The Palestinian death toll has surged as Israel intensifies its bombing of the Gaza Strip. Palestinians say at least 27 people have been killed and more than 150 wounded since Israel launched major airstrikes on Sunday. At least 18 civilians, including around seven children, have died over the past day. Israel carried out nearly 300 strikes on Tuesday with more overnight, sending thousands of Palestinians into the streets to avoid attacks on their buildings. One strike killed a leader of the group Islamic Jihad, along with two children and two women who were in his home.
Israel says it is responding to the latest round of Palestinian rocket fire that began after the mass Israeli raids that followed the kidnapping of three Israeli teens last month. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 100 rockets in a 24-hour span, targeting several towns including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel says its missile defense system intercepted Tel Aviv-bound rockets, prompting a state of emergency to be declared. Thousands of Israelis have fled to shelters in southern towns near Gaza. Two Israelis have been reported injured from the rockets so far. The Israeli Cabinet has approved the option of calling up nearly 40,000 army reservists for a potential ground invasion of Gaza. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Israel is preparing for a lengthy battle.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon: “We are now in a situation in which Hamas deteriorated the security situation around the Gaza Strip by provoking and launching rockets against Israeli civilians. So, by one way or another, we are going to stop Hamas, whether by charging them a heavy price or by launching any kind of offensive measures, by air, by ground or whatever, in order to stop them.”
Palestinians have argued Israel sparked the escalation with last month’s raids and other deadly attacks on the Occupied Territories throughout the year. According to the website Electronic Intifada, Israel had killed 31 Palestinians before the latest violent flare-up in Gaza, bringing the year’s overall toll to around 60. On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made an appeal for international protection of the Palestinian people.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “What’s happening in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem is not a war between two armies. The Palestinian people are an unarmed people, people who live under occupation. It’s time now for the international community, and especially 'the Quartet' and the Security Council, to take their responsibility to guarantee the international protection of our people.”
As the Palestinian Authority pleaded for international protection, the Obama administration expressed support for Israel’s military operation in Gaza. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke to reporters on Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “Let me start by saying that we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza. No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.”
Today is the 10th anniversary of the International Court of Justice advisory ruling that said Israel’s separation wall and settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal.
President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the migrant crisis on the Mexico border. More than 52,000 unaccompanied children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America have been seized since October. Obama wants the increased funding to pay for detention centers, aerial surveillance, immigration judges and border agents. The $3.7 billion figure is nearly twice what had been expected. The Obama administration says half of the money would go toward improving children’s care in U.S. custody. At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said most children will ultimately face deportation.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “By addressing that backlog, we can ensure that those individuals have prompt access to the due — to the due process to which they’re entitled. It also means that as those cases are resolved — and as we expect in the majority of those cases, there will not be a basis for those individuals to remain in the country and be granted humanitarian relief — that we expect that the homeland security secretary will be able to exercise some additional discretion that would allow him to repatriate those individuals efficiently.”
As the White House vows to speed the deportation of migrant children, United Nations officials are calling for most of them to be accepted into the United States as refugees. A report by the U.N. high commissioner for refugees in March found that 58 percent of unaccompanied children detained by the United States could be entitled to refugee protections under international law. The United Nations renewed the call ahead of a meeting Thursday in Nicaragua between the United States, Mexico and Central American countries. The agenda includes updating a 30-year-old declaration on state obligations to aid refugees. The UNHCR says: “The U.S. and Mexico should recognize that this is a refugee situation, which implies that [children] shouldn’t be automatically sent to their home countries, but rather receive international protection.” President Obama is in Texas today meeting with Republican Gov. Rick Perry on the border crisis.
In Indonesia, Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo is claiming victory over rival presidential candidate, former army general Prabowo Subianto. Polls show Widodo, known as “Jokowi,” has a several-point lead, but official results will not be known until after July 20. The American journalist Allan Nairn reported this week Indonesian forces tied to Prabowo have waged a campaign to rig the election in his favor, including “ballot tampering, street violence, and threats” against rivals. Prabowo, trained by the United States, has been accused of mass killings 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. Nairn’s reporting on Prabowo became a major issue in the campaign. Prabowo has filed criminal charges against Nairn, including inciting hatred against the Indonesian military. Indonesia’s presidential vote will mark its first-ever transfer of power from one elected leader to another.
Newly disclosed leaks from Edward Snowden have identified five innocent Americans who were spied on by the National Security Agency. The news website The Intercept reports all five are Muslim Americans: Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group; Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative; two professors, Hooshang Amirahmadi of Rutgers University and Agha Saeed, formerly of California State University; and a prominent attorney, Asim Ghafoor, who has represented clients in terror-related cases. The five were among thousands of names in a database listing email accounts monitored between 2002 and 2008. None of the five have been charged with any crime. All appear to have been targeted for their Muslim backgrounds and ties to various Muslim causes or individual cases involving Muslims. In a video from The Intercept, Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed outrage at being spied on by his government.
Nihad Awad, CAIR: “I was not aware that I was under surveillance, except recently. And I’m outraged that as an American citizen, my government, after decades of civil rights struggle, still the government spies on political activists and civil rights activists and leaders. It is outrageous, and I’m really angry that despite all the work that we have been doing in our communities to serve the nation, to serve our communities, we are treated with suspicion.”
Tune into Democracy Now! on Thursday when we’ll speak with the lead reporter on this story, Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept.