The death toll in Gaza has reached at least 119 as Israel escalates its aerial assault and fires heavy artillery at the besieged territory ahead of a possible ground invasion. Israeli attacks have killed at least 31 Palestinian children, many under the age of 10. Gaza authorities report 40% of the victims in the Israeli strikes have been women and children. Residents of Khan Younis described huddling in their homes during the Eid al-Fitr holiday as bombs exploded around them.
Thuraya Ramadan: “This Eid, we can’t enjoy the celebrations, because our neighbors got hit. My neighbor and her daughter were killed. We are close. We are like one family. We’re very sad. The Israeli forces stole the cheer of Eid from the children. We bought them new clothes, but they didn’t wear them. They are terrified and panicked.”
Over 830 Palestinians have been wounded so far this week, but Gaza’s hospital systems are on the verge of collapse as doctors face shortages of medicine and recurring power outages. Many Palestinians in Gaza have been taking shelter in United Nations schools — even as the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports more than 24 Palestinian schools have been damaged by Israeli strikes.
Eight people in Israel have been killed as Hamas continues to fire rockets from Gaza. Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire. In a video message addressed to Palestinians, Defense Minister Benny Gantz blamed Hamas for the violence and threatened that “Gaza will burn.”
Benny Gantz: “They are sacrificing you for their personal interests. If citizens of Israel have to sleep in shelters, then Gaza will burn. There is no other equation.”
Elsewhere, Israeli authorities have arrested dozens of Arabs living in Israel in an attempt to quell an unprecedented uprising. Many are being held without access to legal counsel. Jewish mobs have been filmed attacking Palestinians across Israel.
President Joe Biden on Thursday reiterated his support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, shrugging off concerns over the mounting Palestinian death toll.
President Joe Biden: “And one of the things that I have seen thus far is that there has not been a significant overreaction.”
Biden did not mention Palestine or Palestinians during Thursday’s remarks from the White House. The Biden administration has blocked the U.N. Security Council from holding a meeting today on the crisis — after twice blocking Security Council statements earlier this week.
On Capitol Hill, progressive lawmakers took to the House floor Thursday urging the Biden administration to pressure Israel into ending the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and to end the assault on Gaza. After headlines, we’ll hear the full speech of Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress.
Governments around the world reported more than 725,000 new coronavirus infections on Thursday — one of the highest daily tolls of the pandemic — led by an ongoing massive outbreak in India, which reported another 4,000 deaths on Friday. Indian health officials have announced plans to start using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Fewer than 3% of India’s population of nearly 1.4 billion people is fully vaccinated.
Here in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks and social distancing are no longer required in most social settings for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday’s recommendations were driven by scientific evidence that vaccinated people are at very low risk of severe COVID and that vaccines play a major role in curbing transmission.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky: “Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
The CDC says rules requiring masks on public transportation still apply and that people should still mask up in crowded indoor situations. Individual businesses are free to continue masking policies. The CDC’s announcement reportedly caught even White House officials by surprise. About half of states — most of them with Republican governors — have already lifted mask mandates. California Governor Gavin Newsom says he’ll lift a mask mandate in June, while a Michigan order mandating masks in many cases will remain in effect for now.
Hackers have released a trove of internal documents from the Washington, D.C., police in what experts say is the worst such ransomware attack in the U.S. The cybergang, known as Babuk, reportedly released the sensitive materials on the dark web after a failed blackmail attempt. The information includes officers’ personal data, psychological evaluations and disciplinary records. Some documents also involve intelligence agencies and relate to the January 6 insurrection and the presidential inauguration.
This comes a week after another ransomware attack shut down the Colonial Pipeline’s fuel supply, triggering shortages and sending gas prices soaring. Media are reporting Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in ransom to the hackers in order to restore its disabled computer network. President Biden said Thursday those behind that attack are likely based in Russia but not believed to be linked to the Russian government.
An active-duty Marine officer was arrested Thursday for assaulting federal officers during the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In a video of the attack, Christopher Warnagiris is seen helping breach the Capitol building. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
In Michigan, protesters gathered at the state Capitol in Lansing before delivering “eviction notices” to Canadian oil transport company Enbridge, after it defied an order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer to shut down its Line 5 pipeline by a Wednesday deadline. Whitmer called Enbridge’s actions “unlawful” and warned the state of Michigan would seize its profits if it continues to operate. The pipeline carries 23 million daily gallons of crude oil and natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac, a fragile waterway connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Whitmer called the pipeline a “ticking time bomb.”
In Britain, journalists and freedom of speech advocates are sounding the alarm after former Ambassador Craig Murray was sentenced to eight months in prison over his reporting of a Scottish politician’s sexual assault trial. A Scottish court said Murray provided details on his blog that could allow people to figure out the identity of witnesses in the sexual assault trial, despite never identifying the individuals himself. Murray’s defenders say he is being targeted because he is a whistleblower who has closely covered the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The court is also preventing Murray from traveling to Spain to testify in a case involving the CIA spying on Assange while he lived at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
In labor news, McDonald’s workers are planning a strike next Wednesday, May 19, to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour. On Thursday, the fast-food giant announced it is raising wages at company-owned restaurants, but 95% of McDonald’s branches are franchise locations that are not subject to the salary changes. McDonald’s worker and union organizer Doneshia Babbitt said, “[McDonald’s is] raising pay for some of us and using fancy math tricks to gloss over the fact that they’re selling most of us short. … We won’t stop fighting, striking and marching in the streets until we win $15 and a union for all.”