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Air Raid Sirens Sound Again in Haifa; Power Outage in New York City Subway Train; Condoleezza Rice Headed to Middle East

Aired July 17, 2006 - 15:30   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jacki. Tony Harris with a new heat-related development.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Kyra. You want change here pretty dramatically here? We've been talking about folks being stranded in Lebanon, how about folks being stranded in Far Rockaway, Queens. With the heat that you and Jacki were just talking about this is a problem with a New York City subway train, a power outage has stranded an A train out in Far Rockaway. Several dozen people, as you can see here, had to evacuate. The train, no air-conditions, 90-plus degrees in New York today, not pleasant.

Fortunately no injuries related to this to report, but because of the power outage, we can do a little traffic and weather together here. There is no A train service between Broad Channel station and the Far Rockaway, Mott Avenue station. So there you are, no injuries to report but a stranded A train in Far Rockaway, Queens.

PHILLIPS: Have you ever ridden those subways when there is no AC?

HARRIS: Horrible. I can joke about it because I am not there living it.

PHILLIPS: Exactly. It is no picnic.

HARRIS: No, no, no.

PHILLIPS: All right, thanks Tony. Oil prices seem to be taking a break today from their recent record-breaking gains. For a check on how oil finished the season, let's go to Susan Lisovicz. She has been tracking it minute by minute.



PHILLIPS: Well multinational efforts to stop the fighting in the Middle East. Here's what we know right now. The United Nations and Britain are urging the deployment of peacekeepers in Lebanon. Russia is offering troops and Iran is calling for a cease-fire and exchange for prisoners. More tough words from Israel today, but also a scaling back of demands. Prime minister Ehud Olmert says his country's offensive will continue until its captured soldiers are freed, rocket attacks on Israel stop and the Lebanese army is deployed along the border. Israeli leaders had said the fighting wouldn't stop until Hezbollah was dismantled.

Now the number dead in the conflict is approaching 200, 165 have been killed in Lebanon, 24 in Israel, hundreds more wounded.

President Bush is due to arrive back in the U.S. from the G-8 summit in Russia within the hour, but one of his top aids need not bother to unpack. CNN's Kathleen Koch is at the White House with details and I think we know who that is Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, that's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Looking back over this last week and it has been a very eventful week for the President, the White House is framing the G-8 summit very much as a success, though, obviously, the primary topic of discussion, the Middle East crisis, had not originally been first on the agenda. The leaders did sign a unanimous statement blaming Hamas and Hezbollah for initiating the violence and also mentioning that Israel should exercise utmost restraint in its response. There was a great deal of discussion over the language.

Some countries very concerned that Israel's response was not proportionate to the attacks. So the White House is framing this really as a testament to the president's coalition building skills. He was able to get all eight of the countries to sign onto the statement. As we mentioned, another development, what the White House is trying to do to calm tensions in the region is this announcement now that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will soon be going to the Middle East.


SEAN MCCORMACK, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Her goal in traveling to the region would be to try to further the diplomacy that would lay the groundwork for a lasting cessation of violence. What you don't want to do is you don't want to be back in the same position three weeks from now, three months from now, six months from now, where a group of extremists, terrorists, and their backers can drag the region into a crisis, can drag the region into, or try to drag the region into an abyss of violence.


KOCH: The state department would not give a timetable, nor a specific itinerary for Secretary Rice's visit. It is expected though that she will not depart until a United Nation's team reports back mid week, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Alright Kathleen Koch, live from the White House, appreciate it.

Diplomacy amid the destruction, the U.N. Security Council has been meeting on the crisis and a U.N. team is on the ground in Lebanon. Our Richard Roth has the latest now from U.N. headquarters in New York. Richard?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well Kyra, at the United Nations Security Council they are watching and waiting that three-man delegation that is touring and shuttling between Middle East capitals in Israel and Lebanon, which reported some progress today, but they said let's not get too optimistic today. There is still a lot of time to go to work things out.

Also the G-8 summit you mentioned, Kofi Annan, and Tony Blair floating the idea of an international stabilization force of sorts, that can get in between Israel and Lebanon. The U.N. already has a force there, known an UNIFL, but they have been largely focusing on humanitarian aspects and have been ignored by people firing rockets or Israeli forces going across the border to probe for any Hezbollah action.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton was skeptical about setting up another peace keeping force.


JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Would such a force be empowered to deal with the real problem? The real problem is Hezbollah. Would such a force be empowered to disarm and immobilize Hezbollah armed components? Would it be empowered to deal with countries like Syria and Iran that support Hezbollah? What, exactly would be the extent of the mandate to deal with the military threat posed by Hezbollah?

ROTH: The U.S. is in no rush to get any Security Council unified action that might stop or tell Israel to stop its measures, which the United States says is in self-defense. Lebanon's foreign ministry has an official here who says the council has to act. He's been saying this for several days and he also denounced what Israel is doing allegedly for the good of the country to get Hezbollah under control.


NOUHAD MAHMOUD, LEBANESE FOREIGN MINISTRY: I don't see how, by destroying the whole country, you can reign over one part of it. I mean, this is the wrong way to go about it.


ROTH: The nation of Qatar is the lone Arab representative on the 15-nation council, Kyra, and the ambassador says it's late. He would have liked to have seen some security action days ago. Now the council will have to get ready to hear from the briefing by the traveling delegation later in the week at the earliest. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Richard Roth at the U.N. Thanks, Richard.

Let's get straight to Tony, new developments out of Haifa, Israel?

HARRIS: That's right, Kyra. A couple of things we can pull together for you right now. We are just getting word, it's been confirmed by correspondents on the ground in Haifa that air-raid sirens are being heard again in Haifa, Israel.

We are also getting reports of a new round of rocket fire in northern Israel. As you know, as we revert back to Haifa for a moment, where air-raid sirens are being heard, we know that several suspected Hezbollah rockets have hit that area today.

Our correspondents on the ground, on the scene there, report of a rocket striking a residential building. We believe we have pictures. Jen, do we have those pictures right now? Images of a damaged apartment building in Haifa. These pictures were taken by an Israeli soldier, a 20-year-old soldier.

These are pictures of the damage by that rocket attack in Haifa, striking that apartment building. And the soldier in question was visiting his family at the time of the blast. And he was staying down, just a block or so down the way from the building when he heard this loud noise.

Obviously, the rockets landing and striking this building. He grabbed his camera, took these pictures. I just want to go through the cycle of the pictures once again as we tell you that there are reports of air-raid sirens going off again in Haifa. And additional reporting of a new round of rocket fire in northern Israel. And the pictures, once again that you're looking at right now are of the damage from a suspected Hezbollah rocket that landed in a residential neighborhood in an apartment building there in Haifa.

Kyra, we will continue to follow these latest developments with the international desk right behind me and we'll gather it all for you and bring it to you as soon as we get new information.

PHILLIPS: All right, thanks for those pictures, Tony.

HARRIS: Sure thing.

PHILLIPS: Well new attacks in northern Israel and in Beirut. Many westerners looking for a way to get out. I'm going to talk with the former U.S. ambassador to Israel. Stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.


PHILLIPS: Just how far will Israel go and just how close will the U.S. get to the conflict in the Middle East? Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, joins us once again. Great to see you, again, sir, how long can Israel continue this?

MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Well the Israelis always know from past experience that the clock is ticking before the international community comes down and says you have for to put a stop to this.

George Bush is buying them some time because he wants to see Hezbollah's infrastructure taken apart. But, you know, it's very hard to say, but I would measure it as Condoleezza Rice said in a different context, in weeks, not days.

PHILLIPS: And the last time I talked to you, we had not heard from the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, yet. We have now had a couple of interviews with him, or at least we've taken these interviews via Hezbollah television. I want to get your response to something he said about being forced to pressure what he calls the enemy. I want to get your response.


HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): Even when we were forced to target the settlements and we were able to reach all settlements and every village and every town in northern occupied Palestine, but we chose -- well, we chose to use force to pressure this enemy. Even in this context when the Zionists behave on a basis that there is no limit for confrontation, it is our right to be -- to face that -- to return that at the same.


PHILLIPS: So, Mr. Ambassador, here's my question, that type of philosophy, that type of speak, is there any way to have a Democratic government in Lebanon when someone, when a leader like that, with that type of philosophy, is a part of the government?

INDYK: The short answer is, no. I think it's important to understand, Kyra, what he's trying to do here. He's been doing this in his last three speeches. He's trying to establish a kind of deterrent relationship with Israel in which he says, you know, if you keep on hitting us like this, we're going to hit you back.

And the implicit message is -- if you stop hitting us in the way that you are, we'll stop hitting your cities and towns. He says it in the kind of the opposite way, but that's his message. He would like to establish a kind of balance of terror with Israel.

Now, the Israelis are not going to accept that. And he keeps on trying to do it. He calls them idiots because they don't accept it. But that's basically his approach. Now in terms of directly answering your question, 1559, U.N. Security Council resolution sponsored by Britain, France and the United States, and unanimously endorsed, called not only for the Syrian troops to withdraw, which they did, but also for Hezbollah to disarm. And that part of the resolution was never implemented.

As long as Hezbollah has its own militia and terrorist cadres and they have not disarmed, and they're part of the government and they're stronger than the Lebanese army, the government is essentially at the mercy of Hezbollah and is essentially hijacked according to its agenda.

The Lebanese government had no desire for this, had no knowledge of this and wanted this to be, in effect been told by Hezbollah that this was going to be a quiet season so they could benefit from the tourism from the Arab world. As a consequence of Hezbollah being in the government with its militia intact, the Lebanese government cannot control it. So unless Hezbollah is disarmed it will be impossible for the Lebanese government to operate effectively.

PHILLIPS: Mr. ambassador let me ask you while we have the live picture right now of the president of the United States aboard Air Force One there arriving at Andrews Air Force Base from the G-8 summit. He's going to have his hands full. One person not coming back with him, that is Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, headed to the region to try and work on a cease-fire. What do you think? Will she be able to accomplish that? How important will that trip be for her, and will Israel even consider a cease-fire without those three Israeli soldiers not back in their country?

INDYK: I think it's going to be a very tough road for her at the moment if she, in fact, is going out soon. I would be surprised if she goes out before next week, simply because of the way the fighting is escalating, it just puts her in a situation where she's almost bound to fail. So I think, if she does go, it will be billed as an exploratory mission. She's got another problem, does she go to Syria? If she goes to Syria, they would love to receive her in Damascus, but is she going to ask them to control Hezbollah? They are going to say would you like us to send our troops back into Lebanon to do that?

So you know, she is going to go to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, to try to lay the groundwork, that makes sense, but I don't think it's ripe yet for a cease-fire and so she can't be too exposed in this situation.

PHILLIPS: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, always appreciate your insights. Thanks sir.

INDYK: Thanks for having me.

PHILLIPS: Well there are many sides to this conflict and more ways than ever to express them. Our Washington producer Alex Wellen is monitoring the Internet where the blogs are definitely buzzing. Hey Alex.


PHILLIPS: Tell me what they are saying.

WELLEN: It's an interesting thing, you get an insight into exactly what's happening on the ground, but at the same time it's infused with all kinds of political rhetoric, information from all sides. So what we do is we get to hear voices, we see photographs. We can actually get video in some cases. On "THE SITUATION ROOM" shortly we will talk about that video that we found out there and some of the photographs.

One of the sites I want to point you to, just to give you a flavor for what it is that we're looking at, this is from an Israeli kibbutz down in MARCHINI: (ph). And you see here, that's children getting onto a bus, getting ready of course to abandon an area that's very close to the Lebanon border and those people, there on that kabutz, that's like a community, a communal settlement in Israel, they hear rockets daily. Now, on the other side of the border in Beirut, we have a site and this site has been extraordinary, they've been blogging Beirut. They've been posting information constantly. In that picture you see those blue containers there. That's dealing with supplies. In this case they depict it as oil, and they are loading up information, oil, supplies, anything they need supply wise. And we are getting kind of an insight into this world that we have never seen before. Here a tourist site, right. There are no tourists to be seen. Sometimes what's interesting is what we don't see.

The photographs that are out there, information from all over the world, but here in Beirut, while this is happening in the Middle East, we look at this site, this promenade and there no tourists to be seen. Similarly in this street scene, also on this extraordinary site called Blogging Beirut we see that there is literally no one in the streets, quote, not even a stray cat. So it's interesting, Kyra, just to get a sense of what's happening on the ground. Never before, never before have we been able to get right there with citizen journalism, and find out exactly what's happening.

PHILLIPS: Alex, appreciate it. Thanks so much. Let's take it to Wolf Blitzer. He's standing by in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Talking about never before Wolf, this was your beat, a lot of former IDF telling me they have never seen rocket attacks like this before, to this extent.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well it's a major story, a major development. We will be live from Beirut, from northern Israel. We will follow all of the events involving this deepening crisis in the Middle East. Beirut suburbs coming under Israel attacks, even as Hezbollah rockets pounding Haifa for yet another day. And late- breaking word that air-raid sirens are sounding even now.

U.S. military getting into position to evacuate Americans stranded in Lebanon. We're going to tell you what's being done to help U.S. citizens get out of harm's way. President Bush makes some colorful remarks about the crisis. What an open mic picked up as Mr. Bush talked privately with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Kyra, all of that coming up over the next two hours, right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

PHILLIPS: Just five minutes away. Thanks, Wolf. The crisis in the Middle East deepens, oil prices rise. What does that mean at the gas pump? We're going to find out. The closing bell with Susan Lisovicz straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: Tony Harris, we're watch a live feed of the president and the first lady getting back from the G-8 summit, obviously touching down at Andrews Air Force Base. He is going to have his hands full dealing with the situation in the Middle East.

HARRIS: That seems to be intensifying Kyra. Moments ago we told you about reports we were getting of a new round of rocket fire in northern Israel. Can flesh that out a little bit for you. Reuters and the AP reporting a rocket fired by Hezbollah hit a hospital. It either hit a hospital or very near a hospital in the northern Israeli town of Safed. There is great concern that there could be casualties. Once again a rocket fired very near, or it either hit a hospital or landed very near a hospital in Safed and there is great concern and could be casualties. Kyra, more for Wolf at the top of the hour, I'm sure.

PHILLIPS: All right, thanks so much Tony. Just in time for the "Closing Bell" and our Ali Velshi. Ali, I'll see you tomorrow.



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