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The Obama administration is
pushing back strongly at a torrent
of Israeli criticism over Secretary
of State John Kerry’s latest bid
to secure a ceasefire 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
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 ceasefire as more
favourable to Hamas.
“Israel has no better friend, no
stronger defender than John Kerry,”
Tony Blinken, President Barack
Obama’s deputy national security
adviser, said. He said the criticism of
Kerry was based on “people leaking
things that are either misinformed or
attempting to misinform. ”
The co-ordinated pushback
came amid growing United States
frustration with the number of
Palestinian civilian casualties as
Israel wages an air and ground war
in the Gaza Strip. Obama and Kerry
have been pressing Israel to accept
an immediate and unconditional
The US has made little progress
in achieving that objective. Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said in a televised speech overnight
that his country must be ready for “a
prolonged campaign” against Hamas
As Kerry returned from the region
over the weekend, Israeli media
non-stop criticism of his attempts
to bring Qatar and Turkey two
countries viewed by Israel as strong
Hamas supporters into the ceasefire
Kerry was also accused of
abandoning some of Israel’s key
demands during the negotiations,
including demilitarising Gaza.
In trying to implement the ceasefire
over the weekend, “US Secretary
of State of State John Kerry ruined
everything,” columnist Ari Shavit
wrote in the overnight edition of
Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal
“ Very senior officials in Jerusalem
described the proposal that Kerry put
on the table as a ‘strategic terrorist
US officials disputed the notion
that Kerry had formally presented a
proposal and cast the document in
question as a draft given to the Israelis
as part of an effort to gain their input
in seeking a weeklong cessation of
hostilities. Officials said the draft was
based on an earlier Egyptian ceasefire
proposal that Israel had accepted but
Hamas had rejected.
Psaki said the US was “surprised
to see the draft proposal made
public. She also argued that there
was a difference between the
characterisation of Kerry’s handling
of the negotiations by Israeli media
and what government officials were
telling the US privately.
“ No one is calling to complain
about the secretary’s handling of the
situation,” Psaki said.
Kerry did not directly mention
the criticism during brief remarks
overnight. However, he did seek to
debunk the notion that the US had
backed away from its support for the
demilitarisation of Gaza, which has
been a top priority for Israel.
“Any process to resolve the crisis
in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful
way must lead to the disarmament
of Hamas and all terrorist groups,”
While the Obama administration
maintains that it supports Israel’s
right to defend itself against Hamas,
officials have grown increasingly
about the civilian
casualties in Gaza. The White House
said Obama spoke with Netanyahu
yesterday and expressed “serious
and growing concern” about the
worsening humanitarian situation in
More than 1000 Palestinians
have been killed over the past three
weeks, Palestinian health officials say.
According to the United Nations,
about three-quarters of them were
civilians. Israel has lost 43 soldiers
and two civilians, as well as a Thai
Overnight, a strike on a Gaza
park killed 10 people, nine of them
children. Israeli and Palestinian
authorities traded blame over the
attack as fighting in the Gaza war
raged on despite a major Muslim
holiday. — AP
US fuming over Israeli criticism of Kerry
The Nigerian city of Lagos shut down
and quarantined a hospital overnight
where a man died of Ebola in the first
recorded case of the highly infectious
disease in Africa’s most populous
Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the
Liberian finance ministry in his 40s,
collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport
on July 20 and was put in isolation
at the First Consultants Hospital in
Obalende, one of the most crowded
parts of a city that is home to 21 million
people. He died on Friday.
“ We have shut the hospital to
enable us to properly quarantine the
environment. Some of the hospital
staff who were in close contact with the
victim have been isolated,” Lagos state
health commissioner Jide Idris told
The hospital will be shut for a week
and all staff monitored to ensure the
virus has not spread, he added.
Ebola has killed 672 people across
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since
it was first diagnosed in February.
It can kill up to 90% of those who
catch it, although the fatality rate of the
current outbreak is around 60%. Highly
contagious, especially in the late stages,
symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea
and internal and external bleeding.
Adding to the risks, Nigerian doctors
are on strike over conditions and pay.
Chairman of the Nigerian Medical
Association Tope Ojo was quoted in
local media on Saturday as saying the
strike would not be called off despite
the Ebola threat.
Nigeria’s airports, seaports and land
borders have been on “red alert” since
Liberia closed most of its border
crossings on Sunday and introduced
stringent health measures.
The World Health Organisation said
in a statement that Sawyer’s flight
stopped in Lome in Togo on its way to
“ WHO is sending teams to both
Nigeria and Togo to do follow up
work in relation to contact tracing, in
particular to contacts he may have had
on board the flight,” WHO spokesman
Paul Gar wood said.
The WHO said that in the past week,
its regional director for Africa, Luis
Sambo, had been on a fact finding
mission to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra
Leone, which have 1,201 confirmed,
suspected and probable cases between
“He obser ved that the outbreak is
beyond each national health sector
alone and urged the governments of
the affected countries to mobilise and
involve all sectors, including civil society
and communities, in the response,” the
WHO statement said.
A relative surge in cases in Guinea
after weeks of low viral activity showed
that “undetected chains of transmission
existed in the community”, the WHO
said, calling for containment measures
and contact tracing to be stepped up in
Guinea. — Reuters
The Israeli army is categorically
denying it fired on a hospital and a
refugee camp in Gaza City, and is
accusing Hamas militants of misfiring
their own rockets.
“ We have not fired on the hospital or
on Shati refugee camp,” Major Arye
Shalicar said, referring to a strike on
a beachfront refugee camp yesterday
afternoon where 10 people were killed,
eight of them children.
“ We know that Hamas was firing from
both areas and the missiles struck these
places,” he said, indicating that over the
past three weeks around 200 missiles
fired by Gaza militants had fallen short
and landed inside the Gaza Strip.
Initial reports cited a doctor at the
hospital saying an Israeli missile had
slammed into a playground in the
refugee camp and that it had struck a
group of children.
According to witnesses, a second
missile struck a building inside the
compound housing the city’s main
hospital, close to the front gate.
Meanwhile, at least four civilians were
killed when a mortar shell fired from
Gaza struck southern Israel overnight,
Israeli media reported.
According to reports on public radio
and Channel 10 television, the four were
killed when a mortar shell hit the Eshkol
regional council which flanks Gaza’s
southern border with Israel.
Reports said about another 10 people
were wounded in the attack. — AFP
Israel denies firing on
hospital, refugee camp
Timber wolf the koala is lucky to be
alive after sur viving a terrifying 88km
ride down a busy freeway clinging to the
bottom of a car.
The four-year-old male, which sur vived
with nothing more than a torn nail, was
struck by the vehicle near Maryborough
in Q ueensland last week.
The Australia Zoo wildlife hospital said
it latched on to the bottom of the car as
it sped away, with family members inside
not knowing they had a marsupial on
It was only when they stopped in
Gympie after a high-speed freeway
drive that they noticed it, and called the
hospital for help.
Australia Zoo vet Claude Lacasse
said it was amazing the koala, named
Timber wolf by the rescuers who brought
him in, was in such great health.
“It is absolutely amazing that he has
such minor injuries and he sur vived,”
“It is a truly remarkable story, he is a
very lucky koala. ”
Timber wolf was given painkillers for
the torn nail and is recovering in a tree
at the zoo north of Brisbane as vets work
out exactly where he grabbed hold of the
car so they can return him to the wild.
A father was killed and his nine-
year-old daughter seriously injured
while walking along a Florida
beach when a small plane crash
landed and struck them yesterday,
US authorities said.
Wendy Rose, a spokeswoman for
the Sarasota County Sheriff ’s Office,
said the pilot and his passenger were
not hurt when the Piper aircraft lost
power and touched down next to the
“A man and one of his children
who were walking on the beach
were apparently injured by
the plane,” Rose said. She said
the 36-year-old man was later
She said a local airport received
a distress call that the plane could
not make it back to the airport.
“ He knew he couldn’t make it
back to the airport and was going
to try to land on the beach. And he
did land at the edge of the water on
the beach,” Rose added.
She said the girl was airlifted to a
hospital where she was apparently
in critical condition.
Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman
for the Federal Aviation
Administration, said in an e-mail
the agency was investigating. She
said the plane reportedly lost power
but had no details.
Rose later released a statement
identifying the dead man as
36-year-old Ommy Irizarry and the
injured girl as Oceana Irizarry, 9.
The statement said 57-year-old
Karl Kokomoor was the pilot and
his passenger was David Theen,
Man walking on beach killed by crash landing plane
Police at the scene of a single engine Piper Cherokee plane crash on Caspersen Beach in Venice, Florida.
The Islamic State, which advocates
public stoning for adultery, has opened
a “marriage bureau” for women who
want to wed its fighters in territory
they control in Syria and Iraq.
The jihadist group’s office is
operating from Al-Bab, a town in
Aleppo province of northern Syria,
for “single women and widows who
would like to marry IS fighters”,
the Syrian Obser vatory for Human
Rights said overnight.
The Britain-based monitoring
group, citing residents, said interested
parties were being asked to provide
their names and addresses, “and IS
fighters will come knocking at their
door and officially ask for marriage”.
The IS has also expanded into
honeymoons and civilians to visit
other parts of its “caliphate”.
Running twice-weekly tours from
Syria’s Raqa to Iraq’s Anbar, IS buses
fly the group’s black flag and play
jihadist songs throughout the journey.
last month straddling the two
neighbouring Arab States.
It firmly controls large swathes of
northern and eastern Syria, the Iraq-
Syria border, and parts of northern
and western Iraq.
The group has been accused of
responsibility for atrocities, including
mass kidnappings and killings,
stonings and crucifixions.
IS has its roots in Iraq, but spread
into Syria in late spring 2013.
In June, IS spearheaded a lightning
offensive in Iraq that saw large
swathes of the country fall from Iraqi
Rebel groups fighting Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad’s regime
since March 2011 accuse IS, which
has attracted thousands of foreign
jihadists, of having “hijacked” their
uprising. — AFP
Islamic extremists open ‘marriage bureau’
All remains of the 298 people who
died on downed Malaysia Airlines flight
17 in rebel-held east Ukraine may never
be recovered, Dutch police chief Gerard
“I would love to give a guarantee that
all the remains will come back, and all
possessions, but I believe the chances
are not very good that we will get it all,”
he said in a briefing to parliament in
The Hague overnight.
Bouman said all next-of-kin had been
made aware of the situation, adding it
was not even clear how many bodies
remained unaccounted for.
“ What we found in the body bags in
Ukraine was indescribable. The contents
were horrible — hardened people whose
work this is are finding it hard to process.
Bits and pieces all mixed, big and small,
were found in the bags,” he said.
A team of unarmed D utch and
Australian investigators were forced by
heavy fighting overnight to abandon
yet another attempt to reach the crash
Rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine had
said on Sunday a train carriage filled
with personal belongings of the victims
had been handed over to Dutch officials.
But Dutch justice ministry spokesman
Lodewijk Hekking said overnight no
handover had taken place and only a few
items were in official hands so far.
“Last Friday two investigators were on
the site, where they collected a handful
of personal belongings — passports and
other small items — which they took
with them,” he said. — AFP
Analysis of the black box flight
recorders from a downed Malaysian
airliner show it was destroyed by
shrapnel coming from a rocket blast
and went down because of “massive
explosive decompression”, a Ukrainian
security official said overnight.
The spokesman for Ukraine’s Security
Council, Andriy Lysenko, told a news
conference in Kiev the information
came from experts analysing the
recorders from the plane that came
down in rebel-held territory in eastern
Ukraine on July 17.
Britain was tasked with downloading
the data from two black boxes recovered
from the crash site and handing that
information over to international
investigators for analysis.
Kiev and the west accuse pro-Russian
rebels of shooting down the plane.
Moscow says the Ukrainian government
is responsible for the crash, which
killed all 298 people on board.
to help Iraqi
France says it is ready to help facilitate
asylum for Christians in Iraq displaced by
a jihadist onslaught, saying it is “outraged ”
by their persecution.
“ We are ready, if they so desire, to help
facilitate asylum on our territory,” Foreign
Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior
Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a
Thousands of Christians and other
minorities have fled the northern Iraqi
city of Mosul and other areas after Islamic
State insurgents led a sweep across Iraq’s
north and west last month.
The militants had ordered Christian
families to convert to Islam or leave the
city, prompting the mass exodus.
Those who failed to comply were
threatened with execution, and the
property of those who left was forfeited
to the Islamic State, a statement from the
“France is outraged by these abuses that
it condemns with the utmost firmness,”
both ministers said.
“The ultimatum given to these
communities in Mosul by ISIL is the latest
tragic example of the terrible threat that
jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria
and elsewhere, pose to these populations
that are historically an integral part of
this region,” they added, referring to the
jihadist group’s former name of Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Christian presence in the region
spans close to two millennia.
Before the 2003 United States-led
invasion, more than a million Christians
lived in Iraq, including more than 600,000
in Baghdad and 60,000 in Mosul, as well
as a substantial number in the oil city of
Kirkuk and in Basra.
The United Nations Security Council
has already denounced the persecution of
Christians and other minorities in Iraq,
warning such actions can be considered
crimes against humanity.
Fabius and Cazeneuve, meanwhile,
said they would soon hold talks with
the representatives in France of Iraq’s
Christian communities. — AFP
Japanese officials are handing out
radiation-blocking iodine tablets to
people living in the shadow of two
nuclear reactors slated to restart this year,
underscoring concerns about atomic
power after the Fukushima crisis.
The move to distribute the pills —
which help to reduce radiation build-up
in the body — started on Sunday for
those living within a 5km radius of the
Sendai nuclear plant.
The site, roughly 1000km from Tokyo
on the southern island of Kyushu,
recently cleared new safety standards so
is due to start operations in a few months.
The restart comes despite vocal
opposition to the plan, three years after
the worst atomic crisis in a generation.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority
said earlier this month that two atomic
reactors at the Sendai plant were safe
enough to switch back on, marking a big
step towards restarting nuclear plants
shut down after Fukushima.
Officials in Satsumasendai city and the
Kagoshima prefecture said they were
handing out iodine tablets to about 4700
people in the area, some as young as
Several dozen people have refused
the free pills, which are being given out
by the central government in case of a
The pills are used to protect the human
thyroid gland in the event of airborne
radiation, although there is some debate
about their effectiveness. — AFP
Pope Francis has become the first
pope to visit a Pentecostal church,
pressing his outreach to evangelicals
greatest competition for Christian
souls around the globe.
Francis flew by helicopter
overnight to visit the under-
construction Evangelical Church of
Reconciliation in the southern city
of Caserta. He met privately with
Pentecostal preacher Giovanni
Traettino, an old friend.
Speaking to some 350 Pentecostal
faithful in the church, Francis
apologised for Catholic persecution
of Pentecostals during Italy’s fascist
regime, when the practice of their
faith was forbidden, and stressed
that there was unity in diversity
“Among those who persecuted
almost as if they were crazy people
trying to ruin the race, there were
also Catholics,” he said. “ I am the
pastor of Catholics, and I ask your
forgiveness for those Catholic
brothers and sisters who didn’t
know and were tempted by the
He acknowledged the remarkable
nature of his visit, saying: “Someone
will be surprised: ‘The Pope went to
visit the evangelicals?’ But he went
to see his brothers.”
Catholics have often compared
Pentecostal groups to cults and
accused them of overly aggressive,
unethical proselytising. The
popular, charismatic movements
have drained parishioners from the
Catholic Church, particularly in
Francis’s own Latin America.
But Pope Francis has met
unofficially with several Pentecostal
and evangelical preachers recently,
including the Texas televangelists
James Robinson and Kenneth
Copeland. He recorded an iPhone
video for a Pentecostal conference
hosted by Copeland, whose
prosperity gospel ministry stressing
that God will reward the faithful
with health and wealth clashes with
Francis’s own embrace of the value
of a “poor church.”
Not all evangelicals or Catholics
have welcomed the Pope’s outreach:
Some traditionalist Catholics have
sought to minimise the Pope’s
initiative, stressing that Traettino
and others represent only their
In a statement earlier this month
on the eve of the Caserta meeting,
several Italian evangelical groups
met in the same city and stressed
the “incompatibility” of their beliefs
with that of the Catholic Church
and its Pope. — AP
Pope says ‘sorry’ to
Missile shrapnel brought down airliner
Some MH17 plane victims
may never be found
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