In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has condemned an attack against Jewish worshipers celebrating Hanukkah inside the home of a Hasidic rabbi in the New York suburb of Monsey.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “This is violence spurred by hate. It is mass violence. And I consider this an act of domestic terrorism. Let’s call it what it is. These people are domestic terrorists.”
Witnesses say the attacker burst into Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home wielding a machete, stabbing five Jews among 100 who had gathered to celebrate Hanukkah. Police say a suspect, 38-year-old Grafton Thomas, was arrested driving back along the George Washington Bridge.
His lawyer and friends say Thomas has a long history of mental illness, including schizophrenia, and that he has no known history of anti-Semitism. All five victims of the stabbing have survived. One remains hospitalized with a skull fracture. The Hanukkah attack comes after a string of other attacks targeting the Jewish community in the New York region, including a fatal shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City and the stabbing of a Jewish worshiper on his way to a synagogue in Monsey.
In Texas, a gunman shot and killed two people at a church in White Settlement, outside Fort Worth. Police say the gunman opened fire during Sunday morning services at the West Freeway Church of Christ, fatally shooting two worshipers before being shot and killed by armed parishioners. This is Jeoff Williams of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Jeoff Williams: “This country has seen so many of these that we’ve actually gotten used to it to this point. And it’s tragic, and it’s a terrible situation, especially during the holiday season.”
The United States launched airstrikes in Iraq and Syria Sunday targeting what U.S. officials say is an Iran-backed paramilitary group. The U.S. airstrikes came after an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack on a military base in Kirkuk, Iraq, Friday. The U.S. airstrikes and the killing of the American contractor threaten a major escalation of tensions in the region. The spokesperson for the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia says the U.S. airstrikes killed 25 people. This militia is not related to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran condemned the U.S. bombing as an act of terrorism and denied participating in attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Iraq has also condemned the U.S. airstrikes as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.
In more news from Syria, the United Nations says a quarter of a million people have fled the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib. Aid groups are now warning the offensive in Idlib could become the worst humanitarian crisis in the nine-year war in Syria. Three million Syrian civilians live in Idlib, which is the last major Syrian territory controlled by anti-government rebel forces.
The Pentagon says the United States carried out multiple airstrikes in Somalia Sunday, following a deadly truck bombing in the capital Mogadishu that killed nearly 80 civilians. No group has taken responsibility for Saturday’s deadly bombing, which also wounded nearly 150 people. Officials have blamed the attack on the militant group al-Shabab. It was the worst attack in two years in Somalia. One day after the bombing, the Pentagon said it killed at least four people in airstrikes targeting al-Shabab. The United States is carrying out an increasing number of airstrikes in Somalia — killing at least 800 people since April 2017.
The Taliban’s ruling council has agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan, opening a window for the signing of a potential peace deal with the United States. The Trump administration has demanded a ceasefire as a precondition of signing the peace agreement, which comes amid start-and-stop negotiations between U.S. and Taliban officials in Qatar. A peace deal could lead to the end of the U.S. War in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history.
In Yemen, at least 10 people were killed in a missile strike on a military parade for a United Arab Emirates-backed separatist group in southern Yemen Sunday. Officials blamed the strike on Houthi rebels, who have not yet responded to the allegations. The attack killed six troops and four children.
In U.S. election news, Politico reports that Democratic Party officials and insiders — including Hillary Clinton allies — now say it’s possible that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders might win the party’s presidential nomination. Party insiders had largely written off Sanders’s campaign. But in recent weeks some have reconsidered his chances, as Sanders continues to rise in the polls while candidates like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren have dropped in national and state surveys. Democratic California state Senator Scott Wiener told Politico that Sanders has been “more resilient than I anticipated. … [H]e has a very, very loyal following, and people have really stuck with him.”
The Washington Post says President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani held a back-channel phone call with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in September 2018, which aimed to push Maduro out of power and open up Venezuela for business. Also on the call was then-Texas Republican Congressmember Pete Sessions. The Post reports the call was part of a shadow diplomatic effort backed by private business interests.
In France, the nationwide strike against French President Emmanuel Macron’s effort to overhaul the pension system and raise the retirement age has entered its 25th day, making it the longest strike in France in over three decades. This is Valérie Sipahimalani of the French teacher’s union.
Valérie Sipahimalani: “It’s not a secure method for the future, and over time it will impoverish pensioners. We want a system where we can plan for the future, that gives us assurances and allows for the maintaining of the purchasing power of pensioners, and so not the point system.”
Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists completed a prisoner swap Sunday in Eastern Ukraine. The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced at least 76 pro-government prisoners had been returned in exchange for over 120 pro-Russia detainees. Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the exchange during peace talks in Paris earlier this month.
The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on January 3 in Kiev. It will be Pompeo’s first visit as secretary of state to Ukraine and comes after the House impeached President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his decision to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine to pressure Zelensky to investigate Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden.
Wildfires are continuing to rage in Australia, where a firefighter died Monday and some in the southeastern state of Victoria were told it was too late to evacuate amid worsening conditions and mass evacuations. Temperatures hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit across Australia today. Despite this year’s unprecedented climate change-fueled fire season, Sydney officials say they will still hold New Year’s Eve fireworks. But a quarter of a million have signed on to a petition asking the government to cancel the fireworks and give the money to firefighters and farmers instead.
In Georgia, a federal judge has backed the state’s decision to purge nearly 100,000 names from the state’s voter rolls — only months before the 2020 primary. The decision comes as state officials are already facing mounting accusations of voter suppression, particularly against black and low-income communities.
In Washington, D.C., comedy icon Lily Tomlin was arrested this weekend at a Fire Drill Friday protest on Capitol Hill — a weekly climate justice civil disobedience organized by Oscar-winning actor Jane Fonda. The recent Fire Drill Friday came as youth activists also took to the streets around the world for the last Fridays for Future strike of this year. This is Jane Fonda speaking to fellow protesters on the steps of Capitol Hill.
Jane Fonda: “This movement has been unbelievably successful. Already we’ve taken $11 trillion out of banks that are underwriting fossil fuel expansion.”
Civil rights leader and Democratic Georgia Congressmember John Lewis has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Congressmember Lewis is a civil rights legend. In 1965, he was beaten almost to death by Alabama state troopers as he attempted to lead a voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. On Sunday, Lewis vowed to continue his work in Congress, and said, “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.”