Ebola Death Toll Continues to Rise, No End in Sight for Gaza War, Islamic State Advances and Russia Wants to Send More Aid

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So far, according to figures released Friday by the WHO, 2,615 people have been infected with Ebola and 1,427 deaths have occurred in the outbreak in West Africa with Sierra Leone being the hardest hit at 910 cases and 392 deaths. On Sunday, the health minister, Felix Kabange Numbi, in the Congo confirmed two Ebola deaths from the northwest Equateur province out of eight samples, the Associated Press reports, Health minister: 2 people have died of Ebola in Congo. Numbi stated that Congolese officials believe 13 people have died of Ebola in the region including five health workers, while 11people are sick and in isolation as 80 contacts were being traced. In addition, the Congo has been hit seven times before with Ebola outbreaks, however the two deaths are the first in a long time and admits the infections were of a different strain than those of the outbreak in West Africa that has killed 1,400 people. The samples came from the region where the World Health Organization said an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis has killed 70 people in recent weeks. The HuffPost UK reports, Britain’s First Ebola Victim Is Flown Home In Hi-Tech Quarantine For Treatment At Royal Free, a volunteer nurse working in West Africa has landed back in Britain for treatment in a high tech isolation unit after contracting the disease. A man in his 20s identified as William by several news sites landed at RAF Northolt in west London to be transported to UK’s high level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London. It is the first confirmed case of a Briton contracting the disease in the current outbreak and the identity of the patient, who lived in Sierra Leone, has not been confirmed. The virus was identified first in March in Guinea and spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. The effects of disease take between two and 21 days after infections and is transmitted to people from wild animals spreading in the human population through person to person transmission. The Sierra Leone Parliament has voted to pass a new law which means anyone caught hiding Ebola patients can receive prison terms of up to two years. The numbers in the country have been underestimated as the WHO reports that corpses are being buried in rural villages without notifying health officials and no investigation into the cause of death. In some cases epidemiologists have traveled to villages and counted the number of fresh graves as a rough estimate of suspected cases. Lawmaker Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai said the new law passed Friday and will now go for presidential approval, Clarence Roy-Macaulay reports, Sierra Leone makes hiding Ebola patients illegal. He said the measure was necessary to force residents to cooperate wit government officials noting some residents resisted steps to contain Ebola and build isolation centers in their community for fear of stigma related to the disease. New treatment centers in Liberia are being overwhelmed by patients that were not previously identified suggesting more cases are going undetected, the WHO said Friday. The Ivory Coast announced Friday it was closing its land borders with Guinea and Liberia, while Gabon, Senegal, South Africa and Cameroon all imposed border restrictions on some or all of the four countries with confirmed cases – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. On Saturday, the Philippine government was recalling 115 peacekeepers from Liberia due to the health risks posed by Ebola. According to Mari Yamaguchi, Japan ready to offer flu drug for Ebola treatment, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan can offer the anti-influenza drug tablet favipiravir, developed by a Fujifilm Holdings Corp. subsidiary, at any time the WHO requests it. The Who said earlier in the month that it is ethical to use untested drugs on Ebola patients given the magnitude of the outbreak. The tablet itself is used to treat novel and re-emerging influenza viruses and was approved by the Japanese health ministry in March. Fujifilm is in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on clinical trials of the drug in treating Ebola, company spokesman Takao Aoki said. The drug is stocked to treat 20,000 and theoretically similar effects can be expected on Ebola as in influenza which are the same type of virus. According to the company: “Favipiravir inhibits viral gene replication within infected cells to prevent propagation, while conventional ones are designed to inhibit the release of new viral particles to prevent the spread of infection.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials said in the southern town of Rafah Israeli airstrikes leveled a seven floor office building and damaged a two story shopping center in Gaza Sunday signalling a new escalation in the seven week long war with Hamas and Israel, Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav report, Israeli airstrike levels 7-story building in Gaza. The strikes came hours after Israel bombed an apartment tower in Gaza City collapsing the 12 story building with 44 apartment wounding 30 and killing one. Over the weekend, the army began warning Gaza residents via phone that it would target building harboring terrorist infrastructures and to stay away. A senior military officials confirmed that strikes require prior approval from military lawyers and the local population must be warned before hand. Before Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Gaza residents: “I call on the people of Gaza to immediately evacuate any structure that Hamas is using to commit acts of terror,” he said. “Every one of these structures is a target for us.” On Sunday, Gaza militant continue to fire rockets and mortar shells at Israel, at least 10, the military said, in addition to 100 on Saturday. In addition, five rockets were fired from Syria and fell in northern Israel with no clear picture of who fired them. As violence escalates, Egypt urged Israel and the Palestinian to resume indirect talks in Cairo on a long lasting ceasefire, but stopped short of an invitation. The Israeli military has carried out 20 strikes on Gaza since midnight Saturday with eight fatalities, Gaza police and medical officials report. The U.N. estimates that 17,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair since July 8. More than 2,000 Palestinians including 500 children have been killed with Israel losing 64 soldiers and four civilians, according to Palestinian health officials and U.N. figures. Scott Anderson, deputy director of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees in the territory said: “Despite the difficult circumstances, the (U.N.) stands by the refugee committee here in Gaza. Even though we can’t start the school year as we would normally it is very important that the children have structure in their lives and we will continue their education by any means possible.”

In Baghdad and northern city of Kirkuk, 42 people were killed in Iraq on Saturday as the government investigated a deadly attack on Sunni mosque the day before that increase already volatile sectarian tensions in a fragile political transition, Sinan Slaheddin and Vivian Salama report, Bombings Hit Iraq’s Kirkuk, Baghdad, Dozens Dead. Kirkuk deputy police chief Tarhan Abdel Rahman said three bombs went off in a crowded district killing 31 people and wounding dozens. In Baghdad, a suicide bomber drove an explosive laden car into the gate of the intelligence headquarters in Karrada district killing six civilians and five security personnel, the police officer confirmed, while wounding 24 others. Since earlier this year, Iraq has been in a constant state of chaos due to the Islamic State extremist group and allied Sunni militants who have seized large areas in the country’s west and north. Local security officials in Diyala said Friday’s attack began with a suicide bombing near the mosque entrance followed by gunmen storming the building and opening fire on worshipers. At least 64 people died including the four Shiite militants who found the bombs planted by the militants as they rushed to the scene with security forces. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he’s “deeply concerned about the impact such acts of sectarian violence will have on the already grave security situation and on the political process,” While the European Union said the “heinous crime” should not stand in the way of government formation and urged Iraqis to unite against violence. In addition, Saturday, an explosion in the Kurdish capital of Ibril injured three, military officials report, but what caused the explosion is still under investigation.

Activist and state media reported on Sunday that the Islamic State has captured a major military base in northeastern Syria eliminating the last government held outpost in the province dominated by the group, Ryan Lucas reported, Islamic State Fighters Capture Syrian Air Base. The British Observatory on Human Rights said at least 100 Islamic State fighters were killed and 300 wounded not including casualties from the final assault, while 170 government troops were killed on Sunday alone and there were reports 150 were captured. Their slow and stead push in northern and eastern Syria and quick advances across Iraq has brought a large stretch of territory running from Syria’s northern border with Turkey to the outskirts of Baghdad in central Iraq under their control. The mainstream Syrian opposition, which is fighting President Bashar Assad and the Islamic State group, called for similar raids against the extremist in Syria, however, the Obama administration refuses wary of getting dragged into a bloody and complex civil war that has killed 190,000 people, according to U.N. figures. Also Sunday, an American hostage held in Syria by an al-Qaida linked group was released, a relative and the U.S. government confirm. Meanwhile, the foreign ministries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan met in the Red Sea city of Jiddah, the official Saudi news agency said without providing details. However, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the group will discuss the security threat posed by Islamic State group and search fro ways to bring about needed political solutions to the Syrian crisis.

On Saturday, hundreds of Russian aid trucks left from rebel held eastern Ukraine headed for home highlighting the need for long term assistance to the region destroyed by the months of fighting, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks in Kiev ahead of the much anticipated meeting between Russia and Ukraine, Alexander Roslyakov and Peter Leonard reports, Russian Aid Trucks Leave Ukraine. The Russian aid trucks came through the rebel held border point Friday and by mid-afternoon Saturday all the vehicles returned to Russia, Paul Picard of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe told reporters in the Russian town of Donetsk. Ukraine and others including the U.S., the European Union and NATO denounced the move as a violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty. One country pledging aid to Ukraine is Germany as Merkel held talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev Saturday promising 500 million euros in loan guarantees to support private investment in infrastructure and schools in war-struck areas. Merkel urged for political solutions to the crisis three days before Poroshenko meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk in their first encounter since June. Asked what message he would like to convey to Putin, Poroshenko said “take away your armed people from our territory and I can promise peace will come to Ukraine very soon.” The United Nations says more than 2,000 people have been killed and 340,000 forced to flee their homes since the fighting began in April following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. According to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday, Russia wants to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to eastern Ukraine in the near future after Kiev and the West criticized Moscow for sending the first cargo without official permission, Reuters reports. Lavrov told a news conference: “The humanitarian situation is not improving but deteriorating. We want to reach an agreement on all conditions for delivering a second convoy by the same route… in the coming days.” Ukraine marked its independence day on Sunday with a military march past Kiev to send a message of defiance to Russia, however, pro-Moscow rebels countered by parading captured Ukrainian troops through the streets of their main stronghold, Reuters reports, Ukraine defiant on national day, rebels parade captives. Some of the troops marching past Kiev were heading to the front line in eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko said. In an emotional speech, he said his country is fighting “a war against external aggression, for Ukraine, for its freedom, for its people, for independence”. It is clear that in the foreseeable future, unfortunately, a constant military threat will hang over Ukraine. And we need to learn not only to live with this, but also to be always prepared to defend the independence of our country.” In Donetsk, 100 people introduced in a public address as Ukrainian pirsoners-of-war were marched through the city’s central Lenin Square on Sunday. People came to watch the parade shouting “fascists!” and “murderers!” with some throwing bottles at the POWs. Alexander Zakharcheno, self proclaimed prime minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” said his forced will launch a counter attack and were fighting to take the town of Olenivka, 20 miles from Donetsk. He told reporters, “I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to kill anyone, but I will fight to the last for my land. We want to live the way we want to live on our own soil.” To date, officials in Kiev report 722 people with Ukrainian government forces have died jumping from 568 announce don Aug. 11.

Israel Reaches its Boiling Point Deploys Ground Troops into Gaza

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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.