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ELECTION 2014: Political Agreement for New Government

TOLO News - 11 hours 44 min ago

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Omid Farooq discusses about the political agreement between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai with the following the guests:

• Asadullah Sadati, MP
• Sayed Hussian Halami Balkhi, MP
• Abdul Bary Salaam, a civil society activist

To watch the whole program, click here:

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Taliban Shadow Governor Killed in Badakhshan Clash

TOLO News - 12 hours 25 min ago

Taliban shadow governor, Qari Fakhruddin, and nine other insurgents were killed on Monday in a clash with Afghan security forces in north-eastern Badakhshan province, local officials said on Tuesday.

Five other insurgents were injured in the attack.

The clash took place in Jurm district of the province after the Taliban insurgents began battling with the Afghan forces in which Qari Fakhurddin, who was appointed as the shadow governor, and nine other insurgents were killed, said Ghulaam Haidar Haidari head of the 209th Shaheen Military Corps in the north zone.

He said the Afghan forces have seized the body of Qari Fakhurddin along with weapons.

The Afghan forces have launched a military operation in Jurm district in the past 20 days to clear the area of insurgents, he added.

However, he did not provide details about the casualties of the Afghan forces during the operation.

The Taliban have not yet commented about the operation.

Israel Pummels Gaza as World Pushes for Truce

TOLO News - 14 hours 16 min ago

Israel pummelled Gaza for a 14th day on Monday, hiking the Palestinian death toll to more than 570, as Cairo took centre stage in world efforts to broker a ceasefire.

With air strikes and shelling raining down across the besieged coastal enclave, Israel's army said seven of its soldiers had been killed, bringing the Israeli toll to 25 troops and two civilians in the bloodiest Gaza conflict since 2009.

Washington urged Israel to take "greater steps" to prevent innocent casualties, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for the violence to "stop now" as it emerged most of the dead were civilians.

But Hamas has so far rejected truce calls, insisting Monday on a lifting of Israel's siege of Gaza and the release of prisoners to cease its rocket fire.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi urged Hamas to accept an Egyptian proposal to end the fighting it had rejected last week.

Speaking in Cairo where he had arrived to advance a truce, US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged $47 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza as he called for an end to the violence.

"We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel's appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself," he told reporters as he met with the UN chief.

Both Kerry and Ban urged Hamas, the dominant force in the Gaza Strip, to accept the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire.

Monday's attacks across Gaza killed at least 56 people including 16 children, bringing the overall death toll since Israel launched its operation on July 8 to 573 Palestinians, according to figures provided by Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

In the costliest single Israeli bombardment, an air strike hit a residential tower block in central Gaza City, killing 11 people, including five children.

It came after Israeli tank shells struck a hospital in Deir al-Balah, killing four people, including doctors, officials said, indicating at least 70 people were wounded.

Rights group Amnesty International warned Monday that the shelling of the hospital as well as the "continuing bombardment of civilian homes" in Gaza "add to the list of possible war crimes that demand an urgent independent international investigation."

Amnesty said the Israeli attacks on civilian areas in Gaza "as well as the continuing indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel, demand urgent international action to prevent further violations."

Israel says its campaign aims to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza, and the ground phase of the operation to destroy tunnels burrowed into Israel by Hamas, the main power in the coastal strip.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem said that initial findings indicated that 25 members of the same family were killed Sunday night northeast of Khan Yunis by Israeli fire seeking a senior Hamas member.

"Information B'Tselem has at this stage indicates that no warning was issued and no warning missile was fired prior to the attack," the group said.

- 100,000 displaced -

Since the Israeli operation began on July 8, huge numbers of Gazans have fled their homes, with the UN saying more than 100,000 people have sought shelter in 69 schools run by its Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).

Meanwhile, Israeli forces killed more than 10 Gaza militants who had infiltrated southern Israel, the army said, later announcing it had lost four soldiers in that battle.

The troops lost in that clash were among seven killed in 24 hours, said the Israeli army, adding 30 soldiers were wounded over the same period.

That brought its toll to 25 soldiers killed since the start of the operation, including 13 on Sunday, the bloodiest single day for the Israeli military since the Lebanon war of 2006.

Two Israeli civilians, both hit by rocket fire, have been killed during the 14-day campaign.

- 'Mad war' -

Hamas on Monday reiterated its insistence on a lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza and the release of prisoners to halt its rocket fire.

"The conditions for a ceasefire are... a full lifting of the blockade and then the release of those recently detained in the West Bank," its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said on television.

"We cannot go backwards, to a slow death," he said, referring to the Israeli blockade in force since 2006.

"The conditions of the Palestinian resistance constitute the minimum required for a truce. The resistance and the sons of our people who have made such sacrifices in this mad war cannot accept anything less."

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held talks in Doha, pledging to work together for a ceasefire and to lift the blockade on Gaza.

But there has been no let-up since the operation began with 116 rockets hitting Israel on Monday, one striking the greater Tel Aviv area, and another 17 shot down, the army said.

Violence also broke out in the West Bank, where an Israeli shot dead a Palestinian who had been throwing stones at his car, Palestinian security sources said.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said the military was investigating the death, which she said took place during "a violent riot".

Israeli police said Palestinians had rioted in east Jerusalem neighbourhoods Monday night, with no casualties.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli was seriously wounded after a Palestinian opened fire at him from a travelling car, the army said.

TAKANI: The Election Process

TOLO News - 14 hours 35 min ago

In this episode of Takani 93, host Shapoor Bakhtyar takes a look at the election process with the following the guests:

• Atiqullah Amarkhil, military analyst
• Jawid Kohistani, political analyst
• Abdul Jabar Qahraman, MP

To watch the program, click here:

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FARAKHABAR: 21 July 2014

TOLO News - 14 hours 54 min ago

Head of the Herat Education Department, Basir Ahmad Tahiri, announced that all school doors have been closed for girls in Shindand district of Herat province, depriving nearly 40,000 girls from education because of Taliban threats.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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It comes after the Taliban shoot on girls and warned to don't go to schools. In the past a month the violence increased in Shindand.

Herat Governor Syed Fazullah Wahidi says the main factor behind the growing insecurity of the province is that security personnel lack good coordination between the security organs at a provincial and national level.

In the past days, several police officials have been dismissed after the violence increased in the province.

But how have the Taliban threats closed all the school doors in Shindand?

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Yama Siawish discusses topic with the following guests:

• Mohammad Asif Nang, Deputy Education Minister for Technical Education
• Munawar Shah Bahaderi, MP

U.S. Mentors Prepare to Let Afghan Forces Go It Alone

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - 15 hours 44 min ago
American Special Forces teams have been a central part of Afghanistan’s security landscape, and how Afghan forces will fare after their departure will help define America’s legacy in the country.

Suicide Bomber Targets Anti-Narcotics Office in Kabul

TOLO News - 16 hours 6 min ago

A suicide bomber riding a motorcycle targeted an anti-narcotics office of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) early Tuesday in north of Kabul City, killing a number of people including U.S. soldiers, local officials said.

The blast took place in Qasaba area of the 15 district of Kabul City when the suicide bomber detonated his explosive inside the office killing a number of people including U.S. soldiers, a security official told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity.

"The suicide bomber was an Afghan security guard for the U.S. soldiers in the anti-narcotics office and he worked for them for many years," he said.

The security officials have not yet officially announced the number of the casualties.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

More details to come soon.

TOLOnews 6 pm News 21 July 2014

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:33

The teams of the two presidential hopefuls on Monday took time to assure the public that the crisis-avoiding agreements made last week with help from the United Nations and U.S. would never be abandoned.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah each agreed to a comprehensive vote audit as well as the formation of a "national unity government" once the election is over. The accord between the two men came after weeks of rising tensions between their supporters over alleged fraud in the election. Although there have been some delays in the auditing process and differences of interpretation over what exactly a "national unity government" means, the candidates have emphasized their resolve to cooperate.

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Election Teams Assure Strength of Agreement Between Candidates

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:09

The teams of the two presidential hopefuls on Monday took time to assure the public that the crisis-avoiding agreements made last week with help from the United Nations and U.S. would never be abandoned.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah each agreed to a comprehensive vote audit as well as the formation of a "national unity government" once the election is over. The accord between the two men came after weeks of rising tensions between their supporters over alleged fraud in the election. Although there have been some delays in the auditing process and differences of interpretation over what exactly a "national unity government" means, the candidates have emphasized their resolve to cooperate.

Ashraf Ghani's Deputy Spokesman Tahir Zuhair said disagreements over the vote auditing would never impact the political agreements between the candidates.

"The agreement that was made between the candidates through the mediation of the U.S. Secretary of State and in the presence of the UN envoy is irreversible and it is 100 percent sure," Zuhair said. "The 100 percent vote auditing process has started and the formation of the national unity government will happen after the vote auditing, agreement has been made over these two points."

Abdullah's camp has indicated the agreement is seen by them as a necessary strategic one, with its support of the international community. They have asserted that the structure of the next government will be formed on the basis of the same agreement.

"Our perspective on the agreement is a strategic and long term perspective, however, the priority is the outcomes of the elections and we don't want the process to lose integrity," Abdullah spokesman Syed Fazil Aqa Sancharaki said. "Whatever the election results may be, the political agreement is in place and the political structure would be shaped on the basis of this agreement, disagreements and misinterpretations will not affect the future of the agreements."

Election monitoring groups have acknowledged some differences of opinion over the cooperation between the candidates and the next steps in the process, but also maintained that such problems are to be expected and that there are enough guarantees in place to ensure the agreement is honored.

"Coming out of the crisis was very important for both candidates and the political agreement was quite significant in tackling and seeking settlement to the crisis," said Nadir Naderi, the head of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan. "Both teams want to present a responsible leader, for these reasons, there are guarantees that could ensure implementation of the agreements."

Both teams have confirmed that negotiations over the implementation of the agreements have been finalized. But details of their accord have yet to be disclosed. If the agreement is indeed finalized, the choice not to make its contents public raises questions.

However, Abdullah's team has said that on the basis of the agreement with Ashraf Ghani, a Loya Jirga will be organized to change the presidential system into a parliamentary system at some point down the line, which will allow for great power-sharing in the next government.

A parliamentary system of government comprises a President and a Prime Minister, rather than just a President as is the case now.

Number 39 Hurts Traffic Police Revenues

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 15:07

Afghan car owners avoid purchasing cars with the number 39 on the license plate because of the rumor and myth attached to it, stemming from misinformation spread about criminal activity. According to officials from the General Directorate of Traffic this week, Afghans' misguided avoidance of the number has led revenues of the traffic police to drop by a whopping 50 percent.

The Traffic Directorate said that car owners and buyers have been unduly influenced by organized crime groups and refuse to accept license plates with the number 39 on them. The number is widely thought to be associated with prostitution and other illegal activities that people would be ashamed of being connected to.

However, officials have discouraged people from taking the rumors about the number seriously. "We cannot delete number plates that include 39, we are asking people to forget these meaningless statements and accept the numbers," Traffic Directorate Chief Assadullah said. "None of the world's countries have a traffic system like Afghanistan."

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has also said that the number 39 will not be cut from the licensing system and it will be distributed to car owners according to the laws.

"There are mafias who benefit from such numbers; they purchase cars at low rates, then sell with high rate," MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. "These mafias groups have confused the minds of the government and the people. We are fighting against such groups and will distribute these number plates."

Despite the prevalence of stigma against the number, some Kabul residents seem to agree with officials that avoidance of it is baseless.

"This is a false idea," a Kabul resident named Ajmal told TOLOnews. "I do not know who spreads such false rumors."

Reportedly, since car owners have begun refusing number plates with 39, the revenue of the government has decreased by about 1 billion Afghani.

The process of distributing number plates has been stopped by the General Directorate of Traffic because the directorate has 42 plates with 39 figures.

600 Boxes Audited in Five Days

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 14:47

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced prior to the start of auditing that the commission was determined to investigate 1,000 ballot boxes a day, but in the past five days of inspection a total of 600 boxes have been audited.

The IEC has failed to fulfill their systematic plan of auditing 1,000 boxes a day; they are behind by 4,400.

The monitors for the presidential candidates have expressed their concerns over the slow and inefficient process stating that at this rate it will take months for investigations to be over.

A member of Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's monitoring team, Mohammad Gulab Mangal, said that the process must be faster by "enhancing the team to speed up the process, otherwise the audit will take several months."

Sharing similar concerns to the speed of the process, a member of Abdullah Abdullah's observation team, Amirullah Aman, said that the "IEC has invited its provincial staff who are not familiar with the auditing process, which have slowed down the process."

On the opposite spectrum of reasons behind the time-consuming procedure, official from the IEC say the candidates' monitoring teams are not trained nor understand the details and protocol of the audits.

"A number of the candidates' observers do not understand the technicalities of the audits and neither are they trained this is what is causing the snail-like auditing," IEC Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said.

"Besides this, there is not enough international observers in Kabul, so if we have to enhance our team."

Noor added that in the past five days of audits there have been suspicious boxes, mostly from Kabul, that will be closely investigated to decide the fate of the ballots in those boxes.

A member of Abdullah's team asserted that only the United Nation (UN) is allowed and responsible to invalidate ballots, not the IEC.

Before the start of the audit process, the election commission had announced that they will form 100 groups that will inspect a total of 1,000 boxes a day. In retrospect, only 600 ballot boxes have been audited in the past five days.

Insecurities in Shindand Result in Closing of Girls Schools

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:51



Head of the Herat Education Department, Basir Ahmad Tahiri, announced that all school doors have been closed for girls in Shindand district of Herat province, depriving nearly 40,000 girls from education because of Taliban threats.

In the past 13 years, schools catered for girls were never closed. The education sector in Herat developed successfully over the years.

Tahiri called on the provincial government to ensure the security of the girls and the schools.

"We have received pamphlets addressed to our school in which the Taliban have asked the girls not to go schools or they would burn our schools and commit suicide attacks," Tahiri explained.

Herat Governor Syed Fazullah Wahidi says the main factor behind the growing insecurity of the province is that security personnel lack good coordination between the security organs at a provincial and national level.

Herat Police Chief Gen. Samiullah Qatra says that the activities of the intelligence services of neighboring countries and the presence of insurgents have worsened the security in the area. Qatra added that some extra police units have been dispatched to the district to maintain law and order.

"Establishment of security belts and reinforcement of check-points have brought the district's security situation under control," Qatra said.

This is while a number of Herat MPs have raised apprehensions over the government's response to security concerns in Shindand.

"Regrettably, the government is not aware of the situations in the district and has showed an apathetical approach," MP Munawar Shah Bahaduri said. "The district could collapse."

Head of the Parliamentary Commission for Internal Security, Mir Dad Khan Nejrabi, has also raised concerns over the government's method to security.

"The government and the international forces need to focus on the issues regarding nighttime military operations, the release of prisoners and civilian causalities," Nejrabi said.

It is the first time since the fall of the Taliban that serious threats are posed to girls' education in the province of Herat.

Observers Distressed About Auditing Procedures

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:48

The election observer institutions on Monday raised concerns over brawls between the candidates about the finalization of the vote auditing checklist, which defines the process that will certify the method of invalidating ballots.

The monitoring bodies asserted that the auditing method could be pushed to a stalemate if candidates do not agree on the inspection procedures soon.

"If there are no legal frameworks and procedures, there is a possibility that the process will face challenges," head of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, said.

Furthermore, Chairman of Afghanistan Election Watch, Jandad Spinghar, asserted that it is important for the candidates to rely on international standards.

"Both sides have agreed on a set of standards. There are ways to implement these principles on the basis of global standards," Spinghar said. "Neither candidate should refuse to execute the said standards."

It is not yet clear which campaign team has raised concerns over the auditing process. But reports indicate that negotiations are underway between presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah and opponent Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's camps regarding Abdullah's recommendations to the United Nations (UN).

"I think that our opponent has not approved the recommendations yet. The issue is between the UN and Ghani-Ahmadzai's camp," said Fazel Ahmad Manavi, who is in charge of the technical negotiations in Abdullah's camp. "The recommendations should be approved soon as our demands are completely in line with international standards."

Ghani-Ahmadzai's team has stated that negotiations to resolve the issue are underway with all the involved parties.

"Negotiations are not just between the two teams but also with the UN and other involved institutions," Ghani-Ahmadzai's camp spokesman Tahir Zuhair said. "The procedures must be acceptable to all parties."

Meanwhile, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the two camps will reach an agreement soon.

"The disagreements are not serious and will not undermine the agreements," UNAMA Spokeswoman Neelab Mubarez said. "The candidates have reached a consensus; we ask them to keep up the same spirit and put an end to the prolonged process."

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has also expressed optimism about resolving the recent disagreements.

"We are optimistic about the outcomes of the talks," IEC Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said. "We have made many good pacts thus far and we hope that the procedure is finalized soon."

The candidates have yet to reach an agreement and conclude the specific technicalities in the audit process. Finalization of the procedure is considered a crucial step in pushing the election process forward.

Dobbins Meets Karzai in Kabul

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:37

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James F. Dobbins has arrived in Kabul on Sunday and met President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace, according to a statement released by the Presidential Palace.

The statement read that Mr. Dobbins has talked in regards to the audit process with both presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai.

However, the statement did not provide more details about Karzai and Dobbins meeting.

This comes as, on Sunday the vote auditing process for the June 14 presidential runoff election halted due to disputes between Abdullah and Ghani-Ahmadzai teams, but resumed after 23 hours.

Officials of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said the audit was expected to continue until 6 p.m., but was halted at 3 p.m. on Saturday when the two candidates' representatives disagreed about the status of non-standard signs like signatures on ballot papers.

Observers have weighed into the dispute between the candidates, arguing the signatures are insufficient in judging the validity of a vote.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has taken the responsibility of transporting ballot boxes from all the provinces to Kabul.

ISAF has transferred 1,515 boxes from Heart to Kabul on Saturday. The movement of ballot boxes from the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand are underway.

Millions of Afghans risked their lives and voted in the presidential runoff elections determined to decide the future of their country democratically. For the next five years the future of Afghanistan is weighed on the outcome of the ballots.

Suicide Car Bomber Targets Afghan Police in Helmand

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 09:13

A suicide car bomber targeted Afghan police vehicles in southern Helmand province on Monday afternoon killing two including a policeman, local officials said.

Fifteen other including eight policemen were injured in the attack.

The attack took place about 12 p.m. local time after a suicide bomber detonated his explosive near a police vehicle, said Omar Zwak, a spokesman for provincial governor.

The victims have been taken to a nearby hospital, he said.

The officials of the hospital have confirmed and said 21 victims have been taken to the hospital.

Investigation is underway.

No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

ELECTION 2014: Audit Resumes After 23-Hour Halt

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 08:48

The vote auditing process for this year's runoff election came to a grinding halt due to disputes between the two candidate teams, but resumed after 23 hours on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Muslim Shirzad discusses the topic with the following the guests:

• Amin Habibi, International Relations Analyst
• Sardar Mohammad Rahimi, lecturer at the Kabul University
• Ghafoor Lewal, Director of Afghanistan's Regional Studies Centre
• Faizullah Zaki, member of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's team

FARAKHABAR: 20 July 2014

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:50

The vote auditing process for this year's runoff election came to a grinding halt due to disputes between the two candidate teams, but resumed after 23 hours on Sunday at 3 p.m.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said the audit was expected to continue until 6 p.m., but that it was halted at 3 p.m on Saturday when the two candidates' representatives disagreed about the status of non-standard signs like signatures on ballot papers.

"Based on the decisions of the commission, the audit was expected to continue until 6 p.m. yesterday, but the process halted because of some disputes between the candidates' teams," IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said on Sunday.

Observers have weighed into the dispute between the candidates, arguing the signatures are insufficient in judging the validity of a vote.

But why was the auditing process halted for more than 23 hours?

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Yama Siawish discusses topic with the following guests:

• Waqif Hakimi, member of Abdullah Abdullah's team
• Asadullah Sadati, member of Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's team

20 Insurgents Killed in ANSF Operations

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:23

At least 20 Taliban militants were killed in the past 24 hours during a nationwide operation led by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said in a statement on Monday.

One insurgent injured and six other were arrested.

"Within the past 24 hours, the Afghan army, police and intelligence agency carried out several operations in Uruzgan, Herat, Helmand, Faryab, Baghlan, Ghazni, Kandahar and Wardak provinces to rid them of insurgents," the statement read.

According to the statement, ANSF did not only seize enemy weapons, but also defused five mines in southern Kandahar and Paktia provinces.

"The mines were recently placed by the insurgents in the areas for terrorism act," the statement said.

The statement did not provide details about the number of ANSF casualties.

The Taliban have not yet commented about the operations.

Bloody Sunday as 100 Gazans, 13 Israeli Soldiers Killed

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:10

At least 100 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed on Sunday with Hamas claiming it had captured another, as Israel ramped up a major military offensive in Gaza.

The United Nations Security Council was set to hold an emergency meeting on the Gaza situation at 0130 GMT Monday, following a call by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, as regional leaders met in Doha for urgent ceasefire talks.

The Palestinian death toll soared to 438 in the bloodiest single day in Gaza in five years, with a spokesman for the enclave's emergency services saying more than a third of the victims were women and children.

The Israeli army said 13 soldiers had been killed inside Gaza on the third day of a major ground operation, raising to 18 the number of soldiers killed since the ground operation began late on Thursday.

It was the largest number of Israeli soldiers killed in combat since the 2006 Lebanon war.

Late Sunday, the armed wing of Hamas claimed it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, prompting celebrations in the streets of Gaza City and West Bank cities.

"The Israeli soldier Shaul Aaron is in the hands of the Qassam Brigades," a spokesman using the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida said in a televised address.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said they were investigating the claim.

More than half of Sunday's Palestinian victims were killed in a blistering hours-long Israeli assault on Shejaiya, near Gaza City, which began before dawn and claimed 62 Palestinian lives, with another 250 wounded.

With ambulances unable to reach the area, the International Committee of the Red Cross arranged a brief ceasefire that allowed paramedics to evacuate some of the dead and wounded before hostilities resumed.

- Ban in peace push –

As the violence raged, Abbas arrived in Qatar to discuss a ceasefire with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrived later to push truce efforts.

"I am calling for an urgent session tonight of the UN Security Council," Abbas said in a speech broadcast on Palestinian TV.

"What the occupation forces did today in Shejaiya is a crime against humanity," he said. "Those who committed it will not go unpunished."

Ban also condemned the "atrocious action" in Shejaiya and urged Israel to "exercise maximum restraint".

"Too many innocent people are dying...(and) living in constant fear," he told a news conference in Doha.

So far, truce efforts have been rejected by Hamas which has pressed on with its own attacks, undaunted by the Israeli bombardment by land, sea and air.

Following a night of terror in Shejaiya, thousands fled for their lives at first light after heavy shelling, an AFP correspondent reported.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has opened 61 of its schools to shelter more than 81,000 people who have fled their homes.

- Netanyahu blames Hamas –

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed the civilian casualties on Hamas using innocents "as human shields."

He insisted on Sunday that the military campaign had strong international backing.

"We are carrying out a complex, deep, intensive activity inside the Gaza Strip and there is world support for this... very strong support," he said before a security cabinet meeting.

Although Israel said earlier Sunday it was expanding its ground operation to destroy the network of tunnels used by militants to stage cross-border attacks and fire rockets, Netanyahu said troops could end their mission "fairly quickly".

His Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon also suggested it could end within days.

"My assessment is that in another two or three days, the lion's share of the tunnels, from our perspective, will be destroyed," Yaalon said.

But he demanded international action to "demilitarise Gaza", the tiny coastal enclave which is home to 1.7 million Palestinians and is one of the most densely-populated areas on the planet.

Palestinian militants have over the past 12 days fired 1,414 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with the Iron Dome air defence system intercepting another 377, the army said.

Israel's right to self-defence in the face of rocket fire from Gaza has won repeated US support, but President Barack Obama has expressed concern over the loss of life in a call to Netanyahu.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is to travel to Cairo to seek an end to the fighting, meanwhile, blamed Hamas for perpetuating the conflict by "stubbornly" refusing all ceasefire efforts.

By its behaviour, Hamas had "invited further actions" by Israel, he said, in remarks which drew an angry response from Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who accused Israel of killing Palestinians "mercilessly".

Thousands participated in rallies in France, Vienna, Stockholm and Amsterdam to oppose Israel's offensive, with a demonstration in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles descending into chaos as protesters set fire to bins and looted shops.

Bloody Sunday as 100 Gazans, 13 Israeli Soldiers Killed

TOLO News - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:10

At least 100 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed on Sunday with Hamas claiming it had captured another, as Israel ramped up a major military offensive in Gaza.

The United Nations Security Council was set to hold an emergency meeting on the Gaza situation at 0130 GMT Monday, following a call by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, as regional leaders met in Doha for urgent ceasefire talks.

The Palestinian death toll soared to 438 in the bloodiest single day in Gaza in five years, with a spokesman for the enclave's emergency services saying more than a third of the victims were women and children.

The Israeli army said 13 soldiers had been killed inside Gaza on the third day of a major ground operation, raising to 18 the number of soldiers killed since the ground operation began late on Thursday.

It was the largest number of Israeli soldiers killed in combat since the 2006 Lebanon war.

Late Sunday, the armed wing of Hamas claimed it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, prompting celebrations in the streets of Gaza City and West Bank cities.

"The Israeli soldier Shaul Aaron is in the hands of the Qassam Brigades," a spokesman using the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida said in a televised address.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said they were investigating the claim.

More than half of Sunday's Palestinian victims were killed in a blistering hours-long Israeli assault on Shejaiya, near Gaza City, which began before dawn and claimed 62 Palestinian lives, with another 250 wounded.

With ambulances unable to reach the area, the International Committee of the Red Cross arranged a brief ceasefire that allowed paramedics to evacuate some of the dead and wounded before hostilities resumed.

- Ban in peace push –

As the violence raged, Abbas arrived in Qatar to discuss a ceasefire with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrived later to push truce efforts.

"I am calling for an urgent session tonight of the UN Security Council," Abbas said in a speech broadcast on Palestinian TV.

"What the occupation forces did today in Shejaiya is a crime against humanity," he said. "Those who committed it will not go unpunished."

Ban also condemned the "atrocious action" in Shejaiya and urged Israel to "exercise maximum restraint".

"Too many innocent people are dying...(and) living in constant fear," he told a news conference in Doha.

So far, truce efforts have been rejected by Hamas which has pressed on with its own attacks, undaunted by the Israeli bombardment by land, sea and air.

Following a night of terror in Shejaiya, thousands fled for their lives at first light after heavy shelling, an AFP correspondent reported.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has opened 61 of its schools to shelter more than 81,000 people who have fled their homes.

- Netanyahu blames Hamas –

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed the civilian casualties on Hamas using innocents "as human shields."

He insisted on Sunday that the military campaign had strong international backing.

"We are carrying out a complex, deep, intensive activity inside the Gaza Strip and there is world support for this... very strong support," he said before a security cabinet meeting.

Although Israel said earlier Sunday it was expanding its ground operation to destroy the network of tunnels used by militants to stage cross-border attacks and fire rockets, Netanyahu said troops could end their mission "fairly quickly".

His Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon also suggested it could end within days.

"My assessment is that in another two or three days, the lion's share of the tunnels, from our perspective, will be destroyed," Yaalon said.

But he demanded international action to "demilitarise Gaza", the tiny coastal enclave which is home to 1.7 million Palestinians and is one of the most densely-populated areas on the planet.

Palestinian militants have over the past 12 days fired 1,414 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with the Iron Dome air defence system intercepting another 377, the army said.

Israel's right to self-defence in the face of rocket fire from Gaza has won repeated US support, but President Barack Obama has expressed concern over the loss of life in a call to Netanyahu.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is to travel to Cairo to seek an end to the fighting, meanwhile, blamed Hamas for perpetuating the conflict by "stubbornly" refusing all ceasefire efforts.

By its behaviour, Hamas had "invited further actions" by Israel, he said, in remarks which drew an angry response from Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who accused Israel of killing Palestinians "mercilessly".

Thousands participated in rallies in France, Vienna, Stockholm and Amsterdam to oppose Israel's offensive, with a demonstration in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles descending into chaos as protesters set fire to bins and looted shops.

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