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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Crisis in the Middle East: Day 16; On the Battlefield; Al Qaeda Threats; On the Ground; Inside Hezbollah;

Aired July 27, 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: Day 16 of the crisis is done. Day 17 just begun. The rockets keep falling, the shelling continues and al Qaeda's calls for jihad in south Lebanon.
ANNOUNCER: As the battle rages, Israel calls up more troops. And al Qaeda throws new fuel on the crisis. Is bad about to get even worse?

On the front lines, the first pictures of Israeli troops in southern Lebanon. Just how far will the ground war go?

Battered but not backing down. A terror group that's built a state within a state. Tonight a chilling look inside Hezbollah.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East: Day 16." Reporting tonight from the Israel-Lebanon border, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks very much for joining us. We come to you from the town of Keriatshmona (ph), a town under threat by Katyusha rockets, a daily occurrence here. More than a dozen hitting just yesterday alone. The cars behind me, just some of the damage that we have seen in the last 24 hours.

The people here, however, are determined. They say the more the rockets fall, the stronger we become, the more determined we become to win.

There is much to talk about in this hour ahead. But first, let's get you up to date with the latest bulletins in our CNN "War Bulletin."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Here's what we know.

The Israeli cabinet authorizing the call-up of about 30,000 reserve troops. At the same time, members ruled out a massive ground foot deep into Lebanon, fending off hardliners in the Israeli government who favor carrying the war north to the Litani River.

Secretary of State Rice, now in Asia, expected to head back to the region this weekend, trying to line up what she calls a lasting cease-fire. If and when that happens, France, Italy, Norway and Turkey have said they might be willing to send peacekeeping troops to south Lebanon. And casualties growing on both sides -- 405 dead in Lebanon, according to security officials; health ministry officials say it's more like 600. Israeli fatalities, meantime, now total 50. About 150 Hezbollah rockets hitting northern Israel in the last 24 hours. More than 1,500 since the war began.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): We're getting our first glimpse of what the fighting looks like in south Lebanon.

CNN's John Roberts has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the first pictures of Israeli troops over the border in Lebanon. The town of Maroun al-Ras, the first village the Israeli army took in its ground campaign to route Hezbollah guerrillas from southern Lebanon.

Maroun al-Ras appears quiet. There are still occasional skirmishes. One soldier died near the town yesterday. And the troops remain vigilant. But there is none of the fierce fighting here, like in Bint Jbeil, where Hezbollah guerrillas killed eight Israelis on Wednesday.

General Shuki Shachar says the battle was difficult, but Hezbollah lost far more than Israel.

GENERAL SHUKI SHACHAR, ISRAELI NORTHERN COMMAND: Just in this small battle, the soldiers of the Golani Brigade succeeded to inflict casualties on the enemy, more than double that they suffered by themselves.

ROBERTS: Reinforcements are being sent to the border. And as many as 15,000 reserves are being called up.

This combat engineering battalion is staged and ready, waiting for orders to go in.

Sergeant Omri Azulay has never been in battle before. What happened in Bint Jbeil has him worried, but he is still eager to join the fight.

SGT. OMRI AZULAY, ISRAELI NORTHERN COMMAND: My first actual face to face combat. But I am looking forward to it because this is something I have to do for my family, for my friends, for my whole country.

ROBERTS: Lt. Shai Betti has seen action in Gaza, but not the kind of organized guerrilla fighting he'll face in Lebanon. Uncertain about the battle ahead, the deaths of his comrades, he says, have stoked his will to win.

LT. SHAI BETTI, ISRAELI NORTHERN COMMAND: Give us more motivation than ever before. We want to get in. We want to fight. We want to win.

ROBERTS: And what will they face when they get inside Lebanon? Paratrooper John Burch, an American who moved to Israel two years ago, was on some of the first reconnaissance missions.

JOHN BURCH, ISRAELI ARMY: I guess you could describe this type of warfare as a bush warfare. You know, there's a lot of close quarters combat. We have been training, you know, to engage the enemy within 10 to 15, 20 minutes because of the bushes. You know, you have to go around them and kind of search for the enemy. It's kind of like a game of hide and seek.

ROBERTS: And there are growing divisions over how far the ground campaign should go. The military has plans to push Hezbollah back 14 miles to the Litani River. But as world opinion turns against them, Israeli political leaders are beginning to dial back those goals.

As for when the war might be over, even one of the army's top generals can't say.

How much longer do you think this is going to take?

SHACHAR: I have no idea how much it will take because there are so many factors that influence the opinion, the public opinion in Israel, the public opinion in the world, some international forces and of course the decisions of the government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: John, they won't say how long they think it is going to take. There are obviously a couple of different theories, though, a couple different strategies. What are the timetables for them?

ROBERTS: As General Shachar said, there are a number of different factors that are playing into this. Anderson, if they do follow the military's recommendation to try to push Hezbollah all the way back past the Litani River, that 14 mile buffer zone in southern Lebanon, that's something that could take all summer.

But if they go for narrower security zone, maybe the mile, mile and a half that the government is talking about, that is something that General Shachar said could be over within one to two weeks.

So, it could be over more quickly than a lot of people are thinking or it could drag on a lot longer than most people would like -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. John, we'll talk to you again in our round table coming up later on in this hour.

Let's go now to Beirut. Shelling there today. Air strikes, I should say, and also the wild card in all of this, al Qaeda now entering the scene, calling for jihad in south Lebanon, for foreign fighters to fight against Israel and to fight against the U.S. and its allies around the world.

Nic Robertson has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The 16th day of the war, new images of suffering in south Lebanon. Death at the side of the road. Families forced from their homes taking shelter in a government hospital.

I come from Bint Jbeil, she says. The Israelis leveled our house. We came out from the rubble and walked.

Into this chaos, al Qaeda's leadership is threatening to intervene.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): We will not stand by watching these explosives pouring down on our brothers in Gaza and Lebanon.

ROBERTSON: But among Hezbollah supporters, this is not a welcome message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we don't support them at all. We don't think that statement support us also.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here Hezbollah is fighting just for Lebanon and just for Lebanese people and our freedom.

ROBERTSON: Hezbollah characterizes its battle as a war of resistance against Israel. In the past, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has condemned the methods and operations of al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden.

But as the war continues, anti-American sentiment is growing. The accusation that the United States and Israel are in the fight together against Lebanon.

DR. ALI FAYYAD, HEZBOLLAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE (through translator): It's the U.S. under the heading of Israel's right to self-defense who provided the political cover for the Israeli attack on Lebanon.

ROBERTSON: A scenario that al Qaeda appears to be exploiting.

AL-ZAWAHIRI (through translator): The dangerous events going on in Gaza and Lebanon are proof to any sane person that the crusader Zionist war is targeting us.

ROBERTSON: Zawahiri's message is not al Qaeda's first attempt to build alliances here. In the early 1990s, Hezbollah gave al Qaeda operatives weapons and explosives training.

(On camera): More recently in the past few years, an unpublished official security report handed to CNN concluded that there is a clearly recognizable effort by al Qaeda to recruit groups in Lebanon, particularly in the south where it's lawless. Specifically, in the Palestinian refugee camps. (Voice-over): A radical Islamist CNN interview near Beirut this week predicts al Qaeda's anti-American message will resonate here as it has in Iraq, drawing in Islamic extremists from outside.

SHEIK OMAR BAKRI, AL MARJHAROUN LEADER: It's going to be the same thing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) where people fight against the Israeli forces. Everybody aligns with them. So it is, the scenario could happen.

ROBERTSON: A suggestion that scares many here, including this Hezbollah sympathizer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a little scary because it says that this matter is taken much further than it should and the hope for people, for the war to cease quickly.

ROBERTSON: No indication that's about to happen in a conflict that in recent days has only become more intense. And more dangerous.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: John Roberts joins us now again along the border with Lebanon, and Michael Ware joins us from Beirut.

Michael, what do you make of the timing of this al Qaeda tape? I guess it is no great surprise. They often try to glom on to major events. But why release it right now?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, I think that they can see that the Israelis are under intense pressure. I dare say this tape would have been made before the killing of the four U.N. observers.

Nonetheless, its release almost certainly would be capitalizing upon that event. They can see international opinion shifting. And the tide of the battle has moved such that the momentum is underway. So in many ways, they're surfing away as they are so adept at doing.

COOPER: Do you think it likely that al Qaeda would team up with Hezbollah? There are so many factors at play in this, the Sunni-Shia split, which you have seen on a daily basis in Iraq.

WARE: Yes, Anderson. I think that's unlikely. Even a loose kind of alliance is problematic for both sides. And very much here in Lebanon.

From what I've seen, it is drafted as a war of national resistance. Yes, they may be religious lines but this is still a fight of liberation for the homeland. That does not leave much room for al Qaeda's international jihad.

We have also seen that in Gaza where al Qaeda, despite all its efforts, has yet to find real traction there. I don't think we'll see any significant alliance. COOPER: John Roberts, you've been talking a lot to Israeli troops, both high level commanders and also soldiers crossing over into Lebanon and those who have been coming back. What is your sense? Do you think that they underestimated Hezbollah? Do you think they were surprised by the level of resistance they have been getting?

ROBERTS: The Israeli army knows how long Hezbollah has had to prepare for this. But I think they were surprised, Anderson. And when I talked to the troops today, what happened in Bint Jbeil definitely affected them. They said that they were a little more frightened than they were before. You're always frightened going into war. You would be crazy if you weren't. But they said that there's a little more anxiety among the troops. But they're still trying to focus on the job at hand and get the job done.

And on the other point that you were talking with Michael Ware about, I would watch, Anderson, today, for the Israeli officials to start trying to exploit what Zawahiri was saying. You see, they are portraying this not as a war of territory, but as a war of ideology, about Israel existence, about Islamic fundamentalism against western style democracy.

So now, if they can make a link between al Qaeda and Hezbollah, they can say to the world, look, this is a global terrorist organization, it is not just here in Lebanon. So the world has to join us in this fight.

COOPER: Michael Ware, what about that? I mean, you've been talk tracking the foreign fighters entering Iraq. That has obviously had a major impact on the battle there. Do you think it likely or possible that south Lebanon would become a new destination for foreign fighters?

WARE: Well, so far among those I've spoken to, both people, ordinary villages from the south and Hezbollah sympathizers, there is no clear invitation for foreign jihadis of the kind that we see seeping into Iraq.

I mean, again, we had the sectarian divide. The south is largely Shia. In fact, many of the border towns that are currently under assault by the IDF have large Christian populations.

So, at this stage, I don't think the ground is right. It all depends how long this battle rages. But anything can happen, Anderson. I just don't see it so far.

COOPER: You know, John, I know you spent the day in and around this region, around Keriatshmona (ph). You, yourself were on the scene for a number of Katyusha rocket attacks. Even the one right behind me you were here for.

Do you think -- I mean, how do the Israeli officials explain the sort of contradictory images? I mean, on the one hand they say they degraded Hezbollah forces by some 50 percent. And on the other hand, 150 rockets fell yesterday in northern Israel alone. It doesn't seem like the rockets are letting up. ROBERTS: Yes, I asked General Shachar that very question today, and he said, look it, here's the way we see it. We believe that there are some 1,500 Hezbollah fighters operating in small groups all along the border region between Israel and Lebanon. They're well dug in, they've got bunkers that we can't see. They're well camouflaged.

Not too long ago, Israel showed some of the camouflage that it had seized in some of its reconnaissance missions into southern Lebanon. And you know the foam rocks and things like that that you see on Hollywood sets, that's what they're using to hide these weapons, according to the Israeli army.

So, when you're trying to scout it out from the air, whether it be with a helicopter or whether it be with one of those drone eyes in the sky sort of things, all you're looking down on and seeing is a bunch of rocks. You're not seeing a traditional bunker or warehouse that a traditional military would have, Anderson. They are so well absorbed into their environment that it is very difficult for the Israelis to get a handle on where they are. And with 1,500 of them spread across that border region working in small little groups, they're all basically individual cells.

COOPER: John Roberts, appreciate your reporting and Michael Ware as well. Thank you very much for joining us, Michael, from Beirut.

When we come back, we thought with this al Qaeda tape coming out today, it's worth taking a look at Hezbollah in depth. So, for the rest of this hour, we're going to be taking a very revealing look inside Hezbollah at their tactics, their strategy, what they hope to accomplish. And what kind of an impact they have had, not only on Israel, not only on the United States, but on the entire Middle East.

Stay with us for inside Hezbollah.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, today we heard from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two man, calling for foreign fighters, calling for a jihad against Israel in south Lebanon. There is, experts say, a small al Qaeda presence currently in south Lebanon. But right now the fighting is being done by Hezbollah.

In the next 45 minutes, we wanted to take a very up close intense investigative look at Hezbollah. What we know about it, who leads it and what their tactics are. So take a look. This is what we know about Hezbollah, an organization which some 25 years ago few Americans had ever heard of. It is now one of the most powerful organizations in the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): A relentless barrage of missiles. Casualties on both sides. The escalating battle between Israel and Hezbollah is decades old.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It seeks the destruction of Israel and with an AK-47 emblazoned on its trademark yellow flag, attacks in the name of Islam. The word "Hezbollah" means "Party of God."

Most Americans first became aware of Hezbollah on October 23, 1983. A truck, packed with explosives, detonated outside the Marine barracks in Beirut.

ROBIN WRIGHT, WASHINGTON POST: It was the largest non-nuclear explosion anywhere on earth since World War II. It was the largest loss of American military life in a single incident since Iwo Jima.

COOPER: Two-hundred-forty-one American servicemen were killed. The force of the explosion, reduced the building to rubble. Many of the victims, Marines sent to Beirut to keep peace between Israel and various factions in Lebanon.

The attack was Hezbollah's calling card of terror, delivered to America by a suicide bomber. Over the years, there would be many more.

Kidnappings. In 1985, Journalist Terry Anderson was seized. In 1987 they took Church Envoy Terry Waite.

TERRY WATIE, FORMER HEZBOLLAH HOSTAGE: They suspected, wrongly, that I was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair, and I was able to convince them that I was a humanitarian negotiator, and I came out with my life.

COOPER: Both men were eventually released. Others, however, never were.

Hezbollah is a suspect in the torture and murder of U.S. Colonel William Higgins. Higgins disappeared in 1988, while leading a U.N. observer group in south Lebanon. A year and a half later, this video appeared on television screens around the world. Higgins' badly beaten body, hanging from a rope.

There have been other suicide attacks, most notably in June of 1996, when 19 U.S. airmen were killed in an explosion that ripped through the Cobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

A U.S. and Israeli estimates Hezbollah is responsible for more than 200 terror attacks, attacks that have killed more than 800 people since 1980. That's why the U.S. calls Hezbollah a terror group. But in Lebanon, to many it is much more than just that.

MARK PERRY, CONFLICT FORUM: They're quite a deeply community oriented organization that is primarily a social organization first, and a militant organization second.

COOPER: Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has a television network with millions of viewers. It's also a political party that's gaining strength in Lebanon's parliament. Hezbollah has its own hospitals, its own schools and charities. It's a lifeline for Shias living in Beirut's impoverished suburbs and throughout southern Lebanon. PERRY: They provide birth to death insurance for their members and for their community. They remind me of kind of a ward organization, a precinct organization in Chicago. They know where everyone lives, they know what the problems are. They have social service workers and they know their people very well.

COOPER: Maybe true, but to Israel and America, Hezbollah is first and foremost a threat.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's this provocation of Hezbollah that has created this crisis, and that's the root cause of the problem.

COOPER: Israelis, like Ron Kierman, live on the northern border in constant fear.

RON KIERMAN, ISRAELI CITIZEN: Yes, definitely people are afraid and I think that the fear is one of the things that keeps us alive.

COOPER: Kierman has experienced terror firsthand. His daughter, the victim of a suicide bomber.

He believes Israel's military might is more than justified against Hezbollah.

KIERMAN: I have to emphasize that Hezbollah is an extension of the Iranians and the Irani president said, not once, and not twice, he does not want us here, period. That's it. He wants to eliminate me.

COOPER: Experts say Hezbollah now has cells around the world, including inside the United States. But most of its support -- cash, rockets, training, comes from its neighbors to the east, Syria and Iran.

WRIGHT: Iran remains the kind of sponsor of Hezbollah. It is the primary source of arms. It is reported to provide about $100 million a year in arms, goods and cash.

Syria's role is one of facilitator. It is the logistical link between Tehran and Beirut.

COOPER: That financial backing has helped Hezbollah evolve into a formidable force in the region, one capable of waging war.

So what does Hezbollah want now?

HISHAM MELHEM, AN-NAHAR NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENT: They want to play an important role. They want the state to invest in the infrastructure in the Shia areas. And they want their place under the sun in Lebanon. But definitely they don't want to disarm.

COOPER: Destroying Hezbollah is Israel's top priority.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We shall hunt down every single terrorist who is threatening Israel.

COOPER: CNN's Military Analyst General David Grange was involved in counterterrorism activities in the region in the early 1980s.

GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think if there's going to be a global war on terrorism, it has to be disarmed. The question is who's going to do it? Who is going to have the guts to do it? I think we should be thankful, whether you like Israel or not, that Israel is taking them on.

COOPER: And taking them on with a vengeance.

BRIG. GEN. GAL HIRSCH, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We cannot live under this umbrella of terror missiles, and we will attack and attack, and fight for our lives.

COOPER: Born of war, Hezbollah now is, once again, at war with Israel. Innocent victims suffering on both sides of the conflict.

Next, Hezbollah, the tactics of terror.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: No place is safe in Haifa these days. A northern city well within reach of Hezbollah's rockets, Haifa is the newest target of terror. And no one is more familiar with the reality of that terror that Ashed Gall.

ASHED GALL, BOMB EXPERT, HAIFA POLICE: It's very hard, it's very hard, very difficult to see a direct hit on a house and somebody's life.

COOPER: A bomb expert with the Haifa police, Gall looks for clues in the rocket remnants in order to better understand what Hezbollah has in its arsenal.

Coincidentally the first rocket to hit Haifa landed in Gall's neighborhood.

GALL: It was surprising, and shocking, and nobody expected it.

COOPER: Though Gall considers these to be crude weapons, he admits that Hezbollah rockets can now reach further than ever before.

GALL: What you can see is only the remain of the rocket engine because the rest exploded.

This is 122 millimeter rocket. This was the first one who was falling in Stella Maris, near my house. Nobody injured in that incident.

This one, we knew that they had, but we didn't believe that they would send them so soon.

COOPER: Israeli experts fear that Hezbollah has even longer range rockets that can strike deeper into Israel's heartland, even Tel Aviv.

GALL: This is the first one that hit. COOPER: Haifa's train depot was the scene of the city's deadliest rocket attack.

GALL: The rocket hit the roof, explode there. And then it spread.

And then the rocket engine hits the floor here. It was in the morning, and it caught them by surprise. People were working here to fix the trains.

COOPER: Two days later, the depot was hit again.

GALL: It's surprising, because it's very rare. Because you can't control the rocket, and they hit in the same place.

COOPER: Hezbollah has long relied on short-range Katyusha rockets to strike at the cities and towns along Israel's northern border, but Israel was caught off guard when Hezbollah aimed a guided missile and hit an Israeli warship on July 14th.

Daniel Benjamin was the national security council counterterrorism director in the Clinton administration.

DANIEL BENJAMIN, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Certainly Hezbollah has never severely damaged an Israeli warship at sea. So, they're using much more sophisticated armaments than they were before.

COOPER: Hezbollah's missile capability is an indication of how advanced it's become, and how much support it's getting from Syria and Iran.

PERRY: They're about the fourth or fifth strongest military in the Middle East.

COOPER: Mark Perry is director of an organization that encourages dialogue with Hezbollah.

PERRY: They have evolved from a very small guerrilla organization to a very professional army that has brigades in the field with officers, know what they're doing. They're in constant training. This is a highly professional army.

COOPER: Retired General David Grange is a Special Forces veteran who operated in Lebanon.

GRANGE: They've taken on some conventional warfare strength. I mean, the ability to have a rocketry force to fire missiles with better precision than they used to with the Katyusha rockets, which they just point south and fire. Now they're a little more accurate.

And I think they have some more conventional capability than they used to have than just terrorist attacks, suicide bombers.

COOPER: Since its early days, Hezbollah's greatest weapon has been terror. Though Hezbollah no longer uses suicide bombings, the group that pioneered the tactic has inspired Islamic Jihadists throughout the world to strap on bombs and kill. Abdullah Tif (ph) Abdullah is one of many in south Lebanon who support Hezbollah.

ABDULLAH TIF ABDULLAH (ph), SUPPORTS HEZBOLLAH: There is nothing more human than a human who would wrap himself with bombs, because this is the only way. There is no plane, there is no tank, there is nothing. You have nothing. You have bare hands.

COOPER: Kidnapping is another tactic Hezbollah has used effectively against Israel.

Gary Berntsen is a former CIA field commander in Afghanistan.

GARY BERNTSEN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: You may recall the airman Lieutenant Colonel Ron Arad. He was captured by the Lebanese. Then he was turned over to Hezbollah and the Iranians. The Israelis never recovered him.

COOPER: Kidnapping Israeli forces has proven valuable, often resulting in prisoner swaps.

In 1985 Israel released more than 1,000 Arab prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers who had been captured in Lebanon. The abduction of two Israeli soldiers near the Lebanese border July 12th set off the current conflict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, OK, we have a siren now.

COOPER: But as always, Hezbollah's most effective weapon is fear.

In Haifa, the constant sirens signal a new and even more unsettling threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's different. It's not a suicide bomber on the bus. It's something that's going to fall from the sky and it's very fatal. People are afraid.

COOPER: Up next, the face of Hezbollah. The charismatic cleric who leads the organization, Hassan Nasrallah, in his own words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: May of 2000. The Shias of south Lebanon erupt in joy after Israel pulls out, ending an occupation that lasted more than 20 years.

Hezbollah and its supporters proclaim victory. Look closely at the celebratory poster on this car. You'll see the man behind Hezbollah's armed campaign. Their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who just this week, reminded the world of how determined they are.

SHEIKH HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): In 2000, we in Lebanon, we with modest capabilities and efforts, and with a small number of Mujahidine, with few supplies and little equipment, presented a model of how resistance can overcome an occupation army.

COOPER: But Hezbollah terms its armed resistance, guerrilla and terror tactics, eventually wore the Israelis down.

WRIGHT: Hezbollah is the first army in the Arab world ever to force the Israelis to retreat. It managed to do what hundreds of thousands of conventional military troops in Egypt, in Jordan, in Syria were unable to do for more than half a century.

COOPER: And that gave Hezbollah an almost mythical status in Lebanon, elevating its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, into one of the more revered leaders in many parts of the Muslim world.

Now as Israeli air strikes bombard Hezbollah strongholds, Nasrallah's renown is once again celebrated on the Arab street.

Like here in the Syrian market, where a shopkeeper gives away pictures of his hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Nasrallah's popularity is bigger than A mountain and higher than the sky. He is now getting support from God and from the people.

COOPER: But whether in Nasrallah's support has staying power in a religiously divided Lebanon is questionable.

WRIGHT: There will be many in Lebanon who will be very upset about the fact that Hezbollah's cross-border raid brought about this extraordinary military response from Israel, and will hold Hezbollah accountable as well as Israel.

COOPER: The Hezbollah leader may well be relishing this moment, one he's long prepared for. At the age of 10, as the story goes, Nasrallah played cleric, wrapping his head in his grandmother's black scarf, telling others to pray behind him.

By the age of 15, he'd entered a Shia seminary in Iraq.

Now, 46, the black head scarf is his signature, and he's much more than just a cleric.

WRIGHT: He is both the charismatic, Islamic populist, and the wily guerrilla tactician. The kind of cross between Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's revolutionary leader, and Che Guevara, the Latin- American revolutionary.

COOPER: Though he's considered a formidable player in Lebanon, Nasrallah claims he does not aspire to be another Osama, condemning the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

WRIGHT: One of the ironies about Hezbollah is that many in the West just lump them in the same basket as Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. But, actually, there's an enormous amount of tension between two very different movements. Nasrallah leads the Shiite movement. Osama bin Laden leads the predominantly Sunni movement. They hate each other.

COOPER: Though Hezbollah has killed many Americans over the years, in a July 2001 interview with CNN, Nasrallah insisted then that America was not the enemy.

NASRALLAH (through translator): America's policies are biased and unjust. We oppose them, but we don't fight the Americans, and we do not launch military operations against Americans, or target Americans.

COOPER: Still, Hezbollah remains on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

NASRALLAH (through translator): We are not a terrorist movement. We refuse to be described as such. And he who accuses us of terrorism must present proof of our involvement in terrorist actions.

COOPER: Even so, Nasrallah is committed to the fight against Israel, calling on the Arab world to join the Hezbollah cause.

NASRALLAH (through translator): Today the peoples of the Arab and Islamic nation are facing a historic opportunity to accomplish a great historic victory over the Zionist enemy.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're really worried about another strike here, right now, yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course.

COOPER: When we come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now the most dangerous place at the most dangerous moment.

COOPER: CNN's Nic Robertson takes us inside a Hezbollah stronghold.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi everyone, I'm Heidi Collins. We will return to our 360 special, "Inside Hezbollah," in just a moment. But first, the headlines at this hour.

Heavy exchanges of artillery on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border on day 16 of the crisis there. Sources tell CNN if a cease- fire can be reached between Israel and Hezbollah, France, Italy, Turkey and Norway will be willing to participate in international peacekeeping forces in Lebanon.

About 3,500 U.S. soldiers who were supposed to come home from Iraq next month have to stay for up to four additional months. The Pentagon says it's extending the soldiers' tour of duty as part of a plan to crack down on sectarian violence that has been claiming more than 1,000 lives a month in Baghdad.

Back here in the U.S., in California now, at least 104 people have died in a heat wave that hasn't let up for nearly two weeks. Temperatures have been above 100 degrees, mainly in central California. The National Weather Service says a cooling trend is expected Friday.

And the winner of the Tour de France says he did not cheat to win. American Floyd Landis tested positive for high testosterone levels last week during the race. Landis has been suspended from his cycling team pending the results of another drug test. If he is found guilty of using testosterone, which is a steroid, Landis could be the first cyclist in history to be stripped of his Tour de France title. We'll have to wait to see the results of those tests.

And those are the headlines.

Our 360 special, "Inside Hezbollah," continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Hezbollah has grown into a major military, political and social force here in Lebanon. To truly understand their power, however, you have to venture into the war-torn Shia neighborhoods of southern Beirut where Hezbollah's leaders are considered heroes.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson takes us inside.

ROBERTSON: Where are we going now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we are moving to where Israeli jet fighters, bombed what it called Hezbollah headquarters.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): These are Beirut's southern suburbs, predominantly Shiite and a Hezbollah stronghold. These days, it's a dangerous place, and this Hezbollah spokesman is clearly rattled by the prospect of more Israeli bombs.

(On camera): How dangerous is it in this area at the moment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very, very dangerous. We are now at the most dangerous place in the most dangerous moment.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Israeli warplanes have hit this area hard because it's the political capital of Hezbollah. A state within a state. Its influence is everywhere. Before the bombing began, you could find Hezbollah hospitals, schools and charities, supporting Lebanon's traditionally poor and dispossessed Shiite community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said to Hezbollah, God bless you.

ROBERTSON: For Malika Saror (ph) and her family, Hezbollah provides water when no one else can or will. Even now, when so many are displaced.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister, we heard her, go to bring water from there, there is very big cans. They put water in it, in all Lebanon.

ROBERTSON: In her old neighborhood near Beirut's airport, the one she fled after Israel began bombing, and the one she hopes to return to, Hezbollah picked up the garbage, paid for medical care, and helped run the schools. Stepping in and overshadowing the Lebanese government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hezbollah is doing all the things for the people.

ROBERTSON: On a practical level, Hezbollah paid half the cost for her daughter Zaynab's (ph) school and Zaynab (ph) says that was just the beginning of the help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If something is broken in my school, Hezbollah helps them to make it, and to correct it again.

ROBERTSON: Now, Zaynab (ph) is on her way to becoming the next generation of Hezbollah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope that, to when I be big and adult, I want to be a doctor for Hezbollah. If someone has a hurt in his arms, I will help him.

ROBERTSON: Both mother and daughter say they appreciate all that Hezbollah does for them, but the most important thing to them is still the resistance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like them more when they kill the Israelis from our land, because this land is our, us only.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They knew all my life, all my life to family, to my family and to my husband, to my sisters, to all the world.

ROBERTSON: And in return for all that it's given her, Hezbollah's won Malika's (ph) unconditional support. When the family is finally able to return to their home, they believe that Hezbollah will help them rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They promised that they will help the people to continue, yes, their life again.

ROBERTSON: Hezbollah has a track record of doing just that. In 1996, after an Israeli military assault destroyed numerous buildings in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah was quick to help its supporters rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hezbollah has a very interesting outfit called the Jihad Construction Company. They load their trucks with windows and all kinds of construction equipment, and all of these young guys with their t-shirts saying, "Jihad Albina'a" here. They will go from house to house and offer the people, do you want us to fix the windows, do you want us to fix your doors?

ROBERTSON: Even now, as its buildings are being destroyed, Hezbollah is organizing refugees and relief services, proof, its ability to provide social service, has survived.

(On camera): There's a lot of damage here.

(Voice-over): The rebuilding of south Beirut won't come until the bombs stop falling, but when it does, Hezbollah will be there for its followers, as it has so many times before. For now, it's more about surviving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our action is always reaction. It's never an action.

ROBERTSON (on camera): But they say you're killing civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now there is jet fighters, we have to move.

ROBERTSON: You're really worried about another strike here right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course.

COOPER: Just ahead, tracking terror. How Israel hunts down its enemies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: This is how Israel is fighting Hezbollah, with air strikes and cannon fire and small numbers of ground troops.

PERRY: What are their tactics now? Fifteen thousand feet. We're going to bomb them, we're going to degrade the infrastructure.

COOPER: But Israel also hunts its enemies like this. Under cover of darkness, up close, and personal. The targets? Terrorist cells, its leaders and suicide bombers.

GRANGE: Suicide bombing is en vogue now. It's cheap propaganda, and has tremendous impact and even the person that's the suicide bomber gets killed before they get to the target, just letting them blow up themselves, they're successful.

COOPER: Carnage wrought by suicide bombers has forced Israel to take extreme steps to protect itself, steps long endorsed by Israel's prime minister.

EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Is there any question about the legitimacy of killing someone who is described as a rolling bomb, that is someone that is on his way to commit a terrorist action? Go out, reach out for him and kill him.

COOPER: And that's what Israel does. The tactic is known as targeted assassination. When an arrest is deemed too dangerous, terrorists are hunted down and killed without a trial. Hamas's chief bomb maker, Yahya Ayyash, alias, the Engineer, was targeted for assassination.

YOSSI MELMAN, TERRORISM EXPERT: We found someone who was close to him who provided Yahya Ayyash with a cellular phone, but the battery inside the cellular phone was replaced, and the battery had some explosives, and when Yahya Ayyash, the Engineer received a telephone call, the battery exploded and he was killed.

COOPER: While the policy of targeted assassination has long focused primarily on Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists, Hezbollah's rocket attacks and kidnappings have almost certainly put its leaders in the crosshairs now as well, including Hezbollah's top man, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the plan to attack on the Israeli patrol, Nasrallah crossed all the red lines and we decided not to allow him any immunity anymore.

COOPER: But what if Israel does kill Nasrallah? Targeted assassinations are controversial, even at home. In the West, it's shunned publicly, and in the Arab world, condemned.

PERRY: If Hassan Nasrallah were to be killed by a hunter killer team in the Arab world, in the Muslim world it would be called terrorist.

COOPER: Of course targeted assassinations and military force aren't the only tactics in Israel's arsenal.

MOSHE YAALON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, IDF: The first capabilities you should enjoy is what they call intelligence dominance. You should be able to find out, to identify the terrorist in the corner, in the cafe, in the car.

COOPER: Human intelligence is perhaps Israel's key weapon against the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah and developing such assets, recruiting operatives and collaborators can be an art form.

MELMAN: We try to recruit them. It's not easy because for you, it is recruitment. For them, it means betrayal.

COOPER: For all its human intelligence, communications and military might, Israel, like America, has been, at times, frustrated in its fight against terror. Frustrated by the likes of this man, Imad Mugniyah, a suspected Hezbollah mastermind and one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.

BERNTSEN: He's primarily responsible for killing the Marines in 1983, 241 marines died, he has conducted many attacks on the United States and on foreign governments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think that he's the one that is responsible for the blow up of our embassy in Buenos Aires and it looks as if he is the one that is responsible also for the last terrorist attack that killed eight Israeli troops.

COOPER: But the United States and Israel have hunted Mugniyah for decades. Israel has come close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They shadowed the brother and they planted a bomb in the garage, but he was late and the bomb exploded and the brother was killed.

COOPER: And so it goes. For all of Israel's human intelligence and military might, there is one undeniable reality when it comes to fighting terror.

GRANGE: Any kind of guerrilla organization, of course, uses people to their advantage. Their tactics is to blend in with the population, strike when they can.

COOPER: Thanks for watching this special edition of 360, "Inside Hezbollah." I'm Anderson Cooper in Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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