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AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EST

Analysis shows destruction and possible buffer zone along Gaza Strip's border with Israel JERUSALEM (AP) — Satellite photos show new demolition along a 1-kilometer-deep path on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, according an analysis by The Associa

Analysis shows destruction and possible buffer zone along Gaza Strip's border with Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — Satellite photos show new demolition along a 1-kilometer-deep path on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, according an analysis by The Associated Press and expert reports. The destruction comes as Israel has said it wants to establish a buffer zone there, over international objections, further tearing away at land the Palestinians want for a state.

The demolition along the path represents only a sliver of the wider damage from the Israel-Hamas war seen in Gaza, which one assessment suggests has damaged or destroyed half of all the buildings within the coastal enclave.

Israeli leaders have signaled that they would like to establish a buffer zone as a defensive measure, which they contend could prevent a repeat of the Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas that triggered the nearly four-month-old war. That's despite U.S. warnings not to shrink Gaza's territory.

Israel's military declined to answer whether it is carving out a buffer zone when asked by the AP, only saying it "takes various imperative actions that are needed in order to implement a defense plan that will provide improved security in southern Israel." However, the military has acknowledged it has demolished buildings throughout the area.

An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing internal deliberations, said a “temporary security buffer zone” is under construction.


Half of US adults say Israel has gone too far in war in Gaza, AP-NORC poll shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Half of U.S. adults say Israel's 15-week-old military campaign in Gaza has “gone too far,” a finding driven mainly by growing disapproval among Republicans and political independents, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Broadly, the poll shows support for Israel and the Biden administration's handling of the situation ebbing slightly further across the board. The poll shows 31% of U.S. adults approve of Biden's handling of the conflict, including just 46% of Democrats. That's as an earlier spike in support for Israel following the Hamas attacks Oct. 7 sags.

Melissa Morales, a 36-year-old political independent in Runnemede, New Jersey, says she finds herself watching videos and news from Gaza daily. Images of Palestinian children wounded, orphaned or unhoused by the fighting in Gaza make her mind go to her own 3-year-old boy.

“I just can't even imagine, like, my son roaming the streets, wanting to be safe. Wanting his mom. Or just wanting someone to get him,” she said.

Israel’s offensive has gone too far, Morales says, and so has the Biden administration’s support for it. Biden has supported Israel militarily and diplomatically since the first hours after the Hamas militant group’s Oct. 7 attacks, which Israel says killed 1,200 people.


President Joe Biden to attend dignified transfer for US troops killed in Jordan, who 'risked it all'

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will join grieving families at Dover Air Force Base on Friday to honor three American servicemembers killed in a drone attack in Jordan, a solemn ritual that has become relatively uncommon in recent years as the U.S. withdrew from conflicts abroad.

The Bidens will attend a “dignified transfer” as the remains of the troops killed in the overnight assault Sunday return to U.S. soil. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will join the Bidens for the transfer in Dover, where such events take place when U.S. servicemembers are killed in action.

The service members killed Sunday were all from Georgia — Sgt. William Jerome Rivers of Carrollton, Sgt. Kennedy Sanders of Waycross and Sgt. Breonna Moffett of Savannah. Sanders and Moffett were posthumously promoted to sergeant rank.

The deaths were the first U.S. fatalities blamed on Iran-backed militia groups, who for months have been intensifying their attacks on American forces in the region following the onset of the Israel-Hamas war in October. Separately, two Navy SEALs died during a January mission to board an unflagged ship that was carrying illicit Iranian-made weapons to Yemen.

“These service members embodied the very best of our nation: Unwavering in their bravery. Unflinching in their duty. Unbending in their commitment to our country — risking their own safety for the safety of their fellow Americans, and our allies and partners with whom we stand in the fight against terrorism,” Biden said earlier this week. “It is a fight we will not cease.”


Biden left with few choices as immigration takes center stage in American politics

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Almost immediately after he walked into the Oval Office on his first day as president, Joe Biden began rolling back his predecessor’s immigration policies, which he had assailed throughout the 2020 campaign as harsh and inhumane.

A lot has changed in three years.

Biden, now sounding increasingly like former President Donald Trump, is pressing Congress for asylum restrictions that would have been unthinkable when he took office. He's doing it under pressure not just from Republicans but from Democrats, including elected officials in cities thousands of miles from the border who are feeling the effects of asylum seekers arriving in the United States in record numbers.

With the 2024 presidential campaign shaping up as a likely rematch between Biden and Trump, immigration has moved to the forefront as one of the president's biggest potential liabilities. Biden, looking to neutralize it, has already embraced a sweeping bipartisan measure still being negotiated in the Senate that would expand his authority to put strict new limits on border crossings.

“If that bill were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly,” Biden said last weekend.


A fire set off by a gas explosion in Kenya kills at least 3 people and injures more than 270 others

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A vehicle loaded with gas exploded and set off an inferno that burned homes and warehouses in Kenya's capital, killing at least three people and injuring more than 270, officials said Friday, with the death toll expected to rise.

Many residents were likely inside their homes when the fire reached their houses in the Mradi area of the Nairobi neighborhood of Embakasi, government spokesman Isaac Mwaura said.

The truck explosion ignited a huge fireball, and a flying gas cylinder set off a fire that burned down a garment and textile warehouse called Oriental Godown, Mwaura said. Several other vehicles and businesses were damaged by the inferno that started around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

At the scene after daybreak, several houses and shops were burned out. The shell of the vehicle believed to have started the explosion was lying on its side. The roof of a four-story residential building about 200 meters (yards) from the scene of the explosion was broken by a flying gas cylinder. Electric wires lay on the ground. Nothing remained in the burned-out warehouse except the shells of several trucks.

Alfred Juma, an aspiring politician, said he heard loud noise from a gas cylinder in a warehouse next to his house. “I started waking up neighbors asking them to leave," Juma said.


North Korea tests more cruise missiles as leader Kim calls for war readiness

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Friday extended a provocative series of weapons tests by firing cruise missiles into the sea, as leader Kim Jong Un called for his military to step up war preparations and toured a shipyard.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. and South Korean militaries were analyzing the North Korean launches into its western sea. It said South Korea’s military detected multiple missiles but it did not immediately provide a specific number or an assessment of their flights.

The launches, which were North Korea’s fourth round of cruise missile tests in 2024, came hours after state media reported that Kim reiterated his focus on strengthening his naval forces as he inspected unspecified naval projects at a shipyard in Nampho on the west coast.

Kim in recent months has emphasized efforts to build a nuclear-armed navy to counter what he portrays as growing external threats posed by the United States, South Korea and Japan, which have stepped up their military cooperation in response to Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency did not specify when Kim visited Nampho. It paraphrased Kim as saying that the strengthening of the navy “presents itself as the most important issue in reliably defending the maritime sovereignty of the country and stepping up the war preparations.”


Meet the newscaster in drag making LGBTQ+ history in Mexican television

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Guillermo Barraza buzzes with a nervous energy as he watches himself transform.

Hands delicately paint stripes of bright pink eyeshadow onto Barraza’s angular face as newscasters and makeup crews bustle around him.

Tonight, in a small studio set in the heart of Mexico City, Barraza is making history.

Through his drag character Amanda, the 32-year-old journalist is the first-ever drag queen to host a news program for Mexican TV.

By stepping out under the glow of the studio lights, Barraza has sought to push the boundaries of society in a place where both LGBTQ+ people and journalists are violently targeted. And he is doing it at a moment when the issue has roared back into the public discourse with the violent death of one of the very guests on his program, one of the most prominent queer figures in the country who was later found dead along with their partner with dozens of cuts across their body.


It's so cold and snowy in Alaska that fuel oil is thickening and roofs are collapsing

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Much of Alaska has plunged into a deep freeze, with temperatures well below zero. Anchorage has seen some of its coldest temperatures in years and the mayor opened warming facilities for people who are homeless or don't have reliable heating.

To the south in the state capital, Juneau, snow blanketed streets and rooftops as part of a two-day storm that helped set a new January snowfall record of 6.4 feet (2 meters) for the city, which is nestled in a relatively temperate rainforest. That's after back-to-back storms walloped Juneau earlier in the month.

Anchorage surpassed 100 inches (2.5 meters) of snow this week, the earliest date the state's largest city has ever hit that mark.

For much of the last week, temperatures were minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 Celsius) or colder in Fairbanks, an inland city of about 32,000 that's a popular destination for seeing the northern lights. In other far-flung towns, the thermometer hovered between minus 30 Fahrenheit (minus 34.4 Celsius) and minus 20 Fahrenheit (minus 28.9 Celsius) for days.

“That's a pretty solid streak,” National Weather Service meteorologist Dustin Saltzman said, adding that it was the coldest outbreak in at least several years.


Punxsutawney Phil prepares to make his annual Groundhog Day winter weather forecast

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) — Punxsutawney Phil's winter weather forecast will be announced sometime after sunrise Friday in Gobbler's Knob, the scene of the country's largest and most well-known Groundhog Day celebration.

The annual event is a tongue-in-cheek ritual in which Phil's handlers, members of a club with roots in the late 19th century, reveal whether the groundhog has seen his shadow — ushering in six more weeks of winter weather — or hasn't, presaging early springlike weather.

About 10,000 people have made their way in recent years to Punxsutawney, where festivities begin in the dead of night and culminate in the midwinter forecast.

Phil predicts more winter far more often than he sees an early spring, not a bad bet for February and March in western Pennsylvania. A federal agency took a look at his record last year and put his accuracy rate at about 40%.

The tradition of celebrating the midpoint between the shortest day of the year on the winter solstice and the spring equinox goes back many centuries in European farm life.


Taylor Swift could make it to the Super Bowl from Tokyo. Finding private jet parking, that's tricky.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — If Taylor Swift is jetting from her upcoming Tokyo concert to Las Vegas to see boyfriend Travis Kelce play in the Super Bowl the next day, she'd better already have a place to park her plane.

Places to leave private aircraft at airports in and around Las Vegas have been spoken for, airport and Federal Aviation Administration officials said Thursday. Just over a week remains before the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers face off in the NFL championship game.

The four airports immediately around Las Vegas have about 475 parking spaces combined, said Heidi Hayes, a spokesperson for the Clark County Department of Aviation.

“Oh, they’re full,” said Rick Breitenfeldt, FAA spokesman for his sixth Super Bowl.

Las Vegas-area airports also reached capacity for private planes during the inaugural Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix auto race in November, Hayes said.

The Associated Press