Month: September 2019

Gaza analysis: Israel exit scenarios begin to take shape – National

TEL AVIV, Israel – The savage fighting between Israel and Hamas is escalating in Gaza, cease-fire efforts take on elements of farce, and bravado rules the public discourse. But even through the fog of war, a few endgame scenarios can nonetheless be glimpsed.

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For the moment, the deadlock is well-entrenched: As long as the crippling blockade of Gaza remains in place, Hamas says it will continue firing rockets at Israel – terrifying but mostly ineffectual, thanks to the “Iron Dome” defence system. Israel says the blockade must stay to stop a terrorist government from importing yet more weapons.

There is not much pressure yet on either side to stop – even in Gaza, where more than 1,300 people, mainly civilians, have been killed, amid widespread devastation.

An Egyptian-led cease-fire plan more than two weeks ago, which Israel accepted and was a straight return to the status quo before this current round – was rejected by Hamas, and there was little criticism of that decision in Gaza.

Such is the hatred of the air, land and sea blockade in the strip – in addition, perhaps, to the fear of Hamas.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes a statement regarding the violence in Gaza during their meeting in Cairo, Thursday, July 24, 2014.

AP Photo/Pool

Last week’s mediation effort led by John Kerry fizzled amid a most undiplomatic frenzy of criticism in Israel of the U.S. secretary of state. He had dared suggest Hamas’ blockade-ending demands be on the table. He also had ignored Israel’s new demands – probably long-term at best – that the militant group be disarmed.

There is a chance the casualties will pile up so high that the world may start applying enormous pressure on Israel to stop even if that leaves Hamas with a victory of sorts. Things like that have happened before, especially during a Lebanon bombing campaign in 1996 against Hezbollah militants that ended after Israel hit a UN compound housing refugees, claiming error. But it hasn’t happened yet – despite an increasingly harrowing and somewhat murky reality on the ground.

While it is too early to say how all this will end, quiet diplomacy continues. There also is a growing sense that it can’t go on much longer – but then again, it might.

Here are some ways it could play out:

Israel declares victory and leaves

If you listen carefully, Israeli leaders generally describe the ground operation in Gaza as intended to destroy the Hamas-built tunnels leading into Israel, almost certainly for purposes of attack. The military says it has found and is destroying more than 20 tunnels and believes there are a few more. Once that job is done, Israel could well pull out and try to declare victory or even a unilateral cease-fire. The hope would be that the respite from the devastation visited on Gaza would compel Hamas to think again and quietly accept a return to the way it was: no rocket fire on Israel; no airstrikes and shelling of Gaza. This probably wouldn’t work. Hamas has put Gazans through so much that they certainly feel they must have something to show for their efforts in the form of an easing of the blockade. Rocket fire would continue and the hostilities would swiftly resume.

A Palestinian man burns a tire during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels.

(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Despite huge reservations, Israel may just end up reoccupying the strip, even at the cost of hundreds of soldiers and then being saddled with nearly 2 million Gazans to rule. If the situation becomes bad enough, more fantastical scenarios suggest themselves: perhaps even a NATO force to pacify and rebuild the traumatized strip. It probably won’t be necessary. Hamas will run out of rockets eventually. But for now, it’s believed to have thousands more, Israel will continue to strike back, and the destruction will be harrowing for weeks.

The Palestinian Authority takes over the border with Egypt

Hamas wants an end to the blockade that was imposed by Israel after the militants won the 2006 Palestinian parliament election, were sidelined by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and then seized Gaza in 2007. Some minor things are conceivable, like a small extension of the rights of fishermen to venture out to sea. But Israel will not allow true sea access or an airport as long as Hamas controls the strip. The concern is that even bigger rockets and weapons would stream in. Israel also won’t soon open its borders to Gazans, remembering too well the suicide bombings of a decade ago.

There is one plausible way to greatly ease the siege: Open the southern border near the town of Rafah leading to Egypt, and put the Gaza side not under the control of Hamas but under the Palestinian Authority. Cairo has been extremely cool to the idea of opening the frontier but not to the PA taking it over, in line with the tough Egypt-first policy of new President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Egypt seems little inclined to help Hamas against Israel, views Gaza as someone else’s problem, and fears Gaza’s militants trickling in and compounding its own jihadi problems in Sinai. But the PA on the border could be spun as a win for everyone: Hamas broke the siege; the PA is back in business in the strip; Israel didn’t give up much under fire; the Gazans feel relief; and Egypt is the hero. When the dust finally settles, don’t be surprised if this is the face-saving way out.

The Palestinian Authority takes over Gaza

Somehow forgotten in the current discourse is that the blockade was imposed after the Hamas takeover. It was probably intended both to be punitive – an incentive to the people to rebel, which has proven impractical under the militants – and to prevent Hamas from arming further. At this point, it is mainly about this latter goal of reining in Hamas. Alternatively, Hamas could call the world’s bluff by accepting the conditions presented to it by the world community: recognize Israel, adhere to previous agreements, renounce violence. Acquiescence here would also probably eliminate the blockade. But no one expects Hamas to do this; it would cease to be Hamas. Either way, the principle’s the same: No Hamas – no blockade.

West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

AP Photo/Amr Nabil

West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas signed a “unity government” deal two months ago that would have actually achieved this on paper – but few seriously expected Hamas to give up its control of Gaza. Israel fought vehemently against the deal, lobbying the world to shun even Abbas – part of a series of events that culminated in the current fight. Essentially the “unity government” was stillborn – but the war could give the arrangement new and genuine life, especially if this comes with serious relief on the blockade. Hamas would find it especially hard to oppose this if major financial incentives were added, like billions in aid from the Gulf and the West, conditioned on the PA being in charge. After all, the support it finds among ordinary Gazans is about improving life for the people, not fighting Israel to the death. Last week, both the German and French foreign ministers said re-involving the PA in the administration of Gaza was the only way to guarantee a long-term cease-fire. Given Hamas’ relative unpopularity in the region at the moment, and its money crunch, it’s not inconceivable.

A challenge for Israel, therefore: It will have to go along with such a game-changing ambitions to a degree. But what if militants from an Abbas-run Gaza still find a way to fire rockets? It may actually rue the day Hamas melted away, removing with it Israel’s near-impunity to hit back as hard as the past month has seen.

Dan Perry has covered the Middle East since the 1990s and currently leads Associated Press’ text coverage in the region. 

©2014The Canadian Press

Continue reading Gaza analysis: Israel exit scenarios begin to take shape – National

Drunk driver who killed woman faces sentencing hearing – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Details about a drunk driving crash that killed a 71-year-old woman a year ago were heard during a sentencing hearing Friday afternoon.

Cameras were permitted in court for the case of Adam Langan, who had already pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death.For the first time since Manitoba Justice began allowing cameras in some court proceedings, a victim impact statement was broadcast live.

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The seven-car pileup at McPhillips Street and William Avenue at about 5 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2013, injured multiple people, including Doreen Chaikowsky, who later died of crush injuries.

Police said at the time that a Ford Ranger was speeding north on McPhillips when it hit a Honda Ridgeline that was turning left onto William from the southbound lanes of McPhillips.

The Ranger then hit Chaikowsky’s Chevrolet Cobalt and then a Honda Civic.

The Ranger’s “black box” showed Langan was driving it at “full throttle” for the five seconds before impact and travelling at 123 kilometres per hour with no breaking, the Crown lawyer said during the sentencing hearing.

Crown and defense were both seeking a 4.5 year jail sentence for Langan. Judge Kelly Moar reserved his decision to July 31.

READ MORE: Crash kills woman, man charged with impaired driving

Langan was arrested at the scene of the crash and pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death in May.

Adam Langan pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing the death of Doreen Chaikowsky, 71, in August 2013.

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Seven vehicles were damaged in a crash that killed an elderly woman in Winnipeg in August 2013. Adam Langan faces a sentencing hearing Friday.

Howard Wong

Seven vehicles were damaged in a crash that killed an elderly woman in Winnipeg in August 2013. Adam Langan faces a sentencing hearing Friday.

Howard Wong

Seven vehicles were damaged in a crash that killed an elderly woman in Winnipeg in August 2013. Adam Langan faces a sentencing hearing Friday.

Howard Wong

Adam Langan pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing the death of Doreen Chaikowsky following a crash in August 2013.

Howard Wong

Seven vehicles were damaged in a crash that killed an elderly woman in Winnipeg in August 2013. Adam Langan faces a sentencing hearing Friday.

Howard Wong

Continue reading Drunk driver who killed woman faces sentencing hearing – Winnipeg

John Tory wants Rob Ford code of conduct ruling before October election – Toronto

TORONTO – Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory has sent a letter to the city’s integrity commissioner to find out the status of an investigation into a potential code of conduct violation involving Mayor Rob Ford and whether a ruling will be handed down prior to the municipal election in October.

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As first reported in the Globe and Mail in May, a complaint filed by a watchdog group called Democracy Watch alleges the mayor lobbied city staff on behalf of two companies that had done business with his family’s company, Deco Labels and Tags.

Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper initiated an investigation into the matter but it was temporarily halted when Ford entered a rehab centre for this substances abuse issues.

“We understand that your investigation was stayed on or about May 12th, during Mayor Rob Ford’s declares leave of absence,” wrote the letter issued by the law offices of Benson Percival Brown LLP.

“Will you issue a public report or statement regarding your investigation once completed?”

The letter also questions whether the office recognizes “the timely issue” of the report and the need for the public to have a ruling “in advance of this year’s municipal election.”

This past week, Mayor Ford denied he gave any special treatment to two companies who had ties to his family’s business.

The code of conduct complaint alleges Ford intervened on behalf of Apollo Health and Beauty Care when the company was being investigated by the city for a sewage spill in 2012.

It is also reported that Ford and his brother Doug helped printing company RR Donnelley and Sons seek a city contract.

Tory’s letter was sent to the integrity commissioner on Thursday, July 24.

Continue reading John Tory wants Rob Ford code of conduct ruling before October election – Toronto

First John Daly, now Taylor Pendrith: Golf’s new biggest hitter is a Canadian amateur

WATCH ABOVE: Canadian Amateur Taylor Pendrith put on a long drive show in his opening round at the RBC Canadian Open en route to a 5-under 65 to sit one back of the leaders.

ILE BIZARD, Que.—There’s nothing more impressive in sports than speed and power. That’s why sports fans loved when Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman threw a 105 mile per hour fastball, are amazed at the explosiveness of Usain Bolt, and are blown away by Milos Raonic’s 250 km/h serve.

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And now you can add Richmond Hill, Ontario’s Taylor Pendrith to the mix. The 23-year-old played in his first PGA Tour event Thursday, teeing it up late in the afternoon at the RBC Canadian Open at Royal Montreal.

The amateur who is just finishing his schooling at Kent State, started conservatively enough, pounding his first drive 309 yards. He then proceeded to take apart Royal Montreal Golf Club with a display of power golf rarely seen since “Long” John Daly showed up at the 1991 PGA Championship and overwhelmed the course by hitting drives places no one had previously considered.

Since then sports fans have always been thrilled by golfers who could hit the ball farther than ever before. For a while that was Daly, who gave way to Tiger Woods, while these days the likes of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson reside in the group that can power the ball miles in the air.

Pendrith not only belongs in that group, he’s actually longer than any of them.

Consider this: in the first round of the Canadian Open, Pendrith hit eight drives over 300 yards, including a 365-yard bomb, where he nearly drove the eighth green, and leads the field in total driving average by an astounding 14 yards. He launches the ball high into the stratosphere at an average speed of 185 miles per hour, on average four miles faster than Johnson or Watson – considered golf’s biggest hitters. And when he’s put on radar devices that track ball speed, he’s hit the ball more than 190 miles per hour on occasion.

Meet Canada’s Taylor Pendrith – an amateur golfer who is turning heads at the Canadian Open for his otherworldly ability to hit a golf ball incredible distances.

Golf Canada / Bernard Brault

Not bad for a kid whose parents barely played the game, and who didn’t start playing golf until he was 12. He teed it up in his first tournament three years later at the age of 15.

Now on the verge of turning pro, Pendrith put on a show off the tee at the Canadian Open that was jaw dropping. It was only bettered by the fact the twenty-something can chip and putt, finishing at 5-under in a tie for third.

“He has a second gear other golfers don’t have,” said Herb Page, his coach at Kent State who walked the golfer’s round. “And he’s just touching the surface.”

Page said when Pendrith first came to Kent State he was a raw golfer, capable of hitting hooked pitching wedges 190 yards. Page and his staff worked hard to turn Pendrith into a real golfer. When he came to Kent State he could hit the ball incredible distances, but not always straight. He left with a tidy short game, the ability to move his drives from right to left, and ranked as the 17th-best amateur in the world.

WATCH: Rising Team Canada star Taylor Pendrith is a long hitter with a bright future. Global News’ Rob Leth reports.

Walking with their son, Pendrith’s parents said they aren’t sure where his ability comes from. He was a good hockey player with a big slap shot. He could throw a ball well. But one day he came home and told his dad golf was his thing.

“He said, ‘Dad, I need to hit balls every day’,” said the golfer’s father, Darrel. “So I built him something that let him do it.”

That was less than 10 years ago. Now, Pendrith is turning heads on golf’s grandest scene. And he makes it all sound, well, so easy.

“I played other sports growing up, played hockey and baseball and I was just a powerful guy in both of those,” he said. “I had a pretty hard slap shot and I was a pitcher and threw pretty hard. I don’t know. It’s just natural, I guess.”

Maybe it is just natural. Maybe there’s no explanation for Pendrith’s otherworldly ability to hit a golf ball incredible distances.

Regardless, in a game that loves the long ball – and in a culture that loves faster, harder, farther – Pendrith is a Canadian with an impressive future.

Continue reading First John Daly, now Taylor Pendrith: Golf’s new biggest hitter is a Canadian amateur

Determined Manitoba cat lives with head stuck in bird feeder – Winnipeg

BRANDON, Man. – Not since Sylvester and Tweety has a cat’s determination to catch a bird caused such a predicament.

A ginger-and-white feline nicknamed Butterscotch has been spotted numerous times with a small bird feeder stuck on its head in a Brandon, Man., neighbourhood.

Witnesses say the cat can see out of one eye and runs away when approached.

They say there’s no way it can eat or drink, and are worried about how long it can survive.

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“He was meowing a little bit as if he wanted somebody to help him, but he’s a stray and he’s obviously afraid of people, so I wasn’t able to get near him,” said Colleen Gareau, who first spotted the distressed cat Wednesday morning.

Staff with the city’s pound have tried to catch Butterscotch. So have volunteers from a local animal group, who have been baiting traps with tuna, sardines and cat food.

The traps are ones used for larger animals because the cat wouldn’t fit into a regular cat trap because of the feeder.

So far, Butterscotch has given everyone the slip.

“It spooks whenever it hears anything because it doesn’t know what’s really approaching, so any noise, the cat runs,” said Toni Gramiak of the Brandon and Area Lost Animals group.

“We’re surprised it’s not running into things, but somehow it’s figured out how to get around.”

Witnesses say the cat can even jump onto fences with the feeder on its head.

Gareau said the cat had been a regular visitor to her yard for some time and gets along well with her own cat, Emmie, which she lets out into her yard on a leash.

“He probably just put his head in — I don’t think he was interested in food — but snooping around and it just got caught on his neck. And he was shaking his head. He just cannot get it off.”

Gareau assumed the cat belonged to someone in her neighbourhood. But despite all the attention the fettered feline has generated in Brandon, no one has stepped forward to claim the animal.

Gramiak said when the cat is captured, it will be checked for an ear tattoo or microchip identification. As it is right now, it’s hard to identify the animal when no one can properly see its face.

Gramiak has even been putting tuna juice on trees to try to lure Butterscotch back to Gareau’s yard.

The last time Gareau saw the cat free of the feeder was a week ago.

“At the very most, the cat has not had food or water for about a week,” Gramiak said.

©2014The Canadian Press

Continue reading Determined Manitoba cat lives with head stuck in bird feeder – Winnipeg