Israel says it has cleared most Gaza Strip settlements after storming a synagogue to evict Jewish protesters making a defiant last stand in the hard-line settlement of Kfar Darom. Israel’s relocation of the settlers has been peaceful compared to Israeli operations against Palestinians. Still, there were moments of violence, as demonstrators hurled acid and dirt bombs at unarmed riot police on the second day of the forcible evacuation of the occupied Palestinian territory. Protesters set fire to abandoned buildings and screamed abuse at troops as settlers screaming in despair and anger were dragged from their homes and synagogues in other diehard communities of the Gaza Strip Thursday. The military commander of the Israeli pullout operation said Israeli forces would not evacuate any settlers during the weekend.
Meanwhile, a West Bank settler arrested for gunning down four Palestinians on the first day of the evacuation told reporters: “I am not sorry for what I have done. I wanted to stop the pullout and I hope someone murders Sharon as well.” Meanwhile, the jailed leader of the Palestinian uprising, Marwan Barghouti, hailed the pullout as a “victory for the resistance” over the Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip, home to 1.3 million Palestinians.
We turn now to Crawford, Texas. Antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan left the site where she has camped out since President Bush began his 5-week vacation 2 weeks ago. Sheehan said her mother had suffered a stroke and that she was heading to Los Angeles to be with her. Almost immediately after Sheehan made the announcement, other parents of soldiers killed in Iraq said they would continue the protest at the makeshift campsite, called “Camp Casey.” We will go directly to Amy Goodman, who is in Crawford, in just a moment.
Even as the protest continues in Texas, there are new developments in the antiwar effort on Capitol Hill. North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones says he has about 50 co-sponsors on a joint resolution that calls on President Bush to announce a plan for withdrawal from Iraq by the end of this year. This is the latest twist in the dramatic shift in position by Jones who was the politician behind the move to change the name of French fries to “Freedom Fries” in the Congressional cafeteria. The resolution was introduced in June by Jones, Republican Ron Paul of Texas, as well as Democrat Dennis Kucinich. It calls on the president to begin the withdrawal by Oct. 1, 2006, but it does not set an end date. Jones said the new supporters include five Republicans.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said Thursday that the United States is getting “more and more bogged down” in Iraq and stood by his comments that the White House is disconnected from reality and losing the war. Hagel mocked Vice President Dick Cheney’s assertion in June that the resistance in Iraq was in its “last throes,” saying, “Maybe the vice president can explain the increase in casualties we’re taking. If that’s winning, then he’s got a different definition of winning than I do.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is also calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Iraq, saying they were considered “occupying forces” by many Iraqis. Putin also called for an international conference on Iraq to be held by the end of the year.
The Pentagon is sending some 700 paratroopers to Iraq to guard US-operated prisons as it prepares to open a fourth major prison and leave Abu Ghraib, the site of its worst prisoner torture scandal to date. The prison population in Iraq has doubled in the past six months amid a series of US-led offensives. Next month, the US military is expected to complete a new detention center called Fort Suse to hold 2000 prisoners in northern Iraq. The Pentagon says there are currently about 12,000 prisoners in US military detention facilities in Iraq.
Meanwhile, one of the highest profile prisoners held by the US in Iraq may soon be released. The lawyer for former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz says he expects his client to be released from jail soon without being put on trial. He did not elaborate on when Aziz may be freed. No charges have yet been brought publicly against Aziz, whose lawyer said had been questioned by the U.S. military exhaustively in more than 150 sessions. Aziz’ lawyer says his client will not testify against Saddam Hussein, adding that he was asked to appear as a witness for the prosecution.
Allegations of a cover-up are growing in London over the fatal Police shooting of a Brazilian man initially characterized as a possible July 21st bomb suspect. The British official in charge of the Independent Police Complaints Commission said yesterday that City police initially opposed an independent investigation into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, but agreed to it later. The Police issued the statement after lawyers for the Menezes family met with the complaints commission, demanding more information about the killing.
Menezes was shot seven times in the head by police who followed him to a south London subway station on July 22–one day after the failed London subway bombings. Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that the whistleblower who leaked documents contradicting the official police story on the shooting has been suspended.
The human rights group, the National Labor Committee, has accused the Disney Corporation of using factories in China where workers labor under sweatshop conditions to produce children’s books. Protesters dressed in Disney cartoon character costumes demonstrated in New York in front of the Disney store. Here is National Labor Committee Director Charles Kernaghan describing the alleged conditions in one Disney factory in China: “When we buy this Disney book, in this Disney store, or we buy these Disney books in Wal-Mart, would the American people ever stop, could they imagine young workers in China forced to work 10 to 13 hours a day, six and seven days a week. Working, grueling sixty, seventy even ninety hours a week. Workers paid as low as 35 cents an hour, below the legal minimum wage, workers trapped in misery.”
The second-highest US diplomat in Baghdad has been implicated in the so-called AIPAC Spy scandal. The New York Times reports that the diplomat, David Satterfield is one of the anonymous government officials cited in an Aug. 4 indictment as having provided classified information to an employee of the pro-Israel lobbying group. According to the paper, in early 2002, Satterfield discussed secret national security matters in two meetings with Steven Rosen, who has since been dismissed as a top lobbyist for AIPAC. Rosen has been charged in the case. It is unclear how Iraqis will react to the news. Many in Iraq already believe that the US is working in constant collusion with Israel.
Now an update on the condition of civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. Her doctor says she suffered a minor heart attack and a major stroke that impaired her ability to speak and affected her right side, but the doctor said she is “completely aware.” King’s daughter said the family expects a full recovery.
Donald Rumsfeld is amplifying the US hostility against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. On a visit to Peru, Rumsfeld said Chavez was guilty of “anti-social, destabilizing behavior” that threatened regional security. Rumsfeld also charged that Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro had interfered in the affairs of Bolivia. That country’s president was brought down earlier this year in an indigenous-led revolt. Some analysts say that Rumsfeld’s remarks show that the Bush administration is gearing up for an escalation in its hostility to the progressive movements that are growing in Latin America. Venezuela has regularly confronted Washington’s interference in its affairs, recently threatening to cut off oil supplies to the US.
And finally, Bolivian photographer Freddy Alborta, famous for his image of revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara lying dead, has died in La Paz. He passed away on Wednesday at the age of 73. In 1967, Alborta was one of a group of journalists allowed to view Guevara’s body after he was captured and executed by CIA backed forces. The picture of the leftist guerrilla, with his eyes open and surrounded by soldiers, was first published in a Bolivian newspaper and then transmitted by newswire around the world as proof Che was dead.