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Israel Steps Up Campaign in Gaza


File photo. Credit: David Silverman/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Even as the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians warned of a grave humanitarian crisis, Israel intensified its air and ground offensive Tuesday against the militant group Hamas, striking key targets in Gaza.

To reduce casualties, Israel says it is making a point of giving non-combatants advance notice of impending rocket attacks but so far has not been able to avoid mass fatalities.

On Tuesday alone, more than 100 Palestinian were reported killed, bringing their death toll in the now 24-day conflict to more than 1,200. The Israelis have lost 53 soldiers in the fighting as well as three civilians killed by Hamas missile strikes.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Health Ministry alleged that 15 people where killed Wednesday morning when Israeli artillery struck a school the U.N. was using as a shelter. A spokesman for the Israeli military said he was investigating the claim.

According to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, more than 200,000 Palestinians are staying in 85 shelters throughout Gaza, having been displaced by the Israeli offensive. With thousands more expected to crowd into these facilities each day, the UNRWA is pleading with Israel to halt its military operation.

However, all attempts at getting the two sides to stop fighting have not succeeded with only a few brief lulls to allow Palestinians to quickly gather necessities.

Israel says it wants a guarantee of security from Hamas but failing that, is determined to demilitarize Gaza by destroying the group’s weaponry and tunnels that lead into Israel.

Hamas says it won’t stop fighting until Israel agrees to lift a blockade of Gaza that was imposed when it took control of the region in 2007.

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Militias Creating Havoc in Libya


iStock/Thinkstock(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Libya has descended into chaos as armed militias fight for control of the embattled country.

It is the worst siege of violence since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and executed three years ago.

Foreign nations, including the U.S., are pulling out their diplomats as the weak central government has had no luck in establishing any semblance of order among the militias fighting one another.

Adding to the mayhem is a major fire at a fuel depot near Tripoli's airport that has raged out of control since last weekend. There are worries the blaze could reach a natural gas reservoir that, if ignited, could be unstoppable.

Libya's appeal for international help to put out the fire is apparently contingent on a halt to the fighting that's not likely to happen.

Mostly, the conflict is between Islamist extremists and supporters of ex-Libyan General Khalifa Haftar. While estimates of casualties are hard to determine due to the violence, it's believed the death toll is in the hundreds.

It's estimated there are as many as 1,700 armed groups operating in Libya, many of whom captured weapons left behind by Gadhafi's military.

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Obama: New Sanctions Against Russia Will Have 'An Even Bigger Bite'


The White House(WASHINGTON) --  The United States will unleash a new round of sanctions against Russia in the wake of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, President Obama said Tuesday.

"The cost on Russia will continue to grow," the president said in a statement at the White House emphasizing Russian "energy, arms and finance" as targets. "Today is a reminder that the United States means what it says."

Obama said Russia has, so far, "failed to cooperate with the investigations" into the downing of the Malaysian aircraft, adding that he and key European leaders "are united in our view that the situation in Ukraine ought to be resolved diplomatically."

Obama said he has been coordinating closely with European allies to ensure a unified response. Earlier Tuesday, the European Union agreed to a new package of sanctions on Russia, for the first time imposing "sectoral" sanctions on Russia’s finance and energy industries, as well as banning arms exports to Russia.

Obama, in his remarks this afternoon, called them the, "most significant and wide-ranging sanctions to date."

The European Union says the sanctions will limit access to E.U. capital markets for Russian state-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual-use goods for military end-users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies, particularly in the oil sector.

Meanwhile, at the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki emphasized that the United States welcomed, "Europe's determination to take strong new steps and ... this trans-Atlantic community and G-7 are united in their determination to respond to continued and intensified Russian aggression."


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White House Pushes Back Against GOP's Immigration Crisis Bill


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is pushing back against a House Republican bill aimed at fixing the immigration crisis at the border.

The GOP legislation would devote $659 million in emergency funding to deal with the influx of unaccompanied children -- far less than the $3.7 billion requested.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says, "They're refusing to take the kind of action that would ensure the administration has the necessary resources to deal with what they themselves describe as a serious problem."

The bill would also change laws to make it easier to deport children from Central America and require that immigration hearings be held within one week of the children being apprehended by Border Patrol.

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US: North Korea's Push for Nuclear Weapons is Threatening Region


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States says that North Korea's push for nuclear weapons is a threat to the region.  

At Tuesday's Defense Department briefing, Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said, "The proliferation of activities that North Korea -- their desire for nuclear missiles and nuclear capabilities -- as we've said over and over again, are highly threatening to this global security environment."

Locklear said that keeping North Korea in check is important.

"That denuclearization of North Korea is a central part of the way ahead in that -- this part of the world," he added.

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Kerry Addresses Critics, Says He's Still Talking with Netanyahu


US Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that he is still talking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about achieving a lasting truce, saying the two men spoke again Monday night.

“The prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a cease-fire, he raised it with me, as he has consistently,” Kerry said during a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.

Kerry also dismissed the criticism that has been directed at him, including a blistering op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that likened him to “an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.”

“I've taken hits before in politics; I'm not worried about that. This is not about me,” the almost three-decade veteran of the U.S. Senate said.

The Israelis have made no secret of their problems with a draft proposal Kerry gave them last week, which they contend gave too many concessions to Hamas. Kerry suggested that in this last conversation with Netanyahu, the prime minister underscored his desire for Israeli forces to continue destroying tunnels Hamas has built across the border.

The United States supports the Israel Defense Forces’ ability to do so, but that provision was not explicitly laid out in the proposal Kerry submitted to Israel last week.

“What we put on the table, in fact, allowed Israel -- let me make this clear -- allowed Israel to continue to deal with these tunnels even as they were in a short-term cease-fire to try to see if there was a way to reach a sustainable cease-fire,” Kerry insisted.

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Prince William Photobombs British Cyclist


Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William was caught photobombing a professional British cyclist at the Commonwealth Games.

The Duke of Cambridge is all smiles in the background of Olympic cycling champ Chris Hoy's picture.

Along with the photo, the cyclist tweeted, "Got to love a royal photobomb!"

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Teens Testify at South Korea Ferry Trial


NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Teenagers who survived April's deadly ferry sinking off the South Korean coast have been testifying in the trial of the ferry's 15 crew members.

The crew members face charges of negligence and failing to carry out their duty of rescuing passengers.

The disaster killed 304 people. Yoo Byung-un, a businessman whose family owned the doomed ferry, was found dead of unknown causes in an orchard back in June.

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Child's Body Found in Wheelwell of US Military Aircraft That Landed in Germany


File photo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Melissa Sheffield)(RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany) -- The body of a male adolescent was found Sunday night in the wheel-well of a U.S. Air Force C-130 at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany after the plane had arrived from a flight that originated in Africa, a U.S. official confirmed Tuesday.

The body was found trapped in a compartment above the aircraft’s rear landing gear, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

The C-130 aircraft was on an eight-day journey, originating in Senegal and then stopping in Mali, Chad, Tunisia and Italy before arriving at Ramstein, according to Chief Master Sgt. Ellen Schirmer, a spokeswoman at Ramstein for the 86th Airlift Wing.

It’s unclear whether the child was a stowaway or where the child had boarded the plane, military officials said.

The boy's body was found as maintenance crews conducted a thorough post-flight check typical of long flights, Kirby said.

"The cause of death as well the other circumstances surrounding this incident remain under investigation," Kirby said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the young man’s family."

The aircraft had been in Mali on a regular mission.

Asked how a boy could have potentially sneaked onto the plane, Kirby noted that security measures at various airfields are not uniform.

“The aircraft is a rugged aircraft designed to operate in austere locations. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that the security at some of these fields is not going to be at the same level," he said. “We shouldn’t expect that the security environment in every location that these aircraft operate in will be at the same high standard.”

German authorities will have the lead in the investigation, the official said. The U.S. Air Force is cooperating.

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Kerry, Ukraine FM Condemn Pro-Russian Separatists


File photo. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- During a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that pro-Russian separatists have displayed an “appalling disregard for human decency” by allowing the remains of Malaysian Airlines crash victims to lay openly at the scene for days and barring international observers from accessing the site.

Both Kerry and Klimkin said there is still debris and human remains at the crash site that need to be investigated.

“They still can’t even ensure that all of the victims’ remains have been removed, and that is an unsupportable burden for any family to have to bear, and it is an unacceptable standard for behavior, period,” Klimkin said.

Kerry added that the United States and the European Union are working on additional sanctions on Russia. When asked when they would be imposed, he responded “forthwith.”

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Israeli Airstrikes Slam Gaza; Power Plant Shelled


iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- Israel slammed Gaza with a barrage of airstrikes overnight, the heaviest bombardment in the three-week conflict.

Symbols of Hamas control came under fire, including TV headquarters, government offices and the home of a top leader. Israel said it targeted over 70 sites and hit 10 “terror operatives.”

Israeli troops also shelled Gaza Strip’s only power plant, hitting a fuel tank and causing the plant to shut down. Fire burned following the attack, with heavy smoke rising over Gaza City. Engineer Fatahi Khalil, from the electricity company, confirmed that it will take a year to fix the power plant. The damage will be assessed at a later time, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Monday in a televised speech of a "prolonged" campaign in Gaza.

Hamas also signaled defiance. Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader whose house was struck in an airstrike early Tuesday, said in a statement that "destroying stones will not break our determination."

The tough words by both sides came amid mounting international appeals for an unconditional cease-fire.

However, Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until it wins international guarantees that a seven-year-old border blockade of Gaza will be lifted. Israel said its troops will not leave Gaza until they have demolished several dozen Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border. Late Monday, Netanyahu signaled that Israel is intensifying its air- and ground campaign.

The overall Gaza death toll rose past 1,100, according to the Palestinian health ministry, with another 6,500 injured.

The Israeli military said five of its soldiers were killed Monday, raising the total death toll on the Israeli side to 56, including 53 soldiers.


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US Says Russian Missile Launch 'Serious' Violation of Treaty


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is publicly accusing Russia of violating a 1987 nuclear missile treaty, a declaration likely to deepen tensions between the two countries already at odds over crises in Ukraine, Syria, and the Middle East.

The allegations, raised by President Obama in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, center on ground-launched cruise missile tests conducted in 2011, an administration official said.

The United States determined those tests violated Russia's treaty agreement to not to, "possess, produce, or flight-test" missiles with a range of up to 5,500 kilometers. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

"This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," an administration official said, requesting anonymity to speak ahead of the formal announcement Tuesday.

The issue was first raised with Russia in early 2013 but its responses, "did not resolve our concerns," the official said.

An annual State Department compliance report on arms control treaties, due out on Tuesday, is expected to outline in detail the U.S. findings of the alleged Russian treaty violation.

While bilateral talks with Russia on a variety of topics have broken down in recent months, the White House has extended an invitation to Russian officials for high-level dialogue on the missile treaty effective immediately, officials said. The administration, which has informed Congress of its determination, believes Russia has the potential to return to treaty compliance if it chooses.

The treaty violation allegations were first reported by The New York Times.

The Obama administration's announcement comes as the U.S. and European Union impose another round of tighter economic sanctions against Russia this week over alleged Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine.

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Palestinian-American Teen Held in Israeli Custody for 3 Weeks


iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- United States officials are "gravely concerned" about a Palestinian-American teen who has been in Israeli custody for three weeks, the State Department said Monday.

Another teen, Tariq Khdeir, drew headlines when he was arrested and allegedly beaten by Israeli authorities, but the State Department said another teen, 15-year-old U.S. citizen Mohamed Abu Nie, was arrested in Israel on July 3 during protests in the Shoafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

"Considering his age, we are calling for a speedy resolution to this case," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday. "This 15-year-old has now been held for three weeks in Israeli custody and has seen his parents only once briefly during that night. And so we are certainly gravely concerned about the detention of an American citizen child."

A U.S. consular official visited him on July 17 and attended a hearing on July 22, Psaki said, and the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv is in contact with his lawyer. The teen did not immediately inform Israeli officials that he was an American citizen, Psaki said, resulting in his delayed consular access.

He faces charges of, "rock-throwing, attacking police, carrying a knife and leading protests," Psaki said.

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Liberia Woman Describes How She Lived Through Ebola


iStock/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed the lives of at least 672 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, but one person who survived the virulent disease is shedding light on what it's like to battle the virus.

Tawa Tamba, a mother of three in Liberia, was recently discharged after fighting off the potentially fatal disease.

Tawa's husband became very ill and died about four weeks ago. Tawa then went to a clinic run by the group Samaritan's Purse when one of her children fell ill with symptoms similar to that of her husband's.

Two of her children died, and she herself became very sick, according to Dr. Azaria Marthyman of Samaritan's Purse.

Tawa eventually recovered and was discharged on July 20.

"Tawa expressed her gratitude to God foremost and to all those who helped," Marthyman wrote in a blog post on the group's website.

"Thank you for praying for me every time you treated me!" Tawa told the staff, according to Marthyman.

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As Attacks Continue, Netanyahu Says to 'Be Prepared for a Long Operation'


iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) --  Last week, Israel and Hamas blamed each other for explosions at a shelter that left at least 16 Palestinian civilians dead, and on Monday, fatal strikes near a hospital and refugee camp left 10 Palestinian children dead, according to Gazan health officials.

The Israeli Army insists its air and land forces were not operating in the area of the Al-Shifa hospital and the Al-Shati refugee camp when those two explosions occured.

Israeli military officials believes rocket misfires by Islamic Jihad were responsible for the fatal strikes at a park and hospital outpatient clinic.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhari blamed Israeli airstrikes for the attacks while eyewitness reportedly saw a drone.

In a press conference Monday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis, "We must be prepared for a long operation."

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