The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times lead with reports from the Gaza Strip, which is now sealed to Israeli civilians. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide news box with news that it is decreasingly likely that Iraq will meet the deadline for its new constitution, and the New York Times leads with the news that the frustrated drafters may cut Sunnis out of the process. USA Today leads with the crash of a Cypriot plane in Greece that killed all 121 people on board, more than a third of whom were children.
Everyone fronts stories about the Gaza Strip, where 9,000 Israeli settlers must leave or be removed by force. The NYT and WP and LAT have annotated maps, and the WP, LAT, and USAT also offer Q&A’s. The Israeli army officially declared the Gaza Strip a closed military zone and gave settlers a final 48 hours to leave voluntarily. On Wednesday, Israel will begin forcibly removing those settlers who remain. The WP focuses on the soldiers who sealed the Gaza Strip and the settlers who are defying them, quoting an Israeli general who predicts that more than half will refuse. The NYT says the settlers have already “defied” the order to leave by midnight Sunday. The LAT notes that soldiers are being reminded to treat protesting settlers with respect. As one lieutenant general put it, “It’s important that every soldier understand there’s no battle here.”
The WSJ emphasizes that Israel’s exit has raised hopes for peace, calling the occasion “one of the most hopeful moments in Middle East peacemaking in nearly a decade.” The NYT is more circumspect, saying only that the evacuation will “shape future relations,” and considering the possibility that the pullout could lead to “further conflict.” The WSJ also notes that the withdrawal is part of a trend toward increased separation between Israelis and Palestinians, with Sharon working to erect a fence in the West Bank, and Abbas urging Palestinians to resist Israeli capital investment.
The NYT goes above the fold with an update on Gaza’s Palestinians, who’ve long hoped for an Israeli withdrawal. Inside, the NYT reports that teenage Israeli protestors slashed tires and smashed windows of army vehicles in Gaza and warns that this may be “a preview of violent scenes by young protestors.” The LAT notes that outside activists, many of them “radical young people,” are the most likely to get violent.
The NYT and WSJ lead with, USAT fronts, and the WP and LAT tease news about the new Iraqi constitution. The negotiations have reached an impasse and it’s unlikely a consensus can be reached by the deadline. As the WP notes, Shitte leaders went so far as to skip last night’s meeting. But the LAT quotes an official who says, “Iraqis tell me that they can finish it, and they will finish it.” The WSJ quotes a committee member who says the only options now are “to ask for an extension or dissolve the government.” The NYT reports that Shiite negotiators are considering cutting Sunnis out of the drafting process by asking the National Assembly to approve the draft without agreement from Sunnis. As one Shiite told the WP, “To approve a constitution, you only need 50 percent of the national assembly plus one.” The NYT warns that such a move would “provoke” Sunnis, who dominate Iraq’s guerrilla insurgency.
USAT leads with, the NYT, LAT, and WSJ front, and the WP teases news about the worst plane crash in Greece’s history. The crash seems to have been the result of a mystery “technical failure” that led to a catastrophic loss of cabin pressure and, therefore, oxygen. At cruising altitudes, the air is too thin to breathe, so when a depressurization occurs, an airplane’s crew members have a “period of useful consciousness” of only about 15 or 30 seconds before they pass out. During that time, they try to put on oxygen masks and bring the plane down to a more hospitable altitude. It’s not clear why that didn’t happen in this case.
The WP fronts and USAT teases news that Laura Bush named the White House’s first female executive chef. (The WP says the first lady fired the last chef in February, but USAT says he resigned.) The new chef is from the Philippines and will also be the first minority to hold the position.
The WP and WSJ front news that the DHS’s new workplace rules may have to be scrapped, after a judge blocked the rules from being implemented on the grounds that they failed to protect union and employee rights. The new rules were two years in the making.
The LAT fronts a history of the radicalization of the suspects in London’s failed bombings. Two sold Islamic literature on the streets; another belonged to a gang of extremists; two others praised Osama Bin Laden to neighbors. After the first bombers struck, the five took action in the form of “an improvised, independent tribute to the dead bombers.”
An NYT editorial requests the release of Judith Miller, saying, “If she is not willing to testify after 41 days, then she is not willing to testify.”
Cardiac rest … The LAT spotlights the most extreme of extreme workouts: an exercise class called “Naptime,” in which students spend 30 minutes in the “corpse pose,” i.e. lying supine. The premise is that too often, rigorous workouts create stress rather than relieving it, leading people to skip the gym altogether. In this class, the instructor makes the rounds and the students enjoy head and neck massages—unless they’re asleep, in which case, they “may not notice.”