Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem this morning amid mounting violence in recent days. Soldiers deployed rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs at Palestinians, injuring hundreds. Over the weekend, Israeli forces wounded hundreds more worshipers and protesters at Al-Aqsa, including on one of the holiest nights of Ramadan. Protests have been growing against the expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.
Sireen Jabareen: “The plan is to occupy all of Jerusalem and turn it into a Jewish, ethnic, developing city that lacks an Arab presence. And this allows them to occupy the Palestinian capital. And this allows them to get all the homes, like they did in Nakba in 1948 and in 1967.”
On Sunday, Israel’s Supreme Court postponed a hearing, originally set for today, on the planned evictions from Sheikh Jarrah. The court will schedule a new date within 30 days. Meanwhile, the nationalist Israeli holiday, Jerusalem Day, and its annual flag march is going ahead today, prompting fears of further violence.
In Afghanistan, at least 85 people, mostly schoolgirls, were killed after several bombs exploded outside a school in the capital Kabul Saturday. Devastated families buried their loved ones amid mounting despair and anger.
Mohammad Sadiq: “Our message to the government is that they should ensure our peace and security. Also, our message to the blind-hearted enemy is that there are so many incidents in Kabul; they should stop the violence and accept peace and stability. Until when will we bury the bodies? Our government officials only apologize and show sympathy, which doesn’t cure our pain.”
The blasts occurred in a neighborhood mostly populated by the minority Hazara Shia community. The Afghan government blamed the Taliban, though the group denied responsibility. The massacre came one week after U.S. and NATO forces started their military withdrawal from Afghanistan and as violent attacks are surging. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, at least 11 people were killed — and dozens, including women and children, were injured — in a bus bombing in southern Zabul province late Sunday.
India’s government faces growing calls for a nationwide lockdown as its Health Ministry reported 366,000 new coronavirus infections and nearly 3,800 deaths today. Those figures are down only slightly from world records set by India last week and fail to account for widespread underreporting. Health officials say recent superspreader events have combined with a more transmissible coronavirus variant to drive a massive surge in cases.
Dr. Anil Kumar: “So, this new mutant strain has high infectivity compared to last time. So more than five times the number of people are getting affected in the second wave. It’s the specialty of these two strains, the U.K. strain and the Maharashtra strain.”
The World Health Organization warns India is driving surges elsewhere in Asia, with cases rising in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and elsewhere. In Pakistan, officials have ordered a nine-day partial lockdown ahead of the Eid holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Tunisia has begun a week of coronavirus restrictions — including during the Eid holiday — with the prime minister warning Tunisia faces the worst health crisis in its history.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s official COVID-19 caseload has topped 15 million — the third highest in the world, after India and the United States. Infectious disease experts say far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is largely to blame for the pandemic’s devastating toll.
Roberto Medronho: “All of this COVID pandemic is down to a disastrous policy from the federal government, of an anti-scientific policy of denial.”
In vaccine news, the World Health Organization approved China’s Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use Friday. This is WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “This expands the list of vaccines that COVAX can buy, and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval and to import and administer a vaccine.”
Sinopharm is the sixth vaccine to receive emergency use approval by the WHO. Here in the U.S., Pfizer is requesting full approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its vaccine for people 16 and older. All three COVID vaccines currently in use in the U.S. have emergency use authorization. If successful, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be the first to be fully approved.
In Iraq, unidentified gunmen on motorbikes assassinated anti-corruption activist Ehab al-Wazni near his home in the city of Karbala early Monday. His killing follows the murders and kidnappings of dozens of other activists who joined an October 2019 anti-government uprising to demand jobs, better services and an end to corruption. Hundreds of people were killed during those protests. Local activists blame armed militias backed by Iran for the continuing violence, and protests have erupted in Karbala. This is a journalist speaking from al-Wazni’s funeral Sunday.
Zeinab Al-Ali: “This killing operation can happen to any civil society activist. At any time, we could see a friend or a colleague or any protester or civil society activist be killed easily and his blood shed. And the government does not do anything. Why hasn’t it disclosed who killed the protesters?”
Back in the U.S., a gunman shot and killed six people at a birthday party in Colorado Springs on Sunday. The gunman, who was reportedly in a relationship with one of the female victims, also shot and killed himself. There were children present, but none of them were killed or injured.
The Colorado mass shooting comes after a rash of gun violence on Saturday. In Baltimore, four people, including the gunman, were killed during a shooting and two-alarm fire. In New York City’s Times Square, two women and a 4-year-old girl were injured after a shooting. And in South Florida, three people were wounded by gunfire in a shopping mall Saturday. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been nearly 200 mass shootings since the start of 2021.
The Justice Department proposed a new rule Friday to crack down on so-called ghost guns — home-assembled, unregulated firearms that account for about a third of guns recovered at crime scenes. The rule says retailers would have to run background checks before selling ghost gun kits, and components would need to include serial numbers; 3D-printed guns would also need to start carrying serial numbers.
The Justice Department has filed federal criminal charges against Derek Chauvin and the three other former Minneapolis police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd last May. The indictment charges Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering Floyd, of using unreasonable force. The three others — Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao — are accused of failing to provide Floyd with medical care, and two of the men of failing to intervene and stop Chauvin from killing Floyd. The three former officers are also still facing state charges of aiding and abetting in the murder and manslaughter of George Floyd.
In a separate case, Derek Chauvin also faces a federal indictment for violating the civil rights of a 14-year boy from Minneapolis, whom he grabbed by the throat, hit multiple times with a flashlight, and whose neck he kneeled on during a 2017 arrest.
In North Carolina, a judge ruled the family of Andrew Brown Jr. will only be allowed to see a fraction of the body-camera footage of his killing. Brown was a 42-year-old Black father who was shot five times by police officers last month, including a fatal shot to the back of the head. The family, which has so far only seen 20 seconds of bodycam video, will be shown less than 20 minutes of the two hours of tape that was recorded. The footage will not be available to the public. Faith leaders, loved ones and community members marched in Elizabeth City Saturday to demand transparency and justice for Andrew Brown. This is his aunt, Lillie Brown Clark.
Lillie Brown Clark: “We need to see the bodycams. Twenty seconds, not enough. Twenty minutes, not enough. We want to see the whole tape. Stop snipping and showing us what you want to show us.”
The Colonial Pipeline company halted shipments of fuel across the eastern United States over the weekend after suffering what executives said was a ransomware attack on Friday. The cyberattack idled a pipeline network that transports nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply from Texas to New Jersey. In response, the Biden administration enacted emergency powers, lifting limits on the transport of fuels by road to compensate for any shortages. U.S. officials blamed the criminal gang DarkSide, which mostly operates out of Russia. It was the Colonial Pipeline company’s worst crisis since last summer, when a pipeline rupture in North Carolina spilled at least 1.2 million gallons of gasoline — the largest spill in the state’s history.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressmember Ilhan Omar and other Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill to make all school meals free for every student. Congressmember Omar noted 75% of school districts have school meal debt, and the new bill would “eliminate school meal debt, and strengthen local economies by incentivizing local food procurement.” Some 13 million children in the U.S. live in “food insecure” homes.