TIME Gaza

A U.N. School Is No Refuge as the War Worsens in Gaza

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinian civilians wounded during Israeli shelling of a U.N. school wait at the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014 Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

A strike on a U.N. school being used as a refuge in Gaza leaves 15 people dead, and puts more international pressure on Israel

Seventeen times, officials from the U.N. called their contacts in the Israeli army to give them the exact GPS coordinates of a U.N. school in the Jabalya Refugee Camp. “There was fighting very close by and the staff there was very alarmed,” Christopher Gunness, the spokesman of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which works with Palestinian refugees, tells TIME. “We told them what the precise coordinates were.”

Despite the worried calls, the Jabalya Elementary Girls School was hit just after the early morning call to prayer Wednesday, when most of the 3,000 people taking shelter there were asleep. A few minutes later, the school was hit by a second explosion, in which a shell or a rocket crashed through the roof of the building. Fifteen people were killed and more than 100 injured.

However it happened, the devastating attack of the U.N. school seems such an egregious example of killing innocent civilians that it could be a turning point in the three-week-old war between Israel and Hamas that senior U.S., European and Middle Eastern officials have so far failed to halt. Strong condemnations have come in from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called the strike “unjustifiable,” as well as from the White House. It is the second time over the past several days that a U.N. school has been hit, and the sixth such incident since the war began.

The refugees at Jabalya “are people who were told to leave their homes by the IDF,” Gunness says. As a result, there are 200,000 Gazans around the Strip living in 85 shelters, leaving UNRWA and other aid agencies struggling to provide for their most basic needs. That includes water, which is trucked in because most of the tap water in Gaza is undrinkable even during peacetime. “We can’t offer safe sanctuary. We ask people to respect the inviolability of our offices.” Earlier in the day, Gunness tweeted: “UNRWA condemns in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.”

Israeli forces, however, have not taken responsibility for the attack on the school. As it did after fiery destruction of a power plant a day earlier, which seemed to indicate Israel was not just striking military targets but also the kind of basic civilian infrastructure that could permanently affect the more than 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip, the IDF said it was checking the incident and could not confirm who had hit the school.

“We don’t target U.N. facilities in any way, shape or form,” Lieut. Colonel Peter Lerner tells TIME. He describes the IDF’s version of events: “In the early hours of the morning, there was mortar fire launched from the vicinity of the school and there was an exchange of fire there. In the aftermath of that, there was a report of deaths in the school. We are reviewing this incident.”

Lerner says that in the past few days, there have been “several attempts by Hamas to pin on Israel launches from the Gaza Strip” that didn’t go as planned, landing on civilians instead of in Israel. “There are two cases in which we are aware of — the Beach Camp [Shati] and the attack on Shifa Hospital — which were the result of rockets that were definitely launched in Gaza.” As for UNRWA’s 17 distressed calls to the Israeli army, Lerner said that the location of the U.N. schools was not the issue. “We know where their schools are, as well as shelters and warehouses, and we have an ongoing relationship with their offices in Gaza to facilitate their humanitarian work on the ground. In fact, the humanitarian cease-fire today was to enable their ongoing activities.”

That cease-fire — though a four-hour lull or pause would be a more precise description — was declared by Israel in part because of U.N. requests, ostensibly to allow emergency workers to go out into the field and to remove bodies from the ruins. Hamas, for its part, has refused to participate in any cease-fires unilaterally declared by Israel, and continued launching several rockets even during the cease-fire, adding to the more than 2,670 that have been fired since July 7. During this so-called lull, Israeli warplanes struck a crowded market in Shujaiyeh, killing 15 people. Shujaiyeh, an area in the eastern part of Gaza City, has witnessed the heaviest bombardment by the IDF since it began its ground operation, with many of the buildings reduced to ruins.

At the Kamal Odwan Hospital in northern Gaza Strip, Said Sulaiman sits over the bed of his son Rezeq, who was seriously wounded by shrapnel at the U.N. School in Jabalya. As instructed by the Israeli army, two weeks ago they decided to flee their house in Atattra, near Beit Lahia — an agricultural area that in the past has been used by Hamas and other militants for launching rockets — and came to seek shelter at the U.N. school.

“I came to the school in search of a safe place. My family is still in the school while I am here, and I hope no strikes will happen while I am away,” says Sulaiman, 55. “We are waiting here in the room until the operation room is ready to take him into surgery. I hope they won’t have to amputate his leg. I just want to return to my house with my family safe after the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and for the aggression to stop.”

A more lasting cease-fire still seems elusive, however. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet agreed Wednesday night to intensify attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza and to keep destroying tunnels. The night before, Mohammed Deif, the head of al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said that only Israel lifting its blockade of Gaza would be enough for the militant group to agree to a cease-fire.

A Hamas-made video released on the same night, showing militants infiltrating Israel via a tunnel, successfully ambushing and killing five Israeli soldiers near Nahal Oz, has only confirmed for the government that the tunnels still pose a danger, encouraging the government to continue the fight. A poll released Tuesday found that 90% of Israeli Jews think the IDF operation in Gaza is justified. The survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, indicated that most expected the war to continue.

The Palestinian Ministry of Healthy put the death toll Wednesday at 1,361; Israel has lost 58 soldiers and three civilians. Israeli officials blame Hamas for many of the civilian deaths, repeatedly accusing the militant group of shooting from within populated areas, including residential buildings and hospital. Netanyahu himself has charged Hamas with regularly using human shields, purposefully putting people in harm’s way. That means Israel’s soldiers and pilots have to either have to retreat from their targets or shoot anyway, knowing that civilians will be killed in the process.

Gunness counters that on three occasions, including one this week, rocket caches have been discovered in U.N. schools, but noted that these were empty, out-of-use structures undergoing maintenance — not buildings housing refugees.

“On these separate occasions, [rockets] were found in schools that have been closed for the summer and which were being inspected by UNRWA,” Gunness says. “We condemned the groups that put them there as a flagrant violation of the sanctity and neutrality of the U.N., we immediately notified all relevant parties, and we have never handed them over to Hamas.” The dispute over who hit the U.N. school continues, but the day’s grim images make one fact indisputable: there are no safe havens in Gaza.

— With reporting by Hazem Balousha / Gaza City

TIME West Africa

Peace Corps Pulls Volunteers Out of West Africa Amid Ebola Scare

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Gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou, on April 1, 2014. Seyllou—AFP/Getty Images

Due to spread of the Ebola virus, the organization announced Wednesday

The Peace Corps announced Wednesday that it’s pulling volunteers out of parts of West Africa amid a outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus. Volunteers in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are being recalled until further notice.

“The Peace Corps has enjoyed long partnerships with the government and people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and is committed to continuing volunteers’ work there,” the group’s statement reads. “A determination on when volunteers can return will be made at a later date.”

The organization currently has 102 volunteers in Guinea, 108 in Liberia, and 130 in Sierra Leone, it says. On Wednesday, CBS News reported two Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia had been quarantined after possibly being exposed to the deadly virus, though neither currently exhibits symptoms.

As of July 23, 672 people have died from Ebola during the current outbreak, which has spread between Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other parts of West Africa. Earlier this week, a hospital in Nigeria shuttered its doors after admitting a man who had contracted and later died from the virus.

World leaders are on high alert in light of the outbreak, which is the largest in history. Symptoms of Ebola include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and intense weakness; the fatality rate of this epidemic is around 60%.

TIME Gaza

U.N. Official Breaks Down in Tears Talking About Gaza School Shelling

On Wednesday, a UN-run school was struck by tank shells killing 15 and wounding 90

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A United Nations official broke down in tears during an interview Wednesday while talking about a deadly shelling on a school in Gaza.

A UN-run school sheltering hundreds of Palestinians was hit by Israeli shells on Tuesday, according to Palestinian officials and a UN agency. The incident left 15 people dead and approximately 90 wounded, according to Palestinian health officials. The shelling was the sixth time a UN-run school has been hit by munitions from either side of the conflict in recent weeks.

In an interview on Al Jazeera, also reported by the Washington Post, United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness couldn’t hold back tears over the school strikes.

Director of Operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross Pierre Krähenbühl condemned the shelling, saying in part that “We have moved beyond the realm of humanitarian action alone. We are in the realm of accountability. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.”

According to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, 1,118 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing conflict as of July 29, including 827 civilians, of whom 243 were children and 131 were women. About 56 Israelis have been killed, including 53 soldiers, two civilians and one foreign national.

[Washington Post]

TIME feminism

Turkish Women Can’t Stop Laughing at Minister’s Advice to Stop Laughing

TURKEY-POLITICS
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc speaks during an interview with AFP ahead of the presidential elections in Ankara on July 24, 2014. Adem Alta—AFP/Getty Images

A speech on public morals has morphed into a comedy of errors

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc did not intend his Monday speech on “moral corruption” to get big laughs, but when he advised women to suppress their laughter in public, it landed on the public like a well-crafted punchline. Women in Turkey have since tweeted pictures of their reactions, ranging from grins…

…to guffaws.

Over the past three days, hundreds of thousands of people have tweeted under the hashtag, “kahkaha,” the Turkish word for laughter. Sadly, the minister wasn’t joking.

 

TIME Ghana

How 2 Gay Men Live in a Country Where Homosexuality Is Illegal

Two young men bravely share their experience as homosexuals in Ghana

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Some 37 African countries criminalize homosexual relationships, with penalties ranging from misdemeanors to death sentences, according to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report released Tuesday. The report, which analyzed LGBT rights in 54 African countries in total, paints a picture of a continent in crisis.

In Ghana, a country often regarded as among the most progressively democratic nations in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal, punishable by up to three years imprisonment. A recent Pew survey of various countries, not all African, reveals that 98 percent of Ghanaians feel that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable,” the highest percentage of any country surveyed.

“In Ghana, everybody is culturally and religiously blinded,” says Fred K., an openly gay man living in the Ghanaian capital of Accra who didn’t want to share his last name for fear of criminal and social repercussions. “They think that it’s demonic … so I just pray that a time comes that they decide to change and be like the Western countries.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s report is out just a week before U.S. President Barack Obama is slated to hold the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.. Advocates from the U.S. and Africa are jumping on that opportunity to bring the the continent’s controversial LGBT rights record to the world’s attention.

“My fellow gays don’t want anything to be legalized,” Nana Yaw, a human rights activist and openly gay man, says. “All they want is for their rights to be respected and protected.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Infographic: Ebola By the Numbers

West African countries are trying to contain the deadly disease

The number of Ebola cases have continued to climb this week in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and now a recent victim in Nigeria. Here’s everything you want to know about the disease.

Sources: WHO, CDC, Mayo Clinic

You can also read more here.

TIME Germany

Germany Now Produces 28.5% of Energy from Renewables

Wind Turbines
Wind turbines stand on June 17, 2014 near Wernitz, Germany. Sean Gallup—Getty Images

The country’s Energiewende energy transition has crossed another milestone

Germany set a new record on green energy in the first half of 2014, by producing 28.5% of its energy entirely from renewable sources, according to a report released Tuesday by the energy trade association BDEW.

The industrial powerhouse of Europe, Germany is undergoing a massive shift in the way it produces energy as it attempts to become a country powered almost entirely by solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy sources. In the first half of 2014, wind generation in Germany increased 21.4% while solar grew by 27.3%.

The state-subsidized transition to renewables, known as Energiewende, has not been without high costs. Energy prices are among the highest in Europe and greenhouse gas emissions have actually increased in the near term as Germany’s post-Fukushima drawdown of nuclear power has led to an increase in the use of coal to make up for lost production.

TIME technology

Amazon Investing Another $2 Billion in India

Customers Collect Online Orders From An Amazon.com Inc. Locker
An Amazon.com Inc. pickup and collect locker at Newbury Park railway station in Newbury Park, U.K., on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Bloomberg / Getty Images

Amazon CEO says he has "never seen" a market grow quite this fast

Amazon plans to invest an additional $2 billion in its India operations, the company announced Wednesday, in an attempt to grab a growing slice of the country’s online retail market.

“We see huge potential in the Indian economy and for the growth of e-commerce in India,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “India is on track to be our fastest country ever to a billion dollars in gross sales.”

Amazon launched its e-commerce site in India last year, going head to head with Flipkart, a local company founded by two former Amazon employees. On Tuesday, Flipkart announced that it had raised $1 billion in funding, the largest-ever sum raised by an Indian internet firm, the BBC reports, but still only half of what Amazon could retrieve from its deep pockets.

“A big ‘thank you’ to our customers in India,” Bezos added, “we’ve never seen anything like this.”

 

TIME Middle East

15 Killed in Gaza Market Airstrike As Temporary Cease-Fire Passes

As at least 15 were killed in the shelling of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza

Updated 1:22 pm ET

An Israeli airstrike on a busy market in Gaza has killed at least 15 and wounded 150 others, the Associated Press reports.

The strike occurred during a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire,which occurred between 3pm and 7pm local time, in the Gaza Strip. The market is situated within Shejaiya, an area which Israel said wasn’t protected by the parameters of its cease-fire.

A Gaza healthy ministry official, Ashraf al-Kidra, told the AP the Gazans shopping in the market believed they were protected.

In a statement released before the cease-fire, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the humanitarian window would “not apply to the areas in which IDF soldiers are currently operating” — among which is Shejaiya.

The IDF told residents not to return to areas which they were asked to evacuate, and warned “the IDF will respond to any attempt to exploit this window to harm Israeli citizens and Israeli soldiers.” During the cease-fire, the AP reports, Palestinian militants did fire rockets into Israel.

The IDF scheduled the cease-fire earlier Wednesday, after another night of heavy fighting between it and Hamas saw 15 people killed in the Israeli shelling of a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency said that Tuesday’s attack was the sixth time the IDF had struck a U.N. school during the current conflict. In a statement on their website they called the incident “an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

A spokesperson for the IDF told TIME: “The initial IDF investigation suggests that [Palestinian] militants fired mortar shells from the vicinity of the school,” to which the IDF responded. The spokesperson added that the investigation is ongoing.

The White House condemned the UN school shelling Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press reports, but did blame any party for it.

The shelling of the school happened during the 23rd day of operations in the Gaza strip which has so far seen over 1,258 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Israel has lost 56 in the fighting.

[AP]

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Official: Rebels Placed Land Mines on Roads to MH17 Crash Site

A piece of debris of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Grabovo, east of Donetsk, on July 25, 2014.
A piece of debris of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Grabovo, east of Donetsk, on July 25, 2014. Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

Spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council says it has been "impossible" for international investigators to reach site

An Ukrainian official accused pro-Russian separatist fighters of lining the roads to the crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with land mines Wednesday, making it impossible for international investigators to access the scene of the crash.

The Associated Press reports that observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe attempted to reach the crash site on Wednesday, only to be turned back after an encounter with rebels in the area.

The areas surrounding the crash site have been punctuated by heavy fighting, with at least 19 people killed in the past 24 hours, AP reports.

Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said that rebels had installed heavy artillery in and around the 13.5 square mile crash site, according to the Wall Street Journal. Lysenko also accused rebels of mining the approaches to the area.

“This makes the work of the international experts impossible,” Lysenko said.

[AP]

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