Vast Israeli support for Gaza war eclipses and silences dissenters

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Despite Israeli casualties and world criticism, a near-consensus in Israel supports the government’s conduct of the Gaza war, views Hamas as the aggressor and considers outsiders’ moralizing as hypocritical, ignorant or both. And in an echo-chamber fed by ubiquitous updates on Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, the minority of local voices that do agonize over Gazans’ suffering are being silenced in a way rarely seen in a country long proud of its spirited, democratic debate.

A series of recent opinion polls have shown robust support for the war, reflecting years of frustration over rocket fire from Gaza and a new fear of Hamas’ network of tunnels that stretch well into Israel and imperil communities along the border. Opposing views, coming primarily from leftist activists and intellectuals, have been met with threats, insults and charges of treason both in social media and face-to-face.

"They want to kill us. We have no choice," said 39-year-old Jerusalemite Gil Yair, referring to Hamas.

More than 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting since July 8, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. On the Israeli side, 56 soldiers have been killed as well as three civilians. Still, several polls this week have shown strong majorities in Israel supported the war and prepared to go on.


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3 long-time Putin allies among 8 people hit with new EU sanctions

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union targeted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle for the first time Wednesday for the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine, subjecting three of his long-time associates to EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans.

Eight people were added to the EU’s sanctions list for allegedly undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty or profiting from Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, the EU’s Official Journal showed. Three companies were also blacklisted.

Among the individuals was Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo partner and a major shareholder of the civil engineering company Giprotransmost. The company has received a public contract to conduct a study on building a bridge from Russia to Crimea, the EU said.

Also targeted was Yuri Kovalchuk, a longtime Putin acquaintance identified by the EU as co-founder of the Ozero Dacha, a cooperative society bringing together influential individuals around Russia’s president. Kovalchuk is also the chairman and largest shareholder of Bank Rossiya, which has opened branches in Crimea since its unilateral annexation by Russia.

The third Putin ally on the sanctions list was Nikolai Shamalov, another Ozero Dacha co-founder and the second largest shareholder in Bank Rossiya.