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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Deadliest Attack in 19 Days of Bloodshed in Qana
Aired July 30, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My daughter has been killed and my husband and my son have been rescued from under the debris.
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JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the deadliest attack in 19 days of bloodshed. At least 60 civilians, many of them children, killed in an Israeli airstrike on a residential building in Lebanon. Israel calls it a tragic mistake and says Hezbollah fired rockets from the area. Now, after international outrage, Israel suspends its airstrikes for 48 hours. Will Hezbollah hold its fire?
We're live near the Israel-Lebanon border with all the latest from both sides, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
ROBERTS: Hey, good evening. Welcome to a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Larry King is off tonight. I'm John Roberts in Matula, Israel where we continue our coverage of the crisis in the Middle East.
The big news today out of the Middle East, of course, that terrible bombing in the Lebanese city of Qana, an Israeli bomb destroyed a house, there were many, many people inside, more than 60 people dead, 19 of them children.
In response to that, Israel tonight declares a 48-hour pause in the aerial bombing campaign and allows 24 hours for evacuees to get out of Southern Lebanon, to get out of harm's way.
We're going to check in with our correspondents around the region, chief national correspondent, John King, in Jerusalem tonight; senior international correspondent Nic Robertson in Beirut; at the United Nations, Richard Roth joins us; Major General Don Sheppard, U.S. military retired, our CNN military analyst is in Tucson for us; and joining me in Matula, Israel international correspondent, Matthew Chance.
John King, let's go to you first. What's the latest on the diplomatic track tonight? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, that dramatic announcement and Israeli concession, and a major one is. A 48-hour cessation of the air campaign in Southern Lebanon and Israeli sources tell us it is effectively a 48-hour cessation of the Israeli military offensive in Southern Lebanon, because the Israeli military will not send its ground troops without sufficient air cover.
This deal coming late tonight, fascinating. An Israeli concession announced by the United States, came after day-long negotiations with Secretary of State Rice. She had been frustrated throughout the day, thought the Israelis were stalling in her conversations trying to get to the bigger question, which is a broader full end of the hostilities. Still no agreement on that, but we have now this 48-hour cessation. It gives Secretary Rice a chance to says the has won at least modest temporary victory from her diplomacy.
She will go home now, John, but before she goes, she will outline here, in a few hours in Israel, her conception what that resolution should look like. She's hoping to get an agreement by the middle to the end of this week, that would end the hostilities permanently if that agreement holds. But 48-hour cessation tonight, and as you noted at the top of the program, the big question is, does Hezbollah try to exploit it or does Hezbollah allow those 48 hours to go by quietly in Southern Lebanon?
ROBERTS: And we should point out that while the lack of air cover may reduce the scope of the ground campaign in the next 48 hours we're still hearing artillery fire here and off in the distance machine gun fire, so Israeli troops still operating in Southern Lebanon.
Nic Robertson what was the reaction and response in Lebanon today to the bombing in Qana?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A very angry response, John. The population of Lebanon really feels that it is their country under attack, not just Hezbollah that is facing these attacks. There's been a seething anger underneath the surface against Israel, against the United States, as well, who many people in Lebanon really see working hand in hand with Israel at this time.
And today, we saw that seething anger come out onto the streets with demonstration in the center of Beirut, attacking a U.N. office. Very quickly after that, we saw a crowd gather in the central of Beirut. There were speakers there, they were talking about the resistance, support for Hezbollah, calling on Arabs throughout the region to support the people of Lebanon and cries against the U.N., cries against President Bush, cries against Israel.
And after that, the demonstrators were called on to go and move on the U.S. embassy, about eight to 10 miles north of the center of Beirut. But before the demonstrators could get there, the Lebanese army moved out onto the streets, barricaded the roads, put up check points so very, very people turned up there. This evening there was a candle-lit vigil. But their feeling here is one of extreme anger, extreme emotion and also extreme sadness about seeing such terrible loss of life and a sense of deja vu, as well. Because there was an attack in this same town 10 years ago where more than a hundred people died. For the Lebanese, they feel they've seen all of this before -- John.
ROBERTS: Right. And just terrible pictures and absolutely heart-wrenching to watch.
Matthew Chance, this is the second big mishap for the Israeli air force, there was the bombing of that U.N. compounds, which is actually just about a mile that way. Now, this bombing in Qana, what's that doing to opinion for the war here in Israel and what kind of effect is it having on the Israeli government seeing world opinion building against them?
MATTHEW CHANCE CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, John, it must be having a big effect. There's a lot of frustration, not only amongst the Israeli military, but amongst ordinary Israelis, as well, that after nearly three weeks of this really intensive bombing of artillery strikes, of airstrikes against Hezbollah oppositions and of quite costly grand operations, as well, involving Israeli soldiers fighting almost hand to hand with Hezbollah guerrillas. Very great sense of frustration that that hasn't produced the results that Israel said it would a few weeks ago. And so, I think, you know, I think that this bombing of Qana, as well as the killings there, that's really piled on the pressure on the Israelis and ultimately seen this change in military policy as a result of it, very interesting.
ROBERTS: Richard Roth up in New York, an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council today. What's going on up there?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: The Security Council, John, minutes ago, adopting a statement in which it strongly deplores what happened at Qana, the Israel attack there, but the Security Council did not heed Kofi Annan, the secretary-general's wish for there to be a cry for an immediate cessation of hostilities. The council was unable to agree on that, and that's primarily because of United States opposition.
The words in the final draft of this statement, the Security Council calls for an end to violence. The Security Council will continue discussions through the week and on a proposed resolution that would involve international peace-keeping forces going in between Israel and Lebanon, but the council is still divided on Lebanon. The United States and ambassador Bolton was able to prevent tougher language. Ambassador Bolton telling the press he doesn't want business as usual regarding the Middle East, the United States holding to that line here -- John.
ROBERTS: Major General Don Sheppard, the Israeli defense forces today said that they express great sorrow for what happened in Qana, but at the same time, they defended their actions in going after these Hezbollah rocket launchers. They were showing gunfight video of Hezbollah launchers hiding behind buildings, hiding in urban communities. What are the Hezbollah tactics in terms of how they infiltrate themselves into the communities to fire these rockets?
GEN. DON SHEPPARD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well John, you said it very accurately. The Hezbollah, as a tactic, operates from civilian areas. They operate close to buildings, in buildings with civilians, they fire these rockets from buildings that they know are close to things that will produce civilian casualties. So it's a tactic, in asymmetric warfare, well known.
The problem is that somebody has to make a decision, based upon their intelligence, in the case of the building in Qana, it could be they had the wrong building or weapons malfunction, most likely they had information that somebody or something important was in that building and decided to go ahead and strike it. A problem is with all the sophisticated things that we have, you still can't see through buildings and you don't know whether it's in there, whether it's what you're after or whether it's a bunch of kids. In this case, for sure, it was a bunch of kids. Don't know what else was there.
ROBERTS: Right. General Sheppard, going after these emplacements, the way that they are with this airpower, these powerful 500-pound bombs, is that the way to try to get at these sites in and urban area? It seems that you can't avoid civilian casualties.
SHEPPARD: You cannot avoid civilian casualties when your enemy operates in a civilian area. If you drop inside a civilian area, despite all the smart weapons that we have, despite all the very, very accurate pinpoints accuracy that they produce, when a bomb goes off, it's going to throw shrapnel in all directions and it's going to hit whatever is there. It may bring down the building. But it's going to bring down whatever is in that building, as well. So, civilian casualties are a part of warfare in built-up areas, John, and will continue as long as this goes on.
ROBERTS: And John King, is this incident changing at all President Bush's mind about calling for a cease-fire?
KING: It has not changed the president's mind about agreeing to the international pressure, the international demands, you might even say condemnation of the United States is standing in the way -- the one country standing in the way. The president again today said the way out of this is for the Security Council to work on resolution that brings what he calls a lasting or an enduring cease-fire. But I'll tell you this, John, one of the first things today we noticed, for the first time, crackling tensions between the U.S. side and the Israeli side.
Secretary Rice was furious. She was in a meeting with Israel's defense minister. He knew about this and he didn't tell her. One of her aides had to come into the meeting, interrupt the meeting and tell her about the Qana bombing. Later she was trying to get the Prime Minister Olmert to agree to the final language, they're trying to negotiate this resolution. She said she thought she could have this done in five days, maybe a week. He said, no, Israel needs 10 days, maybe 14 days to achieve its military objectives.
We are beginning to see tensions in the relationship. It won't destroy the relationship, the United States and Israel are and will be allies when this is over, but the tensions now, the frustration the exasperation that the secretary of state had today as reported to us by a number of sources could influence the pace of the democracy from here on out. For the first time today Condoleezza Rice stood up to the Israelis and demanded a concession. We will see if it continues, a very fascinating dynamic to watch.
ROBERTS: And a difficult diplomatic track made even tougher. John King for us in Jerusalem; Nic Robertson in Beirut; Richard Roth at the United Nations; Major General Don Sheppard in Tucson; and Matthew Chance here in Israel, thanks very much.
Coming up, we're going to get perspective from both sides of the border, but first of all let's take a look the way that Ben Wedeman reported the Qana bombing today, and we warn you, some of these pictures are disturbing.
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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another stretcher, another body. The ambulances are full of the dead, children, women, old men, crushed while hiding in the basement. An Israeli bomb landed right next to a house in the village of Qana where dozens of women, children and old people had taken shelter.
"There's a 4-month-old baby under the rubble," says Qana resident, Riab Shalhoub (ph).
Those who've come to help pause as another Israeli jet roars overhead.
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ROBERTS: Welcome back to a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Larry's out tonight, I'm John Roberts in Matula, Israel as we continue our coverage of the crisis in the Middle East.
We're joined from Tel Aviv Miri Eisen, she in an Israeli government spokesperson, she's also a former reserve member of military intelligence.
Miri Eisen, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it.
MIRI EISEN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: Hi, good evening.
ROBERTS: How do you explain, Miri Eisen, what happened in Qana -- Miri.
EISEN: Well, I can tell you, from my own experience, that when we have the in-depth intelligence, and we go out and attack targets, we're looking and pursuing the Hezbollah rockets. If there had been any prior information about the fact there was citizens there, we would have stopped the attack. I know, from my own personal experience, that in the past, when we have known there are citizens in such a situation, we have stopped attacks. ROBERTS: Well Ms. Eisen, does that represent intelligence gaps that you believe the Hezbollah launcher was there, but you didn't know that anyone is in the building? We hear these drones flying over us night after night after night, your eyes in the sky. Did they not pick up that there were people in that building?
EISEN: I think that we've also seen some of the films from the drones themselves and you've seen that we can see the rocket launchers, that doesn't mean that we can't always attack the rocket launchers on the spots. We're constantly looking for the rocket launchers, but Israel does not and never will target civilians. What happened today is a tragedy. It's a terrible thing and we will try, as hard as we can, to always, if we know there are citizens, of course we wouldn't attack, but to try to only target those rocket launchers on the grounds.
ROBERTS: What does this incident in Qana do to Israel's image in the world?
EISEN: Well, I think that we've all seen the pictures, but I think that we're all aware of the fact that in Israel right now, all Israelis are mourning, mourning the children, mourning the Lebanese, we all feel great sorrow, great sadness over what happened, but we are aware of the fact as we mourn the Lebanese, as we feel this great sorrow, every time Hezbollah continues to rocket, continues to launch these attacks against Israel, they rejoice at every Israeli that's killed and in this sense we see a great difference between what's happening here in Israel and what happens in Lebanon with Hezbollah.
ROBERTS: As a result of this bombing, the Israeli government has now declared a 48-hour pause in the aerial campaign, you've also allowed 24 hours for civilians to be able to evacuate from the south. What happens after that 48 hours? Does the bombing start right back up again, or is there a chance that this 48-hour pause could turn into something longer?
EISEN: John, as you said, this is a 48-hour pause of aerial combat. This isn't of the ground incursions. We have said clearly we are going to help a humanitarian passage 24 hours for all of the Southern Lebanese who want to leave their homes. Hezbollah is using the Southern Lebanese as human shields. They're firing from within their homes, their courtyards, their mosques, their schoolyards. We need to let the Southern Lebanese out, we've dropped leaflets, we've called out, we've said it on the news, and want them to be able to get out from Hezbollah, from they're being used as human shields. We will continue to pursue Hezbollah wherever they are. We will not allow a terrorist organization to define what is happening on our northern border. We don't think that a terrorist organization should be taking the entire country of Lebanon hostage, either.
ROBERTS: Miri Eisen, Israeli government spokesperson for us tonight from Tel Aviv. Miri Eisen, thanks very much.
Let's now switch to Beirut and Roula Talj is a political analyst, she's also a former media adviser to the Lebanese government. Roula Talj, President Bush said that he mourns the loss of life in the Qana bombing and he has urged Israel to exercise utmost caution to prevent the loss of civilian life. Did you expect more from President Bush today?
ROULA TALJ, FMR. MEDIA ADVISER TO LEBANESE GOVT.: Actually, not. I expected President Bush to let the United Nations and the Security Council do what's best for this world. President Bush has proven, since he started his presidency and since September 11, that he's eager to go to war and we've seen the result of war in Iraq. Actually, this war managed to destroy Iraq and to cause more and more casualties every day. So, we do expect President Bush to let others take care of our country.
ROBERTS: What's the response there in Lebanon to this declaration of a 48-hour pause in the aerial campaign?
TALJ: People are sleeping right now. I don't think they realize that there will be a cease-fire for 48-hours. But, I can tell you that people were so angry. At this point, I don't think they care much about cease-fire as much as they care about the ending of these hostilities and a serious negotiation for a better future for the region.
ROBERTS: In terms of a cessation of hostilities Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, today refused to see Condoleezza Rice. If he refused to see the person who is trying to broker a cease-fire and end to the hostilities, how do you proceed down the diplomatic track?
TALJ: First of all, Dr. Rice was not perceived as someone who was trying to get the cease-fire to the table. Actually, United States, last week oppose a cease-fire and that's why the anger is growing in Lebanon against Americans, more than Israelis. And I think that's why Prime Minister Siniora -- sorry.
ROBERTS: Go ahead.
TALJ: No. I said, that's why Prime Minister Siniora did not want to see Dr. Rice because it would have been a very ugly effect on his image within his Lebanese constituency, the Lebanese people.
ROBERTS: The Prime Minister Siniora today, also praising Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, thanking him and his organization for their sacrifices in defending the Lebanese people. For Mr. Siniora to be praising Hassan Nasrallah would seem to indicate that he is turning him into a figure who may compete with the Lebanese government in the future. Is he not worried about that?
TALJ: First of all, Hezbollah is represented in the Lebanese government. Second, the Hezbollah represent at least one million two hundred Shia in Lebanon. These are part of the Lebanese population. We need to keep that in mind. I think Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah are not the problem. The problem is the ongoing conflict with Israel since 1948 and the incapability of Israel or the Arab countries to come to a final solution and this growing anger and frustration within the Lebanese population and in the whole Arab world turns Hassan Nasrallah as a figure for all the frustrated Arabs all over the reason, not only in Lebanon.
ROBERTS: Roula Talj, a difficult day there today, in Lebanon, of course our condolences to the family of those who died today. Roula Talj in Bruit, Lebanon, thanks very much, we appreciate you being with us.
Coming up next on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, from the Israel Lebanon border, we'll talk with former Senator George Mitchell as well as Congressman Chris Shays. Stay with us.
ROBERTS: We're back again live from the border between Israel and Lebanon in the town of Matula, in our continuing coverage of the crisis in the Middle East. We're joined now by Senator George Mitchell, the former senate majority leader and international peace negotiator. He's coming to us from Northeast Harbor, Maine. From Fairfield, Connecticut, Congressman Chris Shays, he's a member of the Homeland Security Committee in. In Beirut, Nic Robertson is back with us and again from the United Nations, Richard Roth.
Senator Mitchell, let's start with you. As tragic as this situation in Qana is, could it possibly be a turning point in this crisis?
GEORGE MITCHELL, FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LDR., INTL. PEACE NEGOTIATOR: It could be. I said last week, John, that sometimes a most horrific incident serves as a turning point and, with the 48-hour cessation by the Israelis now and the obvious hope that Hezbollah refrains from firing any more rockets into Israel, if it they do refrain, I think it would be very difficult for the Israelis to resume the bombing campaign in 48 hours. And so, it's possible that this could lead to insteps, one step each side, small steps, but toward a larger cease-fire and a resumption of some kind of discussion to try to bring a stable situation to the region.
ROBERTS: Congressman Shays, where do you come down on this idea of a cease-fire, sooner rather than later, if not immediate?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONN. CHMN. NATL. SECURITY CMTE: Well, I think a cease-fire makes sense so civilians can leave. But, you know, this isn't just a wake-up call for Israel, this is a wake-up call for Lebanon and Hezbollah. Hezbollah, basically hides behind civilians, men and women and children. They're firing rockets, they're part of Hamas and their whole challenge with Israel. We've seen, you know, suicide bombs, so it just seems to me there needs to be a recognition, both sides have to deal with this logically.
ROBERTS: Nic Robertson in Beirut, there were contrasting pictures today, two of them, first of all, there were the scenes of what happened in Qana and at the same time, here in Israel there were pictures of Condoleezza Rice shaking hands with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. How did that play up there in Lebanon today?
ROBERTSON: It's seen here as what people fear and what they hope might have changed over the past couple of weeks, when the world has seen what's happened here. That's the way people view it. They see that handshake coming at a time when there's so much -- a day of carnage here in Lebanon, they see it as the United States hand in hand with Israel. The people here will come up and tell you, these are American bombs landing on us. It's America through the hand of Israel, and this is something we've heard more and more and more of over the last couple of weeks and, really, that image, for people here today, really solidified for them that view. Today really was a hardening of attitudes on this side of the border -- John.
ROBERTS: Richard Roth, is there growing pressure at the United Nations, and in particular, the Security Council for the United States to change its mind on this issue of a cease-fire?
ROTH: Oh, there's pressure but the United States may have bought itself some time with the statement approved tonight her in New York. France and Russia seem pleased that the council, "Was now engaged in the process." The French ambassador said it was a compromise but seemed pleased with it for now. Some of the wording gives hope to some people but others, perhaps in Washington, may be pleased that there's just enough wording and wiggle room so that there may not be any change in Washington's position. The council statement saying they know there's a resolution and we hope to work on it without further delay. Otherwise, the Security Council, all it said was there should be an ends to the violence. There was no immediate call for a halt or a cease-fire, despite what Kofi Annan said that the council was being watched and people have noticed it has not said anything -- John.
ROBERTS: Senator George Mitchell, what's your assessments of how the Bush administration has handled this crisis thus far?
MITCHELL: Well, I think the administration, for the past several years, has focused all of its attention, effort, and resources on Iraq, with the results, of course, that we're all aware of and has not devoted sufficient time, attention, and resources to the basic problem in the region, which is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No matter what happens in Iraq, even if it goes better than we could now possibly imagine, there will not be stability in the region until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. That should be central policy in the region. And this, of course, has brought that to the surface in the most dramatic and horrific fashion possible.
The secretary is there now, I hope that, sooner or later, this fighting is going to end, we all hope and pray that it's sooner and no more life is lost on either side of the border. When it does end, there's going to have to be something happen to pick up the pieces and I hope what does not happen it that the U.S. then returns all its focus on Iraq an leaves the situation to simmer until the next crisis comes along.
ROBERTS: We're going to ask our panel to stay with us. We'll be back in just a moment. We'll talk more about the Middle East crisis and also what's happening in Iraq, dozens of civilians dying everyday in increasingly violent sectarian strife. We'll be right back. Special edition of LARRY KING LIVE continues after this.
ROBERTS: Back live now from the border between Israel and Lebanon. John Roberts in tonight for Larry King. We're going to broaden out our discussion to talk about the violence in Iraq. But first of all, let's get you caught up on the day's headlines with Kyra Phillips who's at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Kyra?
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks John. Here's the latest. An Israeli air strike killed at least 60 civilians in southern Lebanon, many of them children. Israel says it will halt air strikes on southern Lebanon for 48 hours. The U.N. Security Council meets tonight passing a statement expressing extreme shock and distress over the Qana bombing but does not call for an immediate truce.
Lebanese prime minister Siniora denounces the Qana tragedy and calls off planned talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. And Hezbollah continues to fire rockets into Israel. That's the latest. Now back to John Roberts on the Israel-Lebanon border.
ROBERTS: Kyra, thanks very much. Congressman Chris Shays in Connecticut, you returned from Iraq not long ago. You've made many visits there. You were somewhat optimistic when I was speaking with you about the future for that country. Given what's going on in Baghdad in terms of this violent sectarian strife, are you still optimistic?
SHAYS: Well, it just depends what the prime minister does. If he finally lets the Iraqi army do what it wants to do -- and that's to clean up the hornet's nest in Baghdad, go after the private militias -- then I think you are going to see success. If he holds back, you won't.
But I just would love to make one point about Lebanon, which is very much connected. The U.N. Resolution 1559 said to the Lebanese leaders, you need to disband and disarm Hezbollah. Your speaker, representing Beirut and representing Lebanon, said Hezbollah is part of the government. I think that's a huge admission that Israel is really confronting the Lebanese, as well as Hezbollah.
ROBERTS: All right. Although, even Israeli government officials would say, no, they have no quarrel with the Lebanese government. Their quarrel is with Hezbollah. Nic Robertson back on the Iraq issue. We hear about all the civilians that are dying in this conflict. But, really, I don't want to say it pales in comparison, but it's far less than the number of civilians who are dying in Iraq these days.
ROBERTSON: The violence in Iraq is very, very bad. And the sectarian violence has been getting worse throughout the year. And there's no doubt about it that the movement of about 3,700 troops to Baghdad to help crack down on the violence there is absolutely key.
Baghdad acts as a sort of pump for the insurgency, a pump for the conflict. If you cannot stabilize the capital of the country, then it will spread out to other areas. I was just north of Baghdad recently. And there was a lot of good work was done by U.S. troops to bring stability to different towns. But every time violence surged in Baghdad, it would literally push out and push into that area.
So until you control Baghdad, as is the focus of the effort by moving 3,700 troops with their striker vehicles into Baghdad, gives them a very mobile platform to get around the streets of Baghdad, has proven and effective war machine in the northern city of Mosul. So having it in Baghdad should make an impact. And that really is going to be critical to bringing a greater stability outside of the capital, as well.
But, yes, certainly, the level of death and destruction here in Lebanon is at a lesser level -- is coming in a far different form, a lesser level than Iraq, John.
ROBERTS: Richard Roth, has this Middle East crisis between Israel and Hezbollah pushed Iraq to the sidelines on the global stage?
ROTH: Definitely here at the United Nations. For years, Iraq has sort of already been on the sidelines -- the U.N., rather powerless, because it's a U.S.-British show. Certainly, division when the resolution didn't go forward here, with everyone else opposed to the United States.
The Middle East has always been a U.N. show. And it's been that way for decades, since the very start of the U.N. And the U.N. has a peacekeeping force of sorts, which really was not given a very strong, robust mandate. It's in southern Lebanon, and four of its members got killed at an observer post in southern Lebanon. The U.N.'s best role, of course, on the world stage -- humanitarian help. They've not been able to do that exactly well under assault from both camps without safe access.
Now Israel's declaration of an aerial cease-fire of sorts hints of a humanitarian deal with the United Nations to get people out. A senior U.N. official said a few minutes ago, we haven't heard, we haven't been approached yet by Israel. John?
ROBERTS: Senator Mitchell, let's take the last word from you. Congressman Shays alluded to this just a little while ago. How does what is happening in the Middle East now, between Israel and Hezbollah, fit in with the larger picture including Iraq and Iran?
MITCHELL: Well there are three conflicts intersecting right now in the Middle East. The first is between Sunni and Shia. It gets very little attention in this country, but it is a major historic development. The second is, of course, between Israel and Hezbollah on the northern border of Israel. And the third, and the most important one in immediate terms, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With respect to what Representative Shays has said, the fact is of course that the U.S. government's policy, repeatedly stated by President Bush and Secretary of State Rice, for many days including up until just yesterday, is they support the Lebanese government, because it was democratically elected after Syria withdrew. It is not pro- Syrian and Hezbollah is a minority.
What has occurred, of course, is the three weeks of conflict with so many Lebanese deaths has united the country in a way that it was not united three weeks ago behind Hezbollah, which is seen as defending the country, whether right or wrong. It is true of every society, including our own, that when they face what they perceive to be external attack, they unite behind those who are resisting that external attacker. That's the simple situation.
And the problem is that that government is now, in my judgment, in danger of falling and will be replaced possibly by a government that is more pro-Syrian and more pro-Hezbollah. That's the danger with the situation that's occurring now.
ROBERTS: Certainly, there's the possibility that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah may come out of this more powerful than he was before.
Senator George Mitchell, appreciate your thoughts and your being with us, as always. Congressman Chris Shays, thank you again too. Good to speak with you. Nic Robertson in Beirut, and Richard Roth at the United Nations.
Coming up next, more perspective from both sides of the border. We'll speak with journalists from both Lebanon and Israel. Stay with us. LARRY KING LIVE continues after this.
ROBERTS: We want to go back to Beirut now. Tania Mehanna is the chief war correspondent for the Lebanese Broadcasting Company. Thanks very much for joining us Tania.
You might have heard Senator George Mitchell say a little while ago that, as terrible as the bombing in Qana was, it could represent a turning point in this conflict. Do you agree with him?
TANIA MEHANNA, SENIOR WAR CORRESPONDENT, LEBANESE BROADCASTING COMPANY: Well, it depends if the bombings are going to start. I mean, we know that there has been, not a cease-fire basically, but a suspension of the aerial activities of the Israeli army on south Lebanon. And they said south Lebanon. So we don't know if that means the rest of Lebanon is concerned.
We don't know if things are going to be moving into Bekaa, for example, or in the north, or around Beirut where we also had air strikes all the time and fighting -- not fightings, but basically more Israeli planes, bombings. We don't know if this, also, is going to stop. And this is going to be important to see to what extent these 48 hours can be used.
ROBERTS: Well, I can tell you Tania, from my vantage point here right now, that artillery fire keeps going out. And we do hear the odd machine gun volley being fired in the valley behind me. So certainly the ground campaign is continuing.
What do you expect Hezbollah will do over the next 48 hours? Do you think it will suspend its rocket attacks on Israel?
MEHANNA: Well, if you're talking about the bombing continuing in south Lebanon, I don't think they're going to suspend these attacks. I mean it's going to be interesting to see if they are going to try and move in other areas of Lebanon, and then to see how the Israelis are going to react to that.
Unfortunately, we've been talking -- or we've been hearing about evacuations of more people from south Lebanon or other areas where they are stuck, like in the west Bekaa, for example, which is an extension of south Lebanon. And then it's going to be interesting to see what's going to happen with this.
Are these convoys going to be led safely out of Lebanon? Will these people be able to leave, especially that there is a very sharp fuel shortage that started in the rest of the country? So it's going to be very difficult to move people around, to move them out. Those who stayed in their villages, will they be able to get all the humanitarian assistance that they need?
I mean, everything is so unclear. And, you know, with the cease- fire being announced so late tonight -- or the suspension of the aerial activities being announced so late tonight, we don't know. It's still too early to tell what is going to happen. I mean, it's still too early, I think.
ROBERTS: Tania Mehanna, war correspondent with the Lebanese Broadcasting Company, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate it.
Now, we want to go south of the border. David Horovitz is the editor of the "Jerusalem Post." David, what do you make of the way that the Israeli government has been handling this campaign? Certainly, there has been a lot of criticism saying that it ramped up the ground forces too slowly -- that it's getting bogged down in some areas, particularly in the area of Bin Jbeil.
DAVID HOROVITZ, EDITOR, "JERUSALEM POST": Look, I think the Israeli government was anxious not to be dragged deeply into Lebanon again. It tried to root out Hezbollah primarily from the air. Unfortunately Hezbollah has six years of Lebanese government indulgence, and the international community's indulgence, to dig itself in very, very fiercely in the Lebanese terrain. And the air campaign wasn't sufficient.
Now, I think there are some in Israel who believe more ground forces should have been used earlier. I think there would have been heavier Israeli losses had that happened. So it was a hard balance for Israel to find in a very, very serious effort to eke out, to root out the terror group.
ROBERTS: David, do you think Israel can achieve its goals before an end to hostilities?
HOROVITZ: I have to say that I truly hope so, because I think Hezbollah accrued a strategic weapons arsenal. It has weapons that can hit Tel Aviv. It had 12,000 rockets there. It is supplied and inspired by Iran. And if Israel cannot push Hezbollah back from the border, and if the international community cannot then come in and make sure Hezbollah doesn't have that missile capability and cannot rearm, I think it will be a terrible blow for Israel and for western interests further afield, as well.
ROBERTS: All right. We know how the counter-bombing is playing in Lebanon. How is it playing here in Israel?
HOROVITZ: Look, I think in Israel there is, of course, regret at civilian fatalities. The fact is that Israel tries to minimize civilian fatalities of an enemy that is delightedly trying to cause as many Israeli civilian fatalities as it can. Israel doesn't want to be killing Lebanese civilians. It dropped leaflets and it sent out warnings and urged people to leave. And from within this village, 150 Katyusha rockets we are told had been fired by Israel.
So it's felt in Israel that Hezbollah brought this upon the Lebanese public. And, by the way, that Hezbollah is probably delighted because of the way this is presented, they may emerge victorious from this. But there is no delight in Israel that Lebanese civilians are being killed.
ROBERTS: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has said that he believes that the army needs another -- or the defense forces, actually, including the air force -- need another 10 to 14 days to complete the mission. Do you think with world opinion turning the way it is and the amount of pressure that's now being put on, not just Israel but the United States, does he have those 10 to 14 days?
HOROVITZ: I'm not sure. I think the more days that Israel gets, the better for Western interests. I truly believe that. And I think what's crucial is that, as the military campaign gives way to diplomacy, that diplomacy complement those Israeli goals.
If the international community assists Israel and the interests of people that want to live, in ensuring that Hezbollah cannot rearm, in ensuring that Hezbollah cannot maintain its hold over Lebanon and its threat over Israel, well then that will have been -- that will be good. And the more that the international community can persuade Israel that it's capable and serious about doing that, well, I think the less concern there will be in Israel as the military campaign is brought to a halt.
ROBERT: David Horovitz of the "Jerusalem Post." David, thanks very much for your time. Appreciate it. Good to see you.
Coming up next on LARRY KING LIVE, we'll talk more with Senator George Mitchell and Congressman Chris Shays. Stay tuned. You're watching a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, live from the Israel- Lebanon border.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up in just six minutes, bloggers are weighing in on the Middle East conflict -- bold statements on line. Do they inflame public opinion? And allegations of cover-up after Mel Gibson's DUI arrest. The plot thickens. All this and more when "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT" begins right after LARRY KING LIVE.
ROBERTS: We're back now live from the city of Beit Ula, Israel, a small resort town in the northernmost population center in Israel -- the border with Lebanon, just about a quarter of a mile down the street. Former Senator Majority Leader George Mitchell and Congressman Chris Shays are still with us, as well as Richard Roth from the United Nations.
Congressman Shays, let me start with you in this segment. Do you think that there is a possibility here that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah could come out of this even stronger than he was before? That simply by not losing, he wins, and his image in the Muslim world is enhanced?
SHAYS: Well, it depends on what the world community does, how you report your stories. I wonder if Hezbollah had hit a Katyusha rocket into Israel and 56 Israelis had been killed, would there have been an all-day story about it? Lebanon needs to disarm Hezbollah. That's the requirement of the U.N. And they need to do it.
ROBERTS: Senator Mitchell, of course you're famous for negotiating the Ireland peace accord. You know what it's like. You've had experience with years and years of hatred. Do you expect that this conflict is just going to create more hatred in this region?
MITCHELL: It already has, of course. But, there is an opening here, John, however small. The initial act by Hezbollah was a reckless act. And it touched off this conflict. Let us hope that the next 48 hours produces not another reckless action by continuing to shoot missiles in Israel, but a restraint that this may lead to a cessation of the violence on both sides. The 48 hours could be extended. And that would be a good thing.
ROBERTS: And Richard Roth, of course, one of the stepping stones on the path to peace is going to be this international stabilization force. How many people are interested now? What would be the shape of it be? And it will happen?
ROTH: Many people on the Security Council, not at this moment the United States, but they want it ready. They want that Security Council endorsement should there be a cessation of hostilities. France and Turkey have expressed interest. It's hard to get countries to offer troops, when peacekeepers are killed or if missile attacks suddenly come in. But the U.N. wants to play a big role in it.
ROBERTS: All right. Richard Roth at the United Nations, Senator George Mitchell, Congressman Chris Shays, thanks very much for being with us. We appreciate it.
Coming up next, we're going to talk to a young woman who was trapped in southern Lebanon, in one of the towns very close to the fighting. A town called Ramish. She managed to finally make it out. She joins us when LARRY KING LIVE continues, right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ROBERTS: We're back now live with a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. And we're joined in Beirut by Carla Al Hage. She is a college student who was trapped in the southern Lebanese town of Ramish when the conflict broke out. Ramish is not too far from Bin Jbeil, which is one of the cities that has seen the most intense fighting in this conflict.
Carla, we're glad that you're finally out of the south. You're back in Beirut. Tell us what was it like down there as the conflict began?
CARLA AL HAGE, COLLEGE STUDENT STRANDED IN SOUTHERN LEBANON: The conflict was really heart-breaking. We can hear bombs all the time -- fear and terror, especially with children. There is no past time for anyone. Sicknesses are spreading. There is no water and no electricity. There is even a food shortage. Refugees are everywhere, searching for somewhere to stay.
ROBERTS: How long were you trapped down there? And how did you finally get out?
AL HAGE: I was trapped there 15 or 16 days. We came here maybe three days ago. We came with a convoy, who had American citizens with them. And they gave our license plate numbers, our car types and our car colors to the American embassy. And so we came with them because we felt safer.
ROBERTS: All right. Were you afraid when were you in that convoy coming out of there? It's a long drive from Ramish up to Tyre, and then all the way up the Lebanese coast. Were you afraid for your life as were you traveling through the battle zone?
AL HAGE: Yeah, of course. You're really terrified, because there is no safe road. We were taking a big threat by going there. Especially that I was driving one of the cars. And the roads are really rocky and very narrow. So, we were just there, and the cars were left on the roads, because they went down.
ROBERTS: All right. You know, there have been a couple of convoys, ones even including journalists that have run into trouble. One was injured by a mortar attack on its way back from the very town that you came out of. So, what's your situation now like in Beirut? Do you have a place to stay? You have friends to stay with?
AL HAGE: Yeah. I usually live here in Beirut. I went to the south on vacation with my family. But, others, my relatives, don't have houses here. And so, they came here and they are staying at their relatives' houses or they are staying at people's places. So they don't have a guaranteed stay here, yeah.
ROBERTS: Well. Sure it's a very difficult situation, but we're glad that you're out of the south safely. Carla Al Hage, thanks very much for being with us. That's it for this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE, live from the border between Israel and Lebanon. I'm going to continue into the next hour with CNN SUNDAY NIGHT, and joining Carol Lin, who's at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Carol?
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