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Crimea Military Buildup, Plane Debris, China v. NSA

Xi Jinping and his wife with Michelle Obama, her mother and her daughters
Xi Jinping and his wife with Michelle Obama, her mother and her daughters

Russian troops and members of pro-Russian self-defense groups raided and took over a Ukrainian Naval base in Crimea, the third in the last 48 hours, The Kyiv Post reports. After the early morning raid, acting President Olexandr Turchynov said the Ukrainian military units in Crimea had been ordered to withdraw from the peninsula, citing “threats to the lives and health” of his soldiers.

  • This comes amid reports from U.S. and UK officials that Russian forces might be preparing to invade Eastern and Southern Ukraine, as well as Transnistria, the eastern region of Moldova, The Washington Post reports. “There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transnistria if the decision was made to do that,” NATO's supreme allied commander Gen.Philip Breedlove told The Guardian. According to ITV, Romanian President Traian Basescu asked NATO to “reposition its resources in response to ongoing Russian military operations.” In Moscow, Deputy Defense Minister dismissed claims of a military buildup on the border and said that foreign missions had been sent to inspect their troops, whose numbers fall within the limits of international agreement.

  • President Barack Obama is in the Netherlands today where he is holding a series of meetings with representatives of the G7 countries. Although the planned visit was supposed to focus on nuclear terrorism, the Ukrainian crisis is expected to take center stage, with Obama seeking support for a tougher response to Russia. “We’re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far,” he said after a first meeting with Dutch PM Mark Rutte. Read more from AP.

  • Meanwhile, the situation in Eastern Ukraine is growing increasingly tense with RT reporting “massive anti-Maidan rallies” in Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk and Odessa Sunday, where thousands of people protested against Kiev’s new government, its political agreement with the European Union and the presence of NATO troops. Crimea’s deputy PM claimed that Ukraine had withdrawn 50% of its power supply, denouncing the move as “blackmail.” Read more from Itar-Tass.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the country’s Royal Air Force had spotted more “objects” that could be debris from Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth, as the search operations continue in the South Indian Ocean, Australia’s ABC reports. Earlier today, the crew aboard a Chinese plane also reported having spotted “suspicious objects” in the area. Read more from Xinhua.

At least eight people are now confirmed dead with over a dozen missing after a massive mudslide destroyed some 30 homes Saturday near the town of Oso, Washington,The Seattle Timesreports. According to the local authorities, the number of victims is likely to rise. “I just saw the darkness coming across the road. Everything was gone in three seconds,” a witness told The Daily Herald.

An Egyptian court sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, while acquitting 17 in the second hearing of their trial, AFP reports. But before the sentence can be carried out, the court decision will have to be approved by Egypt’s Grand Mufti, the highest official of Islamic law in a Muslim country. The trial will continue tomorrow, with another 700 accused of attacking people and property and murdering police officers.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Barack Obama announced jointly that Tokyo would turn over its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium to the United States. Indian newspaperThe Economic Times describes the agreement as “a victory for President Barack Obama's efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world.” The joint statement from the two countries says, “This material, once securely transported to the United States, will be sent to a secure facility and fully converted into less sensitive forms,” Read more from Reuters.

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The National Democratic Institute and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have pulled their observers from Afghanistan after last week’s Taliban attack on a luxury Kabul hotel, Reuters reports. According to an Afghanistan election observer, the decision could undermine confidence in the legitimacy of the upcoming April 5 presidential election.

Sunday’s French local elections were marked by record low voter turnout and the strength of the far-right National Front party, which gained ground in important cities. Read more from Bloomberg.

China is demanding an explanation after a report revealed the NSA infiltrated a telecom giant’s servers there. “China has already lodged many complaints with the United States about this. We demand that the United States makes a clear explanation and stop such acts,” the country’s foreign ministry spokesman said today.

Adolfo Suarez, Spain’s first democratically elected prime minister after the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, has died at age 81.

Jose Ahonen, a Finnish magician, has released a video of dogs’ reactions to a simple magic trick. Watch it here expand=1].

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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