February 28, 2009
Posted: 800 GMT
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images. Palestinian Muslims stand in front of a sign during Friday prayers on February 27, 2009, by a newly-erected protest tent in the Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where Palestinian houses are threatened to be demolished by the city's municipality. If the municipality orders are carried out, 88 homes would be demolished, leaving 1,500 people homeless and constituting one of the largest forced evictions since Israel occupied and annexed mostly Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
-/AFP/Getty Images. Egyptian conjoined twins Hassan (L) and Mahmud (R) at the National Guard hospital in the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh. The Twins will undergo a separation surgery today. King Abdulaziz Medical City has become internationally acclaimed for the separation of conjoined twins.
February 27, 2009
Posted: 1229 GMT
(CNN) - Palestinian rivals agreed Thursday to work toward ending their bitter fighting in an effort to form a unity government in Gaza and the West Bank.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images. Leaders of rival Palestinian factions discuss the results of reconciliation talks in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday.
Among the measures reportedly reached in an Egyptian-brokered meeting in Cairo was an agreement between the two largest rival factions, Hamas and Fatah.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, said it would release Fatah prisoners it holds in Gaza. Fatah agreed to do the same with Hamas captives held in Fatah's West Bank base.
The participants also agreed to stop smear campaigns in the media, according to a statement released after the meeting.
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images. Palestinain chief negotiator and Fatah member, Ahmed Qorei (L) speaks with Mussa Abu Marzuq (R), the exiled number two of the Islamist Hamas movement, during a joint press conference with leaders of rival Palestinian groups.
Representatives from other groups in the region also attended the meeting. Although the statement referred only to "all the Palestinian forces and factions," without naming them, Gaza's Ramattan news agency reported Fatah and Hamas were present.
The group agreed to form five committees to address the issue of prisoners, security and the formation of an election commission.
The statement said the committees would begin work March 10 and complete their work at the end of the month, by which time they hope a national unity government will be formed.
Several Western nations have expressed a reluctance to work with any government that includes Hamas, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist outfit.
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas reached a climax in June 2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza in a bloody siege.
Palestinian security forces controlled by President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party were expelled from Gaza, and Fatah has since held sway only in the West Bank.
Posted: 948 GMT
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama told congressional leaders Thursday he's planning to pull all combat troops out of Iraq by August 2010, which falls short of his campaign promise to bring all combat forces home within 16 months, according to three congressional officials.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images. President Obama says he plans to keep up to 50,000 support troops in Iraq after combat troops leave in 2010.
Under this scenario, all combat troops will be withdrawn within 19 months of Obama's January inauguration, three months longer than his promise on the campaign trail.
In a meeting at the White House Thursday evening, Obama also told lawmakers that he plans to keep a range of 35,000 to 50,000 support troops on the ground in Iraq after combat troops are out, the officials said.
All U.S. troops have to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011, under an agreement the Bush administration signed with the Iraqi government last year.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images.
White House officials confirmed the president will deliver a speech about Iraq to troops at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Friday, his first visit to a military base since being sworn into office.
The officials refused to comment on the details of Obama's plan.
While liberals may be frustrated that Obama is not keeping his campaign promise to the letter, the president could win credit from lawmakers in both parties for giving military commanders more time and flexibility to finish the mission.
What may turn out to be more controversial is the number of noncombat troops that will remain in Iraq under Obama's plan.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images. A boy and a soldier in the U.S. Army's 172nd Brigade Combat Team stand near a campaign poster touting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Musayyib, in the Babil Province, Iraq.
Military officials have stressed that residual, noncombat forces would focus on supplies and logistics to protect U.S. interests in the region. But senior Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have expressed concern over such a large number of troops staying in Iraq after combat forces have left.
One source familiar with the discussion told CNN that Democratic lawmakers complained in private to the president about the remaining troops just as they have in public.
"That's a little higher number than I expected," Reid said Thursday before the White House meeting.
Sen. Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat and a close Obama ally, said before the White House meeting that he's anxious to get troops home. But he defended the administration, saying it is "trying to strike the right balance" between ending the war and maintaining stability in Iraq.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images.
A spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Arms Services committee and an attendee at the White House meeting, told CNN that McCain supports the plan to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq.
Rep. John McHugh, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said after the White House meeting that Obama assured him the plan to withdraw all combat forces will be revisited if conditions on the ground in Iraq deteriorate.
"The president's objective to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq is one we should pray for, plan for, and work toward," McHugh said in a written statement.
"However, I remain concerned that the security situation in Iraq is fragile, and we should work to mitigate any risks to our troops and their mission. I specifically raised these points with the president this evening, and he assured me that he will revisit his plan if the situation on the ground deteriorates and violence increases," he said.
"Our commanders must have the flexibility they need in order to respond to these challenges, and President Obama assured me that there is a 'Plan B,'" McHugh said.
February 26, 2009
Posted: 1356 GMT
By CNN's Ivan Watson
ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) - Turkish Airlines was accused a week before one of its aircraft was involved in a deadly crash near Amsterdam of "inviting disaster" by ignoring aircraft maintenance, it emerged Thursday.
MARCEL ANTONISSE/AFP/Getty Images. Emergency services work at the scene of the Turkish Airlines passenger plane which crashed on February 25, 2009 while landing at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.
Turkish Civil Aviation Union announced on its Web site on February 18 that Turkish Airlines "is ignoring the most basic function of flight safety, which is plane maintenance services."
"The company administration does not understand the consequences of ripping people from their jobs and inviting a disaster."
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images. Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Officer Temel Kotil.
The union, which represents 12,000 Turkish Airline employees, is involved in an ugly dispute with the company's management. Watch how survivors described crash »
In the wake of the disaster, Turkish Airlines executives and officials from Turkey's Transportation Ministry said the Boeing 737-800 had last been inspected December 22.
"There was no problem with maintenance in the records of the plane," Candan Karlicetin, executive board chairman of Turkish Airlines, said in a news conference just hours after the crash.
Further details of those on board the crash plane were emerging Thursday. Dutch authorities said the nationalities of most of those involved were now known.
These included seven Americans, one German, 3 Britons, an Italian, a Finn, 53 Dutch and a number of Turks.
Theo Weterings, mayor of the nearby town of Haarlemmereer, told a press conference that of 121 survivors examined by medics, 63 were still being treated, of whom six were in a critical condition.
"I want to express my deepest sympathies again to the victims of TK flight 1951," Weterings said.
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images. Relatives of a unidentified victim leave the Turkish Airlines office at Istanbul airport on February 25, 2009. The airline flew 2 relatives per victim to Amsterdam to be with their own.
Investigators were Thursday trying to determine what caused the crash of an airplane with a good safety record, flown by a well-respected airline, at one of the world's most modern airports.
Teams of investigators arrived just after daybreak and set up a large white tent. They fanned out over the debris field, where the white fuselage of the Boeing lay in three pieces.
Airport authorities planned to hold a news conference just after midday.
A special Turkish Airlines flight landed in Amsterdam Thursday morning from Istanbul, carrying about 70 relatives of those on board the fatal flight. The relatives were accompanied by trauma specialists, the airline said.
Flight 1951 was carrying 134 people, including 127 passengers and seven crew members, when it crashed less than 500 years short of the runway Wednesday.
Among the dead were the two pilots and one pilot's apprentice, officials said.
The flight data and voice recorders were recovered, said Michel Bezuijen, acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer municipality, which is home to the airport.
Witnesses said they saw the nose of the plane pitch up suddenly before the crash, according to journalist Greg Crouch of the RTL, a Dutch news network.
Turkish officials have also ruled out weather conditions as a possible reason for the crash. Dutch and Turkish authorities say they await the results of an international investigation into the cause.
Aviation experts say Turkish Airlines has a relatively good safety record, though in 2003, more then 70 people were killed when a Turkish Airlines domestic flight crashed in fog near the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
Turkey's flagship carrier had been expanding its routes and fleet of aircraft in recent years.
Hollywood actor Kevin Costner was recently hired to star in an advertising campaign for the company. Costner's commercials were to be broadcast in 70 countries.
An employee in Turkish Airlines' advertising department said the promotional campaign was suspended in the wake of the fatal plane crash.
Posted: 1013 GMT
BUSHEHR, Iran (CNN) - Iran tested its first nuclear power plant Wednesday, a stride that prompted one Iranian technician to declare it was "independence day" for the Islamic republic.
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images. The building housing the reactor of Iran's first nuclear power plant at the Iranian port town of Bushehr.
In a news release distributed to reporters at the scene, officials said the test measured the "pressure, temperature and flow rate" of the facility to make sure they were at appropriate levels.
Officials said the next test will use enriched uranium, but it's not clear when the test will be held or when the facility will be fully operational.
"Of course we're proud. Our power plant is on its way to being ready," engineer Mohsen Shirzai said. "We're definitely proud."
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images. The turbine building in the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the Iranian port town of Bushehr, 1200 Kms south of Tehran.
The test was observed by the head of the Russian nuclear agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, and the head of Iran's nuclear agency, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh. Iranian officials bused in around 70 journalists for the test run and a tour of parts of the power plant.
In 1998, the Iranian government signed a Russian company to a $1 billion contract to finish building the power plant. Construction of the plant began in 1974 under the late Shah of Iran, but it was halted at the start of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and its completion has long been delayed.
Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, Atomstroiexport, is building the plant under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images. A Russian technician works in the control room of Bushehr nuclear power plant.
The United States, several European nations and Israel suspect Tehran has been trying to acquire the capacity to build nuclear weapons, but Iran has said its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. Watch the world's reaction to the nuclear plant test »
Kiriyenko, quoted by Interfax, couldn't name the commissioning date of the nuclear power plant.
He also said that Russia and Iran were planning to sign a contract soon "for the delivery of nuclear fuel during a period of at least 10 years," Interfax reported.
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images. A Russian technician stands under warning signs at the Bushehr nuclear power.
Last week, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security released a report stating that Iran has reached "nuclear weapons breakout capability" - it has enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb. The report was based on an analysis of IAEA data.
However, an IAEA official who asked not to be named cautioned against drawing such dramatic conclusions from the data, saying Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium would have to be turned into highly enriched uranium to be weapons-grade material. That hasn't been done, the official said.
Hassan Qashqavi, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, denied accusations that Iran intends to make a nuclear bomb.
"Based on our religion and our human values, we totally reject all kinds of using all these WMDs, weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear bombs," Qashqavi said in an interview this week with CNN.
"We would like our Western friends to recognize our undeniable right to reach this technology peacefully," he added.
Posted: 949 GMT
GAZA CITY (CNN) - Israeli aircraft attacked seven smuggling tunnels underneath the Gaza-Egypt border Wednesday in response to rocket attacks on southern Israel, the Israeli military said.
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images. Israeli warplanes launched two air strikes along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt as delegates from three Palestinian factions were crossing at a nearby terminal, witnesses said.
There were no reported casualties in any of the attacks.
With the two rocket attacks on Wednesday, the Israeli military said more than 100 rockets, mortar shells and missiles have been fired at Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza since Hamas leaders agreed to a cease-fire on January 18.
Israel also agreed to a cease-fire and pulled its troops out of Gaza in late January, ending a three-week military campaign that the Israel said was aimed at halting the rocket fire.
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images. Smoke rises after Israel air strikes over smuggling tunnels linking the southern Gaza to Egypt in the border Gaza Strip town of Rafah.
Israel routinely targets the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border which it says are being used by Gaza's Hamas leadership to smuggle weapons into the Palestinian territory.
But Palestinians say the tunnels are necessary to get basic food supplies that are not available in Gaza because of Israel's closure of its border crossings and seaports.
It is the latest tit-for-tat violence between Gaza militants and the Israeli military despite the cease-fires.
Egypt has been trying to broker a broader cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel.
Israel is demanding that Hamas release a kidnapped Israeli soldier before it fully reopens the border crossings with Gaza.
Hamas has rejected including the release of the soldier, Gilad Shalit, as part of a cease-fire negotiation with Israel.
February 25, 2009
Posted: 1847 GMT
(CNN) - A Turkish passenger jet crashed as it tried to land at Amsterdam's main airport Wednesday, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 55, Dutch airport authorities have said.
Toussaint Kluiters/Getty Images. The plane broke into three pieces as it crash landed short of the runway.
The injured included both crew and passengers, said acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer municipality Michel Bezuijen.
It is too early to determine the cause of the crash, Bezuijen said.
A news photographer at the scene said she saw an unknown number of bodies lying under a white blanket, Maaike Voersma, a journalist with Dutch newspaper De Pers, told CNN.
A passenger on the plane who spoke to Turkish network DHA said he saw injured people trapped and squeezed between the seats when he walked off the plane. iReport: Send your videos, stories
Flight 1951, which originated from Istanbul, Turkey, was trying to land at Schiphol when it went down at about 10:40 a.m. local time (4:40 a.m. ET), Dutch airport officials said.
At least three crew were among the dead.
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images. Soon after the crash he repeatedly asserted that no one had been killed in the crash. It was later revealed 9 people had died and 50 more were wounded.
"There are still three crew members in the cabin," said Bob Steensma of the Dutch Justice Department. "I'm sorry to say they are dead. We leave them there because we have to investigate the cockpit before we take the cockpit apart."
All the passengers, however, had been removed from the plane as of about 5 p.m., officials said. Roads around the crash site had been blocked to traffic.
Six people were critically injured, Ineke Van Der Zande of Amsterdam Emergency Services told reporters at a briefing. Twenty-five passengers were severely injured, she said, and 24 others were lightly injured. The conditions of the other 31 people were not immediately known, she said. Some 60 ambulances transported 84 people to 11 hospitals throughout the region, she said.
Witnesses said they saw the nose of the plane pitch up suddenly before the crash, according to RTL
RICK NEDERSTIGT/AFP/Getty Images. A wounded passenger is carried away by emergency services in Badhoevedorp, near Schiphol Airport.
The plane was broken in three pieces. One tear was in front of the wing, splitting the "Turkish" logo in two, and a larger tear was farther back along he fuselage. See where the plane crashed »
Most of the injured were seated toward the back of the plane, which sustained the most damage, a passenger on the plane told Turkish station NTV. Many of the passengers simply walked off the plane through the cracks in the fuselage, witnesses told NTV. Watch reports on Turkish plane crash »
Medics treated passengers on the ground next to the buckled hulk of the plane, while firefighters and police examined the aircraft.
MARCEL ANTONISSE/AFP/Getty Images. Emergency services work at the scene of a Turkish Airlines passenger plane which crashed today while landing at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. The plane broke into three pieces.
Emergency exits were wide open and there was no signs of fire damage to the fuselage. Also visible was one of the aircraft's engines, apparently separated from the shattered remains of one of the wings.
The plane landed in a farmer's field near the airport, RTL journalist Greg Crouch told CNN. He said the weather at the time was partly sunny with no wind or rain. Watch iReport on crash wreckage »
Witnesses said they saw the nose of the plane pitch up suddenly before the crash, Crouch said.
A bank manager who was a passenger on the plane told NTV that there were no emergency announcements. The crew's last word to the cabin was an announcement to fasten seatbelts and prepare for landing, the bank manager said.
He said he felt the pilot giving more power to the engines before feeling "turbulence," then a sudden drop. He described the crash as similar to a sudden impact that was over in a matter of seconds. Watch report on survivors describing "turbulence" »
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it is sending a team of investigators to Amsterdam to assist in the crash investigation.
Kieran Daly, of Air Transport Intelligence said the impact had been severe but it could have been survivable because of the lack of fire. He added that there had been vast improvements in the materials used to build airplanes, meaning they did not burn as easily. Watch aviation expert comment on Amsterdam crash »
Daly also said that the Boeing 737-800 is a reliable aircraft that has been successful and safe in service.
"They really are pretty much state-of-the-art airliners with every imaginable technical benefit the industry has come up with over the years," Daly told CNN.
"You would be optimistic that they would be quite survivable in an accident." Daly said the Turkish aviation industry has a "pretty good record" of safety, and that Turkish Airlines, the national carrier, has a "very good record."
Turkish Airlines said it has 52 Boeing 737-800s in its fleet. They can carry up to 165 passengers each, the airline said.
The airline's last accident was of a small commuter jet in 2003, he said. It was a fatal crash that happened at a remote airfield in eastern Turkey, he said. "Their mainline operation is safe," Daly said. "Their pilots are well thought of."
The last accident at Schiphol Airport happened in December 2003 when an EasyJet flight carrying 103 passengers to London collided while with a lamppost while taxiing during icy conditions, according to Aviation Safety Network's Web site. The crash caused significant damage to the aircraft, but no one was killed.
The last fatal incident at the Amsterdam airport happened in April 1994 when a KLM aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff as it tried to return to Schiphol. Three of the 24 passengers and crew members on board were killed
Ivan Watson in Istanbul, Turkey and Barry Neild contributed to this report
February 24, 2009
Posted: 1113 GMT
An American soldier serving in the U.S. Army since 2002 has refused to return to Iraq for another tour of duty, saying he now deems the war in Iraq immoral. He now faces desertion charges if he doesn't join his unit within 30 days.
Follow the link below to watch the video.
Embedded video from CNN Video
February 23, 2009
Posted: 1940 GMT
(CNN) - The human rights group Amnesty International is calling on the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on Israel and the Palestinians, saying both sides used weapons supplied from abroad to carry out attacks on civilians during their three-week conflict in Gaza.
The London-based group issued a 38-page report Sunday night that detailed "evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law by all parties."
Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the United States, killing hundreds of civilians and destroying homes, the group said.
The use of white phosphorus is restricted under international law. In the early days of the Gaza conflict, the Israel Defense Forces denied using the ordnance. But later, Israeli officials said only that any shells fired in Gaza were "in accordance with international law."
Amnesty said its researchers found munitions fragments littering school playgrounds, hospitals and homes after the 22-day fighting in Gaza ended in January.
Many of the munitions used by the Israeli army were American-made, and included bombs, white phosphorus remains and missiles seemingly launched from unmanned drones, Amnesty said.
"To a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the U.S.A. and paid for with U.S. taxpayers' money," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East director, said in the report.
He called on the United States to immediately suspend military aid to Israel.
The United States is to provide $30 billion in military aid to Israel under a 10-year agreement that runs till 2017 - a 25-percent increase compared with the period preceding the Bush administration, Amnesty said.
The group also took to task Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007. It said it found remains of Qassam and Grad rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups in civilian areas.
Grad rockets have a longer range than the crude, home-made Qassams. Israel said Palestinian militants have fired about 10,000 rockets and mortars into Israel in the past eight years.
"These unsophisticated weapons are either smuggled into Gaza clandestinely or constructed there from components secretly brought in from abroad," Amnesty said.
Israel's foreign ministry responded harshly to the report, calling it biased and "dedicated almost exclusively to the censure of Israel."
The ministry said the report does not mention Hamas' "deliberate use" of civilians as human shields. It also said Israel's use of weapons complied with international law and denied that its forces targeted civilians.
"The comparison of the supply of weapons to Israel and the Hamas in inappropriate," the ministry said in a statement. "Israel is a sovereign nation that is obligated to use force to protect its citizens, while Hamas is a terror organization."
Israel launched the attack on Hamas in Gaza on December 27 with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks on southern Israel.
More than 1,300 Palestinians died and about 5,400 others were wounded. Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, were killed in the fighting.
Since the two sides declared a cease-fire on January 21, militants have sporadically fired rockets into Israel. Israel has responded with airstrikes.
Posted: 1703 GMT
JOSEPH BARRAK/AFP/Getty Images. Lebanese demonstrators hold signs during a protest in Beirut against violence and discrimination in society. The protest, organised by the gay rights association 'Helem' (Dream) and human rights organisations in Lebanon, called for a halt to violence and discrimination against homosexuals, women, children, domestic workers and foreign labourers.
SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images. A Palestinian toddler stands between suitcases he waits with family members to cross into Egypt from the southern Gaza Strip border crossing at Rafah. The border between Gaza and Egypt, the sole crossing that bypasses Israel, was opened on February 22 for three days to allow the passage of students and the sick.