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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are fleeing Gaza City on foot.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News yesterday that Israel is granting civilians a route to escape each day from northern Gaza.

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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The fighting continues against the Hamas terrorists, but in specific locations for a given period of a few hours, we want to facilitate the safe passage of civilians away from the zone of fighting, and we're doing that.

FADEL: This morning, Gaza's Health Ministry says Israel struck Gaza's main hospital. Israel says a Hamas command center is located beneath the hospital, a claim that the militant group denies.

MARTÍNEZ: With us now, we're joined by NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, tell us about how people are trying to get out of Gaza City.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Yeah, Israel has been doing this every day since Sunday. They've announced a few hours for people to flee from northern Gaza. This is the main population center in Gaza City. The road that they are fleeing on is so torn up that it's hard to drive on, and so people are fleeing on foot. This began in smaller numbers earlier this week, but it's ramped up just in the last couple of days. More than 100,000 people are estimated to have fled so far. And our producer, Anas Baba, watched the masses walking in the sun.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: I could hear an intensive clashes while the people are evacuating. They're just, like, holding white flags between their hands. Every one of them is telling me the same thing. My arms is killing me 'cause I was raising them in the air for the past one hour.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Crying).

BABA: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She couldn't find her 10-year-old daughter, Dana Abu Zenaida (ph). She was missing. And other scenes of just pandemonium as people were walking along this route - others saying they were walking past Israeli tanks on both sides of the road and walking past dead bodies strewn in the road, elderly people saying they were panting from exhaustion, people were thirsty and people saying they didn't know where they were going next, but they were describing the conditions that they were fleeing in north Gaza - no water, no food, no internet, and just a worsening humanitarian situation there.

MARTÍNEZ: So what's Israel's plan on the ground there in Gaza?

ESTRIN: Well, right now we are hearing reports of Israeli tanks closing in on Shifa Hospital, the main hospital in Gaza, where, as you mentioned earlier, Gaza health officials are saying that there were several strikes today in the hospital grounds on a maternity ward, they say. Israel's army has not commented yet on that. But there are debates in Israel whether this main hospital in Gaza can become a legitimate military target, whether if Hamas operates from there or beneath there, it becomes a legitimate target. There are many, many thousands of people sheltering in that hospital. Now, in terms of Israel's plans, I attended a briefing with Benny Gantz, a minister on Israel's war cabinet. He said Israel doesn't know how long this campaign will be or who will rule Gaza after the war. But he says Israel must maintain security superiority there.

MARTÍNEZ: What about people in Israel? What's the mood there? How are they feeling?

ESTRIN: Well, besides the intense anxiety, you know, with the rocket fire - although somewhat lessened now, continuing - Israeli cities and towns are arming themselves. They say that's the lesson of the October 7 attacks. They're forming security squads. The U.S. is sending weapons for those squads. And human rights groups in Israel are warning about a trend of crackdowns, Israeli police crackdowns on anti-war protests. There were some Arab community leaders planning a demonstration who were detained and released.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

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MARTÍNEZ: Democrats in West Virginia are waking up to a new reality.

FADEL: And Republicans there are seeing an opportunity to pick up a Senate seat that's long been out of reach.

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JOE MANCHIN: After months of deliberation and long conversation with my family, I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia.

FADEL: That's Democrat Joe Manchin announcing in a video news release that he will not run for reelection.

MARTÍNEZ: Here to tell us more is NPR's Dave Mistich, who joins us now from Morgantown, W.Va. Dave, Manchin's a moderate from a red state. He holds a lot of power because Democrats hold a very slim majority in the Senate. So how does he wield that influence?

DAVE MISTICH, BYLINE: That's right. Well, he sometimes really irked his own party and changed the dynamics of key legislation and votes. Going all the way back to the Trump era, Manchin was the only Democrat who voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. And Manchin has also been rather pivotal in influencing legislation pushed by the Biden administration, notably the Inflation Reduction Act and a bipartisan bill on infrastructure. He also managed to slip a provision into the debt ceiling bill that expedited a long-stalled pipeline that runs through West Virginia and into Virginia, much to the dismay of many of his Democratic colleagues in Congress. State Senator Mike Caputo, one of the few Democrats holding a seat in the state House, had this to say about Manchin.

MIKE CAPUTO: The most powerful Joe in Washington is not Joe Biden. It's Joe Manchin because he really held the big stick in the Senate and was able to maneuver and - I hate to use the word play, but able to work the system as well as anybody.

MARTÍNEZ: So now that he's putting that stick down in the Senate, I mean, what does this do to the balance of power there?

MISTICH: Well, quite frankly, it gives a big advantage to Republicans seeking to flip that seat. It's one that's been seen as pivotal as to who will control the Senate following next year's elections. And it's a big loss for Democrats here in West Virginia. Republicans took over the state House in Charleston in 2014 for the first time in more than eight decades. Manchin is the only Democrat representing the state in Congress. And then you have former President Donald Trump, who dominated here in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Democrats here - they tell me that they don't feel like Manchin calculated a loss if he ran again, but, you know, they say they see it as him feeling like this was just time to walk away from the Senate. Realistically, though, if he was in this race, Manchin would have been in for a tough fight for sure. And, you know, there's two strong Republican candidates already in the race, Republican Governor Jim Justice, who has been endorsed by former President Trump, and Alex Mooney, who currently holds a seat in Congress.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so now that he dropped this on West Virginia, he dropped this on the Senate, what's he going to do next?

MISTICH: Well, Manchin says he will travel the country to gauge interest in a movement to, quote, "mobilize the middle." He's been featured at events sponsored by the group No Labels, which has been focused on a third-party ticket, drawing questions about whether or not he is considering a run for president himself. No Labels sent me over a statement last night that said that the Senate is losing a great leader in Manchin, but they said they're still gathering input on what they call a unity ticket. And they say they won't announce their plans until 2024. And if President Biden is concerned at all about how a third-party run might affect his own plans for reelection, he isn't really showing it when it comes to Manchin. The president put out a statement last night thanking the senator for some key wins for his administration.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, they've known each other a long time. That's NPR's Dave Mistich. Dave, thanks a lot.

MISTICH: You're welcome.

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MARTÍNEZ: Crossings along the nation's southern border are at an all-time high. Officials report more than 2.4 million apprehensions in a yearlong period ending in September.

FADEL: Meanwhile, the Biden administration is moving ahead with plans to add some 20 miles to the border wall in Texas, and it has resumed deportation flights to Venezuela.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Jasmine Garsd joins us now from the California-Mexico border. Jasmine, why are migrants crossing? Why is that number going up?

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Well, I think something that gets lost in this conversation is the number of displaced people around the world has never been this high. That's according to the U.N. And you can really see that at the border. I spent time in Tijuana this week. I talked to people in line who had applied online and gotten appointments with Customs and Border Protection. And one man I spoke to - his name was Piotr - he's a Russian medical specialist, and he was traveling with his wife and two teenage boys. They left because there's a war.

PIOTR: In Russia, it's so difficult. I can't describe it. It's so difficult for me - katastrofa.

GARSD: He kept repeating that word - katastrofa, catastrophe. He asked that his last name be withheld because he still has family back home, and he's scared for them.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so he and his family applied online. They got this interview with Customs and Border Protection to enter the U.S. with permission, which is a part of what President Biden's immigration policy is about. But does that mean that that policy is working?

GARSD: Yes and no. The policy is twofold - on the one hand, punish most people who cross the border without papers; on the other, expand legal pathways, which is what Piotr was doing. But the wait to get these interviews for legal entry can be very long, and many people who are fleeing terrifying situations, they get desperate. Another person I met in line was Rossi Alejandra. She was a medical student in Venezuela. She says government harassment has gotten unbearable there. Her hope is to eventually get to Florida, where she has family.

ROSSI ALEJANDRA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: So she fled Venezuela, and she lived in shelters in Mexico for months while she waited for her appointment. And during that time, she says she considered just crossing the border without papers. But she knew people who tried that, and they got deported. And, she says, being deported back to Venezuela - for her, that would mean putting her life at risk, so she just decided it wasn't worth it.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. You know, we've been hearing from officials in New York and other cities like that who say their shelters are full. They can't take any more migrants, not one more. The people you spoke to in Tijuana - are they aware of these kind of realities in American cities?

GARSD: Oh, absolutely. Over and over I heard concerns like, will I be able to get shelter? Will there be xenophobia? Will I be allowed to work? But everyone I spoke to said that at the end of the day, it can't be worse than where they're coming from. And, you know, on the topic of jobs, something that - I keep meeting migrants like Rossi or Piotr, who were in fields like medicine, where there are shortages in the U.S. And I think this is going to be a major issue in the upcoming election, immigration and labor shortages.

MARTÍNEZ: Jasmine Garsd is NPR's immigration correspondent. She joined us from San Diego, Calif. Jasmine, thanks for bringing us this.

GARSD: 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.