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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Pentagon officials say the U.S. struck two facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militias.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

It follows a growing number of attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. World leaders are concerned the fighting between Israel and the armed Palestinian group Hamas could escalate into a broader war in the Middle East.

FADEL: Meanwhile, the leaders of 27 European nations are calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow desperately needed aid to reach people in Gaza, which has become a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis. We go to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who has been following events from Paris. Good morning, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So after more than five hours of wrangling and discussions about the precise language to use, EU leaders came out with their proposal for humanitarian corridors and pauses in Israel's bombing. Why was it difficult for EU leaders to reach a united position?

BEARDSLEY: Well, there are nuances of differences between the 27 nations. Those differences depend on history and the different populations living there. Let's take Germany, for example. Its World War II history with the Holocaust against the Jewish people means it stands solidly behind Israel. France is trying a more balanced approach, as it has Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim populations. And Spain has been one of the Palestinian people's staunchest supporters.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, wanted to call for a cease-fire, which Israel does not want because it says that would allow Hamas to recover. But everyone settled on humanitarian pause. It's very important to show EU unity. Let's listen to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen taking journalists' questions. She said everything kicked off with the horrible attack on October 7, so von der Leyen said it is important to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the Israeli people. Here she is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URSULA VON DER LEYEN: If we want to speak to Israel and influence Israel, and therefore it is so important that you first listen if you want to be listened to.

BEARDSLEY: She said all the leaders agreed that Israel has the right to defend itself, but insisted its defense must be in line with international law.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VON DER LEYEN: And of course, leaders emphasized that the siege must stop and that it is of utmost importance that the Palestinian people have access to humanitarian aid. There is no contradiction between showing solidarity to Israel and, of course, acting on the need of humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.

FADEL: So how likely is a humanitarian pause to let more aid through?

BEARDSLEY: Well, at least now, the EU is speaking with one voice, Leila, and in tandem with the U.S. President Joe Biden expressed support for a humanitarian pause Wednesday, so that increases its chances.

FADEL: And what about the EU's support for Ukraine, is it wavering amid this new crisis?

BEARDSLEY: Well, the leaders say no. They reaffirmed their support for Ukraine last night. But everyone admits their plate is full. The Middle East conflict is clearly complicating things. There's not unanimity, for example, for two packages of some 70 billion euros in weapons and financial aid that the EU was planning for Ukraine for the next four years. And yesterday we saw Slovakia's new prime minister say his country will no longer send aid to Ukraine, although that's unrelated to the conflict in the Middle East. I think what European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said sums it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERTA METSOLA: This should not take our attention away from Ukraine, and this is exactly what Putin would want.

BEARDSLEY: So there is huge pressure for the EU to stay united on every front.

FADEL: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley. Thank you, Eleanor.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: When communities suffer trauma, they often come together, sharing their grief. That's not possible right now in Lewiston, Maine, the scene of America's latest mass shooting.

MARTÍNEZ: The suspect, Robert Card, is still on the loose, so the community is locked down, sheltering in place. Last night, people held a vigil online for 18 neighbors killed and 13 wounded. Reverend Jane Field with the Maine Council of Churches offered a prayer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JANE FIELD: Be especially with those in lockdown tonight who are afraid, who may be alone, and plant in them the seed of hope.

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann is in Lewiston and joins us now. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So last night, there was real hope that the suspect in this shooting, Robert Card, would be captured. What happened?

MANN: Yeah. Police believed that Card, who's 40 years old, is the man who allegedly opened fire at a bowling alley and bar Wednesday night. He's been on the run ever since. So around 7 p.m. last night, a huge force of police served a search warrant at a rundown farmhouse in Bowdoin, about 15 miles outside Lewiston. They were being really cautious, Leila, shouting over bullhorns for anyone inside the house to come out. A helicopter circled overhead. In the end, no arrests were made. It was apparently another false lead.

FADEL: Yeah, I was texting with a friend five miles from that house, and I know she feels like, how long will this go on? I mean, what does the lockdown there look and feel like for people?

MANN: Yeah, this community is frozen. Heading into the holiday Halloween weekend, stores and restaurants are closed, schools are shuttered, streets mostly empty. Maine Governor Janet Mills talked yesterday, urging people to be really cautious.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JANET MILLS: Mr. Card is considered armed and dangerous. Maine people should not approach him under any circumstances. Please, if you see anything suspicious, please call 911.

MANN: And NPR has learned that Card is an Army reservist. Last summer, he was at a National Guard training facility in New York when officials there became concerned about erratic behavior. They called police and transported him to a hospital for evaluation. What we don't know is how he then wound up back home here in Lewiston, heavily armed.

FADEL: Now, the issue of gun control has come up. It came up yesterday. It was raised by one of Maine's congressmen, Jared Golden. What did he say?

MANN: Yeah, this was interesting. Golden's a Democrat who lives here in Lewiston. He's long opposed many kinds of gun control, including a ban on firearms with military or assault-type features. But speaking yesterday afternoon, after this mass shooting in his own town, he said he's changed his mind.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JARED GOLDEN: I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime. To the people of Lewiston, I ask for forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.

MANN: And President Biden also renewed his call this week for a ban on assault-style weapons, but that kind of legislation has been stalled in Congress for years.

FADEL: And this incident isn't over. The search for Robert Card continues. I mean, where does this go? I mean, I'm sure people are wondering, when are they going to get him?

MANN: Yeah, yeah. There's a huge effort on the ground here - local, state, federal authorities. FBI Special Agent Jodi Cohen spoke yesterday about this, asking the public for patience.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JODI COHEN: We work day and night alongside our law enforcement partners to get the answers to the questions this community deserves.

MANN: The question, of course, is now, where is Robert Card? And with his troubled history, how did he still have access to these powerful firearms? Eighteen people dead, Leila, and so far, there just aren't good answers.

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann in Lewiston, Maine, this morning. Thank you for your reporting, Brian.

MANN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: The Mexican resort town of Acapulco is coming to terms with the massive destruction left by Hurricane Otis.

MARTÍNEZ: The storm crashed into Mexico's shore as a Category 5 hurricane. It flooded streets, ripped roofs off of homes and disrupted communication across Acapulco. The government has counted at least 27 people dead so far.

FADEL: NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us from Acapulco, where power is still out, and so we may have some audio issues. Eyder, where are you right now and what are you seeing?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: So I'm sitting in a parking lot right now in an apartment complex where some nice person has let us stay in their apartment, and that's completely destroyed. All the windows are blown out, all the furniture has been destroyed, the roof has caved. And we've just made a little corner for ourselves. And this is unspeakable devastation. You know, Acapulco is mythical in Mexico. It's built along this half-moon bay with cliffs on either side and a huge stretch of hotels and high-rise buildings. And all of that is totally, utterly destroyed.

Sometimes, you look up at the buildings and you can see straight through them, like everything inside was sucked out by the wind. And then in the hills above Acapulco, the rivers broke their banks and they flooded everything. People I spoke to said that when the storm hit, the water in their homes came up to their chests. And they have spent two days now shoveling mud out of their homes. And as we moved through neighborhoods, it seemed that everyone wanted to talk. It was like they wanted to scream to the world that they are in pain. Let's listen to Antonia Hernandez (ph).

ANTONIA HERNANDEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: And what she's saying there is that during the storm, her house was chaos. Everything was tossed around. Everything was full of water, and all that water took everything from her. Everything she had saved for, everything she had worked so hard for was gone in an instant.

FADEL: You can hear that pain in her voice. How are people getting by?

PERALTA: I mean, in any way that they can. You know, all of this has led to desperation and opportunism. Last night, as we were trying to find a place to rest, the streets were full of people. It seemed that every store in Acapulco was being looted. We saw people coming out of Home Depot with paint, out of Sam's Clubs with patio furniture. But we also saw a lot of people taking food and essential items. I met one young man who had been going from pharmacy to pharmacy, trying to find medicine that his sick aunt needed. Another lady I met hid her face in her hands when she spoke to me, and she told me that this situation had turned her into a thief. Her young son had taken some ice and some water from the supermarket. And she said that the worst part was that she had money, but none of the stores here are open.

FADEL: Well, is there any type of government response? What are authorities doing?

PERALTA: I mean, they're here, but this is a huge catastrophe. And the response so far, it seems inadequate. We've seen the military trying to cut huge downed trees with machetes. We've seen maybe just a handful of heavy machinery. But what we haven't seen at all is aid. We haven't seen trucks bringing water or food. And in some of these neighborhoods, we've talked to people who are drinking juice because they've run out of water. So things are really bad right now here. And if they don't get better soon, it could get much worse here.

FADEL: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from Acapulco, Mexico. Thank you, Eyder.

PERALTA: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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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.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.