Nation & World briefing

Published Aug 27, 2014 at 12:02AM

Gaza cease-fire — Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas agreed Tuesday to an open-ended cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting — an uneasy deal that halts the deadliest war the sides have fought in years, with more than 2,200 killed, but puts off the most difficult issues. In the end, both sides settled for an ambiguous interim agreement in exchange for a period of calm. Hamas, though badly battered, remains in control of Gaza with part of its military arsenal intact. Israel and Egypt will continue to control access to blockaded Gaza, despite Hamas’ long-running demand that the border closures imposed in 2007 be lifted. Hamas declared victory, even though it had little to show for a war that killed 2,143 Palestinians, wounded more than 11,000 and left some 100,000 homeless. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and six civilians were killed, including two killed by Palestinian mortar fire shortly before the cease-fire was announced.

Islamic State’s U.S. hostage — The Islamic State militant group is holding hostage a young American woman who was doing humanitarian aid work in Syria, a family representative said Tuesday. The 26-year-old woman is the third American known to have been kidnapped by the militant group. The Islamic State group recently threatened to kill American hostages to avenge the crushing airstrikes in Iraq against militants advancing on Mount Sinjar and the Kurdish capital of Irbil. The 26-year-old woman was captured last year while working with three humanitarian groups in Syria. A representative for the family and U.S. officials asked that the woman not be identified out of fear for her safety. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Missouri shooting — Federal authorities have received a brief video clip from a man who lives near the site where Michael Brown was killed and which, the man’s lawyer says, inadvertently captured the sounds of the gunshots fired at Brown. The audio portion of the clip reveals what sounds like at least 10 gunshots. The voice of the man, who was in a nearby apartment, can also be heard, according to the man’s lawyer. The federal authorities said Tuesday that they could not verify the authenticity of the recording, but that they were investigating it along with other evidence in their inquiry.

Gay marriage bans — Federal appeals judges bristled Tuesday at arguments defending gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin, with one Republican appointee comparing them to now-defunct laws that once outlawed weddings between blacks and whites. As the legal skirmish in the United States over same-sex marriage shifted to the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, more than 200 people lined up hours before to ensure they got a seat at the much-anticipated hearing. While judges often play devil’s advocate during oral arguments, the panel’s often-blistering questions for the defenders of the same-sex marriage bans could be a signal the laws may be in trouble — at least at this step in the legal process.

Civil War Medal of Honor — A century and a half after his valiant death at the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union Army officer is being awarded the nation’s highest military decoration, thanks to a decades-long campaign by his descendants and Civil War buffs. The White House announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama approved the Medal of Honor for 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, who was killed standing his ground against Pickett’s Charge during the pivotal, three-day Battle of Gettysburg. Congress granted a special exemption last December for Cushing to receive the award posthumously since recommendations normally have to be made within two years of the act of heroism and the medal awarded within three years. The White House also announced that Obama will award the medal in a ceremony on Sept. 15 to two Vietnam War soldiers who also received the congressional exemption.

Afghan election — Threatening to derail a tenuous Afghan political deal again, a top aide to the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said Tuesday that the campaign would pull out of an internationally monitored vote audit unless changes to the process were made by today. The U.N. and the Afghan election commission said the audit, which was initiated under a deal brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and salvaged this month after another intervention by him, would continue with or without Abdullah’s observers. The stalled audit and new brinkmanship by Abdullah cast doubt on plans to hold a presidential inauguration by Sept. 2.

Ebola outbreak — Ebola still has the “upper hand” in the outbreak that has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa, but experts have the means to stop it, a top American health official said during a visit to the hardest-hit countries. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was in Liberia on Tuesday and later planned to stop in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nigeria also has cases, but officials there have expressed optimism the virus can be controlled.

— From wire reports