Israel says it is considering a new ceasefire proposal from Egypt that would take effect on Friday. There is no word yet from Hamas, which rejected the last proposal on the grounds its leaders were never consulted and the terms would have allowed for the continued siege of Gaza and for Israeli bombardment at will. The first ceasefire proposal was unveiled days after a previously undisclosed secret phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The news of a fresh proposal comes just as a five-hour humanitarian pause has ended. The United Nations asked for the break to let Gazans receive supplies and repair damage following 10 days of Israeli bombings. As the brief truce took effect, Israel says it killed eight militants trying to tunnel their way into southern Israel. Three Palestinians were killed in a separate Israeli strike just before the pause began.
The death toll in Gaza has reached at least 227, mostly civilians, including around 50 children. One Israeli has died since the attack began. On Wednesday, an Israeli gunboat shelled a beach, killing four boys who were kicking around a soccer ball. The boys were all between the ages of nine and 11 and from the same extended family. They were killed as they ran away from an initial blast, suggesting they may have been targeted intentionally.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki called Palestinian civilian deaths “absolutely tragic” but blamed Hamas for the casualties, saying: “They’re putting their own people at risk by continuing to escalate the situation on the ground.” In his first public comments on the Gaza assault, President Obama also lamented the mass killings of Palestinians but defended Israel’s attacks by saying they are in self-defense.
A Florida teenager whose beating by Israeli forces was caught on video this month has returned to the United States. Tariq Abu Khdeir says he was watching demonstrations in East Jerusalem when he was seized. The video shows him lying on the ground as the officers repeatedly beat him with batons. He was left with facial bruises and severely swollen eyes and lips. Tariq was a cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teen kidnapped and burned alive in an apparent revenge attack for the killings of three teenage Israeli settlers. Moments after landing in Tampa Wednesday night, Tariq urged supporters to remember his cousin and the dozens of Palestinian children killed in the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza.
Tariq Abu Khdeir: “There is one main thing that I wanted to say, which is that you only know my story because I am an American, but I hope you will all also remember my cousin, a 16-year-old Palestinian named Mohammed Abu Khdeir. … I want to ask you all to please remember my cousin Mohammed and the 36 kids that died in Gaza over the past several days. They have names like mine. I hope the violence will stop for their sake. No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die that way. I am so glad to be back home again.”
The Obama administration has expanded U.S. sanctions on Russia in the latest round of a standoff over Ukraine. Speaking at the White House, President Obama said Russia has failed to drop military support for pro-Russian separatists.
President Obama: “Given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions. Along with our allies, with whom I have been coordinating closely the last several days and weeks, I’ve repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine, that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a ceasefire, that Russia needs to pursue internationally mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border.”
The new sanctions are the most extensive on Russia to date, with targets including the state-controlled energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft. Ukraine has seen continued violence in recent weeks, with the U.S.-backed Kiev government launching major attacks on Russian-leaning southeastern areas.
President Obama has suggested he will approve an extension of Iranian nuclear talks before Sunday’s deadline for an agreement. After a briefing from Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama noted significant progress but said key gaps remain.
President Obama: “Over the last six months, Iran has met its commitments under the interim deal we reached last year, halting the progress of its nuclear program, allowing more inspections and rolling back its most dangerous stockpile of nuclear material. … But as we approach a deadline of July 20 under the interim deal, there are still some significant gaps between the international community and Iran, and we have more work to do. So, over the next few days, we’ll continue consulting with Congress, and our team will continue discussions with Iran and our partners, as we determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations.”
A federal judge has struck down the death penalty in California on the grounds sentences are carried out in an “arbitrary” and “random” manner. In his ruling, Judge Cormac Carney wrote the state’s system “[is] so plagued by inordinate delay that the death sentence is actually carried out against only a trivial few of those sentenced to death.” Carney said the delays and unpredictable outcomes amount to “cruel and unusual punishment.” Hundreds of prisoners are on California’s death row, but no executions have been carried out since 2006, when a federal judge ruled against lethal injections.
A Swedish court has upheld the arrest warrant that’s kept WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange confined in Ecuador’s London Embassy for over two years. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct, though no charges have been filed. Assange’s attorneys had petitioned for the warrant to be withdrawn, arguing it cannot be enforced while Assange is in the embassy and Swedish prosecutors refuse to question him in London. But the motion was dismissed on Wednesday without explanation. Defense attorney Thomas Olsson vowed to appeal.
Thomas Olsson: “We will appeal against this decision. We don’t agree with the district court in their judgment of the need to overrule this decision about custody. We can’t accept that this situation is [continuing]. … I think that legally we have very strong arguments, but this case has many dimensions, and it was probably a very difficult decision for the court to take. We waited several hours for it. But we are hopeful for the appeal.”
Wednesday’s hearing marked the first formal legal debate over Assange’s status since he took refuge in June 2012.