Explosion


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — It was clear from the bod­ies laid out in the park­ing lot of the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal here that it had as­sumed new du­ties: No longer a place that wel­comed new life, it was now a make­shift morgue.

Oth­er bod­ies lay in hall­ways and on the floor of the kitchen at Hi­lal Emi­rati Ma­ter­ni­ty Hos­pi­tal. In the walk-in cool­er, they were stacked three high, wait­ing for rel­a­tives to claim them for burial.

Sat­ur­day was the sec­ond day of heavy bom­bard­ment by Is­raeli forces on this city on Gaza’s bor­der with Egypt af­ter Is­rael’s an­nounce­ment that one of its of­fi­cers had been cap­tured by Pal­es­tin­ian mil­i­tants here dur­ing a clash.

But ear­ly Sun­day morn­ing, the Is­raeli mil­i­tary an­nounced that the of­fi­cer, Sec­ond Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, was now con­sid­ered to have been killed in bat­tle.

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Medics at a field hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip. More than 120 Palestinians were killed in Rafah alone on Friday and Saturday.

“It is just an ex­cuse,” said Dr. Ab­dul­lah She­hadeh,

di­rec­tor of the Abu Yousef al-Na­j­jar Hos­pi­tal, the city’s larg­est. “There is no rea­son for them to force the women and chil­dren of Gaza to pay the price for some­thing that hap­pened on the bat­tle­field.”

Af­ter two days of Is­raeli shelling and airstrikes, cen­tral Rafah ap­peared de­serted on Sat­ur­day, with shops closed and res­i­dents hid­ing in their homes. The pres­ence of Is­raeli forces east of the city had caused many to flee west, crowd­ing in with friends and rel­a­tives in neigh­bor­hoods by the Med­i­ter­ra­nean.

More than 120 Pales­tini­ans were killed in Rafah alone on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day — the dead­li­est two days in the city since the war be­gan 25 days ago. Those deaths, and hun­dreds of in­ju­ries, over­whelmed the city’s health care fa­cil­i­ties.

Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Is­raeli shells hit the cen­tral Na­j­jar hos­pi­tal on Fri­day af­ter­noon, Dr. She­hadeh said, lead­ing its em­ploy­ees and pa­tients to evac­u­ate.

To con­tinue re­ceiv­ing pa­tients, his staff mem­bers moved to the small­er Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, al­though it was ill equipped to han­dle the large num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing care.

Am­bu­lances screamed in­to the hos­pi­tal’s park­ing lot, where medics un­loaded cases on­to stretch­ers some­times bear­ing the blood of pre­vi­ous pa­tients. Since the hos­pi­tal had on­ly 12 beds, the staff mem­bers had lined up gur­neys out­side to han­dle the over­flow.

The city’s cen­tral hos­pi­tal had al­so housed its on­ly morgue, so its clo­sure cre­ated a new prob­lem as the ca­su­al­ties mount­ed: where to put the bod­ies.

At the Ku­waiti Spe­cial­ized Hos­pi­tal, they were put on the floor of the den­tal ward un­der a poster pro­mot­ing den­tal hy­giene. In a back room lay the bod­ies of Sa­di­ah Abu Taha, 60, and her grand­son Rezeq Abu Taha, 1, who had been killed in an airstrike on their home near­by.

Few peo­ple ap­proached the main en­trance to the pink-and-white ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, in­stead head­ing around back, where there was a con­stant flow of bod­ies. Near­ly 60 had been left in the morgue of the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it closed, so am­bu­lance crews who had man­aged to reach the site brought back as many bod­ies as they could car­ry. Oth­er bod­ies came from new at­tacks or were re­cov­ered from dam­aged build­ings.

New ar­rivals were laid out in the park­ing lot or car­ried down a ramp to the kitchen, fea­tur­ing a large walk-in cool­er. Some were kept on the ground, and those not claimed right away were added to the pile in the cool­er.

Word had spread that the dead were at the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal, so peo­ple who had lost rel­a­tives came to talk to the medics or look in the cool­er for their loved ones.

One short, sun­burned man point­ed to the body of a woman wear­ing pink sweat­pants and said she was his sis­ter Souad al-Tara­bin.

The medics pulled her out, laid her on a ta­ble and wrapped her in white cloth and plas­tic. Some teenagers helped the man car­ry her body up­stairs and lay it in the back of a yel­low taxi. A man in the front seat cra­dled a small bun­dle con­tain­ing the re­mains of the woman’s 4-year-old son, Anas.

Sit­ting near­by, As­ma Abu Ju­main wait­ed for the body of her moth­er-in-law, who she said had been killed the day be­fore and was in the morgue at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal when it was evac­u­ated.

“She is an old woman,” Ms. Abu Ju­main said. “She did noth­ing wrong.”

The move­ment of bod­ies made record-keep­ing im­pos­si­ble, al­though Arafat Ad­wan, a hos­pi­tal vol­un­teer, tried to jot down names in a small red note­book he kept in his pock­et.

He wor­ried that some bod­ies would re­main there for days, be­cause fam­ilies had been scat­tered and might not know that their rel­a­tives had been killed.

“There are peo­ple in here whose fam­ilies have no idea what hap­pened to them,” he said.

Oth­ers knew they had lost rel­a­tives but could not find them.

Mo­ham­med al-Ban­na said an airstrike the morn­ing be­fore had killed nine of his in-laws, in­clud­ing his wife’s fa­ther and four of her broth­ers.

“The ag­gres­sion here is cre­at­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of youth who want re­venge for all the crimes,” he said.

He had looked at the cen­tral hos­pi­tal the day be­fore, to no avail. Then, on Sat­ur­day, he re­ceived a mes­sage sent to lo­cal cell­phones telling those who had lost rel­a­tives to re­trieve them from the ma­ter­ni­ty hos­pi­tal. He had come right away, but had not found them.

“I’ll keep wait­ing for their bod­ies to come in so we can

take them home and bury them,” he said.

Mr. Ban­na added that he had been too wor­ried to tell his wife what had hap­pened to her fam­ily and want­ed to break the news to her grad­u­ally. Ear­lier that day, she had told him that she was start­ing to wor­ry be­cause her fa­ther’s cell­phone had been switched off all day.

“I told her maybe he has no elec­tricity and his phone is dead,” Mr. Ban­na said.

 

 

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT)

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Singer-songwriter Rona Kenan panned by right-wing extremists after expressing sympathy for Gazan children

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An Israeli singer-songwriter canceled her show in Haifa Thursday after she was harshly criticized and threatened by right-wing Israelis who accused her of showing solidarity with the mothers of dead terrorists.

Rona Kenan announced that her acoustic show in Haifa’s Turkish Market, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., would not take place due to what she described as incitement against her.

Kenan said she had been “subjected to severe verbal attacks and threats over a false report” that during a conference with Palestinian women, she had observed a moment of silence in solidarity with Palestinian “martyrs.”

She said that while she had sung two songs at the conference, she had not observed a moment of silence. But this week, right-wing extremists raised the accusations again in comments on Kenan’s Facebook page after she expressed sympathy for the children of Gaza and called for an end to war between Israel and Hamas.

The onslaught began after Kenan posted a message on July 11, three days into the Gaza war, reproaching Israeli society and the Israeli press over their reaction to the offensive in Gaza, which she described as “one of the saddest places in the world.”

Kenan expressed sympathy for the children of both Sderot and Gaza, saying it “fills her with despair” to think that they “wet their beds at night out of fear and will grow up to see each other not as human beings, but as children of the devil.”

Kenan said she was “left speechless” by the knowledge that “any objections to the war, which Israel named Operation Protective Edge, was perceived in Israeli society as treason, as a lack of solidarity.” She ended her post with a prayer for quiet both in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

While many fans echoed Kenan’s sentiments, others criticized her for overlooking the threat posed by Hamas and Iranian-funded terror groups, as well as the suffering of residents of southern Israel and the risks IDF soldiers were taking to ensure Israel’s security. Some urged her to blame Hamas, not Israel, for the plight of the children of Gaza. Yet others said the children were themselves future terrorists, with one poster saying she had thought Kenan was “smarter than that” and another calling her “hypocritical, self-righteous filth.”

One poster wrote, “I’ve never responded to people like you, but to observe a moment of silence for martyrs with whom we are engaged in combat on a daily basis? For shame, and we even provide her livelihood. With people like you among us, we don’t need enemies.”

After the Haifa show was canceled, one Facebook user suggested, “Why don’t you volunteer to sing in Gaza? I think you will find a stage to sing on there without being subjected to criticism. You’re so stupid to voice criticism in wartime.”

The Thursday evening show will still take place, but will be headlined by singer-songwriter Shai Gabso rather than Kenan.

Kenan, the daughter of Lehi underground member, sculptor and journalist Amos Kenan and author and literary scholar Nurith Gertz, has released four albums so far, to critical acclaim.

 

July 31, 2014

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT)

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This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

A photo of a desperate young Palestinian boy, badly wounded and screaming for his father as he clutches at the shirt of a paramedic in a hospital, has captured the tragic and bloody tension of the Gazan conflict.

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Shirtless and with cuts to his face, torso, arms and legs, the child clings to the hospital worker who is attempting to lay him flat on a girdle.

The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian publication, reports the photo, taken at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City last Thursday, was captioned with the boy’s desperate cry: ‘I want my father, bring me my father’, according to Fairfax.

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The Palestinian paper claims the young boy was one of four siblings brought to the hospital wounded, two of them just three years old.

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It comes as grinning Israeli tank commanders were pictured flashing the victory signs as they blast their way through Gaza in the bloodiest day of the offensive so far – as one resident of the troubled region said: ‘The gate of hell has opened.’

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At least 65 people have been killed since this yesterday’s dawn strike on Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighbourhood – including the son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren of a senior Hamas leader.

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Hamas says it has captured an Israeli soldier – a scenario that has proven to be fraught with difficulties for the country in the past – but Israel’s U.N. Ambassador has denied the claims.

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The neighbourhood has come under heavy tank fire as Israel widened its ground offensive against Hamas, causing hundreds of residents to flee.

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The dead and wounded – including dozens of women and children – have reportedly been left in streets, with ambulances unable to approach.

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Source: (July 21, 2014)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2699772/This-desperate-little-boy-face-tragedy-Palestinian-toddler-clutches-shirt-hospital-worker-screaming-I-want-father-bring-father.html?ito=social-facebook

RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on the latest developments surrounding the July 17 Boeing 777 catastrophe in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, in which Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was apparently shot down near the town of Shakhtarsk in an area controlled by pro-autonomy militias.

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The Kommersant daily points out that the Malaysia Airlines disaster has not stopped the fighting between government troops and pro-autonomy militias in the east of Ukraine: A ceasefire is in place only in a small area at and in the vicinity of the crash site. A complete ceasefire covering the whole of the east of the country could not be agreed, the paper writes. Experts polled by Kommersant say that the military operation by Ukrainian troops is “not proceeding as successfully as commanders’ reports would indicate.” The main difficulties, according to the paper, have arisen along the southern section of the front, “where Kiev hopes to achieve the final victory.”

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As a result of actions by the pro-autonomy militias, the Ukrainian force that tried to cut the self-proclaimed republics off from the border with Russia has itself been surrounded, Kommersant continues. The surrounded troops could be saved by a ceasefire along all sections of the front, which the militia commanders also realize. “That is probably why they have so far rejected all appeals for a lasting and comprehensive ceasefire voiced by the Ukrainian side and international mediators,” the paper concludes. Nezavisimaya Gazeta “The world is on the brink of the largest political crisis of recent decades,” reads an editorial in the centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. The paper describes the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet as “a prelude to the start of a new cold war.”

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The paper points out that the facts available so far indicate that there are Buk surface-to-air missile systems in the conflict zone on both sides of the Ukrainian-Russian border. However, these systems are capable of hitting air targets only within a range of 50 km. “Since the downed Boeing fell on Ukrainian territory 50 km from the Ukrainian-Russian border, one can rule out that it was hit from Russian territory,” the paper says. It goes on to add that Kiev does not deny that Ukrainian Buk systems have been deployed on the Ukrainian-Russian border: The Ukrainian air defense systems were probably intended to counter possible aerial reconnaissance from the Russian side. Therefore the Malaysian Boeing may have been mistaken for a Russian Air Force aircraft, writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta. In addition, the paper continues, it is unlikely that pro-autonomy militants could have operated a Buk system as it requires specialist training and experience.

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Most of the experts polled by NG conclude that the airliner was downed by mistake. “It is likely that this attack was not agreed with the senior leadership, who are now being caused immense stress by the possibility that the truth may be established. Support for those who murder civilians leaves no political chances for a reputation on an international scale,” the paper concludes. Expert  The Expert magazine gives a detailed account of the search operation at the crash site. It also points out that the UN Security Council is expected to vote in the near future on a draft resolution condemning the destruction of the Boeing 777.

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The draft resolution, Expert continues, does not only call for “a comprehensive, thorough and independent international investigation in compliance with civil aviation standards” but also lists requirements for the pro-autonomy militias, urging them “to refrain from any actions that could jeopardize the crash site”. For their part, the magazine adds, the militiamen of the Donetsk People’s Republic have for three days now been guarding the crash scene and ensuring the safety of the OSCE observers working at the site. Vzglyad Experts polled by the Vzglyad newspaper claim that “senior figures in Ukraine and the West are using pseudo-facts surrounding the Malaysian Boeing crash.” The investigation into the downing of the Malaysian airliner is not yet over, the paper continues, but the alleged intercepted phone calls between pro-autonomy militiamen that have been posted on the internet have given the leadership of Ukraine and other countries cause to blame what happened on the militias and Russia.

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Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that “the White House, demanding an inquiry into the tragedy, is criticizing Moscow, which, in its view, has continuously aggravated the conflict in southeast Ukraine, supported the separatists, training and arming them.” According to the newspaper, the general opinion in the U.S. is that the missile was fired either by the militias or by Russian soldiers. The newspaper notes that America is not blaming Kiev, and that Ukraine has announced that in the entire conflict it has not fired any missiles capable of hitting a plane at a 33,000-foot altitude.

Gazeta.ru says that the most likely explanation for the airplane crash in eastern Ukraine was the BUK anti-aircraft missile, which is the most powerful means of anti-aircraft defense, one that Ukraine inherited from the USSR and that has recently come into the militia’s possession. The newspaper analyzes the weapon’s technical characteristics in depth: The BUK anti-aircraft missile is one of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport’s most popular products. Gazeta.ru says that the missiles are sold in all CIS countries that used them in Soviet times.

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Today the missiles are also used in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. According to the publication, the missile system’s technical specifics allow it to hit a target at an altitude of up to 82,000 feet. Moreover, the system is mobile: It can be packed up in five minutes. “Qualified specialists are required to take aim with this system. In their hands the BUK can hit a target even at a distance of 40 kilometers [130,000 feet],” says Gazeta.ru. While the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk has been saying that it lacks the weapons needed to shoot down a plane at such a high altitude, officials from the neighboring “People’s Republic” of Lugansk proposed another theory: the Malaysian Boeing 777 was shot down by the Ukrainian SU-25 jet, which was later shot down by the militias. However, the maximum altitude of the SU-25 is 16,500 feet, which makes this an unlikely version of events, says Gazeta.ru. Vzglyad Vzglyad newspaper emphasizes that the “airplane fell precisely in the area of the most intense fighting between the Donetsk militias and the Ukrainian Army.

The Ukrainian government blames the militias for the anti-aircraft tragedy. However, arguments blaming the Ukrainian soldiers are more convincing, says the publication. Vzglyad notes that the Ukrainian press has already blamed the Donbass militias for the crash, saying that recently they have shot down two Ukrainian Air Force transportation planes. Moreover, the newspaper says that the BUK is a semiautomatic system, and human participation is minimal. “Therefore the militias could have easily mastered the technology, since they have people who worked with this system while serving in the Soviet and then the Ukrainian army,” Vzglyad suggests.

 

 

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Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in Donetsk Region If it is so, then it is no longer the militias fighting the Ukrainian Air Force with anti-aircraft missiles that are the cause of the event, but rather “the western governments, who are encouraging Kiev to ‘establish order’ in eastern Ukraine, the newspaper believes. Military expert and editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine Igor Korotchenko suggests that “due to the personnel’s low qualification and miscalculations, the operator either accidentally or unintentionally launched the missile that shot down the Boeing.” Furthermore, Vzglyad’s expert says that earlier there was information of the militias having captured several BUK anti-aircraft missile launchers, yet officially the Ukrainian government announced that they were faulty and therefore had been intentionally removed from combat by the Ukrainian soldiers.

Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines – http://rbth.com/international/2014/07/18/press_digest_reaction_to_the_malaysia_airlines_disaster_in_ukra_38325.html)

 

Grief-stricken neighbors gathered in small clumps today outside the Dorchester home of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy who was killed when two bombs detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.

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Richard was fatally injured and his mother and sister seriously wounded as they waited for their father and husband, Bill Richard, at the finish line on Boylston Street, friends said. Bill Richard was active in the Ashmont community issues.

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Neighbor Dan Aguilar said the Richard family was close-knit, and that on most days — regardless of the weather – Martin Richard and his brother were in the family’s backyard, playing soccer, hockey or baseball.

“They are just your average little boys,’’ Aguilar told reporters gathered near the family’s home on Carruth Street. “They are a good family. They are always together.’’

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Aguilar said he last spoke with the family on Easter Sunday when they were gathered outside, enjoying the day.

He said, he is still wrestling with the idea that a child he knows has died.

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“That little boy will never come home again,’’ Aguilar said. “It’s still unreal. I have no words. I have no words.’’

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Richard is one of three people killed in the bomb explosion, and so far is the only victim to have been publicly identified by friends and colleagues.

This morning, no one was at home at the Richard house, which was watched over by a Boston police officer parked in a cruiser nearby.

At the end of the driveway, someone had written the word, “Peace.’’

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Text  by Evan Allen and John R. Ellement, Globe Correspondent and Globe Staff  (Boston Globe, 4-16-2013)

 European Union embassies in the North Korea will remain open for business, despite a proposal from Pyongyang for them to evacuate staff over mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the UK’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Diplomats Staying Put, EU Tells North Korea

“The EU does not share the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) views on the current situation and does not recognize the nature of threat as described,” the EU statement read.

North Korea proposed on Tuesday that foreign embassies evacuate, saying it could not guarantee their safety after April 10.

There have been no evacuations, however.

The North Korean proposal came shortly after the isolated north-east Asian country threatened to launch nuclear attacks on both the US mainland and American military bases in the region.

South Korea’s foreign minister said on Wednesday Pyongyang could carry out a test firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile at any time.

 

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The North Korean threats came as US and South Korean forces carried out annual joint military exercises, some of them near the maritime border between the two Koreas. The United States responded by deploying F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and B-2 and B-52 bombers to the region.

Analysts say North Korea is unlikely to launch a full-scale attack on either US forces or South Korea, but concerns persist that rising tensions could spark hostilities.

 © RIA Novosti ,Moscow, April 10, 2013)

The Pentagon halted the use of mortar shells pending an investigation after a shell exploded during training in Nevada, killing eight Marines and injuring seven.

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HAWTHORNE, Nevada — A mortar shell explosion killed eight U.S. Marines and injured seven more during mountain warfare training in the Nevada desert, prompting the Defense Department to halt the use of the weapons worldwide until an investigation can determine their safety, officials said Tuesday.

The explosion occurred Monday night at the Hawthorne Army Depot, a facility used by troops heading overseas. The rescue of the wounded Marines was complicated by the remoteness of the site, which is favored because the harsh geography simulates conditions in Afghanistan.

The mortar round exploded in its firing tube during the exercise, said Brigadier General Jim Lukeman at a news conference in North Carolina, where the Marines are based. He said investigators are trying to determine the cause of the malfunction.

The Pentagon expanded a temporary ban to prohibit the military from firing any 60mm mortar rounds until the results of the investigation. The Pentagon earlier had suspended use of all high-explosive and illumination mortar rounds that were in the same manufacturing lots as ones fired in Nevada

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8 Marines killed in Nevada training exercise

It was not immediately clear whether more than a single round exploded, a Marine Corps official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation.

The Marine Corps said early Tuesday that seven Marines were killed. Eight men under the age of 30 were taken to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. One of them died, four were in serious condition, two were in fair condition and another was discharged, said spokesman Mark Earnest.

John Stroud, national junior vice commander in chief for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, began a memorial event in Hawthorne on Tuesday night by saying “one of the critical has passed,” bringing the death toll to eight. Mourners then laid eight floral arrangements at a park where a flag flew at half-staff within sight of the Hawthorne depot’s boundary.

Stroud said he spoke with Marine officers from Camp Lejune who gave him the news before the ceremony. Messages left for a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force were not immediately returned.

The force did issue a statement Tuesday evening saying an additional Marine has been reported as injured.

The identities of those killed won’t be released until 24 hours after their families are notified.

“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of Marines involved in this tragic incident,” said the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox. “We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”

The 60mm mortar traditionally requires three to four Marines to operate, but it’s common during training for others to observe nearby. The firing tube a shell some 14 inches (355 millimeters) in length.

The mortar has changed little since World War II and remains one of the simplest weapons to operate, which is why it is found at the lowest level of infantry units, said Joseph Trevithick, a mortar expert with Global Security.org.

Still, a number of things could go wrong, including a fuse malfunctioning, a problem with the barrel’s assembly or a round prematurely detonating inside the tube, Trevithick said.

The Marine Corps official said an explosion at the point of firing in a training exercise could kill or maim anyone inside or nearby the protective mortar pit and could concussively detonate any mortars stored nearby in a phenomenon known as “sympathetic detonation.”

The official said a worldwide moratorium after such an accident is not unusual and would persist until the investigation determines that the weapon did not malfunction in ways that would hurt other Marines or that mortars manufactured at the same time as the one involved in the accident were safe.

The moratorium could last for weeks or months.

The Hawthorne Army Depot stores and disposes of ammunition. It has held an important place in American military history since WWII, when it became the staging area for ammunition, bombs and rockets for the war.

Retired Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha said he was unaware of any other catastrophic event at the depot over the years it served as a munitions repository.

Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek, Michelle Rindels and Ken Ritter contributed to this report.

 The search for what caused a massive, deadly explosion that rocked an Indianapolis neighborhood turned to natural gas Monday, with officials checking gas lines and a homeowner saying a problem furnace could be to blame.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to check gas main and other lines serving the neighborhood where two people were killed and seven injured in the weekend blast. Local gas supplier Citizens Energy said it also was checking gas lines and a meter at the home that exploded.

But officials cautioned that it was too soon to rule out other causes, saying only that they do not believe a meth lab was to blame for the explosion that obliterated two homes and severely damaged dozens of others.

“It’s too early to speculate that this might have been caused by a gas leak,” Citizens Energy spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple said at an afternoon news briefing.

The owner of one of the homes that was destroyed said there was a problem with the furnace in the last few weeks.

John Shirley, 50, of Noblesville told The Associated Press that he received a text message within the last week and a half from his daughter, who complained that the furnace in the home where she lived with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had broken. The malfunction had forced them to stay in a hotel, the girl said.

When Shirley asked if the furnace had been fixed, his daughter said yes. He said he wasn’t aware of any additional problems until he heard from his daughter again Sunday morning.

“I get a text from my daughter saying ‘Dad, our home is gone.’ Then I called my ex-wife and she said what happened,” he said.

His ex-wife, Monserrate Shirley, declined to comment Monday.

Scott Davis, president and principal engineer of GexCon US, an explosion investigation firm, questioned whether a furnace could cause the type of damage seen in the neighborhood. Furnaces have multiple safety triggers that prevent them from releasing that much natural gas.

“For a furnace to allow that much gas through, you’d have to defeat many of the safety features,” he said.

Investigators said it could be some time before they determine a cause for the blast that sparked a massive fire, blew out windows, collapsed ceilings and shook homes up to three miles away.

“It’s a methodical investigation. You have to move one step at a time,” said Gary Coons, the city’s homeland security director.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said investigators will treat the area as a crime scene until they rule out foul play.

The blast forced about 200 people out of their homes in the once-tidy neighborhood of one- and two-story single-family houses. Some have been allowed to reoccupy their homes, and others have been escorted in to retrieve valuables and other belongings. Adam Collins, the city’s deputy code enforcement director, said 29 remained uninhabitable Monday.

Mark Karnes, whose house is four doors down from the blast site and suffered severe structural damage, hoped to retrieve clothes and look for his cat. But he also questioned the wisdom of going back inside the house given the extent of the damage.

“Because the walls bowed out and separated from the ceiling, I don’t think it’s safe,” he said.

The blast flattened the house Shirley co-owns with his ex-wife and one next door that belonged to second-grade teacher Jennifer Longworth and her husband, John. Indianapolis police said Monday the bodies of the pair were found in the basement of their home, which was leveled in the blast.

A candlelight vigil was held Sunday night at the school where Jennifer Longworth teaches. Her husband’s employer, consumer electronics company Indy Audio Labs, issued a statement Monday saying it was “saddened by the loss.”

Greenwood Community Schools Superintendent David Edds said Jennifer Longworth had taught at Southwest Elementary School for 12 years. Her husband had worked at Indy Audio Labs for 10 years and was director of product development and technology, according to the company.

John Shirley said Jennifer Longworth was quiet but funny and her husband was a huge Indianapolis Colts fan who maintained a garden of beautiful wildflowers along the side of the house.

“They were just very sweet people,” he said.

Indiana real estate records show Shirley’s house had been for sale for a year until it was taken off the market in March.

By CHARLES WILSON and TOM LoBIANCO | Associated Press – Nov.12

Associated Press researchers Lynn Dombek and Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.