Ukraine’s Prime Minister Resigns, While Iraq Elects A President and U.N. Probes Israeli Violence

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On Wednesday, the White House speculated that the downing of two fighter jets in Ukraine was part of a pattern to of Russian backed separatists using Russian weapons to pose risk to aircraft and further destabilize the conflict in the former Soviet republic, according to an Associated Press report, U.S.: Downed Ukraine Jets Part Of Russia Influenced Pattern. The two jets were shot down 20 miles away from the Malaysian Airlines crash site meaning that separatist are undeterred by the international outrage of the disaster last week that killed 298 people. White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on Wednesday explained, “The only aircraft they’re not taking responsibility for is MH-17. But I don’t think anybody believes that. How could anybody believe anything that the separatists or Russia says about this when we see a clear pattern of threatening Ukrainian aircraft in eastern Ukraine?” Rhodes added that the U.S. was weighing tougher sanctions against Russia if they continue to arm the separatists even before the European Union deepens its own sanctions against Russia. The U.S. has sought to coordinated their efforts with the EU on tougher sanctions, however the E.U. has been reluctant to do so since many European leaders fear their strong trade ties with Russia could make their own economies vulnerable to fallout. The U.S. this week has sought to present more specific evidence tying the separatists to the shooting down of the passenger jet MH17 citing intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists. However, officials have yet to find direct evidence that the missiles used came from Russia or that they were directly involved. Rhodes. “Do we know who pulled the trigger? No, that’s the hardest thing to determine. But when you add up the different pieces of evidence, they’re telling one story here,” Rhodes said.

While many mysteries are yet to be solved regarding MH17, on Thursday, Ukrainian Prime Minster Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned opening the door for a new elections that would reflect the country’s changed political scene after the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February, according to David McHugh’s article Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk Resigns. Yatsenyuk, supporter of stronger ties with Europe and a key participant in the protests that toppled Yanukovych, made the announcement from the dais of Parliament after two parties pulled out of the governing coalition, McHugh reports. He said Parliament could no longer do their work and pass necessary laws. Poroshenko’s call for political renewal implies that the resignation and new elections may be the result of planning and political maneuvering. Yatsenyuk took over five months ago backed by a coalition of pro-European parties following the ousting of Yanukovych by months of street protests. In addition, the protest began because the former president refused to sign a trade deal with the European Union but grew from their to include wider grievances such as suppression of protestors with riot police, corruption and lack of progress in modernizing the economy. Balazs Jarabik, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains, “I think this is a fully expected and planned development. The president and the government coalition looked for ways to clear the legal way for an early election, as they are under a lot of pressure from Maidan and the public.” The president can dismiss Parliament, which at one time was dominated by Yanukovych supporters in the pro-Russian Party of Regions, if no new government is formed in 30 days. The government faces tensions with Russia who sees Yanukovych’s ouster a coup, seized Ukraine’s Crimea region and cut off gas supplies in a price dispute. The nationalist Svoboda party and the Udar party pulled out of the coalition, who according to Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov was suppose to propose a candidate for temporary prime minister until the parliamentary election could be held.

While Ukraine struggles to keep the government running, Iraq named a new president on Thursday hours after an attack on a prison convoy that killed dozens of people, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin report, Iraq: Kurdish politician Massoum named president. Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum, 76, accepted the position after winning two thirds votes and noting the “huge security, political and economic tasks” facing the government. Last month, the Islamic State extremist group captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and continues to advance plunging the country into the worst crisis since the U.S. withdrew in 2011 and inflamed existing tensions between sectarian and political rivals. Hours before, militants fired at a Taji military base where detainees were facing terrorism charges causing the facility to be evacuated by authorities, according to officials. However, militants attacked the bus with roadside bombs igniting a gun battle that killed 52 prisoners and eight soldiers while wounding seven prisoners and eight soldiers. Massoum is considered a soft spoken moderate and has kept good relations with Sunni and Shiite Arab politicians. The next step for the new president is to select a candidate for prime minster to try to form the new government. Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc won the most seats in the April Elect, but his critics want him to step aside accusing him of monopolizing power and alienating the Sunni and Kurdish minorities adding to the tension. However, Al-Maliki vows to remain at his post he has held since 2006. On Thursday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Baghdad. At a press conference with al-Maliki, Ban said Iraq is facing an “existential threat” and could overcome it if it forms a “thoroughly inclusive government.” Dating back to thew 2003 U.S. led invasion, an unofficial agreement said the presidency is held by a Kurd, the prime minister is Shiite and the parliament speaker is Sunni. Al-Mailiki responded: “Despite the fact that we have problems…we are moving at a confident pace to implement the mechanisms of the democratic work.” More than a million Iraqis have been displaced this year with many fleeing the violence, the U.N. said. Ban offered continued U.N. support to the refugees fleeing the violence and condemned the persecution of religious and ethnic minority groups by jihadi militants in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Israel continued its ground offensive on Thursday hitting a compound housing a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens seeking shelter from the clashes on the street, Palestinian official said. Kamel al-Kafarne, who was at the school, said the U.N. was putting people on the buses when three tank shell hit, Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav report, UN school caught in Gaza cross-fire; 15 killed. Israeli military said it was looking into the incident and said Hamas rockets are possibly to blame but offered no proof. It was the fourth time a U.N. facility has been hit in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant in Gaza since July 8. According to military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, “We can’t confirm that this is a result of errant fire. In any case, we do not target U.N. facilities.” Lerner said the U.N. and Red Cross were told to evacuate the school three days ago, which is what they were doing at the time the shells hit. The delay came as the U.N. waited for a response from the Israeli military on if a lull in fighting would take place and never heard back, U.N. Refugee Agency Spokesman Chris Gunness explained. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during a visit to Iraq, said: “Today’s attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop – and to stop now.” Dozens have been killed in a day of heavy fighting in Gaza raising the death toll to 788 Palestinian, 32 Israeli soldiers and three civilian, two Israeli and one Thai worker. With growing casualties on both sides, the international community has increase diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki on Thursday said Thursday’s attack on the U.N. school “underscores the need to end the violence and to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and enduring resolution to the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible. We call on all parties to protect these facilities from the conflict and we have condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza.” British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond called for Hamas to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire so Israel and Palestinian authority could come together for talks. After a meeting with Hammond, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We started this operation to return peace and quiet to Israel… And we shall return it.”

With the battle continuing and no end in site, the international community has stepped up their efforts to find a resolution amid possible warm crime charges levied against both Hamas and Israel. On Wednesday, the Unite Nations launched an international inquiry into human rights violations and crims committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza, according to Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles, UN Launches Probe Into Israeli Violations In Gaza. The U.N. Human Rights Council condemned the Israeli assault which it said is full of “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks” that include aerial bombing of civilian areas, collective punishment, and the killing of more than 650 Palestinians. At the end of the emergency session, requested by the Palestinians, Egypt and Pakistan, the 47 member forum adopted a resolution presented by Palestinians by a vote of 29 states in favor, 1 against (the United States) with 17 abstentions including all nine European Union members. Ibbrahim Khraishi, ambassador of the Palestinian observer mission to the U.N. in Geneva, said: “We came here to try to achieve together with you at least minimum justice for children who are being dismembered, for women whose bodies are lying in the streets, to find some justice for those who are being exterminated.” Israel and its ally the United States reject the probe calling it a one sided and counterproductive amid efforts to reach a ceasefire, according to Nebehay and Miles. Before the vote, Israel ambassador Eviator Manor told the forum: “Why does this Council believe that naming and shaming Israel will get it anywhere? Throughout the entire escalation of events, Israel has always acted with maximum restraint, fully committed to international law in general and the laws of armed conflict. Hamas is the aggressor. Hamas is the one committing war crimes … Open your eyes to reality.” In another article published on AOL, Palestinians In Gaza Denounce Israel For Saying It Warns Civilians Before Strikes, many Palestinian civilian and survivors of Israeli airstrikes caught in the crossfire mock and criticize Israel’s insistence that it tries to avoid killing civilians. Instead, they believe civilians are being targeted as a collective form of punishment with strikes recently hitting hospitals, a center for the disabled, and even a school run by UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees. In many of these strikes like the attack that killed 25 members of four households in southern Gaza, there are few survivors if any at all. In addition, Palestinians said they haven’t received warning when the Israeli military hits vehicles in what are often targeted assassinations, the article reports.

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