Secretary of State John Kerry is trying again to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, as casualty counts rise inexorably higher. NPR’s Emily Harris is in Gaza, and she speaks to Audie Cornish about both sides’ demands.
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Despite sweeping changes in the ways that the news media operate in the digital age, one thing hasn’t changed: the difficulties journalists face in covering the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s almost impossible to cover it in a way seen as fair by all sides.
Both the government and the people of Israel have been determined to continue the country’s ground invasion in Gaza, despite a growing wave of international criticism. Israelis have been shaken by claims that Hamas has a heavily fortified network of tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are offering their take on the mounting numbers of unaccompanied children entering the U.S. from Central America. They’re talking to reporters on the day before a meeting with President Obama.
According to Air Algerie, one of the airline’s flights has likely crashed in the African country of Mali. The plane, which carried 116 passengers and crew, lost contact with authorities an hour after it took off.
Since last October, a staggering 57,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been apprehended at the southwestern U.S. border. Sometimes, they’ve been welcomed into the country by activists; other times they’ve been turned away by protesters.
President Barack Obama has called the flood of migrant children seeking refuge from violence and poverty in Central America a “humanitarian crisis at the border,” bringing an international spotlight to a phenomenon that, for years, has been largely ignored. Earlier this month, he requested $3.7 billion from Congress to react to the crisis and urged Central American leaders to discourage more children from attempting the dangerous journey through Mexico, where they are targets for local criminal gangs and drug cartels.
The number of migrant children hailing from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala has more than doubled since last year. But who are these young people? And why are they coming to the United States in ever-greater numbers?
Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright Scholar in El Salvador, has some answers. As part of her research in the capital, San Salvador, on unaccompanied minor migrants, she interviewed more than 500 children and adolescents as they returned to El Salvador after being deported from Mexico.
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She tells NPR’s Robert Siegel that many of them are desperate.
“These are the most dangerous places in the world,” Kennedy says. “The only place that has a higher murder rate than Honduras is Syria.”
Of the 322 interviews she’s analyzed, Kennedy says 109 interviewees “received direct threats that they could either join a gang or be killed.”
In most cases, Kennedy says, kids and teenagers leave Central America to avoid climbing levels of gang violence, extortion and drug trafficking. Sometimes, it’s to find their family. Ninety percent of the young people she’s interviewed have relatives in the U.S.; of those, half have one or both parents there.
The Mexican government has recently announced a new initiative to step up control of its southern border. Kennedy says El Salvador is feeling the effects. The migrant return center where she works has gone from receiving one or two buses of children twice a week to receiving more than six a week.
But, Kennedy says, those kids will try again. She interviewed a 12-year-old boy who returned to El Salvador barefoot; he had been robbed of everything he owned.
“I asked him if he was going to try again,” Kennedy says. “And he just burst into tears and said, ‘What would you do if you were me? I haven’t seen my mom or my dad in 10 years … and no one here loves me.’ “
If the children have family in the U.S., they can often afford to pay a smuggler to get them across the border. If a family is too poor to afford a coyote, however, the child will often try to ride on a network of trains that run the length of Mexico, known as “La Bestia” — The Beast.
Deborah Bonello, a freelance video journalist in Mexico, says that riding The Beast is a dangerous undertaking. Because it’s a cargo train, not a passenger train, migrants have to jump on while the train’s moving and climb onto the roof. Many have lost limbs; others have lost their lives.
And there are other dangers.
“Criminal groups are charging a tax now to migrants who want to ride the train, and if you can’t pay, you basically get thrown off,” Bonello says. “And it’s half a day, a day on the train so if the train doesn’t stop, they have no access to food.”
Migrants riding La Bestia often have to rely on charity. Bonello says that groups like the women who call themselves “Las Patronas” throw food to migrants as the trains go by.
If they make it to the U.S.-Mexico border, children are readily giving themselves up to U.S. agents, crossing the Rio Grande on inner tubes and tires. They will be encountering even more patrols in the coming weeks; Texas Gov. Rick Perry has announced that he’s sending 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border.
These children hope their long journey will end here, when they surrender to U.S. officials — but as they head to crowded detention centers to await immigration court hearings, it may be just beginning.
Writing and research was contributed by Caroline Batten and Nicole Narea.
More than two years since it ran aground off an Italian island and killed 32 people, the Costa Concordia cruise ship is finally up and away. Cocooned in stabilizing containers that act as floats, the crippled ship is headed to Genoa, where it will be broken up for scrap.
Secretary of State John Kerry met separately Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to ease tensions in the Gaza Strip.
Sexual assault convictions have been handed down to some Egyptian men, after several women were attacked during celebrations for incoming President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Audie Cornish speaks with freelance journalist Nadine Marroushi about the verdicts.
hide captionA woman passes by a departure board at Philadelphia International Airport showing that US Airways Flight 796 to Tel Aviv has been canceled Tuesday.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a 24-hour ban on flights to and from the Tel Aviv airport.
“The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of July 22, 2014,” the FAA said in a statement.
As we reported earlier, some American carriers had already started canceling flights to and from Israel. Delta said one flight — traveling from JFK this morning with 273 passengers — was diverted to Paris-Charles de Gaulle after the airline received news of the rocket strike.
“The safety of our passengers and crew is American’s top priority,” American Airlines said in a statement. “We have cancelled US Airways Flight 797 from Tel Aviv (TLV) to Philadelphia (PHL) and Flight 796 from PHL to TLV for July 22 in response to security concerns at TLV. “
United Airlines said it was suspending its flights “until further notice.”
Update at 1:37 p.m. ET. International Carriers Cancel:
The Associated Press reports that Germany and France’s largest airlines — Lufthansa and Air France — say they are also suspending flights to Tel Aviv.
The wire service reports:
“Lufthansa said Tuesday evening that it was suspending all Tel Aviv flights for 36 hours, including those operated by subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss. The company says it made the decision as a precaution to protect the safety of its passengers and crews.”
On Twitter, Air France said flights to Tel Aviv were scheduled to operate tomorrow.