Live Blog

Today's News: Jan. 4, 2017

An Israeli soldier is convicted over the death of a Palestinian in Hebron, Turkish investigators identified the New Year’s day shooter, and more from the United States and around the world.

Amir Cohen / Reuters

—An Israeli soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian attacker who had been disarmed has been convicted of manslaughter. More here

—Turkish investigators have identified the man who carried out the New Year’s day attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that killed 39 people. More here

—Macy’s announced that it would shut down 68 stores in the coming months. More here

—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).

Updates

This live blog has concluded

Macy's Laying Off 6,200 Employees

Andrew Kelly / Reuters

Following the continuing trend of massive layoffs in retail, Macy’s announced Wednesday that it would shut down 68 stores in the coming months. The closings will affect 3,900 employees at those stores, who may be offered jobs at other stores. An additional 6,200 employees at central operations, mostly in management, will lose their jobs. As customers continue to choose online shopping to in-store shopping, Macy’s is attempting to streamline its operations across the country. Terry Lundgren, the company’s CEO, said that the majority of Macy’s transactions still occur in stores. Retail stores across the country have struggled with the transition to online sales. This week, Sears announced it would close an additional 19 stores. Late last year, Wal-Mart announced it would cut 7,000 back-office jobs, while American Apparel said it may soon layoff 3,500 employees. Layoffs in retails were at their highest level in 2016 than they had been since 2010, as many companies closed unproductive stores and dealt with growing expenses and increasing wages.

UPDATE: Netanyahu Backs Pardon for Convicted Israeli Soldier Elor Azaria

Elor Azaria’s father prays as he stands last March over the IDF soldier who was accused of killing a Palestinian man in Hebron. A military court in Jaffa found Azaria guilty on Wednesday. (Amir Cohen / Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a pardon for Sergeant Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker who had been disarmed and was lying on the ground. Any such pardon lies in the hands of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Haaretz reports the defense minister and chief military prosecutor must both submit a request for a pardon to the president in order for Rivlin to act. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has termed calls for the pardon “ignorance and slogans.”


Our original post at 7:30 a.m. ET

Sergeant Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian attacker who had been disarmed and was lying on the ground, has been convicted by an Israeli military court in Jaffa. At issue is the incident that occurred March 24, 2016. A Palestinian man, later identified as Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, and his friend, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, stabbed an Israeli soldier. Qasrawi was shot and killed. Sharif was shot, wounded, and was lying immobile on the ground. Video from the scene showed Azaria, who was standing several meters away, cocking his gun, and shooting the Palestinian in the head, killing him. The Israeli Military Police arrested Azaria, 20, investigated the killing, and later charged him with manslaughter. The case caused widespread debate in Israel that has seen a spate of random knife and vehicular attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and military personnel. Azaria’s defense attorneys argued the sergeant suspected Sharif, the 21-year-old Palestinian attacker, was trying to detonate a suicide vest. But military officials contended that Azaria’s actions violated the Israel Defense Forces’s (IDF) code of conduct. Indeed, one witness, a fellow IDF soldier, testified that Azaria had told him during the incident, “They stabbed my friend and tried to kill him—he deserves to die.” The three-judge panel, which made the ruling Wednesday, said it had no reason to doubt that testimony.

Dylann Roof's First Words to the Jury

Chuck Burton / AP

Dylan Roof, the man who killed nine black parishioners at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015, spoke his first words to the jury on Wednesday, telling its members “there is nothing wrong with me, psychologically.” Roof has already been convicted by a federal court of all 33 counts against him, including hate-crime charges, and faces either life in prison or the death penalty. He chose to represent himself during the penalty phase, and previously said he’d provide no evidence or witness in his defense—only a statement. He’d had been ordered by the federal judge Monday not to approach the jury or witness stand, and he was restricted to talking behind the lectern. Roof spoke for about two minutes on Wednesday, saying he’d represented himself because he didn’t want his lawyers to try to sway the jury with arguments to make him seem incompetent to stand trial. Earlier, federal prosecutors urged the jury to sentence Roof to death, and also presented a jailhouse journal Roof kept shortly after his arrest. In it, the 22-year-old white supremacist wrote that he felt no remorse. “I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.”

Burmese Government Panel: No Evidence of Genocide Against Rohingya

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

An investigation commission set up by Burma’s president has found no evidence of genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, contrary to allegations made by human-rights organizations. The interim report was released Wednesday by the commission, created by President Htin Kyaw, following international criticism over the violence against the Rohingya. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Burma. Many live in Rakhine State, which shares a border with Bangladesh. The Rohingya are considered one of the world’s most persecuted people. In 2012 they were the targets of violence that killed hundreds and displaced 100,000. The most recent crackdown began in October after Burmese border guards were attacked allegedly by Rohingya. Since then the Rohingya have accused government soldiers of murder, rape, torture, and of burning their homes. The government has denied this, though there is growing evidence some of the allegations are true. Last month, 13 Nobel laureates and 10 other international humanitarian leaders petitioned the UN Security Council to intervene, calling the violence in Burma “ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

Commuter Train Derailment Injures 100 in Brooklyn

(Reuters)

Updated at 2:08 p.m.

A Long Island Railroad train derailed Wednesday at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, causing injuries to 103 people—none of them life-threatening, the city’s Fire Department said. The train “came off the rail” as it entered the terminal at about 8:20 a.m., a department spokesman said. The New York Times, citing an unnamed Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee, reported the “train had come into the station and went past the area where it would normally stop. It hit the bumping block, a barrier meant to stop a train in an emergency,” causing the first car to be lifted off the rails.

Armed Philippine Rebels Free 150 Prisoners in the Country's South

Reuters

Armed men with ties to a Philippine Muslim rebel group attacked a prison in the country’s south on Wednesday and freed more than 150 prisoners. The men killed at least one guard in the gunfight at North Cotabato District Jail, which holds 1,500 inmates, and is located in Kidapawan city. This area, on the southern island of Mindanao, is home to a decades-long insurgency. The attackers cut power to the prison and fired on the building. The goal apparently was to free members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a rebel group. The facility has a history of prison breaks, and this is the third and largest break in the past decade.

Turkey Says It Has Identified Istanbul Attacker

A frame grab made from a video distributed by Turkish police shows the suspected gunman. (Dogan / Reuters)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says investigators have identified the man who carried out the New Year’s day attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that killed 39 people. No other details were offered about the gunman, who is still at large. Several suspects were arrested Wednesday in Izmir in connection with the attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State. Another dozen people were arrested in raids in Istanbul on Thursday. The attack was the latest in Turkey that has seen a rash of similar incidents since last year, and marks, as my colleague Graeme Wood noted, the end of ISIS’s “separate peace with Turkey.” Past attacks have been blamed on Kurdish separatists and others.