AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

 Israeli forces rescue 2 hostages in dramatic Gaza raid that killed at least 67 Palestinians RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces rescued two hostages early Monday, storming a heavily guarded apartment in a densely packed town in the Gaza Strip as airstrikes carried out to cover the raid killed more than 60 Palestinians, including [[{“value”:”

Israeli forces rescue 2 hostages in dramatic Gaza raid that killed at least 67 Palestinians

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces rescued two hostages early Monday, storming a heavily guarded apartment in a densely packed town in the Gaza Strip as airstrikes carried out to cover the raid killed more than 60 Palestinians, including women and children.

The rescue in Rafah briefly lifted the spirits of Israelis shaken by the plight of the dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The nation is still reeling from the militant group’s cross-border raid last year that started the war.

The overnight bombardment brought devastation in Rafah, which is packed with some 1.4 million people, most of whom fled their homes elsewhere in Gaza to escape fighting. Associated Press footage showed a large area of flattened houses, tattered tents and lines of bloodied bodies brought into nearby hospitals.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians in the territory, displaced over 80% of the population and set off a massive humanitarian crisis.

More than 12,300 Palestinian children and young teens have been killed in the conflict, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Monday. About 8,400 women were also among those killed. That means children and young teens make up about 43% of the dead, and women and minors together make up three quarters.


Trump’s threat to NATO allies draws little condemnation from GOP, reflecting his grip on the party

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s claim that he once told a NATO ally that he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to “delinquent” members of the group sent shockwaves through Europe over the weekend.

But in Washington, most Republicans downplayed or defended remarks that seemed to invite Russian aggression.

“I was here when he was president. He didn’t undermine or destroy NATO,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime defense hawk.

“I think I’ll look at what his actions are rather than what his words are,” said Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who has been a strong supporter of NATO and of sending additional aid to Ukraine as the country enters its third year of war after Russia’s invasion.

As he moves closer to winning the Republican presidential nomination a third straight time, Trump’s tightening grip on the GOP is reshaping the party’s traditional defense of longstanding military alliances and rejection of Moscow, positions that date back to the days of the Soviet Union. Many who once would have responded with alarm to the NATO remarks have largely fallen in line with Trump’s priorities or have chosen to retire as it has become clear his influence has not waned.


House speaker casts doubts on Ukraine and Israel aid package as senators grind toward final vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Mike Johnson late Monday sharply criticized a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other countries, casting serious doubts about the future of the package just as Senate leaders were slowly muscling it toward a final vote.

Senate leaders, trying to send a message that the U.S. remains committed to its allies, were looking to overcome marathon speeches from a determined group of Republican senators and hold a vote to pass the bill in the early morning hours Tuesday.

But Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, said in a statement the package lacked border security provisions, calling it “silent on the most pressing issue facing our country.” It was the latest — and potentially most consequential — sign of opposition to the Ukraine aid from conservatives who have for months demanded that border security policy be included in the package, only to last week reject a bipartisan proposal intended to curb the number of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border

“Now, in the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters,” Johnson said. “America deserves better than the Senate’s status quo.”

The mounting opposition was just the latest example of how the Republican Party’s stance on foreign affairs is being transformed under the influence of Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee.


Super Bowl thriller was the most-watched program ever, averaging 123.4 million viewers

The longest Super Bowl game will also go down as the most-watched program in television history.

According to Nielsen and Adobe Analytics, Kansas City’s 25-22 overtime victory over San Francisco on Sunday night averaged 123.4 million viewers across television and streaming platforms. That shattered last year’s mark of 115.1 million for Kansas City’s last-play victory over Philadelphia and is a 7% increase.

The game was televised by CBS, Nickelodeon and Univision and streamed on Paramount+ as well as the NFL’s digital platforms.

Nielsen also said a record 202.4 million watched at least part of the game across all networks, a 10% jump over last year’s figure of 183.6 million.

The CBS broadcast averaged 120 million. The network’s previous mark for its most-watched Super Bowl was 112.34 million for the 2016 game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.


Pakistan’s election left no clear winner. So who is likely to govern and what happens next?

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s parliamentary elections left no clear winner.

Allies of imprisoned ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan won the most seats in the lower house of parliament in the elections last Thursday. It was a shock outcome given the obstacles: His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party could hold no campaign rallies, had no polling agents on election day and faced internet restrictions. They won 93 out of 265 National Assembly seats. It’s not enough to form a government, however.

The other two mainstream parties, led by Khan’s rivals, also failed to secure enough seats to form a government on their own. They are the PML-N of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the PPP, led by political dynasty scion Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari. They won 75 and 54 seats respectively.

It’s Pakistan’s parliament that chooses the next prime minister, so having a majority is crucial.

Not Imran Khan. He’s in prison and barred from holding public office. The PTI said it doesn’t want or need an alliance, claiming it has enough seats. It doesn’t. The party has public support — as shown by the number of seats that candidates scooped up — but it doesn’t have the backing of political peers.


What’s at stake in Indonesia as the world’s third-largest democracy elects a new president?

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, will open its polls on Wednesday to nearly 205 million eligible voters in presidential and legislative elections, the fifth since Southeast Asia’s largest economy began democratic reforms in 1998.

The sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands and more than 270 million people from about 1,300 ethnic groups is a bastion of democracy in Southeast Asia, a diverse and economically vibrant region of authoritarian regimes, police states and nascent democracies.

The presidential election will determine who will succeed President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, who is serving his second and final term.

The election is shaping up to be a three-way race among current Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and two former governors, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo. If none of the candidates secures more than 50% of the votes in the first round, a runoff between the top two is scheduled for June 26.

Tens of thousands of candidates across the world’s largest archipelago nation are battling for some 20,000 national, provincial and district parliamentary positions. About 10,000 candidates from 18 political parties are contesting for spots in the 580-seat national parliament alone.


Trump asks Supreme Court to put off his election interference trial, claiming immunity

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump is asking the Supreme Court to extend the delay in his election interference trial, saying he is immune from prosecution on charges he plotted to overturn his 2020 election loss.

His lawyers filed an emergency appeal with the court on Monday, just four days after the justices heard Trump’s separate appeal to remain on the presidential ballot despite attempts to kick him off because of his efforts following his election loss in 2020.

“Without immunity from criminal prosecution, the Presidency as we know it will cease to exist,” Trump’s lawyers wrote, repeating arguments that have so far failed in federal courts.

The filing keeps on hold what would be a landmark criminal trial of a former president while the nation’s highest court decides what to do. It met a deadline to ask the justices to intervene that the federal appeals court in Washington set when it rejected Trump’s immunity claims and ruled the trial could proceed.

The Supreme Court’s decision on what to do, and how quickly it acts, could determine whether the Republican presidential primary frontrunner stands trial in the case before the November election.


Biden forms task force to avoid mishandling of classified documents during presidential transitions

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday launched a task force aimed at addressing the “systemic” problem of mishandling classified information during presidential transitions, days after a Justice Department special counsel’s sharply critical report said he had done just that.

The Presidential Records Transition Task Force will study past transitions to determine best practices for safeguarding classified information from an outgoing administration, the White House said. It will also assess the need for changes to existing policies and procedures to prevent the removal of sensitive information that by law should be kept with the National Archives and Records Administration.

The report from special counsel Robert Hur listed dozens of sensitive documents found at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at his former Washington office. The papers were marked as classified or later assessed to contain classified information.

The majority of the documents, Hur’s report stated, appeared to have been mistakenly removed from government offices, though he also detailed some items that Biden appeared to knowingly retain. He concluded that criminal charges were not warranted in the matter..

“I take responsibility for not having seen exactly what my staff was doing,” Biden said last week after Hur’s report was released. He added that “things that appeared in my garage, things that came out of my home, things that were moved were moved not by me but my staff.”


Shooter entered Texas megachurch with young son and used AR-style rifle in the attack, police say

HOUSTON (AP) — The shooter at a Texas megachurch on Sunday had a history of mental illness and brought their young son to the attack that was carried out using an AR-style rifle and ended in an exchange of gunfire with two off-duty officers, authorities said Monday.

Houston police identified the shooter as Genesse Ivonne Moreno, 36, who they say wore a trenchcoat and carried a backpack upon entering Lakewood Church, which is led by the pastor Joel Osteen. Moreno used both male and female aliases, but investigators who looked at past police reports found that Moreno identified as female, Houston Police Commander Chris Hassig said.

The attack happened in between services at the Houston megachurch — located in a former NBA arena — and sent worshippers scrambling for safety.

During the shooting, Moreno’s 7-year-old son was shot in the head and remained in critical condition Monday, authorities said. Moreno, who was killed by the officers, was not a known member of Osteen’s congregation, said church spokesman Don Iloff.

Police and FBI investigators said they have not established a motive for the shooting but were looking into a dispute involving Moreno and the family of Moreno’s ex-husband. Hassig and others said Moreno had a history of mental illness, including being placed under emergency detention in 2016, but provided no additional details.


Difficult driving, closed schools, canceled flights: What to expect from Northeast snowstorm

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Parts of the Northeast were preparing Monday for a coastal storm that was expected to pack high winds and dump a foot or more of snow in some areas, leading to school closures, warnings against road travel and the possible disruption of flights.

The nation’s largest school system in New York City said it was switching to remote learning and closing its buildings Tuesday because of the impending storm.

“With several inches of snow, poor visibility on the roads, and possible coastal flooding heading our way, New Yorkers should prepare in advance of tomorrow’s storm and take the necessary precautions to remain safe,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “If you do not have to be on the roads tomorrow, please stay home.”

Some of the highest snowfall totals were forecast for the northern suburbs of New York City and southwestern Connecticut, where 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 centimeters) were possible, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts could hit 60 mph (100 kph) off the Massachusetts coast and 40 mph (65 kph) in interior parts of southern New England.

“It will make for a messy commute tomorrow morning,” Christina Speciale, a meteorologist for the weather service in Albany, New York, said Monday. “This is a fast-moving storm, so things should be cleared out by tomorrow afternoon.”

The Associated Press


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