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AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EDT

  • The Associated Press
  • Published Thursday, July 17, 2014, at 10:14 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, July 18, 2014, at 10:10 p.m.

Seeking who shot down Malaysian plane, leaders demand credible investigation in Ukraine

ROZSYPNE, Ukraine (AP) — World leaders demanded Friday that pro-Russia rebels who control the eastern Ukraine crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 give immediate, unfettered access to independent investigators to determine who shot down the plane.

At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jetliner carrying 298 people, including 80 children, likely was downed by an SA-11 missile, and "we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel."

Both the White House and the Kremlin called for peace talks in the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-speaking separatists who seek closer ties to Moscow. Heavy fighting was reported less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the crash site, with an estimated 20 civilians reported killed.

Emergency workers and local coal miners recovered bodies from grasslands and fields of sunflowers, where the wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell Thursday.

About 30 officials, mostly from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, arrived at the crash site between the villages of Rozsypne and Hrabove, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border.

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UN envoy Power: US can't rule out help from Russian personnel in downing plane in Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that the United States cannot rule out that Russia helped in the launch of the surface-to-air missile that shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Power said the U.S. believes the plane was likely downed by an SA-11 missile fired from an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. She said Russia has provided SA-11s and other heavy weapons to the separatists.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who called the emergency meeting, was more emphatic on assessing blame for the crash.

"It is clear where responsibility lies: with the senseless violence of armed separatists and with those who have supported, equipped and advised them," he said. "The council must be united in condemning these actions, and in demanding that these groups disarm, desist from violence and intimidation and engage in dialogue through the democratic mechanisms that are available to them."

The Malaysian jet was flying at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on an established flight corridor when it was shot down Thursday, Power said.

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Downing of jet in eastern Ukraine claimed victims from 11 countries, all walks of life

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The human cost of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 hit home around the world Friday, upending scores of families and small communities spanning half of the planet, from a Dutch fishing village to an Australian soccer club and a Dubai cake store.

Relatives and colleagues paid emotional tribute to the dead. Students gathered to pray for lost friends, and even Tour de France cyclists paused for a moment's silence in memory of the 298 people killed in Ukraine.

The victims came from 11 countries and all walks of life. They included an acclaimed AIDS researcher from Amsterdam, a nun and teacher from Sydney, a Dutch senator and a World Health Organization spokesman.

Because the plane took off from Amsterdam, most were Dutch headed for Kuala Lumpur. But others were from elsewhere in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. One was a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen, Malaysia Airlines said.

They left behind relatives searching for answers and clinging to memories.

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Gaza's children pay high price for Israel-Hamas fighting: 1 in 5 of dead are minors

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) — Sobbing and shaking, Ismail Abu Musallam leaned against the wall of a hospital Friday, waiting for three of his children to be prepared for burial. They were killed as they slept when an Israeli tank shell hit their home, burying 11-year-old Ahmed, 14-year-old Walaa and 16-year-old Mohammed under debris in their beds.

His personal tragedy is not unique: the U.N. says minors make up one-fifth of the 299 Palestinians killed in 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of the densely populated Gaza Strip, where half the 1.7 million people are under age 18.

The Israeli military says it's doing its utmost to spare civilians by urging residents to leave areas that are about to be shelled or bombed as Hamas targets. It accuses the Islamic militants of using civilians as human shields by firing rockets from civilian areas.

But even if urged to evacuate, most Gazans have no safe place to go, rights activists say.

"If you are going to attack civilian structures in densely populated areas, of course you are going to see children killed," said Bill Van Esveld, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

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Israel presses forth in Gaza ground operation and prepares to "significantly" expand campaign

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday in a ground offensive that officials said could last up to two weeks as the prime minister ordered the military to prepare for a "significantly" wider campaign.

The assault raised risks of a bloodier conflict amid escalating Palestinian civilian casualties and the first Israeli military death — and brought questions of how far Israel will go to cripple Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Officially, the goal remains to destroy a network of tunnels militants use to infiltrate Israel and attack civilians. In its first day on the ground in Gaza, the military said it took up positions beyond the border, encountered little resistance from Hamas fighters and made steady progress in destroying the tunnels. Military officials said the quick work means that within a day or two, Israeli leaders may already have to decide whether to expand the operation.

With calls from Israeli hard-liners to completely crush Hamas, it remains unclear how far Israel will go in an operation that has already seen 299 Palestinians killed in 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of the densely populated coastal strip, a fifth of them children.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to prepare for a "significant expansion" of the ground offensive.

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AP ANALYSIS: Israel and Hamas share an impatience with the status quo of rockets, blockade

If Israel and Hamas can agree on one point, it seems, it's that things have to change.

That's why cease-fire efforts carried out by Egypt and backed by the West have until now failed, and it's why Israel decided to roll the dice and launch a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip with a huge potential to turn ugly.

Now comes a pivotal question: With Hamas weakened by a regional realignment, will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu up the ante by attempting to oust the Islamic militant group from power in the Palestinian territory? The risks would match the temptation — but if it can be done with minimal loss of life, most Israelis, as well as others in the region and around the world, would probably be with him.

Judging by Netanyahu's words Friday, escalation is on the table, but for now the goal remains the more modest yet frustratingly elusive one of ending the attacks from Gaza.

That's what Israelis want: after over a decade of intermittent rockets, their range increasing by the year and now covering much of their country, they're fed up. The Iron Dome air defense system is able to intercept most missiles, but the disruption and humiliation of the threat is simply too much.

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Obama administration approves sonic cannons, reopening US Eastern Seaboard to oil exploration

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Obama administration is reopening the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration, approving seismic surveys using sonic cannons that can pinpoint energy deposits deep beneath the ocean floor.

Friday's announcement is the first real step toward what could be a transformation in coastal states, creating thousands of jobs to support a new energy infrastructure. But it dismayed environmentalists and people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism.

The cannons create noise pollution in waters shared by whales, dolphins and turtles, sending sound waves many times louder than a jet engine reverberating through the deep every ten seconds for weeks at a time. Arguing that endangered species could be harmed was the environmental groups' best hope for extending a decades-old ban against drilling off the U.S. Atlantic coast.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acknowledged that thousands of sea creatures will be harmed even as it approved opening the outer continental shelf from Delaware to Florida to exploration. Energy companies need the data as they prepare to apply for drilling leases in 2018, when current congressional limits expire.

"The bureau's decision reflects a carefully analyzed and balanced approach that will allow us to increase our understanding of potential offshore resources while protecting the human, marine, and coastal environments," acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement.

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Central Washington wildfire that burned 100 homes forces residents to leave other small towns

PATEROS, Wash. (AP) — A massive wildfire that destroyed about 100 homes is forcing the residents of a second north-central Washington town to leave their homes, and a partial evacuation of a third community in the scenic Methow Valley is also underway.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday evening that "basically ... the whole town" of Malott is being evacuated, and those living in outlying areas of Brewster are being told they should leave as well.

Malott is home to about 500 people, while the population of Brewster is about 2,400.

Rogers says no injuries have been reported.

Fire swept through the town of Pateros on Thursday, leaving its 650 residents to return to large areas of smoldering rubble.

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AP WAS THERE: Man walks on the moon and takes 'giant leap for mankind'

EDITOR'S NOTE:

On July 20, 1969, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, man took his first step on the moon.

It was an event that would cleave humans' relationship with space in two, separating the millennia in which human beings had merely served as observers, and the moment that humans became visitors to planetary bodies their ancestors could see only from a distance.

News coverage of the event was a massive undertaking, involving thousands of reporters, photographers, editors, technicians and other staff from all over the world.

"There was little sleep for the more than 3,000 news personnel at the Houston Space Center during those two historic days. Meals were hasty. Pressure was immense. Time flew," AP staffer Richard Beene wrote in a story about AP's coverage of the mission launch and moonwalk.

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No Freaky Friday for McIlroy: Boy wonder shoots 66 for commanding lead at British Open

HOYLAKE, England (AP) — Rory McIlroy only saw birdies at Royal Liverpool, mostly on his scorecard, and even one pheasant that trotted across the eighth green as he was lining up a putt. That was but a minor interruption in his command performance Friday in the British Open.

Once he made a birdie, and then another, nothing could stop McIlroy.

Not another collapse in the second round. Not anyone in the field. And certainly not Tiger Woods.

After a bogey on his opening hole stirred memories of another "Black Friday," McIlroy looked more like the Boy Wonder who won two majors in a runaway. With three birdies in his last four holes, he posted a second straight 6-under 66 to build a four-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.

McIlroy spoke of an "inner peace," and the two secret words that triggered his powerful swing and set up birdie chances on just about every hole.

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