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The Situation Room

Arab League Delegates Meet With U.N. Security Council; Israel Interrogates Alleged Hezbollah Fighter

Aired August 08, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, Israel strikes near the city of Sidon and warns residents of Tyre they'll see the same if they do not stay off the roads. Hezbollah is bucking the attacks and threats, firing more rockets into northern Israel. And now Israel's prime minister says this war could get wider and perhaps uglier.

At the United Nations, frantic efforts toward ending the chaos and carnage. Right now an Arab delegation is meeting with the U.N. Security Council. They're trying to hammer out a daily all sides can agree on.

Meanwhile, one brave woman is weighing in. Her husband is one of those Israeli soldiers whose kidnapping sparked this war. Now she's launched a one-woman war to try to bring her husband back.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A worsening war, a state of raw words, and a very rigid warning. Boiling tensions here in the Middle East are threatening to boil over as Israel and Hezbollah exchange fresh fire with weapons and with words.

Today, Israel attacked the Lebanese town of Ghaziye, near the port city of Sidon. At least eight people were killed. That town is north of the Litani River, a line Israel says it wants to push Hezbollah behind.

Desperate diplomatic efforts for a cease-fire are under way right now as Arab envoys meet with the U.N. Security Council. But there's a sticking point preventing agreement on a resolution. The Arab delegates and Lebanon say nothing can happen until Israel first withdraws. But a U.S.-backed draft resolution does not call for an immediate Israeli withdrawal.

Meanwhile, the death toll rises in that Israeli attack in the southern Beirut suburb of Shiyah yesterday. Lebanese officials now say 30 people died in that attack.

CNN reporters are positioned in key places watching all the latest developments.

Jim Clancy is in Beirut.

Let's begin, though, our coverage this hour with our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance. He's in northern Israel -- Matthew.


And Israel has made it quite clear that if the diplomatic process fails to produce an acceptable result in Lebanon, it still has very much a military option on the table. Already there are more than 10,000 Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah guerrillas across south Lebanon.

Over the past several days, there's been a buildup of Israeli forces, personnel, armored vehicles on the border as well, poised to go in if the order comes down for them to expand those military operations. We understand -- you can hear the artillery going off behind me, pounding those positions in southern Lebanon. We understand there will be a meeting of the security cabinet in Jerusalem tomorrow to discuss this issue and to decide whether these military operations will be expanded and whether Israeli forces will push into Lebanon as far as the Litani River.

Israel has also reacted to the proposal by the Lebanese government to deploy up to 15,000 of its own troops in south Lebanon. It said in principle that it welcomes this. This is what it wanted all of the time, Israel says, to have Lebanese troops on the ground across from the Israeli border, instead of Hezbollah fighters. But it has many reservations.

The first amongst them, of course, whether this Lebanese force would be robust enough and willing to disarm Hezbollah. Israel wants that militia disarmed, whether it's the Lebanese army that does it, whether it's the multinational force that does it. If not, the Israelis say they'll do it themselves -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Matthew, as we hear the shelling going on, it seems like a never-ending drumbeat. What do Israeli military commanders tell you? What are they targeting? Who are they going after?

CHANCE: Well, details actually coming out from the battle zone are pretty sketchy, because we're getting this information from the Israeli Defense Forces that they're battling these -- these Hezbollah positions in villages and small towns across southern Lebanon.

We're hearing occasionally that they've got control of these places only to find out a few days later that there are more fierce battles there. A good example of that is the town of Bint Jbeil, which was described as the sort of Hezbollah capital in south Lebanon. That was meant to be under Israeli control since last week, but over the past 48 hours or so, there's been fierce fighting there again.

Hezbollah guerrillas attacking positions in and around the town, killing a number of Israeli soldiers, injuring some as well. And so they're really using these guerrilla tactics they've become so adept at to full effect.

What Israeli soldiers are telling us is the forces they are fighting in south Lebanon are well trained, they're well armed, and they know the land very well. It is proving a very tough enemy, Hezbollah, to dislodge -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a decision coming forward by the Israeli cabinet in the coming hours could dramatically escalate this war. We'll watch it with you, Matthew.

Thank you very much, as that pounding, that shelling continues.

Let's go up to Beirut. Jim Clancy watching all of the developments.

Jim, I understand Beirut suffered some additional airstrikes, what, only in the past half hour or so?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Yes, we had our building rocked here just by the echoing reverberations of those bombs as they fell on the southern suburbs. Three bombs, at least that I heard, spaced some distance apart, but landing in those southern suburbs once again, areas where Israel says Hezbollah has some of its command and control, some of its officials functions. But there is a lot of controversy over the number of civilian casualties that are resulting from these strikes.

Let's go south of Sidon, the third largest city in Lebanon, across the Alali River (ph), about 30 miles south of Beirut. And here you had a small village that was hit by a bomb. Eight people were killed. This, even as some of the villagers were burying 15 of their relatives who had been killed just the day before in a similar Israeli strike.

Now, some of the residents there say there are no bombs, there's no weapons, there are no terrorists, as they say, in this area at all. But, of course, Israel says that the Hezbollah fighters are working among the civilian population.

A very difficult circumstance. Difficult as well in the southern suburbs, where with their bare hands and now with heavy diggers in the neighborhood of Shiyah, they continue to recover some of the bodies that are believed still buried in the rubble of an apartment building that was brought down by an Israeli strike the night before, Monday evening. The toll there, as you noted, rising to about 30.

Meantime, humanitarian aid organizations, Wolf, are trying to put things together so they can get food and water to an estimated 100,000 stranded villagers across southern Lebanon. They are not getting the permission to do that.

As we have heard, all of the roads have been cut to southern Lebanon, beyond Tyre. And certainly, the situation for some of those people is going to be dire indeed -- Wolf. BLITZER: The Lebanese government position of deploying as many as 15,000 regular Lebanese army forces to south Lebanon, if Israel pulls out, has there been any refinement? Any additional elaboration of precisely what the Lebanese government has in mind?

CLANCY: No refinement. The plan is pretty straightforward, a draft put forward by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

At the same time, as you can imagine, there's a lot of discussion about it. There are even doubts on this side whether that army would be up to it. But the logic is pretty clear.

The logic is, that if Israel remains in south Lebanon, Hezbollah remains armed, remains confrontational, fights with them, none of this ends. If the U.N. comes in -- well, you can see that the Lebanese army has no record of taking on Hezbollah, that's true. But neither does the U.N., really.

And we have seen past missions in Lebanon that simply didn't work. It would take almost no time at all that an international force would become the enemy of Hezbollah. They, too, would be engaged in a war.

There's a political advantage to putting the Lebanese army there. Especially when you have Hezbollah agreeing to it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Clancy on the scene for us in Beirut.

Thank you, Jim.

And as Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah guerrillas battle with weapons, high-level diplomats spar with words right now. An Arab envoy is at the United Nations voicing concerns on what needs to happen to end the many days of death.

Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, on the scene at the U.N. for us with more -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, bitter words exchanged a short time ago inside the U.N. Security Council. A special Arab delegation that came here from Beirut, where all of the Arab countries were united in their position during this Israeli- Lebanon-Hezbollah triangle conflict, they're here inside the Security Council.

The Lebanese foreign ministry representative said the Security Council should consider and change its proposed resolution still on the table to make clear that Lebanon is ready to send thousands of its own soldiers to police the southern part of the country, and that Israel should not wait under this resolution, but should leave Lebanese soil immediately.


TAREK MITRI, LEBANESE SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE U.N.: I am here, we are all here to find a way out. The proposal of our government, the proposal of yesterday is a viable option. It should be looked at as a viable option.

It allows a true, effective cessation of hostilities. It leads to a durable cease-fire.


ROTH: He says it's a viable option, but he told journalists a short time ago that so far there's been no change as far as he knows to the resolution based on suggestions of Lebanon and the others.

Israel responding inside the Security Council in this verbal crossfire, angry about Hezbollah not being mentioned by Qatar or Lebanon.


DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMB. TO U.N.: Terrorists are watching, Mr. President. If this council adopts the path of half measures, concessions and mere declarations, they will be emboldened, and we will find ourselves back at this table a week, a month, or a year from now, facing a tragedy of similar or even greater proportions.


ROTH: That's Israel's ambassador saying don't trust Lebanon's proposal about sending in its own troops to go along with the U.N. peacekeeping mission currently there, which he again said is a failure and has been since 1978 in terms of quelling violence against Israel -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard Roth at the U.N.

We'll continue to watch. Thank you.

And this just coming in to CNN from the Israel Defense Forces, now confirming two, two tank incidents involving an area in Bint Jbeil where there's been very extensive fighting going on over these past several days involving Israeli troops, Hezbollah guerrillas. One Israeli attack now confirmed hit by an antitank missile. Four Israeli soldiers described now as lightly injured, one soldier moderately injured.

A second tank battle as well. This tank hitting an IED, an improvised explosive device. No injuries reported right now, but the fighting continues -- continues in the south, including in this area of Bint Jbeil.

We'll continue to watch it.

Up ahead, Israel's interrogation of a captured Hezbollah militant. What he's saying about Hezbollah and its ties to Iran. We're going to show you the videotape released by the Israeli army.

Also, Lebanon's largest southern city under siege and increasingly isolated. We'll take you to Tyre for the latest on the situation there. Plus, Lebanon says it's willing to send troops to the border. But are they actually up to the task?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem. We're following the crisis in the Middle East.

Israel getting some valuable insight from a captured Hezbollah fighter. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with details and video of the interrogation.

Brian, what have you got?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Israeli military says this young man was part of the Hezbollah unit whose actions ignited the current fighting.


TODD (voice over): An alleged Hezbollah fighter talks about the operation that triggered this conflict. On videotape provided by the Israeli military, translated by CNN, he discusses the mission's objective.

HUSSEIN ALI SULEIMAN, CAPTURED HEZBOLLAH FIGHTER (through translator): It was to capture soldiers as prisoners.

TODD: Israeli sources tell CNN this 22-year-old believed to be named Hussein Ali Suleiman was part of a unit that backed up the Hezbollah fighters who took two Israeli soldiers hostage on July 12th. The Israeli military says it captured Suleiman several days later.

In this interrogation video, Suleiman speaks broadly about that raid.

SULEIMAN: The main aim wasn't accomplished, but the secondary aim was to serve a severe blow to the positions.

TODD: In one key exchange he talks about his training.

SULEIMAN: I underwent a maneuver, two maneuvers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When was the first maneuver session?

SULEIMAN: At the end of 2003.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you do it?


TODD: An Iranian official at the United Nations would not comment on that. Officials in Tehran have recently denied any operational contact with Hezbollah. But Mideast experts say Iran's widely reported backing of Hezbollah does include training.

KARIM SADJADPOUR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: They are getting military training, but it is almost a type of political and religious indoctrination which is also taking place.

TODD: Israeli officials tell CNN they do not engage in torture, and Suleiman was not coerced into making these statements. But a Human Rights Watch official says the airing of this video could violate a clause of the Geneva Conventions.

LUCY MAIR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Actually putting the detainee's identity and his face on a video in front of a television audience could be putting him at risk and could be considered inhumane treatment.


TODD: Israeli officials dispute the claim that this is degrading in any way. The say the Geneva Conventions apply to soldiers in uniform who uphold the laws of war. Hezbollah, they say, does neither.

A former top general in the Israeli military told me he doesn't believe the airing of this video puts Suleiman's life at risk. That general and others with knowledge of this situation say the main reason the Israeli military released this tape was to establish what it believes is a solid operational link between Hezbollah and Iran -- Wolf.

TODD: Brian, thank you.

Let's go now to the southern Lebanese city of Tyre. It's under siege and increasingly separated from the world.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is there.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The city of Tyre is effectively cut off from the rest of Lebanon and under a curfew. That, after Israel dropped leaflets on this southern Lebanese city banning vehicle traffic.

People are still allowed to walk around by foot. The leaflet said that any vehicle on the roads of southern Lebanon will be considered a legitimate target for Israeli airstrikes.

Now, this, of course, is causing extreme problems for international relief organizations. The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jacob Kellenberger, came to Tyre today, but he didn't come all the way by car. He had to stop at the Litani River, where Israel has blown out the bridge and other temporary crossings several times. He had to cross on a log, which is now the only way over the river.

When he came to Tyre, he gave a press conference and he expressed extreme concern about the humanitarian situation in southern Lebanon. He said that the Red Cross now has its second largest operation in the world here in Lebanon. That, the second one after Sudan.

He said that they're very concerned about the approximately 100,000 civilians left in southern Lebanon here in Tyre, and in towns and villages throughout the south. That, of course -- the population before was 400,000. He said the population that's still here is suffering from a lack of food, a lack of clean water, a lack of medicine. He also referred to the Israeli leaflets banning vehicle traffic, saying just because those leaflets have been dropped, it does not absolve Israel of its responsibility to respect international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, the bombardment of southern Lebanon, from the air, from the sea, from land, from artillery continues. There's no end in sight for this conflict here on the ground.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Tyre, south Lebanon.


BLITZER: Thank you, Ben.

And coming up, we're going to go back live to the front lines of the Middle East war. Will Israel expand its ground attack in Lebanon? Our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is with Israeli troops along the border.

Plus, the wife of a kidnapped Israeli soldier brings her plight to the United States, seeking support and solidarity. Her story in her own words, that's coming up.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live from Jerusalem. We're covering the crisis in the Middle East. All of the latest developments coming up.

But let's check in with Zain Verjee once again for a quick look at some other important stories making news -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, even as more U.S. soldiers are patrolling Baghdad's streets, a string of bombings killed at least 20 people in the Iraqi capital today. Iraqi police say three bombs went off simultaneously near Iraq's ministry. Two more bombs then ripped through a crowded marketplace. Dozens of people were injured in the blast.

It's Primary Day in five U.S. states. One of today's most watched elections is in Connecticut, where three-term Democratic senator Joe Lieberman has trailed challenger Ned Lamont in recent polls. Lieberman could face a backlash from voters over his perceived support of President Bush and the Iraq war. His campaign is accusing the Lamont campaign of dirty politics after Lieberman's Web site was hacked. Lamont calls the allegation scurrilous.

Former House majority leader Tom DeLay says he's going to withdraw from the Texas congressional race and won't run for re- election. This comes one day after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejected the Texas GOP's request to remove DeLay's name from the November congressional ballot in his home district of Sugerland, Texas. The Republican Party now plans to put in -- to put in a write- in candidate.

DeLay is facing trial on money laundering charges.

This year's Atlantic hurricane season may not be as bad as first thought. The National Hurricane Center is releasing its updated hurricane forecast. It now expects 12 to 15 named storms. That's down one from its earlier prediction. It says there will likely be seven to nine hurricanes, and three of them could be major, reaching at least Category 3 in strength -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Zain.

And coming up, more on the deepening tensions here in the Middle East, including the suggestion by the Israeli prime minister that this war could get wider and even uglier.

Also, Lebanon's pledge to send thousands of troops to the border, would that even make a difference? A lot of experts say Hezbollah guerrillas are better equipped, better financed and better trained than the Lebanese army.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live from Jerusalem.

Israeli Defense Forces say they conducted 82 airstrikes in Lebanon last night targeting buildings, access routes and missile launchers. Today Hezbollah fired another 145 rockets into towns in northern Israel. One of those was rocket attacks was recorded by an Israeli resident and sent to CNN.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton has details -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This was the scene in Safed, in northern Israel, less than 10 miles from the border with Lebanon, just a few hours ago. You can actually see the rocket flying in there and the smoke rising outside this apartment building.

This was sent into CNN's iReport by a 60-year-old resident who recorded these scenes from his apartment. They said that in this town, less than 10 miles from the Lebanese border, they're hearing between five and 20 air raid sirens a day. Many accompanied by the rockets. This rocket attack is just one of the 145 that landed in northern Israel today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you.

We're monitoring all of the latest developments in the Middle East crisis.

Right now we want to go straight to our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance. He's along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Matthew, what's the latest from there?

CHANCE: Well, as you might be able to hear behind me, Wolf, there's a good deal of military activity taking place now. There seems to be some repositioning of armored vehicles along this border.

That started happening over the course of the past few minutes, and punctuating that is this constant (INAUDIBLE) of artillery fire that's continuing to go out. You heard it there, going out from these Israeli guns deeper into south Lebanon, where they've been firing on Hezbollah strongholds, Hezbollah positions in support of the 10,000 to 12,000 Israeli forces and (INAUDIBLE) and that have been battling Hezbollah forces for the past several weeks.

BLITZER: Matthew...

CHANCE: I have to say, particularly around towns -- sorry, Wolf. Yes, go ahead.

BLITZER: Matthew, I wasn't hearing you. I don't know if your microphone was on properly. Do you want to start again? Because I don't think our viewers were adequately hearing what you were saying.

CHANCE: Sure. We must have some technical difficulties here. Actually, we often get those, because when there's a lot of military activity around here, a lot of electronic jamming signals are sent out that sometimes disrupts our signal here.

But the point I was making is that there's been a lot of military activity here over the course of the past several hours. There seems to be some repositioning of armored vehicles, of tanks and armored personnel carriers along this border right now. And all the time, that repositioning has been punctuated by that regular drumbeat of artillery guns opening up, firing on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon in support of the 10,000 to 12,000 troops that are already on the ground there, Wolf.

Now, that military operation could be expanded. The decision on that will be dependent on the diplomatic process in New York and will be made at a security cabinet meeting in Jerusalem of the Israeli government tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Matthew. Thank you very much.

Matthew Chance on the scene for us in northern Israel, just along the border with Lebanon. I want to bring in CNN's Tom Foreman. He has a unique perspective on the conflict. He's joining us back in Washington -- Tom.


Just to give a sense of where all of this is happening, if it seems day to day as if nothing much is changing, that's in part because it continues to boil in many of the same areas. This is the border where Matthew Chance is, about 40 miles long. Well, one of the latest bits of news, in Bint Jbeil there's been another hit, apparently, on two Israeli tanks there.

They've now been fighting in this town for weeks, and it's not a very big area. So what's happening? They're having a hard time, the Israelis are, in rooting out Hezbollah, Hezbollah is doing a relatively good job of hanging on and still firing shots from here. What are happening to most of the people here? Well, international aid workers say many of them are fleeing to cities like Tyre which is where a lot of the attention has been focused now. Because if people went there seeking safety, they may not have it now. These are all the main roads that lead in. As of this point Israel has cautioned people not to moving on those roads. They've closed them off. And as strikes have come in Tyre against what Israel believes to be Hezbollah people there, look at the area. This is why refugees and Hezbollah fighters and Israeli troops as they move through these areas all get funneled into a tiny area here, unlike the rest of the country. International aid workers are very worried about places like this becoming cut off, isolated and becoming significant problems.

They think that may already be happening in Tyre. A little further up, another town up here had a lot of action, about half way up to Beirut. There's a number of Israeli attacks in this area today. But, as it has been all along, this is not all one-sided. There's plenty of firing going both directions, back down near the border. Take a look at this. These are a bunch of places that were hit by rocket shots today. Safed over here is one of them, where you saw that video a short while ago that Abbi had. So the fighting continues to be very intense all along these areas today. The question is, is it intense because that's just how it's escalating or is it intense because both sides are trying to gain all the ground they can in the final hours before there may be a peace deal. We'll find out if that's the case. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We should find out fairly soon. Thank you very much, Tom for that. For more on the Lebanese perspective of the crisis, I spoke with a member of one of the country's most prominent political families.


BLITZER: And joining us now from Paris, Saad Hariri, he's the son of the slain Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri. Saad Hariri now serves in the Lebanese parliament. If your father, the late prime minister of Lebanon were still alive, do you think this war between Israel and Hezbollah would be going on right now? SAAD HARIRI, LEBANESE PARLIAMENT MEMBER: I don't think so, I don't think so.


HARIRI: Well, he would have been still alive and I think he would -- Syria wouldn't have been isolated, the whole world wouldn't have been pointing the fingers at Syria and they killed Rafiq Hariri, which they have done. And I think this is -- you know you can't go back in history, but I think if he was alive, this wouldn't have happened.

BLITZER: Well do you suspect that Syria is pulling the strings now, and encouraging Hezbollah to undertake that cross-border raid that killed and kidnapped those Israeli soldiers? In other words, do you see Syria as responsible for this war?

HARIRI: I think Syria has been always not playing a positive role in the region. I think Syria needs to decide on which side it needs -- it wants to be. We in Lebanon decided that we want peace, we want to get a central government. Yesterday as you know Wolf, we made a historic decision in the Lebanese cabinet and I think we have taken that decision that the international community has waited for the past 30 years. I think Syria hasn't been playing a positive role, and now it's knocking on the doors of the international community. And on the blood of the Lebanese children that it could play a positive role. If it wanted to play a positive role, it should have played it without people asking you.

BLITZER: But you do believe, and I want to move on to talk about the current issues, you do believe that Syria played a role in killing your father?

HARIRI: Yes I do.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about this decision that the Lebanese government made to deploy Lebanese army troops to the south to get Israeli forces out. You know, there's a lot of criticism that this Lebanese army is so weak, it really doesn't have the wherewithal, the stomach, the ability to get the job done. Do you think it can control Hezbollah, disarm Hezbollah and make sure that Hezbollah doesn't get more weapons to rein rockets down on northern Israel?

HARIRI: I think the way you need to look at it, Wolf is this way. The Lebanese government or the international community has been asking the Lebanese government to make such a decision for the past 30 years. And now, the Lebanese government has taken that decision. There aren't any missiles coming out from Beirut or other places that the Lebanese army is there. The Lebanese army -- once it goes to the south, like the cabinet said, that it will control the south, and it will be the only one bearing arms in the south. So, I think, instead of criticizing the Lebanese government, I think one should take what -- a brave decision, everybody took last night, and it was a unanimous with the consensus of Hezbollah and everyone on the table, and this decision has turned the table, and I think it should turn the table, and it should responsibilize the government into making sure that the security and the south be taken care of by the Lebanese government. And I think this army has a big potential in securing those frontiers. And also, you should not forget that there will be the UNIFIL alongside of it, with a new mandate and with a new force and I think that will help the security of the south.

BLITZER: You point out that the two Hezbollah ministers in the Lebanese government approved this decision yesterday. But let me ask you point blank, do you trust Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah?

HARIRI: I think if they didn't want this decision to be unanimous, they would have been clear in stating that opinion. They would have been clear in objecting that decision. I think Hezbollah took that decision with the Lebanese government to responsibilize the central government, and I think we should not criticize, but we should take what we have on the table and move forward. I think the Lebanese army has been -- the Lebanese government has been, you know, crying for some new equipment, and I think, with today's equipment, the Lebanese government can, and if it gets better equipment, it will do a better job in securing the south for all of Lebanese.

BLITZER: Saad Hariri, one quick final question, I know you suspect Syria has played a negative role in all of this. What about Iran, because there's a lot of people, including the president of the United States, who sees Iranian influence, especially the close relationship with Hezbollah, as being at least in part responsible for this war?

HARIRI: You know I'm afraid, Wolf, you know this war has nothing to do with Lebanon. This war has everything to do with the regional conflict that is starting on with the nuclear, with Syria and with everything. Lebanon is being used as the playground for these big conflicts between all of these nations. And this is what we've been trying to avoid all along. We know very well, everybody's interest, Iran's interests, Syria's interests, and what's going on with the uranium enrichment. And everybody knows that. But what we're trying to do, what we're trying to say, that Lebanon today took a forward decision to take its -- to take the initiative back to the Lebanese government, and forbid, and forbid everyone to play on the playgrounds on the grounds of Lebanese territories. We want a strong government, and what we're saying to everyone, to everyone that strength (INAUDIBLE) into Lebanese politics that we will not stand for this and we will not accept it and we'll even fight it.

BLITZER: I'll take that as a yes as far as Iranian influence in this whole mess is concerned. Saad Hariri, thanks very much for joining us.

HARIRI: Thank you.


BLITZER: And still to come, if Lebanese troops go to the border with Israel, would they even be able to take on Hezbollah? Many say Lebanon's military is ill-trained and ill-equipped and no match for Hezbollah's guerrilla tactics. And one woman's war. The wife of one of those Israeli's soldiers whose kidnapping sparked this war is on a personal crusade to put her and her husband's lives back together. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Lebanon's pledge to send 15,000 troops to its southern border is drawing new attention to the country's armed forces. And some are questioning whether they're seriously up to the task. Our pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more on that. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf the question now of course is what role could the Lebanese army play in keeping the peace.


STARR (voice-over): The Lebanese army has no battlefield advantages against Hezbollah. In fact, a recent classified U.S. military analysis concluded the army is short on money, has poor training and outdated equipment. Now, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, plans to send 15,000 troops to southern Lebanon if there is an Israeli withdrawal. But analysts say Hezbollah is far stronger. Lebanon's army has almost no control in the south.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's not a credible force. This is a perfect example of how a militia, in this case, the Hezbollah, which is, for the most part, a terrorist organization, has grown so powerful they have taken over parts of Lebanon.

STARR: While Hezbollah was building up, the Lebanese army was making a critical mistake. The pentagon assessment concluded the army was spending 90 percent of its money on salaries and pensions to ensure loyalty of its troops.

DAVID HARTWELL, JANE'S MIDDLE EAST EDITOR: It doesn't have any meaningful armor capability, certainly no long-range artillery capability. Has no air lift capability.

STARR: The Lebanese army suffered during the years of Syrian domination. And shipments of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah. U.S. intelligence reported even in the last several days, Teheran was trying to ship missiles into southern Lebanon. Now the U.S. military plans to give Lebanon $10 million in spare parts just to keep its trucks and helicopters operating.


STARR: Wolf, the feeling on the part of the U.S. military and the pentagon now is that making the Lebanese army an accepted and viable part of Lebanon's security structure, is really critical to getting Hezbollah under control. Making the army the legitimate military force is now the key. Wolf? BLITZER: A lot of people would like to see that in this part of the world. Thank you Barbara for that. Let's go to New York, Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf thank you very much. Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, we'll have the very latest for you on the war between Israel and Hezbollah. The Israeli military tonight is preparing for a deeper push into Lebanon as the diplomatic efforts to win a cease-fire in this conflict is faltering. The Syrian ambassador to the United States will be our guest as well as Dori Gold, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Also tonight, a new outrage against working men and women in this country. We'll have a special report tonight on the illegal aliens who are allowed to sue a U.S. company that was trying to hire American citizens instead of illegal aliens. And the Bush administration and the war on our middle class. The U.S. Energy Secretary celebrating today what he calls the accomplishments of the one year role Bush administration energy policy, even as gasoline prices once again reach record heights. We'll hope you will be with us for all of that and a great deal more at the top of the hour. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you Lou. She says her husband is a simple man and they had a simple life together. But now, they're a part of an international crisis that began after her husband was kidnapped by Hezbollah guerrillas. We're going to show you how the wife is now battling her husband's captors. Stay with us.


BLITZER: With the rising tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, it may be easy to forget what sparked this war, now 28 days old. It began when Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Now the wife of one of them says she's fighting her own personal war to try to get her husband back. CNN's Chris Lawrence is in Los Angeles with details. Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Wolf, Karnit Goldwasser just left Los Angeles this morning after making personal appeals in New York, Washington and Chicago. Everywhere she's trying to raise awareness about her husband who was a student and reservist in the Israeli army. She came to America seeking support and solidarity for a husband kidnapped and held captive.

KARNIT GOLDWASSER, WIFE OF KIDNAPPED ISRAELI SOLDIER: I can feel it in my heart, I know that he is still alive because we have a special communication between us.

LAWRENCE: Karnit Goldwasser has been married to Ehud for 10 months. On July 13th he was scheduled to finish his month long military service that's mandatory for most Israelis. On July 12th, he and another soldier were kidnapped by Hezbollah near the Lebanese border.

GOLDWASSER: The hardest part is to go sleep alone and to wake up alone. LAWRENCE: Goldwasser and her family have traveled to Paris, London, Los Angeles, appealing for Ehud's release.

EHUD DANOCH, ISRAELI CONSUL GENERAL: She's not going to give up.

LAWRENCE: Israeli Council General Ehud Danoch spent almost every minute with Goldwasser during her visit to Los Angeles.

Is she trying to keep the pressure on the negotiators not to accept a cease-fire without the release of the Israeli prisoners?

DANOCH: Someone decides to kidnap your child, what are you going to do? How are you going to face it? You're going to do everything to bring them back. And the government of Israel promised that they're going to do everything in their power, and they will, to bring our kidnapped soldiers safely home.

LAWRENCE: Ehud Goldwasser's kidnapping helped start this conflict. For his wife, only his return will finish it.

GOLDWASSER: The end will be only when I can be with Hudie in quiet and peace, and have our dinner not in the bomb shelter.


LAWRENCE: Right now Goldwasser is on her way back home where she and other families expect to meet with the leaders of Israel's political parties and drive home their point that any cease-fire has to include the prisoner's release. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right Chris, thank you very much. Up next, a major decision impacting your money. CNN's Ali Velshi standing by with the bottom line on interest rates. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends at the "Associated Press," pictures on the Middle East, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow. We'll start in the West Bank. A Palestinian militant fires at Israeli troops during an Israeli raid against the (INAUDIBLE) martyrs brigade. Lebanese families seeking refuge carry their luggage across the border into Syria. They had to abandon their vehicles because the road was hit by an Israeli airstrike.

Ramallah, also on the West Bank, a Palestinian sells CDs of pop songs praising Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

And in northern Israel, soldiers sleep on the ground after returning from battle in southern Lebanon. Some of today's "hot shots", pictures often worth a thousand words.

As Israel and Hezbollah use bombs and rockets to communicate their demands, many every day people are using the Internet to communicate their fears. Some bloggers in Beirut are telling the world about the war from their eyes. CNN's Jim Clancy is keeping track of that.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As bombs fall and rockets fly, Lebanese engage in animated discussions of the situation. But cell phone users here are finding long distance interlopers in their inbox. The caller speaks Arabic but the anonymous message is likely straight from Israel. "Who are those who fire rockets from your homes against your wishes and endanger your lives? Who are those who run to hide in your homes like mice? Who are those, people of Lebanon, who use you as human shields?"

It's not certain the Israeli government is behind this message, a not so subtle assault on Hezbollah's tactics. It concludes, "The gang's beginning to fail because its rats are running away." Another example, text messages offer the chance to take part in a poll, asking if Hezbollah is to blame for the current crisis.

(on camera): Call it propaganda or even psychological warfare. It probably has far less impact on the psyche than every day life in Lebanon right now. People are watching as bombs fall in their neighborhoods, they are watching grizzly images flash across their television screens. They have fears and emotions and they are pouring them out on the Internet.

(voice-over): Fouad says he's a 31-year-old blogger in Beirut. He writes this, "I wish that the people of Lebanon and Israel who stand against hatred and war would all walk on a peace march toward the Lebanese/Israeli border."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the war started, all of a sudden everybody was blogging, you know. It was really out of nowhere. Everybody has a blog now.

WALID RAYESS, INTERNET CAFE USER: So they try to go over the Internet to express themselves and to show other people what we are living here. What's happening here. I don't think it's a political propaganda, it's more of a humanitarian issue.

CLANCY: Perhaps it's more like therapy. The Lebanese have put the crisis in the context of every day lives. If there are any parallels in this lopsided war, they are among the bloggers on both sides of the border.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hezbollah are bombing my city and our cities. And most of my friends ran away to the south of Israel. But I'm staying here, because my family don't want to go.

CLANCY: A view from the other side. A mirror of Lebanese fears.

JAMAL GHOSN, BLOGGER: Instead of having a monopoly of opinions, a monopoly over news sources now, everyone can tell their own story. And if people are interested in it, they'll come and find it.

CLANCY: What they may find is that while some are running north, others are running south. But they are all connected not just by the Internet but a conflict most will say they never wanted. Jim Clancy, CNN, Beirut.


BLITZER: Other news we're following, something different from the Federal Reserve for the first time in more than two years it's opting to leave interest rates exactly where they are instead of raising them. CNN's Ali Velshi is in New York with the bottom line. Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Wolf, I've been on auto pilot for the last two years. For 17 times in a row the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, all the way from 1 percent back in 2004 June, to where we are now, 5.25 percent. And we always knew it was going to happen a few days before. Well today was a real kind of a cliff hanger. We didn't know and the Federal Reserve decided to not raise interest rates, partially because we're seeing signs of the economy slowing down in part because of the price of oil that we've been seeing. It is causing people to have less money to spend on other things because they're spending it on gasoline and heating oil. We have seen both as a result of the tensions that you're covering between Israel and Lebanon, because of tensions in Iraq, because of Nigeria and now because of this oil spill in Alaska. We saw the price of oil get near record highs. We've actually pulled off of that today. Oil trading at $76.31 a barrel. But we did see after -- even though the Fed didn't raise interest rates, for an 18th time, markets didn't have a great day as a result of it. The Dow actually closed 45 points lower to 11,173. The NASDAQ given up 11 points to 2,060. The Fed next meets on September 20th and they signaled they may not be done. If inflation is still around, they might move again and if oil prices keep going up, they might have to do that. Wolf, here's to another great year on THE SITUATION ROOM. Congratulations and stay safe.

BLITZER: Thank you very much Ali for that and to our viewers for exactly one year, we've put you, you, the viewers right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Giving you a front row seat to news that's happening now. We're going to break format just this once, turn back the clock. Starting with August 8th, 2005, the day this program with its team of journalists and state of the art TV news revolutionized television news.


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BLITZER: And to our viewers, thank you very much during this year one of THE SITUATION ROOM, we promise you, year two going to be even better, we're going to do it better, we're going to make you feel that you're in the news all the time. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem. We're back in one hour, let's go to Lou in New York. Lou?