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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hezbollah Drone Packed with Explosives Hits Israeli Gunship; Hezbollah Fires Rockets at Israeli Towns; Hezbollah Leader Declares Open War on Israel; Two Wildfires Consume Over 60,000 Acres in California

Aired July 14, 2006 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Mideast on the brink, the war here heating up. Rockets are firing, a ship is hit, civilians are killed, and Americans are caught in the crossfire, all in this special edition of 360.
ANNOUNCER: Hezbollah declares open war as Lebanon's government speaks out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why we are being asked to stop Hezbollah, but at the same time, nobody is putting the necessary pressure on Israel to resolve the problem.

ANNOUNCER: Both strike hard as missiles fly. A unified front against Israel. Marches in Gaza to support Lebanese militants. Is it a true double threat or just a lot of noise?

And watching the skies. When missiles strike, they know where to strike back. Only on 360, Anderson takes us inside an Israel artillery base.

In Lebanon, Israel and across the region, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Middle East on the Brink. Tonight reporting from northern Israel, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks for joining us on this special edition of 360. A lot to talk about over this next hour. I'm in the northern town in Israel of Nasiriyah, a town right about six or so miles from the Lebanese border. We are hearing Israeli airplanes, fighter jets, streaking overhead as we speak.

It is Saturday morning here and no one can predict exactly what will happen over the next 24 hours. Over the last 24 hour hours we have seen some 100 Katyusha rockets fired in villages and towns all across northern Israel.

We have also seen Israeli artillery batteries returning fire, not just into southern Lebanon, but also deep into Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.

There is a lot to talk about. Hezbollah fighters fired on an Israeli war ship off the coast of Lebanon. That came as a surprise to many here in this region today.

We'll have that. Also the statements from Hezbollah, essentially saying all-out war, it can be ignited at any time. Saying essentially if Israel wants all-out war, it is all-out war they will get.

We've also seen major air strikes on Beirut continue. Israeli warplanes destroying Hezbollah headquarters taking a shot at the leader of Hezbollah's home. More than 60 have died thus far in Lebanon.

CNN's Nic Robertson is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Beirut seems to be unraveling in real time. Throughout Lebanon, throughout the day, Israeli bombs and missiles caused chaos. Much of the fire focused on infrastructure in the south of the country and Beirut's densely-packed southern suburbs, heartland of Shiite Hezbollah guerrillas, who stole across the border, into Israel Wednesday, captured two Israeli soldiers, and continue to fire rockets into Israel.

FOUAD SINIORA, LEBANESE PRESIDENT: Lebanon should not really be dealt this way. Actually, the retaliation of Israel against the abduction of the two soldiers and across the blue line is in no way proportionate.

ROBERTSON (on camera): In an exclusive CNN interview, I asked Lebanese President Fouad Siniora, the question many people outside Lebanon want answered.

SINIORA: Why, we are being asked to stop Hezbollah, but at the same time, nobody is putting the necessity pressure on Israel to resolve the problem. I mean the problem -- the problem is causing the presence of Hezbollah.

ROBERTSON: Beirut and Lebanon are slowly being cut off from the outside world. Bridges like this one bombed, reduced to bits of concrete and twisted steel. And outside of the city, the government says the ports are being blockaded. And over there, the smoke's still rising from the airport that's been the site of repeated attacks over the last few days.

(voice-over): Right after our interview, we went out to get reaction to the bombing. We didn't know it was the beginning of an incredible two hours in the city.

Here an Israeli missile exploded. A construction worker tells me it nearly killed him. It's inhumane, he says. I asked, who is to blame?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), Bush, (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTSON: Young Lebanese sightseeing the damage on motorbikes told me the same, swearing to avenge the destruction. God willing, we will join together, they insist, and fight Israelis for Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.

But as we left the area, artillery shells fell close by. We drove around the corner.

What was that we heard?

Smoke filled the street, where Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has his headquarters.

(on camera): We were just out on the street then when there were several loud explosions. There's absolutely no indication they were coming. Just boom, boom, and then smoke coming up from the buildings. Everyone jumped in their cars, running away, trying to get cover. That's what we're doing, driving away as quick as we can.

(voice-over): Within minutes of the bombing, the Hezbollah leader was speaking on TV, showing he wasn't killed in the attack. You wanted open war, we will go to an open war, and we are ready for it, war, war on every level, he said. Then, taking most people by surprise, announcing an attack. The surprises will begin today in the middle of the sea, he said. Across from Beirut. Look at it burning, sinking with Israeli soldiers.

Around Beirut, south and north, celebratory gunfire erupted. And in fact, just 20 minutes later, Israeli officials confirmed one of their ships off the coast of Beirut had been damaged in an attack. Incredibly, it was only hours before that Lebanon's prime minister had been talking of peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that we should try to arrive at an immediate cease-fire.

ROBERTSON: But the problem is, the prime minister appears to have no influence with Hezbollah, which is now driving Lebanon towards war.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And it's early Saturday morning, of course in Beirut. Nic Robertson joins us live.

Nic, what's happening there now?

ROBERTSON: Well, Anderson, about an hour ago we could hear plane, or planes were heard over the southern side of Beirut. But we're now getting reports from at least three or four local television stations saying there have been bombing raids in the south of Lebanon, around a town of Masowa (ph).

About three different incidences are reported there. One of them reported the bombing of a gas station. Now, there was report of a bombing of a gas station about 24 hours ago. These are the types of targets that be being hit. The south of Lebanon, of course, that's where Hezbollah has strong holds -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, of course, we've been hearing a few rockets here, about, probably about a half an hour or so ago. We heard some dull thuds, some Katyusha rockets, likely, incoming. Not sure of the exact region. Also the Israeli defense forces confirming that some rockets hit around the Golan Heights.

Nic, I mean, the government of Lebanon doesn't have many options in terms of disarming Hezbollah. They essentially don't have the military might to do it. Are people there in Lebanon really supportive of what Hezbollah is doing? Or do they feel sort of trapped by them?

ROBERTSON: You know, the incredible thing was, Anderson, just watching this whole thing play out last night in real time. Hassan Nasrallah on television and then when he finished after making this threat and talking about open war, the skies opened up with gunfire, traces of gunfire up in the mountains. He -- and this was not just in the south of Beirut, where Hezbollah is strong, but in the north of the city, too.

So people are afraid, but they still see Hezbollah striking against Israel when Israeli striking against them as a good thing. That may change. If Israel begins to strike in their neighborhoods, they begin to suffer.

The prime minister right now is hoping to get a peace deal, is hoping to bring international help to get a comprehensive cease fire.

That's not even on the horizon at the moment. There isn't an envoy here that's working on it at the moment -- Anderson.

COOPER: The rhetoric is only escalating and perhaps today the bloodshed and violence as well.

Nic, appreciate you joining from Beirut. Try to stay safe.

The view now from here, from Nasiriyah, and from some of these other border towns in Israel, it is a very different picture here. A lot of people fleeing these towns, or hunkering down in bunkers in their homes underneath large buildings.

CNN's Paula Hancocks shows you how some people here are living.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what a Katyusha rocket sounds like. It's a sound the residents of Sefad, 10 miles from the Lebanese border are getting used to.

One rocket hits this apartment block. Police tell residents to stay indoors, but many can't resist coming to look.

One neighbor stands next to what's left of his car and tells me he's scared. He's afraid of staying in this town, and he doesn't know what to do.

This rocket, less deadly than some, but two people were injured.

Gabriel Mardal lives just a block away. He moved to Israel from New York 28 years ago.

How do you feel when you actually hear these Katyusha rockets?

GABRIEL MARDAL, SEFAD RESIDENT: Terribly frightened.

HANCOCKS: On Thursday he sent some of his 11 children to Tel Aviv in the hope that Hezbollah doesn't have rockets that reach this far.

This is the where the rest of his children sit all day, away from all of the windows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes I panic. I can't do anything. My hands are shaking, and my heart -- it's very, very scary.

HANCOCKS: It's the first time in their lives that they have felt in danger. Not so for their father.

MARDAL: I tell you the truth that that I feel all over the country and what I see, the tension and the fright is more now than it used to be.

HANCOCKS: His wife, Sara, has little sympathy for international calls for Israel to show restraint.

SARA MARDAL, SEFAD RESIDENT: Because (INAUDIBLE) told us that we should be -- hold back, and we say, well, if Pennsylvania, or New Jersey or New York had to sit in a bomb shelter, would you like anybody to tell you to hold back?

HANCOCKS: As the parents prepare for the Jewish Sabbath, the children prepare to spend another night in a neighbor's basement. It's not reinforced, but it does face south, away from Lebanon. For them, that's enough.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Sefad, northern Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER Well, the Lebanon government asked the U.N. Security Council to debate a resolution to get -- to ask Israel to stop attacks in Lebanon. We're actually hearing now, sounds like some more rockets just landing a distance from here. There was debate in the U.N. Security Council, but no resolution. No decision was actually made, but this topic, of course, was front and center for President Bush today, as he met with G8 leaders.

CNN Suzanne Malveaux was traveling with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush arrived in St. Petersburg two days ahead of the G8 summit to have what aides call private and frank discussions with someone he calls an old friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But it's the crisis in the Middle East that has now taken center stage. Before his arrival aboard Air Force One, Mr. Bush called key allies in the region, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, to press them to use their influence with Hezbollah to get the Israeli soldiers released. He also called Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to reiterate his belief that Israel has the right to protect itself against Hezbollah, but should try to spare the innocent and respect Siniora's authority.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever Israel does, though, should not weaken the Siniora government in Lebanon.

MALVEAUX: White House officials denied that Mr. Bush was calling for Israel to stop its attacks, saying that was a matter for the Israeli military to decide. But Mr. Bush has not spoken to Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. That task has been left to his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We just continue to ask that the Israelis exercise restraint, be concerned about civilian casualties, be concerned, of course, about civilian infrastructure and that's been the nature of our conversations.

MALVEAUX: Rice also called several regional leaders and the U.N.'s Kofi Annan, while other U.S. officials in the region are making personal contacts.

Former Middle East Envoy Dennis Ross says the U.S. is being reduced to sitting on the sidelines, while others say the administration needs to better engage on all sides.

DANIEL KURTZER, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Our peace process is in shambles. The road map of peace that President Bush articulated really doesn't exist any more. We don't talk to Hamas, we don't talk to Hezbollah. So to empower a few people to run around and try to make some progress without deciding what basis on which they're going to operate I think would be foolhardy.

MALVEAUX (on camera): It's far from clear whether or not the G8 leaders at the summit will come up with a unified response to the Middle East crisis. Already there is a split with Russia and France saying they believe Israel has overreacted, while the United States and Germany disagree.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, St. Petersburg, Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, there are plenty of soldiers here to fight on both sides of this conflict. You may not realize it, but unlike the U.S., both Israel and Lebanon have compulsory military service.

Here's the raw data on the situation. In Israel, all young Jewish men and women must serve in the military when they turn 17. Men serve for 36 months, women for 21 months.

In Lebanon, all men and women between 18 and 30 are required to serve one year in the Lebanese military. Coming up, a lot more here from the situation in Israel and in Lebanon. Is what's happening here an example of the failure of democracy? We'll take a look at some of the governments in the region and how they're affecting the conflict that we're now seeing.

We'll also have more from Lebanon. What's it like on the ground? What's really happening there? We'll have a live report on that.

And, also, on the front lines, fighting back against Katyusha rockets. How the Israeli artillery units are fighting back, targeting rockets. And the battle is going on all day and all night. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

COOPER (voice-over): They've been firing. That's the first shell that they fired. We're not sure how many they plan to fire.

Charlie, closer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (on camera): A dramatic night on a lonely hill on the border with Israel and Lebanon when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the U.S. has been pushing in the last several years for democracy in the Middle East. The irony, of course, of the current situation is that some of the governments and the forces that Israel now finds itself fighting against were born out of that push for democracy and for elections. Certainly an example, the democracy and free elections don't always turn out like one anticipates them to.

CNN's Candy Crowley takes a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not how democracy is supposed to act. Not how democracy is supposed to look. And it's not the vision of a president who has as a cornerstone of his administration, the spread of democracy in the Middle East.

BUSH: We seek the advance of democracy for the most practical of reasons. Because democracies do not support terrorists or threaten the world with weapons of mass murder.

CROWLEY: But what if they held an election and the bad guys won? It could happen. It did.

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Since the elections in Palestine and certainly in Iran, you can cite both of those as examples of democracy having gone awry. CROWLEY: In Iran's presidential election, a radical outsider won by a landslide. Elsewhere in elections deemed free and fair, members of groups the U.S. says are terrorist organizations were elected.

SUSAN RICE, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: We have to recognize the reality that in many parts of the world what democracy will yield, at least in the short term, may not be what we would wish it to yield and may not be even constant with U.S. interests.

CROWLEY: You can say that again. Palestinian elections gave the nod to members of the militant wing of Hamas. About 20 percent of those elected to the Lebanese parliament belonged to the Hezbollah Shiite Islamic party. And Iranian backed Shiite parties have been voted in to power in Iraq.

Columnist Thomas Friedman argues the current violence is aimed at establishing an Islamist Middle East, "the post-9/11 democracy experiment in the Arab-Muslim world is being hijacked."

What's happened here? For starters, an election is not a democracy. Then, too, no matter who's on the U.S. terrorist list, Hamas and Hezbollah look quite different at home.

CHRISTOPHER PREBLE, CATO INSTITUTE: They're quite popular. They're quite popular with the people. For many years they've been providing social services and just importantly, they're seen as different from the existing political organizations, many of which are corrupt.

CROWLEY: And while moderates in the Arab-Muslim world may outnumber the militants, the militants are better armed.

EAGLEBURGER: These people with the guns, these -- this minority, and it is that, is prepared to be very nasty, if necessary. And I think what they have done is cowed more of the more moderate forces in these countries.

CROWLEY: The experts we talked to agree on two things. It's too early to know whether democracies are even possible in the Middle East, and there's no guarantee that democracies can bring stability.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining me now from Washington, Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, currently of the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution. And in Houston, Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel. He's now director of Rice University's Baker Institute.

Gentlemen, appreciate you joining us.

Ambassador Indyk, let me start off with you. Is what is happening now a failure of democracy? MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Well, it's, I think, a failure of the implementation of the vision in two respects. First of all, the president placed much too much emphasis in promoting democracy on elections. We know that there's a lot of other things that have to be put in place as well, particularly the rule of law and one basic principle, Anderson, which he ignored, which is that there has to be a monopoly of force in the hands of the government.

Instead, he turned the other way while parties with their own militias and terrorist cadres participated in the elections and entered the governments. That happened in Iraq and now we have militias in the government in Iraq, which is a huge problem there.

It happened in Lebanon, despite the fact there was a U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, that called not only for the Syrian troops to leave, which they did, but also for Hezbollah to be disarmed. But instead, we focused on elections and Hezbollah moved into the government. It now has cabinet ministers plus a militia that's stronger than the Lebanese army.

And then we did it again in the Palestinian authority, when Israel said, wait a minute, Hamas can't run in the elections because it hasn't disarmed and dismantled its terrorist infrastructure. And we said, no, no, we'll disarm them through elections. And low and behold, they took office. And so we have a huge problem now as a result of our pushing for elections.

COOPER: Ambassador Djerejian, as far as Americans are concerned, who are watching this now, what is the greatest threat, long term, not necessarily even in these next several days and weeks. As you look at this, what is your greatest fear?

EDWARD DJEREJIAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA AND ISRAEL: Well, I think the greatest fear is that this escalation both on the Palestinian front and the Lebanese front can widen involving Syria and Iran, and just exacerbating an already very bad and dangerous situation.

However, I think a wider war can certainly be avoided if there's some very bold leadership and crisis management to get the parties to cease and desist from the violence and the military actions. That means getting Hamas and Hezbollah to step back. To get indirect contacts between the parties, in order to get prisoner exchanges for the release of the Israeli soldiers, and, then to take a hard look at the southern border of Lebanon, the northern border of Israel, to determine how that border can be made more secure to avoid what we're seeing today.

The problem is in Lebanon, as Martin has indicated, is that you have a democratically elected government in Lebanon. However, that government does not enjoy the full monopoly of the use of force in Lebanon. The Lebanese armed forces, Anderson, can actually deal militarily with Hezbollah if it was given the political green light to do so. It has the capability. But the political will isn't there because Lebanon is under all sorts of pressures from Syria and Iran not to allow the Lebanese armed forces to go to the southern border with Israel.

So you have a democratic government, but that is really an anomaly that it does not exercise the full monopoly of a military force.

COOPER: Yes, Ambassador Indyk, is what's going on here also an example of the battle going on within Islam, a battle between moderation and forward progress, and those who want to have more of an Islamic government, the hardliners, radical Islamists?

INDYK: To some extent I think that is true. That Hezbollah, with its Iranian connection, with its connections to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, are advancing a version of Islam, which is basically and fundamentally anti-Western, anti-Israel, and seeks to establish the kind of rejectionist hold on the region.

And there's no coincidence that you have this kind of coalition of these rejectionist forces who now are using Israel, as it were, the Israel card, as a way of championing their cause and gaining support certainly in the Arab street and beyond in the Muslim world by going after Israel. It starts with Ahmadinejad threatening to destroy Israel, and then Hamas coming after Israel, after Israel withdraws from Gaza. And of course, Hezbollah never gave up even though Israel withdrew from Lebanon six years ago.

COOPER: There's a lot to talk about and we'd like to have you on again. I wish we had more time this morning. Ambassador Indyk, Ambassador Djerejian, appreciate it. Thanks to you for your perspectives. Thanks.

INDYK: Thank you.

DJEREJIAN: Thank you.

COOPER: We've got a lot more ahead.

Right now, let's check in with John Roberts who's following some of the other stories in the headlines right now -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson. The new crisis in the Middle East has oil prices reaching record highs. The cost of a barrel briefly surpassed $78 today before settling back at a record $77.03. That's still up 33 cents from yesterday's record close. Analysts say gas prices now averaging around $3 a gallon will likely rise some more.

In Denver, the brother of Fugitive Polygamist Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to three years probation and fined $2,500. Seth Steed Jeffs pleaded guilty in May to harboring his older brother. An FBI agent testified that the younger Jeffs didn't know where his brother was, but if he did, he wouldn't say anything.

In McMinnville, Tennessee, a former teacher convicted of having sex with a student is sent to prison for seven years. 29-year-old Pamela Rogers had served six months in jail and was out on probation, but a judge revoked that after Rogers allegedly contacted the students' family by Internet and then mailed the boy nude pictures of herself.

And at the "New York Times" today, a sigh of relief. A mysterious white powder found in an envelope that was delivered to the newspaper's mail room has tested negative for anthrax. Police say the employee who opened the envelope was taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure.

A little later on in the hour, we'll have an update for you on the southern California fires.

Right now back to Nasiriyah in Israel. And here's Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks very much.

The current conflict, of course, began with an ambush and a kidnapping of three Israeli troops, two here on the northern border, one in Gaza.

Coming up, we'll show you how Israel has responded and how the hunt for the recapture, the getting back of those three Israeli soldiers, how that hunt is going.

Also ahead tonight, sworn enemies of Israel now fighting on common ground. The lethal times, ties between Hamas and Hezbollah.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That's the scene here in Nasiriyah when a Katyusha rocket was fired, landing yesterday. It is a sight that has been repeated in towns and villages across northern Israel over the last several days.

More than 400 Katyusha rockets and, of course, the Israelis responding in kind. A massive assault in not only in Beirut, but all across southern Lebanon.

We'll be taking a look at that. Both sides of the conflict. When a lot of world leaders have been condemning Israel, saying that their response to the kidnapping of three soldiers has been disproportionate, that they've gone too far. Israel, from their perspective, says when three of their soldiers have been kidnapped, no amount of response is disproportionate.

Joe Johns takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the spark that touched off the powder keg. Hezbollah's audacious kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. In years past, Israel might simply have traded prisoners for the men. But this time, they opted for a massive response. The reaction so ferocious that some newspapers in Israel are questioning whether the government has gone too far.

To understand why Israel acted so aggressively this time, first you have to understand the country's historic attitude towards Israelis taken hostage. Israel has demonstrated it will seemingly do almost anything to get its people back, like the daring raid on Entebbe Airport in Uganda 30 years ago to free airline passengers from a Tel Aviv plane that had been hijacked.

Michael Herzog is a brigadier general in the Israeli defense force, who's in Washington on a fellowship.

MICHAEL HERZOG, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCE: There is a deeply ingrained Jewish tradition that if you have a prisoner or a hostage, you should do your utmost to release him, including if you have to pay sums of money or any other way.

JOHNS: But this time, Herzog says Hezbollah pushed Israel over the tipping point. Remember, Israel had withdrawn from both Lebanon and Gaza to win peace and yet many believe that did nothing to stop the violence.

Ralph Peters is an author and retired U.S. military intelligence officer. He says Israel felt it had no choice this time.

RALPH PETERS, AUTHOR, "NEVER QUIT THE FIGHT": And the problem is every time Israel releases hostages in return for a hostage, it encourages more hostage taking. And at some point you've got the break the cycle. Now, it's an ugly, ugly situation, and there are innocent victims on both sides.

JOHNS: And now, no talk of a tradeoff.

HERZOG: Before anybody even considers such kind of a deal, I think they would want to establish a new strategic equation, namely, no more kidnapping, no more firing of rockets. Only then we can talk about cease fire and possibly swaps in the future.

JOHNS: But at the moment, with missiles flying, that future still seems very distant.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, John Vause has been here in Nasiriyah, really since this conflict began.

How have people here in Nasiriyah reacted and really all over Israel?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not just here in this city, but across Israel, there really is a sense that this country is behind this military campaign, behind the government and behind the new Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

There is a sense that for too long Hezbollah has essentially been given a free hand to build up an arsenal of maybe 10,000 rockets on the border, not far from this location here. And really, something has to be done about those rockets and about Hezbollah in general. There's also probably a consensus as well about how much this country misses Ariel Sharon at this time, the former Israeli prime minister who is in a coma. He was the man the Israelis would turn to at moments like this. He was Mr. War, Mr. Security, he was the man that the Israelis trusted and he's not on the scene right now.

COOPER: What has surprised you about the response, both from Hezbollah and from Israel over the last several days?

VAUSE: Well certainly, the escalation by Israel, the very fast and furious nature of the campaign -- 100 air strikes or more carried out on the first day of the campaign. Israeli artillery continuing to pound those Hezbollah positions in the south. A naval blockade hitting the airport.

COOPER: Taking it all the way to Beirut.

VAUSE: Yes, really going for Hezbollah's throat in a very fast and furious way. But also Hezbollah's response has been very sophisticated. What we've seen over the last couple of days, missiles which can reach Haifa and possibly rockets which can go beyond that, the attack on the Navy gunboat, an unmanned drone packed full of explosives causing serious damage. This is the level of sophistication which really hasn't been seen by Hezbollah before and will be of great concern to Israel.

COOPER: And on Friday, of course, the leader of Hezbollah saying open war, if that's what Israel wants, that's what Israel will get. And really no one can tell what the next 24 hours will hold.

John Vause, appreciate you joining us. Great coverage over the last several days.

When we come back, we're going to have more about what John was talking about, about Hezbollah and what may be a growing link with Hamas. Traditionally they have been rivals. Are they rivals no longer? Are they now working together, funded and support by Syria and Iran? We'll take a look at that when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Some Israeli soldiers who are bunked down for the night here. This is a bomb shelter underneath one of the hotels in Nasiriyah. This bomb shelter has room for about 300 people. And that's about as many people who are inside the hotel right now. Most of them are foreign journalists and a few soldiers. They put a lot of mattresses down on the floor.

All throughout the day they've been telling people, anyone who does remain in this town should spend the night in a bomb shelter like this.

Of course, it's not all soldiers or journalists who are staying here in the bomb shelter tonight. There are also some families. And of course that means kids. So they've built a playground in this bomb shelter.

Hello.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And, of course, there are children on both sides of this conflict, on all sides of the conflict, really.

In Lebanon at this hour, children just waking up on this Saturday morning after having spent the night in whatever shelters that they could find.

We spent some part of last night Friday, late Friday evening, early Saturday morning with an artillery unit from the Israeli army as he lobbed shells into southern Lebanon. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): On a rocky slope along the Lebanese border we found an Israeli artillery company readying for battle. They're arming the shells they'll soon fire at targets in southern Lebanon.

CAPTAIN BOAZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: It's been a long three days.

COOPER: Captain Boaz is the company commander.

BOAZ: I mean every time that Hezbollah engages fire, you have to respond. So they give us, like, for a target point.

COOPER: So your command sees where the Hezbollah rockets come from and then you try to respond on that spot?

BOAZ: Exactly.

COOPER: Since the crisis began, they've been firing back and forth all day and all night.

(on camera): Captain Boaz received a call, the command to fire. They're now listening to the radios, getting the exact coordinates. They're plotting on their map. And then they'll give the command here to actually fire. The whole process takes just a matter of minutes.

(voice-over): Once the targets have been acquired, the artillery units are told to prepare.

(on camera): They've now fired up the American-made M-109 artillery piece. Both batteries are ready to fire. They have the shells in place. They're just waiting for the final go ahead from Captain Boaz.

(voice-over): When the firing begins, there's little warning.

That's the first shell that they've fired. We're not sure how many they plan to fire.

More than 200 Katyusha rockets have landed in northern Israel since this latest crisis erupted.

(on camera): The Katyushas are notoriously inaccurate. They're basically point and shoot. That's why they're more likely to hit civilians than they are any Israeli soldiers. The Israelis have the advantage of better firepower.

(voice-over): Tonight's target is some nine miles away.

(on camera): Right now they're using American-made M-109 artillery pieces. They can fire shells a great distance with great accuracy.

(voice-over): For Captain Boaz, the shelling has become routine.

BOAZ: We want to see our guys come home. Every kidnapped soldiers, one in the Gaza Strip, two in the north. We just want to see them come back home. And I mean nobody wants war. We just want to live in peace and quiet.

COOPER: Tonight, of course, there will be no peace and quiet. Another call comes in from command. Another order to fire. A brief flash lights up the night sky. Then darkness once again takes over.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And all morning, we have been hearing the dull thud of Katyusha rockets in the distance landing somewhere in northern Israel and no doubt somewhere there is Israeli batteries firing in to southern Lebanon.

And I think as Nic Robertson was reporting, there have been several strikes in and around Beirut already this morning. We'll continue to cover the conflict.

When we come back, though, what seems to be a growing alliance between Hamas and Hezbollah. Traditionally they have been rivals. Is that no longer the case? And if not, what does it mean for the U.S. and this region?

John King will look at that. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A video from Gaza where Hamas had a demonstration calling for people to take to the streets, to support Hezbollah and praise them for what they have done with the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

It may represent a growing linkage between Hamas and Hezbollah, a linkage which worries many not only here in Israel but also in the U.S. government and in this region.

John King take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hezbollah calls southern Lebanon home, as an AK-47 emblazoned on its trademark yellow flag and attacks in the name of Shiite fundamentalism.

Hamas has its stronghold in Gaza. A green flag is its calling card. Sunni Islam, its religious foundation. Hezbollah and Hamas, one Shia, one Sunni, rivals, yet at the same time allies who share being sworn enemies of Israel, labeled terrorist organizations by the United States, and beneficiaries of financial and political backing from Syria and Iran.

RICE: There have been obvious, numerous contacts, public contacts, between the Iranian regime and both Hezbollah and the external elements of Hamas.

KING: Now this additional common ground. Both Hezbollah and Hamas are holding kidnapped Israeli soldiers, looking to exchange them for prisoners held by Israel and looking to draw attention to their shared political agenda.

CLAYTON SWISHER, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: And this war transcends Shia Islam and Sunni Islam. It's over Jerusalem, it's over the Arab Israeli conflict. And until that is resolved, people in the region, the (INAUDIBLE) groups, are going to keep a military capability.

KING: By U.S. and Israeli estimates, Hezbollah is responsible for more than 200 terror attacks since 1980, killing more than 800 people.

Hamas is blamed for more than 350 attacks in the past dozen years, killing more than 500.

For years the two groups staged a rivalry of sorts. Israeli blood often the price of the competition. Iran has long had deep ties with Hezbollah. Hamas, traditionally, has been closer to Saudi Arabia, even Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Hamas really is in the end primarily a Palestinian organization. Primarily operating with support from the Palestinians and outside from much of the Arab world, much more than from Iran.

KING: Iran has offered Hamas more support since its dramatic gains in January's Palestinian elections, saying it would make up for any aid the West cuts off because of Hamas ties to terrorism.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, FORMER DEPUTY CIA DIRECTOR: Iran has a moment of strategic opportunity to pull various levers to make the American position more difficult in all of these arenas. Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon Israel, Syria, Israel -- in all of these arenas, Iran has a button to push.

KING: As Israel responds to the kidnappings with force, many see the legacy of a collapsed peace process. TELHAMI: Clearly, the Israelis could not obtain security despite unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Withdrawal without agreements is costly.

KING (on camera): It is all in some ways sadly familiar, intensifying calls for urgent diplomacy including a more active U.S. role and both escalating violence and rhetoric between old enemies, Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah.

John King, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And joining us now, a Hezbollah expert, Bob Baer, a man who's studied them up close and very personal. A former CIA operative based in Lebanon. He is the author of the book, "Blow the House Down." He's in California tonight.

Bob, thanks very much for being with us.

From the U.S. perspective, how big of a concern should it be if there is this growing linkage between Hezbollah and Hamas?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA AGENT: Anderson, the problem is that they do have a common goal, which is destruction of Israel right now. And secondarily, they both have international networks which they could draw on as they escalate this war. And this is what's really going to concern the United States right now, is it will spread beyond Lebanon.

COOPER: What does it also say about Iran, as a regional power? I mean, it seems like increasingly Iran wants to represent the Muslim world?

BAER: Oh, absolutely. Last year I spent a lot of time with Hamas and we met the Hamas representatives in the southern suburbs of Beirut. They were protected by Hezbollah. I was recently in Damascus where the Syrians were very open, saying, hey, we've turned Hamas and Hezbollah over to Iran. It's Iran that funds Hezbollah largely and continues to fund Hamas as well. And the new president of Iran would like to bring these two groups together in a united front against Israel and the United States.

COOPER: What should we be watching in the next several days? What are you going to be looking for, signs, signals about what's going to happen not only in the next several days, but just longer term in the region?

BAER: I think what concerns me, Anderson, is that at this point Hezbollah intends to escalate. They will make some more attacks tomorrow and the Israelis at some point will consider hitting Damascus or hitting the Syrians, and this will expand the conflict. That's what worries me.

COOPER: What about Israeli ground troops in southern Lebanon? Do you think that's likely? BAER: Could be. If the rocket attacks continue, this government's going to have to do something. The problem is that the Iranians and Hezbollah are ready for a ground attack. They want one. They're trying to encourage it, and they're going to be hit by a lot of IEDs and guerrilla networks are going to attack them and the Israelis are going to take losses, as they did up until 2000.

COOPER: And, of course, the memory of what happened in 1982, still very fresh in the minds of many Israelis here.

Bob, appreciate your perspective tonight. Thank you.

BAER: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll talk to Bob, no doubt, in the coming days and weeks.

We're going to have a lot more here from Israel. We'll also go, though, right after the break, we're going to take you to the frontlines of the fires out West and see how they're using some unusual methods and firefighters to battle the flames.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Today firefighters in San Bernardino County, California, watched two wildfires become one and that one fire may soon be on track to consume an estimated 100,000 acres. Already 60,000 are charred.

But as CNN's Chris Lawrence reports, there are some victories. The fight to save a cherished southern California vacation spot has apparently paid off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the worst-case scenario firefighters feared, a wildfire burning into a populated tourist area surrounded by forest. Now it looks like Big Bear is safe.

TRACEY MARTINEZ, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: And there is very low probability that the fire will turn towards Big Bear, very low probability.

LAWRENCE: And even if it does...

MARTINEZ: There's already a fire break in place. So that will help us slow down the fire, if not stop it at that location.

LAWRENCE: Residents in Morongo Valley are keeping a close eye on the fire's direction.

DOUG HUNTSMAN, MORONGO VALLEY RESIDENT: About 12:00 I went to bed. I did set my alarm for like every hour and a half, just to you know, wake me up, and get up and make sure it's not any closer.

LAWRENCE: The sheriff ordered Doug Huntsman and other residents to evacuate. Most refused.

HUNTSMAN: As of right now I haven't seen any reason to leave.

LAWRENCE: Crews have kept most of the flames confined to the mountains. So a lot of homeowners just aren't concerned enough to comply with the order.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not unless the house burns down, then I'll leave.

LAWRENCE: There was some concern that when the two fires merged, it would create an inferno. Now some fire officials say a single fire could help remove islands of unburned fuel or in layman's terms, patches of unburned brush and trees.

MONICA VASQUEZ, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY: It's better to watch it and let it burn together and burn out those islands so then we have less to mop up.

LAWRENCE: Making things a little bit easier for overworked crews.

(on camera): Crews are dealing with a fire four times the size of Manhattan. And this weekend, temperatures are expected to stay well over 110 degrees with almost no humidity.

Tomorrow morning, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will visit with some of the firefighters on the frontline -- John.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Thanks very much. Chris Lawrence reporting for us from southern California. Dangers on both sides of the Atlantic, just of different kinds.

Let's go back across the ocean now and Anderson Cooper in Israel -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks. We're going to have a lot more from here in Nasiriyah in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Thanks for joining us in this special edition of 360, from Nasiriyah. We are going to be bringing you a special Sunday edition of 360 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. That's Sunday night. And we'll also have the regular edition of 360 on Monday, as well, from the region.

Have a great weekend.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

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