Conflicts Intensify Around the World

As Huff Post’s Catherine Taibi put it: “Covering the violent scene in Gaza has proven difficult for even the most season reporter.” The above video shows Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh walked off camera on Sunday during a report on the dozens of people killed and thousands of Shijaiyah residents fleeing their home while Israeli aircraft bombed the area. Taibi reports in her article Al Jazeera Reporter Breaks Down On The Air In Gaza that Al-Dahdouh is an award winning journalist who has covered the conflicts in his hometown for years, but could not hide his emotions while reporting on the 87 Palestinians killed on Sunday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made another trip to the Middle East hoping to jump start a deal for a renewed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following a weekend where the civilian death toll increased dramatically, Lara Jakes reports Kerry returns to Mideast to push for cease-fire. Kerry left for Cairo on Monday from Washington to join dimplomatic efforts to resume a truce that was agreed upon in November 2012. The goal is to urge Hamas to accept the ceasefire agreement offered by Egypt halting the two weeks of fighting which has resulted in 430 Palestinians and 20 Israelis being killed. The Obama administration and Kerry have criticized Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel and other provocations such as tunneling under the border. In addition, it has also back peddled on its earlier criticisms of Israel for attacks on Gaza that resulted in civilian and child deaths. On Sunday night, the State Department confirmed that two Americans, Max Steinberg of California and Nissim Carmeli of Texas, who fought for Israel were killed in fighting in Gaza. While on Sunday talk shows, Kerry said Hamas needs to take their own responsibility for the conflict, telling ABC’s “This Week”: “It’s ugly. War is ugly, and bad things are going to happen.” Both Obama and Kerry said Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas, while Kerry accused Hamas of attempting to kidnap and sedate Israelis through a network of tunnels. On CNN’s “State of the Union”, Kerry said that Hams must “step up and show a level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a cease-fire.” The two week conflict has escalated in recent days as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon continues to try and revive ceasefire efforts in the region. Obama via phone Sunday told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Kerry was coming to the Mideast and condemned Hamas’ attacks, according to a White House statement. The U.N. relief agency in Gaza estimates 70,000 Palestinians have fled from the fighting and seeking shelter in schools and other shelters the U.N. has set up. According to Jakes: “The prime minister said his top goal is to restore a sustainable peace, but he then will ask the international community to consider demilitarizing Gaza to rid Hamas of its rockets and shut down the tunnels leading into Israel.”

On Monday, the death toll among Palestinians reached 508 with the bloodiest day of fighting so far in the two week campaign, according to Gaza heath officials, while diplomats continue to try to reach a ceasefire deal. Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Palestinian death toll in Gaza fighting at 508, that the U.N. Security Council has expressed serious concern about the increase in civilian deaths and demanded an immediate end to fighting following the emergency session in New York. Meanwhile, Israeli military foiled a Hamas infiltration attempt Monday through two tunnels into southern Israel from northern Gaza. The military said 10 infiltrators were killed after being detected and targeted by Israel aircraft, Laub and Enav report. On Sunday, the first major ground battle killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and caused thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in an area where alleged rocket launches took place and now devastated by fighting. The 13 Israeli soldiers died in clashed with militants in Shiyajiah, a Gaza City neighborhood, bring the Israeli death toll to 20. Among all the carnage, the Associated Press reports that Israeli tank shells struck a hospital in Gaza on Monday killing four people and wounding 60 according to Palestinian officials. Despite the new diplomatic efforts to renew a ceasefire, Israel continues to attack targets in the densely populated coastal strip by air and tanks, while Hamas fires more rockets and utilizes its network of tunnels under the border. A dozen shells hit the Al Aqsa hospital in the town of Deir el-Balah on Monday hitting the administrative building, the intensive care unit and the surgery department. A doctor at the hospital, Fayez Zidane, told Al Aqsa TV station that shells hit the third and fourth floor and the reception area. The Israeli military said it was looking into it. On Monday, one family member Sabri Abu Jamea, who witness their home in Khan Younis be destroyed by one airstrike burying 25 people including 24 from the same family, said: “Twenty-five people! Doesn’t this indicate that Israel is ruthless? Are we the liars? The evidence is here in the morgue refrigerators. The evidence is in the refrigerators.” Hamas fired 50 more rockets into Israel with two pointed at Tel Aviv, but caused no injuries or damage. Addressing a parliamentary committee, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “If needed we will recruit more reservists in order to continue the operation as long as necessary until the completion of the task and the return of the quiet in the whole of Israel especially from the threat of the Gaza Strip.”

While Israel and Hamas continue to fight it seems an un-winnable battle, Ukraine and the rest of the world try to piece together the tragedy of Malaysian Flight 17. On Monday, a refrigerated train carrying the victims of flight 17 finally left a rebel held town in Eastern Ukraine, according to Dmitry Lovetsky and David McHugh Hrabove, Train with plane crash bodies leaves rebel town. Hours earlier, Dutch experts called for a full forensic sweep of the Flight 17 crash site telling the armed separatists controlling the area that the train needs to leave as soon as possible. It has been four days since the Boeing 777 was shot down killing 298 people. The U.S., Ukraine and others have accused Moscow of supplying rebels with the arms used to shoot down the plan. Russia has denied the allegations. In Washington, President Barack Obama insisted that international investigators be given full access to the crash site and accused the separatists of removing evidence and blocking investigators. Obama asked, “What exactly are they trying to hide?” This came after the U.S. presented evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface to air missile. At the U.N. in New York, the Security Council voted Monday on an Australia proposed resolution demanding access to the site and a ceasefire in the area. According to the article, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said a veto vote from Russia would be viewed very badly adding that no reasonable person could object. Fighting continued between separatists and government troops in Donetsk about 30 miles west of the crash site on Monday near the town’s airport, according to city authorities. After the bodies left Torez, two military jets flew overhead and black smoke could be seen rising in the distance. The Netherlands are concerned about the bodies since 192 of the victims were Dutch. Dutch Prime Minster Mark Rutte said Monday that repatriating the bodies was his no.1 priority. Meanwhile, workers recovered 21 bodies from the site bring the total to 272 bodies found, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk confirmed. At the Torez station, the Dutch investigators stood for a moment with their heads bowed and hands clasped before climbing aboard to inspect. In Kharkiv, another team of international experts arrived including three Australians, 23 Dutch, two Germans, two Americans and one person from the U.K. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s prime minister said the rebels will hand over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators in Ukraine late Monday. Putin criticized the Ukrainian government in Kiev, saying: “If fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened. Nobody should or does have a right to use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives.” To counter the U.S. claims, Russian officials offered evidence that proves Ukrainian surface to air systems were operating in the area before the crash. In addition, they also had evidence that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet flew between 2 to 3 miles from the Malaysia Airlines jet.

While fighting continues to escalate in the previously mentioned conflicts, some decades long battles seem to be flaring up again. Officials on Monday confirmed that attack overnight in two Iraqi cities killed at least 16 people as authorities struggle to stop a Sunni offensive that has taken large areas of northern and western Iraq. As Sinan Salaheddin reports, Overnight attacks in Iraq kill at least 16 people, one attack on a Shiite neighborhood in Mahmoudiya on Sunday night left 11 civilians dead and 31 wounded according to police. In Bagdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a roadside bomb struck an army patrol killing two soldiers and three volunteer soldiers while wounding eight people. In January, al-Qaida breakaway, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi. In June, the Islamic State launched a massive blitz offensive that ended with the group controlling large parts of northern and western Iraq. On Friday, the U.S. mission in Iraq said at least 5,576 civilians have died and another 11,665 were wounded in the first six months of the year with 1.2 million people uprooted due to violence. According to the U.N., the civilian deaths so far this year are a dramatic increase from the previous year with 7,800 civilian deaths. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber targeted a police convoy in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province Monday killing two people, one civilian and one police, according to a local official. The Associate Press reports, Afghan official: Suicide bombing kills 2 in south, the attack happened in Lashkar Gah wounding an additional 15 people including eight policemen and seven civilians according to Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Taliban frequently used roadside bombs and suicide attacks against Afghan and NATO forces and government offices in their country. Last month, hundreds of Taliban insurgents attacked several Afghan security checkpoints in Sangin district of Helmand killing more than 100 people and displacing dozens from their homes in a week long intensive battle. The government in response deployed 2,000 reinforcements there. The attacks and fighting are continually testing the Afghan government’s ability to maintain security in the volatile areas after foreign combat troops leave at the end of this year.

More Controvery Surrounding Malaysian Flight MH17

Ukrainian officials and monitors on Sunday reported that armed rebels forced emergency workers to hand over all 196 bodies recovered from the Malaysia Airlines site then loaded them onto refrigerated train cars bound for a rebel held city, according to Yuras Karmanau, Plane crash bodies put on train for rebel city. This development Sunday morning came in response to international outrage over how the bodies of the victims were being handled among fears that the rebels controlling the territory were tampering with evidence. Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface to air missile Thursday that downed the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine killing 283 passengers and 15 crew. In addition, Ukraine accuses Russia of supplying the rebels with sophisticated arms which Moscow denies. The rebels have limited the movement of monitors and journalists at the site near the Russian border and Ukraine’s Emergency Ministry claims its workers were laboring under duress, overseen by the armed rebels. On Saturday, an AP journalist saw bodies baking in the heat and piled into body bags by the road or still laid out where they landed in the field. By Sunday though, no bodies and no armed rebels were at the site with emergency workers searching for body parts. Nataliya Khuruzhaya, a deputy officer at the train station in Torez, 9 miles away, said she saw emergency workers loading bodies into five sealed refrigerated train cars on Sunday morning. She added that the train was scheduled to go to Ilovaysk, 22 miles further east toward Russian border, but no further instructions were given. Russian news agencies said the bodies were going to Donetsk a rebel stronghold, while Ukrainian officials expect the bodies to be taken to the government held city of Kharkiv. The deputy governor of Kharkiv, where the government set up a crisis center, said the Ukrainian state railway company provided the refrigerated train cars. Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for monitors for the Organization fro Security and Cooperation in Europe,  told reporters in Kiev via phone from the site: “We’re looking at the field where the engines have come down. This was the area which was exposed to the most intense heat. We do not see any bodies here. It appears that some have been vaporized.”As far as the 102 other bodies, officials have yet to locate these bodies. The latest U.S. intelligence assessment suggests that more than one missile system was given to separatists by Russia in the last week or so, but both Russia and the rebels deny the allegations. In the Sunday Times, British Prime Minster David Cameron called the attack a “direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them. We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action…For too long, there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine.” Despite calls from world leaders for an independent international investigation, armed separatist limited access to the crash site for the first few days. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told the Ukrainian president in Kiev Saturday: “People are angry, are furious at what they hear. Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice.” Both Putin and Merkel agreed via phone on Saturday that an independent commission led by the International Civil Action Organization should be given full access to the site.

While the crash site reports seems to be an area of confusion, on Sunday, rebel leaders announced that rebels had recovered black boxes from the downed plan and will hand them over to   the International Civil Aviation Organization. Karmanau reports, Rebels to give MH17 black boxes to aviation group, Alexander Borodai confirmed that the bodies recovered from the site would remain in refrigerated cars at the Torez station until the international aviation delegation arrives. It is unclear if rebels and the Ukrainian government are working together or were at odds with each other on recovering the bodies. Borodai said he expects a team of Malaysian experts and was disappoint about how long they have taken to arrive insisting rebels are not interfering with the crash investigation despite reports. According to Kurmanau’s article: “The U.S. embassy in Kiev issued a strong statement Sunday pointing to Russian complicity in arming the rebels, saying it has concluded ‘that Flight MH17 was likely downed by a SA-11 surface-to-air missile from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.’ It said over the weekend of July 12-13, ‘Russia sent a convoy of military equipment with up to 150 vehicles, including tanks armored personnel carriers artillery, and multiple rockets launchers’ to the separatists. The statement also said Russia was training separatist fighters in southwest Russia, including on air defense systems.” Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines will retire the flight number of the plane shot down over Ukraine announcing in a statement Sunday that beginning Friday MH17 will no longer be used for it Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flights “out of respect for our crew and passengers” and replaced with MH19.

Israeli-Gaza Conflict: “The gates of hell have opened”

gaza mourning

This is a photograph of the father of one of the four young boys who was killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza Wednesday. The boys, all cousins and all under the age of 12, had been playing soccer on the beach when the attack occurred. The man’s picture, by photographer Hosam Salem, was taken during the boys’ funeral. (HuffPost)

On Sunday, Israeli troops backed by tanks and warplanes battled Hamas militants in a crowded neighborhood of Gaza city using heavy Israeli tank fire killing many Palestinians and causing thousands to flee while damaging or destroying many homes, the Associate Press reports (Thousands flee major battle with Israel in Gaza). Palestinian health officials said at least 65 people killed by air and artillery strikes that bombarded the city for hours displacing 35,000. In total, 420 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in the two week conflict which escalated while U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon headed to the region to try and renew the ceasefire efforts. Sunday’s battle in Shijaiyah was the deadliest so far since the ground offensive started three days ago after 10 days of heavy airstrikes on targets linked to Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Israel has said it sent the troops into Gaza to destroy Hamas rocket launchers and tunnels used by Islamic militants to sneak into Israel. Residents of the neighborhood said Israel entered the area after midnight and fired heavily. Shijaiyah resident Jawad Hassanain said,”The gate of hell has opened, and shrapnel came through the windows. From 12:30 a.m. until 4 a.m., all you could hear is heavy bombardment, the smell of fire and the smell of death. By 4:30, and after the call for the prayer, we were able to get in an ambulance.” After daybreak, dozens of wounded from Shijaiyah were taken to Gaza’s central Shifa Hospital where the emergency room overflowed forcing doctors to treat patients on mattresses in the hallway, according to the Associated Press. During a Red Cross brokered lull, paramedics retrieved the dead pulling bodies from the rubble of homes. Palestinian heath officials said 65 people died and 288 wounded in Shijaiyah bringing the total since July 8 to 425 dead and 3,000 wounded. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said 8 percent of rockets fired over the 13 day conflict came from this neighborhood and residents were warned ahead of the offensive to leave the area. Some residents tried to find refuge with relatives or at U.N. schools or shelters that already house 63,000 Palestinians according to UNRWA, the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians. The number of people who have fled their homes has more than tripled since the start of the ground offensive and the agency plans to open more schools. Hamas has sought involvement of other countries in any ceasefire negotiations such as Qatar due to deep distrust of Egypt’s ruler who last year ousted a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo.

While fighting intensifies between Israel and Hamas, on Thursday afternoon hundreds of French Jewish immigrants received their Israeli identity cards at a ceremony in Jerusalem, according to Sophia Jones’ article Hundreds of French Jews Immigrate To Israel During Gaza Offensive. Veronique Rivka Buzgalo, one of the 430 immigrants from France, said,”I came because of anti-Semitism. You see it in the eyes of people. I see it in everything,” referring to the rising anti-Semitism in her home country. Buzgalo added that nothing would stop her from becoming an Israeli citizen this week not even the rocket sirens in the south of the country where she plans to settle, according to Jones. Despite the ongoing turmoil, more than a thousand Jews made aliyah – when Jews immigrate to Israel – in the past then days, the Israeli government reports. As one of many Jews immigrating to Israel, Buzaglo like many others look to Israel as a fresh start and a place to belong. In a statement to the foreign press, Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver said: “You, dear friends, are the answer to the complicated security situation we are experiencing these days. Every immigrant strengthens us as a people and a state. Aliyah is our national Iron Dome.” Izaar Shirit, plans to move with his wife and daughter to Ashdod in the south where he was born, adding: “I was born in Ashdod and I want to return to Ashdod. “I’m an Ashdodi and I’m not afraid. I think that it will be worked out, with the help of God.” The Israeli government expects more than 5,000 Jews from France to immigrate by the end of the year compared to 3,289 last year and 1,917 in 2012.

Meanwhile, a somber mood set over Gaza as the reality of the conflict and the long road ahead sets in for the families who have lost loved ones. Many photographs and stories have been plastered all over the web covering the humanitarian crisis in Gaza especially the killing of innocent children who are caught in a war that seems to have no end in sight. One such family lost four young boys in a Israeli strike in Gaza last Wednesday. The boys who were all cousins under 12 were playing soccer at the beach when the strike occurred. After the four boys’ died, both Israel and Hamas ceased fighting for five hours on Thursday for a humanitarian truce brokered by the United Nations, Reuters reports. Unfortunately, the ceasefire ended as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that a ground offensive in Gaza would happen. Dominique Mosbergen reports, Heartbreaking Photograph Of One Father’s Grief Reveals The Real Cost Of Violence In Gaza, more than 160 civilians including 40 plus children have been killed in Gaza since July 7 when Israel launched its anti-Hamas military operation. The U.N. in a July 16 report wrote: “According to preliminary information, 77 [percent] of Palestinian fatalities so far have been civilians, raising concerns about respect for international humanitarian law.” The Israeli military said it would launch an investigation into the killing and added the strike was intended for Hamas militants and called the children’s deaths a “tragic outcome” according to ABC News. Earlier in the week, Humans Rights Watch called for the Israeli military to “end unlawful attacks that do not target military objectives and may be intended as collective punishment or broadly to destroy civilian property.” On their website, the organization wrote: “Deliberate or reckless attacks violating the laws of war are war crimes. Palestinian armed groups also should end indiscriminate rocket attacks launched toward Israeli population centers.” In the hours following the deaths, Gaza was overcome with grief and fury. According to CNN, hundreds of people attended the funerals Wednesday and “angry chants filled the air.”

As anger fills the air in Gaza over the killing of Palestinians by Israel, pro-Palestinian protesters defied a demonstration ban in Paris over the Israeli offensive in Gaza causing clashes with police on Saturday, the Associated Press reports (Pro-Palestinian Protesters And French Police Clash Amid Gaza Conflict). The clash ended with more than 30 people arrested and injuries unknown. Some protestors threw stones and other objects at riot police responding with tear gas in an hours long confrontation in a working class neighborhood designated as the starting point of the banned march. Hundreds of riot police stopped the protesters from marching, but were unable to keep demonstrators from climbing into a building under construction and burning an Israeli flag while others waved a Palestinian flag from atop a building. French authorities banned the planned pro-Palestinian march after a protest on July 13 turned violent with two synagogues attacked. Even with tear gas dispersing most of the protestors, they still managed to hang banners reading “Palestine Will Live” and “Israel Assassins” in front of Montmartre’s famed basilica. Fighting in the Middle East has intensified relations in France as the country is home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish population. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was in the Mideast on Saturday to help open up talks between Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire agreement.

Probe Begins into Malaysian Flight MH17 As International Outcry Intensifies

Malaysia flight MH17 Ukraine flight path

Courtesy of Flight Radar 24

On Friday, world leaders demanded that pro-Russia rebels controlling the eastern Ukraine crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 give complete access to independent investigators to determine who shot down the flight, according to Peter Leonard and Dimitry Lovetsky, Malaysia Airlines Plane Crash: Rescue Workers Comb Through Debris Searching For Clues. At a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting, the U.S. blamed separatists saying Washington believes an SA 11 missile shot down the plane carrying 298 people including 80 children, however, “we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel.” In addition, the White House and the Kremlin called for peace talks between Ukrainian government forces and Russian speaking separatists. Heavy fighting 60 miles from the crash site was reported with 20 civilians killed. Emergency workers and local coal miners recover bodies from grasslands and sunflower fields where the Boeing 777 wreckage fell Thursday. According to the article, 30 officials from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe mostly, arrived at the crash site between Rozsypne and Hrabove, 25 miles from the Russian border. The rebels only allowed a superficial inspection of the wreckage before ordering the delegation to leave even firing a warning shot in the air. President Barack Obama called it “a global tragedy” adding: “An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries, so there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened. In Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniv Yatsenyuk called for an international investigation saying: “We ask all respective governments … to support the Ukrainian government to bring to justice all these bastards who committed this international crime.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed allegations that Moscow could be behind the attack. According to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, at the Security Council meeting, said early Thursday a journalist saw an SA-11 system known as a Buk missile system in Russia in separatist-controlled territory near Snizhne, “and separatists were spotted hours before the incident with an SA-11 SAM system close to the site where the plane came down.” She added, “Separatists initially claimed responsibility for shooting down a military transport plane, and claimed responsibility and posted videos that are now being connected to the Malaysian Airlines crash. Separatist leaders also boasted on social media about shooting down a plane, but later deleted these messages. Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus, we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems.”

Meanwhile, according to Leonard and Lovetsky, the entire Security Council called for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation, in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines, and for appropriate accountability” and the need for “immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident.” In agreement that an investigation was critical, Obama added: “The eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine, and we are going to make sure that the truth is out.” On Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in agreement, said: “Australia takes a very dim view of countries which facilitate the killing of Australians.” On Thursday, Putin blamed Ukraine for the crash saying Kiev caused the unrest in its Russian speaking eastern regions, but stop short of accusing Ukraine of showing down the plane. Ukraine’s state aviation service closed airspace on Friday over two border regions where separatist fighting was ongoing, Donetsk and Luhansk, while Russian airlines suspended all flights over Ukraine. There was uncertainty over whether Flight17’s data and cockpit voice recorders had been recovered. Meanwhile Ukraine’s government said it has already prepared for the bodies to be taken to Kharkiv, 190 miles north of the crash site, however Andrei Purgin, leader of the separatists, said they would go to government controlled Mariupol.

At the crash site, internationals monitors moved through fields on Saturday trying to secure the site in hopes that a credible investigation of the disaster can be done, Peter Leonard and Evgeniy Maloletka report,  Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site. Doubts about the investigation’s credibility have arisen as claims by the government in Kiev allege militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the site and taken them to rebel held Donetsk. The Ukrainian government said on Saturday that rebels are “seeking large transports to carry away plane fragments to Russia.” However, separatists leader Alexander Borodai in Donetsk denies any bodies have been taken or the rebels had interfered with the work of observers. Treatment of the victims’ remains, which have been left in the open air under the hot summer sun with intermittent rainfall, has provoked outrage and distress. Dutch Foreign Minster Frans Timmermans told the Ukrainian president in Kiev: “The news we got today of the bodies being dragged around, of the site not being treated properly, has really created a shock in the Netherlands. People are angry, are furious at what they hear. Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice.” According to German government spokesman Georg Streiter and the Kremlin, both Merkel and Putin agreed on Saturday that an independent international commission with the International Civil Action Organization should be given swift access to the crash site. Additionally, the commission should examine the circumstances of the crash and recover the victims. In the Netherlands, forensic teams across the country Saturday fanned out to collect material including DNA to positively identify the remains of the 192 Dutch victims. Police said that 40 pairs of detectives from the National Forensic Investigations Team will visit victims’ relatives over the coming days. John Goglia, a U.S. aviation safety expert and former National Transportation Safety Board member, said the most useful evidence will be missile pieces if found in the debris trail that came down when the plane exploded. Meanwhile on Saturday, Malaysia Airlines said it had no plans to fly victims’ relatives to the crash site due to safety concerns. A spokesman said the next of kin are being cared for in Amsterdam while a team from the carrier including security officials were in Ukraine accessing the situation. In the Netherlands, travelers out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport laid flowers and signed a condolence book before boarding their flights Saturday including the latest Malaysia Flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur.

Death and Destruction: The Children of the Israeli Palestinian Conflict


On Saturday in Gaza, Israeli bulldozers destroyed more than a dozen tunnels as Palestinian authorities reported intensified airstrikes and shelling causing the death toll to rise to at least 342 Palestinians since Israel’s ground offensive began. Meanwhile, diplomats struggle to bring about renewed talks of ceasefire, according to Ibrahim Barzak and Aron Heller, Israeli troops battle Hamas, uncover Gaza tunnels. The Israeli military said that soldiers found 34 shafts leading into dozens of underground tunnels that could be used to carry out attacks. However, even after tunnels were destroyed, Palestinian gunmen entered Israel from Gaza using another tunnel killing two Israeli soldiers and injuring several, according to the military. While Hamas said 12 of its fighters participated in the attack and at least one Palestinian was killed in the clash. This is the second time Palestinians used the underground tunnel network to enter Israel in the current conflict. Thirteen armed Palestinians used the tunnel from Gaza and emerged inside Israel near a southern community where an Israeli airstrike killed the militants as they pooped out of the tunnel. The current ground offensive by Israel began late Thursday in order to seek and destroy the tunnels. Cheif military spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz said, “These tunnels aren’t for hiding. They are intended for large attacks in Israeli communities and army bases.” According to Barzak and Heller, footage of the tunnels being destroyed by army excavators, ground equipment and airstrikes was released by the Israeli military. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the newest airstrikes raised the death toll of the 12 day offensive to 342 Palestinian with many being civilian. In Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld reports that a Gaza rocket killed a man near Dimona making it the second Israeli civilian casualty and an Israeli soldier was killed after the ground operation began. The UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said some 50,000 Palestinians are already in U.N. shelters. Barzak and Heller report, “Early Saturday, Israeli tank fire killed at least five members of the Al Zawaydi family at their home in Beit Lahiya, including two children. In a separate incident, tank shell fire killed three members of the Hamooda family in their home, among them two children. In Gaza City, two boys and a 12-month-old infant neighbor were killed Friday evening following the break of the Ramadan fast. On Saturday, at least two of the bodies were carried by somber relatives during a funeral procession in Gaza City.” Israel blames the civilian casualties on Hamas who they claim fire from within residential areas and use civilian as human shields. Additionally, the military said it hit more than 2,350 targets in Gaza including 1,100 rocket launchers during the 12 days of fighting with 70 terrorist and another 13 brought to Israel for questioning. Gaza militants have fired more than 1,600 rockets at Israel since July 8. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri on Sautrday said, “This initiative still presents the chance for the two sides to cease fire, ending the bloodshed. It meets the needs of both sides. We will continue to propose it. We hope both sides accept it.” Israeli officials say the offensive may last two weeks or longer, while Ziad Nakhala, a leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, told a Palestinian radio station: “The Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip will not surrender to the enemy and will not raise the white flag.” With little international or regional support from its allies in Turkey and Qatar, Hamas appears weaker than previous offensives. Protests against the offensive took place Friday in Turkey, Jordan and the West Bank. Additionally, protests against Israel continued in European countries.

While the war rages on between Hamas and Israel, Palestinian children are paying a heavy price. Karin Laub and Yousur Alhlou, 1 in 5 of Gaza dead are children, report that the United Nations says minors make up one fifth of the 299 Palestinians killed in 11 days of intense Israeli airstrikes of the Gaza Strip where half the 1.7 million people are under 18. Even with Israel warning residents to evacuate target areas, most Gazans have no safe place to go according to rights activists. Bill Van Esveld, a researcher for New York based Human Rights Watch, said, “If you are going to attack civilian structures in densely populated areas, of course you are going to see children killed.” Since fighting began, 71 of those killed were under 18 the Associated Press reports based on information provided by Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. forty eight of the victims were under 13 with many children killed in their own homes. Lt. Col. Pete Lerner, a military spokesman on Friday said,” Israel’s efforts to try to minimize civilian casualties are unprecedented in the Western world,”referring to the evacuation warning system using text messages, automated calls and leaflets dropped from planes. In addition, he said more than a dozen attacks were aborted when civilians were spotted in the area. In recent days, Israel urged people to leave their homes near the border in preparation for a ground offensive Israel launched late Thursday deploying thousands of troops. Abu Musallam, who lost three children in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza near the border, said on Friday at a local hospital: “We are with the resistance” referring to Hamas militants. “Three children died and I can offer another three just to give Palestine its freedom.” Outside the hospital, fourteen year old Yousef Aliyan watches as the dead and wounded are brought to the hospital. “This is not the first time we came under shelling attack,” he said. “I’m used to it.”

What happened to America?!

http://whatwouldjackdo.net/images/u-wrong.jpg

Courtesy of Jack Cluth on the blog, What Would Jack Do?

On Thursday, federal authorities filed an indictment in federal court in San Francisco charging FedEx with assisting two related online pharmacies by knowingly delivering painkillers and dangerous drugs to customers without prescriptions for ten years ending in 2010. Paul Elias reports, FedEx Charged With Knowingly Delivering Dangerous Drugs To Customers Without Prescriptions, that the Department of Justice announced the charges in Washington, D.C. demanding FedEx forfeit $820 million earned by assisting the illicit pharmacies. The Memphis, Tennessee based delivery company stands accused of shipping Ambien- a powerful sleep aid,  anti-anxiety medications Valium and Xanax and other drugs to customers without legitimate medical need and a lack of valid prescription. In a written statement, company spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald said, “We will plead not guilty. We will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.” In addition, Fitzgerald said the DEA refused their request for a list of online pharmacies under investigation making it impossible for the company to know which companies are operating illegally. However, the Justice Department claims that federal officials told FedEx since 2004 that it was shipping dangerous drugs without prescriptions alleging that couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia warned executives about suspicious drug deliveries. Last year, rival company UPS paid $40 million to resolve similar allegations and took steps to block illicit online drug dealers from using their service. Both companies said in regulatory filings that they had been served with grand jury subpoenas between 2007 and 2009, Elias reports. The investigation came in response to the increase in online pharmacies launched in 2005 in San Francisco leading to  dozens of arrests, thousands of websites shuttered and tens of millions of dollars and pills seized worldwide. The executive director of Express Association of America, a trade group created by FedEx, UPS and three other service said there is no industry wide effort to address the policing of prescription drug deliveries. A federal jury in 2012 convicted three men of operating illegal pharmacies using FedEx and UPS to deliver drugs without prescriptions and seven others were convicted in San Francisco previously.

In Los Angeles, the Associate Press article, Lawsuit filed in LA woman’s pummeling by patrolman, a woman pummeled by a California Highway Patrol officer caught on video filed a civil rights lawsuit on Thursday. A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of Marlene Pinnock names the commissioner of the CHP, the unidentified officer in the July 1 video and other officers as defendants. The video recorded by a passing driver shows Pinnock being repeatedly punched while being straddled by the officer. The lawsuit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock’s due process rights. In addition, Pinnock “suffered great mental and physical pain, suffering, anguish, fright, nervousness, anxiety, grief shock, humiliation, indignity, and embarrassment” and seeks monetary damages. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow told the Associated Press: “We do have a good history at taking a look at our processes, procedures and conduct of our employees,” Farrow said. “That’s never been questioned until today.” He has met with community and civil rights leaders in Los Angeles multiple times since the incident and pledge that an internal investigation will conclude in weeks rather than months. The CHP said Pinnock was walking on Interstate 10 west of downtown L.A. endangering herself and people in traffic and the officer was trying to restrain her. Pinnock had begun to walking off the freeway but returned when the confrontation happened. The officer involved has been on the job one and half years and will be on desk duty until completion of the internal investigation, meanwhile, Pinnock remains hospitalized with head injuries. Nine drivers called 911 to report the beating, according to recordings the CHP released Thursday in response to public records request by the Associated Press. One caller said she appeared loaded, while another said she looked high or drunk. Pinnock claims in her suit that the CHP’s actions were an effort to shift blame by “misusing the criminal justice system to obtain privileged and private information to discredit (Pinnock) … or circumvent the discovery rules in civil rights violation matters.” The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters calling it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired.

While outrage and public distrust of the police in Los Angeles rages on, the justice system in Detroit leaves many shocked by the comments of one judge. According to Ed White, Judge tells young Detroit man he need a beating, a young man who participated in a mob attack on a Detroit motorist needed a father to beat the hell out of him as a kid to discourage him from committing a crime, a judge said Thursday. The shocking comment by Wayne County Judge James Callahan came as he sentenced Latrez Cummings to six months in jail. White reports that Callahan said Cummings needed a dad, “someone to discipline you. Someone to beat the hell out of you when you made a mistake, as opposed to allowing you or encouraging you to do it to somebody else.” Cummings and four others pleaded guilty to the assault on Steve Utash who was in a coma for days after the attack. Apparently, after the judge’s remark, the assistant prosecutor Lisa Lindsay argued with the judge that the six month sentence was too light and many young black men without fathers don’t commit crimes. Callahan replied, a white judge himself: “Did I ever use the term ‘black’? It doesn’t matter if a person is black, white, yellow or red.” Despite the harsh tone, the judge said Cummings’ age and childhood were considered in the light sentence. As Callahan put it:”We’ve all been 19 years of age.”

While Cummings got off a little easier because of age for a vicious crime, a group of suburban white teens in Mississippi didn’t fair so well. A three year investigation into attacks on blacks in Mississippi’s capital of Jackson has grown to 10 indictments and six convictions, according to Jack Elliot, Hate crime investigation grows in Mississippi. The most recent indictments were made public Wednesday including two men and two women. The June 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, who was ran over by a pick up truck outside a Jackson hotel, started a broader investigation into reports claiming groups of young white men and women drive from the mostly white Rankin Country into majority black Jackson to assault blacks. Prosecutors said the suspect using target the homeless or people under the influence of alcohol. John Louis Blalack, 20, of Brandon; Sarah Adelia Graves, 21, of Crystal Springs; Robert Henry Rice, 23, of Brandon; and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 20, of Pearl, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges including conspiracy and committing a hate crime with each being released on a $100,000 bail. A tentative trial date is set for Sept. 15. Prosecutors said the assailants used their fists, beer bottles, sling shots and vehicles to attack. The assault on Anderson was caught by a hotel surveillance camera and received widespread attention after the video was obtained by news organization including the Associate Press. Four men pleaded guilty in the Anderson case and other offenses, while two other men pleaded guilty in other attacks.

While the justice system struggle to deal with the increase it seems in violent crimes and police department struggle to deal with the influx of criminals and public scrutiny, an old but constantly recycled issue has come up again with increasingly unjust consequences for some. What happened to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? If you can’t remember or don’t know, here’s a refresher:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Author: Emma Lazarus

Well sadly, since the Great Recession, many U.S. cities are trying to eradicate homelessness not in a humanitarian way but by making it illegal to be homeless according to Arthur Delaney, More Cities Are Basically Making It Illegal To Be Homeless. Citywide bans on things homeless people need to survive have increased according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Delaney reports, key finding from the survey of 187 American cities show that since 2011:

Citywide bans on camping in public have increased by 60 percent.

Citywide bans on begging have increased by 25 percent.

Citywide bans on loitering, loafing, and vagrancy have increased by 35 percent.

Citywide bans on sitting or lying down in particular public places have increased by 43 percent.

Bans on sleeping in vehicles have increased by 119 percent.

The law center director Maria Foscarinis in a press release stated: “There is a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of emergency shelter options in our communities, leaving homeless people with no choice but to perform basic acts of survival in public spaces. Despite a lack of any available alternatives, more cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity. Such laws threaten the human and constitutional rights of homeless people, impose unnecessary costs on cities, and do nothing to solve the problems they purport to address.” According to government data, homelessness has declined 9 percent from January 2007 through January 2013 with 65 percent of the nation’s 610,042 homeless people staying in shelters any given night that month. Over those years, unsheltered homeless dropped by 23 percent. The law center report differs from government data noting it fails to account for several factors including jailed homeless people and other data suggest worsening homelessness such as a U.S. Conference of Mayors report that found a 4 percent increase in family homelessness from 2012 t0 2013.

The Body Count Rises As Israel Continues Its Ground Assault

http://www.redletterchristians.org/wp-content/themes/redletter2012/cache/Israel-Palestine-Conflict-720x360.jpg

Courtesy of Red Letter Christians website

Early on Friday, Israel stepped up its ground offensive pounding targets with artillery fire and using tanks and infantry to battle Hamas fighters, Reuters reports, Twenty-three Palestinians, Israeli soldier killed in Gaza ground offensive. Palestinian Health officials confirmed that 23 Palestinians have been killed since the ground invasion started on Thursday, While Israel confirmed one soldier was killed in fighting. A video clip released by the military showed six tanks rolling through Gaza after a border fence was opened and two long rows of foot soldiers. Israeli military spokesman Brigadier General Motti Almoz said, “We are using a very high level of fire power and artillery. A great number of soldiers are in action in the Gaza Strip, soldiers are overtaking their targets, tunnels, Hamas targets.” Almoz said one soldier had been killed and several wounded in fighting concentrated in several areas in the north and south of the territory, Israeli media reported. The soldier was only the second casualty in the eleven days of fighting which spilled into a land offensive late Thursday. The grand total since fighting began on July 8 comes to 251 Palestinian soldiers and civilians dead. Israel began the air and sea offensive in response to increasing rocket fire, more than 100 a day,from Gaza militants into Israel. A military spokesman said on Friday that 20 more rockets were fired at Israel. In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said, “”The directive for ground action was approved by the security cabinet after Israel agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, whereas Hamas rejected it and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities.” The fighting between Israel and Palestine is the worst its been in two years prompting the United Nations Security Council to meet Friday to discuss the developments. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke after the announcement of the ground assault implored Israel to do more to prevent Palestinian civilian deaths. On Friday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will visit the Middle East to try to defuse the crisis and discuss a European mission on the Gaza Israel border according to a diplomatic source Thursday.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Obama administration accused Israel on Thursday of failing to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza during cross border attacks. As the Associate Press reports, Gaza crisis: Obama administration accuses Israel of not protecting civilians, the State Department said the high civilian death toll in Gaza has been heartbreaking as three more children were killed on Thursday along with the four boys killed on a Gaza beach a day earlier due to Israeli strikes. However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also criticized Hamas militants who are still firing rockets and mortars into Israel prolonging the violence in the Mideast. Psaki said, “I don’t think we’ve made any secret about our strong concern about the actions of Hamas, the indiscriminate rocket attacks, the targeting of civilians. And that concern remains.” With regards to the Gaza beach attack that killed four cousins on Wednesday, Psaki said,”The tragic event makes clear that Israel must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed. We will continue to underscore that point to Israel.” In a statement late Thursday, the state department said that Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated U.S. concerns about civilian casualties. In addition, Netanyahu describe the threat Hamas tunnels pose to Israel and Kerry reaffirmed strong U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself. Kerry also stressed the need to restore the 2012 ceasefire and avoid further escalation. On Thursday, Kerry spoke to top diplomats in Cairo and the Qatari capital Doha to negotiate an end to the conflict entering its eleventh day. The conflict intensified Thursday as thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks entered the Gaza Strip to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenal, rocket-firing abilities and tunnels.