Flight 17 Possible War Crimes Amid Intensified Fighting in Ukraine, While Israel Strains Its Relationships with Allies

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Officials on Monday in Eastern Ukraine said at least eight civilians have been killed by fighting and shelling in two Ukrainian cities held by pro-Russian militants. Peter Leonard reports, Death toll mounts as clashes intensify in Ukraine, authorities in Luhansk that five people were killed and 15 injured by artillery strikes overnight, while three were killed in Donetsk as a result of clashes, according to the city’s government. The territory between the cities has seen intense fighting as government troops try to regain control of the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was show down earlier this month. On Monday morning, Dutch and Australian police set off fir the crash site in a convoy of 20 cars to secure the areas so investigations can continue and recover bodies. Both sides have accused each other regarding the rising civilian death toll, while the armed conflict has displaced more than 200,000 people over more than three months. Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential areas, meanwhile authorities complain insurgents use apartment blocks as firing positions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expecting OSCE observers to arrive at the Russian Ukrainian border in the coming days and prove that rebels traveling freely into Ukraine from Russia is false. Ukrainian officials said the mission is largely pointless since only two dozen observers monitor the 1,240 mile border between the two countries.

The fighting in Eastern Ukraine, while serious and concerning, has taken a back burner to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and the possibility, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, of war crime charges. John Heilprin reports, UN rights chief: Flight 17 possible war crime, Pillay, the U.N’s top human right official, wants a thorough investigation into the violation of international law when the flight was shot down with a surface to air missile over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatist on July 17 that killed all 298 on board. At the same time, a new report by her office says that at least 1,129 people have been killed and 3,442 wounded in Ukraine’s fighting as of Saturday and more than 100,000 have fled the violence since April. She said, “This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime. It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event.” Fighting over the weekend prevented the Dutch and Australian police officers from visiting the crash site to search for bodies and evidence. The report by the U.N.’steam of 39 field monitors in Ukraine says there has been an alarming buildup of heavy weaponry in civilians areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. The report says an attack could amount to violations of international humanitarian law. Gianni Magazzeni, head of the U.N. office’s branch that oversees Ukraine, told reporters in Geneva: “There is an increase in the use of heavy weaponry in areas that are basically surrounded by public buildings. All international law needs to be applied and fully respected.” Peter Leonard reports, Police team turns back from Ukraine crash site, Ukraine accused rebels of tampering with evidence at the crash site and are trying to cover up their role in bringing the Malaysia Airlines jet down with anti-aircraft missile. On Monday, Ukrainian security spokesman that data recovered from the flight recorders shows the plane crashed due to a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. The data recorders were sent to experts in Britain for examination, while Russia and Ukraine trade accusations and the death toll rises.

While tensions rises between Ukraine and Russia, Israel continues to strain its relationships with the rest of the world especially the United States as it tries to mediate an end to the three week old war in Gaza. On Monday, as tensions rise between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Washington over U.S. mediation of the situation, an Israeli official was quotes as saying Israel sees no need for another Gaza ceasefire, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams report U.S. – Israeli Tensions Rise Over Gaza Conflict. Fighting has quieted over the weekend as Hamas endorsed a U.N. call for a 24 halt ahead of Monday’s Eid al-Fitr festival. However, Israel abandoned an offer to extend a 12 hour truce from Saturday after Palestinian rocket launched persisted. In the early hours of Monday, Netanyahu’s security cabinet met to debate whether to escalate the Gaza offensive that has killed 1,100 people. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited last week to try and halt the violence with assistance from contacts with Hamas facilitated by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S. President Barack Obama via phone on Sunday talked with Netanyahu about Israel holding fire unconditionally and appeared to link its core demand to disarm Hamas and destroy infiltration tunnels to a peace accord with the Palestinians that is nowhere on the diplomatic horizon. The White said: “The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.” Israel radio quoted an unidentified government official saying: “There is no need for any more ceasefires. Let Hamas stop firing first.” On Sunday, Netanyahu told CNN: “I think you can’t get social and economic relief for the people of Gaza without having an assured demilitarization.” A poll published by Israel’s Channel 10 on Sunday said 87 percent of respondents wanted Israel to continue until Hamas was toppled, while another poll, published in the Jerusalem Post found 86.5 percent of Israel’s majority Jews oppose calling a truce while rocket fire continues and Gaza retains any cross border tunnels. On Monday, Karin Laub and Tia Goldenberg report, Strike hits Gaza park, killing at least 10, a strike on a Gaza park killed 10 people including nine being children as Israeli and Palestinian authorities blamed each other over the attack and fighting in the Gaza war raging on despite a major Muslim holiday. The United Nations called for an immediate ceasefire in fighting that has killed 1,040 Palestinians, 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, according to his office, in which Netanyahu voiced his dismay at the announcement saying: “It does not include a response to Israel’s security needs and the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.”

Human Tragedies Around the World Today

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On Wednesday, military planes carried the first bodies of victims of the Malaysian Airlines crash left eastern Ukraine giving some relief to the grieving relatives who must still wait for positive IDs and answers to who caused the disaster, according to the Associated Press, Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines left eastern Ukraine Wednesday. In the afternoon, the Dutch government declared a national day of mourning as the first bodies are due to arrive from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash that killed 298 people most who were Dutch citizens. Though U.S. officials are confident that a missile brought down the plan, they have yet to determine Russia’s role if any in the tragedy. On July 23, 2014, at Kharkiv airport in Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers carry coffins during a sombre ceremony followed by the first plane carrying these coffins left for the Netherlands. The other military plane, Australian, left as well midday headed for Eindhoven air base to be met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hundreds of relatives. Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekkin said 60 coffins were expected but not sure, while Jan Tinder the Dutch official in charge of the international team dealing with the dead said 200 bodies were aboard the train and more remains may be found once the body bags are examined. According to Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Britain, on Wednesday Dutch authorities delivered the black boxes to the agency in Farnborugh, south England, where information from the data and voice recorder will be downloaded. On Tuesday, the European Union imposed sanctions against Russian individuals again, but did not target entire sectors of Russian economy until Moscow’s role is known in the disaster.

While loved ones deal with the loss of loved ones who died tragically on Flight 17, Israel and Gaza continue to fight costing not only innocent lives but may also cost both groups their support. On Tuesday, the United Nations said Palestinian civilians in densely populated areas in Gaza have no where to hide from Israel’s military offensive and children are paying the heaviest price, Stephanie Nebehay reported In Gaza, No Safe Place For Civilians: UN. Israel continued to bombard targets across the Gaza Strip as no ceasefire deal was near. Meanwhile, U.S. and U.N. diplomats are urging talks to end the fighting that has killed 600 lives in the three week conflict. Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva that the death toll is rising in the coastal enclave with a density of 4,500 people per square kilometer. Nearly 5000 homes have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes and 100,000 people have sough shelter in schools of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), where they need food, water and mattresses, he said. The UNRWA in a statement Tuesday said it was raising its emergency funding appeal to $115 from $60 million. As Juliette Touma of the U.N. Children’s Fund reports, an overwhelming majority of people being killed are Palestinians including 121 Gaza children under 18 and 900 Palestinian children have been injured. Laerke said: “According to an assessment by aid workers on ground at least 107,000 children need psycho-social support for the trauma they are experiencing such as death, injury or loss of their homes.” Meanwhile, more than 1.2 million out of 1.8 million have no water or limited access to water as power networks are damaged or no fuel for generators. In addition, Laerke remarked, “we do have reports of sewage flooding which is a threat to public health.” Spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. World Food Program states emergency food rations and vouchers have been given to 90,000 people adding: “Ready to eat food stocks are running low in Gaza given the conflict has lasted two weeks and the needs are increasing.” The World Health Organization said 18 health facilities have been damages including hospitals. In a statement on Tuesday after WHO visited sites, they found that hospitals in northern Gaza are overwhelmed by high number of trauma cases with little supplies. The International Committee of thr Red Cross, guardian of the rules of war, stated on late Monday that warring parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect medical personnel, ambulance and facilities condemning the attack on the Al-Aqsa hospital which have been in direct fire four times. The Associated Press reports that since the U.N. top human rights official warned all sides in the Gaza Strip not to indiscriminately attack civilians and was ignore that violations may amount to warm crimes. On Wednesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said around three quarters of those killed in Gaza Strip were civilians and thousands more injured totaling 657 Palestinians and 31 Israelis killed. Among the Palestinian dead, Pillay said at least 147 were children and 74 were women. At the session, Palestinian Foreign Minster Riad Malki accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity and violating international human rights laws, while Israeli Ambassador Eviatar Manor accused Hamas of committing war crimes.

Meanwhile in Europe, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy on Tuesday said they would combat the rising anti-Semitic protests and violence over the conflict in Gaza in their own countries, according to Kirsten Grieshaber article European Politicians Condemn Anti-Semitic Demonstrations. In a joint statement issued in Brussels, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, France’s Laurent Fabius and Italy’s Federica Mogherini said: “Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies.” In addition, they said that they will respect demonstrators right to assemble and freedom of speech, however, will fight against “acts and statements that cross the line to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia.” On Tuesday afternoon in Berlin, 500 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched chanting slogans like “Israel is murder” and “Israel bombs, Germany finances.” In France, pro-Palestinian youth clashed with police on Sunday setting fire to cars, pillaging stores and attacking two synagogues in the Paris suburbs. Italy as well has seen non-violent demonstrations. Jewish groups have expressed shock and discuss about the growing anti-Semitism. Stephan Kramer, director of the European office on anti-Semitism of the American Jewish Committee in Brussels said: “We have reached a new level of hatred and violence in all of Europe that cannot even be compared to the anti-Semitism seen during previous conflicts in Israel.”

Europe and the Middle East see their fair share of conflict and clashes with militants, Nigeria is still reeling from a different type of tragedy. It has now been three months since Islamic extremists have kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and according to residents of Chibok, where the girls were kidnapped from, 11 of their parents have died as well. Michelle Faul explains in her article, 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die, that the town has been cut off my militants who have been attacking villages in the region. This month, seven of the fathers were among the 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on Kautakari, a village nearby. In addition, four more parents have died from heart failure, high blood pressure and other illness the community believes was induced by the mass abduction 100 days ago, said community leader Pogu Bitrus and provided the names. He explained, “One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him.” President Goodluck Jonathan met with parents Tuesday pledging to continue working to see the girls are brought back alive, according to his spokesman. Danger is on the horizon though as Boko Haram is closing in on Chibok by attacking the villages that surround it. Community leader Bitrus siad a food crisis looms along with money and fuel shortages as villager swarm into the town from towns close by straining resource. Many girls who escaped are recovering said a health worker, under conditions of anonymity for fear of retaliation from Boko Haram, and many are now talking about their experience even considering how to continue their education. Boko Haram filmed a video threatening to sell the students into slavery and as child brides. Additionally, the video showed two girls describing their conversion from Christianity to Islam. Most of the girls are believed to be held in the Sambisa forest that borders on sand dunes marking the edge of the Sahara, while sightings of the girls and their captors have been reported in Cameroon and Chad. Local leader Bitrus warns of a famine coming soon due to the fact families are putting up four and five other families arriving with nothing since livestock has been looted by Boko Haram. The town and nearby villages are targets due to the fact they follow Christianity in a predominantly Muslim north Nigeria. The number of soldiers guarding Chibok increased from 15 to 200 following the kidnapping but does little to secure the town since soldiers refuse to deploy to villages under attack even with advance warning 90 percent of the time. Residents feel abandoned after a plea was made this month to the United Nations to send troops and the U.N. told the Nigerian government to live up to its international responsibility. The Defense Ministry says it knows where the girls are but fears any campaign could lead to their deaths. This week, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a new video demanding that President Goodluck Jonathan release detained extremists in exchange for the girls. After three months. the residents have little hope that the girls will return.