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CNN Today

Crisis in the Middle East: Annan to Attempt to Smooth over Israeli-Lebanese Relations

Aired October 10, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: With Bill Clinton dependent on dial-tone diplomacy for the time being, Kofi Annan appears to be the main player today in the search for a Middle East truce. The U.N. boss is shuttling between the power brokers, looking for a way to turn down the volume on nearly two weeks of violence.

A few isolated flashpoints flared today again in the Palestinian territories. In Ramallah, in the West Bank, stone-throwing men and boys faced-off with a small group of Israeli troops. The soldiers responded with tear gas and again with rubber-coated steel bullets. The violence followed the funeral for a Palestinian man. Observers say the showdown was less intense, though, than others in recent days.

In Gaza, a nine-year-old boy was shot in the head today. Doctors say he's probably brain-dead. Palestinians say the child was a bystander, but pictures shot in Gaza today show young boys pitching rocks at Israeli soldiers. Around 90 people, most of them Palestinians, have died in these latest hostilities. The U.N. chief, Annan, called on the people of the region to do their part to tone it down. Israel still is threatening a full military crackdown if that doesn't happen and soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: This is not an issue for the leaders alone. It is not an issue just for Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat. It is not an issue even for the idea alone. It's for all of us. The population have a role to play, Palestinian and Israeli, to work together to bring these things down. We all have a responsibility. We live in the society and we have a responsibility to work with the leaders and others to make sure that the situation calms down so that we can move back to the negotiating table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: The secretary general is expected to shuttle to Lebanon soon, where Hezbollah guerrillas are holding three Israeli soldiers.

CNN Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler with more about that -- Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Thanks, Lou. There's still concern here in Lebanon that this country may yet be dragged more directly into the conflict involving the Palestinians. That issue over there, that violence being monitored very closely by the Lebanese themselves, particularly, the refugee population, some 12 impoverished camps in Lebanon holding about 350,000 refugees. Last Saturday some of them protested at Lebanon's southern border area with Israel. That led to some clashes down there.

It all also allowed Hezbollah -- or at least gave Hezbollah guerrillas the opportunity to use that moment to take three Israeli soldiers captive in an area known of the Chebaa Farms (ph). Now, these three Israelis are being held as hostage by the Hezbollah guerrilla organization. Hezbollah saying they're open to a deal and a number of diplomats have already met with the Hezbollah leadership, notably Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's chief, and the makings of a possible prisoner exchange, possibly mediated by the German government is now taking place. But the Hezbollah says that they want to see 19 Lebanese detainees set free before Hezbollah is even prepared to give any information about the condition of the three Israeli soldiers. Some concern in Israel that the three Israelis may have been wounded in Hezbollah's ambush when those three were taken.

So, very many issues to be discussed here when United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan expected in the Lebanese capital tomorrow to discuss a possible prisoner exchange and what that might mean. Also, the issue of border security in the south where the Lebanese authorities are under intense pressure from both the United States and the United Nations to send the Lebanese army down there. Something the Lebanese won't do on the grounds they say that Israel did not fully withdraw its troops from south Lebanon back in May -- Lou.

WATERS: Brent, do we have any information on the condition of those three soldiers? We understood yesterday that, perhaps, the Red Cross or some other international organization would be allowed in to report on that.

SADLER: Well, listen to what Hezbollah is saying quite clearly. They believe that even confirmation that the Israeli soldiers are alive, survived possible wounding in the ambush attempt, that is worth a price in itself, says Hezbollah. They want 19 Lebanese freed before they're prepared, they say, to even give that information, let alone a release. A release could involve many, many more Arabs held in Israeli jails. This is going to take a long, long time, months to negotiate, it's expected here, that kind of prisoner exchange that everyone's talking about -- Lou.

WATERS: CNN Beirut bureau chief Brent Sadler.

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