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BREAKING NEWS-FLASHHamas and Israel agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire on Thursday evening, two weeks after Israel launched a ground invasion into Gaza.

In a statement released by the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry said they had received “assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.”

During the ceasefire negotiations will be held in Egypt to end the conflict. Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had previously said he would not agree to a truce until all “terror tunnels” in the Gaza Strip had been destroyed.

Pressure has been building in the last day, however, after a UN school in Gaza was shelled. Josh Earnest, White House spokesman, said there was little doubt that the artillery that hit the school on Wednesday had been fired by Israel.

Mr Kerry, speaking in New Delhi, said a US delegation would be sent to Cairo to address Israel’s security concerns. He pledged humanitarian aid to the war zone.

Here are details from the statement:

This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place.

We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.

This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.

Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the Government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire. The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.

 

The European Union’s decision to impose broad sanctions against Russia was “unavoidable” after its actions in Ukraine and it is now up to Moscow to make the next move, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday (29 July).

Earlier, the EU agreed for the first time to impose broad economic sanctions against Russian oil companies, banks and defence firms, by far the strongest international action yet over Moscow’s support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

“The decision today was thus unavoidable,” Merkel said in a statement, adding that EU leaders had repeatedly warned Moscow that the annexation of Crimea and continued destabilisation of east Ukraine were not acceptable.

“It is now up to the leadership in Russia to decide whether they want to go the way of de-escalation and cooperation,” Merkel said. “The EU sanctions can be reviewed but further steps are also possible.” >> Read More

 

While everyone’s attention is glued on Russia and whether Obama can successfully launch World War III, things are going from bad to worse when it also comes to US relations with Israel. Recall that here things were already on the verge of disaster after for some reason, Kerry was unleashed to “arrange” a ceasefire with Israel, when in reality the SecState somehow managed to infuriate every single feuding faction (there are lot of them), Israel included, after Haaretz wrote that “Kerry ruined everything.”

So what happened next? Something rather stunning according to the US State Department, and which according to BBC reporter Paul Danahar, constitutes “a severe violation of a private discussions” – Israel’s Channel 1 decided to publish a Hebrew transcript of a portion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama’s telephone conversation which took place on Sunday, in which Obama was insistent that Israel unilaterally halt all military activities in the Gaza Strip. As is quite clear by now, Israel rejected, and the bloodshed continued.

The transcript, as shown by the Times of Israel was as follows:

The following is an English translation of the Hebrew account of the talk given in the report: >> Read More

 

A top-ranking North Korean military official has threatened a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon after accusing Washington of raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

A top-ranking North Korean military official has threatened a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon after accusing Washington of raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The threat came from Hwang Pyong-So, director of the military’s General Political Bureau, during a speech to a large military rally in Pyongyang on Sunday on the anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Hwang, who holds the rank of vice marshal in the Korean People’s Army, said a recent series of South Korea-US military drills, one of which included the deployment of a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, had ramped up tensions.

“If the US imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival… our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon – the sources of all evil,” Hwang said in his speech broadcast Monday on state television. >> Read More

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed in a phone conversation on Sunday on the importance of ensuring a swift ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, a Foreign Ministry statement in Moscow said.

 But the State Department said Kerry did not accept Lavrov’s denial that heavy weapons from Russia were contributing to the conflict and urged him “to stop the flow of heavy weapons and rocket and artillery fire from Russia into Ukraine, and to begin to contribute to deescalating the conflict.”

Washington and the West accuse Moscow of supporting rebels fighting Ukrainian troops in the east of the former Soviet republic with training, military-grade weapons, and shelling by Russian troops on Ukrainian positions across the border. On July 17, Russian-backed rebels shot downMalaysia Flight MH17, killing all 298 people on board.

Moscow denies involvement in east Ukraine. The Russian statement described the crisis is an “internal conflict.”

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is the most hated man on earth.

The one favorite word used to describe the Russian dictator is “evil.” U.S. presidential contender Hillary Putin portrayed him as “arrogant.”

In 2011, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Putin to his face that he (Putin) had no “soul.”

German President Angela Merkel was even more scathing; she described Putin as “out of touch with reality,” which is polite diplomatic speak for crazy.

This after Putin engineered Russia’s undeclared invasion and annexation of Crimea last March. That event ignited the current crisis in Eastern Ukraine which outraged the world when a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired by Russians destroyed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 two weeks ago, killing 298 innocent persons.

Lost in this maelstrom of hate directed at Putin is the overlooked fact that this man is a man just like many other men — with the same personal problems. >> Read More

 

George Santayana observed that “Americans don’t solve problems, they leave them behind”. Perhaps the president is taking this to heart.
For rumours to catch fire, an element of truth must typically be involved.
The fact that the press would find relevance in speculating on Obama’s post-White House residence – and identify California as the kind of scene the future ex-president would want to hang out in when he leaves office – is perhaps telling.
And, indeed, this comes on the heels of multiple reports from outlets such as The New York Times and Politico, detailing how Obama has increasingly been spending his time at trendy restaurants and fancy, late-night dinner parties with celebrities and various intellectuals.
Rubbing elbows with the rich and elite is fine enough. Unfortunately, the work suffers. The degree to which he is now phoning it in – sleepwalking perfunctorily through his second term – is astonishing.
And based on his recent handling of situations much more serious than a possible post-presidential move to sunny California, it seems as if “No Drama Obama” is no longer even worried about keeping up appearances; he doesn’t care enough to fake it.
Consider this: In recent days, a) Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, apparently by Russian separatists in Ukraine, b) In the Gaza strip, the numbers killed continued to mount as Israelis and Palestinians exchange rocket fire, c) a huge influx of children fleeing Central American poverty and gang warfare swamped America’s southern border, creating a humanitarian crisis. And, oh yeah, d) Christians living in Mosul were given the choice to either convert to Islam or flee the area they have inhabited for nearly two thousand years.

If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, then Obama is dining out, golfing, and raising money while the world collapses.

 

Israel has agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire in fighting with militants in the Gaza Strip to start at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Saturday, a military spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said that during the brief truce, troops would keep searching for tunnels used by militants and that the military will “respond if terrorists choose to exploit this time to attack Israel Defense Forces personnel or fire at Israeli civilians.”

“Gaza civilians who have been requested to vacate from their residents are to refrain from returning,” the spokeswoman said.

 

The EU has imposed sanctions on two senior Russian intelligence officials in the wake of the downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine, according to Reuters.

Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB security service, and Mikhail Fradhov, chief of the foreign intelligence service, are the targets of the fresh sanctions.

Bortnikov and Fradhov were among 15 Russians or Ukrainians and 18 companies named in the EU’s latest sanctions list.

Pro-Russian rebels have been widely blamed for shooting down the Malaysia Airlines airliner which killed all 298 people onboard, while Western leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of backing the separatists.

The US yesterday said it “has indications” that Russia intended to supply more sophisticated weaponry to the rebels

 

Russia has now amassed around 15,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said on Friday, offering a higher figure than one previously cited by the Pentagon.

U.S. ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute offered the estimate during a security forum in Colorado, saying there were “now up again over about 15,000 Russian troops amassed along the border with Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Friday that movement of Russian heavy-calibre artillery systems across the border into Ukraine is “imminent,” adding that Russia is escalating the military action there.

A Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, said the U.S. has seen the powerful rocket systems moving closer to the Ukraine border and they could be put into the hands of Russian-backed separatists as soon as Friday. >> Read More

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Baroda, India.