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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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Obama Announces Expanded Sanctions Against Russia

Obama Announces Expanded Sanctions Against Russia

White House(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration is imposing new, deeper sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine, targeting Russian banks and energy and defense firms.“Given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions,” President Obama announced in a short statement in the White House briefing room Wednesday.“I’ve repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine, that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a ceasefire, that Russia needs to pursue internationally mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border — I’ve made this clear directly to Mr. Putin,” he said. “So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned.”“These sanctions are significant but they are also targeted, designed to have the maximum effect on Russia while limiting any spillover effects on American companies,” the president added. “The Russian leadership will see once again that its action has consequences.”The sanctions were expanded in consultation with European allies, Obama said, noting that though the U.S. prefers diplomatic solutions, “We have to see concrete actions and not just words that Russia in fact is committed to trying to end this conflict.”“Like any people, the Ukrainians deserve the right to forge their own destiny,” he said. “We’re going to continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they seek to determine their own future.”The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Wednesday imposed what it called “a broad-based package of sanctions on entities in the financial services, energy and arms or related materiel sectors of Russia, and on those undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty or misappropriating Ukrainian property.”Among the firms targeted is Kalashnikov Concern, the company that makes AK-47s.“Russia has continued to destabilize Ukraine and provide support for the separatists, despite its statements to the contrary,” Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a statement.“Because Russia has failed to meet the basic standards of international conduct, we are acting today to open Russia’s financial services and energy sectors to sanctions and limit the access of two key Russian banks and two key energy firms to U.S. sources of financing, and to impose blocking sanctions against eight arms firms and a set of senior Russian officials,” Cohen said.
 

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State Department: Afghan Election Audits Set

State Department: Afghan Election Audits Set

U.S. Department of State(KABUL, Afghanistan) — The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan is set to begin its audit of all the country’s ballot boxes Thursday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaky announced. Initially, the review of nearly 8 million votes was scheduled for July 13, 24 hours after both presidential candidates agreed to the audit plan. Amid issues of who would lead the process, Psaki clarified Wednesday that the IEC will conduct the examination under “close supervision” of the United Nations. Candidate Ashraf Ghani told the BBC that both he and contendor Abdullah Abdullah, “appreciate Secretary Kerry’s contribution and administration in shuttling between us.” Secretary of State John Kerry helped in facilitating the agreement last Saturday.
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Israel, Hamas Agree to Five-Hour Humanitarian Aid Cease-Fire

Israel, Hamas Agree to Five-Hour Humanitarian Aid Cease-Fire

David Silverman/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) — Israel agreed Wednesday to halt its attack on Hamas targets in Gaza for five hours on Thursday to allow residents of Gaza to get food and other humanitarian aid.Israel agreed to suspend its attacks after the United Nations appealed for a break in the violence for humanitarian reasons. Hamas will also participate in the cease-fire, ABC News confirmed Wednesday. Israel said it would stop its aerial and naval bombardment of Gaza sites starting at 10 a.m. local time Thursday (3 a.m. ET) and that its suspension would last until 3 p.m. (8 a.m. ET)”This humanitarian window is meant to allow the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to engage in resupply for their humanitarian needs,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces stated.”Should the humanitarian window be exploited by Hamas or other terror organizations for the purpose of launching attacks against Israeli civilian or military targets the IDF will respond firmly and decisively,” the statement said.Israel also warned that residents of the towns Beit Lahyia, Shuja’iya and Zeitoun — who had been warned by Israel to evacuate their homes for their own safety — should not return after 3 p.m.
Israel’s announcement came after an appeal from Robert Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.The willingness of Israel to halt its attack came after four Palestinian boys playing on a Gaza beach were killed by Israeli fire. Israel, which has contended that Hamas hides its rocket launchers and arsenals in populated areas, said it would look into the circumstances of the boys’ deaths.In the hours before Sperry’s calls for a temporary suspension of attacks, there was no indication that Israel or Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, was willing to agree to a cease-fire that had been proposed by Egypt earlier this week. Israel had halted its attacks for several hours earlier this week, but resumed its military campaign after Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Israel.An additional 8,000 Israeli military reservists were called up Wednesday, Israel announced. They will join the 40,000 reservists that have already been called up, with many of them poised along with tanks on Israel’s border with Gaza.And a senior Hamas official announced that the Islamic militant group has formally closed the door on the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire aimed at ending the conflict with Israel.International officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, seemed hopeful that the peace deal could still work even after Hamas ignored the cease-fire proposal Tuesday and continued to fire rockets at Israel. Israel responded after a six-hour break with a fresh barrage of aerial and naval attacks at what they called terrorist sites. The death toll in the nine-day slugfest reached 214, all but one of them Palestinians and many of them civilians and children, according to Gaza health officials. At least 1,550 people have been injured in Gaza since fighting broke out last week, the health officials said.Tens of thousands of Gazans have fled their homes after Israeli leaflets and robo calls to their homes urged them to evacuate their homes.“The evacuation is for your own safety,” the leaflets read. “You should not return to the premises until further notice. Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families.”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, would pay a price for rejecting the cease-fire and launching more rockets at Israel.
“Our answer is fire,” he 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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Two Detained in Moscow Subway Crash; Death Toll Up to 23

Two Detained in Moscow Subway Crash; Death Toll Up to 23

Gleb Shchelkunov/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Two men have been detained in connection with Tuesday’s subway crash in Moscow that left at least 23 people dead.A track foreman and his assistant are suspected of criminal negligence. Authorities say they failed to install a switch properly which may have led to the crash. The exact cause of the accident is still a mystery. Investigators are also looking into whether that switch was defective. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Moscow observed a day of mourning as the death toll continues to rise.
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Russia to Re-Open Spy Base in Cuba?

Russia to Re-Open Spy Base in Cuba?

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — The Cold War may be rearing its head again just off the Florida coast.Russia reportedly plans to re-open its massive Cold War era spy hub in Cuba.The Russian newspaper Kommersant reports that during his visit to Havana last week, President Vladimir Putin inked a deal to re-establish the Lourdes signal intelligence center, which during its heyday was the largest Soviet signal interceptor, just a short hop from Florida. Russia closed the base in 2001 amid financial woes and U.S. pressure — but amid fresh tensionswith the U.S., it may soon be back in business.
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Pope Francis Wants US to Do More to Protect Kids Crossing Border

Pope Francis Wants US to Do More to Protect Kids Crossing Border

Buda Mendes/Getty Images(ROME) — Pope Francis has called on the U.S. government to do more to protect the thousands of migrant children crossing the Rio Grande.In a letter read aloud to a conference in Mexico City Tuesday, the pope wrote that the unaccompanied children of undocumented migrants face “racist and xenophobic attitudes.”  He called for these children to be welcomed and protected in the U.S. and for the government to develop policies that inform people of the dangers of the border crossing journey. More needs to be done, Pope Francis said, to promote economic development in the home countries of the people fleeing poverty and violence.Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained by U.S. immigration agents. Most come from gang-controlled areas in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Since becoming leader of the Catholic church more than a year ago, Pope Francis has been an outspoken defender of migrants’ rights around the world.
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