Israel is continuing to bombard the occupied Gaza Strip after killing 34 people on Monday — the deadliest single-day toll since the assault began last week. Monday’s victims included four members of the same family — two parents and their two toddlers — who were killed in a bombing of a Gaza refugee camp that also left more than a dozen people injured, mostly women and children. One woman and two children were killed in a separate Israeli attack in eastern Gaza City. Two teenage brothers were also killed when an Israeli shell struck a home in Rafah. And as Democracy Now! reported live on Monday’s broadcast, Israel also bombed a Palestinian media site for a second consecutive day, leaving two people dead. The Israeli journalist Amira Hass reports just six of the 34 latest Palestinian victims have been confirmed as members of militant groups. In the latest attacks, Palestinians say at least five people were killed and 10 wounded in Israeli bombings earlier today. The killings have also spread to the occupied West Bank, with Israeli troops shooting dead two people taking part in protests against the Gaza assault. The overall Palestinian death toll has topped 116 over the past seven days, more than half of them civilians, including 27 children and 11 women. The Israeli death toll from Palestinian rocket attacks stands at three. Israel says some 90 rockets were fired from Gaza earlier today.
The violence comes amidst ongoing ceasefire talks convened by Egyptian leaders with both sides in Cairo. A number of foreign officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, plan to visit the region today, although neither Clinton nor Ban will visit Gaza. Turkey’s foreign minister is expected to visit Gaza in a show of solidarity with Palestinians under attack. Speaking in Cairo, the exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said the group is seeking an end to the Gaza blockade as part of its ceasefire talks.
Khaled Meshaal: “The people of Gaza demand that their legitimate demands are met, that Israel ends its aggression, assassinations and invasions, and to end the blockade of Gaza.”
President Obama has met with a number of Asian leaders, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a visit to Cambodia. Earlier today, Obama and Wen met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, which Obama is attending in the third and final stop of his first post-election foreign trip. Obama’s stay in Cambodia marks the first to the country by a sitting U.S. president. He arrived after also making a historic visit to Burma, where he urged the ruling junta to continue with political reform.
President Obama: “The steps that he has already taken for democratization, elections, the release of prisoners of conscience, a commitment to work with us on a human rights dialogue, all can unleash the incredible potential of this beautiful country. And I shared with him the fact that I recognize that this is just the first steps on what will be a long journey.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered government forces to seize control of the U.S. military prison at Bagram Air Base. On Monday, a Karzai spokesperson accused the United States of breaching a March agreement on transferring the prison and its inmates over to Afghan control.
Aimal Faizi: “The president has ordered the minister of defense, the attorney general and the chief commander of Bagram prison to take serious and swift measures to ensure that a full Afghanistanization of the Bagram prison takes place, including its management.”
The Afghan government says the United States continues to hold dozens of prisoners in Bagram that have been cleared for release. More than 600 prisoners remain in U.S. custody.
In other news from Afghanistan, France has withdrawn its final contingent of 500 combat troops from a volatile northeast region to the capital of Kabul. France will keep around 1,500 troops in Afghanistan through next year for what it says are non-combat missions. The move is part of French President François Hollande’s campaign vow to bring an early end to France’s involvement in the Afghan war.
Colombia’s largest rebel group has announced a unilateral two-month ceasefire at the outset of a new round of peace talks with the government. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has been fighting the government for nearly 50 years. Talks between the two sides began in Norway last month and resumed Monday in Cuba. FARC negotiator Iván Márquez announced the rebels would halt fighting.
Iván Márquez: “All guerrilla units in the entire national territory have been ordered to cease all manner of offensive military operations against public forces and acts of sabotage on public or private infrastructure, from the period starting November 20 at midnight until midnight on January 20, 2013.”
The Colombian government has refused to sign on to the ceasefire, saying its military operations will continue.
The retail giant Wal-Mart is seeking to block a series of protests and actions critical of its labor conditions at stores nationwide. Late last week, Wal-Mart filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, claiming it’s unlawfully trying to disrupt its business. No Wal-Mart workers are represented by UFCW — or any union — but the company says it’s behind a nationwide campaign seeking better workplace conditions. The move comes just days before a group of Wal-Mart workers are preparing to strike on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States. The strike will be accompanied by rallies and flash mobs outside Wal-Mart stores nationwide.
The U.S. food giant Hostess and its second largest union have agreed to enter mediation talks after the company blamed a workers’ strike when it moved to liquidate its assets and cease operations last week. The Hostess bakers’ union went on strike after rejecting a contract that slashed pensions, wages and health benefits. While the company blamed the union for its planned closure, critics say Hostess tripled its CEO’s pay and increased executive compensation by as much as 80 percent while it filed for bankruptcy for the second time earlier this year. The mediation was agreed to after a bankruptcy judge overseeing the case said the failure to undergo talks left “a huge question mark.” Hostess’ products include the well-known snack cake, the Twinkie.
A U.S. Army sergeant accused of killing five other American servicemembers at an Iraq military base in 2009 appeared in court Monday for his arraignment. Sergeant John Russell faces five counts of premeditated murder and one count of aggravated assault with a maximum sentence of the death penalty. Russell was on his third tour of duty in Iraq when he opened fire at a clinic where he had been urged to receive counseling. He had previously had his gun taken away due to erratic behavior.
The Federal Communications Commission appears poised to push through relaxed media consolidation rules that a federal appeals court has previously overturned. A statement from FCC chair Julius Genachowski has called for a vote to “streamline and modernize media ownership rules, including eliminating outdated prohibitions on newspaper-radio and TV-radio cross-ownership.” The move appears to be an effort to restore provisions struck down last year that made it easier for a company to own a newspaper and a broadcast outlet in a single market. In a statement, the media reform group Free Press criticized the new effort, saying: “The FCC’s headlong rush to push through these policies behind closed doors shows a blatant disregard for its own public interest mandate and the court’s clear instructions.”
A New York City man has survived a brutal stabbing as he opened a mosque for prayer in the neighborhood of Queens. The victim, Bashar Mohammod, was stabbed multiple times by an assailant who yelled anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic slurs. Mohammod was treated for his wounds before being released.
Democrats have claimed victories over the final House seats that remained undecided from this year’s elections. Overall, Democrats gained a total of eight seats, tightening the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Two closely watched races in California saw Democrats oust Republican incumbents Dan Lungren and Brian Bilbray. In Arizona, Ron Barber, a former aide to Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, has been re-elected after initially replacing Giffords following her shooting in last year’s Tucson shooting rampage. Meanwhile, in Florida, tea party-backed Republican Congressmember Allen West has finally conceded his re-election bid against Democrat Patrick Murphy following two partial recounts.