Israel has carried out deadly strikes on the Gaza Strip amidst continued violence following the killings of a Palestinian teenager and three teenage Israeli settlers. At least nine Hamas members were killed Sunday when the Israeli military bombed two parts of Gaza. It was Israel’s deadliest strike on Gaza since an eight-day assault in late 2012. Hamas has called the strikes a “grave escalation” and has threatened to retaliate. Palestinian rocket attacks have continued on southern parts of Israel, with 25 fired on Sunday. Israeli troops have massed along the Gaza border, threatening a potential full-scale attack.
The deadly Israeli attack on Gaza comes amidst heavy unrest in the West Bank and in Arab towns inside Israel over last week’s abduction and murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. After days of clashes, Israel on Sunday arrested six Israeli suspects in connection with Khdeir’s death. Reports out of Israel today say three of the suspects have confessed. The Palestinian Authority’s attorney general said an initial autopsy found burns on 90 percent of Khdeir’s body, suggesting he was burned alive.
Mohammed al-A’wewy, Palestinian attorney general: “The results of the autopsy showed two things. The main cause of death is burning. There were fumes inside the airways. This shows for sure that he was burned while he was alive.”
It is widely believed Khdeir was killed in an act of revenge for the murders of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found last week. The murder followed calls for vengeance from Israeli political leaders as well as in marches and on social media.
A 15-year-old Palestinian-American cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Tariq Abu Khdeir, became the subject of global attention over the weekend after video emerged of him being severely beaten by Israeli officers. Tariq 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 Abu Khdeir: “I was actually brutally attacked from the side and heard somebody screaming. They came and attacked me, and I actually went unconscious, and I woke up in the hospital.”
Reporter: “Why did they attack you?”
Tariq Abu Khdeir: “I don’t know. That’s why I ran.”
Reporter: “They said that you were throwing stones.”
Tariq Abu Khdeir: “No, I jumped the fence, and I tried to run away, because I just saw somebody running at me, so I tried to run away.”
Tariq has been placed under house arrest pending an investigation into potential charges of assaulting a police officer. He lives in Florida but is in East Jerusalem visiting his family. He was with his cousin just moments before his kidnapping and murder last week. In a statement, the State Department said it was “profoundly troubled” by the assault, calling for a “speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for the apparent excessive use of force.”
The Iraqi Parliament has postponed critical talks on choosing a new government amidst a deadlock over filling top posts. The session began last week, but quickly broke down in an impasse over choosing the prime minister, speaker of parliament and president. The negotiations will be postponed until August 12. The Iraqi government meanwhile says a top general has been killed in fighting near Baghdad. Over the weekend, video footage emerged of Sunni militant leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi openly delivering a sermon at a mosque in Mosul.
Germany has arrested an intelligence official on allegations of working as a double agent for the United States. The suspect has reportedly admitted to passing on documents to a U.S. contact. Speaking today in China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the charges are serious if true.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “On the question of a German man working as a double agent for the U.S. intelligence department, we have already opened an investigation. If the reports are correct, it would be a serious case. If the allegations are true, it would be, for me, a clear contradiction to what I consider to be a trustful cooperation between agencies and partners.”
Reports based on leaks by Edward Snowden have revealed vast National Security Agency spying in Germany, including on Merkel’s cellphone. Germany cancelled a contract with the U.S. firm Verizon last month, citing its role in NSA surveillance.
Newly disclosed leaks from Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency is far more likely to collect the communications of average users than those of suspects they’re targeting. The Washington Post reports that in one collection of intercepted emails and messages, nine out of 10 account holders were not the intended foreign targets but ordinary people with no warrants against them. This is largely due to loose rules that allow agents to capture the data of any user in a suspect’s contact list, chat room history or email chain. From these messages, the NSA saved a vast amount of data on non-suspects, including family pictures, love letters and erotic messages. Nearly half of the messages came from Americans or U.S. residents. The disclosure also contradicts a recent transparency report from the director of national intelligence, which said more than 89,000 people were targeted by the NSA programs PRISM and Upstream last year. The actual number appears closer to 900,000.
A former CIA employee has revealed he was forced out of his job after trying to release historical documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Jeffrey Scudder discovered the files after taking up a position at the CIA’s Historical Collections Division, which is tasked with combing through agency archives to vet what can be safely made public. Scudder came across material on long-dormant conflicts and operations related to the Cold War. But when he submitted them for disclosure, he was accused of mishandling classified information. His home was raided, his computers seized, and he was forced to retire. Scudder said: “I submitted a FOIA and it basically destroyed my entire career. What was this whole exercise for?” The case has raised comparisons to complaints from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has said there were no adequate channels for him to raise his concerns about NSA surveillance.
The Supreme Court has delivered a second blow to birth control access by siding with nonprofits that claim religious objections to contraception. First, on Monday, the court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that most religious corporations can refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees as required by Obamacare. That decision appeared to endorse possible alternatives, such as having the companies submit a form which would then shift the burden of coverage to insurers or third-party administrators. The Obama administration has already offered this accommodation to religious nonprofits. But in a second order issued Thursday, the court temporarily exempted the Christian school of Wheaton College in Illinois from filling out such a form. The decision drew scathing opposition from the three female justices on the court, who accused their male colleagues of effectively reversing their stance in the Hobby Lobby case. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the latest move “risks depriving hundreds of Wheaton’s employees and students of their legal entitlement to contraceptive coverage,” and “will presumably entitle hundreds or thousands of other objectors to the same remedy.”
In Indonesia, a new report is accusing Indonesian forces of a covert campaign to rig this week’s presidential elections. Journalist Allan Nairn reports on his website “News and Comment” that officials from Indonesia’s army special forces and the state intelligence agency recently met to discuss how to ensure a victory for General Prabowo Subianto. According to unnamed sources, the participants confirmed an ongoing operation that entails “ballot tampering, street violence, and threats against supporters” of rival candidate Joko Widodo, the governor of the capital, Jakarta. The elections will be held on Wednesday. Prabowo, who was trained by the United States, has been accused of extensive human rights abuses when he headed the Indonesian special forces in the 1990s. He was dismissed from the army in 1998 following accusations of complicity in the abduction and torture of activists.