Monday, July 28, 2014

US: Russia Violated 1987 Nuclear Missile Treaty

AP U.S. President Ronald Reagan, right, shakes hands with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the two leaders signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to eliminate intermediate-range missiles during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington. In an escalation of tensions, the Obama administration accused Russia on July 28, 2014, of conducting tests in violation of a 1987 nuclear missile treaty, calling the breach "a very serious matter" and going public with allegations that have simmered for some time. The treaty confrontation comes at a highly strained time between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia's intervention in Ukraine and Russia's grant of asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an escalation of tensions, the Obama administration accused Russia on Monday of conducting tests in violation of a 1987 nuclear missile treaty, calling the breach "a very serious matter" and going public with allegations that have simmered for some time.
The treaty confrontation comes at a highly strained time between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia's intervention in Ukraine and Putin's grant of asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden
An administration official said Obama notified Putin of the U.S. determination in a letter Monday. The finding will be included in a State Department annual report on compliance with arms control treaties that will be released Tuesday.
The U.S. says Russia tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that President Ronald Reagan signed with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Russian officials say they have looked into the allegations and consider the matter closed.
The Obama administration has expressed its concern over possible violations before, but this is the first time that the administration has formally accused Russia of violating the treaty. It comes in the wake of the downed Malaysian airliner in Ukraine and as the U.S. and the European Union seek to ramp up sanctions against Russia, offering the administration a convenient time to release the report which had been due to come out in April.
Two officials said the U.S. is prepared to hold high-level discussions on the issue immediately and want assurances that Russia will comply with the treaty requirements going forward. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive issue publicly by name ahead of Tuesday's report.
The New York Times first reported the U.S. move Monday evening In raising the issue now, the U.S. appears to be placing increased pressure on Russia and trying to further isolate it from the international community. The European Union and the United States plan to announce new sanctions against Russia this week in the face of U.S. evidence that Russia has continued to assist separatist forces in Ukraine.
The formal finding comes in the wake of congressional pressure on the White House to confront Russia over the allegations of cheating on the treaty. The treaty banned all U.S. and Russian land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 300 miles and 3,400 miles.
The officials said the Obama administration has informed Congress and U.S. allies of its decision to seek Russian compliance. Indeed Obama, who has made nuclear disarmament a key foreign policy aim, has little interest in having Russia pull out of the treaty altogether.
Obama won Senate ratification of a New START treaty, which took effect in February 2011 and requires the U.S. and Russia to reduce the number of their strategic nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 by February 2018.
Obama last year announced that he wants to cut the number of U.S. nuclear arms by another third and that he would "seek negotiated cuts" with Russia, a goal now complicated by the accusation of a missile treaty violation.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

FG Defends Search For Oklahoma City Bombing Video

APJannie Coverdale leans on the chair of one of her grandchildren in the Field of Chairs at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial in Oklahoma City, Friday, July 25, 2014. Coverdale, who lost two grandchildren in the bombing, said she is hopeful that an upcoming trial in Utah will shed light on the bombing.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The FBI thoroughly searched its archives and found no evidence that more videos of the Oklahoma City bombing exist, agency employees told a judge Monday in a trial that has rekindled questions about whether any others were involved in the 1995 attack.
Additional searches for videos that Salt Lake City lawyer Jesse Trentadue believes are being withheld would be burdensome and fruitless, FBI attorney Kathryn Wyer argued during the first day of a bench trial.
Trentadue says the agency is refusing to release videos that show a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb that killed 168 people. The government says McVeigh was alone.
The 30 video recordings the FBI has released don't show the explosion or McVeigh's arrival in a rental truck. "The plaintiff has refused to accept that the 30 tapes he got are the only tapes," Wyer said.
The FBI already has provided videos and paper documents that correspond with Trentadue's Freedom of Information Act request, she said. But unsatisfied by the FBI's previous explanations and citing the public importance of the tapes, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has ordered the agency to explain why it can't find videos that are mentioned in evidence logs.
Linda Vernon, a longtime FBI employee who became the point person for the collection of evidence after the bombing, said she is "completely confident" the agency has found every video of the bombing that exists.
The trial continues Tuesday and will run at least through Wednesday before the judge makes a ruling. He could wait until a later date to decide. Trentadue believes the presence of a second suspect explains why his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was flown to Oklahoma several months after the bombing, where he died in a federal holding cell. Kenneth Trentadue bore a striking resemblance to a police sketch based on witness descriptions of the enigmatic suspect "John Doe No. 2," who was never identified.
Trentadue is acting as his own attorney and tried to show that the FBI has not adequately followed up on information that could lead to the discovery of other videos. He asked Monica Mitchell of the FBI about why the agency had not done more to search for a tape mentioned in a Secret Service log. It describes security video footage of suspects — in plural — exiting the truck three minutes before the bomb went off.
"Didn't it come to your mind that that tape may exist?" Trentadue asked. Mitchell said she didn't know the authenticity of the Secret Service document and that Vernon told her she didn't know of the existence of such a tape.
Trentadue asked if Mitchell had asked FBI headquarters about the tape, citing documents that show it had one tape and 300 pages of documents. She acknowledged she had not asked headquarters about those items as part of the FOIA request.
A Secret Service agent testified in 2004 that the log does exist, but its information was pulled from reports that were never verified, said Stacy A. Bauerschmidt, who was then the assistant to the special agent in charge of the FBI's intelligence division.
Several investigators and prosecutors who worked the case told The Associated Press in 2004 they had never seen video like that described in the Secret Service log. Mitchell and Vernon described how employees searched automated systems and by hand. Vernon said she spent 85 hours searching three computer databases created to track all the evidence.
Trentadue wasn't the only one asking tough questions of FBI witnesses. The judge at one point asked Mitchell why the FBI never responded to a letter from Trentadue asking about a video that seemed to be incomplete.
"You basically did nothing?" Waddoups asked. "We did nothing because we were confident in our search and what we located," Mitchell said. Later, he questioned why Vernon neglected to send several documents to Trentadue that mentioned videos, despite her previous claim that she erred on the side of inclusivity if she wasn't sure whether something fell under his request.
Trentadue's 44-year-old brother, who was a convicted bank robber and construction worker, was brought to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City after being picked up for probation violations while coming back to the U.S. at the Mexican border, Jesse Trentadue said.
Kenneth Trentadue's death was officially labeled a suicide. But his body had 41 wounds and bruises that his brother believes were the result of a beating. In 2008, a federal judge awarded the family $1.1 million for extreme emotional distress in the government's handling of the death. The amount was reduced to $900,000 after an appeal.
Talley reported from Oklahoma City. Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs 

Be Ready For "Prolonged" Gaza War, Netanyahu Says

Palestinians look at a pool of blood from victims of an explosion that killed 10 people, 9 of them children, at a park at Shati refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Monday, July 28, 2014. Israeli and Palestinian authorities traded blame over the attack and fighting in the Gaza war raged on despite a major Muslim holiday.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Signaling an escalation of Israel's Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday to be ready for a "prolonged" war, and the military warned Palestinians in three large neighborhoods to leave their homes and head immediately for Gaza City.
The warnings came on a day of heavy Hamas-Israeli fighting in which nine children were killed by a strike on a Gaza park where they were playing, according to Palestinian health officials — a tragedy that each side blamed on the other.
Later Monday, Israeli forces fired a large numbers of flares over Gaza City, turning the night sky a bright orange. The latest bloodshed came despite mounting international calls for a cease-fire and followed failed attempts by both sides to agree to even a lull in fighting of several hours for the start of the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid el-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan.
The Hamas-run health ministry said 10 people, including nine children under the age of 12, were killed and 46 wounded in the blast at a park in the Shati refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City. Each side blamed the other.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the explosion was caused when a rocket launched by Gaza militants misfired and landed in the park. Palestinian police and civil defense said an Israeli missile hit as children were playing on a swing set.
"The children were playing and were happy, enjoying Eid, and they got hit," said Nidal Aljerbi, a witness. After three weeks of bloodshed, both Israel and Hamas are holding out for bigger gains and a cease-fire remains elusive, despite an appeal by the U.N. Security Council and growing pressure from the United States.
Israel says its troops will not leave Gaza until they have demolished scores of Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border that militants use to infiltrate Israel and smuggle weapons. Hamas says it will not cease fire until it receives international guarantees Gaza's 7-year-old border blockade by Egypt and Israel will be lifted.
Netanyahu defended the Gaza air and ground offensive, saying in a televised speech Monday that "there is no war more just than this." Israel has said it is defending its citizens against attack from Gaza by hitting Hamas rocket launchers, weapons storage sites and military tunnels. However, there is growing U.S. frustration with the mounting number of Palestinian casualties — at least 1,072 killed and 6,450 wounded since July 8, the vast majority civilians, according to Hamas health officials.
The Israeli military says 52 soldiers have been killed, including four killed Monday in a mortar attack on southern Israel. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai citizen working in Israel also have been killed.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been pressing Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire. The Obama administration pushed back Monday against a torrent of Israeli criticism over Kerry's latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a "misinformation campaign" against the top American diplomat.
"It's simply not the way partners and allies treat each other," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Her comments were echoed by the White House, where officials said they were disappointed by Israeli reports that cast Kerry's efforts to negotiate a cease-fire as more favorable to Hamas.
Israel had accepted an Egyptian call for an unconditional cease-fire early in its Gaza campaign, but Hamas rejected the idea. Netanyahu said Monday that Israel won't end its offensive until Hamas' network of tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border has been neutralized. "We need to be ready for a prolonged campaign," he said. "We will continue to act aggressively and responsibly until the mission is completed to protect our citizens, soldiers and children."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded defiantly. "His threats do not scare Hamas or the Palestinian people, and the occupation will pay the price for the massacres against civilians and children," he said.
Israel's last major Gaza invasion ended in January 2009 after 23 days, one-third of that time with troops on the ground. Already, the current ground operation, which began 11 days ago, has lasted longer than the one in 2009.
In recent days, Israeli leaders have debated whether to withdraw from Gaza after the tunnels are demolished, or to expand the ground operation to deliver a more painful blow against Hamas. Those in favor of an escalation have argued that unless Hamas is toppled and disarmed, a new round of Israel-Gaza fighting is inevitable. Opponents say attempting to reoccupy densely populated Gaza, even if for a short period, could quickly entangle Israel politically and militarily and drive up the number of dead.
In his remarks Monday, Netanyahu didn't let on which way he is leaning. However, he insisted that "preventing the arming of terror groups and demilitarizing Gaza must be part of any solution," indicating that Israel's aims are broader than initially stated.
For now, ground forces have largely operated on the edges of Gaza. The Israeli military has said it has located 31 tunnels, is aware of the existence of 10 more and has so far demolished close to 20. Gaza militants have repeatedly used the tunnels to sneak into Israel, including on Monday when several infiltrated into southern Israel. The army said one Hamas militant coming through a tunnel was killed in a firefight, but that searches in the area were continuing.
The Hamas military wing said nine of its fighters infiltrated and attacked an army post. After three weeks of battle, "our fighters still have a lot of surprises in store for the leaders of the occupation and their elite soldiers," the group said in a statement.
The blast at the Gaza park occurred within minutes of a separate strike Monday afternoon on nearby Shifa Hospital, Gaza City's largest medical facility. Several people were wounded in the blast near one of the hospital's outpatient clinics, Hamas health officials said.
Lerner, the army spokesman, denied Israel was involved in the two attacks. "This incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short and hit the Shifa Hospital and the Beach (Shati) camp," he said, adding that the military had identified 200 "failed launchings" so far.
Early Tuesday, the military released aerial photographs that it said showed the paths of two misfired Hamas rockets it said hit the park and Shifa Hospital. It said the rockets were detected by Israeli military radar and sensors.
Gaza's police operations room and civil defense department blamed the attacks on Israeli airstrikes. Gaza's Interior Ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozum said he believes that shrapnel found in the dead and wounded is evidence of Israel's role in the incident.
Goldenberg reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, and Ian Deitch and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

NIGERIA: Jubilation In Anambra As Appeal Court Upholds Obiano's Victory


Supporters of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) broke into celebration, victory songs and almost turned the premises of the Court of Appeal into a carnival ground as the court reaffirmed the ruling of the Anambra State Election Petitions Tribunal on the victory of Chief Willy Obiano in the November 2013 governorship election.
Delivering judgment in four separate appeals, the five justices of the court: Hon. Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba; Hon. Justice Ejembi Eko; Hon Justice I.O. Akeju; Hon. Justice Tijjani Abubakar; and Hon Justice M. Mustapha, yesterday, unanimously dismissed the appeals of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and its candidate, Senator Chris Ngige; the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP), its candidate Tony Nwoye; and governorship aspirant in the election, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, for lack of merit.
In the election Ngige, came third behind Obiano while Nwoye of the PDP came second. Ngige and Nwoye had proceeded to appeal after losing at the Election Petition Tribunal presided by Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello, which on June 4 in Awka upheld the victory of Obiano, declaring that he was validly elected, as the November 16, 17 and 30 governorship ballot complied substantially with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution.
Pronouncing ruling in the appeal by Ngige against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Obiano, APGA, and others, the Presiding Justice, Mohammed Garba said: “The appeal lacks merit and is dismissed in its entirety. The ruling of the Election Tribunal on June 4, 2014, is hereby affirmed by me. I have assessed cost at N50,000 in favour of the third respondent (Obiano).”
That became the pattern in the subsequent appeals, as each Justice affirmed the lack of merit in the appeals. On the second ruling, which is the appeal by Nwoye against INEC, Obiano and others, the PDP candidate had, like Ngige, canvassed a cancellation of the election and a fresh poll held because of irregularities and the double registration by Obiano. His appeal was also unanimously dismissed by the five justices, and N50,000 cost awarded in favour of Obiano.”
The PDP’s appeal which was similar to the one by Nwoye was also dismissed in similar fashion.
Dr. Obidigbo, an APGA governorship aspirant, who wanted the court to declare him the rightful candidate of the party after he merged with the candidate of another faction of the party, also canvassed a cancellation of the election and a fresh election held.
The Presiding Justice apologized for the delay in delivering the ruling following extensive typographical errors in the judgement. These errors necessitated the delay of the ruling from 9am till 2 pm. Although the corrections of errors could not be completed at the time of the delivery, Garba opted to pronounce the ruling without reading the entire judgment.
Taking time off the celebrations, the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh told journalists that the party was grateful to God for the Judiciary.
He noted that, “it has become obvious that over 95 per cent of judicial officers in this country have decided to uphold the rule of law and principles of law. Today, a five-man panel of the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed all the appeals standing against our victory at the lower tribunal in Awka following our victory at the governorship election in November 2013.
“We were not in doubt that all these appeals will be dismissed because APGA’s candidate, Chief Obiano, won this election. Our opponents, the APC and PDP, decided to head to the Tribunal. During the hearing at the Tribunal, they did not prove anything, and the Tribunal ruled in our favour. Both the APC and its candidate, the PDP, and another petitioner, who claimed to be a member of APGA, Chike Obidigbo, had their petitions dismissed for lack of merit.”
---------DAILY TIMES NIGERIA, SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2014

Study: Embargo Wouldn't Hurt Russia

A pro-Russian fighters' APC stands abandoned near the city of Lisichansk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine Saturday, July 26, 2014. Volunteers from the Donbas Battalion, a volunteer militia for a united Ukraine, told The Associated Press their units, along with the Ukrainian army, regained control of Lisichansk on Friday.

LONDON (AP) — An arms embargo against Russia would be little more than symbolic because Russia is largely self-sufficient in supplying its armed forces, a report argued Sunday.
European Union countries exported $583 million of military equipment to Russia last year, less than 1 percent of the nation's $68 billion defense budget, according to a study by IHS Jane's, which provides analysis on the defense industry and security issues. The bulk of that was a $521 million payment to France, which is building two Mistral class warships for Russia.
The propriety of arms sales to Russia was questioned last week as the U.S. and EU debated tougher sanctions against President Vladimir Putin's government because of its support for Ukrainian rebels, who are believed to have fired the missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 people on board.
Many of the existing arms deals are the product of a brief period between 2010 and 2012, when Russia sought Western help in modernizing its military, said Guy Anderson, a senior principal analyst for aerospace, defense and security at IHS Jane's. Putin reversed that strategy in 2012, when he decided that Russia should be self-sufficient once more and ordered the military to stop buying Western materiel.
"Russia's reason for doing this was security," Anderson said. "You could probably argue they saw something like this coming." The Jane's analysis shows that Russia wasn't even among the world's top 10 defense importers last year — though it was the No. 2 exporter behind the United States.
There are no EU countries among the top 10 buyers of Russian military material. While Russia hasn't bought much strictly military equipment, it purchases a considerable amount of dual-use technology such as engines that can be used in both civilian and military vehicles, said Trevor Taylor, a professorial fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.
The IHS Jane's analysis covers only equipment with a purely military function. It also excludes weapons under 57 mm calibre or sub-components. The European Union, in a discussion paper on possible actions against Russia, suggested that banning shipments of dual-use goods to military users and companies that operate in both the military and civilian sectors could be an "effective and targeted measure." EU exports to Russia in this category total about 4 billion euros, or 20 percent of dual-use exports to the country, according to the paper.
Russia is decreasing imports at a time when it is increasing military spending. The country's defense budget, the world's third-biggest behind the U.S. and China, is set to jump by more than 40 percent to $98 billion by 2016, according to IHS Jane's.
When the Russian economy collapsed following the breakup of the Soviet Union, military budgets fell as well. In recent years, Moscow launched a desperate bid to revive its defense industries and embarked on a massive re-armament program designed to totally re-equip its forces by 2023.
The Russians were obsessive in their drive to go it alone, with the military barred from importing weapons, or even the equipment used to make them, unless absolutely nothing at home was suitable, Anderson said.
"It got down to the level of machine tools," he said. "Even the lathes have to be Russian." In some ways, Putin's decision is a return to the situation during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was barred from doing business with Western defense contractors.
After the collapse of communism, Western governments decided that Russia should become a partner in controlling arms exports around the world, rather than a subject of those controls. A U.K. parliamentary committee last week questioned why British companies were being permitted to sell 132 million pounds ($224 million) of military equipment, including components for anti-aircraft guns, to Russia. The government said it would examine the deals but that many were for legitimate, non-military uses.
Yet among the military contracts, France's carrier deal stands out. France was able to capitalize on the brief opening of the Russian market by signing a 1.2 billion euro contract for the two Mistral class helicopter carriers, securing jobs for hundreds of workers in its struggling shipyards.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has pressed the French to rethink the deal, saying it would be "unthinkable" for his country to fulfill such a contract given events in Ukraine. "It's very difficult for France," Taylor said. "When they sighted this deal, no one was envisioning the situation in the Ukraine. That was not on the risk register for sure."

AP Analysis: Putin Stays On Offense In Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Head of the Jewish autonomous region Alexander Vinnikov in the Kremlin in Moscow, Friday, July 25, 2014.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Russian President Vladimir Putin might be expected to hunker down into defense mode as he is besieged by accusations of Russian involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Instead he has stayed on offense and appears to positioning for the long game.
In his televised appearances since last Thursday's crash, Putin's demeanor hasn't wavered from his usual steely determination. He has allowed Russian media to propound theories blaming Ukrainian forces or suggesting a U.S hand in the crash, while refusing to deny such theories and indirectly placing responsibility on the Ukrainians.
Just hours after the crash, Putin laid the groundwork for this approach, saying at a meeting of economic officials that "the tragedy would not have happened" if Ukraine had not resumed its military actions against rebels in late June. "The state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy," he said.
That argument neatly eludes a key issue: that the offensive was renewed after a 10-day unilateral ceasefire that the pro-Russia rebels ignored. Throughout the eastern Ukraine crisis, now in its fourth month, Putin and his officials have consistently portrayed the conflict as Ukraine's unprincipled assault on its own citizens, rather than as a move to take back a sizeable part of the country seized by heavily armed separatists.
The aim is to discredit the Kiev authorities without openly opposing them. Putin even spoke face-to-face in June with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who had just been elected following the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych in the wake of months of mass protests. But on Tuesday, he stepped up the aspersions in a meeting with his security council.
"True, they held elections after the takeover," Putin said. "However, for some strange reason, power ended up again in the hands of those who either funded or carried out this takeover." This is where the long game appears to take shape.
By aggressively suggesting that Ukraine's instability is a prelude to Western designs on Russia, Putin not only deflects attention away from the plane crash, but strikes a chord in the Russian psyche. Russia characteristically sees itself as both a vast and mighty world power and as forever beleaguered by devious and violent forces dating back to the Mongol hordes and later including Napoleonic France, Poland, Sweden and, finally, Nazi Germany.
Even as he expresses concern about Russia's vulnerability, Putin also declares that "the recipes used regarding weaker states fraught with internal conflict will not work with us." Resorting to the contradictory — yet popular — message may indicate the tight spot Putin finds himself in as he faces not only international opprobrium but the prospect of even more economic sanctions.
"He appears caught, first, by the possibility of very serious limitations from the West," analyst Fyodor Lukyanov was quoted as saying by the news website Ekspert. "Secondly, the psychological pressure is very serious. And for Putin, I think, it's hard just on a human basis."
But Putin is the ultimate survivor. And barring evidence that irrefutably connects Russia with the plane's crash Putin likely has the stamina and determination for a long haul. Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow think-tank, said that while many may hope that sanctions and the pressure on Putin will cause him to pull back, "those banking on this scenario will probably be disappointed."
"Putin is unlikely to stand down, or back off," he wrote in a commentary.

Israel Resumes Offensive After Gaza Rocket Fire

As her brother-in-law Mazen Keferna, background left, weeps, Palestinian Manal Keferna, 30, right, cries upon her return to the family house, destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, July 26, 2014. Thousands of Gaza residents who had fled Israel-Hamas fighting streamed back to devastated border areas during a lull Saturday, and were met by large-scale destruction: scores of homes were pulverized, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has resumed its Gaza offensive after a series of Palestinian rocket attacks.
The Israeli military said Sunday that following "Hamas' incessant rocket fire" during the unilateral Israeli extension of a temporary humanitarian truce it would resume targeting Gaza militants. Israel's Cabinet had unilaterally decided to extend the truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. Hamas, which has requested the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza, among other demands, did not agree to extend the truce.
The 20-day operation has already killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and 45 Israelis.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hamas Fires Rockets On Israel, Ending 12-Hour Lull

Palestinians salvage usable things in their belongings they find at their destroyed houses during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. Thousands of Gaza residents who had fled Israel-Hamas fighting streamed back to devastated border areas during a lull Saturday to find large-scale destruction: scores of homes were pulverized, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets.

BEIT HANOUN, GAZA STRIP (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel's offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 days of fighting.
Hamas said two of the rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv. Police in Israel's second-largest city dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people because of the threat, a spokesman said. In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers met earlier Saturday to find ways to transform Saturday's initial 12-hour lull into a sustainable truce.
In Gaza, thousands of residents who fled the violence streamed back to devastated border areas during the cease-fire to find large-scale destruction: fighting had pulverized scores of homes, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets.
In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, Siham Kafarneh, 37, sat on the steps of a small grocery, weeping. The mother of eight said the home she had spent 10 years saving up for and moved into two months earlier had been destroyed.
"Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone," she said. More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.
Across Gaza, more than 130 bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, 20 members of an extended family were killed before the start of the lull when a tank shell hit a building where they had sought refuge, al-Kidra said.
Israel says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm's way. Israel has lost 40 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker also has been killed.
"There is no proof that any kind of gratuitous damage is being inflicted," said Israeli legislator Ofer Shelah of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Israeli troops are "fighting with an enemy dug in within the civilian population, dug in underground or within the houses there," he said, adding that "those are the consequences of such a fight."
Israel launched a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 and later sent ground troops into the Hamas-ruled territory in an operation it said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and destroying cross-border tunnels used for attacks.
Later Saturday, Israel decided to extend the 12-hour lull by four more hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday. However, Israel set its own terms for the extended truce, saying it would continue to demolish Hamas military tunnels.
The Israeli military said that through Saturday's lull, troops uncovered four more tunnel shafts. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later said that the group rejected the four-hour extension. Shortly after that, Hamas claimed responsibility for firing five rockets at Israel, including two at Tel Aviv. The Israeli military said three rockets fell in southern Israel.
Al-Kidra said that a 36-year-old Palestinian man was killed by a sniper near the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah shortly after the 12-hour truce ended. In Paris, Kerry met with European foreign ministers and later with foreign ministers from Qatar and Turkey to try to salvage truce efforts.
On Friday, Israel rejected a proposal by Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to halt fire for a week and to begin talks during this period on easing the border blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Hamas has said it would not halt fire until it won guarantees that the border blockade, enforced by Israel and Egypt, would be lifted.
Any new border arrangements for Gaza would likely give a role to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the main political rival of Hamas. Hamas had seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, triggering the Gaza blockade by Israel and Egypt. However, Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, reached a power-sharing deal earlier this year with Hamas. Under the deal, a government of technocrats headed by Abbas was to prepare for new elections in the West Bank and Gaza.
Egypt wants forces loyal to Abbas to be posted on the Gaza side of the mutual border before considering open the Rafah crossing there, Gaza's main gate to the world. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris that he and his counterparts from other nations are calling on both sides to negotiate a sustainable cease-fire.
Such a truce should meet Israeli security concerns, but also "the Palestinians' expectations in terms of economic development and access to Gaza," he said. "We are convinced of the need to involve the Palestinian Authority in achieving these objectives."
Deitch reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Nigeria Government Confirms Ebola Case In Megacity Of Lagos


By Felix Onuah and Tom Miles
Abuja/Geneva

Yewande Adeshina, special adviser on public health to the Lagos state government, speaks with Reuters in her office after a news conference on suspected outbreak of Ebola virus in Lagos, July 24, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

LAGOS, NIGERIA (REUTERS) - A Liberian man who died in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos on Friday tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said.
Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the Liberian finance ministry in his 40s, collapsed on Sunday after flying into Lagos, a city of 21 million people, and was taken from the airport and put in isolation in a local hospital. Nigeria confirmed earlier on Friday that he had died in quarantine.

"His blood sample was taken to the advance laboratory at the Lagos university teaching hospital, which confirmed the diagnosis of the Ebola virus disease in the patient," Chukwu told a press conference on Friday. "This result was corroborated by other laboratories outside Nigeria."

However, at a separate press conference held by the Lagos state government at the same time, the city's health commissioner, Jide Idris, said that they were only "assuming that it was Ebola" because they were "waiting for a confirmative test to double check" from a laboratory in Dakar.

Paul Garwood, spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, said the U.N. health agency was also still waiting for test results.

"We're still waiting for laboratory-confirmed results as to whether he died of Ebola or not," he said.
It could not be immediately determined why there was a contradiction in the comments from central government and city officials.

If confirmed, the man would be the first case on record of one of the world's deadliest diseases in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy and with 170 million people, its most populous country. Ebola has killed 660 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it was first diagnosed in February.
Sawyer was quarantined on arrival and had not entered the city, a Nigerian official told Reuters.
"While he was quarantined he passed away. Everyone who has had contact with him has been quarantined," the official said.

Liberia's finance minister Amara Konneh said Sawyer was a consultant for the country's finance ministry.

"Our understanding is that the cause of death was Ebola," Konneh told Reuters.

The victim's sister had died of the virus three weeks previously, and the degree of contact between the two was being investigated by Liberian health ministry officials, he said.

Earlier on Friday, WHO spokesman Paul Garwood said: "I understand that he was vomiting and he then turned himself over basically, he made it known that he wasn't feeling well. Nigerian health authorities took him and put him in isolation."

Nigeria has some of the continent's least adequate healthcare infrastructure, despite access to billions of dollars of oil money as Africa's biggest producer of crude.

Some officials think the disease is easier to contain in cities than in remote rural areas.

"The fear of spread within a dense population would be offset by better healthcare and a willingness to use it, easier contact tracing and, I assume for an urban population, less risky funerary and family rites," Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading in Britain, said.

"It would be contained more easily than in rural populations."

There have been 1,093 Ebola cases to date in West Africa's first outbreak, including the 660 who have died, according to the WHO.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Additional reporting by Tim Cocks and Oludare Mayowa in Lagos, Kate Holtan in London, Clair MacDougall in Monrovia, Emma Farge in Dakar and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay and Tim Cocks; Editing by Susan Fenton and Sonya Hepinstall)

 


 

Kerry Says No Deal Yet For 7-Day Truce In Gaza

Palestinians pray the Friday prayer inside a destroyed Al Farouk mosque which was destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike on Tuesday, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, July 25, 2014. The U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a new attempt Friday to nail down a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, as Israel's 18-day military operation in the Gaza Strip fueled new unrest in the West Bank, where several Palestinians were killed during protests.

JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that more work was needed to reach a deal between Israel and Hamas for a seven-day truce in the Gaza war. Israel's defense minister warned that the military may soon broaden its ground operation "significantly."

The tough statement by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, coupled with Kerry's inability to broker even a temporary cease-fire after a week of shuttling around the region, signaled the fighting is likely to drag on, with more than 820 Palestinians and 38 people in Israel killed so far.

In a statement issued shortly after Kerry spoke at a press conference in Cairo, Yaalon's office quoted him telling troops in the field that "you need to be ready for the possibility that very soon we will instruct the military to significantly broaden the ground operation in Gaza."

"Hamas is paying a very heavy price and will pay an even heavier price," Yaalon said. "At the end of the operation, Hamas will have to think very hard if it is worth it to taunt us in the future." Israel has said a key objective of its ground operation is to destroy Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border — and Israeli media have said the military wants more time to complete the mission.

Of 31 discovered so far, about half have been destroyed. The tunnels, used by Hamas in the past to sneak into Israel, are seen as a strategic threat against Israel. For days, Kerry has been moving between the Egyptian capital, the West Bank and Jerusalem and talking to officials from Qatar, which is in contact with Hamas. But the most Kerry seemed to have won so far was a willingness from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to consider a far less ambitious 12-hour halt in fighting, proposed by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

Netanyahu, Kerry said, "has indicated his willingness to do that as a good faith down payment to move forward." Still, Kerry said that the parties are closer than ever to an agreement for a seven-day "humanitarian" truce to start with the Muslim Eid holiday on Monday, ending the holy month of Ramadan.

Speaking alongside the U.N. secretary-general and the Egyptian foreign minister, Kerry insisted that there was a general agreement on the "concept" of a truce but that both sides had concerns over details of carrying it out.

"Gaps have been significantly narrowed," he said. "It can be achieved, if we work through some of the issues that are important for the parties." Gaza fighting continued alongside the truce efforts. Israeli airstrikes hit more than 80 sites in Gaza, while militants in the tiny Mediterranean strip fired 50 rockets at Israel, the army said. Among the sites hit in Gaza were 30 homes, including that of a leader of the Islamic Jihad group who was killed along with his sons, Palestinian officials said.

And unrest sparked by the conflict intensified in the West Bank, where five Palestinians were killed during protests against the Israeli operation in Gaza. The U.S. top diplomat said the goal of halting fighting for seven days was to provide time to work out further talks to address each side's demands. He said some "terminology" on a truce's framework still needed work.

Hamas demands the release of Palestinian prisoners in addition to an end to the 7-year-old border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the group seized Gaza from the Western-backed government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli TV reports said Israel's Security Cabinet unanimously rejected Kerry's proposal in its current form, mainly because it would mean Israel has to cut short the effort to destroy tunnels. But Kerry said he had not submitted a formal proposal to Israel for the Cabinet to vote on.

Israeli government officials were not immediately available for comment. The worst round of cross-border fighting in more than five years has killed 828 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,200, according to Palestinian health officials. The U.N. says civilians make up three-fourths of the dead and a majority of the wounded.

In Israel, 38 people have been killed since July 8, including 35 soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker. The army announced on Friday that an Israeli soldier whom Hamas had claimed to have captured earlier this week had in fact died in battle on that day. The declaration lifts fears of a soldier in Hamas custody — one of Israel's worst-case scenarios in any fight with the militants.

The army said it determined that Sgt. Oron Shaul was killed among seven soldiers killed in a vehicle that was hit by an anti-tank missile in Gaza on Sunday. The others in the vehicle were confirmed dead soon after the battle ended but Shaul's remains were not immediately identified. Shaul is among the count of 35 soldiers killed in the fighting.

As the Gaza fighting drags on, the West Bank is becoming increasingly restive. Protests erupted Friday in the northern village of Hawara, near the city of Nablus, and the southern village of Beit Omar, near the city of Hebron. Palestinian hospital officials said three Palestinians were killed in Beit Omar and two in Hawara.

The mayor of Hawara, Mouin Idmeidi, said he and hundreds of others from the village participated in a protest after emerging from a local mosque after Friday prayers. Hawara is located along a main north-south thoroughfare that is also used by Israeli motorists. The mayor said an Israeli motorist slowed down as he passed the march and fired at the group.

The mayor said four people were wounded and that one of them, a 19-year-old, died at Rafidiyeh Hospital in Nablus of his injuries. After the shooting, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli troops who opened fire, killing a 22-year-old from Hawara, the mayor said.

Rafidiyeh hospital confirmed the deaths. An Israeli police spokesman, Mickey Rosenfeld, said paramilitary border police opened fire to disperse violent protests at Hawara, and that masked Palestinians threw firebombs. He said he was unaware of a shooting involving an Israeli civilian.

In Beit Omar, clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian stone-throwers. Hebron hospital officials said three Palestinians were killed. The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.
On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians clashes with Israeli forces at a West Bank checkpoint and in east Jerusalem, the largest protests in those areas in several years.

Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in the West Bank and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

US: Russia Is Firing Across Border Into Ukraine

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, foreground, speaks to the media as a Dutch military cargo plane with coffins holding bodies of some of the passengers of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner which was downed over eastern Ukraine last week, prepares to take off for the Netherlands from Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, Friday, July 25, 2014. International observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Friday were traveling to inspect the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane and to search for more bodies. Human remains are still being found at the crash site more than a week after the plane went down.

KIEV, UKRAINE (AP) — Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.

Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said five salvos of heavy rockets were fired across the border near the town of Kolesnikov in the Luhansk region in the country's east. A border crossing point near Marynovka was fired on twice with mortars, also from the Russian side, while Ukrainian forces shot down three Russian drones, Lysenko said.

If true, the allegations mean Moscow is playing a more direct role in the fighting than it has been accused of up to now — a dangerous turn in what is already the gravest crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

In addition, Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the U.S. has seen powerful rocket systems moving closer to the Ukraine border and that they could be put into the hands of the Russian-backed separatists as soon as Friday.

It wasn't clear what those developments mean for the international investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. U.S. authorities believe the separatists shot it down with a missile, perhaps in the mistaken belief it was a military plane.

A small group of Dutch and Australian investigators combed the sprawling, unsecured field where the plane came down on July 17, taking notes and photos as their governments prepared police detachments they hope can protect the crash site and help bring the last of the 298 victims home.
U.S. officials said this week that they had new evidence that Russia intended to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatists. Warren said Friday that the delivery could happen at any time, adding "it's that close" to the border.

Warren also corroborated Ukrainian reports of artillery fire from Russia. He said there was no indication Ukraine had shelled Russia. "For the last several days Russian forces using Russian artillery from Russian soil have conducted attacks against Ukrainian military positions in Ukraine," Warren said. "This is unquestionably an escalation from a military perspective."

Russia's Foreign Ministry responded to U.S. allegations about cross-border shelling by saying: "Facts and details to confirm these lying contentions do not exist." The allegations come amid a Ukrainian government offensive against the separatists that has won back control of several important towns over the past few weeks.

Douglas Lute, U.S. ambassador to NATO, accused Russia of waging "civil war by proxy" in Ukraine and said the Russians have about 15,000 troops massed near the border. He spoke at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado.

In another development, CNN said pro-Russian rebels abducted one of its local freelancers on Tuesday outside the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk and was still holding him on Friday. Anton Skiba had worked for the network for only a day when he was seized as he and other members of a CNN crew returned to their hotel from the jetliner crash site.

CNN said the abductors first accused Skiba of "terrorism" and of using his Facebook page to post cash rewards for killing separatists. Later they dropped that accusation and said he was being questioned for using identification with different last names. Later they said he had confessed to being a Ukrainian "agent."

The U.S. and human rights groups condemned Skiba's abduction as an attempt by the rebels to sow fear, CNN reported. "We chose not to report his abduction at the time while making efforts to obtain his release," CNN spokeswoman Bridget Leininger told The Associated Press. "That has not happened to date, so we are now publicly asking those who are holding Skiba to release him immediately."

Russia said a group of its investigators came under Ukrainian mortar fire Friday in the Russian village of Primiussky. They were investigating the reported shelling two days earlier of the village, which is about 2.5 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the border. No deaths were reported.

European Union ambassadors, meanwhile, reached a preliminary deal Friday on stepped-up sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine, targeting Moscow's defense and technology sectors and its access to European capital.

EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said EU member states must decide whether the measures need to be approved by a summit meeting of the trade bloc's 28 member countries to go into effect. The ambassadors also ordered asset freezes and travel bans against 15 more Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians accused of undermining Ukraine. Eighteen businesses or other entities will also be subject to sanctions.

Russia increased its economic pressure on Ukraine when its agency in charge of agricultural products announced that it is banning imports of Ukrainian dairy. Russia is the biggest export market for Ukrainian milk and cheese.

__ Associated Press staff writers Peter Leonard in Kiev, John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

UN School In Gaza Caught in Cross-Fire; 15 Killed

Palestinian children, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, lay on the floor of an emergency room at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Israeli tank shells hit the compound, killing more than a dozen people and wounding dozens more who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra says the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area.

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children's clothing scattered in the courtyard.
Palestinian officials blamed Israel for the shelling, which wounded dozens and came on the deadliest day so far of the current round of fighting. However, the Israeli military said the school "was not a target in any way" and raised the possibility the compound was hit by Hamas rockets.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon angrily denounced the attack, saying the killing must "stop now." But the frantic diplomatic efforts spanning the region were running into a brick wall: Israel demands that Hamas stop firing rockets without conditions, while Gaza's Islamic militant rulers insist the seven-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory must end first.
"Many have been killed — including women and children, as well as U.N. staff," Ban said in a statement, though he did not elaborate and a later U.N. communique made no mention of humanitarian workers being among the casualties.
In the aftermath of the attack, a child's sandal decorated with a yellow flower lay in a puddle of blood, while sheep and cattle belonging to those seeking shelter grazed in the grass nearby. A large scorch mark scarred the spot where one of the shells hit. Dozens of wounded, including many children, were wheeled into a nearby hospital as sirens wailed.
The U.N. said it had been trying to achieve a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow the evacuation of civilians from the area. Kamel al-Kafarne, who was in the school, said people were boarding buses when three tank shells hit.
"We were about to get out of the school, then they hit the school. They kept on shelling it," he said. It was the fourth time a U.N. facility has been hit in Gaza fighting since the Israeli operation began on July 8. UNRWA, the U.N's Palestinian refugee agency, has said it discovered dozens of Hamas rockets hidden inside two vacant schools, but U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the school hit Thursday in the northern town of Beit Hanoun was not one of them.
The U.N. has also expressed alarm that rockets found in the schools have gone missing after they were turned over to local authorities in Gaza. "Those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets, and endangering the lives of innocent children," U.N. staff and anyone seeking shelter there, a U.N. statement said.
Fighting was fierce across Gaza Thursday, and at least 119 Palestinians were killed, making it the bloodiest day of the 17-day war. That raised the overall Palestinian death toll to at least 803, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Israel has lost 32 soldiers, all since July 17, when it widened its air campaign into a full-scale ground war. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed by rocket or mortar fire.
Israel says the war is meant to halt the relentless rocket fire on its cities by Palestinian militants in Gaza and to destroy a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels that Hamas is using to sneak into Israel to try to carry out attacks inside communities near the border.
Israel insists it does its utmost to prevent civilian casualties but says Hamas puts Palestinians in danger by hiding arms and fighters in civilian areas. The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli shells hit the U.N. compound. But Israel's chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, said the military was investigating and it was too early to know if the deaths were caused by an errant Israeli shell or Hamas fire. "We are not ruling out the possibility that it was Hamas fire," he said.
Another army spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said there had been Hamas fighting in the area. "We do not target the U.N. We do not target civilians. There was no target in the school. Gunmen were attacking soldiers near the facility. The school was not a target in any way," Lerner said.
The military had urged the U.N. and the Red Cross to evacuate the school for three days leading up to the shelling incident, Almoz said, adding that there had been an increase in Hamas attacks from the area in recent days.
"Despite repeated calls from the military to the U.N. and international organizations to stop the shooting from there because it endangers our forces, we decided to respond. In parallel to our fire there was Hamas fire at the school," Almoz said.
The attack was likely to increase pressure on international diplomats shuttling around the region in an effort to broker a cease-fire. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent the day in Cairo feverishly calling on regional leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the foreign ministers of Egypt, Turkey and Qatar to press for a solution. Like Israel, the U.S. considers Hamas a terrorist organization and will not directly engage with its leaders.
"We still have more work to do. ... The tragic incident today and every day just underscores the work we are trying to do and what we are trying to achieve. So we're going to keep at it," Kerry said after meeting with the U.N. chief late Thursday. "It's so imperative to try to find a way forward."
Ban also urged an end to the fighting. "I am telling ... both the Israelis and Hamas: 'You must stop fighting and enter into dialogue,'" he said. "Whatever grievances you may have, this is wrong. There are many other ways to resolve this issue without killing each other."
As in years past — most recently in 2012 — the U.S. wants the violence to stop before it tries to negotiate each side's demands. For Hamas, that includes the release of Palestinian prisoners in addition to an end to the 7-year-old economic blockade imposed by Israel after the Islamic militant group violently seized control of Gaza from the Western-backed government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Egypt tightened its own restrictions last year after the overthrow of a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo and has destroyed many of the cross-border tunnels that had sustained Gaza's economy, while also being used by the militants to smuggle in arms.
Netanyahu made no reference to the cease-fire efforts in underscoring his determination to neutralize the rocket and tunnel threats. "We started this operation to return peace and quiet to Israel... and we shall return it," he said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Israel.
More than 2,300 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since July 8, and the Israeli military says it has uncovered 31 tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel, some of which have been used by Hamas to try to carry out attacks inside Israel. On Thursday, soldiers detained two militants as they emerged from such a tunnel, the army said.
Ominously, meanwhile, violence spread to the West Bank, where thousands of Palestinians protesting the Gaza fighting clashed with Israeli soldiers late Thursday in Qalandia, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. At least one Palestinian was killed and dozens were injured, a Palestinian doctor said.
Deitch reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Tia Goldenberg and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem, Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, Maggie Michael in Cairo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.