GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking written pledges of support from all political factions, including rival Hamas, before making any attempt to press for possible war crimes charges against Israel, senior officials said Thursday.
Abbas hesitated in the past because such a step would transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile and could put him on a collision course with the United States.
But with nearly 1,400 Palestinians killed in Israel-Hamas fighting in Gaza in the past 24 days, according to health officials, Abbas is under growing domestic pressure to turn to the International Criminal Court to try to make a case against Israel.
Israeli officials have said Israel is acting in self-defense by targeting Hamas' military arsenal and rocket-launching sites and have accused Hamas of using Gaza civilians as human shields.
Earlier Thursday, the U.N.'s top human rights official accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes in the current Gaza fighting.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Hamas is committing war crimes by firing rockets from heavily populated areas and storing them in schools and hospitals.
She said Israel has defied international law in Gaza by attacking civilian areas with schools, hospitals, homes and U.N. facilities.
"None of this appears to me to be accidental," Pillay said of Israel at a news conference in Geneva to mark the end of her six-year term. "They appear to be defying — deliberate defiance of — obligations that international law imposes on Israel."
She also criticized Israel's strikes on Gaza's power plant, sewer systems and water wells as part of a similar pattern of destruction during the 2009 Gaza war.
Hamas has portrayed its rocket fire on Israel as resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
With the Palestinian casualties in Gaza mounting, leaders of political factions in the West Bank have repeatedly urged Abbas to seek Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court.
"We have been pressing him for a long time," independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti said Thursday.
At a meeting with political leaders on Tuesday, Abbas asked participants to sign a declaration of support for such a move, said Barghouti, adding that everyone signed.
The final decision, on when to seek accession, would still be up to Abbas, according to other participants who spoke on condition of anonymity because there were discussing internal deliberation.
They said Abbas also told them he would not move forward without written consent from Hamas and Islamic Jihad because they could expose themselves to possible war crimes charges.
Abbas' Fatah movement wrote on its official Facebook page that Abbas is seeking broad consensus, in part because of the potential repercussions for Hamas.
"Regarding the question a large number of brothers and sisters, 'why dont you go to the International Criminal Court,' the leadership of the State of Palestine will sign the Rome Statute all the way to the International Criminal Court after ... the approval of all the Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, because this option is a double-edged sword," Fatah wrote.
Hamas officials in Gaza were not immediately available for comment.
IMMOKALEE, Fla. (AP) — Since Florida's frontier days when cattlemen drove their herds through the state's vast fields and forests, ranchers and native panthers have been natural enemies.
The ranchers seek to nurture and protect their calves, while the panthers see them as prey.
Human development won the battle, driving the large, tawny, cats to the brink of extinction before successful efforts to restore them began decades ago.
But with Florida's panther population recovering, some farmers complain the protected 6-to-7-foot long predators are once again killing their calves.
Now, university research supports that claim, at least in one part of southwest Florida.
A University of Florida researcher hired by federal wildlife officials has found that panthers are killing calves in an area where the predatory felines are thriving. Her study, the first to quantify the kills and losses, was given to The Associated Press exclusively.
The research marks the first step toward the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considering a program that would pay ranchers for preserving acres of panther habitat, instead of undertaking the impossible task of verifying every kill.
"Ranchers will tell you that they suspected panthers were killing their calves, although no one knows how many they're losing," said Caitlin Jacobs, the university researcher who staked out a ranch for the better part of two years. "It's hard to find the calves — when panthers kill they drag the prey into the forest and cover it with brush to hide them from scavengers."
The problem began to draw the attention of state and federal wildlife officials about four years ago, after third-generation Florida rancher Liesa Priddy, owner of the 9,300-acre JB Ranch near Immokalee, became suspicious when a new calf vanished.
"My first calf went missing shortly after being born," said Priddy, who is also a member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "I couldn't find remnants of a body or anything else. She just totally disappeared."
Ranchers had been telling federal and state wildlife officials about the problem for years, but lacked scientific evidence. Calves are also commonly killed by coyotes, vultures and even bears.
In the past, ranchers simply would have shot the panthers, but because the state's 100 to 180 panthers are legally protected under the Endangered Species Act, they have few options.
Priddy had a local outdoorsman stake out her pasture with night-vision goggles. That night, a panther took a calf and they found the carcass, Priddy said.
She called out a state biologist, who confirmed it was a panther kill and began the research to find out how pervasive the issue had become.
"We started to hear more from the ranching community as a whole that this was a problem that we need to address," said Kevin Godsea, project leader of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. "Since then we've done some investigating. We didn't know how big the problem was."
The researchers targeted two ranches and tagged 400 calves on each. They found that JB Ranch, which has nearby forests where panthers can hide, lost 10 calves, or about 5 percent. A beef cow can go for around $1,000. A lost heifer can cost future profits from breeding more cows.
The other ranch lost only one calf to panthers over that time.
The study's results are set to be released later this year. The information can help wildlife managers move forward on ideas for compensating ranchers.
"We don't feel as landowners and ranchers that we should have to bear the cost of protecting an endangered species," Priddy said. "It's a public cost that should be shared by everyone."
Right now, small ranchers with less than 100 head of cattle can apply for compensation from two nonprofits: Defenders of Wildlife and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
But those programs aren't used by bigger ranches, Godsea said, and don't have the resources to address the larger problem.
"Without good science, we can't make good policy or management decisions," Godsea said. "(This) research is absolutely essential."
But any compensation plan must be designed to prevent false claims, says Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
"The devil's in the details," Hecker said.
Ironically, panther experts say Florida's ranches have helped the panther somewhat by keeping large tracts of land largely development free.
"If there weren't ranches in Florida, there'd be no panthers," said UF's Jacobs. "The ranchers have kept the middle of Florida development free. They've maintained this landscape the panthers will need to ever be to be considered recovered."
MOSCOW (AP) — For Russian President Vladimir Putin, there are few options left in the Ukraine crisis and they all look bad.
He is caught between a determined West demanding that he disavow the pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine and increasingly assertive nationalists at home urging him to champion the mutiny and send in the Russian army.
The Malaysian plane disaster this week triggered another round of U.S. and EU sanctions, which for the first time targeted entire sectors of the Russian economy, severely limiting Putin's room for maneuver. He may be eager to sever ties with the rebels, but he would need to find a way to do so that would allow him to save face — an exceedingly hard task amid growing Western pressure.
Bowing to Western demands would potentially spell political suicide for the Russian leader, who has built his popularity on standing up to the West. Under pressure, he may choose instead to escalate the crisis and risk an all-out confrontation.
Putin didn't plan for it to happen this way.
Last fall, he used a combination of pressure and subsidies to prevent Ukraine from signing an association agreement with the EU and lure it into a Moscow-led alliance. When mass protests chased the Russian-leaning Ukrainian president from power in February, Putin saw it as a Western plot against Russia and quickly moved to annex Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea to head off what he said was the imminent threat of Ukraine joining NATO.
Putin then sought to maintain pressure on the West by fomenting a pro-Russian insurgency that flared up in Ukraine's mostly Russian-speaking industrial east in April, apparently hoping that a slow-burning conflict would help persuade the West to strike a compromise that would allow Russia to keep Ukraine in its orbit.
That strategy has failed. The West, especially Europe, long showed unwillingness to take a strong punitive stand against Putin. But the downing of the Malaysian passenger plane was the unforeseen event that overturned the dynamic, and compelled the West to act.
It appears that the Russian leader now is desperately looking for a way out from the crisis in hopes of containing the gravest threat to his rule to date. Here are some possible scenarios that may play out:
RUSSIA STRIKES COMPROMISE
From the start, Putin wanted to a deal with a West that would allow Russia to maintain its leverage over Ukraine, and he has steadily tempered his ambitions.
At the onset of the turmoil, Putin hoped that Ukraine would join a Russia-dominated economic alliance. When such hopes evaporated with the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow began pushing for a "federalization" of Ukraine that would give broad powers to its provinces and allow them to deal directly with Moscow. Rebels later backed those demands by conducting independence referendums that both Ukraine and the West declared a sham.
The Kremlin then softened its rhetoric and started calling vaguely for a "dialogue" between the central government and the regions that would give the provinces a bigger say over local issues.
Now with his hand weakened by the plane disaster, Putin may be eager to accept any vague deal that would allow Moscow to maintain just a symbolic degree of influence. Such a deal, however, would have to involve concessions by both parties, something that is hard to achieve amid continuing fighting and growing distrust.
The West has demanded that the Kremlin disown the rebellion in eastern Ukraine. While Putin may despise the ragtag band of retired Russian officers and Moscow political consultants that have helped foment the mutiny, it would be hard for him to distance himself from them without denting his support base.
The Malaysian plane disaster, however, could offer a face-saving way of publicly condemning the rebel leadership. If an international investigation confirms that the missile that downed the plane on July 17 was launched by the rebels, Putin may say that Russia can't support those who were responsible for the tragic death of nearly 300 innocent people. Such a statement could pave the way for talks.
MORE SANCTIONS PROVOKE TOUGH RESPONSE
Putin possibly fears that any concessions would only lead to more Western pressure and may choose to remain defiant. If he keeps refusing to distance himself from the rebels, the West will remain reluctant to engage in any talks. Fighting in the east, which already involves heavy artillery and rockets pummeling residential areas, will raise the pressure on Putin to intervene militarily.
Putin is already facing scathing criticism in Russian nationalist publications and online forums for betraying Russian speakers in Ukraine by failing to send in the army.
At some point, fearing that the damage to his popularity could become irreparable, Putin may send more weapons to the rebels. More Western sanctions will not stop his hand, but rather may push him into a situation where any compromise would look like kowtowing to the West.
Pressed against the wall, Putin may even decide to send troops into Ukraine. They would likely crush the weak and disorganized Ukrainian military within days. The West would be unlikely to intervene militarily, but it would freeze virtually all ties with Moscow, sending the Russian economy into a tailspin. Living standards will plummet quickly, possibly spawning social unrest.
GROWING TURMOIL, UNPREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES
Some in the West may hope that the sanctions will encourage members of the Russian elites as well as the broad public to demand a change of course.
However, the tightly controlled Russian political system leaves little room for dissent. Billionaire tycoons, some of whom have close personal links to Putin, stand to lose a lot from Western sanctions and would like Putin to soften his policy. But hopes that they may somehow persuade the president to pull out of confrontation seem futile, as the oligarchs are too scared to form any kind of united group, and official loyalties are closely controlled by Putin's fellow KGB veterans who dominate the officialdom.
Many in Washington expected Putin's businessmen friends who were hit by U.S. sanctions in March to push him toward de-escalation. The opposite has happened. Instead of encouraging a pro-Western opposition, more sanctions will likely further strengthen the Kremlin hawks, who may push Putin toward an even more confrontational and isolationist course.
In a sense, the Russian leader has become hostage to his own propaganda that has cast the West as an enemy of Russia.
Putin's approval ratings so far have remained high, but if the economy starts collapsing under the brunt of Western sanctions his popularity would dwindle quickly. It doesn't mean, though, that pro-Western democratic forces would have any chance to expand their presence on Russia's political scene.
Amid the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions, the weak and disorganized Russian liberals have become increasingly marginalized, while extreme nationalist forces have strengthened considerably.
Economic meltdown would further allow nationalist groups to expand their sway, and Russian volunteers now fighting in eastern Ukraine may become an explosive element in a changing political equation.
The prospect of potential unrest could re-ignite fears that accompanied the 1991 Soviet collapse. Thousands of nuclear warheads, smoldering conflicts between a myriad of ethnic groups, separatist movements and crumbling industrial infrastructure that could lead to technological disasters make any instability in Russia deadly dangerous for the rest of the world.
Isachenkov has covered Russia and other ex-Soviet nations for the AP since 1992.
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Kazimierz Mikos ran down a Warsaw street, zig-zagging to avoid the bullets that whizzed past him. As the 14-year-old ran for his life, he was struck with terror at the sight of a dead body in the street. Even after the scrape with death, the teen volunteered for a heroic Polish struggle against the Nazis — becoming a messenger and a guard.
On Friday, Mikos will be among a shrinking group of insurgents to be honored in state ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. In this uneven struggle, poorly armed young city residents rose up against the German forces that had brutally occupied Poland for five years, battling them in the streets of the capital for over two months.
Mikos, now 84, still vividly recalls the white-and-red Polish flags that appeared in windows on the day the revolt began, a patriotic sign of support for the fighters that inspired him to join them.
"People waited for this moment for five long years," Mikos said, tears welling as he shared his story with The Associated Press. "They believed they would be free now, they were enthusiastic."
The hopes ended tragically.
The insurgents were no match for the Nazis, who turned their professional army and superior weaponry on the Poles, killing 200,000 fighters and civilians and razing the city in revenge. The revolt also failed in its goal of reversing Allied political calculations that put Poland under Soviet domination for decades after World War II.
Today the uprising is remembered by Poles as one of the most important moments in a long history of independence struggles, often against Russia. The courage of the fighters remains a defining memory in the Polish image of itself as a nation willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. It is also a reminder of Poland's sense of a precarious security, sandwiched between Germany and Russia — a vulnerability revived now by the armed conflict nearby in Ukraine.
Warsaw's revolt began Aug.1, 1944, by the clandestine Home Army, which acted on orders from Poland's government-in-exile in London.
The aim was to free the capital from German occupiers and take control of the country ahead of the advancing Soviet army. Moscow, intending to rule postwar Poland, withheld help and kept its Red Army positioned on the other side of the Vistula River as the capital bled and burned.
Thousands of poorly armed insurgents, mostly with little military training, held on for 63 days in the cut-off city, inflicting heavy losses on the well-armed and trained German troops before being forced to surrender.
The Nazis expelled the survivors from Warsaw and set the remaining buildings ablaze.
For over four decades, communist authorities discredited Warsaw's struggle, mainly because of its anti-Soviet motivation. The communists jailed many of the fighters and sentenced their commanders to death on fabricated charges, dumping their bodies unceremoniously in unmarked mass graves. Only now are some of these bodies finally being recovered.
Mikos feels lucky he avoided that fate. But like most young people who fought in the revolt, he encountered obstacles in his studies. He had to settle for a career as a high school math teacher in Warsaw, his higher ambitions blocked by the authorities.
Until the fall of communism in 1989 there was also censorship surrounding the subject, which led the Poles to mythologize it more. But 25 years into democracy some people are now questioning the wisdom of the revolt. Ahead of the 2011 anniversary, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski called it a "national catastrophe," an unusual public statement that angered many, including former insurgents.
Mikos said he sometimes also thinks that Warsaw's ruin was an excessive price to pay. He remembers the suffering of the people and he bemoans the ruin of a city of classical beauty, with Parisian-styled buildings and charming star-shaped squares. After the war, the city was rebuilt in a heavy, communist architectural style, with recent additions of Western-style glass-and-metal skyscrapers.
"No, it was not worth it," he said. "Warsaw was the jewel of the North. It was a city with character, with style. It was an exceptional place. Today, it is just like any other city in the world."
Still, he feels the rebellion was unavoidable. The people of Warsaw were ready for sacrifice after years of brutal subjugation and mass killings. Hitler wanted Warsaw destroyed anyway, he says. The city would have eventually suffered in battles between the Germans and the Soviets.
Mikos recently walked with an AP reporter down Sienna Street, in the city center where insurgents had their headquarters and where some of the gray buildings survived the war. He pointed to gateways where he stood guard and took cover during bombings, and to an iron-barred balcony where a caged parrot once shrieked "Alarm, Alarm," giving a scare to everyone in the street.
He believes his level-headedness saved some lives. On one occasion, a younger boy reached out to take Mikos' hand grenade. In the scuffle, the securing pin came loose and fell. Everyone panicked, but Mikos said: "Find the pin, I'm holding the lever." The pin was put back in place, preventing an explosion.
The worst part was that there was no water, which the Germans had cut off. Wells were dug and the fighters had priority of access. But regular hygiene was impossible.
The insurgents mainly ate soup made of beans or barley found in German storage, won in house-to-house battles. The residents soon stopped offering the fighters their own supplies, too hungry themselves to spare anything.
The brutality and the devastating power of that struggle, he said, "surpassed the imagination of ... anyone who knows about armies and fighting."
"It was decided that the city must be defended. It was unavoidable."
ROZSYPNE, Ukraine (AP) — Two weeks after a missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, an international team of investigators Thursday reached a wreckage site in eastern Ukraine that remains bitterly contested between government forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels.
For the families of the victims, it was an important start in locating and recovering bodies still rotting in the fields and building a case against those who perpetrated the tragedy.
Harun Calehr, the uncle of two young victims of the disaster, said by phone from his home in the U.S. that he was happy investigators had reached the site. But Calehr said he remains concerned that dozens of bodies haven't been retrieved.
"It's been two weeks. I just hope they can get there now and do their job," Calehr said from Houston. "The only thing keeping me sane is being religious, hoping for something positive."
As the investigators — two apiece from the Netherlands and Australia — made an initial survey of the area shortly after lunchtime, mortar shells rained down on fields in a nearby village. Despite the lingering signs of risk, the team called their one-hour inspection a success.
For days, clashes along routes to the wreckage site had kept investigators from reaching the area to find and retrieve bodies that have been lying in open fields where midsummer temperatures have hovered around 90 F (32 C).
But after negotiations, the investigators were allowed through the final rebel checkpoint before the wreckage site at the village of Rozsypne by a rifle-toting militiaman who then fired a warning shot to prevent reporters from accompanying the convoy on Thursday afternoon.
The militiaman, who gave his name only as Sergei, said there was still fighting in Rozsypne as the Ukrainian army continues an offensive to take back swatches of territory from the rebels.
Australian Federal Police commander Brian McDonald said the visit was only a preliminary survey before more comprehensive recovery work.
"We had a quick inspection of the site. Today was more about an assessment of the site than it was of a search," said McDonald, who was in police uniform.
Up to 80 bodies are still at the site, said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. from Ukraine.
Ukrainian national security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a "day of quiet" was declared Thursday in response to a call for a cease-fire from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
But Associated Press journalists near the wreckage site reported that clashes were still taking place in the immediate vicinity of where the Boeing 777 came down. Reporters who attempted to reach the area by another route were warned by residents that some nearby roads had been mined.
And AP reporters passing by Hrabove, another village around which fragments of the plane remain uncollected, saw one mortar shell fall on a spot about 150 meters (160 yards) from their car and heard two more hit nearby. It wasn't immediately clear who was responsible for the mortar fire or what the intended target was though Lysenko put the blame on rebels.
The 100-kilometer (60-mile) drive took the investigators and eight officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from the rebel-held city of Donetsk through the town of Debaltseve, which was retaken earlier this week by the government, and later back into rebel territory.
Armored personnel carriers and light armored trucks bearing the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian national flag could be seen in and around Debaltseve and residents at one entrance to the town walked along a pontoon erected over the remains of a blown-up bridge.
The OSCE said on Twitter that the team observed a moment of silence upon reaching the scene in remembrance of the victims.
Alexander Hug, deputy head of an OSCE monitoring mission to Ukraine, called the visit a success because the delegation "managed to access the site without any incident."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office in a statement urged rebels to comply with a cease-fire spanning an area of 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) around the wreckage site.
The European Union and the U.S. have formed a united front in accusing Russia of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine by supplying weapons to rebels. Russia denies that accusation.
In Brussels, the EU formally adopted economic sanctions designed to pressure Russia to help bring about a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis. The measures will take effect Friday.
But back in Donetsk, the rebel's acting political leader, Vladimir Antyufeyev, denied that their movement was being assisted by Moscow.
"Neither I nor (rebel military commander Igor Girkin) knows or has met anybody from the Russian presidential administration," said Antyufeyev, a Russian national.
Associated Press writers David McHugh and Peter Leonard in Kiev, John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels, Yuras Karmanau in Donetsk, and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Rushing toward the exits, Congress on Thursday scrambled to wrap up legislation addressing the troubled Veterans Affairs Department and a looming shortfall in highway money. House Republicans unexpectedly put off a vote on a border security bill as tea partyers withdrew their support.
On the final day before a five-week summer break, Congress was leaving a long list of unfinished business after 18 months of bitter partisanship. Democrats cast Republicans as the obstacle; Republicans said President Barack Obama has been missing in action.
"We've not had a productive Congress," acknowledged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama has chosen to raise money in Hollywood rather than work with Congress.
The institutional split between a Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate has added up to inaction, especially in a midterm election year with control of the Senate at stake.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, underscored the political divide, describing any attempt by Senate Democrats to add parts of a year-old comprehensive immigration bill to the border security measure as a "nutso scheme."
Lawmakers have struggled to compromise on a handful of bills to deal with the nation's pressing problems, sometimes having to negotiate within their own ranks. It hasn't always been successful.
Lacking the votes on their $659 million border bill, Republican leaders postponed a vote and huddled with their rank and file to figure out a next step. Tea party unrest stirred by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and outside groups had forced the leaders to schedule a companion vote on legislation that would block Obama from extending deportation relief to any more immigrants living here illegally.
It was evident that wasn't sufficient, leaving some Republicans nervous about returning home to their districts without a vote on a border bill.
"I think we've seen this game before," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who is close to House GOP leaders. "Any time the groups come out and start to score about these issues, then senators get involved and they start having meetings and then they all sit together and sing 'Kumbaya' and stop any progress."
White House officials have indicated plans to unilaterally expand the deportation-limiting program, perhaps to millions more people, because of the House's failure to act this year on a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill passed by the Senate. Republicans warn that that would provoke a constitutional crisis, and a few conservatives have said it would be grounds for impeachment.
Boehner told reporters it would "seal a legacy of lawlessness."
The White House issued a statement assailing House Republicans for their inaction on comprehensive legislation and then willingness to target a program that "has benefited more than 500,000 young people who are Americans in every way except on paper."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., complained of a "mess on the floor of the House" in its final days of work before the recess. She said Republican leaders added the companion bill "to sweeten the pie" for immigration reform opponents and "intensify the harm for children."
The fast-moving developments would seem to ensure House passage of the border bill that would allow migrant youths to be sent home more quickly and would dispatch National Guard troops to the border, yet do nothing to change the overall stalemate in Congress over the border crisis in South Texas.
The Senate's version of the bill — a $3.5 billion package that also includes money for Western wildfires and Israel — faces opposition from Republicans and some Democrats, who argue the measure amounts to a blank check for Obama with no policy changes.
That left no apparent path for a compromise bill to reach Obama's desk before Congress' recess, even as lawmakers in both parties said they wanted to act.
Voicing her opposition to the House bills, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the panel, said she regretted "the consequences of our failure."
Congress is poised to send Obama legislation revamping the VA, with a Senate vote expected Thursday. Lawmakers also are working on a path forward for highway and transit projects. The sweeping, $16.3 billion VA bill would overhaul the scandal-plagued department after reports of patients dying while awaiting treatment and long delays in scheduling appointments.
The legislative effort came against the backdrop of a partisan House vote to sue Obama for unilateral changes in his signature health care law. Republicans accused him of shredding the Constitution, while Democrats described the vote as a veiled attempt at impeachment.
The near party-line vote on Wednesday was 225-201.
Determined to help Israel amid weeks of deadly fighting in Gaza with Hamas, the House and Senate also were expected to approve $225 million for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system that intercepts short-range rockets and mortars.
Support for Israel is strongly bipartisan in Congress. Immigration, on the other hand, causes sharp splits.
With a day left before the government plans to start reducing federal highway aid payments to states, the House insisted on its version of a bill to keep the money flowing.
The House bill allocates $10.8 bill to keep highway and transit programs going through the end of May 2015.
The Transportation Department has said that by Friday the federal Highway Trust Fund will no longer have enough money to cover promised aid and states should expect an average reduction of 28 percent in aid payments unless Congress acts first.
Senate Democrats have said they will not allow that happen, and they are expected to accede to the House demands.
Associated Press writers Joan Lowy, Alan Fram, David Espo and Erica Werner contributed to this report.