Israeli troops shot dead at least 13 Palestinian protesters and injured hundreds more on Sunday when Palestinian refugees from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as residents of Gaza, tried to enter Israel in multiple areas. As many as 300 people from Syria overwhelmed border patrols and briefly entered Israel. The mass protest came on the day known as the Nakba when Palestinians mourn the 1948 establishment of Israel. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were driven out of their homes in 1948. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians killed on Sunday should be remembered as martyrs.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “I ask that God save the souls of the martyrs who fell today at the hands of the soldiers of the Israeli occupation while they were in a demonstration commemorating the Nakba inside the nation, in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and on the Syrian and Lebanese border. Their precious blood will not be shed in vain, because it is blood that was shed for the liberation and rights of our Palestinian people.”
In Egypt, at least 350 pro-Palestinian demonstrators were injured when Egyptian police violently crushed a protest outside of the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Egyptian police reportedly fired live ammunition, tear gas grenades and rubber bullets at the crowd. Palestinian protester, Amer Melhem, took part in the protest in Cairo.
Palestinian protester, Amer Melhem: “What you see here is sort of a ring of solidarity and compassion with the Palestinian people, an affirmation of their being occupied for more than 60 years, until this day. Also, it’s the affirmation of the vision of liberation and hope that the Palestinian people live by, which is shared by their Arab brothers.”
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor announced today he is seeking the arrest of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi and two others for crimes against humanity. Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanusi bore the greatest responsibility for “widespread and systematic attacks” on civilians.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo: “The evidence shows that Muammar Gaddafi personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians. His forces attacked Libyan civilians in their homes and in the public spaces. His second eldest son, Seif al-Islam, is a de facto prime minister. And al-Sanusi, Gaddafi’s brother-in law, is his right-hand man, the executioner.”
This marks only the second time the ICC has sought a warrant for a sitting head of state. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes including genocide in Darfur. In other news from Libya, On Sunday, Gaddafi’s prime minister offered a truce in return for an immediate NATO ceasefire, but NATO appears set to ramp up its attacks. The head of Britain’s armed forces said Sunday NATO needs to increase the pressure on Libya. On Saturday, Libya buried 11 Muslim clerics who were reportedly killed on Friday in a NATO air strike in the city of Brega.
The United Arab Emirates has hired Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, to build an army of mercenaries to help protect the country. According to the New York Times, the UAE secretly signed a $529 million contract with Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops. Documents show the force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks, and put down internal revolts. Such troops could be deployed if the UAE were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year. The UAE is a close ally with the United States, and it appears Prince has received some support from the Obama administration to build the private army. Legal experts, though, said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit U.S. citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the U.S. Department of State. The force is reportedly made up of Colombians, South Africans and other foreign troops. Prince reportedly has a strict rule against hiring any Muslims because he is worried they could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, is expected to be arraigned today at Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on charges of attempted rape, sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment. He is accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid on Saturday inside his $3,000-a-night suite. Strauss-Kahn was arrested on an Air France jet about to depart New York City. Strauss-Kahn had led the IMF since 2007, but was expected to resign soon to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency in 2012.
Japanese authorities are widening the exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility as radiation levels remain high more than two months after the nuclear disaster. Meanwhile, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has revealed substantial damage occurred to the reactor cores at reactors 2 and 3 of the nuclear complex. Last week TEPCO acknowledged the fuel inside reactor 1 had apparently melted down, creating a hole in the chamber causing a leak of more than 3,000 tons of highly contaminated water. Greenpeace is urging Japan to start an investigation after high levels of radiation were found in seaweed off the coast of Fukushima. Ike Teuling is a radiation expert at Greenpeace.
Ike Teuling, Greenpeace radiation expert: “Although the Japanese government gave us only very limited permission to do our marine research, we did find radioactive seaweed with alarming high levels of contamination.”
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing of a Saudi diplomat in the city of Karachi. Officials said four people riding motorcycles opened fire on the Saudi diplomat’s car. Last week, the Pakistani Taliban carried out a twin bombing on a paramilitary force academy that killed at least 89 people.
In Haiti, pop-star-turned-politician Michel Martelly, was sworn in on Saturday as Haiti’s new president. He pledged to rebuild the country, while promising security and guarantees for investments and private property owners. Martelly recently suggested he would rebuild Haiti’s dismantled army, a proposal criticized by many in Haiti due to the army’s long record of human rights abuses. Martelly was elected in a controversial election where Haiti’s most popular party, Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas, was barred from running a candidate.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have opened up a key Mississippi River floodgate for the first time in four decades, putting thousands of homes and large portions of farmland at risk. The Morganza floodgate has been opened in an effort to divert the swollen Mississippi River from flooding the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as well as a number of oil refineries and chemical plants located on the edge of the river. Some 25,000 people and 11,000 structures in the heart of Louisiana Cajun country could be affected by the diverted water. In Vicksburg, Mississippi, the river has already risen a record-setting 13 feet above flood stage.
A 25-year-old American student named Christopher Whitman was seriously injured in the West Bank on Friday when he was shot by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces. At the time of the shooting, Whitman was recording video of a weekly nonviolent protest against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank. Whitman’s video camera kept recording even after he was shot.