New California governor stands with migrants, vows to withdraw troops from border

A month out from his inauguration, California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is staking out his own ground when it comes to immigration policy and relations with Mexico:

“What’s the point of our National Guard being there at this point? I can’t see any,’’ he told POLITICO in a phone interview from Mexico as he prepared to attend the inauguration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He said he would review current National Guard commitments — those made by Governor Brown under pressure from President Donald Trump. Those commitments are set to extend until March 31.

But Newsom said he believed those troops could be far better utilized. “There’s plenty for them to do on the Camp fire and recovery efforts,’’ as well as “on the humanitarian front’’ where the immediate need for shelter, food and medical care is clearly “not going away anytime soon,’’ he said.

Newsom directly challenged Trump’s characterization of migrant caravans at the border as a national security emergency and said the president should be “showing up and meeting” refugees to see for himself the immediate scope of a severe humanitarian crisis developing there.

“I don’t care who you are, Republican or Democrat,’’ said Newsom, who said he was shaken by the stories and desperate conditions of very young children and refugees at a border detention center, where he spoke with them directly. “The empathy, on a human level has to be considered here.” He said he was also deeply concerned to see hoards of desperate migrants at the border have no legal representation as they seek asylum, many from dangerous situations in Central America. They need “the benefit of some legal aide.“

Newsom said he will explore a role for California’s Office of Emergency Services to aid refugees who have already arrived in California and hopes to assist services being offered by nonprofit groups like the Salvation Army.

Newsom challenged Trump’s threats to close the border at length — purportedly because of security issues related to the caravans — saying it would have potentially catastrophic economic effects on California and the nation as a whole. Newsom also called on state, local and regional officials to immediately address the plight of migrants, some of who are awaiting asylum claims, and whom he said he learned are being dropped off by ICE in San Diego without shelter, food or medical treatment. The situation, he said, has left many vulnerable to human trafficking, crime and health issues that could impact California communities.

The Governor-elect has suggested he would take an interactive approach with the Mexican government and revive commissions and trade offices. Newsom appears to be culturally tied to California’s neighbor to the south: His wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, speaks fluent Spanish and speaks the language to their four children at home, believing fluency in the language to be critical in a border state.

[Politico]

55 aid workers killed in Syria since March 2011

Kayla Mueller knew that she was putting herself in harm’s way when she slipped from to the Turkish-Syrian border into Syria, but the 26-year-old American felt compelled to help. Killed after being held captive by ISIS for more than a year, Mueller’s death followed that of a fellow American aid worker, Peter Kassig, who was beheaded by ISIS militants in November. British aid worker David Haines, was similarly executed in September.

While the threats to aid workers have come into a shocking light with their apparent targeting and brutal killings by ISIS militants, aid workers in Syria faced grave threats even before the Islamist militant group began to gain ground there last year. According to the Humanitarian Outcomes’ Aid Worker Security Database which tracks such figures, 55 aid workers have been killed since the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011. In terms of absolute figures, that’s the highest number of aid worker deaths in any country aside from Afghanistan.

Trevor Hughes, the Director of Risk Management and Global Security at International Relief and Development (IRD) said that while ISIS’ attempts to capture, ransom, or kill foreigners is concerning, the group’s gruesome stunts haven’t had a real impact on his work — especially because many kidnappings are carried out by opportunists. “You have the shifting lines between rival groups, and just because you’re taken by a rival group that isn’t regime-aligned or ISIS-aligned doesn’t mean that they’re not going to see you as a commodity to get sold up which happens a lot in numerous of countries,” he said.

Of course there are real threats, he said, but the threats also affect those who are in desperate need of the food, sanitation kits, winterization materials, infrastructure repair material, and medical supplies that his organization provides to those who are “stuck” in of the conflict.

[Think Progress]

No improvement in Gaza humanitarian crisis

Children play amongst Gaza rubbleCNN reports that 92 people in Gaza have been killed since a ceasefire ended five days ago, adding to the more than 2,100 that have died.

Other effects of the violence, which began in early July: The United Nations, which runs many schools in Gaza, said 500,000 children were unable to begin classes. A spokesman for the Palestinian ministry of education said more than 100 government-run schools are closed while others are being used as shelters.

Most of the blockaded enclave has been without power for 18 hours a day since Israel attacked the territory’s sole power plant on July 29. The damage is said to take up to a year to fix.

People in Gaza also face a shortage of water, with reports indicating that various diseases are spreading among the population that has been displaced due to the Israeli war. According to reports, the displaced Palestinians living in UN-run schools struggle for access to water.

Monzer Shoblak, an official from the local water board, said that the damage from Israel’s month-long offensive against Gaza meant that Gaza was pumping 50 percent less water.

On Sunday, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said it may take months to repair the damage Israel inflicted on Gaza’s infrastructure.

She also said that 97 UN installations, including health centers and schools, were damaged in the Israeli war.

Hamas is urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to go before the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders for war crimes. The Palestinians are not currently under the jurisdiction of the ICC, but would be if they sign the court’s Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court. Back in May, a group of 17 human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, signed a letter to Abbas encouraging him to join the ICC.

The United States and Israel and some other nations have pressured Abbas not to take this step, arguing that it would harm peace talks.

Gaza death toll hits 1387 amidst ever worsening humanitarian situation

Israeli airstrikes and shelling continued overnight and into the morning, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 1,395 with 8,100 injured, according to the Ministry of Health. The Israeli military confirmed that 20 “sites” had been hit overnight.

The deaths in the besieged Gaza Strip come on the 24th day of an Israeli assault which has nearly topped the death toll from the 2008-9 Cast Lead, the bloodiest attack on the area in memory when Israel killed 1,400 in 22 days.

Meanwhile, the United States confirmed it had restocked Israel’s supplies of ammunition, hours after finally condemning an Israeli attack on a United Nations school in Gaza that killed 16 people sheltering there.  And the Israeli military has called up 16,000 more reserve soldiers to join its assault of Gaza.

The Pentagon confirmed the Israeli military had requested additional ammunition to restock its dwindling supplies on July 20, with the US Defense Department approving the sale just three days later. Two of the requested munitions came from a little-known stockpile of ammunition stored by the US military on the ground in Israel for emergency use. The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel is estimated to be worth $1 billion.

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told his Israeli counterpart that the United States was concerned about the deadly consequences of the spiraling conflict, including a “worsening humanitarian situation” in Gaza, and called for a ceasefire and end to hostilities.

Relations between Israel and its staunch ally the United States have plunged in recent days after John Kerry returned from a mission to the Middle East to try to broker a ceasefire between the Israelis and Hamas militants.

Anonymous Israeli officials have hit out at Kerry’s truce proposal, calling it “a strategic terrorist attack”. Hamas has insisted that any ceasefire include an end to the eight-year Israeli blockade, which has severely crippled the tiny coastal enclave’s economy and led to recurring shortages of basic goods.

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Watch a live broadcast, as Chris Gunness of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, states, “The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are wholesale denied, and it’s appalling,” and then proceeds to break down sobbing uncontrollably, until the camera finally darts away.