TIME California

Northern California Wildfire Destroys 13 Homes

A burned out car near a home that was also burned by the Sand fire in Amador County in Northern California on July 27, 2014.
A burned out car near a home that was also burned by the Sand fire in Amador County in Northern California on July 27, 2014. Josh Edelson—EPA

The fire, which has also destroyed 38 outbuildings, was 50% contained late Sunday, but it threatens hundreds of homes in the drought-stricken region

(PLYMOUTH, Calif.) — Wildfires burning near Northern California vineyards and in the Yosemite National Park area were threatening hundreds of homes even as crews worked to contain them.

The Sand Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento was 50% surrounded as of late Sunday, after burning 13 homes and 38 outbuildings. It has scorched roughly 6 square miles of rugged grassland and timber near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties.

While crews significantly enlarged the area they had corralled Sunday, “the steep, dry terrain continues to be a challenge” and about 515 homes remain threatened and under evacuation orders, according to a statement the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire started Friday when a vehicle drove over vegetation that is tinder-dry from years of drought.

About 1,900 firefighters, aided by aircraft including a DC-10 air tanker, were working to control the blaze.

The fire destroyed homes, cabins and a collection of 13 antique cars that a man was restoring in the town of Plymouth, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Neighbors, however, stepped in to help those forced from their homes and ranches.

The Amador County fairgrounds made room for displaced animals and as of noon Sunday had taken in 12 horses, seven rabbits, 15 chickens, two dogs, three cats and seven goats, said Karen Spencer, the marketing director for the Amador County Fair.

“We’re right in the middle of our fair, but our livestock people are just moving over and making room,” she told the Bee.

While the Red Cross has been able to provide clothes and food for the evacuees, the neighboring communities have joined the organization to help.

“We’ve got like 10 bags of new and slightly new clothes,” Rodney Stanhope of Placerville said.

Stanhope said his Facebook call has led to people offering to buy underwear and socks and others offering their homes to evacuees.

“Everybody wants to help,” Stanhope said.

In Central California, a fire near Yosemite National Park had spread to about 4 square miles and continued to threaten the small town of Foresta, where it destroyed one home.

An estimated 100 homes in Foresta and the small community of Old El Portal were evacuated Saturday, and residents remained out of their homes Sunday. Two shelters opened for people and animals.

The park itself, home to such sites as Half Dome mountain, Yosemite Meadows, a grove of Giant Sequoia trees and other wonders, remained open throughout Sunday and authorities said none of its treasures were threatened.

Wildfires also burned in other Western states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Utah.

The nation’s largest wildfire — the 618-square-mile Buzzard Complex in eastern Oregon, 45 miles northeast of Burns — was almost fully contained Sunday.

In north-central Washington, the Carlton Complex fire, the biggest in the state’s history, burned as temperatures rose Sunday, but no major flare-ups have been reported.

TIME Oklahoma

Man Seeks Video of 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing

Jesse Trentadue
Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue holds a photograph of his dead brother during an interview in Salt Lake City on July 16, 2014 Rick Bowmer—AP

What some consider a far-flung conspiracy theory will be at the forefront during a trial set to begin on Monday in Salt Lake City

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

What some consider a far-flung conspiracy theory will be at the forefront during a trial set to begin Monday in Salt Lake City. The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was brought by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue against the FBI. He says the agency won’t release security camera videos that show a second person was with Timothy McVeigh when he parked a truck outside the Oklahoma City federal building and detonated a bomb, killing 168 people. The government claims McVeigh was alone.

Unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has ordered the agency to explain why it can’t find videos from the bombing that are mentioned in evidence logs, citing the public importance of the tapes.

Trentadue believes the presence of a second suspect in the truck explains why his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was flown to Oklahoma several months after the bombing, where he died in a federal holding cell in what was labeled a suicide. His brother bore a striking resemblance to the police sketch that officials sent out after the bombing based on witness descriptions of the enigmatic suspect “John Doe No. 2,” who was the same height, build and complexion. The suspect was never identified.

“I did not start out to solve the Oklahoma City bombing, I started out for justice for my brother’s murder,” Jesse Trentadue said. “But along the way, every path I took, every lead I got, took me to the bombing.”

The FBI says it can’t find anything to suggest the videos exist, and says it would be “unreasonably burdensome” to do a search that would take a single staff person more than 18 months to conduct.

Jesse Trentadue’s belief that the tapes exists stems from a Secret Service document written shortly after the bombing that describes security video footage of the attack that shows suspects — in plural — exiting the truck three minutes before it went off.

A Secret Service agent testified in 2004 that the log does, in fact, exist but that the government knows of no videotape. The log that the information was pulled from contained reports that were never verified, said Stacy A. Bauerschmidt, then-assistant to the special agent in charge of the agency’s intelligence division.

Several investigators and prosecutors who worked the case told The Associated Press in 2004 they had never seen video footage like that described in the Secret Service log.

The FBI has released 30 video recordings to Trentadue from downtown Oklahoma City, but those recordings don’t show the explosion or McVeigh’s arrival in a rental truck.

If he wins at trial, Trentadue hopes to be able to search for the tapes himself rather than having to accept the FBI’s answer that they don’t exist.

Kathy Sanders and Jannie Coverdale, who both lost grandchildren in the bombing, are grateful for Trentadue’s pursuit of the case. Sanders said she’s been waiting 19 years to see the tapes.

“It is worth pursuing,” Coverdale said. “I know there was somebody else. I have never stopped asking questions.”

But former Oklahoma Rep. Susan Winchester, whose sister, Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Clark, was killed in the bombing, said she is satisfied that officials have identified everyone responsible for the bombing.

“I was very comfortable with the decisions that came out of the federal and state trials,” Winchester said. “I have reached that point in my life where I can continue.”

Jesse Trentadue’s mission began four months after the bombing when his brother died at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. Kenneth Trentadue, 44, a convicted bank robber and construction worker, was brought there after being picked up for probation violations while coming back to the U.S. at the Mexican border, Jesse Trentadue said.

His death was officially labeled a suicide. But his body had 41 wounds and bruises that his brother believes were the result of a beating. In 2008, a federal judge awarded the family $1.1 million in damages for extreme emotional distress in the government’s handling of the death, but the amount was reduced to $900,000 after an appeal.

Jesse Trentadue’s best guess about the motive is that his brother died in an interrogation gone wrong by investigators demanding information Kenneth Trentadue didn’t have.

Jesse Trentadue filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2008.

Going toe-to-toe with the federal government has come at a personal price for Jesse Trentadue, 67, who says he’s lost time with his children and wife that he can’t recover.

But he has no regrets, fueled by his love for his brother. Just three years apart, the two shared a bed, hunted coons together and played on the same sports teams growing up in a coal camp in West Virginia.

Their paths diverged as adults — Jesse becoming an attorney while Kenneth fell into drugs and crime — but the brotherly bond never broke. Before his death, Kenneth Trentadue had overcome his heroin addiction and had a newborn baby at home in San Diego, Jesse Trentadue said. The brothers spoke by phone from jail the night before his death, with the two discussing how he would soon be out.

“What I learned growing up in the coal fields is that you fight even when you know you can’t win,” he said. “Because you have to make a stand on some things. Justice for my brother is certainly one of them.”

TIME Liberia

Ebola Kills Liberian Doctor, 2 Americans Infected

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(MONROVIA, Liberia) — One of Liberia’s most high-profile doctors has died of Ebola, officials said Sunday, and an American physician was being treated for the deadly virus, highlighting the risks facing health workers trying to combat an outbreak that has killed more than 670 people in West Africa — the largest ever recorded.

A second American, a missionary working in the Liberian capital, was also taken ill and was being treated in isolation there, said the pastor of a North Carolina church that sponsored her work.

Dr. Samuel Brisbane, a top Liberian health official, was treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia, when he fell ill. He died Saturday, said Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister. A Ugandan doctor died earlier this month.

The American physician, 33-year-old Dr. Kent Brantly, was in Liberia helping to respond to the outbreak that has killed 129 people nationwide when he fell ill, according to the North Carolina-based medical charity, Samaritan’s Purse.

He was receiving intensive medical care in a Monrovia hospital and was in stable condition, according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Melissa Strickland.

“We are hopeful, but he is certainly not out of the woods yet,” she said.Early treatment improves a patient’s chances of survival, and Brantly recognized his own symptoms and began receiving care immediately, Strickland said.

The American missionary, Nancy Writebol, was gravely ill and in isolation in Monrovia, her husband, David, told a church elder via Skype, according to the Rev. John Munro, pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Munro said the couple, who had been in Liberia for about a year, insisted on staying there despite the Ebola threat. “These are real heroes — people who do things quietly behind the scenes, people with a very strong vocation and very strong faith,” Munro said.

There is no known cure for the highly contagious virus, which is one of the deadliest in the world. At least 1,201 people have been infected in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization, and 672 have died. Besides the Liberian fatalities, 319 people have died in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone.

Ominously, Nigerian authorities said Friday that a Liberian man died of Ebola after flying from Monrovia to Lagos via Lome, Togo. The case underscored the difficulty of preventing Ebola victims from traveling given weak screening systems and the fact that the initial symptoms of the disease — including fever and sore throat — resemble many other illnesses.

Health workers are among those at greatest risk of contracting the disease, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids.

Photos of Brantly working in Liberia show him swathed head-to-toe in white protective coveralls, gloves and a head-and-face mask that he wore for hours a day while treating Ebola patients.

Earlier this year, the American was quoted in a posting about the dangers facing health workers trying to contain the disease. “In past Ebola outbreaks, many of the casualties have been health care workers who contracted the disease through their work caring for infected individuals,” he said.

There is no known cure for Ebola, which begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding.

The WHO says the disease is not contagious until a person begins to show symptoms. Brantly’s wife and children had been living with him in Liberia but flew home to the U.S. about a week ago, before the doctor started showing any signs of illness, Strickland said.

“They have absolutely shown no symptoms,” she said.

A woman who identified herself as Brantly’s mother said the family was declining immediate comment when reached by phone in Indiana.

Besides Brantly and the two doctors in Liberia, Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor and a doctor in Liberia’s central Bong County have also fallen ill.

The situation “is getting more and more scary,” said Nyenswah, the country’s assistant health minister.

Meanwhile, the fact that a sick Liberian could board a flight to Nigeria raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa.

Nigeria’s international airports were screening passengers arriving from foreign countries, and health officials were also working with ports and land borders to raise awareness of the disease. Togo’s government also said it was on high alert.

Security analysts were skeptical about the usefulness of these measures.

“In Nigeria’s case, the security set-up is currently bad, so I doubt it will help or have the minimum effectiveness they are hoping for,” said Yan St. Pierre, CEO of the Berlin-based security consulting firm MOSECON.

An outbreak in Lagos, a megacity where many lived in cramped conditions, could be a major public health disaster.

The West Africa outbreak is believed to have begun as far back as January in southeast Guinea, though the first cases weren’t confirmed until March.

Since then, officials have tried to contain the disease by isolating victims and educating populations on how to avoid transmission, though porous borders and widespread distrust of health workers have made the outbreak difficult to bring under control.

News of Brisbane’s death first began circulating on Saturday, a national holiday marking Liberia’s independence in 1847.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used her Independence Day address to discuss a new taskforce to combat Ebola. Information Minister Lewis Brown said the taskforce would go “from community to community, from village to village, from town to town” to try to increase awareness.

In Sierra Leone, which has recorded the highest number of new cases in recent days, the first case originating in Freetown, the capital, came when a hairdresser, Saudata Koroma, fell ill. She was forcibly removed from a government hospital by her family, sparking a frantic search that ended Friday. Kargbo, the chief medical officer, said Sunday that Koroma died while being transported to a treatment center in the east of the country.

TIME Military

Tentative Deal Reached on VA Reform

Conference Committee Held For Veterans Affairs Reform Bill
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol July 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee—Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., scheduled a news conference Monday to talk about a compromise plan to improve veterans’ care.

Miller chairs the House veterans panel, while Sanders chairs the Senate panel.

A spokesman for Sanders said Sunday the men have reached a tentative agreement. The deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators, and votes in the full House and Senate.

Miller and Sanders said in a joint statement that they “made significant progress” over the weekend toward agreement on legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, which has been rocked by reports of patients dying while awaiting VA treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays. The resulting election-year firestorm forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in late May.

The plan set to be announced Monday is intended to “make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals,” Miller and Sanders said.

Few details of the agreement were released, but the bill is expected to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

Louis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, said the deal would provide crucial help to veterans who have been waiting months or even years for VA health care.

“There is an emergency need to get veterans off the waiting lists. That’s what this is all about,” Celli said Sunday.

An updated audit by the VA this month showed that about 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics still have to wait at least 30 days for an appointment. About 46,000 veterans have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments, the report said, and an additional 7,000 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade never got them.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson has said the VA is making improvements, but said veterans in many communities still are waiting too long to receive needed care. The VA provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans.

A veteran died last month after collapsing in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, veterans hospital cafeteria. The man waited 30 minutes for an ambulance, officials said.

Sanders proposed a bill last week that would cost about $25 billion over three years. Miller countered with a plan to approve $10 billion in emergency spending, with a promise of more spending in future years under the normal congressional budget process.

Miller’s bill would keep most of the provisions in a Senate-passed bill and would authorize about $100 million for the Veterans Affairs Department to address shortfalls in the current budget year.

Both bills cost significantly less than bills approved last month by the House and Senate.

Negotiations had appeared in jeopardy Thursday after Miller and Sanders announced their competing plans, then held separate news conferences lashing out at each other. The men resumed talks in private Thursday night.

The House and Senate are set to adjourn at the end of the week until early September, and lawmakers from both parties have said completing a bill on veterans’ health care is a top priority.

The Senate is expected to vote this week to confirm former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary, replacing Gibson.

TIME

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali Wins Tour de France

Race leader Astana team rider Nibali of Italy rides near the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the final 21st stage of the Tour de France in Paris
Race leader Astana team rider Vincenzo Nibali of Italy rides near the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the final 21st stage of the Tour de France cycle race in Paris, July 27, 2014. Jean-Paul Pelissier—Reuters

PARIS — Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday, becoming the first Italian in 16 years to triumph in cycling’s greatest race by chiseling a lead over his main rivals a few seconds at a time and dominating them in the mountains.

The 29-year-old Sicilian, who called himself “a flag-bearer of anti-doping” during the race, finished in the pack behind Marcel Kittel, who won the 21st stage in a sprint finish.

Nibali’s victory comes after the pre-race favorites — 2013 champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador — crashed out with injuries in the first half of this year’s Tour.

Astana team leader Nibali is only the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours — France, Italy and Spain. The last Italian to win the Tour de France was Marco Pantani in 1998.

After cruising after Kittel, a German who got his fourth stage win, Nibali got pats on the back, kissed his wife and infant daughter, and was mobbed by cameras as race organizers hustled him away to prepare for the final awards ceremony.

“Unbelievable,” said Kittel, whose victories bookended this Tour. He won Stage 1 when British rival Mark Cavendish crashed out in the final sprint.

Nibali also won four stages, a feat not equaled by a Tour winner since Lance Armstrong won five a decade ago. He wore the yellow jersey for all but two stages since Stage 1. His 7 minute, 52 second margin over runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud is the largest since Jan Ullrich of Germany beat second-placed Richard Virenque by just over 9 minutes in 1997.

In one of the subplots of this race, Peraud and third-placed Thibaut Pinot became the first Frenchmen to reach the Tour podium since Virenque in that same year.

But such comparisons, many cycling insiders have noted, miss the mark. Armstrong, Ullrich and Virenque were three of the big-name riders caught in nearly a generation of doping scandals in cycling. Armstrong, in the biggest scandal ever in the sport, admitted to doping and was stripped of his record seven Tour titles.

Nibali and many others in the peloton say that era is past. But his own victories in the 2010 Vuelta and the Italian Giro last year were tarnished by high-profile doping cases involving other riders. While cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has made great efforts to halt use of drugs and other performance-enhancers, such as through the biological passport program, few cycling observers believe the pack is fully clean.

Many naysayers may argue that Nibali was the best of the riders still in this Tour. Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, who won the Giro d’Italia in May, did not ride. Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour champ, was passed over so his Sky Team could focus on Froome. Then Froome and Contador pulled out due to injuries.

But even before they left, Nibali had gained a 2-second advantage on them by winning Stage 2, surprising even himself. Then, in Stage 5 after Froome crashed out, the Italian excelled on cobblestone patches that slowed down Contador, who lost more than 2 1/2 minutes to Nibali. The Spaniard was forced into a need to attack.

On a downhill in Stage 10, Contador crashed and fractured his tibia. But Nibali, who is known as “The Shark of the Strait” — a nod to the waterway near his hometown of Messina, Sicily — didn’t stop there. He went on to win that stage into La Planche des Belles Filles. It was the first of three stages with uphill finishes that he won, adding one in the Alps (Chamrousse) and another in the Pyrenees (Hautacam).

Nibali said this Tour layout, announced last fall, “was almost made to measure for me.”

The 101st edition began in Yorkshire, England, and guided riders over 3,664 kilometers (2,277 miles) including cobblestones, wind-swept flats and climbs in the Vosges, Alps and Pyrenees.

With the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as the backdrop, other riders getting TV time on the winner’s podium included Peter Sagan of Slovakia, winner of the green jersey given to the race’s best sprinter; Rafal Majka of Poland, the best climber; and Pinot, the best young rider born since the start of 1989.

TIME Ukraine

Police Visit to MH17 Disaster Site Canceled

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Rescue workers search for bodies in a field near the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabove), in Donetsk region on July 26, 2014. Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

DONETSK, Ukraine — A team of international police officers that had been due to visit the site of the Malaysian plane disaster in eastern Ukraine canceled the trip Sunday after receiving reports of fighting in the area.

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said it was too dangerous for the unarmed officers to travel to the site from its current location in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down with a surface-to-air missile over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists on July 17, killing all 298 people on board. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say it was shot down by a missile from rebel territory, most likely by mistake.

While it was not immediately clear where precisely clashes had broken out, a Ukrainian defense official said Sunday that government forces are now undertaking efforts to clear the areas around the Boeing 777 crash site from separatist rebels.

Hug said the police mission, which is comprised of officers from the Netherlands and Australia, will reconsider resuming operations if security improves.

“We continue to reassess the situation continuously and we will start to redeploy tomorrow morning back to the site if the situation changes,” Hug said.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott had said earlier Sunday that unarmed Australian police would be sent to the crash site as part of a Dutch-led police force to secure the area and help recover victims’ remains.

Concerns about the integrity of the site were raised further on Saturday when a couple that had flown from their home in Perth, Australia, visited the wreckage-strewn fields outside the village of Hrabove and even sat down on part of the debris.

Flights from Ukraine to the Netherlands have taken 227 coffins containing victims of the plane disaster. Officials say the exact number of people held in the coffins still needs to be determined by forensic experts in the Netherlands.

Ukraine’s National Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said that Ukrainian troops were engaging rebels in fighting at several locations Sunday, including near the town of Debaltseve, which is 15 miles (25 kilometers) northwest of the crash site.

There was also fighting on the outskirts of Horlivka, one of the separatists’ key strongholds, Lysenko said.

Lysenko said more than 20 rebel fighters were killed and eight of their armored vehicles destroyed during fighting in Horlivka. One government soldier has been killed over the previous day’s fighting, he said.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Sunday that a column of Ukrainian armored personnel carriers, trucks and tanks had entered the town of Shakhtarsk, 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of the site of the crash.

Shakhtarsk is a strategic town in the area. By controlling the town, the Ukrainian army would be cutting off the regional capital, Donetsk, from the highway leading to the Russian border.

The Malaysia Airlines disaster prompted some expectation in the West that Russia would scale back its involvement in the uprising in Ukraine’s east, but 10 days later the opposite seems to be the case.

Russia launched artillery attacks from its soil into Ukraine on Friday, while the United States said it has seen powerful rocket systems moving closer to the Ukraine border.

TIME

Hamas Agrees to 24-Hour Holiday Truce in Gaza War

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians
Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 27, 2014. Adel Hana—AP

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas on Sunday agreed to observe a 24-hour humanitarian truce after initially rejecting such an offer by Israel, as fighting resumed and the two sides wrangled over the terms of a lull the international community hopes can be expanded into a more sustainable truce.

Between the rival announcements Palestinian militants fired rockets deep into Israel, prompting it to resume an offensive aimed at destroying rocket launchers and cross-border attack tunnels used by Hamas.

Hours later Hamas said it would be willing to abide by a new 24-hour humanitarian truce ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) Sunday. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

Israel had offered a 24-hour truce late Saturday, but Hamas — which has demanded the lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza as well as the release of Palestinian prisoners — rejected it.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, did not say if Israel would hold its fire during the time requested by Hamas, but said troops would continue demolishing militant tunnels.

The 20-day war has killed more than 1,050 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel has lost 43 soldiers. Two civilians and a Thai worker in Israel were killed by rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.

The military had earlier said about a dozen rockets were fired toward Israel since midnight — without causing casualties or damage — and that as a result it would “resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip.” The Israeli military released a video showing a rocket being fired from what it said was a Gaza school.

“Once again Hamas is cynically using the people of Gaza as a human shield,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

The 12-hour lull on Saturday — agreed to by both sides following intense U.S. and U.N. mediation efforts — saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

The Israeli military says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including by sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way.

Hamas and other militants in Gaza have fired more than 2,400 rockets at Israel since hostilities began on July 8, many deep into the Israeli heartland and toward most of the country’s major cities.

Casualties on the Israeli side have stayed relatively low thanks to Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome aerial defense system and because residents have been vigilant about seeking shelter quickly upon hearing the air raid sirens.

Before the announcement of the holiday cease-fire, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri had said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and that tens of thousands of displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes. Israel’s current terms were “not acceptable,” he said in a text message to journalists.

Israel’s acceptance of the cease-fire extension was premised on its soldiers remaining in Gaza to destroy the more than 30 tunnels the military says it has found in the densely populated coastal strip.

TIME

Israel Says It’s Extending Gaza Truce for 24 Hours

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians recover the body of a man killed when his home was hit the previous night by Israeli fire in the northern district of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce, on July 26, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

(BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip) — Hamas resumed rocket fire Saturday on Israel after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a humanitarian cease-fire, the latest setback in international efforts to negotiate an end to the Gaza war.

Despite the Hamas rejection, Israel’s Cabinet decided to extend a truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. However, it warned that its military would respond to any fire from Gaza and would continue to demolish Hamas military tunnels during this period.

A temporary lull on Saturday saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

With the retrieval of the corpses, the number of Palestinians killed reached 1,047 in 19 days of fighting, while more than 6,000 were wounded, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers, meeting in Paris, had hoped to transform the cease-fire into a more sustainable truce. That effort was thrown into doubt with the Hamas’ rejection of the extension.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and that tens of thousands of displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes. Israel’s current terms are “not acceptable,” he said in a text message to journalists.

In the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, scores of homes had been pulverized, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets. Hardest-hit were areas close to the border with Israel, areas from where Gaza militants typically fire rockets.

Manal Kefarneh, 30, wept as she inspected her damaged home.

On an unfinished top floor, she and her husband had been raising chickens. The couple collected those dead and replenished water for the living in hopes they will survive the war.

“What did we do to deserve this?” she asked. “All of the Arab leaders watch what’s going on here like it’s a Bollywood film.”

Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

Across Gaza, 147 bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, a tank shell killed 20 members of an extended family who sought refuge inside a building, al-Kidra said.

Israel says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way.

Israel has lost 42 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker also has been killed.

Israeli legislator Ofer Shelah of the centrist Yesh Atid party said Israeli troops are “fighting with an enemy dug in within the civilian population, dug in underground or within the houses there.” Referring to the widespread destruction, he said that “those are the consequences of such a fight.”

The military took some Israeli journalists into the Gaza border areas where troops were operating. Footage broadcast on Israeli television station Channel 10 showed homes booby-trapped with explosives, as well as grenades, mines and rockets stored there. Tunnels opened up inside houses.

Soldiers said some buildings blew up after being hit by gunfire from all the explosives inside. Col. Ofer Vinter, head of the Givati infantry brigade, said almost every house was booby-trapped with explosives and that Gaza fighters “emerge from the ground all the time.”

Standing over a tunnel concealed in a house, he said: “We cannot leave here before we finish dealing with all the tunnels.”

Israel launched a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 and later sent ground troops into the Hamas-ruled territory in an operation it said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and destroying cross-border tunnels it views as a threat.

Shelah, the legislator, said about 50 tunnels have been discovered so far.

On Friday, Israel rejected a Kerry proposal for a weeklong truce because it had no provisions for the Israeli military continuing to demolish tunnels, Israeli media reported at the time.

Under the Kerry proposal, talks would begin during the temporary truce on easing the border blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Hamas has said it would not halt fire until it wins guarantees that the border blockade, enforced by Israel and Egypt, would be lifted.

Any new border arrangements for Gaza would likely give a role to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the main political rival of Hamas. Hamas had seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, triggering the Gaza blockade by Israel and Egypt.

However, Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, reached a power-sharing deal earlier this year with Hamas. Under the deal, a government of technocrats headed by Abbas was to prepare for new elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Egypt wants forces loyal to Abbas to be posted on the Gaza side of the mutual border before considering open the Rafah crossing there, Gaza’s main gate to the world. Hamas officials have said they do not oppose such an arrangement, but would not surrender control over its thousands-strong security forces, meaning Hamas would remain the de facto power in Gaza.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris on Saturday that he and his counterparts from other nations are calling on both sides to negotiate a sustainable cease-fire.

Such a truce should meet Israeli security concerns, but also “the Palestinians’ expectations in terms of economic development and access to Gaza,” he said. “We are convinced of the need to involve the Palestinian Authority in achieving these objectives.”

Israel initially decided to extend Saturday’s 12-hour truce by four hours, to midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday. Hamas swiftly rejected the idea of an extension.

Shortly after the Hamas announcement, Gaza militants fired eight rockets and three mortars at Israel, the military said. Gaza militants said they fired 42 rockets, including two that were aimed at Tel Aviv, Israel’s second largest city, where police dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people.

In Gaza, a 36-year-old Palestinian man was killed by a sniper near the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah shortly after the 12-hour truce ended.

Meanwhile, anger over Israel’s Gaza operation has sparked a series of protests in the West Bank. Since Thursday, nine Palestinians have been killed in clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians protesters.

Among those were two Palestinians killed by army fire Saturday, including a 23-year-old in the town of Jenin and a 16-year-old near the town of Bethlehem, hospital officials said.

TIME

3 Rockets Hit Israel as Hamas Rejects Gaza Truce

(JERUSALEM) — The Israeli military says three rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel despite a proposed extension of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel’s proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday.

The military says the three rockets were fired more than an hour after the period for the initial lull had ended.

Meanwhile, the military warned residents of areas where there had been heavy fighting against returning there.

TIME

Hamas Rejects 4-Hour Gaza War Truce Extension

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians recover the body of a man killed when his home was hit the previous night by Israeli fire in the northern district of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce, on July 26, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

(BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip) — A Hamas official says the group has rejected a four-hour extension of a humanitarian truce proposed by Israel.

Sami Abu Zuhri sent a text message to reporters Saturday, saying: “No agreement to extending the calm for an additional four hours.”

Israel has set its own terms for the lull, saying it would continue demolishing Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.

In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign minister were discussing how to build on the initial 12-hour lull Saturday and transform it into a sustainable truce.

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