U.S. Attempts to Fight Ebola, Ukraine Ratifies Landmark Deal Amid Russian Sanctions and U.S. Steps Up Plans to Fight ISIS as al-Qaeda Expands

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The ravages of the Ebola virus can easily be seen in West Africa six months on, but the outbreak has become more dire in recent weeks as death tolls rise and health officials warn of a potential global disaster. In an effort to contain the virus, the United States will send thousands of military personnel to aid the region’s crippled health care system which marks a major milestone in the effort to fight the disease. Nick Robins Early reports, 14 Numbers That Show The Magnitude Of The World’s Worst Ebola Outbreak, how devastating the medical crisis has become in West Africa through a collection of revealing stats on the fight against Ebola. The numbers are as follows:

2,400 – The number of estimated Ebola deaths as of Sept. 12, 2014.

4,784 – The total number of Ebola cases reported as of Sept. 12, 2014. Due to many unreported cases, this figure is thought to be less than the actual number of people infected with the virus.

2 – The age of the Guinean boy who some researchers think may have been “patient zero” in the Ebola outbreak. Scientists believe humans originally caught the virus from a sick animal.

5 – The number of West African nations that have reported cases of Ebola. A sixth nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo, has also suffered from an Ebola outbreak, although it is a different strain from the one that originated in Guinea.

12-18 – The number of months that U.S. scientists predict the outbreak will last under current conditions.

20,000 – The number of Ebola cases that the World Health Organization estimates could occur by the time the virus is contained. It should be noted, however, that these type of long-term projections are prone to uncertainties and can vary. A recent New York Times report says that researchers at various universities predict the number could be more like 20,000 in a single month.

12,750 – The total number of health workers that the World Health Organization has called for in order to stem the outbreak and treat people infected with the virus.

3,000 – The number of U.S. military personnel that the United States is expected to send to West Africa to assist in medical training, distribution of aid and the building of health care facilities.

$1,000,000,000 – The estimated global resources needed for the next six months in the fight against Ebola, according to U.N. officials. This is a 10-fold increase from just a month ago, and is what the U.N. says is needed just to keep the outbreak contained to tens of thousands of people.

400,000 – The number of home protective kits that the United States reportedly plans to distribute to the four West African nations most affected by the outbreak.

178 – The number of days since the outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization by Guinea’s health officials.

52 percent – The approximate fatality rate of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Given access to proper medical treatment, especially adequate fluid replacement, the fatality rate of the Ebola outbreak can be significantly lowered.

1,700 – The number of beds that the new U.S. aid effort will reportedly aim to set up in Liberia, one of the hardest hit nations.

0 – The number of beds currently available to treat Ebola patients in Liberia, according to World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan.

The Obama administration is preparing to send 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to aid in the Ebola crisis and supply logistical and medical support to local health care systems and boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat patients, according to Jim Kuhnhenn, US to assign 3,000 from US military to fight Ebola. President Obama announced the effort Tuesday during a visit to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as the outbreak could spread and mutate into more easily transmitted disease. The announcement comes amid regional and aid organization appeals for the U.S. to increase their role in com batting the outbreak that has claimed 2,200 people. Administration officials said Monday that the new initiatives aim to:

– Train as many as 500 health care workers a week.

– Erect 17 heath care facilities in the region of 100 beds each.

– Set up a joint command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate between U.S. and international relief efforts.

– Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 50,000 that the U.S. Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.

– Carry out a home- and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.

The officials, under the condition of anonymity, said the plan would cost $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect to carry out humanitarian efforts in Iraq and in West Africa. In addition, they said it would take two weeks to get U.S. forces on the ground. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations African affairs subcommittee, said, “This humanitarian intervention should serve as a firewall against a global security crisis that has the potential to reach American soil.” The countries hardest hit include Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, while the virus has reached Nigeria and Senegal. The U.S. will provide medics and corpsmen for treatment and training, engineers to help erect the treatment facilities and specialists in logistics to assist in patient transportation. The visit to the CDC by Obama came a day after the U.S. demanded international aid response to step up. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called Monday for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, warning that the potential risk of the virus could “set the countries of West Africa back a generation.” The meeting Thursday with the Security Council marks a rare occasion when a public health crisis is addressed rather than threats to peace and security, according to Power. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to brief the council with World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan and Dr. David Nabarro, the recently named U.N. coordinator to tackle the disease, as well as representatives from the affected countries. The Senate also weighed in Tuesday with a hearing to examine the U.S. response and an American missionary doctor who survived the disease set to testify. Four Americans have been treated for Ebola in the U.S. after evacuation. The U.S. has already spent $100 million responding to the outbreak and offered to operate treatment centers for patients. Additionally, Obama will be briefed on cases of respiratory illness being reported in the Midwest where public health officials are monitoring a high number of reported illness associated with human enterovirus 68 in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere. Lauran Neergaard reports, Ebola survivor: No time to waste as Obama ups aid, on Tuesday, Dr. Kent Brantly told senators: “We can’t afford to wait months, or even weeks, to take action, to put people on the ground.” Under the plan, the government could end up spending $1 billion to contain the disease. Obama after his briefing with doctors from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and from Emory University, he said: “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people affected, with profound economic, political and security implications for all of us.” World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said, “This massive ramp-up of support from the United States is precisely the kind of transformational change we need to get a grip on the outbreak and begin to turn it around.” Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for Doctors without Borders, said, “The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind and too many lives are being lost. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater concrete action on the ground, and we need it now.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Obama’s plan, his spokesman said in a statement, and called on the international community “to be as bold and courageous in its response as those who are on the front lines fighting this disease.” Congress still needs to vote on Obama’s request for $88 million more to help fight the disease including funding CDC work in West Africa through December and speeding development of experimental treatments and vaccines. Late Tuesday, the Obama administration submitted a request to reprogram $500 million in Pentagon money for the Ebola effort. Meanwhile in Britain, the Associated Press reports, 1st UK volunteer gets experimental Ebola vaccine, a former nurse has become the first person in the country to receive an experimental Ebola vaccine in an early trial to test its safety. Ruth Atkins, 48, received the shot Wednesday in Oxford, the first of 60 healthy volunteers in the U.K. who will receive the vaccine developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline and targets the Zaire strain of Ebola that caused the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. A trial of the same vaccine has already begun in the U.S. The vaccine is meant to spark the immune system’s production of Ebola antibodies and does not contain infectious material. In a statement, trial leader Adrian Hill of Oxford University, said, “Witnessing the events in Africa makes it clear that developing new drugs and vaccines against Ebola should now be an urgent priority.” Hill and colleagues hope the trial will finish at the end of 2014 and could be used to vaccinate health workers in West African if proven safe and effective. Faith Karimi reports, Ebola patients buying survivors’ blood from black market, WHO warns, desperate patients are buying blood from survivors of the virus on the black market, the World Health Organization warns. The WHO reports, “Studies suggest blood transfusions from survivors might prevent or treat Ebola virus infection in others, but the results of the studies are still difficult to interpret. It is not known whether antibodies in the plasma of survivors are sufficient to treat or prevent the disease. More research is needed.” Convalescent serum used to treat patients such as American aid worker Rick Sacra who received blood from Kent Brantly who survived Ebola has been effective. However, patients in affected nations are getting blood through improper channels which could lead to the spread of other infections such as HIV and other blood related ailments. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director general, said this week: “We need to work very closely with the affected countries to stem out black market trading of convalescent serum for two reasons. Because it is in the interest of individuals not to just get convalescent serum without … going through the proper standard and the proper testing because it is important that there may be other infectious vectors that we need to look at.” Meanwhile, a French volunteer with Doctors Without Borders contracted Ebola in Liberia and will be taken for treatment in France by a private American plan, according to the organization.

In Ukraine, on Tuesday, lawmakers strengthened their ties to Europe and loosened control over the country’s rebellious east region where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels has left 3,000 people dead and returned Western and Russian relations back to the Cold War era, the Associate Press reports, Ukraine lawmakers ratify landmark deal with Europe. The deal lowers trade tariffs between Europe and Ukraine. requires Ukrainian goods to meet European regulatory standards and forces Kiev to undertake major political and economic reforms. President Petro Poroshenko called the vote a “first but very decisive step” toward bringing Ukraine fully into the European Union. In a live broadcast after the deal was made, Poroshenko said the protesters who died in clashes with riot police in Kiev and government troops who died fighting the rebels “have died not only for their motherland. They gave up their lives for us to take a dignified place among the European family.” He continued, “After World War II, not a single nation has paid such a high price for their right to be European. Can you tell me, who now after this will be brave enough to shut the doors to Europe in front of Ukraine?” Earlier Tuesday, parliament also approved laws granting temporary self rule to pro-Russian region in the east as well as amnesty for those involved in the fighting. One law calls for three years of self rule in parts of eastern Ukraine and for local elections in November. A separate bill calls for amnesty for those involved in the fighting in the east, but not those suspected or charged with crimes including murder, sabotage, rape, kidnapping and terrorism. The law could exclude those who tried to kill Ukrainian law enforcement officials and servicemen meaning many of the separatists who waged war for five months. Although Poroshenko did not mention the bills in his speech, he later said according to Interfax-Ukraine that he felt “we are obliged to take a step to ensure that the other side takes corresponding steps” toward peace. Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the rebels in the Donetsk region, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that the separatist leadership would study the measures, an unusually conciliatory statement compared to the rebels’ previous assertions that they aim for complete independence. The U.S. state Department and Vicd President Joe Biden congratulated Ukrainian lawmakers and leaders. Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman at the State Department, said, “By forging ahead with this agreement in the face of great challenges, Ukraine’s leaders have carried out the will of the Ukrainian people, who demonstrated their overwhelming support for further integration with Europe last winter and with their votes in the May 25 presidential elections.” The passage of the measures came as Poroshenko begins his first state visit to Canada and the U.S., where he will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday and is also scheduled to speak to the U.N. General Assembly next week. Martin Schulz, the president of the EU Parliament, said, “The message this sends could not be clearer: the European Parliament supports Ukraine in its European vocation. The European Parliament will continue defending a united and sovereign Ukraine.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday said the military will increase its forces in Crimea due to the “exacerbation of situation in Ukraine and increased foreign military presence near our borders.” Also on Tuesday, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Russian ruble drops to historic low amid sanctions, Russian currency dropped to all time low against the dollars as investors worry bout the fallout of economic sanctions. The United States and the European Union last week imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia for its action in Ukraine such as blocking off Western financial markets to key Russian companies and limiting imports of some technologies. Economist Alexei Kudrin, who served as finance minister under President Vladimir Putin for 11 years until 2011, said Tuesday that the sanctions could send Russia’s economy into recession for one or two years. Interfax quoted him as saying, “The sanctions that have been imposed are going to have an effect (on the economy) for the next one or two years because they have limited opportunities for investment in this uncertain environment.” Vasilyeva reports: “Among the most recent sanctions, the United States on Friday tightened the maximum credit duration for a number state-owned Russian companies and banks to 30 days, effectively shutting off Russia from long-term loans. The U.S. and the EU indicated, however, they may reverse some of the sanctions if they see that Moscow is supporting peace process in Ukraine, where more than 3,000 died since mid-April.” Jitters over the impact of the US. EU sanctions were fueled by reports that the Russian government is preparing more import bans that could hurt Russian consumer spending. Russian in August imposed an import ban on dairy products, meat and vegetables from the European Union and the United States, causing prices to shoot up for selected foods.

While Ukraine tries to rebuild a fragile and devastated government, the U.S. continues to implement its plan for ISIS. U.S. officials on Monday said the United States took its first step in its plan to expand the fight against the extremist group, going to the aid of Iraqi security forces near Baghdad who were under attack, the Associated Press reports, First U.S. airstrikes in expanded Iraq fight. The U.S. Central Command said on Sunday two airstrikes were conducted in support of Iraqi forces near Sinjar and southwest Baghdad. The strikes authorized by President Barack Obama represent a new offensive against the group to protect not only U.S. interest and personnel, but directly support Iraqi forces fighting militants. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to stop American extremist from joining terrorist groups like ISIS during a presentation Monday, but details are a little fuzzy, according to the AOL article, Holder announces plan to stop Americans from joining ISIS. HOLDER VIA U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: “Ultimately the pilot programs will enable us to develop more effective and inclusive ways to build a more just, secure and free society that all Americans deserve.” He said his plan will bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders and U.S. attorneys in hopes of building a broad network to keep the nation safe. Other nations have taken steps involving local officials such as British Prime Minister David Cameron who asked his government to pass legislation that allows law enforcement to seize the passport of anyone suspected of traveling to support ISIS, while Germany banned its citizens from any activities supporting the group. The International Centre for Radicalization estimates more than 11,000 Western Europeans have traveled to fight with Syrian rebels. Maria Golovnna reports, New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack, Al Qaeda’s South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group. The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, said: “These mujahideen had taken control of the Pakistani ship, and they were advancing towards the American fleet when the Pakistani army stopped them. As a result, the mujahideen, the lions of Allah and benefactors of the Ummah, sacrificed their lives for Allah, and the Pakistani soldiers spoiled their hereafter by giving up their lives in defense of the enemies of the Ummah the Americans.” The naval yard on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast is a strategic facility at the cent of the U.S. Pakistani security, anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking cooperation. The Pakistani Taliban, allied with al-Qaeda, said the Sept.6 attack was carried out with the help of insiders leading to the arrest of a number of navy personnel on suspicion of collaborating with attackers. Back in the U.S., Republican controlled House voted to give U.S. military authority to train and arm Syrian rebels Wednesday, David Espo and Donna Cassata report, House grudgingly approves arms for Syrian rebels. The provision will be added to spending legislation to assure the federal government runs normally after Sept.30 end of the budget year and final approval in the Senate may come as earl as Thursday. It grants Obama authority until Dec.11 and gives Congress plenty of time to return to the issue in a post-election session set to begin mid-November. The Senate will vote only once on the legislation combining approval for arming and training rebels with the no shutdown federal spending provisions. Testifying before a Senate Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry said the forces seeking to create an Islamic state ” must be defeated. Period. End of story.” The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. In France, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that his country was ready to take part int he airstrikes in Iraq if needed, the Associated Press reports, France ready to participate in Iraq airstrikes. He spoke in Paris before President Barack Obama was expected to outline Washington’s plans for fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. France has said it will join a U.S. led coalition in Iraq and send arms to Kurdish authorities to fight militants. The French president and foreign minister are going to Iraq Friday and hosting an international conference Monday on how to stop the group and help Iraq. Fabius said that “we will participate, if necessary, in military air action” in Iraq, according to a text provided by the French Foreign Ministry. Earlier, Fabius said people should not refer to the group as the Islamic State since they do not represent Islam or a state and started to refer to the group Wednesday as Daesh, the acronym in Arabic for its full former name, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Speaking to lawmakers, Fabius said “the determination of the Daesh butchers is strong. Ours must be even stronger.” Egypt’s top Islamic authority also said the group should not be called the Islamic State.

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.

The Brutal Gaza War Continues, Ukrainian Troops Advance, Shocking Details Involving the Islamic State and Deported Children Face Certain Death

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On Friday, 18 alleged spies include seven shot behind a mosque after midday prayers were killed by Gaza gunmen in response to Israel’s deadly airstrikes against top Hamas leaders, the Associate Press reports, Hamas kills 18 suspected informers for Israel. Two killed were women, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, who also called for an immediate end to the “extra-judicial executions.” Al Majd website which is close to the Hamas security services said suspects will no now be dealt with “in the field” not in the courts in order to create deterrence. One witness to the executions behind the mosque, 42-year-old Ayman Sharif, said masked gunman lined up the seven against the wall along with a piece of paper above each explaining his crime and his initials. One of the gunmen said that the seven “had sold their souls to the enemy for a cheap price” and had caused killing and destruction. The bodies were collected by an ambulance and the gunmen left after shooting each one with their automatic rifles. According to Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell, Gaza War Rages On As Israeli Airstrikes Kill 11 Palestinians, Including Hamas Leader’s Wife And Son, more than a 180 rockets were launched by Palestinians on Tuesday and Wednesday at southern Israel with some intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the military sad with no casualties reported on the Israeli side. Since the failure attempted at a ceasefire on Tuesday by Egypt that collapse into violence, Israeli aircraft has carried out more than 100 strikes in Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said adding it was “targeting terror sites”. Hamas an medical officials said 23 people died in the latest Israeli raids. Netanyahu, speaking at a news conference in Tel Aviv, said Israel’s Gaza campaign will last a while and described its goal as seeking calm and safety for Israeli citizens. Ya’alon, his defense chief said “all options are open, including renewed ground operations” in Gaza. Gaza health officials report that five children were killed in separate airstrikes and the Israeli military said it had targeted four gunmen in norther Gaza. In total, the Palestinian Health Ministry said 2,040 people mostly civilians have been killed din Gaza, while Israel says it killed hundreds of Palestinian militants in fighting that the United Nations says has displaced 425,000 people. A diplomatic source said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whose Fatah party participated in the Cairo talks, was due to meet the emir of Qatar, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha on Wednesday. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was “gravely disappointed by the return to hostilities” and urged the sides not to allow matters to escalate.

On Friday, Ukraine alleged that Russia has launched a “direct invasion” of its territory after Moscow sent a convoy of aid trucks across the border into eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces, Dmitry Madorsky, Russian aid convoy drives into Ukraine. Kiev said Ukrainian forces would not attack the convoy allowing it to pass to avoid “provocation” as thousands of Russian troops are stationed at the border. The Ukraine conflict has cause the deepest rift between Moscow and the West since the Cold War with Western states imposing sanctions on Moscow and the Kremlin retaliating causing NATO to deploy additional troops in member states bordering Russia. Regarding Russian aid convoys, Ukrainian Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists:”They passed into Ukraine without clearance or participation of the International Red Cross or (Ukrainian) border guards.” Ukrainian state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko in a statement to journalists added: “We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine.” However, Ukrainian authorities said the convoy would pass through the area where the rebels were firing and security could not be guaranteed. In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said: “All excuses to delay sending aid have been exhausted. The Russian side has taken the decision to act. We warn against any attempts to disrupt this purely humanitarian mission. Responsibility for any possible consequences of provocations … will lie, completely and entirely, with those who are prepared to further sacrifice human lives for the sake of their ambitions and geo-political ploys.” The International Committee for the Red Cross has decided “due to the volatile security situation” not to supervise the convoy. The last few weeks of fighting has seen a string of rebel defeats in the conflict that has claimed 2,000 lives. Russia says the trucks contain food, medical supplies, water and some clothing amid fears by many western countries that the aid convoy is a cover for a Russian invasion. After four months of fighting in Russian speaking eastern Ukraine, the area faces a humanitarian crisis, lacking food, medicine and clean water. Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued in eastern Ukraine as government troops try to take back territory from pro-Russian rebels before the arrival of the Russian aid convoy overseen by the Red Cross, according to Nataliya Vasilyeva, Deadly Fighting In Ukraine As Government Troops Advance Into Rebel-Held Territory. Trucks loaded with water, generators and sleeping bags for civilians in the rebel city of Luhansk have begun to move through Ukrainian customs after being held for a week at the border. The trucks are expected to cross into Ukraine Friday morning on their way to Luhansk, a city with a war reduced population of a quarter of a million people 20 miles from the Russian border. At Russia’s urging, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire during the humanitarian mission. Fighting on Thursday was reported in Luhansk, a day after the government said it had retaken the city which has been under siege fro 19 days and lacking the basics of running water and electricity.

Even more concerning, the United Nations human rights office on Friday reported that at least 191,369 people have been killed in the Syria conflict through April, Stephanie Nebehay reports, UN: Death toll from Syrian civil war tops 191,000. The U.N. report included cross-checked data from four groups and the government and according to U.N> high Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reflects a reality of killing and torture while the civil war has “dropped off the international radar.” In a statement, Pillay explained: “With additional killings reported from earlier periods, in addition to the new killings that have taken place, the total is more than double the number documented a year ago. Nevertheless, as the report explains, tragically it is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict.” An additional 51,953 killings were not included due to a lack of information, according to the report issued in Geneva. Nebehay reports: “The highest number of documented killings were recorded in Rural Damascus province(39,393), followed by Aleppo (31,932), Homs (28,186), Idlib (20,040), Daraa (18,539) and Hama (14,690).” Pillay repeated her call for referring alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides in Syria’s conflict to the International Criminal Court: “The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis. It is essential governments take serious measures to halt the fighting and deter the crimes, and above all stop fueling this monumental, and wholly avoidable, human catastrophe through the provision of arms and other military supplies.”

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a Pentagon news conference said the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq has helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces regain footing, however, well resourced Islamic State militants are expected to regroup and stage a new offensive, Robert Burns reports, Pentagon: Islamic state militants will regroup. Army. Gen. Martin Dempsey added that although the Islamic State can be contained it cannot be defeated unless it is attacked in Syria. Hagel said, “Overall, these operations have stalled ISIL’s momentum and enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces to regain their footing and take the initiative.” Dempsy said,”They can be contained, not in perpetuity. This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated. To your question, can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border. And that will come when we have a coalition in the region that takes on the task of defeating ISIS over time. ISIS will only truly be defeated when it’s rejected by the 20 million disenfranchised Sunni that happen to reside between Damascus and Baghdad.” A new report states that hundred of American citizens are among the roughly 12,000 ruthless fighters backing the ISIS led Islamic State’s reign of terror in the Middle East, according to Ryan Gorman, Hundreds of Americans have joined the brutal ISIS militia. The National Journal reports American and European officials are concerned about the growing number of citizens taking up the mujahedeen cause: “ISIS today represents a direct and growing threat to the United States… including hundreds of Europeans and Americans who can travel freely with Western passports.” Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, outgoing director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Journal: “Some have both the intention and some capability to attack the United States homeland… we’re doing all we can to understand the outflow of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq, many of them with Western passports.”

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported that minors deported to Honduras over the last month are being killed, according to a morgue director in the city of San Pedro Sula, who said “at least five, perhaps as many as 10” children killed there since February had been deported from the United States. Hector Hernandez, of the San Pedro Sula morgue, told Times reporter Cindy Carcamo: “There are many youngsters who only three days after they’ve been deported are killed, shot by a firearm. They return just to die.” Rogue Planas reports, Children Deported To Honduras Are Getting Killed: Report: “Almost 63,000 unaccompanied minors — the vast majority from the violence-plagued Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — have crossed illegally into the United States since October. Many are fleeing the gang violence, poverty and political instability that has made the so-called ‘Northern Triangle’ countries some of the most dangerous in the world.” House Republicans joined by four Democrats last month to do away with the president’s policy of deferring deportations for undocumented immigrants who arrive as children despite little evidence that the policy caused the crisis. According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll last month, most Americans see young migrants as refugees with 70 percent of Americans thinking the country should provide temporary support while their cases proceed in court as a majority say that hose facing the threat of violence should not be immediately deported. The White House has responded by pushing to expedite the deportation process for Central American minors and families traveling together in order to send the message to other migrants that they won’t be able to stay. On Wednesday, eleven undocumented immigrants are pleading with Obama to protect them and others in similar circumstances from being deported as the administration considers a broad executive action on immigration enforcement, Elise Foley reports, Jose Antonio Vargas Among Undocumented Immigrants Making Urgent Plea To Obama. Wednesday morning, the undocumented immigrants including journalist-activist Jose Antonio Vargas announced the initiative at a press conference organized by Vargas’ organization, Define American, and in partnership with the National Immigration Law Center. They are applying for deferred actions that would allow them to stay in the U.S. temporarily, while urging President Barack Obama to halt deportations. Vargas in an interview with HuffPost about the 1 of 11 Million campaign said, “This is our way to insist on the urgency and the humanity of the 11 million people like us. For us, it’s really important to ask the question of how inclusive is the Obama administration’s relief going to be?. Who is going to get left out, and why? This is our effort to get in front of that and make sure that people understand that we’re talking about human beings here with families.” Besides Vargas, the other documented immigrants asking for deferred action on Wednesday have been int he U.S. for years and include people ages 22 to 55 from Mexico, Senegal, South Korea, Honduras, Germany and the Philippines with some already in deportation proceedings. Vargas said he hopes the White House will meet the group and undocumented immigrants in general to discuss any executive action taken.

Liberia Ebola Crisis Worsens, Ukraine Faces New Challenges, Gaza Talks Collaspe into Chaos and Islamic State Militants Up the Pressure

On Wednesday, acting on their president’s orders, riot police and soldiers used scrap wood and barbed wire to quarantine 50,000 people inside their Liberian slum in order to contain the Ebola outbreak that has killed 1,350 people and counting across West Africa, according to Jonathon Paye-Layleh and Wade Williams, Liberia Seals Off Slum To Control Ebola, Angry Residents Clash With Troops. The World Health Organization said the death toll has risen quickly in Liberia accounting for 576 of the fatalities, while 2,473 people have been sickened across West Africa making this outbreak larger than the caseloads of all the previous two dozen combined. The U.N. health agency warned of food shortages, water shortages, and other essential supplies in West Africa’s population centers. In West Point, a densely populated slum surrounded by floating sewage, suffers from government neglect in the best of times and mistrust of authorities with open defecation being a major problem. Drinking water is carried in wheelbarrows and people need the market for their food. Mohamed Fahnbulleh, a resident, said: “Why are you ill-treating people like this? How can we take this kind of government to be peaceful? It is not fair — We are human.” Days earlier, residents ransacked a screening center where people in contact with Ebola victims were being monitored causing dozens of potential carriers to be taken somewhere else in the city. In a national address late Tuesday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf imposed a nighttime curfew and ordered the quarantine of West Point and Dolo Town adding: “There will be no movements in and out of those areas. We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government. Fellow citizens, these measures are meant to save lives … May God bless us all and save the State.” Via telephone, Deputy Police Chief Abraham Kromah said, “Please remain law-abiding; throwing stones at police officers and security officers is not the best way out.” While counties and districts have been sealed off in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guinea has imposed internal travel restrictions. The agency responded to shortages of food, fuel and basic supplies, by saying: “WHO is working with the U.N. World Food Program to ensure adequate food and supplies, but calls on companies to make business decisions based on scientific evidence.” Nigeria’s heath minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Tuesday that a fifth person has died of Ebola, but all reported cases have been people in direct contact with a Liberian American man who arrived already infected. On Monday, Jonathan Paye-Layleh reported, 17 who fled Liberia Ebola clinic still missing, authorities were looking for the dozen or so patients who abandoned the Ebola quarantine center in Liberia’s capital during looting last weekend, even though several were still being tested and under observation. During the raid, 37 patients left possibly to return to their own communities, according to Information Minister Lewis Brown, however, 20 have been brought back to two hospitals. Meanwhile, the experimental drug from California based pharmaceutical company, ZMapp, was given to three Liberian health workers who contracted the virus are showing signs of recovery, officials reported Tuesday, Jonathon Paye-Layleh and John Heilprin report, Liberia: 3 receiving untested Ebola drug improving. In addition, two infected American received the treatment and are improving, while a Spaniard who also received the treatment died.

Turning our attention to a different kind of war, on Thursday, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, 5 Ukrainian troops killed; fierce battles reported, five troops and two civilians were killed in the past 24 hours in rebel held areas of eastern Ukraine as government forces try to regain territory from pro-Russian separatists. So far, the conflict has claimed 2,000 lives and displaced 340,000 people from their homes. Ukraine celebrates Independence Day on Sunday, while government forces aim to achieve a breakthrough by that date. On Monday Ukraine accused rebels of killing dozens of civilians in an attack ear on a convoy fleeing a besieged rebel held city, according to Vasilyeva, Refugee Convoy In Ukraine Hit By Rocket Fire, Dozens Reportedly Killed. The rebels denied any attack, while the U.S. confirmed the shelling of the convoy but did not know who was responsible. Col. Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine’s National Security Council spokesman, told reports: “Many people were killed, among them women and children” between the towns of Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka adding: “We are not able to count the death toll at this point.” Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky, a Ukrainian government’s military operation spokesman, told the Associated Press 15 bodies had been recovered from the smoldering vehicles and servicemen were collecting the body parts of at least 10 more people. Donetsk rebel chief Alexander Zakharchenko said no attack took place and Andrei Purgin, his deputy, said he had no information either: “If someone was killed, it wasn’t us but the Ukrainian military.” The U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told report in Washington: “We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy that was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk and express our condolences to the families of the victims. All sides must take every precaution to protect innocent lives. We are unable to confirm reports of who was responsible for the shelling and rocketing.” Residents of Luhansk have had no running water, electricity or phone connections for 16 days as fighting continues around the city and food is short in supply making it harder to secure food. Tensions have increased as Russia over the past week said it plans to send a massive aid convoy to help rebel held eastern Ukraine. A Red Cross spokeswoman in the region told the Associated Press that they are still waiting for security guarantees as 200 Russian aid trucks.

In the Middle East on Tuesday, Egyptian attempts to make a deal to end the month long conflict between Israel and Hamas has collapsed into heavy fighting Tuesday as Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets and Israeli responded with airstrikes across Gaza killing two people, Ibrahim Barzak reports, Egyptian cease-fire efforts collapse. The violence erupted hours before the temporary truce ended as Israel withdrew its delegation from Cairo Tuesday afternoon and quickly resumed its airstrikes following rocket fire. The two fatalities were the first since a temporary truce last Wednesday started. An Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, “The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities. When Hamas breaks the cease-fire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today’s rocket fire.” No one knows if the team will return to Cairo or whether Israel will continue to talk as Egyptian security officials are still pressing the two sided to agree to a ceasefire. So far, more than 2,000 Palestinians mostly civilians have been killed, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials, with tens of thousands displaced compared to 64 Israeli solider, two Israeli citizens and a guest workers dying.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, U.S. officials said military planners were weighing the possibility of sending a small number of additional U.S. troops into Baghdad as insurgents threaten to kill a second American captive in retribution for airstrikes that have pounded Islamic state militants, Lolita C. Baldor and Lara Jakes reports, Military Considering Sending Additional Troops To Iraq, Officials Say. The strike came hours after militants released a gruesome video Tuesday showing U.S. journalist James Foley being beheaded and underscored President Barack Obama’s promise Wednesday to continue attacks against the group. According to senior U.S. officials the number would be fewer than 300 additional troops. The militants threatened to kill Steven Sotloff, an American journalist who is being held captive, if the U.S. continues to conduct airstrikes. According to Baldor and Jakes: “Currently there are about 748 U.S. forces in Iraq, in addition to the approximately 100 troops that have routinely been assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation in Baghdad. Under the current war powers resolutions sent to Congress, Obama authorized up to 775 U.S. troops for security assistance, assessment teams, and advisers at two joint operations centers in Baghdad and Irbil.” Foley, a 40 year old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing in northern Syria while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine. Larak Jakes reports, Obama: US won’t stop confronting Islamic State, while the execution of journalist James Foley drew international condemnation as western nations stepped up their efforts to counter the militants, in capitals across the Middle East, Foley’s death was met with silence even in Syria and Iraq. On social media, people condemned Foley’s killing, but stressed the Islamic State has been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years. On Wednesday, outside their home in Rochester, New Hampshire, Diane and John Foley addressed reporters: “We are just very proud of Jimmy and we are praying for the strength to love like he did and keep courageous and keep fighting for all the people he was fighting for. We pray for all the remaining Americans.” Obama, from Martha’s Vineyard, said: “Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim,” Obama said. “All of us feel the ache of his absence. All of us mourn his loss.” Since August 8, 84 airstrikes have been carried out in Iraq on Islamic State targets including security checkpoints, vehicles and weapons caches. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalist said more than 80 journalist have been abducted in Syria and estimates 20 are still missing. On Monday, Pope Francis endorsed the use of force to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq but said the international community not one country should decide how to intervene, Nicole Winfield reports, Pope Francis Endorses Use Of Force In Iraq To Stop Persecution Of Religious Minorities. Francis responded as follows to whether or not he approved of U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State militants: “In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.” However he said, in history, such excuses to stop an unjust aggressors has been used by world powers to justify a war of conquest in which entire people have been taken over. He added, “One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor. After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.” The Associated Press reported Wednesday, US mission to rescue hostages in Syria failed, that the administration disclosed that President Barack Obama sent special operations troops to Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including journalist James Foley, held by Islamic State extremists, but they did not find them. Lisa Monaco, Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, said in a statement: “The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens. Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia Receives New Sanctions While Embattled Rebels Continue to Fight in Eastern Ukraine

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courtesy of ABC7

On Wednesday, the United States imposed comprehensive sanctions on Russia’s economy including Gazprombank and the Rosneft Oil Co and other major banks, energy and defense companies. As Anna Yukhananov, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason report, US imposes toughest sanctions yet on Russia over Ukraine, Washington has increased its financial sanctions on Russia due to Moscow’s alleged interference in its neighbor Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Other targeted companies include Russia’s second-largest gas producer, Novatek, Vnesheconombank, or VEB, a state-owned bank that acts as payment agent for the Russian government, and eight arms firms. The U.S. Treasury Department said the measures close medium and long term dollar funding to the two banks and energy companies, however, the sanctions did not freeze these four companies’ assets. The sanctions do not target Russia’s Gazprom, which owns 36 percent of Gazprombank, the world’s largest natural gas producer and provider of most of Europe’s energy supplies. On the same day, the European Union leaders met in Brussels to expand their own sanctions on Russia. The U.S. sanctions now include Feodosiva Enterprises, a shipping facility in Crimea, and senior Russian officials including the deputy head of the State Duma, or parliament, the minister of the Crimea, a commander of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and a Ukrainian separatist leader. On Wesdnesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, “There are some clear steps that we’ve asked Russia to take that they haven’t taken. And that is what has elevated the risk that Russia faces right now as it relates to additional economic costs that could be imposed by the international community.” In addition, Washington said that 12,000 Russian forces were back on the border with Ukraine and weapons were crossing over to pro-Russian separatists.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday stated that the recent addition to U.S. sanctions against Russia will stalemate bilateral relations and hurt Russian and American businesses, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Putin Speaks Out Against New U.S. Sanctions. According to Vasilyeva: “Russia’s benchmark MICEX was down 2.9 percent in late afternoon trading Thursday upon news of the sanctions while Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft, was nearly 5 percent down and second-largest oil producer was trading 9 percent lower.” Putin’s comments came hours after President Barack Obama announced border sanctions against Russia. The POTUS hopes that the increased pressure will end the insurgency in eastern Ukraine which is believed to be backed by the Kremlin. The U.S. penalties stop short of the most stringent action threatened which is to cut off key sectors of Russia’s oil dependent economy, however, those steps are on the table if Russia fails to agree to the West demands to stop supporting insurgents who have destabilized eastern Ukraine. The fighting in eastern Ukraine has gone on for four months in a conflict the U.N. says has killed over 400 people and displaced tens of thousands. The conflict began shortly after Russia annexed Crimea. Putin warned Washington that the sanctions will backlash against American companies working in Russia including Rosneft and Novatek which are both barred from getting long term loans from U.S. entities. Moscow based investment bank Sberbank-CIB said in a note to investors that Russian companies cannot replace long term loans from the U.S. immediately, while Rosneft’s multimillion dollar deal with ExxonMobil may be in jeopardy. Russia’s foreign minitry dismissed the sanctions as bullying and said it will push back. In addition, Prime Minister Dimtry Medvedev in televised remarks said the sanctions are throwing Russia’s relations with the west back to the 1980s adding that Russia “will have to pay more attention to military and security spending.” Putin did not mention the additional sanctions from the European Union which urge the European Investment Bank to sign no new financing agreements with Moscow and was suspending operations in Russia financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, according to Vasilyeva. The foreign ministry did lash out at the EU’s new sanctions by accusing Europe of “giving in to the bullying of the U.S. administration.”

While Russia got hit with sanctions from more than one governmental entity, pro-Moscow separatists battle to break through government forces near the border with Russia in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday as steps toward a ceasefire failed. Fighting has intensified since Ukrainian forces pushed rebels out of their stronghold in the town of Slaviansk 10 days ago, Richard Balmforth and Anton Zverev report (As Fighting In East Ukraine Intensifies, Hundreds Of Bodies Of Rebels Found In Shallow Graves). The Ukrainian military said 11 more troops were killed in 24 hours near the frontier. Ukraine has tried to put down a revolt of heavily armed fighters since April, many of them Russian who want independence for two eastern provinces. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March after pro-Russian president was ousted in Kiev. Moscow has denied supporting the separatist fighters, but Kiev says many of them and their leaders came from Russia and brought heavy weapons with them. Ukrainian troops are concentrating their efforts on securing the frontier to prevent more fighters and weapons from coming in.

The escalation in recent days raised the prospect that Moscow could intervene in Ukraine directly, as Kiev reports, the numbers of Russian troops have risen at the border area again. In telephone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy,  Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko provided evidence of fighters crossing into Ukraine from Russia with heavy military equipment. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk in a speech on his website said: “Everything which is happening in Ukraine has been planned by Russia since 2004. Putin has a clear plan and that is to destroy Ukraine and establish his influence over post-Soviet space.” Around 270 Ukrainian servicemen and hundreds of civilians and rebels have been killed since operations began in April to crush the rebels. Lysenko, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said that in Slaviansk, the former rebel stronghold, “hundreds of bodies of…(rebel) fighters” had been found in shallow graves. Some of these graves have been mined by the terrorists. Efforts to forge a truce have failed after a planned video link up with separatists on Tuesday never materialized. Since losing Slaviansk, hundreds of rebel fighters moved to Donetsk vowing to make a stand. The city itself has seen a drop in its pre-conflict population of 1 million as many flee the city fearing a government offensive.

While fighting continued on the ground, a Malyasian Airlines passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, and both the government and pro-Russia separatists deny any responsibility. As Peter Leonard reports, Ukraine: Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 295 passengers shot down, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the wreckage site near rebel held Hrabove 40 kilometers from the Russian border. The village has seen severe fighting between the two sides in recent days. A Russian news reports said pro-Russian rebels intend to call a three day ceasefire in order to allow for investigation of the crash site and recovery efforts. The Boeing 777-200ER was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and appears to have broken up before impact spreading the wreckage over a wide area. Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters that Malaysia was unable to verify “the cause of this tragedy but we must, and we will, find out precisely what happened to this flight” and added that the plane didn’t make any distress call before it went down. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and wants an international investigation into the crash insisting that his forces did not shoot it down. According to Huib Gorter, Malaysian Airlines senior vice president in Europe, at least 154 people on the flight were Dutch citizens, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians including 15 crew and 11 Indonesians. In addition, other nationalities included six from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian. Unfortunately, 47 dead passengers are still unidentified. Ukraine’s security services said they intercepted two telephone conversations that showed rebels were responsible. Earlier in the week, rebels claimed responsibility for shooting down two Ukrainian military plans. In a Kremlin statement issued early Friday, Putin said, “This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine. And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.” Britain has asked for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine. Within hours of Thursday’s crash, several airlines including Lufthansa, Delta and KLM released statements saying they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace. Poroshenko stated: “We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets. We are sure that those who are guilty in this tragedy will be held responsible.” The White confirmed the call made by Putin to inform “the U.S. president of the report from air traffic controllers that the Malaysian plane had crashed on Ukrainian territory.” Separatist leader Andrei Purgin told the Associate Press he was certain that Ukrainian troops shot down the plane and that rebels forces if they owned Buk missile launchers were not capable of operating them. Around the time of the crash, Russian media quoted witnesses saying they saw what they thought was a rocket hit the plane. This is the second time a Malaysian Airlines plane was lost in less than six months.  In another article, Ukraine: Pro-Russia rebels downed Malaysian plane, Peter Leonard reports that American intelligence authorities allege a surface to air missile brought down the plane but still don’t know if Russia or Ukraine had fired it. The U.S. has the technology to detect missile launches including the identification of heat from rocket engines.

Growing Global Conflicts: Finding Peace in A Restless World

On Monday of this week, as the death toll in Gaza rises to 175 after a week long Israeli airstrike offensive, the Israeli military said it downed a drone launched by militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel began the campaign against Hamas controlled Gaza last Tuesday in response to rocket fire from the densely populated territory. In total, the military has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes since then, while Palestinian militants have launched close to 1,000 rockets at Israel, Peter Enav reports (Israel Says It’s Downed Drone Along Southern Coast). The unmanned drone, which was shot down by Israel, represent a new level of sophistication for Hamas which has never admitted to having such a weapon. The Israeli military confirmed that the dsrone was shot down mid-flight by a Patriot surface to air missile along the southern Israeli coastline never Ashdod. Speaking under anonymity, a senior military official, said Israel was aware Hamas possessed drones and Israel has targets Hamas drone facilities in Gaza previously. In a media statement, Hamas alleges that three drones were launched into Israel on Monday with only one confirmed by Israel. According to Enav, drones refer to a range of unmanned aircraft from rudimentary to advanced with weapons or surveillance capabilities. Hamas said it has both intelligence and munitions drones. In addition, the group alleges that it lost contact with one drone and targets included the Israeli Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said,”Hamas is trying everything it can to produce some kind of achievement and it is crucial that we maintain our high state of readiness. The shooting down of a drone this morning by our air defense system is an example of their efforts to strike at us in any way possible.”

On Monday fighting continued as two Israeli airstrikes struck the southern city of Khan Younis killing four Palestinians and raising the death toll to at least 175 people killed including dozens of civilians, according to officials at European Hospital and the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. No Israelis have been killed in Hamas rocket fire, however, several people have been wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday, said the current operation could last a long time and the military is prepared for all possibilities including a Gaza ground invasion. The outbreak of violence followed the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an alleged revenge attack, along with Israeli raids against Hamas militants and infrastructure in West Bank. Though the killers of the Palestinian teenagers have been caught, the killer of the three teenagers has yet to be caught. Israeli leaders widely condemned the killing and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible would be brought to justice. Israel accuses Hamas of the killing and cracked down on the Islamic militants in the West Bank after the abduction of the teens causing Gaza to respond with rocket fire that led to the current round of fighting.

However since the fighting began, Netanyahu has come under international pressure to end the operation. On Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that America was ready to help restore calm. A key mediator between Israel and Hamas, Egypt continued to work to stop the conflict as Hamas has shown signs it would agree to a ceasefire if hundreds of arrested activist were freed as part of a truce. On the other hand, Netanyahu wants to show the Israeli public that he can succeed in degrading Hamas’s ability to strike Israeli targets before moving to a truce.

Unfortunately, Tuesday confirmed that Hamas has rejected Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire with Israel after the Israeli Cabinet accepted the plan squashing international efforts to end the fighting that’s killed 192 Palestinians and risking the lives of Israelis. The Associated Press reports, Israel accepts cease-fire to end Gaza conflict; Hamas calls proposal unacceptable,  that senior Israeli government officials now warn that Israeli will strike Gaza harder if Hamas does not accept the truce. The Egyptian proposal for a truce presented on late Monday called for a stop to the violence as of Tuesday morning followed by negotiations on easing the closure of Gaza’s borders which has been enforced by Israel and Egypt since Hams seized the territory in 2007. On conditions of anonymity, an Israeli official said, “As you know, the Cabinet has accepted the Egyptian proposal. If Hamas rejects it, Israel will continue and intensify its operations and Hamas will find itself totally isolated, including in the Arab world, which supports the proposal.” In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the proposal was not acceptable as Hamas officials are weary of promises from Egypt and Israel to ease the border blockade since the promise was part of the 2012 truce, which was broken due to a violent flare up. Referring to the 2012 truce, he said,” It’s not logical to ask people who are under aggression to cease fire and then later to negotiate terms that were not respected in the past by the Israelis.” The ease of the blockade is crucial to Hamas’ survival because the outbreak of fighting has left the militant group in serious financial woes  as the closure by Egypt has prevented cash and goods from being smuggled in across the Gaza-Egypt border.

As of Tuesday afternoon, in Gaza, the death toll now stands at 194 people killed with 1,400 wounded so far making it the deadliest conflict between Israel and Hamas in over five years. Israel resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza on Tuesday and warned that the Islamic militant group will pay the price for not accepting the Egyptian truce plan and unleashing rocket fire at the Jewish state killing one Israeli. According to Karin Laub and Aron Heller,  Israel: Hamas to pay price for its ‘no’ to truce, Hamas does not consider Egypt’s current ruler a fair broker, who ousted the Hamas friendly government in Cairo a year ago. Hamas will continue to fight as it has little to lose, while a truce on unfavorable terms could weaken the grip on the Gaza Strip, a territory it seized in 2007. Reaffirming this stance, Gaza militants fired more than 120 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel on Tuesday with more than 40 rockets hitting in a few minutes and causing the first Israeli death since the beginning of the offensive. In a TV response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated,”Hamas chose to continue fighting and will pay the price for that decision. When there is no cease-fire, our answer is fire.” After holding fire for six hours, the Israeli air force opened fired launching 33 strikes from midafternoon. In Washington, State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said Israel had the right to defend itself, but would not want to see a ground invasion. Hamas officials rejected the plan on Tuesday noting they weren’t consulted by Cairo and see the truce as an ultimatum to Hamas from Israel and Egypt. A top Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen: “The siege on Gaza must be broken, and the people of Gaza should live freely like other people of the world. There should be a new equation so that we will not have a war on Gaza every two years.” In addition, Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader in Gaza, had this to say: “Mediation to end this aggression needs to come from different countries, and the guarantees should be given by different countries in order to commit the occupation (Israel) to what any future agreement might say.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’ main political rival, was to meet Wednesday in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and then fly to Turkey for high-level talks. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been under a lot of pressure from his Cabinet and the ruling Likud Party to launch a ground offensive to end the rocket fire. He faced intense criticism from the right over agreeing to the Egyptian truce plan.

On Monday, according to Barbara Surk’s article, Heavy Clashes Between Hezbollah And Syrian Rebels Leave Many Dead, the British based Syrian Observatory for Human right said militants from the Islamic State took over territory from a rival al-Qaida linked Nusra Front group near the border of Iraq. The march by militants of the IS on the city of Deir el-Zour brings them closer to a showdown with Bashar Assad’s forces. The group recently captured cities and towns in northern Iraq and merged them with territory under its control in eastern Syria. Assad’s forces still control half of Deir el-Zour city, however no fighting between his troops and the extremist group have been reported. The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 following peaceful protest against Assad’s rule that turned into armed revolts after opposition supporter took up weapons to fight a brutal government crackdown. The situation dissolved in to civil war in which Islamic extremists with hard line al-Qaida ideologies have played a prominent role among fighters leading to the dampening of support from the West. On Monday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution authorizing cross border delivery of food and aid to Syrians in rebel held areas without government approval. The article explains: ” The resolution expressed ‘grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria’ and deplored the fact that its previous demands for humanitarian access ‘have not been heeded’ by the Syrian government and opposition fighters.” The council adopted a resolution in February for aid, but monthly reports from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on its implementation paint a dire picture. According to Surk: “Just hours before the resolutions was adopted, 13 Syrian Red Crescent trucks loaded with 1,000 parcels crossed into the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh, which has been besieged by government troops for more than two years, causing widespread hunger-related illness and death among its residents. In Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus that has been under government siege for over a year, U.N. aid workers were not allowed to distribute aid on Monday, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement, adding that 18,000 civilians remain trapped there in desperate need of food and medicine. The interruption follows a week of sustained food distribution in Yarmouk during which the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees in the Middle East distributed food parcels to 3,316 families, Gunness said.”

While the Middle East deals with numerous conflicts between governments and militants with different ideologies, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday continues his verbal assault on Russia accusing military staff officers of fighting with separatists in eastern Ukraine and using a newly developed Russian missile system against government forces. According to Reuters’ article,  Ukraine’s President Poroshenko Says Russian Officers Fight Alongside Separatists, Poroshenko made his accusations as he was speaking to security chiefs at an emergency meeting after a weekend of Ukrainian air strikes on rebel position near the Russian border and charges by Moscow that Kiev killed a Russian man with cross border shell. After three months of fighting, several hundred Ukrainian servicemen, civilians and rebels have been killed as the fighting and war of words between Moscow and Kiev intensifies. As Poroshenko on Sunday accused Russia of movement of heavy military equipment into the country, he added: “Information has … been confirmed that Russian staff officers are taking part in military operations against Ukrainian forces.” Accusing Russia of escalating fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions, National and Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists: “In the past 24 hours, deployment of (Russian) units and military equipment across the border from the Sumy and Luhansk border points was noticed. The Russian Federation continues to build up troops on the border. The (rebel) fighters systematically fire mortar and shoot into Russian territory which killed a Russian citizen.”

As Ukraine and the Middle East struggle to find a common ground, top U.S. and Iranian diplomats came together Monday for nuclear talks. The talks of U.S. and Iran were further complicated as both sides are fighting proxy wars in Israel, Gaza and Syria. However, both are talking cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan, while negotiating the decrease in the Islamic republic’s uranium and plutonium programs.  According to Bradely Klapper and Goerge Jahn, Kerry And Top Iranian Diplomat To Hold In-Depth Nuclear Talks Days Before Deadline, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif talked for two hours Monday in a second day of talks in Vienna and again in the afternoon hoping to meet Sunday’s initial deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Kerry told U.S. Embassy staff in Vienna that: “We are in the middle of talks about nuclear proliferation and reining in Iran’s program. It is a really tough negotiation.” In addition, both men talked about Afghanistan which Kerry visited before Vienna to broker a power sharing agreement between rival presidential candidates and a full audit of election ballots. Both men were in agreement that the mediation was extremely important for the Afghan people and echoed thr need for unity. However the two countries remain divided when it comes to the current Israeli Palestine conflict with Iran being the main benefactor for Hamas and alleged source of its new drone capacity, while Washington provides billions in aid each year to Israel. Nonetheless, the talks focused on nuclear matters. Monday’s talk came a day after failed talks between Britain, France and Germany with Iran on uranium enrichment and other issues standing in the way of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the end of nuclear sanction on Tehran. Under a six month interim agreement in effect since January, world powers and Iran have until July 20 to conclude a final deal. The interim agreement does allow for an additional six month period for negotiation which seem likely. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Iran has defied the expectation of some, but has yet to make the necessary decisions to prove the world its intentions are peaceful. Iranian hardliners oppose any concession by President Hassan Rouhani’s government, while U.S. lawmakers threaten to shoot down any agreement that would allow Iran to keep some enrichment capacity.