PZN: More on the bombardment
PAULA ZAHN: ...coming in from Haifa, the Lebanese-Israeli border, and Beirut.
We start off in Beirut right now, where explosions have been rocking the southern part of the city once again tonight.
Michael Ware is there and joins me now, just about the same time last night it happened there as well.
What do we know about these latest explosions?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, as I'm speaking to you, Israeli jet fighters are circling overhead. We can hear the dull roar of their engines as I speak.
What we had about two hours ago here in Beirut was four explosions, airstrikes by the Israeli air defense -- air force. What they were hitting was unknown targets in southern Beirut in the traditional strongholds of Hezbollah.
We had an Israeli leaflet drop earlier this afternoon, warning residents in certain areas within these suburbs to evacuate, an ominous sign of things to come. Could this be what is laying ahead?
WARE (voice-over): As a wave of Israeli bombing brought the sounds of war back to Beirut, Hezbollah did not let it go unanswered.
HASSAN NASRALLAH, HEZBOLLAH LEADER (through translator): If you hit our capital, we will hit your -- the capital of yours -- of your entity. If you hit Beirut, the Islamic resistance will hit Tel Aviv, and is able to do that, with God's help.
WARE: That threat came on a day of frightening escalation in the war, with battles raging in southern Lebanon, as Israel threw 10,000 troops into the attack, pressing deeper onto Lebanese soil over a wider front, maintaining a grip on one border village and striking out to 20 more.
Despite the intensity of the fighting, Hezbollah gave no sign of withering -- a spokesman warning, not one Israeli soldier could be left in Lebanon under any cease-fire.
As if to make their point, the guerrillas' batteries launched more than 200 rockets across the border, a reminder to Israel they can still inflict casualties.
Lebanon is also paying a high price. And, in most of the country, life has been completely disrupted. Gas lines continue to grow. And some medicines remain scarce. The prime minister says a quarter of his nation's three-million-plus population are displaced, and the war is turning his government to ruins.
FUAD SINIORA, PRIME MINISTER OF LEBANON: It is taking an enormous toll on human life and infrastructure, and has totally ravaged our country and shattered our economy.
WARE: That economy remains threatened -- the Israelis refusing to let much-needed fuel tankers pass through their naval blockade and contemplating the expansion of airstrikes.
In the wake of Nasrallah's statement, the Israelis immediately countered: Should rockets fall on Tel Aviv, they will target even more of Lebanon's infrastructure -- an exchange of threats that could take this war down a much more ominous turn.
ZAHN: Michael, at the top of your report, you talked about the leaflets the Israelis were dropping to warn civilians in Beirut that the campaign was expanding. Is there any evidence they have heeded those warnings and tried to get out?
WARE: Well, no, it's difficult to say.
The leaflets were only dropped shortly before dusk. And, as night fell, clearly, travel to these areas is extremely difficult. Already, the bulk of the civilian population in these areas has evacuated, some through choice, some because their homes were simply destroyed. However, I ventured down there earlier in the afternoon, and there was still clearly a Hezbollah security presence -- Paula.
ZAHN: Michael Ware, we will come back to you as you get more information on this latest round of explosions. Thanks so much.
ZAHN: We now have Michael Ware up, out of Beirut. Michael, describe to us what is going on in Beirut right now.
WARE: Paula, right now, Beirut is under heavy Israeli barrage from fighter jets circling overhead. Within the space of the last 10 or 15 minutes, at least 10 Israeli bombs had fallen on the city. Once more, it's to the south of the city, the southern suburbs. However, it is hitting an area that is not regarded as a traditional Hezbollah stronghold. It's a small area, a very poor Shia community, which is nestled against Beirut's International Airport.
So I say again, there's been at least 10 strikes in the last 15 minutes or so -- Paula.
ZAHN: Now, does this happen, you think, to be the same area where the Israelis had dropped leaflets advising the civilians to get out?
WARE: No. This is one of the strange things. This is not an area that was notified earlier this afternoon by the Israelis to expect bombardment, and therefore to evacuate. This is an area that was not warned. But it's a very small area, very contained. So to have as many as 10 bombs dropped on top of it, in such quick succession would be having an enormous impact on the people living there -- Paula.
ZAHN: You say this is not a traditional stronghold of Hezbollah, and yet the Israelis have continued to tell us that they are not targeting civilians, but Hezbollah has burrowed itself into areas where these civilians live.
WARE: Well, this is entirely possible. It can be any number of things. Obviously, it's too hard to tell right now, at quarter to 4:00 in the morning here, with the bombing still under way and the jets circling over me as I speak to you, Paula. So it's very, very hard to determine, but we do know, of course, like any guerrilla insurgency, Hezbollah moves constantly, always shifting its locations -- Paula.
ZAHN: And Michael, before we let you go, wasn't there an expectation you might see these kinds of airstrikes escalate in advance of any sort of U.N. resolution being cobbled together and voted on?
WARE: Absolutely. I mean, this has been on the cards for some time. In fact, while you were just asking me that question, I'm not sure if you could have heard it, but there was yet another bombing. We're starting to hear them much more distinctively now, and the jet activity does seem to be increasing feverishly -- Paula.
ZAHN: And how many miles away would you say those bombs are dropping from where you're standing now?
WARE: It's difficult to say. I would guess that it's at least five or six kilometers from our current position here, so three or four miles -- Paula.
ZAHN: All right, Michael Ware, please stand by if it is safe, we'll come back to you after this short break.
ZAHN: And we are back with more breaking news. New explosions in Beirut as we speak. Our crews have counted at least 10 explosions in the last 15 minutes or so south of the central part of Beirut. Let's go straight back to our own Michael Ware, who is on duty there.
Michael, describe to us what you have seen, what you have heard.
WARE: Well, Paula, right now, Beirut is a city under attack. Whilst there's still many lights on throughout the capital, much of it remains in darkness. Just a few miles away from us, Israeli warplanes are attacking unknown targets. The barrage has been quite intense. We've now had 11 airstrikes in the last 15 minutes or so, bringing a total of 15 attacks this evening in the last three hours. There was another one just then, Paula. So we're now at 16 airstrikes. And the jets are still buzzing overhead.
ZAHN: We're looking at that picture very closely. You can make it about the center of our screen when the last one went off. What do you think is being targeted?
WARE: It's very hard to say. My guess will be that these are what you could call targets of opportunity. By and large, the infrastructure of Lebanon that the Israelis sought to destroy has been destroyed in most part. The infrastructure, the obvious infrastructure of Hezbollah -- its headquarters, its public offices -- they, too, have been destroyed. So what I suspect these are, are targets that have been identified by intelligence. They know that someone's moving. They can see some activity, or they have specific information that someone or something has relocated to a specific building or house -- Paula.
ZAHN: We should make it clear, Michael, and you have in previous reports, that this is happening south of central Beirut, but today the head of Hezbollah said if central Beirut is struck, Hezbollah will retaliate by firing on Tel Aviv. What has been the reaction there to that threat? How seriously is that threat being taken?
WARE: Look, Paula, it's being taken with the utmost seriousness. That's one thing that everyone here on both sides of the border in this conflict have come to understand, that when Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah makes a threat, he has carried it through. So I think that there will be some repercussions to follow from Hezbollah -- Paula.
ZAHN: Michael Ware, thanks so much. Michael once again confirming that he has seen himself and heard some 16 explosions in an area in the southern suburbs of Beirut in just the last 15, 20 minutes -- or 17 now, alone.