Photo by Subrata De, NBC News
Looking out the window of an Israeli Blackhawk helicopter at 1,500 feet this afternoon, I witnessed something that I'm told few have seen: I saw a Hezbollah rocket launch from Lebanon, headed toward Israel, at a distance of six miles. I saw a white smoke tower rise from the launch site as the missile left the launcher -- followed by an orange flash and a second smoke tower. Our helicopter tour of Northern Israel took place as Katyusha rockets were landing on the ground below us, in some cases setting the brush on fire on the hillsides. We landed in Haifa (where we'll originate the broadcast tonight), in time for the sirens to sound signaling an incoming missile launch. We stopped our three-car convoy and ran into the shelter of the first high-rise apartment building we came to. Most of the above depiction of our day took place while our cameras were rolling, and it will make up just a portion of our coverage from this region tonight.
We will likely begin with a gripping story from our veteran Martin Fletcher... who got closer than he planned to a missile attack today, which resulted in the death of an Israeli. Richard Engel has now been joined by Kerry Sanders in Beirut. The civilian deaths are growing dramatically in Lebanon -- as Israeli air strikes continue. It has proven to be the harder piece of this story to cover, given the nature of the conflict -- but tonight we will have the pictures and the situation from inside the continuing bombardment of Beirut and environs. We will also have a progress report on the evacuation effort, most of it to Cyprus, which is just getting underway in earnest. The diplomatic effort remains as it was -- to the great frustration of many around the world who are looking on -- and reports of an imminent visit to this region by Secretary of State Rice proved premature.
Back home, stem cells are again in the news, as is post-Katrina New Orleans.. tonight we will have the story of the charges of mercy killings during the depths of the depravity that followed the storm and the subsequent flooding.
Night has fallen here in Haifa and there have been no missile launches for the past few hours. The guessing is that the "signature" flash of a launch at night makes the launch locations more vulnerable to counter-attack, and so they wait for daylight. We have this entire region covered again this evening, and we do hope that you can join us for our Tuesday broadcast. Many people have worked very hard and faced significant risks to bring you the stories that you will see on the air tonight. We'll see you then.
Photo caption: Brian on the ground in Haifa after the Blackhawk tour, talking with an Israeli brigadier general.