The death toll in Gaza has reached at least 83 as Israel’s aerial bombardment of the besieged territory enters a fourth day. The dead include at least 17 children. At least 480 Palestinians have been injured. On Wednesday, Israel leveled one of the tallest buildings in Gaza City, a 14-story high-rise that housed several local media outlets as well as residential units. It was the third Gaza high-rise destroyed this week by Israel. Israel is now amassing ground troops near Gaza for a possible invasion as many Palestinians are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Israel claims to have killed several top Hamas commanders. Meanwhile, the death toll in Israel has reached seven as Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups continue to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel. Israel is reportedly rejecting calls for an immediate ceasefire.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden said Israel had a right to defend itself, while Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin reiterated “ironclad” U.S. support for Israel. The U.S. provides $3.8 billion in annual military funding to Israel. This is Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “We strongly condemn the rocket attacks coming out of Gaza that are targeting innocent Israeli civilians. And Israel has a right to defend itself. Palestinians have a right to live in safety and security.”
At the United Nations, the United States has blocked the Security Council from issuing a resolution about the crisis.
Violence is also spreading across Israel, with Jewish mobs attacking Palestinians in mixed Jewish and Arab communities. Extremist Israeli settlers were filmed attacking Palestinian-owned shops in a Tel Aviv suburb. Another harrowing video shows ultranationalist Israelis dragging a man they believed to be an Arab from his car and beating him mercilessly. Some settlers were filmed on live television chanting “Death to Arabs.” Israeli media compared the violence to lynchings. After headlines, we’ll spend the rest of the hour on the violence in Israel and Palestine.
India reported more than 360,000 new coronavirus cases Thursday and over 4,100 deaths — though both numbers are likely significant undercounts. Daily cases in India’s capital territory of Delhi have begun to decrease, in a sign that India’s massive second wave of COVID-19 may be cresting.
Coronavirus cases continue to spread in Asia and the Pacific. This week Malaysia ordered a nationwide lockdown as COVID-19 deaths hit a pandemic-level high.
In Washington, D.C., nurses held an action steps from the White House Wednesday as part of Nurses Week to honor the more than 400 U.S. nurses who have died from COVID-19 over the past year. White shoes were placed in rows as nurses took turns reading the names of those whose lives have been lost. Organizers also called on the Biden administration to do more to protect health workers.
Nurse: “Our beloved colleagues we are honoring today deserved to be protected. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives. Our hearts go out to their families, their co-workers and everyone who loved them.”
The United States reported over 800 deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday, as new infections continue to drop while vaccinations rise. Massachusetts reported zero coronavirus deaths for the first time since last June, while in Michigan a spring surge is rapidly subsiding. At the White House, President Biden urged parents to get their children vaccinated after a CDC panel approved use of Pfizer’s vaccine in adolescents 12 and older.
This comes as many public health officials are urging the United States to ship desperately needed vaccine doses overseas. British pediatric immunologist Dr. Adam Finn and Harvard Medical School pediatrician Dr. Richard Malley wrote in The Washington Post, “Crematoriums are working around the clock in India. Overwhelmed hospitals are running out of oxygen in Brazil. … In this context, it is difficult to justify using limited vaccine supplies to immunize young, healthy children at little risk of severe disease from COVID.”
The World Health Organization says nearly a dozen countries — many of them in Africa — have yet to receive a single vaccine dose. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday the world needs to double its vaccine production capacity while at the same time making vaccine distribution more equitable.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “It is totally unacceptable to live in a world in which developed countries can vaccinate most of its population while many developing countries have not had access to one single dose. … With the virus spreading like wildfire in different parts of the developing world, the risk of mutations, the risk of new variants, is such that we risk to have a situation in which the vaccines that exist today will no longer be effective. So it’s in the interest of everybody that everybody is vaccinated everywhere.”
Cuba began a mass vaccination campaign Wednesday using two of its domestically created COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Late-phase clinical trials of the Soberana 02 and Abdala vaccines aren’t due to wrap up until at least June, but Cuban officials say the benefits of administering the vaccines now outweigh the risks.
A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency shows the U.S. is facing unprecedented challenges from the climate catastrophe, including bigger and longer wildfire seasons, more frequent heat waves, and warmer waters with increasing flooding. The report was delayed for three years under the Trump administration, which dismissed the climate disaster and human-led global heating. EPA head Michael Regan said that “there is no small town, big city or rural community that’s unaffected by the climate crisis.”
Colonial Pipeline says it has begun resuming operations after suffering a cyberattack last Friday. Colonial, which is owned by Royal Dutch Shell, Koch Industries and others, transports nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply from Texas to New Jersey. Two-thirds of North Carolina’s gas stations are empty. Colonial said it would take a few days for supplies to return to normal as some drivers have taken to hoarding gas amid fuel shortages and price hikes.
House Republicans have voted to oust Wyoming Congressmember Liz Cheney from her leadership role, over her vote to impeach former President Trump — and her criticism of Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election. Over 100 Republicans, including former governors, members of Congress and cabinet secretaries, are threatening to form a third party unless the Republican Party breaks from its unquestioning loyalty to Donald Trump.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers Wednesday white supremacist groups in the U.S. pose a growing threat.
Attorney General Merrick Garland: “And in the FBI’s view, the top domestic violent extremist threat we face comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race.”
Garland also told the Senate Appropriations Committee the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was the most “dangerous threat to democracy” he has witnessed.
In Minnesota, a judge has found there were aggravating factors in former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd last May. The factors are: Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority; he acted with “particular cruelty”; he committed the crime in a group with at least three other people; and children were present at the time. The finding means Chauvin is more likely to face a longer sentence for murdering Floyd. His sentencing is scheduled for June 25.
In Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, dozens of masked Moroccan agents broke into the home of renowned Sahrawi human rights activist Sultana Khaya, who has been under house arrest for the past six months, and sexually assaulted her and her sister Ouarra. Sultana and Ouarra say the agents entered before dawn when the family was sleeping, assaulted their brother, doused the home with foul-smelling liquid and tied them up.
Ouarra Khaya: “They inserted sticks inside our buttocks. In our buttocks exactly. It is rape.”
Sultana Khaya: “What has happened to us is completely different. Look, my eye is injured. I got several punches. I felt smothered. My shoulder has been hurting. And they have spared no effort. … As I was saying to the Moroccan occupiers, my battle will never stop. Even if they tear down the wall, turn the house into mud, let them do it. Just let them do it.”
Amnesty International has called on Morocco to “lift the arbitrary house arrest” against Sultana Khaya and her family. Western Sahara has been under Moroccan military occupation since Spain, the former colonial power, pulled out in 1975. Last November, Morocco violated the 29-year ceasefire with the Polisario Front, and war returned to the territory, followed by a Moroccan crackdown against the Sahrawi indigenous population. Click here to see our documentary, “Four Days in Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony.”