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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The conflict between Israel and Hamas is taking a dramatic turn. Israel's military has called on everyone in Gaza's north to evacuate south for, quote, "the security of your families." That includes Gaza City, the main population center. The United Nations says this means more than 1 million people are being ordered to abandon their homes. In Israel, the U.S. and other countries are organizing charter flights today for their citizens so they can flee the country. NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us now from Israel's international airport outside Tel Aviv. Daniel, before we get to the airport, let's talk about Gaza and what the Israeli military said this morning.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Yeah. Leila, this is a major, major development. The army tweeted in Arabic that everyone in Gaza City should evacuate south, and the United Nations says it was notified by Israel that they're giving a 24-hour window. Of course, that's not a lot of time. The army is now telling reporters it understands this is going to take time to get the population out. But the U.N. says this means 1.1 million people must now abandon their homes. I spoke with Lynn Hastings. She's the U.N.'s top humanitarian coordinator here.

LYNN HASTINGS: We believe that it cannot happen in a safe manner and certainly not in 24 hours.

ESTRIN: It's just a really confusing and chaotic situation now in Gaza. I'm speaking with Palestinians there. Some people are fleeing to the south of Gaza near the Egyptian border. Many people are not. There's a lot of confusion. Is this really genuine, this evacuation order? Many are saying they're torn. Their elderly parents don't want to go. And even if they do go, they don't know where to go. The main hospital in Gaza is in the area that the army has ordered this evacuation. The hospitals are not evacuating, Leila. They're already collapsing. They're without enough fuel for electricity. They told the U.N. they can no longer treat injured people. And, you know, the U.N. is also saying they can't take in 1.1 million people. There are already 300,000 people sheltering throughout Gaza. The U.N. is calling on Israel and Egypt to allow Palestinians to leave Gaza. But the borders remain closed.

FADEL: So people can't escape Gaza. They're trapped. You're describing a dire situation. But people are leaving Israel. What are you seeing at the airport there?

ESTRIN: I'm seeing a lot of international flags. Embassy staff from a number of countries have set up card tables here in the departures hall, getting foreign nationals onto charter flights. Many, but not all, foreign carriers have canceled their flights. All American carriers have canceled. So the U.S. Embassy is organizing about four daily charter flights. Today there are flights to Athens. We met U.S. citizens Sara Glenn (ph) and her daughter Morgan Levy (ph), taking one of the American charter flights.

SARA GLENN: I just threw a few things in a suitcase, and I felt like leaving Egypt when the slaves in Egypt left in a hurry. That's how I felt.

MORGAN LEVY: I don't even think I brought toothbrushes. I just - medicine, that's about it. We get sirens, and we hear the booms, and it's frightening.

ESTRIN: So the U.S. hopes to have enough planes for about 800 people a day to leave. You sign a pledge. They bill you later. Not an evacuation, but the State Department is telling its U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Israel.

FADEL: What does all this suggest about what Israel is planning to do next?

ESTRIN: Israel might be planning a ground invasion, Leila. Israeli troops are already along the Gaza border deployed there. And what is Israel's objective? Well, the army spokesman now says we will not live next to a place ruled by a group they are comparing to ISIS. So Israel's messaging is changing. In so many words, it's saying the goal is regime change. After 16 years of Hamas rule, they don't want Hamas rule in Gaza any longer.

FADEL: NPR's Daniel Estrin. Thanks, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

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A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

House Republicans are again without a plan.

FADEL: Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current House majority leader, made it just over 24 hours as the party's nominee for speaker before withdrawing his name.

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STEVE SCALISE: We have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs. This country is counting on us to come back together.

FADEL: Now, Republicans go back to the drawing board.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales has been in the Capitol throughout all of this. She joins us now. Claudia, the House has been without a speaker - what? - for 10 days now, and House Republicans appear to be back exactly where they started. I mean, is that where things really stand right now?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, A. Yes, basically that is where they stand. I saw a lot of members leaving their meeting last night after Scalise made those remarks. They were frustrated. They were exhausted. They were exasperated. They will meet again this morning, but it's not clear exactly what that will achieve. There's lots of talk about working through the weekend, but the same problems they faced last week and two weeks ago are the same problems they face today. And Congress can't do much of anything right now. The Senate comes back next week, and they're facing a government spending deadline in just over a month from today.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, anyone named or not named Steve Scalise who could actually become speaker at this point?

GRISALES: That is really unclear right now. A Republican candidate who runs to become speaker of the House has to aim to get 217 of 221 members in the conference. So that means everyone in that conference has to be on board. One member, Mark Alford from Missouri, kept saying the party is entirely rudderless. He put it this way.

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MARK ALFORD: And someone said, you know, you could put Jesus Christ up for speaker of the House, and he still wouldn't get 217.

GRISALES: He called it a troubling time for his conference, and they can't even get to a point where they can pass a resolution to take a stand for Israel. He says there's issues of deep mistrust, communication problems, pettiness, vindictiveness. And he said that things are, quote, "jacked up" right now. But he also said he would not sacrifice everything he had to be there if they could not find their way back.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. Any names at all being floated?

GRISALES: Well, there's lots of talks of empowering the acting speaker. This is Patrick McHenry, but there's lots of questions about the Constitution, whether this is even legal. We've heard people mention tapping House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan again, even though he failed to get a majority of the votes earlier this week. And some have even pushed former President Donald Trump or renominating the speaker who was ousted, Kevin McCarthy. But we've heard Democrats suggest even some kind of unity plan at this stage.

MARTÍNEZ: Any of those likely?

GRISALES: It's hard to see at this point. There's a lot of factions that are not moving on both sides. The far right has a lot of demands here still in terms of what we saw, especially when McCarthy was forced out. And again, I've heard a lot of stories of members shouting at each other in private meetings. There's just lots of acrimony here.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So this is what it is, Claudia. Are Republicans worried, though, about the ramifications of what all this means?

GRISALES: Yes, yes, some absolutely are. But the Senate returns Monday. They're hoping that's going to ramp up pressure, and they can handle all the issues that are facing them at this moment.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Thanks a lot for sorting this out.

GRISALES: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: A Colorado jury has convicted a white police officer of negligent homicide four years after the death of Elijah McClain, who was Black.

FADEL: Here's Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaking after yesterday's verdict.

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PHIL WEISER: We are here today because Elijah McClain mattered. He was only 23 years old. When he died, he had his whole life ahead of him.

FADEL: McClain died in 2019 as a result of his arrest.

MARTÍNEZ: Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry was in the courtroom. She's with us now. Allison, Elijah McClain died after his encounter with police. That was in Aurora, Colo., in 2019. No prosecution until 2021. That was after protests erupted over the death of George Floyd. Take us back to what exactly happened to McClain.

ALLISON SHERRY, BYLINE: Yeah. You know, McClain was doing nothing illegal when police contacted him on a street after a passing motorist called 911 and reported that there was somebody walking who looked sketchy. He was just walking home from a convenience store after buying some iced tea. When the police got there, they went hands-on within about eight seconds and put him in a carotid chokehold. McClain cried out seven times that he couldn't breathe. Paramedics who arrived on scene later gave McClain a shot of the drug ketamine. And shortly after he was loaded onto an ambulance, he lost his pulse. He was revived, but he suffered a heart attack and died in the hospital a few days later.

MARTÍNEZ: And the local district attorney declined to press any charges - right? - against police or even paramedics.

SHERRY: Yeah, that's correct. The officers were back on the job, and the case was basically closed. The following spring, though, as protests were raging over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota, McClain's death got renewed attention, even across the world, and Colorado Governor Jared Polis reopened the case and appointed a special prosecutor.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, a second police officer, who was also there when McClain was arrested, was acquitted of all charges. Does that mean that this is just done and over with now?

SHERRY: No, there will be more legal proceedings in this case. Let's start with the Aurora police officer, Randy Roedema. He's the one who was convicted yesterday of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. He'll be sentenced in January and faces up to three years in prison, though I'll note that these are probation-eligible crimes in Colorado, so it's possible that he won't be incarcerated at all. The second officer on trial, though, Jason Rosenblatt, as you said, A, was indeed acquitted. But that's just the beginning.

Jury selection for another trial in this case is starting today. That's for Nathan Woodyard. He was the first officer on the scene, and he locked McClain in the chokehold. And then there's another trial after that scheduled for the paramedics who administered the ketamine. So this is far from over. And I also will note that prior to these criminal trials, the city of Aurora paid a $15 million settlement to McClain's family and their lawyers. And so far, it's one of the very biggest settlements for police violence ever in Colorado.

MARTÍNEZ: How are people in Aurora responding to all this?

SHERRY: Yeah. You know, it's still pretty early. The verdict was read right at 5 p.m. Thursday, you know, so people were just learning about it last night. There was a small vigil at the site where he was detained on Thursday, and I think a larger one is planned for the weekend. I spoke to McClain's mother outside the courthouse, though, and she's really angry. She said, quote, "this is the divided states of America, and that's what happens."

MARTÍNEZ: That's Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry. Allison, thanks a lot.

SHERRY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.

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