Israel Continues to Press Hamas, While The World Looks for Answer In Ukraine

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Saturday’s demonstration in London came on the heels of numerous protests Thursday and Friday worldwide, including Cairo, Istanbul, Cape Town, Berlin, New York and Washington. Courtesy of beforeitsnews.com

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Ukraine Malaysia Flight MH17 Courtesy of USA Today

On Tuesday, Israel continued their offensive with airstrikes pummeling a wide range of targets in Gaza as the U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state began efforts to end the fighting that has claimed 570 Palestinians and 29 Israelis, according to Karin Laub, Israeli aircraft hit more than 70 targets in Gaza. A Gaza police official confirmed that Israel bombed five mosques, a sports complex and the home of the late Hams military chief. The latest strikes came as U.N. chief Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Cairo late Monday to try to stop the deadly conflict. Egypt, Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional ceasefire to be followed by talks of a new Gaza border arrangement since as of right now Israel and Egypt have restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007. Hamas with support from Qatar and Turkey want guarantees that the blockade with be lifted before halting fire. The top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said Monday that Gaza’s 1.7 million people share their goals adding: “We cannot go back, we cannot go back to the silent death” of the blockade. Gaza has decided to end the blockade by its blood and by its courage.” After a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, Ban said that “violence must stop by all sides,” and negotiations start adding, “We can’t claim victory simply by returning matters to where they stood before they led to terrible bloodshed.” The border blockade has set Gaza back years as tens of thousands of jobs have been wiped out due to bans on exports and imports of vital construction materials Israel says are used for Hamas, while Egypt has restricted passage last year to medical patients, Muslim pilgrims and Gazans with foreign passports to travel. Kerry announced in Cairo that the U.S. will send $47 million in humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Palestinians who left their homes to escape the violence. At the start of his meeting with Ban, Kerry said: “We will work to see if there is some way to not only arrive at a cease-fire of some kind but to get to a discussion about the underlying issues. Nothing will be resolved by any cease-fire, temporary or long, without really getting to those issues at some point and that’s what we need to do.” Kerry stayed in Cairo Monday for more meeting with top Egypt officials, however, no immediate plans for face to face meeting with officials from Qatar, Turkey, Israel and the West Bank were discussed.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces tweeted a photoshopped image of Britain’s House of Parliament under missile fire with the message “What would you do?” which of course backfired. According to AOL, Israel Responds To Critics With Fake London Bombing Tweet, the idea was to put Britain in Israel’s shoes since they have been the most outspoken critic of Israel’s offensive. The tweet came days after a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London that thousands attend over the weekend. Both Israel and Hamas have both turned to social media to stir up support e.g. IDF updates the number of rockets fired by Hams and soldier killed even uploads clips of anti-Hamas propaganda videos. However, the latest tweet has caused angry responses on Twitter directed toward Israel. Even if Israel wins the ground war, it may lose the media war as Twitter has been exploding with pictures of dead Palestinian children killed in Israeli airstrikes. According to CNN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that’s what Hamas wants: “It’s gruesome – they use ‘telegenically dead Palestinians’ for their cause. They want the more dead the better.” AOL reports, Chanel 4’s Paul Mason explains: “[W]here Israel is losing the hearts and minds of the world is not via “tele” anything: it is in the JPEGs that stream into millions of people’s mobile phones every time they glance at the object in the palm of their hand.” The Washington Post’s Adam Taylor notes, “Last week the IDF Twitter account tweeted the following image of Paris; just a few days later French cities were in flames in anti-Semitic riots.”

While Israel deals with the social media fallout of poor decisions, increased caution about flying over combat zones has caused many U.S. and European airline to stop flights to Israel Tuesday after rockets landed near Tel Aviv’s Bern Gurion Airport, AOL reports, US airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended service between the U.S. and Israel indefinitely as U.S. Airways has scrapped its one flight to Tel Aviv Tuesday. In addition, Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France have suspended flights as well. The actions come days after a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine killing 298 people. The Federal Aviation Administration also has prohibited U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for 24 hours. Aviation consultant Robert Mann said airlines are becoming more proactive after the Flight 17 disaster adding: “It’s really forcing every carrier, every business jet operator to do their own due diligence, do their own risk assessment, given the geopolitical situation.” John Reiter, a New York aviation accident attorney, said, “I’m sure it is human concern as well, but I think (the airlines) feel it is wise to err on the side of caution because it is their burden to prove they are doing everything possible to avoid injuries and deaths.” In a statement, Israel’s Transportation Ministry called on airlines to reverse their decisions, stating: “Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize.” Casey Norton, a spokesman for American Airlines, parent company to US Airways, said the airline is “in constant contact with the FAA and are monitoring the situation closely” adding that no decisions have been made about flight to Israel on Wednesday and beyond.

On Tuesday, in Ukraine, the remains of the Malaysia Airlines victims arrived in Ukrainian held territory on their way to the Netherlands following delays and haphazard treatment of the bodies putting pressure on European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to impose sanctions on Russia. Sergei Chuzhavkov and John Thor Dahlburg report, Crash victims’ remains reach Ukraine-held city, the crash site itself remained unsecured for five days in pro-Russian separatists territory after the disaster causing frustration for officials around the world. After 17 hours, the train arrived in Kharkiv from Torez where Ukrainian authorities have set up a crash investigation center. Government spokesman Oleksander Kharchenko said Ukraine will do its best to send the bodies to the Netherlands on Tuesday as 193 victims were Dutch citizens. The goal of the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is to have the first bodies returned on Wednesday adding: “It is our aim – and at the moment our expectation – that sometime tomorrow the first plane carrying victims will leave for Eindhoven.” Rutte said the identification of some bodies will be quick, while other could take weeks or months. In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers discussed what action to take in response to the disaster. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the priority for now was to deal with the concerns of the Netherlands, who lost the most nationals in the disaster, meaning repatriation of the bodies and a full investigation of the site. Unfortunately, the ministers according to Ashton cannot move to Level 3 sanctions targeting Russia’s economy, but will still discuss what actions to take. In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will do what it can to help in the investigation including pressuring the rebels even though that will not resolve the situation. During a meeting with Russia’s Security Council, Putin again lashed out at Kiev for its military offensive to dislodge the rebels. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicious blamed “terrorists supplied” by Moscow for shooting down the plan and killing all aboard and hoped the EU would impose tougher sanction on Russia calling for an arms embargo. At the crash site near Hrabove, a few rebel fighter accompanied observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. About 70 villagers gathered across the road form the site to sing Ukrainian Orthodox hymns at a memorial service led by several priests.

Early on Tuesday, Malaysia’s prime minster announced that pro-Russian rebels agreed to hand over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators, according to Satish Cheney, MH17’s Black Boxes To Be Handed Over To Malaysia: Prime Minister. Prime Minster Najib Razak added that as part of an agreement via phone with rebel leader Alexander Borodai on late Monday, international investigators will have safe access to the site and the black boxes will be handed over. Najib announced at a news conference at his residence on Monday evening, “I must stress that although an agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed. There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr. Borodai and his people have so far given their cooperation.” In addition the remains of 43 Malaysian citizens who were aboard will be flown to their home country as necessary forensic work needs to be done. On Sunday, he said the remains must be returned before the Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which is July 28. Anger and resentment toward Russian backed rebels and Moscow has escalated worldwide including in Malaysia where calls for economic sanctions against Russia have been suggested.

While the world continues to pressure Russia into wrangling in Pro-Russia separatists, President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said Russia would try to get Ukrainian separatists to cooperate with the investigation, but said the West must do more to persuade Kiev to end hostilities, according to Darya Korsunskaya, Putin says will use influence on Ukraine rebels, denounces West. Putin came out fighting since the plan disaster on Thursday denouncing Russia’s role in rebel held east Ukraine. In addition, Putin accused the U.S. of pulling strings in Kiev to bully Russia and meddle in Russia’s domestic affairs adding in televised remarks: “Such methods will not work on Russia.” Reading notes at the head of a long table of top government, parliament, security and defense officials, Putin spoke forcefully about the plane’s downing, but did not address accusations by the U.S. and Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders that Moscow supplied the rebels with arms allegedly used to shoot down the plane. Putin at a meeting of his advisory Security Council said: “We are being called on to use our influence with the separatists in southeastern Ukraine. We of course will do everything in our power but that is not nearly enough. Ultimately, there is a need to call on the authorities in Kiev to respect basic norms of decency, and at least for a short time implement a ceasefire.” His new remarks come after President Barack Obama urged him and Russia to “pivot away from the strategy that they’ve been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine”. Putin wants to de-escalate the crisis to avoid further sanctions from the West as evident by him renouncing powers given to him by parliament to send in Russia’s army to east Ukraine to protect Russian speakers. However, he will not make any big concession that would hurt his popularity in Russia which is at a record high since annexation of Crimea in March. In addition, Putin said Russia would take steps to protect the economy from “external threats” and strengthen its defenses to counter moves by NATO in eastern Europe. Putin also stated that protest to topple Ukraine’s former Russian back president were instigated and funded from abroad: “Russia is being presented with what is almost an ultimatum: ‘Let us destroy this part of the population that is ethnically and historically close to Russia and we will not impose sanctions against you’. This is a strange and unacceptable logic.”

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