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Israeli Forces Besiege Palestinian Jail in Jericho; Bush Poll Numbers at All Time Low

Aired March 14, 2006 - 12:00   ET


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: From one siege to another, Palestinian men wind up in this prison in a deal to end an Israeli siege. Now that prison under siege, and we're hearing it's all over.
JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Controversial in death as in life. Questions swirling about the man who had been called the "Butcher of the Balkans."

VERJEE: And a new low. More and more Americans say they don't like the job President Bush is doing.

It's 7:00 p.m. in Jericho, 6:00 p.m. in The Hague in the Netherlands.

I'm Zain Verjee.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy.

Welcome to our viewers throughout the world.

This is CNN International and this is YOUR WORLD TODAY.

It's all over on the West Bank. We are being told now that all of the Palestinian prisoners, as well as Palestinian policemen who had been holed up in Jericho inside a prison, have surrendered, including the most wanted suspect. All of this coming just two weeks before Israeli elections. A high-profile incursion into that prison sending shock waves across the region, and, as well, it is prompting angry retaliation by Palestinians.

VERJEE: The raid came shortly after British and American observers who had been monitoring the jail under a rather unusual agreement for four years pulled out, citing security concerns for their personnel.

In the last hour, several inmates, as we said, now all, we understand, have filed out of the prison in the town of Jericho. And as I said, all of them have surrendered, including the leader of the PFLP, Ahmed Saadat.

A little bit earlier in the day, Israeli forces, with tanks and bulldozers, burst into the prison housing about 200 inmates, most of them were pretty criminals. But really what they were doing was targeting six prisoners that were captured in 2002 and were being kept there as part of an international agreement. CNN's Guy Raz joins us now from Jerusalem with more information on some of the latest developments.

Guy, we're hearing it's all over.

GUY RAZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are too, Zain. In fact, sources inside the prison are now telling us that all those who remained inside the prison, some 80 men, have now surrendered, giving themselves up to Israeli forces who had besieged that jail for some 10 hours, a siege that began this morning, as you mentioned, after British and American observers who had been stationed at that site for the past for four years withdrew after complaining to the Palestinian Authority that they feared for the safety and the security of their monitors at that prison.

Now, the Israeli government at that point had ordered Israeli forces to enter the town of Jericho, to surround that prison, and to ensure that it could take into its custody those six wanted men, particularly Ahmed Saadat, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a man who has been implicated, who was implicated in the assassination of the Israeli tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi, back in 2001.

Now, these six prisoners had been held in this prison for the past four years, as I say, under an internationally brokered agreement. But effectively, that agreement broke down when those international monitors withdrew earlier this morning.

That raid, that 10-hour raid, prompted angry rioting and reactions throughout Gaza and the West Bank. There was a spate of kidnappings, at least six foreign nationals throughout the day were kidnapped. Some of them were released. Some of them are still in custody.

Rioters attacked two British consul offices, one in Gaza City, one in the West Bank town of Ramallah. And the European Union monitoring agency in Gaza City was also attacked.

A series of violent, violent incidents, seemingly having spiraled out of control at one point today. But as I say, it now appears for the moment, at least for the moment, that it's beginning to wind down -- Zain.

VERJEE: There are questions regarding whether or not Israel knew in advance that the British and American monitors would be withdrawing today.

RAZ: There are indeed. And, of course, that question was posed to Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary.

He was asked that question. He vehemently denied it, essentially saying, neither the Palestinian government nor the Israeli government were warned in advance of that withdrawal.

That being said, a lot of the communication that takes place in the West Bank is, in fact, monitored by Israeli intelligence agencies. They had been ready and been preparing for this withdrawal for some time, because for the past several months British and American observers had been warning that, in fact, they would be withdrawing their observers imminently if their security was not taken more seriously, from their perspective, by the Palestinian Authority.

Well, in fact, when it happened, it only took 20 minutes for a large contingency -- contingent of Israeli troops to enter the town of Jericho and to surround that prison, obviously leading to accusations of collusion. But as I say, the British foreign secretary vehemently denying those accusations, saying neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians had any advanced warning -- Zain.

VERJEE: And what about questions of timing, Guy, about the fact that the Israeli elections are only two weeks away? Palestinians are saying, you know, this raid was just an election campaign ploy.

How is it being seen there?

RAZ: Well, this is certainly one of the theories that's circulating around and has been circulating around the region throughout the day.

Essentially, Israeli government officials that we've been speaking to say it's impossible for that to have taken place because they didn't have advanced warning. And essentially, it was a decision taken rather hastily this morning to raid that prison complex, to ensure that hose six wanted men were arrested.

That being said, you mentioned in two and a half weeks, Israelis go to the polls to election a new government. And so, of course, some observers in the region have accused the Israeli government under the interim prime minister, Ehud Olmert, of trying to shore up its position ahead of the elections in order to give itself, in a sense, the reputation for being tough on security issues.

But this, of course, is something that remains unresolved. We may simply not know whether this was planned in advance for some days -- Zain.

VERJEE: What are the repercussions of a raid like this for the region?

RAZ: Well, clearly, we've seen some of those repercussions throughout the day. Obviously, for the past seven or eight months, there have been a series of lawless and violent incidents in Palestinian-administered areas in the West Bank and in Gaza.

There's a lot of concern as well among Palestinians now, there's a lot of international pressure as a result of the election of Hamas. The Hamas-led government expected to be installed in the coming weeks.

As a result, a lot of pressure building up in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. Obviously, a lot of anger over existing poverty, notwithstanding the ongoing occupation.

So certainly we have seen some of the initial repercussions in the West Bank and Gaza. A lot of violent demonstrations, and really demonstrations far more violent than the ones we saw several weeks ago in reaction to those cartoons of the publication -- the publication of those cartoons and the Prophet Mohammed -- Zain.

VERJEE: Guy Raz reporting to us from Jerusalem.

Thanks, Guy -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right.

As we heard there, we heard a lot coming from Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, saying there was no collusion. Earlier, Palestinian parliament member Nabil Sha'ath had responded to some of Straw's comment.


NABIL SHA'ATH, PALESTINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: I am not really aware of any potential threat to the security forces. Probably, Mr. Straw is referring to continuous demands by the Popular Front to release the prisoners. But there was not -- and the Palestinian Authority does not respond positively to that.

But I don't know of any potential military security risk in Jericho, as Jericho -- all through the intifada, there has not been one fatal incident -- incidence in Jericho. Jericho is totally surrounded by Israelis. They are in full control of the place.


VERJEE: All right.

Well, what we are hearing now is that all those that were holed up in the prison in Jericho, in the West Bank, have given up. Six militants on the Palestinian side, all that were wanted by Israel, gave up, including Ahmed Saadat.

He was really who the Israelis were targeting. He is the leader of a radical PLO faction known as the PFLP. And he is believed by Israel to have masterminded the 2001 assassination of the Israeli tourism minister at that time.

We want to go now and get some Israeli government comment on this siege and bring in Mark Regev. He is the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Can you tell us the circumstances of the surrender, how you were able to make it happen?

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: Well, I think the details are just emerging now. But the Israeli policy from the very beginning was clear.

We had no desire to see loss of life here. We had no desire to see an escalation of the situation, to see collateral damage. On the contrary, our policy goal was to maintain the status quo, where that people who should be under lock and key, people guilty of murder, terrorists, would remain under lock and key. And I hope that we actually achieved that situation now.

VERJEE: Where are you going to take these prisoners?

REGEV: Well, as you know, in Israel we have a fiercely independent judiciary, and that anyone who is under Israeli custody will be given a fair trial.

VERJEE: Did Israel receive advanced warning of the British and American monitor withdraw from the prison today?

REGEV: Yes, I can say the following: we had ever interest in that agreement with the monitors continuing. And we urged all the relevant parties to continue with that agreement that was signed in 2002 that people guilty of murdering an Israeli -- Israeli civilians would remain in jail. The problem was...

VERJEE: But did you know in advance?

REGEV: Yes, I'm getting to that.

The problem was that you have a Palestinian leadership that said publicly that these people deserved to be let out and be free, and you had a situation where they created circumstances under which the international monitors were forced to leave. So, obviously, we had information to the effect that the whole agreement was falling apart, and the reason that we acted today the way we did was precisely not to allow these prisoners to be released and to scatter around the territories, forcing us to do a much more comprehensive, larger military operation to arrest them all. To get them on that very first day, that was the idea.

VERJEE: OK. So you knew?

REGEV: In advance?


REGEV: No. But we had an idea. I think everyone understood from the public statements of the Palestinian leadership...


VERJEE: But the raid happened 20 minutes -- it happened 20 minutes after the Americans and the British monitors withdrew, and many people in the Palestinian territories and the head of the Arab League raising questions about that timing.

REGEV: You know, often, all too often in the Middle East, there are these knee-jerk reactions, these conspiracy theories, collusion. You go back to 1967, you can hear collusion stories, Zionist conspiracies, Western conspiracies. The facts are simple. We urged all the relevant countries to maintain the status quo. When the status quo became unsustainable due to the actions of the Palestinian leadership, then we had to act, and we acted immediately as to make sure that these killers -- one of them killed an Israeli elected official -- that these killers remain under lock and key.

VERJEE: And do you have that evidence? Amr Musa of the Arab League and other Palestinian officials saying that, how can Israel say that, it doesn't have that evidence?

REGEV: Well, this man will get a fair trial. I believe we are confident in the evidence against him.

The truth is, you have Western governments, the U.K., the U.S., who agreed to be part of this monitoring process. Ultimately, this man is the leader of an organization which is on the European Union list of terrorist organizations. It's on the United States' list of terrorist organizations.

This man has been in a very direct way of guilty of murdering innocent civilians. And I think any democracy in similar circumstances, here you've attacked an elected official of my country. You can't expect us to sit by and do nothing if you're going to be released and to be allowed to walk around freely.

VERJEE: Palestinians are condemning this raid, really, Mr. Regev, as an election ploy on the part of Israel. The elections are only, what, two and a half weeks away.

Your response?

REGEV: You know, there's this knee-jerk reaction always to blame Israel. But let's be clear. And I think anyone objectively looking at the situation understands the facts.

The timing was determined by the departure of the monitors. That happened this morning, and Israel acted quickly at following that to prevent the prisoners from spreading out through the territories. The timing of today's attack was solely determined by the fact that today the agreement that was signed and agreed to in 2002 finally fell apart today because the Palestinian leadership did nothing whatsoever to maintain that agreement.

VERJEE: Giving us the Israeli perspective, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev.

Thank you so much for joining us on YOUR WORLD TODAY -- Jim.

CLANCY: What we've been lacking, really, in looking at all of this -- we heard from the British foreign secretary. He had to speak in front of the House of Commons. What about U.S. reaction? Where does it stand?

Of course, it withdrew its monitors, along with the British that were monitoring that monitoring that prison. Let's go to Washington now. Elise Labott is at the State Department. She has a bit more on that.

Elise, the big question is, were their lives -- were the monitors' lives really in any more danger than they were a week or two weeks ago? From what was described in the House of Commons by Jack Straw, yes, there was plenty of evidence this monitoring deal wasn't working, they had cell phones, they had visitors, and all of that, but not really a good case laid out there, at least, that these monitors' lives were in danger.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, I might point out that today there were no U.S. monitors in the prison. This is a British -- joint U.S.-British mission, but it's under British command and both teams rotate in and out. And so there were no U.S. monitors in the prison today, according to the State Department.

But officials tell me they've been warning the Palestinians for two years now that these monitors were not safe. They were uncomfortable with the agreement.

There had been some inspector general reports to that effect, saying that these monitors were in constant danger, and that the U.S. has been warning them for a long time. So they are pretty unapologetic of it.

They -- as we've been talking about, they gave this letter to the Palestinians on March 8, this U.S.-U.K. letter saying that unless some dramatic improvements were made, they were going to pull the monitors out. And so that's what they did.

Yesterday, they gave very vague notice that, listen, we're not going to say when and where for security concerns, but you can expect in the next few weeks that these monitors are not going to be there. And they say that the idea that that was organized with Israel is absolutely false, this is a response to poor security. The Palestinians were responsible for providing security for their monitors, and this was a response to the unresponsive Palestinians, according to the U.S. -- Jim.

CLANCY: Elise, a lot of talk about the letters that had been sent to Mahmoud Abbas. And we heard from Jack Straw, at least, saying that he confirmed personally with Mr. Abbas that he was in receipt of those. But he also shed some light on it, indicating that the Palestinian Authority president didn't seem to have the control he needed on the ground there.

Any view, any reaction on who really was in control of that prison before today?

LABOTT: Well, they say that, you know, as the Israelis have secured, have given some more responsibility to the Palestinians in charge of security, that this was an agreement, that the Palestinians were in charge of providing security, and that they have been saying that they are continuing to do so and continuing to work on providing it. And they just didn't. So they say that the Palestinians had the responsibility, they didn't meet their responsibility, and ample warning was given.

I might add, today, Jim, that in -- what they call a response to the Israeli offensive this morning, an American hostage -- his name is Douglas Friedman (ph) -- he was an English professor at the American University in the West Bank town of Jenin -- was seized as a result of all this, and he was just let go. We've just been notified by the State Department he was recently let go by his Palestinian captors.

CLANCY: Yes, he was let go about two hours, we heard, after that. They've gotten now all the prisoners out of there.

Elise Labott, a lot of questions are obviously going to be raised, because here you have a country with U.S. in support of Ehud Olmert. It's been seen in the comments that have been made on several levels by government officials. But a feeling here that Ehud Olmert and the timing of all of this, it's going to become an issue.

Any comment from State Department officials about why now instead of why in two or three weeks' time, after the elections?

LABOTT: Well, what they say is, again, that they give the Palestinians ample warning. But you see that a Hamas-led government is coming in, and they say that Hamas has not been honoring their agreement, they've been calling for Palestinians to reject the Ramallah agreement, and they say it wasn't likely to get any better in the next few weeks. Because here you have a party, the Palestinians, with a Hamas-led government that's in charge of implementing this agreement and doesn't even adhere to it.

So they said that the security was bound to get worse for these monitors. They say the idea that the U.S. colluded with Israel in this is entirely false. This has been something that's been going on for about two years. They've been given this security warning, and they said that it was only likely to get worse, the security for the monitors, and that's why they pulled them out when they did -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right. There we have it from the State Department. Elise Labott talking with us there, laying out the position of U.S. officials. And it appears to go right down the line with the position of the British officials we heard a little bit earlier.

All right. We want to turn to some of the other news of the day.

Slobodan Milosevic's family says he was poisoned. But a preliminary autopsy report says he died of a heart attack.

VERJEE: Either way, Belgrade has just given the green light for Milosevic's funeral to be held in Serbia.

CLANCY: Milosevic's son, Marco, now in the Netherlands to collect his father's body. The family says it does not trust the autopsy done in The Hague, and that Slobodan Milosevic may have been killed. A team of Russian doctors is going to be reviewing that autopsy report.

VERJEE: A U.N. war crimes tribunal official said the court had been told on several occasions in the past that unprescribed drugs were smuggled into prison for Milosevic. The official said the drugs were obtained from doctors in Serbia.

Tuesday, the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague closed its case against Milosevic officially. The former president's trial on genocide and other charges stemming from the Balkan wars lasted more than four years. But there was never a verdict.

VERJEE: The decision by Belgrade to allow Milosevic's funeral in Serbia comes after a Belgrade court dropped an arrest warrant for Milosevic's widow. That essentially clears the way for her to attend the funeral.

Alessio Vinci joins us now live from Belgrade.

Alessio, how important is it for the majority of people there that the funeral be held in Serbia?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Zain, it is not clear yet whether or not the funeral will be held here. We know the Serb officials have all along said that they had nothing against the funeral taking place here in Serbia. What they will not do is to give him a state funeral.

And, you know, Mr. Milosevic, when he was here in power, when he was the president of Serbia and then Yugoslavia, used to enjoy all the protection and the honors of the most powerful and perhaps the most feared men in this country, and now it isn't even clear whether he will be buried here.


VINCI (voice over): There will be no state funeral for Slobodan Milosevic, no military honors, no flags at half-staff, and no dedicated Tomb of Alley of the Great (ph), a corner of Belgrade's main cemetery dedicated to prominent Serbs.

Milosevic's son Marco on his way to The Hague from Moscow to collect the body of his late father, said Serb authorities won't allow the funeral to take place in Belgrade.

"They want to avoid it," he said. "They threatened in official and unofficial way."

Serb officials, however, say they want to prevent the funeral but are making clear the state will not mourn its former president.

"Any funeral attended by members of the state will be counter productive," the Serbian president said, bearing in mind the role Milosevic played in Serbia's recent history.

Meanwhile, a Belgrade court ruled that Mira Markovic, Milosevic's widow, will be allowed to travel back to Belgrade on condition that she will appear in court on March 23 to face charges of abuse of power. To guarantee her appearance, her passport will be seized upon arrival and an $18,000 bail has been set. Democratic leaders here are appalled.

ZARKO KORAC, SERBIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Mira Markovic is not just the wife of Milosevic. She's not like any wife, grieving wife, coming to a funeral of her husband. She was a leader of a political party. The political party was in coalition with Milosevic.

And she bears responsibility for the decisions he made. She was his political partner.

VINCI: But socialist party officials say they expect a great turnout.

"It's going to be the biggest funeral in the history of this nation," he said.

That Milosevic led Yugoslavia through a decade of wars and its violent disintegration means nothing to his supporters. Socialist party officials say across the nation more than 200,000 people signed a book of condolences. They are among the remaining few who will miss Milosevic.

"He should be buried as the honest, good president of Serbia and Yugoslavia," she says. "We won't have a leader like him ever again."

But there are also a lot of people in Belgrade and across this nation that hope they will never see another Milosevic.

"He should be buried in our country. He belongs where his family is buried. But bury him with honors? No. I don't think so."


VINCI: And should Mr. Milosevic not be buried here in Belgrade, one of the possibilities is that he will be buried in Moscow, where his widow has been living there for the last few years.

Zain, Jim, back to you.

VERJEE: Alessio Vinci reporting.

Thanks, Alessio.

CLANCY: Coming up, Google and the Justice Department facing off in court.

VERJEE: At issue, pornography and privacy. The Internet search giant and the government don't see eye to eye.

We're going to have that, as well as some other business news coming up next.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN Center in Atlanta. More of YOUR WORLD TODAY in just a few minutes. First, though, let's check on stories making headlines here in the U.S.

It was the barge versus the bridge in Maryland, as we look at live pictures from the Severn River. A barge with a mind of its own getting loose this morning and ramming into a bridge leading into Annapolis. The barge was wedged under the bridge.

The bridge is part of US Route 50, and it's closed while workers see if it is damaged. It is causing quite a traffic jam as those roads are closed, but it does look like they are making some progress there.

Florida prosecutors confirm a teenager who was restrained, struck and kicked by guards at a boot camp did not die of natural causes. The incident was caught on videotape. A second autopsy was performed on 14-year-old Martin Anderson yesterday.

A pathologist hired by the family watched the procedure. He says the first autopsy, which concluded the boy died of a blood disorder, was wrong. Anderson's mother is calling for justice.


GINA JONES, MARTIN ANDERSON'S MOTHER; I'm glad that I did make the right decision to pull my baby up, which I didn't want to, just to get the truth out. Now the truth is out and I want justice. I want the guards and the nurse to be arrested. It's time now.


KAGAN: No one has been charged in that case. The Justice Department is also investigating.

In Alexandria, Virginia, a hearing is under way in the case of confessed al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. The presiding judge is trying to determine whether a government attorney, who is seen here, tainted the trial by coaching witnesses who were scheduled to testify.

The judge has called the e-mailed instructions an egregious violation and said the attorney faces possible contempt charges. The judge could also rule to remove the death penalty option from consideration. Because Moussaoui has already entered a guilty plea, he is assured of at least a life sentence.

Protecting the ports. A bill is being introduced in the House today to create new security standards for ports and a position to oversee port security. The bill reportedly would increase spending for the ports by $800 million a year. The Senate is considering similar legislation.

Congress is taking a look at high gas prices today. Gas is up 11 cents a gallon over the last two weeks. At the same time, oil prices are lower.

How does that work? Well, state officials, lawyers and academics are in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee right now. Oil company executives will testify this afternoon.

Keep in mind, big oil ended 2005 with huge profits. Those earnings come at the same time you saw a 57 percent increase at the pump. Heating oil, natural gas and crude also showed double-digit increases last year.

And a reminder. This weekend, "CNN PRESENTS," we were warned. Tomorrow, oil crisis, a look at just how vulnerable our oil supply is and how prepared the government is for a crisis.

To the Texas panhandle, where today the size and rapid spread of wildfires just boggles the mind. More than a thousand square miles have burned, and that is just since Sunday.

Authorities blame the fires for 11 deaths. About 2,000 people in seven counties have been evacuated. Officials have not released a cause for the fires. Texas is suffering through one of its worst fire seasons ever. About 3.5 million acres have burned in less than three months.

Which brings us to the weather report. Bonnie Schneider is here with that.


KAGAN: President Bush is in upstate New York today. He's talking Medicare. But before speaking to seniors on that topic, he was talking basketball. Mr. Bush was greeted when he got off of Air Force One by Jason McElwain. Remember him? The kid who made national headlines when he scored 20 points for his high basketball team during the last four minutes of his first ever varsity game.

"LIVE FROM" at the top of the hour. Meanwhile, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues after a quick break. I'm Daryn Kagan.


VERJEE: Welcome back to YOUR WORLD TODAY here on CNN International. I'm Zain Verjee.

CLANCY: I'm Jim Clancy. These are some of the stories that we're following right now.

A one-day Israeli siege of a Palestinian prison in Jericho has ended. Israel confirms five militants wanted for an attack on an Israeli minister -- including Ahmed Saadat, the head of the PFLP -- have surrendered now. All of the inmates, some 200 prisoners, filed out of the jail just about an hour ago. The raid came after U.S. and British monitors withdrew from the prison on Tuesday, citing inadequate security.

VERJEE: Outraged Palestinians responded earlier by attacking the British Council offices in the region. There are also reports of at least half a dozen kidnappings of foreigners in Gaza. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli raid and called for British and American overseers to return to the prison immediately.

CLANCY: All right. One of those that was caught up in all of this was an American who had gone to the West Bank to teach. The Arab American University, there was the professor, Douglas Johnson, watching on the streets of Jenin this day. He was kidnapped. He joins us now on the line.

Can you tell us about how this unfolded? Were you aware of what was going on in Jericho at the time or anything?

DOUGLAS JOHNSON, FMR. HOSTAGE: Yes. Yes. Thank you. We were told earlier in day that there had been threats made due to the situation in Jericho, that Ahmed Saadat was in the prison and that there was a fight going on. The Americans and the British had basically walked out and left the prisoners for the Israelis.

So, we were warned that the Palestinians were angry, not to leave the university. And I was actually taking a cat with a broken leg to a neighboring village to be treated. And outside, they were waiting, and they forced me into a car, and took me to Jenin.

CLANCY: Now, we're looking at a picture of you here. And the gunmen look fierce. You look entirely unimpressed.

JOHNSON: Well, I was impressed. I mean, it was a scary situation at first. But you know, the Palestinians, you know, are hospitable. They don't know how to be otherwise. And they treated me well, and, you know, they asked me to do an interview with Arab television, and I was happy to do that. And when it was completed, they took me to another destination. And then they had a meeting there, and then they brought me back to the university. So really it's been kind of blown out of proportion.

But, you know, I really sympathize with the Palestinians. I mean, that's why I'm here teaching. You know, if people in the United States and Great Britain could see the daily atrocities being committed by Israel, you know, in terms of the wall, the separation wall that's, you know, taller and longer than the Berlin Wall and if they could see the daily checkpoints that students have to go through to get to class and the harassment and so forth. And the daily killings. I mean, the military comes into Jenin almost on a daily basis. People in the United States don't know about this.

CLANCY: All right, Professor Johnson, you know, I follow the events in the Middle East very, very closely. And to say that it's daily incursions and killings in Jenin is to take it too far. You know that, as well. But it is a serious situation, and it requires a lot of people like yourself that are committed to it.

Will this experience change, do you think, any of the commitment that a professor like you that's gone to the West Bank to teach -- or other Americans or British that volunteer there. Will it change that?

JOHNSON: It certainly -- no, it won't change my commitment. I mean, I'm committed as ever. You know, I understand what they did. I understand they frustration. They could have killed me. And they wouldn't have been cut. I mean, they could have easily killed me, disposed of my body, and that would have been it. But it just -- it was not in their nature to do that.

And as far as -- you're right, it doesn't happen every day. But I hear gunfire, and, you know, very often, from my office, here in a neighboring village outside of Jenin. And then my students tell me the next day that -- what happened, this happened. And, what I'm talking about, too, is the checkpoints. That's daily. The roadblocks are daily. You know, there are aspects of this operation that the Palestinians have to deal with daily. And that's the kind of thing that people in America don't know about it, and they should know about it.

CLANCY: Douglas Johnson, a professor at Arab American University in Jenin. I want to thank you for joining us. He's pointing out what it's like -- he has a lot of understanding and sympathy for the Palestinians, but he does count himself lucky for being released this day. He lives there, along with the Palestinians, in what is an occupation.

VERJEE: To the political situation in the United States now. The latest CNN/"USA Today/Gallup poll shows U.S. president George W. Bush's job approval hovering at the lowest level of his presidency.

In Washington, senior political analyst Bill Schneider takes a look at the reasons why.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): President Bush's support, at 36 percent, is at an all time low. There are signs his base is weakening. Among conservatives, Bush's approval rating has dropped sharply. Disapproval among conservatives is up to 41 percent.

It is not good news for Republicans, who have to face the voters this fall. Voters give Democrats a 16 point lead when asked how they would vote for Congress.

What's the main reason for President Bush's troubles? Iraq. More than 60 percent of voters say Iraq will be very important in their vote for Congress. And the more important the Iraq issue is to voters, the better Democrats do.


SCHNEIDER: Two-thirds of Americans say they do not believe President Bush or the Democrats have a clear plan for Iraq. But it was the Bush administration that took the lead on going to war, and so Democrats have a slight edge on the issue.

The ports controversy also appears to have hurt Republicans who are losing their advantage on terrorism. Republicans now have a four- point lead over Democrats on terrorism compared to an 11 point lead in October. Any good news here for the White House? Yes. Nearly 60 percent say the country's economy is in good shape, the highest number in more than three years. But you might say, it's not the economy, stupid. When asked what the Bush presidency will be most remembered for, the war on terror or tax cuts or Supreme Court appointments or response to Hurricane Katrina, 64 percent say President Bush's legacy will be Iraq.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


`CLANCY: In Iraq, police are reporting now that the body count has really mounted in this recent wave of apparent sectarian killings. Authorities there are reporting now that they have discovered 86 bodies in an around Baghdad in the past 48 hours, less than 48 hours, really. Fifteen men found on Tuesday. They were in the back of a pickup truck. All of them had been strangled. Another 29 bodies found in a shallow grave on the eastern side of the capital. Police say they've also found the bodies of two shooting victims in southern Baghdad.

VERJEE: U.S. President Bush spoke Monday about the devastating effects of improvised explosive devices in Iraq. Easily hidden, they are often powerful enough to destroy armored vehicles.

Barbara Starr has more now about their impact in the war zone.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): three years ago when the war in Iraq began, it was a phrase most Americans never heard of, IED, improvised explosive device. Now these roadside bombs are the largest single killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. More than 930 troops have died. More than 9,600 wounded. It is the same kind of device that got so much attention when it wounded ABC news anchor Bob Woodruff.

President Bush made it a centerpiece of his case that there is progress in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES: Today nearly half the IEDs in Iraq are found and disabled before they can be detonated. In the past 18 months we've cut the casualty rate per IED attack in half.

STARR: But Iraqis are suffering, too. In a recent 11-day period, 40 vehicle-borne IEDs caused 290 casualties. And though attacks have spiked in recent weeks, officials offer few details due to security concerns.

GEN. MONTGOMERY MEIGS (RET.), DIR., JOINT IED DEFEAT: There's no silver bullets in this game. It's very difficult work. It involves squads and platoons and companies, a 24-7 being out there, engaged in a very difficult environment.

STARR: Retired General Montgomery Meigs heads a new $3 billion a year Pentagon program to find new ways to win the cat-and-mouse game of IEDs. He also doesn't say much for one major reason, security.

MEIGS: I'd say the enemy is coming up with more lethal combinations.

STARR: Some systems are already in Iraq. The Buffalo Armored Vehicle uses a front claw to unearth roadside bombs. Robots are used to detonate them. But in this lethal game, insurgents are constantly changing tactics, improvising with everything from washing machine timers to garage door openers as detonators, and adjusting to U.S. efforts all the time.

President Bush said just one news article about new IED-detection technology was so quickly read by insurgents that just five days later, they posted measures on the Internet on how to counter the U.S. effort.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


CLANCY: Coming up, it's called the "Show Me State." Did you know that

VERJEE: I did actually. Now lawmakers from Missouri are saying show me the money.

CLANCY: Up next, a look at the tornado that ripped through the state, shredding homes and shattering lives.



VERJEE: Still ahead, a report about Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong.

CLANCY: And how to tell the difference between the two. All you need to know is just click and this short break away. Stay with us.


CLANCY: Well, we're in the news business and word spreads fast. That's what our job is, to spread news, and well, guys, you might want to turn down the sound a little bit, because not all of this is going to be fun.

VERJEE: Well, if you are a woman and you are watching this, though, you may want to listen up here. You could find this invaluable. If you have ever been on a bad date -- and I'm sure you have -- there is a way now to tell the world. Jeanne Moos has more on how to avoid Mr. Wrong.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before you caress him, maybe you'd better caress the keys of your computer. Don't date him, girl. TASHA JOSEPH, CREATOR, DONTDATEHIMGIRL.COM: Sort of how the FBI has their most-wanted criminals in a database, I wanted to put all of the cheating men of the world in a database and that's how it started.

MOOS: We can't show their faces, but there are nearly 1,200 alleged cheaters posted at with warnings like, "Ladies, watch out, there's a dog on the loose," or "Run, run, as fast as you can."

(on camera): Think of it as a dating credit report. Just type in the name of any suspected cheater, say Jude Law.

(voice-over): And if he's been reported, up pops a profile. But celebs like Jude and Kobe aren't the norm. Regular guys are, turned in by the women they supposedly wronged. "I caught him on my computer looking up other chicks. Found text messages to another girl about how he loved her and needed her and ewwwwww, puke."

Former journalist Tasha Joseph came up with the Web site.

JOSEPH: Well, I have been cheated on twice in my life.

MOOS: Web site visitors can add a cheater or check out the cheater of the day feature. "I caught this man on many swinger sites." Another warned, "Danger, controlling psycho. He may be hot and well-endowed, but don't be next on his growing list of women scorned."

A Montana woman posted her guy on the Web site, only after first trying what Samantha did on "Sex and the City." The target of the Montana woman's flyers went to court and got them stopped. Samantha had better luck.

CHANDRA WILSON, ACTRESS: Ma'am, it's against city law to deface public property.

KIM CATTRALL, ACTRESS: This man said he loved me and I caught him (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

WILSON: Carry on, ma'am.

MOOS: Men are invited to tell their side of the story, but only a few do. One said his accuser developed a crush and stalked him. Another claimed his tormentor was a psychotic neighbor who first tried to lure him into a threesome.

So far no one has sued the Web site, though some irate man have set up a protest Web site, classaction-dontdatehimgirl. In a few weeks, cheating women will get a taste of their own medicine.

JOSEPH: We're in development with a Web site called

MOOS: The one who's hand you're holding could hand you over to the dating police. JOSEPH: Oh, I'm in a great relationship with a great guy and he knows exactly what's going to happen to him if he were to be caught cheating. He would be like the featured cheater on the home page.

MOOS: A home page for home wreckers, bless your cheating heart.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CLANCY: All right, well, you know, at least one guy posted himself on that site. I'm sure, she recounted that. Well, listen, she gets sued ...


VERJEE: I think it's a useful site. We're continuing, though, to cover the news here on CNN. We've been keeping our eye on the day- long Israeli siege of a West Bank prison.

CLANCY: Up next for our viewers in the United States, LIVE FROM with Kyra Phillips.

VERJEE: And -- sorry. For the rest of you, YOUR WORLD TODAY continues here on CNN International. Stay with us.



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