Leaders in Israel and Gaza have reportedly reached a ceasefire agreement after an intense three days of fighting left 25 Palestinians and four Israelis dead. The latest round of violence began on Friday. According to The Washington Post, Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian protesters taking part in the Great March of Return protests, which have been taking place every Friday for the past 13 months. Palestinians then reportedly shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers near the border. Israel then carried out an airstrike on a refugee camp, killing two Palestinian militants. The heaviest combat took place on Saturday and Sunday as militants in Gaza fired about 700 rockets into Israel, while Israel launched airstrikes on over 350 targets inside Gaza. Palestinian authorities said the dead in Gaza included two pregnant women, a 12-year-old boy and a 14-month-old girl. This is the father of the killed infant speaking at her burial.
Mahmoud Abu Arar: “The children were playing. They were struck by a missile shot from a drone; Israeli bombardment of a missile, shot from a drone, struck them.”
The weekend has been described as the heaviest combat in the region since the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza. We’ll have more on the situation in Gaza after headlines.
An alarming new report by a panel of leading scientists warns that human activity is causing the disappearance and deterioration of wildlife at a rate that could represent an existential threat to humanity within our lifetimes. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released its conclusions today and found that 1 million species could go extinct in the foreseeable future unless current trends are reversed. The report will be released in full later this year. This is the chair of the U.N. panel, Sir Robert Watson.
Robert Watson: “We’re losing species at a historical rate. Potentially 500,000 to a million species are threatened with loss. We have lost much of our native forests, much of our native wetlands. And effectively, biodiversity needs to be considered as an equally important issue as climate change. It’s not just an environmental issue; it is an economic issue, a development issue, a security issue, a social, moral and ethical issue.”
President Trump has tapped former FBI agent Mark Morgan to be the new head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Morgan was the head of Border Patrol during the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency but was removed after Trump came into office. He also previously led internal affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Mark Morgan’s position on immigration issues has shifted further to the right during Trump’s presidency, and he has publicly backed the president’s immigration policies—namely via appearances on Fox News—including declaring a national emergency to build a border wall. Last month, he voiced support for Trump’s proposal to send migrant detainees to sanctuary cities.
Mark Morgan: “The Border Patrol, ICE, their facilities are overwhelmed. The faith-based organization and other nongovernmental organizations are overwhelmed. They have no choice: They’re going to have to start pushing these individuals out. Shouldn’t we kind of share the burden throughout the country?”
Morgan’s nomination, announced by Trump on Twitter Sunday, follows a recent purge in top immigration officials, reportedly led by adviser Stephen Miller in an effort to steer the administration toward even more hard-line immigration policies. Morgan will still need to be confirmed by the Senate.
CBS News is reporting former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has joined the board of Caliburn International, the parent company of Comprehensive Health Services, which runs the nation’s largest detention center for unaccompanied migrant children. Before becoming chief of staff, Kelly led the Department of Homeland Security. Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of the immigrant rights coalition Families Belong Together, responded to the news, saying, “John Kelly and the family separation policy he enabled will go down in the history books as a stain on our nation’s moral character. … If a company sees John Kelly’s experience terrorizing thousands of children and putting babies in cages as a job qualification, it cannot be trusted to care for children.”
In a dramatic escalation of threats against Iran, national security adviser John Bolton has announced the U.S. is deploying a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region to “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attacks on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
CNN is reporting that U.S. officials clarified Bolton’s remarks were meant as a deterrent, rather than a response to any imminent threat by Iran. Many commentators also pointed to the fact that the U.S. regularly deploys warships to the region and that Bolton’s press release was likely intended as another public provocation against Iran. The Trump administration has been ratcheting up pressure against the nation following its withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear deal last year. Last month, the U.S. designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. The Trump administration also said it will end a waiver program that allowed some nations to circumvent U.S. sanctions and continue buying Iranian oil without suffering penalties.
North Korean state media confirmed Sunday leader Kim Jong-un conducted a rocket and tactical guided weapons test over the weekend, the first test of its kind since November 2017, in what many view as a provocation to the United States amid stalled negotiations. The White House downplayed news of the North Korean tests. Speaking to ABC News Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the administration was still hopeful for a denuclearization deal. President Trump has also repeatedly made similar claims since walking away from talks with Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”
In more news from North Korea, the United Nations warned Friday around 40% of the population is urgently in need of food aid after the country experienced its worst harvest in a decade. International sanctions imposed on North Korea are a major contributing factor to its food insecurity. Kim Jong-un has sought relief from sanctions as part of any denuclearization deal with the United States.
Leading Afro-Colombian activist Francia Márquez survived an attack Saturday by a group of armed men who launched a grenade and opened fire on a group of activists in the southern Colombia town of Santander de Quilichao. Saturday’s attack came amid a spate of violence against community leaders in Colombia. Rights groups say the number of murders increased by around 50% in 2018 over the previous year. Márquez has been recognized for her work combating illegal gold mining by armed groups. Francia Márquez joined us in our New York studio one year ago—in May 2018—shortly after winning the Goldman Environmental Prize.
Francia Márquez: “Today, even though there is a peace process, hundreds of leaders, of activists are being prosecuted, but also murdered. Every day, there are leaders that are being killed, and nothing is being done to stop that violence. That is the circumstance in La Toma, but also of many other people across the country, of social leaders, of very many different organizations, of ethnic communities.”
In Afghanistan, Taliban officials claimed responsibility for a raid on a police headquarters in the northern province of Baghlan Sunday, which killed at least 13 people and wounded dozens, including at least 20 civilians. The attack came following a proposed Ramadan ceasefire by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban rejected the proposal amid ongoing peace talks with the United States.
Following widespread international outrage, the sultan of Brunei announced he would not implement new laws that would have brought back the death penalty for morality-based offenses including homosexuality and adultery. The laws were set to go into effect last month, but Brunei will instead extend its moratorium on the death penalty, in place since 1957. The sultan also pledged to ratify the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The massive global backlash included a celebrity-backed boycott of luxury hotels owned by the sultan.
President Trump said Sunday he plans to hike up tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods at the end of this week, raising the current rate from 10% to 25%. He also threatened to impose new tariffs on another $325 billion of Chinese products. Trump’s comments come ahead of a new round of trade talks between China and the U.S. and after a temporary truce on a trade war between the two countries. The Wall Street Journal reported China was reconsidering its participation in the talks following Trump’s renewed threats. The talks are expected to begin on Wednesday.
On Sunday, Boeing revealed it knew of a possible safety flaw on its 737 MAX aircraft in 2017 but did not notify airlines or regulators until after last October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed all 189 people on board. A sensor warning on the planes only worked if an additional optional safety feature was also purchased. Boeing told the Federal Aviation Administration about the issue after the Lion Air crash, but the FAA decided no urgent action was needed.
Today is the deadline set by House Democrats for Attorney General William Barr to hand over special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report and underlying materials. Last week, Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, threatened to hold Barr in contempt if he failed to submit the report by today’s deadline. Last Thursday, Barr refused to appear before the House Judiciary panel for questioning about the report. Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted Sunday that Mueller should not testify before Congress, adding, “No redos for the Dems!” The tweet reversed a statement two days prior saying the decision about Mueller’s testimony should be up to Barr, who previously said he had no problem with lawmakers questioning the special counsel. Lawmakers proposed May 15 as the date for Mueller’s testimony.
The city of Minneapolis has settled a lawsuit with the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who was shot dead by police in 2017 after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home. The $20 million settlement comes days after officer Mohamed Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter. Damond’s family has pledged a portion of the settlement to a charity combating gun violence in Minneapolis.
A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s Muslim travel ban can proceed. The lawsuit argues that Trump’s order is based on anti-Muslim bias. Judith Tucker of the Middle East Studies Association, one of the groups represented in the lawsuit, said in a statement, “President Trump’s attempts to impose a Muslim ban violate the U.S. Constitution [which] specifically prohibits actions disfavoring or condemning any religion and offers fundamental protection for all of us.” Last year, the Supreme Court reinstated a version of Trump’s Muslim ban after lower court judges repeatedly blocked it from going into effect.
A group of 10 transgender migrant women, who traveled to the U.S. as part of a Central American caravan, are celebrating after they won their asylum cases last week and were released from a migrant jail in Texas. The migrants were represented by lawyers for the immigrant rights groups RAICES.
Cataleya: “I feel extremely happy, because my dreams have come true. I won my asylum case. Thank you, RAICES, for all the help and support. Thank you to my attorney, Flor, and thank you, Dany, for always supporting me. I feel so happy, because I know that I’m heading to my new life. My future starts now.”
Around 20 other transgender migrants who traveled in the same group are still detained. RAICES has warned that transgender migrants face additional threats and mistreatment both en route to the U.S. and while in migrant prisons.
And thousands gathered Saturday for “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech, and the Battle for Palestinian Human Rights,” a pro-Palestine event at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The event was allowed to proceed despite three anonymous UMass students filing a lawsuit to stop the panel. Speakers included Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who has faced death threats for her outspokenness, Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was recently fired from CNN for speaking up for Palestinian rights, and Roger Waters, co-founder of the group Pink Floyd. This is Dave Zirin, sports editor for the Nation, speaking at Saturday’s event.
Dave Zirin: “There is nothing anti-Semitic about criticizing the actions of the Israeli state, and it is absurd that I even have to say that. Two, there is nothing anti-Semitic about this panel or the people on this panel, and it is damn slander to say otherwise. And, in fact, the people up here have been on the front lines of fighting anti-Semitism, especially the most dire threat to me and my fellow Jews: the resurgent white nationalism of the Trump era.”