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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Intense bombardments and Israeli ground operations in the Gaza Strip continue as Hamas launches rockets into Israel. But there are talks underway for some sort of pause.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah, negotiations appear to be taking place between Israel and Hamas - all this as the death toll in Gaza will soon reach 20,000 people, according to the health ministry there. And that's not to mention the tens of thousands more people that are wounded in the midst of this dire humanitarian crisis.

FADEL: Joining us to discuss all this from Tel Aviv is NPR's Jason DeRose. Good morning, Jason.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: Good morning Leila.

FADEL: So what can you tell us about these talks?

DEROSE: Well, diplomats from Israel and Qatar, backed by the U.S., have been meeting in Europe to work out some sort of a deal, according to U.S. officials. Also, Hamas says that one of its senior leaders, Ismail Haniyeh, was in Cairo on Wednesday, and Egypt has been playing a role in cease-fire talks, too. Hamas is still believed to be holding more than 100 Israeli hostages, and Israel wants them back. And you'll recall, during the first cease-fire, Hamas released hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel during each day of the pause.

Now, at the same time, the U.N. Security Council is trying to pass a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in fighting. A vote on that continues to be delayed over language acceptable to the U.S. in order to avoid a U.S. veto.

FADEL: I mean, in the backdrop of all this, there is a war and loss of life. So, I mean, has there been any letup in Gaza as these talks happen?

DEROSE: Fighting has been intense - heavy shelling from Israel by air and land and sea. We mentioned the 20,000 milestone death toll. The U.N. says the most intense shelling is in the Beit Lahia and Gaza City in the north, in Khan Younis in the east and Rafah in the south. Israeli military says dozens of aircrafts attacked about 230 targets in Gaza yesterday, and the humanitarian crisis there is worsening due to a lack of food and water and power.

Now, the Israeli military says it's uncovered something of a command center in one of those underground tunnels we hear so much about. Those are tunnels Hamas uses to move people and equipment and supplies around Gaza. Israeli leaders say one of the main objectives of this war is to destroy those tunnels as part of its overall goal to destroy Hamas after the October 7 attacks that killed some 1,200 people. And while all of this is going on, rockets continue to be launched from Gaza and southern Lebanon into Israel. Air raid sirens go off pretty regularly here.

FADEL: Now, I understand you've been reporting on a specific incident - a shooting at a church in Gaza. What can you tell us about that?

DEROSE: Well, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem says two women sheltering at Holy Family Parish in northern Gaza were shot and killed by a sniper. The church says it was an Israeli sniper, but it didn't go into detail about how it knew this. Bishop William Shomali says there's also been shelling of the church compound.

WILLIAM SHOMALI: The Israeli army has flattened all the area around the parish. People cannot go outside of the compound because they can be killed.

DEROSE: Now, the Pope has even talked about this shooting and shelling and referring to them as terrorism. The Israeli military says it was performing an operation nearby when the shooting incident took place, but they say their investigation doesn't show they were responsible for the killing.

There are only two churches in Gaza, Leila, and the Holy Family Parish, where the shooting took place, has about 500 people taking refuge there. There are only about a thousand Palestinian Christians who live in Gaza, and there are real worries about the community survival.

FADEL: That's NPR's Jason DeRose in Tel Aviv. Thank you for your reporting, Jason.

DEROSE: You're welcome.

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FADEL: France's interior minister defended a controversial new immigration bill in the French National Assembly yesterday.

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GERALD DARMANIN: (Speaking French).

FADEL: The French parliament recently approved the bill that many NGOs and those on the left are calling one of the most regressive immigration laws in decades.

MARTÍNEZ: The French law comes as the European Union also agreed yesterday on sweeping changes to the bloc's immigration policy.

FADEL: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is here to discuss all this and what it means. Good morning, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So let's start with this new immigration legislation in France. What makes it so controversial?

BEARDSLEY: Well, President Macron's centrist party needs support in the parliament, and the first version of the bill was rejected. And so they redrafted it 'cause they wanted the mainstream right to support it, and they made it a lot tougher. Critics now say the bill looks like the anti-immigration platform of the far right, and the law is causing a huge rift in Macron's own party. One minister resigned in opposition. There's been an uproar not only from the far left, but from people accusing Macron of mainstreaming the far right's ideas. And far-right leader Marine Le Pen herself called the bill a victory. Listen to this.

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MARINE LE PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: She says it's a great ideological victory for her party. Our goals have been achieved in this bill.

You know, many people voted for Macron twice to block Marine Le Pen from becoming president, so they're incredulous that they say he is now parroting her policies. Macron, of course, rejects this. He spoke on television last night for two hours defending the bill. He says it's the shield France needs, but it's a political win for Le Pen. Some are calling it her breakout moment.

FADEL: So what are some of the more divisive provisions in the French law?

BEARDSLEY: Well, it makes it harder for legal immigrants to bring family members over. It cracks down on foreign students. And while Macron wanted to allow immigration for labor-deprived sectors, it doesn't do that. And it introduces waiting periods for immigrants who are working to be eligible for some social services, like housing aid. And they say that could lead to families living on the street. I spoke with Helene Soupios-David from Migrant NGO Terre d’Asile. Here she is.

HELENE SOUPIOS-DAVID: France and the EU has adopted laws and regulations that are in violation of human rights and that are also putting into question the right to asylum.

FADEL: What is Europe facing, though, when it comes to migration?

BEARDSLEY: Leila, for years we've seen a huge uptick in migration coming from the Middle East...

FADEL: Right.

BEARDSLEY: ...And all across Africa. The wave began in 2015 with the Syrian civil war, but it's continuing and increasing. And EU countries have been dealing with it in an ad hoc, uncoordinated way. Thousands of people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. And this is fueling popularity of far-right, anti-immigrant politicians, and that's why there's such pressure on the EU as a whole to do something.

FADEL: So we've spoken about the French law. What about for the EU? What's in their new measure on immigration?

BEARDSLEY: Well, it allows for faster checking of migrants at external EU borders to facilitate repatriation of those who don't qualify for asylum. The biggest element is it creates binding solidarity for the EU. Every country has to help front-line states now, like Italy and Greece, by either taking migrants or paying front-line countries to deal with them. Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, spoke about it.

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YLVA JOHANSSON: Finally, after so many years, we have managed to agree on a common comprehensive migration and asylum policy. It is not only a win for EU and Europe. It's a win for migrants.

BEARDSLEY: But, of course, migrants and their advocates strongly disagree.

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

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome, Leila.

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FADEL: Heavy rain in the Northeast this week flooded towns in Vermont, some of which were still recovering from floods over the summer.

MARTÍNEZ: The east coast of Australia also saw flooding after some cities got more than 30 inches of rain. These kind of events are becoming more common as the climate gets hotter.

FADEL: For more on what coming storms could look like, Lauren Sommer is here from NPR's Climate Desk. Good morning, Lauren.

LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: Morning.

FADEL: So what is happening with rainfall? How much more dangerous are storms already becoming?

SOMMER: The short answer is that, in most of the U.S., when it rains, it rains more. And extreme storms are getting more extreme. They're dropping more rain. Over the last 50 years, that's been particularly true in the Northeast and the Midwest, where those really bad storms are dropping 40- to 50% more rain.

FADEL: And do we know that climate change is already causing that?

SOMMER: Yeah, there are a lot of studies that show intensifying rainfall is mostly due to the planet getting hotter, which is happening as humans burn more fossil fuels. And that's because a hotter atmosphere can hold more moisture - more water vapor - so the storms just have more water to work with, basically.

FADEL: How much worse does rainfall get if the planet continues warming?

SOMMER: Yeah. I spoke to Megan Kirchmeier-Young about this. She's a research scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, which is a government agency. She says if we stay on the current path of climate change, rainfall gets even more extreme in many parts of North America.

MEGAN KIRCHMEIER-YOUNG: Some of those changes are considerable. Events that used to be very rare, in the future, under a few degrees of global warming, will be fairly common events.

SOMMER: You know, in the southern U.S. in particular, storms could drop 20- to 30% more rain in the future, according to one study.

FADEL: What does this mean for communities in the U.S. and the flooding they could see?

SOMMER: Yeah. You know, it's a big danger because, when it rains, all that water needs to drain away. And that's handled by storm drains and other infrastructure. And when communities build that, they design it for a certain kind of storm. And if it's the storms of last century, then all that concrete around you - it's going to get overwhelmed. And that's when streets flood, basement apartments flood. People actually lose their lives. Kirchmeier-Young says that's why communities need to plan for climate change.

KIRCHMEIER-YOUNG: Our climate is not stationary. It is changing, and it's going to continue to change. And we need to understand that, and we need to consider that instead of planning for the climate we used to have.

FADEL: So how much help are cities getting in preparing for a future with more intense rain?

SOMMER: Yeah, it's actually a huge problem. It's something we've covered for years on the climate desk. A handful of cities are planning for climate change. You know, they're using the storms of the future to build infrastructure today so it's ready for that. But many cities are not. I've spoken to several that are designing for storms from 60 years ago, and that means they're at risk. The issue is that cities rely on information from the federal government to know what kind of storms to plan for. Those records are decades-old for many states. They don't take climate change into account. That is changing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is updating rainfall records currently, but, you know, it won't be ready until 2026 at the earliest. So in the meantime, communities are largely on their own.

FADEL: Thanks for this, Lauren.

SOMMER: Thank you.

FADEL: Lauren Sommer is on NPR's climate desk.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) 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 is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.