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Israeli bombs and rockets pound Southern Lebanon; Ronald Schlicher Interview; Americans Continue Leaving Lebanon; Doctors Can't Practice Medicine in a War Zone

Aired July 22, 2006 - 11:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: New Israeli air strikes this morning in Lebanon. This, as Israeli ground troops prepare for a possible invasion.
From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

Good morning, everybody.

It is 7:00 a.m. here in Atlanta, 2:00 p.m. in Israel. We're going to be talking a lot about that region today.

Good morning.

I'm Betty Nguyen.

RICHARD LUI, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Richard Lui from CNN Pipeline in for Tony Harris this weekend. He is out. Thanks for being with us.

NGUYEN: Glad to have you.

LUI: Thank you.

NGUYEN: Well our correspondents are all over the region, bringing you the latest on this Middle East crisis. Take a look. Straight ahead, we will have a live report from Paula Newton in northern Israel and Alessio Vinci in Beirut, Lebanon.

LUI: Here's what we know right now.

Israeli bombs and rockets have pounded Southern Lebanon in recent hours. The barrage is apparently aimed at paving the way for a wider ground operation. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaving tomorrow on a diplomatic mission to the Middle East. Already, she's warning against the false promise of a cease-fire.

NGUYEN: Well, we are getting reports of an Israeli air strike in Northern Lebanon within just the last few minutes

We want to go live now to CNN's Alessio Vinci, who is in Beirut -- Alessio, it appears that they are taking out television station towers, as well as mobile phone towers.

It sounds like they're really trying to lower the amount of communication, or at least knock out the amount of communication that's going on there in Lebanon, as Israel prepares for a ground assault.


This latest attack basically concentrating in the north of Beirut, attacking three telecommunication relay antennas, as well as a television relay antenna. We understand the telecommunication antenna has knock all mobile telephone communications off the air, as well as, we understand, some land lines.

As far as the television station is concerned, we understand that that antenna that has been targeted services three separate television networks here -- the LBC, the national broadcaster here; as well as Al-Manar, who is the Hezbollah-run-television station in this country.

So presumably that was the target, as well as another minor network known here as Future TV.

So this was a -- this morning, Israeli jets targeting in particular those television and communication networks -- Betty, back to you.

NGUYEN: Alessio, let's talk, as well, about the people there in Lebanon. They're hearing word, just as we are, of this possible ground assault.

What are they doing as far as evacuations?

VINCI: Well, in terms of the ground assault, of course, it is the people from the southern part of the country who are fleeing toward the north. And those people are trying to seek shelter away from the battle zone but within, of course, Lebanon itself. And they're trying to find refuge there where they can. The government here trying to set up welcoming points.

The Red Cross working very hard, but also having a great deal of difficulties, because obviously the country, especially the southern part of the country, continues to be under strikes.

As far as the foreigners are concerned, those who are here in Beirut, they are continuing to be evacuated, especially through ships. There have been coming and going throughout the night. We understand that so far 25,000 foreign nationals have already left the country.

Of them, about 8,000 are Americans. And we understand that by the end of today, Saturday, two more -- 2,000 more Americans will be leaving on two separate ships. One will be the Orient Queen, the ferry that has been going back and forth since three days now, between here and Cyprus, and, as well as 1,000 more on a military vessel -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Alessio, we're also hearing that some will be taken out through Turkey today. We're going to speak with Ambassador Ronald Schlicher a little bit later today -- he is the ambassador to Cyprus -- about that very thing.

But in the meantime, Alessio, thank you for that report. We'll be checking in.

LUI: Well, we will bring you continuing updates on any breaking developments on the Middle East crisis.

In fact, CNN's Randi Kaye is keeping track of the situation from our International Desk -- Randi, good day to you.


It's been a busy morning already so far. As you know, we've been monitoring those attacks there on the transmission towers, the communication towers, of at least three different television networks -- Future TV, LBC and Al-Manar, just north of Lebanon there, north of Beirut area.

Here at the International Desk, we are monitoring all of the feeds as they come in. We will continue to do that throughout the day. We will update you on, of course, all of our breaking news.

We're monitoring at least 10 different feeds coming in from the Middle East region. We're looking at NBN, Al-Manar, Lebanese Broadcast Corporation, Al-Arabiya, Al Jazeera, Israel TV and, of course, Reuters and APTN.

So we will continue to monitor that. We'll continue to monitor the breaking news that we're seeing just this morning, as of 6:30 this morning here, monitoring the breaking news of the attacks on these transmission towers apparently by these Israeli air strikes.

So we are told that their satellites are still working, so the feed should continue to be available to us. And as they come in, we will be sure to bring them to you right away.

NGUYEN: Yes, Randi, that's exactly what I was going to ask you about. Because we just spoke with Alessio Vinci and he says that it's knocked out at least three television stations. But you're saying that feed is still coming through as of right now?

KAYE: That is correct. We are actually seeing some live feeds coming in from the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and the satellites, we're told they're still working. They're trying to communicate with their reporters on the ground.

So the good thing for us is the information is still coming in. They are somewhat on the air, even though their towers have been destroyed there. But they are still able to broadcast and, of course, to get us information, which will us throughout the day and throughout this morning to bring all of you the information.

NGUYEN: All right, Randi Kaye at the International Desk.

Of course, we'll be speaking with you very often this morning.

See you soon, OK? LUI: Yes, no doubt.

Well, farther south, the world is now watching the Israeli- Lebanese border to see what Israeli will do next.

CNN's Paula Newton is there and joins us live -- Paula, all of the tanks were lined up yesterday. We saw the pictures.

What are you seeing today?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today, the Israeli government and the Israeli Army have confirmed to CNN that they are, indeed, holding positions in Lebanon and they continue to pound the area just behind me. We are right on the border here. And if I can show you, in the last few minutes we've had some more pounding on the top of that hill. That is Lebanon.

It's a town called Maroun al-Ras and they continue to pound it because they say now that they have troops on the ground, that they know exactly where the Hezbollah bunkers are, where the rocket launchers are. And they're giving us precise estimates about what's on top of that hill in terms of knocking out six rocket launchers, various missiles and rockets.

What is happening here is that this is falling well short of a full scale ground invasion.

At the same time, the Israeli Army is going in, seizing territory, certainly encountering some Hezbollah activity. Right here we had a battle raging for about two days. But once they feel that they can secure the area, they are holding. They are not retreating.

The Israeli government, though, does say that they have no intention to reoccupy Lebanon, that what they want to do is create a buffer zone of at least about a half mile so that they know that those Hezbollah outposts that have been fortified now for six years right along this border are, what they say, sterile and cleaned of weapon -- Richard.

LUI: OK, Paula Newton at the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, the effort to get Americans out of Lebanon intensifies, another flight carrying evacuees is expected to arrive in the U.S. in less than two hours. As of yesterday, the State Department said more than 5,700 Americans had been evacuated since Sunday.

So joining us by phone with more on this and the evacuations is the U.S. ambassador to Cyprus, Ambassador Ronald Schlicher.

Ambassador, we thank you for being with us.


Thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, the first question I have for you is, really, just tell us the latest on the evacuation efforts.

What's going on right now?

SCHLICHER: Today, in fact, for us here in Cyprus, is our most intense day so far because of the speeded up effort on the Beirut end. So today we're anticipating the arrival of around 3,900 Americans. And they will be coming into us on the USS Trenton, the USS Nashville and a civilian ship, as well.

So our challenge is to get those folks in and to get them on planes to the U.S. as soon as possible. And in that...

NGUYEN: Well, talk to us about that challenge, if you would, ambassador, because 3,900 evacuees coming in just today alone.

Can Cyprus handle the number of evacuees flooding into it?

SCHLICHER: The Cypriots have been amazingly cooperative in meeting the needs of ours as we stage this evacuation, and, in fact, in meeting the needs of all of the other countries. But it has put a strain on them.

On our end, to help them alleviate that strain, we used to do almost all of our operations in Larnaca, from the port and airport there.

But in the last couple of days, we've expanded our operations to the airport in the city of Pathos and to the port of Limassol, as well. And that's helping a bit.

So today, to get the Americans out, we have six civilian charter planes leaving and we have five military flights leaving, as well. So we plan to send 2,000 -- over 2,000 folks home today and another 2,000 tomorrow.

So, as you can see, Betty, we're intensely busy here trying to help our fellow Americans.

NGUYEN: Definitely.

And as these evacuees come in and wait for that flight out, I understand that the U.S. facilities in Cyprus can really only hold 2,300 and you're even having to provide tents for some of these evacuees.

Is that true?

SCHLICHER: What happens is when folks come in, there is the possibility, if they choose to avail themselves of it, of some hotel rooms. For those who don't want to take those hotel rooms, we have a facility set up at the International Fairgrounds in Nicosia.

And, Betty, your number of 2,300 is right. We have that many folks there -- well, actually, I think we have fewer there at the moment because we have sent some to the plane. But there we have set up 2,500 cots and we've been working with the local American community and the Cypriot community, as well, to get milk and supplies and medical provisions and toys and a host of other needs there.

We have a team of medics on the ground in case people need them. And I think that you and your viewers would find it really heartwarming to see the incredible response that our local American community and the Cypriots have given, you know, as a humanitarian gesture, to the needs of our fellow Americans.

NGUYEN: You talk about that response, but at the same time, I have to remind you that this is day 11 in this conflict and still Americans are waiting to be evacuated out of Lebanon. And evacuees are criticizing the government's response to this and claiming that those -- that response is slow.

Now, what's your reaction to that?

SCHLICHER: Well, my reaction to that is I understand that, you know, when an American citizen feels that he or she is in need of help, there's no such thing as moving fast enough. But I do know for a fact, since my mission has been working literally 24-7 for the last 10 days to try to meet these needs, I know that our government has done everything that it can to arrange these evacuations in the most safe and orderly manner possible.

Of course, we're standing up from zero, since it was an unanticipated need. I actually think that, all things considered, we're doing pretty well right now.

NGUYEN: Yes, but evacuees would argue, though, that France and Britain and some of these other countries were able to start their evacuations earlier.

One last thing I want to ask you, ambassador.

I understand starting today, Americans will be evacuated to Turkey.

Is that correct?

SCHLICHER: Yes. In fact, that's partly to relieve the congestion that Cyprus is experiencing with our and other nations' evacuations. The State Department in Washington and our military authorities in Washington have also added Mersin, Turkey as a spot to which people leaving Lebanon will go.

NGUYEN: All right, Ambassador Ronald Schlicher, the U.S. ambassador of Cyprus.

We appreciate your time with us this morning.

Thank you.

SCHLICHER: It's my pleasure. Thank you, Betty.

NGUYEN: And we've got a lot to tell you this morning dealing with the conflict in the Mideast, a lot of developments. But some things developed here this morning. Of course, Tony Harris has got to take a day off every now and then, and we get our good buddy Richard here, to...

LUI: You just decided to give him some time off, huh?

NGUYEN: Some time off. A break from me. It's well earned.

LUI: Oh, why would he ever want that?

NGUYEN: Well, trust me.

LUI: No, come one.

NGUYEN: But you're joining us from Pipeline.

LUI: That's right.

NGUYEN: Tell our viewers a little bit about Pipeline.

LUI: Well, Pipeline is different in that it's online. You can access different feeds. So, for instance, we're showing Tony Snow at the White House. And we can't show it in its completeness here on CNN domestic...

NGUYEN: Just due to time constraints.

LUI: Yes.


LUI: You can go on -- because of programming, you can click on Pipeline and watch it live and raw. You can see some of it right here on the screen. We'll also be streaming CNN International during certain times of the day. So CNN Pipeline one way to get your news if you're not close to a TV, you're not close to cable.


NGUYEN: And you're there.

LUI: I'm there sometimes.

NGUYEN: A lot of the time.

LUI: Yes. There sometimes.

NGUYEN: And you're here this morning, a man who wears many hats.

Well, we appreciate your being with us today.

LUI: OK. Thanks for having me.

NGUYEN: We do want to talk about ground war fears. Because coming up, scenarios of a possible all out assault on Hezbollah. We will talk to the experts.

LUI: And life and death struggles -- not just on the front lines but as hospitals, as well?

Up next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta makes his way inside a Beirut hospital. His amazing report only on CNN, the most trusted name in news.


NGUYEN: Well, we told you it would be a busy morning with this crisis in the Middle East and there are some new developments to tell you about.

Let's go straight to CNN's Randi Kaye, keeping on track of this entire situation -- what do you know, Randi?

KAYE: good morning again, Betty.

What we know right now is what's just coming into CNN.

We're here at the International Desk monitoring all the feeds. And what we see right now is being reported by Al-Arabiya. And what we're being told is the town of Kiem is the latest victim of Israeli air raids. We're told there is a very, very heavy air raid happening just south of Lebanon.

Once again, Al-Arabiya reporting that.

Earlier this morning, we know that the transmission towers, the television towers, communication towers of three different Lebanese television networks -- Future TV; LBC, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation; and Al-Manar; all under attack by Israeli air strikes. We are told that their satellite, though, is still working, so we will continue to get those feeds in.

You're looking right now at exclusive pictures from the Lebanese Broadcast Corporation. You can see the damage there has certainly been significant -- twisted satellite dishes and certainly a lot on fire there.

Well, we will continue to monitor this situation. We'll also continue to monitor the very latest Israeli air raids in the town of Kiem. Our International Desk is all over this story. We're monitoring at least 10 feeds here throughout the day and we'll be sure to keep you updated -- Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, the town of Khan the latest in the strikes there. And we're going to try and get a map, Randi, for our viewers, so we can understand exactly where these strikes are going and where they're hitting.

KAYE: All right.

NGUYEN: Thanks for that, Randi -- Richard.

LUI: Back and forth air strikes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah are like a horrible game of Russian roulette. People fearing for their lives are not only leaving their homes, they're abandoning their businesses, as well. Except for one Beirut hospital under the guidance of an exceptional doctor.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has that story for us.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're hearing stories, I mean, dramatic ones, of doctors being unable to practice medicine in the hospital itself, actually having to go underground, being unable to do the operations they normally perform, again only being able to do small operations, underground.

(voice-over): We arrived at Mount Lebanon Hospital in an area close to heavy Israeli air strikes. And that's where I met 36-year- old Zagot Melam (ph). He had been taking an early morning walk south of Beirut.

In a flash, he became another victim of an Israeli bombing, thrown 30 feet through the air, with shrapnel piercing his feet, hands and his intestines. He will live.

Things look more grim for 27-year-old Lebanese soldier Lahoud Lahud (ph), also the victim of an air strike. He lost his right leg. He may lose the left one, as well. A mangled face concealed behind tight bandages.


GUPTA: If he does survive, Lahud (ph), like many others here, have Dr. Nazih Gharios to thank. He is the leader of Mount Lebanon Hospital.

(on camera): I mean, you have had explosions all around this hospital.


GUPTA: You have a bridge over there which is a target. You have had actual explosions over there. We are two kilometers from Hezbollah.


GUPTA: We're a target here.

GHARIOS: Yes, of course. We are a target. And we are very afraid. It is like Russian roulette. You -- you don't know if you will arrive safe at the hospital, or you will have some -- some air strike or I don't know.

GUPTA (voice-over): Just standing on that roof made me nervous, but Dr. Gharios made sure his hospital stayed open when every other business around had been shut down.

(on camera): Why do it?

GHARIOS: I think -- I am a doctor. I have a responsibility. I run-this hospital. And I -- I think people need me. Patients need me.

GUPTA: So how does a hospital and its leader practice medicine in war time?

(on camera): Let me give you a sense of how a hospital works during a war.

First of all, we have come two levels below the ground. That's where all the patients need to be. And everything changes once you get down here. First of all, that's the radiology waiting area. Now it's a maternity ward. You have pregnant women can actually deliver their babies. The babies are here, as well.

(voice-over): Babies arriving in a troubled homeland.

(on camera): So I guess this really makes it hit home. You see a baby. She was actually born June 8. She weighed less than a pound. And in the middle of her already very short life, she had to be transported in the middle of a bomb raid to the basement, to the cath lab, which is now her new home.

(voice-over): Both staff and patients feel safer in this improvised subterranean ward, away from the all too familiar whine of sirens and the thuds of missiles.

Doctor Gharios said that his hospital can cope for a few weeks, at most. Supplies are running short. Some of his staff are starting to leave, concerned for their own families.


LUI: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting live from Beirut as the crisis in the Mideast escalates. Watch a special live edition of "HOUSE CALL" later this morning, 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

NGUYEN: Well, it could be days, even hours away. What would really happen in an all out invasion of Lebanon?

We will talk to an expert and see how it's going to play out, if and when it plays out.

LUI: And then later, going to a risky part of Beirut. Anderson Cooper visits a Hezbollah stronghold.

You are watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


LUI: Well, it's the shot heard round the course at the British Open. Tiger Woods drops in an eagle from the 14th fairway. His words about this.


LUI: Yes.

NGUYEN: Look at that!

LUI: He just said, "It went in."


LUI: So...

NGUYEN: I'll say it did.

LUI: Well, not bad, 209 yards, four drives to the big high five there.


LUI: Good for him.

Tiger's got the second round lead now, after shooting a seven under par 65 yesterday. Good for him. 2002 British Open champ Ernie Els, meanwhile, matched Woods 65 for the day. He's one shot behind Woods at 133. Woods and Els tee off in two hours. It is early.

NGUYEN: Yes, it is early. But, hey, how is the day going to shape up?

That's what we want to know about.

Reynolds Wolf is in some new digs to tell us about the weather outlook.

LUI: Look at that!

NGUYEN: You've got to show us this new Weather Center.

LUI: I know.

NGUYEN: It's really amazing.


LUI: Thanks, Reynolds.

All right, now we're going to bring you up to date.

Randi Kaye, who has been watching everything out of the Middle East for us, more bombings in the north and south -- Randi, what do you have for us now? KAYE: Right now, Richard, we have a protest to tell you about. It's going to get underway here very, very shortly in London. We can show you some pictures there of the people gathering. This is happening live right now at this moment.

This is the group Stop The War Coalition. They are planning to march today in protest from London to Glasgow. They are protesting against the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, which we have seen much of already this morning.

We want to show you some other pictures coming into us this morning as we continue to monitor at least 10 different feeds.

That is Al-Arabiya. You're looking at the area of Kiem in Southern Lebanon. New Israeli air raids. Very, very heavy bombs. This happened about 2:04 p.m. Lebanon time, the air raids there, the Israeli air strikes in the area if Kiem.

Also this morning, we're monitoring air strikes, Israeli air strikes against the transmission towers, telephone towers, communications towers of three different television networks in Lebanon -- Future TV; LBC, which is the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation; and Al-Manar. They have been blasted by Israeli air strikes. We are told that their phone service is out. The satellites, though, are still on, so we are still able to get us the information and certainly bring that to you.

But that is the latest on what is already shaping up to be a very, very busy morning. You're looking at the flames there from these bombardments from the Israeli air strikes earlier today -- back to you.

LUI: All right, Randi, thanks for that.

NGUYEN: Well, the crisis in the Middle East is showing no signs of resolve. You saw it right there.

LUI: That's right. Now it looks as if both sides are on the brink of an all out ground assault.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on what this could mean for the region. That's coming up in about six minutes.

NGUYEN: And stranded in Beirut -- e-mails from people in desperate need of help. That is from our Dot-Com Desk and that takes place in 25 minutes.




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