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At Least Two U.N. Observers Killed in Israeli Airstrike; Interview With Israeli Ambassador to United Nations Dan Gillerman; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Undertakes Mideast Mission

Aired July 25, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, watching around the world, on CNN International as well.
We are coming to you now live from the Lebanon-Israel border, where the shelling continues, the violence on the ground in Lebanon continues, and at least two U.N. peacekeepers are dead.


ANNOUNCER: A surprising day in a bloody week -- U.S. observers killed by an Israeli airstrike. The U.N. secretary-general says they were targeted deliberately.

Dispatch from the Israeli front line.

COOPER: They are now trying to get the exact coordinates. They are plotting it on their map. And, then, they will give the command here to actually fire. The whole process takes just a matter of minutes.

ANNOUNCER: Minutes in a battle with no end in sight -- Hezbollah's leader now vowing to turn up the heat and expand its attacks.

As for the war in Iraq, Mr. Maliki goes to Washington. But why does it sound like he's telling the U.S. what to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Recent statements by Iraqi leaders are beneath contempt.

ANNOUNCER: What the Iraqi prime minister said about Israel, and why some lawmakers are demanding an apology.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360": "Crisis in the Middle East: Day 14."

Reporting tonight from the Israel-Lebanon border, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening to everyone. We are coming to you live from the Israel-Lebanon border, where -- where Israeli -- Israeli artillery units are -- continue to lob shells into south Lebanon.

No doubt, over the next hour or two, you will hear some of those units firing their shells. It is a very distinctive sound.

This has been a day of much activity all around, in Beirut, here along the border, in south Lebanon, also on the diplomatic front. And we're going to cover it all for you in the next hour, more comprehensive coverage than you will find anywhere else.

First, let's get you up to date with the latest information in tonight's "War Bulletin."

Here's what we know at this point. Today, at least two U.N. observers in Lebanon were killed by an Israeli airstrike, and two others are feared dead in the rubble. They were stationed in south Lebanon. The strike destroyed their outpost, as well as a bunker. U.S. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the outpost was clearly marked, and Israeli officers had been repeatedly warned to protect it.

We will talk to Israel's ambassador to the U.N. in just a moment.

In a statement, Annan -- Annan said -- quote -- "I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a U.N. observer post in southern Lebanon" -- the key words there, apparently deliberate targeting.

The secretary-general is calling on Israel to conduct a full investigation.

Israel says, it sincerely regrets the tragic death of the U.N. personnel and will thoroughly investigate the causes that led to the unintentional strike.

Also today, the Israeli military said it is taking control of a key stronghold of Hezbollah, Bint Jbail, a city about three miles inside the Lebanese border. Israel offered -- officials said that between 20 and 30 Hezbollah fighters were killed in what they described as house-to-house combat in the city.

Hezbollah, meantime, is not backing down an inch. In a statement today, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, promised to take the fighting to the next stage, saying Hezbollah will begin striking beyond Haifa.

That's the latest in this "War Bulletin."

Let's bring in now the -- the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman.

Ambassador, thanks very much for -- for being with us.


COOPER: Kofi Annan says -- good evening.

Kofi Annan says that this was an apparently deliberate strike at a U.N. position. Was it?

GILLERMAN: First of all, I want to express our deep regret at this very tragic event, and extend out condolences to the families of the victims.

But, to use Kofi Annan's own words, I am shocked and deeply distressed by his deliberate targeting of Israel. I think that the statement made by the secretary-general was very unworthy of such a seasoned diplomat. I think it was premature, hasty, deplorable, and irresponsible.

And I certainly hope that, after the secretary-general has had a good night's sleep in Rome, he may wake up and realize that he made a mistake, and apologize for those very unfortunate words.

COOPER: He has called for a full investigation by Israel. A, are you going to do that? And, B, at this hour, do you know what happened?

GILLERMAN: Well, first of all, he did call for a full investigation, while issuing his own conclusions, which I think is very strange to start with.

He knows very well that Israel is investigating this. We are investigating it very, very thoroughly. We don't, unfortunately, at this very moment, know what happened. But we are very sorry, as I said, about this tragic incident. And we will investigate it thoroughly, fully, swiftly, and will share the findings of this investigation with the United Nations.

But I want to make it very clear, there was nothing deliberate about it. Israel -- what good would come to Israel out of hurting U.N. personnel? Can anybody in his right mind think Israel would do a thing like that?

And this is a war. This is a very ugly and brutal war, as you're witnessing firsthand, Anderson. And, just in the last 24 hours, Israeli soldiers were hurt by friendly fire. And does anybody in his right mind think that we deliberately targeted our own soldiers?

I think that to accuse Israel of this is grossly irresponsible, and deplorable, and appalling.

COOPER: How do you think this could have happened? Over the last several days, we have heard repeatedly from Israeli officials that their -- their targeting is pinpoint, that they are very accurate with their fire.

I'm standing in front of an Israeli artillery right now lobbing shells into south Lebanon. They say they -- they are extremely accurate, up to 20 kilometers, with these .155-millimeter shells. How would it be possible that you could hit a -- a U.N. position that you clearly knew about?

GILLERMAN: I really don't know.

We don't know what happened. We don't know exactly what hit it. We are and will be investigating this very thoroughly and very, very carefully. All I can say, that, in war, unfortunately, these things happen. Israel did not want this war. Israel left Lebanon six years ago, with no intention of going back. But Israel is fighting a very brutal and cynical enemy, in the form of one of the world's foremost terrorist organizations.

And war is an ugly thing. And, in war, people get hurt. And, unfortunately, not always does everything go according to plan. Mistakes happen. Tragedies happen. We are trying as hard as we can to minimize any mistakes, and to avoid any tragedies.

But they're happening on our side. They're happening on the other side. And this is what, unfortunately, war brings. This is why we have to bring this war and this threat to an end, in order to assure that Lebanon will be free and Israel will be safe.

COOPER: Hassan Nasrallah today said he's taking this fight beyond Haifa.

What do you think he means by that?

GILLERMAN: I think he means exactly what he says. He probably wants to target further Israeli towns and villages.

He has already targeted and hit, with nearly 2,000 Katyusha and missile rockets, the towns of Nahariya, where you were, the towns of Safed, Tiberias, and Haifa. And he's probably aiming further. This man is ruthless. This man has no compunction about killing women and children.

It is, in fact, his declared aim, to kill as many Israeli citizens as possible, and, ultimately, to destroy the state of Israel. This is why we have to see to it that Hezbollah is eliminated, and that threat is removed, both from Israel, from Lebanon, and from the region, and, ultimately, the world, because Hezbollah, together with the Hamas, Syria, and Iran, do constitute the world's most ominous and dangerous axis of terror.

This is indeed the world's war we are fighting. We're paying a very high price for it. But I think the world still knows that we are fighting its war.

COOPER: Ambassador Dan Gillerman to the United Nations, appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much on what has been a very busy day, no doubt, on the diplomatic front for you at the United Nations.

As we said, we are coming to you live from the Israeli-Lebanon border.

John Roberts has been reporting from here all day. And the fighting (INAUDIBLE) south Lebanon, where these shells that are being fired right now are -- are heading toward, the fighting there has been intense. Israel said that they scored what they consider a victory today, taking one particular town that provides a high view of the battlefield in south Lebanon. John Roberts reports on what has been going on, on the ground in south Lebanon now.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bone-tired and covered in dirt, soldiers return from the front lines, waving a captured Hezbollah flag. And, after two days of what he described as intense house-to-house fighting, their young commander made this pronouncement.

BRIGADIER GENERAL GAL HIRSCH, NORTHERN FRONT BATTLE COMMANDER, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: The battle is going quite good. In the last few hours, actually, we took total control on the city of Bint Jbail.

ROBERTS: But taking what the Israeli army claims was Hezbollah's southern stronghold does not eliminate the danger.

More Katyusha rockets fell in the Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona. The missiles ignited brushfires that burned across the hillsides. Crop-dusters, modified to carry fire retardant, swept in low to put them out.

A number of missiles also hit Haifa, Israel's third largest city, causing a number of injuries. The rockets were among 96 that Hezbollah fired into Israel.

And, in a staging area along the border, one soldier narrowly escaped death, when Hezbollah got off a lucky shot with a mortar that turned out to be a dud.

We wanted to talk with soldiers about the battle. Army rules, though, prevent them from speaking to us without authorization. It was clear from their faces and posture that the fighting was difficult. But, rested and refueled, they're eager to get back to the battlefield.


(on camera): No talking, just making coffee.



ROBERTS (voice-over): And, late into the evening, the Israeli army opened up a new front in its campaign, firing shells into Shiite villages north of what is called the Galilee Panhandle, not far from the Israeli town of Metulla, parts which of are now declared a military zone.

All along the border, the guns are firing, a nonstop, 'round-the- clock effort to soften up Hezbollah positions. The ground forces could move forward to capture more territory. Completing the operation will not be easy. Hezbollah is dug in deep, says General Hirsch, well-trained and well-financed. He has never seen any terror organization so well-prepared.

HIRSCH: It will take time.

ROBERTS (on camera): A week?

HIRSCH: And...

ROBERTS: Two weeks?

HIRSCH: I don't know, sir. It will take time, because we intend to dismantle Hezbollah infrastructure, because you can see that there is no peaceful life in almost all Israel.


COOPER: John Roberts, of course, joins me now.

John, Israel is in a tricky position. They say they don't want to occupy south Lebanon. But, already, they -- they have taken one town that they said is a -- is a -- is a foothold. They have grabbed another town, which, I guess, is now a handhold.

At what point does what they're doing become occupation?

ROBERTS: Well, not only that, but look at what Defense Minister Amir Peretz said yesterday. He said: We intend to hold ground along the Israeli-Lebanon border unless an international stabilization force is brought in.

What can that mean, except for occupation? I -- I asked General Hirsch about that today. I said: Does this mean you're at least going to temporarily occupy the ground there?

And he was very evasive about -- about the whole thing. He -- he really just sort of toed the -- the standard Israeli line, saying: We have no intentions of occupying territory in Lebanon. We went there once. We're not going to go there again.

But an international stabilization force hasn't even been agreed to yet. And, if it is agreed to, it is going to take a number of weeks to be able to get enough forces, 10,000, they're talking about, on the ground there, to -- to provide that buffer between Hezbollah, northern Lebanon, and -- and Israel. And, so, it could only be that the Israeli Defense Forces will be occupying Lebanon for a period of time.

COOPER: Occupation is certainly a term fraught with -- with political difficulties and -- and -- and social difficulties here.

I guess the definition -- the -- the question is, what is the definition of occupation? And that, I guess, we will be learning in the coming days.

ROBERTS: We certainly will.

COOPER: John, we will check in with you momentarily. We are going to have a roundtable of all our correspondents from the region.

But, right now, we want to go to what is happening in Beirut. That has been the center of a lot of activity today. The capital was rocked by a series of explosions, louder explosions, bigger hits, and more sustained fighting, more sustained aerial bombardment, than that city has seen in several days.

CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest from Beirut.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): For 24 hours, it had almost been normal in Beirut, 24 hours without bombing. That ended with a massive Israeli airstrike. Huge clouds of smoke rose from Hezbollah's heartland in the southern suburbs of the capital.

At the same time, details reached Beirut of the grinding Israeli advance northwards, into Lebanon -- the mountain village of Maroun al- Ras taken -- Bint Jbail, three miles, five kilometers, over the border, a town straddling a strategic crossroads, taken.

But what is next? Lebanese military sources suspect, Israel intends to advance much farther, another 20 miles north, across the Litani River, into the town of Nabatiyeh, before west to the coast and the port city of to Tyre...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hezbollah rocket. Hezbollah rocket.

ROBERTSON: ... where Hezbollah still fires rockets at Israel. It is a military operation that, at this rate, could take weeks -- in the path of that potential advance, this house in Nabatiyeh, where Lebanese officials report seven civilians were killed when it was hit in an Israeli airstrike.

And, in nearby Tyre, the injured and displaced continue to flood in from the nearby villages and towns, desperately into need of relief supplies.

In Beirut, those supplies began arriving -- U.S. helicopters bringing enough emergency medical kits to supply 20,000 people for three months, the leading edge of a $30 million American aid program to south Lebanon.

JEFFREY FELTMAN, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO LEBANON: There is a humanitarian crisis here. We want to address that. The U.N. has appealed to people, to nations, people for support. We want to support that appeal.

ROBERTSON: The U.S. aid is being handed over to the International Red Cross to distribute as they see fit.

Initially, it is going into storage, mindful that, in the last few days, the Lebanese Red Cross had vehicles hit in Israeli strikes.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Nic Robertson joins us now in Beirut.

Nic, we heard again now today from Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, making some -- some -- some very interesting statements, some very worrying statements, especially for the people down here in Israel, saying that they wanted to take the battle beyond Haifa, and plan to do that.

Is -- is he talking about having longer-range rockets, or do we know?

ROBERTSON: That's exactly what people here take him to mean, that they will be striking Tel Aviv next.

He also said they will take it "beyond beyond Haifa." We don't know exactly what that means. Hezbollah have been maintaining this myth, or reality -- they certainly want to keep the Israelis guessing -- about what they have in their arsenal. And they're implying now, yes, they can strike further, deeper into Israel -- Anderson.

COOPER: It -- it -- I guess one could also read into it -- and -- and I guess he's intentionally leaving it vague to make the -- the entire world worry.

I mean, one could read into it, taking it beyond the -- the boundaries of Israel, taking it into Europe, taking the battle into the United States. Does -- does Hezbollah still use suicide bombings? I mean, they were one of the first groups to utilize suicide bombings, blowing up the Marine barracks back in -- in 1982. Do they still embrace that method?

ROBERTSON: More recently, they have said that they will -- that they're not targeting the U.S., at least outside of -- outside of the conflict here, that -- that their targets are Israel, and that they have no intention to target -- target U.S. military targets.

But I did talk to one person involved in -- in -- in the radical jihad movement. And although that's not Hezbollah's particular direction these days, he implied that Hezbollah -- and he has -- he has been based in Europe for the last 22 years -- he told me that Hezbollah has a lot of assets in Europe, and could choose to expand, perhaps not through suicide bombing, but could choose to expand their targeting against Israeli targets in the rest of the world.

And I think one other thing that is implied by what Nasrallah said today, it's not just that they can strike further into Israel, but any buffer zone, therefore, needs to be so much bigger, because, if they can strike right now deeper into Israel, a 20-mile buffer zone for an international force isn't going to be big enough to stop these longer-range missiles getting into Israel -- Anderson.

COOPER: Worrying.

Nic Robertson, thanks for that. We will talk to you again in our roundtable, coming up in just a moment. When we come back: more from the border here in northern Israel, and more on the diplomatic front -- Condoleezza Rice now in Rome, trying to gather support for some sort of international peacekeeping force. The problem is, what countries are actually going to agree to send their troops into south Lebanon? That's a big problem right now.

Also, we will have more from these artillery units from Israel, working day and night. (INAUDIBLE)


COOPER: Each Israeli artillery (INAUDIBLE) knows exactly what they're firing at. Their commander knows. He passes the order down to them. The whole process just takes a matter of moments.



COOPER: Terror and bloodshed in Haifa today, 18 people wounded, one man dying of a heart attack, as several Katyusha rockets slammed into that city, a city which has seen so many Katyusha rockets every day of this conflict.

Haifa is about 22 miles south of -- of the Israeli border. We're actually along the Israel-Lebanon border right now. We're with an Israeli artillery unit. And, throughout this next hour -- or two hours -- you are going to hear a -- probably a large amount of shelling behind me. That is the sound of these American-made M-109 artillery pieces lobbing .155-millimeter shells and others into south Lebanon.

We will have a lot more about what it's like for the Israeli artillery units coming up in this hour.

But, first, we want to turn our attention to the diplomatics -- the diplomatic efforts going under way. Right now, in Rome, Secretary Condoleezza Rice is there, most likely waking up relatively soon, another day of diplomacy.

CNN's John King has been traveling with the secretary of state.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was all carefully scripted, a friendly handshake and an Israeli embrace of Washington's new ideas to end the fighting.

But there are many obstacles to a cease-fire deal. And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made clear, nothing will change just because the diplomats are finally talking.

EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel is determined to carry on the fight against Hezbollah. We will reach out for them. We will stop them. And we will not hesitate to take the most severe measures. KING: Secretary Rice, in turn, emphasized, Washington won't demand Israel stand down, unless there is first an agreement that puts Hezbollah out of the terror business and requires the Lebanese army to take control of the south.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: An enduring cease- fire, an enduring cessation of violence, which would indeed make the security situation better than it was before.

KING: Anti-American sentiment on the Arab street -- this is during a Rice stop in the Palestinian territories -- complicates the deal-making at Wednesday's emergency Lebanon summit in Rome.

As she arrived for those talks, one obstacle looms especially large: Hezbollah's refusal to disarm makes it harder to win commitments for a new international peacekeeping force.

ROBERT MALLEY, MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA PROGRAM DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Right now, it is simply not realistic to expect this Lebanese government, any Lebanese government, to go after Hezbollah's weapons, and that, if an international force came in and tried to do it, it would become the target of attacks by Hezbollah, and perhaps by others.

KING: But there will be no cease-fire without a peacekeeping deal. So, while negotiating the thorny details, Secretary Rice entered the talks envisioning an initial force of roughly 10,000 troops that would be endorsed by the United Nations, but not under direct U.N. command, with the authority to engage Hezbollah militias and to police the Syrian border and other Hezbollah resupply routes.

Such a force has broad international support, but securing commitments is another matter. The United States and Britain, for example, say they can't pitch in because of Iraq and other obligations.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think there's a chance that, if nobody else is prepared to pony up forces, the only way to break the impasse may be for Washington to offer up a few hundred of its own soldiers as the initial core of this kind of a capability.

KING: Egypt is a potential player, but is wary of the robust mission being pushed by the United States.

NABIL FAHMY, EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: The details of the mandate of the force have to be negotiated with the Lebanese government. It's not for any country, even a friendly country, like Egypt, that has strong relations with Lebanon, to determine that force.


COOPER: And I'm joined now by a -- a roundtable of our -- of our -- of our journalists. John King is in Rome. Christiane Amanpour is in Jerusalem tonight. John Roberts is with me here along the Israel-Jordanian border -- excuse me -- Israel-Lebanon border. And Nic Robertson is in Beirut.

John King, let's start off with you.

What room does Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have to negotiate? What is there to negotiate about? Are -- are there carrots and sticks being offered?

KING: Well, Anderson, it is a fascinating night here in Rome. And it will be a fascinating morning, already almost daybreak here in Rome.

Secretary Rice begins the formal discussions in the morning, but she had dinner with the U.N. secretary-general last night, with the European Union's top diplomat, and with a very key player, the prime minister of Lebanon.

And let's just put it this way. The United States is outnumbered here. Secretary-General Annan and many others want an immediate cease-fire. They say, negotiate about Hezbollah's armaments down the road, after that cease-fire. They want to end the hostilities, end the killing, and then deal with all the very difficult issues.

But Secretary Rice, for now, we are told, is holding firm. She's worried the world will lose its urgency, won't press for a full disarmament, so the U.S. position is, any cease-fire also has to deal with disarming Hezbollah. But the United States is outnumbered. So, her strength as a negotiator, her stubbornness, if you will, will be tested here in Rome in the morning.

COOPER: John Roberts, here along the border, does it seem as if Israel is trying to basically secure as much as they can on the ground before these diplomatic efforts sort of really get in full swing?

ROBERTS: As I mentioned just a -- a few minutes ago, Amir Peretz, the defense minister of Israel, said that it's his intent to have Israel hold ground -- quote -- "hold ground," until an international stabilization force could be brought in.

They have got the high ground, as you mentioned before, with Bint Jbail. But now they need to sort of expand their influence. They -- they -- they do not want to go back to the status quo. So, they really want this international stabilization force brought in. They do not want it under the auspices of the United Nations, because they feel that it's not strong enough.

They know the experience with that interim force in Lebanon that was struck in 1978, and -- and wasn't even really a toothless tiger. It was just pretty much useless, as far as they were concerned.

So, they want to make sure that they get something in there that is strong. And, until they get something in there that is strong. they're going to take whatever ground they can, and, it would appear, hold on to it, which could bring up the big O-word, occupation, even on a temporary basis.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, in Jerusalem, it -- it is going to be extremely difficult -- or, at least, it seems, at this early stage -- to get troops involved on the ground. There's no way, it seems, according to U.S. officials, that U.S. troops are -- are going to have boots on the ground in south Lebanon as part of this force. Who are they going to get?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's true about the U.S. They don't want to -- to go in there overstretched.

But we have already heard some rumblings about potential European contributors, potentially, countries such as Turkey, for instance. I have been told that they would have to be countries who are politically acceptable all around.

But it's true. It's going to be difficult. And, particularly, they're going to have to have a robust mandate. And that is going to mean, if Hezbollah doesn't agree to this, that they're going to have to potentially take on Hezbollah.

And I have also been told that, because they have to patrol the Syrian-Lebanese border as well, if Syria is not involved as a part of the solution, it may raise some issues about Syria, potentially, being a continuing destabilizing source. And that's going to put off contributor nations, if they think they have to face off against Syria as well.

COOPER: Christiane, you have covered a -- a lot of peacekeeping operations over the years, going -- going all the way back into Bosnia. What is the closest comparison you can make that you can think of? I mean, have we seen an international force like this before?

AMANPOUR: Well, yes, I mean, we have seen an international force, a very effective one, in Bosnia, for instance.

But that came after a U.S.-brokered peace agreement. And the peace agreement got the agreement of all sides to have this force -- IFOR, it was at the beginning -- to -- to stabilize and to -- and to patrol between the two sides.

And, as a result, not one single soldier was ever shot at, or killed, or wounded in anger. It just didn't happen. It was a -- it was a success. And that's -- you know, they're going to -- that's what the -- the -- the challenge is for this round of diplomacy, to see whether they can get all sides to agree to interposing a force there.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, in Beirut, would -- would Lebanon's government, A, agree to a force? And, B, could the -- the Lebanese military play a role in -- in this force?

ROBERTSON: Well, we have yet to hear the Lebanese government put -- make public their position on what sort of composition the force should be, how they would want to see it deployed, what sort of agreements. Could the Lebanese army play a role?

The Lebanese army has -- already, it has the 11th division just outside the port city of Tyre. What role could they play? One of the concerns -- and we have talked about this a lot -- is that percentage of Shiite population within the army. Now, it would -- one would imagine, and the concern is, that those Shiites might side -- might decide to side with Hezbollah, if there wasn't a significant Hezbollah compliance with any deal.

You would really have to have everyone here happy with the deal, so that everyone in the army -- and it's composed of all the sort of different ethnic and -- and religious makeup here -- it would have to have everyone in the army happy for the army to stay united for -- for them to play a significant role in it.

But, clearly, in this situation, from the Lebanese government's perspective, to bring in an -- bring in an international force here, the components within it are going to have to be acceptable to them as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: Unity in Lebanon is certainly not something it is easy to get.

Nic, thanks for that. Christiane, John, and John, we will check in with you more. We will have more of our roundtable coming up later.

We are also going to take a look at life on the front lines for these Israeli artillery units that are behind me right now, what it's like for them working around the clock, seven days a week, a -- a very important role that they are playing right now in what the Israeli Defense Forces are doing in south Lebanon.

Stay with us.


COOPER: And we are live from the Israel/Lebanon border. A number of events happening in South Lebanon right now to talk about. Some major action on the ground.

I want to bring in our correspondents. Nic Robertson is in Beirut. Christiane Amanpour is in Jerusalem. John King is covering diplomatic efforts in Rome. And CNN's John Roberts is with me here along the border.

John, Israel says that they killed a major Hezbollah commander. Who was he? What do we know about him?

ROBERTS: Abu Jaffar. We don't know much about him personally. I talked to a few people who have never heard of him. But the Israel Defense Forces say that he was Hezbollah's central sector commander along the Lebanon border. They are saying that he was a senior Hezbollah commander. They're trying to put this out there as quite a victory.

COOPER: There was also this attack at Bint Jbeil. They say they have taken that. Why is that significant?

ROBERTS: It's significant because it's known or at least it's taken by the Israel Defense Forces to be Hezbollah's southern stronghold. It's also on the high ground. Maroun al-Ras, the town they took the other day, is on the high round.

Bint Jbeil is a little bit lower than that. But it gives them sort of a vast vantage point from which to overlook most of Southern Lebanon, or much of it, as least. And they feel you hold the high ground, it's easier to take the rest of the country.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour in Jerusalem, the U.N. secretary- general, Kofi Annan, saying that Israeli, apparently, essentially targeted a U.N. position. How serious of an incident is this?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's serious. And I think that, you know, the secretary-general has made himself very clear ever since the beginning of this, that he believes and he's called for a cease-fire in advance of any kind of negotiations and full political solution. That's not what the United States want.

But, you know, these civilian casualties, I mean, let's be very frank. Ten times more on the Lebanese side than on the Israeli side. And this is beginning to cause, you know, a lot of discomfort. Not just in the usual places, amongst the usual suspects, but also among some quarters here in Israel.

People are concerned. They want this strong response to Hezbollah for what it did to its soldiers. But they're very concerned. They don't want to see it go out of control. They don't want to see, you know, some terrible mass civilian killings.

And every car with civilians that gets busted up, every mini bus that gets shot up, every time you see a child, you know, burnt and in hospital, it's -- it's causing some anxiety here amongst some quarters. We at least see it in the press a little bit. Hearing it a little bit amongst the people that we talk to.

And I think that, you know, Israel has always had this -- this issue where it conducts its military campaigns, trying to get the military objective. But one eye also on public opinion, to see how long it can go before opinion, you know, starts to come down to bear.

COOPER: Nic Robertson in Beirut, what's happening about humanitarian efforts on the ground in Lebanon?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment they're sort of in a no man's land, if you will. There's a lot of aid that's beginning to come in. Although the medical supplies came in from the United States today, enough medical supplies for 20,000 people for three months.

But how do you get it safely down to the area in the south of the country where it's needed? And that's the big conundrum at the moment. The U.N. was hoping to get a convoy down there today. They may, in the light of what happened overnight to the U.N. observers, rethink that. There are other aid organizations that are waiting and watching the U.N. to see how they get on.

But it's all about getting those trucks safely, all the roads are damaged. They have to go through the mountains. They look like a big convoy from the air. Would they be misperceived as Hezbollah moving rockets or military equipment to the south? And they want to know from the Israeli government that they're going to be safe when they drive down.

So at the moment, there's a lot of aid waiting to move south, and a lot of aid officials here want to know, can they get it down there safely? They certainly know where they want to take it and to whom they want to distribute it to, Anderson.

COOPER: John King, in Rome covering the diplomatic angle, can the U.S. figure out a way to get Syria separate from Iran, to get Syria to break in some way with Hezbollah? Especially considering the U.S. is not willing to meet with Syria face to face?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, no one expects such a dramatic development out of the discussions here in Rome, because they are so tied up and so in disagreement on some of the key issues. Just to simply -- I shouldn't use the word "simply", I guess, bring it into the violence between Israel and Hezbollah right now.

Eventually down the road the United States is open, it says quietly, to more of a dialogue with Syria if it sees behavior from Syria that allows that dialogue, is how the U.S. likes to put it. But the much more urgent concern is trying to broker some sort of a cease- fire. And yes, it is possible, if you get such a deal, at that point Syria would have to be brought in.

The United States says let's have the Saudis and the Egyptians talk to Damascus. The Israelis are very interesting. They say they think Russia and Turkey could have more influence on the Syrians than anybody else. But I have to say, they're so tied up now over simply a plan to get a cease-fire and get that peacekeeping force constructed, not that Syria is not important, but it's a bit down the list at this moment.

COOPER: So much -- so much to cover. Nobody does it better than or correspondents. Christiane Amanpour, John King, John Roberts here on the border, and Nic Robertson in Beirut. Thanks very much. We'll check in with you in the next hour, as well.

A lot else is happening here. We'll talk about that in a moment. First let's check in with Heidi Collins in New York for the day's other headlines -- Heidi.


California is still in the grip of a brutal heat wave, clocking ten straight days now of 100 degree temperatures. Dozens of deaths have been blamed on the heat. Some communities face their third day without electricity. It's the first time in 57 years that northern and southern California have experienced extended heat waves at the same time.

Indiana police say a 17-year-old has confessed to killing one man and wounding another in a series of highway shootings. Zachariah Blanton faces charges of murder, attempted murder and criminal recklessness.

Investigators in California are trying to find out the fate of 50 women they believe are connected to a prisoner who's facing death for killing two women in the 1980s. Authorities are looking into whether the women were raped or killed by William Richard Bradford. You see him there. Bradford was convicted of two murders back in 1987.

In Boston, the reopening of the Big Dig tunnels has been delayed because of yet more problems. A motorist was killed by ceiling panels that fell down earlier this month. Investigators found more loose bolts in one of those panels just yesterday.

Anderson, back now to you.

COOPER: Heidi, thanks very much. We'll check in again with you shortly.

We're again coming to you live from the Israel/Lebanon border. This is an Israeli artillery unit behind me. When we come back, we will show you what life is like for the men here who are right here along the border, firing shells, supporting Israeli ground troops and targeting Hezbollah rocket positions in South Lebanon. Stay with us.


COOPER: And welcome back to the Israel/Lebanon border. We are broadcasting live from the Israeli artillery units.

One of the things we've been trying to do in our coverage over the last two weeks or so is not only travel to as many different places as possible -- that's right, we were in Northern Israel a lot. That's why we were in Cyprus. That's why we were also in Beirut and are now back here in Northern Israel. We're trying to see the story from as many different angles as possible.

But what we're also trying to do is provide some context. And part of that is revisiting people who we met along the way. When we first came to Israel about two weeks ago we came to actually this spot, to this artillery unit, run by a guy named Captain Boaz. We came back there to check in with him to see how he's been doing these last two weeks. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): In the dead of night an Israeli artillery unit prepares to fire shells into South Lebanon. When we first visited this unit and talked with its commander, Captain Boaz, the current crisis was just three days old. CAPTAIN BOAZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: It's been a little under three days.

COOPER: Large numbers of Israeli ground troops had not entered South Lebanon. Captain Boaz was targeting Katyusha rocket positions.

BOAZ: Every time that Hezbollah engages fire we have to respond. So they give us a target point.

COOPER (on camera): So -- so your command sees where the Hezbollah rocket comes from and then you try to respond on that spot?

BOAZ: Exactly.

COOPER (voice-over): The shelling went on all night long.

(on camera) Captain Boaz just received the call moments ago to fire on a position in Lebanon. They're now trying to get the exact coordinates. They're plotting it on their map. And then they'll give the command here to actually fire.

BOAZ: We just want to see our guys come home, every kidnapped soldiers. One on the Gaza Strip. Two in the north. We just want to see them come back home. And I mean, nobody wants war. We just want peace and quiet.

COOPER (voice-over): Today, exactly two weeks into the crisis, there's anything but peace and quiet. Captain Boaz and his men are in the exact same spot, though their mission has only gotten more complicated.

(on camera) They've been firing shells pretty consistently now for the last hour. What they're -- what they're trying to do is not only target Hezbollah rocket positions on the ground in South Lebanon. They're also trying to provide air cover for Israeli troops fighting Hezbollah.

As the fighting continues to intensify on the ground in South Lebanon, so does the work for these Israeli artillery crews.

(voice-over) In between the shelling Captain Boaz checks on his men. There are always more shells to arm, artillery pieces to clean. Some soldiers sneak in a smoke, a few minutes of talk. Then there are more targets to attack.

(on camera) Each knows what they're firing at. Their commander knows. He passes the order down to them. The whole process just takes a matter of moments.

(voice-over) Each soldier in this unit is very aware of the difficult battle being fought just a few miles from here. Each soldier is aware they'll not be going home anytime soon.

After two weeks of fighting, Captain Boaz is realistic but more determined than ever to win. BOAZ: It would be stupid and presumptuous to say that it's going easy and we're doing great and everything is cool. Because it's not. And Hezbollah is a really tough enemy. But we're a strong army. And we're going to do whatever it takes.


COOPER: Right now Captain Boaz's unit, his guns are silent. They've been going all night. No doubt they'll start up again shortly.

When we come back, what is happening in the other battle front in Iraq? Iraq's prime minister visits the United States and makes some comments about what is happening here. We'll bring you that next on 360.


COOPER: Well, Iraq's new democratically elected prime minister visited the White House today and made some comments which caught some people in Washington by surprise. This came on the same day that we got word that more U.S. troops may soon be heading to Iraq.

Ed Henry, CNN's White House correspondent, has the day's developments.


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush knows his legacy will rise or fall based on Iraq. So he eagerly proclaimed it a remarkable historic moment to stand in the White House with the leader chosen by Iraqis in a free and fair election.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have a strong partner in the United States of America.

HENRY: But that pageantry was overshadowed by word from the president and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, more American troops are headed to Baghdad to deal with escalating violence.

BUSH: The prime minister advised me to support this plan. He and General Casey have agreed to deploy additional American troops and Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad in the coming weeks. These will come from other areas of the country.

HENRY: Just one month ago General George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, was considering pulling two combat brigades, up to 10,000 U.S. troops, this fall, with the possibility of even deeper U.S. troop cuts on the horizon in 2007, if and only if, conditions on the ground improved.

But now, any hope of bringing home large numbers of U.S. troops before the midterm elections seems bleak, based on the stark assessment by the White House itself of the surge of sectarian violence between Iraq Sunnis and Shiites. STEPHEN HADLEY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Death squads and armed gangs are going around murdering people, kidnapping people, sometimes in broad daylight. There has to be a consequence for that. People need to be held to account.

HENRY: that effort may be hampered by the fact that Maliki has refused to condemn Hezbollah attacks and has only blamed Israel for the conflict in Lebanon. Asked to clarify his position, Maliki dodged by trying to shift the focus to the humanitarian crisis.

NURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Here actually we're talking about the suffering of a people in a country. And we have not -- in the process of review of one issue or another or any government position.

HENRY: Democrats are exploiting the fact that his position is completely at odds with President Bush.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I want the prime minister to denounce what Hezbollah has done and what they're doing. That's what I want.

HENRY (on camera): Some Democrats want Maliki's invite to address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday to be canceled. But Republicans are expected to let the speech go forward. Because they want to showcase progress in Iraq, an issue they've staked so much political capital in.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.


COOPER: As Ed pointed out, I believe I said that U.S. troops were heading -- more U.S. troops were headed to Iraq. I should have said were heading to Baghdad from other parts of Iraq.

When we come back, though, a reality check. What really is happening on the ground in Iraq? We'll take you to the front lines.


COOPER: And welcome back. We are live along the Israeli/Lebanon border.

Let's remember the official death toll here, some 390 or more people in Lebanon. And with the figures or fatalities in Israel, the total number is just over 400 people.

Compare that to what has gone on in Iraq. In the last week alone, the death toll there stood at some 200 people. Arwa Damon now takes a look at what is happening on the ground.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today is like any day in Iraq. The death count only rising. More Iraqi civilians murdered.

Akem al-Kazazi (ph) is burying his two brothers, victims of a death squad. The attack began just before midnight Monday.

Ibrahim Hussein (ph) survived it. But his cousin did not. He says armed gunmen in civilian clothing surrounded him and his cousin, claiming to be National Guard. The next thing they knew, they were face-down in the palm groves with other captives when gunfire broke out. Somehow, he and six others managed to run away. His cousin ended up in a coffin.

A day earlier, another attack. This time, a suicide bomber. This man was there but escaped the carnage. Over the last week, major bombings in public places here killed nearly 200 civilians.

In Baghdad, the Tigris River has become a favored way to dispose of bodies. The water leaves them bloated and disfigured. Each day, hired boats pull bodies out of the river. Either loved ones identify them, or they wind up in mass graves.

There is little one can do here to avoid death. Sunnis, Shia, women, children, violence doesn't discriminate. Those who survive the violence will heal. But with so much random death, will they ever really feel safe again? Ever heal their emotional scars?

(on camera) The most recent figures issued by the United Nations assistance mission to Iraq are chilling. An average of 100 Iraqi civilians are killed every day. Fourteen thousand Iraqis have died so far this year, which is why today was like any day here in Iraq.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


COOPER: Well, it is not like any day here in the Mideast. The fighting continues to be intense in South Lebanon. Shells continue to be fired from these positions.

When we come back, we'll have the latest from the battlefield in South Lebanon, in Beirut, here in Northern Israel, and all throughout the region.

Stay with us.


COOPER: Two U.N. peacekeepers are killed in South Lebanon. Two others may be dead, as well, and we've just learned their identity.

360 starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Accident or deliberate? U.N. observers killed by Israeli air strike and accusations fly. We'll bring you the latest on a bloody day at the border. To the U.S. and Israel, they're terrorists.

BUSH: What you've witnessed in Israel in my judgment is the act of a terrorist organization trying to stop the advance of democracy in the region.

ANNOUNCER: To many Lebanese, they're society's saviors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hezbollah is doing all the things for the people.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, what is the real face of Hezbollah?


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