Criticism of UN refugee agency grows after rockets discovered at third school, Israeli soldiers killed in booby-trapped clinic

 

Three Israeli troops were killed and another fifteen where wounded on Wednesday by explosions inside a booby-trapped health clinic operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an incident that seems set to fuel a growing debate over the degree to which the UN organization has been complicit in the militarization of the Gaza Strip's civilian infrastructure. The elite soldiers were working to destroy a Hamas tunnel that opened into the clinic - a task that was considered particularly sensitive in light of its status as an UNRWA structure - when the explosives detonated, bringing part of the building down on top of them. Middle East observers were quick to question how the "opening of a Hamas tunnel... which takes months to dig and is not discrete" was created near an UNRWA facility. The organization has generated significant criticism in recent weeks, amid revelations that at least three of its schools were used as rocket storehouses. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi blasted UNRWA today for returning those rockets to Hamas - and thereby "endangering and jeopardizing Israeli lives" - even as its officials lashed out against Israel over tactics in Operation Protective Edge. Other schools have been used as cover for rocket launches. Hamas officials had earlier in the day accused Israel of shelling an UNRWA school and killing 15 Palestinians. The issue came up at the State Department's daily press briefing Wednesday, part of a particularly tense extended exchange. Journalists pressed State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf for a reaction to how "the Israelis have kind of implied, if not said so explicitly sometimes, that particularly UNRWA is in cahoots with Hamas in some way, providing them shelter, allowing them to hide their rockets."

 

Administration officials testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday were met with what The New York Times described as “a wall of skepticism” from lawmakers pushing for a greater role in negotiations between Tehran and the P5+1 global powers. Lawmakers have for months backed increased economic sanctions on Tehran, and have this year attempted to push forward with legislation that would impose further sanctions on the Islamic republic should a deal not be reached. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that congressional action had the potential to “derail” talks with Tehran. The Times reported a sort of bipartisan consensus among legislators that Congress should be allowed to vote on a final deal with the Islamic republic, and that “administration officials strongly hint[ed] that they have little intention of complying.” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) noted later in the day at a House Foreign Affairs Committee briefing that the administration lacked the leverage to emerge from negotiations with an acceptable deal and encouraged the passing of sanctions that would go into effect in 2015. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) had earlier this week called for increased Congressional oversight in nuclear negotiations, noting during a conference call with The Israel Project that lawmakers “will also continue to press [the administration] on the need to finally, actively consult with Congress” on issues including sanctions. Talks between Iran and the P5+1 are set to resume in September.

 

Three Israeli engineers are among the most powerful women in the tech industry, according to a new list published by Business Insider. The online business news site has released its annual report on the ‘most powerful women engineers in the world’ to show that despite being outnumbered 3:1 by men in the tech industry, women engineers are making a footprint and can be found in top positions. Israel’s three representatives on the prestigious list are Tal Rabin (IBM), Yoelle Maarek (Yahoo), and Tamar Bercovici (Box). Rubin – who holds a doctorate in computer science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was a postdoctoral Fellow at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science –is manager and a research staff member of the cryptography research group at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. The article highlights her early career, calling it “almost like the movie Good Will Hunting. When she was a student, she solved a math problem that experts thought couldn’t be solved. (It’s complicated, something to do with calculating numbers when most of them are not known, she told Business Insider).” She leads a team working on inventing new ways to secure computer data. Rabin recently was awarded the top honor at The Anita Borg Institute’s 2014 Women of Vision awards.  She’s also chairs conferences and professional organizations in her field. She has a doctorate in computer science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was a postdoctoral Fellow at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science. Maarek, who founded the Google Haifa Engineering Center and was a Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research, before joining Yahoo is No. 12 on the list. Business Insider chose the leader of research for Yahoo who heads research teams in Israel and India thanks to her extensive resume, that also includes “working with engineering and product teams to tackle scientific challenges that change Yahoo’s business.” She was recently inducted as an Association for Computing Machinery Fellow for her work on web search. Bercovici, senior manager of Backend Engineering at Box, was hailed for being the first woman hired to its infrastructure department. She holds a doctorate in computer science from the Technion Institute of Technology. (via Israel21c)


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