Israel has rejected a French proposal for an emergency forty-eight-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. There were brief hopes for a lull in the bombing after Israeli officials said they were seriously considering the move. But earlier today Israeli warplanes continued to pound areas across Gaza.
A Palestinian medic was killed and two others wounded when an Israeli missile struck next to their ambulance in Gaza City. Several underground tunnels along the Gaza border with Egypt were also attacked. Israel maintains the tunnels are used to smuggle in weapons, but they’re also used to bring in basic supplies denied by the Israeli blockade. Overall, at least thirty Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks on Tuesday, including two sisters aged five and twelve. Nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed and at least 1,600 injured since Saturday. In Rafah, thousands of residents took shelter at a local UN school after their neighborhoods were attacked by Israeli missiles.
Rafah resident: “Missiles were fired at the municipality and around the municipality near the houses and made all the houses collapse. Most of the area is destroyed. There is complete destruction."
Palestinian rocket fire has meanwhile intensified on nearby Israeli towns. Four Israeli citizens, including two Arab Israelis, have been killed by rockets from the Gaza Strip since the Israeli assault began. The Bush administration continues to support Israel’s attack. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe downplayed reports of growing Palestinian casualties.
White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe: “We want Israel to avoid civilian casualties. But let’s be careful about some of the numbers we’re seeing coming out of Gaza. But also, you know, what about the three people, I believe, I saw reported today that were killed in Israel by rockets? I’m not going to compare numbers between the two locations.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court will hear a petition today challenging Israel’s ban on journalists from entering Gaza. The Foreign Press Association filed the challenge on behalf of 400 reporters. In an open letter, the Foreign Press Association said the closure marks “an unprecedented restriction of press freedom… The world’s media is unable to accurately report on events inside Gaza at this critical time.”
Protests against the attack on Gaza continue across the world. On Tuesday, hundreds gathered outside the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.
Protester: “We are standing in front of the Church of Nativity, where the Prince of Peace was born, where the Prince of Justice was born, and sending a message to the world: enough killing, enough bloodshed, enough violence, enough killing of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip. And this occupation has to end, and this war has to end."
Thousands of people took to the streets across the United States Tuesday in a national day of protest against the Israeli attack. Here in New York, a large crowd gathered outside the Israeli consulate. In Washington, D.C., thousands marched outside the US State Department. Protests were also held in dozens of cities and towns across the country, including Los Angeles, Dearborn, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Lexington, and Cincinnati. In Hawaii, a group of protesters gathered near President-elect Obama’s vacation retreat to protest his apparent support for Israel’s attack. Obama hasn’t commented publicly on the Gaza assault, but aides have voiced support. On Tuesday, eight demonstrators stood near Obama’s rented vacation home with signs reading “Gazans need food and medicine, not war.” Obama drove past the protesters on his way to a workout but did not acknowledge their presence.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has announced plans to appoint former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris to serve out the remainder of Obama’s Senate term. Blagojevich was indicted earlier this month on corruption charges, including trying to sell Obama’s seat to the highest bidder. Lawmakers in Illinois and in Congress have vowed to reject any of Blagojevich’s appointments. On Tuesday, the Governor urged them to accept his choice.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich: “I’m absolutely confident and certain that the United States Senate is going to see a man of Roland Burris’s unquestioned integrity, extensive experience and his long history of public service. This is about Roland Burris as a United States senator, not about the governor who makes the appointment."
Burris was the first African American elected to statewide office in Illinois. Appearing next to Blagojevich, Burris said he had no connection to the political scandal around Obama’s seat.
Roland Burris: “I welcome the challenges that await us in the 111th Congress. I have faith in the record that I have forged over the past four decades, and I am proud of my accomplishments as a public servant. I accept this appointment to fill the unexpired term of President-elect Barack Obama. I ask the people of Illinois to place the same faith and trust and me that they have in the past, when they elected me three times as their state controller and one term as their attorney general."
In a statement, President-elect Obama praised Burris but said he won’t accept any appointments from Blagojevich. But in a sign of a looming internal political battle, Democratic Congress member Bobby Rush criticized the prospect of rejecting Burris’s appointment.
Rep. Bobby Rush: “I applaud the Governor for his decision, and I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. Separate, if you will, the appointee from the appointer. Roland Burris is worthy."
Meanwhile, the recount of Minnesota’s Senate race continues to swing in favor of Democratic challenger Al Franken. A new unofficial tally shows Franken ahead of Republican Senator Norm Coleman by fifty votes. The final tally awaits a decision on whether to accept more than 1,300 absentee ballots county officials say were mistakenly rejected.
The State of California has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Bush administration’s last-minute changes to the Endangered Species Act. California Attorney General Jerry Brown says he wants a US District Court to review changes that would remove scientific scrutiny on mining and logging decisions. The Bush administration also wants to do away with a rule ordering agencies to factor in the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when approving projects on federal land.
A Washington telecommunications lobbyist has filed a $27 million defamation suit accusing the New York Times of falsely suggesting she had a romantic relationship with Republican Senator John McCain. Earlier this year, the Times reported McCain repeatedly wrote letters to government regulators on behalf of Vicki Iseman’s clients. McCain served as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee at the time. The Times also reported McCain aides were concerned the two were having a romantic affair. In her lawsuit, Iseman calls the story “gossip and innuendo.”
And in Iraq, the trial of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush has been delayed. Muntadhar al-Zaidi remains in prison, where he has reportedly suffered repeated beatings. He has internal bleeding in his left eye, as well as bruises over his face and stomach. Zaidi’s lawyers are appealing the accusation that the shoe-throwing amounted to an assault. On Tuesday, Zaidi’s cousin, Hameda Lazem, denounced the charges.
Hameda Lazem: “I will leave the court to their conscience, because Muntadhar did not do anything. He did not assault a guest, since Bush is not a guest, but he is an enemy who came here to insult the children and widows."