Survivors aboard the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip have begun to provide their accounts of the Israeli assault that left at least nine people dead and sparked an international uproar. Israel has begun deporting the 682 people seized from the ships during the assault. Many have challenged Israeli military claims that soldiers acted in self-defense after repelling onto the Mavi Marmara. Some say Israeli troops opened fire before boarding the vessel. Passengers on other ships in the flotilla say they were threatened at gunpoint.
Despite the assault, another aid ship has set sail for Gaza intending to challenge the Israeli blockade. The ship is named after Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer in March 2003. The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, meanwhile, has announced it’s planning a flotilla of even more ships than the first to set sail for Gaza in the coming weeks.
The Obama administration has refused to condemn the Israeli assault. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the US stance in Washington.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy, and we urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately. We urge all concerned countries to work together to resolve the status of those who were part of this incident as soon as possible. We support, in the strongest terms, the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria."
All the permanent members of the Security Council except for the United States have called for Israel’s three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted. On a visit to Uganda, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his demand for an end to the blockade.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Had the Israeli government heeded to international calls and my own strong and urgent and persistent call to lift the blockade of Gaza, this would not have happened. Therefore, it is again very important and urgently required that Israelis would immediately lift this blockade of Gaza."
Global protest, meanwhile, continues to grow in the aftermath of the assault. Tens of thousands of people turned out in rallies across the world Tuesday, from South Africa to Greece to Lebanon to England to cities across the United States. Here in New York, a large crowd marched on the Israeli consulate.
Remi Kanazi: "I think anybody, a person of conscience, should be here today to stand in solidarity with the Gaza boats, with the aid boats, with the people of Gaza. I mean, as an American citizen, my tax dollars are going to fund every single Israeli bullet, every Apache helicopter, Hellfire missile, cluster bomb, white phosphorus, and I think we need to stand up. It’s important to educate, but it’s also important to take action. And being in the streets or engaging in boycott, divestment and sanctions, we need to be engaged in the community, we need to be part of the grassroots, and we need to be moving things forward and standing in solidarity with Palestinian society."
Meanwhile, an American college student has lost her left eye after being shot in the face by an Israeli tear-gas canister during a protest against the flotilla assault in the occupied West Bank. The student, twenty-one-year-old Emily Henochowicz, underwent surgery in a Jerusalem hospital on Tuesday. The Israeli peace activist Jonathan Pollak witnessed the attack.
Jonathan Pollak: "It was a spontaneous and quite small demonstration against the atrocious violence on that ship coming to Gaza, a hundred people at its largest at the beginning. And at the time Emily was shot, there were about, I don’t know, twenty people at most there. Emily was standing aside from where things were happening, and at some point the border police officers just started shooting indiscriminately, shooting directly at us tear-gas projectiles, one from a very small distance of about twenty, ten to twenty meters. Emily was hit in the face by one of those, and it was intentionally aimed towards us. There could have been no mistake, the small distance and the place where she was standing at."
Emily Henochowicz is an undergraduate at Cooper Union New York.
The Justice Department has confirmed it’s opened a criminal and civil investigation into the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, now believed to be the worst environmental disaster in US history. Eric Holder made the announcement following a meeting with federal and state prosecutors in New Orleans.
Attorney General Eric Holder: "Yes, we have begun both a criminal as well as a civil investigation, as is our obligation under the law. Our environmental laws are very clear, and we have a responsibility to enforce them, and we will do so. I don’t want to describe exactly who is under investigation. At this point the investigation is and has been ongoing for some time, but I wouldn’t want to specify at this point who the targets or the subjects are of that investigation."
News of the investigation helped plunge BP’s stock value 15 percent on Tuesday. BP also announced it’s effectively abandoned any hope of plugging the breached well and instead will try to siphon off the leak until relief wells are completed in August. Earlier in the day, President Obama promised a thorough probe after meeting with the chairs of the bipartisan commission investigating the oil spill.
President Obama: "Untold damage is being done to the environment, damage that could last for decades. We owe all those who have been harmed, as well as future generations, a full and vigorous accounting of the events that led what has now become the worst oil spill in US history. Only then can we be assured that deepwater drilling can take place safely."
Florida, meanwhile, is set to become the fourth state directly impacted by the oil spill. State officials say an oil sheen is now just nine miles from Pensacola and could make landfall as early as today. We’ll have more on the oil spill later in the broadcast.
In Japan, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has resigned over his broken promise to move a US military base off the island of Okinawa. Hatoyama sparked outrage last month when he decided to relocate the base to the north side of the island, as originally agreed upon with the United States. Local residents opposed the move, which came just weeks after some 90,000 people held a rally to call for the base’s removal. Half the estimated 47,000 US troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa.
An American lawyer has been imprisoned in Rwanda shortly after arriving to defend a presidential hopeful challenging the Rwandan government. The lawyer, Peter Erlinder, is being held on charges of denying the Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan government has been accused of using laws barring genocide denial to silence opposition critics. Erlinder was reportedly hospitalized this week after hours of interrogation.
In San Diego, a Mexican immigrant has died after customs officers repeatedly struck him with batons and shocked him with a stun gun as they deported him to Mexico. The victim, Anastacio Hernández-Rojas, had been detained after crossing over from Mexico last week. Family members say Hernández-Rojas has lived in the United States since he was fourteen and is the father of five US-born children. Customs officials say officers struck and tasered him after he began resisting his deportation. Witnesses reported seeing the officers kick and beat Hernández-Rojas. The San Diego Police Department says it’s investigating.
Here in New York, a group of immigrant youths have begun a hunger strike outside the offices of Democratic Senator and Senate Immigration Subcommittee chair Charles Schumer in support of the DREAM Act, which would grant the children of undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. The students want Schumer to propose the DREAM Act as a standalone bill.
Jose Luis: "I’ve been in this country for twenty years. And in those twenty years, my hope has always been the same: become a better human being, become someone who is productive to our society. What do we want for this country? What do we want for our society if we’re denying the education to these 65,000 students across the country? I ask Senator Schumer today, wouldn’t you pass a legislation that would benefit your son, your daughter? Wouldn’t you pass a legislation, wouldn’t you promote a legislation that would make your country stronger?"
Earlier today, police began removing the youths from the street outside Schumer’s office. Online messages posted by the New York State Youth Leadership Council say the hunger-strikers will refuse to abandon their protest.
A new study says African Americans and other people of color continue to face discriminatory exclusion from jury service across the US South. The Equal Justice Initiative says a review of jury selections in eight Southern states found "hundreds people of color called for jury service have been illegally excluded." The discrimination was found to be particularly widespread "in serious criminal cases and capital cases." The study says it found evidence that some prosecutors have been trained to exclude people of color from juries and to evade anti-discrimination laws. Among the areas cited in the study are Houston County, Alabama, where eight out of ten African Americans jurors were removed from death penalty cases. In Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, there were virtually no African Americans jurors in 80 percent of criminal trials.
The Supreme Court has issued a five-to-four ruling that criminal suspects must now affirm their intent to remain silent and request a lawyer in order to avoid having their statements used against them in court. In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, "Suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so."
New York is poised to become the first state establishing a landmark set of working standards for housekeepers, nannies and other domestic workers. State lawmakers have passed a measure that would require overtime pay after eight-hour workdays, at least one day off per week, and at least eighteen holidays, sick days and vacation days per year. Lawmakers will now attempt to reconcile the Senate and Assembly versions before sending a final bill to Governor David Paterson.
And the French American painter and sculptor Louise Bourgeois has died. She was ninety-eight years old.