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News Wrap: Palestinian death toll rises after strikes on Gaza market, UN school

July 30, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The war between Israel and Hamas raged on today, with strikes on a United Nations school and a busy market in Gaza.

After more than three weeks of fighting, the Palestinian death toll reached 1,359. And, in Israel, 56 soldiers have been killed, along with three civilians.

Bodies were carried one-by-one out of a crowded shopping area in the eastern Gaza Strip today. The Israeli airstrike hit when people were taking advantage of a four-hour cease-fire, but it applied only to certain areas. Hamas also broke it by firing at least 20 rockets during that time period.

The attack followed one of the Israeli military’s most active days since the four-week conflict began. Earlier in the day, it was a U.N. school that came under fire. At least 16 people were killed and more than 100 injured. The school was one of dozens in Gaza giving shelter to 200,000 displaced Palestinians.

AMANI AL ATTAR, (through interpreter): Children, men, everyone was dismembered. Why were they killed? What did they do?

JUDY WOODRUFF: A U.N. spokesman on the ground said the light of day revealed the assault came from Israeli tanks.

CHRISTOPHER GUNNESS, Spokesman, United Nations Relief and Works Agency: We have visited the site and gathered evidence. We have analyzed fragments, examined craters and other damage. Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school in which 3,300 people had sought refuge.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Israeli Defense Force spokesman Peter Lerner said his country’s forces acted only in response to a mortar shell launched at them from near the school.

LT. COL. PETER LERNER: Spokesman, Israel Defense Forces: There is a challenge on the ground where this terrorist organization is exploiting the reality on the ground, exploiting the civilian environment and exploiting the people of Gaza themselves. We’re up against a huge challenge, and clearly there can be tragic results that we have seen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, the shelling of the U.N. school drew widespread condemnation, including from the White House. And, in New York, the U.N. deputy secretary-general expressed shock.

JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations: For me, this is a moment where you really have to say enough is enough and where you have to search for the right words to convince those who have the power to stop this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mosques were again an Israeli target and five were reduced to rubble. In daylight, the destruction was clear. Korans littered the ground. The building’s minaret was resting on a nearby apartment building.

MOHAMMAD AL-SUSI (through interpreter): People come here to pray and do their duty five times a day. Now we have been deprived from praying dawn, morning, noon, evening. Where will people pray now?

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Israeli officials said the mosques are being used by militant fighters. The Israeli military dropped warning leaflets in Gaza, urging residents to keep away from terrorists and to report rocket launchers, tunnels and ammunition arsenals.

Meanwhile, Hamas carried out its own campaign to boost morale. Last night, it broadcast video purportedly showing its fighters using a tunnel to carry out an attack on an Israeli outpost near Gaza’s border.

In Washington today, the State Department reacted to more criticism levied at Secretary John Kerry by Israeli news media. He’s come under fire for his failed attempt to broker a cease-fire.

His spokeswoman, Marie Harf, called the criticism shocking and disappointing.

MARIE HARF, State Department Spokeswoman: The hours all of us have spent with the secretary in Jerusalem and trying to get Middle East peace, trying to work to protect Israel’s security, I think that’s why it’s so disappointing, that it’s just so at odds with reality and, quite frankly, just flies in the face of everything we have been trying to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: During cease-fire negotiations, Kerry had suggested that Hamas’ demand to end the blockade of Gaza be on the table, which set off the Israeli criticism.

GWEN IFILL: At least 19 people were killed today in Eastern Ukraine, as new clashes flared between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Much of the violence targeted areas in and around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

The fighting stopped international experts from reaching the Malaysia Airlines crash site for a fourth day. It’s been two weeks since the plane went down. A Ukrainian government spokesman warned the area is becoming more unsafe.

ANDRIY LYSENKO, Spokesman, Ukraine National Security Council (through interpreter): At the crash site, terrorists set up new firing positions. They moved a lot of heavy artillery there and mined entrances to this territory. It prevents international experts from carrying out their work while they are trying to start fulfilling their duties and find causes of the downing of Boeing 777.

GWEN IFILL: Ukraine’s border with Russia is also the scene of Russian troop movement. Today, NATO’s military commander reported their numbers have risen sharply to over 12,000.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia had harsh words today about the new round of U.S. sanctions President Obama imposed yesterday. A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry read: “The de facto losses from this destructive and short-sighted policy will be quite tangible for Washington.”

Both the U.S. and the European Union imposed new sanctions against Russian banks, energy and defense firms for Russia’s role in the separatist uprising in Ukraine.

GWEN IFILL: Officials in Liberia shut all the country’s schools and quarantined more communities to try to stop the rapid spread of the worst outbreak of Ebola on record. The World Health Organization estimates the highly infectious disease has killed at least 129 people across the West African country. It has no known cure.

The U.S. Peace Corps announced today it’s withdrawing all of its volunteers, about 350 people, from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea after two volunteers came in contact with someone who died of the virus.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. House of Representatives moved toward passing a bill to sue President Obama for overstepping his executive powers. The lawsuit sponsored by Speaker John Boehner claims the president failed to uphold the Constitution during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Debate on the House floor was heated and completely along party lines.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, Minority Leader: Once again, Republicans are putting special interest and the howls of impeachment-hungry extremists before the needs of the nation. The lawsuit is only the latest proof of House Republicans’ contempt and disregard for the priorities of the American people.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold and acting decisively when it may be compromised.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On the road in Kansas City today, President Obama weighed in on the lawsuit, calling it a political stunt and saying it was keeping lawmakers from doing real work.

PRESIDNENT BARACK OBAMA: Every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you.

(LAUGHTER)

PRESIDNENT BARACK OBAMA: When they have taken 50 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that was time that could have been spent working constructively to help you on some things.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JUDY WOODRUFF: The House also overwhelmingly approved a compromise bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs and improve veterans’ access to health care. The $17 billion overhaul now heads to the Senate, which is expected to act it soon, before heading home for the August recess.

GWEN IFILL: A massive cleanup effort was under way today in Los Angeles after a major water main break inundated the campus of UCLA. A nearly century-old pipe ruptured yesterday and for three hours spewed nearly eight million gallons of water.

Crews began cleaning up six damaged facilities, including the recently renovated basketball arena. An official from the city’s Department of Water and Power warned repairing the pipe could take several days.

JEFF BRAY, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power: We found that we have got a number of valves leaking through that has complicated getting access to the repair. We are currently assessing all options to get the leak — get the leakage down and what repairs that we can make. We cannot begin any of the repairs until we get the water completely down. And we’re working on that.

GWEN IFILL: City officials have yet to determine what caused the pipe to burst. More than 700 cars parked in flooded underground garages remain submerged.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Stocks were mixed on Wall Street today after a better-than-expected report on economic growth. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 31 points to close at 16,880. The Nasdaq rose 20 points to close at nearly 4,463. And the S&P added a fraction of a point to close at 1,970. We will take a closer look at the state of the economy right after this news summary.