Israel says Gaza tunnels destroyed in heavy airstrikes
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military unleashed a wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Monday, saying it destroyed 15 kilometers (nine miles) of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders.
Residents of Gaza awakened by the overnight barrage described it as the heaviest since the war began a week ago, and even more powerful than a wave of airstrikes in Gaza City the day before that left 42 dead and flattened three buildings. That earlier attack was the deadliest in the current round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers.
There was no immediate word on the casualties from the latest strikes. A three-story building in Gaza City was heavily damaged, but residents said the military warned them 10 minutes before the strike and everyone cleared out. They said many of the airstrikes hit nearby farmland.
Gaza's mayor, Yahya Sarraj, told Al-Jazeera TV that the strikes had caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure. "If the aggression continues we expect conditions to become worse," he said.
The U.N. has warned that the territory's sole power station is at risk of running out of fuel, and Sarraj said Gaza was also low on spare parts. Gaza already experiences daily power outages for between eight and 12 hours and tap water is undrinkable. Mohammed Thabet, a spokesman for the the territory's electricity distribution company, said it has fuel to supply Gaza with electricity for two or a three days. Airstrikes have damaged supply lines and the company's staff cannot reach areas that were hit because of continued Israeli shelling, he added.
Calls mount for Gaza-Israel cease-fire, greater US efforts
U.N. Security Council diplomats and Muslim foreign ministers convened emergency weekend meetings to demand a stop to civilian bloodshed as Israeli warplanes carried out the deadliest single attacks in nearly a week of Hamas rocket barrages and Israeli airstrikes.
President Joe Biden gave no signs of stepping up public pressure on Israel to agree to an immediate cease-fire despite calls from some Democrats for the Biden administration to get more involved.
His ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told an emergency high-level meeting of the Security Council that the United States was "working tirelessly through diplomatic channels" to stop the fighting.
But as battles between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers surged to their worst levels since 2014 and the international outcry grew, the Biden administration — determined to wrench U.S. foreign policy focus away from the Middle East and Afghanistan — has declined so far to criticize Israel's part in the fighting or send a top-level envoy to the region. Appeals by other countries showed no sign of progress.
Thomas-Greenfield warned that the return to armed conflict would only put a negotiated two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict even further out of reach. However, the United States, Israel's closest ally, has so far blocked days of efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for the cessation of hostilities.
Glimmer of hope seen in India, but virus crisis not over yet
BENGALURU, India (AP) — For the first time in months, Izhaar Hussain Shaikh is feeling somewhat optimistic.
The 30-year-old ambulance driver in India's metropolis of Mumbai has been working tirelessly ever since the city became the epicenter of another catastrophic COVID-19 surge slashing through the country. Last month, he drove about 70 patients to the hospital, his cellphone constantly vibrating with calls.
But two weeks into May, he's only carried 10 patients. Cases are falling and so are the phone calls.
"We used to be so busy before, we didn't even have time to eat," he said.
In the last week, the number of new cases plunged by nearly 70% in India's financial capital, home to 22 million people. After a peak of 11,000 daily cases, the city is now seeing fewer than 2,000 a day.
'So I raped you.' Facebook message renews fight for justice
MOORESTOWN, New Jersey (AP) — Shannon Keeler was enjoying a weekend getaway with her boyfriend last year when she checked her Facebook messages for the first time in ages. A name popped up that stopped her cold.
"So I raped you," the person said in a burst of unread messages sent six months earlier.
"I'll never do it to anyone ever again."
"I need to hear your voice."
"I'll pray for you."
Afghans who helped the US now fear being left behind
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — He served as an interpreter alongside U.S. soldiers on hundreds of patrols and dozens of firefights in eastern Afghanistan, earning a glowing letter of recommendation from an American platoon commander and a medal of commendation.
Still, Ayazudin Hilal was turned down when he applied for one of the scarce special visas that would allow him to relocate to the U.S. with his family. Now, as American and NATO forces prepare to leave the country, he and thousands of others who aided the war effort fear they will be left stranded, facing the prospect of Taliban reprisals.
"We are not safe," the 41-year-old father of six said of Afghan civilians who worked for the U.S. or NATO. "The Taliban is calling us and telling us, 'Your stepbrother is leaving the country soon, and we will kill all of you guys.'"
The fate of interpreters after the troop withdrawal is one of the looming uncertainties surrounding the withdrawal, including a possible resurgence of terrorist threats and a reversal of fragile gains for women if chaos, whether from competing Kabul-based warlords or the Taliban, follows the end of America's military engagement.
Interpreters and other civilians who worked for the U.S. government or NATO can get what is known as a special immigrant visa, or SIV, under a program created in 2009 and modeled after a similar program for Iraqis.
AP's top editor calls for probe into Israeli airstrike
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press' top editor is calling for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media, saying the public deserves to know the facts.
Separately, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel's bombing of a building housing the media organizations as a possible war crime.
Sally Buzbee, AP's executive editor, said Sunday that the Israeli government has yet to provide clear evidence supporting its attack, which leveled the 12-story al-Jalaa tower.
The Israeli military, which gave AP journalists and other tenants about an hour to evacuate, claimed Hamas used the building for a military intelligence office and weapons development. Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel was compiling evidence for the U.S. but declined to commit to providing it within the next two days.
"We're in the middle of fighting," Conricus said Sunday. "That's in process and I'm sure in due time that information will be presented."
Dogged by Mideast crisis, US envoy Blinken visits Denmark
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Denmark on Monday for talks on climate change, Arctic policy and Russia as calls grew for the Biden administration to take a tougher, more active stance on spiraling Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Blinken is seeing Danish leaders as well as top officials from Greenland and the Faeroe Islands in Copenhagen on Monday before he heads to Iceland for an Arctic Council meeting. That gathering will be marked by his first face-to-face talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a time of significantly heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Russia on Sunday called for an immediate ministerial-level session of the "quartet" of Mideast peacemakers to discuss the escalating Israeli-Palestinian crisis but there was no overt indication that the U.S. would agree. There was also no sign yet that Blinken was changing his travel plans, which currently have him returning to Washington from Reykjavik late Thursday after a brief stop in Greenland.
The Mideast quartet includes envoys from the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. With Blinken and Lavrov both attending the Arctic Council meeting, Iceland could serve as a venue for the group to gather.
The U.N. Security Council held an urgent session Sunday on the Mideast at which U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the administration was working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to stop the fighting. President Joe Biden spoke with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, Blinken worked the phones with his counterparts while flying to Copenhagen on Sunday, and a senior U.S. diplomat is in Israel meeting with the parties there.
Officer charged in death of Daunte Wright to appear in court
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former suburban Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright is scheduled to appear in court via videoconference Monday.
Former Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter, who is white, has an omnibus hearing, also known as a pretrial hearing, on Monday afternoon in Hennepin County District Court. The purpose of such a hearing is to go over evidence and determine if there's probable cause for the case to proceed.
Wright, father of a young son, was killed April 11 after a traffic stop. The former Brooklyn Center police chief has said he believes Potter meant to use her Taser on Wright instead of her handgun. Body camera video shows her shouting "Taser!" multiple times before firing. The shooting ignited days of unrest. Wright's family members and protesters had wanted prosecutors to file murder charges.
The shooting happened amid the trial for Derek Chauvin, the white former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murder for pressing his knee against George Floyd's neck as the Black man said he couldn't breathe.
Police have said Wright was pulled over for expired tags, but they sought to arrest him after discovering an outstanding warrant. The warrant was for his failure to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and had a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics
Groups alleging human-rights abuses against minorities in China are calling for a full-blown boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, a move likely to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors and sports federations.
A coalition representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others issued a statement Monday calling for the boycott, eschewing lesser measures that had been floated like "diplomatic boycotts" and further negotiations with the IOC or China.
"The time for talking with the IOC is over," Lhadon Tethong of the Tibet Action Institute said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. "This cannot be games as usual or business as usual; not for the IOC and not for the international community."
The Beijing Games are set to open on Feb. 4, 2022, just six months after the postponed Summer Olympics in Tokyo are to end.
Rights groups have met several times in the last year with the IOC, asking that the games be removed from China. A key member in those talks was Zumretay Arkin of the World Uyghur Congress.
Eurovision Song Contest returns despite coronavirus pandemic
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Pounding beats? Check. Uplifting lyrics? Check. Huge, backlit white wings? Check.
After last year's Eurovision Song Contest was canceled amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is roaring back to life this year with coronavirus bubbles added to its heady mix of music and melodrama.
National delegations traveling to the Dutch port city of Rotterdam are abiding by strict measures to reduce the risk of infections, while the thousands of fans allowed to attend dress rehearsals, two semifinals and May 22's grand final will have to undergo testing to ensure they do not bring the virus into the cavernous venue.
Executive producer Sietse Bakker is glad it's going ahead at all.
"Organizing the Eurovision Song Contest is always challenging because you have less than a year to organize one of the biggest and most complex events in Europe, but to do it in a pandemic is much, much more complicated," he told The Associated Press.