Fragile cease-fire between Israel, Gaza militants holding
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A fragile cease-fire deal to end nearly three days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza held into Monday morning — a sign the latest round of violence may have abated.
The flare-up was the worst fighting between Israel and Gaza militant groups since Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers fought an 11-day war last year, adding to the destruction and misery that have plagued blockaded Gaza for years.
Since Friday, Israeli aircraft had pummeled targets in Gaza while the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Over three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Islamic Jihad said 12 of those killed were militants and Israel said some of the dead were killed by misfired rockets.
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Israel on Monday said it was partially reopening crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs and would fully open them if calm was maintained. Fuel trucks were seen entering a cargo crossing for the first time since crossings with the strip were closed last week, prompting a fuel shortage that ground Gaza’s lone power plant to a halt on Saturday. The plant was set to resume full operations later Monday. Gaza suffers from a chronic power crisis.
Senate Democrats pass budget package, a victory for Biden
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats pushed their election-year economic package to Senate passage Sunday, a hard-fought compromise less ambitious than President Joe Biden’s original domestic vision but one that still meets deep-rooted party goals of slowing global warming, moderating pharmaceutical costs and taxing immense corporations.
The estimated $740 billion package heads next to the House, where lawmakers are poised to deliver on Biden’s priorities, a stunning turnaround of what had seemed a lost and doomed effort that suddenly roared back to political life. Cheers broke out as Senate Democrats held united, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote after an all-night session.
“Today, Senate Democrats sided with American families over special interests,” President Joe Biden said in a statement from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. “I ran for President promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period.”
Biden, who had his share of long nights during his three decades as a senator, called into the Senate cloakroom during the vote on speakerphone to personally thank the staff for their hard work.
The president urged the House to pass the bill as soon as possible. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her chamber would “move swiftly to send this bill to the president’s desk.” House votes are expected Friday.
China extends threatening military exercises around Taiwan
BEIJING (AP) — China said Monday it was extending threatening military exercises surrounding Taiwan that have disrupted shipping and air traffic and substantially raised concerns about the potential for conflict in a region crucial to global trade.
The exercises would include anti-submarine drills, apparently targeting U.S. support for Taiwan in the event of a potential Chinese invasion, according to social media posts from the eastern leadership of China’s ruling Communist Party’s military arm, the People’s Liberation Army.
The military has said the exercises involving missile strikes, warplanes and ship movements crossing the midline of the Taiwan Strait dividing the sides were a response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruled island last week.
China has ignored calls to calm the tensions, and there was no immediate indication of when it would end what amounts to a blockade.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China would “firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, resolutely deter the U.S. from containing China with the Taiwan issue and resolutely shatter the Taiwan authorities’ illusion of “relying on the U.S. for independence.”
One year after Afghanistan, spy agencies pivot toward China
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a recent closed-door meeting with leaders of the agency’s counterterrorism center, the CIA’s No. 2 official made clear that fighting al-Qaida and other extremist groups would remain a priority — but that the agency’s money and resources would be increasingly shifted to focusing on China.
The CIA drone attack that killed al-Qaida’s leader showed that fighting terrorism is hardly an afterthought. But it didn’t change the message the agency’s deputy director, David Cohen, delivered at that meeting weeks earlier: While the U.S. will continue to go after terrorists, the top priority is trying to better understand and counter Beijing.
One year after ending the war in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden and top national security officials speak less about counterterrorism and more about the political, economic and military threats posed by China as well as Russia. There’s been a quiet pivot within intelligence agencies, which are moving hundreds of officers to China-focused positions, including some who were previously working on terrorism.
The last week makes clear that the U.S. has to deal with both at the same time. Days after Ayman al-Zawahri was killed in Kabul, China staged large-scale military exercises and threatened to cut off contacts with the U.S. over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
The U.S. has long been alarmed by China’s growing political and economic ambitions. China has tried to influence foreign elections, mounted campaigns of cyber and corporate espionage, and detained millions of minority Uyghurs in camps. Some experts also think Beijing will in coming years try to seize the self-ruled democratic island of Taiwan by force.
As summer wanes, water crisis looms for east Ukrainian city
SLOVIANSK, Ukraine (AP) — The echo of artillery shells thundering in the distance mingles with the din of people gathered around Sloviansk’s public water pumps, piercing the uneasy quiet that smothers the nearly deserted streets of this eastern Ukrainian city.
The members of Sloviansk’s dwindling population only emerge — a few minutes at a time — to fill up at the pumps that have been the city’s only water source for more than two months. Fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces near the key city in the Donetsk region has damaged vital infrastructure that has cut residents off from gas and water for months.
The water flows for now, but fears grow that come winter the city only seven miles (12 kilometers) from Russian-occupied territory could face a humanitarian crisis once the pipes begin to freeze over.
“The water infrastructure was destroyed by the constant battles,” said Lyubov Mahlii, a 76-year-old widow who gathers 20 liters (around five gallons) of water twice a day from a public tank near her apartment, dragging the plastic bottles up four flights of stairs on her own.
“When there are bombings and sirens, we keep carrying it,” she said on Sunday. “It’s a great risk for us, but what can we do?”
Analysis: Israeli PM’s Gaza gamble seems to have paid off
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel’s caretaker prime minister took a gamble with his preemptive strike against Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza, less than three months before he is to compete in general elections to retain his job.
Yair Lapid had counted on Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers to stay out of the fight, thus enabling Israel to weaken Hamas’ smaller sister group while avoiding a full-blown escalation. At the same time, he may also have gained political ground ahead of the polls.
With a cease-fire between the sides holding on Monday, after three days of violence, the calculation appears to have been accurate.
Hamas remained on the sidelines as Israeli jets pounded targets in Gaza, killing two Islamic Jihad leaders in targeted attacks, and Israel’s missile shield intercepted many of the hundreds of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad.
Long-suffering Gaza civilians once again bore the brunt of the violence, with 44 Palestinians killed, among them 15 children and four women. Israel said some were victims of rockets falling short.
Biden to join governor to survey flood damage in Kentucky
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and the first lady are expected to join Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy, as they meet with families and view damage from storms that have created the worst flooding in Kentucky’s history.
At least 37 people have died since last month’s deluge, which dropped 8 to 10 1/2 inches of rain in only 48 hours. The National Weather Service said Sunday that flooding remains a threat, warning of more thunderstorms through Thursday.
Monday’s visit will be Biden’s second to the state. He previously visited in December after tornadoes whipped through Kentucky, killing 77 people and leaving a trail of destruction.
“I wish I could tell you why we keep getting hit here in Kentucky,” Beshear said recently. “I wish I could tell you why areas where people may not have much continue to get hit and lose everything. I can’t give you the why, but I know what we do in response to it. And the answer is everything we can. These are our people. Let’s make sure we help them out.”
Biden has expanded federal disaster assistance to Kentucky, ensuring the federal government will cover the full cost of debris removal and other emergency measures.
Former coal town comes together in face of Kentucky floods
FLEMING-NEON, Ky. (AP) — Barely a week after floodwaters swept downtown and left a foot of mud and twisted, gutted buildings along Main Street, an incongruous sight appeared: A flashing sign declaring JR’s Barber Shop “OPEN.”
As National Guard troops patrolled outside and volunteers on backhoes mounded up debris, J.R. Collins stood behind his barber chair, giving a touchup to one of his regulars. Like most in Fleming-Neon, Collins comes from a family built on mining — both his grandfathers worked in coal — and he has stayed in the close-knit town even as the industry shrank and others fled. Those who remain are determined to prove their community is about more than coal.
And they’ve come together to make sure Collins’ barber shop and other businesses reopen amid the devastating floods that have killed more than three dozen in eastern Kentucky.
“They were there with shovels and squeegees and water, and people packing, and kids helping,” Collins said above the din of air conditioning and a dehumidifier in his shop. “It’s good, hard-working people that like to help people out and got each other’s back.”
Fleming-Neon was once two towns: Fleming, a company town founded in the early 1900s by the Elkhorn Coal Corp. for the sole purpose of mining, and Neon, a former logging camp.
‘We’re triaging’: Cops combat violent crime as ranks dwindle
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Five years after Brian Spaulding’s parents found him fatally shot in the home he shared with roommates, his slaying remains a mystery that seems increasingly unlikely to be solved as Portland, Oregon, police confront a spike in killings and more than 100 officer vacancies.
The detective assigned to investigate the death of Spaulding — a chiropractic assistant who didn’t do drugs, wasn’t in a gang and lived close to the house where he was born — left in 2020 in a wave of retirements and the detective assigned to it now is swamped with fresh cases after Portland’s homicide rate surged 207% since 2019.
“To us, it’s not a cold case,” said George Spaulding, who has his son’s signature tattooed on his arm. “We’re not dissatisfied with the Police Bureau because I think they’re doing the best they can,” he said. “They are just overwhelmed. It’s insane.”
From Philadelphia to Portland to Los Angeles, killings and gun violence are rising at the same time officers worn out by the pandemic and disillusioned over the calls to divest from policing that followed George Floyd’s murder are quitting or retiring faster than they can be replaced.
Departments are scrambling to recruit in a tight labor market and also rethinking what services they can provide and what role police should play in their communities. Many have shifted veteran officers to patrol, breaking up specialized teams built over decades in order to keep up with 911 calls.
Firefighters battle big blaze at Cuba tank farm for 2nd day
HAVANA (AP) — Cuban firefighters were joined by special teams sent by Mexico and Venezuela on Sunday as they battled for a second day to control a fire blazing at a big oil tank farm in the western province of Matanzas.
The blaze began Friday night when lightning struck a storage tank during a thunder storm, and the fire spread to a second tank early Saturday, triggering a series of explosions, officials have said.
“The mission of the day is to keep the third tank cold,” in hopes of preventing the flames from spreading into more of the site, provincial Gov. Mario Sabines said.
Most of the fuel held in the tank where the fire initially started was believed to have been consumed, officials said.
Authorities said a body found at the site Saturday had been identified as firefighter Juan Carlos Santana, 60. Officials previously said a group of 17 firefighters had gone missing while trying to quell flames, but there was no word if he was one of those.
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