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American Morning

Rockets Raining Down in Haifa; Refugees Streaming out of Lebanon and into Syria; Conversation with Lebanese President

Aired July 21, 2006 - 09:32   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Rockets raining down in Haifa and other cities in Northern Israel today. Several injuries in that particular coastal city and elsewhere. Just one of several places we're watching this morning as the escalation in this conflict continues.
Good morning to you. Welcome to a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

I'm Miles O'Brien in New York.


We're reporting live for you from Jerusalem this morning. Not far from where we are, but further north in Haifa, there are renewed attacks to tell you about.

Fionnuala Sweeney is there covering that live for us. Let's get right to her.

Fionnuala, what's the latest where you are?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, I can tell you it's just about 4:30 in the afternoon here and things are very, very quiet in Haifa. You can hardly hear anything move. There are very few cars on the streets. And that is because there were two barrage of rocket attacks on this coastal port city within the last few hours. The first being around lunchtime when the air-raid sirens went off, and a total of four Katyusha rockets hit the ground in and around Haifa, injuring 19 people, one critically. There then followed about two hours later, I think, another air-raid warning, and within a few minutes after that, we heard three Katyusha rockets fall. Two of them were in open areas. One of them in a busy area, but no injuries reported.

But as we leave it with you now, Haifa at this moment is very, very quiet after a lull -- a relative lull, I should add -- in the nine days of the escalation of this conflict in which there hadn't been any rocket attacks on Haifa. The last most significant one which caused a number of deaths was on Sunday night, when Katyusha rockets fell, killing eight people -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Fionnuala Sweeney for us with an update on what's happening in Haifa this morning.

Thank you, Fionnuala. Refugees are now streaming out of Lebanon and into Syria. Hala Gorani is on the border between Syria and Lebanon with an update on what's happening there.

Hala, what's the situation like?


We are hearing that people might be coming through in greater numbers in a little bit. There are unconfirmed reports that there have been bombings closer to the Syrian border, nowhere near where I am right now, but a bit closer than yesterday. So we might expect more of an influx.

I'm at the Red Crescent distribution center here where volunteers are handing out bottles of water, and handing out this card as well. I don't know clearly you can see it there on your screen -- 0119338. They're asking families that have been separated somehow, if one member of the family or several have made it through and others are joining them a little bit later, to call this number so that they can be reunited.

Let me take you on a little bit of a walk through here and give you a sense of the -- here, if you could show this van. This is quite typical of what we've been seeing vans crammed with people. It seems like there are at least 20 people, 25 people in this van, and they've just made it across the border, and now they have administrative steps they need to take, their passports stamped, and they need the contact information for a host family or for a school that opened its doors to refugees coming in from Lebanon.

And here you have the Red Crescent Distribution Center. They're handing out water, bread sticks and some basic food supplies, as well as baby milk for families with children -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Hala Gorani for us this morning, right on the border between Syria, and Lebanon, where the Lebanese refugees are trying to leave their country to safety. Thank you, Hala.

Let's get right back to Miles in New York.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.

A full-scale ground invasion, Israeli ground invasion, in Southern Lebanon, now seems all but imminent. Day 10 of the shelling and the bombing of Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon, and Israel says the job is only half done. So how would such a ground invasion play out? What are the risks?

CNN military analyst Brigadier General David Grange served in Lebanon, among his many postings in the military. He joins us now from outside Chicago.

General Grange, good to have you with us.


Let's get the lay of the land for just a moment using some of our Google Map technology. Let's zoom in on the region. Let's talk about -- once again, we talked a lot about how compact this region is. Take you down to the border. This is the border between Lebanon and Israel. And what we've been talking about primarily up to this point is a series of -- this is Haifa down in here. And that's about a 20- mile distance there. And we've seen these Katyusha rockets just striking all along this area, pretty much within that range, that 20- mile range or so.

Now, in the case of what is going on with Hezbollah on the other side, of course, the Israelis have been striking here and of course much deeper with artillery and fighter weaponry.

General Grange, as the Israelis move in, if they make that decision to do just that, and they go across that border, how far are they likely to go? What do you think?

GRANGE: Well first of all, they have to go far muff to establish a buffer zone to negate the majority of the missile-rocketry capabilities of the Hezbollah. Now there's some long-range missiles that supposedly they have that would be quite deep in order to neutralize that effect. I don't think that's their objective. I think the objective is the majority, because I think the long-range capabilities can be picked up easily from overhead aircraft and taken out. So it's the smaller things that can be hidden in homes, set up and what they call a shoot and scoot, those type of things. So they have to at least go that deep.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about history here for just a moment, because Israeli has been down this road quite literally before. Once again, I'll draw in that border for you here so you know exactly what I'm talking about here. In 1982, they went very deep into Lebanon. Ultimately they scaled back and settled down for about 20 years, and they were really in a very narrow swathe here. They call it a security zone there. Ultimately, in 2000, Israeli troops left, and it was not a pretty departure, General Grange, because what happened was those troops as they sat there amid the Hezbollah strongholds -- and Hezbollah, incidentally, was founded to resist this thrust into Lebanon -- they became targets. Surely, Israel is concerned about that now. What do you do to guard against that?

GRANGE: Very much concerned. In fact, many people, you know, call that operation, that time they occupied that area, the Israeli Vietnam. But I don't -- I think they've learned from that, just like we learned from past conflicts. And I think the idea is to go in and dismantle as much of the command and control, the logistics, and isolate Hezbollah and pretty much keep a lid on it, and then move back to an area for a certain amount of time. I think they'll do that until some type of international force may be introduced. And I'm not talking about UNIFIL; I'm talking about a force that is not peacekeeping but peace enforcement that's quite robust and doesn't fool around. That's the only way it would work.

But they have to -- you know, there's no strategic depth in Israel. They have to have depth in order to protect the population. So they have no choice to go so far and maintain some type of buffer or have someone else do it for them.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, one of the possibilities here -- and we've heard the prime minister of Lebanon saying it is his perception that if an attack were to go, if a thrust were to go into Southern Lebanon aimed at Hezbollah, it might be perceived as an attack at Lebanon. Let's look at the Lebanese military, has 70,000 troops, doesn't have a lot of modern tanks, doesn't have self-propelled weapons, a lot of conscripts, weak in logistics, not much of a military force. Of course Hezbollah is a very strong guerrilla or terrorist, depending on which way you look at it, fighting force.

Let's look at the Israeli military, financed, funded by the United States in many respects -- 125,000 active, 475,000 reserves. Of a certain age there, everybody participates in the Israeli military. IDF is the most effective by far in the region. Obviously well-trained, constant state of readiness and the flexibility and the equipment, including, you know, F-16 fighters and 1A1 tanks. On the paper there, General Grange, it looks like a route.

GRANGE: Well, you know, we're looking at the quantitative capabilities of these forces. Really, the quality is what matters. The leadership, the training. And that's what really wins the wars, just like the Desert War and others. It's not really how much you have of a certain type of combat equipment, but how you can use it and employ it in war.

You know, a conventional fight with Israeli army would be like someone fighting a conventional fight with the United States Army. They don't want to do that. And so if the Lebanese army, for instance, was involved, which the Israelis would not want to do -- not because they couldn't destroy it, it's just because I think they respect the Lebanese government. The beef is with the Hezbollah.

And so what is tough for the Israelis, just like it would be the Americans, just like now in Iraq, is guerrilla warfare. It's fighting terrorists that hide among civilians and use those kinds of tactics. Not artillery pieces and tanks and those things. Those are easy to destroy by a modern army.

M. O'BRIEN: David Grange, retired general. Always appreciate your insights.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad?

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks. Here in the heart of Jerusalem, we have had an opportunity to get out and about, especially right into the old city. It's an area that's walled off, about a half mile in total.

And we ran into a man who lives in Jerusalem, born here, as well. And he told us that he was trying to enter into the Muslim quarter for Friday prayers. He was with a friend who was younger than he was. His friend was under the age of 45. And because of the renewed crisis, the renewed concern for safety, the police were stopping men under the age of 45 and not allowing them in for Friday prayers.

Here's what he told us. Listen.


S. O'BRIEN (on camera): Where are you from? Where are you visiting?


S. O'BRIEN: You're from here?


S. O'BRIEN: And what's your I.D. say? May I see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. My I.D. is an Israeli I.D., but I'm over 45, so I'm allowed to go in. But he's not, and we're going together, so there's no point of me going in.

S. O'BRIEN: What's the -- is that always the way it is here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, only when there is trouble.

S. O'BRIEN: I see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they're worried, Lebanon, Gaza, you know, Nablus.

S. O'BRIEN: So is the theory that you could be a terrorist?


S. O'BRIEN: Then what's the theory?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could be a terrorist.


S. O'BRIEN: Listening to a little bit of some of the frustration. As we've heard reports of frustration of some of the younger Arab population, unable, because of the new restrictions on security, to make their way into Friday prayers.

The seeds of the conflict, frankly, were planted a long, time ago. Let's take a look at the history of the conflict here.


S. O'BRIEN (voice-over): This is what we've become used to over the past several days.

(BELLS RINGING) S. O'BRIEN: But miles away, in Jerusalem, it's quiet; a strange irony, given the fact that so much of the violence in the region is connected to the history here.

BRUCE FEILER, "WALKING THE BIBLE": And an old saying in Jerusalem goes that when God created the world, he poured wisdom into one cone and pain into another cone. And where the two points met, that's where he put Jerusalem.

S. O'BRIEN: For thousands of years, Jerusalem has been hallowed ground to three of the world's religion. It's the holy land for Christians and Jews and Muslims, home to the Western Wall, Al Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and the Temple Mount, sacred to all three religions.

FEILER: Solomon built the temple here. Jesus walked here. Mohammed ascended to heaven here. So today it's kind of the epicenter both of the holiness of the world, and also the conflict that has grown out of that (INAUDIBLE).

S. O'BRIEN: Roads that were once trod by kings and prophets are now patrolled by soldiers. A series of bombings in the mid-90s endangered a fragile period of relative stability.

And in 2000, violence erupted in the streets, when Israeli leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, infuriating Muslims.

It's all part of a bitter struggle for supremacy. For now, Jerusalem remains a city shared by many. Whether that will be a shining legacy or its ultimate undoing remains to be seen.

FEILER: I think the great hope of Jerusalem is that it's never going to be divided. One side is never going to be able to control it entirely. There is no way you can separate the Jewish sites from the Christian sites from the Muslim sites. There is no option other than coexistence, and Jerusalem is the great reminder of that in the world today.


S. O'BRIEN: A look at exactly what has been part of the seeds of all this conflict for all these many years. Miles, let's get back to you in New York.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.

Coming up a CNN exclusive. A frustrated Lebanese president talks to CNN's Nic Robertson about the devastation in Beirut. He says his country is being torn apart, and no one is doing anything about it. Stay with us.


M. O'BRIEN: Leaders of the fledgling democracy in Lebanon are angry and bitter about the war to the south. Lebanon's president today is saying his army will defend the country against an Israeli invasion. He spoke exclusively with our Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): In fact, if I'm not mistaken, you can almost sort of see where the old green line was.

PRES. EMILE LAHOUD, PRESIDENT: Exactly. Exactly. Look, you see now, this smoke is still going up. This is the area they're -- been shelling all the time.

ROBERTSON: And the planes are still flying. I can hear them.

LAHOUD: Yes, they are here. You can hear them. They're all the time. Look right -- you can hear. And (INAUDIBLE) is just next there. And have all Beirut in front of you there.

ROBERTSON: It looks as if that's a fairly fresh strike, because there's new smoke coming up.

LAHOUD: There are strikes every few minutes. All the time.

ROBERTSON: How many strikes in the city so far, do you know? Is anyone tracking?

LAHOUD: I don't have, really. But a lot, because every few minutes you hear and then you see the smoke and then you hear the noise, just...

ROBERTSON: I mean, you can see it and hear it from your office?

LAHOUD: Of course. The country is being torn apart and nobody is doing anything in the world. Is that possible? Is that human rights? There is something wrong. They must stop that, and then talk. If they think by force they're going to take the things politically, they're not going to succeed because force engenders force, and it will never happen. Nobody is going to and everybody is going to lose.

ROBERTSON: It almost looks as if -- you know, it almost looks as if there's been a second strike. Because there's more smoke coming off of it.

LAHOUD: Yes, yes. But you hear it when it goes down. It must be something.

ROBERTSON: Yes, you can hear it.

LAHOUD: They have been hit a few -- I mean, minutes ago. And something is burning now. There is gasoline.

ROBERTSON: And this is a southern suburbs we're looking into here, where Hezbollah is real supported.

LAHOUD: This is the southern suburb. And they think by just hitting, they're going to get them. They cannot. And it's all -- you know, there is at least more than 300,000 people there. Civilians. ROBERTSON: In this area here?

LAHOUD: Yes. Now most of them run away. Now refugees, they're welcomed in the homes of other Lebanese and other (INAUDIBLE). It's making unity stronger between the Lebanese, because whenever they come to your home and then you stay for so many -- in the future, it will bond them together.


M. O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson, with his exclusive conversation with the president of Lebanon.

"CNN LIVE TODAY" is coming up next. Daryn Kagan is here with a preview. Hello, Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, good morning to you.

Coming up on "CNN LIVE TODAY," running from war, the U.S. picks up the pace, evacuating Americans from Lebanon. Our Barbara Starr joins us live from Cyprus to talk about the military's role in the rescue.

And the spark that ignited the crisis, kidnapped Israeli soldiers -- their families make an emotional appeal. We will bring you part of their interview with our Larry King.

That's all ahead on LIVE TODAY coming up at the top of the hour.

Stay with CNN, the most trusted name in news.

Miles, back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Daryn, we'll be watching.

Wall street is up and running. We'll see what the early movers are after a break.

And investors going gaga for Google -- again? We'll tell you where shareholders are feeling pretty good this morning. Business news next on AMERICAN MORNING.



M. O'BRIEN: Back with more in a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back from New York. Just a few minutes left. Let's check back in with Soledad.

Soledad, I'm curious what people are thinking about all this talk about a ground invasion. We just talked to retired General David Grange. He said, you know, the previous invasion of Lebanon, 1982, which pulled out in 2000, is kind of viewed inside Israel as their Vietnam. So when people start thinking about that prospect, it must make a lot of people nervous.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's interesting -- and we haven't put that direct question to anybody -- but overall, the sense we've gotten from many of the Israelis we have spoken to is, you do what you have to do. And you look at the poll numbers certainly, those Polls overwhelmingly support the Israeli prime minister, and that support is growing, and there's an overwhelming support for the war. So I think that there's certainly a sense among people who live here that you do what you have to do.

I should also remark, we've been told several times, many, many times now, about the value of the Israeli soldier, that almost that Americans can't understand what it means to kidnap an Israeli soldier. That one man said to us, that's -- one Israeli soldier is worth a thousand, or 10,000 or a million civilians, the sense that for any one to go and kidnap an Israeli soldier is one of the absolutely worst things you can possibly do. And of course that's tied into the fact that there's mandatory military service here in Israel -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: I guess it's kind of a universal affront because of the mandatory service. I'm curious, if you have the sense, and you've talked about this all morning -- one of the threads that have run through, every time you talk about the Middle East about how much a violence is part of the whole tapestry. There is a sense that things are different this time. Did you pick up on that?

S. O'BRIEN: I think things are different every time the things are different. It's sort of in some ways it's different. In some ways, it's more of the same.

I was most encouraged by the young people we spoke to, the graduates of Seeds of Peace, who say, you know, what needs to be done right now is just quiet; everybody needs to stop. And of course that would sort of parallel with some of the calls for a cease-fire. Other Israelis have said to us, you know, it's not going to happen. Nothing's going to stop until, in fact, Condoleezza Rice arrives on the scene and negotiations start in earnest.

So I think we're going to see a lot more of the same until that moment. As you well know. Miles, I'll be switching out. I'll be heading back to New York to continue our coverage from there. You'll be coming to the Middle East, but our coverage from CNN correspondents around the world, whether you're talking about the border with Syria and Lebanon, or Lebanon and Israel, or right inside of Beirut, in Cyprus as well. We continue to cover this story from all angles.