welcome to al jazeera america. i'm john henry smith. here are the stories we are following for you at this hour. evaluating the threat from the islamic state group, as the united states measures its response. >> hamas retaliation against alleged israeli contributors. and another night of calm in ferguson, as the community prepares for the burial of michael brown. ♪
how to respond to the threat posed by the islamic state group? that is the question the united states and other world governments are trying to answer today. the rebel militants who have seized control of portions of syria and iraq have been condemned by western powers, even condemned by other extremist groups like al-qaeda. the united states says i.s. is beyond anything they have seen before. let's turn our attention to libby casey in washington. libby is there any indication that the u.s. may expand i its -- operations against islamic state. >> we're hearing a lot of concern over just how powerful and deadly the islamic state may be at this point. the question is what can be done right now? and while we're hearing a lot of
concern, it's unclear how much muscle the united states is willing to put behind its words. we heard a warning from chuck hagel yesterday. i want to give you a sense of the language he is using. take a listen. >> they are beyond just a terrorist group. they marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess, they are tremendously well founded -- funded. oh, this is beyond anything we have seen. so you have to take a cold steely-heart look at it and get ready. >> you hear there the strong language that the defense secretary is using as he is warning that the danger the islamic state presents not just in iraq and syria, but also back in the u.s. and europe. they are voicing concerns that
people may be flocking to iraq and syria, getting trained there, and then coming home to commit acts of terrorism. something that officials are saying is very real. and there is a greater concern in europe, but it's something the u.s. should be thinking about as well. can they do more to stop the islamic state? that could mean anything from more air strikes to more intelligence and special forces and what to do about syria? >> so chuck hagel's concern certainly got a lot of people's attention yesterday. we seem to be hearing a lot of syria from the obama administration. what are they saying about u.s. military involvement there? >> officials say the border between iraq and syria is really just a line on a map at this point. however, president obama has
authorized air strikes in iraq, not in syria, and that is a distinction. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff talked yesterday about what could or may not come next. >> it requires a variety of instruments, only one small part of which is air strikes. i'm not predicting those will occur in syria, at least not by the united states. but it requires all of the tools of national power. diplomatic, economic, information, military. >> you hear the top general in the u.s., the chairman of the joints chiefs of staff laying out what it may take to stop the islamic state. so an attack is not off of the table, but it's not something they are rushing towards. other options could include faster and stronger equipping of kurdish fighters and the iraqi troops. also like i said, bringing in more special forces to help with the situation on the ground, both evaluation and execution.
and then there is the question of ground troops. is it possible for the u.s. to put in ground troops in iraq. it's unlikely to happen in syria of course, so all options are still on the table, but we're waiting to hear more there t the -- pentagon about what they think they can do at this point. >> libby casey live in washington. thanks very much. the fight against the islamic state continues across iraq. has been a deadly attack, where shiite fighters opened fire on we are schip -- worshippers in a mosque. kurdish forces are fighting alongside the iraqi military,
trying to regain lost area that the north driving rebels further south. earlier we spoke to james jeffery a former u.s. ambassador to iraq. we asked him how the murder of james foley has changed u.s.'s strategy? >> i don't think in and of itself it has, but it has given him more domestic support if he decides to turn the pressure on against isis. president obama has done the right things, but he hasn't been clear in explaining to the american people what his objectives are. is it containment? is it to destroy isis, which is what sec kerry said the other day? that's what i would urge. but we're not certain. >> you just said you believe containment is defeat does the u.s. need to target i.s. in syria to defeat them?
because by one estimate there are 50,000 i.s. fighters in syria. >> the latest figures i saw are between 10 and 20,000. i would lean towards 20,000. but that's over a very large area, stretching from aleppo near the mediterranean coast to mosul up in iraq. and the first priority needs to be to defeat them in iraq. that's where the strategic terrain is, where the oil fields are located and we have partners, the kurds and a better government in bagdad with whom we can ally. >> and that 50,000 number comes from the syrian observatory of human rights, but do you think the only way to stop i.s. right now is a military one? is there a diplomatic solution that should also be a focus here? >> again, president obama laid it all out on june 19th.
it's diplomatic with the region and the entire global community including in the un. it's political, working with the iraqi government with the sunni arab tribes in the area where isis is located, working with the kurds to include an effective iraqi government, and its military, but not with american major combat troops on the ground with american air power, logistics, advice, intelligence, along with people like we saw up in the north the kurds and the iraqi special forces will do the ground fighting for us. the united states says the death toll in syria has now reached over 191,000. this is the number of deaths the un has documented from the start of the war to april of this year. the un says 85%s of the killed were males. nearly 9,000 killed were
children. the un's high commissioner for human rights today rep rep manageded the undersecurity council. >> short-term considerations and national interests narrowly defined have repeatedly taken precedence over intolerable human suffering and grave breaches of and long-term threats to international peace and security. i firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. >> her comments come as her six-year tenure as human rights chief ends at the end of the month. rula has more on the fighting in syria. and the influence of the islamic state group. >> they have gained more momentum from what happened in
iraq. they have gained weapons, tanks, and they have a lot of money due to their control over the oil fields. they have been against the syrian regime, and second against the other rival rebel groups. in aleppo there are other rebel groups like the syrian -- free syrian army, who have been in retreating in face of the i.s. offensive. in one province the government has one specific foothold left which is an air base. and that air base has been under attack by the i.s. for weeks now who have been able to take three other air bases. this was the only one left. yesterday they were sending their own reinforcements trying to push off the offensive. they have been able to kill dozens of i.s. fighters, but the i.s. fighters have also pushed further, and many from the regime forces have died as well.
the conflict in syria did give them more momentum. they have more fighters, more money, and a more solid cause where they can recruit more people. if you talk to the syrian opposition, they accuse the syrian regime of turning a blind eye if not supporting the existence and growth of the i.s. groups. the syrian government has said they have always said they are fighting terrorist groups like i.s., and now they are hoping the world will see their point of view, and at least scale back on his push to remove them, his the main rival right now on the ground is the i.s. group. the deal that brought sergea sergeant bergdahl home is being said to be illegal.
hamas says it has executed at least 17 people it accuses of collaborating with israel. these deaths follow the killing of three senior hamas commanders by israel yesterday. jane ferguson has the latest from gaza, and a warning the images in this story are graphic. >> 11 took place in the early hours of this morning, 7 more have taken place, and some of those took place right here we are in the street in gaza city. you can still see the remnants of what has been left behind. these were hoods that were put over the heads of people before they were shot here on the street. it's an extremely grim scene. and further down the street, more examples of blood. some plastic gloves that may
have been discarded by the executioners here. there are four hoods that have been left in the street here and some of the sandals of those who were executed, but it's an extremely grim scene here. the factions came together and formed a revolutionary court, and they said that they had found these people guilty of collaborating with the israelis. what they mean by that is giving the israelis information that the factions say caused palestinian deaths. normally anybody accused of collaborating in gaza would go to a regular court. but they say now during wartime those courts are not convening, so they have set up this representative court who handed down sentences to these people. air strikes do continue across the gaza strip, and rocket fire is still being fired. at least five people were killed overnight and so far today on friday in those air strikes.
five houses at least have been hit, and lots of agricultural land around the edges of the gaza strip has been hit. it would appear that the israelis are looking for anything left of the network of tubbels to direct their air strikes towards those. israel is reporting a four year old died from its injuries during fighting yesterday. israel says hamas will pay a heavy price for the attack. a senior hamas official now claims a brigade was behind the kidnapping of three israeli teens this summer. hamas at the time neither confirmed nor denied being involved. the statement was made to a group of international scholars in turkey. more protests in the streets of yemen. tens of thousands of people flooded the capitol friday. they are calling for the
government to resign today and for fuel prices to be cut. russian convoys have crossed the border into ukraine, a move that kiev officials are calling an invasion. earlier today, 34 russian trucks crossed the separatists-controlled check point. they say 90 others are on their way. ukraine claims not all of the trucks were properly inspected. the government is assuming the convoys are carrying military supplies for rebel fighters. russia says it's humanitarian aid. neve barker has more. >> reporter: there have been some real concerns from the ukrainian side that these trucks may well be used to help separatists fighters in the city of luhansk, and some of those trucks may even make it down to the city of donetsk. together with volunteer battalions, they are closing in on those areas. we gather the ukrainians have
said this is an illegal crossing of the border. some comments from the russian side is that they are being escorted by separatists fighters. the big question now is how is the ukrainian army going to respond? what will the red cross do now that they have said they will not take part in escorting these vehicles to their intended destinations. it sounds like a very tense journey for those trucks wherever their final point of arrival should be. in malaysia an official day of mourning is being observed for those killed in flight mh17. may sha's king and prime minister were among those at tending the repaid reat it
ceremony. the government asked people to wear black and refrain from festive activities today as a show of respect. south africa is the latest country to impose a travel ban to western african countries suffering from the ebola outbreak. coming up on al jazeera america, in ferguson, missouri, looking to the future, and learning from the past. and court proceedings begin for texas governor rick perry. also we're awaiting a briefing at the pentagon. we'll bring that to you live when it happens. the conversation and making it surprisingly hopeful. don't miss the stream the stream, on al jazeera america
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we can tweet directly toa comcast expert for help. or we can select a time for them to call us back. the future, right? ♪ this doesn't do it for you? [ doorbell rings, dog barks ] oh, that's what blows your mind -- the advanced technology of a doorbell.. [ male announcer ] tweet an expert and schedule a callback from any device. introducing the xfinity my account app. welcome back, the pentagon is holding a briefing, let's listen in. >> -- failure to do so will result in additional costs and isolation. we're consulting with international partners, and as
we have more details to provide, we'll certainly do that. rita? >> reporter: does the u.s. consider this an invasion, and is the u.s. taking any action either calling any counterparts overseas in ukraine or russia? >> it's certainly unauthorized entry into ukraine by this convoy, and we are consulting as i said with international parts right now about next steps. i don't have anything additional to add at this time. i made it very, very clear what we expect of russia. >> reporter: but no phone calls between the administration and -- >> this is just happening today. so i'm not aware of any outreach today by -- certainly by this building. i would remind you though, that the secretary did talk to the minister just a few days ago, and the minister guaranteed was his words, that there would be
no military intervention using the pretext of humanitarian relief, and in fact assured us that there will be no military members as part of this convoy. >> reporter: you said under the guise of a humanitarian convoy. does the u.s. have evidence that there are militaries forces and equipment? >> i'm not premared to speak to specific evidence at this time. we made our position very, very clear that they should not be using this under the guise of a humanitarian convoy to use that as an excuse. we have a lot more work to do here, and i think we'll sort this out throughout the day. i think you'll hear more from us throughout the day. joe? >> reporter: on iraq, we heard the secretary general and chairman dempsey talking about a long-term strategy. can you give us a sense what does that mean?
are we going to see changes in regards to the current operation right now in iraq? >> i think what the secretary was referring to and i'm pretty sure the chairman was referring to, was we need to have a regional approach about this threat posed by this particular extremist group, isil, and that this was -- this would take time to develop this kind of multi-lateral, and multinational approach to dealing with this threat. the president himself said that this wasn't going to be over in a matter of weeks. i think we all recognize that this group didn't grow up overnight. they didn't get the capabilities that they got overnight. we have been watching this for a while, and we all recognize it is going to take a while. by it is going to take a wlihil for everybody. not just the united states military. you are not going to see the
answer to all isil problems through a mill stair lens. we're a component, a tool. we -- we are -- we are conducting operations inside iraq against this group, in support of iraqis and kurdish forces, but we're not going to be the only tool in the toolbox that can or should be used. >> reporter: do you know -- was the pentagon know what is the size of isil in iraq and syria? are we talking about 10,000? 20,000? >> it's a difficult number to get at, joe, and believe me we have asked ourselves that question. it fluctuates a lot. it changes. if not weekly then certainly daily. it's a constant fluctuation. this isn't a classic army with an order of battle that you can take a look at a map and say
this is how many they have. clearly it's thousands. but it changes every day. as we talked about they have free flow across that border between syria and iraq, which for all intents and purposes doesn't exist for them. >> reporter: can we go back to russia for a moment. is it not rakt that you now estimate there might be 18,000 troops here that border? and isn't the reality that you have seen recently a number of additional heavy weapons go across? and my second question is, can you bring us up to date on this threatening encounter, the chinese military has had with the u.s. navy this week in the air? >> there's a lot there barbara. let's start with ukraine. i'm reticent as i typically am to give a hard number on russian
troops along the border. i have said for several weeks that it is north of 10,000. i believe it is still north of 10,000. we do believe they continue to add to their tactical groups there along the border -- >> reporter: it is closer to 18 or well north of 10? >> i'm going to stay where i have stayed, which is it is north of 10. it does fluctuate. we have seen a consistent increase in the last week or so. haven't exactly seen troops moving away. they have certainly added and reinforced those troops, but i'm really reticent to get into numbers. it's hard for us to give an exact order of battle for other military forces when you are not there with them. north of 10,000, i think that's -- that's fair to say. more worrisome than the number
is the readiness and the capability that exists in these battalion tactical groups. they are combined arms capable, armor, artillery, infantry, air defense. they are very ready, capable, and mobile, and they continue to do nothing but just increase the tension on the other side with ukraine. just as -- and this gets to your second of three questions. just as worrisome is the continued support to the separatists, which continues to this day and does include heavy weapon systems, air defense systems, artillery systems. tanks, so we're seeing -- we're seeing a lot of hardware going across that border on a routine basis. >> reporter: and russian troops? >> well, it's hard to believe -- i think -- [ inaudible ] to think this equipment is not moving across the border accompanied by
russian forces. i wouldn't get into an estimate right now. but again, let's not get fixated on the numbers, and we tend to drill down on that. i think what is more worrisome is the capabilities. the capabilities that exist in those troops on that side of the border, and the capabilities that continue to find their way in to the hands of the separatistses. that's the question. you asked about china. let me give you a little bit of a -- i'm going to give you an update here about it in case you weren't following. but on the 19th of august, an armed chinese fighter jet conducted a dangerous intercept of a u.s. patrol aircraft that was on a routine mission. the intercept took place about 135 miles east in international air space. we have registered our strong
concerns to the chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept which posed a risk to the safety and well-being of the crew. and was inconsistent with international law. and undermines efforts to continue developing military to military efforts with the chinese military. so that's where we are now. >> reporter: [ inaudible ]? >> it's difficult to say with precision, but within 30 feet of the p-8, very, very close. very dangerous. >> reporter: is it correct that as they went within 30 feet they moved around the u.s. aircraft, over, under -- you are listening to ron kerby giving a meeting after chuck hagel call isis, also
known has the islamic state group. he used the words regional and international approach. it sounds like america really wants to get it across that they do not want to go at this fight alone. >> i think that's a key detail to pick up on. just as president obama was talking about how iraq has to take the lead in what is happening in that country. you heard the admiral say it's not just a military component, and thinking about things like intelligence. he put that in context, which is significant, especially coming from the department of defense. >> libby casey thanks so much for weighing in. that's going to do it for this
half hour. "the stream" is up next. and as always you can catch what is happening online. take care. >> does that answer your question? ♪ hi i'm lisa fletcher and you are in the "stream." social media is transforming what we share about life, but what about death in is how we discuss dying changing one tweet at a time. ♪ >> bringing in the community out there our program is our digital producer, wajahat ali. sharing death and dying is something we're