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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Israeli Ground Forces on the Move; Interview With Israeli Ambassador to United Nations Dan Gillerman; Hezbollah Using Human Shields?

Aired July 31, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone, live from the border with -- with Lebanon.
Just one day after the international outrage over the killings in Qana, Israeli ground forces are on the move.


ANNOUNCER: More tanks rolling north, the ground war growing, Syria on alert. What happens now?

Clearing the rubble, burying the dead -- why Israel regrets what happened in Qana, and the impact of Qana across the Arab world.

Plus, the heat of battle.

COOPER: They have just dropped a load of retardant on this part of the fire. It doesn't seem to have done much good. The fire still is spreading.

ANNOUNCER: Under fire, fighting flames.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Crisis in the Middle East: Day 20."

Reporting tonight from northern Israel, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks very much for joining us. We are live on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Yesterday, it seemed to many observers here in this region that this war had reached something of a tipping point. Those gruesome pictures of civilians, many children, killed in the Israeli airstrikes in Qana shocked many throughout the world, angering many, particularly in the Muslim world. Now, some 24 hours after those pictures were first seen, the firing here along the border continues, these artillery units behind me continuing to pound positions in south Lebanon.

What was supposed to be a 48-hour halt to Israeli airstrikes in south Lebanon, that has fallen away, several airstrikes by Israeli fighter jets and drones in south Lebanon today, and late word now that Israeli ground forces may be on the move. CNN's John Roberts is covering that from elsewhere along the border.

John, what's the latest?


As you know from being at that artillery battery earlier this evening, there was a lot of outgoing fire. It was firing in support of ground troops who are moving into southern Lebanon. Here in the area where I am, we're very close to the battle. It's at a safe distance. Obviously, you can't be up there on the front lines with the light.

But there were flares overhead, machine gun fire in the distance, a lot of short-range artillery going in there, as well as mortars in support of those troops moving forward.

The troops are massing along the border here for incursions into Lebanon -- can't really say what they're up to, because it's under Israeli censorship, but it definitely seems to be, according to many analysts, an attempt to cut off Hezbollah from behind, to move in somewhere along the Litani River, or just south of it, which is about 14 miles north of the southern border between Lebanon and Israel. If they can stop Hezbollah's route of -- of retreat, if they can stop them from moving north, they may be able to keep them bottled up long enough for that international security force to come in and create that buffer zone.

That appears to be what the emerging strategy on the Israeli side might be -- a big 180 for Israel's security cabinet as well. Just a few days ago, they said no increase in the ground campaign; it's going to stay as it is. Today, they said the ground campaign is going to expand. So, that is going to mean a lot more troops going across the border.


ROBERTS (voice-over): In what increasingly appears to be a race against the diplomatic clock, armored personnel carriers and soldiers head for the border with Lebanon.

Israeli censorship rules prohibit us from disclosing their objective, but they are a combat engineering unit, typically tasked with clearing roads and building defensive positions for advancing ground forces.

The partial 48-hour pause in aerial bombing has not stopped the ground campaign. If anything, it has accelerated, as the Israeli army moves to capture more territory, before mounting international pressure forces an end to hostilities.

In a speech to the Israeli mayors conference, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, troops are moving deep into southern Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah strongholds. EHUD OLMERT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Everybody has said to me, no cease-fire, no cease-fire.

ROBERTS: There are also reports that the Israeli military may seek to Shebaa Farms, an area at the north end of the Golan Heights that is the center of a lingering dispute over territory. The army has closed the area, so we try to get in a back door, driving the road that parallels the border.

Along the way, we see a Hezbollah outpost, either shelled or bombed, now deserted. Close to the town of Rajaa (ph), a unique village that straddles the border, we're met by three Humvees and soldiers carrying weapons. The soldiers talk about whether they should arrest us, but decide, instead, to let us off with a warning and escort us out.

It is unclear at this point what Israel's plan to widen the ground campaign means. Will it see huge columns of tanks, as in past conflicts, or more elite troops who probe Lebanese villages for Hezbollah guerrillas and launchers? It would appear Israel will take whatever time it has left to degrade Hezbollah's capability, as much as possible, paving the way for an international force to take over and keep the two sides apart.


COOPER: John, are Israeli forces at all talking to you about a timetable for this latest ground offensive?

ROBERTS: Yes, some people are wondering if it might mean that this is going to go on for a number of weeks. Ehud Olmert said, just -- just the other day, he needs another 10 to 14 days.

But it could be, Anderson, that this is about to wrap up. There is a -- a long-held derision that, when a cease-fire is imminent, you try to do as much damage to the other side as possible. So, rather than an indication that this could go on for a long time, this expansion of the ground war might actually mean that it could be over in a few days -- Anderson.

COOPER: It is very hard to tell from this side of the border.

John Roberts, appreciate that report.

Now let's talk about diplomatic efforts under way. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has returned to Washington, has briefed President Bush, we understand, earlier this evening. We will talk to John (AUDIO GAP) our White House correspondent, about that a little bit later on.

All of the -- the diplomatic efforts, though, the diplomatic maneuvering behind the scenes, all of it was put in doubt just yesterday, when the killings in Qana occurred -- Israeli airstrikes knocking down a building, killing, right now, the official death toll is 54, the oldest victim, 95, the youngest, an infant, just 10 months old. The pictures have shocked many throughout the world. We want to take a look back at what happened in Qana just yesterday.


COOPER (voice-over): The bombs started falling just after midnight on Sunday, rocking the mountainside town of Qana in southern Lebanon. They leveled this four-story residential building, where several dozen civilians were seeking shelter from the Israeli air attacks. Their makeshift bunker became their tomb.

When dawn broke, the scope of the tragedy became clear, as rescue workers pulled more than 50 bodies from the rubble, many of them children still in their pajamas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They were all kids. They didn't have bread. They were hungry, without food for five days. Look at them. They were kids. They were all killed in their homes.

COOPER: Israel swiftly apologized for the assault, casting it as a tragic mistake.

MIRI EISIN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Israel deeply, deeply is sorrowful, is saddened by what happened. This is definitely a mistake. We did not target this building.

COOPER: Israeli officials say they had dropped leaflets in the area and broadcast radio messages, urging residents to leave Qana. But tragedy, they contend, is inevitable when a terrorist militia blends into a civilian population.

And Qana, they say, has long been a hotbed of Hezbollah activity. Sunday, the Israeli military released what it called recent video of Hezbollah rockets being fired from within the village.

Qana is an ancient village of olive groves, the place where Jesus is said to have turned water into wine. Its recent history, however, bears the deep scars of the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict. Ten years ago, a similar tragedy played out, when Israeli shells flattened a U.N. base in the village just a short distance from Sunday's attack.

More than 100 people were killed in that assault, known locally as the Qana massacre. Today, bulldozers in Qana are once again plowing through the debris of an Israeli attack, as residents again prepare to bury their dead.


COOPER: The pictures, so shocking, played over and over again on Arab television for the last 36 hours or so, having a large impact, of course, those demonstrations in Beirut and elsewhere getting an awful lot of attention.

A lot for President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to -- to deal with. She left the Middle East today. She has arrived back in Washington, as I mentioned before. She has already briefed the president at the White House this evening. What they want all along, they continue to say they want, not an immediate cease-fire. They say a comprehensive settlement along several different objectives.

CNN's John King looks at what they are trying to achieve right now.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a proposal aimed at ending the hostilities within days and at quieting critics who label U.S. diplomacy ineffective and biased towards Israel.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Both an urgent cease- fire and a lasting settlement, I am convinced we can achieve both this week.

KING: Secretary Rice took aim for the bigger and more difficult goal, a lasting cease-fire, just hours after brokering a significant Israeli concession, a 48-hour halt to airstrikes in southern Lebanon, in part to allow humanitarian relief following the carnage at Qana.

RICE: These are important, yet temporary measures.

KING: Before heading home to oversee negotiations at the United Nations, Secretary Rice called on the U.N. to embrace an approach that includes a permanent cease-fire, deployment of the Lebanese army in areas now controlled by Hezbollah, a global embargo against rearming Hezbollah, and creation of a new international force to help police any cease-fire.

The toughest requirement for Lebanon would be confronting Hezbollah.

RICE: Lebanon should, assisted by as appropriate by the international community, disarm unauthorized armed groups.

KING: Secretary Rice did not list any demands of Israel. But U.S. and Israeli sources tell CNN she was assured this weekend Israel is ready to discuss prisoner exchanges and returning disputed land to Lebanon, as long as the soldiers Hezbollah kidnapped to provoke the conflict are released.

It is just a plan for now. And, as it is debated at the U.N., Israel's defense minister made clear, military operations will not only continue, but intensify.

AMIR PERETZ, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): The IDF will strengthen its work against the Hezbollah.

KING: Anti-American anger in the Arab and Muslim world is boiling because of U.S. solidarity with Israel. And the stakes for the diplomatic push were stated bluntly in a nationally televised address by the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Egypt, which triggered the peace process, warns of consequences of its collapse.

KING: France and Russia also renewed their calls for an immediate halt to the fighting. But the White House rejects that approach as shortsighted, and says its plan would keep Hezbollah in check.

RICE: To make a cease-fire more than words alone, the international community must be prepared to support and sustain it. And I call on my international partners to do so this week in New York.

KING: U.S. officials anticipate a spirited Security Council debate, including questions about the wisdom of deploying a peacekeeping force in a potentially hostile environment.

(on camera): But, after a grueling Middle East mission, during which she was, at times, exhausted, at other times, exasperated, Secretary Rice heads home with a plan she hopes quiets some of the Bush administration's many critics, and perhaps redeems her own credentials as a peacemaker.

John King, CNN, Jerusalem.


COOPER: Well, while diplomats talk of peace and a cease-fire, the fighting on the ground continues, and aid workers are struggling to deliver aid to those in need in south Lebanon. Here's a "Raw Data" -- here's the "Raw Data." Let's take a look at the numbers.

Today, the International Committee of the Red Cross delivered emergency aid to more than 1,000 families in eight villages south of Tyre. Each family was given enough food to last them a week. At least two of their convoys had to turn back, though, before completing the mission because of ongoing fighting. On Saturday, 170 families received one week's supply of food.

When we come back, we will talk to Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, about diplomatic efforts and about what he says happened in Qana.

Also ahead tonight: more on the humanitarian crisis looming in south Lebanon -- families desperate to flee the fighting, can they get out in time?

360, live from the border, continues in a moment.



COOPER: This is a spot where a Katyusha hit in Kiryat Shmona just yesterday, on Sunday. When you look at the -- the actual impact site, it's surprisingly not very deep. It's probably about a -- maybe a foot deep from the -- the sidewalk curb. It hit just next to the sidewalk. But these Katyushas are filled with shrapnel and filled with ball bearings that scatter out in all directions.

Look right over here. This van was -- was pretty much completely destroyed.


COOPER: That blast in Kiryat Shmona here in northern Israel just yesterday -- no one killed, though, here in Kiryat Shmona yesterday.

In south Lebanon, the same cannot be said in the town of Qana, as you know by now, a large-scale destruction, at least 54 people killed, when a building collapsed upon them, many of them children, at least 17 children dead, the youngest just 10 months old. And -- and those pictures have been beamed now around the world and seen repeatedly, causing great demonstrations in Beirut and throughout the Arab world in particular.

Also, Israel had said that they were going to do a 48-hour halt to their airstrikes. That, however, did not last. Several targets were -- were hit from the air by Israel in the last 24 hours.

A lot to talk about with Israel's Ambassador Dan Gillerman, ambassador to the U.N. I spoke with him a short time ago.


COOPER: Ambassador Gillerman, just a few hours ago, the Israeli security cabinet approved a widening ground offensive. Why does Israel feel that's necessary now, given all that has happened in -- in the last 24 or so hours?

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Well, Israel truly feels that it has to do as much as it can to degrade the capability of the Hezbollah. This is the reason we went in there. Anything short of that would really not be achieving what we set out to do in the first place.

COOPER: When you sat around the -- the Security Council table yesterday, you made a very impassioned plea to the other members of the Security Council, and you essentially said that they were playing into Hezbollah's hands. What -- what did you mean?

GILLERMAN: I wouldn't put it beyond them that they have actually kept those people there as hostages. We did not know that there were civilians within that building. All we knew is that Katyusha rockets were being fired from the vicinity, that there was Hezbollah activity.

We have a film showing a missile being actually launched from behind a very similar three-story building. We have beseeched these people repeatedly and asked them to leave. We were sure that building was empty. The fact that those people were made to stay there could very well be a very cynical ploy by the Hezbollah to create exactly the kind of tragedy which, unfortunately, happened yesterday. And I beseeched and urged my colleagues at the Security Council not to play into the hands of the Hezbollah and Iran and Syria, because that's what they want. They wanted us to sit around that table and declare an immediate cease-fire. But an immediate cease- fire, without all the other elements which will make sure that this kind of atrocity would not happen again, would be a -- an illusion, would be false, and would only return us to the status quo, which nobody, I believe, really wants to find themself in again.

COOPER: The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, said that Syria's military should -- should get into a heightened state of -- of readiness. Do you think that's just saber-rattling? Does that concern you?

GILLERMAN: It obviously concerns us, because Syria is a perpetrator and harborer and financer and initiator of terror.

But Syria doesn't have to have its army in readiness. Syria already has its proxy, the Hezbollah, in -- agitating and causing all this trouble in Lebanon. And I really think that, on the part of Syria, this may be, actually, saber-rattling, because Syria has an antiquated, ill-equipped army. Syria is a poor country that has gone backward over the last years, under the rule of Bashar al-Assad.

And I don't believe Syria would ever venture to start a war with Israel, certainly not when none of the Arab countries which have joined her before, neither Lebanon, nor Egypt, nor any other country, would be on its side. Syria alone is a perpetrator of terror. It houses, in Damascus, the 10 most ominous terrorist organizations in the world, including Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas.

But I really don't see Syria taking up a war with Israel. I don't see that it serves its interest. We have not attacked Syria. We're very careful not to do so. And I don't see any reason or any sense in Syria even contemplating a move like that.

COOPER: Ambassador Dan Gillerman, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much, sir.

GILLERMAN: Thank you very much, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, there are, of course, many civilians trapped in south Lebanon and elsewhere throughout Lebanon. For them, it -- it is -- it is a catch-22. It is too dangerous for them to stay, but it is often too dangerous for them to leave as well.

CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest from Beirut.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As Fatama Hamoud (ph) nears her home, she breaks down in tears. Her house and others in the village of Sreifa (ph) have been damaged by Israeli bombs. Lebanese officials say 11 bodies are still buried in the rubble here. Fatama (ph) heard about Israel's conditional 48-hour bombing hold.

"I took a big risk to come here," she says. "They say there's a temporary cease-fire. And so I decided to visit my home."

She stays only long enough to grab a few possessions left when the family fled north to safety several days ago.

In the town of Bint Jbail, focus for several days of an Israeli advance, residents who had weathered the fighting also prepared to take advantage of the lull and flee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told us there's 48 hours; we can go. And we left Bint Jbail on our feet, three hours walking. We can't stand anymore.

ROBERTSON: Thousands of people fleeing north for safety -- convoys of cars jammed into the relative safety of the port city of Tyre.

But the bombing hold didn't last, just north of Tyre, an aide to a Lebanese army general killed and three soldiers wounded in an Israeli strike Israel says targeted a senior Hezbollah commander.

At the same time, Israeli forces continued their ground advance in southern Lebanon -- Israeli aircraft firing in support when an Israeli tank came under attack from Hezbollah.

In daylight hours, Hezbollah significantly scaled back their attacks -- three mortars fired into Israel, down from a daily average close to 100 much larger missiles.

As the fighting resumed in the south, aid workers in Beirut were taking stock of their plans to ramp up distribution.

CASSANDRA NELSON, COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, MERCY CORPS: The shelling is continuing in the country, so, we are still having to continue to plan, as we did before this announcement was ever made. We feel that the -- the risk is as great as it ever was, based on what we have seen in the last 24 -- or last 12 hours since that announcement.

ROBERTSON: But relief agencies still hope that the shooting will stop soon.

(on camera): The teams are working at full speed to prepare the boxes of aid to go south over here, hygiene products, toothbrushes, soap, and, over here, the food, bags of tea, essentials, like salt, and oil, everything being made ready to get it to the needy in the south.

(voice-over): An estimated 800,000 people in Lebanon need urgent help. ASTRID VAN GENDEREN STORT, SENIOR SPOKESWOMAN, UNHCR: We really think, at the moment, it's at the -- at the sort of breaking point, or tipping point, however you might -- you -- you want to say it. I think -- I mean, people are -- are using a lot of their own money. They're -- as I said, they're -- they're eating into their reserves. They're using their -- their -- their -- their goods that they still have in their house.

ROBERTSON: As the situation worsens, diplomats look for solutions. Iran's foreign minister met with his French counterpart in the Lebanese capital, an indication Hezbollah's major ally, Iran, is being pressured to help end the conflict.

PHILIPPE DOUSTE-BLAZY, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): And we should have a trust relationship with the Iranians, and this is one of the keys to solve the issues in this region.

ROBERTSON: Lebanon's longtime friend France is taking a leading role in the search for peace. It has offered 5,000 French soldiers to spearhead a robust international force to keep the peace in south Lebanon, if and when the fighting ends.


COOPER: Nic joins us now live from Beirut.

Nic, you know, this -- this -- this dramatic demonstration in Beirut on Sunday, breaking into the -- the U.N. offices, is -- is what happened in Qana, is this continued fighting radicalizing people in Lebanon? Is it -- is it emboldening and making Hezbollah more powerful?

ROBERTSON: I think, definitely, that is what we have seen over the past few weeks. More and more people will tell us that they see the attacks as attacks against Lebanon, not just Hezbollah.

And although people will say, look, we're not ideologically in the same camp as Hezbollah, we want to stay united.

The people who would support Hezbollah are more determined to support them. What we saw in the center of Beirut yesterday, the attack on the U.N. offices, that appeared to be spontaneous. Very quickly, a -- a demonstration gathered. But, very quickly, it came under the control of Hezbollah speakers.

And, a lot of places you look here, whether it's in refugee facilities, in schools, or in that demonstration, you see the control coming very quickly from the -- from the Hezbollah speakers at that rally, telling people to go off and demonstrate elsewhere -- and a -- and a politician aligned with Hezbollah also saying that: These demonstrations don't serve our political purpose at the moment, and the focus should be on the -- on the attack in Qana.

We have seen the attention and anger turn against the United States as well. It's being perceived as supporting Israel. So, it has raised and drawn people towards Hezbollah, and it has turned them against elements in the international community, Israel, obviously, and the United States -- Anderson.

COOPER: Troubling, indeed.

Nic Robertson, thanks, live from Beirut.

Now, we will have a lot more here from the region and from the border.

But, first, let's check in with Randi Kaye, some of the other stories we're following in a 360 bulletin -- Randi.


We begin with a developing story. According to Cuban television, a medical procedure has forced Fidel Castro to temporarily give up power. It reports, the Cuban leader underwent intestinal surgery for an undisclosed condition. Castro, who will turn 80 years old next month, delegated his presidential powers to his younger brother Raul.

Another violent day in Iraq -- across the country, at least 30 people were killed. In Baghdad, gunmen kidnapped 26 people from the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and a mobile phone company. Also, the Pentagon today reported that a Marine died in Al-Anbar Province. So far this month, 44 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.

The deadly heat wave gripping the Midwest is now heading east. In Chicago today, the heat index made it feel like it was 109 degrees. Millions across the East Coast are bracing for the worst. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already declared a heat emergency.

And this is one head shot he won't want to sign. Mel Gibson's arrest photo was released today. On Friday, the actor was stopped for drunk driving. During the incident, according to the celebrity Web site, Gibson hurled several anti-Semitic remarks. Today, his publicist says Gibson is heading to rehab for an ongoing recovery program.

Anderson, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this story.

COOPER: Probably not.

Randi, thanks very much -- Randi Kaye reporting on some of the other day's top stories.

When we come back, we're going to take a look at Hezbollah -- some tough accusations about them. Are they using civilians in south Lebanon as human shields?

Also ahead, fighting the fires here in Kiryat Shmona that were caused by Katyusha rockets.


COOPER: They have just dropped a load of retardant on this part of the fire. It doesn't seem to have done much good. The fire still is spreading. It looks like they're going to be coming back for another pass.


COOPER: When we come back, live from the front lines -- stay tuned.


COOPER: Some pictures of Muslim protests around the world that we have seen in the last 36 hours or so, ever since the killings in Qana by the Israeli bombs. And right now the death toll at least 54 people died in that attack, many of them children.

Let's get you up to date with the latest information right now in our CNN war bulletin. Israel's security cabinet has OK'ed an expansion of the ground campaign against Hezbollah. Fifteen thousand reservists have now been called up.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says there will be no cease- fire until Israel has pushed Hezbollah back from its borders. Syria's president has ordered his troops to increase their readiness. He's condemned what he called the flagrant aggression of Israel's bombardment of Southern Lebanon.

And about 500 Lebanese have been killed in nearly three weeks of fighting. The number includes at least the 54 people killed in Qana yesterday. Eighteen Israeli civilians and 33 soldiers have been killed in the past 20 days.

For the latest information we've convened a round table of our correspondents. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Washington. John Roberts is elsewhere along the Israel-Lebanon border, and CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Beirut.

John Roberts, let's start off with you. What have you been seeing moving along the border in terms of Israeli troops over the last 12 hours or so?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of troop movements, Anderson, in the last 12 hours. In fact, we put one of our CNN cameramen on board one of those armored personnel carriers that was going in over the border.

The operation may be lasting a day or two. We're hoping that he'll be back as soon as possible, because then we'll get some pretty interesting pictures from what's going on over there.

I say that they should be interesting pictures because right after they left we heard a lot of artillery fire, mortar fire, machine gun fire. Something is going on in that valley up toward the Lebanese town of Khile (ph) and off into Aladisa (ph), which is where there was fighting yesterday.

And seems as though this was a combat engineering battalion as well, and typically -- we can't talk about the mission of this particular unit. But typically a combat engineering unit paves the way for armored force who are coming behind. So we're going to take a look today and see if there are more tanks and armored personnel carriers in the positions from which this combat engineering group left. That could be an indication that a major ground operation is about to get under way here.

COOPER: Nic Robertson in Beirut. Israel had talked about a 48- hour halt to its bombing campaign. That didn't seem to last long, though.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It didn't. And we've seen further evidence that that halt -- and it was said when the halt was made that it would only -- that Israel would still target anyone it saw on the ground that was planning another attack.

What we have seen in the north here today, and of course that halt, that temporary partial halt was going to be in the south. What we've seen in the north this evening, just after Syria announced it was going to put its troops on a higher state of readiness, we've seen several more roads linking Lebanon to Syria being targeted, according to local television channels here a little earlier in the evening, about an hour or so ago, Anderson.

But very definitely, Israeli aircraft still taking out targets on the ground they deem to be possibly -- potentially going to take action against them, a general -- or at least a general's aide traveling in a Lebanese army vehicle. That vehicle targeted Israeli forces, believing that vehicle contained a Hezbollah commander. So certainly, the aircraft in action in the south and in support of the ground troops as well, Anderson.

COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux in Washington.

Suzanne, Condoleezza Rice is back. She's briefed the president. What did she tell him? What is her next move?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Anderson, there seems to be a certain sense of urgency here, renewed sense of urgency from the administration. We heard in the last three weeks from the president and from Secretary Rice talking about Israel has a right to defend herself.

But we didn't necessarily get a sense of a timetable, a deadline or a timeline in any way. But we heard from the president today and Secretary Rice, both of them emphasizing they want a U.N. Security Council resolution hopefully by the end of this week.

They are putting an incredible amount of pressure now on Israel that they see what has happened, Qana essentially abruptly ending the diplomatic efforts that Secretary Rice made. They need to come out of this with something here on the winning side. They are clearly having difficulties in doing so.

COOPER: They want a U.N. resolution. What do they want the resolution to say? MALVEAUX: Well, you know, they're very specific about this. They're not calling for an immediate cease-fire but a sustainable, a permanent cease-fire. They want an international force that's in place. They want the Lebanese army that's on the border ready to take on Hezbollah, and they want an arms embargo, international embargo, so that Hezbollah is not rearmed in the future.

All of these points is on point with what Israel wants, as well. Israeli officials are already essentially signing off on this in the beginning, not the final stage, but certainly in the beginning here, because it doesn't call for an immediate cease-fire.

But at the same time what the administration is looking for here from Israel is wrap this thing up, wrap it up as quickly as possible. On the other side of this also stressing to Lebanon, which is very important, look, got to get tough with Hezbollah here militarily, which is going to be very difficult, considering they are so powerful politically now.

COOPER: And John Roberts, finally, do we know how much these latest military maneuvers on the ground are actually influenced by the diplomatic maneuvering going on behind the scenes?

ROBERTS: I think, Anderson, it's probably reasonable to say that as the cease-fire seems to become more and more of a reality, Israel wants to take whatever time it believes it has left to try to degrade Hezbollah's capabilities to the greatest extent possible.

Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel, said a couple of days ago he thought that 10 to 14 more days may do it. Condoleezza Rice is talking about the framework of a cease-fire and an international stabilization force by the end of this week. So it may be that Israel is ramping up operations believing that time is short.

COOPER: And of course, who knows how long it would take for any kind of international force to actually get deployed into South Lebanon? Hard to believe that they could do it just in a matter of days. That would likely take weeks. We'll obviously be watching.

John Roberts, appreciate it. Suzanne Malveaux and Nic Robertson, appreciate it as well.

We'll talk to our correspondents again coming up in the next hour. We're also going do take a look right now, though, coming up, at Hezbollah tactics. Are they, as many Israeli officials -- as Israel's ambassador to the U.N. just said to us moments ago, using human beings as shields for their operations in South Lebanon? We'll take a look at that.

And we'll also show you the attempts to battle the wildfires that have been set by incoming Katyusha rockets even in the last 24 hours right here in Northern Israel.


COOPER: And welcome back. We are live here on the Israel- Lebanon border as shelling has just begun. Israeli artillery units like the American-made M-109 artillery piece behind me have begun opening fire on some positions in South Lebanon.

Just hours ago, late Monday night Israel's security cabinet agreeing to continue ground offensives in South Lebanon, trying to push deeper into South Lebanon, in fact, calling up as many as 15,000 reservists to report to duty.

All day long in Kiryat Shmona and elsewhere along this border, they have been waiting for more rockets to come. It was actually a pretty slow day in terms of incoming rockets. Here's what the day looked like near Kiryat Shmona.


COOPER (voice-over): Along the border an Israeli armored unit prepared for another day of fighting. Nearby artillery units fired shells into a Lebanese town.

(on camera) Despite all the talk of a cease-fire, despite Israel's announcement of a 48-hour halt to their bombing campaign, the military activity here along the border continues.

(voice-over) In Kiryat Shmona by early afternoon two Katyusha rockets had landed. We found this field in flames.

(on camera) They're flying in low, dropping flame retardant from the fire that's over there. So far two Katyushas have hit in the area around Kiryat Shmona today. This fire has been burning out of control. We've been watching it for the last 30 minutes or so.

It's tough for firefighters on the ground to actually battle the flames, because there's not a water source for them to use around here, so they're primarily using these small planes.

(voice-over) No matter how many passes the plane made, the flames continued to grow.

(on camera) They've just dropped a load of retardant on this part of the fire. It doesn't seem to have done much good. The fire still is spreading. Looks like they're going to be coming back for another pass.

They brought in a second plane now. So there are two planes dropping retardant directly on this part of the fire. Looks like they're concentrating their efforts right here. This seems to be the worst of the blaze. Looks like the other parts maybe have gone out. They've made just about three passes in the last minute or so. Looks like they're coming in for another one.

There are also now -- an artillery unit is starting to lob some shells into South Lebanon from positions very close to here.

(on camera)) There's no telling what Hezbollah had hoped to hit with their rockets, but this field certainly had no military significance. Katyushas are notoriously inaccurate weapons. They're basically point and shoot, as we all know by now. As far as we know, no one was hurt in this blaze by the rocket, but the fire has to be addressed by firefighters as quickly as they can. They're worried the flames will spread to civilian areas.

(voice-over) In all, only three mortars landed in Northern Israel today, a dramatic drop-off. Yesterday there were more than 140.

(on camera) This is a spot where a Katyusha hit in Kiryat Shmona just yesterday, on Sunday. When you look at the actual impact site, it's surprisingly not very deep. It's probably about a foot deep from the sidewalk curb. Hit just next to the sidewalk. But these Katyushas are filled with shrapnel, filled with ball bearings that scatter out in all directions.

Look right over here. This van was -- was pretty much completely destroyed by some of the shrapnel lit on fire. And as far out as maybe about 30 feet now away, this metal bench is just filled with holes made by the ball bearings. You can see just ripping apart this metal, going right through them.

(voice-over) As many as half the residents in Kiryat Shmona have already fled. As long as the rockets continue to fall, they know that nothing is sacred and nowhere is safe.


COOPER: When we come back, we'll have some surprising developments tonight out of Cuba. Castro, the government there announcing that Castro has temporarily handed over power to his brother as he undergoes surgery. We'll have a live report coming up next. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Looking at some video that Israeli Defense Forces released, saying what -- what appears to be Hezbollah rockets firing from the town of Qana. Obviously, Qana was hit yesterday early, very early yesterday morning on Sunday. At least 54 civilians were killed when a building collapsed on them, many of those civilians just children. The youngest as young as just 10 months old.

That is Israeli outgoing artillery shells that you can hear behind me. It has been happening all evening long as troops continue to move along the border and as the Israeli security cabinet has announced and approved further ground operations, despite what happened in Qana.

Yesterday many had called what happened in Qana perhaps a tipping point in this conflict, many even in Israel. Civilians on the street would come up to you and talk about the possibility, they said it seemed like a likelihood then, yesterday of a cease-fire of some sort happening soon. That seems now diminished, as is Israeli security cabinet has said the ground war will continue. And certainly right now the shelling does continue.

Let's talk about Hezbollah and their tactics. Israel's ambassador to the United Nations saying just a short time ago on this program that Hezbollah effectively is using civilians in South Lebanon as human shields.

I'm joined now by Gary Berntsen. He's a former CIA officer. He headed -- led their Hezbollah unit. He's president of the Berntsen Group, crisis management and global security group.

Gary, appreciate you being with us.


COOPER: Do you think that's true? Does Hezbollah use humans as human shields?

BERNTSEN: Well, they'll be firing from civilian areas. They may not be throwing them right in front of them in combat operations. What they will be doing is using tactics of asymmetrical warfare.

I think the Israelis can expect that as they come into towns there will be anti-tank mines, there will be explosives set up and improvised explosive devices with command detonation. And then, of course, Hezbollah will follow up with snipers, you know trying to go after those that try to save Israelis that may get injured, you know, by those initial explosions. This is the tactics that Hezbollah will use...

COOPER: Gary, if the Israeli Defense Forces have been as successful as they say they have in reducing Hezbollah's military capabilities, how come so many rockets continue to fall in Northern Israel?

BERNTSEN: Well, you know, they use the tactics of, you know, shoot and scoot. They move around. This is asymmetrical warfare. They don't want to go power on power with the Israelis.

They want to use small units, disperse, that can constantly redeploy to different positions and then as places get destroyed they can reinhabit some of them and fight from the rubble.

COOPER: Is it possible for Hezbollah to be disarmed, or even for them to voluntarily disarm?

BERNTSEN: I think that Hezbollah will be ultimately pushed back from the southern area. But they're not going to be completely disarmed in Lebanon. They're part of the fabric of Lebanon. Thirty- five percent to 40 percent of the population are Shiahs, and there is some support, significant support among that population for Hezbollah.

I think that there's going to have to be a political fix to this, and Syria's going to have to be brought in, and Syria's going to have to be separated from Iran if we're ever going to get a political settlement there.

COOPER: You believe in some ways that Hezbollah is like al Qaeda in that it's transitioned in some aspects from a terrorist organization to a guerrilla group. Why is that significant? BERNTSEN: Well, it's interesting because, you know, the Iranians learned that terror was a successful form of foreign policy and Hezbollah, as you just stated, sort of morphed into a state within a state and took on all sorts of characteristics of social development, you know, political -- doing things politically, doing things with water. You know, they cover the gamut in serving the Shia community there.

So it's a significant phenomenon because it provides that support, and it means that they're not going to go away.

COOPER: Gary Berntsen, we appreciate you joining us. Appreciate your expertise on Hezbollah.

And again, just to our viewers who are watching, the sounds you are hearing are outgoing shells, not incoming shells. That's why we're able to just stand here.

This is an Israeli artillery unit. We can't say exactly where we are. But this artillery piece behind me, that one is relatively silent but all around me are ones which have been firing all evening long.

When we come back, we'll have more from Cuba. Breaking developments on Fidel Castro temporarily handing over power to his brother. Stay tuned.


COOPER: As we continue to cover the crisis here in the Middle East, there have been developments out of Cuba at this house. I'm joined now by Shasta Darlington, CNN producer in Havana.

CNN's reporting that Fidel Castro has handed over power temporarily to his brother as he undergoes an operation.

Shasta, what do we know about this? How was this announcement made?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN PRODUCER: Basically, Fidel Castro's personal secretary came on to announce, live on television, just an hour after the Cuban public had been told we have an announcement for you. So it took everyone by surprise, as you can imagine.

The president was actually giving public speeches less than a week ago, you know, his typical two-hour speeches, and it's the first time that he's handed over power temporarily to his brother, despite previous health problems. He fainted once. He fell. So people are still digesting it, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, what is the operation he's undergoing, and do we know how long this handover of power is to last for?

DARLINGTON: He went over -- he underwent an operation, an intestinal operation, apparently due to stress. He was recently in South America for a regional meeting of leaders, and he was giving speeches for the holidays here, and he said in his letter that his secretary read aloud that it was too much stress.

So he's undergone a surgery, and he says in this letter that he will be resting for various weeks. That's the only time reference we have.

COOPER: It's like reading tea leaves, trying to figure out exactly what is going on. We'll continue to follow developments there. Shasta Darlington, appreciate it. CNN producer reporting right now from Havana.

When we return, more from the war zone, breaking developments here in the crisis. Stay with us.


COOPER: We'll have more from the Middle East in just a moment, but first we'll continue to cover our breaking story. Fidel Castro, the government in Cuba, announcing a short time ago that Castro has handed over power to his brother, Raul, as he undergoes an operation.

We're joined by the phone by Shasta Darlington, senior producer in Havana. We're also joined by Ed Lavandera in Texas, who is following the story, as well.

Ed, what do we know about Raul Castro?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Raul is kind of a -- at times, a mysterious figure. Depending on who you talk to, you kind of get a wide range of opinions as to what he could mean for the Cuban government and essentially his relationship with the United States.