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HeadlinesMay 13, 2024

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Death Toll in Gaza Tops 35,000 as Israel Intensifies Attack from Rafah to Northern Gaza

May 13, 2024

Israel is intensifying its attacks across the Gaza Strip, from Rafah to Jabaliya, the largest refugee camp in Gaza. The official death toll has now topped 35,000, including more than 14,500 children. According to the United Nations, more than 360,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah despite fears there is nowhere to go to escape the Israeli bombardment.

Zeinab al-Kahloot: “There’s no safe place. The situation is very hard. There’s no food, no drinks. Even the water is hard to get. My children cry and tell me, 'Mother, we want to drink,' and I don’t know what to do. I’m like everyone else who left Rafah and came here. And we are displaced here, but there’s no safe place. The situation is really hard.”

Palestinian health officials are warning the entire system in Gaza is hours from collapse due to a massive fuel shortage following Israel’s seizure of the Rafah border crossing. Over the weekend, Israel ordered the forced evacuation of the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah. Israel’s attack on Rafah faces growing international condemnation. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel should “get out of Gaza.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s advance on northern Gaza is forcing many displaced Palestinians in Gaza City to flee again.

Umm Ali: “What happened with us is that the Israeli forces dropped flyers on us to evacuate the camp as there will be strikes. We left the camp, but we don’t know where to go. We don’t know where to head. We don’t have food or drink or clothes. … What do they want from us? They’re killing us and our children. Shame on them. What shall we do? We’re staying on the streets. This is just so unjust. Have some mercy on us, Arabs, Muslims, Americans. Have mercy on us. We’re being slaughtered. Shame on you. We’re all being killed. Shame on you. Why are you doing this to us?”

Walkouts, Disruptions & Encampments Mark Graduation Ceremonies as Campus Protests for Gaza Continue

May 13, 2024
Image Credit: X / @JerseyNoahx

Pro-Palestinian students staged protests at college graduation ceremonies across the country over the weekend. At Duke University, scores of students walked out of comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s commencement address. At the University of California at Berkeley, Saturday’s commencement ceremony was interrupted a number of times by students.

Student protesters: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

A day earlier, at the UC Berkeley Law School commencement, eight students wore shirts spelling out the phrase “UC Divest.”

In other news from California, riot police made one arrest outside Pomona College’s commencement event, which was moved after students set up a Gaza solidarity encampment on the main graduation stage.

Meanwhile, at Virginia Commonwealth University, scores of students staged a silent Gaza walkout during Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s commencement address.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin: “Visitors, deans of the colleges, faculty, staff, family, friends … this day before Mother’s Day …”

This comes as the police crackdown continues on student protests. On Friday, police raided an encampment at the University of Pennsylvania, arresting at least 33 protesters. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, police arrested 10 students who had relaunched an encampment at MIT. Police have now made nearly 3,000 arrests at student-led protests over the past month.

Meanwhile, the trustees at the Union Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with Columbia University, have voted to divest from “companies substantially and intractably benefiting from the war in Palestine.”

In related news, students at Johns Hopkins University have ended their two-week-old encampment after school officials agreed to consider divesting from Israel.

On the international front, professors at the University of Amsterdam are staging a walkout today. This comes a week after police used a bulldozer to violently break up a student Gaza encampment.

State Dept. Report Finds Israel Likely Violated International and U.S. Law Using U.S. Weapons

May 13, 2024
Image Credit: World Health Organization

A new report by the U.S. State Department has concluded Israel likely used U.S. weapons in violation of U.S. and international law, but the report claims the Biden administration has not yet found specific instances that could force the U.S. to withhold military aid. The findings came in a report issued Friday to Congress. Former State Department official Josh Paul, who resigned over Biden’s Gaza policy, criticized what he described as a “self-contradictory” report.

Josh Paul: “It does say that it is reasonable to assume that U.S. weapons have been used to commit violations of international humanitarian law, and yet it does not say that Israel has violated international humanitarian law. It does say that Israel has restricted humanitarian assistance into Gaza, and yet it says that currently Israel is not restricting U.S.-funded humanitarian assistance in Gaza, which is an absurd thing to say, given that the IDF is at this moment closing, and has closed for several days, the Rafah crossing point, which is the main entry point for humanitarian assistance.”

U.N. General Assembly Votes 143-9 for Palestinian Statehood

May 13, 2024

The United Nations General Assembly voted 143 to 9 on Friday in support of Palestine becoming a full U.N. member. Twenty-five countries abstained from the vote. The United States and Israel both voted against the measure. The vote grants new rights and privileges to Palestine but not full U.N. membership, which requires support from the U.N. Security Council. Last month, the U.S. vetoed a Palestine statehood resolution at the Security Council. On Friday, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour urged nations to support Palestine becoming a state.

Riyad Mansour: “A 'yes' vote is a vote for Palestinian existence. It is not against any state, but it is against the attempts to deprive us of our state.”

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, protested the vote by shredding a copy of the U.N. Charter at the podium.

Gilad Erdan: “You are shredding the U.N. Charter with your own hands. Yes, yes, that’s what you’re doing, shredding the U.N. Charter. Shame on you.”

In another development, Egypt has announced it will join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Israeli Whistleblowers Describe Torture of Gazan Detainees in Military Camp

May 13, 2024
Image Credit: Obtained by CNN

Three Israeli whistleblowers who worked at a military detention camp in the Negev Desert have detailed to CNN the horrific abuse faced by Gazans detained since October 7. One whistleblower shared photographs that show Palestinians being strapped down, blindfolded and held in diapers at the site. Doctors have been forced to amputate the limbs of some prisoners due to injuries sustained from constant handcuffing. One whistleblower said they beat Palestinians not to gather intelligence, but out of revenge.

Families of Hamas Captives Protest Netanyahu’s Handling of Hostage Crisis on Israeli Memorial Day

May 13, 2024

In other news from Israel, protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet are continuing as Israel marks its first Memorial Day since the October 7 attacks. Earlier today, relatives of dead soldiers heckled Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir as he spoke at a military cemetery. On Saturday, relatives of hostages held in Gaza staged another protest in Tel Aviv. Naama Weinberg is the cousin of Itay Svirsky, who reportedly died in captivity.

Naama Weinberg: “It is because of Netanyahu that there is no hostage release deal and there are no hostages being brought back home. He is abandoning our families to their death for his own political interests. Entering Rafah and expanding the operations there both hinder the hostages release negotiation and put the hostages’ lives in grave danger. So long as Netanyahu is in power, the hostages will not return. He does not want them to return.”

Putin Replaces Long-Standing Defense Chief Shoigu as Russia Claims 9 More Villages in Kharkiv

May 13, 2024

In other international news, Russian President Vladimir Putin has removed Sergei Shoigu as defense minister. Shoigu had served in the role since 2012 and had overseen Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He is being replaced by the economist Andrei Belousov.

This comes as Russia says it has captured nine more villages in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. In recent days, thousands of Ukrainians have evacuated their homes as Russia expands its attack near the city of Vovchansk.

Meanwhile, at least 15 people died in the Russian city of Belgorod after a downed Ukrainian missile hit an apartment building.

Children Killed at Darfur Hospital as Fighting Intensifies in Sudan’s El Fasher

May 13, 2024
Image Credit: X / @karmen_saeed

In Sudan, Doctors Without Borders says two children were killed and others were injured overnight Sunday when a bomb fell outside a pediatric hospital in the western city of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. Also on Sunday, there were reports of another 27 deaths in El Fasher as the Sudanese army clashed with the RSF — Rapid Support Forces — as fears mount of possible “carnage” in the last major stronghold of the army. Some 800,000 internally displaced people have taken refuge in El Fasher, which was once thought to be relatively shielded from the war.

Calls for a National Strike in Tunisia After Arrest of Prominent Lawyer Amid Crackdown on Dissent

May 13, 2024

A Tunisian lawyers’ association has called for a nationwide strike after masked police officers raided Tunisia’s bar association offices and arrested a prominent lawyer Saturday. Sonia Dahmani is an outspoken critic of the government of President Kais Saied and said in a TV interview last week that “half of Tunisia’s youth” want to leave the country. She was being questioned about Black African migrants that have been expelled from Tunisia. Dahmani’s arrest was captured on a live French news broadcast as a reporter was covering her persecution by the government. Two journalists were also arrested Saturday as part of the ongoing crackdown on dissent. On Sunday, protesters took to the streets of Tunis. This is Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, head of the opposition alliance.

Ahmed Nejib Chebbi: “Today, people are being arrested for anything, absolutely anything. On top of all that, we are undermining the upcoming elections. Tunisia will be on the brink of crisis and collapse. Therefore, we advocate for holding the elections on the scheduled date, ensuring they are conducted within a framework of freedom and equal opportunity.”

Catastrophic Flooding Kills Hundreds in Afghanistan, Dozens in Indonesia

May 13, 2024

In Afghanistan, flash floods have killed at least 315 people in northern villages. Another 1,600 have been injured, and thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged, as have health facilities and essential infrastructure.

Muhammad Yahqoob: “The flash floods destroyed all our houses. I lost 13 members of my family, including women and children. So many livestock have been destroyed, as well. … We have no food, no drinking water, no shelter, no blankets, nothing at all. The floods have destroyed everything. Out of 42 houses, only two or three houses remained. The floods have destroyed the entire valley.”

The affected area is in dire need of assistance, but Afghanistan has seen its international aid slashed following the Taliban takeover in 2021.

In Indonesia, flooding and mudslides in West Sumatra killed at least 43 people over the weekend, with over a dozen others missing. The monsoon downpours also triggered cold lava flow — a thick mixture of volcanic ash and other debris.

In Canada, over 100 active wildfires are burning, prompting evacuation orders in British Columbia and Alberta. Authorities in Minnesota issued the state’s first air quality alert of the year Sunday as wildfire smoke drifted across the border.

Socialists Win Catalan Elections in Major Blow to Independence Movement

May 13, 2024

In Spain, the ruling Socialist party won a majority of seats in Catalan elections Sunday, in a major upset for the region’s separatist movement. If the Socialists can forge a ruling coalition with other parties, it will be the first Catalan government in over a decade led by a party which does not support independence.

Michael Cohen to Testify in Trump Trial; Jury Selection Starts in Bob Menendez Corruption Trial

May 13, 2024

Former President Donald Trump will be back in court today for the fourth week of witness testimony in his criminal hush money and election interference trial. Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen is set to testify today. Meanwhile, The New York Times and ProPublica have revealed Trump could be forced to pay more than $100 million to the IRS for improperly claiming tax write-offs on a Chicago skyscraper by writing off the same losses twice.

And jury selection begins today in the corruption trial of New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. He is accused of taking bribes to benefit Egypt and Qatar.

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