now, at least, there's still electricity to power the fans. And those brave enough can still buy canned food from a few corner stores that remain open.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was CNN's Karl Penhaul reporting from Tyre in Southern Lebanon. A very dangerous place to be right now.

When we come back, the diplomatic dance continues. When will Condoleezza Rice come to the region? That's what some people here are wondering. We'll try to find out from CNN's John Roberts. Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: These pictures we took last March here in Beirut. A very different Beirut it was, a Beirut filled with optimism as more than a million people poured into the streets of Beirut, demanding Syria get out. And, in fact, Syria did leave.

Now, of course, Syria very much involved in this current conflict. Hezbollah, of course, receiving funding from Syria and support from Syria. And of course Iran, as well.

We'll be taking a look back at other things that we saw last March when we were here over the next several days. It is a very different Beirut, I can tell you that.

We want to take a look, too, at how the U.S. foreign policy decisions, the process, how it is going so far. There was a lot of activity in the U.N. today. Calls for a cease-fire by the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. We're going to look at that angle of the story in a moment.

But the Bush foreign policy here in responding to this crisis has received some criticism, from some perhaps surprising quarters, from American conservatives.

CNN's Candy Crowley takes a look at that angle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harry Truman said if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. Good thing George Bush has one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The frustration runs pretty high. And it's reached a critical mass.

CROWLEY: We are talking here about conservatives, foreign policy wonks. Their disaffection is no longer just the stuff of private phone calls to the White House.

FRANK GAFFNEY, FOUNDER, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: I think what you're hearing basically at the moment is let Bush be Bush.

CROWLEY: That would be the first term, muscular foreign policy George Bush, the guy who talked about getting them before they get us, of spreading democracy, about not trusting or dealing with states that sponsor terrorism.

JED BABBIN, AUTHOR, "SHOWDOWN": He still is very much on the right track of recognizing the dangers we face. But I think that candidly he is not doing enough in a timely way to get these problems solved before they get out of hand. I think some of this is just being punted over till after 2008.

CROWLEY: Now, his conservative critics argue, Bush looks the other way while Russia stifles dissent, and offers to sit side by side with Iran if it will give up its nuclear enrichment program.

GAFFNEY: The longer we play into this notion that, as long as we're talking with them, all is well, the more certain it is, in my estimation, we're going to find ourselves at war with Iran, North Korea or perhaps both at some point in the future.

CROWLEY: They also complain the president talks about getting the U.N. secretary-general to speak to Syria.

BABBIN: Why are we asking Kofi Annan to do it when we know he can't, and won't succeed?

CROWLEY: And they worry the president has promised a better future to North Korea, if it will get rid of its weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been talking to the North Koreans in the six-party talks for a long time. And what do we just get? Seven missiles tested in the week of Independence Day. I don't think those talks are going that well. CROWLEY: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told "The Washington Post" he is utterly puzzled; appeasement he called it. Is the next stage for Condi to go dancing with Kim Jong-Il?

Conservative critics would prefer to see a stranglehold, squeezing the economy of terrorist states, encouraging internal dissent, and demanding that terrorist activity be stopped, or else.

It's not unanimous in camp conservative; some think the president is son the right track.

TED GALEN CARPENTER, CATO INSTITUTE: Unfortunately, Gingrich and some other neoconservatives seem to be the Will Rogers of warfare. They've never met a war they didn't like.

CROWLEY: But the president's conservative critics respond that open-ended negotiations only give time to terrorist states to pursue their cause. Making war more, not less, likely. They think the first term George Bush knows that.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot of activity at the U.N. today. Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling for a cease-fire, critical of both Israel and Hezbollah. John Roberts will examine the diplomatic moves being made and when and if Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of state, will come to Israel to try to solve the crisis in Beirut. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Looking at pictures of a tour of Beirut given to journalists hours ago by Hezbollah officials in South Lebanon. Access to the region is controlled, of course, by Hezbollah. That is their part of Beirut.

Want to look at what diplomatic maneuvers are being made at the U.N. and beyond. Big question, of course, when and if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will come to the region. With that, CNN's John Roberts reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A humanitarian crisis building. Casualties mounting on both sides of the firing lines. The U.N. chief today called for an immediate end to hostilities, and had harsh words for Hezbollah and Israel.

KOFI ANNAN, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: While Hezbollah's actions are deplorable, and as I've said Israel has a right to defend itself, the excessive use of force is to be condemned.

ROBERTS: It was the opening volley in what will be a difficult diplomatic path. One the U.S. insists must see Hezbollah weakened, if not put out of business altogether. JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It has to be done the right way or you risk finding yourself exactly back in the situation we were before the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers. That's not good for the people of Israel. It's -- perhaps even more importantly it's not good for the people of Lebanon.

ROBERTS (on camera): What's your overall sense of, you know, how the situation is these days?

TED KATTOUF, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: It's terrible and getting worse.

ROBERTS (voice-over): Ted Katouff is President Bush's former ambassador to Syria. Spent more than three decades in the Middle East. He sees growing public concern among America's allies over the White House's willingness to let Israel pound away at Lebanon, in an attempt to break the back of Hezbollah.

KATTOUF: I don't think the Europeans or much of the rest of the world community is going to wait on us forever. I think Israel has a few more days and then there's going to be real pressure.

ROBERTS: For its part, Israel says it will keep up the bombardment for as long as it takes.

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We will do whatever is necessary, by whichever means are necessary, in order -- in order to incapacitate the Hezbollah, and making it unable to terrorize us and Lebanon.

ROBERTS: At the same time, the U.S. drives home at every opportunity the idea that Israel bears none of the blame for the escalating violence.

BOLTON: We could have a cessation of hostilities immediately if Hezbollah would stop terrorizing innocent civilians and give up the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. So, to the extent this crisis continues, the cause is Hezbollah.

ROBERTS: U.S. officials say a large part of Condoleezza Rice's meetings at the U.N. will be to calm concerns about Israel's bombardment, as she charts a diplomatic course toward what the U.S. says must be a lasting peace.

KATTOUF: You have to deal with it through negotiations, diplomacy. All the things that people find tiresome, and too slow, and too ineffective. But at the end of the day, you're not going to solve this by force.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: U.S. officials say they are closely watching world reaction, and every day, reassess how much patience they have for Israel's military campaign. But some diplomats also don't have much time for Kofi Annan's complaints, saying where was he when Hezbollah was ignoring U.N. resolutions to disarm -- Anderson. COOPER: John, the question now a lot of people in the region are asking is where is Condoleezza Rice? Any word on exactly when she's going to get here? I mean, yesterday they were saying maybe over the weekend. Now I'm hearing maybe not until next week.

ROBERTS: There's no exact schedule yet. But here's the way that we think it's likely to happen.

She has to go to Kuala Lumpur toward the middle of next week for the ASEAN (ph) conference. There is a possibility that she may drop by there in the Middle East before that conference, on her way to it. She may actually drop a couple of diplomats off in the region to work on some kind of a deal.

Then after the ASEAN (ph) conference, as she's on her way back to Washington, she may drop off again and start some of the tough diplomacy to try to bring an end to these hostilities.

The State Department said today that she is fully prepared to engage in that intensive shuttle diplomacy that Mideast agreements often warrant and demand. But they said that she is not going to do it if the agreement is going to be status quo.

COOPER: All right. John Roberts, appreciate that. Of course one of the criticisms of an immediate cease-fire on the part of Israel, at least, is that Hezbollah would survive and live to fight another day.

What would happen if Hezbollah did survive, if they did maintain their military capabilities? We'll look at that when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We are live in Beirut. The evacuation intensifies. So does the fighting, and calls for a cease-fire fall on deaf ears.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: We need to find ways of bringing this to a halt.

ANNOUNCER: Pleas for peace going nowhere, nine days into the crisis.

U.S. Marines now in Lebanon to bring Americans home.

GILLERMAN: We will do whatever is necessary, by whichever means are necessary, in order to incapacitate the Hezbollah.

ANNOUNCER: Strong words from Israel. We've heard them before. But can Hezbollah really be beaten?

And trapped in Beirut, desperate to get out, an American mother and her newly adopted son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bombs were dropping in front of me when I was feeding my song dinner.

ANNOUNCER: A baby or her life? What would you do?

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East: Day Nine". Reporting tonight from Beirut, here's Anderson Cooper.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And thanks very much for joining us in this hour of 360. We are coming to you live at this hour from Beirut. We flew over from Larnaca, Cyprus, on a Marine Corps chopper just earlier in the day, landing right in the embassy here in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, a city which is really ground zero.

There are Israeli drones over the last hour or so. We've been hearing unmanned Israeli drones flying overhead.

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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