Israeli warplanes and helicopters have attacked the Gaza Strip for a third day in a row. More than 310 Palestinians have been killed since Saturday, and 1,400 have been wounded. Saturday was the deadliest day in Gaza since Israel’s occupation of the territory in 1967. Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak said today that Israel was in an “all-out war against Hamas.” Israel has bombed every major town in Gaza, including Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah, and is now threatening to launch a ground invasion as Israeli troops and tanks move to the border. On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet called up 6,500 reserve forces. Overnight, Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza’s Interior Ministry and the Islamic University in Gaza City. A separate Israeli bombing killed four young Palestinian girls from the same family. Palestinian officials say at least twenty-two children have been killed and more than 235 children have been wounded since Saturday.
Israel says the attacks are necessary in order to stop Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel. Earlier today, one Israeli died after a Palestinian missile hit the town of Ashkelon. Fourteen Israelis were wounded in the missile strike. The Israeli fatality is the second since the air strikes began Saturday. On Sunday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Hamas should be condemned by the international community for firing rockets into Israel.
Tzipi Livni: “Excuse me, I cannot accept something like we call both sides to halt the violence or to stop the military actions. There is no 'both sides' in this. There is one designated terrorist organization which controls Gaza Strip, which spreads its agenda of hatred, that cannot accept our right to live.”
Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum accused the Israeli government of carrying out a holocaust of the Palestinian people.
Fawzi Barhoum: “Today is a holocaust and a massacre day that Livni had internationally and regionally campaigned for so she can commit to this holocaust and this massacre. This is a public massacre for our Palestinian people in Gaza. All the casualties and dead are policemen, women, children, elderly and civilians.”
On Saturday, the exiled political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, called for a Third Intifada, or uprising, against Israeli forces. Hospital officials in Gaza say they are overwhelmed with the number of casualties. Hospitals have been unable to get needed medical supplies into Gaza for more than a year because of the Israeli blockade.
Protests against the Israeli attacks have been held throughout the Arab world, Europe and the United States. The United Nations Security Council Sunday issued a non-binding statement calling for “an immediate halt to all violence” in the Gaza Strip and for Israel to open the border crossings for aid supplies.
Neven Jurica, UN Security Council president: “The members of the Council called for all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures, including opening all border crossings to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies, including supplies for food, fuel and provision of medical treatment.”
Here in the United States, Republican and Democratic leaders voiced support for Israel’s actions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “When Israel is attacked, the United States must continue to stand strongly with its friend and democratic ally.” A White House spokesperson said, “These people are nothing but thugs. Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas.” The Jerusalem Post reports the Israeli Air Force has been using a new US-made bunker buster missile in its attack on Gaza. Earlier this year, Congress allowed the Bush administration to sell 1,000 of the GBU-39 bunker buster bombs to Israel.
In other news, cleanup efforts continue in Tennessee to combat the largest coal ash spill in US history. The Tennessee Valley Authority now says 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal sludge spilled out of a coal plant retention pond last week, burying homes and roads. That is three times the size of the TVA’s initial estimate. The amount of ash released would fill 450,000 standard dump trucks. A TVA spokesperson said that tests show elevated levels of lead and thallium in water near the breach. The Environmental Protection Agency reported that “very high” levels of arsenic were found in a water sample collected from the affected area and that several heavy metals have also been found in quantities “slightly above drinking water standards.” The sludge has flowed into the Emory River, a tributary of the Tennessee River, which provides drinking water to millions of people downstream in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.
Pakistan has redeployed thousands of troops from its western border with Afghanistan to its border with India in the east. Pakistani officials told the New York Times that they had received intelligence that suggested India could soon launch an attack inside Pakistan. The Pakistani troops have been reportedly sent near the boundary that separates Pakistani- and Indian-controlled Kashmir, as well to the area surrounding Lahore about twenty miles from the border with India. Tension between the two nuclear-armed rivals has been mounting since last month’s deadly attack in Mumbai, which India blamed on Pakistani militants.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, fourteen children died Sunday after a suicide bomber blew himself up near an Afghan primary school.
The president of Somalia’s UN-backed government resigned today, saying he had lost control of the country to Islamic insurgents. Abdullahi Yusuf announced his resignation on a nationwide radio broadcast. Yusuf said, “Most of the country is not in our hands. After seeing all these things, I have finally quit.”
In Brazil, there is a development in the murder case of Dorothy Stang, the American nun killed in 2005 for speaking out against logging in the Amazon rain forest. Prosecutors in Brazil said they plan to charge a rancher named Regivaldo Galvao after new questions about his involvement were raised in the documentary film They Killed Sister Dorothy. Stang spent thirty years in Brazil trying to prevent ranchers from taking the land of poor Amazon settlers.
In domestic news, the Washington Post reports at least nineteen states have made cuts to Medicaid benefits, the government health insurance program for the poor. States from Florida to California have lowered payments to hospitals and nursing homes, eliminated coverage for some treatments and forced some recipients out of the insurance program completely. Many of the states are halting payments for healthcare services not required by the federal government, such as physical therapy, eyeglasses, hearing aids and hospice care. Federal health officials set minimum rules about who can enroll and what care must be covered, but states are free to add to the basics. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked the state legislature to approve even more Medicaid cuts, including an end to dental care for adults.
A new study has found teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do. The Washington Post reports the study is the latest in a series that have raised questions about programs that focus on encouraging abstinence until marriage.
In political news, a Tennessee Republican seeking the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee is coming under criticism for sending out a CD of holiday music that contained a song called “Barack the Magic Negro.” Chip Saltsman is the former chair of the Republican Party in Tennessee and former campaign manager for Mike Huckabee. Another candidate for the RNC chair has also been embroiled in a scandal. Katon Dawson was a longtime member of a white-only country club in South Carolina.
The Nobel Prize-winning British playwright Harold Pinter died on Wednesday at the age of seventy-eight. The New York Times described him as “the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation.” Pinter’s best-known plays include The Birthday Party, The Caretaker and The Homecoming.
And the singer and actress Eartha Kitt has died at the age of eighty-one. She was blacklisted in 1968 after she spoke out against the Vietnam War at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. When Johnson asked her about the Vietnam War, Kitt replied, “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. They rebel in the street. They don’t want to go to school because they’re going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam.” The First Lady reportedly burst into tears. For four years afterward, Kitt performed almost exclusively overseas and was investigated by the FBI and CIA.
Eartha Kitt: “My greatest challenge was to be able to survive in the business and to be able to survive according to what I was doing, not according to what other people were doing. And therefore, I just stuck to my own guns, and I think that’s one of the ways I have survived, is that I didn’t follow the herd. I followed my own path.”