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What Israel’s ‘Significant Expansion’ in Gaza Could Mean

What Israel’s ‘Significant Expansion’ in Gaza Could Mean

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that one of his options in his Gaza ground offensive is a “significant expansion,” but experts said Friday there are a few likely moves.Netanyahu sent thousands of troops, accompanied by tanks, into Gaza Thursday night and the offensive showed no signs of easing Friday.Israel Defense Forces first announced that they would target lengthy tunnels that members of Hamas use to reach rocket launching sites and to infiltrate Israel. Hamas’ rocket launchers have also been targeted. The IDF said they have taken control of 10 tunnels so far.”Hamas’ underground tunnels are made for kidnapping and murdering Israelis. That’s why we are destroying them,” the IDF spokesman said on their official Twitter account.Israel said on Friday that their troops have moved 3 kilometers into Gaza.”An expansion of that would involve pushing forces deeper into Gaza, but probably not entering into the major civilian areas and population centers,” Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at The Washington Institute, told ABC News.The IDF has been bolstering their forces, calling up more than 53,000 reservists over the past week.Bruce Hoffman, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, said the IDF is likely focused on specific targets that will serve as a stopgap to halt the rocket attacks that Israel has faced recently.”They’re going to engage in what they call ‘mowing the grass,’ meaning they want to make sure that after two weeks of rocket barrages, Hamas’ ability to fire missiles into Israel is negated – not just in the immediate future, but for an extended period of time,” Hoffman told ABC. “Israel is under no illusion that they are solving the problem, but they’re just trying to buy time.”White, who specializes in Middle Eastern studies after retiring from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Service, said that if the operation is escalated, there are two likely paths that it would follow. The first would be an order to send more troops into Gaza and effectively divide the strip in two by marching down the center and cutting off Hamas’ movement throughout the territory. The second and more extreme option would be a full-scale offensive, effectively leading to a re-occupation of the area. Israel occupied Gaza from 1967 to 2005.Many, including White, do not see a re-occupation of Gaza as a likely option because of the manpower that would require and the international outcry it would trigger.“The Israeli government understands the downsides internationally,” said Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.He said that a massive offensive “shifts attention from the rocket attacks that led to the ground operation and onto their [Israeli] continued presence in Gaza.””No army in the world likes to control civilian population for an extended period of time. The Israelis don’t want to escalate. That’s what so frustrating to them. They wanted to press Hamas hard enough that Hamas would say ‘Okay, uncle.’”
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Intel Shows Missile that Downed Jet Launched from Area Controlled by Russian Separatists: US Official

Intel Shows Missile that Downed Jet Launched from Area Controlled by Russian Separatists: US Official

iStock Editorial/Thinkstoc(WASHINGTON) — Intelligence officials in the United States said Friday that the missile that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday was launched from inside Ukraine in an area controlled by Russian Separatists.There is nothing that definitively links Russia to the training of those who launched the missile, U.S. officials told ABC News.The officials said that based on preliminary intelligence, they believe the missile was an SA-11 and that they have reports showing an explosion in the air following the missile launch.Investigators from around the world will descend on the crash site Friday to continue the probe into the missile launch and subsequent crash. The incident left 298 people dead.The pro-Russian separatists who control the area where the jetliner was brought down agreed to allow investigators safe access to the site in order to recover bodies and gather evidence, according to a statement from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.It was unclear how soon investigators would begin sifting through the wreckage, which went down Thursday in Ukraine near the Russian border. The plane had left Amsterdam at 12:15 p.m. Thursday (local time) and was estimated to arrive in Kuala Lumpur International Airport today at 6:10 a.m. (local time), according to Malaysia Airlines.
FBI and NTSB officials will head to Ukraine in an “advisory role” in the investigation, a senior U.S. administration official told ABC News.Malaysia Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, speaking at a news conference Friday, called the initial indications that the plane was shot down “an outrage against human decency.””Malaysia condemns any such action in the strongest possible terms, and calls for those responsible to be swiftly brought to justice,” he said.Malaysia officials are calling for an independent international investigation into the incident.At this point, no Americans have been verified among the passengers. Malaysia officials said that 173 passengers were Dutch. In addition, according to officials at a news conference Friday, 44 were Malaysian, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine British, four Belgians, four Germans, three Filipinos and one Canadian. Nationalities of 20 other passengers remain unknown at this time.Among the victims identified were the Gunawan family, relatives of an ABC News employee. Hadiono Gunawan, an employee of Malaysia Airlines, was headed to the Philippines for a family vacation. His wife, Irene, and their two children, Daryl and Sherryl, were traveling with him.Karlijn Keijzer, a Dutch student studying in the United States, was going on vacation with her boyfriend.”I’m just in disbelief and expecting Karlijn to pop up on Facebook and tell everybody she’s OK,” Keijzer’s friend, Rachel Weigler said in a phone interview with ABC News.One Dutch passenger, Cor Pan, posted a chilling picture of the plane right before takeoff on Facebook with the caption, “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like,” a reference to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared earlier this year.Amid the tragedy were unbelievable twists of fate. Sarah Moonen says her brother and a friend were bumped from the flight at the last minute, but two of their friends boarded the doomed jetliner.”I felt bad for feeling good that my family hadn’t been ruined and that my brother was alive,” Moonen said in a telephone interview.The International AIDS Society said in a statement it was looking into reports that some of its members may have been on the flight en route to the International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia.”At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy,” the statement reads.The World Health Organization announced on its Twitter account that spokesman Glenn Thomas was on board the jetliner.John Wendle, a freelance reporter for ABC News, described seeing “bodies scattered everywhere” at the crash site.”There’s blood splattered everywhere, and pieces of remains,” Wendle said. “It’s a pretty grim sight…This is terrible.”Among the debris were watches and smashed mobile phones, charred boarding passes, passports and guidebooks.Intelligence and analysis of the situation determined that it was a single surface-to-air missile that struck the Boeing 777-200 aircraft while at cruising altitude, a U.S. official told ABC News. It is unclear whether the missile was fired from inside Ukrainian or Russian territory and who fired it, the official added.The White House issued a statement calling it “vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way and that all potential evidence and remains at the crash site are undisturbed” until an investigation can begin.”The role of international organizations — such as the United Nations and the OSCE in Ukraine — may be particularly relevant for this effort, and we will be in touch with affected nations and our partners in these organizations in the coming hours and days to determine the best path forward,” the statement said.”While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training,” the White House statement said. “This incident only highlights the urgency with which we continue to urge Russia to immediately take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support a sustainable cease-fire and path toward peace that the Ukrainian government has consistently put forward.”Investigators will also be tasked with determining the series of events leading up to the crash.Ukrainian authorities told U.S. Embassy officials that debris was spread out over a 10-mile path near the town of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Kiev claimed the plane had been “shot down.””According to the General Staff of Ukrainian Armed Forces, the airplane was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system as the liner was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters [33,000 feet],” the statement reads. “Ukraine has no long-range air defense missile systems in this area. The plane was shot down, because the Russian air defense systems was affording protection to Russian mercenaries and terrorists in this area. Ukraine will present the evidence of Russian military involvement into the Boeing crash.”Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko later added, “We are not calling it an accident, or a disaster, but an act of terrorism.”In a tweet soon after the plane went down, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “Condolences to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in connection with the crash of a passenger aircraft in Ukraine.”A Kremlin statement said Putin opened a meeting with his economic advisers by calling for a moment of silence over the crash.”This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine,” he said. “And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy.”The plane did not make a distress call and the route had been deemed safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization despite the ongoing fighting in Ukraine, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said.The FAA Thursday issued an order that U.S. flight operations avoid airspace over eastern Ukraine, expanding on a previous warning about flying over the contested Crimean region and additional portions adjacent to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, grieving family members gathered as airline officials briefed them. Malaysia Airlines said a manifest of the passengers would not be released until all next of kin were notified.This is the second Malaysia Airlines plane to be involved in an air tragedy this year. On March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished with 239 people on board after it took off from Kuala Lampur bound for Beijing. Malaysian officials said the plane disappeared somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean, but no wreckage has been recovered.
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Israel Ready to Expand Ground Attack in Gaza

Israel Ready to Expand Ground Attack in Gaza

David Silverman/Getty Images(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Israel has approved an expansion of its ground offensive into Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday, as troops pushed deeper into Gaza to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels.”…Since there is no way to deal with the tunnels only from the air, our soldiers are doing it now from the ground,” Netanyahu said before an emergency Cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, according to The Jerusalem Post. “We decided to launch the action after we tried all the other ways, and with an understanding that without this operation the price we will have to pay later would be much higher,” he said.Israel launched the ground operation Thursday following a 10-day slugfest featuring rocket and mortar attacks.
More than 270 people have died and 2,000 were injured since the ground invasion began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Additionally, one Israeli soldier — identified as Gt. Eitan Barak, 20 — died while fighting Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces said. The casualty marks the first Israeli casualty among troops. One Israeli civilian was killed earlier this week.Israeli troops targeted the tunnels because they are viewed as an “utmost threat” by Israel, an IDF spokesman said, with Hamas previously using the tunnels to sneak across the Gaza-Israel border.The ground attack occurred following failed cease-fire efforts. Israel twice halted its attacks and has been negotiating with Hamas for a more permanent ceasefire in Cairo, Egypt. Hamas rejected the plans, demanding guarantees to ease the blockade on Gaza.The IDF said it sent troops into Gaza “following 10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation.”The invasion was punctuated by the thud of tank shells echoing across Gaza, often just a few seconds apart. Heavy plumes of black smoke were visible across Gaza City.The battle has broken a two-year lull in hostilities between Israel and Hamas and was triggered by the slaying of three Israeli teens and revenge burning death of a Palestinian teen. Angry protests escalated to rocket launches and retaliatory air strikes.
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South Africa Celebrates First Nelson Mandela Day Since His Death

South Africa Celebrates First Nelson Mandela Day Since His Death

UN Photo(PRETORIA, South Africa) — South Africa celebrated the first Mandela Day — celebrated on the birthday of former President Nelson Mandela — since the leader’s death on Friday, spending time working on community projects.Mandela would have turned 96 on Friday. He died in December 2013 after spending months in the hospital receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection. Nelson Mandela International Day was declared five years ago by the United Nations, which urged people around the world to spend 67 minutes volunteering, in honor of Mandela’s 67 years of activism for South Africa’s freedom.”This year, we have decided to honour Madiba’s memory through a massive ‘Operation Clean Up for Madiba’ campaign,” South African President Jacob Zuma said, using Mandela’s clan name. “We should demonstrate our love for our beautiful country by cleaning our surroundings, together.”
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Indiana Student, AIDS Workers Among Malaysia Airlines Victims

Indiana Student, AIDS Workers Among Malaysia Airlines Victims

NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — A graduate student from Indiana University is among the victims who died when a Malaysia Airlines jetliner carrying 298 people was shot down by a missile in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.Karlijn Keijzer, a 25-year-old pursuing her doctorate in chemistry, moved to the U.S. from Amsterdam and was a member of the school’s rowing team during the 2011 season, the university said. She was on Flight 17 taking a vacation with her boyfriend.“I’m just in disbelief and expecting Karlijn to pop up on Facebook and tell everybody she’s OK,” Keijzer’s friend Rachel Weigler told ABC News Friday.At least one American, Quinn Lucas Schansman, was also on board, President Obama said Friday.Heartbreaking stories about passengers aboard the doomed Boeing 777 are emerging Friday as families and friends learn what happened when officials say a surface-to-air missile struck the Malaysia Airlines jetliner, months after another plane from the airline mysteriously disappeared.The World Health Organization confirmed that its spokesman Glenn Thomas was on the plane, and many AIDS activists, researchers and health workers heading to a major conference in Australia were also on board.In an eerie twist, Dutch passenger Cor Pan posted a Facebook photo of the plane before he boarded, with the caption, “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.”Pan, who was on board with his girlfriend Neeltje Tol, was likely referencing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished in March en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing.Devastated friends have taken to Pan’s Facebook page to express their shock.“I don’t want to believe this is true because this is too awful for words,” one woman wrote.An Australian family is experiencing twice the heartache — having lost relatives in both Malaysia Airlines tragedies.Kaylene Mann’s brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on board the disappeared Flight 370 earlier this year, and her stepdaughter was on the plane shot down over Ukraine.
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Malaysia Airlines Cargo Included Two Dogs, Nine Birds

Malaysia Airlines Cargo Included Two Dogs, Nine Birds

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Along with the 283 passengers and 15 crew members, downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 also carried two dogs, nine birds and a 9.4-pound “SHIPMENT OF POT,” according to the cargo manifest the carrier posted on its website.Click here to get to the cargo manifests that list additional items.
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Why Is There So Much Turmoil Right Now?

Why Is There So Much Turmoil Right Now?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Ukraine. Gaza. Iraq. Syria.The list of places erupting in conflict seems to grow each month, as unstable countries become entangled in wars over territory, power, resources and other reasons.”We’re in a cycle where international conflicts are becoming more the norm than the exception,” Ilan Berman, vice president at the American Foreign Policy Council, told ABC News Friday. “In Iraq, in Palestinian territories, in Ukraine, there are a lot of hot spots in the world that are heating up.”Each conflict is unique in its origin, Berman and other foreign experts pointed out Friday when asked about the sudden surge in global conflicts. But there are underlying reasons we are seeing so many come to the surface now.”The takeaway is that when you have global instability of this kind, it’s usually a signal that the existing order is beginning to break down. The things that kept hostilities in check for a long time, those rules, those stabilizing powers, aren’t really there anymore. Things are changing,” Berman said.A good example of this, he said, is when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula in March despite protests from Western nations and the threat of punishment.”It was done, quite frankly, because the Russians thought they could get away with it without consequences from the U.S., and they were right. And that adventurism is more common today,” Berman said.The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has escalated, and was highlighted Thursday when a missile struck down a commercial jet over Ukraine.The rising tide of conflicts around the globe “isn’t necessarily somebody’s fault,” he said, though America’s withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan and other foreign affairs has played a role. “There’s far fewer variables for bad guys to worry about, let’s say.”Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, disagreed, noting that the most severe conflicts in the world today have to be taken individually on their own terms.”There are four or five key determinants or causes,” he said.O’Hanlon outlined the distinctive threads, which included what he called “violent rejectionism,” as seen in various extremist Islamist groups, interstate competition for resources, historical grudges, and the quest to limit nuclear proliferation, such as in Iran and North Korea.”There’s Sunni Islamist extremism, there’s a Shia Islamist extremist component, the Iranian nuclear weapons components, Iran’s willingness to help extremist groups,” O’Hanlon said, offering examples of different types of causes for conflicts. “The Chinese-Taiwanese issue, which has more dimensions of ongoing civil war, and the Japanese-Chinese as well as other regional issues which are more old fashioned competition for resources.””I don’t think they reduce to one cause that’s distinctive to this moment in history,” O’Hanlon said.
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Black Boxes May Not Give Much Insight into Malaysia Airlines Flight

Black Boxes May Not Give Much Insight into Malaysia Airlines Flight

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The location of the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine has still not been confirmed, and experts say that they may not provide helpful information even when they are found.Black boxes are used as a record of what happens on board a plane and they can provide clues if something went wrong on board that led to a crash.That may not apply in this case, however, because U.S. officials believe the Boeing 777 was shot down with a single surface-to-air missile.”It was an external force that caused this,” said ABC News aviation and military consultant Steve Ganyard, a former Marine colonel. “For the most part, what will be gleaned from the boxes, to include the cockpit voice recordings, will be important only to the filling in the details of the story.”The specifics of this particular plane — how many black boxes there were on this Boeing 777 and where they were stored — remain unknown but digital recorders are typically stored in the tail of the plane.”Typically, black boxes will continue to record, but I highly doubt that here because if they were in the tail, we saw the tail was destroyed early on,” Ganyard said. “I don’t think there will be more than a couple of seconds of data.”Malaysia Airlines said the plane had “a clean maintenance record” and was last checked on July 11 with no reported concerns.”All communication systems on the aircraft were functioning normally,” the airline said in a statement after Thursday’s crash.The biggest task for international leaders is to secure the black boxes and other evidence, because the tumultuous political situation in the area of the crash could cause problems for preserving evidence.Pro-Russia rebel groups initially claimed that they had found the black boxes and may have sent them to aviation experts in Russia but that statement has since been retracted.Russian news agency Interfax has spoken to the supposed head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist group in control of the area surrounding the crash site, who said the group does not have the boxes.The black boxes, which are painted bright orange in spite of their name, are likely still amid the wreckage, which spans a reported 10 miles of farmland.Even though little tangible information is expected to come from the recorded data, the storage of the black boxes is still important because the country that has control of the boxes controls the release of their data.
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Afghans Kick Off Massive Audit of Presidential Election Ballots

Afghans Kick Off Massive Audit of Presidential Election Ballots

iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) — The countdown is on in Afghanistan.Election workers began the arduous task Thursday of auditing eight million ballots cast in June’s presidential election runoff that will ultimately determine who will lead Afghanistan for the next five years: former foreigner minister Abdullah Abdullah or one-time finance minister Ashraf Ghani.Abdullah’s claims of massive fraud spurred the intervention of Secretary of State John Kerry, who got both candidates to agree that a complete audit of votes would resolve the political crisis.The process of counting the ballots overseen by U.S. and foreign observers is expected to last anywhere from three to six weeks.Outgoing President Hamid Karzai initially wanted his successor in place by Aug. 2, but now concedes that early September is a likelier target date.Aside from the fact that ballots have to be collected from 22,000 polling stations, another factor that could slow the audit is that it’s occurring during the holy month of Ramadan.Since workers can’t go past 5 p.m., two shifts of counters will be used to tally up the votes.Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Kerry Calls on Netanyahu to De-Escalate Crisis in Gaza

Kerry Calls on Netanyahu to De-Escalate Crisis in Gaza

U.S. Department of State(JERUSALEM) — Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to emphasize the need to avoid further escalation between Israel and Hamas. Kerry urged the leader to restore the 2012 cease-fire as soon as possible, while Netanyahu described Thursday’s terrorist attack near Kibbutz Sufa and the imminent threat to Israeli civilians posed by Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip, according to the State Department. Following Israel’s launch of forces on the ground in Gaza, the Prime Minister defended his decision by saying the operation will target, “the threat of further terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel.” While Kerry reinforced the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend itself, he said the mission should be precise in its aim and emphasized the protection of civilians.
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Malaysia Airlines Plane Goes Down in Ukraine Near Russian Border

Malaysia Airlines Plane Goes Down in Ukraine Near Russian Border

Alexander KHUDOTEPLY/AFP/Getty Images(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — A surface-to-air missile struck a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people that went down Thursday in Ukraine near the Russian border, a U.S. official told ABC News.The official said U.S. intelligence and analysis of the situation determined that it was a single missile that struck the Boeing 777-200 aircraft while at cruising altitude. It is unclear whether the missile was fired from inside Ukrainian or Russian territory and who fired it, the official added.Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members. The airline had earlier said there were 280 passengers.
The pro-Russian separatists who control the area where the flight crashed have agreed to allow international investigators safe access to the crash site to recover bodies and gather evidence, according to a statement from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.Speaking in Detroit, Vice President Joe Biden said the plane had “been shot down, not an accident. Blown out of the sky.””We see reports that there may have been American citizens on board,” he added. “Obviously, that’s our first concern. We’re working every minute to try to confirm those reports as I speak.”It remains unclear if Americans were on board the flight. Officials said that 154 passengers were Dutch. In addition, according to the latest numbers released by the airline, 43 were Malaysian, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 9 British, 4 Belgians, 4 Germans, 3 Filipinos and 1 Canadian. Nationalities of 41 other passengers remain unknown at this time.
[ CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS OF THE WRECKAGE ]
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the plane did not make any distress call. He said the route had been deemed safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization despite the ongoing fighting in Ukraine.”If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice,” he added. Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said a Russian missile shot down the passenger jet. Ukrainian authorities told U.S. Embassy officials that everyone was “believed dead” and that debris was spread out over a 10-mile path near the town of Shakhtars’k. A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Kiev claimed the plane had been “shot down.””According to the General Staff of Ukrainian Armed Forces, the airplane was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system as the liner was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters [33,000 feet],” the statement added. “Ukraine has no long-range air defense missile systems in this area. The plane was shot down, because the Russian air defense systems was affording protection to Russian mercenaries and terrorists in this area. Ukraine will present the evidence of Russian military involvement into the Boeing crash.” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko later added, “We are not calling it an accident, or a disaster, but an act of terrorism.”The plane had left Amsterdam at 12:15 p.m. (local time) and was estimated to arrive in Kuala Lampur International Airport on Friday at 6:10 a.m. (local time), according to Malaysia Airlines. In a tweet, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “Condolences to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in connection with the crash of a passenger aircraft in Ukraine.”President Obama, at an event in Delaware Thursday afternoon, said, “Obviously, the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border. And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now, we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority, and I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government.”He added that the U.S. “will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why. And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.”

This is the second Malaysia Airlines plane to be involved in a crash this year.On March 8, Flight MH370 vanished with 239 people on board after it took off from Kuala Lampur bound for Beijing. Malaysian officials said the plane disappeared somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean, but no wreckage has ever been recovered.
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Israel Launches ‘Ground Phase’ in Gaza Battle

Israel Launches ‘Ground Phase’ in Gaza Battle

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) — Israeli forces have launched a “ground phase” in its effort to halt rockets being fired at Israel from Gaza, the Israeli military confirmed on Thursday.The incursion into Gaza “will include close coordination between IDF units including infantry, armored corps, engineer corps, artillery, and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.The Israeli army said the offensive is meant to strike a “significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”Until Thursday, the battle has consisted of Hamas, which controls Gaza, launching rockets at Israel and Israel hitting what it calls terrorist sites in Gaza with fighter jets and naval guns. Israel twice halted its attacks and negotiations with Hamas for a more permanent cease-fire were being conducted in Cairo, Egypt. The IDF said on Thursday it sent troops into Gaza “Following 10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation.” The location of the “ground phase” and the number of troops involved was not immediately available, but Israel had called up 48,000 reservists in recent weeks and had massed troops and tanks near Gaza’s border. It has also warned tens of thousands of people in Gaza to evacuate their homes for their own safety.The slugfest between Hamas and Israel has left 237 Palestinians and one Israeli killed. Gaza had started the day with a rare break in attacks as both sides observed a five-hour “humanitarian pause” to allow Gazans to stock up on supplies. But the moment the five-hour deadline arrived, a mortar round fired from Gaza hit Israeli territory, the IDF said. Israel resumed its own bombing campaign a short time later, according to the IDF.In the hours before the Israeli incursion, powerful flares fired by Israel lit up the sky over Gaza, ABC News correspondents in Gaza reported. Foreign media in a hotel near the waterfront in Gaza were told by Israel they had to evacuate the building and tracer fire could be seen hitting sites in Gaza.Israel last carried out a major ground offensive in Gaza in January 2009.Earlier on Thursday, the IDF said that it thwarted an attack by 13 Gaza militants who sneaked into Israel through a tunnel. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the militants were identified about 820 feet inside Israel and were struck by Israeli aircraft. Lerner said the military believed at least one militant was killed in Thursday’s strike. He said the remaining fighters appeared to have returned to Gaza through the tunnel.This was the second time militants infiltrated Israel from Gaza. Israel killed four militants last week who entered from the sea.Also on Thursday, a United Nations agency said it found 20 rockets hidden in a school it runs in Gaza.The munitions were discovered Wednesday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said in a statement posted on its site Thursday. “In the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip,” the agency said.UNRWA, which supplies shelter and humanitarian aid in Gaza, condemned the storage of the weapons in its school and said, “This incident, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”It said that it “informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.”The agency didn’t identify the location of the school, the types of rockets or who the “relevant parties” were.The announcement bolstered Israeli claims that Hamas has used schools, mosques and medical facilities as shields as it fires rockets at Israel.The battle has broken a two-year lull in hostilities between Israel and Hamas and was triggered by the slaying of three Israeli teens and revenge burning death of a Palestinian teen. Angry protests escalated to rocket launches and retaliatory air strikes.
 

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Insurgents Attack Kabul Airport

Insurgents Attack Kabul Airport

iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A group of insurgents attacked Kabul International Airport on Thursday, firing rockets into the north side of the building and exchanging heavy gunfire with security forces. Armed gunmen fired into the establishment and lobbed rocket-propelled grenades during the strike, which stretched for hours, according to officials. Four insurgents were killed. Kabul Airport has been the focus of previous attacks, marked as an easy target for its location in an urban area surrounded by construction. Oftentimes, the Taliban can take over an unoccupied building and launch attacks with ease. The incident shut down operations for eight hours while Afghan police struggled to regain control. Rockets landed in the area, but no aircraft were damaged. Thursday’s attack is the second time the airport has been assailed in the last two weeks. On July 3, the Taliban fired rockets toward the buildings, with one directly hitting Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s helicopter. The aircraft was completely destroyed. The president’s personal security team was also ambushed Thursday while driving through the area of a recent suicide bombing.
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Witness at Malaysia Airlines Plane Crash Site: ‘Bodies Everywhere’

Witness at Malaysia Airlines Plane Crash Site: ‘Bodies Everywhere’

Scott Barbour/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A witness on scene of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine described the sight as “grim” and said there are “bodies scattered everywhere.””There’s blood splattered everywhere, and pieces of remains,” journalist John Wendle told ABC News. “It’s a pretty grim sight. … This is terrible.”He added that Ukrainian emergency services were on site and that “rebel fighters had secured the area,” after a Boeing 777 carrying 295 people went down Thursday in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border.Wendle, a photojournalist and videographer, described the site of Flight MH17′s wreckage as “a small country road going between two fields.””There are a number of emergency vehicles that have turned up and the Ukraine emergency services are here,” he said, adding that “rebel fighters had secured the area.””I did see part of fuselage near the road and kind of spread out in the area,” he said. “It’s dark right now so it’s difficult to see anything.”Flight MH17 was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with 280 passengers and 15 crew members on board. Ukrainian authorities said that everyone on board is “believed dead.” Ukrainian officials also say it was a Russian missile that downed the plane.

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NATO General Warned of Russian ‘Anti-Aircraft’ Training for Separatists

NATO General Warned of Russian ‘Anti-Aircraft’ Training for Separatists

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Could Russian separatists have brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine?While that remains to be seen, in June, NATO’s top general said that Russia had provided “anti-aircraft” training inside Russia for Russian separatists that involved “vehicle-borne” surface-to-air missiles.At a June 30 Pentagon news conference, NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russia had been providing air defense training to Russian separatists on its side of the border with Ukraine that focused on “vehicle-borne” surface-to-air missiles. A vehicle-borne capability would involve a surface-to-air missile with a longer range than portable shoulder-fired missiles known as MANPADS.U.S. officials believe that Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine possess MANPADS, some of which may have been used in June to down a Ukrainian military aircraft and two helicopters.“What we see in training on the east side of the border is big equipment, tanks, APCs, anti-aircraft capability, and now we see those capabilities being used on the west side of the border,” Breedlove said at the time. He added that the anti-aircraft capability training focused on larger vehicle-borne missiles instead of portable MANPADS.“We have not seen training of MANPADS,” Breedlove told reporters. “But we have seen vehicle-borne capability being trained.”U.S. officials say an Antonov-26 cargo plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine on Monday was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.On Wednesday, a senior administration official said the AN-26 aircraft “was shot down from an altitude of 21,000 feet, with eight crew on board. And only very sophisticated weapons systems would be able to reach this height.”Another U.S. official said that whether the missile had been fired from inside Russia had not been conclusively determined.There has been a flow of heavy weaponry, including some tanks, that have flowed from Russia into eastern Ukraine. The official said the belief has been that Russian separatists did not possess larger surface-to-air missile systems aside from MANPADS.There is still no determination on what may have led a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet to crash on Wednesday, though the Ukrainian military blames an anti-aircraft missile.Breedlove also said at the late June Pentagon news conference that there was a “very good likelihood” that Russian air defense hardware may have been used to shoot down two Ukrainian helicopters that had crashed earlier in June.“We don’t know whether the first two shoot downs were MANPADS or vehicle-borne missiles. Again, I like to report when I have facts, so I will just tell you that we’re not — we haven’t tied that string completely together as to which was used in which situation,” he said.
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Who Will End Up with Malaysia Airlines Black Box?

Who Will End Up with Malaysia Airlines Black Box?

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Ukrainian rebel forces have reportedly found the black box of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane amid the scattered debris.Moscow-based wire agency Interfax has reported that Ukrainian rebel forces have the black box and have agreed to hand it over to the Russian-run regional air safety authority.It is important to know who has the black box because that organization will control the release of the data recordings and information from onboard before the plane hit the ground.Russian authorities have the ability to read out both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board accident investigator Tom Haueter told ABC News.The rebels, described as armed Russian separatists who call themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic, have issued a statement via their spokesman saying they will cooperate with authorities.”Of course, we most likely will give them to the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), to Moscow. High-level experts, who will be able to determine exactly the reason of the catastrophe, work there, though it is clear,” Andrei Purgin said to Interfax.Black boxes are used to review information from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorders and officials could be able to determine whether the pilot was aware of any problems before the plane was downed.Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had 280 passengers and 15 crew members on its Kuala Lumpur-bound flight that took off from Amsterdam Thursday afternoon.
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Will Russia Retaliate Against American Companies?

Will Russia Retaliate Against American Companies?

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Russia is warning it may retaliate for the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
President Vladimir Putin suggested the sanctions may only impact United States companies that do business in Russia. He pointed to American energy companies like ExxonMobil that have signed major oil exploration deals with Rosneft, the Russian energy giant that was sanctioned on Wednesday.
According to the Financial Times, a senior Moscow banker fears that the Russians will start hurting American companies, possibly by denying visas and blocking deals. But, the sanctions are expected to be tough on the Russian banks and companies that were named.
Russia’s stock market and currency all dropped after the sanctions.
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20 Rockets Found in UN Gaza School

20 Rockets Found in UN Gaza School

David Silverman/Getty Images(UNITED NATIONS) — Twenty rockets were found hidden in a Gaza school run by a United Nations agency, the U.N. revealed Thursday.The munitions were discovered Wednesday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency said in a statement posted on its site Thursday. The announcement came as Israel and Hamas were in a tenth day of ferocious dueling that has left 227 people dead, only one of which were Israeli.”In the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip,” the agency said.UNRWA, which supplies shelter and humanitarian aid in Gaza, condemned the storage of the weapons in its school and said, “This incident, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”It said that they “informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.”The agency didn’t identify the location of the school, the types of rockets or who the “relevant parties” were.The announcement bolstered Israeli claims that Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has used schools, mosques and medical facilities as shields as it fires rockets at Israel.Israel and Hamas resumed launching attacks at each other earlier Thursday after a five-hour long humanitarian pause allowed people in Gaza to rush to markets to stock up on supplies. The halt in the shelling was marred by a flurry of mortar shells lobbed at Israel from Gaza and an Israeli soldier was injured by a blast near the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli forces held their fire except to respond with mortar fire after the soldier was wounded.The tragedy of the fighting was underlined Wednesday when four Palestinian boys, aged 9 to 11, were killed by Israeli shells while playing on a Gaza beach.The Israeli military said it thwarted an earlier attack by 13 Gaza militants who sneaked into Israel through a tunnel.Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the militants were identified about 820 feet inside Israel and were struck by Israeli aircraft. Lerner said the military believed at least one militant was killed in Thursday’s strike. He said the remaining fighters appeared to have returned to Gaza through the tunnel.

Weapons recovered from militants in tunnel from #Gaza to southern community of Sufa pic.twitter.com/ocrqRhwdPg
— Aaron Katersky (@AaronKatersky) July 17, 2014

This was the second time militants infiltrated Israel from Gaza. Israel killed four militants last week who entered from the sea.The president said the United States “will use all of our diplomatic relationships to support closing a deal on a ceasefire.”Israel had halted its attacks for several hours earlier this week, but resumed its military campaign after Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Israel.At least 1,685 people have been injured in Gaza since fighting broke out last week, the health officials said.The battle has broken a two-year lull in hostilities between Israel and Hamas and was triggered by the slaying of three Israeli teens and revenge burning death of a Palestinian teen. Angry protests escalated to rocket launches and retaliatory air strikes.
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FAA Issued Warning Prohibiting Airlines from Flying in Contested Airspace

FAA Issued Warning Prohibiting Airlines from Flying in Contested Airspace

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Although it’s still unclear what caused the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 in eastern Ukraine, multiple aviation organizations issued warnings to international and U.S. carriers cautioning them against flying over parts of the Ukraine.The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning on April 3 that prohibited U.S. flight operations to fly over the contested Crimean region of the Ukraine and additional portions adjacent to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.A FAA spokesperson confirmed that the warning, called a “notice to airman,” was still in effect Thursday, when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was reported to have crashed in eastern Ukraine.The warning was made “due to the unilateral and illegal action by Russia to assert control over Crimean airspace,” according to a statement released by the FAA.“This creates the potential for conflicting air traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian authorities and for the related potential misidentification of civil aircraft in this airspace,” read the statement.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, issued a similar warning. However, that warning was for a different region of the country and advised “air operators of a potentially unsafe situation arising of presence arising from more than one air traffic services provider” in the Simferopol region of the Ukraine. An ICAO spokesperson confirmed the warning was due to both Ukraine and Russia claiming the same airspace in the region.An ICAO spokesperson told ABC News on Thursday that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 appeared to be outside of the Simferopol region when it crashed.
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Inside a Gaza Hospital Under Israeli Rocket Fire

Inside a Gaza Hospital Under Israeli Rocket Fire

Courtesy Joe Catron(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — An American activist has moved into a Gaza City rehabilitation hospital in the hopes of deterring an Israeli military strike on the facility that has been emptied except for 17 rehab patients who are too disabled to leave and the staff to take care of them.Joe Catron, 33, of Virginia, said el-Wafa Hospital in Gaza City has already been hit once with a missile and he said that Israeli threats to strike again amount to “psychological warfare.”Catron is one of eight foreigners who hope to act as human shields for the hospital. He described the band of foreigners — from Venezuela, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Spain — as “deterrents” to help ensure that Israeli rockets do not target the hospital.”We’re hoping that our presence here will increase the price on this particular institution, which is located in a very precarious location,” Catron said to ABC News.Catron first moved to Gaza in 2011 from the United States and has started working with the International Solidarity Movement, a group dedicated to the Palestinian cause. He has been posting politically charged messages to Israeli officials on his Twitter account throughout the attacks.He said the patients in the hospital are either physically unable to leave or have no place to go where they could be cared for.Catron claims that the hospital was hit by four non-explosive rockets on Friday, a warning “knock” used by the Israeli Defense Forces to give building occupants a chance to evacuate before more destructive weapons take aim at the location.Catron told ABC News that a larger rocket equipped with explosives slammed into the hospital’s fourth floor later Friday evening, but no one was hurt because the top floors had previously been evacuated as a safety precaution.After the rocket hit on Friday evening, Catron said that the hospital received a call from “an Arab speaker with an Israeli accent” asking about whether there were any injuries on the fourth floor and if they were planning on evacuating.Since then, the hospital was called by people identifying themselves as members of the Israeli Defense Forces “asking and demanding that it be evacuated,” Catron said.Hospital officials called Catron and the other foreigners and asked to have the group come to be a symbolic shield for the patients who were unable to leave the building, he said. ABC News has confirmed the presence of the activists with hospital administrators but they were not available for further comment.The hospital does not treat emergency cases and specializes in physical rehabilitation. Catron said that the facility was originally treating 14 patients but three have since been transferred from Al-Shifa Hospital, which houses Gaza City’s main emergency room.The 17 patients now in el-Wafa are mostly critical cases, some with injuries sustained from automobile accidents and near drownings. They remain in the care of the approximately two dozen healthcare workers and hospital administrators who have refused to evacuate.”Everyone’s who is here now intends to stay. Everyone who is going to leave has already left,” Catron said.Much of the area of north Gaza near el-Wafa has been subjected to similar robo calls and leaflets from Israel telling residents to evacuate for their safety.
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