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

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

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

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

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

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

Ebola Patient Zero Found, Ceasefire in Gaza, Islamic State Massacre of Yazidis and Ukraine Demand Rebels to Surrender

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According to the AOL article, Ebola outbreak: ‘patient zero’ could be young boy, the latest and deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history might have started with a 2 year old boy, according to researchers who traced the virus to a village in Guinea located by the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia. The boy died December 6th four days after vomiting, black stools and fever followed by his mother, sister, and grandmother in January and then a midwifed passed from the same sickness in February causing the person who took care of her to get sick. The illness was identified in March as Ebola,however, it had spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone all declared states of emergencies and West Africa has received nearly $16 million to help battle the deadly outbreak that has killed 1,000 killed. Sharon Begley and Toni Clarke of Reuters reports that three U.S. facilities are on standby in the event of a major public health threat to quickly make vaccines and therapeutics to treat Ebola if the U.S. government decided to scale up. The facilities, called Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (ADM), were set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with private industry, to respond to pandemics or chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear threats. Brett Giroir, chief executive of Texas A&M Health Science Center, site of one of the facilities, said: “They know our number and they can call us 24 hours a day. We are prepared.” Global health agencies are considering whether to make experimental drugs, which have only been tested on monkeys, available to patients in West Africa where the deadly Ebola outbreak has claimed so many. The World Health Organization is bringing together a group of bioethicists to consider the issue as who gets the treatments or vaccine. U.S. officials have emphasized quarantine measures to help prevent the spread. The decision to order any of the three advanced labs to start production of Ebola treatments must come from the highest level of the Obama administration. According to Rodrique Ngowi, Ebola Outbreak Flagged By Online Tool Before Formal WHO Announcement, an online tool run by experts in Boston flagged a “mystery hemorrhagic fever” in the forested area of southeastern Guinea nine days before the World Health Organization announced the epidemic. Ngowi reports, “HealthMap uses algorithms to scour tens of thousands of social media sites, local news, government websites, infectious-disease physicians’ social networks and other sources to detect and track disease outbreaks. Sophisticated software filters irrelevant data, classifies the relevant information, identifies diseases and maps their locations with the help of experts.” The co-founder John Brownstein said: “It shows some of these informal sources are helping paint a picture of what’s happening that’s useful to these public health agencies.” HealthMap is operated by a group of 45 researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children’s Hospital. HealthMap generates information that included location of specific outbreaks and tracks new cases and deaths.

To the east, the Israeli military says no rockets were fired on Monday at Israel and the military hasn’t targeted any locations in densely populated territories since the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel when into effect midnight Sunday as the two sides resume talks in Cairo, the Associated Press reported, Cease-fire holding in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. In total, 1,900 Palestinians were killed and 67 on the Israeli side in the almost two month long war. Palestinians negotiators are asking for an end to the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, while Israel wants all Gaza militants to disarm. Egypt brokered a similar truce last week, but after three days, militants resumed rocket fire on Israel and new fighting erupted. Egypt called on Israel and Palestinian factions to observe a 72 hour ceasefire beginning within hours and resume talks on more comprehensive Gaza agreement. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry announcement followed after hours of talks with Palestinian factions in Cairo who accepted the proposal and the deal would not have been made if the ceasefire agreement was not secure indicating Israel had accepted. Sunday’s decision was aimed at bringing Israeli back to the table, according to a Palestinian negotiator: “We are here to look for an agreement. We cannot have an agreement without talks, so we accepted an Egyptian proposal to have a cease-fire for 72 hours in order to resume the talks.” A senior Palestinian negotiator noted that Palestinian would make more modest demand if talks resume and seek an end to the bloodshed in Gaza, internationally backed efforts to rebuild and an easing of the blockade. One negotiator commented: “We might not get everything we want, particularly on freedom of movement. But we believe the Israelis and the world have gotten the point that Gazans should live normally and things should be much better than today.” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Hams could get the blockade lifted if they meet international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist: “Basically what they are trying now to do is not to lift the blockade. They want to get legitimacy as a terrorist organization, without accepting the requirements of the international community.”

In Neighboring Iraq, the Obama administration has decided to directly provide weapons to Kurdish forces to fight the Islamic militants in northern Iraq, according to a senior U.S. officials, the Associated Press reports, US sending arms to Kurds in Iraq. Previously, the U.S. would only sell arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but the Kurdish fighters were losing ground in recent weeks to the Islamic State militants. In recent days, the U.S. military has facilitated weapons deliveries from the Iraqis to the Kurds providing logistic assistant and transportation to the north. The assistance allowed the Kurdish forces on Sunday to take back two towns from the Islamic insurgents aided in part by U.S. airstrikes int he region. President Barack Obama authorized the airstrikes to protect U.S. interests and personnel in the region, including at facilities in Ibril as well as Yazidi refugees fleeing militants. Speaking in Australia on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said no force should be used by political factions as Iraq struggles to form a government and the country’s new president is acting appropriately despite the accusations of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki is resisting calls to step down and will file a complaint against the president for not naming him prime minister. Kerry said: “We believe that the government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq. And our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.” While some progress has been made in the north, Reuters reports, Islamic State Killed 500 Yazidis, Buried Some Victims Alive: “Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, burying some alive and taking hundreds of women as slaves, an Iraqi government minister told Reuters on Sunday.” Human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani accused the militant group of celebrating “a vicious atrocity” with cheers and weapons waved in the air. Sudani via phone interview said: “We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic State have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar. Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar.” During a visit by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Kurdish regional president Masoud Barzani said: “We are not fighting a terrorist organization, we are fighting a terrorist state.” Barzani has asked his allied to send weapons to help fight the insurgency. In comments likely to put pressure on Washington to step up its response, Iraqi rights minster Sudani said: “The terrorist Islamic State has also taken at least 300 Yazidi women as slaves and locked some of them inside a police station in Sinjar and transferred others to the town of Tal Afar. We are afraid they will take them outside the country. In some of the images we have obtained there are lines of dead Yazidis who have been shot in the head while the Islamic State fighters cheer and wave their weapons over the corpses. This is a vicious atrocity.” At the Vatican, Pope Francis held a silent prayers during his weekly address on Sunday for the victims of the Iraqi conflict including the Christan minority saying: “Thousands of people, among them many Christians, banished brutally from their houses, children dying of hunger and thirst as they flee, women kidnapped, people massacred, violence of all kinds. All of this deeply offends God and deeply offends humanity.” Both France and the U.S. criticize Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite led government for failing to share power with Iraq’s Sunni minority who dominated before the U.S. led invasion. Foreign Minister Fabius said: “Iraq is in need of a broad unity government, and all Iraqis should feel that they are represented in this government. All Iraqis should feel they are represented to take part in this battle against terrorism.”

Leaving the Middle East for another conflict to the north, on Sunday, fighting raged on in Donetsk as government forces closed in on the rebel stronghold Ukraine and pro-Russian insurgents backed away from an unconditional ceasefire offer announced the day before, Yuras Karmanau reports, Ukraine Demands Rebels In Donetsk Surrender. With western backing and a string of military success, Kiev has taken a hard line stance against rebel forces and won’t relent until the rebels surrender. In a statement Saturday, newly elected rebel leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko called an apparent ceasefire without stating any preconditions, however Sunday, rebel spokeswoman Elena Nikiting told the Associated Press that talks on the conflict could begin if the Ukrainian army withdrew from the region which Kiev won’t do. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the only way the rebels in Donetsk will be saved will be to lay down their arms and give up and has not seen any real willingness to cooperate: “If white flags come up and they lay down their arms, nobody is going to shoot at them. (But) we have not seen any practical steps yet, just a statement.” Lysenko added that the Ukrainian military’s recent success has caused “panic and chaos in the ranks of the rebels” and Kiev has information that the rebels are “deserting their posts en masse.” More than 1,300 people have died in the conflict since April, according to U.N. estimates. On Sunday, German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmer expressed concern over the humanitarian situation for civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk where conditions are getting worse. He said Germany is working with ICRC and U.N. agencies to ensure that existing aid is coordinated and gets delivered where it is needed. He said it was “good that there seems to be basic agreement about the delivery of humanitarian goods between Ukraine and Russia,” but said that Russian aid “must only be delivered with the express agreement of the Ukrainian government” and under the supervision of international organizations.

Probe Begins into Malaysian Flight MH17 As International Outcry Intensifies

Malaysia flight MH17 Ukraine flight path

Courtesy of Flight Radar 24

On Friday, world leaders demanded that pro-Russia rebels controlling the eastern Ukraine crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 give complete access to independent investigators to determine who shot down the flight, according to Peter Leonard and Dimitry Lovetsky, Malaysia Airlines Plane Crash: Rescue Workers Comb Through Debris Searching For Clues. At a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting, the U.S. blamed separatists saying Washington believes an SA 11 missile shot down the plane carrying 298 people including 80 children, however, “we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel.” In addition, the White House and the Kremlin called for peace talks between Ukrainian government forces and Russian speaking separatists. Heavy fighting 60 miles from the crash site was reported with 20 civilians killed. Emergency workers and local coal miners recover bodies from grasslands and sunflower fields where the Boeing 777 wreckage fell Thursday. According to the article, 30 officials from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe mostly, arrived at the crash site between Rozsypne and Hrabove, 25 miles from the Russian border. The rebels only allowed a superficial inspection of the wreckage before ordering the delegation to leave even firing a warning shot in the air. President Barack Obama called it “a global tragedy” adding: “An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies filled with citizens from many countries, so there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened. In Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniv Yatsenyuk called for an international investigation saying: “We ask all respective governments … to support the Ukrainian government to bring to justice all these bastards who committed this international crime.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed allegations that Moscow could be behind the attack. According to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, at the Security Council meeting, said early Thursday a journalist saw an SA-11 system known as a Buk missile system in Russia in separatist-controlled territory near Snizhne, “and separatists were spotted hours before the incident with an SA-11 SAM system close to the site where the plane came down.” She added, “Separatists initially claimed responsibility for shooting down a military transport plane, and claimed responsibility and posted videos that are now being connected to the Malaysian Airlines crash. Separatist leaders also boasted on social media about shooting down a plane, but later deleted these messages. Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus, we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems.”

Meanwhile, according to Leonard and Lovetsky, the entire Security Council called for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation, in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines, and for appropriate accountability” and the need for “immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident.” In agreement that an investigation was critical, Obama added: “The eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine, and we are going to make sure that the truth is out.” On Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in agreement, said: “Australia takes a very dim view of countries which facilitate the killing of Australians.” On Thursday, Putin blamed Ukraine for the crash saying Kiev caused the unrest in its Russian speaking eastern regions, but stop short of accusing Ukraine of showing down the plane. Ukraine’s state aviation service closed airspace on Friday over two border regions where separatist fighting was ongoing, Donetsk and Luhansk, while Russian airlines suspended all flights over Ukraine. There was uncertainty over whether Flight17’s data and cockpit voice recorders had been recovered. Meanwhile Ukraine’s government said it has already prepared for the bodies to be taken to Kharkiv, 190 miles north of the crash site, however Andrei Purgin, leader of the separatists, said they would go to government controlled Mariupol.

At the crash site, internationals monitors moved through fields on Saturday trying to secure the site in hopes that a credible investigation of the disaster can be done, Peter Leonard and Evgeniy Maloletka report,  Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site. Doubts about the investigation’s credibility have arisen as claims by the government in Kiev allege militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the site and taken them to rebel held Donetsk. The Ukrainian government said on Saturday that rebels are “seeking large transports to carry away plane fragments to Russia.” However, separatists leader Alexander Borodai in Donetsk denies any bodies have been taken or the rebels had interfered with the work of observers. Treatment of the victims’ remains, which have been left in the open air under the hot summer sun with intermittent rainfall, has provoked outrage and distress. Dutch Foreign Minster Frans Timmermans told the Ukrainian president in Kiev: “The news we got today of the bodies being dragged around, of the site not being treated properly, has really created a shock in the Netherlands. People are angry, are furious at what they hear. Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice.” According to German government spokesman Georg Streiter and the Kremlin, both Merkel and Putin agreed on Saturday that an independent international commission with the International Civil Action Organization should be given swift access to the crash site. Additionally, the commission should examine the circumstances of the crash and recover the victims. In the Netherlands, forensic teams across the country Saturday fanned out to collect material including DNA to positively identify the remains of the 192 Dutch victims. Police said that 40 pairs of detectives from the National Forensic Investigations Team will visit victims’ relatives over the coming days. John Goglia, a U.S. aviation safety expert and former National Transportation Safety Board member, said the most useful evidence will be missile pieces if found in the debris trail that came down when the plane exploded. Meanwhile on Saturday, Malaysia Airlines said it had no plans to fly victims’ relatives to the crash site due to safety concerns. A spokesman said the next of kin are being cared for in Amsterdam while a team from the carrier including security officials were in Ukraine accessing the situation. In the Netherlands, travelers out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport laid flowers and signed a condolence book before boarding their flights Saturday including the latest Malaysia Flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur.