Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Aftermath of Strike on Beirut Suburb; Arab League Delegates Prepare to Address U.N.; Israel Points to Iran, Syria

Aired August 8, 2006 - 12:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: "Do not drive." Israel sends an ominous warning to residents in south Lebanon. A major operation could be just hours away.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A tough slog. One month into the battle, an up close and personal look at Israel's Defense Forces. And they say it cannot be under estimated.

GORANI: Hello and welcome to YOUR WORLD TODAY.

I'm Hala Gorani, reporting from Beirut.

SWEENEY: And in Haifa, Israel, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. We're covering the story for you from both sides of the Israeli-Lebanese border here on YOUR WORLD TODAY.

As the Israeli military considers a deeper push into south Lebanon and drops leaflets with a stark new warning, diplomats are struggling to keep a draft cease-fire plan alive.

GORANI: And Arabs are taking their case to the United Nations as the Lebanese government proposal to send thousands of Lebanese army troops to southern Lebanon is called "interesting" by Israel.

All right. We'll get to the diplomatic efforts on how to resolve this conflict in just a moment, four weeks into the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

But first, this story.

Israel, as Fionnuala mentioned there, is warning residents in southern Lebanon not to drive, saying it is a war zone and they have a risk of being hit by an airstrike. Leaflets warn that any car moving south of the Litani River could be targeted on suspicion of carrying weapons for Hezbollah. This comes as both sides keep up their cross- border attacks.

Jim Clancy looks at the aftermath of a deadly Israeli strike on a Beirut suburb.


JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Lebanese workers brought in heavy equipment to help in their search, removing large blocks of steel-reinforced concrete shattered by Monday night's explosion. Still much of the work in the southern suburb called Shia (ph) is being done by hand. Chaotic at times, the effort is continuing in the belief more people lie die dead or wounded under the collapsed apartment block.

"There are a lot of wounded and we're expecting more bodies," said this volunteer. He estimated more than 20 people had been killed in the bombing.

(on camera): Rescue workers are particularly concerned about buildings adjacent to the blast site. As they try to search for more survivors or recover more bodies, they fear that those damaged buildings could collapse on top of them at any time.

(voice over): Already, Tuesday morning, one worker suffered head injuries due to falling debris around the site. He was hustled off into a ambulance and taken away.

The entire neighborhood is a scene of devastation. The walls of apartments ripped open by the force of the bomb blast. Down on the street, anxious relatives gripped one another and wept, fearing the worst for missing family members. Others stood in the street gazing at the rubble, amazed that by a simple twist of fate, their lives had been spared.

"I was in the street with friends when we heard an earthquake," said this man. His family was all outside shopping when the Israeli airstrike collapsed their entire building.

Once again, people living here insist there were no militants living in this area, no Hezbollah arms or offices, no command and control centers. It's an area visibly supportive, not of Hezbollah, but Amal, a rival Shia political faction.

Some at this scene mocked the Israeli military's claims of strength and accused it of waging war on defenseless civilians. But for most, it was enough to keep digging and hoping an end to all of this will come soon.

Jim Clancy, CNN, Beirut.


GORANI: Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts continue, and Lebanon's allies insist that there should be an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops as part of any cease-fire deal. There is an Arab League delegation at the New York U.N. headquarters, making their case at an open session of the U.N. Security Council. Now, it calls a U.S. French proposal to leave Israeli soldiers inside of Lebanon unacceptable, saying Lebanon's offer to deploy those soldiers to the south is the best way to push back Hezbollah.


YAHYA MAHMASSANI, AMB. OF ARAB LEAGUE TO U.N.: There is no reason for Hezbollah to fire missiles if the Israelis are not attacking us. And this has been said by the spokesman of Hezbollah. The whole -- the whole issue here is that Israel is occupying our country. As long as Israeli troops are on our land, there is every reason for every Lebanese, not only Hezbollah, for every Lebanese to resist that occupation.

The cause -- the roots of the whole issue, Israel's presence on Lebanese territory. And this is to what we're objecting.


GORANI: The Arab League ambassador to the United Nations there. We have a good idea what the Arab League delegates will tell the U.N. But, will it have any impact?

Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, joins us now live with more on that.

Are we expecting it to have any effect?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: I think you may see some effect of the Lebanese government announcement of moving 15,000 government troops to southern Lebanon. I think that is going to perhaps affect the judgment of Security Council members, considering the resolution which Lebanon has said is not balanced, that it's weighted unfairly in the direction of Israel because it allows Israel to keep thousands of its troops on Lebanese soil.

The Security Council is going to hear the Arab envoys in about three and a half hours. Then there's likely to be some consultations among the permanent members of the Security Council after that meeting with the envoys, or at least some of the permanent members, certainly those working on the drafting of this resolution.

So there is no vote likely today, and it's unknown, Hala, if it's going to be tomorrow, which the French and American ambassadors met earlier today. They have been continuing, almost around the clock, these sessions. It was described by a diplomat as heavy work today. Yesterday, a French diplomat said the Lebanese troop announcement was a significant element in the discussions -- Hala.

GORANI: Now, Richard, is there an expectation that a Lebanese troop deployment might be included in any resolution language that might be voted on, or is the draft resolution we saw this weekend pretty much it with minor changes?

ROTH: Look, everything is up for negotiation. They could take note of Lebanon's announcement and keep plowing ahead and say that the U.N. peacekeeping mission there, the UNIFIL operation which Israel does not like, will continue in its original resolution role as monitoring the truce until a wider, robust force is deployed, and then Israel moves out. Or, they can take a more active role and wait and see if Lebanon wants to follow through on its actions.

I think that the United States is not going to trust at this moment Lebanon bringing those forces in and assuming Hezbollah will respect the government forces and disarm. I think the U.S. would trust more the international peacekeeping force filled with European troops, more battle-hardened. And we'll see what happens -- Hala. GORANI: All right. Richard Roth at the U.N.

Thanks -- Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: Well, as Security Council diplomats prepare to vote on a way to stop the fighting, Israel's cabinet prepares to meet to approve expanding military operations in southern Lebanon. And while Israel says any agreement must include a provision to disarm Hezbollah, it wants to study Beirut's decision to deploy 15,000 of its troops to patrol the southern border.


EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I'm not familiar yet with all the details. And what is the assistance needed for the Lebanese army? And what would be the structure of the forces that will join the Lebanese army? And what will be the strengths of these forces and the makeup of these forces? And what are the other conditions, if there are any conditions, that's represented by the Lebanese government?

So, I think that it will be fair to say that we studied these. It looks interesting.


SWEENEY: As Israel targets Hezbollah in Lebanon, it's also pointing accusing fingers at Syria and Iran. It's an effort partly aimed at world opinion, as our John Vause reports


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the battlefield Israeli soldiers are fighting Hezbollah. But the war, it seems, is with Iran and Syria.

For the past four weeks there's been a steady drumbeat of accusations. The Israeli military released this videotape allegedly showing a Hezbollah militant confessing to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers last month after receiving training in Iran.

"How did you get to Iran?" he's asked. "We left Beirut in a car, a Range Rover sort of car, a Hezbollah car," he answers.

More evidence, says Israel, a Hezbollah drone shot down by Israeli fighter jets allegedly made in Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's, in fact, a Syrian rocket.

VAUSE: Israel also accuses Syria of arming Hezbollah. This videotape, says Israel, shows Syrian trucks crossing the border into Lebanon before being hit by an Israeli airstrike. And when the U.S. president spoke with reporters on Monday, he referred to Hezbollah and its sponsors on six occasions.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Syria and Iran sponsor and promote Hezbollah activities.

Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian sponsors...

Hezbollah and its sponsors...

Hezbollah and its sponsors...

Hezbollah and its sponsors...

Hezbollah, through is sponsors of Iran and Syria, are trying to stop that advance of democracy.

VAUSE: Repeatedly, Israel has said it wants to avoid a direct fight with Syria and Iran. So why make these accusations?

DAVID HOROVITZ, EDITOR, "JERUSALEM POST": The sense in Israel and, like I said, in the United States, is that much of the rest of the world doesn't understand what's at stake here and needs to have a better understanding so that it can better gear up and prevail in this absolutely existential conflict.

VAUSE (on camera): Israeli military sources say the only way to beat Hezbollah long term is to stop the weapons, training and support coming from Damascus and Tehran. And the only way to do that, they say, short of all-out war, is through pressure from the international community.

John Vause, CNN, Jerusalem.


GORANI: We'll have a lot more from the region in just a moment. But first, a look at other stories making headlines around the world. And we start in northern Sri Lanka.

The international aid group Action Against Hunger has said it has found the bodies of two more of its aid workers. People in the northern port city of Trincomalee reacted to the news. Seventeen aid workers were found shot to death there on Sunday. It's in a province where heavy fighting is going on between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The dead include 16 Tamils, members of Sri Lanka's largest ethic minority. The other was a Muslim. The government and the rebels blame each other for the killings.

SWEENEY: Bombings and a bank robbery have made for a chaotic day in the Iraqi capital. Police say gunmen stormed a bank in northern Baghdad. They killed three guards and two employees, stole money and fled the seen.

Elsewhere in the capital, two bombs went off in a busy market place. Ten people were killed and 69 wounded in those attacks.

Hours earlier, there were bombings in central Baghdad. Two targeted police patrols wounding six people, and nine people were killed in a series of explosions nearby.

GORANI: Well, the war in Iraq is an issue weighing heavily on the minds of U.S. voters. In a moment, we'll take a look at how many eyes are on one U.S. state in particular.

SWEENEY: Also ahead, assessing Lebanon's ability to patrol its own southern border and Israel's insistence that the mission of any force be to disarm Hezbollah.

Stay with us.


SWEENEY: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States, around the world as well.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney reporting from Haifa, Israel.

GORANI: And I'm Hala Gorani in Beirut.

Even areas in Lebanon and in Beirut that were considered somewhat safer, like the Shia neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut, were hit by an Israeli airstrike yesterday. An entire building was leveled. You saw the report there from our Jim Clancy a bit earlier this hour.

I'm joined now by one of the rescue workers who spent all night, who hasn't slept yet, in fact, I understand. Haidar Abdelnabi, from the Lebanese Red Cross, has been involved in some of those rescue efforts and can describe the scene for us.

Haidar, thanks for being with us.

First of all, tell me what the scene was like when you first got there.

HAIDAR ABDELNABI, LEBANESE RED CROSS: Last night actually was a terrible night. After we heard a huge sound, due to the bombs in Shia (ph) -- actually, Shia (ph) contains a lot of civilians. And we consider -- we conclude that there will be a lot of civilians, injured civilians (INAUDIBLE).

GORANI: And was that the case? Is that what you found when you got there? Describe some of those who were injured and some of those who were killed, Haidar.

ABDELNABI: Sure. The target building was made up of eight floors. But now it's only destruction.

There are -- there are about 35 killed people, and a lot of injured persons, a lot. Most of the injured were children, women, old men, and some young men. You know...

GORANI: And what kind of injuries? Describe to me the scene.

You are an emergency medical rescue worker. ABDELNABI: Yes.

GORANI: You weren't involved in digging people from the rubble, you were involved in treating them once they got out of -- from under the rubble in the building. What kind of injuries did you see?

ABDELNABI: The injured look like they were burned or something, like the bombs contains a different -- strange materials, I don't know. It might be illegal bombs.

GORANI: All right. We don't know that, though, so we're not going to make that claim.


GORANI: But tell me, this morning, there are still people you fear trapped under the building?

ABDELNABI: Sure. They said that there are 17 trapped people inside the destruction. And we are still working for now. Yes.

GORANI: I understand you haven't slept since you got to the scene.


GORANI: Are you going back?



ABDELNABI: Sure. I'm going back.

GORANI: All right.

Haidar Abdelnabi of the Lebanese Red Cross, thanks so much for joining us here on CNN.

ABDELNABI: You are welcome.

GORANI: All right.

Fionnuala, back to you in Haifa.

SWEENEY: Well, we'll have a lot more on the situation in Lebanon a little bit later. But when we come back, we look at a race that's turning out to be a key test of American sentiment on the Iraq war.


He has been a political staple in Connecticut for years, but critics say he can't be forgiven for supporting the war in Iraq.

Coming up.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes.

First, let's check on the headlines. Here's what we know right now about what is happening with the Middle East.

Arab League envoys go before the U.N. Security Council in just a few hours. They want changes to a draft resolution designed to end the fighting. The main demand, the call for an immediate Israeli troop withdrawal from Lebanon.

Despite the diplomacy, Israel says it may widen its military campaign, now in its 28th day. All the while, Hezbollah guerrillas are lobbing more rockets into northern Israel.

Gas prices seem to be holding steady today despite the shutdown of a major oil operation in Alaska. BP America says it has to replace 16 miles of its Prudhoe Bay pipeline. The field is the nation's single biggest source of domestic crude. That could drive up prices at the pump, especially on the West Coast. The repairs could take a few weeks or maybe even months.

Where you are may decide what you pay when you fill up. Here's a price check around the nation.

Beginning in the West, Los Angeles checks in with much higher than average prices. Seattle and Denver within a few pennies of the norm.

Prices surge again in Chicago and New York.

In the South, Atlanta's prices are a bit below average. And Dallas is a bargain, relatively speaking, of course.

Gas prices are also fueling painful memories from the 1970s for many drivers. According to a new poll from the Opinion Research Corporation, more than a third of Americans are worried about higher gas prices. But, interestingly, about half say they're more concerned about long lines and rationing.

The same poll asked Americans if the jump if gas prices is causing hardships for their family. Nearly two-thirds say yes. One third of those polled say no.

Rescue efforts are under way at a construction site in downtown Phoenix. A construction worker is pinned in his tractor after a huge section of concrete collapsed.

Crews have been trying to free the man since just before dawn this morning. The fire department says the man is conscious and talking, but seriously injured.

It's a glass half full, half empty kind of prediction. Almost halfway through the hurricane season, hurricane experts are cutting back this year's forecast to 12 to 15 named stores and seven to nine hurricanes. That still would be above average, though. And three or four of those hurricanes could be big ones that would require evacuations.


MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: I'm deeply concerned about this lack of public preparedness as we enter the peak of the hurricane season, which is still predicted to be above average. And I can't help but recall some conversations from the last few hurricane seasons, people who have been through hurricanes. I keep hearing the same message over and over, people who had a hurricane plan did much better than people who did not have a plan.


KAGAN: Jacqui Jeras giving us more on that, as well as the weather picture.

Hi, Jacqui.



KAGAN: Two well-known Democrats are facing major challenges from within their own parties today. Polls show Senator Joe Lieberman trailing among Connecticut voters, but the primary race has tightened in recent days. Lieberman's opponent is a virtual unknown, but Ned Lamont has capitalized on Democratic anger over Lieberman's support of the Iraq war.

And do you remember this woman, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney? She made headlines most recently with a confrontation with a Capitol Hill Police officer. Today, the six-term lawmaker is locked in a heated runoff in Georgia with a former county commissioner.

And then when it comes to political debate, words and accusations can fly, but have you seen chairs? Take a look at this.


It's not -- it's not right.


KAGAN: Ouch. Furniture flying during a debate on a cable access channel. It happened after one candidate called the other one "fat." The men are vying for a county commission seat in the Tampa area.

Gentlemen, gentlemen.

Ahead on CNN's "LIVE FROM" at the top of the hour, a relief worker talks about the many obstacles in getting aid to the people of Lebanon.

Meanwhile, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break. I'm Daryn Kagan.



I'm Fionnuala Sweeney, reporting from Haifa, Israel.

GORANI: And I'm Hala Gorani, in Beirut.

We'll have a lot more of our coverage on the continuing crisis in the Middle East, but here are some of the other top stories we're following for you this hour.

Iraq's prime minister has sharply criticized an attack on a Shiite militia stronghold in Baghdad. Nuri al-Maliki said he had not authorized the attack carried out by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Sadr City. He said the raid could undermine his efforts at national reconciliation.

Meanwhile, at least 19 people were killed in a string of bombings across the Iraqi capital, and gunmen killed ten people in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.

Delegates from the Arab League are headed to New York to raise Lebanon's concerns at the United Nations. Arab foreign ministers meeting in Beirut Monday argued a draft resolution on the conflict favors Israel and fails to take Lebanon's stability into account. Among their objections, the fact the draft doesn't call for immediate Israel withdrawal.

On the eve of a cabinet meeting to approve expanding military operations in southern Lebanon, Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says Beirut's decision to deploy 15,000 soldiers in the south is an, quote, "interesting step." But he said Hezbollah should be disarmed. Israel's defense minister has already ordered the army to take control of Hezbollah areas south of the Lebanon's Litani River.


SWEENEY: Its youngest soldiers weren't born last time Israel battled Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, but the commanders who lead them say they face a better trained and better armed force than they remember.

John Roberts is with the vanguard of Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under cover of night, an elite army reserve unit prepares to strike out across the border. Their faces painted black, briefed on the battle plan, they put boots on the ground. Destination? A hot zone, some seven miles inside southern Lebanon. (on camera): We've been walking for a couple of miles now. We stopped to drink a little bit of water. The going has been hard. Up one hill, down another. Very, very dusty.

But it's an amazingly clear night here in south Lebanon. The moon was up a little while ago. Now the moon is down. It's much darker than it was before. It's just a sky full of stars. Somewhat at odds with the action on the ground, this peaceful night.

(voice-over): Before daybreak, the unit enters an abandoned house near the Lebanese town of Rajamin, their base of operations for the next 24 hours.

Richard, last name withheld, is one of the senior officers.

RICHARD: We're using all the forces available to us. Army, tanks and our air force, to fight these fundamentalist terrorists.

ROBERTS: The mission is to identify and suppress possible Hezbollah positions. They scout the hills with powerful binoculars, and cameras that can bring far-off villagers into sharp focus, then dispatch patrols to probe nearby ground and buildings.

Obey (ph) is the fire control officer. He doesn't like this terrain. Hezbollah guerrillas, he says, could hide there. So he calls in artillery. Within moments the hill is ablaze with incoming fire and smoke.

The company is under constant threat from Hezbollah missiles and snipers. So the unit's own sharp-shooters keep a hair trigger alert.

(on camera): Moments ago some intelligence came in that this location may be targeted by Hezbollah. We heard the tanks start opening fire a couple of seconds ago, and now these soldiers have taken a very aggressive defensive posture.

(voice-over): Commanders evacuate another platoon from the building next door. Not long after, mortars hit close by. The stress of battle weighs on these civilian soldiers.

Oded Norman (ph) is an attorney by trade.

Tomer Cohen (ph) was to have graduated acting school on this day. Instead, he is in the theater of war.

TOMER COHEN (ph), ISRAELI SOLDIER: Lebanon is a cursed country for us.

ROBERTS: Conditions here are extreme. Everyone succumbs to exhaustion. And the mission to route Hezbollah fighters is frustrating. A volley of Katyushas that fly right overhead is proof of that.

Nedad (ph) is the major in command of the platoon that we're embedded with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not to be underestimated.

ROBERTS: The soldiers move constantly. Staying too long in one place invites attacks. They find a new position and fire rockets into the building to make sure it's clear.

As diplomacy moves forward, the mission to degrade Hezbollah's potency becomes more urgent. There is little faith among these soldiers that an expanded U.N. force can provide a barrier to the attacks and they fear they may be in Lebanon for a long time to come.

CAPTAIN RICHARD, ISRAELI SOLDIER: The reality is that the only force that Israel can rely on to protect the citizens of Israel is the Israel Defense Forces. There's not been a great track record of other people protecting the Jewish people and the people of Israel.

ROBERTS (on camera): We're pulling back to Israel after two days in the field. And after spending 48 hours with this unit we get a greater appreciation for just how difficult this battle really is. It would appear that in this conflict, neither side will be able to claim victory in the classic sense of military versus military, state versus state. The overarching question in the Middle East -- can there ever be peace?

John Roberts, CNN, deep inside Southern Lebanon.


GORANI: Well, military analysts say Lebanon's proposal to send 15,000 troops to the southern part of the country is significant; mainly because the Lebanese central government hasn't controlled that border in decades.

Here's what we know about the Lebanese army. In July, the Lebanese president warned the army it would resist an invasion force. But, so far, the army's response to the Israeli offensive has been ineffectual. It has failed to deter airstrikes by the Israeli military; has not participated, essentially. Although there is a significant Lebanese troop presence in the southern. Hezbollah has controlled the southern border since the Israeli withdrawal in 2000.

SWEENEY: Israeli officials are skeptical the Lebanese army can ever gain full control of the border.


DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: The Lebanese government has had at least six years to deploy its forces in the south. To expect them to do it now, when they have no power and no authority after they've relinquished their sovereignty to Hezbollah and let themselves and the whole country be held hostage by the Hezbollah, seems to me very, very unrealistic.


SWEENEY: Well, for a more complete assessment of Lebanon's military readiness, we're joined by David Hartwell in London. He is the Middle East editor for "Jane's Country Risk."

Thank you for joining us.

There are a lot of variables here. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Lebanese army, should it go into Lebanon?

DAVID HARTWELL, "JANE'S COUNTRY RISK": In a sense, it depends what mandates and what rules of engagement they're going to be working under. I think the major problem is that the Lebanese armed forces just simply aren't up to the task of facing down Hezbollah. They're technologically weaker, their capability is just not as strong. They have no armor capability, no artillery capability. Which is, you know, the major reason why they've held back from the conflict so far -- major reason why they haven't deployed to the south to try and deter Hezbollah.

SWEENEY: Well, if the Lebanese proposal by the government has its way, they are recommending or proposing that Israel withdraw, hand over what it's secured to UNIFIL, and UNIFIL will then transfer that to the Lebanese army. All to take place within 72 hours. But a lot can happen, can it not, in 72 hours?

HARTWELL: Absolutely. It's questionable whether the Lebanese armed forces are going to be able to move and occupy the land in that amount of time. I mean, clearly, they seem to be working in conjunction with Hezbollah. And that's because Hezbollah would not be looking to cede control of the ground to the Lebanese armed forces by choice. I think they've always been faced with the prospect of -- is occupation by Israeli armed forces, or allowing the Lebanese armed forces to extend their control to southern Lebanon.

I think the interesting point to talk about is the Israeli response. They haven't dismissed out of hand, as you saw from Prime Minister Olmert's comments a few minute ago. And so it's interesting from that point of view, because Israel is going to looking, really, for some sort of concrete guarantees, not only from the Lebanese armed forces, but also from the insider community that Lebanon -- that the armed forces -- Lebanese armed forces, Lebanese army, are going to be able to take effective steps to be able to hold the ground from Hezbollah during the time it takes for a U.N. peacekeeping force to deploy, which could be -- looking at timeframes at the moment -- it's more likely to be weeks than days.

SWEENEY: And, from your standpoint, what would be the most effective way to use the Lebanese army in this entire mix of many ingredients and variables?

HARTWELL: Essentially, the Lebanese armed forces have a role to play as the -- in the softer end of the military spectrum, if you like, and as a ridge between Hezbollah and Israeli armed forces. It's a halfway house, if you like, between Hezbollah control of southern Lebanon and IDF control of southern Lebanon. Essentially, what the Lebanese armed forces will be looking to do is essentially hold the ground, and then wait for international backup in form of a reinvigorated UNIFIL peacekeeping force. SWEENEY: But then, can that really take place? I mean, you're not sounding as though you're expressing a lot of confidence in the Lebanese army's ability to hold the ground for any period of time. It's all a question of timing here, isn't it?

HARTWELL: It is, indeed. It's a question of how much confidence the international community and the Israelis have in the Lebanese armed forces. It's by any measurable -- quantifiable measure, if you like -- Hezbollah are more capable armed forces than the Lebanese armed forces. They're going to have to operate in that area in southern Lebanon with the -- if not the acquiescence and the agreement of Hezbollah.

SWEENEY: We have to leave it there. We're out of time. But thank you very much. David Hartwell of "Jane's Country Risk" talking to us from London -- Hala.

GORANI: A quick break here on YOUR WORLD TODAY. When we return, what some are calling the real power in Lebanon, how Hezbollah does it and how its leader could emerge as one of the influential men in the Arab region. Stay with us.



BUSH: Hezbollah was, or is an armed movement that provoked the crisis. So whatever comes out of the resolutions must address that root cause.


GORANI: The U.S. president there on the group that is proving itself to be a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East. After nearly four weeks of battling the Israeli military, the mightiest force in the region, Hezbollah is surprising many by still standing its ground, and it's raising the status of the group and also of its leader.

Tom Foreman now with more on Hezbollah.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hezbollah may seem like many guerrilla armies, but military analysts say Hezbollah is much better prepared than most for open warfare. And its main strengths can be listed. Hezbollah is well trained and supplied by the Iranian military. Much has been made of its rockets, but the fighting has shown that Hezbollah also has plenty of quality rifles, anti-tank rockets, bomb-guidance systems, night-vision and communications gear, and its fighters know how to use them.

DAN BYMAN, CTR. FOR PEACE & SECURITY STUDIES: Hezbollah forces are brave. They know how to find cover. They know how to use their weapons effectively. Most guerrilla groups don't; they fight poorly, they run away in the face of danger. FOREMAN: Hezbollah is disciplined like an army. Unlike Hamas, which analysts say is only now developing that sort of organization, Hezbollah has a well-established command structure. Intelligence analysts say the 3,000 or so full-time fighters are directed by field commanders who have studied countless attacks on the Israeli military.

(on camera): Another thing Hezbollah has going for it is sheer geography. Their homeland here in Southern Lebanon is full of mountains, and trails and little villages, and they have had almost 25 years to dig in, to build tunnels and weapons caches and secret caves from which they can pop out and strike, and then, once again, disappear.

MIRI EISEN, ISRAELI GOVT. SPOKESPERSON: They've booby-trapped the entire area. They want us to walk into those booby-traps.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And Hezbollah has help. Decades of running social programs, hospitals and schools for Shiite Muslims have produced allies, willing to provide a haven for Hezbollah.

BYMAN: When Israel goes en masse to fight Hezbollah, Hezbollah disappears among the Lebanese, as we seen right now.

FOREMAN: And that is just the kind of tactic, just the kind of fight for which the army of Hezbollah has trained for many years.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


GORANI: Well, each new day that Hezbollah stands its ground, some analysts are saying it raised the group's profile, also perhaps even its influence through its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, that actually appears on television, the Hezbollah-sponsored Al-Manar Television, for instance.

Now 46 years old, the Shiite cleric joined Hezbollah in his early 20s, and was elected as its leader back in 1992. He is now known as a powerful speaker, a strong military commander and an avid student of Israeli military strategy. Nasrallah is also known as "Abu Hadi," or "father of Hadi," after his eldest son. He was killed by the Israelis in a firefight at 18. The name stands a constant reminder, he says and his supporters say, of his commitment to the fight.

He is revered by Shiite faithful in Lebanon, not all of them, let's be clear. They seem him as a leader who has earned them respect in a country long dominated, perhaps politically, by other factions.

All right, I'm joined by Rami Khouri. He is the editor-at-large of the "Daily Star."

Rami, put this in perspective for us -- Hassan Nasrallah, is he emerging as one of the most influential Arab leaders in the region, or is this just what it seems like, because this fight has lingered on for four weeks? RAMI KHOURI, EDITOR, "THE DAILY STAR": Well, he has certainly touched a chord all over the Arab world, and he has touched a cord of people who have been very anxious to have somebody in the Arab world finally stand up to the Israelis and fight them to a draw, so it seems.

But more important than that, I think, Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah needs to be seen as part of a wider movement that's been going on in this region for about, say, 15, 20 years, which is non- state actors, Islamist parties, resistance movements, making promises, delivering on their promises and development more credibility than often their own governments.

GORANI: Why, because of the failure of central governments in the Middle East, to deliver on their promises and to provide some services to their citizens?

KHOURI: I think there's three things. One is the constant barrage of Israeli and usually American either aggression, or subjugation or predatory policies that people are fed up with.

Second of all is the inability of Arab governments to provide people with their basic needs that they want, whether it's material needs, or even a sense of dignity or a sense of national satisfaction.

And third of all, I think people are fed up with living in a world in which ordinary citizens feel that they have no voice, that they can't make their views known, that they don't care for anything. And the Islamist movements have done that. OF course a lot of people are scared of them as well. They're not universally popular.

GORANI: They're not universally popular. Let's talk where they are not popular, because the perception we're getting from the outside sometimes is Hassan Nasrallah has achieved this Che Guevera status, everybody in the Arab world is behind him, but I walked down two streets from this hotel here, and I'm not hearing that.

KHOURI: Well, in this particular area, which is a very business- oriented area, very much part of the Hariri March 14th (ph) group, which is critical of Hezbollah, you're not going to hear it. There are, I would say, in Lebanon, probably a third of the population are very critical of him, but they won't say that in public.

In the Arab world, I would say the majority of people are enamored of him, they like what he's doing, but small minorities and most of the Arab governments don't like what he's doing, because he represents a threat and a challenge to the established Arab order.

GORANI: Because, as you mentioned earlier, these are non-state actors who have their own groups. In the case of Hassan Nasrallah, his own army. I mean, we're almost looking at a state within a state, aren't we?

And this is a threat to those authoritarian regimes who don't necessarily allow voices to speak freely. KHOURI: That's right, but we have to be fair if we do this analysis, the United States is doing exactly the same thing in Iraq. It was supporting the peshmerga and now some of the Shiite and Sunni -- not Sunnis, but Shiite groups, who they incorporated into the Iraqi national defense system. The Americans funded and used nonstate militias in Afghanistan against the Russians.

So I think the answer to this is not to keep saying that, well, everybody is doing bad things. The answer is to say how can we solve the underlying problems that give rise to these, Hala.


KHOURI: Well I think there's a simple answer. Apply a single standard of law and morality to all the people in this region. So implement 1559, the U.N. resolution that Israel and the U.S. wants. But also implement 242 and 338, stop the Judaism of Jerusalem, stop the annexation of the Golan Heights. Apply a single standard of law, anchor public policy in law and morality that is acceptable universally. And I think that's the only answer in the long run. Don't be hypocritical. Don't be duplicitous. I think this is what people are crying for and if the U.S. were to take this lead, I think people would embrace it.

GORANI: Rami Khouri, editor-at-large with the "Daily Star" and columnist also for that newspaper. Thank you very much for your insight and analysis. We're going to take a short break here on YOUR WORLD TODAY. When we return, we'll have a live report from our Ben Wedeman. He's in Tyre, southern Lebanon. Stay with us.


GORANI: Well, supplies of food and basic medicine have been dwindling in parts of southern Lebanon because some of those routes have been cut off by Israeli air strikes. And now the Israeli military's warning to residents of that part of the country not to drive because it could consider any moving vehicle a target is making the job of relief workers all that more difficult.

Ben Wedeman joins us live from Tyre with more. What's the situation like there in Tyre, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the situation is increasingly difficult. And we just heard from Jacob Kellenberger (ph), the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who came to Tyre, crossing a log across the Litani River, which is now the only way to get to Tyre. Night before last, Israeli aircraft blew that bridge. And so Tyre is in increasingly difficult straits.

Now the head of the ICRC said their priority right now is to get to those towns and villages in southern Lebanon that are effectively cut off. They have no access to because either the roads are blown or they can't get the green light from the Israeli authorities. He says that the Red Cross, now it's second largest operation in the world after Sudan is here in Lebanon. And what they're trying to do is get access to the 100,000 people who are now in Tyre and the rest of this southern part of this country. He referred to the leaflets and the announcements that Israel made yesterday that as of 10:00 p.m. yesterday, no one will be allowed on the roads, because they will be considered legitimate targets. That refers to vehicles.

You can still walk around southern Lebanon, but obviously that would make it very difficult to reach these towns and villages to the south. He said that those leaflets do not absolve Israel of its responsibility to respect international humanitarian law, which he refers to as allowing groups like the Red Cross, groups like Doctors Without Borders to get to these places. And he says that's the real problem. He says also the problems are for instance getting the wounded out of some of these villages, getting food, getting clean water. So groups like the Red Cross are facing real problems doing their work. Hala?

GORANI: All right, Ben Wedeman, live in Tyre. Thank you Ben. Fionnuala?

SWEENEY: And this programming note: the U.N. Security Council will hold an open debate session with the Arab League delegation in a couple hours. CNN plans live coverage at 17:00 hours GMT. That is 3 p.m. Eastern in the United States. That's it for this hour, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney reporting from Haifa, Israel.

GORANI: And I'm Hala Gorani in Beirut. Stay with us. More news ahead.



© 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
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines