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.

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

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

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

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

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

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