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July 17, 2014 5:24 PM Breaking News Updates

By Ed Kilgore

Just a quick update on the two big breaking news stories this afternoon, mostly based on liveblogs from The Guardian.

It’s now clear Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down near the Ukrainian-Russian border by a surface-to-air missile (Vice President Joe Biden was the first U.S. official to confirm that in remarks at Netroots Nation; he had just spoken to the Ukrainian president). It does not appear there are any survivors among the 280 passengers and 15 crew on board.

While every military force in the region is denying responsibility for the attack, suspicions are focused on separatist militias, which have been firing SAM missiles at Ukrainian military transport planes and actually destroyed one recently in the same area. They may have attacked the airliner in the mistaken belief it was another transport plane. It also appears the destruction of the airliner (which was flying just above restricted airspace) was a stroke of terrible luck since it was very near the maximum range of the type of SAMs available in the theater, and beyond where they can usually be fired with any accuracy.

The national origins of the passengers and crew are unknown, but Biden said it was “possible” U.S. citizens were aboard.

Aside from Biden’s conversations, President Obama spoke with Vladimir Putin just after news of the crash became available, though the conversation was likely prescheduled to discuss the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli air/ground offensive is ongoing, with “dozens” of Palenstinian casualities already reported. One unconfirmed report is that 8,000 IDF troops are involved in ground operations. From terse Israeli communiques, it seems the offensive will initially target inflitration tunnels used by Hamas, but will also encompass wider efforts to “degrade” Hamas’ military capabilities.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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