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An Israeli air strike has killed a Palestinian and wounded at least one other in the Gaza Strip, marking the first fatal air strike there since a ceasefire in November. The victim, in his twenties, was identified as Haitham al-Mishal. The Israeli military said he was a militant involved in a rocket attack on Israel earlier this month. But a spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry said he was a Palestinian police officer. In an unrelated incident hours earlier, a Palestinian man reportedly killed an Israeli settler in the West Bank. It was the first Israeli death from Palestinian violence in the area since 2011.
Syrian state television reports a massive explosion in the capital Damascus has killed 13 people and wounded scores of others. The origin of the attack was unclear, but Damascus has been a target of rebels seeking the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The blast came a day after Syria’s prime minister survived an apparent assassination attempt in the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six people were killed in that attack, including the prime minister’s bodyguard.
The United Nations is seeking more concrete evidence to establish whether President Bashar al-Assad’s government has used chemical weapons in its conflict with the rebels. While the United States and other countries say they believe the regime likely used the deadly nerve agent sarin, U.N. inspectors say the current evidence is not strong enough to meet its standard of proof. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Syria to grant access to U.N. investigators so they can collect samples from alleged attack sites and victims.
Ban Ki-moon: “I take seriously the recent intelligence report of the United States about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. On-site activities are essential if the United Nations is to be able to establish the facts and clear all the doubts surrounding this issue. A credible and comprehensive inquiry requires full access to the site where chemical weapons are alleged to have been used. I again urge Syrian authorities to allow the investigation to proceed without delay and without any conditions.”
In Iraq, the death toll from a wave of car bombings in Shiite areas south of Baghdad Monday has reached at least 36. More than 200 people have died in attacks and clashes in the past week since security forces raided a Sunni protest encampment.
In Mexico, peace activists are calling on the United States to staunch the flow of assault weapons that are fueling its bloody drug war. More than 68 percent of weapons recovered by authorities in Mexico have been traced back to the United States, and past estimates have put the number as high as 90 percent. On Monday, demonstrators launched a motorized blimp with the hashtag “Goodbye to arms” as they delivered a petition with more than 18,000 signatures to the U.S. embassy calling for greater curbs on weapons sales. Among them was Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was murdered by drug traffickers.
Javier Sicilia: “If this isn’t on the bilateral agenda, if it isn’t a priority, together with the issue of drug regularization and a serious policy concerning money laundering, then it won’t be possible to end the horror Mexico is living in.”
President Obama is due to visit Mexico on Thursday and Costa Rica on Friday.
The European Commission has voted to impose a continent-wide ban on pesticides believed to be seriously harmful to bees. Some 2.6 million people had signed a petition to ban the pesticides that may poison bees, disrupt their normal behavior and make them more vulnerable to disease. The bee population has seen a dramatic decline in recent years.
In Utah, a woman is facing charges under the state’s so-called “ag-gag” law for filming a slaughterhouse from a public street. Journalist Will Potter reports Amy Meyer is the first person in the country to face prosecution under the wave of state laws, which critics say are designed to muzzle proof of animal cruelty by criminalizing undercover filming at farms and slaughterhouses. Meyer said in a statement: “I am shocked and disappointed that I am being prosecuted … simply for standing on public property and documenting horrific animal abuse while those who perpetrated these acts are free to continue maiming and killing animals.” The slaughterhouse where Meyer filmed happens to be owned by Darrell Smith, the mayor of Draper City, where it is located.
A new study shows the racial wealth gap in the United States has increased. According to the Urban Institute, the average white family was six times wealthier than the average African-American or Latino family in 2010, up from five-times wealthier three decades ago. The average wealth of whites was $500,000 more than the average wealth of African Americans or Latinos.
NBA player Jason Collins has disclosed he is gay, becoming the first openly gay male athlete who is still active in a major U.S. team sport. In a Sports Illustrated cover story, Collins writes: “If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.” Collins’ move comes years after numerous female professional athletes have made similar announcements, including tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who tweeted Monday: “Well done Jason Collins- you are a brave man…1981 was the year for me- 2013 is the year for you.”