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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Threat of Full-Scale Israeli Ground Invasion into Lebanon Looms; Lebanese Suburbs Turn into Ghost Towns

Aired July 22, 2006 - 07:30   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to give you an update on the crisis in the Middle East. Here is what we know as of right now. Israeli warplanes targeted TV and cell phone towers in northern Lebanon just a short time ago. Black smoke was seen rising from a hilltop transmission site. You can see it right there.
Also Israel pounded more targets in southern Lebanon today, all of this comes as Israeli troops mass on the Lebanese border for a possible ground assault. And more Hezbollah rockets rain down on northern Israel today. Officials say ten people were wounded.

Israeli troops massed on the Lebanese border, the threat of a full-scale ground invasion looms, so what does Israel hope to accomplish with a ground assault? And what are the challenges? CNN's Brian Todd talked with some military experts and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leaflets in Arabic warning civilians, get out of Lebanon's southernmost frontier. An Israeli armored column poised for a possible ground assault that experts say would be a vicious fight.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST (RET.): The nature of that fight is very up close, it's very personal, it's very complex terrain.

TODD: Former American and Israeli officers, some who have served in the region, say if Israeli forces launch across the border in bulk, their goal will likely be to establish a buffer zone.

COL. GARY ANDERSON, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): The Israelis are likely to advance along one of three axis, those are the main lines of communications into southern Lebanon. And they'll likely advance to the Litani River, which seems to be the maximum range --

TODD (on camera): Where are we talking about here? There it is.

ANDERSON: Along this line. That seems to be the maximum range of most of the missiles being fired into Israel now.

TODD (voice-over): Retired marine colonel Gary Anderson and other experts say Hezbollah has got a mobile, well organized force, numbering anywhere from 1,000 to more than 10,000, with rockets, other heavy weaponry and a web of underground tunnels and bunkers. ANDERSON: They probably use them to hide the equipment, pop off a round, fire it, and try to get it back underground before Israeli unmanned aircraft or manned aircraft can get overhead to spot them.

TODD: Hezbollah can also draw the Israelis into close combat, possibly negating the use of air strikes that might hit friendly forces. But analysts say the Israelis will be attacking in tanks and armored personnel carriers, and deploying massive bulldozers that can level small buildings. But once they've taken it, how do they keep the buffer zone secure?

COL. PATRICK LANG, MIL. INTELLIGENCE ANALYST (RET.): I know the IDF does not want to occupy part of Lebanon again, but they've somehow gotten themselves into a position in which there may be no other choice.

TODD: No other choice except to leave that occupation up to some other entity, possibly a U.N. stabilization force. But analysts say the Israelis aren't likely to trust that outside force more than its own army to keep that buffer zone secure.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD LUI, CNN ANCHOR: More perspective now on what we could expect from an Israeli ground invasion into Lebanon. Joining us by phone from Oakbrook, Illinois is CNN military analyst and retired army brigadier General David Grange. General very good morning to you.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good morning.

LUI: Thanks for joining us again. With the attacks that we have just been reporting this morning on telecommunications infrastructure as well as softening up the ground in the south, is this, then, a foregone conclusion, a ground campaign by the IDF?

GRANGE: They really have to do the ground campaign in order to isolate and cut off all of the Hezbollah forces that effect the fight in Israel. Now, the air can do, obviously from the borders in Syria, they can block aid with their forces, the ports bringing re-supplies, they can keep the airfield in Beirut from receiving any supplies. But, when you get into the buffer zone area, they have to search and destroy those sites and rid them of missile systems and Hezbollah forces in order to protect the people in northern Israel.

LUI: General Grange, the word sterilize has been used in the process as they go through the southern parts of Lebanon. How far north do they need to go, how far north do they need to sterilize, if you will?

GRANGE: Well it just depends on what missiles they're trying, for instance, they're trying to negate effectiveness of the firing. For instance, you can keep some missiles firing at you by destroying bridges and other ground lines of communications where they would have to move the systems in order to get into range to fire. Others that are close and they actually have to go in and take them out on the ground. So, you know, 20, 25 miles, I mean it's really kind of hard to say, it depends on how they can still isolate and cut off a lot of the -- a lot of those forces.

LUI: What about the Fajr-5 missiles which are reportedly able to reach some 45 miles, that might bring them past the Litani River which has sort of been described as the possible goal there?

GRANGE: Yes, well, keep in mind, they're not going to be able to just say, this line -- I draw this red line. No system's going to be able to reach me. Some are going to, again, have to be isolated just by use of air. Some of those systems have a bigger signature and are easier to find and to destroy, and so when Hezbollah uses those, they'll be taken out by air.

LUI: General, the forces of Hezbollah, a number of you just saw in Brian Todd's piece, one to 10,000, possibly 60,000 with the Lebanese Army as well, should they join. If the IDF does move into southern Lebanon, the question might be, will they face an insurgency similar to, let's say, what the Americans are facing in Iraq at this moment?

GRANGE: Well, sure. You're not going to destroy all the Hezbollah forces. I mean, first of all, you're not going to know who they all are. And others will join as the time goes on. And so the main thing is just to be able to maintain some level of control until something's decided by the international community, and then supported by the government of Lebanon and the government of Israel to put a force in there. But you'll have fighting in there for years and years that will never be truly stopped completely.

LUI: Let's get back to maybe the details on the ground. The Lebanese army said to be symbolic, for the most part. How effective would they be in helping Hezbollah in this process?

GRANGE: I don't think you're going to see the Lebanese in total help Hezbollah. You're going to see the -- maybe the Shia faction or maybe some others help. And again, when -- if the Lebanese army mounts their conventional forces to move south, and, in fact, it is to fight the Israeli forces, they would be eliminated rather quickly because they're conventional targets and they'll be easier to destroy. They have antiquated equipment compared to the Israelis. And so it really would be a very stupid move to do that.

LUI: General Grange, thank you very much this morning for joining us on SATURDAY MORNING.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

NGUYEN: Well if you look at the lower part of your screen, it says some Israeli troops already operating inside Lebanon. Let's get to CNN's Randi Kaye at the international desk, she has some more on these new developments. What do you know Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now Betty we want to take you actually live to London where there is a protest soon to get underway. It will be by the group "Stop the War Coalition." This is tape of them gathered there in front of the government ministry.

"Stop the War Coalition" was actually set up to oppose the U.S. led war on terror. And they are back at it today from London to Glasgow, about 10,000 protesters expected. They're calling for an unconditional cease-fire for Israel to stop the bombing in Lebanon. But that bombing is once again underway, now day 11, certainly this morning underway in Lebanon. Future TV, LBC, Al-Manar, three of the TV networks there.

You're looking at exclusive pictures from the Lebanese Broadcast Corporation. That is the leading private network there. They were the victims of Israeli air strikes, they blasted them earlier today. These stations, for some time, have not been seen in the country, but their satellite has been unaffected and that is how we here on the international desk are able to get these pictures.

We are monitoring at least ten different networks. You're looking at how we do that here right now on your screen. We will be monitoring those throughout the morning and throughout the day. Something else we've been looking at this morning already, a busy morning so far. Al-Arabiya is also reporting very heavy bombing. Israeli air raids in the area of Khiam in southern Lebanon.

We have some pictures of that as well. Very heavy bombing, happened about 2:04 in the afternoon local time there. That is all we know right now. We're not getting any reports yet of damage or possible casualties, but that is it for now coming into the international desk. And again, we are monitoring at least a dozen feeds. We'll keep an eye on them throughout the day. Betty?

NGUYEN: News coming in minute by minute. Randi we'll be checking in with you. Thanks for that.

In the meantime, inside a dangerous area of Beirut. Straight ahead, Anderson Cooper drives through Hezbollah-controlled territory. His risky trip is next as we follow developments in the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NAWAR SAHILI, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, HEZBOLLAH: We have been taking fire by the Israeli army. The whole country is being destructed. It's really criminal human terrorist attacks upon Lebanon. You've heard what the said in Larnaca, and what they American citizens said.

They are killing women, they are killing children, they are destroying the whole country, all the bridges, all the institutions. You know, Hezbollah is a political group and they have parliament members and they have ministers. We are not taking Lebanese as hostages, we are defending Lebanon. (END AUDIO CLIP)

NGUYEN: That's the view from the Lebanon side of the conflict from a Hezbollah member of parliament. Nawar Sahili tells CNN that Hezbollah was justified in seizing the two Israeli soldiers. Sahili also says his organization has always been prepared for a cease-fire. Now we are going to talk live with Nawar Sahili at 10:00 a.m. eastern this morning, so stick around for that.

LUI: Now updating the crisis in the Middle East for you. Here's what we know at this moment. Israeli warplanes targeted TV and cell phone towers in northern Lebanon just a short time ago. Black smoke was seen rising from a hilltop transmission site.

Israel also pounded more targets in southern Lebanon today. All this comes as Israeli troops mass on the Lebanese border for a possible ground assault. And more Hezbollah rockets rain down on northern Israel. Officials say ten people were wounded.

NGUYEN: There are suburban areas on either side of the Mideast crisis that are beginning to look like ghost towns with the uncertainty of when and where air strikes will happen, these places are as dangerous as a front line. CNN's Anderson Cooper toured one of these neighborhoods. Here is his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not a good idea to venture into the southern suburbs of Beirut, the area known as Dafia (ph), without an escort. Hezbollah controls this territory and that's why Israel has been focusing their attacks on this neighborhood. So we now pull over to the side of the road and we're waiting for someone to come pick us up.

The Hezbollah representative is now here. We've been told to just follow whatever orders they ask us to do. They'll probably search us, perhaps even take a photograph. They said that they're building a database of all the reporters who are here. So we're just going to have to kind of play it by ear.

It's so strange being in this Hezbollah neighborhood because you can drive around, it doesn't seem like there's anyone around and all of a sudden, your eyes, it's almost like adjusting to the darkness, suddenly you realize there are people who are watching you.

Guys on motorcycles talking on cell phones who pass you by, watching very closely what you're doing. Then when we pulled over, two guys from Hezbollah came over, told us it was too dangerous for us to -- for them to take us around right now. They said there's an Israeli drone circling around so they told us to get out and maybe come back another time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: An inside look there. And tonight at 10:00 eastern, Anderson Cooper is live in Beirut with a look at the fight to the finish. And a complete wrap up of the crisis in the region. Now a special weekend edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360", will join us live from Beirut. Again that is at 10:00 eastern tonight, only on CNN.

LUI: All right and Veronica de la Cruz joins us now this morning with news from our dotcom desk, following everything that's happening in the Middle East as well, right?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: We sure are, like you know Richard at CNN.com we've been receiving thousands of e-mails regarding the crisis in the Middle East. Coming up next I'll share a couple of opinions from Israel and Lebanon. That's coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LUI: And welcome back. CNN.com has been asking you to weigh in with your thoughts on the Middle East crisis. Veronica de la Cruz joins us now with some e-mails from both sides right?

CRUZ: Absolutely. And you know we've been receiving e-mails from all around the world. But right now we're going to go ahead and focus on a few that we have received from the Middle East. This one comes from Dina who is a student at a university in Beirut.

She says, "What is happening in Lebanon right now is totally unbelievable. We were happy and about to enjoy a wonderful summer. Suddenly this happened. I don't know how I'm going to leave my university now. There are hundreds of people dying here now every day over something that we didn't call for."

And this one, Richard, from Israel. Angela says, "Israel has been suffering from active war since 1948, surrounded by Arab nations that do not let us live in peace. Hezbollah with the help of Syria are for Israel like Iran and Iraq are to the U.S.A."

And then Richard it goes on to say, "Lebanon is at fault because they are the ones that are letting Hezbollah grow and gain more power. Israelis are helping to fight terror. Other countries should do the same. If this terror organization is not destroyed they will continue to grow like a cancer until they will totally kill all."

So Richard that kind of gives you a sense of how people in the region feel about this conflict. Now, if you would like to weigh in with your thoughts, you can always logon to CNN.com/middleeast, and Richard, you know this, if you're on CNN Pipeline you can always click that "your voice" button where we let people weigh in with their opinions on this.

LUI: Right. Those responses still staying on target. They've not changed much over the last week or so.

CRUZ: Yes, I'm pretty much seeing the same thing. But coming up in the 9:00 hour, I'll be back with even more.

LUI: Great, good stuff, thanks.

NGUYEN: Sounds good. Hey and speaking of that 9:00 hour, we have much more to tell you about. But in the meantime at the 8:00 hour, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a special edition of "HOUSE CALL." In fact, he is going to be joining us live from Beirut for this special edition of "HOUSE CALL."

He visited a hospital near Hezbollah territory there, and also he's going to be talking about the human -- humanitarian aid efforts that are going on as this crisis the Mideast continues. So, a special edition of "HOUSE CALL", with Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining us live from Beirut at the top of the hour.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Well we are still staying on top of the crisis in the Mideast. In fact, we've got reporters all over the ground. There is a look at the many of them that are in the region covering this crisis. The next hour of CNN begins in just a moment, but first Gerri Willis has your tip of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GERI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scorching summer season can lead to dangerous dehydration and you need to know how to prevent it. Before you head outside, drink plenty of water. Coffee, tea, and sodas, they don't count.

They all have caffeine which is a no-no when trying to stay hydrated. And in the summer heat, keep it cool by wearing loose- fitting clothing and a hat, if you can. This will cut down on sweating. And as for the perfect summer snack, eat lots of fruits and veggies. Those apples and carrots already have lots of water in them.

(on-camera): I'm Gerri Willis, and that's your tip of the day. Make sure you join us for "OPEN HOUSE" today 9:30 a.m. eastern right here on CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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