The 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza has entered its final 24 hours. Talks are continuing to extend the truce, but no deal has been reached as of this broadcast. Palestinian and Israeli officials are both in Egypt but have not held face-to-face negotiations on a lasting ceasefire.
Nearly 1,900 Palestinians have died in the Israeli siege, most of them civilians, including more than 400 children. A total of 64 Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza, and three civilians in Israel. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for both sides to negotiate a lasting peace.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “But of course we cannot rest as the suffering continues. This ceasefire has come at a price that is almost too much to bear. The massive death and destruction in Gaza have shocked and shamed the world.”
A key Palestinian demand for a long-term truce is an easing of the crippling blockade of Gaza. On Wednesday, President Obama acknowledged the blockade cannot continue indefinitely, saying “Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world.”
President Obama: We’re going to have to see a shift in opportunity for the people of Gaza. I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.”
Amnesty International has called for an immediate probe into Israeli attacks on health professionals in Gaza which have killed six medics. Health workers have described what appear to be deliberate strikes on ambulances and hospitals.
In northern Iraq, Sunni militants have reportedly captured the country’s largest Christian town, forcing tens of thousands to flee. The Islamic State has advanced into Qaraqosh and other northern towns as Kurdish forces withdraw. Speaking to the AFP, Joseph Thomas, the local Chaldean archbishop, called for the U.N. Security Council to immediately intervene in what he called a “catastrophe.” Over the weekend, the militants seized the town of Sinjar, forcing about 200,000 people to flee, many of them members of the Yazidi religious minority. Up to 40,000 remain trapped on a barren mountain, surrounded by rebels and slowly dying of thirst. A displaced resident described the conditions there.
Abu Shaker: “Sinjar mountain has no water, no electricity, no roads, no bread, not even a single green tree, nothing in it, nothing for humans to eat. I received a call an hour ago from a relative there. They are walking away and leaving the dead children behind.”
The death toll from a record outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has topped 930. There are fears the virus has spread to Saudi Arabia after a man who recently returned from Sierra Leone died of a suspected Ebola infection. A Spanish priest who fell ill in Liberia has been brought to Madrid for treatment. In the United States, a patient in New York has tested negative, while two missionaries infected in Liberia are said to be improving after receiving an experimental drug. The drug has not been given to the hundreds of ailing Africans. Liberia has declared a state of emergency and closed a major hospital. The assistant health minister there, Tolbert Nyenswah, told The Wall Street Journal dying patients are pleading for the drug used on the two Americans. “The population here is asking: 'You said there was no cure for Ebola, but the Americans are curing it?'” he said.
Russia has struck back against Western sanctions with a new ban on agricultural products from the European Union, United States and other countries. The one-year ban applies to fruit, vegetables and meat and dairy products. It comes amidst fierce fighting between pro-Russian rebels and security forces in eastern Ukraine, which has led to a halt in the investigation at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
In Cambodia, a U.N.-backed tribunal has sentenced the two highest-ranking surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime to life in prison for crimes against humanity. The Khmer Rouge killed at least 1.7 million Cambodians during the late 1970s. More than three decades later, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are the first leaders to be convicted.
In Mexico, Congress has approved an energy reform package to open the country’s oil and gas sector to private multinationals after decades of state control. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has touted the reform as part of a broader neoliberal agenda. The opening of the energy industry sparked mass protests when it was first approved last year, with a poll showing more than two-thirds of Mexicans opposed it.
Bank of America has tentatively agreed to pay nearly $17 billion to settle a probe over its sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities that fueled the financial crisis. If finalized, it would reportedly be the largest single corporate settlement with the federal government in U.S. history.
Missouri has carried out the nation’s first execution since last month’s botched killing of a death row prisoner in Arizona. Michael Worthington was killed by lethal injection on Wednesday for a 1995 rape and murder. In the Arizona execution, Joseph Wood gasped for air, choked and snorted during a two-hour-long ordeal that his attorneys called “the most prolonged bungled execution in recent history.”
New York City police have arrested the wife of a man who filmed their fatal encounter with a father of six accused of selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island. Eric Garner died after police placed him in a chokehold and pinned him to the ground while he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. On Friday, the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. A day later, police arrested Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Garner’s arrest, on a weapons charge. On Tuesday, Orta’s wife was arrested and accused of assault. Chrissie Ortiz told WPIX Channel 11 police have been harassing her and her husband.
Chrissie Ortiz: “Four o’clock in the morning, we’re laying down, and my whole room lights up. And I’m like, 'What is that?' And we look out the window. It’s a police car. They’re driving by and put the spotlight into my window. What was that for?”
The head of the New York City police union, Patrick Lynch, defended the officers involved in Garner’s death, denying they used a chokehold, which has been banned by the NYPD for decades.
Patrick Lynch: “It was not a chokehold. He was a big man that had to be brought to the ground to be placed under arrest by shorter police officers.” [Related: Watch this Democracy Now! segment about the Garner case and citizen’s right to film police.]