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

As strikes devastate Gaza, Israel forms unity government to oversee war sparked by Hamas attack JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined with a top political rival Wednesday to create a wartime Cabinet to oversee the fight to

As strikes devastate Gaza, Israel forms unity government to oversee war sparked by Hamas attack

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined with a top political rival Wednesday to create a wartime Cabinet to oversee the fight to avenge the gruesome weekend attack by Hamas militants. In the sealed-off Gaza Strip, Palestinian suffering mounted as Israeli bombardment demolished neighborhoods and the only power plant ran out of fuel.

Netanyahu vowed to “crush and destroy” Hamas. “Every Hamas member is a dead man,” he said in a televised address.

The new Cabinet establishes a degree of unity after years of bitterly divisive politics and at a time when the Israeli military appears increasingly likely to launch a ground offensive into Gaza. The war has already claimed at least 2,300 lives on both sides.

The Israeli government is under intense public pressure to topple Hamas after its militants stormed through a border fence Saturday and massacred hundreds of Israelis in their homes, on the streets and at an outdoor music festival.

Netanyahu alleged that the attackers engaged in atrocities, including binding boys and girls and shooting them in the head, burning people alive, raping women and beheading soldiers.


As Israeli military retaliates, Palestinians say civilians are paying the price in strikes on Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hallways filled with screaming voices. A terrible stench in the air. Wounded people streaming through the doors. Lifeless bodies and bags of body parts arriving in bedsheets.

The scene at Shifa Hospital was a grisly reflection of the chaos around it. Even as workers mopped up blood and relatives rushed children with shrapnel wounds into surgery, explosions thundered in central Gaza City.

Over the last five days, Israeli warplanes have pummeled the blockaded strip with an intensity that its war-weary residents had never experienced. The airstrikes have killed over 1,100 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Officials have not said how many civilians are among the dead, but aid workers warn that Israel's decision to impose a “complete siege” on the crowded enclave of 2.3 million people is spawning a humanitarian catastrophe that touches nearly every one of them.

The airstrikes have transformed lively neighborhoods into wastelands of rubble strewn with bodies. There is no clean water. And there is darkness — the territory’s only power plant ran out of fuel Wednesday, leaving only generators that won’t last long.

“This is an unprecedented scope of destruction,” said Miriam Marmur, a spokeswoman for Gisha, an Israeli human rights group. “Israeli decisions to cut electricity, fuel, food and medicine supplies severely compound the risks to Palestinians and threaten to greatly increase the toll in human life.”


After a hard fight to clear militants, Israeli soldiers find a scene of destruction, slain children

KIBBUTZ BE'ERI, Israel (AP) — Trudging down a cul-de-sac turned to rubble, an Israeli army commander stopped in front of one scorched home, its front wall blown wide open. Look at what Hamas militants have done, he said, to this close-knit community that only days ago brimmed with life.

“Children in the same room and someone came and killed them all. Fifteen girls and teenagers, they put (them) in the same room, threw in a hand grenade and it’s over,” Maj. Gen. Itai Veruv said.

’This is a massacre. It’s a pogrom,” he said, recalling the brutal attacks on Jews in Eastern Europe in the 19th and early 20th century.

The Israeli military led a group of journalists, including an Associated Press reporter, on a tour of this village a few miles from Israel’s fortified border with Gaza on Wednesday, following an extended battle to retake it from militants. Before Israeli forces prevailed, the attackers killed more than 100 residents, Israeli officials said.

Be’eri, a settlement of a little more than 1,000 people, is one of more than 20 towns and villages ambushed early Saturday as part of a sweeping assault launched from the embattled Palestinian enclave.


Republicans nominate Steve Scalise to be House speaker but struggle to unite quickly and elect him

WASHINGTON (AP) — Deeply divided Republicans nominated Rep. Steve Scalise on Wednesday to be the next House speaker but struggled to quickly unify and elect the conservative in a public floor vote after the historic ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the job.

In private balloting at the Capitol, House Republicans narrowly pushed aside Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the firebrand Judiciary Committee chairman, in favor of Scalise, the current majority leader. The Louisiana congressman, who is battling blood cancer, is seen as a hero to some after surviving a shooting on lawmakers at a congressional baseball game practice in 2017.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Scalise said afterward.

A floor vote of the whole House was expected but then abandoned by nightfall. Tensions are still running high among Republicans and the House is at a standstill amid bitter infighting after McCarthy’s stunning removal last week. The House was gaveled into a brief session, then closed, with next steps uncertain.

It’s an extraordinary moment of political chaos at a time of uncertainty at home and crisis abroad, moving into a second week without a House speaker. Just 10 months after Republicans swept to power aspiring to operate as a team and run government more like a business, the GOP majority has drifted far from that goal.


Auto workers escalate strike as 8,700 workers walk out at Ford Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville

DETROIT (AP) — The United Auto Workers union significantly escalated its strikes against Detroit Three automakers Wednesday when 8,700 workers walked off their jobs at Ford's Kentucky truck plant.

The surprise move about 6:30 p.m. took down the largest and most profitable Ford plant in the world. The sprawling factory makes pricey heavy-duty F-Series pickup trucks and large Ford and Lincoln SUVs.

UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement that the union has waited long enough “but Ford hasn’t gotten the message” to bargain for a fair contract.

“If they can’t understand that after four weeks, the 8,700 workers shutting down this extremely profitable plant will help them understand it,” Fain said.

The strike came nearly four weeks after the union began its walkouts against General Motors, Ford and Jeep maker Stellantis on Sept. 15, with one assembly plant from each company.


Donald Trump attacks President Biden on foreign policy as Israel-Hamas war rages

MIAMI (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his record governing the nation for four years without any new wars, and criticized President Joe Biden’s foreign policy as the world watches a war that has already claimed 2,300 lives unfold in Gaza, ignited by Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Trump and other Republicans have tried to lay blame on the Biden administration, particularly citing the release of nearly $6 billion in frozen assets to Iran, a supporter of Hamas. Administration officials insist that money has not been spent.

“With crooked Joe Biden, you have chaos, bloodshed, war, terror and death. Look what’s happening today,” Trump told a crowd of supporters in a speech that lasted more than an hour and a half at a convention center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Biden campaign said Trump has been pushing dangerous misinformation about the crisis in Israel at a time when the country should stand together.

“While Trump continues to lie about his record, President Biden is laser-focused on providing steadfast support for Israel and leading on the global stage,” Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said.


Federal Reserve minutes: Officials signal cautious approach to rates amid heightened uncertainty

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials regarded the U.S. economy’s outlook as particularly uncertain last month, according to minutes released Wednesday, and said they would “proceed carefully” in deciding whether to further raise their benchmark interest rate.

Such cautious views are generally seen as evidence that the Fed isn't necessarily inclined to raise rates in the near future. Their next meeting is in three weeks.

Economic data from the past several months “generally suggested that inflation was slowing,” the minutes of the Sept. 19-20 meeting said. The policymakers added that further evidence of declining inflation was needed to be sure it would slow to the Fed’s 2% target.

Several of the 19 policymakers said that with the Fed’s key rate “likely at or near its peak, the focus” of their policy decisions should “shift from how high to raise the policy rate to how long” to keep it at economically restrictive levels.

And the officials generally acknowledged that the risks to Fed’s policies were becoming more balanced between raising rates too high and hurting the economy and not raising them enough to curb inflation. For most of the past two years, the Fed had said the risks were heavily tilted toward not raising rates enough.


Black student suspended over his hairstyle to be sent to an alternative education program

After serving more than a month of in-school suspension over his dreadlocks, a Black student in Texas was told he will be removed from his high school and sent to a disciplinary alternative education program on Thursday.

Darryl George, 18, is a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu and has been suspended since Aug. 31. He will be sent to EPIC, an alternative school program, from Oct. 12 through Nov. 29 for “failure to comply” with multiple campus and classroom regulations, the principal said in a Wednesday letter provided to The Associated Press by the family.

Principal Lance Murphy wrote that George has repeatedly violated the district's “previously communicated standards of student conduct." The letter also says that George will be allowed to return to regular classroom instruction on Nov. 30 but will not be allowed to return to his high school's campus until then unless he's there to discuss his conduct with school administrators.

Barbers Hill Independent School District prohibits male students from having hair extending below the eyebrows, ear lobes or top of a T-shirt collar, according to the student handbook. Additionally, hair on all students must be clean, well-groomed, geometrical and not an unnatural color or variation. The school does not require uniforms.

George's mother, Darresha George, and the family's attorney deny the teenager's hairstyle violates the dress code. The family last month filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency and a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state’s governor and attorney general, alleging they failed to enforce a new law outlawing discrimination based on hairstyles.


NASA shows off its first asteroid samples delivered by a spacecraft

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA on Wednesday showed off its first asteroid samples delivered last month by a spacecraft — a jumble of black dust and rubble that's the most ever returned to Earth.

Scientists anticipated getting a cupful but are still unsure how much was grabbed from the carbon-rich asteroid named Bennu, almost 60 million miles (97 million kilometers) away. That’s because the main sample chamber has yet to be opened, officials said during an event at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“It’s been going slow and meticulous, but the science is already starting,” said the mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft collected the samples three years ago from the surface of Bennu and then dropped them off sealed in a capsule during a flyby of Earth last month. The expected cupful was far more than the teaspoon or so that Japan brought back from a pair of missions.

Black dust and particles were scattered around the outside edge of the internal sample chamber, according to Lauretta. He said there’s still “a whole treasure chest of extraterrestrial material” to be studied. The samples are priceless, the preserved building blocks from the dawn of the solar system.


Abreu homers again to power Astros past Twins 3-2 and into 7th straight ALCS

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — José Abreu homered for the third time in two games, a two-run rocket in the fourth inning that launched the Houston Astros to their seventh straight AL Championship Series appearance with a 3-2 win that eliminated the Minnesota Twins in Game 4 of their AL Division Series on Wednesday night.

José Urquidy gave the playoff-tested Astros another solid postseason start, withstanding home runs by Royce Lewis in the first and Edouard Julien in the sixth to hand the ball to the bullpen.

Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu combined for five strikeouts over 2 1/3 hitless innings. Ryan Pressly, who pitched five-plus years for the Twins before being traded to Houston in 2018, struck out the side in the ninth.

Pressly froze Max Kepler with a full-count fastball to end it, leaving former Astros star Carlos Correa on deck.

“Oh yeah, we knew. And I was trying not to have nightmares, because I remember when Carlos was with us he hit that ball up in the right-center field seats up there,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “But we never got to Carlos. So that was a great, great victory.”

The Associated Press