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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Israel Resumes Airstrikes Against Hezbollah; Israel's Battle Strategy; Diplomatic Efforts Hit Bumps, Violence Escalates; Aid Trickling Into Lebanon

Aired August 2, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone watching in America and around the world on CNN International -- a day of dramatic developments here in the war zone, thousands of Israeli troops now on the ground in south Lebanon, but the fighting is tough, house-to- house, street-by-street. Resistance is strong -- new airstrikes in Beirut, and more than 200 Hezbollah rockets rain down on northern Israel.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Smart bombs from the sky, troops on the grounds -- these are exclusive pictures, but there's one thing they don't show, Hezbollah giving up the fight.

Snatch and grab -- choppers and commandos deep inside Lebanon. Hezbollah thought it was safe. What's Hebrew for "Guess again"?

And a rain of rockets.

COOPER: This entire area is burning out of control.

ANNOUNCER: Under fire, on fire -- the worst day yet in northern Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East: Day 22."

Reporting tonight from northern Israel, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks very much for joining us. We're coming to you live from the war zone, from an Israeli artillery unit's position.

The guns right now are silent. But it has been a night of -- of loud explosions echoing throughout these hills all along the -- the Lebanon-Israel border -- a lot to talk about tonight, a major development in south Lebanon, thousands of Israeli ground troops pushing northward, trying to root out Hezbollah positions. But the fighting is tough. We will take you as close as anyone can get to the battle zone.

Also tonight, new airstrikes in Beirut, and more rockets -- more rockets, in fact, than we have seen in one 24-hour period -- raining down here in this area and all across northern Israel -- a lot to discuss with tonight our correspondents.

CNN's John Roberts is elsewhere along this border, joining us live. Michael Ware is live in Beirut. And John King is joining us from Washington.

Let's start with John Roberts.

John, what does the fighting look like today?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson.

The fighting continues. We were all along the border between Metulla and an area about 15 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea. And we saw tanks, troops massing along the border, more going across the border to join the fighting, as, in the north, the army pushes west, and, in the south, the army pushes toward the north, in a cordoning operation to try to cut off Hezbollah.

A little piece of news tonight: The Israeli Defense Forces say that they have completed their investigation into the bombing in Qana, in which that apartment building collapsed, killing more than 60 people, 19 of them children -- the Israeli air force saying that it was a mistake, that that bombing was not intended to take down that building, that perhaps the rocket launcher that they went off shouldn't have been gone after, because they didn't know whether or not there were people inside the building, but, at the same time, charging that Hezbollah is using civilians as human shields.

So, as this military campaign ramps up, it is clear, too, as the diplomatic track appears to slow down a little bit, that Israel is going to take whatever time it can to try to pound those Hezbollah positions into submission.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): It was another intense day in the Lebanese town of Aita al-Shaab, just a couple of miles from where two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped back on July 12.

Israeli guns pounded Hezbollah bunkers on the western side of the town, sending columns of thick smoke pouring across the hillsides. The sounds of a fierce gun battle rolled up from the valley, while Hezbollah took aim at Israeli positions on the high ground.

(on camera): This is probably one of the most dangerous places on the Israeli side of the border right now. We're at an -- an outpost, a -- a tank bunker overlooking the town of Aita al-Shaab.

(EXPLOSIONS)

ROBERTS: As you can hear in the background, there's still artillery hits. We hear the artillery flying very close overhead.

This was the scene of a very fierce battle yesterday between the Israeli military and Hezbollah guerrillas. The Israeli army lost three soldiers, more than 20 wounded. And it's clear from what we're hearing -- hearing here today that the vicious fighting is still going on.

(voice-over): In other areas, the Israeli army is holding ground, in preparation for an international stabilization force.

In Israeli army video, obtained exclusively by CNN, an armored personnel carrier fires fuel bombs to clear a Hezbollah outpost of possible booby traps. A bulldozer knocks over another Hezbollah watchtower, while ground troops clear the remaining buildings.

Israeli soldiers show off a missile launcher next to a mosque, evidence, they say, that Hezbollah is using religious sites as cover. Another video, obtained exclusively by CNN, shows the bodies of what the Israeli military says are Hezbollah fighters. Israel claims it has killed more than 300 Hezbollah guerrillas in this three-week campaign.

Hezbollah denies that figure, but hasn't said how many fighters it has lost. Israel says 36 of its soldiers have died.

As diplomatic pressure mounts to bring an end to the hostilities, the question: How long will the combat last?

Major General Benny Gantz was the last Israeli soldier to leave Lebanon in the year 2000.

MAJOR GENERAL BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: It can take -- it can take a while. It can either be done within a few days. It can be done in a few weeks. As -- as -- as everybody knows, we are not about to go anywhere. So, as long as we're here, we're willing to fight. And we're not going anywhere.

ROBERTS: After a two-day lull, Hezbollah today proved it still has plenty of rockets and the capability to fire them. More than 230 Katyushas landed in northern Israel, a new record by a wide margin. And Hezbollah struck deeper than it ever has before, with one long- range rocket that made it all the way to the West Bank -- more fuel for critics here in Israel, who complain the military waited far too long to go into Lebanon with a major invasion.

GANTZ: Those criticisms will need to be talked -- will need to be talked later on. I think that, for the moment, we have a war to win. We are doing it. And we will discuss all those issues, you know, as we are saying, as -- there is a expression, 6:00 after the war; 6:00 after the war, we will have tea and then discuss those criticisms.

ROBERTS: With the ground war now expanding dramatically, many more Israeli forces will join the fight. There's a nonstop flow of tanks, troops, and armored personnel carriers toward the battlefield, and an ever-intensifying effort, day and night, to drive Hezbollah back from the border.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: John Roberts, you and I were both watching from different vantage points today this battle going on, still going on, in Aita al-Shaab.

Judging from that, and just judging from talk -- as we have both been talking to -- to soldiers, there is no way this thing is going to be over in a day or so, unless it's -- it's purely a political and diplomatic decision. Militarily, the battle is very tough and is going to last a long time.

ROBERTS: Yes, and it doesn't look like the diplomatic track is moving ahead with the same sort of pace that it appeared to at the beginning of the week, when Condoleezza Rice said she thought that she could have the framework for a cease-fire and establishment of that multinational force perhaps by the end of the week. (INAUDIBLE) people thought the fighting might be over on Sunday.

But what we're seeing right now, Anderson, in terms of this expansion of the ground campaign, is -- is -- is the notion that, in the great debate over how this should be conducted, it looks like the military won that debate. They had always had plans to go in there with more forces, to push Hezbollah all the way back to the Litani River.

The politicians were hedging their bets on that, thinking that a mod -- a modified and -- and -- and more modest ground campaign would be able to do it. But, then, the conservatives, the hard-liners, came out, started saying, look it, if we don't win this battle, it's going to be a humiliating defeat, and it's only going to embolden extremists in the region to try to attack Israel -- so, the military proceeding with its original plan. So, we could see them try to push them all the way back to the Litani River now -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, politically now, if -- if they stop, they don't seem to have much to show for -- for all the sacrifices they have already made. It seems like this thing is only going to get more intense, as this fighting and as these troops push farther north.

John, we will talk more with you in just a few moments.

There was a lot of activity in -- in Beirut today as well, and also a lot to talk about what happened in the Bekaa Valley, very close to the Syrian border, that dramatic nighttime raid that we talked about last night on this program. We have learned new details about exactly what Israeli commandos were looking for and exactly what happened when they got there.

CNN's Michael Ware has more -- Michael.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, yes, we traveled today to what is essentially the heart of Hezbollah's presence here, into the Bekaa Valley, its -- its stronghold.

We went to the scene of this Israeli attack, the most daring operation of the war so fair -- far, when they drove 70 miles into Lebanon to strike what they call a logistics base. Anderson, this is what we found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARE (voice-over): The newest front in Israel's ground war. The Israeli Defense Forces released video of their raid on Hezbollah far to the north of the battle lines, this time, with Israeli boots on the ground, 70 miles from their own border, sweeping in at night from the air, a classic Israeli commando raid -- the target, a hospital in the town of Baalbeck, an E.R. clinic.

But, to Israel's generals, it's much more than that, claiming they had intelligence that it was a Hezbollah logistics base, a possible safe house for a senior leader, and perhaps where two captive Israeli soldiers were treated.

The hospital sits here in the Bekaa Valley, a narrow basin stretching along Lebanon's eastern border. It's Hezbollah country, and with Syria just 12 miles away, over these mountains riddled with smuggling routes.

Western intelligence says it's a staging base and gateway for men and weapons. The deep-strike raid was a covert success -- the sound of helicopters descending shortly before 11:00 at night the only alert. Hospital staff say this male nurse was there -- his identity and his story, like all others, impossible to verify.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The troops came onto the ground and started shooting at us. While we were trying to run away, I got shot.

WARE (on camera): Locals say, Israeli commandos dropped onto the roof of the hospital, from where they entered the building and began their search, while as many as 10 helicopters circled overhead. There's clear signs of the firefight, with shell casings scattered about the car park and fresh bullet holes in the walls of this compound and the service station.

A brushfire was also started during the engagement. And you can see the shell of two burned-out vehicles -- behind them, a four-story building that also bears the scars of the battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The terrorists firing here, this is their headquarters, the entrance to the hospital.

WARE: In all, Lebanese authorities say, as many as 16 people were killed. In Baalbeck, residents claim, the dead were civilians, cut down in airstrikes as the battle unfolded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There were seven martyrs, a whole family -- most of them were children -- and a pregnant woman. One of them was a 3-year-old.

WARE: The Israeli military says it killed 10 people, all Hezbollah fighters. Israel says its videotape shows weapons and other evidence of a stronghold. It says it seized five men and took them back to Israel. Hezbollah's fighters, as the Israelis claim, or just men in the wrong place at the wrong time?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: An amazingly daring raid that no doubt will have a -- a psychological impact on a lot of people in the battlefield.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Michael, what about this latest shelling inside -- or in the areas around south Beirut? We haven't seen shelling like that in quite some time. What -- what did you hear?

WARE: Yes, well, it has been a few days, Anderson. And it has been quite a respite.

But what we saw tonight is the recommencement of the Israeli Defense Forces' air campaign against Hezbollah targets in the capital, Beirut. Just a couple of hours ago, while we were here in this position, there was a deafening explosion, as a massive piece of ordnance was dropped on a target in the south of the capital.

Following that, there were three more explosions. In the hours since, it has been quiet. There has been the constant buzzing of jets. But one becomes accustomed to that here in Beirut -- Anderson.

COOPER: Certainly do.

Michael Ware, appreciate that.

Michael talked about that buzzing of -- of jets. And, also, what we have been hearing a lot today around this area -- and, when we were in Beirut, certainly heard a lot as well -- the buzzing of these unmanned Israeli drones, which provide real-time battle -- battlefield intelligence to troops in command positions. They have cameras, and basically allow sort of eyes in the sky.

There has been intense fighting very close to here, very close to this border, in the town of Aita al-Shaab. John Roberts talked about it a little bit.

We had a different vantage point on that same battle -- and what we learned, that not only was there a battle to root out Hezbollah positions in Aita al-Shaab. There was also an effort to -- to -- to get back, to rescue several Israeli troops then thought to be wounded on the ground. We have since learned one of them was killed, four others just wounded.

Here's what the day looked like from one command post.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): On a forward base on the Lebanese border, Israeli troops prepare to join a battle already under way. They check their maps, their ammunition, before rolling to the front.

(on camera): This is an armored engineering unit about to cross into south Lebanon. At this base, there's constant activity, new troops moving across the border, and troops weary from battle coming back here for a few hours' rest.

(voice-over): With a major Israeli offensive already under way, however, there is little time for sleep. On a nearby hillside, Israeli units are hunting down Hezbollah, and trying to bring back five Israeli soldiers wounded in combat.

(on camera): You can see smoke rising from the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab. That is south Lebanon right over there. There's a military action going on in that town right now. Israeli is firing shells into the village, essentially to -- to -- to create smoke, and provide cover for Israeli ground troops operating there right now.

(voice-over): We watch with Israeli soldiers as a tank moves toward the village. In the distance, a large cloud fills the sky. The fighting in Aita al-Shaab has been going on for three days now, and shows no sign of letting up.

(on camera): What has the fighting been like?

ADAM DRAZNAN, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES SOLDIER: What has the fighting been like? It's tough. It's hard. But it's something you got to do.

COOPER (voice-over): Adam Draznan just returned from battle four hours ago.

(on camera): Are you confident?

DRAZNAN: Confident? Of course I'm confident, because I fight for something I believe in. And I will go all the way on to the -- to the death.

COOPER (voice-over): Confidence may be high, but all these soldiers know the days ahead will be difficult.

Doron Spielman is a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces.

(on camera): Overall, the big picture, what does the operation look like?

CAPTAIN DORON SPIELMAN, SPOKESPERSON, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We're basically pushing Hezbollah out of northern -- out of the northern border with Israel, out of southern Lebanon, beyond the Litani River. We move on at this point to the focal points of Hezbollah. We're not sweeping through the entire area.

We go to where Hezbollah is most heavily concentrated, surround the area. And that's where we focus our efforts. We're not seeking to take over Lebanon. We don't want a ground assault that simply takes over southern Lebanon. We don't want to be there. So, we're focusing on their high-intensity areas. We remove them from the picture, and we move on.

COOPER (voice-over): It may sound simple, but it's anything but. After weeks of airstrikes and artillery fire, the battle has widened. A determined army faces a determined enemy. And the fighting only grows more intense.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, trying to get aid to civilians in the combat zone is -- is tough. Aid workers continue to try to do it. Here's the "Raw Data." Here are the numbers that we know.

Since the fighting began, the Lebanese Red Cross has evacuated 542 wounded people, nearly 3,500 people with other medical conditions. Its workers have also collected 153 bodies. A grim task, that is, certainly.

We have also seen a number of those mass graves being dug and already being filled.

When we come back, we will talk to Retired Brigadier General David Grange about what's happening on the ground in south Lebanon and how tough the fighting will get in the days, weeks and perhaps, yes, even months ahead.

And, also, the view from space -- what parts of Beirut -- Beirut now look like from space.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Here's "The Shot" of the day: satellite images showing a southern suburb of Beirut before and after Israeli airstrikes. The first picture was taken July 12.

Then, let's take a look at what it looked like after, taken July 22, just 10 days later. You can see the widespread devastation.

Here along the -- the Israel-Lebanon border, the Israeli artillery units have just opened up fire in the last several minutes or so. We can hear some shells whizzing over our heads, hitting positions just a few miles from where we are, inside south Lebanon.

Sometimes, you can't even hear the actual impact of -- of the shell. You just hear the loud explosion of the shell firing. You hear the whiz as it passes overhead. And, then, you hear, sometimes -- just sometimes -- off in the distance, a -- a dull thud -- no telling the damage being inflicted right now.

A lot to talk about with Brigadier General David Grange. I talked to him earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, General Grange, what do you make of this raid in Baalbeck? Israeli commandos say they seized five Hezbollah militants, killed 10, a dramatic raid on -- on what seemed to be a hospital facility being used as a headquarters. What do you think the significance of it is?

BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, the surprise involved in this raid is always a combat multiplier.

Those that have surprise usually gets an advantage. And we have seen some surprise on the Hezbollah end as well. Either way, it's a very audacious raid, deep behind enemy lines. And it really kind of shows to the enemy, in this case, that the Israeli forces can reach out and touch them where they want -- and where they want. It had a tremendous psychological effect on the enemy as well.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: A psychological effect in -- in what way, just giving them the sense that -- that nowhere is safe?

GRANGE: Nowhere is safe, inducing fear, having the enemy look over their shoulder, behind them all the time. Where are they going to come from next? Who's safe? How do they know we're underneath a hospital, using that as a -- a covered facility, camouflaged under a -- you know, as a medical establishment?

So, it -- it has a tremendous impact, not just the 10 killed and five captured. But it has an impact on the whole Hezbollah force.

COOPER: What -- what do you make of the fact, though, that -- that all these rockets continue to come in? I mean, the last two days were relatively quiet here in northern Israel. Then, all of a sudden today, boom, you know, more -- some 215 rockets, you know, hitting all throughout northern Israel throughout the day.

GRANGE: Most of these are short-range rockets, and they're fired almost like mortars. In other words, they can be hidden in ravines, and then taken out of a trunk of a car or -- or a pickup truck, you know, off the top of a roof that's covered with a tarp. They're easily hidden. And -- and those are the kind of rockets that are hard to pick up and destroy.

The large rocket systems are much easier for the Israeli forces to take out. But these are tough. And that's why this buffer zone is so critical to the Israeli forces.

COOPER: The -- the fighting is, no doubt, tough as well. Israel now -- according to Israeli media reports, Israel -- government officials aren't saying, but Israel's media is saying that they have some 6,000 or so ground troops fighting right now inside south Lebanon.

How big of a buffer zone do they actually need to create?

GRANGE: Well, they're never going to get a buffer zone big enough to stop from all rocket attacks, because some of the long-range rockets that you have highlighted before in other segments have quite some range. But the close-in firing, like the 215, the majority of those, they -- they -- they don't have to go that deep. But I think, just what I have looked at the terrain and -- and what's going on, is at least get into the riverside. Get up there that far. Get at least 10 miles. And that's going to take some time. And it may -- may take more than 6,000 troops to accomplish that, because they have to clear every kilometer of ground and village and ravine in that area.

COOPER: If their goal is to hold on until some sort of international force comes, once they seize territory, can they give it back?

GRANGE: You know, this is a -- this is a critical question, because it's very similar to, well, first of all, the United States and Iraq. We -- we were not an occupation force, or were we?

And, so, you really have to occupy, at least for a time being, until you do a relief -- what they call a relief in place, and -- and then give that responsibility over to another force, in this case, an international peace enforcement -- enforcement force that can maintain this buffer zone, because, if the Hezbollah is not destroyed, the majority of them destroyed, where they don't have a war-making capability, the international force will never get in.

COOPER: General Grange, appreciate your perspective. Thanks.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, that international force, of course, depends on diplomatic efforts now ongoing. We are going to talk about those efforts in -- in a moment. We will get you updated on that.

But, first, let's check in with CNN's Randi Kaye, who has some of the the day's other top stories in a 360 bulletin -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

People are frying in much of the U.S., with temperatures rising into the triple digits. New York City and Saint Louis crossed the 100 degree mark today, both reaching 101 degrees. Meanwhile, folks in Washington, Chicago, Dallas and Boston all suffered through temperatures in the high 90s. The heat wave is putting a strain on electric companies, who are seeing record usage, with everyone cranking up their air conditioners.

Farther south, near the Virgin Islands, there's trouble brewing. Tropical Storm Chris, with winds around 60 miles per hour, weakened slightly today, but it's heading west, toward warmer waters. The National Hurricane Center says Chris could become the season's first hurricane by the end of the week.

In Miami, the sister of Cuban President Fidel Castro says her brother is very sick, but his health is improving. Juanita Castro, who defected to the U.S. more than 40 years ago, says the ailing president is out of the intensive care unit. Ms. Castro did not specify how she received that information, but she says she believes it is accurate.

And actor/director Mel Gibson now faces the possibility of jail time. The Los Angeles district attorney's office has formally charged him with a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol. Gibson was arrested Friday morning, after being stopped for speeding. If convicted of drunk driving, he could face up to six months behind bars -- Anderson, back to you in Israel.

COOPER: Randi, thanks very much. We will check in with you again a little bit later on.

When we come back, we will convene a roundtable of our correspondents -- the latest from the battlefield, and also from the diplomatic battlefield in Washington and Europe and the Middle East -- all points covered.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, this weekend's airstrike in the Lebanese down of Qana, which received so much attention and international outrage because of the civilian casualties, well, today, we learned some new information, that the death toll may actually have been smaller, lower than originally thought.

Here's a 360 "War Bulletin."

Lebanese officials have said that at least 54 people died when an Israeli airstrike leveled a four-story building. Many of those victims were children. You have seen those pictures by now.

But the London-based group Human Rights Watch says its own investigation found that 28 were killed, and 13 are still missing.

After a pause of several days, Israeli airstrikes resumed today on the southern Leb -- southern suburbs of Beirut. Hezbollah launched, however, more than 200 rockets into Israel, the largest amount yet in a single day.

And, on the diplomatic front, the British ambassador to the U.N. says the U.N. Security Council could consider a resolution on Lebanon as early as tomorrow.

Talking about the diplomatic efforts, how many times do you think that President Bush has spoken to Israel's prime minister in the three-plus weeks of this crisis? You might think they talk every day.

But, as John King is about to report, they have not yet spoken at all, not even once. Some are now saying that may be a major miscalculation on the part of the U.S.

Take a look, John King's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House says, results will prove the many critics wrong.

JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: We have been making progress on that here in New York and in -- in the exchanges between capitals. And I think that's really significant.

KING: Meeting Secretary of State Rice's goal of passing a U.N. cease-fire plan this week appears in jeopardy, and her work and words are increasingly under fire.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: What we're seeing here in a sense is the growing -- the birth pangs of a new Middle East.

KING: That line was ridiculed in the Arab world and drew this rare rebuke from Saudi Arabia's foreign minister.

SAUD AL-FAISAL, SAUDI FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We want to go back to the old Middle East. The only thing we see from this new Middle East is more problems and more disasters.

KING: Such complaints and images like these reflect one major dynamic complicating Middle East diplomacy, a sense among Arabs that with the exception of Iraq, this administration has all but ignored their region and that when it does get involved, it is biased against them. And in favor of Israel.

ELLEN LAIPSON, STIMSON CENTER: One of the structural problems of getting to an ending that pleases all the parties here is that U.S. credibility and U.S. stature in the region is despairingly low.

KING: Another obstacle, an image that the United Nations is inflexible, even pushy. Critics of Ambassador John Bolton complain he's not interested in the personal relationships that are often the grease of diplomatic compromise.

ED LUCK, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Unfortunately, it looks as if his tactics have back fired and isolated the U.S.

KING: The administration says the facts run counter to the "my way or the highway" label favored by its critics. Bolton, for example, is involved in intensive negotiations with France on a cease- fire plan.

BOLTON: It's been a discussion that we've had at, I think, very serious levels, very intensely, and -- and in real good faith.

KING: And Mr. Bush is, as the White House often notes, the first U.S. President to explicitly call for an independent Palestinian state. Critics say he lost interest when early efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process went nowhere. And is now consumed by Iraq.

SANDY BERGER, CLINTON NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The problem is there has not been a great deal of groundwork laid. This administration doesn't really have the architecture for engagement in the Middle East.

KING: And no matter the outcome of the immediate crisis, many experts already see a partial Hezbollah victory and a deeper credibility gap for the United States among Arabs and Muslims.

LAIPSON: We haven't yet experienced all the ways in which this summer of rage and unhappiness will play out when we try to achieve other policy goals in the region. But I imagine there will be a price to pay.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot to talk about with our top correspondents. John King is in Washington, John Roberts is here along the border with me, and Michael Ware is in Beirut.

John King, let's talk first about diplomatic efforts. What is the timetable for all of this? You had Secretary Rice the other day saying she was thinking, you know, this thing could get some sort of resolution in a couple of days. Israeli, you know, officials are saying, we're talking about weeks, not days.

KING: We'll have a better sense tomorrow at the United Nations, Anderson. At midday today everyone was saying this was going to slip until Monday or Tuesday.

Then John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador, was involved in what was described as intense negotiations, described by both the U.S. and the French side as making some progress. The British ambassador today did say maybe it's possible they'll think -- they will get to it this week. So we'll watch tomorrow.

The big hang up is still the scope and especially the mandate of the international force. There are many thinking that, the conditions being what they are right now, Hezbollah saying what it is saying, that you do not want to have this force, if it doesn't have to shoot its way in get in there and end up in a shooting war quickly. So that is still one of the biggest debates.

And of course the big divide between the United States and the United States and all the other capitals. They wanted immediate cessation of hostilities, and then figure the rest of this out. The White House says no, do it in one big deal.

COOPER: John Roberts, I mean, Condoleezza Rice was talking about sort of all these things happening at once: getting this resolution, getting this force mobilized, getting them on the ground. But you spent a lot of time along this border. You've seen the fighting yourself. Unless a force gets on the ground, the Israelis are just going to continue fighting.

ROBERTS: Oh, yes. They'll take every opportunity they can, Anderson, to try to degrade Hezbollah's capabilities as much as possible. I think Israeli officials, particularly the military, would like to see the negotiations at the United Nations drag on well into next week, if not beyond. Yesterday, and the day before, there was a sense that maybe this might start to be over by the end of this weekend, that international pressure would be brought to bear. And the Israeli military would have to start to dial things back.

But at this point, all we see here is an escalation. You were along the border today, as well. And you see those -- at every entry point along the border, you see all of those tanks, all of those armored personnel carriers. We were down at a base near the Sea of Galilee today, had a constant stream of traffic coming out, carrying those smaller armored personnel carriers, not the larger Pumas but the smaller ones.

And everybody's heading to the front, Anderson. While they haven't got the reserves to the front yet, they're training up. They're ready to go, and we could see them there the next 24 to 48 hours.

COOPER: And as you can tell, the guns here have really started to open up. These American-made M-109s, just starting to lob some shells from the position that we're in right now, very close to the border. It's the first time in the last several hours the guns around here have started to fire.

Michael Ware in Beirut, there has been -- there have been more air strikes now in Beirut. What are the targets? And we're seeing live pictures of actually smoke over Beirut. Where did they hit?

WARE: Well, that's still unclear, Anderson. Dawn is only just now rising, as you would know, further south. It's impossible to say what the Israelis have been targeting.

What we do know, however, is that it's in the south. This is in the traditional Hezbollah stronghold. So most likely, these are going to be targets of opportunity.

Given that they've already devastated much of that area, and they've hit what is known of the Hezbollah physical infrastructure -- its offices, its places of business, where it operates from -- what they'll be looking for now, I suspect, is any kind of movements, any kind of details on arsenals. They'll be looking for intelligence to be able to hit individuals or hit specific places -- Anderson.

COOPER: John King, just again on the diplomatic front, realistically what does the U.S. think, and maybe they're not saying, but what are U.S. officials, if they are saying, telling you about how long they think it would take to get some sort of international force on the ground?

Because I mean, Israel is banking on some sort of force being on the ground before the violence, before the fighting stops.

KING: A significant force, Anderson, would take weeks, if not months, which is why one of the subplots of the negotiations is what they're calling a bridge force. They envision a major stabilization force, 15,000, maybe 20,000 troops. But in the interim, what they are trying to negotiate now is once you agree on a resolution, to expand as quickly as possible the existing U.N. force.

Now it is criticized as largely ineffective. But it is some troops in on the ground. It is commanded right now by the French. They are taking the lead with the U.S. in these negotiations, and they are the president of the Security Council right now, the French.

So they're talking about a bridge force of the countries that could contribute a few hundred right away. Find a few countries that can send 200 or 300 in, get a couple thousand in there, if you can. Expand the existing force as a bridge force. And then slowly build on it over several weeks and months.

COOPER: Would a bridge force, of course, prevent Hezbollah from reinfiltrating positions that Israel may by then have pushed them out of? That's, of course, an open question.

John King, John Roberts, Michael Ware, we'll check back with you throughout the course of these two hours.

When we come back, more on the diplomatic front and how realistic and what would this force look like? How realistic is it that a force could be mobilized quickly? And exactly how muscular a force, how robust a force, could be marshaled in a short amount of time? We'll talk to some experts about that. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Women and children running for cover after hearing incoming shelling in a South Lebanese village. A scene we've seen an awful lot of in these last three weeks or so.

I want to talk about diplomatic efforts that are now under way. And also in particular this possibility of an international force, what it would look like, how robust a force might it have to be, and how realistic is this really.

I'm joined by Haim Malka. He's with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Mr. Malka, thanks for being with us. What do you make of this talk of an international force? Do you think it's realistic?

HAIM MALKA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: There's certainly been a lot of talk and speculation about this force. Israelis saying they will leave Southern Lebanon before an international force is deployed.

But it's a very complicated effort. First of all, you've got to get an agreement on what that force is going to actually do, what it's going to try to accomplish. Then you've got to get them on the ground. And you've got to get the parties to the conflict to agree, namely Hezbollah, to agree to let this force be deployed in their area.

COOPER: And when you talk about all those variables, all those different options, you know, you can just see the calendar pages flipping by. We're talking weeks at the very least.

MALKA: That's exactly right. This is going to take at least several weeks, if not months. And that also complicates the situation. If you have more fighting on the ground, it's going to become more complicated for the diplomatic effort to actually make any headway. And so I think this conflict could go on for several more weeks, at least.

COOPER: What do you think about the diplomatic efforts on the part of the United States thus far? Secretary Rice obviously has been in Israel now twice. John King reporting President Bush hasn't even talked to Israel's prime minister. How do you think the U.S. is doing?

MALKA: Well, I think the U.S. only recently realized in the last few days that they really need to pick up the ball and start running with this. The diplomatic process cannot go anywhere without strong American leadership. And that leadership has been nowhere in the first couple of weeks of this war. So the United States needs to get involved, seriously involved and set the tone for this.

The fact that the president has not spoken to Olmert doesn't necessarily surprise me. I don't think they have too much to talk about. The president very much sees this as part of the global war on terror. And so I think his line of thinking is very similar to that of the Israelis at the moment.

COOPER: When they talk about coming up with settlement, they're talking to Lebanon representing Hezbollah. Hezbollah apparently has given Lebanon the right, the Lebanese government, to negotiate, to some extent, on their behalf.

Isn't that sort of a major sort of chink in this plan, though? I mean, a major problem in this entire operation? What motivation does Hezbollah really have to disarm?

MALKA: That's -- that's the major question. So far, they haven't been willing to even discuss this. But it's clear that the deeper problems are not going to be able to be resolved until Hezbollah is fully disarmed. But that's a process that could take years.

And so this is something that the international community is going to have to work on with Lebanon to get to a final resolution at some point in the future.

COOPER: There had been hope and some thought in the past year or so that Hezbollah would increasingly become just a political force inside Lebanon, a social force. They obviously play that role already.

But that doesn't seem to have taken place. I mean, they've had a year since the so-called Cedar Revolution. But they were still determined to hold on to their weapons. Why is that so important to them?

MALKA: Well, Hezbollah has been able to essentially have its cake and eat it, too. They participate in the Lebanese political system. They have members of parliament. They have cabinet ministers. They also maintain a private army, an independent militia, and have created essentially a state within a state. Because they have the power, really, to hijack Lebanese politics and to create chaos, if they so wish, within Lebanon.

And that's primarily why they've been able to hold Lebanon hostage. They are bent on continuing the resistance, as they call it, against Israel.

COOPER: The guns give them power. And they may not be willing to give up those guns or that power.

Haim Malka, appreciate your perspective. We'd like to have you back on the program.

MALKA: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks very much, Mr. Malka.

When we come back, we're going to take a look at the toll this is all taking on civilians. Civilians trying to flee the fighting in South Lebanon and in Israel, moving further south, away from this very dangerous border region. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Just some of the damage in Lebanon. A bridge knocked out by an air strike. Some people looking at the bridge.

The damage to the infrastructure, which is extensive throughout Lebanon, is causing problems in terms of trying to get humanitarian relief to those most in need.

Aid is starting to trickle in. But at this point it really is just a trickle. Humanitarian aid reaching some of the many thousands of displaced people: tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of displaced people throughout Lebanon.

CNN's Karl Penhaul reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A welcome sight for a war-torn city: 200 tons of international aid sails into Tyre harbor. The ship's hull is emblazoned with freshly painted Red Cross insignias, the guarantee of safe passage past the Israeli warships blockading Lebanon's coast.

Today it's bringing basic food supplies and cooking kits. (on camera) It's taken the George S. Kay (ph) freighter about eight hours to sail from Cyprus here to the port of Tyre. But now as they begin offloading some of this aid, it seems that things are going to be far from straightforward.

(voice-over) At dockside, a Lebanese customs officer tells an International Red Cross worker he cannot unload 5,000 gallons of diesel, needed to run water pumps in far-flung villages.

Even in desperate times, there's red tape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't take the position from the minister.

PENHAUL: Before heading into the countryside with these supplies, aid officials must get a pledge from the warring parties not to attack their aid convoys.

ROLAND HUGUENIN, ICRC SPOKESMAN: We send maps with the positions of all the villages we want to stop at. And we have this information passed on to the Lebanese side and to the Israeli side. And by the next morning we normally have either a green light or a red light.

PENHAUL: After 24-hour lull, Israel resumed air strikes Wednesday morning around Tyre, in retaliation against Hezbollah launching more rockets from the city's outskirts.

For now, it's too dangerous for the Doctors Without Borders charity to venture outside Tyre, so they're distributing washing kits, along with diapers and powdered baby milk, to around 400 refugees at this school in town.

Relief worker Hakim Khaldi says the risks are keeping many other aid organizations away.

HAKIM KHALDI, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS COORDINATOR: It's very difficult because there is no support (ph) from many international organizations. But mainly we've found localization. Many Lebanese organizations have been doing a very, very huge job.

PENHAUL: many of the refugees are impatient after three weeks of Israeli air and artillery bombardment. This man tries to fight one aid worker as he grows frustrated with the long wait. Others drag him out of punching range.

Back at the port, dockers work fast to unload the George S. Kay (ph). The crew wants to up anchors by late afternoon. They feel they've already spent long enough in harm's way.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Tyre, South Lebanon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Red tape even in a war zone.

And when we come back, living in fear on this side of the border. More rockets hitting Northern Israel than in any single day of the conflict so far. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): In Kiryat Shmona, the hills are on fire. After two days of relative quiet across Northern Israel, today Hezbollah rockets and mortars rained down in force.

(on camera) It's only around 1 p.m. in the afternoon and already, according to Israeli authorities, about 110 incoming rockets have been fired into Northern Israel. Forty-five people have been wounded so far.

We don't know if this was started by a Katyusha or an incoming mortar. Frankly, it doesn't much matter. This entire area is burning out of control.

(voice-over) The flames spread quickly. Firefighters on the ground struggle to put out one blaze and have to move on to the next.

(on camera) You get a real sense of the damage that can be caused just from one incoming rocket or projectile. The fire is not only burning over here, but this entire field has already burned. And there are numerous fires still burning. There's one up there right on the hillside. There are several more.

(voice-over) By the end of Wednesday, Israeli Defense Forces said at least 215 rockets had landed in Israel. One person was killed. It was the largest number of rockets to hit Northern Israel in one day since the conflict began.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When we come back, we'll have the latest on the fighting going on inside South Lebanon right now. And the latest on that daring commando raid near -- in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border, snatching five Hezbollah militants, killing 10. Three-sixty comes back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When entrepreneur David Young bought his first pinball machine, he wasn't looking to start another business. He just wanted to fill space in his living room.

DAVID YOUNG, FOUNDER & CEO, BMI GAMING: It promptly broke. And I went on the Internet to figure out how to fix it. During that, I realized there really wasn't any nationally known distributor of arcade games.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So Young the collector became Young the seller when he founded BMI Gaming four years ago.

YOUNG: We're the only firm that has nationwide, in-home service and in-home delivery. We offer a 30-day return policy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today the pinball wizard is setting high scores. Young's company boasts the world's largest gaming web site and show room.

YOUNG: Our 2005 revenues were slightly over $5.5 million. Since its inception BMI Gaming has experienced a growth rate of over 2,800 percent.

People are much more comfortable now purchasing high dollar items on the Internet. Also, people want a safe place for their children to play. And having an arcade in your home is a good attraction to keep the kids at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Young is also lured by the bumpers and flashing lights.

YOUNG: There's nothing quite like when you're having a tough day in the office to be able to go next door, play a few games and just get the stress relief.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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