updated 7/27/2006 12:17:55 PM ET 2006-07-27T16:17:55

Guests: Neil King, James Zogby, Dan Gillerman, Nabih Ayad

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Another day of fierce fighting in Lebanon claims another deadly toll. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Every day they take, like, turns bombing my house. 

Every day. 

ANNOUNCER:  And Hezbollah unleashes its own military might on Israel. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The next rocket could go into a kindergarten. 

ANNOUNCER:  As casualties on both sides of the border escalate, the search for a diplomatic solution continues. 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We all committed to dedicated and urgent action. 

ANNOUNCER:  But the worldwide plea for peace goes unheard. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Help us, please.  Please.  Please.  Please. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Now from Beirut, here‘s Tucker Carlson. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.  We‘re coming to you from Beirut on a day of bloody military engagements and dashed diplomatic hopes. 

For Israel, this was the bloodiest day so far of this more than two-week-old engagement.  The IDF says eight Israeli soldiers were killed and 22 were wounded in a battle with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. 

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes leveled Hezbollah‘s offices if the port city of Tyre, wounding 12 people and filling the sky with smoke.  A top Israeli commander warned the fighting would probably continue for weeks.  And multinational talks in Rome failed to produce a plan for a cease-fire. 

For the latest on what is happening in the Middle East tonight, we turn to our NBC News correspondents throughout the region. 

First, we go to Haifa, Israel, which was hit with a barrage of Hezbollah rockets earlier today.  Dozens of people were wounded across that country. 

NBC News‘ Peter Alexander is in Haifa. 

Peter, what‘s the latest? 

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, good evening to you. 

The latest is that abut 125 rockets hit throughout the northern part of this country today.  Just got off the phone not long ago with an Israeli army spokesperson confirming some of those numbers.  We hear that nobody was killed as a result of today‘s attacks.  One person seriously wounded, a couple dozen others who were also hurt in Israel, many of them from the anxiety associated when these sirens go off and they try to rush to safety.  The good news here though is that nobody was killed. 

To give you a better understanding, though, across this country, it is certainly a time of mourning.  Eight Israeli soldiers, as you indicated, killed today in fighting, 22 others wounded. 

Near the town of Bint Jbeil—this is a significant site where most of the clashes, the bloody clashes are happening right now, truly the heaviest fighting in this now 15-day old conflict—as they have these search and destroy missions to try to find the Hezbollah fighters, they are finding fierce resistance.  Bint Jbeil is a significant community, not just because it is sort of a center of the resistance, or has been for the last couple of decades, hosted by Hezbollah, but also it‘s because it‘s a higher ground, only about two miles north of the Israel-Lebanon border that Israel and Hezbollah fighters have been battling over for the last couple of days. 

Israel had taken over a nearby town called Maroun al-Ras.  They took that over from Hezbollah fighters.  But today we heard of renewed fighting just outside. 

In my conversation with the Israeli army spokespeople, they say that six more soldiers were hurt there.  We were looking for an update on their condition, and all they‘ll say at this point is that they were badly wounded. 

In terms of those rockets today, 125 throughout this area, two of them struck here in Haifa, the port city, about 18 miles south of the border.  We were here this afternoon, about 3:20 local time when we heard one of the sirens, and as they have done so many times before, people, as calmly, as best they can, shuffle into safe places.  And other places, people just continue about their day. 

One of the biggest concerns here, of course, is the random nature of these rockets falling.  Yesterday, there was a bus driver who moved to what appeared to be a safe shelter, pulling underneath an overpass, and the rocket skidded before exploding right if front of that bus, killing that individual.  Today, though, as we said, there were no deaths associated with those rockets. 

As for the airstrikes, the Israeli warplanes pursued some targets across Tyre.  That is the city about 10 or so miles north of the border, about 30 miles in total from Haifa.  It‘s believed, according to Israeli army officials, that a lot of the bombs are being—or the rockets are being fired from Tyre at Haifa and other cities throughout northern Israel.

Tucker, that‘s why their airstrikes there were so significant.  There were at least 15 strikes today throughout that area, including one that leveled a large building, a six-story building that is believed to be the home—to serve as the home or apartment of one of the senior commanders of Hezbollah in the southern area. 

That is the latest from us right now, and we‘ll send it back to you. 

CARLSON:  Peter Alexander in Haifa, Israel. 

Thanks a lot, Peter.

Speaking of Tyre, that was certainly the city from which most of today‘s headlines came.  We are joined from there by NBC News‘ Beirut bureau chief, Richard Engel.  He joins us by videophone.

Richard, what‘s the situation tonight in Tyre? 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF:  Actually, over the phone, Tucker, the situation right now has been that there‘s constant Israeli bombardments around the edges of the city, and then there was that one very significant airstrike in the center of Tyre.  This is the—one of the few times that Israel has launched a strike right in the—in the heart of the city. 

It flattened, as Peter was just saying, a six-story apartment building, bringing it to the ground.  We arrived on the scene just after this airstrike took place.  There were two Israeli rockets that destroyed the building.

It was the home of a Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, who is the leader of Hezbollah in south Lebanon.  He, according to a Hezbollah official I spoke to a short while ago, was not in the apartment at the time.  And according to the Red Cross, no one was in the building, but it appears to have been certainly a strong Israeli message to Hezbollah that they know where he lives and were trying to target him or at least send a message to him. 

When we arrived on the scene, there was pandemonium, nothing short of that.  There were people trying to dig through the debris.  Many of the local people had taken off their shirt so they could go right into the flames and dig through the rubble. 

At one stage we spelled gas fumes, and reporters and locals started to scramble out of the area, fearing that there could be a secondary explosion.  We were running through live wires, sometimes getting pressed between the crowds and the building itself.  And there was a considerable amount of anger, as well.  Even though this was an attack on an apartment used by the leader of Hezbollah, people there kept telling us that Israel was only targeting civilians, then started cheering, “Hezbollah!”—

Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Richard, looking at these really dramatic pictures you‘ve sent back, it raises the obvious question.  You‘re an American reporter for an American news network in a city that has been bombed by American warplanes used by Israel, but many people here blame America. 

Did you feel threatened at all by the—by the crowd at the scene? 

ENGEL:  The crowd was very excited, and one of the most dangerous things in a situation like this is the crowd turning on you.  So when we were there and obviously there‘s a—it‘s an unpredictable situation.  When the crowd started to get very excited and we were surrounded by people screaming at us and cheering up—cheering “Hezbollah,” we decided that was the time to leave.

But, in general, the Hezbollah and the people here have been very friendly to us.  They are desperate to get their message out.  They believe that Israel is not only fighting Hezbollah, but that it‘s using a very—that it‘s using very heavy-handed tactics and saying that entire villages along the border with Israel are being depopulated. 

And we‘ve seen refugees flooding into the city.  Some of them stay, some of them push further north.  So, at this stage, Hezbollah still feels quite confident that it has a story to tell, and I would assume they feel they can—they can use us to try to get that message out. 

We haven‘t been pressured by them in any way yet, but there are concerns that if the tides turn and Hezbollah feels very much pressured or the fighting actually comes right to the doorstep here, that the attitude of the people and of this organization could change. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  At that point, it‘s time to split. 

Good luck.

Richard Engel, from Tyre, Lebanon. 

Thank you. 

Well, we decided to take a firsthand look at some of the fighting—some of the bombing, rather, that‘s been taking place if southern Beirut today.  We took our crew, our driver and our translator south of the city to south Beirut to take a look at the sites that Israel bombed yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  We‘re right off the main drag coming into south Beirut.  We just got a call from Hezbollah saying they wanted to meet with us.  We didn‘t have time to get our flak jackets or helmets. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Please don‘t take photos of people here.  You know, only buildings.

CARLSON:  OK.  Don‘t take photos of people here, only buildings, we‘re being told. 

This area has been devastated by Israel.  This is an area that is dangerous enough that our driver and translator are upset.  They don‘t want to stay here long, they want to leave. 

If you look around, this has been totaled.  They call this Nasrallahgrad, after Stalingrad.  It‘s that bad.

I can‘t overstate how quickly we‘ve got to get out of here and how jumpy everyone is to be here.  Behind us are nine buildings that were knocked down by Israel yesterday.  We‘re with Hezbollah officials—asked us not to take photographs of anyone‘s face.  The air is thick with smoke and dust, almost hard to breathe.  And again, a tense scene. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Two things we learned driving to south Beirut today.  One, Israel isn‘t kidding with it says Hezbollah controls parts of the city.  As you drive in the main drag known to the locals as Nasrallah Boulevard, you see he pictures of Ayatollah Khoemeni, of Nasrallah himself hanging right over the street. 

It couldn‘t be more obvious that it‘s a—that it‘s a Hezbollah stronghold.  There‘s nothing secretive about it.

As we drove in, our driver stopped the car, got out, spoke to a Hezbollah militiaman, told him we were going deeper into the city.  The militiaman said OK.  We drove on.

So there‘s really no question that Hezbollah is in charge, essentially, in that area just south of where we‘re standing right now.

The second thing we learned is what you know from looking at these pictures.  The bombing has been profound.  I compared it to what I saw in Baghdad after the American bombing campaign there, which really was a precision bombing campaign.

You had blocks in which a building was just removed, as if from above.  When American bombs land, they take out most of the time what they‘re meant to take out.  This was a much more profound bombing campaign.

By the way, you can hear an F-16 above us right now as we‘re talking.

This was a neighborhood that in many parts was just completely flattened, completely destroyed.  It‘s hard to know what those buildings were.

Hezbollah told us today that one of them was a sports club, another was a school.  A third was a mosque.  That children were killed. 

Is that true?  We don‘t know.  But we do know that in that part of this city, many, many, many buildings have been destroyed.  Many buildings right next to each other. 

How precise is it?  It didn‘t look that precise to me, but it‘s believable that many Hezbollah members were killed there. 

Well, still to come, there is no cease-fire tonight, despite much effort from the so-called international community.  Multinational talks in Rome failed.  Has Condi Rice‘s shuttle diplomacy failed along with them? 

And did Israel deliberately target U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon?  There are reports that the United Nations called Israel 10 times begging for a halt to the bombing.  Israel denies it.  The latest on that when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We are all agreed that we want most urgently to end the violence on a basis that this time will be sustainable, because unfortunately, this is a region that has had too many broken cease-fires. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Rome earlier today, putting some diplomatic spin on what was essentially a failure, a failure to reach an agreement for a cease-fire on the conflict here in the Middle East. 

Well, joining us on the phone, a man who is covering that story, Neil King of “The Wall Street Journal.”  He is in Rome.

NEIL KING, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Hello, Tucker.  How are you?

CARLSON:  Neil, why did this break down?  I‘m fine, thanks.  But from this distance, it‘s hard to know exactly what happened today.  What did happen?  

KING:  Well, it is very difficult to interpret, but in a lot of ways, in a kind of contorted way, this is really a success for the Bush administration, because the last thing that they actually want is a cease-fire, so they‘re in this sort of Orwellian position of trying to enhance the humanitarian condition of the Lebanese people by pushing Israel to open up humanitarian corridors and that sort of thing, while essentially creating space for the war to go on or for the bombing to go on. 

The reason that they cite, though they don‘t do it as directly, is that in order for there to be a comprehensive deal down the road, a week or two from now, they think that Hezbollah has to be considerably more weakened, and that the only way that that can happen is if the bombing campaign continues.  Whether the logic actually holds is—will—remains to be seen, but the one thing that they‘re trying to resist is the push by some in Europe and the Arab world to essentially freeze the moment and call for an immediate cease-fire with the hope that then some arrangement can be reached down the road, even though the main nub of the problem is what can anybody do about Hezbollah. 

And that‘s the real mystery in all of this, is how is Hezbollah going to be somehow or another taken out of the equation?  And nobody is really coming up with an explanation for that. 

CARLSON:  Well, that is a solid question.  I guess another question would be, how long is it going to take to “significantly weaken” Hezbollah, considering that more than two weeks into this bombing campaign, they‘re still able to lob 150 Katyusha rockets into northern Israel?  I mean, that tells you something about their reserves and their resilience and the difficulty Israel is having in crushing them. 

Do we have any sense how long that‘s going to take? 

KING:  Well, I certainly don‘t have any sense of that standing here in

Rome, but having listened to the previous programming that you had,

obviously the other risk that Israel and the United States and anyone else

who sides with this particular approach runs is that not only are they not

necessarily weakening Hezbollah, but they‘re gaining a lot more popular

support for Hezbollah among the very area of Lebanon that they‘re going to

have to convert in some sense.  So, the strategy that they‘re pushing is a

I‘m not going to say a dubious one, but it‘s a very risky one. 

On the other hand, there‘s some logic to it because the people on the other side of the argument haven‘t really been able to explain how Lebanon as a government is going to somehow or other convince Hezbollah to stand down or how any international force is going to move in and confront Hezbollah any more effectively than Israel is now doing, considering the events that happened today on the ground. 

It‘s obviously a very brutal place to try to go in by land.  So there‘s like a whole nest of different uncertainties about how any of this is going to proceed to reach a sustainable, long-term, huge sort of package that the U.S. and now basically everyone is aiming for that will supposedly solve his. 

CARLSON:  You know, that is such a smart point.  I mean, taking a look at what‘s happened to the IDF, one of the toughest, most capable militaries in the world, can you imagine what would happen to U.N. observers if they wandered into southern Lebanon?  No, it would be—it‘s not possible. 

What about the Lebanese government?  You mentioned their place in all of this.  Does the United States, does Israel want that government to collapse?  Do we see a place for them in the future of Lebanon? 

What is their role exactly? 

KING:  Oh, massively.  I mean, the Bush administration has pointed repeatedly to the existing government of Lebanon as one of the shining examples of this whole trend towards democracy that they want to see happen in the Middle East.  And they‘re desperate to see Prime Minister Siniora and his government remain, because they‘re a very moderate government, and they‘re exactly the kind of government that they want to promote.

But, on the other hand, they are terrified that this unrest will somehow or the other bring them down.  And so the whole (ph) for them, if that were to happen, it‘s hard to say what the consequences would be.  But the problem for the Lebanese government—and they keep talking about the need to extend the sovereignty of Lebanon to its southern borders—is that it doesn‘t have the power to do that, because it basically has a sort of gendermarie of an army, while Hezbollah, some people say, is the third or fourth largest military force in the Middle East.

CARLSON:  Yes.

KING:  So, they have a much larger military strength than the Lebanese government itself does. 

CARLSON:  And in the end that‘s what matters.

Neil King in Rome from “The Wall Street Journal.”

Thanks a lot. 

KING:  A pleasure. 

CARLSON:  Well, Israel today hits a U.N. outpost, killing four members of a United Nations peacekeeping force.  One of them a Canadian.  Some are claiming Israel did it on purpose, which is a very strong thing to say. 

We‘re going to have both sides on that debate coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL:  The shelling of the U.N. position, which is long established and clearly marked, started early in the morning and went on until after 7:00 p.m., when we lost contact.  And our general and troops, people on the ground, were in touch with the Israeli army, warning them, please, be careful. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, reacting to the Israeli airstrike that killed four U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon yesterday.  Now there are reports the U.N. called Israel 10 times to try and stop the bombing for fear their men would be hit. 

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed his “deep regret” and said the killings were a complete accident.  But could the United Nations have in fact been the target?  That is the allegation some are making, particularly in this region. 

Joining me now, James Zogby.  He‘s the founder and the president of the Arab American Institute.  He joins us from Washington. 

Mr. Zogby, welcome. 

JAMES ZOGBY, FOUNDER, ARAB AMERICAN INST.:  Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Now, why would Israel—it doesn‘t make sense, if you think it through, that Israel would intentionally kill U.N. peacekeepers.

What‘s in it for Israel? 

ZOGBY:  Well, that‘s a good question, and it needs to be asked to the Israeli with the facts are in.  But the secretary-general is an extraordinarily temperate man who doesn‘t make accusations lightly. 

And the fact that, as he noted, Israel had been called many times, the building was clearly marked, Israel‘s intelligence in the region is very good, and they know where these U.N. outposts are, and it‘s not the first time that U.N. posts have been hit—all through the Israeli occupation of the south, over 250 U.N. officials were killed. 

I was in very close touch with the Irish during that period, who lost many of their folks on the ground.  And they felt that they were being deliberately targeted. 

It appeared that when Israel went into an area, they really wanted the U.N.  out.  And one of the ways of getting them out was to target them. 

Now, did they expect to kill them?  Probably just to get them out.  But the fact is, is that the U.N. was targeted and the U.N. was killed.  These were precision bombs, they were struck repeatedly over a number of hours.  Despite calls and warnings that the position was being hit, they continued to bomb it.

And so this is not an accident.  I don‘t see it as an accident.  And I think the secretary-general should be taken seriously on this. 

CARLSON:  Well, but wait a second.  I mean, everybody knows the United Nations hates Israel.  Everybody hates Israel, basically, around the world except the United States.  And the U.N. especially does. 

Every resolution having to do with Israel is an attack on Israel, as you well know.  You may think they‘re justified or not, but, I mean, I think we can both agree the U.N. is very tough on Israel.  So when the secretary-general says Israel did it on purpose...

ZOGBY:  Tucker, let‘s not—let‘s not confuse issues here.  This is Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been supported by our own country and by many Western governments as a temperate man.  He is not the U.N. that hates Israel.  He is in fact a U.N. spokesperson who has received almost unanimous support because of the fact that he is a moderate on these and other issues. 

The fact of the matter is, that when we are told that the place called to Israel 10 times, that the bombing took place over several hours, that it was struck repeatedly, and we know over the last 20 years, that U.N.  outposts have been hit repeatedly, killing well over 200 U.N. personnel, this doesn‘t appear to me to be an accident.  So, you can accept the Israeli denial, but there is a precedence here that goes way back. 

CARLSON:  OK.

ZOGBY:  And the fact is, is that that‘s what we‘re seeing play out on the ground.

CARLSON:  I‘m fully—wait.  I‘m fully aware of the history of U.N.  peacekeepers and journalists and other people on the front lines of war being killed accidentally.  What you‘re leaving out of this is motive. 

For Israel to attack, to intentionally kill peacekeepers, is so over the top.  That‘s barbaric behavior accepted by no one in this world.  It hurts Israel to do that.  You don‘t need to do that.  Israel had no reason to do that, it doesn‘t help them.  It doesn‘t make no sense. 

ZOGBY:  Tucker, listen to me, don‘t get me started on barbaric behavior not accepted by the world community.  The fact is, what Israel is doing in Lebanon is barbaric activity. 

Over 400 civilians have been killed in the massive infrastructure destroyed in the country.  And cities hit in the north and in the central parts, where there are no Hezbollah at all. 

You can‘t plain to me why the Port of Zhuni (ph), a Christian port, was hit.  You can‘t explain to me why Shet (ph) was hit, another Christian place. 

I mean, the fact is, is that you give way too much credit to Israel in this regard.  There is a massive campaign of collective punishment against the people of Lebanon that I believe needs to be understood as an assault on the country as a whole. 

Now, there may be a political objective to this.  Israel may be trying to create fear in Lebanon.  They may be using these bombings to make a political point.  They‘ve said that before, you know, if you don‘t rein in Hezbollah, look at what will happen to all of you. 

The fact is, is that it‘s happening, Tucker.  And it‘s happening and reviled everywhere in the world but in the United States. 

You can believe Israel if you wish, but frankly no one else is.  And as I said, Irish have died, Ghanans have died.  Fijians have died.  Countries that have no dog in this fight have died, and they are bitter at what Israel has done.

Speak to the Irish about their experience there, how many times they would call the Israelis and say, don‘t hit us and they got hit anyway.

CARLSON:  No, I‘m fully aware of that.  I still—look—look, I‘m aware of all of that.  And again, I‘m aware of the many journalists who have been shot and some of whom have been killed.  I just think, in the end, Israel is smarter than that.  But we disagree.

James Zogby, thanks for joining us.

ZOGBY:  Well, I would like to see them smarter than that, but their history has shown that they‘re not smarter than that because, frankly, what they‘re doing right now is not really smart at all.  Thanks.

CARLSON:  All right.

Thanks.

ZOGBY:  I would like to see them smarter than that, but their history has shown that they‘re not smarter than that because, frankly, what they‘re doing right now is now really smart at all.  Thanks.

CARLSON:  All right.  Thanks.

Still to come, did George W. Bush intentionally ignore the plight of Americans stuck here in Lebanon?  One American says he did, and he‘s suing the U.S. government.  We‘ll talk to him in just a moment.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  You just heard the claim that Israel intentionally targeted a U.N. outpost here in Lebanon, murdering four U.N. peacekeepers.  In a moment, we‘ll hear from a representative of the Israeli government who says that claim is ridiculous and offensive.  First, here are your headlines. 

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Before the break, we talked to James Zogby of the Arab American Institute.  He claims he believes Israel intentionally targeted a U.N. outpost today here in Lebanon, killing four U.N.  peacekeepers.  They knew what it was, and they did it anyway. 

We‘re joined now by a representative of the Israeli government who claims that claim is outrageous and absurd.  Amabassdor Dan Gillerman is the Israeli representative to the United Nations.  He joins us now from New York.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome.  I don‘t know if you heard what our previous guest just said, but the allegation is that the United Nations called the Israeli Defense Force 10 times before and during this bombing and was bombed anyway.  Is that true? 

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.:  Well, I heard those ridiculous allegations of James Zogby who, as usual, was very good at distorting the facts and spreading misinformation.  All these figures about these hundreds of U.N. observers who have been killed is totally wrong. 

I can tell you emphatically that more U.N. observers were killed in all other areas in which they serve, whether it‘s the Congo or the Sudan or Kosovo, than in Israel.  And, you know, they serve in war zones.  They‘re not on a picnic.  They know exactly what they‘re facing, they‘re in places...

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry.  Mr. Ambassador, wait.  Slow down.  There‘s a very specific allegation here.  And it is in this specific case that the United Nations called the Israeli army 10 times, and this outpost was bombed anyway.  Is that true? 

GILLERMAN:  I‘m not aware of these 10 calls.  All I know is that this was a tragic mistake.  Anybody in his right mind would be crazy to think that Israel would deliberately target U.N. observers or U.N. peacekeepers.  What good would it do to Israel?  It would be devastating politically, diplomatically, as far as world public opinion is concerned.  Why would we do a crazy thing like that? 

This is war.  War is ugly, and in war, mistakes and tragedies happen.  Over the last 48 hours, several Israeli soldiers were hurt by friendly fire.  Would James Zogby say that our intelligence is excellent, and because of that, I mean, we targeted our own soldiers? 

This is preposterous, just as was the allegation and the condemnation yesterday by the secretary-general.  I think that the secretary-general‘s statement yesterday was hurried, hasty, unfortunate, appalling, deplorable and irresponsible. 

Coming from such a seasoned diplomat, he should have known better.  He should have waited for the facts, and he should not have rushed out of dinner in the heat of the moment and accused Israel of something which he, more than anybody else, knows is totally untrue. 

CARLSON:  Well, I tend to buy your story completely.  I don‘t see how Israel benefits from killing U.N. peacekeepers who don‘t do anything anyway.  So I tend to think this was an accident. 

Why, though, the attacks on Lebanese army posts?  I believe four of them have been hit.  Israel has said from the very beginning it is not at war with the Lebanese army.  Those were not accidental.  Why are you bombing Lebanese army posts? 

GILLERMAN:  Israel certainly is not at war with Lebanon.  We have no quarrel with Lebanon.  As you very well know, Tucker, we‘ve left Lebanon over six years ago with no intention of ever coming back.  The U.N. has declared that Israel has left every single inch of Lebanon. 

We were compelled into this brutal exchange by an attack from the Hezbollah.  Now the Hezbollah has infiltrated Lebanon and infiltrated every fiber of Lebanese society.  It‘s the Lebanese ambassador to the U.N. who said on American television last week that in Lebanon, it‘s impossible to distinguish between Lebanese and Hezbollah, that the Hezbollah is everywhere, and that Hezbolah has infiltrated and become part of Lebanese society. 

Therefore, when we bomb, we go for strongholds of the Hezbollah, which are indistinguishable from those of the Lebanese army.  And sometimes, unfortunately, even from those of UNIFIL, we have tried to be very cautious and very, very careful.  And what we hit are infrastructure and headquarters and logistics of the Hezbollah, which happen to be all over Lebanon. 

CARLSON:  Well so then, Mr. Ambassador, why are you bombing television stations, here?  I mean, nobody is suggesting that television stations are firing rockets into Israel.  Israel is a democracy.  It understands the need for a free press, for information.  You‘ve bombed television stations that are anti-Hezbollah.  Why would you do that? 

GILLERMAN:  The television stations which we targeted, as far as we know, were television stations that either belonged to the Hezbollah or were assisting Hezbollah in carrying out its messages. 

And in today‘s world, as you know better than anybody else, words are sometimes much more hurtful than even bullets, and incitement is much more poisonous than even ammunition.  And the incitement and the logistics which were carried sometimes by those television statements were such that we had to eliminate them. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us. 

GILLERMAN:  Thank you very much for having me. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.  Well, a group of Lebanese Americans in Michigan has filed a suit against the president of the United States claiming the United States government was criminally negligent in leaving Americans here in Lebanon exposed, not rescuing them quickly enough from harm‘s way.  Well, joining us now is the man who is representing that group.  He is an attorney in Michigan.  His name is Nabih Ayad.  He is he joining us tonight from Southfield, Michigan.

Mr. Ayad, thanks for coming on.  On what grounds are you seeing the United States government?  We just, a couple hours ago, watched the final couple of ships leave the harbor here in Beirut filled with American citizens, most of them Lebanese-Americans.  And they were getting a free ride home.  Seems to me the U.S. government has done a pretty good job.  Why are you suing? 

NABIH AYAD, ATTORNEY FOR LEBANESE-AMERICANS SUING U.S. GOVERNMENT: 

We‘re suing the government basically for the failure of the U.S. government to protect its constituents, its U.S. citizens.  Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were appointed, basically, to secure U.S. interests, U.S. citizens. 

And by their failure to send the necessary ships, send the necessary food and medicine, contract with airline carriers around the world, they were able to—they were hoping to expedite and secure in the interests of United States citizens, get them he to safety. 

CARLSON:  But, I mean, wait a second.  The United States wasn‘t in charge of this war.  I mean, the war‘s origins are widely known.  We don‘t need to go over them again.  But this is a conflict between Hezbollah and the state of Israel.  The United States isn‘t a party directly to this conflict.  Why exactly should they pay money to you? 

AYAD:  Well, we‘re not suing for money, Tucker.  We‘re basically suing for (inaudible) to have the secretary of state and secretary of defense basically take action to secure the interests of United States citizens, basically to get them out of harm‘s way. 

If you look at the close proximity of the United States and Israel, it‘s as a father and child relationship, where the United States could just basically, just by Condoleezza Rice picking up the phone and asking the government of Israel to stop the bombing so the U.S. citizens could evacuate and move out of south Lebanon and get to the ports and get out of that country. 

That‘s what we‘re asking the government to do, which is easily doable, and we‘ve seen in the last couple of days the bombings did stop when Condoleezza Rice flew into Beirut.  And we‘ve seen that these types of incidents or American citizens are in harm‘s way by the fact that U.N.  peacekeepers were there basically that got bombed just this morning. 

CARLSON:  Well, you know what?  I‘ll admit, I kind of agree with you in some ways.  The first duty of the U.S. government is to protect its own citizens.  And I‘m not sure that‘s always the foremost on the minds of people who make our foreign policy. 

However, do you know for a fact that that didn‘t happen?  Do you know that the president himself didn‘t call the prime minister of Israel and ask for, you know, a redirection of Israeli bombings so Americans could get out?  Perhaps that did happen.  We don‘t know. 

AYAD:  Well if it did happen, you would see a cease-fire, Tucker.  And there was no cease-fire.  All I see is the...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  Slow down we don‘t know that Israel obeyed.

AYAD:  I‘m sorry? 

CARLSON:  No, but—hold on.  We don‘t know that the United States didn‘t go to Israel and say, “Look, we‘d like to get our citizens out.  Don‘t bomb the port in Beirut or don‘t bomb this road or that road.”  And maybe Israel ignored our plea.  I mean, Israel is not a marionette.  Israel does things the United States doesn‘t like, things the U.S. can‘t control.  Everything Israel does is not our fault. 

AYAD:  Well, then that‘s basically going against all common sense and the political nature of the world as it stands today, Tucker.  Everybody in the world knows—it doesn‘t take a rocket scientist to know that Israel basically listens and understands the U.S. interests and would listen if the—at the urging of the United States. 

If you look back in 1982 with President Reagan when he called up the prime minister of Israel, said, “Enough is enough.”  And this is what we‘re asking upon our Bush administration to do, is basically call in the Israeli government and tell them to please allow our U.S. citizens to be evacuated from harm‘s way. 

That is not too much to ask.  Instead, what this government is doing is basically shipping missiles, satellite-guided missiles, to Israel on rush delivery as of Thursday morning and basically to bombard their own citizens.  That in itself is unconscionable.  It is deplorable in itself, sir.

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s certainly a confusing foreign policy.  I will concede that.  Mr. Ayad, thanks for joining us. 

AYAD:  Thank you, sir. 

CARLSON:  Well, if you‘ve been watching this show for the last week, you know that among the many mysteries to crop up during our time here in the Middle East has been this one.  What is Mark Potter‘s cell phone ring.  He was on display on the Chris Matthews show.  Many of you have called in with your guesses.  Mark Potter breaks the mystery tonight.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  As we‘ve been covering the conflicts here in the Middle East, our eagle-eyed producer Willie Geist has been covering the coverage of the conflict here in the Middle East.  He joins us from MSNBC world headquarters with what he‘s found—Willie?

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Tucker, we took a shot at you yesterday.  Your ego was so badly bruised, I‘m going to lay off today and let you recover.  We‘ll get you again tomorrow though, I promise.

CARLSON:  Thank you, Willie.

GEIST:  All right.  Today, we start with “The Situation Room” on CNN.  During the daily show, Jack Cafferty decided to play a little game of back patting with host Wolf Blitzer. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR:  You know, Wolf, I‘m sitting here 20 minutes watching this coverage, and it occurs to me there isn‘t a television operation on this planet that can touch CNN when it comes to covering this kind of story.  This is great stuff. 

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Jack, let me second what you just said.  I don‘t think any news organization in the world has the kind of reach that we have here.  Our news gathering capabilities around the world unparalleled, to put it mildly. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  “And could I just add, Jack, that‘s a really handsome tie you‘re wearing.” 

“Oh, stop it, Wolf.  Have you lost weight?”  There‘s something a little unseemly about that level of self-congratulations while people are dying by the dozens every day.  So dial it back a little bit, or save it for the cafeteria after the show.  That‘s what we do. 

Next up, our pal, Nancy Grace.  She‘s been hot on the trail of a story out of Texas, where real estate agent Sarah Ann Walker was found fatally stabbed 27 times in a model home.  Last night, as part of her multi-pronged approach to covering the story, Nancy incorporated some props.  Now, if you have young children, you‘ll want to cover their eyes at this time.  This will definitely cause nightmares. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, CNN HOST:  Very commonly, in a multiple stabbing with a knife, with the intensity of the stab, the perpetrator‘s hand—and I‘ve seen this in several cases myself—goes down the sheath of knife.  And the perp‘s hand actually gets cut on the murder weapon, and apparently, that‘s what we‘ve got here.  Now, what kind of blood droplets or blood spatter do you expect to see? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Yikes.  As a man knowing the way she feels about people of my gender, there‘s no more frightening image than Nancy Grace with a butcher knife.  Oh my gosh.  There ought to be an FCC regulation against her carrying weapons on the set.  Just my two cents.  Ooh, please, take that down.  Thank you.

And now to the newest international superstar, NBC‘s own Mark Potter.  Sure, he‘s in Israel right now, bravely bringing us reports from the front lines every day.  But he‘s also the man with that mysteriously elusive ring tone that everyone is talking about.  You continue to flood us with your ideas of what the song might be.  But let‘s listen one more time before we reveal today‘s top suggestions and a surprise guest, as well. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  How are the Israelis reading the relenting in the attack from the rockets from Hezbollah?  Do they see the lesser rocket fire today as evidence of a weakening Hezbollah or that Hezbollah is signaling some kind of willingness to negotiate? 

MARK POTTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  There are two ways of looking at it.  One is that perhaps the fighting has intensified to the point that much their capability has been stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  OK.  So there it is.  Now we want to reveal today‘s top five suggestions, and I must say you‘re getting farther and farther off base.  “Willie and the Hand Jive” by Johnny Otis.  Nope.  “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley.  “Rock the Boat” by The Hues Corporation.  And now you‘re really getting away from it.  The theme from “Sonic the Hedgehog,” the video game.  And the theme from “The Moon and the Prince,” which is another video game, which we all know Mark Potter loves video games more than anything.

Now, the truth is, we‘ve listened and listened, compared your suggestions to what the ring tone is.  We don‘t know what it is, so let‘s go right to the source, Mark Potter himself, and he‘ll tell us what it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER:  I don‘t want to disappoint you, but I have no idea what the ring tone is.  Here‘s what happened.  This is the phone that I was given by the NBC bureau in Tel Aviv as I was running out the door.  It has two ring tones.  One when I take a legitimate call and one when I get messages.  I have no idea which of the two was ringing when this was in my pocket. 

All I know is that when you‘re answering a question from Chris Matthews and this thing‘s going off in your pocket, it‘s very difficult.  I was scrambling, trying to get rid of it, I never did and that‘s the answer.  I don‘t know what the sounds are, and I don‘t know how to change them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Well, Mark is a good sport.  That answer is not going to satisfy anybody.  But we appreciate him being such a good sport, so for now, like the origin of the universe and the death of Elvis, Mark Potter‘s ring tone remains a mystery, perhaps forever. 

We want your hope in beating the press.  Come on, it‘s fun.  Give us a call, tell us what you‘ve seen.  The number, 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 1-877-287-5876.  Now let‘s go back to Tucker in Beirut.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Willie.  “Unsolved Mysteries.”  You are the Robert Stack of your generation. 

Coming up, we have a live report from Damascus, Syria, one of the great players in this saga.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  The key to ending this conflict, the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, may, in fact, be Syria, a neighboring country which has much influence over Hezbollah.  Will Syria play along?  That‘s the question of the hour.  Joining us from Damascus, Syria, NBC‘s Jim Maceda—Jim?

JIM MACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi there, Tucker.  Well, that‘s right.  And Syria today had very muted reaction to what went on in Rome.  Syrian sources telling us that the failure for the Rome conference to come up with an agreed plan for a cease-fire came as to surprise, said the Syrian government.

The government says that it sees a huge breach between the U.S.-Israeli position, which of course is no cease-fire now until Hezbollah disarms, and the position expressed by just about everybody else at that conference. 

Also today, at the United Nations, the Syrian ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari, he weighed in saying that basically, Syria‘s absence in Rome today was another proof that the West, particularly the United States, is simply trying to isolate a player, as you say, who should be involved in negotiations.

And I must say that watching the conference unfold today from hour vantage point here in Damascus, it did feel at times like Syria was the elephant in the conference room that nobody could see but everybody wanted to talk about. 

You have Kofi Annan, the U.N. secretary-general, saying at one point that—he noted that Syria should be included in any kind of efforts to reach a cease-fire. 

Even Condoleezza Rice repeated, quite defensively, I might add, what she had said earlier in the weekend if Beirut, that in fact, the United States does talk to Syria, that there is a diplomatic mission here, and that the problem really is that Syria isn‘t listening or doesn‘t respond. 

Back to you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Jim, is there any indication, quickly, that Syria will become directly involved in this, in whatever form the peace process takes from here on out? 

MACEDA:  Well, yes, there is.  Syria is sending out a lot of signals that it does want to be engaged.  But it has two basic demands, Tucker.  On the one hand, it wants to be treated like an adult.  It doesn‘t want to deal with this through proxies, be it the Saudis or the Egyptians.  It wants an adult, an ambassador, or a charge d‘affair to come and talk to them here. 

But most importantly, it wants a comprehensive deal and to get back the Golan Heights, which it lost.  If it can get that, then it will begin negations, we are told here.

CARLSON:  All right.  NBC News‘ Jim Maceda in Damascus, Syria.  Thanks a lot, Jim.

That‘s it for us, tonight.  We will be joining you again here live from Beirut, Lebanon, tomorrow night.  Tune in.  Now, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.

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

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