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A selection of the important local, national and international events that occurred while we were on break:

Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Bay View

On Jan. 18, Israel and Hamas (the ruling Islamist party of the Gaza Strip section of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories) declared separate cease-fires to end Israel’s 22-day bombardment of Gaza. Air strikes killed 1,340 Palestinians, injured 5,320, and left 50,800 homeless and nearly half a million without running water. Israel says the attack, which severely injured almost 2,000 children, was a response to Hamas’ refusal to extend a cease-fire that expired in December, and subsequent rocket launching from Gaza into Israel.

After Israel’s cease-fire, Hamas declared that it would hold fire for a week to let Israeli forces leave Gaza, an area of 1.5 million inhabitants. Hamas was elected in the Palestinian Authority in 2006 with the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state through armed conflict with Israel, but has wrestled with the oppositional party Fatah and has suffered U.S. sanctions and Israeli blockades.

Source: BBC News, Reuters, UN New Centre

– On Jan. 13, former BART officer Johannes Mehserle was arrested and charged with murder of unarmed, 22 year-old Oscar Grant III. According to several sources, no California police officer has ever been charged with murder for a fatal use of force while on duty. Mehserle pled not guilty on Jan. 14. The shooting occurred on New Year’s Day after BART police stopped a train from San Francisco where a fight was taking place. Mehserle immediately resigned from the BART police force.

Hundreds of people staged a non-violent protest against police brutality on Jan. 7, in anger over a white officer killing an unarmed black man; the silence from BART officials and the inaction of the OPD and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. Protesters marched through downtown Oakland, where some broke off from the march and smashed windows and set fire to cars and dumpsters, ignoring the pleas of protest organizers. Police arrested 105 people. A second peaceful protest took place the day after Mehserle’s arrest and at the end of the rally a small group again refused to leave and 18 people were arrested.

Organizers and the Grant family denounced the violence and urged people to express their feelings peacefully. Peaceful demonstrations continued in Oakland on Friday and last Monday. Among organizers’ demands are the creation of a civilian BART police review board and for all transit officers present at the shooting to be identified and investigated. A $25 million wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against BART on behalf of Grant’s mother and four year-old daughter. Grant’s family, who are being represented by Oakland attorney John Burris, protest organizers and community leaders will be present at a town hall meeting, “Against Police Terrorism” at the Black Dot Cafe in West Oakland this Friday; all are invited. See the calendar on pg. 7 for details.

Source: Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, SF Bay View

– As of yesterday’s inauguration, Barack Obama is the 44th president of the U.S.

Goodbye, Bush!