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Israel Bombs Palestinian Foreign Ministry Building; Americans Trying to Evacuate Lebanon; G8 Leaders Issue Statement Blaming Mideast Crisis on Extremists

Aired July 16, 2006 - 18:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Israelis say the aim is to try and wipe out the Katyusha rocket launch facilities, try and push them back into south Lebanon, out of the range of those Israeli towns and cities.
MELISSA LONG, CNN HOST: We'll take you to the front lines of the Middle East crisis. Hezbollah rockets reach Haifa, causing death and destruction. Tonight, Israel vows to fire back. As the tit-for-tat strikes across the border, civilian casualties rise on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the gateway between Lebanon and Syria and amid this crisis, it has seen an influx of people like this, carrying what little they have.

LONG: The innocent try to get out of harm's way tonight. How Arabs and Americans are trying to get back home.

This is CNN SUNDAY. I'm Melissa Long, in today for Carol Lin. Ahead this hour, here's what's happening. The Middle East crisis deepened today with more deadly attacks by Israel and Hezbollah. We'll have complete coverage in just a moment.

In Russia, G8 leaders, including President Bush, issued a statement blaming the Mid-East crisis on extremists. The statement also called on Israel to exercise restraint.

India calls on Pakistan to rein in the Muslim extremists. Indian officials issued threats about the future of peace talks in the wake of the terrorist bombings that killed more than 180 people in Mumbai last week.

A U.S. soldier died today in a firefight in southern Afghanistan. Coalition soldiers are mounting the biggest offensive there since the invasion that toppled the Taliban.

A New York City doctor died from injuries suffered during last week's townhouse blast. Police believe Dr. Nicholas Bartha triggered the explosion at the building he owned as part of a bitter divorce dispute.

And the space shuttle "Discovery" is doing its final circles around earth. The shuttle is scheduled to land tomorrow morning 9:14 Eastern time at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

And the Middle East crisis has worsened today. Here's what we know. In the very latest attack, Israel says rockets fired by Hezbollah struck three Israeli towns more than 20 miles south of the Lebanese border.

The details on this are still coming in.

Earlier, Israel launched a nighttime attack on Beirut international airport. Lebanese officials say the air strike ignited a fuel tank. At least 20 people were killed in an Israeli strike today on the Lebanese port city, Tyre.

Canada says eight Canadians were killed in a separate Israeli attack, also in southern Lebanon.

And in the worst attack yet on Israel, eight people were killed today in a rocket strike by Hezbollah on a train station in Haifa. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the attack would have far- reaching implications.

We have CNN reporters stationed across the Middle East from Israel to Lebanon to Syria to Gaza and we're following this crisis from all angles for you.

Lebanon said today that more than 100 people have died since the fighting broke out on Wednesday. CNN's Nic Robertson is standing by for us at the Beirut capitol. Good evening, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Melissa. Well, diplomacy did take front stage for a brief time today in Beirut. There was a lull in the shelling in the city.

During that time, the prime minister, Fouad Siniora, met with the European Union foreign affairs and security chief, Javier Solana. During that meeting, the men discussed the need for cease-fire, but came up with no concrete plans for it, other than calling on Hezbollah to stop its violence and to hand back the two Israeli soldiers they abducted last week.

They did say that it was important that this cease-fire happen quickly to stop the violence escalating. But before they could even finish their press conference here, the airport on the south side of Beirut was struck. A fuel storage depot there the target.

News also this afternoon that most of the shelling has been occurring in the south of Lebanon. Israeli aircraft dropping leaflets in that area, telling people to get out of their homes, leave the area.

That is the area from which Hezbollah launches its attacks into Israel. That is the area that's dominated by Hezbollah. Not far from there was the attack on the port city of Tyre, where 20 people were killed and about 50 people wounded. That attack on a building in the port city of Tyre.

Also, the Canadian foreign minister today said that eight Canadian nationals had been killed in Lebanon. We know that French officials are sending a boat from Cyprus to Lebanon to evacuate their nationals from Beirut and from around Lebanon.

Also, other Europeans are expected to try to get out on that boat, as well, when it docks here tomorrow.


LONG: Nic, I know you spent much of the day at the American embassy. Anything new about how to get the Americans back home?

ROBERTSON: The plans are really underway and they got a step forward to get people out very quickly. That step forward came when two helicopters landed at the embassy, bringing officials who have the abilities and skills and planning evacuations to get people out.

What the embassy says it must do is have everything lined up. There are up to 25,000 Americans in Lebanon. They don't know how many want to leave. It's going to depend on the security situation, but they want to get them out, those that want to leave, as soon as possible.

LONG: Nic Robertson, reporting live from Beirut. Nic, thank you so much.

And now on to the attacks on Israeli soil. Hezbollah rockets have just landed in three Israeli towns, more than 25 miles from the Lebanese border. That is the deepest any rocket has reached into northern Israel thus far.

For more on that, we go live now to CNN's Paula Newton in Jerusalem. Paula?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. These are very serious attacks and really what was so problematic here is these are communities that were not on the target list, per se. They were not told to take cover.

They were on a heightened state of alert, but these people were not in bomb shelters. They were not in safe rooms. Most of them were probably watching TV or already in bed when this barrage of rockets landed.

There are two really large towns, that's Nazareth and Afuola. Together, that's about 100,000 new people that now have to worry about these rockets that are coming in.

And two unusual things. One would be that Nazareth, in fact, has a majority population of Israeli Arabs who are Muslim. And the second point is that Hezbollah is choosing to fire these rockets at night. Normally, they try and hit first thing in the morning, because they understand that when they fire at night, it is easier for the Israeli military to track them down, know where they are, put them on the target list and hit them from the air.

LONG: Paula, I wanted to ask you, I know it's very early, since this latest strike, but do we know the origins of those rockets from Hezbollah?

NEWTON: No. I mean, I should mention, by the way, that there's just damage and some people were treated for shock. And beyond that, it seems that these were traditional Katyusha rockets. That's what the Israeli defense forces were saying.

To remind everyone, those are the rockets that everyone knew that they had and they say that they have as many as 10,000 of them. The Katyushas normally don't hit that far. We're talking about maybe even 27 to 30 miles. But they have been known to be able to go that far and in this instance this evening, they did, if, in fact, they are Katyushas.

LONG: OK, thank you so much. Paula Newton, reporting from Jerusalem.

And now north of those attacks, a deadly Hezbollah strike in the Israeli town of Haifa. Here's CNN's Paula Hancocks.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Panic in Haifa Sunday as Hezbollah launched at least 20 rockets into Israel's third largest city.

Those who are on the streets run for cover when the sirens sounded. It was Hezbollah's deadliest rocket attack on Israel in more than a decade. A train maintenance depot in Haifa's industrial zone, eight Israeli railway workers died, more than 20 injured.

This is where the rocket came through the roof of this train depot. There were about 30 people working in here at the time of the blast this Sunday morning. And you can see exactly where the rocket hit. Now, anything that was left in that hole was taken away to be investigated and to discover exactly where the material came from.

(on-camera): Now, the people who managed to walk out of here alive said to me that there were no sirens and no warning.

Ani (ph) survived. He tells me he tried to help the friends he'd worked with for many years.

Israel's former army chief instantly pointed the finger of blame. This was not the only rocket that hit Haifa, but it was the most deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Israel, for the last six years, has gone through cycles with Hezbollah. We're not on a cycle now, we're in a war and we're determined at the end of this war, Hezbollah will not be on our northern border.

HANCOCKS: Israel deployed Patriot missile batteries in the northern Israeli town of Safed Sunday, a town that has been hit by numerous Katyusha rockets.

The missiles have already been deployed in Haifa to try and intercept the rockets from Lebanon. A heightened alert across the whole of northern Israel spread Sunday to Israel's most popular city, Tel Aviv. Just a precaution, according to authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The area south to Haifa will be alerted by a siren and when that siren is heard, they would have a minute at least to enter structures, lower floors, security rooms, which will significantly reduce the ability to hurt the body and soul.

HANCOCKS: At least a dozen Israeli civilians have been killed so far in hundreds of rocket attacks. Hezbollah warns this is only the beginning.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Haifa, Israel.

LONG: And a programming reminder, we'll have a special report from northern Israel later this evening. Join CNN's Anderson Cooper, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, for "Middle East on the Brink." He'll be reporting live from Haifa.

Israel's Vice Premier Shimon Peres insists his country's beef is not with the Lebanese people and he says Israel would prefer resolving the conflict peacefully than to continue its military campaign.


SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI VICE PREMIER: We prefer to return to the peaceful negotiations and we are telling the Lebanese people and the Syrian people and the Saudian people what can be achieved by negotiation will never be achieved by terror.

What they are trying to achieve terror will bring a great deal of damage and blood to everybody unnecessarily. So our preference remains peace, but our strengths will prevent anybody to force us by terror or by killing.


LONG: Israeli ground forces are firing into Lebanon from extreme northern Israel. So far, though, there's no Israeli ground invasion.

CNN's John Vause has more.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These Howitzers are firing 155 millimeter rounds from this position not far from the Lebanese border. They travel about 10 miles into southern Lebanon. The target, those launch facilities for Katyusha rockets.

The Israeli military says about 450 Katyushas have been fired over the last couple days, many of them landing in Israeli towns and cities. This is part of the far-reaching consequences promised by the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

This artillery is targeting an area of southern Lebanon, which is also being hit by Israeli air power. Now, according to the Israeli military, the Lebanese residents who live in that part of Lebanon were warned earlier that they should leave their homes, so given about two to three hours' warning that this military offensive would be escalated and it was time for them to leave their homes.

The Israelis say the aim is to try to wipe out the Katyusha rocket launch facilities, try and push them back just out of Lebanon, out of the range of those Israeli towns and cities. Another development, Israeli media also reporting that an infantry reserve division has been called up, possible preparations for a ground offensive in this area.

We've also seen a buildup of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers.

John Vause, CNN, on the Israel-Lebanon border.

LONG: Presidential politics and the push for Mid-East peace. World leaders at the G8 summit searching for solutions. We have the details coming up.

ANAND NAIDOO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Anand Naidoo at the CNN international desk, where we are tracking this unfolding drama minute by minute.

In the last few minutes, there have been renewed Israeli air strikes on south Lebanon. That's after Hezbollah militants struck deep into Israel.

The details of that's coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you and I love you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love you, honey.


LONG: And caught in the crossfire, an American in Beirut family ties in the Middle East, and now the struggle to get home. That story straight ahead on CNN LIVE SUNDAY.


LONG: President Bush and world leaders take aim at the crisis in the Middle East. The story up next, when CNN LIVE SUNDAY continues in just 30 seconds.


LONG: And we are committed to bringing you all angles of the crisis in the Middle East. Our journalists at the international desk are working around the clock in order to translate broadcasts from overseas and, of course, dissect all the information coming in to our CNN headquarters here in Atlanta.

And as you know, there are escalating concerns in the Middle East crisis. Here's what we know. We want to bring you up to date.

Hezbollah rockets hit deep into northern Israel today. The historic city of Nazareth was among the towns hit. It's more than 25 miles south of the Lebanon border. Israel's military says it's the first time Hezbollah rockets have hit that far south. International pressure is mounting to keep the situation from erupting into a full-scale war. United Nations and EU officials visited Beirut today for emergency talks with Lebanon's prime minister.

The U.S. state department has started pulling its people out of Lebanon. Non-essential embassy staffers and a small group of Americans with medical issues evacuated from Beirut today. A larger plan for evacuating Americans is s expected to be finalized in the coming days.

We continue to follow this crisis in the middle east. Anand Naidoo has the latest now from the update desk. Good evening.

NAIDOO: Thanks, Melissa. As you mentioned there, alarming developments for Israel. Those Hezbollah rockets striking deep into Israel, the deepest so far that rockets have struck.

Now, in the past, most of the rockets have hit the towns of Nahariya and Haifa. In fact, this morning, rockets hit Haifa, killing eight people, wounding 17, those rockets hitting a railway station there.

But now these rockets hitting Nazareth and Afula, these are the deepest strikes yet into Israel, alarming developments for the Israelis. These towns are close to the West Bank and officials there are telling us that the people in these towns were not in air raid shelters. There were minor injuries reported.

Now, in the wake of this attack by Hezbollah guerrillas, Israel has renewed attacks on Lebanon. We're hearing right now there have been attacks in Tripoli, which is north of Beirut. There have also been attacks on the town of Baalbek and south of Beirut, in a village, four people have died after coming under fire from a gun boat which was off the Lebanese coast, in waters off the Lebanese coast there.

Earlier today, Israel struck at the town of Tyre, which is in south Lebanon, 20 people were killed in that strike, 50 wounded. Canadian officials are telling us that among those who were killed, among the 20 people who were killed were eight Canadians.

And earlier today, Hezbollah militants, as I mentioned, shortly afterwards struck at the railway station in Haifa. Israel responded with gunfire throughout the afternoon.

We're hearing more about attacks which have taken place, as I mentioned, in Tripoli, Baalbek, and south of Beirut.

And let me just update you on the casualties very quickly. Lebanese casualties, 104, 286 people wounded. And among the Israelis, 12 civilians and nine military personnel have been wounded.


LONG: And, Anand, thank you so much for that update and we'll talk to you a little bit later. The middle east crisis is casting a long shadow over this weekend's G8 summit in Russia. G8 leaders agreed on a framework to address this crisis, but remain divided over who to blame or how to move forward.

CNN'S Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with the president in St. Petersburg.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the possibility of all-out war erupting in the middle east, leaders of the world's major industrialized democracies came together to try to find a solution to end the crisis.

They called for the safe return of the abducted Israeli soldiers, an end to Hezbollah's shelling of Israel, an end to Israel's military operations and the early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and the release of the arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians, conditions they say that will lay the foundation for permanent peace. Just short of endorsing a cease-fire, which Mr. Bush does not promote.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message to Israel is, "Look, defend yourself, but as you do so, be mindful of the consequences." And so we've urged restraint.

MALVEAUX: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a temporary truce would not be very helpful in reigning in terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Instead, the U.S. is working with the United Nations and Arab allies to isolate countries like Syria and Iran, who the administration says is supporting the terrorists.

CONDOLEEZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The real peace for Israel comes in having moderate partners in Lebanon and moderate partners in the Palestinian territories. So we have international frameworks that would help us to isolate the extremists.

MALVEAUX: The statement comes after two days of debate over how to bridge the divide among G8 members. The leaders of France, Russia and Italy rebuked Israel for going too far, while President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair defended Israel's actions.


MALVEAUX (on-camera): While G8 leaders did agree on a framework to address the middle east crisis, they also recognize that achieving peace will be a long and arduous process.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, St. Petersburg, Russia.

LONG: Help has arrived at the U.S. embassy in Beirut, but it may not be soon enough for loved ones here in the U.S. One woman's story is straight ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This war transcends Shia Islam and Sunni Islam. It's over Jerusalem. It's over the Arab-Israeli conflict.

LONG: Also, understanding the middle east crisis at its roots, perspective on Hamas, Hezbollah and the roles in the conflict.

You are watching CNN LIVE SUNDAY.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LONG: And that breaking news coming to us from the Middle East. Let's check in once again at the update desk with Anand Naidoo. Good evening.

NAIDOO: Thanks, Melissa. Good evening. Yes, we're getting information crossing the wires that Israel has attacked the Palestinian foreign ministry, the "Associated Press" and "Reuters," reporting this, that Israeli war planes bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry building in Gaza city.

An "Associated Press" reporter at the scene said he saw clouds of smoke rising from the damaged building.

Our reporters, our journalists here are working the story. We're trying to get more information on it right now. We'll bring it to you as soon as we get it.

But just to recap, Israeli war planes have bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry building, that's in Gaza City.


LONG: Anand Naidoo, we will check shortly. Thank you so much.

It is, as you would imagine, a tense waiting game at home for families of loved ones that are stranded overseas in Lebanon. One family says they can't come home quickly enough.

Kareen Wynter has their story.


LINDA ANTONIUS: Hey, how are you?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the midst of crisis, Linda Antonius finds comfort in a cell phone and the soothing voice on the other end.

LINDA ANTONIUS: Thank you and I love you very much.

TERRY ANTONIUS: Love you, honey.

WYNTER: Her husband and soul mate of 15 years, Terry, one of thousands of Americans stranded in Lebanon, caught in the violent political conflict with Israel.

LINDA ANTONIUS: How are you doing?

TERRY ANTONIUS: Good, excellent, excellent. We just had to quickly go to the store to get some food and bring it back.

WYNTER: Terry and his sister flew from California to Beirut more than a week ago to visit relatives they haven't seen in decades. A family reunion, months in the planning, that's now turned into one unforgettable trip.

How anxious are you to return home?

TERRY ANTONIUS: I couldn't even describe how anxious I am. It's just on my mind every minute.

And this morning there was bombings, that we hear, you know, quite a few. Everybody's staying inside. So that's been, you know, the state. If there's a bomb that would happen to hit close by, the idea is to stay inside and put your head down. I mean, just like an earthquake drill back in California. Just stay inside and duck for cover.

WYNTER: Terry hopes to get home soon, now that the U.S. military is planning to evacuate Americans.

TERRY ANTONIUS: I'm kind of shocked that it took that long for a planning team to arrive.

WYNTER: Until that happens...

LINDA ANTONIUS: It's going to be okay.

WYNTER: Antonius says she'll continue leaning on close friends. This Sunday ride to church was an emotional one. She has no doubt her husband will return safely. She believes his fate and those of other Americans overseas are in the hands of a higher power.

Kareen Wynter, CNN, Laguna Niguel, California.


LONG: And coming up in about 20 minutes from now, we will talk to Terry Antonius. He is in Beirut. We're going to find out how he and the other Americans stranded in Lebanon are faring. Also, find out what they're being told about the evacuations.

As we mentioned just mentioned moments ago, IDF confirming now that they've bombed a Palestinian foreign ministry building. That was a story we gave you snippets from my colleague, Anand Naidoo, just moments ago at the update desk.

This is a story we're continuing to follow and we'll bring you more information as it becomes available this evening.

And still to come, two separate groups with one common goal. We'll take a closer look at the militants in the middle east, coming up at the bottom of the hour.

Wildfires scorching an area five times the size of Manhattan. Tonight, firefighters don't like what weather forecasters are predicting. Coming up, a live report from Yucca Valley, California.

And still searching for answers 10 years later. Still ahead, a special look back at TWA Flight 800.

You're watching CNN LIVE SUNDAY.


LONG: And keeping you informed about the latest retaliatory strikes in the Middle East. Just coming in to us from Gaza City, witnesses now saying that Israeli warplanes have bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry building in Gaza City, this, the second such attack on the ministry in a week. That's the latest attack to report to you here, according to AP news wire reports. We'll continue to keep you posted and check in with my colleague momentarily on the update desk.

Now some other news making headlines this evening, President Bush and fellow G-8 leaders call for an end to violence in the Middle East. A joint statement blames extremists for the crisis and calls for the utmost restraint from Israel.

The deadly Mubai train station bombings are slowly moving forward -- slowing peace talks, rather, thus the peace talks are not moving forward. India's top foreign ministry official says talks with Pakistan are now on hold. India suspects the bombings are the handiwork of Pakistani militants.

A U.S. soldier died today in a firefight in southern Afghanistan. Coalition soldiers are mounting the largest offensive there since the invasion that toppled the Taliban.

In two short weeks, Johnny Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Curse" is the biggest box office hit of the year. It's already grossed more than $258 million.

Astronauts aboard the space shuttle "Discovery" are enjoying the view. While they still can, they are set for a 9:00 a.m. touch down tomorrow at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

Here's what we know right now. We want to share the news with you. Hezbollah targets three new towns in northern Israel, including Nazareth. The strikes hit farther south into Israel than any other previous rocket attack. Earlier today, a deadly attack on the Israeli town of Haifa. Eight people were killed when a Hezbollah rocket slammed into a train station. Israel carried out numerous air strikes against militant targets in southern Lebanon today. One killed 20 people in the port city of Tyre. Another killed eight Canadians.

Keeping track of all the players in this troubled stage is no easy task. Hamas and Hezbollah are two separate militant groups, with different agendas but a common goal. Sometimes they're rivals and sometimes not. John King studies how they operate.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hezbollah calls southern Lebanon home, as an AK-47 emblazoned on its trademark yellow flag and attacks the (INAUDIBLE) Shiite fundamentalism. Hamas has its stronghold in Gaza. A green flag is its calling card, Sunni Islam, its religious foundation. Hezbollah and Hamas, one Shia, one Sunni, rivals, yet at the same time allies who share being sworn enemies of Israel, labeled terrorist organizations by the United States and beneficiaries of financial and political backing from Syria and Iran.

RICE: There have been obvious, numerous contacts, public contacts between the Iranian regime and both Hezbollah and the external elements of Hamas.

KING: Now this additional common ground. Both Hezbollah and Hamas are holding kidnapped Israeli soldiers, looking to exchange them for prisoners held by Israel and looking to draw attention to their shared political agenda.

CLAYTON SWISHER, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: This war transcends Shia Islam and Sunni Islam. It's over Jerusalem. It's over the Israeli- Arab conflict. Until that is resolved, people in the region, the Islamist groups are going to keep a military capability.

KING: By U.S. and Israeli estimates, Hezbollah is responsible for more than 200 terror attacks since 1980, killing more than 800 people. Hamas is blamed for more than 350 attacks in the past dozen years, killing more than 500. For years, the two groups have staged a rivalry of sorts, Israeli blood often the price of the competition. Iran has long had deep ties with Hezbollah. Hamas traditionally has been closer to Saudi Arabia., even Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Hamas really is in the end primarily a Palestinian organization, primarily operating with support from the Palestinians and outside for much of the Arab world much more than from Iran.

KING: Tehran has offered Hamas more support since its dramatic gains in January's Palestinian elections, saying it would make up for any aid the west cuts off because of Hamas ties to terrorism.

JOHN McLAUGHLIN, FORMER DEPUTY CIA DIRECTOR: Iran has a moment of strategic opportunity to pull various levers to make the American position more difficult in all of these arenas. Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon Israel, Syria Israel, in all of these arenas, Iran has a button to push.

KING: As Israel responds to the kidnappings with force, many see the legacy of a collapsed peace process.

TELHAMI: Clearly the Israelis could not attain security despite unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Withdrawal without agreements is costly. KING: It is all in some ways sadly familiar. Intensifying calls for urgent diplomacy, including a more active U.S. role and both escalating violence and rhetoric between old enemies, Israel and Hamas and Hezbollah. John King, CNN, Washington.


LONG: As more information comes in to us about the Palestinian foreign ministry building, the latest target in the Mideast crisis, we turn to my colleague Anand Naidoo at the update desk.

NAIDOO: Melissa, thanks a lot. That's breaking news coming out of Gaza City, Gaza. This is just moving on the wires just a few minutes ago. The Associated Press reporting that Israeli warplanes have bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry building that is in Gaza City. It's the second attack on that ministry building in a week. The last time Israel bombed that building was on Wednesday.

Now, an Associated Press reporter at the scene says he saw clouds of smoke rising from that building, which had already been damaged in the earlier strike by an Israeli warplane. Rescue workers telling us that five people have been injured. You're looking at pictures there which are coming to you live from Gaza City, just close to where that Israeli building -- whether that Palestinian building was damaged by Israeli warplanes. The blast collapsed an eight story ring (ph) of the building and also damaged houses in an area around the ministry.

The Associated Press telling us that quite a wide area was damaged in this attack by the Israelis. Houses in many parts of that area were hit. Black smoke is coming there, as police vehicles and ambulances are racing in. The wounded have been moved to nearby houses. Our international desk is working the story. We're trying to get more information on it and we'll bring you more information and pictures as we get it. Melissa.

LONG: Anand Naidoo, thank you so much. We'll check in with you once again shortly.

Joining us with some analysis of this crisis in the Middle East, we turn to Edward. Djerejian is a former U.S. ambassador to both Syria and Israel, now the director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University joining us now from Houston, Texas. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.


LONG: Let's first talk about today's most recent attacks. You had attacks in Tyre, Haifa, most recently attacked 75 miles south of the Lebanese border and the news we just reported of the Palestinian foreign ministry building. With these retaliatory strikes the tit for tat attacks, how do you now move forward and achieve real negotiation and possibly put an end to this escalating violence?

DJEREJIAN: Well, from the very outset of this crisis on the two fronts in Gaza and in Lebanon, it was painfully apparent that it's going to get worse before it gets better and we're seeing that played out every single day unfortunately and tragically, because of the lives being lost on all sides. I think what is truly important that has to happen is a very significant effort on the part of the international community and especially coming out of the G-8 meeting of the world's industrialized country's leaders to really put a political context in place.

In other words, to reestablish a political framework where the parties can be brought together directly or indirectly in order to get to some of the root causes that are underlying this conflict. The unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the unilateral withdrawal that Israel made in Lebanon shows that unilateralism itself doesn't work. What is needed in the Israeli-Arab context are agreed-upon solutions dealing with Israel, Lebanon, Israel and Syria, Israel and the Palestinians. So what we have to do is get back to the structure of peace making. And only, I believe, the United States leading the international community to reestablish that framework.

LONG: You mentioned, OK, let's talk about that effort of the international community. Coming out of the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, the leaders issued a statement and I quote now. They're unified in their determination to restore peace. But with such passions from all parties involved, how do you sit down at a table and actually create a cease-fire?

DJEREJIAN: Well, what you -- I believe what needs to be done now is to -- in order to create an immediate cease-fire is to, one, look at the Lebanese situation. These calls in the U.N. and these U.N. resolutions that support the democratically elected government in Beirut are really just ink on paper, unless they're carried out. The international community should really reinforce the position of the central government in Beirut through diplomacy, through specific efforts with the Syrians, with the Iranians, with all the parties involved in order to obtain the Lebanese government's ability to have its army deployed to the border with Israel. That's the first thing. That needs to be put in place. The week Lebanese government alone cannot do that. It will need international support.

LONG: Edward, we're almost out of time. I just want to get one more point in. You said earlier it will be worse before it gets better. What does that mean, short and long-term for the region?

DJEREJIAN: Well, this is very destabilizing, in terms of a wider conflict. Syria can be drawn in. The Iranians may get more militant in terms of their support to Hezbollah and Hamas. And there will be a cycle of violence that may truly get out of control. And that is why we must not allow the extremists to govern the agenda.

LONG: All right. Edward Djerejian from the university, from Rice University and also a former ambassador for both Syria and for Israel. Thank you so much for your unique perspective. We appreciate it.

DJEREJIAN: You're very welcome.

LONG: Now continuing with our coverage of the Middle East crisis, crossing the border between Syria and Lebanon. Up next, we're on the ground with civilians caught in the crossfire.

And an American stranded in Beirut trying to get out. He's going to join us on the phone, live, when CNN LIVE SUNDAY continues.


LONG: Thousands of people in Lebanon are fleeing the danger zone. CNN's Aneesh Raman has been monitoring the main border crossing between Syria and Lebanon, where today a steady stream of Syrians managed to make it across.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For thousands of people, this is the only way out of the spiraling situation between Lebanon and Israel. This is the main border crossing between Lebanon and Syria. Thousands of people, hundreds of thousands, according to Syrian officials, have made their way through, many of them walking for hours, carrying what little they can from inside Lebanon. The majority of those who have come are Syrians working in Lebanon who have come home, given the violence. But Lebanese people we have spoken to say that the scenes back home are of utter destruction coming into this area. At the other border crossing, the scene is one of chaos. People are leaving their vehicles and walking the hours- long journey in order to get into Syria. They say the bombs are detonating too close. They're coming here for the survival of their family.

Meantime, on the other side over here is where one would go into Syria. You can see it is empty. It has been virtually empty all day. The only vehicles going in are taxies that are looking to try and make some money. Also, the Red Crescent is here for the first day. They are surveying the situation. The Syrian officials are keen to let as many people as they can in. Expatriate Arab tourists are there, because they know that whether they want it or not, the Syrian government is entwined in this crisis. Their relationship with Hezbollah is now under an international microscope.

You see behind me a tour bus is coming. We've seen a number of those, vehicles just now being able to get through. It is packed. There are children. There are families desperately trying to get out of a situation. But there is fear as well, that while they are departing from Lebanon and coming to Syria, Syria could soon see what Lebanon sees now, bombings and that is what the biggest fear is of those we have spoken to. Aneesh Raman, CNN, on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Lebanese border.


LONG: Earlier during our program we showed you an anxious American wife whose husband is in Lebanon. Joining us by phone from the Lebanon capital, the husband, Terry Antonius. He went to Beirut for a family reunion. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

TERRY ANTONIUS: No problem. LONG: Terry, obviously this wasn't exactly what you were planning on. Did you ever have a chance to meet up with your family and friends while you were there?

TERRY ANTONIUS: Yeah, I'm actually staying at my aunt's home in the northwestern part of Beirut.

LONG: So you are --

TERRY ANTONIUS: We're spending lots of close time.

LONG: OK, you're spending lots of time in a safe location right now. When word got out that there was increasing violence, did you try to get out before the airport was bombed?

TERRY ANTONIUS: Well, they started with the bombing of the airport, so there was no warning to try to get out. No, the answer is no. I mean, we -- once they bombed the airport, that was the end of it.

LONG: You didn't try to, perhaps, leave en route to another country?

TERRY ANTONIUS: Oh, we talked about that, absolutely. The first thing that went through our mind is, OK, how are we going to get out of here. And then, of course, we go through all the options verbally. But, you know, my cousin, he's here, he grew up here with his mother, my aunt and he lived '75 to '82 through the war. So he's like, no, stay put. You're not going up to the border, the border parts, to try to go through Syria, because it's too risky.

LONG: As you're telling me about some of the verbal plans you were making, do you feel like you're getting enough information from -- direction from the American side, from the American embassy?

TERRY ANTONIUS: Well, that's a good question. You know, they keep saying three things. First, register with the U.S. embassy. And my lovely wife did that for us. And I actually went to the embassy in person, also, several days ago and did it again. And then what they say after that is just check, monitor the website frequently and you will be alerted through e-mails as to the evacuation plan. Now, as for the last two days, we haven't had any -- well, we haven't had any e-mail that tells us what to do. The last e-mail I did receive was that that team of 20 or so Americans from the Defense Department and travel department whatever, are planning the evacuation. So there's definitely something in the works. But it's a little bit unnerving, because we don't really have any specifics. So we're in the waiting mode right now. That's kind of tough.

LONG: Understandably unnerving. And of course, we were able to share your wife's story as well. She's waiting for you anxiously to get back home safe. Of course, we wish you a safe return back as soon as possible.


LONG: Terry, thank you so much for joining us by phone, live from Beirut. We appreciate it.

TERRY ANTONIUS: You're welcome and I want to say I love my wife. I'm going to be home safely soon. And thank you for the opportunity to be on the air. Hopefully it will bring us back sooner.

LONG: We hope you will be back home soon. And we, again, appreciate your time, considering the circumstances. Thank you.

Continuing with our coverage from the Middle East, CNN's Anderson Cooper has traveled to the Middle East to bring you the stories. He's in the Israeli port city of Haifa tonight.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Of course, it's not all soldiers and journalists who are staying here in the bomb shelter tonight. There are also some families. Of course, that means kids. So they built a playground in this bomb shelter.


LONG: Tonight, a special report, join CNN's Anderson Cooper 10:00 p.m. Eastern for Middle East on the Brink. He will be reporting live from Israel.

More than 71,000 acres charred in California continues to burn. Just when you thought the weather could help, it's now a severe threat.

And more on our top story, the crisis in the Middle East. A live update from the international desk in a moment. You are watching CNN LIVE SUNDAY.


LONG: California burning, crews battling a huge fire in southern California faced a new adversary today -- the weather. CNN's Dan Simon is in live in Yucca Valley, California, with the latest. Hi, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Melissa. Here we are in Pioneer Town and you can sort of get a vantage point as to where the fire is burning. I'm not sure if you can see this on camera, but the second ridge back there, you can see a bit of smoke coming up. That is the far western flank of this blaze. Still no homes being threatened at the moment, but of course, challenging elements, once again today. You've got temperatures in the triple digits. There is this concern for rain. I'm looking up at the sky, though and it's blue. I'm just seeing a few white clouds.

Now, because crews are worried about the rain, they're actually distributing these fliers and I was just given one. It's talking to residents about the potential for flash floods. One of the things it says is that the fires may have large storm flows, carrying mud and fire debris and that could clog streambeds, bridges and culverts. So the focus right now certainly on the fires, but they're also concerned about the possibility of flash flooding. Melissa, back to you.

LONG: Dan Simon, live from Yucca Valley, California. Thank you so much.

And back to our breaking news story, Anand Naidoo at the update desk. Anand.

NAIDOO: Melissa, thanks a lot. The Israeli military authorities are confirming to CNN that Israeli warplanes have hit the Palestinian foreign ministry building in Gaza City, this happening just a few minutes ago. Officials telling us that the building was hit by Israeli warplanes. That's the second time the building has been damaged since -- in this week. A previous Israel strike on Thursday also hit that building. The Israeli military said that they -- well, they wouldn't provide any details to us, but Palestinian sources say that the building was empty. We have no report of any casualties right now. Israel telling the Associated Press earlier that this attack on that building was part of what they called ongoing operations. They said that the building was used to plan terror operations. We're still working the story. We'll bring you information as we get it here, as well as pictures as we get them here. Melissa.

LONG: Thank you so much and there is much more ahead on CNN this evening. Coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, it's a special two-hour edition of "CNN Presents, No Survivors, Why TWA Flight 800 Could Happen Again." And it could happen sooner than you think.

Tomorrow, the 10-year anniversary and our Dave Mattingly has the results of a stunning investigation that you must see in this special two-hour CNN presentation.

Then, 9:00 p.m. Eastern time Larry King is live with the very latest on the Mideast crisis with guests and reporters throughout the region.

Anderson Cooper at 10:00 p.m., a special edition of "AC 360." He takes us to the front lines in the action, Mideast on the brink. The hour's headlines when we come back and then "CNN Presents."


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