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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Child

A Palestinian child was killed during retaliatory Israeli air strikes after a sniper shot an Israeli-Bedouin civilian near the Gaza border. Salah Abu Latif, sniper victim, had been working as a contractor on Israel’s security fence near the border while the girl was standing with other family members outside their home in a Hamas camp before being hit by shrapnel. “This is an extremely grave incident and we will not ignore it. Our policy has been to thwart attacks and to respond forcefully, and that is what we will do in this case”, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the air strikes were ordered. The Palestinian girl, Hala Abu Sbeikha, 3, was killed when a shell landed in front of her home in the Maghazi refugee camp, four of her relatives were wounded. Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, reminded gathered journalists, “If there is no quiet in Israel, there will be no quiet in Gaza.”

Officials from the Hamas, the militant governing organization in Gaza, did not claim responsibility for the sniper attack, but anticipating Israeli retaliation, evacuated its security facilities. Hamas confirmed that Israeli warplanes bombed the group’s training camps in Khan Younis and al-Bureij, where Sbeikha was killed.

Mass Graves in South Sudan

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said mass graves had been discovered in South Sudan as ethnic violence descends upon in the world’s youngest country. “We have discovered a mass grave in Bentiu, in Unity State, and there are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba”, she said, adding that “there is a palpable fear among civilians of both Dinka and Nuer backgrounds that they will be killed on the basis of their ethnicity”. The UN Security Council voted unanimously today to nearly double the number of peacekeepers to 12,500.

President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and ousted vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, have intimated readiness for peace, but Machar said political prisoners must first be freed. “We want a democratic nation. We want democratic free and fair elections. We want Salva Kiir to call it a day”, he added.

Mansoura Bombing

Egypt’s northern city of Mansoura was the site of the deadliest attack since the Egyptian army deposed Mohamed Mursi from the presidency in this Summer, when a car bomb tore apart the five-story building that housed the Daqahliya security directorate. At least 15 people are dead and 140 people have been injured. Shortly after the Egyptian cabinet declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, cabinet spokesperson Sherif Shawki did not equivocate as he blamed the Brotherhood for the attack, saying it had shown its “ugly face as a terrorist organization shedding blood and messing with Egypt’s security.” And while a number of reports demurred with the government’s initial assessment, instead fingering Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, there have been no officials statements claiming responsibility.

Life without Parole for Juveniles Illegal

Massachusetts’ highest court struck down life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles today. The state court cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 decision which found “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing.”

In its decision today, which will free Gregory Diatchenko, who was 17 in 1981 when he murdered a man, the court wrote, “given current scientific research on adolescent brain development, and the myriad significant ways that this development impacts a juvenile’s personality and behavior, a conclusive showing of traits such as an ‘irretrievably depraved character,’ can never be made, with integrity, by the Commonwealth at an individualized hearing to determine whether a sentence of life without parole should be imposed on a juvenile homicide offender.

Christmas Read: How ‘White Christmas’ rose from blah to blockbuster

Irving Berlin, the Jewish Belarusian song writer responsible for omnipresent tunes like “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and “God Bless America” once doubted his most seminal hit, but in the intervening years “White Christmas” has proved its mettle. Tom Maxwell sketches out the history of America’s most seminal caroling classic in al-Jazeera America.

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