WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's foreign minister had sharp words on the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jumbo jet in Ukraine — blaming the crash on Russia-backed "bandits." But throughout most of central and eastern Europe, leaders withheld judgment, expressing shock but refusing to say more until more facts are in.
A global AIDS summit was in shock Saturday at the loss of colleagues in the Malaysia Airlines disaster over Ukraine, but spirits were lifted when the number who died was put at six, far fewer than feared. Reports on Friday said as many as 100 passengers on the plane were en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne when it went down in a rebel-held part of the country on Thursday, killing all 298 on board. "The number that we have confirmed through our contacts with authorities in Australia, in Malaysia, and Dutch authorities as well is six people. Those killed include prominent Dutchman Joep Lange, a pioneer of cheap anti-retrovirals for the poor who had been involved in HIV research and treatment since 1983.
Investigators faced massive hurdles Saturday as they sought access to the grisly crash site of a Malaysian plane in eastern Ukraine, with the area controlled by armed rebels blamed for downing the jet with a missile. Despite a hail of calls from around the globe for a swift probe into the crash, initial efforts by international monitors to gain full access to the site have been impeded by pro-Russian separatists locked in fighting with Ukraine forces. While the rebels, who Kiev and the US believe fired a sophisticated surface-to-air missile at the jet, have vowed to protect the scene, they have ruled out a ceasefire and rocket-fire still rings out in the distance. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, whose nation was stunned by the loss of nearly 200 citizens in the crash, arrived in Kiev Friday with a team of 15 forensic experts.
Fresh Israeli air strikes killed 10 people in Gaza on Saturday, hiking the death toll above 300 as UN chief Ban Ki-moon headed to the region to bolster truce efforts. The new peace push came as Israel's campaign against the besieged Palestinian territory entered day 12 in the bloodiest conflict for several years, and the Jewish state stood poised to intensify a ground operation inside the Strip. US President Barack Obama has supported Israel's right to defend itself against Gaza rocket fire, but urged it to work harder to avoid innocent deaths in an operation with a high civilian toll, including many women and children In the face of Israel's land, sea and air offensive, Islamist movement Hamas, which is the main power in Gaza, has remained defiant as Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas travelled to Egypt and Turkey for truce talks.