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Condoleezza Rice Heads to Region; Israeli Tanks Crossing into Lebanon; Israeli Air Strikes on Beirut Television and Telecommunication Towers; Haifa Hospitals Attacked

Aired July 22, 2006 - 12:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up this hour on CNN, Israeli tanks crossing into Lebanon. How far will they go? We're live from the border in just a moment.
Also this morning, Israeli air strikes targeting television and phone service throughout northern Lebanon. What's the strategy?

From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Fredricka Whitfield, welcome to CNN LIVE SATURDAY.

Here's what we know right now, Israeli tanks and troops on the move in Lebanon. They crossed into a border village earlier today. On both sides of the border, more attacks as Israel launched new air strikes on Hezbollah targets, more rockets slammed into northern Israel.

And diplomacy, is there a chance? U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads to the region tomorrow.

CNN has reporters all across the region and we'll be bringing you live reports throughout plus CNN's International Desk is keeping a close watch on the latest developments in the conflict including the attacks on the communications towers in Lebanon. We'll keep you up- to-date as the events happen.

Israeli tanks are now rolling into southern Lebanon toward a small village that the military says is a Hezbollah outpost. Our Paula Newton is watching events unfold at the border and she joins us live from the small town of Metula.

And just a short time ago you were having to be in a bunker. What's transpired?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we tried to get to a bunker. What happened was we were just outside an Israeli post watching them maneuver into southern Lebanon. And what's they're doing there, Fredericka, is they're really have their first foothold into southern Lebanon, trying to clean the area of Hezbollah infrastructure and that includes missiles, rockets, and those launchers.

But during the Hezbollah was active up there, they did melt into the civilian population, into some of those building, but at the same time, we did hear incoming Katyusha rockets that landed not only very close to as, but very close to an Israeli base that was there and we do understand now that at least one Israeli soldier was lightly wounded from machine gun fire from Hezbollah at that base.

Fredricka, what it shows is that Hezbollah is still waiting for the Israeli soldiers to come into south Lebanon and they pick their times. But they are still willing to engage those Israeli soldiers even if they are outgunned and they certainly continue to lob those Katyusha rockets into northern Israel -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And for the most part, Paula, does it seem like the civilians, any that may have been in that region, have heeded the warnings and have moved away?

NEWTON: You know, unfortunately, we saw something very unusual happen. What we saw was a military doctor take an ambulance into southern Lebanon and get a middle aged woman out who had been injured in one of those towns.

It's extraordinary, of course, that the military would even go in and get her and then transport her to an Israeli hospital. She was, of course, hurt by shrapnel from an Israeli bomb, we have to add, but what's also extraordinary is that there's still people there. The Israelis have been dropping leaflets there for a while now.

And now they've come up with a new deadline that has already expired and still people caught in the crossfire. The real problem here, Fredricka, is a lot of people can't get out. All the roads are blockaded or they just physically can't leave -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And has anyone, Paula, then talked about what seems to be a real contradiction there?

NEWTON: I mean certainly. I even asked the doctor myself. He just says look, I'm doing my job as a physician. You know, we've asked them to leave, we do not know what's going on that side of the border. He was interested in trying to help her at that time.

And kind of said, it was a political issue. And it certainly is a political issue as we understand that the Israeli government is now set to launch even more air strikes in southern Lebanon and we certainly saw them lob quite a few shells into southern Lebanon when we were there at the border -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Paula Newton, thanks so much from Metula.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

WHITFIELD: Now helping to monitor all the developments taking place in the Middle East crisis Randi Kaye is at the International Desk.

And what is the latest, Randy?

RANDI KAYE, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Fred, a lot of questions about how long these operations, how long this military conflict may last on the Lebanese-Israeli border. We're getting some news from CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour saying, from her military sources, that it could last a few more weeks before, possibly a few more weeks, then before we would see a cease- fire.

She's telling us that Israel's current operation against the Hezbollah guerillas could last a few more weeks, that's coming from diplomatic sources of hers. They did lay out a short-term scenario for ending the war in Lebanon.

The sources are telling her that under the scenario, the current Israeli offensive could last another two or three week, the international force would not be the U.N. Interim Force who would help resolve this or even a modified UNIFIL, according to the scenario laid out by this source. UNIFIL has been deployed in Southern Lebanon now for nearly three decades.

The current Israeli operation involves air and some limited ground forces, as we've been seeing this morning. We've been seeing the tanks rolling from Israel into Lebanon in that -- the area of Maroun al-Ras, that Lebanese border village. Those -- that would come to an end, that would come it a standstill, we've been watching them go in and out of Southern Lebanon.

They're trying to clear the Hezbollah guerillas of their presence and their infrastructure. They're thing to do some pinpoint targeting of bunkers and weapon stockpiles, but the Israeli military spokesman who Christiane Amanpour has spoken with said that ground operations inside Lebanon will be limited, but at the same time, the campaign could go on for another few weeks before we see any sign of a cease- fire.

Also this morning and throughout the day, we've been talking about some news coming out of the Gaza Strip. We've been getting word from the "Associated Press" that militant groups in the Gaza Strip, we're talking about the militant group Hamas, that they have agreed to stop firing missiles at Israel at Midnight Local Time, there.

That would be a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip aimed at ending the Israeli offensive which has been taking place there since June 28, three days after the militants raided an army post killing two soldiers and capturing a third.

The news we're getting now, though, from CNN's Jerusalem bureau is that folks there in Gaza Strip and Gaza city are denying any agreement at all. So the agreement we've been telling you about from the "Associated Press," we're getting word from CNN's Jerusalem bureau saying there is no agreement in the Gaza strip and that they are certainly in no way prepared to stop firing missiles at Israel.

That is the very latest, Fred, from the International Desk. We are continuing to monitor it all as it comes in.

WHITFIELD: All right, Randi, thank you so much.

Well, around Beirut, more Israeli air strikes today, among the targets, television and television transmission towers. CNN's Alessio Vinci joins me now from the Lebanese capital.

And what do we understand the strategy to be -- Alessio. ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Fredericka. A lot of activity, of course, down in the south, but also in the north. The Israeli air force there striking six television and telecommunication towers with the direct aim of disrupting both the television programs of several television networks in this country as well as the telephone system and the mobile system.

We understand that television stations such as the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation as well as future TV and the Hezbollah-run al-Manar television can no longer be seen in the northern part of the country as a result of these air strikes against those television stations.

Of course, if you're living in that part of the country and you have a satellite dish, you are still able to watch it, but those relying on the aerial and the only terrestrial antennas; they can no longer watch those television stations. And of course, also, disruption to the telephone system, mobile phone antennas have been knocked down. And also, we understand, that as a result of these attacks, the land lines have been somewhat disrupted as well.

So clearly the strategy here is to not only isolate the countries in the south but also the northern part of the country, bordering of course with Syria, possibly perhaps as Israel is charging, the Syrians are rearming, are supporting the Hezbollah militia, perhaps infiltrating from the north and from the eastern part of the country, we understand also there have been some strikes today in the eastern Bekaa Valley. So, all this clearly the strategy trying to isolate as much as possible, the Hezbollah militia.

As a result of those strikes, the television towers, one LBC, Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation employee was killed, two were injured. We're seeing pictures of employees there digging through the rubbles, trying to save whatever was left underneath those rubble, extensive damage there.

We've seen also firemen trying to contain some fires. So clearly extremely large attack there. Six television stations are down, most in the northern part of the country can no longer make a phone call or even watch the local television channels.

Fredricka, back to you.

WHITFIELD: And as far as you know then, Alessio, outside of the television and the phone transmission power towers there have not been any strikes in the immediate Beirut area affecting any civilians?

VINCI: No, not in the immediate Beirut area, it's been fairly quiet today here. It appears that so far, the Israeli military is concentrating its efforts down in the south as well as those television stations and relay stations in the north of the country and in the east.

WHITFIELD: All right, Alessio Vinci thanks so much for the that update out of Beirut. Well, inside the war zone, medical teams and facilities are stressed to capacity as casualties do pour in. Our senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta just arrived in Beirut this morning and he's already visited one of the hospitals there.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is by no means a humanitarian crisis as of yet, but things are starting to change here in Beirut. They're getting a large influx of patients from the south of Lebanon who have been injured or who can no longer get medical care down there, as the hospital have been destroyed. It is one of the most remarkable things that I have seen.

I use to be that that Red Cross or that Red Crescent, or some sort of health care sign made you immune in some ways on a battlefield. Not so here. We're hearing stories -- confirmed stories now about ambulances actually being attacked. Hospitals actually being bombed, so much so, that they can no longer function.

One of the hospitals I visited you actually had to go two grounds underneath the earth surface to actually get the best possible care for these patients. Over there, they were oblivious to all the noise, all the missiles, all the sounds from the outside and felt safer. Although many of the staff are now starting to leave Beirut as well, making it that much harder to perform medical care as well.

People are also becoming increasingly suspicious. As we spent time with the ICRC today, the International Red Cross, some people came up to us and asked -- demanded, actually, to look at our footage to make sure that we weren't actually spies, not actually taking footage of the streets around the neighboring areas. It is -- the suspicion is creasing for sure. The medical care is harder to deliver, as well. Things are starting to change.

One of the most striking things, as well, is the mental aspect of this. If you think about the constant barrage of missiles, the constant noise, the constant sounds, but most of all, the unknown about what tomorrow may bring, people who have not been injured physically by the missiles, are being injured mentally by everything else that's going on here. It is harder and harder to reach those people as well. We're going to stay here in Beirut and continue to report on this story, and keep you posted.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Beirut, Lebanon


WHITFIELD: I want to show you pictures, just now, coming in. The result of, what we understand to be some new air strikes. I'm not clear, however, where these air strikes are. OK, I'm being told Naharija there, you're looking at the aftermath of these strikes taking place, not sure when it took place exactly. All right -- earlier this morning, these strikes took place.

And these are the first pictures we're just now able to get in. It's unclear whether this is indeed a residential area, if there were any individuals, civilians, people involved in this, but you're looking at the cars on fire and these images showing firefighters trying to put that out right away.

We're keeping a close eye on the crisis in the Middle East and we want you to know IN THE MONEY will not be airing today at 1:00. Instead, we'll stay with rolling coverage of the crisis in the Middle East.

Up next, we'll speak with a man who lives in Haifa Israel, he lost his daughter to a terror attack three years ago, what's he facing now? We're live in Haifa coming up next.

Plus thousands of Americans fleeing Lebanon have arrived in Cyprus. They're out of immediate harm's way, their journey; however, home is far from over.

And later, not everyone thinks Hezbollah is bad. Our Nic Robertson speaks with one family that's grateful for all the good that Hezbollah does in their community. All that and much more ahead today on CNN.


WHITFIELD: Here's what we know right now. What Israel calls its pinpoint operation against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon widens. Tanks and more troops crossed the border earlier today. On both sides of the border, more attacks as Israel launched more air strikes on Hezbollah targets. More rockets land into northern Israel.

On the diplomatic front, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she will search for a sustainable end to the violence as she heads to the region tomorrow.

Rockets rained down on Northern Israel. Let's check in right now with latest developments with Randi Kaye.

KAYE: Hello once again, Fred. We are getting some word from our CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, getting news out of Israel for us. Israel's current operation against the Hezbollah guerillas, she has learned, could actually last a few more weeks, possibly two or three more weeks before we see a cease-fire.

That's according to some diplomatic sources that she has spoken with. Could last another two or three weeks they're saying. The international force that would help resolve this conflict, she's been told, would not be a U.N. Interim force in Lebanon or even a modified UNIFIL. UNIFIL has been deployed in Southern Lebanon now for nearly three decades.

The current Israeli operation, as you know, involves both air and ground forces. We've been seeing a lot of that today. We've seen the tanks roll into the Maroun al-Ras area. We've seen an Israeli soldier wounded there, we've seen some Katyusha rockets fired by the Hezbollah forces. So, that is the very latest. We'll get more from Christiane as soon as we get her on a telephone. But once again, two or three more weeks, apparently, before this cease-fire -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Randi. And in the meantime, sirens continue to go off in port cities such as Haifa in Israel. Our Fionnuala Sweeney is there in Fionnuala (SIC). The latest siren going off less than 30 minutes ago or so.

What happened?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is the usual, fortunately, perhaps, the unusual standard, of practice here that air raid sirens wail for about a minute or so and that gives people and indication that, obviously, a barrage of Katyusha rockets or similar is on its way. Not just necessarily to Haifa, but across Northern Israel and it is the passion that these attacks are coordinated and land, perhaps, not only in Haifa but also throughout, as I say, the other towns in northern Israel.

We've had nine air raid siren warnings throughout the day and at one point, seven Katyusha rockets landed in an open space, no injuries reported. And again, it's become a, sort of, a routine here today that every hour and a half or so these air raid sirens wail across the bay of Haifa. People go indoors, the city's already quiet as anything as the Jewish Sabbath comes to an end, but so far no injuries reported in any of them -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right Fionnuala, that's so much. That's good news so far.

Well, living under fire is something residents of Israel's third largest city have come to know as a way of life. Among those taking cover when the sirens go off in Haifa, Ron Kehrmann.

Ron, some might say you have good reason. Good to see you. Good reason to leave that port city. Your daughter was killed by a suicide bomber three years ago, there, and now you're in the crosshairs of Hezbollah missiles. Are you getting close to that point of saying, I'm ready to leave?

RON KEHRMANN, HAIFA RESIDENT: No, no, on the contrary. And the reason you just mentioned that I lost my daughter, Tal, in a terror attack here three years ago makes me even harder. And I am willing to stay here as long as I have to. I have no intention of leaving.

And the reason is the same reason that happened three years ago, that my daughter, a senior in high school, on her way to get ready for the prom, got killed together with 16 other people from a terrorist with a suicide belt and with shrapnels on him.

The same very reason is being targeted against me or against all other people living in Haifa. Only this time the terrorist is not boarding the bus, he's not a suicide bomber, this time the terrorist is located behind the border at a relatively safe place for him.

But the aim is the same to hit us, the civilians, the means are the same, only the terrorists this time, they are backed up with a government of Iran and therefore they have nothing to lose and that's what they're doing here. They're terrorizing the whole northern section of Israel. Which is about two million people and that's what's going on right now...

WHITFIELD: So then tell me...

KEHRMANN: And another thing is that...

WHITFIELD: Tell me what your day to day operation is like over the last 10 days now.

KEHRMANN: Well, I'm an entrepreneur; I have a small printing press. I have one employee, my employee left to Jerusalem to a relatives. I, myself, I go down to work, although there's not much work. And I'm trying to stick to the routine because that's the way I was brought up and I guess that this is what our enemies want to disrupt, our routine...

WHITFIELD: So what kind of routine. That's what I wonder. What kind of routine are your day to day routine be like knowing that there are missiles flying overhead followed by the sound of sirens. It seems like it would be very difficult to carry on with a routine. Or you tell me, how is it you are able to go around day to day to try to do the work that you do? And at the same time, find cover?

KEHRMANN: Well, I have to answer you in two parts. The first part is the situation right now it's very deceiving. It's not very far from what happened here during the intefadeh. Only then we didn't have the sirens. Buses exploded here everyday. And I hate to use that statistics, but unfortunately in the barrage of rockets that hit Haifa a couple of days ago, eight people got killed.

And so far during the whole war and we've been hit with thousands of rockets, 13 people, 13 civilians were killed. I just have to remind you that on the bus with Tal, were 16 people, so in one small attack, 17 people got killed.

Again, like I said, the situation now is very deceiving -- I mean, it's more accurate. At that time, the sixth year -- the previous five years that we were living during the intefadeh was deceiving because we had no sirens but the bombs were among us. So, the question is...

WHITFIELD: Ron, now that we're hearing that the Israeli defense forces are saying there's a likelihood this is going to carry on for another few weeks, do you see that what transpires over the next couple of weeks may in any way influence your decision about living there in Haifa or not?

KEHRMANN: No, definitely, like I opened, I am not going to move from Haifa. This where I was born, this is where I'm going to live and I emphasize the word "living." Of course it's very difficult to live in these times, during these times, but -- here we just heard another explosion. But I mean, that's the only place I have in the world and this is where I'm going to live.

(CROSSTALK) Maybe I can share with you a small story. A small story, the printing press that I'm working at, my grandfather transcripted from Germany in 1934 and I'm sitting right next to the desk where my grandfather was deported from Germany. So, like I said to one of your peers, I'm not, I have no intention of taking this desk back to Europe.

WHITFIELD: Ron, I'm sorry, we're running out of time, we're running out of our satellite window. But, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate you taking the time out especially during these very tense moments there in Haifa.

KEHRMANN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: More on the crisis in the Middle East coming up.


WHITFIELD: Near the Lebanon-Israeli border, more information on that attack in Nahariyha Israel. Randi Kaye is at the update desk. What's the latest?

KAYE: Hi, Fred. We are looking at pictures, if we can show them to our viewers, we're looking at pictures coming into the CNN International Desk of Nahariyha. APTN is reporting and sending us this video, so is Israeli television.

We're told that Nahariyha and Carmiel have both been hit by Hezbollah rockets. We're talking about Katyusha rockets. Israeli TV channel 2 is what you're looking at right now. That is the aftermath, you can see how serious this attack was. We are looking at live Israeli TV coming into the CNN International Desk.

Nahariyha has been the target of numerous attacks in the last week. It is in northern Israel. Both of these towns, Carmiel and Nahariyha, both in northern Israel, not far from Haifa, they're both about northwest of Haifa, just a few kilometers from the Israeli- Lebanese border.

But once again, you're looking at the aftermath there. New video coming into CNN of Hezbollah rockets, the aftermath of an attack by Hezbollah rockets, Katyusha rockets. Israeli ambulance service is confirming that two people have been injured and 10 are suffering from shock. That is the very latest coming out of Israel.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much for that update, Randi.

When we get more, of course, we'll be able to bring that to you as they continue to investigate that missile strike.

Well hundreds of American evacuees from Lebanon are arriving back in the U.S. this weekend, they're heading home on five U.S. military flights. This was the scene earlier today in Philadelphia as some of the evacuees arrived at the city's international airport. People thrilled and overjoyed to see one another. A similar scene at Baltimore Washington International Airport. Officials say 2,000 American evacuees are expected to be sent back to the U.S. today and another 2,000 tomorrow. When the fighting broke out in the Middle East, 25,000 Americans were believed to be in Lebanon while thousands planned to leave. Many others decide to stay put.

So what is the political fallout from this crisis and do Americans wants government to get involved with this conflict? Up next, our senior political advisor, Bill Schneider, has the take from the nation's capital.

And later, we're there as the Marines return to Lebanon to rescue many of those Americans caught in the crossfire. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


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