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Death Toll Keeps Rising in Eighth Day of Mideast Conflict

Aired July 19, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, as the United States considers sending Marine helicopters on rescue missions into Hezbollah- controlled southern Lebanon, the evacuation of thousands of Americans ramps up. And the first Americans taken out of the war zone tell us their stories of escape.
Meanwhile, Israel says it's launched a massive attack on a Hezbollah bunker in Beirut. And, Hezbollah rockets fall on the city of Nazareth.

As the death toll keeps rising and hospitals fight to save lives, there seems to be no end in sight.

The latest on the crisis the whole world's watching with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, reporters across the region and Americans trapped in Beirut caught in the crossfire, it's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

A lot of guests coming up tonight; let's begin in Beirut with Nic Robertson, our CNN Senior Correspondent, who just filed this report from Lebanon about the humanitarian situation, which is getting worse by the day. Watch.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): According to the U.N., over half a million of this country of four million displaced from their homes. The government says more than 100,000 need emergency help.

And, on top of that, the country's ports are blockaded, the airports blasted beyond use, bridges broken by bombs and roads often under attack have cut off the country from the rest of the world and regular food shipments.

It seems the Lebanese are finding unity, not because everyone like Hezbollah but because their country is sinking deeper into this crisis.


KING: Nic Robertson, can it -- can it get any worse?

ROBERTSON: It can and that's the worry of the government here. They fear that more people will need to find more temporary housing. They'll need to find more food for them. People living -- moving into schools won't have places to cook food, won't have places to look after their children.

International aid agencies are here. I talked to some of them this evening. They're going to begin their distributions of -- of food supplies and other medical needs and blankets for people. They're going to begin that tomorrow.

But, it is a crisis here that the government doesn't even know quite how large it is but they know that they're struggling even at this early stage to manage it now and they know that they don't have the wherewithal to cope with it down the road -- Larry.

KING: CNN's Chief International Correspondent is Christiane Amanpour. She's in the northern Israeli border. She's been there all day. And, here's an example of what she's seen.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fiercest clashes yet between the Israeli Army and Hezbollah guerillas are here in (INAUDIBLE) 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.


KING: Christiane, I guess you're getting tired of this but where is this going?

AMANPOUR: Well, it's going towards getting the Hezbollah positions away from the border and away from places where they can directly attack, send in rockets to these places in northern Israel and to some of the towns that we've seen like Nazareth, which is a predominantly Arab town and Haifa and such like and potentially even beyond.

That's the aim. The aim is to move them back from this border area, according to the Israeli military. Unsure how much longer they're going to go on, whether it's weeks, whether it's days, whether it's a week, because Israel has generally in these instances done it, done their offenses with one eye to the military objective and one eye to the international community and to the international public opinion.

And, already this massive ten-to-one ratio of casualties in Lebanon compared to casualties here is causing consternation. The International Red Cross already raising much concern about the killing of the civilians and others in Lebanon as part of this operation and also about the infrastructure. Of course, when we talk to the Israeli forces here they say their main concern is about the safety and the permanent security of the Israeli citizens in this border area.

And, you know, while they're trying to figure out an eventual political solution to this and how to move them back, how to create potentially another force that could take over it's going to take some time and right now no calls are certainly from Israel's biggest ally, the United States, no calls yet for a ceasefire.

KING: That's Christiane Amanpour on the border of northern Israel.

Let's go to Larnaca, Cyprus, Anderson Cooper standing by. He anchors Anderson Cooper 360. He will follow this program with a major two hour show dealing with all of this. What's the situation concerning the exodus?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, a lot of developments here tonight. As we speak over these next couple of hours we're going to see more and more Americans arriving. That's the ship behind me there that arrived several hours ago as many as 1,100 Americans onboard. It's the first really major movement of Americans. They have now arrived here. Most of them are off that vessel.

The question is what happens tomorrow? The U.S. military saying they're going to be able to move as many as 3,000 Americans tomorrow on ships as well as continued use of these ferries and also helicopters.

They're trying to ramp this up as quickly as they can. They are aware of the criticism that they haven't moved fast enough but we're seeing a lot of American students here landing tonight, getting off the ship behind me and trying to figure out where they go from here.

Some of them are going to be staying in hotels. Some of them are trying to get charter flights out as quickly as they can. But a lot of relieved people here, Larry, finally getting out.

The question is how many more remain? Twenty-five thousand is the estimated total number of Americans in country. The Marines believe, I talked to the Marine Brigadier General Carl Jensen earlier today, they believe it could be as many as 8,000, 10,000 but they simply don't know.

There is no final accurate number. The number keeps changing. People change their mind. Some of those 25,000 no doubt will want to stay in country. It is a very fluid situation. Logistically it is very complicated and they say they are trying to move as fast as they can -- Larry.

KING: Thanks, Anderson Cooper. You'll see him immediately following this program hosting CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.

Now to The Pentagon, Jamie McIntyre, CNN's Pentagon Correspondent, who reported today that what's going to happen with helicopters?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, here's the problem. They're getting people out of Beirut pretty well. As Anderson said, they've ramped that up pretty well but what about the people who are trapped in the south?

The plan is to bus them to Beirut so they can get on ships and go but it's not safe to do that and it's not clear when it will be. And, what Pentagon officials are telling us today quietly is that they're looking at plans to send helicopters in to pull these people out if they have to.

They still want to stick to the over land route if they can but they're looking at options and that's one of the reasons that they brought the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group off the coast of Lebanon with 1,200 Marines.

They've got plenty of options, plenty of helicopters, landing craft if they needed to someplace farther to the south. It just gives the commander on the scene all the options available. If things start to get worse quickly they can move quickly to get Americans out.

Right now they're telling them to just stay put. They're in a holding pattern. They're hoping to drive them to Beirut, put them on ships, so they can come back to Cyprus.

KING: Jamie, how many people can fit on those helicopters?

MCINTYRE: Well, the helicopters typically can only take 30, 40 at a time, so it's not the ideal way to move people but in an emergency it can be the best and fastest way. Of course, the problem is if you're going to fly these helicopters over southern Lebanon, you're flying over area that is controlled by Hezbollah and that presents a danger all its own.

So, they'd prefer to be able to get people safely on busses, move them out by sea. That's the plan. But the point they're making is they've got a lot of options and the commander on the scene has a lot of flexibility, especially when the Iwo Jima arrives sometimes tomorrow or the next day.

KING: Thanks, Jamie, as usual right on top of the scene, Jamie McIntyre, our CNN Pentagon Correspondent.

We're going to talk to some fortunate people right after these words. Don't go away.


KING: Let's go to Washington. Standing by is Ryan Burnett, one of the first Americans evacuated from Lebanon to return to United States soil. He's a native of Kentucky. He was in Beirut taking a summer university course on the Arabic language and culture. How did you get out, Ryan?

RYAN BURNETT, EVACUATED FROM LEBANON: Well, we stayed in Beirut and then we were called by the embassy and the embassy helicoptered us to Cyprus and then from Cyprus to Athens and then from Athens home.

KING: Do you feel lucky?

BURNETT: Oh, I feel very lucky, especially with it escalating.

KING: Did you leave a lot of stuff in Lebanon?

BURNETT: I ended up leaving one of my suitcases back. I was -- I was real pleased to be able to take a backpack and a duffel bag. They were only talking in the beginning about just being able to take like a backpack out. So, I got -- I got about half of my clothing back.

KING: How is the United States handling this?

BURNETT: I think they're handling it about as, you know, pretty well. If you look at just the logistics of 25,000 people, the number that's being thrown out there that's a whole lot of people to try to bring out at one time. And just -- they're doing all they can and putting a lot of effort and moving a lot of manpower into the area to just try to bring everyone out it seems.

KING: I'm guessing, Ryan that you've never before in your life been under bombardment. If so, what was it like?

BURNETT: Well, the first day we were probably about three, four miles from the airport and you could still hear the shelling and you could -- you could hear the jets and see the jets.

But then towards the weekend apparently Hezbollah was moving more towards our neighborhood in western Beirut and we saw more and more, you know, Hezbollah flags and Hezbollah trucks driving around.

And then the shelling became closer and closer and then eventually Sunday afternoon our building was beginning to shake from the shelling it was getting so close, so we decided to move to east Beirut and watch from the -- get a hotel actually.

KING: When this is over would you go back?

BURNETT: Well, my Master's is in international security and a focus in the Middle East, so it's kind of my I guess what my career will be probably, so I would say I'll be over there again.

KING: You will go back?


KING: Thanks, Ryan, good luck and congratulations, Ryan Burnett.

BURNETT: Thank you.

KING: Now joining us here in the studios in Los Angeles is Amer Issa. His wife and 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son were trapped in Lebanon, finally got evacuated; the need for evacuation especially acute for his son who has a major medical condition. Joining Amer here is Dr. Sue McDiarmid. She is one of Nouredione Issa's doctors, helped get him evacuated from Lebanon.

First, Amer, where is your wife?

AMER ISSA, WIFE, DAUGHTER AND SON EVACUATED FROM LEBANON: My wife now is on the border arriving to Cyprus with my family, with my two kids. And I've been trying to reach her and until now I was unlucky and I'm hoping maybe we can get lucky and she will call me right now.

KING: So she's there with the two kids?

ISSA: She is there, yes.

KING: They are safe?

ISSA: They are safe.

KING: What is the condition of his son, doctor?

DR. SUE MCDIARMID, DOCTOR FOR NOUREDOINE ISSA: As we can tell, Larry, he's doing just fine.

KING: What does he have?

MCDIARMID: He had a liver transplant at UCLA when he was just six months old and so he still has some (INAUDIBLE) from that and, of course, he has to take essential medications and that's been our biggest concern is being able to protect him.

KING: What were they doing there, Amer?

ISSA: Visiting family, our parents, their grandparents as usual every summer. They would like to go there.

KING: Are you Lebanese?

ISSA: I am Lebanese.

KING: Why didn't you go with them?

ISSA: Business, work, I was supposed to join them in August but unfortunately all of this happened and all plans have been canceled.

KING: Have you spoken to her at all?

ISSA: I spoke to her just before she leave the house and since then she's been text-messaging me and she was supposed to call me up on her arrival to Cyprus but so far no luck.

KING: Are you worried?

ISSA: Of course I'm worried, you know.

KING: So you don't know if she's in Cyprus? ISSA: I...

KING: You think she's in Cyprus.

ISSA: She sent me a text message this morning at 6:30 our local time here telling me that the boat is leaving now, so I know she's on the boat but why she didn't call me until now this is getting me really anxious.

KING: What do you make of all of this?

ISSA: It's a bad experience and I feel bad for all of what's going on, you know.

KING: Do you blame anyone or thing or group?

ISSA: I blame both sides, civilians, no way civilians they have to pay price for this.

KING: How, doctor, did you help secure this evacuation?

MCDIARMID: Well, it seemed like despite their very best efforts Nour and his family were having trouble making contact with the embassy in Beirut. So, I wrote a letter and then when it seemed like that wasn't getting too much attention, I enlisted the help of the media relations folks at UCLA and some Congressmen and Congressman Costa and Waxman and also Senator Feinstein they all brought pressure to bear.

KING: All Californians.

MCDIARMID: Yes, team effort that got him I think safe.

KING: That must make you feel pretty good huh?

ISSA: Yes.

KING: What will stress do to the young man?

MCDIARMID: I think that Nour is going to actually do well. He is a survivor like the rest of his family. Any child that goes through a war carries psychological scars but he'll be fine.

KING: Chris Burns is our CNN Berlin Bureau Chief. He's in Larnaca, Cyprus. How would you bet they're doing, Chris? Where would you guess they are?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN BERLIN BUREAU CHIEF: Well, we're over here with some people who are among those 25,000-plus thousands of foreign -- thousands of visitors from the states who have come here to Lebanon and got caught in the middle of a conflict.

I've got a couple of members of a family that came over, Zana (ph) and Mohamed Elabdullah. They're with us right now traveling with their families. And you were in south Lebanon when these bombardments began? MOHAMED ELABDULLAH: Yes.


BURNS: That was pretty hairy at that time wasn't it?

M. ELABDULLAH: Yes, it was. We didn't know what we were going to do. W e were -- they were hitting all the bridges around us. We didn't know. We wanted to leave to come to Beirut but...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But like they kept hitting everywhere.

M. ELABDULLAH: Every, yes, you'd keep hearing on the news things happening and you'd get scared so easily.

BURNS: How scared were you?

M. ELABDULLAH: Well the first night when it all happened, we all woke up at around I don't know.


M. ELABDULLAH: Four a.m. maybe. The house was shaking. We all ran. I don't know how we got downstairs but...

BURNS: Now from there then you got back up to Beirut. You had -- there was probably a pretty wild ride to get there right?

M. ELABDULLAH: That was about five days later maybe and so we just took a risk two days ago. I don't remember. I've lost track of the days.

BURNS: Now your family has been trying to get out of there for quite some time right?



BURNS: And you managed to get on this boat today. Was it pretty difficult?

M. ELABDULLAH: We got -- we got to be lucky. We were one of the last people on there. We were standing on the last bus. They just (INAUDIBLE) like last minute got us (INAUDIBLE).

BURNS: And how was the trip over? It was what five, six hours on the boat?



M. ELABDULLAH: Probably about seven. I think about seven. I'm not sure. I'm not too sure.

BURNS: When you get here now you went through this processing now and you hope to get on a plane.

M. ELABDULLAH: We'll see what happens. We don't know what's going to happen.

BURNS: Charter or regular flight?

M. ELABDULLAH: I honestly have no idea right now. My dad's...

BURNS: Your parents are working it out?

M. ELABDULLAH: Yes, we're figuring it out right now.

BURNS: So, how was it, I mean the fact you had to leave are you sad, are you angry? What are you feeling?

M. ELABDULLAH: It's sad to see your country, this happening to your country. It's a beautiful place to be and it's depressing to see because the people -- it's just the wrong people.


BURNS: And now it's...

M. ELABDULLAH: I don't know. I don't know how to explain it, you know.

BURNS: I can understand.

M. ELABDULLAH: The wrong people are paying for it. All the innocent people have to deal with it.

BURNS: Now it's back to San Diego?

M. ELABDULLAH: Yes, San Diego hopefully.

BURNS: Maybe enjoy the rest of your summer if you can.

M. ELABDULLAH: (INAUDIBLE). We'll see what happens.

BURNS: Thanks very much.

M. ELABDULLAH: Thank you.


BURNS: Mohamed and Zana. Thank you very much.

M. ELABDULLAH: Thank you.

BURNS: Have a good trip back. So, Larry, these are among the thousands of people who are tourists and got stuck in this conflict and now are on their way back home, luckily back in a safe manner but others are still pinned down over there trying to get back out of there -- Larry.

KING: Thanks, Chris. Amer, how well do you think the United States is handling this?

ISSA: They could have done better. The Europeans were ahead of us by a few days but at least now they're moving and we're very grateful they did.

KING: Will he need medical care as soon as they get back?

MCDIARMID: I don't think so, Larry. We'll check him but I think he'll be fine as long as he gets his medicine.

KING: God speed to both of you. Let us know.

ISSA: I will, thank you.

KING: Amer Issa and Dr. Sue McDiarmid and Chris Burns.

When we come back, a gentleman who knows his way about things overseas, Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking minority member of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, he's next. Don't go away.


KING: Before we check in with Senator Biden, Amer Issa has just heard from his wife Rima. What is she saying?

ISSA: Actually this is my daughter on the phone now.

KING: Oh, your daughter, she's there with her?

ISSA: Yes. Yes, she is with her and they're OK. They're fine. They say they're tired but they're safe. They're already there now.

KING: They're in Larnaca, Cyprus?

ISSA: In Cyprus. They already -- they're already out of the boat. And, Farah how are you doing now? OK, and do you know where you're going now? To where I'm sorry where was that? They're taking them to Baltimore she's saying. May I speak to mom please?

KING: Is she still on the phone?

ISSA: She is. She is. She's trying to get her mom, yes. Yes, hi Rimma, how are you? Rimma, how are you doing? How is Nour doing? He's what? Nour is good so far that's good to hear, OK. All right, we're trying our best to get you his medication over there and hopefully -- she received his medication. She received it. Oh, that's really good news, OK.

KING: Amer, you can tell her she's on -- we're on television live around the world.

ISSA: And, Rimma, we are live around the world on Larry King with CNN, OK? All right, do you know where you going from here Rimma? OK, so you're leaving -- you're leaving to Baltimore at 2:00 a.m. right? KING: Baltimore, Maryland?

ISSA: Yes, Baltimore, Maryland, yes.

KING: Are they flying out?

ISSA: Yes, 2:00 p.m., so you're flying out at 2:00 p.m. local time? OK, all right great. I'll call you later on OK? All right, bye-bye.

KING: You going to go to Baltimore to meet her or wait until she gets here?

ISSA: I will go.

KING: You'll go to Baltimore?

ISSA: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, Amer.

ISSA: Oh, thank you.

KING: Let's check in with Senator Joe Biden now in Washington. Senator -- in Wilmington, Delaware, a little dramatic, Joe. I guess you understand.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Yes, it is. No, I do. I've just been talking to a Delawarean over there trying to get his wife and daughter out of south Lebanon and they got out. They got to Beirut. Now we're trying to get them to Cyprus. So, at any rate, I understand. I'm glad Amer has good news.

KING: Is this the beginning of World War III?

BIDEN: No, it's not the beginning of World War III. Actually, it may be a real opportunity to change the dynamic in the region, Larry. This is the first time that everyone's on the same page.

Not only are the Hezbollah holding Israeli soldiers hostage but they're holding Lebanon hostage and half the Lebanese people are angered at Hezbollah. The whole Sunni world understands this is a major gambit by Iran.

France and the European countries are united in this effort. And so, if we're smart, we have an opportunity to use this as a very serious uniting effort to close down Syria and put inordinate pressure on Hezbollah.

KING: Is Hezbollah the prime villain?

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, aided and abetted by Syria and Iran. Larry, you remember when France and the United States got a resolution passed in the United Nations almost a year ago calling for the Syrians to leave their occupation of Lebanon, which they did. But there were two other parts we never followed up on. It called for the disarmament of Hezbollah and it called for the Lebanese Army to move down into that region along the border because Lebanon didn't have any beef with Israel and Israel had no beef with Lebanon. And so, this was a deliberate effort to throw these two countries into this turmoil and the whole world knows it.

KING: What in your opinion is the United -- what should the United States be doing? Or, do you agree with what they're doing?

BIDEN: Well, I agree. First of all we were a little slow on the uptake in the evacuation and I got a couple numbers, Larry. I don't know whether it's appropriate to give them to you but I spoke to the State Department.

If you're an American citizen in the United States with family in Lebanon all you got to do is call 888-407-4747, give information about your family there, cell phone, et cetera, State Department in the United States will help you get connected and help get them out.

If you are listening internationally, American citizen in Lebanon, the number to call is in the U.S. dial country code and then 202-501-4444 because our embassy is overloaded. They can't take the calls. And State Department has finally set up a vehicle where they can get directly involved to add additional people to identify where folks are and get them out.

KING: Is there anything more the United States should be doing?

BIDEN: Yes, well I'm hoping they're doing some of what I'm about to say, although I don't know, Larry. This is a chance to get France more engaged in propping up the Lebanese government, helping train the Lebanese Army.

This is an opportunity for us to rally the Sunni Arab world from the Saudis to the Egyptians to put inordinate pressure upon Syria, who Syria relies heavily on the Sunni, wealthy Sunni countries, to cease and desist from this partnership with Iran and the support of Hezbollah.

In addition to that, this is a time where in which we should be preparing to get a U.N. resolution, which I think the administration is doing, to get Lebanese forces in the south along the border, along with U.N. forces that have countries participating that can shoot straight and hurt bad people if they have to.

They're the elements of what needs to be done now. Some of it I'm confident is being done. Others I'm not sure about.

KING: Thanks, Senator. We'll call on you again soon. Thanks for giving up part of your time.

BIDEN: Thanks a lot, Larry, OK.

KING: Senator Joe Biden, Ranking Minority Leader, Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When we come back, two men, Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland, the names should be familiar to you. They were both held hostage by Hezbollah in Lebanon years ago. We'll talk about that experience right after this.


KING: We're back. Let's get you up to date on developments. Israelis say they dropped 23 tons of explosives on a Beirut bunker, targeting Hezbollah leaders. Hezbollah denies any of its leadership was hurt.

Lebanon's prime minister says more than 300 killed and half a million people displaced from Israeli attacks, and he calls Israel a savage war machine. Hezbollah continues to fire rockets into Israel. Two children killed in Nazareth. Both sides clash in southern Lebanon. Evacuation of United States citizens from Lebanon. Hundreds of Americans have arrived in Cyprus.

The United States considering sending marine helicopters into southern Lebanon to rescue Americans. Thousands of refugees from Lebanon are now in Damascus, Syria. More on the way. And Secretary of State Rice will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan tomorrow.

We welcome now to LARRY KING LIVE from Oxford, England, Terry Waite, who was held hostage by Hezbollah in Lebanon for nearly five years. You remember him. He was taken captive in January of 1987 while working for the Archbishop of Canterbury as a hostage negotiator. And in Ft. Collins, Colorado, Thomas Sutherland, held hostage by Hezbollah in Lebanon for nearly 6 1/2 years. Abducted in June of 1985 while serving as a Dean at the famed American University in Beirut.

Both terry and Tom were released on November 18th, 1991. Terry, what's your read of what's happening now?

TERRY WAITE, FRMR HOSTAGE OF HEZBOLLAH: Well, first of all, Larry, it's a terribly sad situation. It's dreadful to see Lebanon, a country that was beginning to get back on its feet again, forming a fragile government, which brought together some of the disparate elements in that country. It's tragic now to see the way in which the country is being devastated as a result of the latest incursion by Hezbollah and their activities. It's just a very, very sad situation indeed.

KING: Thomas Sutherland, what was Hezbollah like as a captor?

THOMAS SUTHERLAND, FRMR HOSTAGE OF HEZBOLLAH: Well, they could have been a lot worse, Larry. We were treated much better than what the American prisoners were over in Vietnam. But it was still not a very nice situation. We had terrible beds, and we had very boring food, and we were chained to the wall 24 hours a day except when we went to the toilet. So it wasn't a very nice place to be in.

KING: Would you gather, Terry, the Israeli soldiers are being treated worse?

WAITE: I wouldn't have thought so, no. I think generally speaking those who are being held captive have been treated with reasonable consideration. As Tom said, our own situation was far from pleasant, but I have to say we were treated better than many, many prisoners are being treated in other parts of the world.

KING: What do you think Hezbollah's up to, Tom?

SUTHERLAND: Well, I kind of, I'm not really sure what their total objective is, but I think they just are hoping to get at Israel and they don't like Israel no way, and I think their whole objective is to punish Israel for what Israel's been doing in the Palestinian domain.

KING: What was their point, Terry, in taking you?

WAITE: Well, I was the only person from the west to have face- to-face contact in negotiating for the release of western hostages, and I'm afraid that they suspected, wrongly, that I was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair, and that was the whole essence of the interrogation of me in the first year of my captivity. If I had been involved in that, which I wasn't, I don't think I'd be alive now. And I was able to convince them that I was a humanitarian negotiator, and I came out with my life.

KING: Tom, why you?

SUTHERLAND: Well, I was kidnapped instead of the president of the American University of Beirut, Cal Plimpton, and they really didn't know who I was, which made me kind of angry because I thought I was a pretty important guy. I was a Dean, after all. But most of my friends at Colorado State said, a dean? Man, that's a four-letter word. But really, they were holding us as part of a hostage-taking arrangement to try to get their people released in Kuwait.

But at that time, you know, all of the people who were taken hostage, Larry, were not trying to do anything bad against Hezbollah. We were trying to get Lebanon reborn and brought back to life. Whereas now, you know, Hezbollah is looking at Israel as an aggressor and they don't like Israel at all. So anybody they kidnap now is likely to be treated much worse than we were.

KING: Great seeing you both again. Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland. Back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Let's check in now with Matthew Chance, CNN's senior international correspondent. He's in Gaza City. I understand that with him is Palestinian businessman Muhammad Faris whose home in Beit Hanoun was destroyed by Israeli tanks. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, there's been a lot of violence here in the Gaza Strip. Of course, not of the same intensity that we've been witnessing in southern Lebanon and elsewhere around there. But certainly over the past 24 hours at least ten Palestinians have been killed in a big Israeli operation in the center of the Gaza Strip, just a short distance from here, cracking down on what they call the terror infrastructure in this area.

They've got two objectives. One of them is of course to secure the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was abducted last month by Palestinian militants. They also want to stop Palestinian militants firing their makeshift rockets into southern Israel. They've not succeed at this stage in either getting the release of the soldier or stopping the rockets being fired. But they have succeed in downgrading the infrastructure in Gaza City to a very, very poor extent. It's made life for ordinary Palestinians very difficult. Muhammad Faris joins us now. He's a businessman here in Gaza. Thanks very much for being with us, Mohammed. How have these Israeli strikes affected life in the Gaza City? How have they affected your business?

MUHAMMAD FARIS, PALESTINIAN BUSINESSMAN: Well, all business is nearly on hold because of the destruction of the power station and the bridges, the roads, and the closures of Gaza's borders. We don't have any supplies coming in. We hardly have some cellars to run our generators around here. And the people, everybody is suffering, children, old people. Our fridges is not working. Our lifts, we have to go 12 floors by feet all the time. You know, it's a difficult life around.

CHANCE: Israel says it's doing this for a reason, it's to stop the terrorists in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, firing rockets into Israel and to get the release of their soldier. Are they achieving that?

FARIS: No, I doubt that, because Israel is bringing the civilian population into the conflict and I don't think this will achieve any aims for what they wanted to do. As a matter of fact, when everybody's suffering, when you lose everything and you have nothing to worry about, that will be more worrying for the Israelis than today.

CHANCE: What about Gilad Shalit, the young Israeli corporal? Isn't it time now for the militants to hand him back?

FARIS: I hope that he will be back to his parents, and I hope all the prisoners, I hope all the prisoners are released, and I hope there is a peace process, a real peace process will be occurring after this conflict.

CHANCE: All right, Muhammad Faris, thank you very much for being with us tonight. There you have it, Larry. These attacks by the Israelis, these strikes have been killing people here. They've also been affecting the lives of ordinary Palestinians. Again, the firing of rockets into southern Israel and the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit have still not been secured.

KING: Thank you very much, Matthew. Now we go to Damascus, Syria. Standing by is Aneesh Raman our CNN correspondent. The prime minister of Lebanon says more than a half a million Lebanese have been displaced because of this conflict. Thousands have sought refuge in Syria. Here is some of what a few of them are saying about their plight. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We didn't run because we were afraid but because we want to save our children. We are not afraid of death. We will die finally. But we come here for our children's sake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The situation is very bad. God bless Syria for receiving us here. We are a refugee nation, and the Arab world is doing nothing for Lebanon.


KING: Aneesh, how bad is it?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, I was at the border over the weekend. I went back today. And the numbers are just growing. Thousands pouring in, 40,000 people, the government says, crossed that Lebanese-Syrian border today. Hundreds of thousands have crossed since this crisis began, many of them Lebanese refugees. And at the border there is extreme anger.

I took a bus ride with a Lebanese family, 11 members in this family. The eldest was a 65-year-old grandmother. The youngest, the 3-year-old grandchild. They described horrific scenes of destruction in Lebanon. They were in southern Lebanon. They said bombs went off at two houses near to theirs. That's when they decided to take the dangerous trip out. The grandmother broke down in the car. She showed me a Lebanese bill that's about 50 U.S. cents. That's all she's got. Three bags between them. They say the world is turning a blind eye to what is happening, the devastation and the death in Lebanon, and they say Arab leaders are essentially needed but missing.

Concern, Larry, for the west should be the fact that they are showing, as you heard in those sound bites, strong support for Hezbollah, feeling that the west and the world has forgotten them. And in Syria strong support for this government that has opened up its borders, is placing these refugees in homes and hotels, giving them food, giving them shelter. And their anger toward Israel, their anger toward the west is only growing, and it will every hour that passes. They have no idea when they'll be able to go home.

It's just horrific to see the scenes that they've dealt with, to hear their stories. And you see everywhere here Hezbollah flags. They are all around at the border. And it just shows that support that really is just growing overnight. Larry?

KING: Thank you, Aneesh. Now we go to Larnaca, Cyprus. George Hale is an American evacuee, a student at George Washington University. How did you get out, George?

GEORGE HALE, AMERICAN EVACUATED FROM BEIRUT: The Norwegian crate ferry yesterday morning, about 24 hours ago. KING: Did you think you weren't going to make it?

HALE: No. We knew we were going to make it.

KING: How bad was it when you were there?

HALE: Well, there were bombings the two nights I was in Beirut after it started on Tuesday. But after that we moved to a northern suburb between Juniyah and Jubayl. It was a lot less intense there. You could hear things in the distance but it was no big deal compared to Beirut.

KING: How will you get home?

HALE: Lufthansa changed my flight. They're going to fly out on Friday. It was really no big deal. That was the easy part.

KING: Would you see yourself going back to Beirut?

HALE: Sure, once this is all over. It's an amazing place. I've never seen anything quite like it before Tuesday, last Tuesday, especially. But yes, it's an amazing place. I'd love to come back once this is all over.

KING: Thanks, George, and good luck to you. George Hale.

HALE: Thank you.

KING: George Hale, he made it out. When we come back, Shimon Peres, the former prime minister of Israel, now Israeli deputy prime minister. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back. Shimon Peres, Israeli deputy prime minister, the former prime minister. Now, the Israelis are saying they dropped 23 tons of explosives on a Beirut bunker, targeting Hezbollah leaders. Hezbollah said nothing happened. What do you say?

SHIMON PERES, ISRAELI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I imagine they have emptied their bunkers. But you see, nobody was hurt. They took a whole quarter of Beirut, and they made it into a Hezbollah quarter. That's our target. And we shall bomb it out. But as you see, nobody was really hurt because they run away and there is no civilian life there.

KING: So you didn't want to hurt anyone?

PERES: No, we knew there is nobody there. But we don't want them to return to Beirut.

KING: So why drop a bomb on nothing?

PERES: Because they have bunkers and they thought they can run the war from those bunkers. By the way, they have also Iranian personnel. And we won't let them do it. We don't, and we didn't bomb anything, any civilian target in Beirut. We are very, very careful. And I think many of the Beirut people understands exactly what we are doing. And we left again without a trace.

I heard the complaint of the Lebanese people. Right away my heart is with them. Who would like to see a lady of 65 years old running away? And the complaint that the Arab world is turning a blind eye on them and the rest of the world. But unfortunately, they are turning a blind eye on themselves. They can stop it in the five minutes' time, to stop the Hezbollah from firing missiles against Israel. They fire between 100 to 200 missiles a day. What do you expect us to do, to say ...


KING: The prime minister said today, hold it. The prime minister said today that more than 300 of their people have been killed, half a million displaced, and they called Israel, this is the prime minister now, a savage war machine.

PERES: Yes, and the Hezbollah? Why doesn't the prime minister turn to Hezbollah? How did it start? Why doesn't he stop the Hezbollah? I don't understand what does he ask from Israel? Israel didn't start the war. Israel didn't attack anybody. We gave back to Lebanon all the land, all the water. He has to run his own country. The minute he will stop, nobody will be hurt and nobody will have to run away. We were living for six years in total peace.

We didn't hurt anybody. One morning, and by the way, that was the morning when the Iranians say no to the European and Americans, very same day almost, all of a sudden started to fire rockets, to fire missiles, to try to hijack our soldiers, and they don't understand the prime minister, with all due respect to him. He has to govern his country because he cannot govern, or he cannot defend the life of Israel.

KING: But they say that you overreacted to the taking of two prisoners. How do you respond to that?

PERES: Well, why do they held the two prisoners? If this is overreaction, let them release the two prisoners and there won't be any reactions whatsoever. Now, it's a little bit cynical in our judgment to have 1,500 or almost 2,000 missiles fired over our heads, over our schools, over our restaurants, over our daily life. Why is that so proportionate and accepted? I don't understand it. Why don't they stop it? As the Palestinians the same. They continue to shoot. We left Gaza. We left Lebanon.

We told them furthermore, if you want to have an exchange of prisoner, not an exchange. We're ready to release prisoners. Our prime minister said publicly that he's ready to meet with Mr. Abu Mazen, Abbas, and discuss the release of prisoners, many of them. Why are they shooting? Why are they firing? The land is in their hands. The prisoners can be released. So why should they suffer and why should they make us suffer? A little bit of fairness and logic.

KING: We have an e-mail question from, hold it. We have an e- mail question from Ryan in Dresden, Germany, who asks, why didn't Israel give notice and allow people to evacuate prior to starting the conflict in an area filled with so many E.U. and American nationals?

PERES: No, no. We informed publicly, we told many of the Lebanese people who live among the terrorists, we told them either get rid of the missiles or leave your homes. We warned them and then we let everybody that wants to get out, we stopped the shooting and we let everybody go out. Nobody was hurt, by the way. And also, the numbers of the victims are not acceptable.

We think the information coming from Lebanon is totally unreliable, as their behavior is unacceptable. So we're not impressed by it. I know that every night our headquarters hits house and house to make sure that no civilian life will be hit, that no civilian infrastructure will be destroyed. We are not inconsiderated.

KING: We're out of time.

PERES: We have to stop the Hezbollah.

KING: We're out of time, and I thank you very much, Mr. Prime minister Shimon Peres. We're out of time. I'm sorry. Running against the clock. We'll be right back with our remaining moments right after this.


KING: Before we leave you, we want to check in with Nada Ghattas, our 26-year-old restaurant manager from Los Angeles, trapped in Beirut and hoping to evacuate. This is her third night on the phone. How are things, Nada?

NADA GHATTAS, U.S. CITIZEN TRAPPED IN BEIRUT: Things seem to be a little better and a little worse. During the day you kind of forget that you're in the middle of a war because you don't hear quite as much. But then at night you do hear the bombardment a little heavier. So I think the Israelis seem to be kind of tapering off during the day just for the evacuation purposes, especially in my area, but you know, down south of course they're heavy, there's some heavy firing. So we don't quite hear that up here.

But, I actually stopped by the American embassy today just to kind of see what was going on down there. And it really was disheartening to see what was going on. There was a lot of panicked people outside the embassy trying to find out what was going on and just not getting a lot of answers unfortunately and we're still worried.

KING: Nada, I have to apologize, we're out of time, but I'll check back with you tomorrow and we'll give you some more minutes. Nada Ghattas, actually we hope we don't have to talk to you tomorrow, we hope you're out of there. That's it for tonight, Anderson Cooper is next with "AC 360," Anderson.


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