updated 7/24/2006 10:33:18 AM ET 2006-07-24T14:33:18

Guests: Arye Mekel, Shmuel Gelbhart, Nouhad Mahmoud, Rafael Frankel

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  The bombardment of the Middle East escalates, and so does the civilian death toll. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am afraid.  I come with my family here.  So I am afraid.  We hear boom. 

ANNOUNCER:  And now an ominous warning from Israel that a full-scale invasion of Lebanon might be just hours away. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But if it will be needed, we know how to do it by all means. 

ANNOUNCER:  But can world leaders intervene before international tolerance for the bloodshed and destruction runs out? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Sometimes it requires tragic situations to help he bring clarity in the international community. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I just want to tell them, may god be with you and be safe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Live from Haifa, Israel, Tucker Carlson. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.

We‘re joining you from Haifa, where Hezbollah rockets rained down earlier this afternoon, wounding at least 20 people.  It happened right behind me.  We were first on the scene.  We‘ll take you there in just a moment. 

But first, breaking news tonight.  Tanks and troops massing on the border with Lebanon as an invasion is expected from Israel at any moment.  Israel warns civilians to get out of Hezbollah-controlled areas in the south of Lebanon, effectively all of south Lebanon. 

The death toll in the crisis so far has reached at least 344 in Lebanon, mainly civilians.  That number is almost certainly too low. 

Meanwhile, here in Israel, 19 Israeli soldiers have died, 15 civilians. 

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, is headed to the region for talks on Monday. 

We go latest—for the latest to Lebanon‘s caipt, Beirut.  Thanassis Cambanis is the bureau chief in the Middle east for the “Boston Globe.”  He joins us on the phone from Beirut.

Thanassis, are you there?

THANASSIS CAMBANIS, “BOSTON GLOBE”:  Yes, I‘m here, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Do you have a sense that a larger offensive has started against Lebanon from where you are? 

CAMBANIS:  Yes.  And people—people in—I‘m if Beirut, but I‘m actually heading south tomorrow morning to get as close as possible to the front line.  People in the south have been deserting their towns as quickly as possible, with the final announcements yesterday that Israel was making.  They gave warnings directly to civilians all across southern Lebanon in the former occupation zone to get out of their homes, because after a certain point, they‘ll consider anyone who remains a military target. 

CARLSON:  I mean, that suggests a full-scale invasion of south Lebanon.  Is that what you‘re expecting? 

CAMBANIS:  Yes, I think that‘s what everyone here is expecting.  At this point, it seems like there is no other way for Israel to stop the tide of rockets that Hezbollah is launching from the south other than through a ground offensive.  It‘s impossible from the air to see where these rockets are hidden.

They‘re apparently in basements, in people‘s homes, in very small installations.  So, if they‘re going to—if they‘re going to end this threat to northern Israel, they‘re going to have to come in on ground and deal with all the concomitant violence and risk that a ground operation entails. 

I believe that Hezbollah, as well, is particularly prepared for this kind of fight.  I spoke earlier with Hezbollah spokespeople, and they are itching for a ground war, because they view it as one in which they have the greater advantage, and also the one in which Israel is going to have to suffer the most casualties.  So they‘re spoiling—they‘re spoiling for a land invasion and they‘re gambling that it‘s going to cost Israel more than it‘s going to cost them. 

CARLSON:  I bet—that‘s a pretty callous take.  I bet civilians in Lebanon feel differently.

If people if south Lebanon are being warned that they should leave their homes, that‘s probably an awful lot of people.  Do you have any idea how many people?  And do you have any idea where they‘re going? 

CAMBANIS:  Well, the estimates as of Wednesday were already 500,000 Lebanese having fled their homes.  Colleagues of mine who were in the south say much of it—much of it is a deserted ghost town at this point. 

People—people who didn‘t flee in the first few days started to flee en masse by the middle of the week when the Israeli bomb bombardment accelerated.  Most of them are coming into central Lebanon, into the Druze mountain villages.  And those who can get far enough are coming in to Beirut. 

They‘ve taken up residence in people‘s homes, with relatives, in schools, in parking garages.  And we‘ve seen the cities in the south that have been spared the most bombardment are accepting tens of thousands of refugees as well.

CARLSON:  (INAUDIBLE).

Thanassis, are you still there? 

CAMBANIS:  Yes.  I can hear you now. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Sorry.  Was that—it sounded like explosions in the background. 

What was that? 

CAMBANIS:  No, that was just a bad cell phone signal. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Well, it happens everywhere, including Beirut.  My question was...

CAMBANIS:  The hazards of war. 

CARLSON:  Yes, exactly.  The IDF has a fearsome reputation virtually everywhere.  Are people in Lebanon afraid at the prospect of an invasion? 

CAMBANIS:  Well, you have to keep in mind that the people you‘re dealing with in the south and among Hezbollah supporters did not make the same kind of calculus that you might expect.  These are die-hard religious supporters of the Shiite group.  You could—you could fairly characterize them as religious fundamentalists, and most of them have suffered a lot of loss in their families during the 18 years that Israel occupied southern Lebanon. 

So for them, the idea of a rematch essentially is actually—surprisingly to me, anyway—is kind of appealing.  A lot of them have said to me they‘re eager to send their children off into battle, and I‘m surprised at how much they seem to be ready to accept further—you know, further certain—certain loss. 

CARLSON:  This is going to be awful.  This is going to be ferocious. 

Thanassis, thanks very much for joining us. 

CAMBANIS:  Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanassis Cambanis, he bureau chief for the “Boston Globe” in the Middle East. 

Well, one thing we know for certain, Hezbollah still does have the power to throw rockets over the border into Israel from Lebanon.  We know because we saw several of them come this morning.  We were having lunch... 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  We‘re standing in the old part of Haifa down by the water.  A rocket came in—it looks like a pretty large rocket—this morning as we were having breakfast, maybe 45 minutes ago.  It exploded, throwing thousands of BBs like this, but also throwing pieces of metal like this.  This looks like the bottom of a bolt. 

As you can see, it hit a post office right behind me.  This being Israel, the cleanup began almost immediately. 

The Israelis pride themselves on not leaving a mess in the street for very long.  The downside of that, of course, is Hezbollah tends to throw rockets in the same place again and again and again, so it‘s probably not all that wise to go running to the scene of a rocket explosion, but of course everyone does anyway. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Of course that is Tucker Carlson reporting live from Israel. 

I‘m Alison Stewart.  And we seem to be having a few technical difficulties with Tucker‘s signal.  We‘re going to work the kinks out.  But do stay with us here at MSNBC and our continuing coverage of the Mideast conflict. 

Still to come, as the battles between Israel and Hezbollah continue to escalate, Lebanon‘s army threatens to join the fight.  We‘ll talk to the Lebanese ambassador.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Israelis have said that they have no desire to widen this conflict.  And I take them at their word that they have no desire to widen this conflict. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  And that was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a news conference just about two hours ago about her upcoming trip to the Mideast.  She‘s prepared to leave on Sunday. 

The secretary of state says she‘s resisting international pressure for an immediate cease-fire, even with the clock ticking towards a ground invasion.  But if a wider conflict breaks out, will that strategy backfire on the United States?  Should the Americans intervene? 

Joining me now, Ambassador Arye Mekel, consul general of Israel of New York. 

Thank you so much for being with us, Ambassador.

AMB. ARYE MEKEL, CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL IN NEW YORK:  Thank you.

STEWART:  First of all, I‘d like to get your reaction to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice‘s remarks earlier today.

MEKEL:  Well, you know, we have the support of the United States of America, of the president, of the secretary.  She‘s going to the region.  But I think the Americans have made it clear that they don‘t want to see a cease-fire, something artificial.  They want to see the implementation of Resolution 1559. 

In other words, we cannot have a situation that Hezbollah is anywhere near the Israeli border or that they can again endanger Israel by missiles, rockets, or what have you.

STEWART:  But I‘m sure a lot of people are asking, why can‘t you have both?  Why can‘t you call for a cease-fire and also invest in a longer-term solution? 

MEKEL:  You know, we have restrained ourselves for six years since we left Lebanon, for no reason, because Hezbollah continued to attack us.  Now we know what we didn‘t know before. 

We know now for a fact that they had some 10,000 or 13,000 missiles, including many long range.  We know that they are ready to use them.  And what would stop them the next time, god forbid, from—from putting some biological or chem calling warheads on these long-range missiles? 

We have to put an end to this.  We cannot allow this to continue.  And the time is now, so this is why we are doing this operation. 

STEWART:  And you know there have been many people, some in the international community, who have said that the force used by the Israeli army has been excessive, has been too much. 

What do you say to those critics? 

MEKEL:  You know, we are responsible for the fate of 5.3 million Jews, two generations after the Holocaust.  Long-range missiles in many parts of Israel—there are things which are even more important than public opinion, although we certainly need the support of public opinion. 

Right now we are dealing with self-defense, defending our state, defending our people.  This is on the top of our priority. 

STEWART:  Last night, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a private dinner with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  Also, this morning, the U.N. Security Council was briefed by people who had had been to the region. 

What role would you like to see the U.N. play, Ambassador? 

MEKEL:  You know, I used to represent Israel at the U.N.  Not one week went by without me going there to complain about the U.N. forces.  The U.N. can play a constructive role, but quite frankly, we cannot put our faith in the U.N. 

We put our faith in the people of Israel, in our soldiers.  We are fighting for our country, we are fighting to put an end to Hezbollah, who is not even serving the interest of Lebanon.  They‘re serving the interest of foreign countries, Iran and Syria. 

We are actually doing the Lebanese a favor by getting rid of this tremendous menace. 

STEWART:  Well, let me ask you a little bit—that‘s interesting that you have worked with the U.N.  And you said you found it frustrating.  Describe that experience for me in a little bit more detail.  That‘s fascinating.

MEKEL:  I was a deputy prime minister of Israel to the—representative of Israel to the United Nations until two years ago.  It was a frustrating experience. 

We were not the most popular there.  There was an automatic Arab majority against us.  But now we see even that even Arab countries have woken up. 

We saw that their foreign ministers refused to condemn Israel.  They understand that Hezbollah is not serving any Arab cause, they are serving the Iranians, who wants to use the Shiite Hezbollah terrorist organization in order to reignite the Israeli-Arab conflict and in order to get the Middle East in turmoil so people will forget about their own plans to produce nuclear weapons. 

Not Israel alone, understand it.  Not the United States alone.  But the Arab world understands it.  Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia.  It‘s a new world, and the Arab countries are waking up to it. 

STEWART:  Let me ask you two questions about things that are happening today.  Obviously we‘ve seen all the pictures of the of aftermath in Beirut of some of the warfare that‘s been going on back and forth. 

Are you concerned at all for the next generation, the kids who will remember the summer of ‘06, when Israel bombed Beirut and southern Lebanon?  Are you worried at all that this could push those sort of young minds towards groups like Hezbollah? 

MEKEL:  Certainly we are concerned.  We want to live in peace with Lebanon.  We have no conflict with Lebanon.  We don‘t hold any of their territory, they don‘t hold any of our territory.

But there‘s this terrorists Hezbollah organization.  All they want to do is attack Israel any time the marching orders come from Iran and Syria. 

I hope that the young kids in Lebanon, as well as their parents, especially their parents, will realize it.  I think that most Lebanese are very upset with Hezbollah at this time.  Most Lebanese have nothing to do with Hezbollah, and they understand. 

It took them 20 years to rebuild their country.  It‘s a good idea.  Beirut has become again a thriving city.  It‘s very good for everybody. 

Now Hezbollah has put all this in tremendous jeopardy.  I hope the parents of the kids will understand that we are—when we attack Hezbollah, we are also doing them a favor. 

STEWART:  And one more question before I have let you go, Ambassador. 

You know today tanks and troops are massing on the Lebanese-Israeli border. 

Is this the right time for a ground invasion?

MEKEL:  Well, we have to use a decisive blow to make sure that Hezbollah will not be near the border and will not be any more able to use their missiles and rockets against us.  Apparently, we cannot do it only by air, by sea, and by artillery.  Sometimes you need some ground forces. 

We don‘t want a ground invasion of Lebanon.  This is not our plan, but we may have to use some ground forces to complete the assignment. 

STEWART:  Ambassador Ayre Mekel, consul general of Israel in New York, thank you so much for joining us today, sir. 

MEKEL:  Thank you. 

STEWART:  As we mentioned, tanks and troops massing on the border as Israel warns that there could be a ground invasion at any time.  Now Lebanon‘s army threatens to join the fight. 

We‘ll be back with that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

We‘re in Haifa, as we have been for the last three days, a city where the whine of the air raid sirens, the distant thunder of artillery, which we can hear right now, and the explosions from Hezbollah rockets have been commonplace, and becoming more so it seems.  Today at least three rockets rained down on the center of the city, wounding about 20 people. 

Joining us now, the deputy mayor of the city, . 

Mr. Deputy Mayor, welcome. 

SHMUEL GELBHART, DEPUTY MAYOR, HAIFA:  Good evening and welcome to Haifa. 

CARLSON:  Well, thank you.  I like your city very much. 

So what—what exactly happened this afternoon with the rockets? 

GELBHART:  Exactly what you said.  Three rockets hit Haifa in the center of it, but we were lucky enough not to have serious casualties, only about 20 people, most of them slightly wounded. 

CARLSON:  Where is everybody?  I mean, this city seems—it‘s quite a large city, but it seems very lightly populated.  Where did everyone go? 

GELBHART:  It is kind of a Yom Kippur.  You know, most of the people stay at their homes.  Some of them went to other places in Haifa, to the south, to relatives, and so on.  But most of them stay at their homes. 

CARLSON:  Are you surprised—you, for our viewers who don‘t know, have fought in at least two wars, the war of ‘67, 1982.  Lebanon invasion, you were in Lebanon.  But you were telling me a minute ago that Haifa was not involved in either one of those wars. 

Are you surprised since you‘re 20 miles at least from the border, that Haifa is being hit with Hezbollah rockets?  Is that a shock to you? 

GELBHART:  No, I‘m not surprised at all.  This is the face of wars to come, where the cities will suffer more than the soldiers in the front because this is the nature of the new military means, which means long-range rockets and so on. 

CARLSON:  So you had anticipated this? 

GELBHART:  Yes, I did.  I wrote about it.  I gave lectures about it. 

CARLSON:  What did you tell your citizens?  Did you suggest that they leave? 

GELBHART:  Well, we told everyone, do whatever you like.  Be free to make your own decisions, and your family decisions, and do whatever you like. 

CARLSON:  I wish we had that attitude in our country.  So you had no mandatory evacuations? 

GELBHART:  Absolutely not. 

CARLSON:  Good for you.  Good for you.  I couldn‘t support you more.

What do you think of your country‘s policy now?  We‘re standing probably less than an hour away, would be my guess, of an invasion of Lebanon. 

GELBHART:  Yes.

CARLSON:  How do you—as someone who has fought in Lebanon, what do you think of that? 

GELBHART:  Well, first of all, being a member of the peace party, you know, the peace party of Israel...

CARLSON:  Yes.

GELBHART:  ... yet, I do support the policy of this government.  This should happen, and it came, and we should hit them strongly back until they say enough.  They should say enough is enough.

Now, about... 

CARLSON:  And you‘re a member of the peace party...

GELBHART:  Yes.

CARLSON:  ... and your position is, “We should”—I think I‘m quoting you

“hit them until they say enough is enough.”

GELBHART:  Yes.

CARLSON:  That‘s a pretty tough stand for someone in the peace party, isn‘t it?

GELBHART:  Since you want to have peace in this region, and time has come to have peace in this region, sometimes it takes a—such measures to hit such an organization like the Hezbollah to let all the peoples in this area live in peace.  And I think maybe a strategic change can come once we finish this job. 

CARLSON:  Well, I don‘t know if our viewers at home can hear it, but we‘re hearing tremendous thundering coming from Lebanon, just a little bit to the north. 

GELBHART:  Yes.

CARLSON:  Possibly the invasion has begun. 

What—as someone who has fought there, what will the IDF find when they cross over into large numbers into Lebanon?  What‘s the fighting going to be like?

GELBHART:  I don‘t think that they will cross in large numbers.  This is going to be a kind of commander penetrations.  There‘s no use to penetrate with large numbers of armored tanks and so on.  The landscape wouldn‘t allow it.  And we know it from our experience. 

CARLSON:  It‘s too mountainous? 

GELBHART:  It‘s mountainous, and it gives the opposition all the opportunities to hit us back.  Because we have to face them on the ground where we have all the advantages. 

CARLSON:  Advantages such as what? 

GELBHART:  Such as using our modern air force...

CARLSON:  Right.

GELBHART:  ... and all other means of vehicles that we‘ve got.  And not to face them in their caves, in their hills, in the bushes, because this is going to be a mistake. 

CARLSON:  This is pretty much what happened before when Ariel Sharon brought the army in 1982...

GELBHART:  Yes.

CARLSON:  ... and, you know, kept going, of course, all the way to Beirut.  And the reason it was done was because of threats to Israel.  Israel pulls out six years ago, and lo and behold, there‘s another threat. 

Do yo think that Lebanon will ever leave Israel alone if Israel doesn‘t occupy it? 

GELBHART:  First of all, I guess you‘re not suggesting that we repeat our mistake from 1982.  Now, the way that we treat the crisis right now is the right way...

CARLSON:  OK.

GELBHART:  ... using, most of all, the force of the air force, and then from time to time, very cleverly, the commander forces. 

CARLSON:  Right.

GELBHART:  But small forces, very special units, penetrating here, and then...

CARLSON:  But my question is, when you leave this time, and you will leave this time, I think... 

GELBHART:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  ... what‘s to assure Israelis that Hezbollah won‘t come back and do his again? 

GELBHART:  The Hezbollah is going to be hit this time so badly, and with the support that we get, not only from Western countries, but there is a new coalition of countries in the Middle East, also Saudi Arabia, also Egypt...

CARLSON:  Right.

GELBHART:  ... also Lebanon.  All together will put on what will be left of the Hezbollah such a pressure that they will not be able any more to influence the situation here. 

CARLSON:  Boy, that is optimism.  I hope you‘re right. 

GELBHART:  Yes.

CARLSON:  Mr. Gelbhart, thank you very much for joining us. 

GELBHART:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Well, as we said, the pounding of southern Lebanon has begun, and we were witness to some of it this afternoon when we spent time with an Israeli tank battery.  We‘ll show you what we saw in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Still to come, we‘ll talk to Lebanon‘s ambassador to the United Nations about how his country will respond when, inevitably. the Israeli invasion begins probably tonight. 

Plus, we spent the day with an Israeli tank unit.  We‘ll show you what we found in just a minute.  But first, here are your headlines. 

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

ELIAS AL MURR, LEBANESE DEFENSE MINISTER:  I can assure you that the Lebanese army will defend the land as soon and as well as we can. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Lebanon‘s defense secretary, declaring his country‘s readiness for an Israeli invasion.  But the question remains, what exactly will be the government of Lebanon‘s position on a war that is essentially between Israel and Hezbollah?  Interesting question. 

Here to answer it, Nouhad Mahmoud.  He is the Lebanon special envoy to the United Nations.  He joins us tonight from New York.  Ambassador Mahmoud, thanks for joining us. 

Ambassador, what is your country‘s position on an Israeli incursion by ground forces into Lebanon?  Are you going to let the battle take place between Israel and Hezbollah, or are you going to get involved? 

AMB. NOUHAD MAHMOUD, LEBANESE ENVOY TO THE UNITED NATIONS:  Well, the whole country is involved already because it is under aggression, and its bombardment, and it‘s in rubble.  So Hezbollah, they are a very small part of the whole thing. 

CARLSON:  So are your soldiers going to fight the Israeli defense forces directly? 

MAHMOUD:  Well, they must, because any army is built just to do that. 

I mean, why is it so weird? 

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure—well, it‘s odd, I suppose, because Israel says it has not—is not fighting the government of Lebanon and doesn‘t want to.  But you‘re telling me that your government, and your government‘s army, is going to wage a war with Israel. 

MAHMOUD:  Yes.  We are not waging war.  They are waging war on us. 

CARLSON:  Fighting.  You‘re going to fight when those Israeli troops...

(CROSSTALK)

MAHMOUD:  ... your country, what will you do?  I mean, what‘s the normal position?  If you have any suggestion, please, let us know.  Because the whole country is under aggression from Israel for the last 10 days.  So to say that...

CARLSON:  Well, here‘s my suggestion.  You‘re going to get slaughtered by the Israeli army, so I wouldn‘t fight them.  I would fight Hezbollah.  Kick them out of your country.  They‘re the reason you‘re at war on the first place, so why not turn on them, expel them, push them back to Iran or Syria or wherever they came from, and no problem.  And then ask the Israelis to rebuild your country for you.  That‘d be my opinion.

MAHMOUD:  I see a big misconception.  How can you say that, because there are Lebanese people, other villagers, who were in the village occupied by the Israelis or around that area.  They are not imported, they are not alien.  This picture about them that they are coming from Iran, from Syria, it‘s very misleading.  And from the first place, anyway. 

(CROSSTALK)

Look at them.  They are from the same villages.  With the people, they are their children, they are their husbands, they are their brothers.  They are not someone who‘s coming from somewhere else.  They have big infrastructure of social services, schools, hospitals.  And that‘s not something alien from the Lebanese society.  That‘s why they have deputies in the parliament, and they have ministers in the government. 

CARLSON:  Absolutely.  But, Mr. Ambassador, you wouldn‘t deny that their munitions, their armaments, the rockets, including three of the rockets that fell today on Haifa, came from Syria and Iran? 

MAHMOUD:  Well, what can we say about the shells that are coming from Israel?  They are made in Seattle and Miami. 

CARLSON:  So what exactly are you going to do?  I mean, how is Lebanon going to try and stop Israel from attacking?  I mean, clearly, you‘re not going to win a military battle.  How are you communicating with the United States or the United Nations in asking for help?  What are you going to do? 

MAHMOUD:  Well, we‘re asking for help for the last 10 days, but we didn‘t receive it.  We have many state members who are expressing their sympathy now in the Security Council, meeting is going on for the time being, and we heard a lot of support from the Security Council.

But unfortunately, when we are facing Israel there on the ground, we are facing a very mighty machine.  And, sure, our army cannot be compared with the Israeli army.  But they have to do their duty.  I mean, that‘s what they are for. 

CARLSON:  Are you surprised that more Arab governments haven‘t taken your side more aggressively, the government of Saudi Arabia for instance, or of Jordan, of Egypt? 

MAHMOUD:  I had all support here in New York from all of them.  And we know that they support us.  I mean, maybe they don‘t agree with the action of Hezbollah, and we didn‘t accept it and we didn‘t adopt it, but that doesn‘t mean that they won‘t side with us in this situation where we are under aggression. 

CARLSON:   How many refugees do you think there are right now in Lebanon?  How many people have been pushed out of their homes? 

MAHMOUD:  Half a million people just in 10 days.  See how mighty they are, see how ruthless they are?  You are in Haifa.  But if you can see the other side, even though we don‘t get enough coverage, but the situation is much worse by maybe tenfold, maybe ten or 100-fold. 

CARLSON:  You don‘t get enough coverage because your country is very difficult to get into right now.  We‘re going tomorrow.  We will be there. 

MAHMOUD:  Well, good luck, and be careful, especially from friendly fire. 

CARLSON:  Ambassador Mahmoud, thank you very much.  And I hope you‘ll join us again. 

MAHMOUD:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  When we come back, we spent the day with an Israeli tank battery.  But first, as we told you, rockets rain down on Haifa today, and we were there. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

We‘re at a temporary Israeli army encampment, probably about a kilometer south of the Lebanese border.  It‘s right over that hill to my left.  There are a number of tanks here, I think about five.  And they‘re firing 155-millimeter rounds, they say, on mobile Hezbollah units that are right just at the very southern part of Lebanon. 

There are some unknown number of Israeli forces, in the hundreds, maybe the thousands.  And they are calling in real time back with information on the location of Hezbollah units.  These tank crews behind me are then trying to hit them with the tank rounds. 

We can vouch for the fact that there really are Hezbollah units over there because they were firing Katyusha rockets right over our car as we drove here.  We saw them streaking pretty slowly across the sky.  You really get a sense of the difference in technology.  These Israeli munitions, some of them are made here—I think some of them are made in the United States.  They‘re high tech, they‘re effective. 

The Katyusha rockets, meanwhile—some of the Katyushas look literally homemade, like giant fireworks streaking through the sky.  Doesn‘t mean they‘re ineffective, but they are considerably slower. 

The rhetoric has changed from the Israeli side today.  No longer the coyness about going into Lebanon.  The Israeli army now openly acknowledges, and a military spokesman has acknowledged to us, that there are many Israeli soldiers within Lebanon. 

They‘re not apologizing for it; they‘re not pretending they‘re not there.  They‘re simply saying, “This is not an invasion, and we don‘t plan to hold Lebanon, to occupy it.”  To which I said, “Well, you didn‘t plan to occupy it last time.  You spent 18 years there.”  The spokesman laughed and said, “Maybe.”  In other words, nobody knows how long this conflict will last, but Israel seems bound and determined to keep Hezbollah off its northern border. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  This war is going to be more intense, more brutal.  It‘s going to have more firepower coming from the south into the north than I think anybody predicted five days ago.  We are leaving tomorrow for Cyprus, and then on to Lebanon.  We‘ll continue to cover it as we travel closer and closer to where the action is moving. 

When we come back, does the United States have any influence over what is about to happen over Israeli movements into Lebanon, over the ultimate course of the war?  We‘ll ask one reporter who‘s been covering it very carefully.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Coming up, Lebanon says it will defend itself at all costs. 

Will the Lebanese military be drawn into a ground war with Israel? 

Plus, the small island nation of Cyprus, it is now flooded with refugees from around the world, including the USA.  What are they doing with all those people?  We‘ll tell you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We can hear the rumbling in the distance.  Everybody in this country is expecting the ground invasion—invasion may be strong—but movement of ground troops into Lebanon tonight to increase fairly dramatically.  We think we‘re hearing evidence of it right now.

To find out more about it, we go to Rafael Frankel of “The Christian Science Monitor,” who joins us here. 

Welcome.

RAFAEL FRANKEL, “THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”:  Hi.  Good evening.

CARLSON:  How many Israeli troops, do you think are moving into Lebanon tonight? 

FRANKEL:  Well, Tucker, I just spoke with army sources, and what they said is that we have about 800 troops inside Lebanon right now operating inside Lebanon, and a little more than 3,000 -- at least more than 3,000 that are on standby.  And they can go in at any point if they‘re called upon to do so. 

CARLSON:  What does that mean, “operating inside”?  So they have actually crossed the border.  Do we have any idea how deep they are? 

FRANKEL:  The army‘s not saying that, and I don‘t think we‘re going to get an idea of that for some time until we see how far they can push in and how far they want to push in. 

At the moment, they may still be doing these pinpoint operations where they go in and come back, go in and come back.  It would be when we see the heavy equipment moving in all at once that we would come to see that this is starting to really make a push inside Lebanese territory. 

CARLSON:  Heavy equipment meaning...

FRANKEL:  Tanks, armored personnel carriers.  They‘ve been using them already to some extent, but they haven‘t been using them all at once and all together.  And once we see them moving in tandem, that‘s when we would know that they‘re making a push inside. 

CARLSON:  What do you make of the Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations who, a moment ago, said that his government believes it is now at war with the Israeli government, and the Lebanese army will now take up arms against the ID as it comes into Lebanon?  Is that a consideration for the Israeli army? 

FRANKEL:  It‘s a problem for Israel if the Lebanese army starts to join up with Hezbollah.  It‘s not the battle that Israeli wants to fight.  This is an army that they want to have come take control of the south, and they don‘t want to diminish its strength because they want, in the end, to be able to keep Hezbollah from regaining the positions that they‘re about to clean out.  So that‘s a big problem for Israel if that‘s the case. 

CARLSON:  So if I‘m the United States at this point, if I‘m the State Department, I‘m looking at this thinking and thinking, “We support Israeli.  We understand Israel‘s right to defend itself, and we‘re very sympathetic in this case because Hezbollah started it.  On the other hand, a war between Israel and the government, duly elected democratic government of Lebanon, is not what we want.” 

FRANKEL:  Big problem.

CARLSON:  How do we stop this if we‘re the United States?  Does Israel pay any attention to what the U.S. wants?

FRANKEL:  Of course, Israel pays a lot of attention to the United States.  We‘ve talked about it before.  But, at the moment, you know, we‘re seeing Israel start to call up reserve units.  Those are going to take the place of the troops that are moving into Lebanon from the West Bank and Gaza.  And Israel is gearing up for at least some major confrontation here. 

You know, I‘m not about to say how big the confrontation is going to be, but once they start calling up this many reserves, you know that it‘s something at least on some sort of scale that will have some lasting effect. 

As far as what the United States can do, Secretary Rice has started, you know, talks, more heavily talks, with France and a few other countries.  I think what you‘re seeing is the kind of parallel military focus and diplomacy that we were talking about the other day, that trying to put pressure on Hezbollah from both ends. 

CARLSON:  Will there be pressure, do you think, applied to the Israeli government, though? 

FRANKEL:  At the moment, I don‘t think we‘re still seeing that from the U.S.  You know, it was just a couple days ago that the report came out that said Israel would have at least another week. 

And after that, we have all these statements coming from the highest Israeli officials, including the prime minister and the army chief of staff, saying not just a week, we‘ll have a few weeks, and the army will have as long as they want to operate.  So I don‘t see any pressure coming from the United States.

CARLSON:  It just seems to me the narrative is about to completely

change if the Lebanese army gets involved.  Up to this point, Israel can

say, I think plausibly, “We are fighting a foreign element in our

neighboring country.  We have nothing against Lebanon.  It‘s a democratic

government.  But these creeps from Iran have essentially done an ‘Invasion

of the Body Snatchers‘ thing with some Lebanese, and we‘re going to get

them out of the country.”  If the Lebanese army is involved, you can‘t say

that.  You‘re at war with your neighbor.  That‘s a big deal

FRANKEL:  It‘s a function of what we were talking about last night, also, as far as—the people in Lebanon might say, “Hezbollah started this, but Israel is the one that‘s killing us.  And if there‘s an army coming to invade us, you know, however it started or not”—if you‘re an American and there is a foreign army coming into invade you, however the war started, you might take up arms and try and repel that army. 

CARLSON:  Might? 

FRANKEL:  Probably would. 

CARLSON:  You absolutely would.  Do we have any sense of where public opinion is?  I was very struck by the deputy mayor of Haifa a moment ago, a member of the Peace Party, self-described Green Party man, a peacenik, saying he thought that Hezbollah deserved to just get spanked in Lebanon to the point where it would never come back.  When is that going to change? 

FRANKEL:  Well, there have been some commentaries coming in the Israeli press, not saying necessarily that the war is wrong, but the tactics that the army is using, especially the air force, in its bombardment of some of the population centers in Beirut and southern Lebanon, are starting to be a little too harsh.  They‘re not being able to quite stomach it. 

But, look, we‘re seeing, like you said—here‘s a member of the Green Party of Haifa saying that, “We‘ve got to take it to them, take it to them, take it to them.”  And today, during the raids, during the second round of bombings of Katyusha rockets when we were down in the middle of Haifa, I was in a shelter with the mayor of Haifa who had told me a week ago before all this started that he thought we should really take it to Lebanon. 

And now, I asked him again, after everything that‘s happened to his city, after eight people have died and dozens have been wounded, “Do you still think that?”  And he sounded as sure as ever.  He‘s like, “No, I don‘t regret that at all.  I think we have to keep taking to them.  Israel is strong and will persevere.” 

CARLSON:  Is there any significance in the fact we‘re continuing to see rocket attacks even after that whole part of Lebanon has just been pounded?  It must be pulp at this point. 

FRANKEL:  Well, yesterday, there was a significant decrease in the rocket attacks.  And all of a sudden, everybody was wondering, does this mean Israel has done damage to Hezbollah‘s military capability.  And now you see today it went way up again. 

And so clearly, Hezbollah still has the amount of firepower it takes to really rain down on Israeli cities.  Haifa, when we were having breakfast this morning, all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom.  And then two hours later, another round of volley of rockets.  So, you know, obviously, the military capability of Hezbollah might be diminished, but not too much yet. 

CARLSON:  And finally, is there any space at all between where the prime minister is on this and where the opposition parties are, Olmert the prime minister, Netanyahu, head of Likud, one of the opposition parties?  I mean, are they arguing at all among one another?

FRANKEL:  Not that I can tell.  There‘s been an amazing amount of political unity, and that‘s incredible for Israel, which is a country which is known for its political disunity.  The strongest party in the parliament, Kadima, has 29 out of 120 seats.  And yet, what we‘re seeing is an amazing unity of the country, people that don‘t even really like each other coming together on this war. 

CARLSON:  Raphael Frankel of the “Christian Science Monitor,” thank you very much. 

FRANKEL:  Sure thing.

CARLSON:  We‘re going back—we have breaking news of some kind. 

Alison Stewart is going to handle that back at headquarters—Alison?

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Thank you so much, Tucker.  Our breaking news comes to us from the Lone Star State in Texas, Houston, Texas.  There seems to be a fairly active car chase going on. 

This is from KPRC.  Apparently, this car chase has started following an attempted robbery.  We should know that it was an armed robbery, apparently shots were fired.  And that is when the chase began, once the thieves—the people you see there, obviously, in that white pickup truck going at quite a rapid speed—left the scene and the chase is ensuing, it‘s been a pretty tight shot that we‘ve got from KPRC so far. 

Haven‘t really seen the police officers who are in pursuit of this white pickup truck.  The driver believed to be an armed robber, the suspect.  They are not exactly sure where the robbery attempt took place or what exactly was being robbed, whether it was a store, a bank, or an individual. 

These pictures are coming to us from Houston, Texas, quite a big city, the fourth largest city in the United States.  Population of about two million.  It‘s Central time there.  I believe it‘s 3:53 in the afternoon.  And again, we are following this car chase, breaking news out of Houston, Texas. 

We do believe that the person driving this white pickup truck is an armed robber.  Shots were fired at the location of the robbery, and that is when the pursuit began.  As you can see, the KPRC helicopter pulling out, and unsuspecting people in Friday afternoon traffic going on their way, not knowing who is driving that white pickup truck. 

We‘re going to continue to effort more information on this breaking news out of Houston.  A high-speed car chase in the Houston area following an attempted robbery.  Stay with MSNBC for continued breaking news coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  And you are watching MSNBC as we continue to follow a dramatic story coming out of Houston, Texas, in the Lone Star State.  That truck you see right there, that white pickup truck, has been involved in a high-speed chase.  We do want to let you know that we do have this picture on a little bit of a delay should there be any sort of a violent ending to this. 

The reason we say that is because the person driving this truck is believed to be an armed robber.  According to KPRC out of Houston, Texas, this car chase began after a robbery attempt in the area.  We don‘t have any details yet as to what was being robbed, whether it was a store, an individual, or a bank, but we do know the person who did attempt the robbery was armed because shots were indeed fired at the scene. 

As we‘ve been watching this car chase develop over the past 10 minutes or so, it has gone from being a highway chase to what looks like some back roads in the Houston, Texas, area.  Of course, Houston huge city, two million people.  Fourth largest city in the United States, and it is a Friday afternoon there. 

The driver of this truck got off the major interstate and is headed on some sort of a country road.  Looks to be a little bit of a cloudy day there.  They‘re telling us it‘s a hot one in Houston.  As you know, there‘s been a heat wave in the middle of the country. 

And the shot had been pretty tight frankly on this truck for most of the car chase that we‘ve been able to see.  So we really haven‘t been able to see the police vehicle, which is in pursuit.  But as you can see, the KPRC chopper has been keeping on top of it. 

OK.  There we go.  We got a wide shot, and frankly, that truck has the road to itself.  I‘m not really sure where the police vehicles are at this point or whether or not it‘s a police helicopter perhaps that‘s chasing the vehicle all along the route. 

There was a whole bunch of, well, I‘m just going to call it stuff flying out the back of that truck.  And we really haven‘t seen any particular sort of violent behavior from the person who is driving that truck.  Obviously, he‘s driving a lit bit erratically. 

And earlier, he was driving at some pretty fairly high speeds, just passing people on the four-lane highway there in Houston, Texas.  Once again, the police suspect that the person driving that truck is someone who is wanted in connection with an armed robbery that happened in the Houston area. 

Again, we‘ve been following this story for about 10 minutes, and this car has got the rid to his or herself.  We don‘t know the gender of the person driving the truck, or if the person happens to be alone.  And again, we do want to let our viewers know that we do have this on somewhat of a delay so that if there is any sort of violent activity, you won‘t have to be exposed to anything that‘s particularly upsetting or violent. 

You are watching MSNBC‘s breaking news of a car case that‘s happening out of Houston, Texas.  An armed robber taking off in a white pickup truck and leading the authorities on a chase through four-lane highways and now to back roads of this major United States city. 

Once again, some stuff is flying out of the truck.  Not sure if this truck actually belongs to the person who is driving it.  And obviously, he is coming out an armed robbery.  Perhaps he may have stolen the truck.  That‘s always possible in a situation like this. 

Again, it is a Friday afternoon in Houston, Texas.  Unsuspecting drivers not realizing that the person rounding that corner right there is an armed robbery suspect.  We are obviously going to keep our eye on this story, as is the KPRC helicopter as it continues to follow this truck.  You have been watching MSNBC. 

Of course, we‘re also continuing our coverage of the Mideast crisis.  Tucker Carlson, he has been in Israel, and he will continue to follow that story from there.  We‘re also going to be following it on “Countdown” as well as “Hardball.”  And we at the MSNBC Control Room will keep our eye on this truck and this armed robbery suspect fleeing the authorities in Houston, Texas.

I‘m Alison Stewart.  Stay with MSNBC for continuing coverage of this car chase and the Mideast conflict.  Stay with us.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shalluser use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Transcripts

Watch Tucker each weeknight at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,