Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Israeli Cabenet Approves Widening Ground War Against Hezbollah; Syria Puts Troops on Heightened Alert
Aired July 31, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight -- Israel not only says no to a cease-fire, its government approves expanding the ground war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Meanwhile, attacks continue on both sides. Despite that 48-hour break in air strikes Israel announced yesterday. And now Syria puts its troops on heightened alert. We've got all the latest with our exclusive guest, her majesty Queen Noor, just back from Jordan. Plus reporters at the front lines and more. Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. We'll check with her majesty, Queen Noor, in Washington in just a couple of moments. Let's go first to northern Israel. John Roberts, what's the latest on the back and forth action there, John?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, there's something big going on tonight. We've had a lot of outgoing artillery fire. We've been hearing machine gun fire, even now just over the ridge in front of me. Very close by. There have been flares in the air. There have been mortars coming into the town that we're staying in. And one katyusha rocket also came in. That's the first time since I've been here, and I've been here for 10 days now, that Hezbollah has fired one of those rockets at night. There's an expansion in the ground campaign that's about to happen. Israel's security cabinet agreed to that today. A real turnaround. They did a 180 from just a few days ago. It could be in part because they had to call that partial suspension of the air campaign. They want to get more troops on the ground and make sure that Hezbollah doesn't reconstitute itself after the softening up operations that they've been engaging in. But Larry, things on the ground about to get much hotter than they already have been and they've been pretty hot so far.
KING: And John Roberts will be checking in with us throughout the program tonight. We go to Beirut now. Nic Robertson, our CNN senior international correspondent. The day after the -- what's the day after reaction to the attack at Qana?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly a lot of people taking the opportunity, the 48-hour suspension, or partial suspension of bombing by Israeli aircraft, to try and get out of the south of Lebanon. Some people going back in to get belongings. But as John indicated, the fighting has heated up through the day. We've seen a diplomatic shuffle here in Beirut. The French foreign minister coming to town, meeting with the prime minister, then going to meet with the Iranian foreign minister here at the Iranian embassy. This is the first time we've seen a senior Iranian official in Beirut.
Obviously Iran a backer of Hezbollah. Their diplomacy needed is what the French prime minister, French foreign minister was saying earlier, that diplomacy needed to bring an end to this. He said that the Iranians should trust the international community, the international community should trust the Iranians. But the very latest development here, Bashar Al Assad in Syria announcing that the Syrian defense forces should be put on higher alert. That was about three or four hours ago. And in the last hour here we've been hearing from Lebanese television stations reporting that numbers of roads linking Syria with Lebanon, roads that haven't been targeted before, have been targeted, that all in the last hour, that an apparent Israeli response to this heightening of the defense status of the Syrian army. Larry?
KING: Thanks, Nic. Nic Robertson, stay safe. Nic Robertson, our CNN senior international correspondent. Now to the White House and Suzanne Malveaux, our CNN White House correspondent. Secretary of State Rice is back. She dined with the president tonight. Any report on what was said?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Larry, there's certainly a renewed sense of urgency here at the White House. I just spoke with National Security Council spokesman Fred Jones, who gave us a brief readout of that meeting of course saying that President Bush was briefed by Secretary Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on the latest diplomatic efforts to try to bring an end to the conflict in Lebanon. Again, essentially reiterating that they're going to bring forward a U.N. Security Council resolution in his words that will establish a sustainable cease-fire on an urgent basis.
There are other officials, of course, who are underscoring the sense of urgency here, saying there are several drafts of this U.N. Security Council resolution and the real challenge, within days, not weeks, Larry, but within days is to bring forth consensus with the U.N. Security Council on that resolution but also to pressure Lebanon as well to get tough on Hezbollah militarily at a time when they've become much stronger politically and of course to lean on the Israelis as well to wrap this up as quickly as possible. Larry?
KING: Thanks Suzanne. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Now to Washington and her majesty, Queen Noor. Widow of the late and great King Hussein of Jordan, author of a number one "New York Times" best-selling autobiography. What's your overview of all of this?
QUEEN NOOR, WIDOW OF KING HUSSEIN: Oh, it's a terrible tragedy. It's -- having just returned from the Middle East, the emotions and the deep concern of everyone there that we are spiraling downward into a vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence where we are hearing very little reason, rational thinking on all sides and have descended into an abyss that seems to be deepening by the day. I am terribly concerned because I see that the moderates on all sides who've been working together to try to promote the kind of understanding, mutual respect and -- that is vital to achieving peace and security on both sides are being drawn to extremes. The public discourse, whether it is here in the United States or in the region, seems to have become very black and white, very simplistic, and the voices of reason and moderation are being drowned out by violence.
KING: Why, your majesty, during all these years, how hard your husband worked and others, Yitzchak Rabin, others, why does this seem not solvable?
QUEEN NOOR: I believe it is solvable. You mentioned Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein, who in the mid 1990's were two leaders who both understood that violence only begets violence, that in order to leave a legacy of peace and security, a better future for coming generations in our region, Israelis, Arabs, and those affected by our region, it could only be accomplished through dialogue, through diplomacy, through engagement politically. They were blessed to also have an American administration that was engaging actively and spending political capital to try to promote a peace that would be based on mutual security needs, mutual rights that would reflect U.N. Security Council and prompt the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that have been languishing since 1967.
KING: Do you fault the administration, say, for being against a cease-fire?
QUEEN NOOR: I am -- I've been stunned that there have been -- that we have not achieved, the international community has not achieved a cease-fire within the first few days of this conflict. Stunned at the extent of the violence, of the impact on Lebanese infrastructure, on civilians, on the -- those who are the only partners for peace in our communities in the region are being -- their voices are being drowned out. I think that Jan Egeland, the U.N. human rights -- the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator, put it very well. He said, there's something fundamentally wrong with a war where there are more dead children than armed men. And I cannot understand why a cease-fire has not been committed to by the international community long before now.
KING: We have an e-mail for you from Sife in Provo, Utah, your majesty. Who asks, "What's the role of the kingdom of Jordan in this crisis?"
QUEEN NOOR: I cannot speak for the kingdom of Jordan in the sense that I am not an official and I am -- I have lived in the region for over 30 years. I was a partner with King Hussein. I'm actively involved in development work and in promoting cross-cultural understanding and dialogue through the King Hussein Foundation. But I am not -- I cannot claim to be privy to the government's thinking and policies. I have my very own views. They've been very much affected by what I observed and was a part of during the mid 1990's, when the leaders of Israel and Jordan and other countries were focusing on what were mutual security needs. They were imaging a common future based on mutual respect and the rights of all to security and peace, Palestinians, Israelis. And they were inspiring others in the region to come together to talk, to engage, and to plan for a future in which all could thrive.
We have, since their deaths and that period of a measure of hope and far less violence in the region, we have now found, you know, hard line attitudes taking hold and responses and reactions from those who feel they have nothing left to lose and no other way of getting the message across that the occupation of Arab lands -- the Arab-Israeli conflict, the occupation of Arab lands, of Palestinian lands, of Syrian lands, Lebanese lands is the core of the problems that Israel has in the region and the core of the problems that the United States is now having in the region. And unless that problem is resolved, as so many of us have said for so long, no policies for reform, for democracy, for a new Middle East can possibly succeed.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll come right back. Her majesty will return with us. Other panelists will be joining with us. She'll be joining us in and out throughout the program as well. Don't go away.
KING: Remaining with us in Washington is her majesty Queen Noor. An honor to have her with us. Also in Washington is Robin Wright, the "Washington Post" correspondent who covered Secretary Rice during her diplomatic efforts in Israel this past weekend. Among the books she's written, by the way, "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam." In Northeast Harbor, Maine is George Mitchell, former senate majority leader, international peace negotiator, and served as chairman of Sharm El-Sheikh, the international fact-finding committee on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Robin Wright, what do you expect to see in the next few days?
ROBIN WRIGHT, WASHINGTON POST: Well, the Secretary of State has outlined a three-part strategy, and the first is to try to get a resolution at the U.N. Security Council by the end of this week. That will then lead to a cease-fire, the United States hope. In an interesting development, they're hoping that that will almost simultaneously lead to the deployment of the new international stabilization force. This will come from several countries, might be led by France, would deploy initially to help with the humanitarian effort, particularly in the south, but it would take on long-term a much broader mission which is to stabilize the government of Lebanon and then try to retrain and beef up the Lebanese army so that it can extend the government's control for the first time since the civil war erupted in 1975 throughout the whole country. It's a strategy the United States would like to see in place. All three steps by sometime next week.
KING: George Mitchell, is that encouraging to you?
GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, INTERNATIONAL PEACE NEGOTIATOR: It's encouraging that the effort is being made. It's obviously going to be very difficult. There's been a wide swing in emotions, Larry, in just a little more than a day from the tragedy of Qana to the slender hope that was offered by the cessation, the promised cessation and now the possibility of even more widespread fighting. But I think leaders like the elected officials involved, the president, the secretary of state, and others in other countries have the responsibility of trying to come up with solutions even in very difficult circumstances and let us hope and pray that they succeed.
KING: John Roberts, is there any optimism at all in northern Israel where you are?
ROBERTS: The only optimism, Larry, is among people who have been pushing the Israeli government to allow a broader ground operation. There's been tremendous criticism in this country that the army got it wrong at the outset, they ramped up too slowly, they didn't go in with enough forces, and that's why they got bottled up in places like Bint Jbeil by just a handful of Hezbollah fighters. So those people who wanted to see a larger ground operation probably are optimistic tonight, Larry. That putting more forces in on the ground, may be able to accomplish what so far the military has not been able to. There's speculation, many military analysts believe that the operation that is occurring in the area that I am in is sort of a bracketing operation to send troops along the area just below the Litani River in Lebanon to try to cut off Hezbollah's route of escape, bottle them up, and then you bring those two sides together and you rout them out and then you just wait it out until that international force can come in.
KING: Your majesty, are you encouraged by the efforts of Secretary Rice?
QUEEN NOOR: I think any efforts towards a cease-fire, towards a cessation of the violence that is taking such extraordinary numbers of civilian life, is absolutely vital. I think it needs to take place as soon as possible. I think that every death and destructive act that takes place in Lebanon now is simply spawning the seeds of worse extremist reaction and resistance to Israel and unfortunately with the perception that Israel and the United States are in it together unfortunately in the region. It's also a very dangerous dynamic for the United States.
KING: Robin Wright, is there a villain of the peace?
WRIGHT: A villain of -- you mean which side is responsible?
KING: Yeah. Who do you blame here?
WRIGHT: Well Hezbollah clearly engaged in a cross-border raid abducting two Israeli soldiers. It was a provocative act in violation of international laws. They initiated this action. Is Israel responding with disproportionate force? That's a question that has elicited enormous controversy around the world, particularly in the Arab world. I mean, on one point John made, and I think it's important to point out, that when you're nearing a cease-fire it's not at all unusual for both sides to try to do as much damage to the other. I lived in Beirut in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon the last time. And we saw the same kind of -- kind of ferocious last phase or last several days of activity to try to eliminate or put your opponent at as much disadvantage as possible. So it's not necessarily contradictory that you see some kind of great diplomatic push or new diplomatic push at the same time you see an escalation in particularly the ground war.
KING: George Mitchell, do you see any optimism? MITCHELL: Well Larry, the only optimism that I can think of is that it's very clear by now that the entire situation, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, cannot be resolved exclusively by force. I said on this show about 10 days ago, quoting Clausewitz, that war is diplomacy by other means. And sooner or later there's going to have to be discussion. And I think it's become very clear now that whatever occurs there has to be some form of negotiated resolution. This conflict is simply not susceptible to a complete and definite end through the means of force alone. And I hope very much that you get to that discussion sooner rather than later before more destruction takes place.
KING: And this panel will return in a little while to continue this important discussion. When we come back, though, we're going to spend some moments with Rabbi Michael Lerner of "Tikkun Magazine" and Dennis Prager, who hosts his own syndicated program, and they're going to debate the question what Israel is doing right or wrong in this. That's next. Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE in San Francisco, Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of "Tikkun Magazine". Rabbi Lerner, that's a bi-monthly Jewish critique of politics, culture, and society. He's author of the new book "The Left Hand of God: Taking the Country Back from the Religious Right." And in Los Angeles is Dennis Prager, host of the nationally syndicated "Dennis Prager Show," who believes Israel, by the way, needs to continue the fighting. Lerner's group, Tikkun, took a full-page ad in today's "New York Times." It's titled "Stop the Slaughter in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Countries." One would guess, Rabbi Lerner, that you'd be a supporter of Israel. Why do you oppose its actions here?
RABBI MICHAEL LERNER, EDITOR, "TIKKUN MAGAZINE": Because I think the best interests of Israel lie with Israel becoming the fullest manifestation of the highest values of the Jewish people, which are values of love, caring, kindness, and generosity. But actually, the path that it has taken is one which is counter its interests because what it is doing is in killing so many civilians in Lebanon it's generating a new generation of recruits for Hezbollah. It's done more to legitimate Hezbollah in this struggle than it could possibly have done had it done what Ariel Sharon did when somebody was stolen -- was kidnapped, namely trade, make a prisoner exchange, and not engage in a war.
KING: All right, Rabbi Lerner. Well stated. Dennis Prager, your response.
DENNIS PRAGER, RADIO HOST, "THE DENNIS PRAGER SHOW": First of all, the way you make more Hezbollah adherents is by losing. If Israel is strong, then there are fewer adherents to Hezbollah. It's actually the opposite of what Rabbi Lerner has said. They are emboldened to join terror organizations when they feel the terror organizations are winning. There were far fewer recruits to Osama after we attacked Afghanistan than there were before. The Pakistanis who cheered with t-shirts of Osama, they stopped once we invaded Afghanistan. People go where the winner is, especially in the Arab world --
KING: What's gone wrong here?
PRAGER: What's gone wrong here is that Israel has actually under-reacted, ironically. The highest values of the Jewish people, having written two books on Judaism and taught the torah verse by verse in a seminary for my whole adult life, I think I'm also equipped to speak on the highest values, they include self-defense. The concept of national suicide is not a Jewish value or a Christian value or any other, and that's what Rabbi Lerner is advocating.
KING: But they don't include killing children.
PRAGER: No. But the people who kill the children are Hezbollah by putting all of their equipment around children.
KING: You see no fault in what Israel did?
PRAGER: No fault. That is correct. Tragedy but not fault.
KING: How do you respond to that, Rabbi Lerner?
LERNER: I think it's a terrible misunderstanding of what works in the world and in the end what works is kindness and generosity not domination and power. And we've seen that in Iraq that the United States managed to recruit tremendous amounts of forces against us by dealing in the kind of ongoing violence that we've done there. And Israel is following the same disastrous path. In the end Israel will have to get out. But one of the things that we've said in this ad today is that we at "Tikkun" and many Jews in this country believe that the root of the issue is the Israel-Palestinian struggle and that we need to pursue a path recognizing the humanity of the Palestinian people and treat everyone on the planet, including people in Lebanon, as though their lives are just as important as the lives of Jews. And that is a Jewish way of approaching the world because God created every human being in his and her image.
KING: Dennis? What could possibly be wrong with that?
PRAGER: Nothing. I believe that every human being is created in God's image and equal. Of course. It's Hezbollah that doesn't believe that. Of course Israel believes it. That's why Israel sends leaflets to tell people to flee and thereby endangering their own soldiers because they have tipped off the Hezbollah as to where they will invade. Because they don't want Lebanese civilians there. If you want to act kindly, sometimes you make war. America was kind by liberating the world from Hitler and from the Japanese fascists. It is kindness to liberate Lebanon from Hezbollah. Hezbollah announced it wishes to Islamicize Lebanon. It wishes to create a Taliban Lebanon. Why is it kindness not to destroy them? I don't get it.
KING: Why do you oppose a civil war which would at least stop killing --
PRAGER: You mean a cease-fire? Why oppose a cease-fire?
PRAGER: If certain conditions are met if Hezbollah gives back the soldiers, if Hezbollah is disarmed, I'm totally for a cease-fire. But leaving Hezbollah to dominate Lebanon -- why did the Arab countries come out and support Israel for the first time in 58 years at the beginning? Because they know what a threat Hezbollah is. They want to islamicize the world. The notion that Rabbi Lerner and Queen Noor said the problem is Israeli occupation, Israel didn't occupy any of Lebanon. Hezbollah has no argument with Israel except that it doesn't want it to exist. The root cause of all the problems is that much of the Muslim world does not acknowledge the right of the Jews to Israel.
KING: We're going to have both of you come back. We've only touched on this. But it's too important a topic. We'll schedule you both back for a much longer period of time. Rabbi Lerner and --
LERNER: Thank you.
KING: Always good to see you. Dennis Prager.
PRAGER: Thank you.
KING: And we'll be right back with our panel. Don't go away.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. CNN is now confirming that Cuban President Fidel Castro has provisionally handed over power in the communist island nation to his brother Raul. Fidel Castro was undergoing intestinal surgery. This is according to a statement read on Cuban television Monday night.
Let's go down to Shasta Darlington, our CNN producer in Havana. What can you add for this, Shasta?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN PRODUCER: Well, basically it was an impromptu speech. We only found out that there was going to be anything on TV about an hour ago. His secretary, Carlos Valenciaga, came on and started reading what he said was a letter from Fidel himself, explaining that he's been overworked in the past week and a half. He went down to Argentina, he's been back here doing a lot of activities, and it was just too much for him, and the stress caused these intestinal problems, and that he was going to be in bed for several weeks. And therefore, he had to hand over power, the armed forces, the party itself to his brother, Raul Castro.
KING: Will this mean, Shasta, that he will resume power when he gets better?
DARLINGTON: That's the idea, definitely. He even said that he would like to postpone his birthday celebration. You know, he turns 80 on August 13th. And he said he'd like to postpone that until September. KING: Any surgery involved?
DARLINGTON: Yes. From what I understood, he's going to be -- or he's undergone surgery of the intestine. And I'm not sure whether or not he'll have to undergo more surgery after that.
KING: Any idea as to how long?
DARLINGTON: His secretary said several weeks. And again, the idea being that he'll be celebrating his 80th birthday with Cuba at the beginning of September.
KING: What's been the reaction, early reaction around Havana?
DARLINGTON: There hasn't been time to have much reaction, although I can say when people heard that there was going to be an impromptu speech, people thought it was going to be a speech by Fidel himself. Everyone was running to their television. It's an unusual thing for him to have this impromptu date on television.
KING: Raul holds what title?
DARLINGTON: He's vice president. He's the second in charge of the party. He's the defense minister. So now, he'll be president. He'll be in charge of the party, and obviously in charge of the armed forces.
KING: And what is his age?
DARLINGTON: He is only five years younger than his brother. He just turned 75 himself.
KING: Thank you, Shasta. We'll be staying right on top of this. Shasta Darlington at CNN in Havana. And these are the latest developments we can give you in other areas.
From the Mideast, Israeli cabinet has approved expansion of the ground war against Hezbollah leader. Olmert says no to a cease-fire, says quite a few days of fighting still ahead. Hezbollah continues to fire rockets.
Syrian president urges the United States to improve -- urges his troops, rather, to improve readiness.
Secretary of State Rice is back from the Middle East, says a comprehensive settlement can be reached this week.
Senator Hagel calls for an immediate cease-fire. Says, "the sickening slaughter on both sides must end."
Robin Wright, does that surprise you?
WRIGHT: It doesn't surprise me. There is a growing call from the international community and voices in the United States calling for an immediate cease-fire. What happened in Qana yesterday was really a tremendous blow, I think, to the Israelis as well. This was the death of so many children, particularly some of them disabled, reportedly, has, you know, led to a lot of questioning about what kind of targets the Israelis have.
The United States was deeply disappointed. Condoleezza Rice told confidants that she was sickened when she got the report, very concerned. She has been pressing the Israelis, as she told us, on every leg of her trip to be very careful about not to strike on civilian targets, civilian infrastructure.
The issue here is not just the death of innocents. It is also making vulnerable the Lebanese government. At the end of the day, strengthening the Lebanese government is really pivotal, if you want to find an alternative to Hezbollah, if you want to find an instrument to disarm Hezbollah.
The international community can't do that. It has to happen to be legitimate within Lebanon itself. And if you have the kind of reaction in Lebanon because of the death of innocents, so many innocents, disproportionate, there is likely to be an ever-growing backlash.
KING: George Mitchell, Senator Hagel is a prominent Republican, a decorated Vietnam veteran. Are you surprised?
MITCHELL: No. I know Chuck Hagel very well. Also a potential candidate for president, Larry. He's a very conscientious, I think effective legislator, and a man of deep conscience. And I'm sure he's saying what he genuinely believes.
I'd like to make one comment, Larry, and that is that in the Middle East right now, three separate but related conflicts are colliding. The first and the most important overall is the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. There's also the internal dynamic in Lebanon, to which Robin has just alluded, which is a very important part of this puzzle.
And the third is over the long term, perhaps even the most important, is the long-standing but now accelerating divide within Islam, between Sunni and Shia. It's a very difficult and complicated situation.
But I repeat what I said earlier. It's becoming increasingly clear that it's so complex that it can't possibly be solved by force of arms alone. They may have to be used at times, but the notion that you can bring this to a definite, positive conclusion through the use of military means exclusively I think is just profoundly mistaken, and there has to be some diplomatic effort.
KING: Your majesty, are you concerned about Syria?
QUEEN NOOR: I am concerned about the widening -- the escalating tension and the widening of the -- of the escalation militarily and otherwise in the region, of course.
I agree, of course, with Senator Mitchell, who I think has had an invaluable experience in the Northern Ireland peace process. Many of the lessons of that process could be very applicable to what we're trying to face now, including the fact that you have to bring all parties to the table, that the violence will not achieve any kind of positive progress, but it's bringing parties to the table and dialogue that is what's succeeded, and a long, patient engagement that succeeded there.
I think that you have to recognize, number one, that Qana was just one dramatic incident but -- of a -- over the last two and a half weeks of course there have been 750 primarily civilian deaths of the Lebanese population, and a third of those have been children. So Qana is just one example of what has been taking place over a long period of time.
And you cannot bomb groups out of existence. They can be bombed out of power or their military equipment degraded, but they can't be bombed out of the region. These are two groups, Hezbollah and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, that were born out of Israeli occupation of Lebanon and of Palestinian lands. They're considered resistance movements. And they will operate underground, even if, you know...
KING: I've got to...
QUEEN NOOR: ... this current campaign succeeds against them. They will still be a presence in the region, and they will still operate to scuttle any progress on a great many fronts if we don't address the root cause of the problems -- again, the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.
KING: I've got to get a break. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon, is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East? The sickening slaughter on both sides, Mr. President, must end, and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. Our panel will be back with us shortly. Let's go to Damascus and Aneesh Raman, our CNN international correspondent. What's the latest on President Assad and that army readiness proposal?
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, at the moment it seems to be strong posturing by Assad in a speech that was delivered on his behalf to the Syrian troops. He told them to raise their alert level. Essentially, he was telling them to train tougher, be ready for whatever comes next.
There was no talk, though, of raising troop numbers or moving military assets. But the timing is interesting. It comes just days after the attack on Qana that has sparked fury in the Muslim world. It comes as well amid further calls for a cease-fire and a peace deal to be brokered.
And Syria doesn't want to be ignored from any peace deal. It wants to be at the table. And as one top Syrian diplomat told me today, if the U.S. or anyone is looking for sustainable peace in the Middle East, it needs Syria. So this could very well be the Syrian president reminding the world of its importance in the region, reminding the world that it wants to be talked to. Larry?
KING: And how severe is the anger over Qana?
RAMAN: Huge here. All of the places we've gone to, the cafes, the parlors, everywhere the T.V.s are locked onto Arabic news channels that have constantly been running the images of the children killed in the attack on Qana. A lot of people here were supporters of Hezbollah. They were looking at reasons to be more angry at Israel, more angry at the U.S., and they got that with this attack.
It is solidifying support here where it existed before. But it is turning anti-Israeli sentiment that was there among those who are maybe moderate about Hezbollah to now see things as black and white. They now support Hezbollah. And I've asked a number of them, do you see Hezbollah as at all part of the problem and their rockets that are being fired into northern Israel? And immediately and emphatically and repeatedly they say no. Larry?
KING: Anderson Cooper is in northern Israel where he will host "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at the top of the hour. What are they saying there, Anderson, about Qana?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's interesting, Larry. You know, for all the international outrage about the killings in Qana, here along the border on the Israeli side at least there is certainly regret. Israel has publicly apologized for the killings. But there is also resolve and determination to continue forward with the actions that they have been undertaking for nearly three weeks now.
I can tell you all night long, shelling has continued. Israeli artillery behind me pounding positions in south Lebanon. And we have seen ground forces coming and going along the border all day. As you know, Larry, Israel's security cabinet announcing a few hours ago continuation of the ground offensive pushing deeper into south Lebanon. So no letup in the fighting despite the widespread condemnations of what happened in Qana yesterday.
KING: That's Anderson Cooper, our host of "ANDERSON COOPER 360." He will host that program at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific, immediately following LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be back. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Updating our breaking news story from a few minutes ago, Cuban President Fidel Castro was undergoing intestinal surgery earlier Monday night. Meanwhile, Castro provisionally handed over power in the communist nation to his younger brother, Raul. That's according to a statement read on Cuban television Monday night.
Castro is 79. He led the Cubans since the 1959 resolution. His brother Raul is 75, is the first vice president of the country and as such the designated successor to his brother.
On television, Castro's Secretary Carlos Valenciaga, read a letter he said was from the president. In it, Fidel Castro said stress had forced him into surgery, he'd be in bed for several weeks after the operation was complete.
According to the statement, Raul Castro also assumes control of the armed forces and the leadership of the communist party. And actually, we shall keep you posted.
Let's go to Washington. Brigadier General James Marks, our CNN military analyst, is going to draw a little line for us between the IDF and the Syrian forces.
What can you tell us, James?
BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well Larry, the fact that Syria has now mobilized is simply that. It's a mobilization. They haven't entered the conflict. But they've raised their state of readiness. So by way of comparison, let me show you the IDF as compared to the Syrian forces.
First of all, as you can see, Israel is a nation under arms. Close to half a million men and women that are in uniform at any given time. And that's full mobilization. But what I'd really like to point out is heavy reliance on what's known as maneuver warfare, tanks and armored personnel carriers for them to execute their war plans as best they can.
Now, as we move to Syria, you see a little bit of a comparison, a little bit different. They have a smaller active force of men in uniform, but what Syria has is heavy reliance, almost twice as many as artillery and rocket missile systems as the Israelis have.
That's because they were trained by the Soviets and that's what the Soviets used and had heavy reliance on all their rocket, missile, and artillery systems. Also, we have to discuss the Lebanese military, although not in this conflict yet. A little less than about 62,000 soldiers with a little short of 70 aircraft. Probably there has been some attrition on those aircraft based on the Israeli strikes to date.
And certainly we've been talking and spending a lot of time dissecting Hezbollah, about 3,000 to 5,000 fighters. This number, again, has been attrited. If you look at about 100 rockets a day for the last three weeks, you're closer to the 10,000 figure plus what the Israelis have gotten. But Larry, what's really important and I think it's significant that we spend just a little bit of time looking at it. Israel is a nation under arms, and here's why. From this border with the Golan Heights to the Mediterranean, it is simply 40 miles. Very little space for the Israelis to make a tactical mistake if they are in a combat with Syria.
And from the edge of Lebanon down to Gaza about 140 miles, 112 of that is coastline. So you can see that Israel enjoys interior lines and that they can fight on multiple fronts. But if they lose or if they make a tactical mistake, they would lose it all possibly.
KING: Yes. Well said. And we'll keep checking in with Brigadier General Marks every night. And we'll be back with our remaining moments with our outstanding panel of her majesty Queen Noor, Robin Wright, George Mitchell, and John Roberts in northern Israel. Don't go away.
KING: All right. Our brief remaining moments. Your majesty, do you expect it to get worse before it gets better?
QUEEN NOOR: I pray not. I think that right now the key could be if the United States sees this as an opportunity to re-engage in the region and to focus as soon as possible not only on an immediate cease-fire and focus on the problems of the moment, humanitarian and otherwise, but also on the larger Arab-Israeli conflict and work to achieve a just and comprehensive resolution. The region then will -- that will drain the swamps, if you will, of...
QUEEN NOOR: ... the extremes on all sides and give us a more hopeful opportunity for the future.
KING: Thank you, your majesty. Queen Noor, an honor having you with us.
QUEEN NOOR: Thank you.
KING: Robin Wright, do you see any optimism, any light at the tunnel?
WRIGHT: I think we're facing a pretty messy week as the Israelis try to mop up as much as possible in southern Lebanon, as Hezbollah tries to inflict as much damage on Israel, the both sides have kind of existential stakes here.
And I think down the road that the international community, that Israel does in the end want a peace. I think it's quite striking that Hezbollah, the member of parliament, went along with the cabinet resolution, or cabinet agreement on Thursday night, that there is a will behind the scenes to try to come out of this. The question is can they find terms that they all agree on?
KING: John Roberts, Israel is back now to full-fledged onslaught again?
ROBERTS: Absolutely, Larry. It appears as though the hard- liners are winning. There was a lot of criticism here in Israel that if they can't beat Hezbollah, it is going to be a stunning defeat for the military that's taken to be the most powerful in this region.
And there are so many people here in Israel who say that just can't happen. So after initially saying that there would be no expansion of the ground force, there is tonight, there is approval from the Israeli security council to -- or the security cabinet, rather, to expand the ground war and I think we're beginning to see the early stages of that, Larry. There is something in the air tonight saying I think that there's something major about to happen here.
KING: We'll follow it closely. George Mitchell, what do you make of the Fidel Castro story? He is going to be 80-years-old in August. Is the end near, do you think?
MITCHELL: I think so, Larry. And I think the end of the regime. I think it's been held together by the force of his personality, and I doubt very much that his brother will have the capacity to carry it on much longer. Of course, the regime has been disastrous for the Cuban people, and I think it's only a matter of time before he goes and it goes with him.
KING: How did he -- how was he able to be the longest-running leader of the 20th century?
MITCHELL: Well, history books will be written about it, certainly in Cuba. He's a charismatic person. He dominated the scene domestically and I think the policies of the United States dealing with him were not always the wisest and actually helped him to some extent to blame others for the problems that the communist regime inflicted on Cuba itself. About everywhere in the world communism has been judged a failure, and Cuba's no exception. It failed miserably.
KING: Is Raul a power figure to you?
MITCHELL: Well, Larry, he's been there a long time. He has Fidel's confidence. But he's been in the shadow of his brother throughout this whole time. And I personally doubt that he will have the same degree of authority and capacity to hold it together through the force of his personality. But obviously, only time will tell. Many people thought the same thing about Fidel when he was a young 30- year-old taking over the country for the first time.
KING: I was broadcasting in Miami the day he took over. Thank you so much, George. We'll see you again tomorrow night. That story, by the way, if you missed it, Fidel Castro undergoing intestinal surgery tonight, has turned over the government, the armed forces, and the control of the communist party to his brother, Raul, who is five years younger.
That's tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be back doing it again tomorrow night, staying atop the scene with our far-flung correspondents and guests from all over the world.
Right now we're going to northern Israel, Anderson Cooper is standing by. He will host "A.C. 360" for the next two hours. Anderson?
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com