(KHARKIV, Ukraine) -- Wreckage from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine has been “significantly altered,” international monitors told ABC News, as remains of the victims arrived in territory held by the Ukrainian government.
Major pieces of the front of the plane appear to have been cut away, said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the group observing the crash site. Earlier, investigators observed someone using power tools to cut into the wreckage.
Rebels have said they had to move and alter big pieces to get at bodies and body parts. But the OSCE said what they saw was a “very invasive” altering of the wreckage.
In a field in pro-Russian separatist territory, the crash site has remained completely unguarded.
A train full of victims of Malaysia Flight MH17 arrived Tuesday at an interim destination on its way west. A Soviet-made locomotive pulled windowless, refrigerated box cars into Kharkiv, where a C-130 was waiting to transport the human remains to the Netherlands.
The black boxes from the downed plane were handed over to Malaysian officials Monday.
US Department of State(CAIRO) -- As fighting in between neighboring Israel and Gaza rages on, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo with a mission to try to stop the bloodshed, but his first task is to get the many stakeholders in the region to agree on what would even constitute a ceasefire.
Kerry came to Cairo because Egypt has been a key mediator between Israel and Hamas, the governing body of Gaza, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist group. Egypt also released a proposal for an immediate ceasefire without conditions on either side, something Israel accepted but Hamas rejected.
Kerry is in Cairo now, rather than earlier in the conflict, partly because of the mounting civilian casualties on both sides of the Israel/Gaza border, but especially since Israel began its ground invasion of Gaza on Thursday.
"We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel's appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself," Kerry said just before a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon late Monday night.
"But always in any kind of conflict, there is a concern about civilians," he added.
Ban was more vehement in laying blame on the Israelis, also urging them to let up on trade and travel restrictions in Gaza so that Hamas, he said, won’t have to resort to violence.
"I understand that Israel has to respond militarily, but there is a proportionality and most of the death toll is Palestinian people," Ban said.
Sunday was the bloodiest day so far in the Israel/Gaza crisis, with the Gaza Health Ministry reporting hundreds of deaths, many of which the U.N. said were civilians, and the Israel Defense Forces announcing the highest number of Israeli soldiers killed in the conflict thus far.
Earlier Monday as Kerry was en route to Cairo, a senior State Department official said that the U.S. had very few expectations for the next few days and that the primary objective was about getting the various players in the ceasefire negotiations on the same page, including Egypt, Qatar and Turkey, where Hamas' exiled leadership is based, and Israel.
"It's very complicated and it may very well take several days to get this done," the official said. Hamas has previously called for preconditions for a ceasefire agreement, including the release of prisoners in Israel and a re-opening of Israel-Gaza border crossings.
Kerry is scheduled to meet with Egyptian officials on Tuesday, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby.
A second official said Kerry was best equipped to meet with parties on the ground at this time, versus continuing to communicate via phone, because the United States is the only stakeholder that shares good relationships with all the governments involved, except Hamas.
"It's really only the Secretary of State who can come in and have close relationships with all the parties and who can get them all on the same page," the official said.
Kerry is expected to stay in Cairo through Wednesday morning, but officials said he would make changes to his schedule, and add additional stops in the region as warranted.
Brent Stirton/Reportage by Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The United States government is warning Americans in Yemen they should leave the country in response to an "extremely high" security threat, "due to terrorist activity and civil unrest."
"Terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active throughout Yemen. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about the possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests," the travel warning says. "An ongoing risk of kidnapping exists throughout Yemen."
In addition to the terror threat, the State Department warning said, "Demonstrations continue to take place in various parts of the country and may quickly escalate and turn violent."
"U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration," the warning says.
A U.S. intelligence official did not immediately respond to requests for more information from ABC News, but one person briefed on intelligence in the region said the terror aspect of the warning could be related to perceived threats against Westerners at potential targets including shopping malls in Yemen and other Gulf nations.
Top U.S. officials have said that of al Qaeda's affiliates, AQAP is among the greatest threats to the U.S. homeland. One of its members, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is believed to be a master bomb maker, implicated in several bomb plots. Last week the State Department announced it had added a Norwegian-born bomb maker and member of AQAP to its designated terror list.
Last September another al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabab based in Somalia, attacked neighboring Kenya's Westgate Mall, killing dozens.
Courtesy of ABC’s Tanya Stukalova(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) -- The two black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane that left 298 people dead were handed over Monday to Malaysian officials.
News media looked on as the transfer of the boxes was made late Monday. Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said independent investigators will be given safe access to the debris site.
"In recent days, we have been working behind the scenes to establish contact with those in charge of the MH17 crash site," Razak said. "That contact has now been made. Under difficult and fluid circumstances, we have been discussing the problems that have occupied us all: Securing vital evidence from the aircraft, launching an independent investigation and above all recovering the remains of those who lost their lives."
In a statement, Razak said he had spoken "to Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the region where the tragedy occurred."
Razak said that the bodies of the 282 people recovered, currently in the Ukrainian city of Torez, will "be moved" by train to Kiev, where Dutch officials will take them.
"The train will depart this evening...and will be accompanied by six Malaysian members of the recovery team," he added. "The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules, together with the Malaysian team. Following any necessary forensic work, the remains of Malaysian citizens will then be flown home to Malaysia."
"I must stress that although agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed," Razak added. "There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr Borodai and his people have so far given their co-operation."
Moments before Razak's announcement, President Obama had called on Russian President Vladimir Putin "to compel" Russian-backed separatists to stop interfering with the probe.
Obama, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, said Russian-backed separatists needed to allow investigators to recover bodies. He said they had previously fired their weapons in the air when investigators approached the scene and have tampered with evidence.
"Russia, and President Putin in particular, has a direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation," Obama said.
The president also said that if Russia continued to support violence against the Ukrainian people, it would face further isolation from the international community. He said he hopes to see the dispute settled diplomatically.
iStock/Thinkstock(TERENGGANU, Malaysia) -- A Dutch cyclist who escaped tragedy twice after missing flights on both doomed Malaysia Airlines flights, is shaken over the coincidences, but feels "lucky to be alive."
Maarten de Jonge, 29, had planned to be on both Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17, which appears to have been shot down over eastern Ukraine last week, and Flight MH 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March. But in both instances, he changed his travel plans before the flights took off.
"I was so scared when I heard the news [about Flight 17]. I still cannot think about it," de Jonge told ABC's David Wright after landing at the airport in Terengganu, Malaysia on Monday. "A lot of people died in the crash and I feel very, very sorry for the passengers and their families. But I am very lucky to be alive."
De Jonge had just arrived after an 18-hour journey-- from Amsterdam to Frankfort to Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu. Flying from the Netherlands, where he was born, to Malaysia, where he now lives and competes as a professional cyclist, de Jonge said he had originally planned to take the direct flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and had bought a ticket on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
But the plane ticket was expensive, more than $1,300 US. Then, he said he saw another flight that was roughly $400 cheaper.
"There was one place left so I decided to buy another ticket," de Jonge said. "Unbelievable, but yeah, that's how it is."
Even more unbelievable is the fact that he has been through this before.
"Yes, a couple of months ago, with MH370, it was the same story," de Jonge said. "I was very, very close to be[ing] on that flight too."
De Jonge said in March he and his cycling teammates were booking flights to compete in the Tour de Taiwan. They decided at the last minute not to take Malaysia Airways Flight 370 so they could avoid a lengthy layover. Instead they took a different flight half an hour later than Flight 370's takeoff time from Kuala Lumpur.
Their flight arrived at its destination safely. Flight 370 vanished without a trace, and remains missing.
"I realize how in a split second a decision will decide how your life is going to be," de Jonge said. "These things don't happen twice."
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DEIR EL-BALAH, Gaza Strip) -- A dozen Israeli tank shells struck a hospital in Gaza Monday, killing four people and injuring 60, witnesses and Gaza health officials said.
ABC News was present when one of the shells struck Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital on Monday and witnessed a traffic jam of ambulances as the hospital tried to evacuate patients and other ambulances tried to bring wounded patients to the emergency room.
"The hospital is coming down over our heads. They bombed fourth floor, the second floor, the third floor, the medical ward the surgical ward, ICU," Jabul Abu Miri, emergency room nursing supervisor, told ABC News.
"The medical team is a target, the nurses is a target, the doctors is a target," Abu Miri said. "How we can do our work? We are soldiers in the army? No, we are not soldiers.... We are doctors and nurses treating the patients. We are not doing anything."
The hospital tried to evacuate its patients.
"We don’t know what to do now, really we don’t know what to do... Now many patients injured, people injured from the street coming here... How we can do this, what we can do for them?" Abu Miri said.
Abu Miri said he was unaware of a reason for Israel to target Al Aqsa hospital.
"I don't know, I don't know really... Why? Why the hospital?" he asked.
Al Aqsa is the second hospital that has been hit by Israel in its Gaza offensive. The al Wafa rehabilitation hospital was evacuated late last week following numerous phone call warnings from the Israel Defense Forces.
The rehab facility had gained attention earlier in the conflict when a group of foreign activists moved in to be alongside the 17 patients who remained there because their conditions prevented them from being evacuated. Nevertheless, they were moved last Thursday to a nearby hospital as Israel struck targets that rattled the facility.
The Israel Defense Forces released aerial photos on Monday that they claim show the locations of Hamas rocket launch sites placed dangerously close to civilian sites. The photos claim to show rocket launchers inside the grounds of a mosque and a playground as well as a rocket launcher that appears to be adjacent to al-Wafa hospital.
Joe Catron, an American who spent hours at al Wafa in the hopes of deterring Israel from shelling the facility, said he was never aware that a Hamas rocket launcher was next to the hospital.
“If it was there I never heard it used. I know what a rocket launch sounds like and the loudest noise I’ve heard was shelling from the Israeli side,” Catron told ABC.
The casualty toll in the Gaza battle has now claimed 550 Palestinian deaths as well as 3,350 wounded, along with 27 Israeli deaths.
moodboard/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- A shopping mall in northeastern China has sparked accusations of sexism after it created 10 pink, extra-wide parking spots for women only.
Painted in hot pink, the spots at the World Metropolis Center in Dalian say, "respectfully reserved for ladies," and are about 11 inches wider than usual parking spots.
While some female drivers appreciated the tailored design, others called the parking spots sexist and disrespectful.
On the Chinese social media site Weibo, a microblogger wrote in Mandarin, “Is this for real? Don’t discriminate against women drivers.”
Another microblogger asked, “Is this implying that women are bad at parking?”
Yang Hongjun, a female manager at the mall, said officials just wanted to make parking easier for women.
“Women make up most of our customers,” she said.
Nevertheless, others disagreed.
“Why do women get all these advantages?” one male commentator asked on Weibo. “If you can’t drive, don’t drive. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. This is precisely reverse discrimination.”
In Seoul, South Korea, nearly 5,000 parking spaces near entrances of malls and other buildings were painted pink in 2009. They were designed to minimize the distance from cars to shopping for women wearing high heels.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin issued a statement Monday that fell short of calling for separatist rebels from eastern Ukraine to turn over control of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 to international teams.
Instead, the Russian leader only says that the safety and security of monitors trying to reach the scene must be guaranteed.
Putin also used his statement to assign partial blame to the central government in Kiev for creating what he charges are the conditions that have led to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
No one yet has taken responsibility for shooting down the plane with 298 people on board, nearly 200 of them from the Netherlands on their way to Malaysia. However, all signs point to the rebels, especially after Ukrainian intelligence claims to have intercepted a call between the separatists and the Russian military that discussed the shoot-down of Flight 17.
Meanwhile, Putin promises Russia will “do all that we can to move the conflict in eastern Ukraine from Monday’s military phase to" a negotiated solution.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday ordered all Ukrainian forces to cease military operations within 40 kilometers of the crash site, according to Russian news service Interfax. Russian Joint Staff Main Operations Directorate Chief, Lieutenant General Andrei Kartopolov said that the Russian government has evidence that a Ukrainian combat jet was in the vicinity of the plane shortly before it was shot down, the news service reports.
Four days later, nearly all of the bodies of those onboard the plane have been recovered. During a Monday press conference, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that the bodies of 272 of the 298 people onboard the plane have been recovered. Many of the bodies are being stored in refrigerated rail cars under rebel control.
Dutch investigators and crews from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrived at the scene on Monday, after the Malaysian Transport Minister said Sunday that a team of 133 Malaysian experts and officials were denied access to the site.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GENEVA) -- The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate end to fighting in Gaza, expressing concerns over the rising civilian death toll.
The death toll from the two-week conflict continues to rise. In all, more than 500 Palestinians -- many of them civilians, including children -- were killed and more than 3,100 wounded in the past two weeks, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The overall death toll on the Israeli side rose to 20, including 18 soldiers, along with dozens of wounded troops.
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency session on Sunday night, which ended in a call for a return to a November 2012 ceasefire agreement.
The U.S. State Department confirmed that two American citizens were killed in Gaza. The deceased were identified as Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that the agency would not comment further on the matter, "out of respect for those affected by this."
On Sunday, Hamas claimed that it had captured an Israeli soldier, a claim that Israel denies. “There is no kidnapped Israeli soldier -- those rumors are untrue,” said Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor prior to the U.N. Security Council meeting Sunday night.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An audit into the recently completed Afghan Presidential Election has been halted, the Afghan Independent Election Commission said Sunday.
Without providing further detail, the AIEC blamed the suspension on a "misunderstanding."
Over the weekend, officials on each side staged walkouts in response to disputes over the audit process.
Both candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani have accused each other of electoral fraud following the June 14 run-off election. Abdullah won the initial round of voting, but failed to secure the 50 percent of the vote needed to void a runoff. In the second round of voting, Ghani finished on top.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this month that all votes in the election would be audited, a process that was always expected to take weeks to complete.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- The Israel Defense Forces announced on Sunday that it would open a field hospital for Palestinians at the Erez border crossing.
The hospital began operating at 8 p.m. on Sunday, according to an IDF statement. The hospital was established to provide medical assistance and humanitarian care to Palestinians from Gaza amidst the ongoing tensions.
Among other services, the hospital will offer an emergency clinic, pediatric and gynecologic services and a delivery room. Staff will include doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians and lab technicians.
The establishment of such a hospital was approved by the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz.
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(KUALA LUMPUR) -- Malaysia Airlines announced on Sunday that it would retire the flight number MH17 after the flight was tragically shot down over eastern Ukraine last week.
In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said the decision was made "out of respect for our crew and passengers of the mentioned flight code." The change will take effect on Friday, July 25.
The airline insists that there will be no changes to the route aside from the flight number, with the same flight frequency between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur. The route will take on a new flight number, MH19, on Friday.
DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images(KIEV, Ukraine) -- It may be some time before the bodies of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 are returned to their families.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News Sunday, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic said they would not be turned over until international inspectors come here to inspect them.
"We can and we want to give bodies to the relatives but experts have to examine the bodies here. That is international practice," Alexander Borodai said.
He feared that if the remains are turned over to the Ukrainian government they will be used as evidence to blame his fighters for shooting down the plane, something he again denied.
The problem is that the team of international investigators remains in Kiev. Despite what has been described as a "preliminary" agreement on their travel to the crash site, there has been no announcement about when they might finally arrive.
"We guarantee their safety and their ability to work. After that the bodies can be transported wherever," Borodai said. He insisted that he placed no conditions on their travel to the crash site and wants an "open and independent" investigation.
Borodai said he was willing to provide the remains unconditionally to the Russian government because he trusted them. Given Western accusations about Russia's backing for the rebels, however, it remains to be seen if that will be an acceptable offer.
For now, the remains of nearly 200 passengers remain under rebel control and are being stored in refrigerated rail cars, not far from the crash site. Borodai said they would remain there until they are transported following the examination.
At a press conference, Borodai defended the decision to remove the bodies from the wreckage on Saturday, two days after the crash, saying it was "inhumane" to leave them there. The State Department had criticized that decision, saying it was compromising the crime scene.
The United States has also voiced concerns about the crash site being compromised under rebel control.
"We do our best not to do it," Borodai said in response.
He dismissed growing concern about the crash site, which is essentially unguarded. Anywhere else in the world, such a scene would be roped off and crawling with investigators.
Yet here, only a handful of guards patrol the access roads and the wreckage. When ABC News departed the scene late Saturday evening, the rebels had retreated to their tents and left the site unmonitored.
Borodai said he has increased the number of guards but could not spare enough men from the front lines of their battle with the Ukrainian military.
"That is why we are inviting and waiting for the experts to come as soon as possible," he said.
Even so, few expect the rebels to be neutral guards in the first place. The U.S. has expressed concerns that key evidence may have been carried off or disturbed in the days since the crash.
In response to reports that the site may have been looted, Borodai insisted it was done only by a handful of locals and promised to prosecute them according to the "laws of war."
International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who are not investigators but have been observing the conflict, have so far been unsatisfied with the access they have received at the crash site. On Saturday, rebel guards would not let them approach the wreckage.
Borodai said the OSCE team wanted him to cut off journalist access to the site, but he declined to do so, claiming his interest in "freedom of the press."
Earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev provided the most detailed evidence thus far to prove the rebels shot the passenger plane down with a surface to air missile.
Borodai confirmed that his forces had recently refurbished what he described as a Strela-10, an old Soviet-era mobile surface-to-air missile system, which he said was a war trophy taken from the Ukrainian military. He said the weapon did not have enough power or range to shoot down a passenger jet at cruising altitude.
Rob Stothard/Getty Images(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Rebels in Eastern Ukraine Sunday moved the bodies of 196 victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 into refrigerated trains that will stay in the rebel-held town of Torez, nine miles away from the debris field, until the arrival of an international aviation delegation, rebel leader Alexander Borodai told ABC News.
Armed rebels are limiting the access of rescue workers to the debris field, only allowing them to work for up to 75 minutes at a time, said Col. Andriy Lyenskol, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security Council.
"There are an enormous array of facts that point at Russia's support for and involvement in this effort," Kerry said. "Drunken separatists are stacking bodies into the backs of trucks, removing materials from the site ... This is an insult to everybody. It's really a moment of truth for Russia to step up and be part of the solution, not part of the problem."
Kerry's comments come as the United States Embassy in Kiev issued a statement detailing how Russia aided the rebels.
"Over the past month, we have detected an increasing amount of heavy weaponry to separatist fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine," read the statement. "We also have information indicating that Russia is providing training to separatist fighters at a facility in southwest Russia, and this effort included training on air defense systems."
The embassy added that the surface-to-air missile that downed MH 17, a SA-11, was likely fired by rebels as there were no Ukrainian missile systems in the range of the debris field at the time of the strike.
The embassy also said that Ukraine has not fired any surface-to-air missiles in the conflict with separatists.
Borodai told ABC News that the rebels believe they have recovered the black boxes from flight MH 17 but that they are unsure of the finding and are waiting for the arrival of experts to verify the black boxes.
The items believed to be the black boxes will be protected and secured until investigators arrive, Borodai said.
Borodai also guaranteed the safety of international investigators and journalists at the MH 17 debris field. He questioned why experts had not yet arrived, suggesting that Ukraine was stalling investigations.
The international community has come together to mourn the 298 victims of flight MH 17.
In the Netherlands, families came together at Sunday morning church services to grieve and mourn.
In Rome, Pope Francis led a prayer in St. Peter's Square for peace in Ukraine.
"I invite you to remember and to keep praying for tensions and conflicts which are going on in different parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and in Ukraine," he said.
In Australia, the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne opened with a tribute to several delegates who were killed in the MH 17 disaster.
"It's a really important time for what we think everyone needs, which is a space to grieve and to respect the six members of our community that died on MH 17," conference co-chair Sharon Lewin said.
Among the victims who were en route to the conference was Dr. Joep Lange, a leading expert in the field of HIV/AIDS.
There were nearly 100 HIV/AIDS researchers and scientists on flight MH 17 when it was shot down over Ukraine.