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Digging For Danger; Activist: "The Regime Is Just Playing Games"; Syrian Town Defiant After Vicious Attacks; Edwards' Defense Team Opens Its Case; Florida A&M Band Suspended Another Year; JPMorgan Chase Exec To Retire After $2B Loss; Yahoo CEO Will Get No Severance; Syria: Deadly Lies; What's Being Done to End Syrian Carnage?; Digging for Danger

Aired May 14, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Good evening everyone.

We're coming to you tonight from a refugee camp. A tent camp along the Turkish-Syrian border. It's a camp filled with some of the 23,000 men, women, and children who have fled Syria so far and found refuge here on the Turkish side of the border. Fifty thousand other Syrians have fled to camps and other countries as well.

We came here because we want you tonight to hear their voices. Voices the regime of Bashar al-Assad has for 14 months tried to silence with batons and with bullets, with mortars and with murder. These are men, women and children who 14 months ago began raising their voices, asking for change, for reform, an end to corruption, an end to discrimination. Basic freedoms most of us in the world take for granted.

They spoke out peacefully demonstrating in the streets of Syrian towns large and small. And they were met with tear gas and tanks and they were met with torture. There is no more talk of peace, of reform. Now they fight back. They'll not stop, they say, until Bashar al- Assad and his regime of lies has fallen.

Just over at 300 yards from where I'm standing is the Syrian border. You can see lights in the distance. That is Syria. That's how close we are. The Syrian regime does not want us here. They refused our request for visas to enter Syria as they have for more many months now.

But we wanted to come so that you could hear the voices that they have tried so long to silence. Children who have lost their parents. Mothers and fathers who have seen their kids shot to death in the streets in front of them.

The refugee camps here in Turkey are well run. They're clean, they're safe, they're probably the nicest refugee camps I've ever seen. But they are miserable places. Because all the people here have lost loved ones. Their lives are now in limbo.

For the past two days we've been visiting camps speaking with the refugees. Our Ivan Watson snuck into Syria yesterday to an area controlled by the opposition Free Syrian Army. We'll show you his report and talk to him as well.

A U.N.-backed ceasefire went into effect on April 12th, one month ago. But it's a ceasefire in name only. Every day, including today, there has been more death, more violence. At least 9,000 dead in 14 months according to the U.N. The opposition says it's actually more, closer to 11,000 people.

So many deaths, so many arrests. Fourteen months into this fight at -- and the death toll risk -- it risks becoming meaningless. Numbers on a ledger. Numbers on a news ticker with no names and no faces. Numbers that most of you don't even pay attention to anymore.

The fathers and mothers and children here tonight, though, they want you to know their names. They want you to know that they are not numbers. Some of them are too scared to show their faces, but many want you to see their faces, to know their loss, to understand their struggle. There's been new fighting today and this weekend in Rastan, north of Homs, an area held by the opposition. Regime forces have attacked.

New images from there tonight. A young girl in a yellow dress crying out in pain. A wounded young boy says he wants Assad to die.

As you watch the following videos, keep in mind the regime of Bashar Assad says they are observing a ceasefire. The Free Syrian Army, as they called themselves, shoot a rocket propelled grenade trying to defend the neighborhood from the Syrian regime's tanks and machine gun fire. They're outgunned, outmanned. The opposition says at least 23 government soldiers were killed today in clashes in Rastan and three armored personnel carriers destroyed.

Elsewhere in Homs City, a Syrian tank rolls down the street among bombed out buildings and opens fire. And at Hama today, tanks rolled in and heavy gunfire ensued.

We can't independently confirm what these videos report to show. They're scenes uploaded on YouTube by activists.

For months there's been concern the violence will spill into neighboring countries. This weekend we saw some of that beginning to happen. In Tripoli, Lebanon, second largest city, fighting erupted pitting pro and anti-Assad residents against each other. Allawites versus Sunnis. At least seven people were killed in Lebanon.

Every day, though, in Syria more Syrian citizens die, more Syrian citizens flee to refugee camps, more Syrian citizens are wounded, arrested, disappear. Even in the hospitals the injured are not safe. There's no haven anywhere.

We're getting new evidence tonight from the group Doctors Without Borders that wounded people are still being targeted in parts of Syria as are the medical workers who are trying to give them desperately needed emergency care. Doctors Without Borders spoke with an orthopedic surgeon in the village of Idlib, who said, and I quote, "being caught with patients is like being caught with a weapon. Doctors have to work in secret as quickly as they can. The wounded are treated in makeshift clinics, not in government hospitals where the regime looks for wounded to arrest and torture.

Syrian refugees have been able to find a measure of safety here in these refugee -- camps across the border in Turkey. They're very grateful for that. About 1600 men, women, and children live here at this tent camp where we're broadcasting from tonight. It's been open since last June, and many of them have been here for a year. The largest refugee camp in Turkey houses more than 9,000. I've been to a lot of refugee camps over the years and I say, as I told you, these are some of the cleanest and best run I've ever seen. But they are places of misery. And just keep that in mind tonight.

If the numbers continue to grow, so will the burden on Turkey. And Turkish state TV says more than 120 Syrians arrived just today. UNHDR has sent some help, small amounts of supplies, blankets, and tents. But the Syrian refugees in these camps, they could use more support and certainly they could use more hope.

Here is a little bit of what we've seen the last two days.


COOPER (voice-over): Staring at the photo of his dead grandson, Ahmed Muhammad has no words. Grief is all he has left.

Pictures of the dead are everywhere in these Syrian refugee camps. Fathers show you their dead sons on cell phones, ask you to watch grainy videos of their children's funerals.

No family, it seems, has escaped Syria unscathed.

(On camera): Who is this?


COOPER (voice-over): In a tent she now calls home, Raja shows me pictures of two of her brothers, both shot during demonstrations nearly a year ago.

(On camera): This is also -- how old is he?


COOPER: Thirty-four?

(Voice-over): After her brothers were killed, she fled with her parents and five other family members to this tent camp. Her father Abu Mohammed tell me he has another son who's missing. They think he's been arrested but have no idea if he's still alive.

"We had young men that cried out and shouted for freedom," he says. "And they were killed just for that. We just want freedom. What's wrong with asking for freedom?"

In his arms, his missing son's 7-month-old child Ayam (ph). A boy who's never seen his own father.

"He was born after when his father was in prison," he says. "We named him after his murdered uncle, Ayam."

No one here believes they can return to Syria any time soon. No one will return until Bashar al-Assad's regime has fallen. They wait here and hope the world will take notice.

Kids have begun classes, have already learned a heart-breaking lesson in the sadness of life.


COOPER: Joining me live here on the Syrian-Turkey border CNN's Ivan -- Ivan Watson and Professor Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Professor, you've been to these camps before. The people here have great dignity. They're trying to hold their head up. But they really do feel abandoned by much of the world.

FOUAD AJAMI, SR. FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: They feel -- exactly. They use the word forsaken by the world. I have been here before but I was not -- I didn't have a camera with me. I came with a notepad. The camera is a different instrument and a different creature. These people want the world to bear witness to their suffering. They want the world to hear them.

And the camera, in a way, they have this relationship to it. They are drawn to it. Because in fact, they remain convinced that should the people know about them, should the people of the world see what they have suffered, should they understand that they're not terrorists. They're not al Qaeda. Many of them were telling you, trying to convince you look, we have nothing to do with al Qaeda. We're not terrorist groups.

One man told you, look, I don't -- we don't even have rifles in our -- in our town, let alone heavy weapons. So they want the world to understand them. And they want the world to bear witness. And I think they also see the camera as a way of holding on to the memory of this lost world, the world that is very achingly close. It's very close to here, but it is not yet retrievable to them.

COOPER: And Ivan, we've seen more fighting just in the last couple of days. You went across the border. We're going to show your report a little bit later on in this hour. But what is the status of the battle? I mean it seems like neither side is able to get a victory.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some kind of a stalemate. I mean when the Syrian army rolls in, they've got the tanks, the helicopters, the big guns. And eventually they plow through and in some cases destroy everything in their path. And the rebels retreat. But when the Syrian army retreats, then the people come back. It's insurgency counterinsurgency tactics. And the Syrian government has clearly lost the support of the people in broad swaths of territory. And that's the stalemate that you still got.

COOPER: There had been talk about, you know, Qatar and Saudi Arabia giving support to the opposition. The U.S. has talked about giving communications equipments to opposition fighters. Have you seen that? Have the fighters you've talked to said they're receiving that?

WATSON: We're hearing about trickles of equipment coming through, perhaps of weapons coming through. But for the most part the fighters say we're not getting any help. We're having to sell our own cows and our wives' gold and our cars to try to buy bullets and guns. And the strange thing is that the cost of those weapons and bullets has gone down considerably by half over the course of the last month. I'm not quite sure why.

Many of them say they actually buy these weapons from the Syrian militias, the government militias and from the soldiers themselves, which is very interesting and says something about the morale of -- Bashar al-Assad's forces.

COOPER: We've been talking to people throughout the day and you asked them about the morale and they tell you morale is low.

AJAMI: Well, the morale is low. Look, no one -- no one expected this rebellion to last so long. When the Syrians looked at what happened in Tunisia, it took two weeks. When the Syrians -- look what happened in Egypt, you were in Tahrir Square. Eighteen days later the pharaoh was gone. When the Syrians looked at Libya, well, it was a little more drawn out but then the man was gone and pulled out of a drainage pipe.

Here we are. Here we are in Syria 14 months later, and these people have no hope. And a tie will have to be broken by the international community, by NATO, by outside powers. Because what you have here is an irresistible force clashing that immovable object. And what these camps tell us -- I mean this is really has taught me, this trip has taught me that the bonds between the regime and the people are broken.

These horror stories, the rapes, the abuse, the plunder, the burning of homes, the burning of corpses. There's nothing that remains. And then the international community talks about -- you know, the Kofi Annan plan. This is all a fraud. This is all a fraud. And I think this is what this trip has made amply clear.

COOPER: We're going to talk to Senator John McCain who is calling for greater involvement, international involvement. But look, there are many people in the United States who tire of this and say, look, you're throwing weapons into a powder keg, into a dangerous situation. We don't know fully. You know there may be jihadist elements among the rebels.

To them you say what?

AJAMI: Well, I'll tell you, the -- if they already has these elements it's actually a great share of the blame is born by the international community which did not come to the rescue. When the cavalry did not come in, when the cavalry of the good guys, when the cavalry of NATO, when the cavalry of the United Nations didn't come, well then people are -- have to fend for themselves. That's it.

COOPER: We're going to have a lot more with Ivan and Professor Ajami throughout this hour. As the violence continues in Syria, some of you are asking where is the international community? Where is the United States? We'll talk to Senator John McCain in a moment. He's been flat-out saying where is President Barack Obama? I spoke to him earlier today as 360 special report "Syria Deadly Lies" continues.


COOPER: Well, welcome back. We're live from the Turkish-Syrian border refugee camp. As we said, this is what the so-called ceasefire looks like across Syria. Violence leaving cities and towns too dangerous to live in. Civilian neighborhoods have been decimated. Artillery fire, mortar fire, sniper fire.

So many Syrians have fled here to Turkey. Some 23,000 or some 70,000 -- 50,000 others who have fled to other countries, Lebanon and Iraq. Right now along the Syrian-Turkish border for this 360 special "Syria Deadly Lies." And I mentioned at the top of the program this alleged ceasefire in Syria brokered by the United Nations special envoy, Kofi Annan, it went into effect on April 12th, more than a month ago. And since then opposition groups claimed more than a thousand Syrians have been killed in just the past month.

It's impossible for us to confirm those numbers because the Syrian regime won't let us in or won't let most reporters in. And the regime claims the ceasefire has been broken by what they called armed terrorists. That's what they've called the -- anybody who spoke out against the regime for the last 14 months. Armed terrorists.

Here's what America's ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, say when I asked her about that.


COOPER: The Syrian government maintains that this ceasefire was broken by, quote, "armed terrorists." And they say the campaign of violence by them has, quote, "hysterically escalated," since the ceasefire was supposed to go into effect this past Thursday.

You deal with Syrian representatives all the time. I've had them on this program. And they've said things which are just not true. They've lied. They've said -- demonstrably untrue time and time again. Do they have any credibility to you? I don't even know if you can say that whether or not --

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: No, they don't.


RICE: I mean let's be plain. You're right. They have lied to the international community, lied to their own people. And the biggest -- the biggest fabricator of the facts is Assad himself. His representatives are merely doing his bidding and under probably some not insignificant personal duress.

But now, words, as we have said repeatedly, are meaningless. The actions are what matter and the actions thus far have continued to disappoint.


COOPER: One of the most outspoken critics of the Syrian regime, of the U.N. frankly and its ceasefire plan, and even of the Obama administration's response to the crisis have been Senator John McCain. He's visited these camps along with Senator Joe Lieberman. I spoke to Senator McCain earlier today.


COOPER: Senator McCain, obviously the Kofi Annan peace plan has not led to a ceasefire. The violence has just continued this past month. Last week, though, on Thursday U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said it's too early to call it a failure. Do you agree?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it's shameful. I think it's shameful to use this as an excuse for us not acting. You're on the ground. You've seen the camps. You've heard the stories of the killing, the rapes, the torture, the murder. That's a instrument of policy that Bashar al-Assad is using to kill his fellow citizens. And somehow place any hope or reason for delay for acting on the Kofi Annan plan is intellectually dishonest and shameful.

COOPER: What do you want to see the United States doing? Because we -- I've been getting that question now for the last two days from just about -- wanting to know what is the U.S. doing? Where is the international community? Why aren't more people paying attention? What do you think the U.S. should do or the international community should do?

MCCAIN: First of all, lead. Where's the president of the United States? When's the last time the president of the United States talked to the American people about how terrible this situation is? And also, by the way, the fact that from a national security standpoint, a removal of Bashar al-Assad is a huge blow to Iran. But the important thing is, is our advocacy and belief in human rights.

What they need, first of all, is weapons to defend themselves. Non- lethal equipment as the secretary of state and others have pledged doesn't do very well against tanks and artillery. Then we need to talk with their allies about a sanctuary, a place for the government can organize where we can train and equip these forces so that we can have a fair fight.

Remember again, we can't stop reminding people that it is Russian equipment and Iranians that are killing Syrians in an unfair fight. Shouldn't we give them a chance to defend themselves and their freedom? And finally, I believe that more moral leadership on the part of the United States is clearly called for.

COOPER: Ambassador Rice in the wake of the suicide attacks or the two bombings in Damascus last week said it's signs that it's already very militarized environment and that pouring more weapons in is not -- is not the solution. MCCAIN: Well, the weapons are pouring in from the Russians and the Iranians against these people who started out, as you know, peacefully demonstrating nearly a year ago. And you have seen the signs of it. I have warned about it. The longer this fight drags out, the more likely it is that foreign elements including al Qaeda could enter the fight.

I still don't believe that they could hijack the revolution because these people are direct contradiction to al Qaeda at least in their beginnings and their actions. So for us -- by the way, aren't we running out of adjectives from Ambassador Rice and from the secretary of state and others? Appalling, angry, unacceptable.

Aren't we running out of adjectives and adverbs? Isn't it time that we acted and stood up on behalf of these people? So it's -- you know, I used to get angry. Now I just get sad.

COOPER: For 14 months now since this uprising began as you well know, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has said these are armed terrorist groups. That this is al Qaeda. This is the Muslim Brotherhood. This is any number of jihadist elements. That has been their line repeatedly. But now in recent weeks, some intelligence officials are saying it does seem like there's evidence of foreign fighters or militant groups, the twin bombings just last week in Damascus.

How concerned are you that there may already be al Qaeda elements in this operation?

MCCAIN: I think there already are elements there. And I think there are elements of the Muslim Brotherhood. And by the way, we have found that there are different shades of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of them, obviously antithetical to everything we stand for and believe in. Others we can do business with. But you've got to expect these extremist elements to come in if there is not a success.

But I still am convinced -- I am firmly convinced that this revolution is firmly based in what all human yearnings are all about. They are the exact opposite of al Qaeda. They started out peacefully demonstrating until they were slaughtered in the streets. Al Qaeda believes in acts of terror to bring about changes of regime. I am confident that if these people are given a chance, that you will see them go with a lot of difficulties, but you will see them go in the right direction.

And I don't fear al Qaeda takeover or extremist takeover nearly as much as I fear what is occurring now. And that is Bashar al-Assad's success in subduing these people through systematic rape, torture, and murder.

COOPER: Senator, I know you were -- you were in these camps with Senator Lieberman. I'm curious what your answer was to people. Because I've had so many say to me, you know, where is the world? The world has been watching this happen, and people cannot say they didn't know about it. Because we've all seen the videos even though reporters haven't been allowed in much over the last 14 months at great risk themselves, activists have uploaded videos of the slaughter, of the killings.

People say, look, the world knows what's happening. Where is the international community? I assume people said that to you as well. What do you respond to them? Because frankly, I'm not sure what to say.

MCCAIN: Well, you're a journalist and you have to maintain a certain level of objectivity. Although it's very clear that journalists have given their lives in order to bring the message out of what's going on in Syria. And we honor their memories. And we thank god there are brave -- brave people like them.

All I can say is that I assure these people in the camps that I will go back and I will tell my colleagues -- I will give speeches, I will do anything that I can to motivate the world. And especially with the leadership of the United States which is sadly lacking right now to bring about some assistance to them so at least they can be in a fair fight.

I promise them my commitment. And frankly, I sleep a lot better having made that commitment.

COOPER: Well, Senator McCain, I appreciate you being with us tonight. Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you. And Anderson, be safe and thank you for all you're doing.


COOPER: We're calling this special report tonight "Deadly Lies." And lies is a word journalists don't often use, but I think it's a word that accurately describes what this Syrian regime has been telling and speaking to the world for the last 14 months. We've had numerous diplomats on a number of times. And they said things were true, just factually non -true which were lies and we continue to try to confront them about that.

Marie Colvin, a journalist from the "Sunday Times," one of the bravest reporters I know who was killed in Syria, in Homs a few months ago, hours before she died she also -- in a conversation with me she also used those word lies. That's a word I know we get criticized for using from time to time. But we're going to continue to use it. Because what the regime is telling you is happening, what they say is happening is not the truth.

If the Assad regime doesn't kill Syrians inside the country, it's trying to murder them by mining the border with Turkey before they can escape. That part of the story next.


COOPER: As we've reported time and again over the last 14 months, the Syrian regime has been very restrictive of international reporters, only allowing a few into the country, restricting their movements. Frankly, why would the world -- why would they want the world to witness the wholesale murder it's committing against its own people?

So it should come as no surprise that the regime is also trying to prevent Syrians from crossing the border into Turkey where they can also tell their personal stories. It should come as no surprise the regime will stop at nothing including placing landmines on the border to inflict even more harm.

Ivan Watson has that part of the story.


WATSON (voice-over): Mazen Hajisa has a secret. Here in the olive groves of Turkey, just a stone's throw away from the Syrian border, he's hidden away several styrofoam boxes. Their contents are deadly. Unexploded land mines.

"If you put pressure on the black trigger," Hajisa tells me. "It will explode."

Experts say this is a PMN-2 antipersonnel mine probably manufactured decades ago in the Soviet Union.

But Turkish authorities say Syrian troops began planting these in new mine fields along the border earlier this winter. Soon after Hajisa and several activist friends started digging the mines up. Removing more than 300, he claims, in the last two months.

(on camera): Nobody taught you how to pull this mine out of the ground, right?


WATSON (voice-over): And this is why Hajisa is risking his life to remove land mines. Several weeks ago, a mine blew off Lakur's right foot as he was trying to flee with his family from Syria to Turkey.

I protested against the Syrian regime and then the security forces came to try to arrest me, he says. So I tried to smuggle my family out of e country. That's what led me to this fate.

Many of the more than 17,000 refugees currently living in Turkey have relied on smuggler's paths to flee their country. The new mine fields have added yet another threat to an already perilous journey.

At least 10 Syrian land mine victims are currently being treated in Turkish hospitals. Hajisa says he and his friends have been trying to clear the trails for the refugees.

(on camera): He is demonstrating how he's trying to dig up mines on his own. He doesn't have any protective equipment armor or whatsoever, no electronics, and his tool of choice is a kebab skewer.

(voice-over): This is my duty, Hajisa says, the refugees must have a safe place to escape to. The young activist doesn't know what to do with the land mines he's unearthed. He is not trained to destroy them so he hides them once again under the trees. He may be one of the bravest men you'll ever meet.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ivan Watson joins me now. What's so remarkable about the story and I think it really tells a larger story of what's been going on in Syria is we have seen so many people, who they don't have training.

This man is not a trained de-miner. The people who have been taking YouTube videos are not trained journalists. The people who have been protesting have no experience protesting.

They've grown up with oppression their entire lives, yet they have been able to put this regime on its heels. Despite all the experts who early on saying there's no way the Assad regime is going to fall. It could fall because of people like him.

WATSON: That's right. I mean, this is true grass roots activist. That's how this began. That's why it's been so hard to crush, but these people are taking incredible risks.

COOPER: How's he doing?

WATSON: I saw him today. On Saturday morning, Mazen was going with five other men through the border fence to go pick up some refugees to bring them back before dawn. As he was holding the fence open, his cousin stepped through and suddenly an explosion went off.

COOPER: Stepped on a mine.

WATSON: Stepped on a mine and a second later another mine exploded. Two guys very seriously injured. The rest of the guys including Mazen was injured. He's got burns and shrapnel wounds on his leg.

Two of the guys, his cousin lost -- had feet amputated and he's limping around. And he said he's determined as soon as the gets better to go back and start clearing up those mines, which he thinks the Syrian army planted in the last 10 days.

Because that was a route that he had cleared before and that he knew to be open in the past.

COOPER: Professor Fouad Ajami is joining us as well. It is remarkable when you see this man with a kebab skewer poking around in the ground. He feels it's his duty. He's not being paid to do this.

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: The Syrian people have crossed. This is the fundamental truth of this conflict. They cannot overthrow this regime. You made that point. It's very true. Not yet.

But what's remarkable is that society like Syria finally had it with this bunch of killers, a bunch of rapists and they decided the regime is finished for them. We met a man. We talked to him, a man of 75 grieving for his two grandsons who were killed. We met people of property. They did not rebel because in a way they were somehow or another prone to rebellion. They made the decision that they cannot have this life in servitude and that's what the story is all about.

COOPER: And yet -- I mean, you know, we talked in the past in Egypt about fear being defeated. They are no longer afraid. That's the extraordinary thing to me.

We all wonder what would we do if, you know, the government was repressive and a dictator tried to rule over us, would we stand up? And these people have been tested and they have answered that question.

AJAMI: This rebellion surprised both the Syrian people and the Syrian rulers, Bashar Al-Assad was sure that given what happened to his late father did to the Syrian people 30 years ago that they would never rise again. This surprised him and they found reservoirs of courage within themselves.

COOPER: We've seen that day in and day out now for 14 months. Ivan managed to actually get into Syria over the weekend. He had sneaked across the border to reach a town that's now being held by opposition forces.

It's been pummelled by the regime's crackdown. People who lived there remained. We'll have that story next.


COOPER: Welcome back. We're live along the Turkish/Syrian border. More U.N. monitors are on the ground inside Syria. But one Syrian activist tells it's not nearly enough that the Assad regime is playing a cat and mouse game with them even going door to door arresting citizens and they can get away with it. That's next on 360.


COOPER: Well, if it were up to us tonight, we'd be reporting from inside Syria. Syria is just right there where the lights are. Trying to bear witness to ourselves to the truth on the ground, as we said, we applied for visas.

And Syrian authorities confirmed they received our applications, but that's all we've heard from them. Silence as they continue to kill. We're live tonight on the Turkish side of the Syrian border.

We can't say it too many times. It's now been a full month since the so-called ceasefire went into effect. In truth, the ceasefire is never really been anything more than just words.

Opposition activists say more than a thousand Syrians have been killed in this last month under this ceasefire. It's true the number of U.N. observers on the ground inside Syria tonight is approaching 200, which works out to about one observer for every 110,000 Syrians.

Earlier I spoke with Zaidoun, a Syrian activist, who has repeatedly risked life to talk to us.


COOPER: Zaidoun, last time we talked, there were a few dozen U.N. observers on the ground. Now there are more than 150, closer to 200. Has the situation changed any?

ZAIDOUN, SYRIAN ACTIVIST (via telephone): Slightly, yes. It has changed at least the shelling on some areas, especially Homs, is a bit less. However, the regime is just playing games.

And wherever there are observers, there's no shell. Once they leave the place, they stop shelling. Since the beginning of what so-called ceasefire, hundreds were killed despite the fact that observers are here.

We need maybe 10 times the number the United Nations Security Council agreed. We need 10 times that.

COOPER: I've heard reports from some people inside Syria that while the regime is relying less on heavy artillery bombardments of civilian areas and of neighborhoods, they're actually going apartment to apartment arresting people, torture, and the number of arrests has increased. Can you confirm that?

ZAIDOUN: Every day, every hour we hear about hundreds of people are arrested especially they are focusing right now on any activists. They are just arresting them. They are very crazy now about arresting people.

COOPER: I talked to U.S. Senator John McCain who supports greater military involvement in Syria and support of the Free Syrian Army and opposition forces. He expressed concern the longer this goes on in the kind of current stalemate that it's in right now.

The greater the chance of foreign fighters becoming involved, militant groups, jihadist groups, even al Qaeda. There were two bombings in Damascus last week that a militant group claimed responsibility for.

Are you seeing a greater role of militants, of Jihadist in the opposition movement? And are you concerned about it if in fact you're seeing it?

ZAIDOUN: Not at all. This is just, unfortunately, the regime's story. And some people abroad would like to believe it. Right now, there are no Jihadists. I haven't seen any. Now regarding the bombings that happened last Thursday, no one in Syria doubts the regime who is behind it.

COOPER: Do people you talk to feel abandoned by the world, abandoned by the international community? Because in past years during the war in Bosnia, or during other wars, people have said we didn't know what was happening at the time.

But we have all been watching for the past year what has been happening in Syria. Every single day we've seen the videos. We've had reporters there from time to time when they've been able to get in. Do you feel forsaken?

ZAIDOUN: We are. It's not about feeling. I know we are abandoned by the world. Annan's plan is wonderful, six points, really great. We are talking about trying to implement one of them. What about the rest of the five points?

Everybody is happy watching us being killed on daily basis. Nobody cares for us. Everybody knows the story. It's OK. We know now. The world is happy watching us being killed and we will do it on our own even if it takes us 10 years. We are in the streets and will not change. We will not retreat. We will not give up.

COOPER: There's no going back?

ZAIDOUN: No way. You know, if we go back, this is just like committing suicide. With this regime if we say stop, they will crush us. We will just stay the rest of our lives in jails. They are criminals.

They have been killing us for the past 14 months. If we stop, they will crush us. This is our chance of life to get our freedom. We've been dreaming of this moment for the past years. No one can take this from us. No one.

We have been dreaming of a moment where we can say what we would like to say without harming anybody. And when this moment comes, believe me, not a single one in Syria would lose such a chance.

COOPER: Zaidoun, thank you. Stay safe.

ZAIDOUN: Thank you very much, Anderson.


COOPER: I think that's such a powerful phrase. This is our chance at life. You hear that from so many people here inside Syria and those here in refugee camps on the Turkish side of the border. There is no going back for so many here, literally and figuratively.

So many western journalists have tried to cross into Syria. Some have lost their lives reporting from inside Syria. So many brave Syrians have held up cell phone cameras to document what they've seen with their own eyes.

Over the weekend, our Ivan Watson crossed over from Turkey into Syria. Here's what we found in one town where not only is the opposition not backing down, they actually control the town.


WATSON (voice-over): The journey to Syria starts with a brisk walk through olive groves. You get into Syria through a hole in the fence. This is a country of rich rolling farmland that's in open revolt.

In many towns, the rebels are now in complete control. In one village, a rebel occupies the desk where the police chief used to sit. (on camera): The rebels claim they forced out the security officers from this police station nearly two months ago. And since then, they've been using it as a mini barracks for sleeping quarters.

They've also been storing aid, bags of clothing that have been donated from across the border in Turkey, some of which are being stored here in the prison cell.

(voice-over): It's here that we meet Fatima, a homeless mother in mourning. She says three of her sons were killed in recent months while defending their village from the Syrian army.

A surviving son was shot in the leg. The family's now homeless. Soldiers torched our house, Fatima says and even shot our livestock.

But the Syrian government's crackdown has done little to crush the locals' spirit of defiance. At school, children burst into songs denouncing their president even though his government still pays for their school books.

(on camera): Classes are still in session here at schools in opposition-controlled Syria. And in a bizarre twist, the teachers here who are afraid to appear on camera for their own safety, they tell us that despite the uprising and all the fighting, they still get their salaries every month from the Syrian government.

(voice-over): On a country road, we find a band of Syrian rebels making a show of force. Many of these fighters from the so-called Free Syrian Army are defectors from the Syrian security forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want freedom. Our blood is less for these mountains, for freedom. Our blood is cheap.

WATSON: The fighters have a prisoner. A 19-year-old boy they intercepted as he was on his way to perform his mandatory military service. And the commander shows the documents to prove it.

The prisoner gets an ultimatum. If you want your freedom, defect. The boy renounces the government and agrees to join the rebels. The newest not so voluntary rebel recruit in a conflict that has no end in sight.


COOPER: And Ivan Watson joins me now. During the revolution in Egypt, in Tahrir Square, we saw a lot of different kinds of people. The Muslim Brotherhood kind of played a small role.

In the wake of that, they've come more into power. So a lot of people now say look, who are these fighters? Are they really Jihadists behind them that will come into power if they succeed?

WATSON: The guys I've seen of community groups that have risen up, a lot of defected soldiers and police. However, I am starting to hear from activists and the people who started the protests from the very beginning. Concerns that they're starting to see armed guys, criminals they're described. Some of them saying we're starting to see guys questioning. That's not what we signed up for 14 months ago. That's a growing concern from some activists.

COOPER: We'll have more from the border here in a moment. We'll be right back.


COOPER: A family of eight lives in this tent. It's actually two tents that have been place together. Each is pretty large about ten feet by 15 feet. In between, the two tents is the cooking area that the family uses to prepare all their meals. That's a family of eight.

They lost two of their sons. I say lost. Two of their sons were killed in protest. A third son has disappeared. They believe he's been arrested, but they have not gotten any word of him since last June so many lives in limbo here.

Thousands of Syrians living in this tent camp just beyond the Syria/Turkey border. Our special report, "Syria Deadly Lives" is going to continue in a moment.

But let's get a quick update of some other stories. Susan Hendricks has a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thanks. We start with this. The defense team for John Edwards called its first witness today, the chief financial officer for Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign.

Now she testified that John Edwards had nothing to do with reports the campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission. Prosecutors says Edwards violated campaign finance laws by using nearly $1 million in donations to help cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter.

Florida A & M University's famous and troubled marching band will remain suspended through at least the 2012-2013 academic year. The school is working to clean up a hazing culture exposed by the death of Robert Champion last year.

A fallout at JPMorgan Chase. The firm said its chief investment officer, Ina Drew, has decided to retire. The move widely expected after the company disclosed the unit lost $2 billion in recent weeks.

And it is official. Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was not fired. He resigned and he will get no severance, but he does get to keep $7 million in stock payments he received on his hiring four months ago. A resume embellishing scandal undid Thompson. Let's go back to Anderson. Back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks very much. We're going to have more with Ivan Watson and Fouad Ajami. The latest from inside Syria next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: We're coming to you from the Turkish/Syrian border. I'm here once again with CNN's Ivan Watson and Professor Fouad Ajami. Your final thoughts?

AJAMI: My final thought, I recommend to President Obama to read the Memoirs of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton looked back on his presidency and looked back on Rwanda and felt the shame and the guilt of having left the people of Rwanda to suffer the way they did. I think President Obama will reflect on the abdication of American power in the case of Syria.

COOPER: Ivan, you've been covering this for 14 months.

WATSON: I think what's striking is 14 months and every Friday people come out and demonstrate and call for freedom and call for change. And the kids come out and the men and the women. And the fact that that momentum is kept up after all this time is truly incredible.

One of the sad things, we don't know what the people in the middle think. We know what the regime supporters think. We know what the diehard demonstrators think. We don't know about the scared people in the middle who are too afraid to talk to us who we can't reach.

Because we can't go in, we're solely watching their country being torn apart by this conflict. I'd like to hear voices.

COOPER: Most of the people in these camps are Sunni Muslims who have had the blunt. You can hear the call to prayer happening just now. Thank you so much for watching this 360 from the Syrian/Turkish border.

We'll see you again at 10 p.m. Eastern one hour from now again from this camp. Thanks very much for watching. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.