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Israel has intensified its assault on the Gaza Strip, bombing more than 150 sites overnight including Gaza’s only power station. Palestinian health officials say more than 110 people have died in 24 hours, bringing the Palestinian death toll to more than 1,100. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers have been reported killed, including 10 on Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of a “protracted campaign” against Hamas even as the United Nations has called for an immediate end to violence “in the name of humanity.”
Among those killed Monday were 10 people, including eight children, who died in an explosion in a park near the beach in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. Israel denied responsibility, but eyewitnesses said the explosion came from an Israeli airstrike. An aunt of one of the victims said five of the children killed were from the same family.
Faiza Abu Amira: “Our young children were playing on the swings when a rocket hit them and tore them apart on the floor, five children from the same family. All of them died, one of them my nephew. What does Israel want from us for it to do this to our children?”
Protests both supporting and condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza have continued around the world, including here in New York City. On Monday, an estimated 10,000 Israeli government supporters rallied near the United Nations. Among the attendees were members of New York’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, who said he is sending the U.N. a letter signed by more than 100 lawmakers to demand it not investigate Israel for war crimes. Nearby, a group of Jewish-American peace activists gathered to read the names of those killed in Gaza, outside the office of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, a coalition of about 50 Jewish groups, including the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. Nine people were arrested after sitting down in front of the entrance, including Joshua Leifer.
Joshua Leifer: “Part of the history of the Jewish people is being victims of oppression, but that also means that we are obligated to fight against oppression wherever we find that. We’re free, we have a Jewish state, but our liberation isn’t complete until everyone else is liberated.”
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has prevented a team of international investigators from reaching the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 for the third day in a row. According to Reuters, at least 19 civilians have died in the latest round of violence. A U.N. tally Monday showed about 800 civilians have been killed since mid-April when Ukraine launched an offensive to oust the rebels. The latest clashes come as the United States and European Union are poised to impose the harshest sanctions to date against Russia for its support of the rebels, whom they accuse of shooting down the plane with Russian-supplied missiles. Europe could unveil its sanctions against Russia’s financial, technology and arms industries as early as today. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken says the United States will follow suit.
Tony Blinken: “We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself. Our purpose here, again, is not to punish Russia, but to make clear that it must cease its support for the separatists and stop destabilizing Ukraine.”
In another escalation of U.S.-Russia tensions, the United States has accused Russia of violating a Cold War-era arms treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile that is banned under the 1987 accord. The New York Times reports Russia began testing the missile as far back as 2008.
In Afghanistan, a cousin and key ally of outgoing President Hamid Karzai has been killed in a suicide bomb attack in the southern city of Kandahar. Hashmat Karzai served as a campaign manager for Ashraf Ghani, one of two candidates in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election. Preliminary results showed Ghani won the vote, but his opponent Abdullah Abdullah has claimed fraud, and a U.S.-brokered audit is underway.
The news comes as a new report has found the Pentagon failed to adequately track hundreds of thousands of weapons sent to Afghanistan, raising concerns they may be in the hands of militants. The report by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan found that in one database, more than 200,000 weapons — or 43 percent — had missing or duplicate information. It also found the United States supplied far more weapons than Afghanistan requested or needed.
In Syria, more than 2,000 people have reportedly died in one of the deadliest two-week periods of the three-year civil war. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports nearly half the dead are forces loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad’s forces have faced an increasing challenge from the Islamic State, a Sunni extremist group that has seized key cities in Iraq and is also battling moderate Syrian rebels.
West Africa is facing the worst outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in history. Since February, more than 1,200 people have been infected in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea; 672 have died. Liberia has shut its borders, banned funerals and other large gatherings and is considering quarantining certain neighborhoods. One of Liberia’s top doctors died of Ebola over the weekend, and two U.S. healthcare workers in Liberia have also fallen ill. Steve Monroe, deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed the infections in a conference call.
Stephan Monroe: “Two American healthcare workers at a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, have been infected with Ebola virus. One of the healthcare workers, a physician who worked with Ebola patients in the hospital, is symptomatic and is in isolation. The other healthcare worker developed fever, but no other signs of illness. No Ebola cases have been reported in the United States, and the likelihood of this outbreak spreading outside of West Africa is very low.”
A U.S. citizen died of Ebola on Friday in the Nigerian city of Lagos after arriving there by plane from Liberia, marking the first recorded case in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Ebola is highly infectious, has no known cure and can kill up to 90 percent of those afflicted.