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Israel launches air and missile strikes in the Gaza Strip despite ceasefire

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Israel launched fresh strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, the army said early Friday, weakening a ceasefire put in place after fighting this week killed 34 Palestinians in exchanges of fire.

The ceasefire began Thursday morning following two days of deadly violence in the Gaza Strip triggered by an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad commander.

But Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a WhatsApp message to reporters that new overnight strikes were under way on Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful Palestinian militant group in Gaza after Hamas.

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“The IDF is currently striking Islamic Jihad terror targets in the Gaza Strip,” it said.

It came after five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza — also after the ceasefire came into effect — with two of them intercepted by air defences, according to the army.

During the day on Thursday, normal life had resumed quietly in Israeli regions near the Gaza border, while in Gaza, citizens had also embraced the return of a relative calm.

“We hope for peace, we don’t want war,” said Mahmoud Jarda, an inhabitant of the enclave.

The ceasefire brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, the usual mediators between Gaza and Israel, was agreed as the flare-up raised fears of a new all-out conflict in the territory.

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Bomb shelters

The escalation began early Tuesday with Israel’s targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, whom it accused of being behind rocket fire and other attacks.

The violence came at a politically sensitive time for Israel, with no new government in place since a September election ended in deadlock.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abu al-Ata “was killed alongside dozens of terrorists” after the strike on his home, adding: “Our enemies got the message: We can reach anyone, even in their bed.”

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That strike triggered almost immediate retaliatory rocket fire from Islamic Jihad at Israel, setting off air raid sirens and sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters in the country’s south and central regions.

Israel’s military had said some 450 rockets had been fired at its territory since Tuesday morning and air defences had intercepted dozens of them in fireballs high in the sky.

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No Israelis were killed, though one rocket narrowly missed speeding cars on a busy highway. Israeli medics said they had treated some 63 people as of Wednesday night for mild injuries and stress.

Israel responded with air strikes, saying it targeted more Islamic Jihad militant sites and rocket- and missile-launching squads.

Violent escalation

Islamic Jihad had said several more of its members were among those killed in the fighting this week.

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Palestinian officials said eight members of the same family, including five children, were killed in an Israeli strike in Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

Israel’s military said the man targeted and killed in that strike was an Islamic Jihad rocket unit commander.

“He, like many others, had the tactic of hiding ammunition and military infrastructure in their own residence,” said military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.

“Of course we try always to minimise the amount of non-combatants killed or injured.”

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But relatives, neighbours and an Islamic Jihad spokesman disputed that he belonged to the militia, with some saying he had previously worked as a Palestinian Authority (PA) military police officer.

PA employees have not worked in Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007 but continued receiving salaries.

“This is a war crime,” said neighbour Adan Abu Abdallah. “You are killing innocent children, sleeping at home.”

Weekly protests

Unusually, Israel has singled out Islamic Jihad rather than hold Hamas — the Islamist movement that rules Gaza — responsible for the violence.

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Israeli analysts said it was a clear signal the army sought to avoid a wider conflict in Gaza, where Israel and Palestinian militants have fought three wars since 2008.

Hamas repeatedly said it would not abandon its ally, but its decision not to join the fight helped maintain a fragile truce with Israel that has seen tens of millions of dollars in Qatari aid flow into the impoverished Gaza Strip since last year.

An Egyptian official said the ceasefire had included an agreement that Palestinian groups in Gaza work to prevent violence by demonstrators during weekly protests near the border fence.

In return, Israel agreed to stop hostilities and commit to a ceasefire during the weekly demonstrations, according to the official.

Israel did not confirm any of those claims.

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Netanyahu did not comment publicly on the ceasefire, but had warned a day earlier that Islamic Jihad must stop its rocket attacks or “absorb more and more blows”.

He added that Israel did not want a further escalation but, if necessary, was prepared to respond “without mercy”.


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As coronavirus seizes the state, Florida hospitals are in panic mode

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As Florida experiences a surge in coronavirus cases, the residents of the state are facing obstacles like overwhelmed hospitals and a looming shortage in beds.

This article first appeared in Salon.

There are 47,663 hospital beds in the state right now with 11,782 available (meaning a remaining capacity of 19.82 percent) and a total staffed bed capacity of 59,445, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration's Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard. The state Department of Health also reported on Friday that, out of 95,300 individuals who received coronavirus test results over the course of the previous day, 11,433 tested positive for COVID-19 (all but 90 of whom were Florida residents), meaning that more than 12 percent of the new cases had positive test results. The state also reported 93 new deaths due to COVID-19. (Salon reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment on this story.)

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2020 Election

The GOP is a suicide cult

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

Back in March, we argued that Donald Trump had become the charismatic leader of the dumbest suicide cult ever. There were fewer than 500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the time, but it wasn't difficult to see the trajectory we were on at even that early date. At the time, we were commenting on the President's* repeated claims that the whole thing was a big hoax and polls showing that Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say they were taking steps to avoid becoming infected.

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Trump has committed at least 11 disgraceful acts just since April: conservative

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On Saturday, writing for The Washington Post, conservative columnist Max Boot outlined all of the chaos President Donald Trump has caused just in the last three months — arguing that "he has disgraced the nation’s highest office as no previous occupant has come close to doing."

"Think about all that has happened since April 5," wrote Boot. "That was before security forces attacked peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square so that Trump could stage a bizarre photo-op. Before he pushed to send the armed forces into the streets. Before he embraced 'white power' and called Black Lives Matter 'a symbol of hate.' Before he vowed to veto the defense authorization bill to prevent the renaming of military bases named after Confederate generals. Before he used the novel coronavirus as an excuse to shut down immigration and threatened to revoke the visas of college students unable to attend classes in the fall."

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