WATCH: Fire officials believe a cigarette butt caused a multi-million fire in west Edmonton Monday morning. Quinn Ohler reports.
EDMONTON – A fire ripped through a west Edmonton condominium early Monday morning, forcing about 400 people from their homes, and causing millions in damage.
“Early indications are that it’s a improperly disposed of smoking material,” said Edmonton District Fire Chief Don Cherniawski.
“It’s become a bit of a problem in the past. People don’t realize that these kind of things happen quite regularly.”
Edmonton Fire Rescue estimates the fire caused between $7 and $8 million dollars in damages.
As the sun came up, it became clear the roof in parts of the building was gone, leaving behind the charred remnants of trusses.
The fire began around 1:30 a.m. at Park Place South Hamptons, a four-storey condo building at 1520 Hammond Gate NW, which is located just off 199 Street and Lessard Road.
WATCH BELOW: Raw video from viewer Steve Kinney of the massive flames.
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Fire forces Edmonton condo evacuation
“Flames were coming through the roof upon arrival,” said Edmonton Fire District Fire Chief Trevor Whyte.
Fire was spotted going up from the fourth floor into the eaves and roof of the building. Crews began to attack the fire from inside, but the flames moved quickly.
“When they got us out, it was just a balcony on fire,” said Jonathan Brenton, who has lived in the building for over five years.
“I managed to snag my cat and myself and run out the door.”
“As soon as it got in the roof, it just started going everywhere,” Brenton added.
A second alarm was declared about 15 minutes after the first crew arrived.
“The ceilings were coming down on the guys inside. At that point it’s time to get out and try to cut your losses and contain the damage to as little as possible, without impacting the rest of the building,” Whyte said.
The fire was declared under control around 3:15 a.m.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” said Cherniawski.
“Due to the sort of limited access in to the area here, there was no access to the back of the building, so a lot of the fire fighting had to be done strictly through the front of the building here. The crews did a great job … containing the spread of that fire to the adjoining wings and containing it to the middle of the building.”
Whyte said the centre of building was heavily damaged.
“There doesn’t appear to be anybody unaccounted for, other than some pets the residents are concerned about, obviously,” Whyte said, adding there didn’t appear to be any injuries.
Buses were brought in for evacuated residents to sit in, and five volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross responded. The organization will provide food, clothing, shelter, support and information over the next 72 hours for those who need it.
WATCH BELOW: Residents unable to return home Monday night following fire
Red Cross volunteers have helped 72 residents impacted by the fire so far. The organization will continue to meet with those affected at an evacuation centre to do needs assessments and provide emergency support. Any residents affected by the fire who need Red Cross assistance can call 1-888-800-6493.
An information session for the residents will be held Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the River West Christian Church.
Representatives from the management company, insurer and Edmonton Fire Rescue will be in attendance.
Brenton is hoping for answers soon.
“Basically everybody that we’ve talked to told us it’s going to be a couple of days before we hear back, whether our suites are damaged or if we can even be allowed in there to take a look.”
“You always see it and are like, ‘ah yeah, that will never happen to me’ … and then you get up in the middle of the night and see your house on fire.”
WATCH BELOW: Raw video from a Global viewer taken a dawn, showing the aftermath of the early morning fire.
IN THE NEWS…
A little girl who was struck and killed in Leaside last week will be laid to rest today. The funeral service for seven-year-old Georgia Walsh will be held this afternoon at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Bloor Street East.Rescuers retrieved more bodies Monday in the sprawling fields of east Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed, killing all 298 people aboard. A vote is expected later today by the U.N. Security Council on an Australia-proposed resolution demanding international access to the crash site and a cease-fire around the area.People who normally use Guelph Transit buses to get around will have to find another means of transport this morning. Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189 voted Sunday to reject a tentative contract agreement that was reached a week ago and endorsed by the union executive.The family of a Burlington, Ont. teacher detained in an Indonesian jail on allegations of child sexual assault has been trying to enlist Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to help win his release. Neil Bantleman, 45, was working as a learning co-ordinator at the Jakarta International School, a prestigious school popular with expatriate families.A Mississauga man accused of stabbing several office employees at his workplace in North York in April will make another court appearance today. Chuang Li is back in court following an extended psychiatric assessment.Mike Conway was the surprise winner of a collision-filled second race at the Honda Indy Toronto. Conway, a road- and street-course specialist, went to the pits early for new tires then stayed out on course as the leaders pitted to put him in position to win the 11-turn, 2.81-kilometre race at Exhibition Place on Sunday.
Mainly sunny. High 28 except 23 near Lake Ontario. UV index 9 or very high.
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TRAFFIC AND TRANSIT
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WATCH: Families of victims want action and answers on the return of their relatives’ bodies
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – It is no longer only grief and mourning sweeping across the Netherlands in the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. It is now anger.
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The Dutch have widely condemned the way the bodies of loved ones have been treated in Ukraine and the fact they have not yet been returned home, four days after Thursday’s tragedy.
In an unusual move that underscored the severity of the national trauma, a sombre King Willem-Alexander gave a brief televised address to his country after meeting grieving relatives near the central city of Utrecht.
Flight MH17: More bodies found in east Ukraine as UN vote looms
“This terrible disaster has left a deep wound in our society,” the king said. “The scar will be visible and tangible for years to come.”
Speaking after the same private meeting with hundreds of friends and relatives of the dead, Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged the nation’s discontent.
“All of the Netherlands feels their anger,” Rutte said. “All of the Netherlands feels their deep grief. All of the Netherlands is standing with the next of kin.”
“No words can describe it,” said Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died on their way to a vacation in Bali. “Bodies are just lying there for three days in the hot sun. There are people who have this on their conscience. There are families who can never hold the body of a child or a mother.”
WATCH: Mother of Dutchman killed aboard Flight MH17 makes emotional plea
The downing of the Boeing 777 over eastern Ukraine on Thursday killed 298 passengers and crew, including 193 Dutch citizens.
Prosecutors in the Netherlands said they have begun a criminal investigation, though it remains unclear exactly where any suspects might be brought to justice.
A group of lawmakers hurried back from their summer recess for a meeting Monday with Rutte, who told them that getting the bodies home as soon as possible was his government’s top priority. He said a Dutch military transport plane is ready to repatriate the remains, which are now being stored in a refrigerated train in a rebel-held town.
“If the train finally gets going and the bodies get to Ukraine-controlled territory then we would prefer – and a Hercules is ready at Kharkiv airport – to get the bodies back to the Netherlands as soon as possible,” Rutte said.
READ MORE: Rebels move bodies of 196 MH17 crash victims to rebel-held town
One lawmaker, Gert-Jan Segers of the Christian Union, voiced the growing nationwide frustration.
“The Netherlands is grieving,” he said. “And angry.”
Right-wing lawmaker Louis Bontes urged the government to send special Dutch forces to secure the crash site.
“This messing around with our people can go on no longer,” he said. “Our people must be brought home now.”
Rutte said he has made it “crystal clear” to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he must use his influence with rebels to ensure unhindered access to the crash scene for international investigators. He says sanctions could be slapped on “those directly or indirectly responsible” for hindering the probe.
“All political, economic and financial options are on the table,” he said.
He also said he wants to ensure the perpetrators of the attack are brought to justice.
READ MORE: Canadian killed in MH17 crash was a medical student from Ontario
The Dutch national prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the downing of the flight, spokesman Wim de Bruin told The Associated Press.
“We are looking into allegations of murder, war crimes and downing a civilian passenger plane,” he said. The charges carry a maximum life sentence if proven in Dutch courts.
De Bruin said one Dutch prosecutor is already in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to work with prosecutors there on the case.
There is no formal day of national mourning yet for the victims, but across the country local commemorations are being held.
A silent march was planned for Monday night in Rotterdam for a couple who ran a popular Chinese restaurant there. In Amsterdam, there were calls spread via social media to gather behind the city’s iconic Rijksmuseum to hold a minute of silence.
Fredriksz-Hoogzand said her grief for her son and his girlfriend was overwhelming.
“When I am in my bed at night, I see my son lying on the ground,” she told The Associated Press. “I see Daisy. I see Bryce. I see them in my head. I see it! They have to come home, not only those two. Everybody has to come home.”
King Willem-Alexander said all he and his wife Maxima could do was listen to the stories and be there for the relatives.
“We are deeply touched by the distressing personal stories of people who lost loved ones. People whose lives are shattered,” he said. “Their grief, powerlessness and desperation cuts to our souls.”
TORONTO – A little girl who was struck and killed in Leaside last week was laid to rest today.
The funeral service for seven-year-old Georgia Walsh was held Monday afternoon at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Bloor Street East.
The girl died after being hit by a minivan while crossing the street at the corner of Millwood Road and McRae Drive.
At the centre of the memorial: A large picture of Georgia Walsh, and a msg of thanks to the community from family #TO pic.twitter杭州夜网/fWOS1XFsPA
— Mark Carcasole (@MarkCarcGlobal) July 21, 2014
Memorial for 6-year-old Georgia Walsh still growing. She’ll be laid to rest at funeral this afternoon. #TO pic.twitter杭州夜网/ZXzKq26bPb
— Mark Carcasole (@MarkCarcGlobal) July 21, 2014
READ MORE: Leaside residents consider traffic solutions after child’s death
Her father is federal Conservative Party president John Walsh.
The Walsh family issued a statement Monday saying the “outpouring of love” from the broader community speaks to the effect George had on people.
“We have felt overwhelmed with the support, kindness and prayer shared with us by so many. Georgia was a special girl and though her passing leaves a giant hole in our hearts and our lives, the outpouring of love in the last five days speaks to who she was,” the statement read.
The family asks in lieu of flowers that donations be made in her memory to the Sick Kids Foundation.
VIDEO: Fri, Jul 18: Nearest solution to traffic problem from City Hall is still a long time coming. Mark Carcasole reports.
VANCOUVER – Drivers servicing the country’s largest port urged government on Monday to take swift action against trucking companies, which they say aren’t living up to a deal hammered out last spring to end a strike.
More than 1,600 union and non-unionized truckers for Port Metro Vancouver went back to work in late March after negotiating an action plan that promised to improve job conditions.
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Three months later they’re still not getting paid what’s owed, say representatives who met with two levels of government to request an order-in-council making rates legal and binding for workers across the sector.
Unifor director Gavin McGarrigle, who represents about 400 drivers, said companies are “thumbing their nose” at the 14-point action plan devised to get cargo flowing again after drivers walked off the job for weeks.
“They have their wild west mentality and they just think that if there’s a loophole they’ll jump through it as quick as possible,” he told reporters after a nearly two-hour meeting with the federal and provincial transportation ministers.
“The trucking companies need to realize the days of game playing are over and its time to step up to the plate.”
Workers don’t want to withdraw services again, McGarrigle said, but noted members are still in a legal strike position.
Manny Dhillon, who represents about 1,200 members the United Truckers’ Association of B.C., said drivers have become increasingly frustrated over rates owed since early April.
“They’re pretty angry,” he said, arguing 12 of the action plan’s 14 points have not come to fruition. “It’s really getting hard to calm people down out there.”
The meeting was held two weeks after the representatives walked away from weekly two-hour talks that they contend were showing no progress, despite the March deal.
Even before Monday’s meeting, a spokeswoman for the federal transportation minister said in a statement that Lisa Raitt has been working with her provincial counterpart to ensure “the necessary steps” are taken to pay truckers. No detail on when or how that might happen was provided.
The truckers say other issues that have yet to be resolved include an oversupply of trucks in the industry, truck licencing problems and a concern the auditing system is not independent from the port.
But they also say some improvements have been made, including the p[ayment of more than $1 million in waiting fees and the outfitting of fleets with GPS systems.
Watch above: The Russian president could have used his leverage to get the rebels to lay down their arms to allow an international team in, but he’s done nothing. Now, many say he has blood on his hands. Mike Drolet reports.
President Barack Obama is calling for international investigators to have “immediate and full access” to the site in eastern Ukraine, where a passenger jet was shot down last week.
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Grieving mother of MH17 victim to Putin: ‘Send my children home’
Rebels move bodies of 196 MH17 crash victims to rebel-held town
Canada demands pro-Russian militants leave MH17 crash site
Prominent AIDS scientist on MH17 partnered with Canadians in pioneering research
Obama accused pro-Russian separatists in the area of removing evidence and bodies from the crash site. He says that raises the question of “what exactly are they trying to hide?”
The president says the burden is on Russia and President Vladimir Putin to compel the separatists to co-operate with the investigation. Obama says that if Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, Moscow “will only further isolate itself” and the economic costs will continue to increase.
The White House says the missile that brought down the Malaysia Airlines plane was fired from an area controlled by the separatists.
WATCH: President Obama calls for full and fair investigation into MH17 downing
Dutch forensic investigators told the armed separatists guarding train cars full of bodies from the downed Malaysia Airlines jet that the train must be allowed to leave within hours.
The experts from the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team – which specializes in victim recovery and identification – also pressed for the train cars parked near the rebel-held town of Torez to be sealed. AP journalists at the site said the smell of decay was overwhelming.
WATCH: International team inspects train carrying victims’ bodies from flight MH17
READ MORE: Canada to slap more sanctions against Russia over downed plane
Then the experts headed for the crash site itself, 15 kilometres (9 miles) away, accompanied by monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The chaotic Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 recovery effort stumbled again Monday, with more bodies found at the sprawling crash site but a worrisome power outage in the refrigerated train holding over 200 of the dead.
The shambolic attempts to investigate by the pro-Russia separatists who control the verdant farmland where pieces of the plane crashed to Earth have fanned widespread international outrage, especially from the nations whose citizens were on the doomed plane. Four days after the jetliner was shot out of the sky, international investigators still had only limited access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine.
IN PHOTOS: Images from the Malaysian Airlines crash site in eastern Ukraine
Emergency workers piled 21 more black body bags from the blackened crash site by the side of the road Monday in Hrabove. That brought the total found to 272 of the 298 passengers and crew killed in the tragedy, according Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The bodies were being sent to the refrigerated railcars in the nearby town of Torez, where the other bodies are being kept. But a train engineer told The Associated Press that the cars’ refrigeration had been off overnight and it was not immediately clear why. The cooling system was back up and running early Monday, he said.
The smell of decomposing bodies was much more pronounced Monday at the Torez train station than a day earlier, when 196 bodies were put into the train cars. Four rebels armed with automatic weapons were standing guard around the cars.
READ MORE: Who are the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17?
Ukrainian officials say the plane was shot down by a mobile missile battery from a rebel-controlled area in eastern Ukraine. They said the BUK rocket launcher was supplied from Russia and operated by Russian personnel.
The United States presented what it called “powerful” evidence Sunday that the rebels shot down the Boeing 777 with a Russian surface-to-air missile. That evidence included video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site; imagery showing the firing; phone calls claiming credit for the strike and phone recordings said to reveal a coverup at the crash site.
“A buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence … it’s powerful here,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists,” he added.
Fighting flared again Monday between the separatists and government troops in the eastern rebel-held city of Donetsk. City authorities said battles were taking place near the town’s airport and warned residents to stay inside. An AP reporter heard several explosions and saw smoke rising from the direction of the airport.
Pressure has been growing on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who the U.S. and others say has backed and armed the rebels, to rein in the insurgents in Ukraine and allow a full-scale investigation. Russia has denied backing the separatists.
WATCH: Canada has joined the chorus of voices around the world demanding a transparent investigation into the plane crash. Mike le Couteur reports.
Putin lashed out against those criticisms again Monday, accusing others of exploiting the downing of the plane for “mercenary objectives.”
Putin said Russia was doing everything possible to allow a team of experts from the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, to investigate the scene. He again criticized the Ukraine government authorities in Kyiv for reigniting the fighting with the pro-Russia rebels who control the crash site.
“We can say with confidence that if fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened,” Putin said. “Nobody should or does have a right to use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives.”
Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, angrily called on Russia to halt what he said was its support for the rebels.
“They have to stop, and President Putin has to realize, enough is enough,” he said. “What we expect from Russia: To de-escalate the situation, to withdraw their agents, to close the border, to stop their support for these bastards, and to stick to international law and international observations.”
WATCH: Rebel authorities moved the bodies to refrigerated rail cars at a nearby town. But there are still at least 100 bodies, many of them probably entangled in the wreckage.
A team of international monitors, including three from the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team, were to visit both Torez and the crash site later Monday.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country lost 192 citizens on the plane, told a news conference that repatriating the bodies was his “No. 1 priority.”
Rebel leader Alexander Borodai denied his fighters were trying to tamper with evidence at the site, saying the bodies would be turned over to a team of Malaysian experts. A group of investigators that included Malaysian officials was in Kyiv, but said they wouldn’t go into rebel-held areas until they get better assurances about security.
Despite Borodai’s claims, it was clear that the rebels were interfering in the investigation.
Lyubov Kudryavets, a worker at the Torez morgue, said the evening the plane went down, a resident brought in the bloodied body of a young child. On Saturday, militiamen came to take away the body away, she said.
“They began to question me: ‘Where are the fragments of rocket? Where are the fragments from the plane?”‘ Kudryavets said. “But I didn’t have any wreckage. … I swear.”
Experts said even if investigators were granted access now to the site, it might be too late.
“Even without any deliberate attempt at a coverup, the crash site is already compromised in forensic terms,” said Keir Giles, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank .
He said a reconstruction of the aircraft fuselage and wings would show how the missile struck the plane and what type it was.
“If any aircraft parts have already been removed … this compromises the objectivity of the investigation,” he said.
Mills reported from Moscow. Peter Leonard in Kyiv; Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Danica Kirka in London, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.
VIDEO: The bombings, three of which went off in the space of 10 minutes, killed at least 27 people, shaking the fragile sense of security Baghdad has maintained despite the Sunni militant offensive raging across northern and western Iraq.
BAGHDAD – Attacks overnight in two Iraqi cities killed at least 16 people, officials said Monday as authorities struggle to stop the Sunni militants’ offensive that has left huge areas in northern and western Iraq outside of government control.
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In one of the attacks, mortar rounds rained down on Shiite neighbourhoods in the town of Mahmoudiya on Sunday night, killing 11 civilians and wounding 31, a police official said. The mixed Shiite-Sunni town is about 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Baghdad.
And in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a roadside bomb struck an army patrol, killing two soldiers and three volunteers who took up arms following the Sunni militant push across Iraq in recent weeks. Eighth people were wounded in that attack, said the police official.
Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to media.
In early January, al-Qaida breakaway extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized control of the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, as well as parts of the nearby city of Ramadi, the provincial capital of western Anbar province.
In June, the Islamic State launched a massive blitz offensive that brought large swaths of northern and western Iraq under their control.
So far, Iraq’s security forces have struggled to retake any of the ground they surrendered to the militants over the past five weeks.
On Friday, the U.S. mission in Iraq said at least 5,576 civilians were killed and another 11,665 wounded in the first six months of this year. Another 1.2 million people have been uprooted from their homes by the violence.
The civilian deaths so far this year mark a sharp increase over the previous year, when just over 7,800 civilians killed, according to U.N.
Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj contributed to this report.
WATCH: Authorities address the collision and derailment between a CN Rail freight train and a Wisconsin Southern train Sunday night
SLINGER, Wis. – A Canadian National Railway Co. train struck another freight train as it rolled through a small village in southeastern Wisconsin, causing cars to derail, injuring two people and spilling thousands of gallons of fuel that prompted the evacuation of dozens of homes.
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The southbound Canadian National train struck several Wisconsin & Southern Railroad cars around 8:30 p.m. Sunday at a rail crossing in Slinger, according to Patrick Waldron, a Canadian National spokesman.
Three engines and 10 railcars derailed, Slinger Fire Chief Rick Hanke said. Slinger is about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
An engineer and conductor on the Canadian National train were taken to a hospital, treated for injuries and released, Waldron said Monday.
About 5,000 gallons of diesel spilled from a locomotive fuel tank, Hanke said. Hazardous materials crews placed booms around the spilled fuel and crews worked to upright the derailed cars Monday morning.
Some 100 people who live near the crash site were evacuated from their homes as a precaution but they were allowed to return around 1:30 a.m. Monday, Hanke said.
The Wisconsin & Southern engineer applied the brakes after an onboard computer sensed something was wrong before the collision, said WSR spokesman Ken Lucht.
“There was an emergency situation prior to impact,” Lucht said.
Investigators will interview the crew members and inspect both trains to determine what specifically triggered the sensor, he said.
The Wisconsin & Southern train was headed northbound from Janesville to Horicon, and was carrying lumber, steel and plastic pellets, Lucht said. Some of the lumber spilled from a rail car. The Canadian National train was southbound from Fond du Lac to Champaign, Illinois, and was carrying sand, Waldron said.
WATCH: Diplomacy is finally picking up steam and the pressure for Hamas to accept a ceasefire is mounting. But the death toll continues to climb, as Israel faces off with militants in the Gaza Strip. Eric Sorensen reports.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister “appalled” by reports of rocket stockpiles in UN-run school given to HamasPalestinian-Canadians protest on Ottawa’s Parliament HillAir Canada cancels Tuesday evening flight bound for Tel Aviv, will “evaluate” future flightsFAA restricts U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv; European Aviation Safety Agency “strongly recommends” refraining from flying to Tel AvivOne Israeli soldier was killed Tuesday and another Israeli soldier is missing; some reports suggest he is deadDiplomatic efforts between the UN, U.S. and Egypt have intensified to end the two weeks of violence
TORONTO and JERUSALEM – A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed near Israel’s main airport Tuesday, wounding one Israeli and prompting the U.S., Air Canada and some European airlines to suspend flights to Israel in a reflection of high anxiety over air travel after last week’s attack on a Malaysian jet over Ukraine.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has restricted all U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for 24 hours, and Air Canada has cancelled its Tuesday evening flight.
Air Canada, which operates direct flights from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Ben Gurion International Airport, said it is “evaluating” the situation in Tel Aviv moving forward, and cancelled Tuesday’s flight.
We have cancelled our Tel Aviv flight tonight AC84 YYZ-TLV and return AC85 TLV-YYZ 23/07. Will continue to evaluate going forward & update.
— Air Canada (@AirCanada) July 22, 2014
The FAA’s 24-hour prohibition on Tel Aviv-bound flights went into effect at 12:15 p.m. ET.
The notification came shortly after Delta Airlines, United Airlines and U.S. Airways cancelled flights to Israel’s second most populated city and amid more rockets fired at the city from the Gaza Strip.
“The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport,” a statement on the FAA’s website read.
WATCH: Aftermath of rocket attack that caused flight cancellations to Tel Aviv
One Delta flight with 290 passengers and crew on board was already en route from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Tel Aviv when the airline cancelled its flights. Delta said the flight was diverted to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
American Airlines (which recently merged with U.S. Airways) said flights have been cancelled in response to “security concerns” at Tel Aviv airport.
“For customers with future travel plans to Tel Aviv, we have extended our travel advisory and our flexible ticketing policy through August 31. Customers who choose to change their travel plans can do so without change fees,” said American Airlines spokesperson Michelle Mohr in an email to Global News.
The FAA said it will continue to monitor the situation and issue “updated instructions as soon as conditions permit.”
Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia have also suspended their flights, some of them for the next 36 hours. The European Aviation Safety Agency said it “strongly recommends” that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv, and said it would “monitor the situation and advise on any update as the situation develops.”
Israel’s Transportation Ministry called on the airlines to reverse their decision and said it was trying to explain that the airport was “safe for landings and departures.”
The fallout from the rocket was the latest blow to Israel on a day when it announced that an Israeli soldier went missing following a deadly battle in the Palestinian territory, where the Israelis are fighting Hamas militants in the third conflict in just over five years.
With the casualty toll mounting on both sides, the international community has stepped up diplomatic efforts and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon met with Egyptian and Israeli officials in a bid to revive a cease-fire proposal that was rejected by Hamas.
Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel, and several heading toward the area of Ben-Gurion Airport have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, but police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Tuesday’s landing was the closet to the airport since fighting began on July 8.
Follow our live blog for updates:
WATCH: Rockets continue to rain down between Israel and Gaza as diplomatic efforts continue
The disruption to air travel came as Israel is increasingly suffering from the effects of the war in Gaza after nearly two weeks of largely remaining insulated as the air defence system dependably zapped incoming Hamas rockets from the skies and the military successfully repelled infiltration attempts on the ground and from the sea.
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of locations in Gaza and diplomatic efforts intensified to end the two week war that has killed at least 609 Palestinians and 29 Israelis – 27 soldiers and two civilians. The U.N. office of humanitarian affairs estimates that at least 75 per cent of the Palestinian deaths were civilians, including dozens of children.
Later on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he was “appalled” by reports that aid workers found stockpiled rockets in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
He was equally upset by Israeli allegations that UN workers gave the rockets to Hamas.
“Canada unequivocally calls on the United Nations to launch an immediate independent investigation to determine the facts surrounding these reports. Canada also calls on the United Nations to ensure that in the second case, no rockets are returned to Hamas,” Baird said in a statement.
“If proven true, this would fly in the face of all that the United Nations should stand for as an institution committed to the peace and security of its members.”
But the aid agency says it merely followed its own prior practices by returning the rockets to Palestinian authorities not connected to Hamas.
“As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises … The Agency immediately informed the relevant parties and is pursuing all possible measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school,” it said in a statement issued prior to Baird’s.
“UNRWA will launch a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.”
The agency provides assistance and protection to about five million registered Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank, according to its website.
Tuesday wasn’t the first time Israeli media accused the UN agency of aiding Hamas.
The UNRWA made headlines over the weekend when Israel’s Channel Two news network was forced to retract a story that falsely claimed a UNRWA ambulance was used to transport militants in Gaza on Saturday night. It was the second Channel Two retraction related to UNRWA’s neutrality record, after an October 2012 incident.
“There are many false reports circulating about UNRWA right now. This is another regrettable example in that long catalogue of sloppy journalism,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness in the release, referring to Sunday‘s retraction.
Earlier on Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinian-Canadian protesters marched through Ottawa Tuesday, demanding Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounce Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
There were screams of “shame, shame” when a handful of pro-Israel demonstrators draped in an Israeli flag shouted “no more terror” from a nearby sidewalk, but police and march organizers were able to contain the crowd and keep the two sides apart.
Harper has insisted Canada stands firmly at Israel’s side in the ongoing conflict.
The fate of another Israeli soldier who went missing following a deadly battle in the Gaza Strip remained unknown, a defence official said Tuesday.
It was not immediately known if the missing soldier was alive or dead, the Israeli defence official told The Associated Press. The disappearance raised the possibility that he had been captured by Hamas – a nightmare scenario for Israel. In the past, Israel has paid a heavy price in lopsided prisoner swaps to retrieve captured soldiers or remains held by its enemies.
Military officials said the soldier, identified as Sgt. Oron Shaul, was among seven soldiers in a vehicle that was hit by an anti-tank missile in a battle in Gaza over the weekend. The other six have been confirmed as dead, but no remains have been identified as Shaul, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident with media.
Hamas’ claimed earlier this week that it had captured an Israeli soldier. Israel’s U.N. ambassador initially denied the claim but the military neither confirmed nor denied it.
A representative of Shaul’s family, Racheli Gazit, said that “so long as the verification has not been completed … as far as the family is concerned Oron is not a fallen soldier.”
WATCH: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in the Middle East Tuesday morning, trying to work out a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants. Tracie Potts reports.
Abductions of Israeli soldiers have turned in the past into drawn-out mediation with opponents leading to prisoner releases. In 2008, Israel released five Lebanese militants in exchange for the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2006 Lebanon war.
Also in 2006, Hamas-allied militants seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid and held him captive in Gaza until Israel traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for his return in 2011.
Hamas had threatened in the past to kidnap more Israelis and Israel says the militant group’s attacks through tunnels that stretch into Israel are for this purpose.
READ MORE: Cease-fire negotiations could give rise to new peace talks: Egypt
Egypt, Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional cease-fire, to be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
In Cairo, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Egyptian officials Tuesday in the highest-level push yet to end the deadly conflict. Ban then travelled to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the international community to hold Hamas accountable for the latest round of violence, saying its refusal to agree to a cease-fire had prevented an earlier end to the fighting.
“What we’re seeing here with Hamas is another instance of Islamist extremism, violent extremism that has no resolvable grievance,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference with Ban in Tel Aviv. He compared Hamas with al-Qaida and extremist Islamic militant groups in Iraq, Syria and Africa.
“Hamas is like ISIS, Hamas is like al Qaida, Hamas is like Hezbollah, Hamas is like Boko Haram,” he said.
WATCH: Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu said in the face of extremism and violence from Hamas that Israel has no choice to defend itself.
Netanyahu was responding to a call by Ban that the sides address the root causes of the fighting and work toward bringing about a two-state solution.
“My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year,” Ban said. Netanyahu responded that Hamas, a group whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, does not want a two-state solution.
Hamas, with some support from Qatar and Turkey, wants guarantees on lifting the blockade before halting fire. The Islamic militant group has no faith in mediation by Egypt’s rulers, who deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo a year ago and tightened restrictions on Gaza – to the point of driving Hamas into its worst financial crisis since its founding in 1987.
READ MORE: John Kerry caught on hot microphone criticizing Israeli operation
Laub reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Associated Press writer Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza contributed to this report.
With files from The Canadian Press
Palestinian-American teen talks about police beating in Israel
Fierce battle in Gaza leads to deadliest day in Israel, Hamas conflict
Protests held across Canada over Israeli military action in Gaza
UN Security Council holds urgent meeting on Gaza
and The Associated Press
EDMONTON – Canadian shoppers will be able to see next month if the beef they’re buying has been mechanically tenderized.
Labelling regulations to take effect Aug. 21 are designed to protect consumers after the largest meat recall in the country’s history two years ago.
Health Canada says beef that has been mechanically tenderized must have a sticker saying that.
Packaged steaks must also have cooking instructions that the meat must reach an internal temperature of 63 C and must be turned at least twice.
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READ MORE: U.S. audit gives Canada low grade on food safety
Health Canada says the rules are meant to ensure that tenderized meat is labelled from the processor to the consumer, since it’s hard to tell just by looking at it.
But Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, said the cooking requirements are too complicated for most people and he wants mechanical tenderizing banned outright.
“What average Canadian having a beer and a steak is going to measure the temperature of the meat?” Cran asked.
“This process has the potential to seriously sicken people or cause fatalities.”
Mechanical tenderizing is a process for tougher cuts of meat where needles or blades are used to penetrate or pierce the surface, or to inject the meat with a marinade or tenderizing solution.
While it makes the meat more tender, it can also inject E. coli bacteria that may be on the surface of the meat into the centre. That makes the bacteria harder to kill when cooking, particularly if a steak is done rare.
Federal officials began looking at issues surrounding mechanically tenderized meat after a massive E.-coli-related beef recall from Alberta’s XL Foods in 2012.
The plant was shut down for about a month when E. coli was found in processed beef. Eighteen people fell ill after eating meat linked to the plant.
Cran says irradiation of all meats is the best way to ensure meat is safe.
READ MORE: Report raises questions over XL Beef recall
Health Canada received an application to irradiate ground beef, poultry, shrimp and prawns a decade ago, but a spokesman says the public was worried about the process.
Another application from the industry is under consideration.
Mark Klassen, director of technical services with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, supports irradiation but says mechanically tenderized beef is safe as long as it’s cooked properly.
“We’ve had very few cases of illness, even though mechanically tenderized beef has been in Canada in large quantities for a long time,” Klassen said.
“It’s had a very good safety record.”
Klassen said the association was involved in the research that supported the new labelling, including the cooking instructions. He says it also tested the labels with a sample of Canadians to make sure they were understandable and practical.
He said the research determined that earlier Health Canada instructions to bring the meat to the same internal temperature as ground beef, 71 C, made the beef tougher. He said 63 C is safe as long as the meat is turned at least twice.
The extra turning is necessary, he explained, to ensure that outer area of a steak is cooked. The testing determined that sometimes the internal temperature can be OK but the outside can still be undercooked.
“We’ve been able to achieve our food safety objectives and we’ve been able to achieve a more consistent temperature, which contributes to a better eating quality as well,” Klassen said.
Keith Warriner, a food science professor at the University of Guelph, said labelling is good as long as the message is simple.
“Labels alone aren’t enough to change people’s attitudes and behaviours,” Warriner said, noting an education campaign might be needed.
The labels will appear in supermarket meat coolers at a point in the summer when barbecue season has already been sizzling for some time.
George Fleming, sales supervisor at Barbecue Country in Edmonton, said customers aren’t usually talking about mechanical tenderizing when shopping for grills.
But he said he usually tells them to go to a butcher shop for the best cuts.
“You pay a little more but you know the meat hasn’t been tenderized.”
©2014The Canadian Press