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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Israel-Hamas fight heats up in Gaza City, accelerating exodus of Palestinians to the south DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinians living in the heart of Gaza’s largest city said Wednesday they could see and hear Israeli ground forces closing i

Israel-Hamas fight heats up in Gaza City, accelerating exodus of Palestinians to the south

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinians living in the heart of Gaza’s largest city said Wednesday they could see and hear Israeli ground forces closing in from multiple directions, accelerating the exodus of thousands of civilians as food and water become scarce and urban fighting between Israel and Hamas heats up.

The Israeli army has not given specifics on troop movements as it presses its ground assault, vowing to crush Hamas after its deadly Oct. 7 assault inside Israel. But residents said Israeli forces had moved into inner neighborhoods of Gaza City amid intense bombardment all around the surrounding north.

Clashes took place within a kilometer (0.6 miles) of the territory's largest hospital, Shifa, which has become a focal point in the war.

The Israeli military says Hamas’ main command center is located in and under the hospital complex and that senior leaders of the group are hiding there, using the facility as a shield.

Hamas and hospital staff deny the claim and say the military is making a pretext to strike it.


Hollywood actors strike is over as union reaches tentative deal with studios

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood’s actors union reached a tentative deal with studios Wednesday to end its strike and months of labor strife that ground the film and television industries to a historic halt.

The three-year contract must be approved by votes from the board of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and its members in the coming days, but the leadership declared that the strike will end at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

“We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers,” the union said in a statement. “Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.”

At nearly four months, it was by far the longest strike ever for film and television actors.

More than 60,000 SAG-AFTRA members went on strike July 14, joining screenwriters who had walked off the job more than two months earlier. It was the first time the two unions had been on strike together since 1960. The studios and writers reached a dealt that brought their strike to an end on Sept. 26.


GOP presidential candidates unified on Israel but divided on China as they debate without Trump

MIAMI (AP) — In their first debate since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, the Republican presidential candidates all declared hawkish support for Israel but squabbled over China and Ukraine as they faced growing pressure to try to catch Donald Trump — who was again absent.

At center stage were Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, who has appeared competitive with DeSantis' second place position in some national polls. Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, declared she would end trade relations with China “until they stop murdering Americans from fentanyl — something Ron has yet to say that he’s going to do.”

In return, the Florida governor said Haley “welcomed” Chinese investment to her state, referencing land and economic development deals. Haley then accused DeSantis of scrubbing official websites to hide that Florida had pitched itself as welcoming to Chinese businesses.

The five people onstage faced new urgency to cut into Trump’s margins with the leadoff Iowa caucuses just two months away. Many of the candidates have gone after each other, hoping to break out as a viable alternative to the former president. They have been emphasizing their differences on foreign policy but also ripping Trump for his criticisms of the Israeli prime minister in the wake of Hamas’ attack and for his claims that a group attacking Israel was “very smart.”

Trump was the subject of the debate's first question, when moderators asked each candidate to explain why they were the right person to beat him.


8 dead in crash after police chased a suspected human smuggler, Texas officials say

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Eight people died Wednesday when the driver of a car suspected of carrying smuggled migrants fled police and smashed into an oncoming vehicle on a South Texas highway.

The crash happened around 6:30 a.m. when the driver of a 2009 Honda Civic tried to outrun deputies from the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office and attempted to pass a semi truck, the state Department of Public Safety said. The Civic collided with a 2015 Chevrolet Equinox, which caught fire.

Everyone in both vehicles was killed, according to DPS. That includes the 21-year-old driver of the Civic, who was from Houston, and his five passengers. Some of the passengers were from Honduras, department spokesman Christopher Olivarez said in a statement. The two people in the Equinox were from Georgia.

The identities of those killed will be released to their families first, Olivarez said.

It was unclear how fast the vehicles were going, but photos provided by law enforcement show both were mangled and most of the Equinox was burned.


Ivanka Trump’s testimony: She worked on dad’s deals, not financial documents key to civil fraud case

NEW YORK (AP) — Ivanka Trump didn't want to testify. But on the stand Wednesday in her father's civil fraud trial, she took the opportunity to contend the family business has “overdelivered,” even as she kept her distance from financial documents that New York state says were fraudulent.

Former President Donald Trump's elder daughter capped a major stretch in the lawsuit that could reshape his real estate empire. She followed her father and her brothers Eric and Donald Trump Jr. to the witness stand, and the New York attorney general's office rested its case after her testimony. The defense gets its turn now.

Ivanka Trump has been in her father's inner circle in both business and politics, as an executive vice president at the family's Trump Organization and then as a senior White House adviser. But she testified that she had no role in his personal financial statements, which New York Attorney General Letitia James claims were fraudulently inflated and deceived banks and lenders.

“Those were not things that I was privy to,” beyond having seen “a few documents and correspondence” that referred to them, Ivanka Trump said.

The ex-president and Republican 2024 front-runner denies any wrongdoing. He insisted in court Monday that his financial statements actually greatly underestimated his net worth, that any discrepancies were minor, that a disclaimer absolved him of liability anyway and that “this case is a disgrace.”


House Republicans subpoena Hunter and James Biden as their impeachment inquiry ramps back up

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans issued subpoenas Wednesday to members of President Joe Biden's family, taking their most aggressive step yet in an impeachment inquiry bitterly opposed by Democrats that is testing the reach of congressional oversight powers.

The long-awaited move by Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to subpoena the president's son Hunter and brother James comes as Republicans look to gain ground in their nearly yearlong investigation. So far, they have failed to uncover evidence directly implicating the president in any wrongdoing.

But Republicans say the evidence trail they have uncovered paints a troubling picture of “influence peddling” by Biden's family in their business dealings, particularly with clients overseas.

"Now, the House Oversight Committee is going to bring in members of the Biden family and their associates to question them on this record of evidence,” Comer, of Kentucky, said in a statement.

The stakes are exceedingly high, as the inquiry could result in Republicans bringing impeachment charges against Biden, the ultimate penalty for what the U.S. Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanors.”


Democrats see abortion wins as a springboard for 2024 as GOP struggles to find a winning message

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters threw their support behind abortion rights in Ohio, Virginia and elsewhere as Democrats look to springboard off those wins by using the issue to drive turnout and shape next year’s races for the White House, Congress and other elections.

Ohio offered the clearest snapshot on Tuesday of the issue’s salience more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the nationwide right to abortion. Voters in the increasingly Republican-leaning state resoundingly approved an amendment to the state constitution to protect abortion access.

Democrats also harnessed the issue in Virginia, riding it to retake control of the Legislature, and in Kentucky, giving Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear a second term after he made abortion rights central to his campaign in the deeply Republican state.

Election night was an energizing moment for Democrats hoping abortion rights will pull voters to the polls in the 2024 presidential election. The campaigning and results for the amendment in Ohio, the only state with an abortion question on the ballot this year, is a precursor to similar ballot measures expected to be put to a vote in several states next year. That includes Arizona and Nevada, which play pivotal roles in the White House race.

Abortion also will sit at the center of a slate of state Supreme Court races in 2024.


Funeral home stored bodies for 4 years, deceived families about loved ones' ashes, prosecutors say

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The owners of a Colorado funeral home were arrested Wednesday in Oklahoma on charges linked to the discovery of 190 sets of decaying remains at one of their facilities, including some that apparently had been languishing there for four years.

Investigators entered the Return to Nature Funeral Home building in the Rocky Mountain town of Penrose in early October to find “abhorrent” conditions with dozens of stacked bodies, according to a federal affidavit that’s under seal in Colorado but available in Oklahoma.

Some bodies had 2019 death dates, according to the document.

“Law enforcement now knows the cremains each family was given could not have been their loved one,” reads the documents alleging funeral home owners Jon and Carie Hallford had fled Colorado to avoid prosecution.

The Hallfords were jailed on $2 million bond on a Colorado arrest warrant alleging approximately 190 counts of abuse of a corpse, five counts of theft, four counts of money laundering and over 50 counts of forgery — after their arrest in Wagoner, east of Tulsa. They're set for an initial appearance on a federal fleeing charge on Nov. 9 in Muskogee.


US launches airstrike on site in Syria in response to attacks by Iranian-backed militias

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. carried out an airstrike on a weapons warehouse in eastern Syria used by Iranian-backed militias, in retaliation for what has been a growing number of attacks on bases housing U.S. troops in the region for the past several weeks, the Pentagon said.

In Wednesday's strike, two U.S. F-15 fighter jets dropped multiple bombs on a weapons storage facility near Maysulun in Deir el-Zour that was known to be used by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, U.S. officials said.

“The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

A military official told reporters in a call that people were seen at the warehouse during the day as the U.S. military watched the site for hours, but the number decreased to about “a couple” overnight when the strike occurred. The official said the strike triggered secondary explosions, indicating the presences of weapons, but the U.S. believes that no civilians were killed and any people at the warehouse were tied to the Revolutionary Guard or militia groups.

The strike, said a senior defense official also on the call, was aimed at “disrupting and degrading the capabilities of groups directly responsible for attacking U.S. forces in the region" by specifically targeting facilities associated with the Revolutionary Guard. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to provide an assessment of the strike.


Israel says it will maintain 'overall security responsibility' for Gaza. What might that look like?

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn't elaborate when he said this week that Israel would maintain indefinite “overall security responsibility” in Gaza once it removes Hamas from power in response to a deadly Oct. 7 cross-border raid by the Islamic militant group.

Experience suggests that any Israeli security role will be seen by the Palestinians and much of the international community as a form of military occupation. This could complicate any plans to hand governing responsibility to the Palestinian Authority or friendly Arab states, and risk bogging Israel down in a war of attrition.

Even if Israel succeeds in ending Hamas' 16-year rule in Gaza and dismantling much of its militant infrastructure, the presence of Israeli forces is likely to fuel an insurgency, as it did from 1967 to 2005. That period saw two Palestinian uprisings and the rise of Hamas.

Benny Gantz, of Israel's three-member War Cabinet, acknowledged Wednesday that there's still no long-term plan for Gaza. He said any plan would have to address Israel's security needs.

“We can come up with any mechanism we think is appropriate, but Hamas will not be part of it,” he told reporters. "We need to replace the Hamas regime and ensure security superiority for us.”

The Associated Press