Israel has entered the 17th day of its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian death toll has reached at least 732. Palestinian militants are now claiming to have killed eight more Israeli soldiers, which would bring the Israeli military toll to 40. Three civilians have died inside Israel. We speak with independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous just after he visited the southern town of Khan Younis, which has faced heavy shelling since Tuesday. Israeli forces there killed an estimated 73 people in the last two days. Kouddous says residents tried to evacuate starting Tuesday, but "found Israeli tanks blocking the main streets. One group said the Israeli tanks started firing on them. They fled back to their homes. They had to leave the wounded behind." Many eventually walked out carrying white flags. Kouddous also spoke to a doctor who tried to assist the wounded in the area, but says his ambulance was fired on by the Israeli military four times.
As Israel pledges to continue the assault on Gaza for "as long as is required," we are joined by two Israelis who have refused to serve in their country’s military reserves. On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran an open letter authored by Yael Even Or titled "We are Israeli reservists. We refuse to serve," announcing that more than 50 former Israeli soldiers have signed a petition declaring their refusal to be part of the Israeli military reserves. "This petition, long in the making, has a special urgency because of the brutal military operation now taking place in our name," Even Or writes. An Israeli journalist and activist who evaluated candidates for the Israeli army’s recruitment department during her service, Even Or is now a graduate student in international affairs at The New School in New York City. She join us to discuss the reservists’ letter. We are also joined from Tel Aviv by Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli captain and Air Force pilot, who in 2003 spearheaded a letter signed by 27 Israeli pilots who refused to participate in military operations against Palestinians.
A high-level rebel commander has confirmed for the first time that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the kind the United States says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 on board. He blamed Ukrainian authorities for provoking the strike, saying they deliberately launched air strikes in the area, even though they knew the missile system was in place and rebels would fight back. Meanwhile, the area near the Russian border continues to see heavy fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists. On Wednesday, two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down not far from where the Malaysian airliner was hit. "The tragedy of the downing of the plane occurred in the context of this virtually unreported civil war," says Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, who has reported on Russia for decades. "Americans have been done a disservice by one-sided media coverage [of the conflict]." Vanden Heuvel notes more than 110,000 refugees from eastern Ukraine have fled to Russia, and 56,000 are internally displaced in Ukraine.
Arizona’s execution of Joseph Wood was supposed to take about 10 minutes, but stretched out for nearly two hours Wednesday night as he gasped for air after being injected with a controversial two-drug combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. Halfway through the ordeal his lawyers filed an emergency motion to stop the execution, saying it violated Wood’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. This was a "predictable consequence of Arizona’s experimental drug procedure and the fact that Arizona shrouded its procedure in secrecy," says Megan McCracken, an attorney with the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Wood was killed after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that put the execution on hold. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had initially sided with Wood’s request that Arizona disclose its lethal injection methods and the source of the drugs involved.
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