Ebola Containment Issues, Israel Hamas Talks Deteriorate, U.S. Continues its Strike on Iraq and Ukrainian Rebels Open to Ceasefire

https://i2.wp.com/edocs.lib.sfu.ca/projects/Cartoons/fullsize/8-1970-01-01.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/www.floppingaces.net/wp-content/uploads/lb0903cd20100902123249.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/www.bollyn.com/public/Ukraine.jpg

According to Guinea news, in West Africa, the afflicted nation announced Saturday its closing its borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia in order to halt the influx of infected people in and out of the country, AOL reports, International response to Ebola: Travel bans, funding. Al Jazeera quotes the country’ heat minister as saying: “We have provisionally closed the frontier between Guinea and Sierra Leone because of all the news that we have received from there recently.” The health minister most likely is referring to the World Health Organization’s call for international aid as the Ebola outbreak has become an “extraordinary event:” “The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus, the intensive community and health facility transmission patterns, and the weak health systems in the currently affected and most at-risk countries.” Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone have all declared a state of emergency following the Ebola outbreak putting limits on civil liberties and closing public institutions like schools. On Saturday, riot police had to break up an demonstration blocking Liberia’s busiest highway as angry crowds protested the government’s delays in removing the Ebola victims bodies, Jonathon Paye-Layleh reports, Liberia Protesters Demand Govt Pick Up Ebola Bodies. The growing unease in Liberia raised the specter of social unrest as almost 300 people have died from the disease in Liberia. Residents say that the government has yet to pick up the bodies of the dead by the roadside along the central town of Weala, 50 miles from Monrovia the capital, which have been sitting there for two day. The government has ordered all victims be cremated amid resistance to neighborhood burials for fear of contamination. Information Minister Lewis Brown warned Saturday on state radio: “Security people are on their way to put things under control. We don’t want people taking the law into their own hands.” So far, 961 people have died, according to figures released Friday by the U.N. Heath agency. The situation in Liberia has been describes as “catastrophic” by the Doctors Without Borders Charity. Lindis Hurum. the group’s emergency coordinator, said: “There are reports of dead bodies lying in streets and houses.” In addition, 40 health care workers in Liberia have contracted Ebola in recent weeks, while most city hospitals are closed, Hurum reports. On Saturday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met with health workers at City Hall in Monrovia. “The president wants to express the collective gratitude of the entire nation to our health care workers who have continued to make tremendous sacrifices for this country and people,” Brown said. Liberia has launched “Operation White Shield” where soldiers are deployed in different locations and at checkpoints outside the capital to discourage residents’ movements, part of Sirleaf’s emergency measures to fight the disease.

On Sunday, back in the Middle East, Palestinian negotiators threatened to quit Egypt brokered truce talks unless Israeli negotiators return to Cairo, Mohammed Daraghmeh and Karin Laub report, Palestinians to quit Gaza talks if Israel no-show. Israeli officials said their negotiators will return when Gaza rocket fire stops. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday: “Israel will not negotiate under fire.” As talks have stalled, Israel responded to rocket fire from Gaza with 20 airstrikes killing three Palestinians, according to Gaza officials. Since Friday following the truce expiration, smaller Gaza militant groups hot Hamas have fired rockets and mortar shells at Israel and on Sunday fired two more. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “If Hamas thinks it has worn us down, it is wrong. We will return to the table only after an end to the fire. … We are not intending to compromise.” On Sunday, Palestinian negotiators vented frustrations about a lack of progress and the Israeli team’s absence. Azzam al-Ahmad, the delegation head f and confidant of Abbas, said: “If it is proven to us that the Israeli delegation is setting conditions for its return to Cairo, we will not accept any condition for the continuation of the talks.” Late Saturday, Palestinian negotiation Bassam Salhi representing a small PLO faction said the team met with Egyptian mediators who are in touch with Israeli officials and hope to make progress. However, he Salhi said: “We told the Egyptians that if the Israelis are not coming and if there is no significant development, we are leaving today.” Israel has targeted 5,00 sites so far, according to the army, while Gaza militants have fired 3,000 into Israel. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Israel launched 30 aerial attacks in Gaza killing five Palestinians and militants fired rockets at Israel as the conflict entered its second month and defied international efforts for a peaceful resolution by extending the ceasefire. Nidal al-Mughrabi and Allyn Fisher-Ilan report, Israel-Gaza Violence Resumes, Defying Ceasefire Efforts, the Israeli military said since midnight it has attacked 30 sites in Gaza without specifying targets and Gaza militants, since the 72 hour ceasefire ended Friday, have fired more than 65 rockets at Israel injuring two Israelis by mortar on Friday. Heavy civilian causalities and destruction during Israel’s offensive in packed residential areas of Gaza has garnered international attention over the past month. The White House urged both sides to do what theyt can to preserve civilians after failure to extend the ceasefire with Spokesman John Earnest saying Friday “the United States is very concerned” about the renewed violence. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the parties “not to resort to further military action that can only exacerbate the already appalling humanitarian situation in Gaza”. At a rally in South Africa, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu accused Israel of behaving like a “barbaric bully” in Gaza.

Meanwhile in Iraq, U.S. officials confirmed on Friday that the Iraqi government provided Peshmerga fighters with a plane load of ammunition, according to Missy Ryan, Iraq Arms Kurds Against ISIS. The officials said Iraqi security forces flew to Abril, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, with small arms ammunition in a move that American officials hope helps the fighters keep militants from the Islamic State at by. Under conditions of anonymity, the officials said: “Developments over the last few days have refocused the issue, and we’ve seen unprecedented cooperation between Baghdad and Arbil in terms of going after (the Islamic State), not only in terms of conversation but in terms of actual support.” As Islamic State fighters advanced earlier this week, Maliki ordered his air force for the first time to back Kurdish forces in their fight against militants marking a significant step in a country where in recent years Peshmerga and Iraqi forces under the command of Baghdad would have fought each other rather than cooperate. The Obama administration working with the Iraqi government, the official said, to ensure additional requests for the Kurdistan Regional Government are met. Vivian Salama and Bram Janssen reports, Iraq Says U.S. Airstrikes Have Been Effective Against Islamic State, President Barack Obama announce on Saturday that the U.S. military return to Iraq is to prevent genocide, protect its diplomats and provide humanitarian aid to refugees trapped by Islamic State militants on a mountain ridge near the Syrian border. In addition, Obama said it was a long term project and cannot succeed unless Iraqis form an inclusive government in Baghdad to keep the country from breaking apart. U.S.plans and drones launched four airstrikes on Islamic State forces Saturday, while they fired n Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains, U.S. Central Command reports. It was the third round of strikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since being authorized by Obama Thursday allowing for aid flights to drop food and water to thousands of starving refugees in the Sinjar area. A delayed response from Baghdad left Kurdish forces unable to fight off the Islamic State militants causing many Yazidi refugees to seek shelter in the mountains. UNICEF’s spokesman in Iraq, Karim Elkorany, told the Associated Press Saturday that at least 56 children have died of dehydration in the mountains, while British officials estimate Saturday between 50,000 and 150,000 people are trapped on the mountain. Juan Mohammad, a local government spokesman in the Syrian city of Qamishli, told AP more than 20,000 starving Yazidis are fleeing across the border. Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waited til Monday to call in aerial reinforcements for Kurdish fighter to help contain the Islamic State militants. Iraqi Foreign Minster Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said: “Air strikes are intended to degrade the terrorists’ capabilities and achieve strategic gains — and have been very effective.” Many of America’s allies support the intervention since the Yazidis plight received so much international attention. Obama said the U.S. will focus on helping refugees, eliminating terrorists, protecting Americans and keeping “key infrastructure” intact so that the Islamic State group can’t permanently cripple Iraq before an inclusive government can form. During his Sunday address, Pope Francis expressed outrage at the violence aimed at the religious minority in Iraq who include fleeing children dying of thirst and said he is sending Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Vatican’s ambassador in Baghdad during the Iraqi war, to Iraq Monday to show solidarity with Christians, the Associated Press reports, Pope expresses outrage at violence in Iraq.

As the Middle East struggles with containing and resolving their conflicts, Ukrainians rebels are ready to agree to a ceasefire to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe”, according to the insurgents’ new leader on Saturday as conditions worsen in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, Yuras Karmanau reports, Ukraine rebel leader: We are open to a cease-fire. Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the so called prime minister of the Donetsk separatists, said in a statement posed on the rebel website: “We are prepared to stop firing to bar the spread of the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Donbass (eastern Ukraine).” Russia, who the Kiev governments and Western countries allege is supporting the rebels. has called repeatedly for humanitarian missions into eastern Ukraine, but Kiev and thr West believe it will allow Russian forces into the region as supposedly 20,000 troops are waiting across the border. Late Saturday, in a statement from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine is prepared to accept humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine, but aid must come without military accompaniment, pass through border checkpoints controlled by the Ukrainian government and the mission must be international. Poroshenko spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss German participation in such a mission, while in Washington, the White House said President Barack Obama and Merkel agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine was unacceptable and violated international law. Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky told the Associate Press: “The situation is getting worse with every hour.” On Saturday, shelling hit 30 apartment blocks killing one person and wounding 18 adding about 2,000 residential building without power. A 47 year old resident of Donetsk, Dmistry Andronov: “We’re afraid of the Ukrainian army, which is firing on the city, and of the rebels of the Donetsk People’s Republic, who are robbing and killing civilians.” Zakharchenko’s statement came after the rebels’ top commander said Ukrainian forces has seized a key town, Krasnyi Luch, cutting Donetsk and nearby territory off from the rest of the rebel held east. Novorossiya, or “New Russia,” is a term widely used by the rebels for the eastern area that seeks independence from the government in Kiev. Concerns about a possible humanitarian catastrophe in the rebel held second largest city of Luhansk where fighting has been heavy and prolonged. Russians news agencies quote Luhansk authorities on Saturday saying that the city has been without power and water for a week and most stores are closed. Obama ans British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke via phone Saturday about Ukraine and in a statement from Cameron’s office said: “Both expressed grave concern about reports that Russian military vehicles have crossed the border into Ukraine and that Russian armed forces are exercising for a ‘humanitarian intervention’. (Both) are absolutely clear that such a so-called humanitarian mission would be unjustified and illegal.” The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was working to alleviate the crisis in eastern Ukraine, but warned it “will be taken in strict adherence to our fundamental working principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden via phone about his communications with the Red Cross and efforts to distribute humanitarian aid. In a statement from the White House, Biden and Poroshenko agreed that if “Russia were serious about improving the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine,” it had to immediately stop shelling Ukrainian troops, release Ukrainian hostages being held inside Russia and cease providing weapons to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

What does the Future Hold for Israeli-Palestinian Relations and for Ukrainian-Russian-U.S. Relations?

https://i0.wp.com/blog.seattlepi.com/davidhorsey/files/library/Israel-blog.jpg
https://i1.wp.com/media.cagle.com/155/2014/04/15/147163_600.jpg

The United Nations and United States announced a 72 hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning Friday morning with no guarantees the lull in violence will bring an end to the 24 day Gaza War according to Secretary of State John Kerry, Ian Deitch and Ibrahim Barzak report, US, UN announce deal on Gaza cease-fire. The announcement happened hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas tunnels with or without a ceasefire and the Palestinian death toll reached 1,400. Kerry said, “This is not a time for congratulations or joy or anything except a serious determination – a focus by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead. This is a respite. It is a moment of opportunity, not an end.” At least four humanitarian ceasefires have been announced during the conflict and all have been broken by renewed fighting. A statement by Kerry and U.N. assures both parties agreed, which Hamas leaders and Israel confirmed, to the unconditional ceasefire and would send delegates to Cairo for negotiations to reach a lasting truce. During the ceasefire Kerry said Israel will continue to destroy Hamas tunnels that are behind its territorial lines and Palestine will receive food, medicine and humanitarian assistance, bury their dead, treat the wounded and travel to their homes. In addition, repairs will be made to water and energy systems. Kerry said, “Israel has to live without terror and tunnels and rockets and sirens going on through the day. Palestinians have to be able to live freely and share in the rest of the world and live a life that is different from the one they have long suffered.” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the ceasefire was a result of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s trip to the region “but also 48 hours of extremely active diplomacy at all levels from the secretary-general to his senior advisers talking to key regional players.”

Unfortunately, the ceasefire did not last long as Israel and Hamas accused each other of violating the truce that resulted in four Palestinians being killed in heavy fire in the southern town of Rafah, Ibrahim Barzak and Daniel Estrin report, 4 Palestinians killed after Gaza truce begins. Two hours after the ceasefire went into effect, Israeli tanks shelled the eastern part of Rafah killing four people and wounding 15, according Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji. In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office explained, “Once again, Hamas and the terror organizations in Gaza have blatantly broken the cease-fire to which they committed, this time before the American Secretary of State and the U.N. Secretary General.” Reuters reports, Gaza Death Toll Soars As Israel Presses Offensive, Gaza health officials said 19 Palestinians were killed in Israeli assaults on Thursday, while Israeli military said more than 60 rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave into Israel with one person being wounded by the Gaza projectile striking Kiryat Gat, a southern town. Washington has allowed Israel to use local U.S. arms stockpiles in the past few weeks to replenish grenades and mortar rounds, a U.S. defense official said Thursday. On India’s NDTV, Kerry said during an interview: “No country can sit there and live with tunnels being dug under its border, out of which jump people who are carrying handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs in order to kidnap their citizens and hold them for ransom.” Reuters reports: “Gaza officials say at least 1,410 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the battered territory and nearly 7,000 wounded. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes and more than 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling in Israel.” On Thursday, the United Nation’s senior human rights official, Navi Pillay, said that Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, and U.N. premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions. The assault on residential areas by Israel has lead to mass evacuations and more than 200,000 displaced Palestinians in a population of just 1.8 million in Gaza leaving the infrastructure ruined with power and water outages. Diplomacy to end the conflict is complicated due to the fact Israel and the United States shun Hamas as a terrorist groups, while the go betweens of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey disagree on Gaza policy.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a top U.N. envoy told the United Nationals Security Council that Israel will be required under international law to take responsibility for helping Palestinian civilians if more large scale displacements take place in Gaza, Michelle Nichols reports, UN Envoy: Israel May Be Required To Take Responsibility For Displaced In Gaza. The United Nations struggles to cope with a flood of 220,000 Palestinian civilians into shelters to due to the fighting and have come under fire during the three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Pierre Krähenbühl, the Swiss-born chief of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), via phone told the 15 member Security Council: “Should further large-scale displacement indeed occur, the occupying power, according to international humanitarian law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people. With as many as 2,500 displaced people residing in (each U.N.) school and an average of 80 people to a classroom, we have exceeded the tolerable limits we can accommodate.” U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council via video link: “The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe. We have all watched in horror the desperation of children, of civilians as they have come under attack.” After meeting behind closed doors for four hours after the briefing, Nichols reports, the Security Council once again called for an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.”

In Ukraine, a team of international investigators reached the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 site Friday to begin combing for evidence in the area now designated a crime scene while fighting continued less than 20 kilometers from the site, the Associated Press reports, Ukrainian troops suffer heavy loss in ambush. Despite both sides in the ongoing conflict in east Ukraine agreeing to a ceasefire around the crash zone, a deadly attack by rebels on government troops Friday morning took place less than 20 kilometers south of the crash site in Shakhtarsk, a rebel stronghold where sustained battles over several days has taken place. The town links Donetsk and Luhansk, two large rebel controlled cities, which Ukrainian forces are focusing on in their strategy to drive a wedge into the area. Mstyslav Chernov reports, Ukraine MH17 Wreckage Site Finally Accessed By Investigators, two investigators from the Netherlands and Australia made an initial survey of the crash area after lunch, while fighting raged on between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels with mortar shells falling in a nearby village. Despite the dangers, the team called the one hour inspection a success. Ukrainian President Petro Proshenko’s office urged rebels to comply with the ceasefire 20 kilometers around the wreckage site in a statement, while the European Union and U.S. formed a united front in accusing Russia of ramping up the unrest in eastern Ukraine by supplying weapons to rebels which Russia denies. In Brussels, the EU formally adopted economic sanctions, which will take effect Friday, designed to pressure Russia to bring a peaceful end to the Ukraine crisis.

Meanwhile, Russia is dealing with another old but familiar problem of what to do with former NSA contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden who received temporary asylum a year ago, which expired Thursday, following disclosure of classified NSA documents, according to an AOL report, As asylum expires, Snowden’s expulsion from Russia unlikely. Snowden has submitted his request for an extension of his asylum. While he waits, Snowden has a job and is learning Russian which are two requirements for an extension to be granted, Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, explained. Another member of his legal team has this to say on Australian radio (From ABC Australia): “PM with Mark Colvin”: “For now he is in the safest place that he can be, and Russia has indicated that it intends to plan on having him, allowing him to continue to stay.” This was said in response to the German justice minister’s suggestion to turn him over to the U.S. to face prosecution. Journalist Glenn Greenwald explained to MSNBC why Russia took Snowden in and why they did not turn him over this past year: “There’s no legal basis to turn him over to the U.S. because the U.S. and the Russians don’t have an extradition treaty. … And secondly, that he faces persecution.” Euronews points out Snowden has asked for amnesty from prosecution if he ends up stateside and told Brian Williams in an Exclusive NBC interview that he would like to go home. Right now though, Snowden faces espionage charges in the U.S. that could lead to prison time. Snowden’s Russian attorney said the decision on his asylum could be made this week.

Israel Hits Gaza Harder, While Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls on All Muslims to Arm Hamas Against Israel

https://i1.wp.com/www.haimbresheeth.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/image0052.jpg

On Wednesday, a crowded U.N. school sheltering displaced Gazans due to fighting was hit with Israeli Tank shells killing 15 and wounding 90 after tearing through the walls of two classrooms, a U.N. aid agency spokesman and a health official said, according to the Associated Press article Shelling of UN school kills 15 as Gaza war rages. In addition, 27 Palestinians were killed elsewhere in the territory Wednesday as hope for a ceasefire dims. The strike happened as Israel conducted its heaviest air and artillery assault in the more than three week long war with Hamas. In Jebaliya, the shells hit the U.N. school before dawn according to Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency is sheltering more than 200,00 people displaced by fighting at dozens of these schools across the strip. He said: “We were scared to death. After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school. One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside.” Four of the dead were killed outside the school compound, two in their home and two in the street after pre-dawn praters, their relatives said. Abu Hasna said the international community must step in: “It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them. This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.” Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official, said in all 42 Palestinians were killed by airstrikes and tank shelling in different areas of Gaza Wednesday. The total now stands at 1,269 Palestinians killed since July 8 and 7,100 Palestinians wounded, al-Kidra reports, while Israel has lost 53 soldier and three civilians. Gaza militants have fired 2,600 rockets toward Israel the past three weeks and the Israeli military has hit targets linked to militants, about 4,100 targets in Gaza over 23 days, according to the Israeli military. On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets with contact phone number and email over Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood warning resident to stay away from Hamas militants and report possible rocket launches. The leaflets said: “The Israeli Defense Forces are going into a new phase in the coming operation and does not want to harm civilians. The army is warning residents in the areas where the operation will take place that for your safety, you have to keep away from terrorists and the locations from which they operate.” Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, 15 killed at Gaza UN school; Israel holds fire, the mortar shells fired at the school by the soldiers was in response to mortar shells fired near the school according to the Israeli military. Later Wednesday, the Israeli military declared a four hour humanitarian ceasefire in parts of Gaza beginning at 3pm Hams had no immediate comment. In a statement, the military said: “In response, soldiers fired toward the origins of fire. And we’re still reviewing the incident.”

While the battle ground continues to run with the blood of many innocent people caught in the crossfire, the tide of public opinion may be turning against Israel around the world with Iran calling for Muslims to take up arms and fight Israel. In its fourth week now, the current Israeli operation in Gaza will not end anytime soon as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not leave until the tunnels between Israel and Gaza are destroyed to prevent Hamas fighters from attacking Israeli civilians. As the Associated Press asks in their article, Are images from Gaza turning public opinion against Israel? : “But can the Israeli government stand a long conflict, or, as many pundits question, is the country in danger of losing a battle for public opinion on the world stage?” Several outlets already have claimed that the Palestinian death toll and rapid spread of images and victims’ stories from Gaza are turning the tide against Israel e.g. PR week, Haaretz and Mashable. According to Israel’s progressive paper Haaretz, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told a conference call of American Jewish leaders, “Israel is being routinely portrayed in both conventional and social media as an angry, well-armed giant leaving many innocent victims in its wake.” The difference this time is that there are more Western journalists in Gaza than previous operations giving media coverage to the other side of the conflict than Western audiences are use to seeing. The response to this coverage has been a steady stream of protests around the world against Israel’s operations. A Pew poll this week said among Americans, twice as many blame Hamas in the latest conflict than Israel and half think Israel’s military operation is an appropriate response. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of unfavorable views toward Israel happen in Germany, France, China and all Arab and Muslim countries. Part of this, the Associated Press reports, many do with the overwhelming unpopularity of Israel’s total blockade of Gaza and strict control of the West Bank that former President Jimmy Carter calls an apartheid state and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fears it will become if it isn’t already. In Israel where support was once 90 percent in the last two wars in Gaza, a 2010 poll found a quarter of Israelis felt the blockade did more harm than good. However, on Sunday, the Israeli prime minister said that Israel will not cede national security for the sake of public relations. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on Muslims to help arm Gaza Palestinians in their fight against Israel during the ongoing ware between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, the Associated Press article, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Calls For Arming Gaza To Fight Israel, reports. Khamenei claims that while Israel and America want to disarm Hamas, Iran says “the opposite … the Muslim World has a duty to arm the Palestinian nation by all means.” Iran does not recognize Israel and as an ally to Hamas supports militants anti-Israeli groups such as Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group. Iran considers the Jewish state its archenemy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western back monarchy and brought clerics to power.

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

https://i0.wp.com/media2.policymic.com/0ce2b22e415b79a86922cb00f151aafb.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

The Body Count Rises As Israel Continues Its Ground Assault

https://i2.wp.com/www.redletterchristians.org/wp-content/themes/redletter2012/cache/Israel-Palestine-Conflict-720x360.jpg

Courtesy of Red Letter Christians website

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

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

Israel Reaches its Boiling Point Deploys Ground Troops into Gaza

https://i1.wp.com/www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/panels/12/nov/gaza_israel_nov12/img/graphic_1353324683.jpg

Courtesy of BBC News Middle East

On Wednesday, Israel war planes and naval vessels intensified attacks across the Gaza Strip targeting senior Hamas leaders and bombarding coastal areas killing four Palestinian boys and injuring several others at the beach, according to Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav, Israeli strike kills 4 Gaza youths on coastal road. These deaths have raised the total deaths in nine days to 213 Palestinians and one Israeli. The renewed violence came after Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal that Israel had accepted to end the nine day old conflict. In response, Hamas fired dozens of rockets into Israel vowing no to agree to a ceasefire until its demands are met which include easing border closures and releasing former Hamas prisoners who were released in 2011 then rearrested last month in the West Bank. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri in a press conference called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the rival Fatah faction in the West Bank, for support in Hamas’ refusal to accept Egypt’s ceasefire proposal. Many Hamas leaders have gone into hiding since the beginning of the Israeli offensive as Israel in recent days has been targeting their homes. One leader Zahar was a key figure in Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, while the other three leaders were members of Palestinian parliament elected in 2006. The uncle of the four boy, Abel Kareem Baker said, “It’s a cold blooded massacre. It’s a shame who come they didn’t identify them as kids with all of the advanced technology they claim they’re using.” The Israeli military said it was looking into the incident. Along with the airstrikes, Israel also warned tens of thousands of residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Zeitoun and Shijaiyah neighborhoods of Gaza City near the border of Israel to evacuate by 8am Wednesday. The warnings were delivered in automated phone calls, text messages and leaflets dropped from planes, Barzak and Enav report. The message itself warned that due to the large number of rockets fired from these areas Israel plans to bomb these locations. In addition the message said: “Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families.” On Wednesday morning, hundreds of residents in these areas were walking the streets and carrying small bags. The Wafa Rehabilitation Center in Shijaiyah caring for 15 disabled and elderly patients received many calls to evacuate, but its director, Basman Ashi, said his patients have nowhere to go and will not evacuate. Four foreign volunteers from England, U.S., France and Sweden have set up camp in the center to deter the military from targeting it. The office of the Israeli military spokesman said the residents were asked to leave and added that a rocket launching site was in the area including the center.

Fortunately, on the same day, Israel agreed to a proposed six hour cessation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons, a senior Israeli official told Reuters (Israel Accepts Proposal For Temporary Ceasefire In Gaza: Official). Speaking on conditions of anonymity, the official stated that the lull in fighting had not been determined, while Hamas had no comment. Israeli media reports confirmed that the appeal came from a United Nations official shortly after Hamas rejected an Egyptian ceasefire to end the nine day war. According to the Associated Press article, Hundreds Of Palestinians In Gaza Flee After Israeli Warning by Ibrahim Barzak and Daniel Estrin, Israel and Hamas had agreed to the five hour U.N. brokered humanitarian pause offering some hope that the fighting may come to an end. Israel said it would hold its fire Thursday from 10 am in order to allow Palestinians to restock food, water and other necessities, but would retaliate if Hamas or other militant groups launched attacks during that time. Later, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas and various factions would respect the pause and refrain from firing rockets during those hours as well. Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, asked Israel to agree to a unilateral humanitarian pause so supplies can be delivered to Gaza and urged the parties in Gaza to respect the pause, according to U.N deputy spokesman Farhan Haq. In Washington, President Barack Obama said the U.S. supports efforts by Egypt to restore the 2012 ceasefire and will use diplomatic resources and relationships to secure a deal to end the violence. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said that Palestinian death toll rose to 222 with 1,670 wounded and only one Israeli death. Abbas met with deputy Hamas chief Moussa Abu Marzouk to discuss Egypt’s initiative in an effort to get Hamas on board, according to what an official with Abbas’ Fatah faction told the Associate Press.

Unfortunately, as the five hour U.N. humanitarian ceasefire expired, Palestinian militants fired a rocket at Israel on Thursday, the Israeli military said. According to the article, Gaza rocket hits Israel as humanitarian lull ends, the military states that the rocket struck the city of Ashkelon at 3pm as the pause in military activity ended. No injuries were reported. In addition Gaza militants fired three mortar shells toward Israel after the truce took effect at 10am. Israel had yet to response to either incident but promised to strike hard if it continued. Israel accepted Egypt’s initial call for a halt to all hostilities, but Hamas rejected because it does not want to return to the situation before the outbreak of fighting. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri in an interview with the Associate Press insisted a ceasefire deal was still alive and expressed frustration that Hamas did not agree to it demanding that the blockade be eased significantly which Israel and Egypt will likely reject as it would strengthen the group’s hold on Gaza. Thursday’s truce, brokered by the United Nations, came after Israel carried out 2,000 airstrikes on Gaza over 10 days and Hamas fired 1,300 rockets into Israel. The fighting continued early Thursday in the lead up to the ceasefire with the military saying it foiled an attack by 13 militants who came through a tunnel from Gaza. The military said 15 rockets were fired at Israel Thursday morning including toward areas in the center some 90 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. A senior Hamas official said the group’s deputy leader, Moussa Abu Marzouk, met with Egyptian officials Wednesday night to present Hams’ demands which were also delivered to Jordan and the U.N. In addition, Hamas want other countries involved in forging the agreement to end fighting. Egypt’s new leaders have since launched a sweeping crackdown on Hamas by shutting down smuggling tunnels along the border and weapons supply route. Also on Thursday, a Jerusalem court indicted a 29-year-old and two 16-year-olds in the death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16,who was kidnapped and set on fire. According to the indictment, the suspects carried out the crime in revenge for the death of three Israeli teens last month and killed the boy because he was an Arab by strangling, beating and burning him to death. In response to the boy’s death, Palestinians protested in east Jerusalem and clashed with the police.

As the 10 day military operation escalated on Thursday, Israel launched a large scale ground offensive into the Gaza Strip to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels under the Palestinian territory’s border with Israel. According to Karin Laub and Ian Deitch, Israel says it has sent ground troops to Gaza, it was the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in over five years coming hours after Hamas militants tried to enter Israel through a tunnel under the border. Thousands of Israeli soldiers had massed at the border in recent days waiting for order to go in. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the army to go ahead after Hamas rejected the ceasefire plan earlier in the week and after militants tried to invade Israel through tunnels. The statement said: “In light of the despicable and relentless aggression by Hamas and the dangerous infiltration into Israel, Israel is obliged to protect its citizens.