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

Israel moves into Gaza's second-largest city and intensifies strikes in bloody new phase of the war

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel said Tuesday that its troops had entered Gaza’s second-largest city as intensified bombardment sent streams of ambulances and cars racing to hospitals with wounded and dead Palestinians, including children, in a bloody new phase of the war.

The military said its forces were “in the heart” of Khan Younis, which has emerged as the first target in the expanded ground offensive into southern Gaza that Israel says aims to destroy Hamas. Military officials said they were engaged in the “most intense day” of battles since the ground offensive began more than five weeks ago, with heavy firefights also taking place in northern Gaza.

The assault into the south threatens to fuel a new wave of displaced Palestinians and a worsening of Gaza's humanitarian catastrophe. The U.N. said 1.87 million people — more than 80% of Gaza’s population — have been driven from their homes, and that fighting is now preventing distribution of food, water and medicine outside a tiny sliver of southern Gaza. New military evacuation orders are squeezing people into ever-smaller areas of the south.

Bombardment has grown fiercer across the territory, including areas where Palestinians are told to seek safety. In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, just north of Khan Younis, a strike Tuesday destroyed a house where dozens of displaced people were sheltering. At least 34 people were killed, including at least six children, according to an Associated Press reporter at the hospital who counted the bodies.

Footage from the scene showed women screaming from an upper floor of a house shattered to a concrete shell. In the wreckage below, men pulled the limp body of a child from under a slab next to a burning car. At the nearby hospital, medics tried to resuscitate a young boy and girl, bloodied and unmoving on a stretcher.

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'Widespread' sexual and gender-based crimes committed during Hamas attack, Israeli officials say

JERUSALEM (AP) — A man hiding in a pit during the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on an outdoor music festival in Israel said he heard someone nearby screaming she was being raped. Elsewhere in the area, a combat paramedic saw the body of a young woman with her legs open, her pants pulled down, and what looked like semen on her lower back. An army reservist who was tasked with identifying those killed by the militants said some of the women were found wearing only bloodied underwear.

Such accounts given to The Associated Press, along with first assessments by an Israeli rights group, show that sexual assault was part of an atrocities-filled rampage by Hamas and other Gaza militants who killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took more than 240 hostages that day.

While investigators are still trying to determine the scope of the sexual assaults, Israel’s government is accusing the international community, particularly the United Nations, of ignoring the pain of Israeli victims.

“I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation — where the hell are you?” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference Tuesday, switching to English to emphasize the point.

U.S. President Joe Biden called the reports of sexual violence “appalling” and urged the world to condemn “horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty.”

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'We are officially hostages.' How the Israeli kibbutz of Nir Oz embodied Hamas hostage strategy

NIR OZ, Israel (AP) — The engineer and his family cowered in the safe room, dark except for a red remote-control light because they feared the gunmen outside the door would notice anything brighter.

Eyal Barad had just reconfigured the settings on a homemade traffic camera from his cellphone to monitor the Hamas attack unfolding in the kibbutz of Nir Oz. But his 6-year-old autistic daughter — hiding in the room with him, her mother and her two siblings — couldn't understand that their lives depended upon silence. Her cries were building into near-screams.

Barad wrapped his arms around the girl, covered her mouth tightly, and looked over her head to his wife. His whispered, agonized question: Should he cut her airflow long enough to knock her unconscious, to keep everybody alive?

But he couldn’t risk killing her. He resolved: “We all go, or we all survive.”

Eight weeks into the Israel-Hamas war, the recent release of dozens of Israeli hostages — with as many still in captivity — is bringing new focus on what Hamas did on Oct. 7, the day its fighters rounded them up from communities across southern Israel. The kibbutz of Nir Oz is perhaps the best place to understand Hamas’ hostage strategy, an operation that was unprecedented both in scope and execution.

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Senate approves hundreds of military promotions after Republican senator ends blockade of nominees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate in a single stroke Tuesday approved about 425 military promotions after Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama ended a monthslong blockade of nominations over his opposition to a Pentagon abortion policy.

Tuberville had been under pressure from members of both sides of the political aisle to end his holds as senators complained about the toll it was taking on service members and their families, and on military readiness.

President Joe Biden called the Senate's action long overdue and said the military confirmations should never have been held up.

“In the end, this was all pointless. Senator Tuberville, and the Republicans who stood with him, needlessly hurt hundreds of servicemembers and military families and threatened our national security — all to push a partisan agenda. I hope no one forgets what he did,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer teed up the military confirmations for a vote just a few hours after Tuberville emerged from a closed-door lunch with fellow GOP senators and told reporters he’s “not going to hold the promotions of these people any longer.” He said holds would continue, however, for about 11 of the highest-ranking military officers, those who would be promoted to what he described as the four-star level or above.

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Actors vote to approve deal that ended strike, bringing relief to union leaders and Hollywood

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollywood’s actors have voted to ratify the deal with studios that ended their strike after nearly four months, leaders announced Tuesday.

The approval of the three-year contract from the members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists was no certainty, with some prominent members voicing dissent on the deal for which the union leaders bargained.

The 78% yes result in voting that began Nov. 13 and ended Tuesday was a far cry from the near-unanimous approval and widespread enthusiasm members of the writers guild gave to the deal that ended their strike in September.

But the outcome is a major relief for SAG-AFTRA leaders and an entertainment industry that is attempting to return to normal after months of labor strife. And it brings a final, official end to Hollywood labor’s most tumultuous year in half a century, with two historic strikes that shook the industry.

“Today we close out one of the most important chapters in recent entertainment industry history,” the union said in a tweet announcing the results Tuesday evening.

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Trump declines to rule out abusing power to seek retribution if he returns to the White House

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump declined to rule out abusing power if he returns to the White House after Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity asked him Tuesday to respond to growing Democratic criticism of his rhetoric.

The GOP presidential front-runner has talked about targeting his rivals — referring to them as “vermin” — and vowed to seek retribution if he wins a second term for what he argues are politically motivated prosecutions against him. As Trump has dominated the Republican presidential primary, President Joe Biden has stepped up his own warnings, contending Trump is “ determined to destroy American democracy.”

“Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?" Hannity asked Trump in the interview taped in Davenport, Iowa.

“Except for day one," Trump responded. “I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill.”

Trump then repeated his assertion. “I love this guy,” he said of the Fox News host. "He says, ‘You’re not going to be a dictator, are you?' I said: 'No, no, no, other than day one. We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator.'”

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Biden tells donors: 'If Trump wasn’t running I’m not sure I’d be running. We cannot let him win'

BOSTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told campaign donors Tuesday that he wasn’t sure he’d be running for reelection if Donald Trump wasn’t also in the race, warning that democracy is “more at risk in 2024” and that the former president and his allies are out to “destroy” democratic institutions.

The president was using a trio of fundraisers to caution against what might happen should his predecessor again claim control of the White House, noting that Trump has described himself as his supporters’ “retribution” and has vowed to root out “vermin” in the country.

“We’ve got to get it done, not because of me. ... If Trump wasn’t running I’m not sure I’d be running. We cannot let him win,” Biden said, hitting the last words slowly for emphasis.

Biden's forceful rhetoric came as Trump, the current GOP front-runner, who tried to overturn the 2020 election he lost and is facing criminal charges connected to those efforts, attempted over the weekend to turn the tables by calling Biden the “destroyer of American democracy.”

Trump on Tuesday was asked by Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity to promise he "would never abuse power as retribution against anybody.”

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Peruvian constitutional court orders release of former President Alberto Fujimori

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s constitutional court ordered an immediate humanitarian release Tuesday for imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, 85, who was serving a 25-year sentence in connection with the death squad slayings of 25 Peruvians in the 1990s.

The court ruled in favor of a 2017 pardon that had granted the former leader a release on humanitarian grounds but that later was annulled.

In a resolution seen by The Associated Press, the court told the state prisons agency to immediately release Fujimori “on the same day.”

Fujimori was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison on charges of human rights abuses. He had been accused of being the mastermind behind the slayings of 25 Peruvians by a military death squad during his administration from 1990 to 2000, while the government fought the Shining Path communist rebels.

Fujimori's 2017 pardon granted by then-President Pablo Kuczynski was annulled under pressure from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and its status was the subject of legal wrangling since then.

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More bodies found after sudden eruption of Indonesia's Mount Marapi, raising confirmed toll to 23

BATU PALANO, Indonesia (AP) — Rescuers searching the hazardous slopes of Indonesia's Mount Marapi volcano found the last body of climbers who were caught by a surprise weekend eruption, raising the number of confirmed dead to 23, officials said Wednesday.

About 75 climbers started their way up the nearly 2,900-meter (9,480-foot) mountain in Agam district of West Sumatra province on Saturday and became stranded.

Some 52 climbers were rescued after the initial eruption Sunday, and 11 others were initially confirmed dead. New eruptions on Monday and Tuesday spewed more hot ash as high as 800 meters (2,620 feet) into the air, reducing visibility and temporarily halting search and recovery operations, said Abdul Malik, chief of the Padang Search and Rescue Agency.

The bodies of two climbers were located on Monday and nine more on Tuesday, the National Search and Rescue Agency said.

West Sumatra's Police Chief Suharyono said the body of the last climber was found early Wednesday, just a few meters (yards) from the eruption site, bringing the death toll rise to 23.

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Man believed to have fired shots before a Virginia house exploded died in the blast, police say

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — The owner of a Virginia house that exploded as police tried to execute a search warrant is believed to have died in the blast, officials said Tuesday, as details emerged about numerous grievances he expressed against neighbors and others on social media and in lawsuits.

James Yoo, 56, was identified by Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn at a news conference as the person whose actions brought police to the Arlington home after he fired a “flare-type gun” from inside the house into the neighborhood more than 30 times.

Penn said police responded to the house about 4:45 p.m. Monday after receiving reports of shots fired. When attempts to communicate with Yoo were largely unsuccessful, police obtained a search warrant.

As officers breached the door to enter the home, the suspect fired multiple gunshots from within the house, Penn said. He said it wasn’t clear where in the house the shots were coming from or what the suspect was firing at.

Soon after that, just before 8:30 p.m., the house exploded, shooting flames and debris into the air in a blast that was felt for miles.

The Associated Press