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News Wrap: Mideast cease-fire collapses after new Gaza rocket attacks

August 19, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: State and local officials in Ferguson, Missouri, appealed today for people to stay home after dark.

It’s the latest effort to end the nightly unrest since the police shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown. But another police killing of another black suspect raised fresh fears of what’s to come when the sun goes down.

By day, the main streets in Ferguson were busy with cars, many blowing horns in solidarity with demonstrators who carried signs and banners. Owners of damaged stores offered messages of hope, and some protesters even had congenial conversations with police.

Then, a dozen miles away, on the north side of Saint Louis, a new incident. Police said they shot and killed a man after he robbed a market and then confronted them with a knife.

Police Colonel Sam Dotson:

COL. SAM DOTSON, Chief, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department: He was acting erratically and his behavior — approaching the officers, they drew their weapons. They gave verbal commands. Approached a second officer with the weapon out in a threatening manner with the knife in an overhand posture. I certainly think that is an aggressive stance.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The incident, on the heels of the killing of Michael Brown 10 days ago, threatened to inflame tensions anew in Ferguson.

On Monday, peaceful demonstrations in the early evening again gave way to late-night confrontation, as some in the crowd turned violent, throwing firebombs and bottles.

MAN: Get away from the vehicle! Back up now!

JUDY WOODRUFF: Police, including many in gas masks and riot gear, fired flash grenades and tear gas, and even used high-pitched sirens to disperse the throng.

Officials reported heavy gunfire by some in the crowd, with at least two people wounded.

MAN: Is this war? Is this World War III?

JUDY WOODRUFF: The man in charge of securing Ferguson, Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, said some of the dozens arrested came from as far away as New York and California.

RON JOHNSON, Captain, Missouri State Highway Patrol: I am not going to let the criminals that have come out here from across this country or live in this community define this neighborhood and define what we’re going to do make it right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill on MSNBC insisted officials have to find a better way to deal with the troublemakers.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-Mo.: We overpoliced for a few days, and then we completely underpoliced. I think what they’re doing now is what they feel they have to do to keep it safe under these dangerous circumstances with these instigators in town.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So far, authorities have struggled for a solution. Local police were in charge at first. Then the state Highway Patrol took over. And, yesterday, the governor called in the National Guard, but kept their role very limited.

He had also imposed a late-night curfew, then rescinded it after two days, but, so far, nothing has brought a guarantee of calm.

We will return to the unrest in Ferguson, how it’s affecting children, and how it’s highlighting the national racial divide after the news summary.

The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed today in a new burst of fighting. Gaza militants began firing rockets hours before the truce was to expire. As the day went on, sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but there were no injuries. Israel responded with escalating airstrikes that sent large clouds of smoke rising above the Gaza skyline. Palestinian officials reported two killed. Each side blamed the other.

MARK REGEV, Israeli government spokesman: Today’s rocket attack on the Israeli city of Beersheba is a grave and direct violation of the cease-fire that Hamas committed to. This is the 11th cease-fire that Hamas has either rejected or violated. And it’s clear that a cease-fire has to be a two-way street.

SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas spokesman (through interpreter): The continuation of the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip is an attempt to abort the efforts of the Cairo negotiations. We are warning the Israeli occupation from continuing this escalation and violating the cease-fire. We put the responsibility on Israel for this escalation and the implications of it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: After the rocket fire, the Israeli delegation walked out of Egyptian-led negotiations. They’re aimed at reaching a long-term cease-fire.

The Islamic State claimed this evening that it has beheaded an American journalist, James Foley. He had worked for GlobalPost and he had appeared on the NewsHour before being abducted in Syria nearly two years ago. The militants released a video of the execution that was titled “A Message to America.” They warned in recent days of retaliation for U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

Government forces in Iraq made a brief assault today on Islamic State fighters holding Tikrit. The effort, north of Baghdad, was halted after a few hours, in the face of stiff resistance by the militants, this one day after Kurdish troops recaptured a vital dam near Mosul.

John Ray of Independent Television News filed this report.

JOHN RAY, ITN: Here, this Islamic State lies in ruins, their new caliphate shattered, their fighters vanquished, their weapons destroyed. They leave behind a legacy of terror.

WOMAN: We just want — oh, my God. Oh, my God.

JOHN RAY: Abu Yosef and his wife are too scared to show their faces. They know the jihadists’ barbaric creed.

WOMAN: They killed my father. My father is a policeman.

JOHN RAY: This is the road to the Mosul dam, once a symbol of the militants’ limitless ambition, today a sign that they can be defeated. The Kurdish flag flies here now. But the victory has been paid for in Peshmerga blood.

The fighting was hard?

MAN: Yes, very, very hard.

JOHN RAY: They say the men who fought under the black banner of God were devious and cunning, and they sowed the seeds of further destruction in the booby-trapped bombs they left behind. They have disarmed hundreds, but the operation is never routine, success never guaranteed.

We welcomed to the dam the triumphant commander of Kurdish special forces.

How are you?

MAN: Good. Thanks.

JOHN RAY: This is a big victory.

General Mansour Barzani told me the Islamic State is finished. But just how far his men will chase their quarry is by no means clear.

The remorseless rise of the Islamic State has been halted on this dam. But for these Peshmerga fighters, it’s been about protecting their own borders, not about freeing Iraq from the jihadists who still control so much of the nation.

The Mosul dam has been retaken more or less intact because American airpower trumped the Islamic State’s belief in their divine right to rule. From here, these Iraqi forces must take up the battle. And their victory is by no means assured.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the U.N. said that it’s launching a major aid operation for those displaced by fighting in Northern Iraq, and that’s starting tomorrow.

In Afghanistan, local officials report up to 700 Taliban fighters are on the offensive just an hour south of Kabul. The governor of Logar province said the fighting is focused on a key district. The Taliban claimed major advances. Militant attacks have become larger in scale, as NATO combat forces and air cover move to withdraw by year’s end.

Ukraine’s military pressed its offensive today to retake two rebel-held cities near the Russian border. Flames engulfed buildings in the besieged city of Luhansk and the outskirts of Donetsk after shelling attacks. Government troops have been steadily closing in on rebels in both these cities.

Flash flooding washed out major highways all around the Phoenix, Arizona, area today. Monsoon rain of up to eight inches triggered the deluge. A muddy torrent poured down one section of Interstate 17, forcing officials to close a 15-mile stretch and redirect traffic. A number of people had to be rescued from rooftops and from submerged cars.

Texas Governor Rick Perry headed to an Austin courthouse this evening to be booked on charges of abusing power. An indictment last Friday accused the Republican leader of using a veto threat to coerce a Democratic district attorney. Perry is a possible presidential candidate in 2016. He says the case is politically motivated.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 81 points today to close at 16,919. The Nasdaq rose 19 points to close at 4,527. And the S&P 500 added nearly 10 points to finish at 1,981.