Palestinian mission shuttered in Washington

The Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington ceased operations on Thursday following a demand by the United States to shut down but expressed hope the closure would be short-lived. (AFP)
Updated 14 September 2018
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Palestinian mission shuttered in Washington

  • State Department officials on Monday ordered the office shuttered, in a bid to pressure the Palestinians to enter peace talks with Israel.
  • The closure came on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo accords.

WASHINGTON: The Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington ceased operations on Thursday following a demand by the United States to shut down but expressed hope the closure would be short-lived.
State Department officials on Monday ordered the office shuttered, in a bid to pressure the Palestinians to enter peace talks with Israel.
It was the latest point of tension between the administration of President Donald Trump and the Palestinians, who cut off contact with Washington after Trump recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
“Today is the deadline” for closure, Husam Zomlot, who headed the Palestine Liberation Organization mission, said in a Facebook video addressed to “the great people of America.”
The closure came on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo accords, the first agreements between the rival Israelis and Palestinians which promised to end decades of deadly conflict, but which are now deadlocked and tarnished by soured relations.
Zomlot on Thursday denounced the “unfortunate and vindictive” US move to close the Palestinian mission.
“It was unsurprising to us the Trump administration gave us only two choices: either we lose our relationship with the administration or we lose our rights as a nation,” he said.
“Our president, leadership and the people of Palestine opted for our rights.”
Zomlot said the Palestinians were “extremely saddened by the current state of affairs.”
Addressing the “millions upon millions” of Americans who remain friends of Palestine, he hoped that “may we soon return to continue to be a symbol and a reflection of the historic relationship between the Palestinian and the American people.”
Prior to ordering the mission’s closure, the United States cut more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and canceled its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
The move to not grant the mission its normal six-month renewal came after Palestinian leaders allegedly breached the arrangement by calling for Israeli officials to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Palestinian leaders say Trump’s White House is blatantly biased in favor of Israel and is seeking to blackmail them into accepting its terms.
Under Trump, the United States is further away than ever from playing its traditional role as mediator in the long-simmering Middle East peace process.
But Trump, a foreign policy novice, promised upon taking office to help broker the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Wait until the peace plan is released, and when it’s released, please read it cover to cover and judge the plan on its merits — not on rumors, not on speculation, not on news reports, but on what’s in it,” one of the US negotiators, Jason Greenblatt, said Thursday on Twitter.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, however, that the administration is “not ready to unveil” the plan but remains optimistic.
“There needs to be a different kind of approach. Nothing has worked so we’re trying a different approach,” she said.


Argument at Chicago hospital erupts into deadly shooting

Updated 45 min 11 sec ago
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Argument at Chicago hospital erupts into deadly shooting

  • The attacker, Juan Lopez, also died Monday but it was not clear if he took his own life or was killed by police

CHICAGO: An argument outside a Chicago hospital turned deadly when a man pulled out a gun and killed an emergency room doctor whom he knew, then ran into the hospital and fatally shot a pharmacy resident and a police officer, authorities said.
The attacker, Juan Lopez, also died Monday but it was not clear if he took his own life or was killed by police at Mercy Hospital on the city’s South Side, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
Chicago “lost a doctor, pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer, all going about their day, all doing what they loved,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, fighting back tears. “This just tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and a consequence of evil.”
Mercy Hospital said the staff who died were Tamara O’Neal, 38, an emergency room physician who never worked on Sunday because of her religious faith, and Dayna Less, 25, a first year pharmacy resident who had recently graduated from Purdue University.
The slain officer was identified as Samuel Jimenez, 28, who joined the department in February 2017 and had recently completed his probationary period, Johnson said. Police said he was married and the father of three children.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described the shooting as a “domestic-related active shooter incident,” but provided no details about the relationship between the two.
Lopez, 32, and O’Neal had been arguing in the hospital parking lot. When a friend of O’Neal tried to intervene, “the offender lifted up his shirt and displayed a handgun,” Johnson said.
The friend ran into the hospital to call for help, and the gunfire began seconds later. After O’Neal fell to the ground, Lopez “stood over her and shot her three more times,” a witness named James Gray told reporters.
When officers arrived, the suspect fired at their squad car then ran inside the hospital. The police gave chase.
Inside the medical center, Lopez exchanged fire with officers and “shot a poor woman who just came off the elevator” before he was killed, Johnson said, referring to pharmaceutical assistant Less.
“We just don’t know how much damage he was prepared to do,” Johnson said, adding that Less “had nothing to do with nothing.”
Jennifer Eldridge was working in a hospital pharmacy when she heard three or four shots that seemed to come from outside. Within seconds, she barricaded the door, as called for in the building’s active shooter drills. Then there were six or seven more shots that sounded much closer, just outside the door.
“I could tell he was now inside the lobby. There was screaming,” she recalled.
The door jiggled, which Eldridge believed was the shooter trying to get in. Some 15 minutes later, she estimated, a SWAT team officer knocked at the door, came inside and led her away. She looked down and saw blood on the floor but no bodies.
“It may have been 15 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity,” she said.
Maria Correa hid under a desk, clutching her 4-month-old son, Angel, while the violence unfolded. Correa was in the waiting area of the hospital for her mother-in-law’s doctor appointment when a hospital employee told them to lock themselves in offices.
She lost track of how many shots she heard while under the desk “trying to protect her son” for 10 to 15 minutes.
“They were the worst minutes of our lives,” Correa said.
The death of Jimenez comes nine months after another member of the Chicago Police Department, Cmdr. Paul Bauer, was fatally shot while pursuing a suspect in the Loop business district.
Mercy has a rich history as the city’s first chartered hospital. It began in 1852, when the Sisters of Mercy religious group converted a rooming house. During the Civil War, the hospital treated both Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners of war, according to its website.