In a major policy shift, the White House has announced a team of special operations forces numbering less than 50 will be sent to Syria. This marks the first sustained U.S. troop presence in Syria since President Obama launched a bombing campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in September 2014. Announcing the move on Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest denied it marks a shift in strategy.
Josh Earnest: “The president did make a decision to intensify that support by offering a small number of U.S. special operations military personnel to offer them some advice and assistance on the ground as they take the fight to ISIL. So this is an intensification of a strategy that the president announced more than a year ago.”
Meanwhile in Iraq, the United Nations says violence killed more than 700 Iraqis in October, an increase over the previous month. Of the 714 killed last month, all but 155 were civilians. We’ll have more on the U.S. role in Iraq and Syria after headlines.
A British newspaper is reporting officials under former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were told to destroy a secret document questioning the legality of the Iraq War less than three weeks before the 2003 invasion. Citing an anonymous top official, The Mail on Sunday says ministers were ordered to “burn” a report by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith that suggested the war could be illegal under international law. A spokesperson for Blair has dismissed the report as “nonsense.”
Dozens of people have perished in the Aegean Sea attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece amid the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Nineteen bodies were recovered in three separate incidents Sunday, after more than 20 refuguees died when two boats sank Friday. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere are struggling to reach European countries before winter sets in. On Friday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras criticized Europe’s handling of refugees in a speech before Parliament.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras: “There are crocodile tears being shed for the dead children on the shores of the Aegean, because dead children always arouse sorrow. But what about the children that are alive who come in and are stacked on the streets? Nobody likes them. These days, the waves of the Aegean aren’t just washing out dead refugees and dead children on our shores, they are washing out European civilization itself.”
In Germany, at least six Syrian asylum seekers were injured over the weekend in three separate attacks—one involving explosives and two involving large mobs who beat refugees with baseball bats.
The Russian airline whose passenger jet crashed in Egypt Saturday says the crash was caused by an “external impact,” not by technical failures or human error. All 224 aboard the Metrojet flight were killed when it crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Airline officials said the crew didn’t send a distress call before the plane broke apart in midair. It’s still unclear exactly what happened. The plane was flying from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, Russia.
In Turkey, the party of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has regained its parliamentary majority in national elections. On Sunday, Turkish voters elected Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party—the AKP—to 330 of the Parliament’s 550 seats. It’s a major comeback for the AKP after losing its majority in the last campaign five months ago. The victory will help Erdogan strengthen a hold on power critics say has become increasingly authoritarian and divisive. We’ll go to Turkey for more from journalist Patrick Cockburn later in the broadcast.
In the Somali capital Mogadishu, the militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for an attack on a popular hotel that killed at least 14 people. The militants opened fire and seized control of the Sahafi Hotel after hitting the front gate with a car bomb. Among those killed were a journalist, a Somali Army general, a lawmaker and the hotel’s owner.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has retracted his claim a Palestinian cleric gave Hitler the idea to exterminate European Jews. Following international condemnation, including from Israeli historians, Netanyahu conceded in a Facebook post, “The decision to move from a policy of deporting Jews to the Final Solution was made by the Nazis and was not dependent on outside influence.”
Meanwhile, violence continues in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager at a border crossing, accusing him of trying to stab an Israeli soldier. In total, nine Israelis and more than 70 Palestinians have been killed in the recent violence. Israeli forces also reportedly raided a refugee camp in Bethlehem. Video footage appears to show an Israeli officer threatening to gas inhabitants to death. He apparently tells them over a loudspeaker: “You throw stones, and we will hit you with gas until you all die.”
Voice on loudspeaker: “People of Aida refugee camp, we are the Israeli army. You throw stones, and we hit you with gas, until you all die. The children, the youth and the old people, you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive. We have arrested one of you. He’s with us now. We took him from his home, and we will butcher and kill him while you’re watching, as long as you throw stones. Go home, or we gas you. We will gas you until you die—all your families, children and everyone. We will kill you.”
The Israeli government says the officer involved has been suspended and is under investigation.
In Bangladesh, a secular publisher has been hacked to death and three other people have been wounded in two separate attacks on secular publishing houses. A regional division of al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility. The publishing houses printed works by Bangladeshi-American writer Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death earlier this year.
In the latest mass shootings across the United States, a gunman shot and killed three people in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sunday, before he was killed in a shootout with police. Meanwhile, a student was killed and another wounded in a shooting at Winston Salem State University in North Carolina.
Hundreds of people gathered in West Palm Beach, Florida, Saturday at the funeral for Corey Jones, a popular African-American drummer shot dead by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer last month. Jones’ vehicle had broken down by the side of the road when Officer Nouman Raja approached him in plainclothes, without a badge, in an unmarked van. Corey Jones had a gun, which he did not fire, and a concealed carry permit which legally entitled him to have the gun. Jones’ uncle Steven Banks remembered his nephew.
Steven Banks: “My dream is, glory, that we’re going to go to Washington. We’re going to Washington. Not until a bill is passed that’s going to stop this brutality. That’s my dream. I won’t let it go until they swipe the pen and change is made. Come on, y’all. This ain’t no game. Corey’s dead.”
Black Lives Matter activists interrupted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Friday as she spoke at the historically black Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. The protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter,” to which Clinton responded, “Yes, they do.” The protesters also sang Janelle Monáe’s song “Hell You Talmbout,” which is dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Republican National Committee says it’s suspended its partnership with NBC News for an upcoming presidential debate after accusing CNBC of handling last week’s debate “in bad faith.” In a letter, RNC Chair Reince Priebus accused CNBC moderators of “engaging in a series of 'gotcha' questions, petty and mean-spirited in tone and designed to embarrass our candidates.” On Sunday evening, Republican campaign representatives met together in a bid to exert more control over the debate process.
Newly installed House Speaker Paul Ryan has ruled out comprehensive immigration reform while President Obama is in office. Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Ryan said Obama’s executive actions on immigration show he is “untrustworthy.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan: “I think if we reach consensus on something like border enforcement, interior security, that’s one thing. But I do not believe we should advance comprehensive immigration legislation with a president who has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue.”
A new investigation by the Associated Press has uncovered about 1,000 cases where police officers across the country lost their badges for sexual assault or misconduct over a six-year period. In one case, Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was accused of victimizing 13 women; his trial opens today. The AP says its tally is “unquestionably an undercount,” since many people are afraid to report sexual assault by police and since key states did not provide records or inaccurately said no officers had been removed for sexual misconduct.
The Episcopal Church has installed its first African-American leader. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will lead the 1.9 million-member denomination after previously leading the Diocese of North Carolina.
The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for a hate crime investigation after the word ”USA” was spraypainted multiple times on a Burlington mosque. CAIR said the graffiti “appears to reflect a common Islamophobic theme that Muslims are not 'real' Americans.” The mosque has been targeted with similar graffiti in the past.
And the conference South by Southwest Interactive has apologized for its decision to cancel two panels on gaming and sexual harassment, citing “numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming.” The cancellations caused an uproar. Media outlets BuzzFeed and Vox threatened to pull out of the conference, and feminists launched a petition, saying, “by yielding to threats of violence, you are further exposing us to it.” On Friday, South by Southwest apologized and said it would hold a day-long summit on online harassment.