The Pentagon has confirmed it is deploying an additional 130 marines and special forces to Iraq. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the announcement at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: “I recommended to the president, and the president has authorized me, to go ahead and send about 130 new assessment team members up to northern Iraq in the Erbil area to take a closer look and give a more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help the Iraqis with what they’re doing and the threats that they are now dealing with.”
The Guardian is reporting the United States is prepared to send the Iraqi government a shipment of missiles, guns and ammunition but is waiting until Haider al-Abadi officially becomes Iraq’s new prime minister. It remains unclear if Iraq’s current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, will relinquish power. Abadi has the backing of both Washington and Tehran. Maliki has rejected Abadi’s appointment, claiming it violates Iraq’s constitution, and says it would take a court ruling for him to give up his post.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are in their final hours of indirect talks before the slated expiration of a second 72-hour ceasefire. Violence could resume unless both sides agree to extend the truce or reach a broader agreement. The Cairo negotiations have reportedly touched on Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, but there’s been no reported progress. Palestinians have made ending the blockade a key demand.
In Gaza, five people were killed and several more wounded today as Gaza’s bomb disposal team was dismantling an Israeli missile. The dead included several explosives experts and a foreign journalist.
In a statement, the U.N. World Health Organization said Gaza’s hospitals and health facilities “are in dire need of support” from international donors. The WHO says 15 of Gaza’s 32 hospitals have been damaged, in addition to 18 primary health clinics and 29 ambulances. A health official with the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said: “While we do our best, we are deeply concerned about the health and hygiene situation in our very crowded shelters. Our efforts may be limited where the entire water, electricity and sewage systems are heavily damaged.”
As ceasefire talks continue, the British government has announced it will suspend some arms export to Israel if the assault on Gaza resumes. British Business Secretary Vince Cable cited specific concerns the Israeli military could use British-made products.
Venezuela has sent a military plane carrying 12 tons of humanitarian aid intended for the Gaza Strip. Venezuela is one of several Latin American countries that have harshly criticized the Israeli assault on Gaza.
The Israeli government has apologized for a Foreign Ministry spokesperson who called Brazil a “diplomatic dwarf.” The comment by Yigal Palmor came after Brazil denounced the Israeli assault and recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv.
The Israeli government is rejecting a three-member United Nations panel convened to investigate possible war crimes committed by both Hamas and Israel. Canadian professor of international law William Schabas will head the panel along with Doudou Diène of Senegal, a veteran U.N. human rights expert. British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Alamuddin was initially named to the panel but pulled out shortly after her appointment was announced. She recently made headlines after it was announced she was engaged to marry Hollywood actor George Clooney. On Tuesday, Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev dismissed the panel as a “kangaroo court.”
Mark Regev: “This so-called commission of inquiry established by the U.N. Human Rights Council is a travesty. It has about as much credibility as a kangaroo court. And its chairman, well, he has such a documented record of anti-Israel bias, I think any fair-minded person would demand that he recuse himself.”
Speaking to The Daily Beast, panel Chair William Schabas dismissed claims of an anti-Israel bias as “a slur” and “slander.”
The World Health Organization has approved the distribution of unproven drugs to help address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny said the decision was made despite tests that failed to prove the drugs are safe and effective.
Marie-Paule Kieny: “None have undergone the test in humans necessary for licensing as proven safe and effective treatments. That does not mean that they are not safe. It simply means we do not have the evidence from human studies to say that it is certain that they are safe and efficacious.”
Protests are continuing in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of the unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown. Police say Brown assaulted an officer and tried to reach for his weapon. But witnesses say Brown was shot with his arms up as he tried to flee an officer’s fire. More than 50 people have been arrested in ensuing protests. On Tuesday, around 100 people marched on the St. Louis County Courthouse chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.” Overnight, dozens of protesters were blocked from marching on the street where Brown was shot dead. In a separate incident, police say an officer shot a man who had brandished a handgun. The claim has not been independently verified. The victim was reportedly left in critical condition.
The Ferguson police department says it will continue to withhold the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown, citing fears for his safety. Brown’s family and community activists have demanded the disclosure of the officer’s name. Police have also obtained an order imposing a no-fly zone over Ferguson to provide “a safe environment for law enforcement activities.” The flight ban would prevent news helicopters from documenting the unrest that has erupted since Brown’s death. Recent video footage shows Ferguson officers fired tear gas at residents who were protesting on the grounds of their own home. President Obama has offered condolences to Brown’s family. In a statement, Obama vowed a thorough Justice Department investigation and called for honoring Brown’s memory “through reflection and understanding.”
The high-end retail store Barneys will pay $525,000 to settle allegations of racial profiling at a New York City store. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a probe last year after African-American customers said Barneys employees alerted police after making the racially biased assumption they could not afford their expensive purchases. One customer was held and questioned for buying a handbag, while the other was detained in police custody after buying a belt. In a statement, Schneiderman said his probe had found that a “disproportionate number of African-American and Latino customers are being detained for alleged shoplifting or credit-card fraud” at Barneys.
A district judge has recused himself from the immigration fraud trial of a Chicago Arab-American community activist. Rasmea Odeh is accused of concealing her detention in an Israeli prison 40 years ago on bombing charges. Odeh works as an associate director at the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago-area group that works on behalf of new immigrants and campaigns against anti-Arab discrimination. Odeh says her conviction was obtained through torture. Her attorneys have called for the dismissal of Judge Paul Borman, citing his lifelong ties to the Israeli government. But this week, Borman announced he would step down after discovering his family had financial ties to a supermarket Odeh was accused of bombing.
Human Rights Watch has unveiled a report finding that Egypt’s killing of at least 817 unarmed protesters in a single day last year was a premeditated attack that likely amounted to a crime against humanity. A year ago on Thursday, Egyptian forces dispersed the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in as part of a systematic crackdown on protesters opposed to the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth presented the findings.
Kenneth Roth: “The Rabaa massacre was really one of the worst massacres of a demonstration in recent time, very much on a par with the massacres in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989 or the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan in 2005. This is a crime against humanity, in the view of Human Rights Watch, which mandates that the authors be brought to justice. Now, Egypt has done nothing to investigate, in any public manner, this crime. There has been complete impunity inside Egypt. And so Human Rights Watch is calling on the international community to act.”
Roth and Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson had attempted to enter Egypt to present the report earlier this week, but they were detained and turned away.