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Sharif Abdel Kouddous: In Gaza, Unrelenting Israeli Assault Causes "Grave Humanitarian Crisis"

Democracy Now - Fri 07 07 AM

Amidst talk of a potential ceasefire, the Palestinian death toll has passed 815 in Israel’s relentless bombings of the Gaza Strip. On Thursday, at least 16 civilians died and more than 200 were wounded when a United Nations shelter was bombed in the Gazan area of Beit Hanoun. Palestinian officials have blamed Israeli tank shelling, while Israel has suggested militant rockets were at fault. Reporting from Gaza City, Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous describes visiting the morgue where bodies are being taken, as well as a children’s hospital in northern Gaza that was severely damaged Thursday in a nearby air strike. "If the ceasefire falls apart, then we can only imagine that an escalation of the ground offensive — that’s what Israel has declared — will be in the cards," Kouddous says. "We are looking at a very grave humanitarian crisis."

Botched 2-Hour Arizona Execution "Shrouded in Secrecy" Fuels Outrage over Lethal Injection Methods

Democracy Now - Thu 07 53 AM

Arizona’s execution of Joseph Wood was supposed to take about 10 minutes, but stretched out for nearly two hours Wednesday night as he gasped for air after being injected with a controversial two-drug combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. Halfway through the ordeal his lawyers filed an emergency motion to stop the execution, saying it violated Wood’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. This was a "predictable consequence of Arizona’s experimental drug procedure and the fact that Arizona shrouded its procedure in secrecy," says Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Wood was killed after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that put the execution on hold. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had initially sided with Wood’s request that Arizona disclose its lethal injection methods and the source of the drugs involved.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: With 100,000+ Displaced, Why Is U.S. Ignoring Ukraine's Civil War?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 41 AM

A high-level rebel commander has confirmed for the first time that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the kind the United States says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 on board. He blamed Ukrainian authorities for provoking the strike, saying they deliberately launched airstrikes in the area, even though they knew the missile system was in place and rebels would fight back. Meanwhile, the area near the Russian border continues to see heavy fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists. On Wednesday, two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down not far from where the Malaysian airliner was hit. "The tragedy of the downing of the plane occurred in the context of this virtually unreported civil war," says Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, who has reported on Russia for decades. "Americans have been done a disservice by one-sided media coverage [of the conflict]." Vanden Heuvel notes more than 110,000 refugees from eastern Ukraine have fled to Russia, and 56,000 are internally displaced in Ukraine.

Decrying "Brutal Operation Taking Place in Our Name," Israeli Military Reservists Refuse to Serve

Democracy Now - Thu 07 19 AM

As Israel pledges to continue the assault on Gaza for "as long as is required," we are joined by two Israelis who have refused to serve in their country’s military reserves. On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran an open letter authored by Yael Even Or titled "We are Israeli reservists. We refuse to serve," announcing that more than 50 former Israeli soldiers have signed a petition declaring their refusal to be part of the Israeli military reserves. "This petition, long in the making, has a special urgency because of the brutal military operation now taking place in our name," Even Or writes. An Israeli journalist and activist who evaluated candidates for the Israeli army’s recruitment department during her service, Even Or is now a graduate student in international affairs at The New School in New York City. She join us to discuss the reservists’ letter. We are also joined from Tel Aviv by Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli captain and Air Force pilot, who in 2003 spearheaded a letter signed by 27 Israeli pilots who refused to participate in military operations against Palestinians.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Bombed in Their Homes and in the Streets, Where Can Gazans Flee?

Democracy Now - Thu 07 10 AM

Israel has entered the 17th day of its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian death toll has reached at least 732. Palestinian militants are now claiming to have killed eight more Israeli soldiers, which would bring the Israeli military toll to 40. Three civilians have died inside Israel. We speak with independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous just after he visited the southern town of Khan Younis, which has faced heavy shelling since Tuesday. Israeli forces there killed an estimated 73 people in the last two days. Kouddous says residents tried to evacuate starting Tuesday, but "found Israeli tanks blocking the main streets. One group said the Israeli tanks started firing on them. They fled back to their homes. They had to leave the wounded behind." Many eventually walked out carrying white flags. Kouddous also spoke to a doctor who tried to assist the wounded in the area, but says his ambulance was fired on by the Israeli military four times.

A Debate on Gaza: Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada vs. J.J. Goldberg of The Jewish Daily Forward

Democracy Now - Wed 07 39 AM

We host a debate on U.S. media’s coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict and the roots of the crisis with two guests: Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the website Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, "The Battle for Justice in Palestine"; and J.J. Goldberg, editor-at-large and columnist at the newspaper, The Jewish Daily Forward. Abunimah and Goldberg discuss news headlines that ignore the massive Palestinian toll, whether the ceasefire should address the Gaza blockade, and the history of the conflict.

MSNBC's Sole Palestinian Voice Rula Jebreal Takes on Pro-Israeli Gov't Bias at Network & in US Media

Democracy Now - Wed 07 23 AM

A week after public outrage helped force NBC’s reversal of a decision to pull veteran reporter Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza, the sole Palestinian contributor to sister network MSNBC has publicly criticized its coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. "We are disgustingly biased when it comes to this issue," Rula Jebreal said Monday on MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily, citing a disproportionate amount of Palestinian voices and a preponderance of Israeli government officials and supporters. Jebreal joins us to discuss her decision to speak out against MSNBC and her broader criticism of the corporate media’s Israel-Palestine coverage. An author and political analyst who worked for many years as a broadcast journalist in Italy, Jebreal also shares her personal story as a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship who is married to a Jewish man and has a Jewish sister.

Not In Our Name: Jewish Activists Arrested in Sit-in at Friends of Israel Defense Forces NYC Office

Democracy Now - Wed 07 15 AM

Protests in response to Israel’s assault on Gaza have drawn hundreds — and in some cases thousands — around the world. On Tuesday, members of Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! occupied the New York City office of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that raises money in the United States to send to the Israeli military. For about an hour, activists read the names of the more than 600 Palestinians killed and demanded the organization stop its fundraising for the military attacking Gaza. Nine were arrested when they refused to leave the premises. We get a video report from the protest.

"Growing Humanitarian Crisis": Palestinian Toll Tops 650 as Israel Attacks Gaza's Sole Power Plant

Democracy Now - Wed 07 08 AM

Israel continues to bombard the Gaza Strip amidst talks over a ceasefire. Israeli military attacks today include the bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant and the heavy shelling of Khan Younis, killing six people and leaving at least 20 wounded. The Palestinian death toll is near 650, including more than 160 children. Some 4,000 have been wounded. According to Gaza officials, 475 houses have been totally destroyed, and more than 2,600 homes have been partially damaged. Israel has also struck 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals. Two more Israeli soldiers have been killed, bringing the Israeli military death toll inside Gaza to 29. A farm worker from Thailand also died inside Israel after being hit by rocket fire from Gaza. On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State John Kerry is in Israel today for talks with Israel and then the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has endorsed a Hamas call to condition a ceasefire on ending the seven-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. Speaking today at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said there is a "strong possibility" Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza. Pillay cited Israel’s deadly attack on residential homes in the Shejaiya neighborhood and the shelling of the al-Aqsa Hospital. On Tuesday, U.S. and European airlines halted flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket strike landed about a mile from the airport. We go to Gaza City to speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.

"Unimaginably Catastrophic": As Gaza's Displaced Top 100,000, Israel Reportedly Shells U.N. School

Democracy Now - Tue 07 51 AM

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees says the number of people seeking refuge at its sites in Gaza has soared to more than 100,000. According to unconfirmed reports, one of the shelters, a girls’ school in central Gaza, was hit Monday by an Israeli shell. We speak to Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). "The situation for refugees on the ground in Gaza right now is unimaginably catastrophic," Gunness says.

Israeli Writer Gideon Levy: If Netanyahu Wants to Stop the Rockets, He Needs to Accept a Just Peace

Democracy Now - Tue 07 40 AM

Joining us from Tel Aviv, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy argues that Middle East peace will never come until the Israeli government drops its rejection of basic Palestinian rights. "Sure Israel wants peace, Israel just doesn’t want a just peace," Levy says. "It is all about justice. You look backward and you ask yourself in which stage, in which moment, was Israel willing to give up the occupation? Give me one example in which there was a genuine readiness to put an end to the occupation. It was never there. It was all about gaining time and maintaining the status quo — namely the West Bank occupied, Gaza under siege, peaceful life in Israel. … If you want the ultimate proof for it, it’s the [West Bank] settlements. Israel never stopped building settlements, and [in doing so] says to the Palestinians and the world, [we] have no intention to give up this piece of land." Levy also discusses why he has received threats after calling on Israeli Air Force pilots to refuse to bomb Gaza, and why he sees a potential Palestinian effort to take Israel to the International Criminal Court as a positive step.

How the West Chose War in Gaza: Crisis Tied to Israeli-U.S. Effort to Isolate Hamas & Keep the Siege

Democracy Now - Tue 07 28 AM

While many trace the Israeli assault on Gaza to the series of events that began with the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three teenage Israelis in the occupied West Bank, we look at how the crisis’ immediate cause has been all but ignored. In a recent article for The New York Times, "How the West Chose War in Gaza," Nathan Thrall, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, argues the roots of the current violence lie in Israeli, U.S. and European efforts to undermine the Palestinian unity government, which Hamas joined earlier this year. Isolated by its opposition to the Assad regime in Syria and a rift with the military government in Egypt, Hamas reconciled with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in the hopes a unity deal could help ease the crippling blockade of Gaza and help pay the salaries of thousands of its civil servants. But the United States and European Union helped Israel maintain the blockade of Gaza while denying payments to the Hamas employees. "Plan A for Hamas out of the predicament it and Gaza found themselves in was reconciliation," Thrall says. "That was thwarted — so Plan B is the crisis we’re dealing with today."

What Does Hamas Really Want? Israeli Journalist Gideon Levy on Ending the Crippling Blockade of Gaza

Democracy Now - Tue 07 19 AM

As the Israeli assault on Gaza enters its third week, a new push is underway for an internationally brokered ceasefire. Speaking earlier today, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said there is "no real hope" of an immediate halt to the fighting because Hamas’ conditions are too far from those of Israel, the United States and Egypt. Hamas’ demands have centered on an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the release of its prisoners. The seven-year siege has crippled the economy, civilian infrastructure and water supplies. In Gaza, unemployment tops 40 percent, and almost 80 percent rely on humanitarian aid. The United Nations has warned Gaza will no longer be livable by 2020 unless urgent steps are taken. The last ceasefire in November 2012 was supposed to ease the blockade, but Israel only intensified it. With Hamas vowing to continue fighting against what it calls a "slow death," a new ceasefire largely hinges on whether the United States and others will pressure Israel to reverse its stance. We are joined from Tel Aviv by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy. In a recent piece for Ha’aretz, Levy writes: "[Hamas’] conditions are civilian; the means of achieving them are military, violent and criminal. But the (bitter) truth is that when Gaza is not firing rockets at Israel, nobody cares about it. ... Read the list of [Hamas] demands and judge honestly whether there is one unjust demand among them."

"A Place of Indescribable Loss": As Ceasefire Talks Begin, Israel Bombs Hospital, Mosques and Homes

Democracy Now - Tue 07 05 AM

The Israeli assault on Gaza has entered its third week as the Palestinian death toll has topped 600, mostly civilians. More than 100 of the dead are children. More than 3,700 Palestinians have been injured. Israel says it has lost 27 soldiers since the ground invasion began. Earlier today, Israel confirmed the remains of one of its soldiers presumed to have been killed in Gaza had still not been found or identified. This comes two days after Hamas said it had captured the soldier. So far today, Israel has struck more than 70 sites inside Gaza, including five mosques and a football stadium. On Monday, at least 103 Palestinians died, including 11 when Israel bombed a residential tower block in Gaza City. Five children died in that attack. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, five people died and 70 were wounded when Israel shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. It became the third medical facility to be struck by Israel in the past two weeks. The injured included about 30 medics. We are joined from Gaza City by Democracy Now! correspondent and independent journalist Sharif Abdel Kouddous. "Gaza is a place of indescribable loss, and a place where family sizes continue to be shrunk by falling bombs," he says.

Kouddous is reporting live from the Associated Press studio, which shares a floor with the Al Jazeera studio in Gaza City. He says that Israel fired shots into the windows of Al Jazeera’s office earlier this morning. He reports that both news agencies evacuated staff from the building. AP has since confirmed that Israel does not plan to target their office; however, Al Jazeera has not been able to confirm the same, and its staff are waiting downstairs at the bottom of the building. As of now, AP staff are back at work in the office on a voluntary basis. "This is another instance of targeting the media," Kouddous says.

Max Blumenthal: With "Hollow Diplomacy," U.S. Created Political Space for Israeli Assault on Gaza

Democracy Now - Mon 07 53 AM

As Israeli forces killed more than 100 Palestinians on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the assault on Gaza for "as long as is required," citing the backing of foreign allies that has "laid the diplomatic foundation that has given us international credit to operate." The Obama administration has provided critical support, claiming Israel has acted in self-defense and blaming Hamas for the civilian toll. But on the conflict’s bloodiest day, the White House began showing mild signs of apprehension. President Obama spoke to Netanyahu for the second time in three days and raised "serious concern about the growing number of casualties." Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry made the rounds of Sunday television talk shows to publicly defend Israel’s assault on Gaza. But in a private phone call caught on camera in between commercial breaks, Kerry appeared to speak sarcastically about the massive civilian toll in the attacks he was publicly defending. The White House says Kerry will travel to Cairo today to work an end to hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire. Max Blumenthal, a best-selling author and senior writer for AlterNet, says the Obama administration has practiced "hollow diplomacy" in order to "legitimize Netanyahu’s ground operation and create political space for the kind of massacres that we have been witnessing. ... This is an absolute failure of U.S. diplomacy and an abdication of leadership by Barack Obama, who says that he is heartbroken by these images that he is witnessing from the Gaza Strip, as he oversees and authorizes the shipment of the very weapons that are used to bombard hospitals."

Israeli Peace Demo Violently Disrupted, Dozens Injured as Counter-Protesters Yell "Death to Arabs"

Democracy Now - Mon 07 48 AM

We look at the increasingly dangerous political climate inside Israel where several peace protests have recently come under attack. On Saturday, right-wing activists burned a Palestinian flag, chanted racial slurs and threw stones at an antiwar protest in Haifa of Arabs and Israelis opposed to the bombardment of Gaza. Haifa’s deputy mayor, Dr. Suhail Assad, and his son were beaten. On Sunday, the captain of a youth soccer team in Be’er Sheva wrote on his Facebook page: "send left-wing voters to the gas chambers and clean this country of leftists." The week before the Gaza invasion began, gangs were reportedly seen roaming the streets of Jerusalem and other towns shouting, "Death to Arabs!" We go to Israel to speak with Rann Bar-On, an Israeli peace activist and Duke University mathematics lecturer, who took part in Saturday’s Haifa protest. And we are joined by Max Blumenthal, senior writer for AlterNet.org and best-selling author whose latest book, "Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel," documents the spread of right-wing Israeli extremism.