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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Fierce Fighting Between Israel and Hezbollah; Chartered Cruise Ship Arrives in Cyprus Tonight; President Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Research Bill; Opposition Rising in Congress Over So-Called Free Trade Agreement With Oman

Aired July 19, 2006 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Israeli troops are inside Lebanon storming Hezbollah outposts and searching for Hezbollah rocket launchers. It's one of the biggest ground battles of this conflict so far.
We'll be going live to the Israel-Lebanon border and to Beirut.

And the first large-scale evacuation of American citizens from Beirut. A chartered cruise ship has just arrived in Cyprus.

We'll have that report.

U.S. Marines, they could be flying deep into Lebanon to rescue Americans trapped there.

We'll be live in Cyprus and the Pentagon.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, July 19th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

There is fierce fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border tonight. Israeli troops have advanced into southern Lebanon, raiding Hezbollah outposts. Israeli artillery and aircraft are also continuing their bombardment of key installations in other parts of Lebanon.

Meanwhile, a chartered cruise ship carrying nearly 1,000 Americans from Beirut has just arrived in Cyprus. As many as 6,000 Americans could be rescued from Beirut by this weekend. The U.S. military considering sending our Marines across Hezbollah-controlled territory in southern Lebanon to rescue Americans trapped by the fighting.

Christiane Amanpour tonight reports from the Israeli-Lebanon border on the Israeli raid into Lebanon.

Chris Burns reports from Larnaca, Cyprus, on the arrival of the Orient Queen cruise liner carrying rescued Americans from Beirut.

Nic Robertson tonight reports from Beirut, where Israeli aircraft have just bombed a bunker used by senior Hezbollah leaders. We turn first to Christiane Amanpour -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, despite the Israeli push, these Hezbollah rockets are still coming. Today was the fiercest onslaught in the eight-day engagement between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrillas.

We have witnessed all throughout the day the fighting along the northern border. We have seen in the town of Avivim how the two sides have been pitted against each other and what the results are. And yet, these rockets have still been continuing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice over): The fiercest clashes yet between the Israeli army and Hezbollah guerrillas are here in Avivim, right on the Lebanese border. Israeli tanks pitted against Hezbollah mortars and rockets.

Israel has taken casualties in this operation. Two soldiers were killed, and the injured were loaded into an ambulance and rushed to the nearest hospital.

All the while, sirens wail, warning of the next rocket salvo. And it's not just humans, but hardware, too. An Israeli tank is pulled limping off the battlefield.

The Israeli military says this action is aimed at taking out Hezbollah posts along the border.

(on camera): Israel has sent in tanks to this battle, and we've been hearing the sound of outgoing tank fire. Meantime, around the hills in this region, peppered with smoke and flames as Hezbollah rockets are still making their mark.

(voice over): Two children were killed when rockets hit the town of Nazareth. They have also again struck Haifa, Tiberius and all this part of northern Israel.

Villages and hillsides are billowing with smoke. Buildings here in Deshan (ph) are aflame.

Overhead comes a flying fire extinguisher dropping red powder to dampen the blaze. It circles again and again over the village, over the slopes.

Meantime, the air raid siren sounds again as the town of Avivim, scene of the worst fighting, finally gets a direct Hezbollah hit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: So that was during the daylight hours. In the evening here, in the town of Matula (ph), which is also right on the Lebanon- Israeli border, there was another fierce onslaught and a huge amount of artillery fire being directed out of here by the Israeli forces against the hills of Lebanon and presumably the Hezbollah positions, although others have said also there were a lot of buildings and what looked like homes that were being hit as well.

And this, we are told, was because they thought there might have been some incursion into this little village at the very part of the fence where the border is. We also heard machine gun fire as if the Israelis were trying to shoot at individuals rather than right -- artillery at the positions.

Right now, it's quiet and has been for the last several hours here -- Lou.

DOBBS: Christiane, thank you very much.

Christiane Amanpour reporting from the border of Israel and Lebanon.

Hezbollah today launched new rocket attacks against towns and cities in northern Israel. One of the rockets killed two children in the town of Nazareth, as Christiane has just reported. The children were playing outside when the rocket exploded. This is the first time there have been any Israeli casualties as far south as Nazareth.

Twenty-nine Israelis have been killed in this war so far. Fifteen civilians, 14 troops.

Casualties in Lebanon are also rising. The Lebanese prime minister today said more than 300 people have now been killed and 1,000 wounded since this war started eight days ago.

Tonight, Israel said its aircraft have bombed a bunker in south Beirut that has been used by Hezbollah leaders.

Nic Robertson reports from Beirut on the Israeli air offensive against Lebanon -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we have heard those reports about the heavy bombing of a bunker. The Israeli defense forces saying they hit a bunker used by Hezbollah's leadership. We didn't hear the explosions here.

We called -- and we've normally been hearing a lot of explosions from those southern Beirut suburbs where they say the attack took place. We have now been in touch with Hezbollah officials.

They say what was targeted in southern Beirut in this strike, according to Hezbollah officials, was a religious center that was under construction. They say only one floor of it had been built, that there were nobody there at the time, that there are no -- no casualties involved there at all. And they say this is not in any way -- the center is not in any way connected with Hezbollah or the Hezbollah leadership.

There have been other strikes in the southern suburbs of Beirut today as well. A car -- a car parts distribution center damaged and destroyed. A truck car park, all the trucks in it damaged and destroyed. A food distribution center damaged and destroyed. Another strike on the airport today. But the picture for people in Beirut has been very much one of ongoing strikes in this city, Lou, today.

DOBBS: Nic, quickly, Hezbollah and Beirut, Lebanese officials, are they being candid and straightforward about the targets being hit by the Israeli strikes?

ROBERTSON: Lou, the only people who have talked about this so far are Hezbollah officials. And obviously, they have a vested interest in providing information that they want to.

We don't have any reason to doubt them, but we don't have any way of cross-checking their information at the moment. So we're taking their analysis that it was not one of their -- that it was not their leadership, that it was not a building in any way connected with them.

And when you look at Al Manar, the television station of Hezbollah, there's been no change in their programming to indicate perhaps that the leadership had in fact been targeted. So at the moment, Lou, it does appear that it was a religious center, at least according to Hezbollah -- Lou.

DOBBS: Nic, thank you very much.

Nic Robertson reporting from Beirut.

Israel tonight is stepping up its offensive against terrorists in Gaza. The second front of its escalating war against radical Islamists.

Israeli troops last night advanced into Gaza trying to stop Hamas rocket attacks against Israel and to search for a captured Israeli soldier. Nine Palestinians were killed in that attack. Three of them were killed by missiles from unmanned aircraft.

The Pentagon tonight is considering sending U.S. Marine Corps helicopters deep into Lebanon to try to rescue Americans trapped in this fighting. The helicopters would have to fly over territory controlled by Hezbollah if those rescue missions were to go ahead.

Jamie McIntyre has the latest for us from the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, a senior defense official tells CNN that that consideration of using helicopters to rescue Americans would happen only if the Americans could not move over land to the seaport, which is the preferred option to get all the Americans out of Lebanon. It's one reason that four ships from the Iwo Jima expeditionary strike group, along with 1,200 Marines, are being moved off the coast of Lebanon, according to a three-star admiral who is in charge of the operation.

He told CNN that he wants to have the capability to extract people wherever they are, but the Pentagon insists at this point there's no plans to send the helicopters in. It would just be an option if they couldn't move them north. Something the State Department says right now is not a safe option -- Lou. DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre with that report from the Pentagon.

The United States today began the first major evacuation of our citizens from Beirut. Nearly 1,000 Americans have just arrived in Cyprus on a chartered cruise liner.

Chris Burns has the report from Larnaca, Cyprus -- Chris.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, over my shoulder is the Orient Queen. We're going to pull in on it and take a look at it.

That is the ship that is holding some 1,000 Americans and a few British nationals, among those thousands of people who decided that this conflict is not showing any signs of abating, and (INAUDIBLE). They're coming here.

Some 7,000 people are expected to be coming aboard ships, not only from that one, but there was also a French destroyer that just arrived a couple of hours ago with a few hundred people, a Danish ferryboat that just arrived a few minutes after the Orient Queen with some 900 Danish and European nationals. It's going to go on and on through the night.

At least eight ships arriving this evening with people being processed. And it is a regular -- it's a regular process.

People being sent over by bus over to this -- a processing building from which they hope that they will be placed on planes. But there are efforts right now, also, to nail down some hotel rooms. They might even have to warehouse some people in some large halls if they run out of space at hotels.

So we're going to see an incredible wave of people, thousands, moving through here in the next few days -- Lou.

DOBBS: Chris Burns from Larnaca, Cyprus.

We thank you.

The Navy has deployed nine of its ships to the area. They'll be helping with this evacuation operation that is now well under way.

The amphibious transport ship USS Nashville tonight left Cyprus and will join the rescue operation tomorrow. Also in the region, other several -- several other amphibious warfare ships led by the helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima. Two destroyers are now off the coast of Lebanon, the USS Gonzalez and the USS Berry, protecting civilian and military evacuation ships.

Israel's third largest city tonight again under siege. Residents of Haifa are in bomb shelters as Hezbollah bombards northern Israel.

We'll have that special report for you from Haifa.

Israeli troops tonight are fighting Hezbollah terrorists in one of the biggest ground battles of this conflict. We'll be going live to Christiane Amanpour on the Israel-Lebanon border for the very latest.

President Bush uses his veto for the first time of his presidency in the controversy over stem cell research.

We'll have that special report and a great deal more coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Haifa again tonight is under attack, a primary target of Hezbollah missiles. The Israeli city suffering death and destruction and bracing for more.

We'll be going to Haifa for the very latest.

But first, President Bush today vetoed the embryonic stem cell research bill passed by the Senate. It was the president -- and the House -- it was the president's first use of his veto during his presidency.

Dana Bash has the story from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): His first veto was behind closed doors. No photographs and later, no apologies.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. And I'm not going to allow it.

BASH: Some self described pro-life Republicans disagree with the president, saying embryonic stem cell research holds promise to save lives. Conservatives here applauded Mr. Bush for sticking with conviction.

BUSH: It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it.

BASH: Democrats see this as an election year miscalculation they can leverage in close congressional races.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: His first veto will be a veto that will dash the hopes of tens of millions of Americans who suffer from Diabetes and Parkinson's.

BASH: The stem cell debate is a major campaign issue in places like Missouri, where endangered Republican Senator Jim Talent was already being pounded by his challenger as out of the mainstream. He said he voted against the measure as a matter of principle. Concerned Republicans, led by Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who faces perhaps the stiffest election challenge, had hoped to find political cover by sending the president a measure promoting alternatives to embryonic stem cell research.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: We can be pro-science and do so in an ethical fashion.

BASH: But after it passed the Senate, it failed in the House. Republican leaders there decided to drop it rather than risk another bruising debate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And the president vetoed that stem cell bill just a few hours ago, but already, in a matter of minutes, the House will vote on whether or not to override it. That is expected to fail, meaning the veto will be sustained.

Lou, Congress -- Republicans in Congress and at the White House moved at rare warp speed on this legislation. They really want to get this behind them as soon as possible, at least here in Congress. But, of course, this is going to be a big issue, already is, on the campaign trail -- Lou.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much.

Dana Bash reporting from Capitol Hill.

Much more now on the escalating conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Hezbollah terrorists tonight are firing a barrage of rockets at cities and towns in northern Israel. More than a million Israelis are in bomb shelters, many of them in Haifa, Israel's third largest city.

Paula Hancocks in Haifa has this special report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Arriving at Haifa's main hospital, the first thing we notice is beds lined up outside ready for future casualties. We find Nico Shemavitz (ph) in the intensive care unit. He was in that train depot which was hit by a Hezbollah rocket on Sunday. He has burns over much of his body.

Eight of his colleagues were killed. Three days later, he is not well enough to be told yet.

Leaving the hospital, another air raid siren, meaning incoming rockets. Moments later, injured soldiers from fighting on the border are flown into Haifa. One is wheeled into the hospital. We're told more are coming.

(on camera): This is the most populous street in Haifa. There's around 50 restaurants on this street, but only one is open, and that one is not full. Now, usually this is lunch time, it's the middle of the summer. This would be filled with people eating. But, at the moment, because the emergency order is still in place from the police, it is actually illegal for restaurants and shops to be open at all. And very few are. (voice over): But this one is. Aved Tamesh (ph) has been sitting here for five hours with his friends. He smiles when the siren starts again.

(on camera): Does the sound of the siren not scare you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not anymore.

HANCOCKS (voice over): He says it's normal now.

He may be defiant, but he's still on edge. This bang is just a minor car crash as people rush to get home during the sirens.

And the sirens keep sounding, often not until after the dull thud of rockets have struck.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Haifa, Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: In tonight's poll, do you believe it is time for the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations to convene an emergency session to formulate new solutions to the Middle East crisis? Yes or no?

Please cast your vote at loudobbs.com. The results coming up here later in the broadcast.

U.S. Marines may be sent deep into Hezbollah-controlled parts of Lebanon trying to rescue trapped Americans there. The Pentagon fears Hezbollah will target U.S. warships in the evacuation effort.

We'll have a live report for you from the Pentagon coming up.

And deadly clashes tonight continue between Israeli troops and Hezbollah terrorists on the Israel-Lebanon border. Christiane Amanpour will report live from northern Israel. She'll have the latest for us.

And the U.S. Congress tonight poised to grant a Mideast nation the right to control our ports. What have we learned from the Dubai ports debacle?

We'll have that special report and much more coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, Israeli troops are fighting Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. Today, Hezbollah hit northern Israel with more rocket attacks. A missile attack killed two children. The deaths coming in the mostly Christian and Muslim town of Nazareth.

Lebanon's prime minister says now more than 300 Lebanese have been killed, a thousand more wounded since the beginning of this conflict. The U.S. general in charge of the evacuation says 1,100 American citizens have been evacuated from Lebanon. That brings the total number so far to nearly 1,500 Americans taken out of Beirut.

Let's take a quick look now before we return to our coverage. Let's take a look at some of your thoughts.

Harris in West Virginia said about the conflict, "Lou, read the holy bible and then you will understand why there is no peace in the Middle East. I don't hear much about 'Revelations' in the news media."

Michael in Oregon, "Lou, with all of our attention being focused on the Middle East, would you please continue to keep an eye on our Senate so they don't give away what's left of our country?"

We certainly will.

And Russell in North Carolina said, "Lou from observing how the majority of your viewers vote on these polls, I'm for them running our country instead of those we have."

Bobby in Ohio, "Dear Lou, is it me or is Clowngress getting more shifty by the day? Just who in the hell can we trust?"

And Rick in California, "Lou, 'comprehensive' seems to be the new buzz word, as in comprehensive immigration reform. How's this? I want comprehensive enforcement of our current deportation laws."

And Shirley in Iowa, "'Comprehensive' has become a four-letter word around our house."

Send us your thoughts to louloudobbs.com. More of your thoughts coming up here later.

Opposition is rising in Congress tonight over a so-called free trade agreement with the Middle Eastern country of Oman. Critics say the agreement would damage this nation's port security and certainly national security.

Bill Tucker has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The objections were clear and plain. The idea of guaranteeing Oman or Omani companies the right to own and operate facilities in American ports is unacceptable.

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: How in the world can this country, with what's happening in Lebanon and Israel today, and what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, how and why in the world would we even consider jeopardizing our ports by allowing a foreign country to have access?

REP. JACK MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's unconscionable to knowingly agree to any trade agreement that contains obviations that limit our national security authority regarding sensitive infrastructure such as our ports.

TUCKER: The administration defends that promise, saying there is a security provision which would give the United States final say in any deal. But under the terms of the agreement, that decision would not be at the discretion of the United States. We would have to defend any such decision before a foreign tribunal.

REP. GENE TAYLOR (D), MISSISSIPPI: This agreement will allow a separate nation on to sovereign American soil and let them control one of our ports. That's insane.

TUCKER: And clearly, the battle of Dubai Ports World taking over port operations is much fresher in the minds of Congress than the administration.

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: The same people who supported the Dubai Ports World deal are telling us again that there's nothing to worry about with the Bush Oman trade deal. They were wrong before and they're wrong now.

TUCKER: DPW promised to sell off those facilities to a private operator. But four months after the promise, no buyer has been announced.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: A vote on the free trade agreement with Oman is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday. Still to come, the free trade agreement with Peru, which contains the same guarantees. And, Lou, the Dubai government, through DPW, already runs and operates ports in Peru, which would mean they'd have the legal right to keep those properties and run them here.

DOBBS: As these are all approved by the U.S. Congress and this president. As we were just saying to our viewer who had written in, we will continue to watch very carefully. We guarantee it.

Bill Tucker, thank you for doing so.

Right now, Israeli defense forces are battling Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. We're live in the Middle East. We'll have complete coverage, the very latest from Christiane Amanpour. She is now on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Also at this hour, more American citizens in Lebanon preparing to be evacuated. We'll have that live report from both Beirut and Cyprus.

And in Chicago, thousands of demonstrators today marched demanding not amnesty but that the U.S. government immediately stop deporting illegal aliens.

We'll have that special report, plus complete live coverage of the Middle Eastern conflict still ahead.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Fierce fighting raging tonight between Israeli troops and Hezbollah terrorists just inside Lebanon. Israeli aircraft have destroyed a suspected Hezbollah command bunker located in southern Beirut. The Israelis said they dropped 23 tons of explosives.

A U.S.-chartered ship carrying more than 1,000 American evacuees from Lebanon has arrived in Cyprus. Up to 6,000 other Americans will be evacuated from Lebanon over the next several days.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heading to the United Nations. She'll be here tomorrow in New York for talks on the Middle East conflict. Rice is set to discuss the widening conflict with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and European officials. She's not announced when she will travel to the Mideast, although that trip has been rumored to begin Friday.

The U.S. Navy has deployed nine ships to the eastern Mediterranean to help evacuate Americans from Lebanon. Those ships will also protect rescue ships from a possible attack by Hezbollah missiles.

Last week, Hezbollah fired a missile that disabled an Israeli warship. Jamie Mcintyre has the report from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The amphibious transport ship USS Nashville will be the first American war ship to pick up U.S. civilians from Beirut. While it's on a mission of mercy that doesn't mean it couldn't also become a terrorist target.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm concerned about attacks on ships, you bet.

MCINTYRE: For now, the sea lanes between Lebanon and Cyprus are considered a, quote, permissive environment, both for commercial vessels and military ships ferrying foreign nationals to safety. Still, CNN's Barbara Starr, on board the Nashville, reports the ship's commander is taking no chances.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There will be, make no mistake, a series of extraordinary security measures for the marines when they go to Beirut. We have been asked not to be specific about those measures.

MCINTYRE: The stakes were raised when an Iranian-made C-802 anti-ship missile hit an Israeli warship Friday, revealing a capability few suspected Hezbollah possessed, the means to strike a ship as far as ten miles from shore. U.S. warships, including the Nashville, are equipped with the Navy's Phalanx System. The defense against anti-ship missiles features a sensitive tracking radar that looks like R2D2 on steroids, coupled with six 20-millimeter gattling guns, that fire more than 4,000 rounds a minute, knocking down incoming missiles with a wall of metal. It's good against high tech missiles but the threat is from low tech rockets as well.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: American military planners are going to have to think very carefully about making sure that Hezbollah or Iran doesn't fire anti-shipping cruise missiles or artillery rockets at some of the evacuation points, at the evacuation ships or some of our war ships.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: As an extra precaution, Pentagon sources say the Nashville will likely remain several miles off shore and use its landing craft and helicopters to ferry Americans from the port to the ship. Lou?

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much for that. Jamie Mcintyre from the Pentagon.

In just a moment we'll have for you the latest on the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. A live report from Christiane Amanpour on the Israel-Lebanon border, but first these headlines.

A U.S. marine has been killed in al-Anbar province in Iraq as a result of a non-hostile incident, as the military has put it. Elsewhere in Iraq today, a U.S. soldier died when an improvised explosive device detonated. 2,555 of our troops have now been killed in Iraq. The violence continued today in Baghdad. A wave of terrorist attacks killed at least 19 Iraqis, including a family of four at a grocery store. Their killings come despite increased security measures put into place in the Iraqi capital.

In this country, a heat wave gripping much of the nation still tonight. In the Plains States today temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. Soaring heat also persisting in the deep south and west. A cold front provided relief for much of the north east.

Meth continues to be the leading drug problem in this country. According to a survey of law enforcement officials, Meth is now considered to be more of a problem than Cocaine, Marijuana and Heroin combined. And in a disturbing trend, Meth abuse was for years a problem in rural west coast communities and is now moving east in epidemic proportions.

In Chicago today, illegal aliens and their supporters staged a massive demonstration and they demanded expanded rights for illegal aliens. Tens of thousands of these demonstrators calling for an immediate end to the deportation of illegal aliens. And the protesters and demonstrators denounced new local crack downs on employers and landlords hiring and housing illegal aliens. On the U.S. border with Mexico Sheriff's deputies in Mara Copa County, Arizona, picked up some 100 illegal aliens stranded in the desert in punishing triple digit degree heat. These illegal aliens were abandoned by their smugglers. They were turned over to federal immigration officials.

The Internal Revenue Service is now warning churches and nonprofit groups against improper political campaigning this election season. The Internal Revenue Service says it could endanger their tax exempt status. This notice has gone out to more than 15,000 tax exempt organizations and churches throughout the country.

A group called the We Are America Alliance has launched a nation wide drive to register large numbers of what they call immigrant voters before election day. This drive is raising new concerns and fears that illegal aliens will also be registered to vote in the November elections. Casey Wian has the story from Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They call it the summer of democracy. A nationwide effort to transform 1 million immigrants into registered voters before the midterm elections this Fall.

EUN SOON LEE, WE ARE AMERICA ALLIANCE: We saw the millions that went up to march from March to May of this year for immigrant rights. What we're seeing is that people are realizing that we have to take that energy and the strength from the marches to the ballot box.

WIAN: The group says it's targeting the 9 million immigrants are who are eligible to become U.S. citizens and another 3 million adult children of immigrants who are eligible to vote, but haven't registered.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: Nothing is more important than for people to become citizens to register and vote so the people will hear you.

WIAN: But there's little to prevent millions of non-citizens and even illegal aliens from registering as well. Only two states, Arizona and New Hampshire require registered voters to prove they're citizens. The issue of illegal aliens voting has been simmering in Washington since 1996 when Loretta Sanchez ousted Orange County California Congressman Bob Dornan. Illegally cast ballots were responsible for 80 percent of her narrow margin of victory. In 2004 New Mexico uncovered more than 3,000 fraudulent voter registrations, many tied to immigrant rights groups. And this year unsuccessful Democratic Congressional candidate Francine Busby declared you don't need papers for voting.

PATRICK ROGERS, AMERICAN CENTER FOR VOTING RIGHTS: Many states are looking at photo I.D. They're looking at safeguards to make sure that citizens only are voting. One of the problems of low voter turnout is concerns and lack of confidence in the outcome. If you don't have safeguards going in, you certainly are not going to give the voter any confidence in what comes out.

WIAN: Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde has introduced a bill that would require all states to demand proof of citizenship for voter registration. And a photo I.D. to vote. Illegal alien advocates are mobilizing a letter writing campaign to fight those proposed requirements.

(on camera): They claim that demanding proof of citizenship would disenfranchise many poor and elderly voters. However polls show that 80 percent of the American voting public actually approves proof of citizenship or photo I.D. requirements for voting, Lou.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Particularly when there is no equivocation whatsoever on the parts of these voter drives. They mean to get who they can.

WIAN: Yes, absolutely and they apparently have a very short memory because they say that they're trying to sign up immigrants and presumably get immigrants who would be more sympathetic to amnesty. But if they remember back to proposition 200 in Arizona just two years ago, nearly half of all Latino voters voted in favor of that, which required proof of citizenship for voting.

DOBBS: Absolutely, Casey thank you very much. Casey Wian reporting from Los Angeles.

Also tonight, President Bush has warned Mexican president Vicente Fox that time is running out on U.S. immigration reform, as the president calls it, comprehensive immigration reform. President Bush told President Fox Congress is unlikely, in his opinion, to pass an immigration bill before the November elections.

U.S. states are being forced to fight this immigration crisis themselves. In the absence of federal leadership and action 27 states across the country have passed bills cracking down on illegal immigration. And an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official has actually spoken out directly about our nation's border crisis. I.C.E. spokespersons Mark Ramondi said September 11 proves there can be no national security without an immigration system that enforces our immigration laws, which is what we've been saying here for a number of years.

Tonight, Israel says it has dropped massive explosives on a suspected Hezbollah command bunker in Beirut. We'll be bringing you the very latest. And from the Israel/Lebanon border, reports of more fierce fighting. A village in northern Israel has been hard hit by Hezbollah rockets. We'll have that live report for you.

Today some members of Congress challenged the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. They warned him about harm to this country's, are you ready, concern expressed about the harm to our middle class. Imagine that, in Washington, D.C. Stay with us for that and our continuing coverage of the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Just within the past hour, the oceanliner Orient Queen has arrived in Laranca, Cyprus from Beirut. About 1,000 U.S. and British citizens now out of the warzone as a result. Maryland officials are preparing for the repatriation of Americans evacuated from Lebanon. Hundreds will be arriving at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport over just the next several days.

And tonight, the Pentagon is considering flying U.S. marine units deep into the interior parts of Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah to rescue stranded Americans. As marine helicopters would be flying over Hezbollah territory if the mission does go ahead. Tonight, there is heavy fighting in southern Lebanon between Israeli troops and Hezbollah terrorists. Israeli troops attacking Hezbollah outposts and searching for Hezbollah rocket launchers. Christiane Amanpour joins us live from the Israeli/Lebanese border. Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Well Lou, it's been quite a heavy day of fighting. Exchange of fire between Israel and the Hezbollah guerrillas all day along this northern border.

Right here in the town of Matula (ph) where we are, in the evening, there was a very harsh exchange of fire and there was even some suggestion by some of the forces here that there may have been an infiltration of some Hezbollah guerrillas into this little town. We saw a lot of ground forces trying to search them out. We heard a huge amount of outgoing artillery and we also heard machine gunfire. But it still hasn't been confirmed whether or not there was an infiltration.

Meanwhile, all during the day, despite the Israeli push, there's been a huge barrage of Hezbollah rockets onto positions in Avivim, which is where we were and which was the site of the fiercest clashes between the Israeli forces and the Hezbollah.

This we're told started when Israeli forces went into an area of southern Lebanon by the border to try to take out Hezbollah outposts and they started a confrontation or it started at that point. Two Israeli soldiers killed, some nine were wounded. And then throughout the day, barrages of Hezbollah rockets on some of the towns in northern Israel as far south as Nazareth, also Haifa. In Nazareth, two children were killed. In Haifa there wasn't any damage. Lou?

DOBBS: Christiane, thank you very much -- Christiane Amanpour reporting from the Lebanese/Israeli border tonight.

I'm joined now by three leading authorities on the Middle East. Here in New York joining me Gary Sick, he is professor at Columbia University, serving on the National Security Council staff. From Philadelphia, Daniel Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum, well-versed on radical Islamist terrorists, an expert on the Middle East. From Washington D.C., Judith Kipper, adviser to the Council of Foreign Relations for middle east programs. We thank you all for being here.

Let me turn to you first, Professor Sick. Does it appear to you that Israel is going to be successful in its determination to strike both Hezbollah and get rid of its infrastructure and its weaponry?

GARY SICK, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I think they're being quite successful at striking the infrastructure and getting rid of some of the weapons. I understand the objective is really to eliminate Hezbollah, as an issue. I don't think that's really feasible.

I think because of its political background and where it stands presently, eliminating it is going to be impossible unless they go through another invasion again. DOBBS: Is an invasion possible, Judith Kipper?

JUDITH KIPPER, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think an invasion is possible, but a limited invasion. Israel had a very, very bad experience in Lebanon, occupied a certain part of the south for 18 years and still has Hezbollah on its border.

Hezbollah is an idea and it is expressed in a political party, a social welfare organization and a highly, highly trained militia. They can get their weapons and their hideouts, but they are not going to be able to eliminate their fighters or the ideology that Hezbollah is inspired by.

DOBBS: Daniel Pipes, with those cautionary words by both Judith Kipper and Gary Sick, Israel has really no choice but to succeed against Hezbollah if it is to remain a sovereign nation, correct?

DANIEL PIPES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST FORUM: Hezbollah is a real challenge to Israel, a new kind of challenge to Israel, but I agree with both of the others on this panel that Israel's means are limited.

I think what Israel can achieve is not the eradication of root and branch of Hezbollah, but what it can do -- and this will take time -- will be to convince Lebanese in general, Shia in particular, Hezbollah members especially, that they can't win, this won't go anywhere, that they have nothing to gain by continuing to attack Israel. That they're in fact going to suffer more consequences, more bad consequences by doing this.

DOBBS: Israel, Professor Sick, withdraws from Gaza, withdraws from Lebanon, is moving back in the West Bank and doing so unilaterally, an expression of good faith. And then Hezbollah, for its political reasons or for whatever, kills Israeli soldiers, kidnaps three of them. At the center of this conflict now, are we in a situation where suddenly we have to say 58 years of violence, this cycle of madness has to end? We convene the quartet and we say, there will be an imposed peace in the Middle East?

SICK: I would like to think that there's a nice silver bullet somewhere that we can pull out of our pocket and say, this is going to be the solution to the problem. It's never worked in the past. And I...

DOBBS: ... But we haven't done that.

SICK: We've never tried to impose a formal settlement on the region. We have used our influence very strongly to bring the parties along and get them to agree to something. And basically, if you look at what Israel, for instance, went into Lebanon to impose a solution on them. And in fact, they created Hezbollah in the process of doing that. And basically created a whole new set of ideologies that they had to face.

DOBBS: And when you say they created both Iran and Syria in effect...

SICK: ... Sponsors came in to help, but in fact, it was in reaction to the Israeli behavior that did it.

DOBBS: Judith Kipper, the idea of the world saying enough, two states will exist side by side, the region will adjust, will accept it. And the powers will enforce and impose settlement. Is that an approach that you would be able to support?

KIPPER: I don't think an imposed settlement is necessary because the Israelis and the Palestinians in an Egyptian resort in the year 2001 actually worked out a detailed peace agreement that is forgotten, but it's not lost.

And the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how or when you measure it, between 60 and 90 percent, not only support that arrangement, which has been published, and they also wish it to be implemented. They want the problem solved. They want it to be implemented.

DOBBS: Then how, Judith, do we make it happen? Because my guess is that the world who cares about life and whether Hezbollah or Israeli, whether Iraqi or American, it is about to say enough, this is perpetrating madness?

KIPPER: It is perpetrating madness. And all of what we see is a function of non settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian problem. What's required is for the president of the United States to take an initiative, a diplomatic initiative with the support of NATO, the U.N., the Security Council, the G8, the Arab states who have squarely blamed Hezbollah for this and who have all agreed, the Arab states, to make peace with Israel, full normal relations once the Palestinian problem is solved.

DOBBS: Daniel Pipes, your view?

PIPES: I have a different view on this one. I think the notion of imposed peace is an oxymoron, cannot happen. Peace comes when one side gives up. And either Israel are going to give up, and there will be no more Israel or the Palestinians, Hezbollah and others will give up and there will be finally a resolution of the conflict. But it can't be imposed. It can't be brokered.

DOBBS: But tonight, Daniel, there may be no more Lebanon at this rate and there may be Hezbollah. There may be Israel and there may be Hamas.

Why should the world tolerate this approach? And why in particular should the United States, which has invested blood, money in Israel for 58 years doing the same. Why in the world should we not simply demand rationality and even two-state solution in the Middle East and end this sponsorship of terror by Syria, Iran, the funding by Saudi Arabia, although I must give Saudi Arabia straightforwardly credit for stepping up here against Hezbollah. I mean, why should we tolerate anymore of this predictive, conventional and tried and trashed approach that we've endured for 58 years in this world?

PIPES: I completely sympathize with your anguish, but I fear the historical record shows that wars end when one side gives up, not because we're anguished about it, because we're fed up with it. We're not about to put our troops in the way between Hezbollah and Israel. We're not about to take responsibility. Short of that, all we can do is help them broker some kind of resolution. All we can do is help the Israelis finally achieve their goal of signaling to Hezbollah, to Hamas and to others that this is futile. Don't bother with this, this is not going to work.

Daniel Pipes, as always, good to have you here. Gary Sick thank you very much. Judith Kipper in Washington, thank you.

Coming up at the top the hour here on CNN "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much Lou, a massive bomb hits a bunker in Beirut. Did Israel decapitate the leadership of Hezbollah? We're going to go their live. Take a look. There are concerns that Hezbollah may plan to hit some targets in the United States. Our Kelli Arena is on top of the story. Also we'll go live to Cyprus where a ship has arrived carrying Americans away from danger in Lebanon. But we'll also report on some other Americans who are actually right now moving to Israel in the middle of a war. What's up with that? Mary Snow standing by to tell us. All that Lou, coming up at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Looking forward to it. Thank you very much, Wolf Blitzer.

This just in to CNN over just the past few minutes. Let's go to the House of Representatives. These are the votes being taken on, as we said, President Bush using the first veto of his presidency to vote down stem cell research, passed obviously by both the House and the senate. The House right now voting to overcome that veto. It is now obvious they will not have the votes necessary to overcome that veto to fund federal research and stem cell research. The bill was approved by the House a year ago with strong bipartisan support. President Bush threatened the veto and today he did just that. This is the first time that President Bush has used his veto power. Again the House, failing to muster enough votes to overturn the president's veto on stem cell research funding.

A reminder now to vote on our poll. Do you believe it's time for the United States, the European union, Russia and the United Nations to convene an emergency session to formulate new solutions to the Middle East crisis? Yes or no? Please cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up here in just a few moments.

U.S. marines may soon be flying rescue missions deep into Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon. And Israel says it's attacked a command bunker in Beirut, dropping 23 tons of explosives. More Americans being evacuated from Lebanon as we speak. We'll have the latest on the Middle East conflict next. And on Capitol Hill today, Congress doing something very rare indeed. Standing up for the middle class. We'll have that report and a great deal more still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Israeli war planes tonight attacked a suspected Hezbollah command bunker located in southern Beirut. Hezbollah's leadership claims no one was hurt in that attack. Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah terrorists are clashing inside Lebanon tonight. More Hezbollah rockets falling deep into northern Israel today. Two Israeli children, two Israeli soldiers dying today. A U.S. chartered ship, chartered for the evacuation of American citizens, carrying nearly 1,000 of our citizens, of evacuees from Lebanon, arriving in Cyprus tonight. Up to 6,000 other Americans will be evacuated from Lebanon over the next several days.

Two notable results from Tuesday's Georgia primary election. This country's Christian right taking in the defeat of former Christian coalition leader Ralph Reed. He lost his bid to be the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor amid allegations of connections to the Jack Abramoff scandal. And U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney now faces a runoff. She failed to win 50 percent of the vote. The Democrat made headlines this Spring with her run-in with a U.S. Capitol police officer. A grand jury declining to indict her.

Congress finally coming to the realization that this nation's war against the middle class is for real, it is widening and it is worsening. Congress warned Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke today that middle class workers and their families are falling farther behind in this so-called healthy U.S. economy. Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The gap between haves and the have-nots in the United States is widening. For the haves, profits are up. CEO pay is soaring. For the have nots, most Americans, credit card debt is growing, gas prices spiking and paychecks shrinking.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: The squeeze that middle class families are feeling on all sides right now, being hit by a slow down, in terms of wages, maybe losing a job, health care costs going up.

SYLVESTER: Factoring in inflation, hourly wages actually fell more than half a percentage point in the last year. A new survey found 82 percent of Americans are very worried about personal debt.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Who is this economy working for?

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I agree that inequality is potentially a concern for the U.S. economy. I think the really only long-term solution to this problem is to try to upgrade the skill levels of our workers.

SYLVESTER: But it's not just low skilled work that's vanishing. Higher skilled, higher paid jobs like software engineering are also being outsourced. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke did not have any quick fixes. He forecasted that wages will increase over time, but he acknowledged it's been slow in coming. Lou?

DOBBS: Well, that aggravates me, Lisa, to hear a fed chairman say it's the skills of American workers when he knows full well, absolutely, with an absolute certainty that the fact of the matter is it's an issue of creating jobs, high paying jobs and not forcing this middle class to compete with cheap foreign workers, whether we're importing them illegally from Mexico, primarily, and the rest of central and south America, or exporting jobs to cheap labor markets. I mean, that's just infuriating.

SYLVESTER: It's one of those excuses we hear time and time again, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, good for Congress. Good for Debbie Stabenow. Good for people in that city finally understanding who the people are that make this country work. Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much.

Coming up next, the results of our poll tonight. Much more, well at least a little more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, 76 percent of you saying it is time for the United States, European Union, Russia and the U.N. to convene to formulate new solutions to the Middle East crisis.

That's our broadcast. We thank you for being with us. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer is next, Wolf.

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