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Middle East Situation; Siniora Addresses Lebanese People

Aired July 15, 2006 - 13:00   ET


COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, WORLD NEWS: Hello and welcome. I'm Colleen McEdwards at CNN Center. We would like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is WORLD NEWS.
Israeli warplanes are attacking targets across Lebanon including in the heart of Beirut as the cross-border conflict deepens. Here are the latest developments for you right now. We've got smoke rising over central Beirut as Israel delivers a series of punishing strikes. Reports say the seaport and a lighthouse were hit. The brunts of Saturday's attacks have focused on southern Beirut though which is Hezbollah's power base. Israel is trying to hit offices and homes of Hezbollah's top leaders.

In another development, Israel recovered the body of one of four sailors missing after rocket fire hit their warship off Lebanon. The first attack on Israel's military since militants captured those two Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah's militants are launching dozens more rockets into Israel. Several people have been injured and Arab league foreign ministers meeting in Cairo are divided over whether Hezbollah is to blame for igniting these crises, but all of them support stopping the attacks on Lebanon.

CNN is providing coverage throughout the Middle East. We have reporters in Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. We will have reports from all those locations coming up.

But first, we want to begin with the attacks on Lebanon's capital because they have escalated very much over the last few hours with targets in central Beirut hit for the first time, but most of Israel's strikes have been aimed at Hezbollah's stronghold which is in the southern part of the suburbs. Let's get details now from our Alessio Vinci who is live for us in Beirut.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello Colleen. Well it does appear that Israel is expanding its area of operation by targeting several seaports in the last few hours, beginning of course, with the capital, Beirut. We understand that there, a wheat silo was attacked as well as the lighthouse. Also, further north, about maybe ten miles, about 15 kilo meters to the north, there we understand also a wheat silo has been attacked and destroyed.

Then further up to the north, in the seaport city of Tripol, helicopter gunship they're attacking the port city there, and they're again, one wheat silo. Now, all this continues while in the southern area of Beirut, we have counted today at least four or five different strikes at different locations within the southern area of Beirut. Of course, a Hezbollah stronghold, an area of Beirut densely populated by Muslim Shiite. Yesterday it was attacked there, the headquarters of the Hezbollah movement, by destroying the headquarters as well as the offices and home of the leader.

We understand they are still under attack today. I have had an opportunity today to briefly drive by there. I saw a bridge that was heavily damaged. I saw a huge hole in one of the crossroads there and of course, a few apartment buildings that had been severely damaged. All this, meanwhile, while the IDS, the Israeli defense forces, flying overhead in southern Lebanon have dropped leaflets warning people to stay away from certain targets there. However, some of the leaflets today have been quite different. We have seen leaflets saying the resistance protects you, your country and the answer is you are a victim of the resistance. Of course, they are talking about how Hezbollah is in their words, harming this country. In the back of this leaflet there is a snake, the symbol of course, of evil in this country. All this while many embassies in this country, including the U.S. Embassy, are preparing plans to evacuate thousands of Americans and other nationals from this country.

Very difficult task, of course, because this country remains completely isolated. The international airport is closed. There is a naval blockade enforced by the Israeli gunship as well, of course, as the main roads leading out of this country. Both to the north as well as to the east, they have been heavily targeted all day long. It is extremely, extremely dangerous to travel on those roads. We also understand today that one of the border posts had been targeted. So this is a wide-ranging operation that Israel is undertaking here in Lebanon, targeting not just Hezbollah positions but as you can see, a lot of other infrastructure.

Of course, the casualty toll continues to rise. Right now, we understand the latest casualty toll stands at 84 people dead and more than 200 injured, including down in the south. Today, one of the mini bus carrying 20 civilians took a direct hit, 15 people killed there in that attack.

Colleen, back to you.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Alessio Vinci in Beirut thanks very much. Our coverage of this crisis covers all points of the compass. We want to move east now with a report on the Israeli air raids that happened right near the Lebanese-Syrian border. Our Aneesh Raman is there for us. Aneesh what's the latest?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Colleen, we are on the gateway between Syria and Lebanon, on the Syrian side. Beyond that is where the main access road was hit by air assaults. But as you can see, people have been filtering through all day, many of them carrying what little they can. Taking what they could from inside Lebanon, fleeing the violence. About 100,000 Syrians have made their way through; we are told, by guards here. Many of them were poor Syrians, working in Lebanon. They can't afford cars. They walked hours in order to get back to their country. Other ex-patriot Arabs have been coming through, tourists, diplomats, everyone who has been able to get out before these assaults has gotten out over the past few days.

And you can see basically, you can see more people behind me who are carrying, again, what little they've got, they are telling startling stories of the violence there. A man that we met said his 5- year-old daughter was just meters away from a bomb they dropped. He did not want her to die there. He did not want to die, not in his homeland. He returned to Syria. So here is where the humanitarian face of what happening really comes to play. The officials say they are being very lax about visas. People that normally wouldn't be eager to get into Syria are now clamoring to do so.

For the past few hours, it has been a very steady flow of people; it is just starting to calm down now. The Syrians, of course, are keen to stay out of this crisis as much as they can. They are distancing themselves from Hezbollah. They did issue a statement earlier today that praised the resistance movement within Lebanon but they did not mention Hezbollah. The Syrians are watching this very closely to see whether what's happening in Lebanon comes across this border here.


MCEDWARDS: Well, there is a lot of blame being aimed at Syria, a lot of governments suggesting that Syria not only backed Hezbollah, supports Hezbollah, but probably had something directly to do with this decision to abduct the two Israeli soldiers.

RAMAN: Yes. There are two issues here. One, of course, is the southern -- is southern Lebanon, whether Syria benefits from a conflict there and whether or not it is fueling that, something Syria denies. The second issue is whether Israel believes and acts upon a belief that Syria was directly involved in Wednesday's abduction of the Israeli soldiers. Syria has said that Hezbollah and Hamas are essentially independent operations, that they do not need Syria in order to commence their activities. That may fall on, of course, deaf ears beyond the borders of Syria, but the Syrians are aware that as tensions escalate, so does international scrutiny of their relationship with Hezbollah and for the moment, in Damascus, they are remaining relatively quiet trying to see how this plays out.


MCEDWARDS: All right. Aneesh Raman right on the border there with an incredible look at what's happening there. We want to take you to Lebanese television where the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is speaking to the nation. Let's listen.

FOUAD SINIORA, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER, (Translator): The homeland and the infrastructure and violates the severity of the Lebanese state and the dignity of the human. This criminal machine still continues to kill and expel without -- in the fourth day of this aggression continued to destroy many civilian infrastructure in addition to killing and destroying from south to north. And today, the aggression raining around the clock destruction. My beloved, we are pained as well as angry, yet determined and patient, and just determined in these dark days, I think of you one by one, of the children who slept in shelters and the mothers and the elderly, I think of those who were cut off and those who were chased by the destruction from one place to another.

I think of the children and the women and the elders and others who were assassinated and killed by the Israeli who were trying to lead the destruction in each town in the south and each home in Lebanon, in the mountains and in the north, in Beirut and in the southern districts, we together face the same tragedy, and the same challenges. Those are ours for unity, not for division. Ours for solidarity, not to open our hearts for each other. We are called on to open our homes and schools, to help who left their schools and homes and work.

We are called on to heal our wounds. Look through the eyes of hope on the future, the future of this homeland that we have paid price with the blood and souls, much more than any homeland has paid for in the world. And we will be stronger and we will be able to challenge and we will rebuild what the enemy has destroyed as we have done in the past. And they don't know but the language of destruction, and we know how to withstand and stood fast in rebuilding. Lebanon has bled the loss of Palestine and today, are bleeding anew because of repeated Israeli aggression.

What happens today wishes us more than any other time to remain in solidarity to preserve Lebanese sovereignty and independence. All Lebanese people, my brothers and beloved ones, and me from here, from the heart of Beirut that was rebuilt by maters Rafik Hari (ph). We miss his actions and dreams that the Israeli war machine to try to destroy and assassinate. What we are facing today bypass the alleged issue about the prisoners. It's about a whole people that are facing Israeli aggression. Israel is punishing, collective punishing, that has no legitimacy or moral legitimacy or legal legitimacy, our homeland is facing the fiercest aggression any country has faced from any fierce war machine, killing its sons.

My brothers, we are continuing, determined whether to for the safe and rescue and to support the people and connect the regions and reconnect communication, rebuilding and food and medicine and asking the help from brothers and friends and to deal with the political issue of this issue. I will be convening the cabinet and real communication with the other Arab --

[ Speaking Lebanese ]

SINIORA (translator): The right way and the only way to face that we only save the real estate that will protect everybody and preserve the rights and preserve their safety and the government has declared from the very beginning of the explosive situation that it was not aware of what happened, and did not adopt the operation that Hezbollah has captured two Israeli soldiers, and that did not -- did not cause this.

Hezbollah has no right to destroy Lebanon. And destroy its infrastructure, and this experience pushes us more to withstand and to hold on to the Lebanese state, to protect the Lebanese against any threats and aggression. Lebanon cannot stand if the government is the last one to know and the first one to be asked, the state alone is the only one who has the legitimate decision for peace or war because it represents the will of the Lebanese people, that who wanted to live together. We are facing the aggression today, unified and we will continue to be unified from behind the state, from behind the constitutional institutions.

There is a major aggression facing our country and our people. We will not face down or hesitate and at the same time, we are taking all actions to help and rescue. I want to remind what the cabinet have declared in its past decisions, the Lebanese government asserts its responsibility to protect the homeland and the citizens, and to preserve its security and safety and its rights and duties to have its sovereignty over all Lebanese land and to practice sovereignty and to make decisions inside and outside.

We call first, the completion cessation of fire and allow the nations in Arab countries and other national parties in cooperation with the Lebanese estate to have a responsible action to deal with what happened and those who caused it. Second, to work and have in the Lebanese state to establish its sovereignty all over its lands and work with to have the returning of all of Lebanese land and to practice its sovereignty on it.

And to keep the agreements signed 1949, which the Lebanese have agreed upon in national accord. Third, Lebanon calls on its friends and brothers to help, for help and rescue. Whether to pressure to stop the aggression or from humanitarian help and the Lebanese government, they have the responsibility fall on Israel, the humanitarian responsibility on Israel and we said and are still saying work until today to remove the effects of destruction.

Since 1982, 1993 and 1996, and today, the Israeli destruction comes again, and I declare from here, Lebanon is a country destructed and in need of a plan, a national plan, a quick plan and a comprehensive plan to rescue and rebuilding of what Israel destroyed.

Lebanese, we have said and will say remain in our land, holding in our rights and our country. We will be victorious and Lebanon will remain. Lebanon will remain. No questions.

MCEDWARDS: All right. The Lebanese Prime Minister there Fouad Sinior saying no questions. You are watching this on Lebanese television. The Lebanese prime minister calling on the international community, the United Nations and what he described as Lebanon's friends and brothers to rescue Lebanon, he said that Lebanon is a country that has been destroyed, that needs a plan to rescue and rebuild it. He began with some words of condolence for the civilian casualties in Lebanon, 82 people confirmed killed at this point, saying Lebanon is pained, angry, determined and patient.

This government in a difficult position, of course, because it does share seats in its house of government with Hezbollah, does share two cabinet seats, around the cabinet table, but the Lebanese government is fractured and divided. Many members of government very anti-Syria. A government that has never really exercised control or influence over Hezbollah. So that is the context there.

We've got Octavia Nasr our editor of Arab affairs standing by who can bring us much more depth and observation to this. Octavia what do you make of the remarks?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, ARAB AFFAIRS: You know, very emotional remarks by the Lebanese prime minister. I think the highlight of it is the last point that he made. Basically, declaring Lebanon a disaster zone. He said it with emotions, he said it with power. He called on all countries of the world, all countries he said, Arab countries, friends and international countries, to come to the help of Lebanon and the rescue of its people. Very emotional plea by the Lebanese prime minister.

We have seen the Prime Minister Sinior in many, many occasions. I personally have never seen him so emotional and so emotional not just about the situation, but really, as he talked to the Lebanese people, calling them brothers, calling them my dear Lebanese people. In a very patriarchal way, if you will. The highlights as I said, him announcing, declaring as he said, declaring from here, from the hearts of Lebanon, from Beirut, declaring Lebanon a disaster zone.

He called, he said he has a few points to make, one calling for an immediate cease-fire to help the Lebanese take care of their wounded and their dead and to bring in relief, humanitarian relief and supplies to the Lebanese stranded in their villages and homes and allowing, he said, Arab nations and western nations to take their citizens out of the country and take them to safety.

Number two, he said -- he talked about Lebanese sovereignty. He said he wants the Lebanese government and the Lebanese basically authorities to spread their sovereignty all over Lebanese land. He reminded of the cease-fire with Israel back in 1949 and he said since then, many times, Israel did not respect that cease-fire. He is calling basically now on Israel without naming it by name, to respect the cease-fire, go back to that, allow people to go in and help out as much as possible.

His number three point, he called on friends to come in to the help and rescue of Lebanon and he called on them to pressure Israel to stop its aggression over Lebanon, and basically, he called on them to come in with humanitarian aid to help Lebanon. It was a very positive message in a sense because he reminded the world that Lebanon is a country that is good at rebuilding, it is good at surviving, it is good at dealing with a crises and coming out of them alive and in one piece.

MCEDWARDS: Octivia what kind of voices in Lebanon are being heard? I see the television monitors behind you and I know you monitor the media very closely. What's the coverage been like?

NASR: You know the coverage is very interesting. We are relying a lot on Arab media for a lot of the coverage. They're everywhere. If you look behind me here, you will see several monitors, starting here. This is the Hezbollah television station. Now, what they are doing, they have like a talk show basically discussing the comments by the prime minister and other developments of the day. Right here we have al Arabia, based in Dubai. Right here is a Lebanese local station, basically having the reporters everywhere, in the north, in the south, in Beirut, and these people, what they are doing are breaking into breaking news mode as soon as a new strike hits Lebanon anywhere in Lebanon.

When you look at a monitor, let me show you right here, we are an monitoring al-Jazeera. Here is a Christian network. I don't know if you want to look at these images. They are a bit graphic. This basically shows you how the way the local stations in the Arab world deal with graphic images. They don't deal with them like we do. These images will never make it on CNN but in the Arab world, they are seen on television screens and they are in living rooms everywhere so people basically have a very good idea how bad the damages are and how bad the loss of life and the injuries are at this point.


MCEDWARDS: OK. Octavia Nasr thank you so much. Appreciate that. We want to go now to what we have been calling the second front in all of this, because Israel is also fighting in Gaza, where an Israeli soldier was kidnapped there on the 25th. Ben Wideman is standing by in Gaza with more. Ben what's the latest?

BEN WIDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a relatively quiet day here in Gaza, Colleen. In the early hours of the morning, Israeli missiles did strike the Palestinian economy ministry. The pretext for that, they say, is it's run by Hamas and of course, the current Palestinian cabinet is run by Hamas. Just a few days before that, the foreign ministry was also hit. Later in the day, a three- story building just north of here was hit by Israeli missiles. In that strike, according to Palestinians, one Hamas militant was killed in addition to eight others, including a woman and two children.

Palestinian sources also say that that probably was a spot or rather, a building in which in some part of that building, where missiles were being manufactured and stored for use against Israel. Any way, Colleen, we are standing on a corner here in Gaza City just below our office, which is nine floors above, and I am going to show you around a bit to see what it's like. The electricity is on at the moment, which is actually a good thing. It's not always the case. Some of these stores are often candle-lit because they don't have the money to buy generators to light them.

But at the moment, the electricity is on. You can see traffic, people are going around. As I said, it's been a fairly quiet day. This corner isn't always quiet, of course. In the past, there have been clashes between Palestinian militants. We have seen several, in fact, on this street I am walking across right now in the past, one of my producers was kidnapped from a car I was in with him. But at the moment, it's safe. I think. It's quiet, it's calm.

Come follow me. Let me introduce you to some of the people around here. There is not much to do in Gaza so there is a lot of just hanging out, walking around. Let's walk into this store. Come with me. He has got some colleagues and some clients here, customers. Hello, sir.


WIDEMAN: You're fine. Good. How's business? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very bad.



WIDEMAN: We want to know. How are conditions for you? How's business?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My business is very bad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody, there is no money. The border is closed between us and Israel. There are no jobs. No money.

WIDEMAN: Of course, one of the reasons there are these problems is that on June 25th, Hamas militants captured Gilad Shalit (ph), the Israeli corporal. How do you feel about that? Would you like him -- to see him released and the end of these crises? You know Gilad Shalit (ph). How do you feel about that? Would you like to see him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see him free? About him, I want to see him free, really. Because it's not good for us. Also, I want to see our prisoners in Israel to be free also. Because we need to -- we need to make peace with others and we want everybody to be in home. Not in prison.

WIDEMAN: If you could speak to President Bush and tell him about your situation and tell him what would you like him to do? What would you like him to do to make your situation better?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I want from President Bush to try to give us some freedom and some justice.

WIDEMAN: You feel he didn't do enough to calm the situation down, to make peace between Arabs and Israel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can't make peace for Jewish and Arabs. Of course, he is a strong man. He is a president of a country.

WIDEMAN: OK, thank you very much. So Colleen, there you have it. Here's one opinion. Somebody who would like to see Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal, released. Who would like to see the United States play a greater role to resolve this crisis?


MCEDWARDS: Ben Wideman thanks very much. That was great. We will take a short break. Much more, including the Israeli perspective, when we come back.


MCEDWARDDS: Welcome to our viewers around the world. You are watching WORLD NEWS here on CNN international with the very latest on the escalating situation in the Middle East. In just recent hours, the attacks by Israel on Lebanon have increased. The Lebanese prime minister has just appeared on television, speaking to his nation, calling for an immediate cease-fire for intervention by the U.N. and what he called the friends and brothers of Lebanon. Humanitarian relief for his country, which he declared a disaster zone.

We want to get the Israeli perspective now and with the latest on that from Jerusalem, our Paula Newton is standing by. Paula I know it's too early and probably too late to get immediate reaction to what the Lebanese prime minister had to say, but what basically in a nutshell is the latest from where you sit?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just want to go back to the comments from Lebanon. Certainly one of the things he called for was a cease-fire. I know from listening to the Israelis now that what they would come back and say is look, if Hezbollah agrees to a cease- fire, we will stop, too. You had more than 80 rockets land in northern Israel today alone. There were only minor injuries but people there have now taken to their safe rooms and to their bomb shelters and so the Israelis would say sure, we'll agree to a cease-fire, as long as Hezbollah does the same.

Really Colleen, that is not just in the cards right now. This situation continues to escalate by the hour. We have now seen the fact that the Israeli defenses forces have moved in anti-aircraft miss will battery, they are called the patriot, and they moved them into Haifa. Unfortunately received a rocket attack, too, yesterday, in fact and those were the longer-range missiles that the Israeli defense forces say they believe Hezbollah now has.

This country is very much on a war fitting. War footing, sorry. I know many people are saying look it's not a war yet. Technically, that is true but right now there is a psychological change going on with Israelis and they know this is going to get a lot worse for them. Certainly in comparison to the casualties we have seen in Lebanon and Gaza, it pales but they now are part and parcel of the same anxious feelings that the Lebanese are feeling tonight, that the Gazans are feeling tonight and that's that feeling in the pit of your stomach that at any point in time, your family and your livelihood could be threatened.


MCEDWARDS: All right. Paula, I just want you to stand by. We will pick up and talk a little bit more about this in a minute but we have got Nic Robertson and we do want to go to him because he has kind of been on the move from the Lebanese coastal area, whereas we reported earlier, we heard from Alessio Vinci, some of the leaflets have been dropped in this area. Nic, bring us the latest.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Colleen, we were right on the border when those leaflets were dropped. People came running into the streets to pick them up and read them. The message was is Hezbollah helping the situation of Lebanon, question mark, and then underneath that, the line was Hezbollah is damaging Lebanon, and there was a picture of the head of Hezbollah depicted as a serpent in the corner.

The people we talked to found it derogatory. They thought this was Israeli propaganda and they really, they didn't throw away the pieces of paper, but it didn't really make them change their opinion about the situation. However, these leaflets appeared to have just been a prelude for an attack about ten minutes after we left the town, a military installation (INAUDIBLE).

MCEDWARDS: Nic, can you still hear me? I think we lost him. I apologize. We will try to get him back. He has been on the move from this area. Nic saying that essentially, the leaflets certainly didn't change the way people -- didn't change the way people felt about Hezbollah but Lebanese have very complex feelings about Hezbollah. Some do feel Hezbollah is a hero in a sense for getting Israel out. Others do feel that its tactics are wrong.

In Israel, of course, Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization. Let's go back to Paula Newton, who has been standing by. This leaflet drop, Paula, is clearly an effort by the Israeli military to sort of improve its image, right?

NEWTON: Well, that's a different concern all together. I think that they do relentlessly, they did it in Gaza, they are doing it here, drop these leaflets and with obviously mixed results. When we spoke to the people in Gaza about these leaflets, they quite clearly defined them as propaganda. One would think many Lebanese would say the same. But they still feel like it does help their cause and get their message out. But you know, Colleen, through this whole conflict, especially in the last 24 hours, the Israelis have seemed a bit flat- footed. When that -- when their ship was targeted by a missile in Beirut off the shores of Beirut there, and they have three soldiers, three sailors, rather, still missing, one body has been recovered, symbolically that looked very bad for the Israeli military.

Because at that point you had people in Beirut and throughout Lebanon celebrating that as a very important victory. Certainly, encouraging people there to continue their defiance against what's going on right now in their country. Also want to add, Colleen that the people here in Jerusalem have spoken to the Israeli government and getting a reaction from what the Lebanese prime minister had said just before, and of course, as I said, their reaction fairly predictable in saying look, if there is to be a cease-fire here, we want Lebanon to live up to a U.N. resolution that says that Hezbollah must be dismantled. Hezbollah is still active in Lebanon and that means there is no cease-fire in the cards, at least for the moment.

MCEDWARDS: That resolution on the books, disarm Hezbollah, dismantle it. Curious Paula, I mean a lot of people are asking the question what is Israel's plan here. There has been a lot of criticism of Israel internationally for the level of force it's using. Does anyone know, really, what the plan is, if this is open-ended as the Lebanese allege, if Syria is a target here, for example?

NEWTON: They certainly have said that Syria is not a target and we had a little -- there were air strikes on the Lebanese-Syrian border today and the Syrians were quick and the Israelis were quick to come out and say nothing in Syria was targeted. I don't think they want to escalate it to this point. We have to take them at their word. They say no, although they find Syria's involvement in Lebanon is unacceptable, they say for the moment they are not on the target list.

Certainly, they want Lebanon to be what they call a free, peaceful partner on their northern border. When you talk about the end game here in Israel, they don't hide the fact anymore that while this is about getting back three Israeli soldiers that have been captured and now are in Lebanon and Gaza, it is about more than that. It is about neutralizing Hamas and Hezbollah and Israel feels unless they take this opportunity to neutralize, weaken and in their sense, they say break Hamas and Hezbollah, that they cannot guarantee the security of the Israeli people, and they are warning everyone in the region, including their citizens that look, this is going to take weeks, if not months. One thing I have to add Colleen is that they are very careful to say right now they have no plans to reoccupy southern Lebanon.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Paula Newton, thanks very much. The perspective there from Israel. As Paula just mentioned, Israel has carried its military campaign to two fronts. It is attacking both Hamas, targets in the south, and Hezbollah, to the north. Now, Hamas and Hezbollah has interesting links, even though one is a Shiite group, one is a Sunni group, they share common goals. As John King reports, they do share common ground and he has takes a look.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hezbollah calls southern Lebanon home. As an ak-47 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 is religious foundation. Hezbollah and Hamas, one Shiite, one Sunni, rivals and 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.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: 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: This war transcends Sunni and Shiite Islam. It's over the Arab-Israeli conflict. Until that is resolved, people in the region will keep military capability.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 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 have 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, CROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Hamas is really in the end primarily a Palestinian organization, primarily operating with support from the Palestinians and outside from much of the Arab world much more from Iran.


KING: Iran has offered Hamas more support since its games in January Palestinian elections. Saying it would make up for aid the west cuts off.


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 these arenas, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Israel in all 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.

Clearly, the Israelis could not obtain security despite unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and from Gaza. Withdrawal without agreements is costly. It is all in some ways sadly familiar, intensifying calls for diplomacy and both escalating violence and rhetoric between enemies, Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah.

John King, CNN, Washington.

MCEDWARDS: Well we just heard the Lebanese prime minister call for more action from the United Nations. This issues very much center stage there. On Friday, Security Council members held an emergency session and as Richard Rotb reports, it was a war of words.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Instead of across their own borders, Mid East neighbors Israel and Lebanon lobbed accusations over the Security Council table.

NOUHAD MAHMOUD, LEBANESE FOREIGN MINISTRY REP: What Israel is undertaking is an act of aggression and devastation. Aimed at bringing Lebanon to its knees and subverting it by any means.

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N: Having shown unparalleled restraint for six years while bearing the brunt of countless attacks, Israel had to respond to this absolutely unprovoked assault whose scale and depth was unprecedented in recent years.

ROTH: Lebanon appealed for help in stopping Israeli attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: International community is called upon as represented by the security council, to take an immediate, clear decision calling for comprehensive, immediate cease-fire and lifting of the air and sea blockade imposed upon Lebanon and calling for an end of Israeli aggression.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know deep in your heart that if you could, you would be sitting here right next to me right now, because you know that we are doing the right thing. And that if we succeed, Lebanon will be the beneficiary.

ROTH: The U.S. blasted Syria and Iran for having a hand in the missile attacks on Israel. The Syrian ambassador said he was denied permission to respond inside the Security Council. The current president of the Security Council, the ambassador from France, said he thought it was too soon to consider a legally binding cease-fire resolution, citing different views among U.N. members.

Richard Roth, CNN, United Nations.

MCEDWARDS: Well to other diplomacies now, the main focus of this weekend's G-8 Summit was supposed to be energy security, but Middle east security is almost certainly taken over the agenda there. Just ahead of the Saint Petersburg Summit the U.S. and Russian leaders sat down for talks. While they agree on many things, they disagree on who is to blame for the fighting between Israel and its neighbors.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The best way to stop the violence is to understand why the violence occurred in the first place. That's because Hezbollah has been launching rocket attacks out of Lebanon into Israel and because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. That's why we have violence. The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking. And therefore, I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (Translator): We consider Israel's concerns to be justified. At the same time, we feel the use of force should be balanced. In any case, bloodshed should stop as soon as possible.


MCEDWARDS: Also on the diplomatic front, a significant development out of Egypt, where the Arab league has been meeting in what we are led to believe has been a contentious meeting. The Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has come out and essentially said that he believes the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is dead. Let's listen to some comments he made just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AMR MOUSSA, ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY GENERAL (Translator): This has become surrendering the peace process to one party, to surrender the whole issue, the whole cause, to the Israelis. Whether they made a mistake or not, it would not go to Security Council. Punishment would not be implemented against it. This is a dangerous decision we are facing. We are facing a major force because Israel is not normal force but it was a force that is protected against international law.


MCEDWARDS: All right, again, that was the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa speaking just a short time ago. Want to bring back Octavia Nasr for more perspective on this. What's said in this region and who is saying it tends to matter an awful lot. Octavia how significant is this development do you think?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is significant in a way that the Arab League is speaking, you know. People in Lebanon and in the region have been sort of questioning where do Arabs stand on what's going on in Lebanon, and many voices have been heard today, basically complaining that the Arabs haven't really done anything or spoken in harsh words basically in defense of Lebanon or to bring in help to Lebanon.

So the secretary general of the Arab League saying what he said is definitely important. You saw Arab media jumping on it basically, analyzing every word he said. One key point of what he said, really, he stressed the point that in his words, the peace process has failed, so basically this is the position of the Arabs through the emergency meeting that they just had in Cairo, announcing that the peace process is over as far as they're concerned and that's why they want to all go to the United Nations Security Council to see what they can do with this.

Of course, you have those people saying this is a little bit too late, Lebanon is already almost destroyed, almost completely destroyed, and they're saying that by the time the Arab League takes it to the United Nations and they find something, some kind of solution, it might be a little bit too late for Lebanon and the Lebanese people.


MCEDWARDS: You know, people might also ask where are the moderate Arab voices here? Where are the voices that come out and say Hezbollah, you should not be going about this kind of business out there?

NASR: You know, you heard those voices through Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, basically the leadership in those countries, a little bit late, some people say. But they still went on and basically said exactly what you said; they called the actions of Hezbollah a bit provocative. They said that it was irresponsible, that they didn't appreciate the fact that militia will lead a whole region into war. These moderate voices were heard but what experts I read all the time was Arab media are discussing is that those are just words, they're not backed by action.

They question, for example, what did Saudi Arabia do to prevent the attacks on Lebanon, and also, to pressure Hezbollah into not committing such acts against Israel and spark a war not just for Lebanon but for the whole region. So you know, Arabs have spoken. They have spoken too late and perhaps, they have spoken too softly and the Arab media and the Arab experts are definitely pointing this out.

MCEDWARDS: All right. Octavia Nasr Thanks very much. Appreciate that.

All right. We want to take you back to Beirut for an update there. Actually, we don't have Alessio ready now but we can tell you the level of attacks on Beirut really escalated in the last couple of hours. Some area in the southern suburbs of Beirut were hit. That is the area where Hezbollah is headquartered but it is also a very densely populated area with civilians and Hezbollah living among each other in that area.

Let's go to northern Israel now, then. We will get Alessio when we can. More than a dozen towns have been targeted there by the Hezbollah rockets, including for the first time, Tibarius and Israeli reports also note the extended range of the weapons that were able to hit there. Paula Hancocks is near the Israel Lebanon border.

PAUL HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rockets are continuing to fall on northern Israeli towns this Saturday. Here Naiharea, there have been many catoshas (ph) landing. At this point there have no casualties, which is amazing. Just in the past few minutes, there were at least four that we have heard several exploding around this area, all-coming from this direction. This is north, about six miles approximately in this direction is Lebanon. This is where all these rockets are coming from. But the reason there have only been four killed in the whole of the Israel area, the reason there are so few casualties is because there are so few people on the streets. Many people are choosing to stay at home. Shops are not opening. The police suggested some of these shops do not open because of the danger of these rockets.

Many people I have spoken to are very angry that they are being almost held prisoner in their homes, but they are too scared to leave. Many people are starting to send young children and elderly relatives back to Tel Aiv further south in Israel, but we did hear from an Israeli military source, suggesting that they thought Hezbollah had long-range missiles, which can go as far as 60 miles obtained from Iran and that could reach Tel Aviv.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Northern Israel.

MCEDWARDS: Once again, that dramatic development coming out of the Arab League meeting in Cairo to talk about this crises. We told you about it just a short time ago and talked to Octavia Nasr for more. The Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa saying essentially the Middle East process has failed, dead, in his words. Let's get a little bit more about this right from where it's going on. Sandy Petrykowski joins on the phone from Cairo with the latest. Sandy, exactly what was said and how significant is this?

SANDY PETRYKOWSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Basically what we have said is that the Arab foreign ministers came out and condemned heavily Israeli aggression on Lebanon, and on Palestine and the secretary general said the peace process has failed. That at this point, they debated it all day long and they decided that the only body that could take care of this was the U.N. Security Council.

They said that they are afraid, however, that the security council has denied this order of the cease-fire but they think at this point the U.N. Security Council should order a cease-fire, that Israel should cease and desist its attacks on Lebanon, and so, one other thing that Secretary General Amr Moussa said basically was certain powers, he didn't specify who, but certain powers have given Israel the right and capacity to do whatever it wishes.


MCEDWARDS: Referencing the United States there?

PETRYKOWSKI: Yes. One would think so.


PETRYKOWSKI: The press conference itself was fairly contentious. It was a packed room full of Arab journalists who were very angry. They are angry at watching people die every day and worrying that the whole region is going to fall into chaos or that it could spread over and the secretary general said of course they don't want people to be angry and they don't want people dying but that only the security council can take care of this.

MCEDWARDS: Anybody at this meeting talking about Hezbollah and its activities and talking about whether there ought to be a prisoner swap in this situation? It's happened before, many times.

PETRYKOWSKI: Well, interestingly, the statement they issued tonight referred to -- it assured the people's right to resist occupation and aggression. There is no mention whatsoever of Hezbollah or Hamas by name. Now, interestingly, the moderate governments of Egypt and Jordan and even Saudi Arabia came out this week and condemned Hezbollah's actions, you know. The Arabs are seen unified in condemning Israel but when it comes to condemning specifically Hezbollah, only a couple of countries have come out and said that they have created this situation, escalated the crisis, and something should be done and they should take care of this.

MCEDWARDS: Is there anything else expected to come out of this then? What's next?

PETRYKOWSKI: Well, at this point, the next thing that the secretary general said, he said it will be taken to the U. N. That's the next thing, even the next couple days as the situation worsens. They are sort of tossing the ball to the United Nations.

MCEDWARDS: So you say take it to the U.N. even in the next couple days?


MCEDWARDS: OK. Sandy Petrykowski thanks very much for bringing us up to date there from Cairo. Appreciate it.

To recap, Israeli warplanes are attacking ports and targets across Lebanon as this cross-border conflict with Hezbollah deepens and widens. Want to bring you some of the latest developments. Again, smoke is rising over central Beirut as Israel delivers some more of its punishing strikes in that area. The port was hit there and in several other cities as well, as Israel tries to cut off more sea, land and air routes that might be used by Hezbollah militants.

The brunt of Saturday's attacks in Beirut have centered on the southern suburbs there as we have reported. This is Hezbollah's power base but it is also a civilian area that is densely populated. Israel is going after the offices and the homes of some of the top leaders. Israel has recovered the body of one of four sailors missing after rocket fire hit their warship off Lebanon. It was the first attack on Israel's military ever since the militants captured those two soldiers.

Hezbollah militants are launching dozens more rockets into Israel as well, and this has prompted Israel to deploy patriot missile batteries in at least one city, we are told. Lebanon's prime minister, meantime, is asking the world to help stop Israel's attacks. Calling his country a disaster zone. As we just heard, the Arab League secretary general is saying that it is clear the Middle East peace process has not worked, and essentially, in so many words, is calling it dead.

Stay with CNN for ongoing coverage of the conflicts in the Middle East. I am Colleen McEdwards at CNN Center. You are watching WORLD NEWS here on CNN INTERNATIONAL.



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