Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Middle East Cease-Fire Imminent? War Over Iraq Heats Up in U.S. Senate; Interview With Israeli Ambassador to United Nations Dan Gillerman

Aired August 3, 2006 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, and -- to our viewers back home and all around the world on CNN International.
At least 20 new airstrikes on Beirut, and, to the north again, the new threats against Tel Aviv, more troops heading into Lebanon, neither side backing down, each side raising the stakes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: He says, bomb Beirut and we will bomb Tel Aviv. So, Israel says, bombs away.

Diplomats racing for a cease-fire, Israel racing to rout Hezbollah and driving deeper into Lebanon. Is a U.N. resolution just hours away?

Also, Iraq -- senators and generals now speaking the words:

GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Civil war.

MCCAIN: Civil war.

GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Sir, I believe that we do have the possibility of that devolving to a civil war.

ANNOUNCER: His top critic now taking aim.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Why should we believe your assurances now?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: My goodness.

ANNOUNCER: Goodness, indeed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East: Day 23."

Reporting tonight from Haifa, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks very much for joining us. We are coming to you from Haifa tonight, where, just a few miles away from here, five Israeli civilians have died from rockets today. Three others died as well. It was a very bloody day for Israeli civilians.

We begin with new signs tonight that, before things get better here, they could get a whole lot worse -- late developments from across the region and around the worried, a barrage of new airstrikes.

CNN's John Roberts is on the border with preparations for a larger ground war. John King is in Washington, on diplomatic talks that appear to be making progress, though how much progress is an open question -- and Michael Ware in Beirut, where threats against Israel are in the air, but so are Israeli warplanes.

So, we will start with Michael and breaking news.

What is the latest, Michael?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, for the past two hours, Beirut has been a city under attack. Israeli warplanes circling overhead have unleashed a barrage of bombs on the capital, on its southern outskirts and closer within.

It started about two hours ago. The bombs have been falling in clusters, mostly on a -- on an -- a heavily popular, or a Shia area to the south of the city, near Beirut international airport. The focus of the attack very much has been concentrated on this area.

It must be said that, shortly before the -- before dusk yesterday afternoon, Israeli planes dropped leaflets, warning residents of three areas of impending attacks, advising them to evacuate. The area that is currently under assault was not one of these three areas. There's also airstrikes in the northeast, in the Bekaa Valley, the traditional Hezbollah stronghold.

But what we're seeing right now is Beirut being pounded. The question is, could this be a sign of things to come?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARE (voice-over): The soundtrack of war returned to Beirut.

Hours ago, Hezbollah issued a warning.

HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): If you hit our capital, we will hit your -- the capital of yours -- of your entity. If you hit Beirut, the Islamic resistance will hit Tel Aviv, and is able to do that, with God's help.

WARE: That threat came on a day of frightening escalation in the war, with battles raging in southern Lebanon, as Israel threw 10,000 troops into the attack, pressing deeper onto Lebanese soil over a wider front, maintaining a grip on one border village and striking out to 20 more.

Despite the intensity of the fighting, Hezbollah gave no sign of withering -- a spokesman warning, not one Israeli soldier could be left in Lebanon under any cease-fire. As if to make their point, the guerrillas' batteries launched more than 200 rockets across the border, a reminder to Israel they can still inflict casualties.

Lebanon is also paying a high price. And, in most of the country, life has been completely disrupted. Gas lines continue to grow. And some medicines remain scarce. The prime minister says, a quarter of his nation's three-million-plus population are displaced, and the war is turning his government to ruins.

FUAD SINIORA, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON: It is taking an enormous toll on human life and infrastructure, and has totally ravaged our country and shattered our economy.

WARE: That economy remains threatened -- the Israelis refusing to let much-needed fuel tankers pass through their naval blockade and contemplating the expansion of airstrikes.

In the wake of Nasrallah's statement, the Israelis immediately countered: Should rockets fall on Tel Aviv, they will target even more of Lebanon's infrastructure -- an exchange of threats that could take this war down a much more ominous turn.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Michael, more airstrikes in Baalbeck. You have just returned from that area. What do you know about the places that are being hit?

WARE: Well, we're not getting much reporting out of there at the moment. We're seeing some references to it on Arab channels. They have some reporters or stringers up there.

But, having just come back from Baalbeck, I can tell you that what we saw, that -- that the nature of the destruction there was hitting infrastructure. Obviously, there were targets of opportunity. On roadways, huge holes have been gouged, flinging pieces -- pieces of the asphalt and the remains of vehicles for hundreds of yards all around.

Obviously, they were moving targets. But we also saw, a half or three-quarters of the town's service stations, its gas stations, had been absolutely pummeled. But there's no question about Baalbeck. It very much is Hezbollah heartland. From the moment you drive into town, the -- the gateway to the -- to the village -- to the town, is festooned in Hezbollah banners. The pictures of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah adorn almost every surface. It very much is the heartland -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hezbollah territory, a state within a state inside Lebanon.

Michael Ware, we will talk to you shortly.

Here in Israel, it's remarkable how quickly life can return to normal. People here will tell you, this is a tough neighborhood. That being said, they have got a lot to deal with, not knowing where the next rocket will fall, only knowing that it will.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Today, again, the rockets rained down, this car in flames Akko, only feet away from impact. The wounded lay scattered on sidewalks, shrapnel from the rockets again doing its damage.

This man crashed his car when shrapnel tore through it. He lives long enough for emergency crews to free him, but dies on the way to the hospital. In all, eight Israelis were killed today, five in Akko, just north of Haifa. Some die while surveying the damage from an earlier strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While I treated (INAUDIBLE) I hear another explosion. And we go to there to the other -- another explosion, the second one. And we saw a lot of people that (INAUDIBLE) the ground, not alive.

COOPER: Near Ma'alot, closer to the Lebanese border, three civilians died. At least 14 others were seriously wounded in today's strikes. Even in towns where no one died, Hezbollah's message was clear.

No matter how badly they have been hurt, they can still hurt Israel in return. Since the fighting began, only one day has been as deadly for Israeli civilians, the rocket strike on a train depot in Haifa that killed eight back in July.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And, overall, for civilians and for soldiers in Israel, this has been the deadliest day yet. What's more, it could get worse. With a U.N. cease-fire perhaps only days, or even hours, away, according to some diplomats, the signs here are pointing to one last big push into Lebanon before time runs out. That is the optimistic assessment.

With that, here's CNN's John Roberts on the Israeli-Lebanon border -- John.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israel's defense minister has ordered the army to prepare for a major ground operation, a temporary land grab, to take territory more than 10 miles up to Lebanon's Litani River.

Tanks, troops and armor are streaming toward and across the border, a visible ramp-up in just the past 24 hours.

At the same time, the Israeli big guns shoot shell after shell into southern Lebanon, softening up Hezbollah positions, in advance of the ground attack.

(on camera): We are seeing a lot more artillery batteries these days. And we're seeing them much closer to the front as well, all along the Israel-Lebanon border. It's not just regular army units, like this one behind me. There are far more reserves that have been brought up to join the fight as well, firing those massive .155- millimeter howitzers, in support of Israeli ground forces just on the other side.

(voice-over): The Israeli army today released video of reserve units training up for battle. The call-up would dramatically increase the number of Israeli forces and boots on the ground, says General Benny Gantz.

MAJOR GENERAL BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We can much more than double it and more. So...

ROBERTS (on camera): Double the size of the army in just a few days?

(CROSSTALK)

GANTZ: Yes. It's -- we have the resources. It's just a matter of needs and decisions.

ROBERTS: Just a few yards from the border, an Israeli reconnaissance team scouts targets on a nearby Lebanese hilltop. There is a Hezbollah bunker up there, they say. And they are watching for targets on the ground to expose themselves to Israeli weapons.

Israel's strategy is to take out as many of those Hezbollah positions as quickly as possible, sweep deep into southern Lebanon, and control a huge buffer zone, until international troops can arrive.

But the fighting is vicious, and Israel has taken many casualties.

BRIGADIER GENERAL AMIR ESHEL, ISRAELI AIR FORCE (through translator): We are taking risks where we have to, where it's absolutely vital. And you have seen some of this in, really, rescue operations, using helicopters, hair-raising operations. Our attitude is that, where we can save lives, we will do everything in order to do this.

ROBERTS: Behind the main advance, in towns they control, Israeli forces are clearing out Hezbollah's infrastructure.

In this Israeli army video, obtained exclusively by CNN, a combat engineering battalion brings in mines, powerful explosives, to demolish a Hezbollah outpost.

With the U.N. resolution to end the fighting now looking imminent, Israel is racing against the clock. Armored personnel carriers speed toward border crossings with new urgency. After three weeks of slow, hard fighting, and criticism of the ground campaign here in Israel, a lightning-strike drive, the military's specialty, appears about to unfold.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: John Roberts is joining us now live from the border.

John, any sense of a timetable, when this -- this new drive may actually take place?

ROBERTS: It -- it's unclear, Anderson, you would think, with the diplomatic track continuing the way it is, and with Condoleezza Rice saying it could be a resolution within a couple of days, if -- if not imminent, that they would really want to get on with this.

But there's still a little bit of a split between the military side of things and -- and the -- the leadership. Amir Peretz, who, of course, is a politician, but represents the -- the military, he's a little bit -- said to be a little bit at odds with the prime minister over how far this should go.

He doesn't yet have approval from the security cabinet to launch this penetration deep into Lebanon. Olmert is said to still favor something a little more modest. But, any way it works out, it looks like the amount of territory that the Israeli military is going to hold, in preparation for an international stabilization force to come in, will be almost exactly what it held for 18 years during its occupation of Lebanon, a swathe about six kilometers wide, three-and- a-half to four miles wide, all across southern Lebanon -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, of course, how long are they going to have to hold that for? We're going to talk about that, not only with our correspondents, but also with Israel's ambassador to the U.N., who had some cautious words to say about these optimistic assessments about a solution being reached within hours or even by this weekend. That's later on, on 360.

As we have seen up close, it has been a bloody week on both sides of the border. Twenty-three days into the fighting, here's the "Raw Data" on casualties.

So far, 642 Lebanese civilians and soldiers have died in the fighting, the vast majority, of course, civilians. More than 2,300 have been wounded. Sixty-seven Israelis have been killed here, including 27 civilians, the others, soldiers. More than 600 Israelis have been wounded thus far.

Well, as the fighting here gets worse, the White House seems to be softening its stance against a cease-fire -- coming up, the strengthening diplomatic efforts and hope that a U.N. resolution could happen very soon. That's the U.N. hope, the U.S. hope, at least -- the latest when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The pictures you're seeing are Israeli reserve troops training in positions just south of Haifa. Large numbers of reserves have now been mobilized. They haven't really been sent into south Lebanon yet, but, if this large-scale offensive does begin, it's likely reserves will be seeing action very -- very soon. Out here, as the bombs fall and the rhetoric blares from both sides, it's hard to imagine that this war could be settled any time soon. There are strong efforts going on right now at the U.N. to bring this all to an end, and it might not be long before a deal is reached.

CNN's John King has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Rice sounds confident of a deal to end the fighting within days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're certainly getting close. We're working with the French.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The French ambassador to the United Nations was more cautious, saying that talks were up one minute, down the next.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I hope that, today, it will be a positive day.

KING: After weeks of criticism it was giving Israel a green light for military action, the White House is suddenly impatient, pushing for agreement by Friday, no later than Monday.

To move the talks along, several officials tell CNN, the administration agreed to accept two Security Council resolutions, instead of the one it prefers, something Secretary Rice hinted at with CNN's Larry King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")

RICE: We're moving, Larry, toward being able to do this in phases that will permit first an end or a stoppage of the hostilities, and based on the establishment of some very important principles for how we move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This is a working draft of the Security Council resolution. It calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, release of the abducted Israeli soldiers, deployment of the Lebanese army to areas now controlled by Hezbollah, creating a buffer zone from the Litani River to Lebanon's southern border, and expanding the small U.N. peacekeeping force already in Lebanon in the short term.

Then, the draft envisions a second resolution later, authorized to deploy a bigger force to police a permanent cease-fire. Washington wanted one comprehensive cease-fire resolution, but France and others wanted more time to assess the risks of the mission. DE LA SABLIERE: But I think that we have an understanding on what we -- I call the sequence.

KING: Still being negotiated, sources familiar with the talks tell CNN, is how quickly the council would act and how long it would take the larger force to move in. If no deal is reached by Friday, Secretary Rice will monitor weekend negotiations from the Bush ranch in Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining me now, our top correspondents in the field.

CNN's chief national correspondent, John King, joins me now from Washington, along with senior national correspondent John Roberts on the Israel-Lebanon border, and CNN's Michael Ware, who's in Beirut right now.

John, why has the U.S. seemingly switched gears and started pushing for a cease-fire, when, only last week, Rice was, you know, not endorsing that idea?

KING: Well, Anderson, they're under a great deal of pressure around the world, obviously. And there's some -- the White House won't say this publicly, but there are many making the calculation that Hezbollah is winning the war of public opinion, that Hezbollah right now has the upper hand, in terms of public opinion across the Arab and Muslim world, and it is time to get a deal, because of the killing.

But, even if they get this deal, they're negotiating the last final few points we're told. But they are critical points, the mandate of the second force, the bigger force that goes in. Many countries that say they will participate are reluctant to participate if the rules say they must engage Hezbollah if they encounter them.

So, they're hoping to get a deal on this by the morning. That's a deal among the Security Council members. Then, they have to get it passed. And, then, they have to get it implemented. And it's not exactly what Secretary Rice told the Israelis she would push for. So, while U.S. officials tell us they have the assurances of Israel that it will agree with this, as long as it's OK with the United States, that's still a big question mark.

COOPER: John Roberts, how big a buffer zone is Israel trying to create right now?

ROBERTS: There's disagreement over that, Anderson. The -- the Israeli military would like to create one all the way up to the Litani River, which is about 12 to 14 miles. The political leadership here in Israel wants something smaller, about six kilometers, about four miles, which would be about the size that they occupied for 18 years, when they invaded Lebanon in the year 1982, and then withdrew in the year 2000.

But, in terms of this -- this dual-part resolution, it seems that that would mean that Israeli forces are going to stay on the ground for quite some time, because there is mistrust here in Israel over what the United Nations, even an expanded United Nations, force can do. They have had experience, since 1978, with UNIFIL, the Interim Force in Lebanon, being completely ineffective at being able to police the southern part, despite the fact that they have had these outposts every -- every couple of kilometers or so across the southern end of the border.

So, they would, most likely, I would think, have to stay in Lebanon, even with that expanded force coming in, until the larger, the big 15,000 expected troop level force, comes in to create and hold -- create that buffer zone and hold stability in the region.

COOPER: Yes.

And -- and, Michael Ware in -- in -- in Beirut, I mean, of course, Hezbollah is the wild card in all of this. All of this is relying on them being willing to disarm. They -- they have shown no sign of that. And, in fact, now, tonight, Hassan Nasrallah has said that, you know, if central Beirut is hit, they're going to fire rockets into Tel Aviv.

Can they do that?

WARE: Oh, I think that's -- I think that may well be within their capabilities. I mean, nothing is for certain.

But there's one thing about Hassan Nasrallah that we have learned so far, is that, when he says something, he very clearly means it. He has lived up to or carried through with every threat he has made. We also know that their arsenal is somewhat impressive.

We have only seen so much of it so far. So, the indications are that, yes, this may be within Hezbollah's capability. And there is no incentive for them to disarm. As we have -- as we have been hearing, so far, it seems that they have been winning the war of perception, which, in these kind of asymmetrical battles, is almost as important, if not more so, than the battlefield itself -- Anderson.

COOPER: John King in Washington, one thing I don't get -- and maybe you can clear it up for me -- on the one hand, you have a Hezbollah spokesman saying that they will continue fighting Israel, as long as Israeli troops are on the ground in south Lebanon, even in -- in -- including Shebaa Farms.

On the other hand, you have this U.N. resolution. Even if there is this resolution, and there -- and that calls for some sort of a cease-fire, Israeli troops are saying they're not pulling out until that U.N. force is coming in, and that might take weeks.

KING: Well, you are asking the push-comes-to-shove question, because this is a draft of the resolution. And this resolution says that, once this is adopted, all troops must get out of the buffer zone, which is from the Litani River down.

Only the Lebanese army and the U.N. force would be allowed in. So, that means the Israelis, if they accept this deal, have to get out. Now, it certainly would take some time to get out. And that's one of the calculations. Anyone you talk to, no matter where they are on whether -- whether the cease-fire should be immediate, whether it should have conditions or not, think that one of the reasons the Israelis are sending more and more troops in there is because, then, they have some would say an excuse, others would say a legitimate case, to say, it is going to take us some time to get out.

COOPER: John King, John Roberts, Michael Ware, thanks.

We will talk to you again in the next hour.

We're going to hear a lot more on the diplomacy efforts from one side directly involved in the battle -- that in a moment.

First, Randi Kaye joins us with a 360 bulletin.

Randi, what is going on?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.

New developments tonight -- we have just learned that six Marines have been charged with assaulting an Iraqi civilian in Hamandiyah this past April. The Marines are currently assigned to California's Camp Pendleton. The U.S. military says these new charges are not related to the alleged killing of an Iraqi man in Hamandiyah, though three of the Marines charged today are also awaiting trial in that incident.

A weekend murder near Phoenix has been linked to one of two serial killers terrorizing the area. A 22-year-old woman was gunned down Sunday night, as she walked from her parents' home to her boyfriend's house. Police say forensic evidence links the murder to the killer dubbed the "Serial Shooter," who's accused of killing five other people and wounding 17.

Another serial killer roaming the Phoenix area is accused of murdering eight people.

In Texas, former Congressman Tom DeLay will remain on the November ballot, at least for now. A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling rejecting the Texas Republican Party's efforts to take the embattled politician out of the race. DeLay says he's not qualified to run, since he's now a Virginia resident.

The Texas Republican Party plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier has been released from a Baltimore-area hospital. Dozier was wounded in a car bomb attack in Iraq which killed two other members of her news team. Dozier will continue her rehabilitation as an outpatient, certainly some good news for her -- Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: That's good news, indeed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

Randi, thanks.

The U.N. may be close to a resolution, say some. But will that mean an immediate cease-fire? Coming up, we will hear from one side directly involved in the battle -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A close-up look of some of the leaflets dropped by Israelis, Israeli military, from planes into neighborhoods in Beirut, warning civilians in those areas to get out, and to get out fast.

As we reported before the break, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believes a U.N. resolution on the Middle East crisis might be reached within days. Of course, for a cease-fire to happen, you will need both sides of this conflict to stop fighting.

And, tonight, we wanted to hear what they have to say about the diplomatic efforts under way. Hezbollah, of course, has not put forward somebody.

But we have the Israeli -- Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman. I spoke to him earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ambassador Gillerman, we just heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on "LARRY KING" talking about the White House, hoping that some sort of U.N. resolution could come out as early as tomorrow, as Friday. The French seem to think that perhaps over the weekend is more likely.

What's your sense of where the diplomatic efforts are now?

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I don't think it will happen tomorrow.

I think the discussions are still quite far apart. There are still some conceptual differences. And I would imagine that talks will continue, possibly over the weekend, and maybe materialize into a resolution some time early next week.

COOPER: If this resolution does come out, even if it's over the weekend, or -- or next week some time, does that mean the fighting stops?

GILLERMAN: The aim, obviously, of any resolution would be the cessation of hostilities, but there is indeed the whole question of sequence, of what happens first. Does the fighting stop first and then an international force comes in? Would we have an international force in place before the fighting stops? I think to a very great extent that very well may be the crux of the problem and obviously we would very much like to see an international force in place before the fighting stops because otherwise I don't see who is going to actually make sure that the cease-fire is actually enforced and prevent the Hezbollah from continuing their terrorist activities. COOPER: Hassan Nasrallah again appeared on television this evening essentially threatening Tel Aviv, saying that if Israel continues to hit -- or hits central Beirut they would send missiles, rockets to Tel Aviv. What do you make of that and also his statement that they will stop sending rockets into northern Israel if Israel stops their aerial bombardments?

GILLERMAN: I think the second statement is a sign of obvious weakening on the part of Nasrallah. He has never said that before and he may realize that his forces are being degraded and weakened and be looking for a way out. His threats to hit Tel Aviv and to launch missiles at Tel Aviv are not new, we know he may do it, we are ready for it, and I'm sure that he as well as his sponsors realize the consequences of doing something as unimaginable and crazy as that.

COOPER: When you really listen to these speeches that Nasrallah has given in the past, I mean, it's a speech that an Adolph Hitler could have given, I mean essentially these guys are Islamic fascists. And then you hear the president of Iran talking about essentially a final solution against the state of Israel and you compare that to suddenly seeing Hezbollah flags in Trafalgar Square and demonstrations. Do you feel like the world understands what Hezbollah is really all about?

GILLERMAN: I certainly hope the world understands because this war is not just about the safety of Israel or the freedom of Lebanon, it is about preserving civilization as we know it. When you see Hezbollah flags in London and in Brussels and in Paris and you see that most of the demonstrators in Trafalgar Square and in the other cities are Muslims, I would advise these European countries to look very carefully at what is happening in Beirut today because to a very great extent, what they're seeing in Beirut, what they're seeing happening in Lebanon, what Hezbollah has done to the Lebanese people is really just a preview of what they may expect if they don't take care of that problem as they say in this country, soon to be seen in theaters everywhere.

COOPER: Ambassador Gillerman, appreciate you being on the program, thank you.

GILLERMAN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: I should point out that we did request an interview with a Hezbollah spokesman or Hezbollah representative, they declined because we were broadcasting tonight from the state of Israel.

Katyusha rockets -- we also should just point out we have an open invitation to anyone from Hezbollah to appear on our program any time.

Katyusha rockets could be just the beginning for Hezbollah. American top military commander for the war in Iraq gave a chilling warning about the terror group on Capitol Hill today. We'll talk about that and more with CNN military analyst retired brigadier general David Grange. 360 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: I should pass along information, LBC and NU TV in Lebanon are reporting Israeli air strikes in east Lebanon in an area called Masna, that's the first time we've heard of that. We're trying to get an independent confirmation and we'll bring that to you when we do have it.

If an international force is sent to the Middle East a Lebanese American will likely oversee the mission. His name is General John Abizaid. He's the highest ranking Arab American in the United States armed forces, he's the commander of U.S. central command. Today he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about Iraq and about the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel. General Abizaid says that Hezbollah must be disarmed. If not he warns the risks could be catastrophic. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It should not be lost on us, for example, that Hezbollah fields greater and longer range weapons than most regional armed forces. If left unchecked it is possible to imagine chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons being transferred to militias or terrorist organizations by a state actor.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chemical, biological or nuclear being transferred to a group like Hezbollah. Certainly a terrifying scenario for many. For more on Hezbollah, the fighting and peace keeping mission. I spoke earlier to retired Brigadier General David Grange, who's also a CNN military analyst. And I began by asking him about General Abizaid's belief that Hezbollah wants nuclear weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: What do you the likelihood of that really is?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it's very possible. I think that's probably one of their goals, they know they have power in several things, terrorism, terrorist attacks on the ground, like suicide bombers using IEDs, missiles or rockets to fire and weapons of mass destruction. That's where they have leverage on superpowers.

COOPER: They're talking now about the possibility of hitting Tel Aviv is a threat they've certainly made before. Can they do it, if so what kind of damage can they inflict?

GRANGE: I believe they can do it. The damage may not be that great with destructive power, physical power, but psychologically it would have quite an effect on Israel and the international community.

COOPER: Let's talk about this international force. The prime minister of Israel Olmert is talking about 15,000 troops maybe being necessary. Do you think that's a realistic number? GRANGE: Well Anderson I'll tell you, if I was in charge of that force I'd want at least 15,000 and it better be a combined arms team that's a very robust, powerful, and comes from countries that actually have a capability on the ground that could fight the Hezbollah, very similar to how the Israelis are fighting them right now. Otherwise I wouldn't take it in.

COOPER: How do you actually see this logistically and militarily working?

GRANGE: Well, you don't have the whole Israeli force come out and then a whole multinational force come in, in its place, in a vacuum. It has to be unit by unit, piece by piece. And what they may do is in an area already cleared, already cleared by the Israelis that'll be a command -- the central command post or something like that, they may move in. But actually, you have to destroy the Hezbollah fighting capability in this buffer zone, the zone of separation before the multinational force assumes responsibility. Otherwise, they'll be doing exactly what the Israelis are doing, house by house, ravine by ravine, hill by hill, and to take out that capability and that's really not their purpose. It's to maintain a peace once conditions are met that are favorable for this to have success.

COOPER: And then on top of that you have the statement from a Hezbollah official talking about there's no way that they will stop fighting as long as Israeli troops are in any piece of Lebanese soil, and they include Lebanese soil as Shebaa Farms, which is a disputed territory at this point. They say even if there was a cease-fire, they'll continue fighting. When you have statements like that, whether they're true or not, statements like that make it virtually impossible that any kind of multinational force is going to come in because all the forces have talked about needing a cease-fire and needing agreement from both parties, from Hezbollah and from Israel that the fighting will be over?

GRANGE: That's why I don't know why everyone is saying one, two, three days, the end of the week, we're going to have this cease-fire. It's all dependent on conditions being met, which one of them is to disarm the Hezbollah and all agreements must be made between Lebanon and Israel, not the Hezbollah. They don't want a cease-fire under any conditions but their own. That force must be destroyed militarily.

COOPER: General Grange, appreciate your perspective, thanks.

GRANGE: Thank you.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So while some are optimistic that there may be some sort of solution diplomatically within a day or this weekend, events on the ground tell a very different story, it may be weeks and weeks and weeks, we'll continue to keep watching.

As Iraq descends into the abyss, that other war to talk about, not forgotten, Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got grilled by senators today on the war, his leadership, and when the troops are coming home. The tough talk when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, this is a fact. The worst day of blood shed here is just an average day in Iraq where the wave of killings and kidnappings is bringing the country closer to civil war if it hasn't already reached civil war. Tonight Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said the pentagon's policy in Iraq has been incompetent and a failure. Tonight she called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Now this comes just hours after the two got into a bitter exchange on Capitol Hill. CNN's Barbara Starr has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A day after agreeing to testify in public, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took heat from his senate critics but gave it right back.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, (D) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios. But because of the administration's strategic blunders and frankly the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: My goodness. I have never painted a rosy picture. I've been very measured in my words, and you have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic.

STARR: Rumsfeld's generals used the opportunity to sound a warning about the rising violence.

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it in Baghdad in particular. And that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Sir I believe that we do have the possibility of that devolving to a civil war. But that does not have to be a fact.

STARR: Some committee members still pressing on the overall strategy and whether there are enough troops.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Is the situation under control in Ramadi?

ABIZAID: I think the situation in Ramadi is workable.

MCCAIN: And the troops from Ramadi came from Fallujah, isn't that correct?

ABIZAID: I can't say senator, I know -- MCCAIN: Well that's my information. What I worry about is we're playing a game of whack them all here. We move troops -- it flares up, we move troops there.

STARR (on camera): Even as the generals expressed their concern about civil war, they also said that they do believe the new Iraqi government will maintain control and will keep civil war from unfolding. Barbara Starr, CNN, the pentagon.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well civil war or not, day-to-day life in Baghdad continues to be bloody and deadly. Today at least 10 people were killed and 32 wounded when a bomb went off in a market street. Yesterday another deadly attack, one that targeted children on a soccer field. Children on a soccer field. CNN's Harris Whitbeck reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mangled remains of bleachers, a bloodied soccer shoe, evidence of the unexpected carnage during an afternoon soccer game in a Shia neighborhood of Baghdad. The game suddenly interrupted when two bombs exploded, killing 12 players and spectators, including three teenagers and wounded 16. Ali Rashid, 16 years old, survived the attack. His body is freshly scarred from flying shrapnel.

TRANSLATION OF ALI RASHID, BOMB ATTACK SURVIVOR: We were having fun and we were so excited during the game and during half time. I was chatting with my friend (INAUDIBLE), but suddenly a huge explosion threw me backwards and I ran for more than a kilometer, I was so scared.

WHITBECK: A day after the bombing, a funeral tent has been erected not far from the field. Teammates and relatives of a stricken spectator mourn his death. Sports should be respected and not targeted says this man. The victims did nothing to deserve what happened to them. Outside the tent two youths not much older than some of those killed stand guard against more attacks. It's not unusual for mourning relatives to become targets themselves. The Iraqi government and the U.S. military hope a new plan to put more American troops on to the streets will go a long way toward curbing the growing sectarian violence.

(on camera): But this is Baghdad where violence is so random, so endemic, that even going to a soccer game can become a matter of life and death. Where even children at play can become the targets of violence they have nothing to do with. In the midst of constant tit for tat killings, ordinary Iraqis can only plead for a different life.

RASHID: We should all challenge these difficult circumstances, we should start rebuilding our country, I hope we can live together as we did before.

WHITBECK: A desire that shouldn't be far fetched but one that seems increasingly difficult to reach. Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Baghdad.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Also in harm's way in Iraq, U.S. troops, thousands of them have returned from battle needing medical care. Tonight we meet a woman who's giving 360 to help them heal all because of her son. Here's CNN's Dan Lothian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Letters, yeah, from Iraq.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Meet Peggy Baker, founder of operation first response, a volunteer organization that reaches out to wounded American soldiers and their families.

PEGGY BAKER, FOUNDER, OPERATION FIRST RESPONSE: I think it's their attitudes, some of the serious injuries that they've had and they're still smiling, they're working hard to continue on.

LOTHIAN: Peggy and three other women help families with everything from financial assistance to transportation to visiting injured servicemen and women. And they offer compassion and encouragement, 24/7.

BAKER: My son joined the army shortly after 9/11, all of a sudden I was put into a position that my child was going to go and defend our country, you know, and it opened eyes.

LOTHIAN: She connected with other military moms on the Internet. When the son of an online friend was wounded, Peggy went to Walter Reed Hospital to offer her support and found her mission.

SGT. SEAN M. LEWIS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): At first I didn't have a whole lot of personal support besides my family who was back at home, and to have somebody there that actually cared, you know that meant a lot.

LOTHIAN: That was nearly three years ago. To date her group has helped more than 700 military families.

BAKER: We have quilts sent to us from ladies all across the state.

LOTHIAN: Peggy's basement has been turned into an assembly line where she and her helpers put together care packages to send to injured soldiers. What started as her son's sense of duty is now Peggy's.

BAKER: It's an emotional but wonderful experience to be part of their lives, they're incredible heroes.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A remarkable woman. Well three weeks of war between Israel and Lebanon, we've been following the action from both sides of the front lines. Coming up next my reporters notebook behind the scenes what it's like reporting this war. Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We get a lot of e-mails from viewers asking us what it's like reporting this story. That's why we have the 360 blog which you can log onto to get a behind the scenes look. We also have a photographer traveling with us, Uri Lieberman from Getty Images has been taking pictures of us as we work and taking pictures of the stories we're working on. Here are some of his pictures and my words in a reporter's notebook.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's been three weeks now, three weeks and counting. Fighting and dying, shelling and running. So much of it seems so long ago, only the pictures are a reminder you were ever there. War is like that. Each day is the first, the past is dead, forgotten. In war there's only now, only this. A smoke shared by buddies, a few hours rest. The minutes pass, so do the memories. At first the shelling, the rockets, that's what you see, it's what you hear. Incoming, outgoing, sirens and screams. All of it quickly fades, however, it becomes like your pulse, always there, a throb in your ear, a beat you barely notice. From a distance there's a beauty to it, brilliant flames, a flash of light, a brief boom that echoes in the hills. Up close there's nothing beautiful about it. The ground rumbles, your spine shakes. The heat and dirt scald your skin.

So much of this war we don't even see, you stair at distant hills that smoke and smolder. The ground is dead. We see tanks move, soldiers come and go, but you don't see the fight up close, and that's where we all want to be. We try to get close, as close as you can, you want to feel the heat, the furry, swallow the embers. We watch firefighters put out the flames, but it's never enough, we want to see more. We followed the action wherever its lead, Beirut, Cyprus, Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, we've camped out in hotel rooms and balconies, street corners and cars, pulling up stakes when the story moves on. Three weeks now, three weeks and counting, sometimes I'm not even sure what I've seen.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Pictures again by Uri Lieberman of Getty Images. When we come back, more of what is happening right now in Beirut. We are seeing images now of smoke rising from parts of Beirut. We'll have a live report when we return.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines