Palestinian residents of Gaza are returning to massive devastation on the second day of a 72-hour ceasefire. Estimates of the reconstruction costs run as high as $6 billion. More than 10,000 homes have been destroyed, and more than 5,000 have seen major damage. The Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 1,900 people were killed. Residents have been searching the rubble to retrieve possessions and dig out decomposing bodies. A resident of Rafah said dead children were found.
Mohammad Abu Rjal: “We came here in the morning and found destruction everywhere. A mosque, Qur’an books, decomposed children were found under the rubble after five days. Municipality buildings that used to serve the people were destroyed. They want to destroy all the institutions of the Gaza Strip.”
More than 400 children were killed in the Israeli assault, with the Gaza Health Ministry reporting a figure as high as 430. According to UNICEF, some 373,000 children suffered traumatic experiences and need immediate psycho-social support. A UNICEF spokesperson said the assault has had a “catastrophic and tragic impact” on Gaza’s children.
Christopher Tidey, UNICEF spokesperson: “If you extrapolate that to a population, say, the size of the U.S., then that would roughly equate to about 200,000 children in the U.S. The damage to schools in Gaza has really been unprecedented. I think it’s over 140 schools so far in Gaza have been damaged or completely destroyed in less than a month.”
Diplomats from all sides are in Cairo for negotiations on a lasting agreement beyond the 72-hour ceasefire. Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority officials have met with prosecutors at the International Criminal Court to push for a probe of alleged Israeli war crimes. The PA says it will seek ICC membership, a legal step that would grant the court jurisdiction over the Occupied Territories.
Protests against the bombing and blockade of Gaza continue around the world. On Tuesday, British activists occupied an Israeli arms factory in Birmingham, chaining the doors shut and unfurling a banner on the roof that read: “U.K.: Stop Arming Israel.” The action came hours after Foreign Office Minister Sayeeda Warsi resigned her post, calling Britain’s policy on the crisis in Gaza “morally indefensible.” Warsi spoke out about her decision.
Sayeeda Warsi: “Over the last four weeks, I have done everything that I can, both at formal meetings and informal meetings, trying to convince my colleagues that our current policy on Gaza is morally indefensible, that it’s not in our interests, it’s not in British interests, and that it will have consequences for us both internationally and here at home. But in the end I felt the government’s position wasn’t moving, and therefore I had to, on a point of principle, resign.”
A U.S. general has been killed in Afghanistan in what the Pentagon says is the latest insider attack by an Afghan soldier. Major General Harold Greene reportedly died after the soldier opened fire at a British-run military academy near the capital, Kabul. Up to 14 coalition troops were wounded. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby announced the attack.
Rear Admiral John Kirby: “I can confirm that an individual believed to be an Afghan soldier fired today into a group of coalition troops at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul City, Afghanistan. There are a number of casualties as a result of the shooting, perhaps up to 15, to include some Americans. Many were seriously wounded, others received only minor injuries. The assailant was killed. I can also confirm that among the casualties was an American general officer, who was killed.”
General Greene was the deputy commanding general for the command involved in preparing the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition troops at the end of the year. He is the highest-ranking U.S. officer killed in combat since the Vietnam War.
In West Africa, authorities are struggling to contain a record Ebola outbreak that has killed about 900 people and sickened more than 1,600. Sierra Leone, which has seen the most cases, has vowed to deploy hundreds of soldiers and police to clinics and homes to enforce the isolation of people who may be infected. In Liberia, many health clinics have shut down, and family members have reportedly been abandoning the corpses of infected loved ones on the street. The virus is spreading in Nigeria, with authorities now reporting a second fatality and at least five other cases. The second fatality was a nurse who helped treat a U.S. citizen who died in Nigeria last month after flying there from Liberia.
The United Nations is warning of a dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine amidst heavy clashes between Ukrainian and separatist forces. The U.N. refugee agency says fighting near the Russian border has displaced more than 117,000 people, including some 6,000 in the past week. The United Nations’ humanitarian director, John Ging, said the crisis will worsen so long as fighting continues.
John Ging: “Insecurity and violence prevail in conflict areas, resulting in a steady worsening of the humanitarian situation, and this will continue to deteriorate for as long as violence persists. An estimated 3.9 million people live in areas directly affected by violence. Those remaining in the conflict zone face imminent security threats from fighting that is increasingly occurring in more densely populated urban areas. Fighting has caused significant damage to infrastructure, affecting the power and water supplies and access to basic services.”
New figures show nearly half of the names on the U.S. government’s terrorist watchlist have no known connections to terrorist groups. Citing leaked figures, the website The Intercept reports that of the 680,000 people included, more than 40 percent are recognized as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” The Intercept revealed last month the Obama administration has expanded the watchlist system by approving broad guidelines over who can be targeted, asserting that “irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary.” The Intercept’s report is based on a U.S. intelligence source, prompting the government to acknowledge Tuesday there’s at least a second active leaker after Edward Snowden.
The United States is hosting a summit for African leaders and corporate executives in Washington. On Tuesday, President Obama pledged some $33 billion in aid and investments, including $14 billion worth of corporate spending.
President Obama: “American companies are announcing major new deals in Africa. Blackstone will invest in African energy projects. Coca-Cola will partner with Africa to bring clean water to its communities. GE will help build African infrastructure. Marriott will build more hotels. All told, American companies, many with our trade assistance, are announcing new deals in clean energy, aviation, banking and construction worth more than $14 billion, spurring development across Africa and selling more goods stamped with that proud label, 'Made in America.'”
The new funding includes $7 billion that would go to promoting and subsidizing U.S. exports and investments.
The head of the leading Argentine human rights group for families who lost children under military rule is set to be reunited with her grandson 36 years after he was seized. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo started in 1977 when mothers who lost children under Argentina’s military dictatorship gathered to trade stories and provide support. That meeting later spawned the first of scores of demonstrations and actions against Argentina’s military leaders. The Grandmothers’ president, Estela Carlotto, says she has reconnected with her daughter’s son, who was born while the daughter was being held in a prison and tortured. After the daughter was killed, the son was taken and given another identity. Carlotto says her grandson tracked her down after taking a DNA test amidst questions about his past.
Estela Carlotto: “For good Argentineans, it’s reparation, a reparation for him, for our family and also for society as a whole. There are many missing, so you need to keep searching for those missing, because other grandmothers have to feel what I feel. Thanks to everyone, thanks to God, thanks to life, because what I wanted was to not die until hugging him, and soon I will be able to hug him. Thank you. Thank you.”