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HeadlinesApril 19, 2024

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Israel Launches Retaliatory Strike in Iran as U.S. Issues New Sanctions Against Tehran

Apr 19, 2024

Israel launched a drone attack on Iran, according to Israeli and Iranian sources. Tehran said the strike hit a military air base near the city of Isfahan, where explosions could be heard. The damage was reportedly minimal, and Iranian forces later downed three Israeli drones. The attack early this morning came in response to Iran’s recent drone and missile attack on Israel. It comes less than three weeks after Israel attacked an Iranian diplomatic site in Syria, killing multiple people, including senior military officials. There were early reports of possible strikes inside Syria and Iraq, as well, but those have not been confirmed.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. announced new sanctions on Iran, targeting its missile and drone programs and various military entities and individuals. The EU and the U.K. are also imposing new sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a G7 meeting in Italy earlier today the U.S. was “not involved” in any offensive operation by Israel, though it’s been reported the U.S. received advance notice of the attack from Israel.

Columbia Protests Continue a Day After NYPD Arrests 100+, Dismantles Gaza Solidarity Encampment

Apr 19, 2024

Here in New York, riot police moved in on a peaceful student protest encampment, arresting at least 108 people. Columbia University President Minouche Shafik called the NYPD to clear the Gaza Solidarity Encampment on the campus’s South Lawn, where Columbia and Barnard students had set up one day earlier to demand university leadership divest from Israel. NYPD Chief John Chell said Shafik identified the demonstration as a “clear and present danger,” but that officers found the students to be peaceful and cooperative. Shafik warned all students participating in the encampment would be suspended. At least three suspensions of Barnard students were confirmed Thursday, including Isra Hirsi, daughter of Congressmember Ilhan Omar.

Columbia students and faculty members held a press conference Thursday evening. This is Palestinian American graduate student Layla Saliba, who has lost 14 family members in Gaza since October 7.

Layla Saliba: “Today was a dark day for freedom of speech on Columbia’s campus, because Columbia is showing that if you do not say — if you say something or do something that the university does not agree with, that they are willing to use violence towards you and that they are willing to endanger the health and safety and well-being of their students to protect their PR and their image. Right here we’ve got some riot cops. Look, right over there. They’re treating us like a national security threat simply for holding a press conference.”

Layla Saliba was also one of the Columbia students attacked in January’s chemical “skunk attack” during a campus rally.

Following the arrests, students continued to gather on campus, where large protests carried on through the night, and are ongoing.

Thursday’s showdown with the NYPD was the largest arrest on the Columbia campus since 1968, when police apprehended over 700 students protesting the school’s ties to the Vietnam War and Columbia’s plans to expand in Harlem by building a gymnasium in Morningside Park.

USC Students Rally to Demand Commencement Speech by Valedictorian Asna Tabassum Be Reinstated

Apr 19, 2024

Massive crowds of students at the University of Southern California protested USC’s cancellation of valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s graduation speech, chanting “Let her speak!” This is student Katya Urban.

Katya Urban: “It feels really important, especially right now, for the Jewish voice at USC, the anti-Zionist Jewish voice at USC, to be very loud and very present. So we’re here just to support Asna and to support free speech and to hold USC accountable.”

Click here to see our interview with the USC valedictorian.

U.S. Vetoes Bid to Advance Full Palestinian Membership at U.N.

Apr 19, 2024

The U.S. was the lone veto Thursday on a U.N. Security Council resolution recommending Palestine’s full membership at the U.N. The U.K. and Switzerland abstained. All 12 other nation members voted in favor of Palestinian membership. Palestine is currently a nonmember observer. Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., said the result will translate to a greater loss of life in Gaza. He spoke after the vote.

Riyad Mansour: “Our right to self-determination has never once been subject to bargaining or negotiation. Our right to self-determination is a natural right, a historic right, a legal right, a right to live in our homeland, Palestine, as an independent state that is free and that is sovereign.”

New Report Refutes Israeli Account of 6-Year-Old Hind Rajab’s Killing by IOF

Apr 19, 2024

More details have emerged about the death of Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old girl in Gaza City who was killed by Israeli forces in January in a car alongside five of her family members. Prior to her death, Hind was on the phone with emergency workers pleading for help. Two paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent who responded to her call were also killed in their ambulance. Israel denied responsibility for the killings by claiming its forces were not present, but a new Washington Post investigation finds Israeli armored vehicles were in the vicinity of the attack on Hind Rajab. The Post also reveals that the destroyed ambulance was discovered along a route provided by Israeli authorities after the Palestine Red Crescent had received approval to respond. The ambulance was bombed about 164 feet from the car with Hind and her family. The Post reports the destruction of the ambulance was consistent with the use of a round fired by Israeli tanks and that the gunfire audible on the phone call was consistent with Israeli weapons.

Activists Prepare to Set Sail on a New Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Apr 19, 2024

A coalition of human rights advocates has arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, as they prepare to set sail to Gaza on a civilian flotilla carrying urgently needed food and medicine. Hundreds will participate in the humanitarian aid mission. The Freedom Flotilla is expected to set sail later this month. This is Palestinian American activist Huwaida Arraf.

Huwaida Arraf: “What we have on board is lifesaving aid. We are watching in horror as an entire people are being deliberately starved, on top of the bombings and the killings and the maiming that we have seen. And we can’t stand by, because our governments aren’t doing anything to stop it. So we are taking to sea to attempt to deliver this aid and to directly challenge the siege in hopes of breaking it.”

Huwaida Arraf was one of the organizers of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which Israel attacked, killing 10 activists.

House Speaker Johnson Attaches TikTok Ban Bill to Ukraine, Israel Funding Package

Apr 19, 2024

Lawmakers could soon take a decisive step in forcing TikTok to either be sold from its Chinese owner ByteDance or be banned in the U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has attached the TikTok “divest-or-ban” measure to a series of military funding bills for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, adding up to $95 billion. House lawmakers are expected to vote on all four bills by Saturday, which would then be sent to the Senate as a single package. This comes as The Wall Street Journal reports the Biden administration is weighing sending another $1 billion in new weapons to Israel, including tank ammunition, military vehicles and mortar rounds.

U.S. Deports 70 Haitian Asylum Seekers Despite Humanitarian and Security Disaster in Haiti

Apr 19, 2024

The U.S. deported over 70 Haitian asylum seekers Thursday despite a spiraling security and humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Immigration rights advocates have been demanding the Biden administration halt all deportation flights to Haiti. The Haitian Bridge Alliance said in a statement, “Deportations to Haiti are intentional violence and blatant anti-Black discrimination. The hypocrisy by the Biden-Harris administration must cease.”

Earlier this week, Haitian officials named the members of a transitional council that will take power after Prime Minister Ariel Henry steps down. The council, made up of voting members and nonvoting observers, will choose a new prime minister and wield certain presidential powers by majority vote. Members of the council include a former employee of the World Bank. Its mandate expires in February 2026.

U.S. Reinstates Venezuela Sanctions Ahead of July Elections

Apr 19, 2024

The Biden administration has reimposed oil sanctions on Venezuela, saying President Nicolás Maduro has not enforced promised reforms ahead of July’s elections. Some U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry were lifted last year under the condition Maduro allowed opposition candidates to participate in the elections, but several have been banned from running.

Senate Advances FISA’s Contested Section 702, Which Has Led to Warrantless Spying on U.S. Citizens

Apr 19, 2024

The U.S. Senate advanced the passage of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, Thursday despite objections from civil liberties advocates and some Democrats. The controversial provision has been used by federal agencies to conduct warrantless surveillance on U.S. citizens. One of the measure’s critics in Congress, Ron Wyden, said, “This issue demands a debate about meaningful reforms, not a rushed vote to rubber-stamp more warrantless government surveillance powers.”

The Jury in Donald Trump’s NYC Criminal Trial Has Been Seated

Apr 19, 2024

Twelve jurors — 7 men and 5 women — have been selected for Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial. The si alternates will likely be chosen by the end of today, with opening arguments starting as early as Monday. Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to hide $130,000 paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016. Prosecutors said Thursday Trump has repeatedly violated his gag order, and asked Judge Juan Merchan to hold Trump in contempt.

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