US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday pledged $47 million in humanitarian aid for the battered Gaza Strip as he flew to the region to intensify efforts for an immediate truce. Kerry, who has voiced willingness to tour the region as long as needed, started his mission in Cairo where he met visiting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The top US diplomat defended ally Israel's right to strike against Hamas militants who have been raining rockets from the Gaza Strip. "We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel's appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself," Kerry told reporters as he met Ban.
Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a raft of oil and mineral deals with Venezuela Monday, his latest stop on a Latin American tour showcasing China's growing influence in the region. During his four-country visit to what is often considered America's back yard, Xi has reached out to resource-rich countries such as Venezuela and Argentina at a time when they are often shunned by the United States and Europe. In Venezuela, he visited the mausoleum holding late president Hugo Chavez, an inveterate antagonist of the US, and signed 38 deals with Chavez's successor, Nicolas Maduro.
The United States on Monday condemned a weekend attack on an Egyptian border checkpoint which left 21 soldiers dead, and vowed to keep up support for Egypt's security. "We extend our condolences to the families of the victims, and hope for the quick and full recovery of the wounded," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement on the attack, which took place near Egypt's desert frontier with restive Libya. "A prosperous and dynamic Egypt requires an environment of security and stability, and the United States continues to support the Egyptian government’s efforts to counter the threat of terrorism in Egypt as part of our commitment to the strategic partnership between our two countries."
Key players in the Central African conflict launched a fresh round of talks in Brazzaville on Monday to end more than a year of sectarian bloodshed in the direly poor nation. The three-day forum for reconciliation and political dialogue, chaired by Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, is aimed a resolving a crisis that has left thousands of civilians dead and driven more than a million people from their homes. One of Africa's poorest countries, CAR has been in crisis since the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March 2013 coup, with months of atrocities by rebels gone rogue sparking reprisal attacks by mostly Christian anti-balaka vigilantes. The African Union-led peacekeeping force in CAR, MISCA, blamed the anti-balaka groups for the killing on Monday, saying their victim was on his way "to get breakfast" near the main hospital when he was killed.
The United States on Monday warned Americans against traveling to Israel and the Gaza Strip, urging them to postpone any visits amid the current conflict. "The US Department of State warns US citizens of the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to ongoing hostilities," an updated travel warning said, adding it "recommends that US citizens consider the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel." "The security environment remains complex in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and US citizens need to be aware of the risks of travel to these areas because of the current conflict between Hamas and Israel," the State Department warning added. Many Americans have deep ties to Israel, and two dual US-Israeli citizens were killed on Sunday fighting in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The United States will provide $47 million (35 million euros) in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians hit by Israel's campaign in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged Monday. "We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel's appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself," Kerry said in Cairo as he met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
A US soldier who fought off an "onslaught" of Afghan insurgents despite wounds to his arm and legs received the country's highest military honor Monday at a White House ceremony. Ryan Pitts, a retired US Army staff sergeant, was hailed by President Barack Obama for keeping a huge force of Taliban at bay in one of the bloodiest battles of the 13-year-war in Afghanistan. "Machine gunfire and mortar and rocket propelled grenades poured down from every direction," said Obama, recounting a Taliban ambush near the village of Wanat on July 19, 2008. "Against that onslaught, one American held the line," Obama said of Pitts.
The arrival of huge numbers of unaccompanied Central American children at the southern US border has overwhelmed authorities in the United States lacking the financial and legal means to curb the illegal influx. President Barack Obama has insisted new arrivals will be sent home, but it remains unclear how much that has done to stem the flow -- although officials say the number of apprehended child migrants has decreased recently. The White House said a flight deporting 40 women and children back to Honduras served as a "signal" that new illegal immigrants were not welcome. On Friday, Obama meets with the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to collaborate on ways to prevent young Central Americans from taking the perilous journey overland through Mexico.
The media venture created by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar said Monday it was establishing a fund to help defend journalists in cases involving freedom of the press. First Look Media said its first grant would be in support of the appeal in Britain of David Miranda, the partner of investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald. Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was held for nine hours at London's Heathrow Airport on August 18 while police questioned him about the material leaked by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. First Look general counsel Lynn Oberlander said the new fund would "provide legal support to journalists and others engaged in contests where freedom of the press is at stake in the US and abroad."
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband met U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday and said they had a wide-ranging discussion touching on relations with Russia and the Ukraine crisis. Obama dropped by a meeting that Miliband had scheduled with White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Miliband, whose Labour Party is expected to run a close race with the Conservatives led by Prime Minister David Cameron in elections next May, was in Washington for a roundtable discussion at the Center for American Progress think tank. Miliband appeared before TV cameras outside the White House after his meeting and said he and Obama discussed the downing of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine, as well as clashes between Israel and the Palestinians and European affairs.
A Nigerian helicopter crashed on Monday in an area where the military is battling Boko Haram Islamists, killing two of the three people on board, a statement said, but there was no indication the chopper was shot down by insurgents. "One of the pilots of the crashed Nigerian Air Force Mi-35 Helicopter on a training mission... has been recovered alive while the second one as well as the technician on board the 3-member crew flight died in the crash," defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said. Nigeria has been waging an offensive in the northeast since May last year aimed at crushing the Boko Haram insurgency. The operation has been criticised as failing to significantly weaken Boko Haram, with the group relentlessly targeting civilians and the security forces across the region.
Two American members of the Israeli Defense Force have been killed in Gaza fighting, US officials confirmed Monday. "We can confirm that two IDF soldiers killed in Gaza were US citizens -- Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters. "We obviously extend our deepest condolences to the families on their loss," she said, adding that officials from the US embassy in Tel Aviv and the State Department had been in touch with relatives of the two men. She could not confirm reports that the two were members of the Golani Brigade, 13 of whom were killed in Hamas attacks on Sunday.
The United States is working for an "immediate" ceasefire in Gaza, President Barack Obama said Monday, as the White House called on Israel to do more to protect Palestinian civilians. While Israel has the right to defend itself against a barrage of Hamas rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, Washington has "serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives," Obama said.
Nick Griffin has stepped down as leader of the British National Party, the far-right group announced Monday, following disastrous results at the European Parliament elections. Griffin, 55, stepped aside at a party leadership meeting after nearly 15 years in charge of the anti-immigration group, which campaigns for Britain to leave the European Union. Having won 6.3 percent of the vote in 2009, the party polled just over one percent in May's European elections, with Griffin losing his seat, the only one the party held. Recently-appointed deputy chairman Adam Walker has taken over as acting chairman, while Griffin has taken up the newly-created position of party president.