Ebola Vaccine Testing Promising, Post-War Gaza Update, and Islamic Militants Increase Activity As U.S. Puts Together Game Plan

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Sierra Leone has decided for three days to lockdown the country in order to curb the Ebola epidemic sweeping across West Africa as the WHO announced that over 2,000 people have died from the outbreak across the three hardest hit countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. AOL reports, Sierra Leone Plans lockdown to fight Ebola, Sierra Leone hopes it will stop the spread of the virus that killed 491 people in the country, according to WHO estimates. Sierra Leone’s information minister told CNN,” “Locking down the country is like turning the whole country into an open laboratory. … When they develop symptoms within three days, they will be identified and taken to treatment centers.” However, a Doctors Without Borders spokesperson told reporters, lockdowns and quarantines “end up driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers. This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further.” One medical official told the New York Times educating communities about the risk of harboring Ebola patients is much more effective than lockdowns. Liberia responded with lockdowns as well in August when the Liberian government shit down a neighborhood in the capital of Monrovia that led to protests and clashes between residents and security forces. The Ebola epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, and agencies around the world are racing to develop a treatment. Yesterday, the WHO greenlit the use of blood transfusions from Ebola survivors to combat the virus. Josh Funk reports, Nebraska doctors say Ebola patient making progress, the Nebraska doctors treating Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, who arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center on Friday for treatment in the specialized isolation unit after contracting the disease in Liberia, said he remains stable and was more alert Sunday. Dr. Phil Smith, one of the doctors, said on Sunday: “We are encouraged by what we see, but it’s too early to say he has turned a corner.” In the race to treat the disease, Lauran Neergaard reports, Researchers rolling up their sleeves for first human safety study of Ebola vaccine, that new monkey studies show one shot of an experimental Ebola vaccine triggers fast protection and waned if the animal did not get a booster shot in a different way. Some healthy people are rolling up their sleeves at the National Institutes of Health for the first human safety study of this vaccine in hopes it eventually might be used in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The NIH on Sunday published some of their findings in the Nature Medicine journal that showed a single dose of vaccine protected all four vaccinated monkeys when exposed to high levels of Ebola just five weeks later. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it didn’t take multiple doses to trigger protection which is in line with other vaccines today. The problem is the vaccine wanes over time as researchers exposed monkeys to Ebola 10 months later to find that only half were protected. The vaccine is made with a chimpanzee cold virus, used as a delivery system for pieces of an Ebola gene. Since giving another dose two months later was not enough, researchers used a different approach called “prime boost” where the fist does primes the immune system which was the original virus based Ebola vaccine then for the booster two months later encased the Ebola gene inside a poxvirus used to make a vaccine against smallpox. This time, all four monkeys were still protected 10 months later. Neergaard explains: “The booster-shot findings illustrate an added complexity to speeding an experimental vaccine into the field. The initial first phase study results would shed light only on that “priming” vaccine made from the chimp cold virus, Fauci said. The poxvirus booster step would be tested later only if scientists decided the initial vaccine was promising enough.” Still, manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has said it plans to begin manufacturing up to 10,000 doses of the initial NIH-developed vaccine. Canadian researchers created a similar Ebola vaccine that works in monkeys. Manufacturer NewLink Genetics of Ames, Iowa, said first-stage safety testing in healthy volunteers is set to begin in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, back in Gaza, President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday threatened to dissolve his alliance with Hamas if the Islamic militant group does not hand over power in Gaza Strip, Mohammed Daraghmeh and Sarah El Deeb reports, Palestinian President Urges Hamas To Give Up Power In Gaza. Hamas has controlled Gaza since overrunning Abbas’ forces in 2007, however due to international isolation and deep financial crisis, the Islamic militant group agreed to form a new unity government with Abbas’ Fatah movement in June which would restore power to Abbas in the territory. Unfortunately, it has yet to yield any power. Late Saturday in Cairo in comments carried by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Abbas said: “We will not accept having a partnership if their status in Gaza remains this way. Unity has terms. This situation does not represent any kind of unity. If Hamas does not want one authority, one law, one weapon, we will not accept a partnership with it.” Abbas said that as long as Hamas remains in control of Gaza, he added, “the government of national unity can do nothing on the ground.” Ismail Radwan, a Hamas leader, denounced Abbas’ comments, saying they “contradict the spirit of the new partnership and play down the victory of the resistance.” Abbas under the new deal will form a Cabinet of apolitical technocrats as Hamas offers its backing from the outside. Israel has boycotted the government saying Hamas’ involvement is clear, while Western countries want to give the government an opportunity to prove itself. Abbas criticized the heavy death toll and damage saying, “With every passing day, more blood was shed. Is this the victory they talk about? Regrettably, I can only say the results are tragic.” Daraghmeh and El Deeb sum up what each side in the negotiation are asking for: “In the coming weeks, Israel and Hamas are expected to start a new round of indirect, Egyptian-mediated talks for an extended cease-fire. Hamas is demanding a full lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, including the reopening of a sea and airport. Israel has said the blockade will remain in effect as long as Hamas controls Gaza. The international community has made clear that all funding and reconstruction efforts be handled through Abbas’ government. Israel, and the West, want guarantees that none of the aid will be diverted for military use by Hamas. A conference of donor nations is expected to take place in October. Hamas has expressed willingness to turn over control of border crossings with Israel and Egypt to Abbas’ forces. But over the weekend, Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas leader in Gaza, rejected Israel’s demand that the group be disarmed as a condition for ending the blockade.” In internal Palestinian negotiations, Abbas’ aides said he president will seek full control of Gaza.

While the fighting has temporarily stop in Gaza with one branch of al-Qaida, other branches, possibly more extreme, continue to ravage the Middle East and Nigeria. Lolita C. Baldor reports, U.S. Launches Airstrikes Around Iraq’s Haditha Dam, the U.S. military on Sunday launched airstrikes around Haditha Dam in western Iraq targeting Islamic State insurgents in order to prevent the group from capturing the vital dam. The strikes are part of a broader U.S. campaign against the group moving the military operation closer to Syria where the group also operates. Speaking in Georgia at his meeting with government and defense officials, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said if the dam falls into militant hands “or if that dam would be destroyed, the damage that that would cause would be very significant and it would put a significant additional and big risk into the mix in Iraq” including U.S. interests there. Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania said Georgia will provide some assistance in the campaign against the Islamic State such as training and carrying out military exercises with the Iraqi forces with plans to discuss it further. U.S. officials said while the Anbar Province dam remains in control of the Iraqis, the U.S. offensive was an effort to beat back the militants who are try to take over key dams across the country. Hagel said the Iraqi government asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes and the Iraqi forces on the ground conceived the operation. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby, in a statement said: “We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi Security Forces, with support from Sunni tribes. We will continue to conduct operations as needed in support of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Sunni tribes, working with those forces securing Haditha Dam.” U.S. officials are concerned that militants could flood Baghdad and other large swaths of the country if they control the dams and could gain control over the residents if they control the electricity. Water is a precious commodity in Iraq, a largely desert country of 32.5 million people. The decline of water levels in the Euphrates over recent years has led to electricity shortages in towns south of Baghdad, where steam-powered generators depend entirely on water levels. Ibrahim Abulaziz and Michelle Faul report, Islamic extremists grab towns in northeast Nigeria, the Nigerian Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, has seized more towns in northeastern Nigeria along the Cameroon border and is adopting a strategy of encouraging civilians to stay as militants carve out an Islamic caliphate, witness said Sunday. Nigerian army soldiers fled when hundreds of insurgents in stolen military armored personnel carriers, trucks and motorcycles attacked Gulak, an administrative headquarters of Adamawa state, said resident Michael Kirshinga. The nearby towns of Duhu, Shuwa, Kirshinga and others also fell in assaults over Friday night and Saturday, witnesses said. Further north, soldiers fought off rebels advancing Saturday on Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, headquarters of the military campaign against the insurgency and the birthplace of Boko Haram. The military attacked the rebels’ camp at a village outside Kondudga, just 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Maiduguri. In Gulak, Kirshinga said, “They assured us that they will not attack us, but people begun to run for their lives, some of us have fled for fear that, after subduing the soldiers, the insurgents will turn their (gun) barrels on us.” The Nigerian Emergency Management Agency reported 26,000 people fled Bama adding to the 1.5 million people forced to flee their homes since Nigeria declared a state of emergency in May 2013, according to U.N. figures. They need shelter and food which officials war of a looming food crisis since most refugees are farmers. Boko Haram’s April kidnapping of more than 300 schoolgirls, of whom more than 200 remain captive, attracted international attention and promises of help from several countries including the United States, China and former colonizer Britain. Nigeria has a large army of 80,000 troops and a $2.3 billion budget but soldiers say they are outgunned with some of their colleagues colluding with and fighting for the insurgents. Boko Haram now holds a string of towns in all three of the northeastern states that have been under a military emergency since May 2014 – Adamawa, Yobe and hardest-hit Borno. The seizures come as the United States announced it would launch a major border security program for Nigeria and its neighbors to fight Boko Haram. Meanwhile three German men suspected of being members of Somalian terrorist organization al-Shabab were arrested at Frankfurt airport attempting to re-enter the country, according to prosecutors Monday, AOL reports, 3 al-Shabab suspects arrested in Frankfurt. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office said they were arrested Saturday after landing in Frankfurt from Kenya on charges of membership in a foreign terrorist organization and preparing acts of violence in connection with their time in Somalia. At the moment, however, “there is no evidence the suspects had made any concrete preparations or plans for attacks” in Europe, the office said. The three – identified only as Steven N., 26; Abdullah W., 28; and Abdulsalam W., 23, in line with German privacy laws – are alleged to have gone to Somalia in 2012 and 2013 to join al-Shabab, and received weapons and combat training.

While Islamic extremist groups seems to be spreading like a cancer throughout the world, President Barack Obama said this week his plan to start his offensive against the Islamic State militants, who he said could pose a threat to the U.S., will be explained to Americans and congressional leaders, according to Roberta Rampton, Obama To Announce Game Plan Against ISIS. Obama will make a speech Wednesday to “describe what our game plan’s going to be,” and meet congressional leaders on Tuesday for support for his strategy to halt the group controlling parts of Syria and Iraq. Aired on Sunday, Obama in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” said: “I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we’re going to deal with it and to have confidence that we’ll be able to deal with it. The next phase is now to start going on some offense. I want everybody to understand that we have not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland.” However, the group has attracted foreign fighters from Western Nations who could travel to the United States, which over time could be a serious threat to the homeland, according to Obama. He ruled out sending in ground troops into Iraq and Syria as this is not the same as the Iraq war. He did say that this is going to be “similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years.” He added: “We are going to be a part of an international coalition, carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we’re going to defeat ’em. The strategy both for Iraq and for Syria is that we will hunt down ISIL members and assets wherever they are. I think, for … perhaps the first time, you have absolute clarity that the problem for Sunni states in the region, many of whom are our allies, is not simply Iran. It’s not simply a Sunni-Shia issue.” Obama wants regional allies to help win over and work with disaffected Sunni tribes in Iraq which could include an “economic element.” Meanwhile, Lawmakers returned to Capital Hill after a summer vacation for a September session where feuding Republicans and Democrats promise action to prevent government shutdown while holding votes aimed at defining the parties for the fall campaign, Andrew Taylor reports, Congress Returns To Work With Government Shutdown Threat Looming. Republicans control the House and intend on a drama free passage of temporary spending bill to prevent a shutdown at the end of the month and fund government agencies into mid-December. The Senate is hopeful it will pass as long as it is free of objectionable add ons. House Republicans plan to votes aimed at drawing attention to legislation they say would boost jobs and energy production. Republicans and Democrats are clamoring for legislation authorizing Obama to use military forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but the short session and lack of consensus raises doubts about whether congressional action is possible. Some lawmakers say the president under the 1973 War Powers Resolution has the power to act without permission and several Republicans are willing to give Obama blanket authority without a detailed strategy from the administration. Several lawmakers want new economic penalties against Russia in response to its aggressions toward Ukraine, but it’s doubtful Congress will move quickly on a measure.

Gaza Ceasefire Holding, Libya on the Brink of Collaspe, Islamic State Advances, New Challenges for Syria, and All While Ukraine and Russia Hurl Accusations

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Officials on Tuesday from Hamas and Islamic Jihad , the main groups in Gaza, said a deal had been reached with Israel to end the seven week war that killed 2,000 Palestinians, Mohammed Daraghmeh and Karin Laub report, Palestinian officials: cease-fire made with Israel. Ziad Nakhala, a senior Islamic Jihad officials, said the deal included an open ended cease fire, an Israeli agreement to ease the blockade of Gaza to allow relief supplies and construction materials into the territory and talks on more complex issues, such as Hamas’ demand to build an airport and a seaport for Gaza, would begin in a month. According to Palestinian health officials and the United Nations, the Gaza war this round killed 2,133 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000, while the Unite Nations estimates 17,000 homes were destroyed leaving 100,000 homeless. The Israeli side had 68 deaths with only four being civilians. Later the same day, both Egyptian state television and the state news agency MENA announced officially the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that began at 7p.m. local time, the Associate Press reported, Egypt state media announces Gaza war cease-fire. Hamas declared victory and celebratory gunfire erupted across Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a long rival of Hamas, will likely play a key role in the new border deal for Gaza as he is expected to regain a foothold under the Egyptian brokered deal after losing it to Hamas in 2007. In this scenario, Abbas forces will be posted at Gaza’s border crossings to allay fears by Israel and Egypt about renewed attempts by Hamas to smuggle weapons. On Tuesday night, Abbas in a televised address said a permanent solution to the conflict with Israel is needed: “What’s next? Gaza has been subjected to three wars. Shall we expect another war in a year or two? Until when will this issue be without a solution? Today, I’m going to give the Palestinian leadership my vision for a solution and after that we will continue consultations with the international community. This vision must be clear and well defined and we are not going to an open-ended negotiation.” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a news conference at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital: “We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance.” In Washington, State Department spokesman Jen Psaki told journalists: “We view this as an opportunity, not a certainty. Today’s agreement comes after many hours and days of negotiations and discussions. But certainly there’s a long road ahead. And we’re aware of that and we’re going into this eyes wide open.” On Wednesday, the Associate Press reports, Gaza cease-fire holds as sides weigh gains, the Israeli military said there were no reports of violations since the ceasefire went into effect at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not put the ceasefire to a vote in his cabinet because of opposition from ministers who wanted to continue fighting. Political commentator and critic of Netanyahu, Nahum Barnea, wrote in the mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “Israelis expected a leader, a statesman who knows what he wants to achieve, someone who makes decisions and engages in a sincere and real dialogue with his public. Instead they received a slick spokesman and very little else.” In Gaza, life regains some normalcy as civilians returned to their homes and utility crews hurried to fix electrical and water infrastructure issues.

While Gaza seems on the mend, Libya seems to be on the verge of collapse as weeks of fighting escalated in Libya this weekend when anti-government fighters secured control of the country’s main airport in the capital of Tripoli, Eline Gordts reports, How Libya Became A Country On The Brink Of Collapse. A group of pro-government fighter from the curt of Zintan controlled the airport after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2001, however Saturday, a collation of Islamist fighters from Misrata called Operation Dawn pushed them out. Only three years ago, the two fought together side by side against Gaddafi forces, but now the two groups are locked in a vicious fight for economic and political control pushing the country toward collapse. The current violence is the most intense since 2011 starting after the country’s parliamentary elections in June when members of the outgoing Islamist dominated parliament lost the vote to liberal and federalist candidates. The Islamist and their backers would not recognize the newly elected body forcing the new MPs to move the parliament from the capital to the eastern city of Tobruk out of fear of safety. The Islamists victory in Tripoli this weekend has led to demands on Monday for the old parliament to be reinstated and calls for their own prime minister to be elected causing the country to have two rival leaders and assemblies backed by armed factions. The Libyan army has few national troops it can rely on forcing it to turn to local militias to secure key sites, but these militias have their own agenda and allegiance ultimately lies with their commanders. Washington Post’s Frederic Wehrey explains the divide between groups, according to Gordts: “There’s a political divide between Islamists and liberals, a regional divide between fighters from the city of Misrata and Zintan, and a divide between the old order and those who consider themselves revolutionaries.” Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz told the Guardian on Monday that Operation Dawn is stronger and better armed than the government making it impossible for the government to safeguard key institutions. On Monday, American officials told the New York Times that attacks on Islamist fighters last week were by Egyptian and the United Arab Emirates’ planes, nut both countries deny involvement in the strikes. The article explains: “Since the military ouster of the Islamist president in Egypt one year ago, the new Egyptian government, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc exerting influence in countries around the region to roll back what they see as a competing threat from Islamists. Arrayed against them are the Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, backed by friendly governments in Turkey and Qatar, that sprang forward amid the Arab Spring revolts.” Meanwhile, civilians in the capital are facing dire conditions as violence in Tripoli lead to gangs of armed men burning and destroying the homes of government supporters with entire neighborhood being leveled. A the beginning of August, 5,000 to 6,000 people cross into Tunisia each day forcing authorities to close the border, while international organizations pulled employees out of Libya and many countries closed their diplomatic posts due to violence. According to Bradley Klapper and Maggie Michael, Officials: Egypt, UAE behind airstrikes in Libya, a joint statement from the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy expressed concerns over the recent attack saying “outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.” Newly appointed U.N. convoy to Libya headed by diplomat Bernardino Leon said only an inclusive political process with all Libyans represented in parliament, government and other state institutions can get “Libya get out of chaos.”

While Israel was granted a temporary reprieve from fighting in Gaza, another battle seems to be spilling over into the country from the Syrian border. Islamic State militants, an offshoot of al-Qaida, executed Syrian army soldiers and took hostages after capturing an air base in northeast Syria near Ragga city on Sunday, posting pictures on the Internet and on Twitter by supporters on Wednesday, Reuters reports, ISIS executes soldiers, takes hostages at Syria base. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports after five days of fighting at the base cost more than 500 lives with 346 Islamic State fighters and 170 members of security forces dead. According to the Associated Press, Syrian rebels seize border crossing with Israel, Syrian rebels, including fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, took control of a frontier crossing with Israel in the Golan Heights on Wednesday after heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad’s forces leaving 20 Syrian soldiers dead, The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said reports. Fighting also took place in the towns of Jaba, Tal Kroum and Rawadi in Quneitra province. Gen. Ibrahim Jbawi, the spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s southern front, as well as the Local Coordination Committees activist group, also confirmed the rebel gains. Israel’s military said an officer stationed in Golan Heights was wounded by errant fire Wednesday from the Syrian side of the frontier as it appeared that the heavy fighting from Syria had spilled over with large clouds of smoke could be seen in the distance. Israel has avoided taking sides in the war, but has responded to the violence across its border, according to the military, by targeting two Syrian army positions that were confirmed hits. Israel says it holds the Syrian government responsible for any violence that comes out of the territory.

While war rages on in the region, an independent U.N. commission on Wednesday said that the Syrian government has likely used chlorine gas to attack civilians and the Islamic State group fighting them has committed crimes against humanity with attacks on civilians in two provinces, John Heilprin reports, UN Panel: Crimes Against Humanity Spread In Syria, Including Possible Gas Attack. The commission said government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad used a chemical agent likely chlorine on civilians in northern Syrian villages eight times in April. Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai professor who investigated human rights in North Korea, said: “There are reasonable grounds to believe that the chlorine has been dropped, particularly in barrel bombs from helicopters belonging to the government authorities. So the finger points there.” The commission also said the widespread and systematic killings of civilians by the Islamic State, which controls large parts of north and eastern Syria, have also committed crimes against humanity in Iraq and Syria where the group has carved out their caliphate. One disturbing fact was the large training camps where children mostly 14 and older are recruited and trained to fight along side adult Islamic State fighters. Commission member Carl del Ponte, a Swiss former war crimes prosecutor, said: “In Syria, it’s total impunity. Crimes are committed each day, from all parties, and nobody’s dealing with the criminal responsibility for those crimes.” Heilprin explains: “The report, based on 480 interviews and documentary material, cited dozens of documented public executions in Aleppo and Raqqa during the bloody and complex Syrian civil war that the U.N. says has killed more than 190,000 people since 2011. Crowds of people including children have reportedly watched as the group’s fighters pronounce mostly adult men guilty of violating religious laws and then behead them or shoot them in the head at close range. The purpose, according to the commission, is ‘to instill terror among the population, ensuring submission to its authority.’ But the commission also emphasized that Assad’s government forces continue to perpetrate crimes against humanity through massacres and systematic murder, torture, rape and disappearances. And it said other factions fighting Assad’s government are also committing massacres and war crimes.” Zeina Karam reports, Syria Suffers Record Death Toll, the British based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said about 1,240 soldiers and other Assad loyalist have been killed in the past 10 days in northern Syria. Despite the war, Assad was re-elected last month in a vote confined to government controlled areas and dismissed by the opposition and its Western allies as a sham. He was sworn in on July 16 and declared victory praising his supporters for “defeating the dirty war” against Syria. The government losses followed shortly after his speech when fighters from the Islamic State group attacked army positions in northern and central Syria capturing a government controlled gas field and two major air bases in three different provinces this past week.

While the Middle East has collapse into chaos with cross border fighting, Ukraine and Russia trade accusations about alleged men in green crossing from Russia into Ukraine. Maria Tsvetkova reports, Heavily Armed ‘Men In Green’ Enter East Ukrainian Villages, heavily armed strangers with Russian accents have appeared in an eastern Ukrainian village arousing suspicions despite Moscow’s denial. Two witness told Reuters on Tuesday that dozens of men entered the village over the weekend and set up a road block and carrying military ration packs marked with Russian writing. The men had white arm bands similar to the ones worn by 10 men captured by Ukrainian forces few miles away and were identified as Russian paratroopers on Tuesday. Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said in a Twitter post: “The new columns of Russian tanks and armor crossing into Ukraine indicates a Russian-directed counter-offensive may be underway.” A resident of the town said the military vehicles had their identifying marks painted over with white circles adding: “The people at the new checkpoint, they were polite military men wearing green. Definitely not Ukrainian. They’re definitely not from around here.” Another witness, Alexei, who was in Kolosky Monday, said the men told residents that they came to protect them. In addition, he and a friend counted what they said was 38 armored personnel carriers, 2 fueling trucks and numerous military transport vehicles full of people in Kolosky and the immediate vicinity. Both sides said they first saw military hardware in Sunday including anti-aircraft systems and artillery guns. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine met late Tuesday for their first bilateral talks in Minsk. The talks came as Ukraine captured 10 Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine and shelling spread to a new front in the southeast. Nataliya Vasilyeva and Peter Leonard report, Putin sits down with Ukrainian president for talks, Poroshenko said the purpose of the visit was to find political compromise and promised that the interests of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine would be taken into account, while Putin concentrated on Ukraine’s decision to sign an association agreement with the 28 nation EU that would result in losses for Russia who would then be forced to protect its economy. Ukraine is set to ratify the agreement in September. Regarding the fighting in the east, Putin said the conflict “could not be solved by further escalation of the military scenario without taking into account the vital interests of the southeast of the country and without a peaceful dialogue of its representatives.” Poroshenko is unlikely to agree with Russia’s demand to federalize Ukraine, but would consider giving the regions some expanded powers.

Ebola Become a Public Health Emergency, Gaza War Resumes, Obama Strikes Militants in Iraq and the Impact of the Ukrainian War

https://i1.wp.com/www.channelnewsasia.com/blob/1063890/1406814267000/a-map-of-africa-giving-data.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/mahmood.tv/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/gerog-of-chaos.jpghttps://i0.wp.com/images.dailykos.com/images/81051/large/Ukraine.jpgA U.S. official said Thursday that the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa on pace to sicken the most people than all previous outbreaks combined, Lauren Neergaard reports, CDC director: Scale of Ebola crisis unprecedented. Dr, Tom Frieden, Center for Disease Control and Prevention director, told a congressional hearing that the outbreak is unprecedented due to the face it occurred in a region that has never dealt with it before, while lax infection control and risky burial practices drive it. Friedman commented that tried and true public health measures could stop the disease spread but will be laborious as any case missed could keep it going. More than 1,700 people have been sick with the virus and 1,000 people have died, the World Health Organization reports. The U.S. Agency or International Development will spend $14.5 million to combat the outbreak and has sent a disaster team to the area to assist workers and provide tens of thousands of protective suits for them as well, said assistant administrator Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez. Frieden said the CDC will open more treatment centers and expand proper Ebola testing. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization, on Friday, declared the outbreak an international public emergency that requires an extraordinary response to stop the spread, the Associated Press reports, WHO declares Ebola outbreak a public health emergency. The largest and longest in history, the WHO announced the Ebola outbreak is troublesome enough to declare it an international public health emergency much like the flu pandemic in 2009 and polio in May. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention already elevated its Ebola response to the highest level recommending against travel to West Africa.

On Thursday, the FDA approved a diagnostic test for the disease as President Obama told reporters at a U.S. Africa Leaders Summit that he wasn’t ready to share any experimental treatment with West Africa, according to the AOL article, Obama resists fast-tracking Ebola drug, but new test cleared. The drug Obama is referring to is ZMapp used to treat two Americans infected with Ebola before coming back to the States from West Africa. According to WebMD, it takes a long time to produce the drug because the ingredients take weeks to grow combined with a lack of FDA approval means it will be a while before mass production can happen. The diagnostic test is meant to detect the Zaire strain of Ebola which has infected 1,700 people and killed 932 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. A statement from the FDA to health care workers says it authorizes the use of it because, “At this time, no FDA-approved/cleared tests that identify the existence of the Ebola Zaire virus … in clinical specimens are available.” According to thew AOL article: “The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released a statement saying that the National Institutes of Health is working on developing one and it’s ‘aiming to launch phase 1 clinical trials … in the fall.'” In addition, the statement disclosed that Tekmira and Biocryst Pharmaceuticals funded by the Department of Defense will develop therapeutic treatments while a third, Newlink, is working on a vaccine. Rod Nickel reports, FDA Enables Potential Use Of Experimental Ebola Drug On Infected Patients, on Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration modified its clinical hold status on Temirka’s experimental Ebola treatment to enable its potential use in humans infected with Ebola. Dr. Mark Murray, Temirka’s chief executive officer, said: “We are pleased that the FDA has considered the risk-reward of TKM-Ebola for infected patients. We have been closely watching the Ebola virus outbreak and its consequences, and we are willing to assist with any responsible use of TKM-Ebola.” The treatment is one of three worldwide that has shown promising results in monkeys, but unproven in humans. Tiny California biotech Mapp Biopharmaceutical gained international prominence this week as its drug was given to two U.S. aid workers who contracted Ebola in West Africa and shown signs of improvement.

On Friday, fighting resumed between Israel and militants in Gaza following a three day truce which expired and talks brokered by Egypt on a new border deal for the blockaded coastal territory stagnated, the Associate Press reported, Gaza truce expires, rocket fire resumes. Palestinian officials said one boy was killed at a mosque by one of Israeli’s 10 airstrikes, while two people were hurt in Israel, according to police, by one of many rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. It is unclear whether talks will resume or escalation will occur, but Hamas officials are will to continue negotiations and Israel will as well with the provision that fighting halts in order to protect its people. The Israeli delegation left Friday morning making it unclear whether they would return. Within minutes of the truce expiring, Gaza militants fired rockets and by midday had fired 33. Israel wants to see Hamas disarmed or prevented from re-arming, while Hamas demands Gaza’s borders be opened leaving the all night talks before dawn on Friday without a resolution. The numbers so far: 1,00 Palestinians dead, 9,000 wounded, devastates areas along Gaza border with Israel, tens of thousands displaces, 67 Israelis, 5,000 Israeli strikes and thousands of Hamas rockets fired over the past month. Caught in the fighting, Gaza’s civilians struggle to get by with no electricity 21 hours a day due to power lines being hit, water taps run dry due to no power for their fuel pumps and tens of thousands displaced on floors of schools and hospitals, Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak report, Gaza Civilians Are Struggling To Get By As War Rages Around Them. The hardship is more apparent as Muslims on Monday started observing the joyous time of festive meals called Eid el-Fitr where traditional sweets are shared and family visits.

ON Thursday, in Iraq, residents said the Sunni militants from the Islamic State group stormed the Mosul Dam complex, Iraq’s largest dam, in one hour, Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub reported, Islamic State Militants Seize Iraq’s Biggest Dam. The dam near Mosul lies on the Tigris River which runs through the capital, Baghdad. The Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby says two U.S. F/A 18 jets drooped 500 pound bombs on a piece of artillery and the truck towing it outside Ibril near U.S. personnel. According to Julie Pace and Robert Burns’ article, US launched first airstrikes in Iraq, on Thursday President Barack Obama authorized the strike when Islamic state militants advanced on Ibril in northeastern Iraq where U.S. military trainers were stationed. In a televised late night statement from the White House, Obama said American military plans airdropped humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities surrounded by militants in need of food and water at the request of the Iraqi government. The food and water supplies were delivered to tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped on a mountain with no food or water after fleeing their homes under siege by Islamist state militants who issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death. Obama said of a new war with Iraq: “As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.” As for the rationale for the airstrikes regarding troops stations in Ibril and U.S. consulate in the Kurdish region of Iraq: “When the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. That’s my responsibility as commander in chief.” The Pentagon said the airdrops were performed by one C17 and two C130 cargo aircraft delivering a total of 72 bundles of food and water escorted by two F/A 18 fighters from an undisclosed base in the region. In all, 5,300 gallons of water and 8,000 pre-packaged meals were dropped for 15 minutes at a low altitude. Administration officials said a unilateral U.S. strike would be consistent with international law because the Iraqi government has asked for Washington to take military action and Obama has constitutional authority to authorize the attack to protect American citizens. Critics, including some Republicans in Congress, have argued that Obama’s cautious approach in Syria allowed the Islamic State group to flourish and grow enough to move into Iraq making swift gains. In a statement, both Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised Obama’s proposed actions Thursday night but said much more will be necessary: “This should include the provision of military and other assistance to our Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian partners.” Officials said the White House was in contact throughout Thursday with lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Meanwhile, four months of fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatist rebels has taken a heavy toll on residents of the east as UN humanitarian operations director John Ging warned on Tuesday that the humanitarian situation has worsened, Charlotte Alfred reports, 5 Shocking Figures That Show The Devastating Impact Of East Ukraine’s War. At an emergency sessions of the UN Security Council Ging said civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk, controlled by rebels, had only access to water for a few hours a day adding that many homes were destroyed and medical supplies are runny low. While Uktain and Russia trade accusations of responsibility, Alfred reports that five shocking figures show how the crisis has changed the daily lives of thousands of Ukrainian civilians. The United Nations’ agency for refugees (UNHCR) says 117,000 people are displaced inside Ukraine and another 168,000 Ukrainians have applied to stay in Russia as refugees, temporary residents or new citizens. In total, Russia says 730,000 more Ukrainians came to Russian than usual since the beginning of the year, but UNHCR said the number is unreliable and Ukraine accuses Russia of inflating the numbers. According to the UN, a conservative estimate places the death toll at 1,129 people killed and 3,000 wounded in four month of fighting, while the Ukrainian government said 258 of the casualties were armed forces. Since April, 400 people were reported abducted in eastern Ukraine, according to the UN’s human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine. The mission reports said most of them are ordinary citizens, including teachers, journalists and students noting that some 211 are still being held, 185 were released and four found dead. The UN warned Tuesday the fighting has caused has destroyed the basic infrastructure in the east as water is scarce and many are displaced with no adequate shelter for winter. UNHCR sent food and supplies to civilians impacted by fighting including 15,000 people in Slovyansk which government forces captured in July. Humans Rights Watch reports that five hospitals in east Ukraine have been jot by rockets and artillery since June and responsibility for the attacks are unclear even though the group says circumstances suggest the Ukrainian army may be involved in some of them.

Palestinian Israeli Ceasefire , Russia and Ukraine Push Their Boundaries and the Islamic State Militia Continues to Expand Its Middle Eastern Territory

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Israel withdrew most of its troops from Gaza on Sunday which could be a sign that Israel is winding down its month long offensive against Hamas leaving 1,800 Palestinians and 60 Israelis dead. AOL reports, Israel withdraws most troops from Gaza, even though Israel is close to completing its mission, heavy fighting continued with 10 Palestinians being killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike near a U.N. school, according to U.N. and Palestinians officials. The U.S. and United Nations condemned the attack. It is uncertain whether Israel would unilaterally end the war since Hamas officials vowed to continue their fight. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, confirmed most of the ground troops have pulled out of Gaza after destroying a majority of the Hamas tunnel network. He said Israel detected 30 tunnels dug along the border for what he called a “synchronized attack” on Israel. However, Lerner said the operation was not over and Israel will continue to target Hamas’ rocket firing capabilities as well as its ability to infiltrate Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voes to continue his assault against Hamas, but has come under international pressure to halt the fighting due to a high civilian death toll. U.N. officials say more than three quarters of the dead are civilians including the 10 killed on Sunday at a U.N. school in Rafah. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and demanded a quick investigation, while the U.S. State Department said Washington was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” attack. Israel Cabinet minister Amir Peretz told channel 10: “It’s not a withdrawal. It’s setting up a new line that is a more controlled line with the air force doing its work.” One senior officials, under conditions of anonymity because he was discussing internal Hamas deliberations, said: “If Israel stops unilaterally, Hamas will declare victory and will not grant any security or truce to Israel. In this case, we are going to live under a war of attrition until a political solution is found.”

Unfortunately, a seven hour truce went into effect Monday after Israel agreed it would unilaterally hold fire in Gaza, but Palestinians immediately accused Israel of breaking the ceasefire agreement by bombing a house in Gaza, Reuters reports, Palestinians accuse Israel of immediately breaking 7-hour ceasefire that began Monday at 3am EST. An Israel military spokeswoman said she was checking into it, while Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said 15 people were wounded in the strike on a house in Shati camp of mostly women and children. An Israeli defense officials said the ceasefire would apply to all areas except Rafah where ground forces have intensified assaults after three soldiers died in a Hamas ambush Friday. While a Hamas envoy in Egypt negotiates a truce that Israel has shunned in anger, Sami Abu Zuhri, the group’s spokesman said: “The calm Israel declared is unilateral and aims to divert attention away from the Israeli massacres. We do not trust such a calm and we urge our people to exercise caution.” Meanwhile, Israeli Brigadier General Motti Almoz told Army Radio: “Redeployment lets us work on the tunnels, provides defense (of Israeli communities nearby) and lets the forces set up for further activity. There is no ending here, perhaps an interim phase.” According to Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav, Cease-fire slows Gaza war as Israeli bus attacked, while Israel declared the temporary ceasefire and troops withdrawals slowed violence on Monday in Gaza, an Israeli bus was attacked killing one person in Jerusalem which symbolizes the tensions simmering in the region. For the moment though, violence seems to be waning as Hamas rocket fire tapers off and Israel’s ground operation in Gaza winds down. According to the article: “Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed cellphone video of what it said was the attack, with the yellow excavator slamming its large shovel into the bus. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a police officer in the area opened fire and killed the attacker. A pedestrian also was killed, said Jerusalem district police chief Yossi Piranti.” Before the attacks, the seven hour Israeli ceasefire in Gaza was in effect , even though Israel continued to hit selected Palestinians target, the level of fighting was lower than previous days.

Fortunately, on Monday, as Josef Federman reports, Israel accepts Egyptian cease-fire plan, the Israeli government has finally accepted an Egyptian ceasefire deal to halt the month long war against Hamas militants in Gaza signaling the end of one of the bloodiest rounds of fighting, according to a senior Israeli official said. In addition, the official said a preliminary truce would begin at 8am Tuesday as the Israeli delegation would head to Egypt to work out a long term truce over the next three days. A delegation of Palestinian officials has negotiated with Egypt in recent days and representative have accept the proposal, while Hamas had no comment but has delegate presents at the time. Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said, “It’s clear now that the interest of all parties is to have a cease-fire. It’s going to be tough negotiations because Israel has demands too.” Under conditions of anonymity, the Israeli official said Israel will be watching the negotiation “with a certain amount of skepticism” given the previous failures.

Meanwhile, the Russian military is exercising their power as a show of their strength near the border with Ukraine, while Ukrainian troops cross over into Russia. Reuters reports, Russia Conducts Military Exercises With More Than 100 Aircraft Near Ukraine, Igor Kilmov quoted by Interfax news agency said it was the first session in a series to increase the unity of the air force this year as well as conduct missile practice with some of Russia’s newest frontline bombers and did not mention Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting the Ukrainian government. While, Laura Mills reports, Ukrainian soldiers cross border into Russia, a Russian border security official said 400 Ukrainian soldiers crossed into Russia, an Interfax news agency report said. There were conflicting reports on both sides of why the soldiers were there. The Russian official said the soldiers deserted the Kiev governments and the Russian side opened the corridor, however, a Ukrainian military official said the soldiers were forced into Russian territory by rebel fire after running out of ammunition. Vasily Malayev, head of the Federal Security Service’s border patrol in the Rostov region, told Interfax 438 soldiers on Monday were allowed to safely enter the country. A spokesman for the Ukrainian military operation in the east, Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky, said the 72nd brigade army was pinned into their position due to a sustained barrage of fire from separatists forcing the brigade to split up into two sections. The battle in eastern Ukraine has been raging since April and claimed at least 1,129 civilians, according to a U.N. estimate. Though Russia denies any involvement, Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of providing the rebels with equipment and expertise.

On Sunday, Islamic State fighters claimed control of Iraq’s biggest dam, an oilfield and three more towns on Sunday inflicting their first major defeat on Kurdish forces since moving across norther Iraq in June, Ahmed Rasheed and Raheem Salman report, Islamic State Seizes Small Towns In Iraq’s North. Capturing the electricity generating Mosul Dam could allow Sunni militants to flood major Iraqi cities or withhold water in a bid to topple Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government. In addition, the Islamic state has seized the Ain Zalah pil field, adding to the four others it controls providing funding for their operation, and three towns. The group poses the biggest threat to OPEC member Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003 as it has already declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria to rule over Muslims. On Sunday, the group also fought in a border town far away in Lebanon symbolizing its ambition to spread across the Middle East. So far, it controls cities in Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates valley s north and west of Baghdad and a large portion of Syria stretching from the Iraqi border in the east to Aleppo in the northwest. In a statement, the Islamic State said, “Hundreds fled leaving vehicles and a huge number of weapons and munitions and the brothers control many areas. The fighters arrived in the border triangle between Iraq, Syria and Turkey.” The Islamic State has tried to consolidate its gains by setting its sights on strategic towns near oil fields as well as border crossing with Syria so it can move supplies back and forth. Maliki’s opponents say the prime minister, a Shi’ite Islamist who is trying to stat in power for a third term after an inconclusive parliamentary election in April, is to blame for the insurgency due to excluding Sunnis from power. Additionally, Kurdish leaders call for Maliki to step down to create a more inclusive government in Baghdad. After Sunday’s withdrawal of Kurdish troops, the Kurdish region is pressing Washington for sophisticated weapons to help their fighters to push back the Islamist militants, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials. The Islamic State’s ambitions have caused other Arab states to take notice and fear their success will embolden militants region wide. Meanwhile, in Lebanon on Monday, thousands of civilians and Syrian refugees fled in packed cars and pickup trucks from an eastern border town where militants from Syria have overrun, Bassem Mroue reports, Thousands flee as Lebanese battle Syrian militants. The fleeing comes as Lebanese troops struggle to rid Arsal of the Syrian extremists marking the most serious spillover of violence from Syria’s cavil war into Lebanon and increasing fears that Lebanon is becoming a new front for Syria;s conflict, now in its third year. In all, at least 11 Lebanese troops have been killed and 13 missing in the Arsal clashes that erupted Saturday after Syrian militants crossed the border and overran army positions in the area.

Israel Continues its Strike, More MH17 Remains Found, Rebels Cross into Lebanon and Grim Finacial News for 11 Countries


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Editorial Cartoonist Ann Telnaes


On Sunday, U.N. official said 10 people were killed at a Unite Nations school sheltering displaced people in the southern Gaza Strip apparently hit by an Israeli airstrike even after Israel announced a possible scaling back in its operation, the Associated Press reported, Gaza: 10 dead after strike near UN school. The Israeli military had no comment on the Rafah school strike but did day it was redeploying along the Gaza border for a new phase of the operation to stop rockets fired toward Israel and destroy Hamas’ tunnel network. Lt. Col Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, explained, “We have indeed scaled down some of the presence and indeed urged Palestinians in certain neighborhoods to come back to their homes.” While security officials confirm the tunnel operation is winding down and Israel will be taking its troops out of the strip, Israeli airstrikes and tank shellings continued, according to Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra, that killed 10 people and wounded 35 after the strike near the boys’ sch00l in Rafah. Robert Turner, the director of operations for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said preliminary finding indicate the blast was an Israeli airstrike near the school that shelter 3,000 people and confirmed one U.N. staffer was killed. He added, “The locations of all these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times. They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea. I have no words for it. I don’t understand it.” The Israeli military said it is looking into it. Inside the compound, several bodies including children were laying in puddles of blood strewn across the ground, while some of the wounded were taken to the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah and others were treated in makeshift clinics. At least six U.N. facilities have been struck by Israeli fire since the beginning drawing international condemnation and in each case Israel claims it was responding to militants launching rockets nearby. The death toll in these four weeks of fighting comes to 1,750 Palestinians mostly civilians killed and 70 Israelis mostly soldiers killed. Al-Kidra said 50 Palestinians were killed on Sunday including 10 members of one family in a single strike in southern Gaza with Israel carrying out a total of 180 strikes that day. Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq said: “Hamas will not accept any ceasefire deal as long as Israelis are still in Gaza Strip.” Much of Gaza has been destroyed and some 250,000 people forced to flee their homes since the war began. Rocket fired continued toward Israel Sunday with more than 3,000 rockets fired since the beginning as three civilians were killed Sunday and damaged several homes. Several soldiers have been killed by Palestinians gunman using the tunnels near Israel communities along the Gaza border. The Israeli military death toll rose to 64 after Israel confirmed Hadar Goldin, a 23 year old infantry lieutenant fear captured in Gaza, was killed in battle with his funeral later Sunday, according to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon who is a distant relative of Goldin and has known him his whole life.

Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, investigators at Malaysia Airlines wreckage site on Saturday recovered more human remain and belongings, the bead of an international recovery mission stated. Toby Sterling reports, More Human Remains Recovered At MH17 Crash Site In Ukraine, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, speaking from Kiev said 70 Dutch and Australian investigators reached the site for the second consecutive day despite fighting in the area between pro-Russia separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces. Flight 17 went down in Hrabove July 17 with what the West alleges was a Russian made missile fired by rebels killing 298 passengers and crew with most being Dutch. Aalbersberg did not give details on the remains recovered as his team continued the search for the remaining 80 victims spread over the 8 square mile area which is expected to take weeks. He thanks both sides for allowing the mission to proceed after weeks of delays due to fighting. The remains will be transferred to a facility in Kharkiv by refrigerated truck where the Dutch, Malaysian and Australian forensic experts will examine them. Then the remains will join the 200 bodies in the Netherlands to be identified. Friday and Saturday’s search focused on the area around a chicken farm near the village of Grabovo, however, this phase is complete, Aalbersberg said hoping to expand his team to full strength of 100 by Monday. “Tomorrow our goal is to move the search to an area northeast of the village of Rozsypne, where pieces of wreckage from the aircraft have been found,” he said.

On Saturday, Syrian rebels fighting in its civil war raided a border town in neighboring Lebanon killing and capturing security force member marking the most serous incursion into the tiny country during Syria’s 3 year old conflict, Bassem Mroue reports, Syria rebels raid Lebanese town, capture troops. In a statement, the Lebanese army said the rebels, who included foreign fighter, demanded to trade soldiers and police officers captured in Arsal for some of the most dangerous detainees. Lebanese army general and another officials told the Associated Press that the gunmen attacked army positions firing on troops and took control of the main police station in the town of Arsal. Lebanon’s state run National News Agency said that Arsal residents freed police officers at the station with rebels capturing some guns and releasing several detainees. In addition, the gunmen killed two residents near the police station and two soldiers with several wounded. The army statement said, “What is happening today is among the most dangerous of what Lebanon and the Lebanese are being subjected to. The gunmen kidnapped several soldiers and policemen who were spending the weekend with their families … and demanded the release of some of the most dangerous detainees held by the army. The Lebanese army will not accept that its members be hostages and will not stay silent about targeting the army and Arsal residents.” The statement said the Lebanese army “will not allow any side to move the battle from Syria” into Lebanon and “will not allow any foreign gunman to endanger the security of Lebanon or to harm its soldiers or policemen.” According to Mroue, Prime Minister Tammam Salam described the attack as a “flagrant aggression against the state of Lebanon” and vowed that his government “will deal with the developments with extreme firmness and strength.” Arsal is home of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and rebels such as the Lebanese Sunnis in Arsal, who backed the Sunni rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the Shiites, who belong to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group backing Assad. The violence in Arsal followed the ambushing of opposition fighters by Syrian troops and Hezbollah in the Qalamoun region near the Lebanon border that killed 50 people with seven troops and Hezbollah fighters among the dead. The Syrian uprsing started as a peaceful protest against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, but escalated when the government forced violently cracked down on dissent. So far, 170,000 people have in killed in Syria in more than three years of fighting, according to Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights.

While the world watches in horror as fighting around the world intensifies, several countries are dealing with debilitating financial issues that could end up in bankruptcy. Alexander E.M. Hess and Alexander Kent reports, 11 Countries Near Bankruptcy: 24/7 Wall St., that after years of bitter court battles with creditors, Argentina has defaulted on its debts by failing to come to an agreement with creditors from its 2001 default and missing necessary bond payments on July 31 triggering the current default, according to Standard and Poor’s rating agency. However, other organizations like Moody’s Investors Service and the International Swap and Derivatives Association have not release statement confirming the default. Unfortunately, Argentina is not the only one struggling or failing to pay their debts in recent years and as a result has severely impaired credit ratings. Moddy’s currently lists 10 countries with rating of Caa1 or worse which means the country has substantial credit risk and is several notches below Ba1. The countries with the lowest ratings include Greece and Ukraine in Europe, Pakistan in Asia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Belize in South America. Even though they all have low ratings, the nations suffer from vastly different problems such as Ukraine and Egypt who recently were downgraded for political conditions, while Belize and Ecuador have upgraded in recent years based on improved financial positions. Some countries have a great deal of debt relative to the size of their economy lowering their credit rating and could potentially default. Three nations fall in this category with the world’s highest debt levels at 120% of GDP or more based on 2014 estimates such as Greece with 175% of the GDP this year which is more than any other nation except Japan, according to the International Monetary Fund. Ecuador;s government debt, according to IMF, would total 24.8% their GDP in 2014 which is exceptionally low, however, these countries do not access international bond markets regularly due to small financial sectors or debt restructuring agreements. Borrowing funds in the international bond market can be expensive with a poor credit rating due to high interest rates on the debt that investors see as riskier investments so they require greater return. A 10 year U.S. treasury note pays 2.5% annually, while Jamaica pays 7.65% annually and Greece yielded 29% on a 10 year government bond in early 2012 before the country defaulted. Inflation also causes issues e.g. Argentina, Jamaica, Belize and Ukraine issue their bonds in other common currencies such as dollar, yen and euro causing the inflation rate to be higher since the bond is issued in another countries currency and not their own which is lower. It becomes major problem in several countries with the worst rating such as Venezuela where the Inflation rate is expected to exceed 50% in 2014, according to IMF. Based on the credit ratings provided by Moody’s Investors Service, 24/7 Wall St. examined the 11 countries with credit ratings of Caa1 or worse which indicates considerable credit risk. IN addition due to many of these nations having significant debt in other currencies or weak currencies, 24/7 Wall St. used foreign currency ratings and outlooks for these nations. Figures on GDP growth, inflation, unemployment, population and debt levels are estimates for 2014 from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook.

Israel Ignores Any Talks of a Ceasefire, While Other Bloody Civil War continues and Putin Talks Ukraine with Obama

The short video above posted by several news outlets on YouTube sums up the human tragedy that is the Palestinian Israeli conflict and for that matter tells of the toll such violence takes on people who have to see it every day. As Charlotte Alfred explains the incident, UN Official Chris Gunness Breaks Down On Air After School Bombing, the breakdown happened on camera with Al Jazeera Arabic on Wednesday of last week when UN official Chris Gunness could not contain his grief after a U.N. run school sheltering 3,000 Palestinians was shelled. Gunness, spokesman for the UN Agency for Palestinians Refugees (UNRWA), told Al Jazeera Arabic from Jerusalem: “The rights of Palestinians, and even their children, are wholesale denied… and it’s appalling.” Soon after the interviewer thanked him appearing, Gunness broke down and wept. Gaza’s Ministry of Health said 17 people died and 90 were wounded by the school shelling, while the Israeli military spokesman told the New York Times that Israeli troops did not target the UN facility, but did respond to militants firing near the school in Jabaliya refugee camp. According to Alfred, in an official statement last Wednesday, the UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Kranhenbuhl wrote: “Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

Meanwhile on Friday, President Barack Obama during a White House briefing addressed the situation in Israel. Obama again voiced his support for Israeli’s right to defend itself, while condemning Hamas and Palestinian militants after a ceasefire unraveled and calling for the release of a captive Israeli soldier. Paige Lavender reports, Obama Calls For Unconditional Release Of Captured Israeli Soldier, Obama said: “I think it’s important to note that we have, and I have, unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a cease-fire had been announced. I want to make sure that they are listening. If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that solider needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible.” In addition, the U.S. will continue to work on a ceasefire deal even though Friday’s violation will make it difficult since the ceasefire deal brokered by the U.N. and U.S. only lasted two hours.

Back in Israel, on Saturday, Israel launched dozens of airstrikes in southern Gaza as part of a large scale search fro a captive Israeli soldier, Karin Laub and Hamza Hendawi report, Israel pounds Gaza as it searches for soldier. At least 35 Palestinians were killed in and around the city of Rafah where the bombardment and shelling took place forcing the area’s main hospital to evacuate, according to a Palestinians health official. The Israeli military said the soldier was grabbed in a Hamas ambush about an hour after the ceasefire started on Friday morning causing international condemnation and calls for immediate release by President Barack Obama and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. The Hamas military wing in a statement on its website said it was “not aware until this moment of a missing soldier or his whereabouts or the circumstances of his disappearance.” Israel and Hams accuse each other of violating the humanitarian pause. more than 1,650 Palestinians most civilians have been killed and 8,000 wounded, according to health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Israel has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians. al-Kidra added that since Friday morning more than 100 Palestinians were killed in the Rafah area including 35 on Saturday. The police operations room reported 77 airstrikes on the area and heavy shelling. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, blamed Hamas for violating the ceasefire and demanded the release of Goldin, the 23 year old captured Israeli solider. In a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, Netanyahu told Secretary of State John Kerry via phone that the Palestinian militants had violated the ceasefire and attack Israeli solder after 9am: “Israel will take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens.” Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hams’ deputy leader, denied Hamas violated the truce telling Al-Arabiya news channel from Cairo that the movement’s military wing carried out no operations after 8 am. In a statement to reporters outside his home, Goldin’s father said: “We want to support the military in the fighting against Hamas in Gaza. We are sure the military will not stop before it turns over every stone in Gaza and returns Hadar home safe and sound.”

As for now, Israeli officials and media reports on Saturday said Israel won’t participate in cease fire talks with Hamas and will scale back its 26 day military operation in Gaza on its own terms. Ian Deitch and Ibrahim Barzak report, Israel signals scaling back Gaza war on its terms, cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel will not send a delegation to truce talks in Cairo, according to Israel’s Channel 10, alleging that Hamas has repeatedly violated ceasefire deals and this “leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point speaking” about any deal. Under conditions of anonymity, an Israeli official told The Associated Press that troops will finish demolishing tunnels under the Gaza Israel border since they are close to completing their mission. Referring to Friday’s 72 hour truce, Steinitz said: “We are currently not sending any representative to Cairo because we agreed to several cease-fires and the Egyptian proposal and time after time, and the last time was yesterday. That leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point in speaking about an agreement or a cease-fire because we have tried it too many times.” The Israeli officials said the army announced that the town of Beit Lahiya, where previous fighting took place and now is safe for residence to return, is “a signal that things are pretty much being wrapped up.” In addition, on Saturday, Israeli troops and tanks began to redeploy away from the area east of the south central Gaza town of Khan Younis to the border with Israel, according to residents and police officials. One resident, Assad Ghanam said of the Israel army that: “We are afraid to go back, simply because we cannot trust them. My uncle and his wife went back to the area to feed their chickens and animals after an earlier cease-fire. They both got killed.” Elsewhere in Gaza, Palestinian officials on Saturday reported more than 150 Israeli airstrikes and heavy shelling continued along the border areas. The Israeli military said 200 targets were hit over 24 hours, while Gaza militants fired 74 rockets at Israel since midnight and seven were intercepted by Israel’s rocket defense system.

Following the collapse of a ceasefire deal in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the White House not to force a ceasefire with Hamas on Israel advising the Obama administration “not to ever second guess me again” on the matter, according to sources familiar with conversation between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials including Secretary of State John Kerry. The condemnation of Hamas by Obama came as top Israeli officials questioned the ceasefire efforts accusing the U.S. and United Nations of being naive to Hamas adhering to the terms, Matthew Lee reports, Netanyahu Tells U.S. ‘Not To Ever Second Guess Me Again’ On Hamas. Obama told reporters that until the captive’s release, a cease fire deal could be difficult: “If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible. It’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment.” After the latest truce was violated, an Israeli official said the Netanyahu government viewed both Hams and Qatar as violating the commitment given to the U.S. and the U.N. and expected the international community to take practical steps as part of a strong and swift response especially regarding the captive soldier’s return. IN a phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and Washington should trust his judgement regarding Hamas. In addition, Netanyahu expects the U.S. and other countries full support in Israel’s offensive in Gazas, according to people familiar with the call, who spoke under conditions of anonymity.

While the world focuses on the Ukraine Crisis and the Israeli Palestine Conflict with their rising death tolls, other conflicts with massive death tolls have been largely ignored. Sophia Jones reports, While The World Watched Gaza Crumble, Syria Had One Of Its Bloodiest Weeks Yet, at least 1,496 Palestinians have been killed and more than 60 Israelis have been killed, while in Ukraine 800 civilians have been killed since April as the United States and the European Union beef up sanctions against Russia. In Syria, ripped apart by a three year war and counting, last week saw more than 1,700 people killed in their country making it one of the bloodiest weeks yet, reports the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that the Syrian regime is using barrel bombs, something that the U.N. Security Council banned in February, in full force against civilians and in Aleppo the civilian population is bearing the brunt of these bombs. On Thursday, for the first time, the U.N. using nine trucks supplied shelter, food and water purification supplies upon entering Syria without the consent of thr regime which usually denied access. In Libya, heavy clashes between Islamist militants and government forces wreaked havoc on civilian populations. On Monday, Islamist led militants took a special forces base in Benghazi and local medical workers said 75 bodies were recover from the area, while the U.S.Canadian and French embassies among other were evacuated from the country this week and foreign nationals were told to leave immediately. On Sunday, Tripoli’s airport lay in ruins as a rocket fired near the airport prompted a massive blaze that has burned for days eating through millions of gallons of scarce oil reserves. The Los Angeles Times reported the countries oil productions dropped by 20 percent since the fighting broke out. In Iraq, militants from the Islamic State destroy half a dozen holy sites in Mosul, has taken over a large piece of the country in June with the aim of creating its own Islamic caliphate and claimed responsibility for killing dozens of people in recent bombings. On Friday, the United Nations said more than 1,700 people were killed in Iraq in July. In Afghanistan, civilians in the Helmand province celebrated Eid al-Fitr in fear due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces continued. Since the 2001 U.S. led invasion in Afghanistan, 2,197 soldiers have been killed. Meanwhile in Nigeria, more than a dozen people were killed and injured in Tuesday’s mosques explosions with many blaming Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group seeking to impose Shariah law, for carrying out the bomb attacks. Multiple female suicide bombers this week, suspected of working for Boko Haram, have killed dozens as well with the Nigerian government announcing on Thursday that two men belonging to the group were traveling with a10 year old girl with explosives strapped to her chest. And in the Central African Republic, Christians and Muslim militias signed a fragile ceasefire last week after violence killed thousands and uprooted millions since late 2012. In Southern Sudan, planned peace talks have been delayed this week between warring parties and the civil war has killed 10,000 people since December with one third of the population risking starvation. On Friday, the Associated Press reported, Obama, Putin Discuss Ukraine Crisis, President Barack Obama, on Friday via phone, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Russia’s support of separatists in Ukraine and Russia complying with a 1987 nuclear missile treaty that the U.S. says Moscow breached. The same day, the White said Vice President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to announced $8 million in new assistance to Ukraine to improve border security including transportation, small boats and better surveillance equipment, but does not including armaments.

Investigators Finally Reach MH17 site, Israel Continues its Assault and the Ebola Virus Causes More Evacuations

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For almost two weeks now, the remains of some of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 passengers are feared rotting in the 90 degree midsummer heat causing concern for frustrated relatives who want the bodies of their loved ones, the Associate Press reported, Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels have prevented international police from securing the area and forensic experts from collecting any remaining bodies or collect debris for analysis. Even rebels who initially oversaw the collection of 200 bodies out of 298 have abandoned the sight saying attacks from Ukrainian military forced them to defend themselves. Prime Minster Mark Rutte said bringing back the remaining bodies is his government’s top priority, but Dutch officials on Wednesday were skeptical about the prospect of reaching the site soon. After investigators failed to reach the site Wednesday, the United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric called on both sides to cease hostilities in the area: “The families of the victims of this horrific tragedy deserve closure and the world demands answers. International teams must be allowed to conduct their work.” In a statement, the Dutch said the observers talked to rebels and turned back after being “warned of gunfire on the route and in the surrounding areas.” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev in New York said that Ukrainian forces are try to “liberate the villages and the cities around this site and to give the possibility to international experts to come in.” Fortunately, on Thursday, an international team of investigators reached the crash site of the Malaysia Arline Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine for the first time, Mstyslav Chernov reports, Investigators reach Ukraine crash site. An Associated Press journalist at the scene Thursday said the site appeared to be controlled by separatist rebel fighters. Police and forensic experts from the Netherlands and Australia will focus initially on recovering the remaining bodies still on the site and collect victims’ belongings. Sergei Izvolsky, a Russian state aviation agency spokesman, told AP that a delegation of Russian specialist from Rosaviatsiya were due in Kiev Thursday to participate in the investigation. Ukrainian parliament, meanwhile, voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk who resigned last week after two parties left the coalition supporting him and rejected passing laws to fund the country’s war against pro-Russian separatists.

While the investigation begins for Flight 17, Vladimir Putin continues to receive criticism from western leaders and from the rebels he’s accused of arming. Aleksander Vasovic reports, Some Rebels In Ukraine Vent Frustration With Putin. The European Union and the United States have imposed new sanctions on Russia due to the fact Putin has not persuaded the pro-Russian separatist to stop fight and for supplying them with weapons. In addition, rebels have become increasingly frustrated with the Russian president as the Ukrainian army squeezes the rebel’s last two stronghold in Donetsk and Luhansk leaving the rebels outnumbered and outgunned. A fighter named Pavel outside the rebel headquarters in Donetsk said, “Oh, how we would like to see the Russian army here. If they were here, the Ukrainian border would be 300 km away to the west and south. But they’re not coming. But that’s only a fraction of what we need. We need people, experienced people. But Putin is afraid of spending Russian funds and his oligarchs’ funds.” Another rebel fighter, who declined to give his name, voiced his frustrations with Moscow: “Russia must enter Novorossiya [means New Russia used to describe Eastern Ukraine by Putin]. This is Russian soil, and every day they waste waiting (to send in arms and personnel) means more deaths. We feel somewhat as if we are Russia’s cannon fodder.” The leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic including some Russians dismiss the rumors of divisions in the rank and Russia’s role in the crisis. One top rebel official, Vladimir Antyufeyev, told a news conference: “We are receiving constant political and humanitarian support from Russia … Political support is the most important one. We would want to see that kind of (military) aid from Russia, but there will be none.” A senior U.S. official under conditions of anonymity said, “There are indications that some groups feel betrayed by Moscow not doing enough. I do think it’s fair to say that there are divisions in those ranks.”

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Meanwhile, on Wednesday, according to Gaza health officials, an Israeli airstrike hit a crowed Gaza shopping area killing 16 and wounding 150 hours after Israeli tank shells slammed into a U.N. school for displaced Palestinian that killed 15 people, Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Strike on crowded Gaza area kills 16, wounds 150. The attacks comes after both Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers vowed to step up attacks after three weeks of fighting killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and more than 50 Israelis. The Israeli military had no comment on the shopping area attack and said it was investigating reports. Salim Qadoum who witness the strike in the shopping area said, “People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed in the area, the market, in the Turkman area, and next to the gas station. The area now is like a blood bath, everyone is wounded or killed. People lost their limbs and were screaming for help. It’s a massacre. I vomited when I saw what happened.” Total killed was more than 108 Palestinians on Wednesday due to Israeli airstrikes and shelling. The military declared a four hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza at 3pm, however Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it lacked value due to the fact it excluded border areas from where Hamas needed to evacuate the wounded. The military said Gaza militants fired 84 rockets at Israel include 26 during the ceasefire, while Gaza health official, Al-Kidra, said seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes in that same period. As Peter Enav and Ibrahim Barzak report, Israel vows to destroy Hamas tunnels, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military will dismantle the Hamas tunnel network in Gaza “with or without a ceasefire.” On Thursday, Netanyahu said he will not accept a truce if Israel cannot complete its mission to destroy the tunnel network allowing militants to carryout deadly attacks inside Israel. In addition, Israel has called up 16,000 reservists allowing it to expand its Gaza offensive against Hamas rule. An Israeli defense official, under conditions of anonymity, said the purpose of the call up was to provide relief for troops on the Gaza firing line adding to the already 86,000 reserves called up during the Gaza conflict. Secretary General Ban KI-Moon called the deadly school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable” demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council, said, “We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in U.N. designated shelters in Gaza.”

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As both the war in Ukraine and Gaza continue to worsen, a viral war rages in Western Africa that has many concerned about the potential pandemic spread of one of the world’s deadliest viruses, Ebola. Liberia announced it will close schools and quarantine communities in order to halt the worst Ebola outbreak on record. According to David Lewis and Emma Farge, Liberia shuts schools, considers quarantine to curb Ebola, security forces in Liberia were orders to enforce the steps as part of an action plan to place all non-essential government workers on 30 day compulsory leave. The World Health Organization figures reports that Ebola has killed 672 in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone as underfunded systems struggle to deal with the epidemic with one fifth of those deaths occurring in Liberia. Lewis Brown, Liberia’s information minister, told Reuters: “This is a major public health emergency. It’s fierce, deadly and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to stop the spread. We need the support of the international community now more than ever. We desperately need all the help we can get.” Due to international concerns, the U.S. Peace Corps said it was withdrawing 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. According to the presidency’s website, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the government was considering quarantining several communities on the recommendation of the health ministry. An earlier draft, Reuters reports, specified communities to be quarantined with Sirleaf outlining protocol: “When these measures are instituted, only health care workers will be permitted to move in and out of those areas. Food and other medical support will be provided to those communities and affected individuals.” Mike Noyes, head of humanitarian response at Action Aid UK, said people need to be treated with compassion rather than criminalized adding: “Enforced isolation of a whole community is a medieval approach to controlling the spread of disease.” Britain as well as the United States are monitoring the situation. An assistant minister of health, Tolbert Nyenswah, told Reuters via phone: “The staff here are overwhelmed. This is a humanitarian crisis in Liberia. On Wednesday, Samaritan’s Purse, a U.S. charity operating in Liberia, said that Kent Brantly, a doctor working for the charity, and Nancy Writebol, a colleague who volunteers in Liberia, had shown some improvement in their condition but was still serious after being infected this past week. In addition, dozens of local health workers and two top Ebola doctors from Sierra Leone and Liberia have died while treating patients. However, the organization will stop running case management centers in Liberia, as Lewis and Farge report, after an attack on employees over the weekend and local resistance to expansion of their unit in Monrovia. Additionally, they are withdrawing non-essential staff from the country.