TIME Ukraine

This Man Thinks He’s In Charge of Pro-Russian Rebels in Ukraine

Meet Alexander Borodai, the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic

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Eastern Ukraine rebel leader Alexander Borodai, a former PR consultant in Russia, is now at the helm of a group of pro-Russian rebels controlling the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and other territories around the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

But what kind of authority does Borodai have? A kind he decided for himself. In April, a gang led by Borodai and another rebel, Igor Girkin, declared the eastern province of Donetsk a republic.

But while Borodai has become the face of the rebels on the international stage, it is unclear how much influence he wields among the ranks of rebels fighting on the ground in Ukraine.

In the video above, TIME’s Simon Shuster talks about Borodai’s power—or lack thereof—and what that means for the future of the region.

 

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine: MH17 Downed by ‘Massive Explosive Decompression’

Firefighters arrive at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, on July 17, 2014.
Firefighters arrive at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, on July 17, 2014. Dmitry Lovetsky—AP

As U.N. human-rights chief suggests downing of the plane may be a "war crime"

Ukrainian authorities said Monday that black-box data from the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 revealed shrapnel from a missile caused “massive explosive decompression” onboard, as the U.N. human-rights chief said the aircraft’s shooting down “may amount to a war crime.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that “this violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime. It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event.”

All 298 people aboard MH17 died when the passenger jet fell from the sky in eastern Ukraine on July 17 after being struck by a missile believed by the U.S. to have been fired from territory under the control of pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian authorities pointed to “massive explosive decompression” from missile shrapnel as the cause of the crash on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reports, though European officials analyzing the on-flight recordings have not confirmed the conclusion. Explosive decompression happens when the air inside an aircraft depressurizes at an extremely fast rate, with results similar to a bomb detonation.

Clashes in Ukraine, meanwhile, continue to block outside authorities from conducting a proper investigation. At the crash site, however, Dutch and Australian authorities were blocked from recovering bodies and gathering forensic evidence for the third day in a row Monday because of continuous fighting in the area.

Clashes between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists have killed an estimated 1,129 people and wounded 3,442 since mid-April, according to a U.N. analysis of casualties.

“I would like to stress to all those involved in the conflict, including foreign fighters, that every effort will be made to ensure that anyone committing serious violations of international law including war crimes will be brought to justice, no matter who they are,” said Pillay. “I urge all sides to bring to an end the rule of the gun and restore respect for the rule of law and human rights.”

TIME Ukraine

Death Toll Mounts as Clashes Intensify in Ukraine

People leave their home after pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian forces battled for control of several towns around the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on July 28, 2014 in Donetsk.
People leave their home after pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian forces battled for control of several towns around the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on July 28, 2014 in Donetsk. Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

Authorities in Luhansk said five people were killed and 15 injured by overnight artillery strikes

(KIEV, Ukraine) — At least eight civilians have been killed by fighting and shelling in two Ukrainian cities held by separatist militants, officials in the rebellion-wracked east said Monday.

Authorities in Luhansk said five people were killed and 15 injured by overnight artillery strikes. Three were killed in Donetsk as a result of clashes, the city’s government said.

Territory between the cities has seen intensified fighting as government troops try to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed earlier this month.

Dutch and Australian police set off for the crash site Monday morning in a convoy of 20 cars, aiming to secure the area so that investigations can continue and any remaining bodies can be recovered.

Both sides in the conflict have traded accusations over the mounting civilian death toll. The armed conflict that has been raging for more than three months has displaced more than 200,000 people.

Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential areas. Authorities deny that charge, but also complain of insurgents using apartment blocks as firing positions.

The U.S. State Department on Sunday released satellite images that it says back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the claims Monday during a televised press conference, asking “why it took ten days” before the U.S. released the images.

A four-page document released by the State Department appears to show blast marks from where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images, sourced from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The images could not be independently verified by The Associated Press.

Lavrov said he is expecting OSCE observers to arrive at the Russian-Ukrainian border “in the coming days.” He said they would see that accusations rebels are traveling freely into Ukraine from Russia are false.

Ukrainian officials have said the mission is largely pointless because it involves only about two dozen observers monitoring the 2,000 kilometer (1,240-mile) border between the two countries.

___

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Donetsk contributed to this report

TIME Middle East

U.N. Security Council Calls for Unconditional Cease-Fire in Gaza

The international body agreed on a demand for an immediate truce in Gaza on Monday, following the resumption of fighting between Hamas and Israel

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The UN Security Council called for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip, along with the “the delivery of urgently needed assistance” to the residents of the conflict-riven coastal territory during an emergency meeting in the early hours of Monday morning.

The 15-member council’s call for all “parties to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected cease-fire” came as the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr commenced on Monday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The renewed push for an end to hostilities follows the collapse of a humanitarian agreement over the weekend after Hamas fired a salvo of rockets into Israel that was then followed by the renewed shelling of Gaza by Israeli forces.

There is little evidence to suggest that either side trusts the other enough to follow through with another deal, according to Lina Khatib, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. “Israel and Hamas both did not abide by the truce even though they said they agreed to it. The fighting that’s restarted by both sides is a sign that each of them was expecting the other to break the truce first,” she told TIME.

“There’s a dynamic of mistrust that has overwhelmed any desire to engage in truces on both sides.”

During an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that his administration was not obliged to agree to another armistice that would allow Hamas “to rearm, and continue firing on our citizens.”

“We’ll determine what is important for our own security in the way that we can to protect our people, including working against these terror tunnels that they’re digging against us,” said Netanyahu. “That’s how we’ll act.”

At least 999 Palestinians have been killed and another 6,233 injured during the first 20 days of Israeli military’s offensive into Gaza, according to the latest tally by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Forty-six Israelis have been killed, including two civilians and one foreign national.

Hamas has rejected several cease-fire initiatives, including the U.S.-backed deal tabled by Cairo earlier this month, and said it will continue to do so until the Netanyahu Administration agrees to terminate its seven-year blockade of Gaza. In an exclusive interview with Charlie Rose that is set to air on Monday, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal reiterated the organization’s position. “Life is a right for our people in Palestine,” said Meshaal. “This is a collective punishment. We need to lift the siege.”

Analysts explain that Hamas’s obstinacy reflects the group’s desire to remain a political mainstay in the Israeli-Palestinian equation, after joining a unity government with the Palestinian Authority earlier this year. “Hamas wants to prove that it can make demands and it can deliver results,” says Khatib. “So it’s important for its own credibility to show that it can make demands and see the results.”

TIME Vietnam

Vietnam Cat Owners Must Live With Fear of Pets Getting Stolen and Eaten

VIETNAM-FOODS-ANIMALS
A cook prepares a dish with cat meat at a restaurant in Hanoi on This picture taken on May 13, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

"It’s sweeter and tenderer than dog meat"

In Asia, there’s a growing demand for quirky cat cafés where customers can enjoy tea or coffee in the company of domesticated felines. But in Vietnam, the concept of cat cafés would likely take on a very different meaning — one that any cat lover would find abominable.

Despite an official ban on eating cats, restaurants in the Southeast Asian nation still offer the forbidden meat on their menus, reports Agence France-Presse. In fact, the consumption of felines appears to be rising, prompting cat owners to fear for their pets’ safety.

“Eating cat meat is better than eating dog as the meat is more sweet, more tender than a dog,” said chef Le Ngoc Thien.

According to AFP, at one central Hanoi restaurant the cats are drowned, shaved and burned to remove their fur before being butchered and fried with garlic. A snack of cat meat is colloquially known as little tiger, and typically served with beer and eaten at the beginning of the lunar month.

Thien says the demand for cat meat grows each year. “When I first started working here, I was surprised so many people ate cat,” he said. “But now, fine, they like it.”

It’s this growing demand that has pet owners worried. Cats sell for $50 to $70, depending on the size — a hefty sum for many in the impoverished nation. While cat traders claim to breed the animals legitimately, there are hardly any regulations in place to verify this, opening the proverbial cat-flap for pets to be stolen to keep up with demand.

“My family is sad because we spend a lot of time and energy raising our cats,” cat owner Phuong Thanh Thuy, who keeps the animals to catch rats and regularly loses some to thieves, told AFP. “When we lose a cat, we feel pain.”

[AFP]

TIME Military

Afghanistan: Awash in Guns, as Well as Narcotics

U.S.-supplied weapons like these M-16s in Kandahar, Afghanistan, often lack proper accounting by both U.S. and Afghan authorities, according to a new investigation SIGAR

Contrary to law, U.S. military lacks data on nearly half the weapons delivered

The bad news out of Afghanistan this week is that the U.S. military’s accounting for the arsenals the Pentagon is giving to Afghan security forces is plagued by “incompatible inventory systems” that generate “missing serial numbers, inaccurate shipping and receiving dates, and duplicate records,” according to a new report from the top U.S. government investigator inside Afghanistan.

The worse news? The problems become “far more severe” once the weapons are in the hands of the Afghan forces. “Given the Afghan government’s limited ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the Afghan National Security Forces, and Afghan civilians,” according to John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

Sopko and the U.N. have made clear in recent years that the production of opium in Afghanistan is growing with every passing year. Sopko’s latest report, released Monday, makes clear that Afghanistan is also awash in undocumented American-supplied arms.

As the U.S. pulls its combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, proper accounting and tracking of the arms become critical for Afghan forces to battle the Taliban — and to keep those weapons out of enemy hands. “Taliban fighters are scoring early gains in several strategic areas near the capital this summer, inflicting heavy casualties and casting new doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to contain the insurgency as the United States moves to complete its withdrawal of combat troops,” the New York Times reported Sunday.

“We’re not talking just handguns and M-16s and AK-47s,” Sopko told TIME correspondents over lunch on Friday. “We’re talking some high-powered stuff — grenade launchers, RPGs, machine guns — anything that one person could use.” His new report says the U.S. recorded improperly, or simply failed to record, the serial numbers of 43% of the nearly half-million small arms the U.S. has supplied Afghanistan over the past decade.

Sloppy U.S. record keeping is compounded by Afghanistan’s indifference to the congressionally mandated U.S. oversight of the weapons’ whereabouts. “When we went there and said, ‘We want to see how the Afghans handle this,’ the Afghans refused to let us in to check the weapons” at one facility in Kabul, Sopko said. U.S. military officials told Sopko’s auditors they’d get them in. “We showed up and guess what — everybody was attending a funeral,” Sopko said. “We could not get in. When our guys tried to take pictures, all of a sudden, whoa, the Afghans kicked us out — and our U.S. military couldn’t get us in.”

The problem of untracked weapons, according to excerpts from the 28-page report, is likely to get worse:

As of November 2013, more than 112,000 weapons provided to the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police exceed requirements in the current [Afghan government requirement] …

excess weapons

The Afghan National Army has 83,184 more AK-47s than needed because, prior to 2010, DOD issued both NATO-standard weapons, such as M-16s, and non-standard weapons, such as AK-47s. After 2010, DOD and the Afghan Ministry of Defense determined that interoperability and logistics would be enhanced if the Afghan National Army used only NATO standard weapons. Subsequently, the requirement was changed. However, no provision was made to return or destroy non-standard weapons, such as AK-47s, that were no longer needed …

This problem of the Afghan National Security Forces having more weapons than needed is likely to be exacerbated as the number of ANSF personnel decreases to lower levels in the coming years. Specifically, the current requirements in the [Afghan government requirement] are based on supporting the ANSF at a surge strength of 352,000 personnel. At the Chicago Summit held in May 2012, the international community and Afghan government approved a preliminary model for a reduction of the ANSF force strength by 123,500 personnel to a total of 228,500 by 2017. [U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan] told us they are still planning on providing weapons at the 352,000 personnel level because that is the number stated in the current [Afghan government requirement].

Part of the accountability problem, the report notes, stems from imposing rules that require schooling in a country without much of it. “Efforts to develop the capabilities of Afghan National Security Forces personnel to manage the central depots,” it says, “have been hindered by the lack of basic education or skills among ANSF personnel.”

TIME Liberia

Ebola Kills Liberian Doctor, 2 Americans Infected

Handout of Dr. Kent Brantly of Samitan's Purse relief organization in Monrovia
Dr. Kent Brantly, left, cares for Ebola patients at the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia Samaritan's Purse—Reuters

(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 Israel

Israel Acknowledges Mortar Strike at UN School, But Denies Casualties

Blood stains of displaced Palestinians are seen inside the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun after it has been hit, Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014.
Blood stains of displaced Palestinians are seen inside the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun after it had been hit, Gaza Strip, July 24, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

But Israel says the shell didn't kill anyone, while Palestinian officials claimed it took 16 lives

Israeli military officials acknowledged Sunday that a mortar shell fried by Israeli troops landed in the courtyard of a UN school in Gaza, but they deny reports the shell killed more than a dozen people when it exploded there Thursday.

Palestinian officials, meanwhile, have claimed the mortar killed 16 people and injured others at the Beit Hanoun school, which had been converted into a shelter for Gazans fleeing ongoing fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip.

“A single errant mortar landed” on the school, Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Sunday, citing an internal military probe, but he said it was “extremely unlikely that anybody was killed as a result of this mortar,” the Associated Press reports.

Israel first promised to investigate the incident after news reports citing witnesses, including a Reuters photographer on the scene, began to arise Thursday. Israel initially said that militants near the school had opened fire on Israeli troops, and the soldiers responded “in order to eliminate the threat posed to their lives.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the attack Thursday, though he said at the time that “circumstances are still unclear.” Ban earlier said that rockets had been found in two separate evacuated UN schools, saying that “those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets.”

[AP]

TIME Ukraine

U.S.: Satellite Imagery Shows Russians Shelling Eastern Ukraine

Satellite imagery shows evidence of Russian artillery attacks against the Ukrainian military, U.S. officials say

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U.S. officials released satellite images Sunday they say offer proof that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government in Kiev. Obama Administration officials said as early as last week that the Russians were launching attacks in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine.

One image dated July 25–26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:

DNI 1
DigitalGlobe via DNI

A slide from a day earlier is said to show self-propelled artillery on the Russian side of the border oriented toward Ukraine, with impact areas near Ukrainian military units:

DNI 2a
DigitalGlobe via DNI

Russian officials denied on Friday allegations of involvement in eastern Ukraine, calling it a U.S.-led “smear campaign,” the New York Times reports.

The Ukrainian military said Saturday it was poised to reclaim Donetsk, the city at the heart of the pro-Russian insurgency, even as Russian forces numbering around 15,000 amassed on the border, the Washington Post reports.

TIME Israel

Hamas Agrees to Cease-Fire, but Rockets Keep Flying

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians carry items and belongings they found in the rubble of destroyed buildings on July 27, 2014 in the Shejaiya residential district of Gaza City as families returned to find their homes ground into rubble by relentless Israeli tank fire and air strikes. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

The governing authority in the Gaza strip agreed to a cease-fire, but the violence continues

Updated: 3:55 p.m. ET, July 27, 2014

Propositions for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip collapsed Sunday, with the death toll on both sides increasing as Hamas continued to lob rockets into Israel and Israeli military forces renewed their ground operation in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Hamas is “continuing all its operations” despite agreeing Sunday to a temporary cease-fire extension after it initially refused to do so.

“We’re faced with a very ruthless terrorist enemy,” Netanyahu told CNN on Sunday, accusing Hamas of hiding behind “civilians as human shields.”

By midafternoon on Sunday, militants had fired more than 40 rockets from Gaza, the Israeli military said, killing an Israeli soldier near the border. Meanwhile, Israeli troops pounded the coast, killing four Palestinians.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Netanyahu by phone Sunday, according to a White House readout of the call, telling the Israeli leader the U.S. condemns Hamas’ attacks against Israel but also reiterating the U.S.’s “serious and growing concern” about casualties on both sides of the conflict, as well as “the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.” Obama also “made clear the strategic imperative” of an immediate humanitarian cease-fire that leads to a broader end to the violence.

On Saturday, after intense efforts by the U.S. and U.N., Hamas and Israeli agreed to a 12-hour lull, which allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies and Palestinians to return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble, the Associated Press reports.

That cease-fire officially ended at 8 p.m. on Saturday, the New York Times reports, after which Israel announced it would hold fire for another 24 hours at the request of the U.N. Hamas, however, rejected Israel’s cease-fire extension on the grounds that Israeli forces would remain in Gaza. Israeli military spokesman Lieut. Colonel Peter Lerner said that Hamas fired 25 rockets and mortar shells into Israel. In response, Israel resumed its operations Sunday morning.

Early on Sunday — before a new wave of attacks began — Hamas backtracked and announced it would embrace a cease-fire.

Hamas’ decision came “in response to the intervention of the United Nations,” said a Hamas official in Gaza, and to aid the people of Gaza in preparation for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday that marks the end of the Ramadan holy month. A spokesman for Hamas said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

But as rocket fire continued on Sunday, the prospects of a lasting cease-fire dimmed. Hamas has said it will refuse a cease-fire as long as Israeli troops occupy the Gaza strip.

The latest attempt at a cease-fire deal comes 10 days after Israel launched a ground and aerial operation against Hamas targets in Gaza following several days of rocket and bombing attacks from both sides of the conflict. More than 1,050 Palestinians have been killed in the 20-day bombing and subsequent invasion, the vast majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. Two Israeli civilians and 43 Israeli soldiers have died.

[CNN]

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