More than 40 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza city of Rafah following the collapse of a U.S.- and U.N.-backed ceasefire. Reuters reports Israeli tanks opened fire in the southern Rafah area just hours after the 72-hour ceasefire began. Israel is claiming Hamas first broke the ceasefire by firing rockets at Israeli forces. The Israeli military has launched a major effort to locate a soldier they fear was captured near Rafah. The Palestinian death toll from Israel’s offensive in Gaza has now reached at least 1,460, mostly civilians. The toll surpasses the number of Palestinians killed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead nearly six years ago. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed, in addition to three civilians.
On Thursday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest criticized Wednesday’s shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza, acknowledging there was little doubt the shells came from Israel.
Josh Earnest: “The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible, and it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to the high standards that they have set for themselves.”
The shelling of the U.N. school killed at least 20 people, many of them children who were sleeping. Just hours later, the Pentagon confirmed it was resupplying Israel with ammunition. The United States has come under increasing pressure from the international community to curb its military support for Israel. Amnesty International has called on the Obama administration to halt its arms deliveries. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized the U.S. role.
Navi Pillay: “They have not only provided the heavy weaponry, which is now being used by Israel in Gaza, but they’ve also provided almost $1 billion in providing the Iron Domes to protect Israelis from the rocket attacks, but no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling. So I am reminding the United States that it’s a party to international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
In Latin America, five countries — Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and El Salvador — have all recalled their ambassadors to Israel in protest of the offensive in Gaza. The presidents of Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have issued a joint statement calling for Israel to end its “disproportionate use of force.” Bolivia has changed its policies to require Israelis entering the country to obtain a visa, and Bolivian President Evo Morales called Israel a “terrorist state.” Protests against Israel’s assault have erupted across Latin America and around the world. We’ll have more on Gaza after headlines.
In West Africa, the official death toll from the worst Ebola outbreak in history has risen to 729 with more than 1,300 people afflicted. The World Health Organization has announced a $100 million plan to combat the virus. Sierra Leone has seen the most cases -– about 500 so far. The Health Ministry spokesperson there said the country is facing a shortage in medical staff.
Sidi Yahya Tunis: “Already we had a very, very inadequate health workforce, and we don’t have enough specialists in country, as far as medical doctors and even specialist nurses are concerned. And so, with this outbreak, that requires so much specialty, it’s simply more challenging for us, and it has been very, very difficult on our health workers because they’ve lost a lot of their colleagues in the process and their morale is down. But, you know, it is their job.”
In eastern Ukraine, at least 14 people have been killed, most of them Ukrainian soldiers, amid clashes with pro-Russian rebels. The violence took place near the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, where international investigators are working to recover the bodies and belongings of the victims. An initial team managed to reach the site for the first time on Thursday after violence repeatedly delayed their arrival.
The U.S. Congress is poised to head into summer recess without a bill to address the surge of Central American migrants at the border. President Obama requested $3.7 billion for the crisis. A Senate bill would have offered $2.7 billion, but it failed on a procedural vote. House Republicans have delayed the start of summer recess to hold more talks today on their version of the bill — which would provide less than $700 million — after right-wing opposition derailed a vote on Thursday. Congress has managed to approve bills to improve veterans’ healthcare and temporarily replenish the fund for highway and mass transit projects just before it was set to dry up.
As Congress deadlocked on the migrant crisis, 112 people were arrested outside the White House calling for President Obama to halt his record deportations. The demonstrators called on Obama to take action to stop the separation of families and provide relief for tens of thousands of children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. More protests are planned for this weekend.
The CIA has admitted to spying on a computer network used by a Senate committee investigating the agency’s post-9/11 torture and rendition program. An internal CIA probe found staff improperly accessed a protected database and read the emails of investigators working on the torture report. The probe validated claims of CIA spying made by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein and prompted CIA Director John Brennan to issue an apology after he had adamantly denied those claims. A number of senators have called for Brennan to resign. We’ll have more on the story after headlines.
The Senate report on CIA torture and rendition remains classified, but new revelations emerged from it this week when the White House accidentally emailed talking points to the Associated Press. The leaked document reveals the report’s conclusion that CIA officials instructed U.S. ambassadors in countries hosting secret prisons not to tell their superiors at the State Department. A summary of the report is expected for release in the coming weeks.
The European Court of Human Rights has issued the first-ever ruling on the CIA torture and rendition program, confirming the existence of a secret U.S. prison in Poland. Last week, the court found Poland violated the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to intervene in the secret detention, torture and transfer of two terrorism suspects currently held at Guantánamo –- Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.
Argentina’s stocks have tumbled after it defaulted on its sovereign debt by failing to repay U.S. hedge funds led by NML Capital. The firms bought Argentina’s debt for bargain prices and then refused to cut the value of their holdings — as most creditors did — after Argentina’s prior default in 2001. A U.S. judge blocked Argentina from repaying its other creditors without also paying the vulture funds, barring the release of an interest payment Argentina tried to make to avoid default. On Thursday, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said the term “default” is illegitimate because Argentina was blocked from paying.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner: “The causes of default are listed, for the 92.4 percent of bondholders, in the bond, in the contract itself. There is no cause where default is impossibility to get paid, because default is not paying. Preventing someone from paying is not default. I told them they would have to invent a new word, and they will have to invent this word.”
Argentina has signaled it could take the case to the International Court of Justice.
The Obama administration has announced a travel ban on top officials in Venezuela. The sanctions reportedly impact two dozen people, including judges, Cabinet ministers and members of the military and police. The United States has accused the officials of involvement in human rights abuses during months of right-wing opposition protests, which left dozens of people dead on both sides of Venezuela’s political divide.
Hundreds of people have been rallying in Dallas, Texas, this week to protest the annual convention of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council known as ALEC. The secretive group joins corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers to craft model legislation that is then introduced in legislatures nationwide. Activists have been organizing protests under the banner of “Don’t Mess With Texas, ALEC.”
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