Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A take on the press coverage of Trump's hush money trial

For tonight's post, I just want to highlight a segment of today's DEMOCRACY NOW!

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the criminal hush money election interference trial of former President Donald Trump. New York prosecutors are wrapping up their case that alleges Trump falsified business records in an illegal effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, when he allegedly hid the reimbursement of a hush money payment to his lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

On Tuesday, Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen admitted he misled the Federal Election Commission about hush money payments made to Daniels. Cohen said he did so in order to, quote, “demonstrate loyalty to Mr. Trump,” unquote, and described a February 2017 meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office at the White House about the hush money repayment. Cohen also recalled Trump trying to stop him from cooperating with federal investigators. In cross-examination, Trump’s defense attorneys tried to suggest Cohen was motivated by vengeance against Trump.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senator J.D. Vance, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and others were among a number of allies of President Trump who visited the courthouse Tuesday to bash the — to bash Michael Cohen. This is Speaker Johnson.

SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON: This is the fifth week that President Trump has been in court for this sham of a trial. They are doing this intentionally to keep him here and keep him off of the campaign trail. And I think everybody in the country can see that for what it is.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as a New York appeals court rejected Trump’s request to overturn a gag order against him in the case.

For more, we’re joined by Ron Kuby, criminal defense and civil rights lawyer based here in New York, closely following all Trump’s cases.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Ron.

RON KUBY: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of this week. You had Stormy Daniels testifying last week. Now you have Michael Cohen. The prosecutors began, and then he has been grilled by Trump’s defense attorneys.

RON KUBY: Michael Cohen, essentially, is the narrator of the entire case. He’s the person who has come forward. He’s tied all the disparate pieces together — the documents, Stormy Daniels and everything else the prosecution has introduced. And he is the one who has firsthand knowledge of the actual deal that he and Donald Trump struck in order to pay the hush money, create a phony retainer, and ultimately falsify the business records.

And while his credibility is important — and I think that most people can agree that he’s a loathsome lackey — he was a loathsome lackey for Donald Trump, and he’s just like every other mob underboss who gets called in a criminal trial, although he’s not as bad as the average mob underboss. He didn’t actually kill anybody, arsonate anybody on behalf of his boss. But he is a guy who would have taken a bullet for the boss, did all these things for the boss. Then the boss betrayed him. And now he, indeed, is out for revenge.

Unfortunately for Donald Trump — and I hate to start a sentence like that — but, unfortunately for Donald Trump, the story that Michael Cohen tells is an eminently believable story and is corroborated in significant respects, so the defense is going to have a hard time with him, all the more so because Trump’s lead lawyer has never tried a criminal case in state court and has only defended two criminal cases in his entire life. This is not the on-the-job training, learning case that you really want sort of starting out in the world of New York criminal defense.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ron, first of all, greetings. It’s been a long time since we’ve talked. But I wanted to ask you about two things. One is this — you’re a veteran of decades of criminal cases. Have you ever — do you ever recall political leaders from Washington coming to a local criminal case like this, like the speaker of the House and these other members of Congress, and publicly criticizing the prosecution in the midst of a trial? And secondly, you’ve had a lot to say about the media coverage of this trial. So, I’m wondering if you could comment on both the politicians involved in this case and also the way the media have covered it.

RON KUBY: Unfortunately, Juan, I have seen this before. It’s the advantage or disadvantage of being around as long as I’ve been around. We saw it, for example — and I don’t know how many people even remember this — the Bernhard Goetz case, a deranged white man, carrying around a handgun, shot down four Black youth who he encountered in the subway, the subway vigilante. He had huge support. We had people like Senator Alfonse D’Amato coming to his defense, showing up at his trial; of course, Rudy Giuliani showing up, and other political leaders. When there is a high-profile case and you see elements that are attractive to, really, one side or the other — usually the right wing — they tend to show up and use the trial as a background to posture for their views.

Mike Johnson, it was kind of remarkable in the sense that he did one of the things that Trump specifically was doing: He attacked the judge’s daughter, which was kind of amazing. And as for Mike Johnson, remember, he’s the guy who publicly announced that he and his son are internet buddies. They monitor each other’s internet traffic to make sure that none of them are looking at porn or off-color websites. I wonder how Mike and Mike Jr. dealt with Stormy Daniels. Was anybody tempted to google her body of work there, or did they just stay on the straight and narrow? It was pretty disgusting show all around from Mike Johnson.

The media coverage of the case, they tend to view this as a sporting event — “The defense had a good day,” “The prosecution scored heavily here.” The danger with that is we have no idea who’s ahead or who’s behind, until the jury speaks. In a sporting event, you can say, “OK, the Yankees are up by nine runs in the seventh inning. They have never lost with this much of a lead. And you can confidently predict, happily, the Yankees will win.” But you can’t do that with a criminal trial. So, so much of the speculation is just uninformed, because it can’t be informed. And, of course, the next body of uninformed speculation will be: Will Donald Trump testify? Donald Trump will not testify. I think we should speculate on the reasons he’s going to use to explain why he’s not testifying. And I have, you know, my own selection on my bingo card. But, of course, he’s not going to testify.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Judge Merchan, I wanted to ask you: If he is convicted, your sense of the likelihood of him imposing a jail sentence?

RON KUBY: Judge Merchan is notoriously harsh on white-collar criminals. Judge Merchan is one of these judges who seems to think that the more you have, the more you’ve accumulated, the more advantages and privilege you’ve had in your life, the more you should really follow the rules, because the rules make it easy enough for you to become wealthy. Like, if you’re violating them out of greed or personal motivation, you will be sentenced to jail. So I have no doubt that Judge Merchan will impose a prison sentence. I also have no doubt that that prison sentence and the conviction will be stayed while Donald Trump pursues a whole plethora of multiple appeals.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about where you’re going today, to court, to represent the climate activists arrested on Earth Day in front of Citibank headquarters — many are now appearing in court — and also to ask you about the pro-Palestinian student activists at Purchase. I think 68 were arrested. This is State University of New York. Westchester DA said many of the charges will be dropped against them — as well as the students arrested at Fordham. You’re representing all of these people.

RON KUBY: OK. So, from the top, this morning in criminal court, in the summons appearance part, the climate protesters who were part of the New York Communities for Change set of actions, “it’s getting hot out there,” “it’s going to be a hot summer” actions, young people, for the most part, climate protesters, desperately trying to get into people’s consciousness about the existential need to save this planet, which has always been a difficult thing, because people tend to look at the crisis of today and tomorrow rather than the crisis of a year from now. Unfortunately, today is now. The future is now. And so, they are all charged with criminal trespass. I expect those charges will be dismissed.

Following that, there are three Palestinian protesters at 100 Center Street today who disrupted the Easter vigil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a respectful but firm protest against the slaughter in Gaza. Yesterday, the Purchase students began their series of appearances, and they are, for the most part, taking a three-hour course called “Fresh Start” — sounds nice — and all of those charges will be dismissed. And the Fordham students are due on Monday also in the summons part, where they face trespass charges. And it is likely those cases will ultimately be dismissed, as well. I don’t think I missed anybody.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Ron Kuby, for —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ron, I wanted to —

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, go ahead, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I just wanted to ask, Ron, you — for decades, of course, you have been one of the go-to lawyers in New York for social protesters, and especially during your period of partnership with the late, great William Kuntsler. I’m wondering: Have you seen over these years this kind of upsurge of young people protesting like you’ve seen in the last couple of years?

RON KUBY: It’s a great question. I tend to view these struggles, very much the way William Kuntsler did, as perennial struggles with each generation kind of rising up to do their part. We saw that in Occupy Wall Street. We see it now. And I just have mad respect for the young people who are literally risking their education, their careers and their futures to stand up for the planet, to stand up against the slaughter in Gaza. And it’s so impressive to see them. And I’m always happy to serve those movements in any small way that I can.

AMY GOODMAN: Ron Kuby, criminal defense and civil rights lawyer based here in New York.

Next up, we go to Gaza to speak with an American doctor who saved the life of Senator Tammy Duckworth 20 years ago when she was injured in Iraq. He’s now part of an American medical volunteer delegation at European Hospital in Khan Younis who’s trapped. Stay with us.

So what do you think?

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Wednesday, May 15, 2024.  The killing continues as England's INDEPENDENT publishes a report this morning that should leave US President Joe Biden feeling very exposed and uncomfortable.

Campus activism continues around the world as the slaughter in Gaza continues.  Wendy Hurrell, James W Kelly and Adriana Elgueta  (BBC NEW) report:

Students have occupied a building at the London School of Economics (LSE) to protest against what they say are the university’s ties with Israel.

The pro-Palestinian activists are calling for the central London university to cut financial ties with the country over its conduct in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Protest encampments have sprung up at university campuses across the UK, US and European countries calling for an end to the war.

A university spokesperson told BBC News its priority continued to be the "wellbeing of the LSE community”.

The activists began their occupation of the Marshall Building, which contains the departments of accounting, finance and management on its Holborn campus, shortly after holding a rally outside on Monday afternoon.

Also this morning, AFP reports:

Swiss police moved in early on Wednesday to remove dozens of pro-Palestinian student protesters at the University of Bern.

Student demonstrations have gathered pace across western Europe in recent weeks, with protesters demanding an end to the bloodshed in Gaza and calling on colleges to cut ties with Israel.

Swiss police acted after a request by the university's management, which had described the student occupation as "unacceptable".

The last of about 30 protesters left the university on Wednesday morning. They chanted pro-Palestinian slogans before leaving the area, a journalist from the Keystone-ATS agency said.

Dozens of demonstrators had been occupying university premises, including the restaurant, since Sunday night.

Seven students say they have been asked by the Australian National University (ANU) to leave an encampment on campus that was established in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

The students, and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), say they were told by the university to leave by Friday, but were not given any reasons.

The encampment has existed on the ANU campus for more than two weeks in solidarity with the people of Gaza amid Israel's war with Hamas.

 [. . .]

Today, pro-Palestine students at Melbourne universities protested across the city, as university administrators continue to urge demonstrators to dismantle similar encampments there.

A meeting was held this morning with the deputy vice-chancellor of ANU, in which the students say they were told to leave by Friday or face possible disciplinary action.

THE AGE notes, "The students staging the sit-in said they were willing to risk arrest" and quote art student Gemma O'Toole stating, "This is indefinite. This is about disclosing and divesting and nothing will change until the demands are met."  In the United States, an encampment in Berkeley has been folded.  KGO reports:

The pro-Palestinian encampment at UC Berkeley is being dismantled Tuesday afternoon.

The university says negotiations with demonstrators have led to an agreement to expedite what it calls a new "socially responsible investment strategy."

This comes after a hearing from the UC Board of Regents on Tuesday who said if the UC system followed the students' requests, they would have to divest $32 billion worth of assets.

Chancellor Carol Christ says she's relieved to bring the campus protest to a peaceful end.

Demonstrators say they're going to protest at the UC Regents meeting at UC Merced tomorrow -- as other activists from across the state are doing.

The move to dismantle the encampment, which swelled to more than 180 tents and hundreds of students at its peak, notably included no police presence or arrests at a time when some universities — including UCLA, USC, Pomona College and Cal Poly Humboldt — have faced immense criticism for using police to clear camps or building takeovers by pro-Palestinian protesters. Ongoing turmoil has racked UCLA since an encampment there came under a violent mob attack two weeks ago.

In two letters released Tuesday on the university website, Christ rejected calls for UC Berkeley to directly target Israel through divestment or cutting ties with Israeli universities. Instead, she said the university would review complaints about discrimination against Palestinians and other groups in academic partnerships such as exchange programs. And the chancellor said she supported examining Berkeley’s investments in “a targeted list of companies due to their participation in weapons manufacturing, mass incarceration, and/or surveillance industries.”

The letters said that the university would create a task force by the end of June that includes faculty, students and staff to examine whether the investments of the UC Berkeley Foundation, the university’s primary private fundraising arm, “align with our values or should be modified in order to do so.”

As of last June 30, UC Berkeley’s endowment had a total market value of $7.4 billion, with $2.9 billion held by the UC Berkeley Foundation and $4.5 billion held by the University of California Regents.

The students of Columbia University kicked off the wave of protests that not only spread across the country but also spread across the world.  Sarah Huddleston (COLUMBIA SPECTATOR) reports:

 Over 200 independent student workers pledged to withhold their labor—which includes withholding final grades—until the University grants amnesty to all students, faculty, and staff disciplined for their involvement in pro-Palestinian protest activity and permanently removes New York Police Department personnel from campus.

The student workers sent letters to their deans on Sunday informing them of their pledge. The group also announced the action in a May 6 press release, which condemns the April 30 sweep of occupied Hamilton Hall, subsequent restrictions on campus access, and University President Minouche Shafik’s request to have NYPD remain on campus until May 17.

“These workplace conditions are unsafe and unacceptable. The actions of the Columbia administration are sickening,” the press release reads. “Because of this, as independent and unaffiliated student workers, we call for a sickout until our demands of full amnesty for disciplined students and cops off campus are met. There will be no grading and no research until the militarized lockdown of campus is lifted and all suspended and expelled students are granted amnesty.”

A sick-out is “an organized absence from work by workers on the pretext of sickness,” according to Merriam Webster. In a Monday Instagram post, the organizers wrote that graduate student workers and faculty participants will either call out sick or withhold work and tell their supervisors they are sick “once prompted to do so.” The Instagram post also encourages faculty to join the sick-out, not replace the lost labor, not report those participating, and participate in similar organizing efforts.

The sick-out action is not affiliated with any union, but builds off a foundation of rank-and-file organizing at Columbia, according to a PhD student worker who spoke to Spectator under the condition of anonymity. The student said that student workers have been meeting for a while to discuss their “outrage at the actions by the administration of Columbia,” but were motivated by a call from Columbia University Apartheid Divest directed to faculty and staff that “encouraged them to take labor actions to call the function of the University.”

The student said that the group decided to focus their demands on amnesty and NYPD removal after witnessing the mass arrests on April 18 and April 30, which were both authorized by Shafik. As NYPD officers swept Hamilton, they threw one protester down the stairs, slammed protesters with metal barricades, deployed stun grenades, and accidentally fired a gun. The NYPD arrested over 200 individuals across both sweeps.

“We stay resolute on our call for the liberation of Palestine. But upon discussing in these last meetings, we saw that the level of repression, sometimes brutally so by the police, on our students was untenable,” the student said. “And the presence of NYPD on campus posed an unsafe labor and work conditions for us, the student workers, as well.”

Retired Colonel Waibhav Anil Kale is dead.  Another murder in Gaza carried out by the Israeli government.  THE HINDUSTAN TIMES reports:

MEA condoled the death of Colonel Waibhav Anil Kale (retd) on Wednesday, extending all assistance to bring his mortal remains back to India.

 The ministry of external affairs on Wednesday condoled the death of Colonel Waibhav Anil Kale (retd), the Indian national who was working with the UN in Gaza. The MEA said India's Permanent Mission to the UN in New York as well as its mission in Tel Aviv and Ramallah are extending all assistance in the repatriation of mortal remains of Waibhav Anil Kale to India.

Kale, 46, prematurely retired from the Indian Army in June 2022. He was a counter-terrorism specialist who also served as a UN peacekeeper before his retirement.

Kale's death marked the first time an international staff member of the UN has died in the Israel-Hamas wa[r] since October 2023.

1. Colonel Waibhav Anil Kale, 46, spent over two decades in the armed forces. He came from a family dedicated to military service, with his brother, Group Captain Vishal Kale, serving in the Indian Air Force, his cousin Colonel Amey Kale in the army, and his brother-in-law, Wing Commander Prasant Karde (Retd). 

2. Colonel Kale was from Nagpur and he studied at the Somalwar high school. He later got a BA degree in Humanities from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, before getting a Diploma of Education in Senior Defense Management from Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore, as per his LinkedIn

The Indian government says it is “deeply saddened” by the killing of one of its retired army officers who was working for the United Nations in a suspected Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip.

Waibhav Anil Kale, 46, retired as a colonel in the Indian Army in 2022 and was working as a security coordination officer in the UN Department of Safety and Security in Gaza’s embattled Rafah region.

He was en route to the European Gaza Hospital in Rafah along with a colleague, when their vehicle came under attack on Monday. The colleague was wounded in the strike.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and dear ones,” said a statement by India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday, without mentioning the circumstances in which Kale was killed.

“Our Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and our Missions in Tel Aviv and Ramallah are extending all assistance in the repatriation of mortal remains to India and continue to be in touch with relevant authorities regarding the investigation into the incident,” said the statement.

Kale is survived by his wife Amruta and two teenage children, son Vedant and daughter Radhika, India’s NDTV network said in a report.

As the assault on Gaza continues, more and more people around the world see it for what it is: genocide.  Julia Conley (COMMON DREAMS) reports:

A widely respected humanitarian law expert who has resisted using the term "genocide" for Israel's killing of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza—a word used "sparingly" in the international human rights movement, he noted—said Tuesday that he has concluded a genocide is indeed taking place, evidenced particularly by Israel's blocking of humanitarian aid.

Aryeh Neier, who co-founded Human Rights Watch in 1978, served as its executive director for 12 years, and also led the American Civil Liberties Union and the Open Society Foundations, noted in an essay in The New York Review of Books that his organizations have used the term "genocide" to describe few mass killings.

Neier was not convinced of South Africa's genocide claim against Israel when it argued its case with the International Court of Justice in January, even though he was "deeply distressed" by the human impact of Israel's relentless U.S.-backed bombing campaign in Gaza.

The 2,000-pound bombs being used against Gaza's population of 2.3 million Palestinians were "clearly inappropriate," wrote Neier in the magazine's June 6 issue. "Yet I was not convinced that this constituted genocide."

Neier wrote that he believed at the time that Israel's retaliation against Hamas for the October 7 attack it led in southern Israel could "include an attempt to incapacitate" the Palestinian group, necessitating the wide-scale assault on Gaza, where it operates.

"I am now persuaded that Israel is engaged in genocide against Palestinians in Gaza," wrote Neier, whose family escaped Nazi Germany as refugees when he was an infant. "What has changed my mind is its sustained policy of obstructing the movement of humanitarian assistance into the territory."

Israel's intent to block aid—and to treat Gazans as "collectively complicit for Hamas's crimes"—has been clear since shortly after the October 7 attack, when Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said: "There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly." 

As more and more people around the world reject the genocide, US President Joe Biden is preparing to send more weapons of death.  THE WASHINGTON POST reports, "The Biden administration plans to push ahead with more than $1 billion in weapons deals for Israel, U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter told The Washington Post, despite withholding a shipment of bombs this month due to concerns over Israel’s plans for a major offensive in Rafah. The European Union’s top diplomat urged Israel to “immediately” end its operation in the southern Gaza city."  Murtaza Hussain (INTERCEPT) offers:

Well before October 7, the Israeli government decided that the Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or Gaza, were no longer politically relevant. Rather than dealing with the Palestinians as political agents, Israeli leaders have taken the position that Palestinians are merely a subject population to be suppressed and controlled with a mixture of military, technological, and economic tools.

While continuing a policy of blockading and periodically bombing Gaza, Israel has either ignored or rejected the Palestinian Authority’s calls, with the support of international law, for a two-state solution. Instead, Israel proceeded unilaterally with its colonization and annexation of the West Bank, cementing a consensus among major human rights groups that Israel is an apartheid state.

The U.S. under President Joe Biden, following in the line of other administrations, abetted this process of dismissing the political claims of Palestinians. Most notably, Biden followed the Trump administration in its pursuit of faux-diplomacy in the form of regional arms deals and normalization agreements between Gulf Arab states and Israel: the so-called Abraham Accords. That myopia eventually produced the current conflagration in Gaza, when the October 7 Hamas assault exposed Israel’s technological and military control over the Gaza Strip as much less robust than advertised.

From a U.S. perspective, Biden’s reflexive backing for a war that has proven to be equal parts aimless and brutal has now trapped the U.S. in a situation where it is the primary enabler of an alleged genocide.

The war has not only tarnished America’s reputation abroad but is also increasingly tearing at its own social fabric. Even diehard subscribers to the U.S. foreign policy consensus have been forced to reckon with the failures of treating the Palestinians as politically irrelevant.

This morning at THE INDEPENDENT, Richard Hall, Bel Trew and Andrew Feinberg report:

resident Joe Biden and his administration have been accused of being complicit in enabling a famine in Gaza by failing to sufficiently act on repeated warnings from their own experts and aid agencies.

Interviews with current and former US Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department officials, aid agencies working in Gaza and internal USAID documents reveal that the administration rejected or ignored pleas to use its leverage to persuade its ally Israel — the recipient of billions of dollars of US military support — to allow sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza to stop the famine taking hold.

The former officials say the US also provided diplomatic cover for Israel to create the conditions for famine by blocking international efforts to bring about a ceasefire or alleviate the crisis, making the delivery of aid almost impossible.

“This is not just turning a blind eye to the man-made starvation of an entire population, it is direct complicity,” former State Department official Josh Paul, who resigned over US support for the war, told The Independent. 

[. . .]

From the time of the first warning signs in December, intensive US pressure on Israel to open more land crossings and flood Gaza with aid could have stopped the crisis taking hold, the officials said. But Mr Biden refused to make US military aid to Israel conditional.

Instead, the Biden government pursued novel and ineffective aid solutions such as airdrops and a floating pier. Now, some 300,000 people in Gaza’s north are experiencing a “full-blown” famine, according to the World Food Program, and the entire 2.3 million population of Gaza is experiencing catastrophic levels of hunger.

The level of dissent within the US government agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and combating global hunger has been unprecedented.

At least 19 internal dissent memos have been sent since the start of the war by staff at USAID criticising US support for the war in Gaza.

In an internal collective dissent memo drafted this month by numerous employees of USAID, the staff assail the agency and the Biden administration for its “failure to uphold international humanitarian principles and to adhere to its mandate to save lives.”

The leaked draft memo, seen by The Independent, calls for the administration to apply pressure to bring “an end to the Israeli siege that is causing famine.”

Not acting upon repeated warnings like these was a political choice.

“The US has provided both the military and the diplomatic support that enabled famine to emerge in Gaza,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a former high-ranking USAID official under both Barack Obama and Joe Biden who worked on famine prevention in Yemen and South Sudan, told The Independent.

This investigation by The Independent chronicles the Biden administration’s repeated failures to act forcefully in response to months of warnings of a looming famine. Those failures continue to this day.


Let's drop back to yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

AMY GOODMAN: More than half a million Palestinians — nearly a quarter of Gaza’s population — have been displaced over the past week alone, according to the United Nations. Over 450,000 people have fled Rafah since Israel launched an offensive on the city, with another 100,000 displaced in the north amidst escalated bombing and ground attacks.

Humanitarian organizations say they’re struggling to provide dwindling supplies of food, tents and blankets to the large numbers of newly displaced. In a social media post today, the U.N. refugee agency UNRWA said, quote, “People face constant exhaustion, hunger and fear. Nowhere is safe. An immediate #ceasefire is the only hope,” unquote. No food, aid or fuel has entered the two main border crossings in southern Gaza for the past week, since Israeli forces entered Rafah and took over the border crossing there. Some 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of starvation, and a full-blown famine is taking place in the north, according to the U.N. and the World Food Programme.

By some accounts, a number of hospitals are on the brink of having to shut down major departments due to a lack of fuel and supplies. Gaza’s Government Media Office says hospitals are no longer operating in the north, while in the south, the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah has received an evacuation order from Israeli forces. Doctors and nurses are resisting that evacuation order because they don’t want to leave their patients.

This comes as Gaza’s Civil Defense teams are struggling to reach victims trapped under the rubble of bombed buildings as daily airstrikes continue. At a news conference today, a spokesperson for the Civil Defense said Israeli forces’ continued targeting of heavy equipment that its teams use to recover victims in the rubble, in addition to a severe fuel shortage, may soon bring rescue efforts to a total halt.

At least 82 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza over the last 24 hours. The death toll after seven months of Israel’s assault has now topped 35,000 Palestinians killed, including over 14,000 children. Nearly 80,000 people have been wounded.

For more on the latest, we go to Gaza to speak with journalist Akram al-Satarri. He’s joined us multiple times over the past several months from Rafah in the south, but today he’s joining us from outside the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Akram, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain why you’ve moved from Rafah to Deir al-Balah. Talk about the situation with the hospitals and the number of people, nearly half a million, who are on the move once again.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Good morning, Amy. Good morning from Gaza. Good morning from Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital.

To start speaking about the situation, I would portray to you and all the viewers a situation that was taking place not far away from me. A few yards in the background, there were some mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers also weeping over the death of their dears. Not far away from me is the morgue of the hospital, where people come to claim the bodies of their dear ones. Some of them are lucky enough to find the bodies of their dears. Some others are not lucky enough to have that privilege.

In al-Nuseirat refugee camp, a house was targeted, was reduced to rubble. Thirty people were killed overnight. Some of them were retrieved. Some other people are still under the rubble of the houses that were destroyed. People are frantically trying to retrieve the bodies of their dears and of their relatives who went there. We saw the destruction. We saw the suffering. We saw the people frantically trying to retrieve the bodies of their dears. And one of them was happy to find the body of his relative. The house was sheltering an internally displaced family, a family that was displaced for around eight times, Amy, eight times in Gaza — one time from the Gaza north to Gaza City, one time from Gaza City to Gaza central area, another time from Gaza central area to Khan Younis area, and a third and a fourth time from Gaza area to Rafah area, and then from Rafah area to another area in Rafah that was deemed safe according to the prescription of the Israeli occupation forces.

People have been moving. People have been hopeful that they would survive, thinking that following the orders of the Israeli occupation forces would make them safe. However, they were shocked. And I don’t think they had the time that is enough for them to be shocked. They were targeted. They were killed. Most of them were retrieved, and many of them are still under the rubble.

That describes the exact situation in the Gaza Strip, the way people are living for the last seven months, the way displacement has been weaponized when it comes to dealing with the largest population of the Gaza Strip. People were killed. People are dead. People are displaced. People are losing their dears. People don’t have enough food. People are suffering to secure anything that has to do with a normal life in Gaza.

And those people are now described by Israel as people who were treated with dignity and that this war is the most civilized one on Earth in the history of the mankind. The things that we are seeing, the way we are being treated is far away from being a human way. People are treated as a herd of sheep that is being herded by a shepherd who has no mercy whatsoever and who is dictating whatever he wants or she wants, because they have the ultimate power to do things, and they have the ultimate power to destroy anything they want, with the most sophisticated technology they have been using. They have been very happy and proud about the artificial intelligence they have been using for the sake of just identifying who’s combatant, who’s noncombatant.

Unfortunately, the statistics from the ground explains how shocking the way people are being targeted. Mothers are killed with their sons. Fathers are killed with their daughters and sons, whole families wiped out, and even now in Rafah area, in the east, west, south now and north in Rafah. In the Gaza south area, in the Gaza north area, in the Gaza central area, nonstop bombardment. And people who were asked to leave Rafah are now in Gaza central area or in Khan Younis, and they are still seeing with their own eyes — I mean, again, the lucky ones who are surviving the bombardments are seeing with their own eyes that there is no safe haven in Gaza Strip. Death is the one major risk enveloping the lives of the people of Gaza.

However, starvation is one more equally important threat that the — and challenge that the Palestinians are seeing. Those people who have been living this displacement, destruction and fear for the last seven months are now struggling to secure water for their children — to start with the water, because water is the gift of life, and water is not available in Gaza. Water desalination plants were destroyed. I live in an area that is called Hamad City. There were four wells to serve the whole area, around 137 residential towers. Around 98 of those towers were destroyed by the Israeli occupation forces, including the four main facilities that have to do with the water desalination or water treatment. People are staying there. They have no water. They have to fetch the water. They have to go for around one kilometer or to two kilometers or to contact some suppliers, who find a great challenge in just getting water to the people because of the lack to fuel.

So, no infrastructure, no food supplies, no water supplies, no medical consumicals or medications allowed into the Gaza Strip. And people are left there to face that unconceivable situation, unconceivable situation when it comes to the access and protection. The whole population is not protected. And the whole population of 2.37 million Gazans are facing this critical problem of not being able to access anything decent, anything decent, neither the shelter nor the supplies of any kind. And they are left to do that, and the ones who are targeted are just killed. And others, tens of thousands of Gazans, are injured.

And the ones who are injured are unable to go to the hospitals, because hospitals are already out of services. The Kuwaiti Hospital was communicated with by the Israeli occupation forces. They asked them to leave the area. The area itself is part of the area that was asked to leave by the Israeli occupation forces. The situation continues to be very dire. People even with normal health diseases are not able to access the hospital, are not able to find proper medication for their wounds or for their diseases or for whatever things they need. And they end up facing that type of slow death, a slow death which means they don’t have access to food, they don’t have access to water, they don’t have access to supplies of any kind, and they are still suffering. And that speaks for the people in Gaza south, in Gaza north, in Gaza central area. People cannot get anything decent to help them survive. And they are afraid also of the major situation, the death. And as I’m talking to you now, you can hear the ambulance coming currently with more people who are injured because of the ongoing bombardment in Gaza central area, that is not witnessing major ground operations as described by the Israeli occupation forces.

So, the whole situation is dire, is extremely catastrophic, is aggravating into something extremely ugly, unacceptable and unbearable, is not justifiable according to the dictates of international humanitarian law nor the international law and the instruments that have to do with the dignity of the people, with the safe and sound access to resources at the times of conflict. People have been deprived. People have been deprived from that decent access for around 17 years now because of the strict blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip. And now they are being targeted, they are being deprived, they are being displaced, and they don’t know what next is going to happen. They are afraid from death. They are afraid from hunger. They are afraid from the very lacking situation they have been living. And they don’t know what the future holds for them.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Akram, Akram, I wanted to ask you — you mentioned northern Gaza. The Israelis had claimed that they had pacified the area. Many people have started to come back. Now they’re attacking again. What are you hearing about what’s happening in northern Gaza?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Northern Gaza has been seeing a large-scale ground operation. Israeli occupation forces declared that they have won the war in Gaza north. They declared that they have destroyed Hamas power. And now they’re coming back, apparently, to win again Hamas, up 'til some certain time when they will come back one third time to also win again. They came back to Gaza north. They targeted al-Zeitoun neighborhood. Al-Zeitoun neighborhood was declared as a clear area from Hamas like around three months ago. And now they're coming back there. They are conducting a major operation. They’re using three battalions in that fight, three brigades in that fight. And they have been attacking the infrastructure. The image that is coming from al-Zeitoun area shows very comprehensive and intensified bombardment. Whole blocks are in smoke. The horizon is filled with black smoke, which is indicative of the ongoing fires resulting from the ongoing bombardment.

And with that ongoing bombardment comes the ongoing death and destruction and injury resulted to the people. And people who are living there are also having this extremely serious problem of not having enough access to the ambulances, enough access to the hospitals, enough access to primary healthcare clinics. And the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Palestinian Civil Defense, the UNRWA, the World Food Programme, all the international organizations have been voicing their concern over the safety of the people, over the safety of the people who might be injured and might end up dying because of the fact that, no, there is no vehicles to go and collect them and take them to the hospitals. The situation is extremely catastrophic, in the sense that the Civil Defense forces, the Civil Defense crews are not able to move their vehicles because of the fact that Gaza and Gaza terminals have been controlled and seized by the Israeli occupation forces for the last eight days. And before that, there was the Jewish Passover vacation, and there were 11 days of total disruption of the supplies into the Gaza Strip. And then, four days after that, these supplies were extremely slow.

So, people are suffering. They are deprived from everything. And the ones who are injured and the ones who are seeing now the ongoing fight or the ongoing destruction in al-Zeitoun area are asked to move to another area further inside Gaza City. And then that other area is targeted. We have been hearing the recent news about the bombardment and the tens of people killed in a bombardment or a strike that took their lives, and then another eight people, and then 10 people, and then five people, and then two people, and then three people and a mother, a child and her son.

So, it is extremely catastrophic. And people are moving, and they are hoping that they would survive, but, unfortunately, many of them are not surviving. They’re hoping to keep their shelter, but, unfortunately, they end up being killed in the shelter, that has been also reduced to rubble on their head. They are hopeful that they would be treated once they are injured; unfortunately, they cannot access any healthcare, and they have been left with that suffering for such a very long time now. And they are, unfortunately, expecting to see more of the same today and tomorrow and in the coming days, with no ceasefire reached and with the international community failing to do something that would change the dynamics when it comes to that kind of continuous escalation and conflict.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Akram, now that Israel has gained control of the Rafah crossing, as well, is there any — are any of the wounded or any people who want to leave Gaza able to do so, and also of the foreigners who are there?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: No human being whatsoever is allowed to cross Rafah crossing or Kerem Shalom crossing. In the second day of that seizure of the border, a truck was summoned by the Israeli occupation forces for a transporter that is known and identified and recognized by the Israeli army. They went there. Ten people went there. Six of them were shot by the Israeli army. And the truck that was suppose to enter Gaza did not enter Gaza. So, it’s a full and complete closure of the border. No foreigners, no Gazans, no one is allowed to move from that area. And no supplies whatsoever have been entering that area ever since this whole process started in Rafah and Kerem Shalom area.

AMY GOODMAN: Akram, this is going to be our last question. I just want to emphasize to people how rare it is to hear a reporter inside Gaza, so we thank you so much for this report. Now, you have moved out of Rafah. Is this the full ground invasion of Rafah that we’re witnessing? And also, can you comment on the Civil Defense group that held a news conference today saying that Israel is targeting their heavy machinery that helps to get people out of the rubble, that they are increasingly unable, also not having fuel, to save people from the rubble, where it’s expected over these months there are over 10,000 people, at least, buried, but continuing each day?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Reporting from Gaza — to start with, reporting from Gaza, Amy, is a great challenge for me and for every single reporter who’s in Gaza. We are part of this fight. We were made to be part of this fight by the Israeli occupation forces, although our job as journalists is to provide as accurate and sound image about the situation as we can. And we have been trying. We are humans, and we are Gazans, and we are suffering just like these other people. We have this problem with accessing food and water, with accessing supplies. And we are struggling. But we are willingly undertaking that responsibility, because this is a moral and national obligation, to start with.

And then, when it comes to the Palestinian Civil Defense, it’s not only the Palestinian Civil Defense heavy machinery that is being targeted. Also, the Gaza municipality heavy machinery is being divided, is being — sorry, is being targeted by incendiary materials. There were some reports for the last two months and a half of Israeli quadcopter pouring some incendiary materials over those heavy machinery and targeting and burying them. I think the way things are being done now is a way that would add ultimate objective of crippling all the humanitarian relief systems in Gaza, leaving people extremely vulnerable and exposed to bottlenecks because of that ongoing operation. And I think they are trying to prepare the Palestinians for full subjugation by doing that. We have been hearing about this issue in the Gaza north, Gaza City and also in the Gaza south, the way the Israeli occupation is dealing with the heavy machinery that is supposed to be doing the leveling work for the sake of just helping the people and also removing the rubble.

We have around 10,000 Gazans who are still under the rubble, who are still — their condition is unknown. Absolutely, they are dead, which makes the number, the true number, of people dead 45,000, not 35,000. Ten thousand people are still under the rubble. Some of them are under the rubble for seven months. Seven whole months, bodies are under the rubble. Very close friend of mine was also under the rubble for three months, three months and a half, he and his mother. And no heavy machinery, no excavators, no vehicles of any kind were allowed in to Khan Younis area. And he ended up being retrieved after three months and a half. This is one story of tens of thousands of stories of misery and fear, of no mercy over the life of the people, and also of an issue that has no consideration whatever for the lives of people and no treatment of people as humans. This is one critical issue.

The Palestinian Civil Defense is going to be here. Like, the podium is — they are just setting up the podium. They’re going to talk about the situation. They’re going to talk about their suffering. They’re going to talk about their hopes and expectations. And they’re going to make an appeal to the international community to try to do something. And unfortunately, the project that the international community, that has failed in the past to do anything, will fail just today to help the people who are under the rubble and to help the Gaza population that has been seeing horrors that were not mentioned or documented in the history of the mankind, a blockade on 2.37 [million] Gazans, suffering for 2.37 [million] Gazans, bombardment of whole built areas that left around 1.9 million Gazans without any shelter and left them exposed to the problems and to the health diseases and all kinds of things that are unimaginable; however, Gazans are living them.

AMY GOODMAN: Akram al-Satarri, I want to thank you so much for being with us. The noise is loud behind you, as you are in an increasingly packed Deir al-Balah, speaking to us in front of the Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza, usually reporting to us from Rafah, where hundreds of thousands — nearly half a million — Palestinians have moved from as Israel moves in.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be joined by the president of Union Theological Seminary. Its Board of Trustees has voted to endorse a divestment plan from companies profiting from war in Palestine/Israel. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “If I Must Die,” performed by the Tunisian musician Emel. The song sets to music the poem by Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in December.

Gaza remains under assault. Day 220 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  THE NATIONAL notes, "Gaza death toll reaches 35,173, with 79,061 wounded."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:


On bodies trapped under rubble, ALJAZEERA notes this morning:

We’re talking about a three-storey building that housed not only residents but also dozens of other displaced Palestinians in Rafah that made it to Nuseirat three days ago.

I met the neighbours. I met the family. I met one of the relatives of people still trapped under the rubble earlier today. They were telling me heartbreaking things.

Imagine escaping the air strikes in Rafah, looking for a safe space but being killed after three days of evacuating – not only being killed but being trapped where the Civil Defence teams do not have any equipment to remove or pull these people from under the rubble.

I saw Civil Defence teams doing their best to pull people from under the rubble. They were digging with their bare hands, with very basic tools. This was not the first time we have seen this scene. We have been seeing this for more than seven months now.

Unfortunately, it may come to a point where the Civil Defence teams will give up on this house because there are more people being targeted every single hour across the Gaza Strip.

April 11th, Sharon Zhang (TRUTHOUT) reported, "In addition to the over 34,000 Palestinians who have been counted as killed in Israel’s genocidal assault so far, there are 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza who are missing, a humanitarian aid group has estimated, either buried in rubble or mass graves or disappeared into Israeli prisons.  In a report released Thursday, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that the estimate is based on initial reports and that the actual number of people missing is likely even higher."

As for the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."

ALJAZEERA reports this morning:

Israeli forces have shot and killed 20-year-old Aysar Muhammad Safi in the city of el-Bireh in the occupied West Bank, reports the Wafa news agency.

Safi, a student at Birzeit University near Ramallah, died in the hospital after being shot in the neck as Israeli forces attacked Palestinians, according to Wafa.

Israeli forces also fired tear gas and sound canisters at the Palestinian youth, injuring dozens.

Safi is one of nearly 500 people to be killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank since October 7. More than 4,950 people have also been injured.

The following sites updated: