UN school sheltering Palestinians in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside, Palestinian officials said, as Israel pressed forward with its 17-day war against the territory’s Hamas rulers.

The U.N. said the strike occurred as staff members were trying to arrange a humanitarian pause in the hostilities so they could evacuate the civilians from the compound in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. The Israeli military said it was reviewing the incident and suggested Hamas rockets may have been to blame, although it offered no proof.

Kamel al-Kafarne, who was in the school, said that the U.N. was putting people on buses when three tank shells hit.

"We were about to get out of the school, then they hit the school. They kept on shelling it," he said.

Books, blankets, cushions and other belongings were scattered about the courtyard in the aftermath of the explosion. There was a large scorch mark in the courtyard marking the apparent site of impact. A sandal with a yellow flower lay beside a puddle of blood, and sheep and a horse that had belonged to those seeking shelter grazed nearby. Dozens of people, including children, were wheeled into a nearby hospital.


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At busy Gaza morgue,
the dead -- considered martyrs -- are dressed
for burial in Muslim ritual

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) -- In the morgue at a small Gaza hospital, the anguished cries of those who lost loved ones in Israeli airstrikes fell silent Thursday when Ahmed Jadallah began attending to the corpses, one by one, on his wooden work table.

With swift, steady movements, Jadallah swaddled a toddler in a white burial shroud and later gently cleaned the soot-stained face of the child’s father -- Islamic rituals that momentarily reassured the grieving.

Father and son had been killed earlier in the day, along with the child’s grandparents and uncle, when an airstrike on an adjacent house sent debris flying into the family’s living room.

Over the past three decades, the 75-year-old Jadallah has dressed hundreds of "martyrs" -- those killed in conflict with Israel. He said that his volunteer work fulfills an Islamic commandment and that he hopes it will earn him a place in paradise.

Despite his faith, he has found it harder to deal with the casualties from this round of fighting with Israel than from previous ones, especially when children end up on his table.

A very bad week:
Airlines suffer a cluster
of disasters, but experts
see no safety trend

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks. An airliner crashes during a storm, and yet another disappears. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.

Industry analysts and safety experts shake their heads at the seeming randomness of the tragedies, saying they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.

Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident in which the plane was damaged beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. That includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines as well as scheduled passenger flights.

"One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause then you would say there’s a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way," said Jon Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, an airline industry-supported nonprofit in Alexandria, Virginia, that promotes global aviation safety.

But Beatty said he also finds the disaster cluster "a cold reminder" that airline accidents are likely to increase because the industry is growing, especially in developing countries. The more flights there are, the more potential for accidents, he noted.

Air Algerie jetliner with 116 aboard ‘probably crashed’ in remote, restive northern Mali

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) -- An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people vanished Thursday in a rainstorm over restive northern Mali, and French officials say it has probably crashed -- the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others hunted for signs of wreckage of the MD-83 plane in the remote region, where scattered separatist violence may hamper the search and any eventual investigation into what happened.

Families from France to Canada and beyond waited anxiously for signs of Flight 5017 and their loved ones aboard. Nearly half of the passengers were French, many en route home from Africa.

The plane, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Air Algerie, disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after takeoff, en route from Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou to Algiers.

"Everything allows us to believe this plane crashed in Mali," French President Francois Hollande said after an emergency meeting in Paris. He said the crew changed its flight path because of "particularly difficult weather conditions."

Death penalty opponents say Arizona execution offers evidence to challenge lethal injection

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The nation’s third botched execution in six months offers more evidence for the courts that lethal injection carries too many risks and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, death-row lawyers and other opponents said Thursday.

Death-penalty opponents say an Arizona inmate who gasped for breath for more than 90 minutes showed that executions using different drugs and dosages are a callous trial-and-error process. The result: Every few months, a prisoner gasps, chokes and takes an unusually long time to die.

"These executions are experiments on human subjects," said Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for several Missouri death-row inmates. "The potential for things to go wrong is almost unlimited."

Lethal injection has been challenged in the courts many times, mostly without success. The biggest recent obstacle for death-penalty states has been obtaining lethal chemicals after major drugmakers stopped selling drugs for use in executions. That forced states to find alternative drugs.

The drugs are mostly purchased from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies. Arizona, Texas, Florida and Missouri refuse to name the supplier and offer no details about how the drugs are tested or how executioners are trained.

Tornado slams campground along Chesapeake Bay in Virginia; 2

CAPE CHARLES, Va. (AP) -- The sky turned black and cellphones pinged with emergency messages. Moments later, a tornado ripped through a sprawling, carnival-like campground Thursday, snapping dozens of trees and flipping over RVs.

A tree fell on a New Jersey couple’s tent, killing them, and their 13-year-old son in a tent next to them suffered life-threatening injuries. About three dozen other people were hurt, with injuries ranging from cuts to broken bones to more serious, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

"All hell broke loose," said Joe Colony, who has been coming to Cherrystone Family Camping & RV Resort campground along the Chesapeake Bay for 30 years. "We got an emergency message on a cellphone and within 30 seconds, the thing hit and it blew down 40, 50 trees in the park."

About 1,300 people were at the campground, readying for a summer day of swimming pools, mini-golf, pier fishing and other activities at the 300-acre resort in rural Northampton County.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area about 9 a.m. EDT Thursday and later confirmed a twister had hit.

Fewer and fewer U.S. layoffs mean job security
is as strong as it’s been
in more than 8 years

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The risk of losing your job is getting smaller and smaller.

As the U.S. economy has improved and employers have regained confidence, companies have been steadily shedding fewer workers. Which is why applications for unemployment benefits have dwindled to their lowest level since February 2006 -- nearly two years before the Great Recession began -- the government said Thursday.

The trend means greater job security and suggests a critical turning point in the economic recovery. It raises the hope that workers’ pay will finally accelerate after grinding through a sluggish recovery for the past half-decade.

When the economy sank into recession at the end of 2007, employers cut deeply into their staffs. And then during the recovery, they hired only hesitantly. Instead, they sought to maximize the productivity of their existing employees.

But in recent months, the picture has brightened. Employers have added 200,000-plus jobs for five straight months, and the unemployment rate has reached 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2008.

Woody Allen is back in the spotlight, actively promoting his new film and shooting yet another

Throughout his long career, Woody Allen has been fascinated by magic, a theme he’s explored frequently onscreen: playing a magician in "Scoop," sending Owen Wilson on time travel in "Midnight in Paris," or pulling Jeff Daniels out of a movie screen in "The Purple Rose of Cairo."

And though one might think, with the wave of terrible publicity he went through earlier this year, that a bit of magician-like escape into a bygone era or a movie screen is just what he might prefer, Allen is doing anything but disappear.

He’s not only making movies on the same famously ambitious, one-per-year schedule he’s adhered to for almost half a century. He’s also actively promoting his latest, the lighthearted period romp "Magic in the Moonlight," even as he’s busy shooting his next movie in Providence, Rhode Island.

But anyone who expected Allen to speak further on the personal issues that arose last year -- the revival of accusations by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, that he abused her when she was 7 -- will be disappointed. The 78-year-old director has held true to his word that he would say nothing further, following a February letter to the New York Times in which he vigorously denied the allegations.

The question does remain whether Allen’s personal issues might affect the public reception of his new film, which stars Colin Firth as a cynical stage magician and Emma Stone as the young spiritualist whose magical powers he seeks to debunk. "One thing doesn’t have to do with the other," says Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, which releases the film on Friday.