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THE SITUATION ROOM
Major Shake-Up in Israeli Military Command; U.N. Tries to Keep Mideast Peace Plan Alive
Aired August 8, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, there's breaking news here in Israel. We're watching a major shake-up in the Israeli military command only hours before a decision on expanding the war. It's 2:00 a.m. Wednesday here in Israel where new questions are being raised about the fight against Hezbollah.
And at the United Nations tonight, there's a desperate scramble to keep a Middle East peace plan alive. Also this hour, an alleged Hezbollah fighter takes us inside the militia group. What does he know about the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers that's triggered this war?
And two high-profile Democrats facing possible defeat tonight. Will Senator Joe Lieberman be a political casualty of the Iraq war and will Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney be a victim of controversies? It's 7:00 p.m. in Georgia where the polls are closing right now. We'll bring you the vote tallies as they come in.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up first tonight, the breaking news here in Israel as the Israeli army pounds Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, there's a dramatic shake-up in the top command and it comes just hours before Israel's Security Cabinet is set to meet to consider yet another major expansion of the war.
Tonight, a new general has been tapped to coordinate Israel's military campaign in Lebanon. The new assignment for Major General Moshe Kaplinski is seen by many here in Israel as a slap against the head of Israel's Northern Commander Major General Udi Adam.
And there's other breaking news in the conflict tonight as well. CNN has just confirmed this hour that Israeli helicopter gunships have shelled Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp causing a number of casualties. We're going to bring you more details as we get them.
Meanwhile over at the United Nations tonight, diplomats are trying to find a compromise and salvage a draft resolution on ending the fighting. Arab League members today accused the U.N. of standing by idly while blood is being spilled in Lebanon. A Security Council vote isn't expected until tomorrow at the earliest.
First, let's start off this hour with CNN's John Roberts. He's along the Israeli/Lebanon border. He's got news on this dramatic shake-up in Israel's chain of command in Lebanon. Set the stage for us, John. What's going on?
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NAT'L CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Wolf. The decision to put Moshe Kaplinski, the deputy chief of staff in charge over all charge of the Northern Command's plan would really seem to indicate a sensitivity to conservative criticism here in Israel that the ground war was not big enough, not fast enough and has not been going well.
I mean this is almost the equivalent when you look at Major General Udi Adam, who is in charge of the Northern Command, this is almost the Israeli equivalent of President Bush's favorite line, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job. It's obvious that the Israeli military leadership is not happy with the way things are going.
I spoke just today a little while ago this afternoon in Israeli time with General Shuki Shachar, who told me he's General Adam's deputy. He told me that they had the green light from Jerusalem to go out and do whatever they needed, however long they needed to do it to conduct this military campaign. But just in recent hours, Wolf, it's pretty clear that the upper, upper echelon of the military leadership is not happy with the way things are going on.
If the chief of staff, Dan Halutz, is sending his deputy up here, he wants a guy that he knows, he wants a guy that he can trust, he wants a guy who can get the job done. So it really would seem to be a slap in the face to the general of the Northern Command, Wolf.
BLITZER: And you know as I see it, John, it's almost as if they're saying to themselves, the top Israeli military command, they weren't very happy in the first four weeks, the first month of this war and they need a major shake-up and as a result they're sending the deputy chief of staff up into Lebanon, up to the north to coordinate Israel's Northern Command. Right in the middle of a war, this is not necessarily unprecedented but it's a huge indication that there are a lot of unhappy people in the way Israel has conducted the initial air war and how this ground war is going.
And John, talk a little bit about this cabinet decision, which we're expecting very, very soon whether to see a major escalation in the ground war, sending thousands more Israeli troops into the south Lebanon, all the way up to the Litani River.
ROBERTS: I will in just a second, but another point about this shake-up, putting Kaplinski in charge of the Northern Command, it reminds me of something that happened during the Iraq war. The unit that we were embedded with was attached to the 1st Regimental Combat Team of the U.S. Marines out of Camp Pendleton, California. The commander of that unit was relieved of duty halfway through the war and that was seen as a huge shake-up, but he was only the commander of one regimental combat team. This guy is in charge of the whole operation, so to put somebody over him in charge of this war really does show, Wolf, that people aren't happy with what's going on. Now in terms of the ground war right now, we spent time again today along the border watching the troop movements. It is much more difficult to watch it from the Israeli side than it is from deep inside southern Lebanon where we were over the weekend, but we saw many more forces going over the border not far from where I am.
There appears to be a major incursion underway, tank fire in the valley, volleys of heavy machinegun fire. Artillery being brought in. We hear the heaving and clanking of the heavy armor as troops are being brought into that area. We couldn't broadcast out of there live because of Israeli censorship rules, Wolf, but I can tell you that in one part along the border, there is something brand new happening tonight, brand new and big as well.
ROBERTS (voice-over): An intense round of gunfire in this Israeli army video obtained exclusively by CNN demonstrates what the military describes as the difficult fight to dislodge Hezbollah from towns and villages in southern Lebanon. In this battle, the army claims success, planting the Israeli flag on a Hezbollah outpost in Salave (ph). The flag raising is merely an act of bravado, but it is a symbol of a deeper issue that threatens diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the fighting.
Lebanese officials reject any agreement that leaves Israeli troops on Lebanese soil. Israel won't withdraw unless its security is guaranteed. Lebanon's prime minister is attempting to bridge that divide, offering to send the Lebanese army to the south to take control. The Israeli counterpart today said the offer is worth considering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it would be fair to say that we started this. It looks interesting. And we will examine it closely. We will take counsel. Other parties that are interested in the situation and are working towards the resolution of United Nations and we will make up our mind about it.
ROBERTS: But there is little faith that either the political or military level in Israel that the Lebanese army is up to the job. Leaders of the elite reserve unit I spent 48 hours on the front lines with don't want to stay in southern Lebanon, but don't want to leave unless Hezbollah is fully contained.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the resolution won't be that in set proportion that will keep this area safe, then this whole venture was just for nothing.
ROBERTS: In case diplomacy fails, the Israeli military is preparing to expand the ground campaign. Sources tell CNN a division of reserves, 5,000 or more soldiers may be brought to the front in the next 48 hours. In addition, say sources, the IDF may intensify its air attacks while special forces like the group that raided a Hezbollah hospital in Baalbeck launch more tactical strikes.
Each day of this campaign grows more costly for Israel, another three soldiers died in battle today, many more were wounded. One hundred and forty-five rockets rained down on northern Israel today. No one was injured, but the nonstop attacks have left the north virtually deserted. The local economies in tatters, but if they don't take and hold ground in Lebanon, Israeli military leaders fear Hezbollah will take advantage and regroup and almost to a man it seems, that's not a price they're willing to pay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we want to do is live in peace in our country behind a secure border. We want to move these terrorists away from the border area so that we can get on with our lives.
ROBERTS: The decision by the Israeli Cabinet as to whether or not to expand that ground war is expected to come tomorrow New York/Washington time, later this morning, Israel time. Not knowing if they're going to approve this plan that was put forward by the Israeli Defense Force and the minister of defense Amir Peretz, sorry about the names, but there's so many and it's so late here at night. But not knowing if they're going to approve that and expand this ground campaign or if this is just some sort of a head fake to tell Lebanon we're really serious about this. You better get in line with the negotiations, but we can tell you again, Wolf, that there is a major operation not far away from where we are tonight.
BLITZER: All right John, we're going to get back to you. Stand by. John Roberts in northern Israel along the border with Lebanon. I want to go to Beirut right now. There's another breaking news story we're following.
CNN's Jim Clancy is on the scene for us. What's the latest. We're getting word that Israeli shells are now hitting the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Jim, what do we know?
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, I think that for THE SITUATION ROOM you can say that you're getting the news confirmed first. The head of Fatah in the Ain Al Helweh camp just opposite of Sidon, a camp that houses some 100,000 Palestinians, there are some 50,000 that are registered, but the numbers are probably much higher than that. We're hearing from Sultan Abu Al Ainon that two Israeli helicopter gunships fired five shells at an administration building, in his words, was a warning, perhaps a caution to the Palestinians not to get involved. But he refused to elaborate on that.
He did say that one civilian was killed. Three others were wounded in that attack. Those numbers could change. They're very preliminary, but that's coming from Sultan Abu Al Ainon, the head of Fatah there at the Ain Al Helweh camp. Obviously, the Israelis if they were seeking to expand the ground operation would not want to see any interference from Fatah or the PLO there inside nor any other part of south Lebanon, so perhaps a cautionary shot over the bow, if you will, Wolf.
Meantime, from south Lebanon to here in Beirut, a lot of the focus this day was on concern about civilian casualties in this conflict.
CLANCY (voice-over): Even as bombs fell in another part of the city, Lebanese lit candles in Beirut's Martyrs Square Tuesday evening to memorialize civilians killed in this conflict, hundreds of them.
CLANCY: Location, Beirut, southern suburb of Shiyah. Officials say the toll from this Israeli strike on a crowded neighborhood Monday rose to 30 dead. Lebanese families insist every single one is a civilian.
CLANCY: Another victim, rushed to a hospital after an Israeli air strike. Location, Ghaziye, a village just south of Sidon. The bombs fell even as villagers were burying 15 relatives killed in a bombing the previous day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
CLANCY: There are no weapons and no rockets, this resident said. There are no terrorists in this area. As the number of dead and wounded rises, so does the debate over civilian casualties. Israel insists Hezbollah fighters are using civilians as shields, hiding among them.
CLANCY: The Israeli military won't comment on why a particular target is selected. Lebanese insist that because Israel can't find Hezbollah it's pummeling them instead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the number of civilians killed for example in Lebanon far exceeds the number of combatants, as a matter of fact, the number of children killed exceeds the number of combatants we think.
CLANCY: Civilians are almost always bear the brunt and suffering of war. A war that involves a guerrilla style army like Hezbollah only increases the risks, as does the weaponry being used. But in this conflict some say the risk attached to a basic function like delivering food and medicine are unreasonably harsh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We understand perfectly that there are military necessities but at the same time we consider that it should be possible to designate certain roads and certain days for humanitarian action and make sure that for a few hours access should be (INAUDIBLE) population. CLANCY: Israeli leaflets have warned drivers to stay off the roads in southern Lebanon, saying all moving vehicles will be considered potential targets. Roads to the southern city of Tyre and beyond are cut. The Red Cross and the U.N. say this prevents them from delivering desperately needed food and water to an estimated 100,000 stranded villagers.
CLANCY: All right, now the situation tonight is that humanitarian groups approached Israel and said, can we build a temporary bridge here, the Israelis, according to our source, said you build it, we will bomb it. The Israelis deny that. They say they are doing nothing to impede the flow of humanitarian aid, but the reality is tonight, no bridge, no aid is moving -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim, we're getting the first pictures in now from that Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. This is the first time that Israeli strikes have targeted a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. You're very familiar with these areas. No word yet from Israeli military sources of what they're up to, but you're suggesting that this may have been a signal from the Israelis to the Palestinians don't get involved in this war.
CLANCY: Well, that was the word that we got from the head of Fatah there in the Ain Al Helweh camp. You've got to understand, as we noted this is a huge camp, Wolf. This isn't an ordinary refugee camp. Ain Al Helweh is one of the biggest of all of the Palestinian refugee camps across the Middle East. And we're talking about 100,000 people. It would look tonight, according to our source from Fatah, that this was a warning shot across the PLO's bow not to get involved if the Israelis move in and try to broaden their ground operations.
BLITZER: Jim Clancy, thanks very much. Stand by. We will be getting back to you as we get more information on this breaking news.
As Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah guerrillas battle with weapons, there are high level diplomats sparring with words. An Arab envoy is at the United Nations voicing deep concerns on what needs to happen to end the many days of death.
Our senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth joining us now live from the United Nations with more. I understand, Richard, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity within the past hour or so alone.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Very intense talks. Disagreements. Passion, more than we have seen before since this conflict began. Members of the Arab League delegation addressed the U.N. Security Council and they said that this resolution is not balanced. They think that Lebanon's government offer to send 15,000 troops to the south is good enough to reflect a change in the resolution.
The timing so that Israel would not get to stay on Lebanese soil as long as the current resolution suggests. After the open meeting before the Security Council, the Arab League talked to members of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. and France, the key architects of this resolution. After the talks, the lead of Arab states, Secretary- General Amr Moussa updated reporters on whether the ambassadors inside were willing to change their resolution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The beginning of the talks were promising that there are new developments and there are points that the Arab side wishes to insert. We listened also to the drafters. We listened to the points of view of the five-panel members. Tomorrow, we'll resume our consultations, we hope that by tomorrow, we -- all sides will know at least the skeleton of what kind of a new draft will be introduced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: Now that's Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League. What's been happening between the U.S. and French, the two key negotiators, well things may not be as lovey-dovey as they were over the weekend when they came here in a rush and said we have a new resolution. We were told by one diplomat, intense negotiations between those two countries. Differences in approaches and another saying that the French are now very interested in certainly representing Lebanon's views on the troop deployment and thus, things have stalled even further regarding the negotiations -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Richard Roth at the U.N. where things are hectic right now. Richard, stand by. Thank you very much. I want to update our viewers on the breaking news that we're getting out of the Middle East. This Israeli air strike against the Palestinian refugee camp in the area around Beirut. The IDF now telling CNN, the Israel Defense Forces that the Israeli Air Force targeted what they called was a Hezbollah militant house. They were going after a specific target and as a result, they struck earlier today.
The first time they have gone after a target, what they say is a Hezbollah target in one of the major Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. We're watching this story. We're watching a major shake-up in the command structure of the Israel military going into the second month of warfare. Much more on this part of the story coming up as well.
We're watching two major political stories in the United States at the same time. After she slapped a Capitol Hill police officer, will the voters give Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney a break or walking papers perhaps? The polls have just closed in Georgia. We're going to see how Cynthia McKinney is faring. Also, the city under siege, virtually cut off from its surroundings. We're going to Tyre in Lebanon for what's the latest on the dire situation there.
And the Israeli prime minister says Israel may actually widen its focus. Might this already fierce war get even uglier? We're watching all of the breaking news. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem. There are major developments, breaking news here in the Middle East right now. I want to talk about both of these stories. The first time in this war so far Israel has gone after a Palestinian refugee camp, the IDF. The Israel Defense Forces telling CNN only moments ago they were targeting a Hezbollah militant's home in the Ain Al Helweh refugee camp near Beirut. At the same time, there's been a major shake-up in the Israeli military's command structure and this after one month, nearly one month of warfare.
Joining us now is Dory Gold, Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for coming in.
DORE GOLD, FORMER ISRAEL AMB. TO U.N.: A pleasure.
BLITZER: Let's talk about this military shake-up. It looks to me like a pretty significant big deal. What do you think?
GOLD: Well for most Israelis who see this, this reminds them of what happened in the '73 war, the Yom Kippur war, which started out a little bit difficult for Israel, then of course it was one of Israel's greatest victories. At the time, we had a southern command regional commander, Gora Dish (ph), who wasn't doing so well. The IDF decided to put as a front commander (INAUDIBLE) who had been the previous chief of staff. Basically they ousted Gora Dish (ph). This looks like the same kind of move.
BLITZER: And there's a lot of historians, military historians suggested that helped turn the tide. It seems now this decision by the IDF chief of staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, to bring in his deputy, Lieutenant General Moshe Kaplinski, to oversee in the words of the IDF to coordinate IDF military efforts in Lebanon in effect to take charge over Major General Udi Adam, who is the Northern Commander right now. It seems to be an expression, even though they deny it, a vote of no confidence in the northern commander.
GOLD: That is clearly how it is perceived by many Israelis. Many of the writers of our tomorrow morning's newspapers will be saying that. Kaplinski is a really experienced combat general. A former commander of the Golani Brigade. Lots of time in Lebanon. He knows the front very well.
BLITZER: It seems to suggest coming only hours before the Israeli Cabinet is about to debate and perhaps make a major decision widening Israel's military ground offensive into south Lebanon to go all the way up to the Litani River. It seems to suggests that maybe this war from Israel's perspective has not gone as originally hoped for.
GOLD: Well, a lot of people who are looking at the war think that perhaps Israel over relied on air power looking at the lessons of Kosovo, U.S. Air Force in Iraq. Israel doesn't have that kind of time. It can't rely on air power, especially when you're going after terrorist targets. It's going to need ground forces, especially as our cities keep getting hit by upwards of 150 rockets a day.
BLITZER: So this is a significant development. I'm sure the Israeli press, as you accurately point out on the Web sites for all the major Israeli newspapers tomorrow morning they're making a big deal of out of this. One final question before I let you go. This decision to go after a Hezbollah target in a Palestinian refugee camp for the first time in this war, what does that say to you.
GOLD: Well Ain Al Helweh refugee camp has been really a can of worms for a number of years. We know that after the United States took over the Taliban regime, replaced it in Afghanistan, many of the al Qaeda operatives escaped to places like Kurdistan in Iraq and to Ain Al Helweh refugee camp. On December 27th of 2005, Israel actually faced its first al Qaeda attack, which was done with Katyusha rockets. Many traced it to Zarqawi networks that were in Ain Al Helweh, so perhaps a Hezbollah operative was targeted, but Ain Al Helweh has been, posed a very serious problem for Israeli security and for regional security as well.
BLITZER: Dore Gold, Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, thanks for coming in.
Still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, more on the deepening tensions here in the Middle East, including a suggestion by the Israeli prime minister that this war could get wider, could get bigger in the coming hours.
And she says her husband is a simple man and they had a simple life together, but now they're not together. They're part of an international crisis that began after her husband was kidnapped by Hezbollah guerrillas. We're going to show you how his wife is battling her husband's captors. All that coming up, lots of breaking news this hour. Stay with us.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, breaking news here in the Middle East. Tonight a major shake-up in the Israeli Army command. A new general is put in charge of coordinating the war against Hezbollah. This just hours before the nation's Security Cabinet set to decide whether to expand the battle even more.
Other breaking news we're following, Israeli gunships shell Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp. The Associated Press reports at least one person was killed, three others wounded. It's the first time Israel has attacked the camp in almost a month of fighting against Hezbollah guerrillas.
And in the United States tonight, two high-profile Democrats are waiting for news about their futures. Senator Joe Lieberman is facing a serious challenge in the Connecticut Democratic Primary still underway right now, and in Georgia, the polls have closed just a short while ago in a primary runoff that could unseat Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The votes are being tallied right now. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's get some more now on the breaking news we're following. A serious shake-up in the command structure of Israel's military dealing with Lebanon. CNN's Jim Clancy is in Beirut standing by. Let's bring back John Roberts though. He's along the border with Lebanon following all of these developments.
John, first of all, the decision by the Israeli Army chief of staff to bring in a new deputy, someone new to take charge of this war and this coming only hours before the Israeli Security Cabinet set to decide whether to expand the military ground offensive.
ROBERTS: And Major General Dan Halutz of the Northern Command has been the one who has been in charge of this war.
And just a little while ago, General Dan Halutz, who is the chief of staff, appointed his deputy, Moshe Kaplinski, to take over sort of overall control of the ground war, to watch the ground war which really is -- and help coordinate it, which really is, by any sense of the words, just an absolute lack of confidence in what Adam has been doing so far. I mean, you don't take your top general out the fight in the middle of a war. This really would seem to be a slap in the face to Adam.
Now, there has been a tremendous amount of controversy, a tremendous amount of criticism here in Israel from the hardline side who say that this ground invasion did not ramp up fast enough, did not go far enough, the war has not been conducted appropriately. That's why they're taking so many casualties, that's why those rockets continue to fall into northern Israel. Something needs to be done.
There's a plan on the table right now before the Security Cabinet to expand the ground war to put probably another third of the number of boots on the ground, bring up a reserve division and send them in.
That could happen in the next 48 hours, sources have told CNN, in addition to additional airstrikes and more of those special forces raids that we saw in places like Baalbeck and Tyre, in Baalbeck where they went into the hospital and they five Hezbollah fighters, according to the IDF, and what happened in Tyre where they went into an apartment building which was housing civilian on a number of floors.
But on the top floor, according to the IDF, was a Hezbollah command and control facility which was handling all of those rockets being fired out of the area of Tyre toward Haifa. So a lot more of that is what's expected if this major ground campaign goes ahead.
But what's unclear, Wolf, is whether or not they would actually go ahead with a major invasion of southern Lebanon as they did in the early 1980s, or whether this might be some sort of a head fake simply to put more pressure on Lebanon to say this is what is going to happen if you do not get on the diplomatic track, if you do not agree to a cessation of hostilities in a certain framework that would be satisfactory to Israel. Right now there's not a lot of faith in Israel that the Lebanese army can handle security in the south of Lebanon. They want to see that international stabilization force brought in, Wolf, so this may be pressure to bring Lebanon around to the Israeli way of thinking, though no way of knowing whether or not Lebanon would actually go for that.
BLITZER: John Roberts on the border between Israel and Lebanon. John, thank you.
Let's go to Jim Clancy in Beirut. He's watching the other breaking news that we're following this hour, Israel for the first time now shelling Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp. The IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, saying they were targeting what they called a militant -- a Hezbollah militant's home in this refugee camp.
Jim Clancy, what do we know?
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the top Fatah official in Lebanon, Sultan Abu Al Ainon, this was not targeting a home. It targeted an administration building in the Ain Al Helweh refugee camp just opposite Sidon, 30 miles south of Beirut. The sprawling camp is home to some 100,000 Palestinians. Some of those Palestinians do have arms.
He says that the Israelis were sending a message to the international community, a message that they tend to implement by force, if necessary, 1559, which among others things, calls for the disarming of all militant groups in Lebanon, including the PLO.
It could also be seen as a warning shot across the bow of the Palestinians to stay out of any expanded ground operations in southern Lebanon against the Hezbollah. So far there has been no indication that the PLO is giving support to Hezbollah in any way, but this shot across the bow may further discourage that.
Although one person -- according to THE SITUATION ROOM source, one person was killed, two others were wounded in the these helicopter gunship attacks that fired five rounds at that administration building. We could see the building was heavily damaged, steel- reinforced concrete torn apart as rescue workers tried to get in there and pull people out -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Jim, if we take a look at the latest strikes in and around where are you in Beirut, you said something fascinating to me just a little while ago, that during one of these Israeli airstrikes, you could literally feel the building where you are, you could feel it start shaking, the vibrations that you felt, this being a major city in the eastern Mediterranean. Talk a little about what it feel like when the Israeli Air Force comes in.
CLANCY: Well, when the Israeli Air Force comes in, people's heads go up. They circle in the sky, and there's the sense something is going to happen. People are all watching that. That's sometimes. Depending on the wind shifting -- and you know this, Wolf. You don't even hear it coming, all you hear perhaps is the jet when it accelerates. Well, when it's accelerating, that means it's already dropped its payload and you're going to hear the thunderous crash of the bombs hitting.
But tonight, when you look at this, you heard Dore Gold say we used too much air power. The view from Lebanon is Israel has used too much military power trying to go against a movement instead of a government. Hezbollah is a movement. It's not effective. You talk about the shakeup in the military. This is an operation that's in trouble.
BLITZER: Jim Clancy, thank you very much. Jim Clancy on the scene for us in Beirut tonight.
And just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to take you back to the frontlines of this Middle Eastern war. CNN's Anderson Cooper is standing by and he will join us live in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's on the frontlines.
Also, Israel's interrogation of a captured militant -- what he's saying about Hezbollah and its ties to Iran. We're going to show you the videotape that's been released by the Israeli army. Stay with us.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. We're following breaking news in Israel in this war, nearly a month old. A new Israeli general has been tapped to coordinate Israel's military campaign in Lebanon. The new assignment for Major General Moshe Kaplinski is seen my many here in Israel as a slap against the head of Israel's Northern Command, Major General Udi Adam.
And there's other breaking news in this conflict as well. CNN has just confirmed this hour that Israeli helicopter gunships have shelled Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, causing a number of casualties. The Israel Defense Force says the target was a Hezbollah militant's home that was inside the camp.
And we're getting new information now on this shakeup in the Israeli military command structure earlier tonight. The chief of staff of the Israeli army, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz announced he was bringing someone in to take charge of all of the military operations in Lebanon, that would be Lieutenant General Moshe Kaplinski. He would oversee the northern commander, Major General Udi Adam.
Now just a little while ago, General Adam, who is now being -- who is getting a new commander, if you will, right in the middle of this war -- he was asked by Israel Television, General Adam, the northern commander, whether he would resign. He said he did not intend to quit while the fighting was still going on.
He said this. Let me read to you what he told Israel Television, quote, "At this stage, one has to rise above it. I have to keep my head clear for the war. There are soldiers in the field who are fighting with courage. Soldiers are being killed. I don't think I can abandon them now." That statement coming from Major General Udi Adam, who's now being replaced as the overall commander of the Israeli military operation in Lebanon. Israel is also getting some new and valuable insight from a captured fighter. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now with details and video of that Hezbollah fighter's interrogation. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Israeli military says this young man is a Hezbollah fighter involved in the raid that started this war.
TODD (voice over): An alleged Hezbollah fighter talks about the operation that triggered this conflict. On videotape provided by the Israeli military, translated by CNN, he discusses the mission's objective.
HUSSEIN ALI SULEIMAN, CAPTURED HEZBOLLAH FIGHTER (through translator): It was to capture soldiers as prisoners.
TODD: Israeli sources tell CNN this 22-year-old believed to be named Hussein Ali Suleiman was part of a unit that backed up the Hezbollah fighters who took two Israeli soldiers hostage on July 12th. The Israeli military says it captured Suleiman several days later.
In this interrogation video, Suleiman speaks broadly about that raid.
SULEIMAN: The main aim wasn't accomplished, but the secondary aim was to serve a severe blow to the positions.
TODD: In one key exchange he talks about his training.
SULEIMAN: I underwent a maneuver, two maneuvers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When was the first maneuver session?
SULEIMAN: At the end of 2003.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you do it?
SULEIMAN: In Iran.
TODD: An Iranian official at the United Nations would not comment on that. Officials in Tehran have recently denied any operational contact with Hezbollah. But Mideast experts say Iran's widely reported backing of Hezbollah does include training.
KARIM SADJADPOUR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: They are getting military training, but it is almost a type of political and religious indoctrination which is also taking place.
TODD: Israeli officials tell CNN they do not engage in torture, and Suleiman was not coerced into making these statements. But a Human Rights Watch official says the airing of this video could violate a clause of the Geneva Conventions.
LUCY MAIR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Actually putting the detainee's identity and his face on a video in front of a television audience could be putting him at risk and could be considered inhumane treatment.
TODD: Israeli officials dispute the claim that this is degrading in any way. They say the Geneva Conventions apply to soldiers in uniform who uphold the laws of war. Hezbollah, they say, does neither. A former top general in the Israeli military told me he does not believe the airing of this videotape puts Suleiman's life at risk -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right Brian, thank you. And among the breaking news we're covering tonight, Israeli helicopter gun ships have just shelled Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon. This, the Israeli defense forces, say the air strike targeting a Hezbollah militant's house. Earlier Hezbollah fired 145 rocket into towns in northern Israel. And one of those rocket attacks was recorded by an Israeli resident and sent to CNN. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has more -- Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this was the scene in Safed, in north of Israel earlier today. You can actually see the rocket flying into the screen there before the smoke rices. This is a town that is less than 10 miles from the Lebanese border. Residents of Safed sent this video into CNN using I-Report. He took this from his balcony in his apartment in the middle of the town. He has remained there even though his son tells us that about three-quarters of the town's residents have left already because of these frequent rocket attacks. They said that they're now hearing between five and 20 sirens like this a day -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much. Still ahead tonight, more on the breaking news we're following in the Middle East war. CNN's Anderson Cooper standing by to join us. He's near the Israeli/Lebanese border. We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: We're monitoring all of the latest developments in the Middle East crisis. We want to bring in CNN's Anderson Cooper. He's joining us near the Israeli/Lebanese border. Anderson, listen to this, because only seconds ago, while we were in that commercial break, we heard this sound coming from right behind you. Listen to this.
Anderson, talk a little bit about what we just heard because it sounds very frightening, at least to those of us who are a little further away from it than you are.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, basically we're in an Israeli artillery position and all across this northern border, as you know Wolf of Israel and Lebanon, there are artillery positions which just around the clock are firing shells into positions in south Lebanon. Most of them have an accuracy to about 20 kilometers or so. So they have been progressively moving these guns further and further north, pressing them as close as they can to the border to support operations that have been going on. But basically it's around the clock occurrence. Just while you were playing that tape, another round here went off. No doubt if we speak here for much longer, another round will go off. It is the constant give and take, outgoing artillery, incoming Katyusha rackets. It happens really all day long.
BLITZER: Anderson, we have been following this breaking news for the past hour or so. We learned of this major shakeup in the Israeli military command structure. They're bringing a new general in to take charge of Israel's military operations in Lebanon, suggesting to some analysts here in Israel that perhaps the military command does not have a whole lot of confidence in the way the current northern commander was conducting this war. We just heard that loud bang right behind you once again, Anderson. How tough has it been for Israeli forces going into Lebanon now a month into the war?
COOPER: It is very difficult. I mean, I think early on there was a belief that perhaps from the air they could achieve, at least get closer to their objectives. At a certain point they realize look, you've got to have boots on the grown. You've got to have soldiers operating in small units and now they have as many as 10,000 Israeli forces inside southern Lebanon.
And again, the shelling just continues. I was embedded just in the last 14 hours yesterday with an Israeli unit. And I mean, you really get a sense when you're on the ground in south Lebanon just how difficult it is. I mean, we were going to position to a Hezbollah stronghold that was only about a mile or so away from the border. It took us 14 hours.
The main road to this position was booby trapped. I actually saw one of the IEDs myself. It was all set to explode had the Israeli forces taken that main road. They know the roads are booby trapped. So basically they have to create their own roads. This is mountainous, hilly terrain. It is extremely difficult. One they get into these towns, they have to go house to house, down each street.
And these are positions that Hezbollah has been able to maintain and fortify for many years now since Israel pulled out in 2000. It is the worst kind of combat environment for Israeli forces. It is classic guerrilla war, but what makes it even worse is that Hezbollah isn't just a classic guerrilla force. They're also state funded. They receive large amounts of money obviously from Iran, logistical support from Syria. So on the one hand, you have these jihadist fighters with that jihadist intensity of Hezbollah and guerrilla campaign, and yet they are well funned, well armed and well trained, Wolf.
BLITZER: We keep hearing that shelling gone on behind you. Anderson, a very, very frightening sound. And you can only imagine where those shells are going and the potential damage that they're contributing. You spent a lot of time now with the Israeli military. How well organized do they sense Hezbollah fighters are?
COOPER: Very well organized. Certainly not as well organized as the Israel military. I mean, we're not talking about a standing army here. And it's hard to know from this vantage point how -- how organized Hezbollah is in terms of whether it is small cells operating more or less autonomously. It does seem that there is coordination, certainly, but also a high level of freedom of action of each of these Hezbollah units in their region, reporting to sort of a regional commander. Obviously Israel has tried to disrupt as much as possible their central organization, trying to target their leadership, also trying to target their supply lines. But CNN's Michael Ware, who was just in the Bekaa Valley over the last 48 hours or so reporting that those supply lines are still open, the main roads may be knocked out, but Hezbollah forces are still able to get supplies and still able to get instructions out to their fighters in the field and that's why this fighting continues.
BLITZER: Anderson, be careful over there, thanks very much. And to our viewers, we want to point out what you know, Anderson is going to have two hours of live television coming up from the front lines along the border with Israel and Lebanon. "A.C. 360" airs 10:00 p.m. Eastern. You'll want to stick around and see that. Also coming up, much more on the breaking news we're following here in the Middle East war and Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman. He's fighting for his own political life tonight. We're going to go live to Connecticut for the latest on the Democratic primary. Live from Jerusalem, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's been a major shakeup in the Israeli military. They decided to put a new general in charge of all Israeli military operations in Lebanon. This as the first month of this war winds up, month No. 2 about to begin. And with the raging tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, it may be easy to forget what actually sparked this war. It began when Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Now the wife of one of them says she's fighting for her own personal war to try to get her husband back. CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us from Los Angeles with details. Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Karnit Goldwasser just left here in Los Angeles today after making personal appeals in New York, Chicago and Washington, everywhere. She's trying to raise awareness about her husband, who was a student and a reservist in the Israeli army.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): She came to America seeking support and solidarity for a husband kidnapped and held captive.
KARNIT GOLDWASSER, WIFE OF KIDNAPPED ISRAELI SOLDIER: I can feel it in my heart, I know that he is still alive because we have a special communication between us.
LAWRENCE: Karnit Goldwasser has been married to Ehud for 10 months. On July 13th he was scheduled to finish his month long military service that's mandatory for most Israelis. On July 12th, he and another soldier were kidnapped by Hezbollah near the Lebanese border.
GOLDWASSER: The hardest part is to go sleep alone and to wake up alone.
LAWRENCE: Goldwasser and her family have traveled to Paris, London, Los Angeles, appealing for Ehud's release.
EHUD DANOCH, ISRAELI CONSUL GENERAL: She's not going to give up.
LAWRENCE: Israeli Council General Ehud Danoch spent almost every minute with Goldwasser during her visit to Los Angeles.
Is she trying to keep the pressure on the negotiators not to accept a cease-fire without the release of the Israeli prisoners?
DANOCH: Someone decides to kidnap your child, what are you going to do? How are you going to face it? You're going to do everything to bring them back. And the government of Israel promised that they're going to do everything in their power, and they will, to bring our kidnapped soldiers safely home.
LAWRENCE: Ehud Goldwasser's kidnapping helped start this conflict. For his wife, only his return will finish it.
GOLDWASSER: The end will be only when I can be with Udi in quiet and peace, and have our dinner not in the bomb shelter.
LAWRENCE: Once Goldwasser returns home, she's expected to meet with political leaders in Israel and drive home her and other families point that any cease-fire must include the prisoners' release -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence, thank you very much -- Chris Lawrence in L.A. Let's go to New York. Paula Zahn standing by with a preview of what's coming up at the top of the hour. Paula?
PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: Thanks so much, Wolf. Tonight on our top story coverage, we're going to get live updates on all of that breaking news you've been covering from the front lines. We will also take an in-depth look at some of the diplomatic efforts. And rival peace plans that may eventually stop the fighting. The question of the night though is when and also when does a picture need a thousand words? How about when it's been doctored by someone with a computer? We're going to show you a dramatic war photograph before and after it was altered. And I'll ask a top story panel how often this happens and what, the consuming public, needs to be aware about there. See you all at the top of hour. Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Paula. We'll be watching. And still ahead, there's only minutes to go until the polls close in Connecticut. Will Senator Joe Lieberman keep his job? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Looking at a live picture of Hartford, Connecticut. In less than minute, the polls will close in Connecticut and soon we'll know whether Joe Lieberman will win the Democratic primary. Stay with CNN tonight for complete coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. Much more of our special coverage coming up tomorrow. Let's go to New York. "PAULA ZAHN NOW" starts -- Paula?
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