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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Crisis in the Middle East Day Six; Seeking Safety; Sizing up Syria; Targets of the Battle; Israeli's Strategy; Trapped Americans; Surviving in Beirut; Beirut Then and Now
Aired July 17, 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: ... of evacuees fleeing from the ever widening war in Beirut.
ANNOUNCER: Missiles and mayhem. On both sides of the border. Day 6 of the Middle East crisis, and no end in sight. From this to this to this. All targets carefully planned, the strategy of a siege. Trapped and terrified. Innocence caught in the crossfire, including Americans. How will they get out? Will it be in time?
This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East Day 6." Reporting tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus, in the Eastern Mediterranean, here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: And welcome back. We started the day in Haifa under assault by Katyusha rockets from Hezbollah. We have ended this day here in Larnaca, Cyprus, where we're starting to see a lot more activity at the port.
That ship behind me is an Italian Destroyer, which has already brought several hundred evacuees from Beirut. We're anticipating the arrival, momentarily, of a French chartered vessel with several hundred people, maybe as many as 900 people on board, said to be as many as 50 Americans on board that ship. We will bring that to you live as it happens.
Cyprus is an island 150 miles off the coast of Beirut. It is really the staging point for what is anticipated to be a massive series of evacuations, the U.S. government having only evacuated about 70 Americans thus far using Marine Corps Chinook helicopters on Sunday and Monday as well, bringing those Americans here to Cyprus. Some of them are already still on the island, some of them have already taken flights back to the United States. We'll tell you their stories in this next hour.
But first, what they're flying from. The latest from Beirut. CNN's Nic Robertson joins us live -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, more bombing overnight in the southern suburbs. We could hear and feel the reverberations of the blasts and booms from where we were standing right here.
That direction is the southern suburbs two to three miles away it begins. Not clear exactly where the targets were. That's where the main international airport is, it's where Hezbollah's heartland of support is, it's where Hezbollah leadership lives, it's where many of the bombing missions have been. Perhaps at daylight we'll get an idea of what's been hit there.
Lebanese army said overnight that its barracks, about 12 miles northeast of Beirut, were targeted. They say they had casualties. They won't say exactly how many people were injured, how many people perhaps were killed. This is not the first time the Lebanese army has been targeted.
We've also -- we're also seeing targeting throughout yesterday in the east, in the south, along the southern coast in Lebanon.
We've also seen diplomacy here in the capital, the French prime minister visited with the Lebanese prime minister, they talked about the possibility of bringing a cease-fire. The French Prime Minister Dominic de Villepin saying there was no quick solution here and there was not magic solution. It was going to be a tough process. The U.N. envoys came, met with the Lebanese prime minister also. They said they'd made some first steps, but described it as only the beginning, too early to be too optimistic.
That French vessel you were talking about, on its way to Cyprus, Anderson, we watched people boarding that vessel here in Beirut a few hours ago. One French lady told me in tears how she was so grateful to the French government, to the French President Jacques Chirac, to the French ambassador here in Lebanon, to get this ship in, to get them out of the country.
I also spoke to an American lady onboard the vessel. She said she'd run out of patience waiting for the Americans to help her get out of Lebanon. She said that she'd found an opportunity to get onboard the French vessel and she was taking that -- Anderson.
COOPER: Nic, what is the U.S. government doing? I mean, I've heard reports about hiring a cruise ship. I've heard a destroyer is on the way. What exactly is going on with the Americans?
ROBERTSON: Well, you know, they're registering people here. I've been outside the embassy, people are showing up being registered, they're getting guidance on how much baggage they can bring -- nothing more than 30 kilograms, one bag. They're being told that there will be collection points that are hotels. They're analyzing the situation, considering and trying to find out how many of the potential 25,000 Americans in Lebanon actually want to get out, where are they? How can they be brought to collection areas?
The dynamic of the situation here is in Beirut in the early hours yesterday the port was targeted, we hear reports this morning that a port north of Beirut may also have been targeted, two trucks apparently targeted there. So the situation is dynamic. Where do you bring people, where do you collect them? These are the assessments going on at the moment.
We are told that the embassy, though, is working at top speed to get a plan, get it into action, and get people moving out of Lebanon -- Anderson. COOPER: Nic, appreciate the report. And as Nic pointed out, as many as 50 Americans may be onboard this French vessel and that's why we're here at the port tonight, to see those Americans as they arrive, escaping from Beirut.
A lot of damage, of course, being done in Israel as well, damage of a different kind, different kind of rockets, different kinds of missiles. We saw it for ourselves firsthand this morning in Haifa. Take a look what it's like chasing the rockets.
COOPER (voice-over): In Haifa, chasing Hezbollah's rockets has become a daily routine.
(On camera): Most of us were just about to sit down to lunch as an explosion occurred. It's in the port area in downtown Haifa. You could see it from the hotel. We're now just racing there. We're not sure of the exact location, but we're just driving as fast as we can to get there to see what impact it has. I can already see some soldiers running. We'll see what happens.
(Voice-over): After a rocket lands, reporters and police all converge on the scene. There are moments of chaos, but it is surprisingly controlled.
(On camera): The Israelis, obviously, have a lot of experience with these kind of situations. They immediately cordon off the entire area. They push the press back. If there are not any casualties involved, they -- they really try to get it investigated and cleaned up as quickly as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please, the sidewalk, OK? Thank you.
COOPER (voice-over): This rocket attack struck the roof of a closed courthouse building. There's some shattered glass visible, but no casualties. There is relief, but, suddenly, the air raid sirens start sounding again.
(On camera): Now another siren just gone off (INAUDIBLE) scrambling from the scene. So, we're going to try to figure out what we're we should go.
(Voice-over): Everyone runs for cover against a nearby building, unsure where the next rockets will land.
(On camera): We've heard several loud explosions now, a dull thud. The ground hasn't shook, so it doesn't sound like they were that close, but we're just going to have to wait and see, as soon as the air raid siren stops. We'll see what happened.
(Voice-over): As soon as police give the all clear, we run to our van and head out to see where the new round of rockets fell.
This time it's a residential neighborhood that's been hit. On the way we make sure to put on our flack jackets. Hezbollah says they don't target civilians, but their rockets are inaccurate and the truth is they can't control where the missiles will land.
(On camera): The police are saying there may be a gas leak here. You see the building that was hit right over there, there's still smoke. I see some stretchers, but there's no signs of people that have actually been killed or injured.
(Voice-over): As we get closer we see there were people inside the building when the rocket hit. An elderly lady stunned, scared, is carried out and taken away on a stretcher.
(On camera): Some firefighters have arrived now on the scene, a small fire has broken out on the second floor of this building, this residential building. They're trying to deal with fires, but they continue searching the complex to see if there are any more people trapped inside.
(Voice-over): In the end, three people were removed from this apartment building. No one, however, was killed. It could have been much worse. There has already been so much bloodshed on either side of this border. Tomorrow it's likely there will be still more.
COOPER: Israeli defense forces try to target and track every Hezbollah rocket that is fired into the state of Israel. They do that with sophisticated electronics and then they try to respond in kind, targeting the fire -- the area where those rockets are fired from.
I saw it for myself firsthand on Friday evening, where in the dead of night an Israeli artillery unit responded to some incoming rockets. Take a look.
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.
They've been firing -- that's the first shell that they have fired. We"re not sure how many they plan to fire.
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?
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.
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 just 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.
COOPER (on camera): Israel, of course, is having a hard time targeting Hezbollah. It is not a traditional military force, of course. Here's the raw data on the strength of Hezbollah or what we know of it.
It's believed that Hezbollah has as many as 13,000 missiles. Fewer than 900 have been used so far. The missiles are hard to target because the terrorist group doesn't have armories. The missiles are hidden in numerous places throughout Lebanon, including homes, caves, factories, as well as industrial workshops.
Joining me now is Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel as well as to Egypt. He's now with the Woodrow Wilson School in Princeton. He's joining me now from Tel Aviv. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us.
What do you make of Condoleezza Rice's proposed trip to this region? How soon do you think she should get here? What can she actually accomplish?
DANIEL KURTZER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Well, I think there were two positive elements in the past 24 hours in the midst of all this mayhem. First was the firm, but moderate speech by Prime Minister Olmert to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in which he not only laid out Israel's determination to pursue its objectives, but to find some of the objectives that Israel seeks to pursue. And I think what he was doing was signaling that diplomacy can take over and try to resolve this.
And, of course, the second element, as you indicated, was the strong possibility now that the secretary of state will be out here. American leadership is required to put all of this together. We've seen the United Nations come and go, the French prime minister is in the region, but the United States, particularly because of its relationship with Israel is going to be the critical party in bringing diplomacy to fruition.
COOPER: Can Israel achieve its objectives if those objectives are not just the return of the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers and not just pushing Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon? I mean if they are trying to in fact destroy Hezbollah, is that even possible?
KURTZER: Well, frankly, I don't think the objective is to destroy Hezbollah. That would require a prolonged and very bloody ground war. And Israel having done that 22 years ago, is not about to repeat that.
I think Israel's objective here is in fact to weaken Hezbollah, to teach them an important lesson which is that attacks on Israel will not go unresponded, and to push them as far away from the border as possible and to see the Lebanese government take its place.
If that's the case, then in fact diplomacy, although it may take some time, can in fact translate the military action into some political success.
COOPER: How much longer do you see the military phase of this Israeli operation going on? I mean how long do you think they have viable targets that they can hit? They're already rehitting several targets?
KURTZER: I think we're probably reaching the apex of military action on both sides. Both have indicated a willingness to pursue this very diligently. The Israelis have indicated both to Hezbollah and to the people of Lebanon that there is overwhelming power on this side of the border and that an attack on Israel proper, which is what took place, will not go responded.
Hezbollah, by firing rockets even at random, has also indicated that it's not going to go away easily. But I think we're probably reaching the apex. And my guess is that within a week, perhaps 10 days, one would see a transition from a very active military engagement to a lot more talk.
COOPER: Well, let's certainly hope someone starts talking. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, we appreciate you joining us, for your perspective tonight.
As I said, we are in Larnaca, Cyprus, now and we anticipate this French boat to arrive any moment with several hundred of those fleeing Lebanon, in particular, some Americans -- at least 50 Americans.
It is not just here to Cyprus, though, that people are trying to get out of Lebanon to. Many thousands have left trying to get to Syria, crossing the Syrian border and points off in there.
We'll have a live report from the Syrian border, and we'll talk to CNN's Christiane Amanpour about Syria's involvement in all of this. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The Israelis, obviously, have a lot of experience with these kind of situations. They immediately cordon off the entire area. They push the press back. If there are not any casualties involved, they -- they really try to get it investigated and cleaned up as quickly as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please, the sidewalk, OK? Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I want to look at now at Syria's role in all of what's going on in this region and particularly with Hezbollah. The U.S. and Israel says that Syria plays an important role, logistically supporting Hezbollah, financially and militarily supporting them as well.
But to many of those fleeing, trying to get out of Lebanon, Syria also has another role to play right now, a place of refuge.
CNN's Aneesh Raman is on the border with Lebanon and Syria.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is for many the only way out. Crossing from Lebanon to Syria, young and old, they are fleeing the violence.
(On camera): While Al and his wife Nicola left to keep their 1- year-old daughter Thala (ph) alive.
NICOLA, LEVANESE EVACUEE: The bombs all over the place. Beside my house there was a bomb just about 500 meters. RAMAN: Many Lebanese here like Ali, who spent hours going through immigration, saw the bombs start to fall too close.
I carried five people to the hospital myself, he says, after a bomb exploded just near to me. They were civilians who were hit, women and children, I saw it with my own eyes. It was terrible.
The majority here are poor Syrians, workers in Lebanon. This group carried everything they had on their heads and walked home.
We left our lives there behind, this 65-year-old woman told me. I just want to live. If I die, I want to die here, in Syria.
(On camera): Officials here estimate that hundreds of thousands of people have made their way through this border crossing over the past few days. They say it has never been so busy, each person carrying with them stories of the violence taking place within Lebanon.
(Voice-over): Understandably, the road into Lebanon was virtually empty, except for a few Lebanese. This man lives in Saudi Arabia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My home, my lands, my family, from everything (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
RAMAN: Everyone here supports Hezbollah?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. Yes.
RAMAN: It wasn't just them. Literally everyone we met here supported Hezbollah. They say the Israeli attacks will only strengthen that allegiance, but no one took joy in what is taking place.
For Lebanese here like Wiel (ph) and his family, the hours ahead are riddled with uncertainty. They don't know when they'll return home and they don't know whether the safe haven they found in Syria will soon become the next front in this escalating war.
Aneesh Raman, CNN, Yabous (ph), Syria.
COOPER: The question, of course, is exactly what is Syria's relationship to Hezbollah and its role in the current conflict? Discussing that with me now is CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who joins me from Haifa.
Christiane, what about it? How prominent a role does Syria play in the operations of Hezbollah?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you listen to the Israelis and Americans, they believe an extremely prominent role. Not that anybody thinks Hezbollah is a total puppet either of Syria or of Iran, but they do believe that all the weapons that they get come from Iran through Syria and go to Hezbollah. And they believe that both those countries play a critical role in basically directing overall Hezbollah's activities, and particularly using Hezbollah as a proxy to harass Israel.
But ironically we asked or we talked to Israeli officials. They don't have plans, they tell us, to launch any attack, at the moment anyway, on Syria or Iran. They actually see, for instance, Syria as potentially part of the solution if enough pressure could be brought to bear on Syria to get Syria to talk to Hezbollah and get Hezbollah to agree finally to a political solution because diplomats that we've been talking to do not believe that there's any chance of a cease-fire at any time soon unless there is a political solution worked out.
COOPER: The U.S. government seems very concerned about the maintenance of the Lebanese government, a government basically which was formed just in the last year or so after Syria left the country, basically was pushed out of the country by popular opinion. Is there a danger that Syria could reestablish its control over Lebanon?
AMANPOUR: Well, they don't see that at the moment as a danger. I mean Syria was pretty thoroughly...
COOPER: Obviously having some technical problems...
AMANPOUR: Can you hear me Anderson?
They don't see that as a problem yet. They see Syria has left Lebanon. What they see is potentially Syria being part of the solution. The saying goes that Lebanon is two-thirds liberated, a third liberated when Israel left the southern part, a third liberated when Syria left, and it will take another third once Hezbollah is disarmed and moves back.
So what they're hoping is that Syria will realize that it's actually in the interest of it and of the region and will see that the situation is becoming so extremely painful for Hezbollah and for the Lebanese in Lebanon. As you know, the casualty toll on the Lebanese side is so much higher. They hope eventually that will push those two critical players into a political solution -- Anderson.
COOPER: We'll check in with John Roberts for the day's other headlines -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Anderson.
Vice President Dick Cheney is refusing Democratic calls once again today to set a timetable for a U.S. pullout from Iraq. Mr. Cheney was at a GOP fundraiser in Iowa, his first visit to that state since the 2004 election.
In Boston, bigger problems with the big dig. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney saying inspectors have now turned up more than 1,400 questionable ceiling bolts in the tunnel system. Those bolts are letting go, the inspectors found, at far lighter loads that they were designed to handle. Several gave way last week, you'll remember, sending a concrete ceiling panel down on a car, crushing the car, killing the woman inside it.
On Capitol Hill the Senate is debating a Republican sponsored bill that would lift some of President Bush's restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research. The president says he is ready to veto such a bill if it passes, and it is expected to pass. That would be his first veto.
And at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, a picture perfect landing for the space shuttle Discovery earlier today. This caps what NASA is calling a successful 13-day mission to the International Space Station. The shuttle delivered supplies, dropped off a German astronaut and was the backdrop for three spacewalks -- Anderson.
COOPER: John, thanks very much.
When we come back, how Israel is waging a step by step campaign to topple Hezbollah. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Some of the damage caused by Israeli bombs in southern Lebanon for the last seven days now. This is the seventh day of this conflict. We have seen Israel striking hard at Hezbollah targets all throughout Lebanon, most notably in the south most heavily in the south of course.
We asked CNN's Tom Foreman to take a look step by step at how this offensive has been working out.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really remarkable how quickly a relatively small event in a small corner of the world, north of Africa here, has escalated into an international concern.
But if you want to know where it started, look at the southern end of Israel, in Gaza on June 25th. That's when an Israeli soldier was captured by Hamas, which was angry over the way it was being treated by Israel.
The military responded with force from Israel, trying to seize this soldier back. That simmered for a couple of weeks, and then at the other end of the country all the way up by Lebanon another group, Hezbollah, came across the border and seized two more Israeli soldiers. And that's when everything went wild.
Israel responded with strong military force, striking across the border at Hezbollah, Hezbollah started lobbing rockets into Israel in this area. It escalated from there.
Israel went further up into Lebanon, hitting Beirut, the airport, roads, the Bekaa Valley, supply lines. They started barricading or blockading the Mediterranean Sea here, trying to isolate Hezbollah in a ring of fire and go after them, saying you must return the soldiers, you must give in.
Hezbollah would have none of it. In days after that they started firing more rockets into Israel, all the way down to Haifa.
This was a big moment because Haifa previously had been considered beyond the range of Hezbollah rockets. Now, it's been under fire by at least a couple dozen of these things, a city of 300,000 people and tensions have continued to escalate on both sides.
That is how this has progressed in a matter of just a few weeks from a relatively small incident, to an affair that the entire world is watching and worrying about -- Anderson.
COOPER: Tom, thanks very much. Let's talk more about the military strategy of Israel against Hezbollah. Joining me now, Retired Brigadier General David Grange, a man who has worked in Lebanon, who knows what it's like countering Hezbollah.
General Grange, thanks for being with us. How do you think Israel is doing?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think they're doing well, but I, what I think you're going to see, and I disagree a little bit with the ambassador that was on a while ago, and I think that the Israelis are going to have to, at least to limited objectives, with ground troops inside of Lebanon.
COOPER: Why do you say that?
GRANGE: Well, because you can't kill terrorists at 15,000 feet with air strikes, and just artillery counter fire, reacting to when the Hezbollah fires a rocket. You have to break their capability and that's all the way up into the Bekaa Valley, that's into southern Lebanon to a certain extent, to take away their capability to launch rockets and missiles and to also -- who's going to get rid of the militia? The U.N.'s not going to get rid of this unauthorized militia that's in a country of Lebanon. France isn't. The United States is not.
And so right now someone really by default has taken on that responsibility, and that's Israel. And but this is not a selective war on the global war on terrorism where you just fight al Qaeda. The military arm of Hezbollah is also a terrorist organization that by everybody's agreement should be removed.
COOPER: Disarm certainly, but actually eliminating Hezbollah as a force political military inside Lebanon may be another matter entirely.
If Israel simply wanted to push them out of the south and stop them from being able to fire rockets, would that in your opinion require ground troops?
GRANGE: It will require ground troops, but they'll never actually stop all the capability of the Hezbollah. And they don't want to get bogged down into a long ground campaign in the Lebanon. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying they're going to have to go in deep enough to really hurt the Hezbollah's base of operations, like in the Bekaa Valley, which by the way it's not just military. One of the biggest financial means, resources of the Hezbollah is the drug trade out of Afghanistan, processing heroine inside of Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and then through the banks in Lebanon and that, send it across Europe and the United States.
So, it's the economic backbone of the Hezbollah, it's the military backbone and it's also a moral domain factor. In other words, you're not going to go ahead and do this again launching out of Lebanon. You're an unauthorized force, you came into our country, and now we're going to punish you for that, and we're going to take away your capability, at least in this local area and Lebanon and Israel.
COOPER: You served in Lebanon before for the U.S., focused on Hezbollah among other groups. Were you surprised by the strength that they have shown thus far at least in some of the rockets they have used, the range of those rockets?
GRANGE: Well, you know, we know they've been building up for years now because no one's -- when have you heard about the Hezbollah except, you know, some cursory comments recently because of the al Qaeda dominating the scene in the last, let's say, 10 years? Very little. And they've been building up strength over this last decade.
And by the way, it's something to watch carefully because it's exactly what can happen in Iraq with some of the militias there, where they obtain so much strength that they negate the government authority that's supposed to have the police and the armed forces. I mean, this could be the same thing in Iraq that happened in Lebanon. And so that's what they'll do if you let them go ahead with it.
COOPER: Retired Brigadier General David Grange, always good to have you on. David, thanks very much.
When we come back, Americans trapped in Lebanon, some that went there with their families on vacation, a nice trip to Beirut, they thought, then all of the sudden the world changed drastically. We'll talk to them ahead, when this special edition of 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY ANTONIOS (ph), AMERICAN TRAPPED IN LEBANON: Terrorist bombings that we hear, you know, quite a few. Everybody's staying inside, so that's been, you know, the state, you know, if there's a bomb that would happen to hit at close by, the idea is to stay inside and put your head down. So, I mean, just like an earthquake drill back in California. You know, you just stay inside and duck for cover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Terry Antonios (ph), an American now stuck in Lebanon, one of some 25,000 Americans estimated to still be there. Nobody knows exactly how many of them are trying to get out. We're at the port here in Cyprus, where a number of Americans are anticipated to arrive literally any second. We are told that the ferry is now just outside the port. As it lands, we will try to bring that to you live.
We wanted to ask, though, exactly what is the U.S. government doing to get its Americans out? It's come under some criticism. Already you see this Italian warship behind me, the French have also sent in a ferry, another ferry will go out tomorrow to get their citizens out. We wanted to find out exactly what the U.S. government is doing so CNN's Jamie McIntyre takes a look at that.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A chartered ferry has brought more 1,000 French citizens out of Lebanon, while hundreds of Italians have been evacuated by their Navy. But so far only 64 U.S. citizens have gotten out, prompting some Americans trapped in Lebanon to express frustration with the pace of the U.S. effort.
SARA AHMADIA, AMERICAN TRAPPED IN LEBANON: I'm waiting for the United States to -- you know, they haven't been very communicative with people here. We feel very abandoned, quite frankly. And I'm just waiting for them to come up with something.
MCINTYRE: On Sunday U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 helicopters brought the first 21 evacuated Americans to a British Royal Air Base in southeast Cyprus. Another 43 were air lifted out Monday.
The U.S. says priority went to U.S. citizens with special needs, along with some embassy staff. But the trickle of Americans is expected to become a flood in the coming days as thousands who are stranded in the war zone are just waiting for word they have arrived.
Pentagon sources say three more helicopters from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit operating in the Red Sea will be moved to Cyprus Tuesday, bringing to a half dozen the number of helicopters operating in the air bridge.
But for most Americans, the way out will be by sea. The State Department has chartered a Greek cruise ship, the Orient Queen, which usually carries 750 passengers, but could take twice as many on a short five-hour trip between the port of Beirut and Larnaca, Cyprus.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We're building up the assets in the region so that we can operate on a scale of moving thousands of people.
MCINTYRE: The State Department has some rules for Americans who want help getting out. Only one bag. No pets allowed. And they will be charged for the cost of charter ships and flights.
Pentagon sources say several U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships are on standby in the Red See if they are needed to increase the capacity. They include the U.S.S. Trenton, the U.S.S. Nashville, and the U.S.S. Whidbey Island.
In addition, the U.S. Navy Destroyer Gonzalez is being dispatched to Lebanon to provide security for the sea evacuation.
(On camera): Of the 25,000 Americans in Lebanon, roughly 15,000 have registered on the State Department's Web site, 3,000 just since the crisis began. How many actually want to leave Lebanon? No one knows for sure. The U.S. government estimates it's likely upwards of 5,000.
Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.
COOPER: Well, one of those Americans trapped in Lebanon is a professor from Sarah Lawrence College. We'll talk to him, coming up next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There's now another siren that's just gone off. We're traveling from the scene so we can try to figure out figure out where we should go.
We're going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) against this building. I'm going to wait to see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that the scene we encountered in Haifa earlier this morning. We are now in Larnaca, Cyprus. Of course, for those in Beirut and in southern Lebanon it is danger of a different sort. It is not Hezbollah rockets there, it is Israeli rockets and Israeli artillery shells landing in Beirut.
As many as 25,000 Americans in country. No telling how many of them are still trying to get out. One of them, an American professor, joins me now from our Beirut bureau.
Fawaz Gerges. He's a professor of Middle Eastern studies. Often he is on CNN. He's with Sarah Lawrence College, and he just happens to be in Lebanon with his family on summer vacation.
Professor, thanks for being with us. How are you and your family doing?
FAWAZ GERGES, MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES PROFESSOR, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: Well, you know, Anderson, the situation is highly volatile and dangerous. The bombing continues. Most of the casualties are civilians. There's a state of panic in the country. There are shortages of food, of supplies, of oil, fuel. People are anxious. People are terrified.
And as you know, Anderson, the overwhelming number of casualties have been civilians. Over 200 Lebanese have been killed in the last few days. The civilian infrastructure has been degraded considerably. Lebanon is really isolated from the world. Israel has sealed Lebanon of the world. It has a full naval blockade.
I mean, you feel the heat, you feel the pressure. People are really terribly, terribly anxious.
COOPER: Anxious and are they supportive of Hezbollah? Or is there divisions that are growing? The Israeli government is dropping leaflets. They're trying to get people to sort of question Hezbollah and the continued armed presence of Hezbollah in the country. Is that working?
GERGES: Well, you know, Anderson, initially I think most Lebanese I spoke to were extremely opposed to what Hezbollah did. In fact, they blame Hezbollah for starting the crisis. But it seems to me the longer Israel's military campaign continues, the longer Israel's bombing of the Lebanese infrastructure continues and the toll on human life, people are becoming more angry at Israel, rather than Hezbollah.
I think we are witnessing a subtle shift in Lebanese public opinion away from blaming Hezbollah to really asking the question why is Israel punishing the entire Lebanese population. Why are the Lebanese people are being punished even though a majority of the Lebanese people were initially opposed to Hezbollah's actions? Why does Israel apply a policy of collective punishment against the Lebanese?
And as you know, Anderson, the only airport in Lebanon International Airport has been put out of function by Israel. Israel is bombing bridges, sea ports, communication centers, electricity plants. I mean, most of the casualties have been civilians, and this is why the question many Lebanese ask why are the Lebanese suffering? Why is Israel targeting the Lebanese people? And I think this obviously, if the campaign continues, it could really produce the opposite results from the intended consequences.
COOPER: The Israeli government says that they are not targeting Lebanese people, that they are targeting Hezbollah. But that Hezbollah has infrastructure facilities in residential populations. Is that splitting hairs to the Lebanese people?
GERGES: Well, you know, Anderson, when people -- when Lebanese people, by the way, see their bridges destroyed all over the country, in the north, in the south, in Bekaa Valley, in Beirut, when people see the sea ports which have nothing to do with Hezbollah, people wonder, when people see the Israeli army targeting, I mean, civilian neighborhoods, killing Lebanese soldiers who have nothing to do with Hezbollah, people wonder, and I think it seems to me that Israel's strategy is becoming extremely apparent. The strategy is to really punish the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people and turn the Lebanese people against Hezbollah.
My question is -- in fact Israel's policy seems to be producing the opposite results from the intended consequences. The same people who blamed Hezbollah initially, the same people whom I talk to on daily basis, seem to suggest that Israel really is applying a collective punishment policy against the entire Lebanese people.
This does not serve the interests either of Israel, I would argue, or the interests of the United States either.
COOPER: But politics aside, personally, how is your family -- how are they understanding of the situation? Your kids? And do you have any sense of how you're going to get out?
GERGES: Well, you know, Anderson, I have three children here. As you said, we came to vacation. The summer is a festive reason in Beirut, the vacation has turned into a nightmare. My children, one 16, 8, and 5, have difficulty sleeping at night because of the bombing, because of the fighter planes in the skies. They're asking many questions.
But please, Anderson, remember my children are not the only children who are suffering. You have 4 million Lebanese people who are suffering. Many of the casualties in the last few days have been civilians, including children. This is really a tragedy.
In fact, Hezbollah and Israel are holding the entire Lebanese population and some Israeli population hostage. We don't have just two Israeli soldiers are being held hostage by Hezbollah, you have millions of Lebanese and tens of thousands of Israelis who are being held hostage by both Israel and Hezbollah.
COOPER: And at this point it does not seem there's any solution in sight. If anything, it just seems to be getting worse day by day...
COOPER: ... We are now at day seven.
Professor Fawaz Gerges, we appreciate you joining us for both the politics and the personal, and our best of luck to you and your family and all of your neighbors who you are going through this with. Thank you very much, Professor Gerges.
When we come back, a lot more from this region. But first let's go to John Roberts with some of the day's business headlines -- John.
ROBERTS: Thanks Anderson. Difficult time for a lot of people there.
They had no warning. People on Java, Indonesia's main island, now picking through the debris from a killer tsunami. The wave, triggered by an offshore earthquake, crashed into the island's southern coast, killing at least 105 people. More than a year after the devastating wave that hit Aceh Province in Sumatra, Java to the south and east still has no early warning system.
You would think that rain would be welcome in fighting a wildfire -- and it is, just not the lightning that comes along with the rain. That's the story in southern California where lightning today forced crews to take shelter, instead of battling flames that have now destroyed close to five dozen homes in eastern San Bernardino County. Still by and large, the storms have been a plus. The fire is now about 70 percent contained.
And stick a fork in us here in the east. We are done. Here in Washington, New York, and all across the Midwest as well, it's too darn hot, temperatures in the 90s and up blanketing much of the country. City governments are setting aside office buildings to serve as cooling centers for those without air conditioners. As for those of us with plenty of cooling capacity, you're being warned as always to go easy on the power grid, by going easy on the chill -- Anderson.
COOPER: John, thanks very much for that.
When we come back, what a difference a year makes. A little bit more than a year ago we were in Beirut in Lebanon, people literally dancing in the streets as people power took over. More than a million Lebanese pouring into the streets, calling for Syria to get out. It is now a very different scene in Beirut. We'll show you what it was like then and now.
COOPER: And you're looking at a live picture right now of Beirut, a hazy morning in Beirut. No telling what the day will bring, no doubt more explosions and more bloodshed, as well, as we have seen over these last seven days now of this ongoing conflict.
It seems so sad, so ironic that more than a year ago in Beirut there was literally dancing in the streets, a million Lebanese pouring into the streets after the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. They poured into the streets, demanding that Syria who they saw as involved in the assassination, though that investigation is still ongoing, they saw Syria as involved, and they were demanding Syria get out and in fact after those demonstrations Syria did pull out. That was back in March of 2005. We were there, and we brought it to you.
Here is part of my reporter's notebook from March 14, 2005.
COOPER (voice-over): It was a day to remember in once battered Beirut. Martyr Square, a killing zone in the civil war, was awash with flags and hopes for freedom. Walking in the swirling sea of protesters, it was easy to forget where you were, forget this is a country, a region where speaking out could get you killed.
(On camera): Unlike many places in the Middle East, people want to be on camera here. This is all new to them. The fact that they can voice their opinions -- this is something unheard of in this region in Lebanon.
Two months ago you would never have seen this. They never even tried to mention the word Syria because people were afraid, the Syrian military occupies the country and the Syrian and secret police they feel are everywhere. But now people are not only shouting out Syria out, they're writing it on the walls. They want to be on television saying it. It's a newfound freedom, and they want to make the most of it.
It wasn't just the assassination of the Former Prime Minister Hariri which caused these demonstrations. That was the catalyst. But everyone here will tell you they watched the elections in Iraq, they watched the elections in Afghanistan, and they said to themselves and to each other why can't we have that here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless George Bush. God bless U.S.A.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love the people of America. One by one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love U.S.A.
COOPER (voice-over): Up close the story is complex, competing factions, a history of broken promises. Today, however, it all seemed so simple, so peaceful, so patriotic.
COOPER: They played the Lebanese National Anthem, and the emotion was real. You could feel a country forming, you could feel the change has come.
COOPER (on camera): That was March 14, 2005, a little bit more than a year ago. That was then, this is now. Lebanon, Beirut, the region poised on the brink of all out war.
We'll have more from the region in a moment.
COOPER: We're still awaiting that boat with the evacuees from Beirut...
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