Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Crisis in the Middle East, Day Seven; Evacuated from Lebanon; On the Arab Streets; One Doctor, Two Nurses Arrested in Katrina Patient Deaths

Aired July 18, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, reports of Israeli ground troops in southern Lebanon when this special edition of 360 starts now.
ANNOUNCER: A deadly day seven and no end in sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told Ehud Olmert, we will not surrender. We will not surrender.

ANNOUNCER: Both sides bracing for war, neither giving an inch.

Part pep rally, part propaganda and sometimes just flat out wrong. How much of Arab television is covering the crisis in the Middle East?

And to the U.S. and Israel, Hezbollah's leader is a terrorist. But to many Arab's, he's a leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hezbollah's popularity is bigger than a mountain and higher than the sky.

ANNOUNCER: A hero with rock star status. Is this popularity an obstacle to peace?

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East, Day Seven." Reporting tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, here's Anderson Cooper.


COOPER: Thanks for joining us. We begin with breaking news. This, on day eight of this conflict. Word of an operation, an Israeli operation that may involve ground troops in southern Lebanon.

We go straight to Karl Penhaul who's on the scene.

Karl, what's the latest?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Anderson, I'm in Lebanon's southern port, city of Tyre. That city is on the coast and about 10 miles from the border with Israel.

Now, through much of the night, we, the CNN team here, have been able to hear movements of helicopters. These helicopters are obviously traveling without lights, but were flying very low at one point and appeared to be hovering at some stage or may have even been on the ground.

Now, following that, I put in a call to a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces and he did confirm to me about three-quarters of an hour ago that Israeli troops are on the ground in southern Lebanon. He characterized their mission as a mission very close to the border, in his words, to knock out Hezbollah outposts. He declined to say how many Israeli troops were involved in this and he also declined to say how far across the border those Israeli troops did come.

I did manage to talk to one western military expert, and he said it would in fact be very surprising if the Israelis had come as far north as Tyre, as I said, about 10 miles from the border, just because that would demand a lot of support, a lot of troops, and a lot of air support to guarantee those Israeli troops on the ground.

So not clear at this stage where those Israeli troops were, but certainly spokesman confirming that Israeli troops are on the ground in southern Lebanon -- Anderson.

COOPER: What is it like in Tyre? This is the first report I'm hearing from actually inside southern Lebanon.

PENHAUL (on the phone): We arrived here about 4:00 o'clock, 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon yesterday. The journey down here was very difficult. A lot of the bridges and a lot of the infrastructure has been knocked out.

As soon as we arrived here, the city has been pounded. We found people in parking lots who would use the parking lots as improvised bombshells. There were very few people on the street and a number of the apartment blocks -- high rise apartment blocks have been hit by Israeli bombs in the course of the last seven days.

I found a doctor from the local hospital, who is picking through some of the rubble, and he pointed at an apartment block opposite his own home, and he said Israeli jets struck that building at about 4:00 o'clock on Sunday afternoon. He said so far 42 bodies were pulled from that single building. He said 50 other people were wounded. He has told me that in the last seven days in Tyre alone, 29 Lebanese people have been killed. And he says at this moment there are at least 179 civilians in the hospital -- Anderson.

COOPER: Can you see Hezbollah fighters? I mean, is it the kind of thing where they are visible or are they all hidden?

PENHAUL (on the phone): No, Hezbollah fighters are not at all visible. I do believe that in the last half an hour, we did see some kind of Hezbollah artillery go up into the air, possibly aimed at an Israeli drone that has been buzzing in the air over Tyre throughout the entire night. But that launch was several miles off from where we are towards the southeast of Tyre in an area that looks like scrap land and mountainous terrain. But certainly no heavy presence of Hezbollah on the ground.

And talking to western security analysts this morning from Beirut, they were telling me we shouldn't expect to see that either. These Hezbollah teams are moving in small units, maximum 10-man to 12- man squads, keeping away from the main towns and moving fast because as soon as they fire up these rockets, Anderson, Israeli technology can detect the firing point.

COOPER: And just to tell our viewers, the images you are seeing are not live, current images. These are images from yesterday. We do not have any current images of what Karl Penhaul is describing. He is literally on the scene in southern Lebanon. A rare report to actually have someone in southern Lebanon, seeing and talking about what is happening as we speak.

Karl, you were talking about these mobile units. How long does it take to set up a Katyusha rocket position? How mobile are these units?

PENHAUL (on the phone): Again, talking to one western military expert here on the ground, we've just been discussing that. Again, no real intelligence on this, but one might suspect that some of those Katyusha units, those rockets are being dragged around by trucks or light vehicles possibly because of the need to move them, because the Israelis can detect where these rockets have been fired from. Neither the rocket team nor the Katyusha launchers can stay in place. If they do stay in place for two long, they run the very grave risk of being destroyed by Israeli aircraft.

And throughout the night here in Tyre, Israeli aircrafts have been flying and dropping bombs and missiles. The night has been punctuated by those explosions as well as the sound of unmanned aerial drones buzzing overhead, presumably carrying out reconnaissance work, detecting targets. And as I say, the new element tonight is the presence of those helicopters, very unexpected -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Karl, we're also showing our viewers some live pictures of southern Beirut happening right now. We have seen a number of explosions, plumes of smoke from that region. So, we're showing those pictures as well.

And Karl, we're going to bring in Christiane Amanpour shortly, but I just want to ask for civilians in the region where you are now, is food available? Are they able to get supplies? Is there water flowing?

PENHAUL (on the phone): Water is flowing, from what we've ascertained. Supplies are very limited, although, we did come across one general store. And where we are at the moment is a hotel in Tyre, but it has become an improvised refugee center because about 300 or 350 civilians of Lebanese extraction, but with largely European nationalities are bunkered down here and they're being protected by French-led United Nation's force of approximately 150 soldiers. Those soldiers have said that their mission is to evacuate these people throughout the night. They have been protecting them in this hotel.

We understand the Israelis have been given the coordinates of hotels so that they don't strike it, and then in the morning, now that dawn has broken, the mission of that United Nation's force, I understand, from the French Commandant is to get these 350 civilians to safety -- Anderson.

COOPER: Karl, stay on the line with us. If I can, I'm going to try to bring in CNN's Chief International Complainant Christiane Amanpour, who is somewhere on the Israel side of that border.

Christiane, if you are there, what do you make of what Karl is saying?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's entirely consistent to what we were told today, during our reporting on the northern border here and with the artillery units and at the headquarters of the Northern Command.

The brigadier general, who is the commander of all the operations here, all the battles along these northern fronts, told us that there was a phase two plan, a contingency plan, if it needed to be. And he strongly hinted that this would involve some kind of ground operation.

Now, this, he told us, just about 12 or so hours ago. And he did say that without telling us any specifics, obviously, and maintaining military security, he indicated that if the order was given and if it was militarily necessary that they could envisage seeing ground troops of some kind and a ground operation of some kind inside southern Lebanon. They said very definitely that they do not envision any kind of large scale occupation force.

Remember, Israel had a very traumatic experience with the occupation of Lebanon and only left unilaterally in 2000. And, of course, Hezbollah has taken a great deal of credit for forcing Israel out of there.

But what the brigadier general was telling us is that they have to be able to dismantle outposts, dismantle, as they told us, component by component the military capability that they say Hezbollah has built up over the last decade and, most particularly, over the last six years since Israel has been out of there.

They're talking not just about the rockets, the Katyushas, some of the long-range missiles they believe that Hezbollah has, but also, as they said, the areas and concentrations of Hezbollah troops and their potential operations. They say their main effort is to push Hezbollah back, whether it's by artillery, whether it's by the air or whether it's by ground operations, to push it back and create some kind of buffer so that there can never be an incursion of Hezbollah guerrillas or, indeed, military equipment down so far to the south of Lebanon that they can easily attack Israel -- Anderson.

COOPER: Christiane, hold on where you are. Just for viewers who are joining us, and we're being joined by a lot of viewers on "CNN INTERNATIONAL" right now, watching around the world. We have Karl Penhaul in southern Lebanon, in Hezbollah territory in the city of Tyre. He's on the phone. CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour is on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border. And joining us right now in New York is the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman.

Ambassador Gillerman, what do you know about the current operations going on? What can you say?

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, what is going on at the most is a number of Israeli ground troops very near to the border on the Lebanese side, trying to destroy some Hezbollah outposts. This is an operation which is very measured, very local. This is no way an invasion of Lebanon, this is no way the beginning of any kind of occupation of Lebanon. We have no desire to enter Lebanon. We left it six years ago without any desire to go back. And what we're trying is part of trying to make Hezbollah incapable of continuing to shell our cities and our villages and to kill our citizens.

COOPER: The objective here is what? The objective is to push back Hezbollah as much as possible from these territories? Are you able to actually, in your opinion, disarm Hezbollah through military means alone?

GILLERMAN: We believe we have the capability of making Hezbollah incapable of continuing its terrorist activities. We do believe that, ultimately, there will need to be some kind of a political solution, especially as it is the international community that for the last two years has demanded of the Lebanese government to disarm Hezbollah and deploy its forces in southern Lebanon.

You have to understand, all these pictures we are seeing, all these pictures your correspondents are showing us of devastation in Beirut and in Tyre and other places are a direct result of the Hezbollah turning Lebanon into a terror base. If the Hezbollah wasn't there, Lebanon today would be the prosperous, thriving, fun loving entrepreneurial society that it was 30 years ago. Lebanon is held hostage by the Hezbollah. And what we are trying to do is not only prevent Hezbollah from shelling our cities and killing our citizens, but eventually making Lebanon into a peaceful place which would pose no threat to us or to the region.

COOPER: Ambassador Dan Gillerman, we appreciate you staying with us and joining us. Thank you very much for that.

GILLERMAN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Now we're going to take a short break and we'll return with this continuing ongoing breaking news.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's John Roberts in our studios in Washington. We've had some technical difficulties with Anderson's picture out of Larnaca, Cyprus.

What you're looking at right now is a live picture of Beirut. Just a few minutes ago, actually when the program went on the air, a couple of large explosions in the southern area of Beirut, indicating that the Israelis continue to pound that Hezbollah dominated neighborhood.

Nic Robertson has been in Beirut, literally since this entire conflict began. Let's go to him. He's live on the ground in Beirut.

Nic, what's the latest from where you are?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, just about 50 minutes ago, three huge rumbling blasts coming from the southern suburbs of Lebanon, southern suburbs of Beirut. What we've witnessed here, we've been able to sit here in the center of the city and smell the burning fires and see the smoke blowing over not long after those big explosions. What we have heard through the night are a number of very, very loud and deep rumbling explosions coming from the southern suburbs. Whatever is being dropped on that area sounds bigger to us tonight than it has done over previous nights. We have seen and heard over previous nights a number of different shellings, but tonight, quantifiably, they did seem bigger.

Now this, in an area that we were taken to by Hezbollah officials for a brief tour of earlier in the day.



ROBERTSON (voice-over): Tyre, the port city in the south of Lebanon, took a pounding from Israeli bombs Tuesday. Civilians were caught up in the carnage.

Other Lebanese towns and villages in the south and east of the country were also targeted, and as it has every day since the bombing began last Thursday, Beirut's southern suburbs, the heartland of the Islamic guerrilla organization Hezbollah, part of which, until now, kept off-limits to outsiders.

(On camera): 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): In a reverse of recent policy, Hezbollah took CNN on an exclusive fast-paced tour of the most sensitive bomb sites.

(On camera): You are really worried about another strike here right now, yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course.

ROBERTSON: How dangerous is it in this area at the moment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very, very dangerous. It's -- we are now the most dangerous place in the most dangerous moment.

ROBERTSON: In civilian housing.

(Voice-over): Israel says it targets Hezbollah's leadership and military structure. Hezbollah wanted to show us civilians are being hit. (On camera): What was here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just look. Shoot. It is civilians, buildings. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?

ROBERTSON: Are you going to have -- go for this cease-fire? Are you have going to hand back the soldiers that they ask for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We always teach Israel a lesson. We always teach it a lesson. Now we will teach Israel a lesson again. I tell Ehud Olmert we will not surrender. We will not surrender. We will not surrender. Dignity.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Fearing renewed bombing, we move off again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Hurry up. Hurry up. Then we have no (INAUDIBLE) every moment. Hurry up.

ROBERTSON: As we run past the rubble, we see much that points to civilian life, no evidence apparent of military equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This -- I will show you something.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shoot me. Shoot...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is here where they said Sheikh Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, is living. This is wrong.

ROBERTSON: This looks like a bunker...


ROBERTSON: This looks like a bunker-busting bomb has been used here to go down below ground level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was destroyed by Israeli -- the Israelis are coward. They don't come to fight us face-to-face. They come with jet fighters from high above in the sky.

ROBERTSON: Is that what you want them to do, fight you face-by- face?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they have -- if they are brave enough, face -- face us. You know, we want you -- we want to fight you face- to-face.

ROBERTSON: How long is this going to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't dare to do it. ROBERTSON (voice-over): I have more questions.

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

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

ROBERTSON: You all right, James (ph)?

Now we have been told we have to get out of the area. They believe that more Israeli planes are coming and that we need to get out of this area right now for our safety.

(Voice-over): As we leave, my questions are still unanswered. Has Israeli bombing degraded Hezbollah's military, as Israel claims?

We track down a senior Hezbollah politician.

DR. ALI FAYYAD, HEZBOLLAH CENTRAL COMMITTEE (through translator): Hezbollah's infrastructure remains completely sound. What will show this to be true in the resistance continued ability to launch rockets. I can say we're still in the middle of this battle.

ROBERTSON: A battle that in Beirut's normally densely populated southern suburbs, at least, is turning the city into a war zone.



ROBERTSON: And I asked that politician as well if there was a possibility of a cease fire, the possibility of talks that are going on right now can bring about a comprehensive cease fire, to bring about an end to all the bloodshed and violence that's going on. He told me as it stands right now, he doesn't see that happening at all -- John.

ROBERTS: Military equipment in that area, that suburb of southern Beirut that you were going through today, has Israel ever claimed that there was a lot of military material in there? Or were they only targeting it because it was a basically Hezbollah offices, a real stronghold for the organization?

ROBERTSON: You know, we don't know specifically what the Israelis were targeting when they were bombing that area. We know what their stated objectives are, which is to degrade Hezbollah's military and remove its leadership.

From what we could see there, we didn't see any military type of equipment. We didn't go burrowing into all the houses. But of course, that's one of the problems. Hezbollah is an organization that grows out of the people in the community there. You know, you can have university professors going off to work during the day and coming home and being part of Hezbollah's military force. It's very difficult to find them and target them in an urban environment -- John. ROBERTS: Well, extraordinary tour that you took there today, Nic. And a lot of people here at CNN say you're very, very brave for doing it, but we expect nothing less.

Nic Robertson in Beirut, thanks very much.

We have reestablished contact with Anderson Cooper on the island of Cyprus. Let's go back to him now -- Anderson.

COOPER: John, thanks very much for that.

And Nic, thanks for that.

Yes, you know, we've been talking so much about the operations going on in Lebanon, it is easy to forget there are also military operations in what Israel considers the second front in this war in the operations that they are undergoing and conducting. One is going on right now in Gaza. Tanks rolling in, we are told.

CNN's Matthew Chance is there. We'll have a live report from him when we come back.


COOPER: Now we continue our breaking news coverage of two military operations going on by Israeli forces on both fronts of what they say is this two-front battle that they are fighting, both in Gaza and also on the Lebanese border.

First, we go to the Lebanese border and CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, what's happening?

AMANPOUR: Well, we've now got it confirmed as Karl has told you, but a few more details as to this ground operation. The IDS is telling CNN that it's a small ground operation involving a small number of ground forces who have, in fact, they say, have been going in and out of southern Lebanon from the north of Israel here for the last several days and their aim is to try to target the Hezbollah military infrastructure, and specifically, to pinpoint and try to do whatever they need to do with tunnels and mines that are being used by Hezbollah.

And, again, consistent with what we were hearing when we were covering the Israeli artillery units and the command headquarters today, the brigadier general who is in charge of all the northern battle operations, telling us that they are trying to push them back north, they're trying to finish once and for all the ability of Hezbollah to be so close to the border and therefore with great ease, be able to slip across, kidnap soldiers or to be able to hit rockets into the north here or even further as we've seen them in Haifa and potentially even beyond.

But this is what their operational aim is, they're telling us. And so these reports about the ground forces are consistent with what they have been predicting and what they say may even come to more ground forces, if it's needed. They say they have brigades and divisions standing by, should there be an order given for what they call a phase two.

But having said that, they are very careful to say they don't want to go in in any kind of occupation role or any kind of large scale force. Remember, they had an 18-year occupation that was extremely traumatic and ended back in 2000 -- Anderson.

COOPER: Christiane, you filed an extraordinary report today when you were out with that artillery unit and talking to commanders. Do they give a sense of a timeline, how long they see this going, how long it will take them to hit the targets that they feel that they can hit successfully?

AMANPOUR: Well, I asked them, have they reached their peak? Are they starting to see a significant degrading of the Hezbollah capability? And they say, you know, they feel they're doing their job, but they say it's not over by any means, they haven't reached the peak yet and they could keep going for, certainly, several more days, but potentially even a few weeks. And what they're trying to do is get all those rocket emplacements. They feel that without those rockets, Hezbollah is unable to inflict the kind of damage that it's been able to do here. And they say, though, that that's a special challenge, because a lot of them are mobile, a lot of them are what they call small signature targets. In other words, they're not big. They move. They're difficult to get. And, as we know, they also are hidden and used in sort of the part of the civilian infrastructure. So, all of that is pretty challenging, they say.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour reporting from the Israeli side of the Lebanese border.

If you want an example of what CNN is all about, this is what it's all about, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent on the Israel side of the Lebanese-Israel border. On the Lebanese side, in Hezbollah territory, CNN's Karl Penhaul, who joins us now.

Karl, what are you seeing there on the Lebanese side?

PENHAUL (on the phone): Throughout the night, Israeli warplanes have been pounding the city of Tyre, and much of yet today all afternoon as well. Right now, those warplanes seem to be silent. Although, we can still hear very high in the sky the sound of an unmanned Israeli drone buzzing overhead, presumably on a reconnaissance mission, trying to identify further targets.

But it was about an hour before dawn, Anderson, that we heard a number of helicopters, Israeli helicopters, we presume, in a position east and southeast of the city of Tyre. It was at that point that we called the Israeli Defense Forces and checked to see whether ground troops were on the ground. It's very difficult from the little information that the Israeli Defense Force spokesman has given us to ascertain whether the movement of helicopters in this region of Tyre, which is about 10 miles from the border, has anything to do with those cross border operations by Israeli ground troops 10 miles from the border in military terms is still quite a distance.

And it would, according to one western military expert, imply quite an amount of infrastructure and backup if the Israelis would be bold enough at this stage to put any troops 10 miles north of the border.

Certainly, no indication from the Israeli spokesman at this stage that ground troops are this far north. He characterized the mission by ground forces as taking out Hezbollah outposts very close to the border -- Anderson.

COOPER: Karl, I find it remarkable that you are even able to be in Tyre in southern Lebanon. I haven't heard of any reports out of there. How do you get there, for the civilian population that you are seeing there, what is life like?

PENHAUL (on the phone): We drove down yesterday afternoon, and it was certainly a very torturous journey because a number of the bridges and the highways have been blown out by Israeli air strikes in the course of the last seven days.

We took off-road tracks through the hills and eventually made it down here. And the scene is this. The Israeli warplanes have been pounding the city through much of yesterday. And that continued through the night, explosions, loud explosions in the course of the day.

And the main target, according to those who live here, seem to have been civilians. One neighborhood of Tyre has had a number of the high-rise apartment blocks hit. One in particular, a doctor told me, was hit by Israeli warplanes on Sunday. The top three stories of that building appear to have collapsed. And according to that doctor, at least 22 civilians died in that strike, 50 others were wounded. And according to that doctor, at least 179 injured civilians are currently in hospitals in the city.

Now, all that is going hand in hand with an operation by United Nations troops, the contingent here about 150 strong, traveled from the town of Macouder (ph), even closer to the border and their mission was to come to Tyre to carry out an evacuation mission of French nationals, most of those people I've seen, a group of about 300, appear to be Lebanese origin, but citizens of France or other European nations and the mission now for this 150 strong United Nation's force is to protect them through the night, a mission which they have achieved. And a more difficult challenge in the course of the day will now be to evacuate them to some safe place away from the heavy air strikes -- Anderson.

COOPER: Karl Penhaul, reporting from Tyre in southern Lebanon. You just heard from CNN's Christiane Amanpour along the Lebanese border in Israel.

Now, we go to Gaza. CNN's Matthew Chance, who is also seeing military activity.

Matthew, what's happening there? MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, much of the focus is, of course, on Lebanon. But Israel certainly hasn't forgotten its other front here in the Gaza Strip because within the last few hours, a great many Israeli tanks have crossed over from Israel into the central Gaza Strip and are currently engaged in fierce battles with Palestinian militants just a short distance from here in the center of the Gaza Strip.

There are a number of injuries and deaths. We don't have exact figures, though, from Palestinian medical sources.

We also don't know the exact tactical reason for this ground incursion by Israeli forces into the Gaza Strip, except over the past several weeks, the Israeli forces have been conducting large scale operations across the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, and of course, ahead of the operations that have been conducted in Lebanon. After that incident that really sparked off this latest Mid East crisis, mainly the capture, the abduction of the Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit in a cross border raid by Palestinian militants, Corporal Shalit is believed to be still alive. He's believed to be still being held by Palestinian militants here in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis desperately want him back and they vowed to keep up the military pressure on the Gaza Strip until the Palestinian militants hand him over.

They've got a secondary motivation as well. And that is, they want to pound areas of the northern Gaza Strip, which they're doing all the time, and there's artillery pounding underway right now in the north of the Gaza Strip in the other direction, to try to stop the Palestinian militants from firing their makeshift rockets, very different to the ones that Hezbollah uses, these small makeshift rockets, firing them into Israel. They've been a real thorn in the side of the Israeli population in the south of the country and they very much want that to stop.

So far, though, into three weeks of intensive military campaigns, the Israelis have not stopped those rockets being fired. They haven't got their corporal back. What they have succeeded in doing is degrading the infrastructure in this area so much it's made the lives of ordinary Palestinians even more difficult than it was before -- Anderson.

COOPER: Matthew Chance, reporting from Gaza. Thank you.

This hour of real reporting on CNN continues with the scene here in Larnaca, Cyprus, where hundreds of Americans have begun to arrive over the last several days. And today we expect maybe as many as 1,000 or 2,000 Americans to be here, as well as a number of other European nationals. We'll have that report coming up next on CNN.


COOPER: You're looking at pictures of Americans being evacuated from Beirut. In particular, a woman by the name of Chrisline Nsouli and her three children and her father. They got out of Beirut several hours ago, arriving here in Larnaca, Cyprus. We actually ran into them when they were checking into the hotel room. They've already -- or just about now, they should be catching a flight pretty soon back to New York. But I spoke to them, to Chrisline, briefly about what it was like for her inside Beirut and trying to get out. Take a look.



COOPER: How are you doing?

CHRISLINE NSOULI, AMERICAN EVACUATED FROM LEBANON: Fine, I guess, happy to be out of there. It was stressful, you know. There was a lot of things going on. And it was a week, you know, the nighttime especially when you would wake up in the middle of the night and you would hear the bombings. It wasn't -- I'm not sure from Beirut we were actually hearing the bombings or if we were hearing the rockets coming off of the Israeli ships, but the sound was super loud.

COOPER: How did you describe it to your kids? I mean, did they ask what was going on?

NSOULI: No, not really, but they actually don't really know. You know, during the World Cup, every time somebody scored something somewhere, there were fireworks all the time.

COOPER: So they thought this was just part of the World Cup?

NSOULI: So, we were playing it, oh, look at the fireworks, they're so loud. Well, we can't see them. That's because they're so far away.

COOPER: Were you scared? Were you scared for your family?

NSOULI: No. You know, I wasn't scared in the sense that I didn't feel anything was going to happen to us where we were in Beirut. But I certainly wanted to get out of there. The thing is, is we, you know, we didn't know when and how and how it was going to happen. And it was very difficult to get in contact with the embassy.

COOPER: It was? It was difficult?

NSOULI: Is an understatement. It was actually impossible.

COOPER: How did you finally do it?

NSOULI: Today, this morning actually, I woke up and I was like, OK. We have to figure out how to get out of here. So, I called them and I called them and I called them and I called them for an hour and a half. And I said I'm alone with my three kids. My father had surgery yesterday, heart ballooning, whatever. We need to leave. They said, yes, well, maybe -- after speaking to 15 people and being disconnected three times because of the power outages, they said, well, we'll add you to the list of all the people who want to leave and who are in a similar, quote, unquote, "case." And we'll call you. And I went to the hospital to check -- we checked out. Came home. I think it was noon. And they said, can you be at the embassy at 1:00 o'clock? I said, OK. Well, 1:00, 1:30, we'll figure it out. And we got there and choppered out.

COOPER: Was it frustrating? I mean, because there had been a lot of complaints, we're hearing a lot of that from people who were there, feeling like the U.S. has been very slow to get people out.

NSOULI: Very slow. Very slow. I mean, luckily, I have my husband's family there, who is very supportive and, I mean, I wasn't worried at all. I just wanted to know when I was going to leave.

COOPER: What do you think people in America should know about what's going on right now, about what you've been seeing, about what Americans have been going through there?

NSOULI: Well, I mean, obviously, I feel that they just haven't helped them or they haven't communicated enough with them to tell them, you know, how they were planning on getting them out. A lot of people are still sitting there and waiting and waiting for whatever ship to come in and to take them out. But, you know, they're all worried about the organization of how it's going to happen, how're they going to get them to the ships. A lot of people have decided to just go on their own.

COOPER: Over land?

NSOULI: Yes, over land, which is actually what we were supposed to do today. And then at the last minute, last night, it was so loud that I chickened out.


COOPER: Well, Chrisline and her kids will be heading back to New York very shortly. And they were very glad to be on their way.

Of course, some 25,000 or so Americans remain in Lebanon. How many of them need to be evacuated? The State Department believes about 10,000 or so. Although, they don't know for sure and they can't say how long it's going to take to get all of those Americans out. We'll continue to follow that story.

When we come back, we will take you back to Beirut. A large number of explosions. We'll talk to "TIME" Magazine's Correspondent Andrew Butters, when we return.


COOPER: An Israeli missile strike in Tyre, in southern Lebanon, occurring earlier today. Those images from our CNN's Karl Penhaul.

We're joined now by Andrew Lee Butters, who's the "TIME" magazine correspondent in Beirut.

Andrew, I appreciate you joining us live. We understand there are a lot of explosions going on this morning. How does it compare to recent days in Beirut? ANDREW LEE BUTTERS, "TIME" MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems as if the day before, at least, things were calmer here in Beirut. There was a lot of speculation among Lebanese that perhaps this was because the Americans were beginning to evacuate and that the Israeli bombardment would be more moderate during this time.

But then there's also the concern that the Israelis will show less restraint once the bulk of the foreigners are gone.

COOPER: What do you think the impact has been on Hezbollah and the perception of Hezbollah among Lebanese? The Israelis are trying to, you know, send out the message that Hezbollah does not represent the interests of the people of Lebanon. Do you think the people of Lebanon are getting that message? Do you think they're buying it?

BUTTERS: Well, the difficulty is, is that as these bombardments continues, that the p-- whatever kind of group might disarm Hezbollah or bring Hezbollah under control has less and less room to maneuver. The central government of Lebanon is becoming less and less of a presence throughout the country.

I've been down to the southern suburbs and up into the Shuth (ph) Mountains, and there's a humanitarian crisis looming, and the government is largely nowhere to be seen. Now, some Lebanese -- many Lebanese are wondering why they're suddenly at war, why this conflict. Why now. And many do blame Hezbollah for suddenly being at war with Israel.

But I think right now, that's largely internal family business. Lebanese are angry at Israel for bombing their country. And as long as these bombardments continue, Israel will be the enemy.

COOPER: A lot of Americans probably don't realize that some 40 percent of the Lebanese population are actually Christians. Traditionally, what have they felt about Hezbollah?

BUTTERS: Well, traditionally, the Christians and the Shia Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah have not gotten along at all. And there was a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. Although, some Christian groups have been supportive of Hezbollah's pro-Syrian sense, but many Christians do -- are very angry at this time.

There is a difference in how these bombings and how these attacks are taking place. The Shia areas in the south and southern Lebanon are being pounded daily, whereas the Christian parts of Beirut, like east Beirut, where I live, are unscathed so far.

COOPER: There was so much optimism back in March when a million people pour into the streets. I mean, I was there, you know, pushing Syria out, calls for democracy and freedom. Is all of that gone now? I mean, is all of that sense that Beirut is back, is that just dead?

BUTTERS: Well, certainly the country spent billions of dollars rebuilding itself after the end of the civil war. And Beirut, in particular, became this kind of party central of the Middle East. It reclaimed its role as the Paris of the Middle East. And the city was filled with nightclubs and it's a lovely place to live. And it's hard to see how that is going to return any time soon. Beirut was a by word for urban violence. And the Lebanese did so much to change that. And the urban violence is back.

Now, there's also quite a bit of disenchantment among the Lebanese about what's happened since what the Americans call the Cedar Revolutions, where there were sexy Lebanese girls waving Lebanese flags and calling for democracy and the end of the Syrian occupation. The United States said it was going to be very supportive of Lebanese democracy and Lebanese independence, and here was a moderate Arab democracy in the Middle East. And now the Lebanese people feel like they've been abandoned by the United States and are wondering where is Condoleezza Rice.

COOPER: And, of course, Condoleezza Rice is supposedly heading to the region. The date has not been set. We'll continue to watch that, as will people throughout this region and to see, actually, what she can do when she actually does get here.

Andrew Lee Butters, appreciate you joining us from "TIME" magazine. Thank you very much, Andrew. Try to stay safe.

BUTTERS: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll have a lot more from the region in a moment as our coverage continues. Stay with us.


ROBERTS: Strong earnings from Coca Cola helped stocks surge on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones climbed almost 52 points to close at 10,799. The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ were also up.

I'm John Roberts in Washington. We'll get back to Anderson Cooper in Larnaca, Cyprus, in just a moment.

But first, this headline. In New Orleans, a doctor and two nurses are facing charges of second degree murder. This in connection with the deaths of four hospital patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Drew Griffin has been following this story for months. He broke the news about the investigation and joins us now from New Orleans.

Drew, a very gruesome story.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed this was gruesome. The attorney general flat out says these four patients, John, would be alive if it wasn't for the fact that this doctor and two nurses actually killed them.

Arrested, Dr. Anna Pou and Nurses Lori Budo and Cheryl Landry. They're facing four counts each of principal to second-degree murder, the charge that the murders were committed in the fourth day after Katrina when, according to the attorney general, this medical staff mixed morphine and a drug called versed into one injectable drug with only one possible outcome. Take a listen.


CHARLES FOTI, LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL: These drugs, both together, are central nervous system depressants. When you use both of those drugs together, either one of them can kill you, but when you use both of them together, it becomes a lethal cocktail that guarantees they're going to die.


GRIFIN: Dr. Pou's attorney says that they will contest these charges. But John, the other headline here is the investigation is not over. Attorney General Foti says more people may be charged and there may be more victims out there to discover.

Back to you.

ROBERTS: All right. We'll keep following. Drew, good job on the story. Thanks very much. Drew Griffin, live from Louisiana for us.

More in 360 in just a moment. Stay with us. Anderson will be right back.


COOPER: On "AMERICAN MORNING" tomorrow, you can watch Soledad O'Brien live from here in Larnaca, Cyprus, talking to Americans being evacuated from Beirut. We'll have a lot more from the region tomorrow on 360. Thanks for joining us.

"LARRY KING" is next.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines