- Associated Press - Friday, July 18, 2014

Ukraine rebels claim to have found most of the crashed Malaysia Airlines plane’s recorders

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Emergency workers, police officers and even off-duty coal miners - dressed in overalls and covered in soot - searched through wreckage and bodies scattered across sunflower fields and Ukrainian villages Friday after a Malaysian jetliner flying high above the country’s battlefield was shot down, killing 298 people.

Separatist rebels who control the area where the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was brought down said they had recovered most of its black boxes and were considering what to do with them. Their statement had profound implications for the integrity of the plane crash investigation.

U.S. intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile downed the plane, but could not say who fired it.

Ukraine, whose investigators have no access to the area, has called for an international probe to determine who attacked the plane and insisted it was not its military.

The crash site was sprawling, spread out over fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine - Rozsypne and Hrabove - and access to it remained difficult and dangerous. The road from Donetsk, the largest city in the region, to the crash site was marked by five rebel checkpoints Friday, with document checks at each.

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More than 20 Palestinians, Israeli soldier killed as troops advance into Hamas-ruled Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave’s Hamas rulers.

Israel launched the operation late Thursday, following a 10-day campaign of more than 2,000 air strikes against Gaza that had failed to halt relentless Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities.

Israel’s first major ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years came as Egyptian cease-fire efforts stalled. Earlier this week, Israel accepted Cairo’s offer to halt hostilities, but Hamas refused, demanding that Israel and Egypt first give guarantees to ease the blockade on Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to prepare for a “significant expansion” of the ground offensive.

“It is not possible to deal with tunnels only from the air. It needs to be done also from the ground,” he said before a special Cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv.

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Hit by double disasters, Malaysia Airlines may become tainted for travelers, never recover

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