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AMERICAN MORNING

Israel Launching More Attacks in Lebanon; British Prime Minister Tony Blair Has Plan to End Fighting

Aired July 28, 2006 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Israel is launching more attacks in Lebanon. Explosions rocking the border this morning. We'll tell you about that.
Plus, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has a plan to end the fighting. He's flying to Washington, D.C. now. He has an important meeting with President Bush. A look at those stories and much more ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back, everybody.

You're watching a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York.

Miles is in northern Israel, right on the border with Lebanon.

We're going to get to him in just a few moments.

There has been a new round of some deadly air raids in Southern Lebanon. Now the focus, of course, is on those border villages, including Maroun-Al-Ras, and, also, Bint Jabeil. Those both villages which actually the Israelis thought that they held.

Targets are now including a Hezbollah base where long-range rockets are stored.

Let's get right to CNN's Karl Penhaul.

He's in Tyre this morning, in Southern Lebanon.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, as we speak, about a mile from our position now, just toward the south, we can hear artillery shells thudding in there. We've also heard bombs from warplanes going.

And I'm just going to stand out of the way so we can zoom in a little bit there. And I'll show you the general area.

I'm not sure that, in fact, whether we can see any of the smoke because there's quite a lot of haze there and it's dissipating.

But as I say, a combination of Israeli artillery fire going in there, coupled with 500-pound bombs. Now, it's not exactly clear what the targets are. You'll see there that there is -- there is population centers there, but it seems so far, from what we can make out from our position, that the bombs and the shells have fallen in some of the fields just beyond those villages right now.

Again, as I say, not clear what the targets are. But as we do know, the Israelis have said that they've hit more than 100 targets in the last 24 hours. And they say that their main targets right now are rocket launching sites, bunkers and also Hezbollah command centers -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Karl Penhaul in Tyre for us this morning.

Karl, thanks.

Let's get right back to Miles.

As I mentioned, he's right on that border between Israel and Lebanon.

We don't want to give out the exact location because he's been describing rocket launchings all morning -- good morning, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Yes, we're ending the week with kind of a bird's eye view of the heated battle underway in and around Bint Jabeil and Maroun-Al-Ras, those cities that are now familiar to you, those Hezbollah strongholds in Southern Lebanon.

Just over my shoulder, three miles across onto those hills there, those brown hills, that is Southern Lebanon. And we have been watching repeated artillery and bombing runs on those locations ever since we've been here, for the past couple of hours.

This was followed by a night of incessant artillery, as well. Here we are on day 17 and there is still this protracted battle to gain control over Bint Jabeil.

We're told that over the hill, on the ground, there continue to be fierce, close quarters fights between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah fighters. All of this in the context of a huge aerial campaign which extends far beyond this area, because of the concern of these Katusha rockets and other missile firings fired by Hezbollah into northern Israel.

We're told of about 14 or 15 such rocket firings so far today. More than 110 yesterday. Nine injuries to report in those cases. Today we saw one just a few moments ago here on this side of the border, in Israel, apparently landing harmlessly.

Nevertheless, despite this bombardment, these Katushas and these missiles continue, along with an aerial campaign which focuses well beyond where we are right now into places like Tyre, Lebanese border, where Karl Penhaul was just reporting, where it is suspected many of these missiles are fired from.

Meanwhile, what you see here is apparently what we're going to get for quite some time. The leadership of the Israeli government has met and has decided, for now, not to escalate this war, although they did call up 30,000 Reservists, had them at least in a greater state of readiness should they decide to engage in something more forceful, an outright invasion.

For more on that, let's go to Jerusalem.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is there -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Miles.

Well, the military commanders that actually met at this security cabinet meeting on Thursday wanted to expand this military operation. That is what they were asking for.

But the politicians said no. They said they want to keep the status quo, they want to continue the operation that you are seeing at close quarters there at the moment.

And, as you say, up to 30,000 Reservists have been called up. Now, before they're actually deployed, the security cabinet will have to meet once again and vote on that.

But it does seem a conflicting piece of information, the fact that they're calling more Reservists up at the same time as saying that the military operation will not be expanding.

Now, we're hearing less and less about speculation of a massive ground invasion, a massive ground operation that we were hearing about at the beginning of this escalation in violence. Now, the Israeli military saying this is still what they call pinpoint operations targeting, those rocket launches, although at this point, around 1,400 rockets have landing in northern Israel. So at this point, they're not succeeding in that respect.

Now, Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, was talking about this possible international force that they want to put in Southern Lebanon to make sure Hezbollah does not have control of that area in the future. And he said that the United Nations would have to have something better equipped and more able to fight than UNIFIL, which has been there since '78 and has not been able to engage in battle with Hezbollah and has not succeeded, in many people's eyes.

And he also said that regarding the Israeli air strike which killed U.N. worker -- four U.N. workers at an outpost in Southern Lebanon, that Israel itself could do the investigation, there was no need for the U.N. to get involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Israel is conducting its own investigation. Israel is a country of the rule of law. Israel's judicial system is highly replaced all over the world. Israel has carried out investigations with great integrity in the past and does not need anyone to share in this investigation.

However, because U.N. personnel was involved, we would, of course, welcome any input from the United Nations and will seriously take it into account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANCOCKS: Now, one significant thing that Israeli officials were very keen to point out was that they are not looking to fight a war with Syria. They were worried, some of these officials, including Amir Peretz, the defense minister, that Syria would see a calling up of almost 30,000 troops as a possible indication that they could be next in this military operation. Amir Peretz said that is not the case -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Paula Hancocks in Jerusalem.

Thank you very much -- back to you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks.

We'll check back in with you in just a little bit.

Back here at home, heavy rain and flooding to talk about this morning in Ohio. People in the northeastern part of the state overnight being warned to stay inside. Some areas are getting up to nine inches of water.

Let's get right to Todd Meany.

He's with our affiliate, WJW.

He joins us live from East Lake with more -- good morning to you, Todd.

TODD MEANY, WJW CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Thanks.

Yes, the situation out here not getting any better at this point, although the rain has stopped, so that's some good news.

One of the supermarkets back here -- this is the parking lot. And it's just flooded. They were squeegeeing water outside the front lobby, trying to get things going as they try to possibly even get back to business today.

But you can just see how high this water is -- three, four feet high. It was even higher this morning. Take a look at this car over here. This car was flooded out, one of many that tried to get through this water this morning. It didn't work. People got stalled out. There's three, four, maybe five cars in this parking lot that are just completely flooded and they're not going anywhere.

In fact, there's a Wal-Mart down the way. You can see some of those workers stuck there all night long because they're the night shift and they couldn't get out because the water was trapping them inside that building.

We've had several evacuations here. About 50 to 70 homes, just in this city alone, have been evacuated. They sent everybody over to a local city hall. Again, as you mentioned, up to nine inches of water in the past 24 hours. And they are warning people not to go out because some of the roads are flooded. They can't get through. And that water is very deceiving.

One river out here, called the Chagrin River, crested nine feet above flood stage. They actually think that one person may have fallen into that river. They're doing a search right now, Coast Guard helicopters flying above, trying to see if they can find that guy, in addition to police and fire departments.

It has been quite a day out here. But as I mentioned, the rain has stopped. And that is helping things somewhat. But it's going to be quite a cleanup as the rest of the day continues -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Gosh, yes. And I don't know why they have to keep telling people to stay inside, you know, that they wouldn't just, with all that water, just -- just know better than to drive those cars through those parking lots. I mean it's ridiculous.

Todd Meany with our affiliate, WJW.

Thanks, Todd.

Appreciate it.

MEANY: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Chad with an update -- Chad, Todd says the rain has stopped, so that's a big plus.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Is it going to continue to dry up now?

MYERS: Yes, we're done now. But, yes, like he was saying, we're talking about not so much Cleveland proper, but just up the freeway, just up the thruway there, from Cleveland on up toward Erie, Ashtabula -- 7.75 inches of rain in Euclid Ohio just since 24 hours now. So the rain is just coming down in this general vicinity so hard.

I tried to get a map for you here. I've got a couple of maps I can find here. Here's one. Here's Cleveland. There's Euclid. There's Mentor and four-and-a-half inches of rain. This is just in the past 12 hours alone. And then here's I-90, the thruway that goes on up toward Buffalo and Solier (ph). You're probably going to see problems there trying to get along that thruway through those major towns there in northeast Ohio this morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up, it is day 17 of the Middle East crisis.

Did Israeli forces underestimate the power of Hezbollah?

We're going to take a closer look at that question this morning. Also, U.S. Marines go into Lebanon to get American's out of harm's way. We'll tell you why the mission has brought back some very painful memories for some veterans.

On the war in Iraq, thousands of U.S. troops are going to have to stay a lot longer than they originally thought. We'll see if that signals a change in strategy for the U.S.

That's all ahead on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: American troops will be working over time in Iraq. Thirty-five hundred members of one special force are being moved to Baghdad instead of going home.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld giving their mission a personal go ahead.

Joining us this morning to talk about the extended duty is CNN military analyst, Brigadier General David Grange, retired -- nice to see you, sir, as always.

Thanks for being with us.

These are guys who are coming out of Mosul, I understand. And Mosul, in and of itself, has a lot of problems.

What do you think they're pulling them out of Mosul to bring them into Baghdad?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, what they did is an analysis of what -- where the biggest problems were, where the main effort was going to be. And the main effort right now is in Baghdad.

If Baghdad cannot get resolved, the rest of the country cannot accomplish its mission of setting up a free, democratic society and rule of law.

And so Mosul, though it is a very large city, as well, is more stable than Baghdad is. They're experienced troops. You have to put experienced troops that understand how to fight in cities into an environment like this if you're going to reinforce.

S. O'BRIEN: There was a report back at the end of June that indicated that, in fact, Casey -- General Casey was looking toward lowering the number of troops.

Is that now just a plan that's completely scuttled?

GRANGE: Not at all. I'm sure he's still looking at ways and time lines to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq. I think they want nothing more than that.

But, like as has been discussed several times before, it's all situation dependent. There's going to be times where you have to reinforce and increase numbers, especially in certain areas. And there's going to be times when you can reduce and move people out. And that's the way war is. And it's not a steady state, a steady line of action. It changes constantly.

S. O'BRIEN: Why would they choose to extend troops rather than bring in new troops?

GRANGE: Yes, this is a very important question and it's confusing to a lot of people.

Let me tell you how a troop feels about this -- because this happened to me many times. And as a soldier, you would say this really sucks. As a planner, what you want to do is you want to move in the forces that are capable of handling this kind of situation. Do you take experienced troops from country that know -- that have street savvy and know how to fight in that environment or do you send over a force that's green and fresh and may not be trained up?

And the last piece of it is, it's time sensitive. You have to act now, in many situations. You can't wait two weeks, a month, for a new force to come into country.

And so the military does not want to do something like this. No one wants to extend forces beyond a time because of the morale and the morale in the families. But in this case, more troops will probably survive and they'll be more effective because they've picked seasoned soldiers.

S. O'BRIEN: We've heard many times, and I know you have, as well, when the Iraqi troops stand up, American troops can stand down, things like that.

Is this an indication that we're really not close to the Iraqi troops standing up?

I mean if they were close to standing up, then we'd be able to bring in large numbers of Iraqi troops right into Baghdad.

GRANGE: Yes, it's not a one on one, one to one ratio. It's about capabilities and the type of troops that are trained and the equipment they have, and, more importantly, the leadership that's in place.

The Iraqi Army is pretty good. The problem they have in Baghdad is the police. Corrupt, turn their head on situations where they should get involved, where the rule of law is challenged. And they don't.

And so I think that these forces are going to be focused on bolstering Iraqi police, more so than Iraqi military.

S. O'BRIEN: Is the theory as goes Baghdad so goes the country? That if you can't figure out how to save Baghdad here, then we're going to lose in Iraq? GRANGE: Well, there's a lot to that. I mean I compare it, when I think of something like this, to our own capital in Washington, D.C. I mean here you have six million plus people, the biggest groups of different factions, together in one place, the seats of government. It would be like if you couldn't operate your Congress, your administration, your Supreme Court in the middle of three different factions fighting in Washington, D.C.

Yes, I think Baghdad is critical. It's the center of gravity for success in Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: Brigadier General David Grange joining us.

Nice to see you again, sir, as always.

Thanks for being with us.

GRANGE: The same.

Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, the mission by U.S. Marines to evacuate Americans out of Lebanon -- we'll take a look at why it's forced some retired Marines to relive a very painful moment in U.S. history.

You're watching a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

We're back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING live from northern Israel, just a few miles away from the pitched battle still underway. Artillery coming in, pounding Bint Jabeil, Maroun-Al-Ras, considered Hezbollah strongholds.

And while this battle rages on all throughout Southern Lebanon, and, for that matter, into Beirut, the evacuations continue.

We're told at least a half dozen ships are on their way toward Cyprus today with many more foreign nationals.

At the heart of this evacuation effort, and, for that matter, as we look to the future, part of the humanitarian effort for those that are displaced by this war, the United States Marines. The thought of having United States Marines back in Beirut and in Lebanon for the first time in 23 years, since a terrible bombing where they lost 241 of their own, brings back some very difficult memories for some veterans.

Here's CNN's Susan Candiotti.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marines was sent in to rescue Americans escaping bombs in Beirut, it brought back unimaginable horror to a group of retired vets.

(on camera): When you saw that your unit was going over there, it must have floored you, in a way.

MAJ. ROBERT JORDAN (RET.), BEIRUT VETERANS OF NORTH AMERICA: Well, like Yogi Berra said, it's just deja vu all over again.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Retired Major Bob Jordan was the Marine spokesman in Beirut in 1983, when a suicide terrorist drove a truck bomb into their four story barracks. Two hundred-forty-one servicemen were killed.

Jordan is proud his historic unit is back on Lebanon's shores, but also frustrated.

JORDAN: Within their ranks are our sons and our daughters and our grandsons and granddaughters completing the mission that we should have done 23 years ago. That's not right.

CANDIOTTI: Back then, Marines were part of a multinational peacekeeping force.

JORDAN: Our mission is still one of presence.

CANDIOTTI: That was Major Jordan doing an interview in 1983. And here's what he says about the mission now that he couldn't say then.

JORDAN: Unfortunately, it was very naive and the factions who did not want Lebanon to succeed and to have stability and freedom took advantage of it.

WARRANT OFFICER RANDY GADOO (RET.), BEIRUT VETERANS OF NORTH AMERICA: That was the first explosion that...

CANDIOTTI: Fellow Marine vet, Staff Sergeant Randy Gadoo served with Jordan and agrees the Marines practically were sitting ducks for groups like Hezbollah.

GADOO: Our rules of engagement that we were given were very restrictive and didn't allow us to do the things that Marines would normally do, in a tactical situation, to protect themselves.

CANDIOTTI: Before the attack, Gadoo took these pictures of the Marine compound -- virtually open access and only sandbags in front of their barracks.

At 6:20 on a quiet Sunday morning, Gadoo and Jordan barely escaped death. Jordan slept in that day, in a building near the barracks.

JORDAN: I had never heard a noise that loud in my car -- my whole career.

CANDIOTTI: A door that had been welded shut blew out and just missed Jordan. Gadoo was drinking coffee nearby.

GADOO: There was this enormous thud and about three seconds later, I could feel this heat drawing by face back. And a couple of seconds after that, the concussions from the blast just picked me up and threw me backwards about six feet.

CANDIOTTI: Jordan ran outside and saw Gadoo.

JORDAN: His eyes were like saucers. And I said, "Sergeant Gadoo, what's going on?"

GADOO: And I said the BLT is gone.

CANDIOTTI: The barracks pancaked top to bottom.

GADOO: And I looked and what had been four stories of building was now about a story-and-a-half of just, you know, rubble.

CANDIOTTI: The bomber had hit his target. In his log book that bloody chaotic day, Marine Spokesman Jordan had time only to write a simple entry.

JORDAN: Sunday, 23 October, 0620. Truck bomb destroys BLT.

CANDIOTTI: After about six months, the Marines were pulled out of Lebanon, to many vets' chagrin.

JORDAN: They were testing us and guess what? We didn't fail militarily, we failed politically and culturally.

CANDIOTTI: That mission began the same way the current one has.

GADOO: Doing the job that we're trained to do, non-combat evacuations. But when they start talking about sending them in as peacekeepers again in that area, we just don't think that that's a very good idea.

JORDAN: Until the Hezbollah is forced to disarm, we're going to have to -- we're going to continue having this over and over again.

CANDIOTTI: The U.S. insists its forces will not join any possible multinational force. If things change, Marine vets of the Beirut bombing want the rules of engagement to be completely different.

JORDAN: They remember what happened to the Marines in Beirut and they're not going to let that happen again.

CANDIOTTI: Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: That's just an except of the program, "CNN PRESENTS: MARINE BARRACKS BOMBING."

That airs this weekend. S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks.

Coming up in just a moment, the latest on the evacuation efforts in the Middle East.

We'll tell you why today might be one of the last chances for Americans to get out of harm's way.

Also, a look at whether Hezbollah has been underestimated by Israel. We'll talk to a member of the Israeli Defense Forces.

You're watching a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Three more evacuation ships are now heading from Lebanon to Cyprus. There are Americans on board the Orient Queen. You'll recall that's a ship we took you on board when we were in Larnaca, reporting from Larnaca last week. That ship is expected to arrive with the Americans some time tonight.

We begin with the CNN's Alessio Vinci.

He's in Larnaca this morning -- hey, Alessio, good morning.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Soledad.

Yes, three ships arriving here at the port of Larnaca, mainly transporting Australians, Canadians, some Germans and other European nationalities. And then a fourth trip, the Orient Queen is expected to arrive at the port of Limassol, about an hour away from here, tonight, carrying mostly Americans. But we do understand that on board that ship there are also other nationalities.

Here in Cyprus, 47,500 people have come through this country over the past few weeks and the authorities here are telling us that by the end of this week, it will be about 50,000.

Most of them, of course, have already gone home. There will still be delays, perhaps, in getting some charter flights in here, but most of the people have already left.

Of those 50,000 or so, 13,200 are Americans or people that the Americans have taken out of Lebanon, and of those, about 9,700 are already on their way or already are back in the United States.

And we do understand from U.S. officials here in Cyprus that one of the reasons why more people have arrived than have left is because, first of all, as I said, not all of them are U.S. citizens, but also there are a lot of people who said they were U.S. citizens back in Lebanon, but when arriving here, obviously, some of their passports were expired, some documentation is not correct. So the U.S. immigration is trying to perform background checks to make sure all people entering the United States can do so legally. So while all this is ongoing, of course, Cyprus remain a hub for humanitarian aid.

We do understand that (INAUDIBLE) is going to bring about 30 tons worth of dialysis equipment into Lebanon tomorrow, and a U.S. Marine ship is expected to leave in a few hours now. It's actually a catamaran, the swift, used during tsunami, and during Katrina to bring aid. It will leave later today, and it will arrive in Lebanon at some point in the afternoon.

Back to you, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Alessio Vinci for us. Alessio, Thanks.

(NEWSBREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: First glance, it looks like President Bush got a boost in the poll for how he's handled the Mideast crisis. The numbers, though, could be deceiving. We'll take a closer look this morning.

Also a convicted killer already in prison is now confessing to almost 50 more murders. How did police get him to talk? A local sheriff is going to join us live ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: In Colorado, a convicted killer is confessing to dozens of murders, dating back more than three decades. If his claims are true, he would be one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Reporter: Already serving life without parole for one murder, 53-year-old Robert Charles Browne tells Colorado authorities he's killed 48 people in the U.S. and overseas. Browne claims his killing spree began in 1970 in South Korea, and continued with dozens of murders in nine U.S. states, until his arrest in 1995.

SHERIFF TERRY MAKETA, EL PASO COUNTY, COLORADO: Robert is what I would consider a very intelligent individual, and he knew exactly what he was doing with his taunting.

S. O'BRIEN: During four years of correspondence and interviews with cold-case detectives, Browne slowly revealed grisly details of crimes. Things that only the killer and investigators would know.

CHARLES HESS, COLD CASE DETECTIVE: It became obvious that with Robert most things were a negotiation. I can have a single cell, I'll tell you this. If I can have this, I can give you three murders, or whatever. All of the things that he asked for were reasonable, within the law, within the rules of DOC, and little by little, over a four- year the period, that's where it is.

S. O'BRIEN: Authorities so far have been able to confirm details of eight of those killings. Browne went to prison for life in 1995 for one of them, pleading guilty kidnapping and murdering 13-year-old Heather Dawn Church. On Thursday, Browne pleaded guilty to killing another Colorado teenager, Rosio Sperry (ph).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Terry Maketa is the sheriff of El Paso County in Colorado. He joins us from Colorado springs this morning.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. We sure Appreciate your time.

Can you explain to me the relationship that developed between some of your investigators and Mr. Browne?

MAKETA: Well, it really took time for our detectives to build that relationship, build that trust, and get to the point to where he would at least share some details with them so that they would have leads to go follow-up.

S. O'BRIEN: Early on, did you expect that, in fact, he was guilty of as many murders that he's now claiming?

MAKETA: No. early on, I mean, it was just -- there was some taunting, and you know, he would throw out almost information in riddles. And in the beginning, no, we didn't think so. But as the detectives began to build this relationship and he began to share more information, there was a turning point where we realized this individual could be responsible for many homicides across the United States.

S. O'BRIEN: What kind of details did he share with your investigators?

MAKETA: You know, he would talk about going off on what he described as ramblings. And essentially, that was hopping in a car and just driving, sometimes without a destination, and finding himself in different states. And he said it was at those times where he would just run into an opportunity, and that's how he would phrase it, with a young lady or some individual. And that's where he would commit the crime. There was often no reason for it or no real motive behind it.

S. O'BRIEN: Did there -- was there anything that linked all the victims? I mean, in the case of the little girl, who we showed a picture of a moment ago, 13-year-old Heather Dawn Church (ph), she was baby-sitting her little brother in her house and then was kidnapped and eventually murdered. Is there any commonality that ties all of the victims together?

MAKETA: You know, there is. Number one, the victims were fairly young, a majority of them. The other thing is, most of them were very petite. They were in the five foot tall to maybe 5'4", they weighed between 95 and about 115 pounds. So that is one thing that we did see very common with them.

Another interesting fact was, not only were his victims of similar build, but so were his ex-wives. He was actually married six times, or at least living with a woman -- six different women. And they all had the same physical characteristics as his victims, but they are all still alive.

S. O'BRIEN: Huh, that's interesting. Were they women who were beaten or abused or anything like that?

MAKETA: No, actually -- no, actually, they -- the ones that we have spoken with said, no. He never abused them or mistreated them. You know, they're actually the ones that fed us and confirmed the information about his so-called ramblings, where he would just take off for a week, a week and a half at a time and disappear.

S. O'BRIEN: So on the surface, here's a guy who was perfectly normal?

MAKETA: I think from their point of view, absolutely. He was described as a charming individual, very polite, very nice. Came across as, you know, a very stable individual. But yet there was this whole other side to him.

S. O'BRIEN: So 48 murders. Do you think, in fact, that that's an accurate number?

MAKETA: You know, it's -- that's a real tough question. I think we're going to pursue this as though that's the number. And we hope he'll continue to talk with us. It's taken us several years to get to this point, and there's no indication that he's not going to continue to talk. So, you know, we'll take the 48 as his number, and, you know, we'll try to find and identify as many of those as we can.

S. O'BRIEN: He's in life without parole. So it's really for the family members of the victims, pretty much, why you're doing this now?

MAKETA: Absolutely. I mean, this really isn't about taking somebody off the streets and the streets being safer. This is really about answering questions to families and friends of the victims. You know, we had the local case yesterday. We sat down and talked to people that are in that position. And it's amazing, the burden they carry with them, especially for 20 years, wondering what happened to either their mother or what happened to my wife?

And I think it's a great thing. It's part of the healing process. And it can bring closure to a lot of these family members. And that's what we're trying to do right now, and that's what's motivating us.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, gosh, you can't even imagine to live with that for so long. Before I let you go, let me ask you a quick question. How do you get away with it? I mean, if the number really is 48, and I understand that that is, you know -- that's unclear at this point. But it's a lot. How do you get away with it for so long? MAKETA: You know, some would describe that he just had this charmed life about him, and there's you know -- some degree, there's luck. But the other thing is, he never really had a long-term relationship with any of his victims. Some of them, the relationship may have only been ten minutes long. So he didn't spend a lot of time with them, and he was very transient.

He moved in and out. If you look at the various states, he had to do traveling over those years to commit these crimes. And with the exception of Louisiana, most of them were outside of where he was living. So he would just be passing through an area, commit the crime, and continue on his way. And there wasn't a lot of witnesses that could tie him to the victim.

S. O'BRIEN: What a bizarre case. Terry Maketa is a sheriff with El Paso County in California. Thanks for your time, sir. Appreciate it.

MAKETA: Well, thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: Coming up next, Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" COLUMNIST: We were talking about the new Will Ferrell movie. Do you know about this? The new NASCAR movie. And guess what? It is absolutely rife with product placement, just like the sport itself. We'll tell you about that.

S. O'BRIEN: We're looking forward to that. Thanks, Andy.

Also, new polls suggest that Americans are happy with how the president's been handling the Mideast crisis. We'll take a closer look at those numbers just ahead on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Thousands of Israelis trying to escape the Hezbollah rocket barrage. They're now living in a tent city in southern Israel. What's more, it's being funded by a controversial businessman. Here's a look from Paula Hancocks of CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the Mediterranean coast. The only way to cool off is to take a dip. This beach is filled with what appear to be vacationers. But instead, they're people from northern Israel who fled south to escape the constant Hezbollah rocket attacks.

Victor Sharon and his family left home with just one bag after a rocket hit the house next door, shattering their windows. He says they were lucky they were in the bomb shelter at the time.

VICTOR SHARON, CARMIEL RESIDENT: Every day we'd been getting hit by the Katyusha rockets. Every day. Every single day. And, you know, the girls, they had never gone through this before. They'd never been through the situation before. It's the first time that they've ever heard any bombs go off. And, you know, they were scared.

HANCOCKS: There are 6,000 people in this tent city. Hundreds more are on the waiting list. There's little privacy, but there is food and entertainment; and most importantly, no rockets. You could call it a refugee camp, at a cost of half a million dollars a day.

Controversial Israeli/Russian billionaire Akadi Gadarmac (ph) foots the bill to promote what he calls Jewish solidarity. The makeshift city was built in 48 hours. It has its own police force, synagogue and medical facilities.

DAVID NITZANI, ORGANIZER, TENT CITY: The state of mind when they came here was already extremely stressed to begin with. So the whole idea is just to help them relax and keep them busy as much as we can, and avoid -- this way to avoid, you know, all kind of stress-related outcome.

HANCOCKS: Lives in this tent city is like living in a different world for many of these residents of northern Israel. But the one reminder, that they're not on holiday, and they are actually at war is the sound of fighter jets overhead every now and then. And also, in the evening, they can hear the helicopters coming back from military operations in Gaza, which is just about 15 miles down the coast.

While the sun and the sea would seem a desirable distraction, everyone we spoke to said they just want to go home.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Yitzhamin (ph), Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Another 600 families taken in in the city of Jerusalem by the government officials there.

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

(NEWSBREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Walt Rosso first fell in love with skydiving as a young army soldier. After a 20-year break from the sport, he came back to jump in all 50 states before his 70th birthday.

CNN's Valerie Morris has more in this week's edition of "Life After Work."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Walt Rosso doesn't spend retirement counting the days that go by. Instead, this retired U.S. Army Ranger is adding up his skydiving jumps.

WALT ROSSO, SKYDIVER: It's an adrenaline rush. I mean, when you're up in that airplane, and they open the door at you're at 10,000 feet and your relying on training and your equipment, some people say it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It was great, great. And I got to stand up.

MORRIS: Rosso was in the military 20 years. Most of the time he was in the parachute infantry. After his retirement, he spent another 20 years working different jobs. Ranging from farmer to real estate agent, until he earned enough to retire. One summer while traveling, Rosso realized it might be possible to jump in all 50 states. Five years later, he'd reached his goal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the only 50-state jumper I know. Great jumping with you, Walt.

ROSSO: To make my 50th jump, I wanted to do it in Hawaii, because Hawaii was it's 50th state to come in the Union.

MORRIS: Even with this feat, at nearly 70 years old, Rosso isn't done yet.

ROSSO: My new goal is to jump until I'm 82. Life is golden, and I just want to keep going.

Valerie Morris, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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