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Semiautomatic firearm ban passes Colorado’s House, heads to Senate

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s Democratic-controlled House on Sunday passed a bill that would ban the sale and transfer of semiautomatic firearms, a major step for the legislation after roughly the same bill was swiftly killed by Democrats last year.

The bill, which passed on a 35-27 vote, is now on its way to the Democratic-led state Senate. If it passes there, it could bring Colorado in line with 10 other states — including California, New York and Illinois — that have prohibitions on semiautomatic guns.

But even in a state plagued by some of the nation’s worst mass shootings, such legislation faces headwinds.

Colorado’s political history is purple, shifting blue only recently. The bill’s chances of success in the state Senate are lower than they were in the House, where Democrats have a 46-19 majority and a bigger far-left flank. Gov. Jared Polis, also a Democrat, has indicated his wariness over such a ban.

Last year, a similar bill died in committee, with some Democratic lawmakers citing concerns over the sweep of a ban and promises they made to their constituents to avoid government overreach affecting most gun owners’ rights.

Democrats last year passed and Polis signed into law four less-expansive gun control bills. Those included raising the age for buying any gun from 18 to 21; establishing a three-day waiting period between the purchase and receipt of a gun; strengthening the state’s red flag law; and rolling back some legal protections for the firearms industry, exposing it to lawsuits from the victims of gun violence.

Those laws were signed months after five people were killed at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs last year. Soon, the state will mark the 25th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting that killed 13 people. Other mass shootings in Colorado include 12 people killed in 2012 at an Aurora movie theater and 10 people killed in 2021 at a Boulder supermarket.

“This is the state where the modern era of the mass shooting began with Columbine,” Democratic Rep. Javier Mabrey said in urging fellow lawmakers to join other states that ban semiautomatic weapons.

Republicans decried the legislation as an onerous encroachment on the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. They argued that mental illness and people who do not value life — not guns — are the issues that should be addressed. People with ill intent can use other weapons, such as knives, to harm others, they argued.

Democrats responded that semiautomatic weapons can cause much more damage in a short period of time.

“In Aurora, when the shooter walked in that theater and opened fire,” Mabrey said, “and in less than 90 seconds shot up a room full of people. That cannot be done with a knife, that can’t be done with a knife.”


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Native American-led nonprofit says it bought 40 acres in the Black Hills of South Dakota

A Native American-led nonprofit has announced that it purchased nearly 40 acres (16.2 hectares) of land in the Black Hills of South Dakota amid a growing movement that seeks to return land to Indigenous people.

The Cheyenne River Youth Project announced in an April 11 statement that it purchased the tract of land adjacent to Bear Butte State Park in western South Dakota.

“One of the most sacred places for the Lakota Nation is Mato Paha, now part of Bear Butte State Park,” the statement said. “Access to Bear Butte was severed in the late 19th century, when the U.S. government seized the Black Hills and broke up the Great Sioux Reservation into several smaller reservations.”

Julie Garreau, executive director of the project, said in the statement that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that the U.S. had illegally taken the Black Hills. The court awarded the Lakota people $105 million, but they have refused to accept the money because the Black Hills were never for sale, the statement said.

Garreau said “opportunities to re-establish access to sacred places are being lost rapidly as metro areas grow and land values skyrocket,” which contributed to the organization’s decision to buy the land.

“Our people have deep roots in this region, yet we have to drive five hours round trip to be here, and summertime lodging prices are astronomical,” she said. “The distance and the cost prevent access.”

The statement did not say how much the organization paid to purchase the land.

In recent years, some tribes in the U.S., Canada and Australia have gotten their rights to ancestral lands restored with the growth of the Land Back movement.


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OJ Simpson’s public life crossed decades and boundaries, leaving lasting echoes. Here are a few

O.J. Simpson is gone now. But his life and public journey across seven decades touched multiple areas of American life, from sports to the legal arena to culture. The murder case against him in 1994 — and his acquittal in 1995 — had deep implications for how people talk about race and domestic violence.

Here, Associated Press journalists with expertise in three areas — the law, sports and culture — weigh in on what will endure long after Simpson’s death fades from public discussion.

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Simpson’s trial was the first to bring broad public awareness to the burgeoning science of DNA evidence. While jurors in 1995 rejected the forensics when they acquitted him of killing ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman, juries thereafter would be forever familiar with the science.

The trial was the first in a series of cases and TV shows in which DNA played a role, including the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal three years later, and the premiere of the original “CSI” two years after that.

Now, DNA is expected by jurors and court observers, frustrating prosecutors in cases that don’t have it.

The choice to televise all nine months of Simpson’s trial drew a level of scrutiny never seen before and made celebrities of nearly every character in the case on Court TV. It caused a long hangover that remains nearly three decades later, and there is no expectation, at least in California, that a trial will be televised wall-to-wall like that again.

Other states still occasionally allow it — and those are the trials, like the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard fight in Virginia in 2022, get the most attention.

— By AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton, who frequently covers trials related to celebrity and the entertainment industry.

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Football made O.J. Simpson a star and he was one of the greatest players in NFL history as well as the best running back of his era in the 1970s. He was a superstar in college at the University of Southern California and received a hero’s welcome in Buffalo when the Bills selected him No. 1 in the 1969 NFL draft. Even teammates were awed by Simpson’s presence.

And though it took coaches four years to figure out how to best use him, he didn’t disappoint.

Simpson was a graceful runner and gracious teammate. He combined speed and power with elusive skills that helped him become the first player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and the only one ever to do it when the league played a 14-game schedule. He shared the credit by bringing his offensive linemen with him to the news conference after setting the record.

His mark of 143.1 yards rushing per game still stands, and he led the league in rushing four times in a five-year span. Simpson’s accomplishments earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1985.

His success didn’t translate into championships, however. The Bills only reached the playoffs once and had just three winning seasons in Simpson’s nine years with the team. He played two more years with the San Francisco 49ers, who won just four games in that span.

Simpson’s impact on football extended beyond the field into television. He began acting while still in college and co-starred in movies during his playing career. He was a successful NFL analyst, pitchman and Hollywood star before murder allegations halted his career and tarnished his legacy.

The NFL and his former teams distanced themselves from Simpson following the murder trial. His death wasn’t publicly acknowledged by the league or the teams.

— By AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi, who covers the NFL.

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When it comes to the crossroads of TV and the tabloids, there is before O.J. Simpson — and after.

The man and the case, with all their tabloid undertones, overtones and straight-up tones mashed all the 20th century’s celebrity misdoings into one unbelievably lurid, high-profile saga that obsessed a nation. One could find echoes of so much — from the intense speculation around the Lindbergh baby case to the snap judgments applied to Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s trial, from the Hollywood-saturated Manson murders to the assassination of John Lennon by a deranged fan and the attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life by a man obsessed with Jodie Foster.

It wasn’t only about looking back, though; it was about what was at hand as the 21st century dawned. The man at the center of it all had been a football hero, movie star, and TV announcer who quickly became a fallen icon, revving up many things that were just around the corner.

His downfall helped ushered true crime into the mainstream media industry (however questionable that result). It helped fuel the ascending culture of reality TV and the obsession with the antihero. And, of course, it presaged some of the more base traits of social media more than a decade before that corner of society rose.

No matter how anyone felt about Simpson, odds were they paid attention. That, more than anything, might be the legacy of the man and the saga that surrounded him for a very strange miniature era of American history.

— By AP National Writer Ted Anthony, who writes about American culture and how it is changing.


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US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A U.S. judge has tossed out a series of civil lawsuits against a Libyan military commander who used to live in Virginia and was accused of killing innocent civilians in that country’s civil war.

At a court hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case alleging war crimes committed in Libya, even though the defendant, Khalifa Hifter, has U.S. citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital as an exile from the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

The ruling was a significant reversal of fortune for Hifter. In 2022, Brinkema entered a default judgment against Hifter after he refused to sit for scheduled depositions about his role in the fighting that has plagued the country over the last decade.

But Hifter retained new lawyers who persuaded the judge to reopen the case and made Hifter available to be deposed. He sat for two separate depositions in 2022 and 2023 and denied orchestrating attacks against civilians.

Once a lieutenant to Gadhafi, Hifter defected to the U.S. during the 1980s. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile.

He returned to Libya in 2011 to support anti-Gadhafi forces that revolted against the dictator and killed him. During the country’s civil war, he led the self-styled Libyan National Army, which controlled much of the eastern half of Libya, with support from countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He continues to hold sway in the eastern half of the country.

In the lawsuits, first filed in 2019, the plaintiffs say family members were killed by military bombardments conducted by Hifter’s army in civilian areas.

The lawsuits also alleged that Hifter and his family owned a significant amount of property in Virginia, which could have been used to pay off any judgment that would have been entered against him.

While the lawsuits were tossed out on technical issues over jurisdiction, one of Hifter’s lawyers, Paul Kamenar, said Hifter denied any role in the deaths of civilians.

“He’s not this ruthless figure that everyone wants to portray him as,” Kamenar said in a phone interview Sunday.

Faisal Gill, a lawyer for plaintiffs in one of the three lawsuits that Brinkema tossed out Friday, said he plans to appeal the dismissal.

Mark Zaid, lawyer for another set of plaintiffs, called Brinkema’s ruling perplexing and said he believes that the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case had already been established at an earlier phase of the case.

“A U.S. citizen committed war crimes abroad and thus far has escaped civil accountability,” Zaid said Sunday in an emailed statement.

In court papers, Hifter tried to claim immunity from the suits as a head of state. At one point, the judge put the cases on pause because she worried that the lawsuits were being used to influence scheduled presidential elections in Libya, in which Hifter was a candidate. Those elections were later postponed.

—-

This story has been updated to correct Hifter’s first name to Khalifa, not Khailfa, in the second paragraph.


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Four people charged in the case of 2 women missing from Oklahoma

Four people were arrested and charged with murder and kidnapping over the weekend in connection with the disappearances of two Oklahoma women.

Veronica Butler, 27; and Jilian Kelley, 39, of Hugoton, Kansas, were driving through the Oklahoma panhandle to pick up Butler’s children for a March 30 birthday party in Kansas but never showed up. Their vehicle was later found abandoned on a rural highway in Texas County, Oklahoma, about 11 miles (18 km) south of Elkhart, Kansas, on the Oklahoma-Kansas state line. The area is about 260 miles (418 km) northwest of Oklahoma City.

The Texas County Sheriff’s Office requested help from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations, which said its officers immediately suspected foul play, based on undisclosed evidence found in the vehicle.

On Saturday, Oklahoma authorities said they arrested and charged four people: Tad Bert Cullum, 43; Tifany Machel Adams, 54; Cole Earl Twombly, 50, and Cora Twombly, 44. All four were charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree.

Authorities are still searching for the victims, Oklahoma investigators said in their statement.


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Shooting at Baltimore mall sends girl, 7, to hospital

BALTIMORE (AP) — A 7-year-old girl was hospitalized Saturday after she was shot at a Baltimore shopping mall.

Baltimore police say the girl was shot Saturday afternoon at Mondawmin Mall. According to police, two groups at the mall got into an altercation, and an unidentified male fired a shot as he was running away that struck the girl in the upper body.

The girl, who was at the mall with her mother, was not the intended victim, officials said.

Police said she was taken to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and was in critical but stable condition Saturday evening.

Authorities were searching for the suspect Sunday.

In December, a man delivering packages at the mall was shot in the ankle at the mall’s parking lot when he became caught between two groups of boys who were shooting at each other.


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House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week as he attempts the difficult task of winning House approval for a national security package that also includes funding for Ukraine and allies in Asia.

Johnson, R-La., is already under immense political pressure from his fellow GOP lawmakers as he tries to stretch between the Republican Party’s divided support for helping Kyiv defend itself from Moscow’s invasion. The Republican speaker has sat for two months on a $95 billion supplemental package that would send support to the U.S. allies, as well as provide humanitarian aid for civilians in Ukraine and Gaza and funding to replenish U.S. weapons provided to Taiwan.

The attack by Iran on Israel early Sunday further ratcheted up the pressure on Johnson, but also gave him an opportunity to underscore the urgency of approving the funding.

Johnson told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that he and Republicans “understand the necessity of standing with Israel” and he would try this week to advance the aid.

“The details of that package are being put together right now,” he said. “We’re looking at the options and all these supplemental issues.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at a news conference also said that President Joe Biden held a phone call Sunday with the top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, including Johnson. The New York Democrat said there was consensus “among all the leaders that we had to help Israel and help Ukraine, and now hopefully we can work that out and get this done next week.”

“It’s vital for the future of Ukraine, for Israel and the West,” Schumer said.

The White House said Biden “discussed the urgent need for the House of Representatives to pass the national security supplemental as soon as possible.”

Johnson has also “made it clear” to fellow House Republicans that he will this week push to package together the aid for Israel, Ukraine and allies in Asia and pass it through the House, said GOP Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The speaker has expressed support for legislation that would structure some of the funding for Kyiv as loans, pave the way for the U.S. to tap frozen Russian central bank assets and include other policy changes. Johnson has pushed for the Biden administration to lift a pause on approvals for Liquefied Natural Gas exports and at times has also demanded policy changes at the U.S. border with Mexico.

But currently, the only package with wide bipartisan support in Congress is the Senate-passed bill that includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby called on the speaker to put that package “on the floor as soon as possible.”

“We didn’t need any reminders in terms of what’s going on in Ukraine,” Kirby said on NBC. “But last night certainly underscores significantly the threat that Israel faces in a very, very tough neighborhood.”

As Johnson searches for a way to advance the funding for Ukraine, he has been in conversations with both the White House and former president Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

With his job under threat, Johnson traveled to Florida on Friday for an event with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club. Trump expressed support for Johnson and said he had a “very good relationship” with him.

“He and I are 100% united on these big agenda items,” Johnson said. “When you talk about aid to Ukraine, he’s introduced the loan-lease concept which is a really important one and I think has a lot of consensus.”

But Trump, with his “America First” agenda, has inspired many Republicans to push for a more isolationist stance. Support for Ukraine has steadily eroded in the roughly two years since the war began, and a cause that once enjoyed wide support has become one of Johnson’s toughest problems.

When he returns to Washington on Monday, Johnson also will be facing a contingent of conservatives already angry with how he has led the House in maintaining much of the status quo both on government spending and more recently, a U.S. government surveillance tool.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a right-wing Republican from Georgia, has called for Johnson’s ouster. She departed the Capitol on Friday telling reporters that support for her effort was growing. And as Johnson on Sunday readied to advance the aid, Greene said on X that it was “antisemitic to make Israeli aid contingent” on aid for Ukraine.

While no other Republicans have openly joined Greene in calling to oust Johnson, a growing number of hardline conservatives are openly disparaging Johnson and defying his leadership.

Meanwhile, senior GOP lawmakers who support aid to Ukraine are growing frustrated with the months-long wait to bring it to the House floor. Kyiv’s troops have been running low on ammunition and Russia is becoming emboldened as it looks to gain ground in a spring and summer offensive. A massive missile and drone attack destroyed one of Ukraine’s largest power plants and damaged others last week.

“What happened in Israel last night happens in Ukraine every night,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The divided dynamic has forced Johnson to try to stitch together a package that has some policy wins for Republicans while also keeping Democrats on board. Democrats, however, have repeatedly called on the speaker to put the $95 billion package passed by the Senate in February on the floor.

Although progressive Democrats have resisted supporting the aid to Israel over concerns it would support its campaign into Gaza that has killed thousands of civilians, most House Democrats have gotten behind supporting the Senate package.

“The reason why the Senate bill is the only bill is because of the urgency,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week. “We pass the Senate bill, it goes straight to the president’s desk and you start getting the aid to Ukraine immediately. That’s the only option.”

Many Democrats also have signaled they would likely be willing to help Johnson defeat an effort to remove him from the speaker’s office if he puts the Senate bill on the floor.

“I’m one of those who would save him if we can do Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine and some reasonable border security,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat.

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Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking contributed.


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Gene Herrick, AP photographer who covered the Korean war and civil rights, dies at 97

RICH CREEK, Va. (AP) — Gene Herrick, a retired Associated Press photographer who covered the Korean War and is known for his iconic images of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the trial of the killers of Emmett Till in the early years of the Civil Rights Movement, died Friday. He was 97.

In 1956, Herrick photographed Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That same year, Herrick captured an image of King smiling while being kissed by Coretta Scott King on the courthouse steps after being found guilty of conspiracy to boycott the city’s buses.

In a 2020 interview with The Associated Press, Herrick said it was rare to get a photo of King smiling.

“I knew he was going to be let out of jail that morning,” Herrick said. “And all these people were out there on the steps waiting for him, including his wife, who reached out and gave him a big kiss.”

Herrick’s longtime companion Kitty Hylton said he died at a nursing home in Rich Creek, Virginia, surrounded by people who loved him.

“He was so proud to be a journalist. That was his life,” Hylton said. “He loved The Associated Press. He loved the people of the AP. He was so grateful to have had all the adventures that he had.”

Herrick also covered the trial of two white men in the killing of the 14-year-old Till, a Black youth who was abducted, tortured and lynched in Mississippi after being accused of flirting with a white woman. The two men were found not guilty in 1955 by an all-white jury, and admitted to the murder a year later in an interview with Look Magazine.

Herrick was particularly proud of his Korean War coverage. “Good journalists want to go where the action is, wherever it is,” he said for an AP article in 2018.

In a 2015 interview for AP’s corporate archives, Herrick acknowledged the danger of war photography but added, “So is civilian photography. I’ve come pretty close to getting killed many times with guns and having guns put in my chest in the riots in Clinton, Tennessee and places like that.”

He also covered sports including Major League Baseball, Elvis Presley and five U.S. presidents.

“God and the AP have given me opportunities I could never have had,” Herrick said in the 2018 AP story. “I mean, I’m the luckiest kid in the world to have done what I’ve done.”

AP Executive Editor Julie Pace said Sunday that Herrick “captured history for the AP. We, and so many people around the world, benefited from his sharp eye and the power of his visual storytelling.”

Herrick joined the AP at age 16 in Columbus, Ohio, as an office assistant. Two years later he transferred to Cleveland, where he lived with an AP photographer and often assisted him. Herrick got his big break when his roommate was unable to cover a Cleveland Indians game, and he was asked to take his place.

“They’ve got to be stupid,” Herrick said he thought at the time. “Me cover a ball game for the AP?”

Herrick was equally stunned when, not long after, he was promoted to AP photographer in Memphis. He still didn’t have much experience when he volunteered for Korea in 1950, and found himself at the front lines, standing in the middle of a road, totally exposed.

“It’s a beautiful war going on. I mean, the planes are coming in, dropping napalms, and machine guns, and right there on the mountainside, and I’ve got a picture here of wounded being carried on a litter, coming up the road right at me, and, oh, I thought, man, this is great,” Herrick recalled in 2015, laughing at the memory. “I’m bam-bamming with the old four-by-five Speed Graphic, the film pack in those days. And I look around, and some GI over in a ditch says, ‘Sir?’ I said, ‘Yes?’ He said, ‘Do you see that dirt popping up there … do you know what that is?’

And I said, ‘No. What is it?’ He said, ‘Those are bullets!’ … so I got off the road and got in the ditch with him. But I got some really nice pictures.”

He retired from the AP in 1970 to start a second career working with the developmentally disabled in Columbus, and later in Rocky Mount, Virginia.

At age 91, Herrick was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame at Virginia Commonwealth University – an event he considered a highlight of his life.

Herrick, who was born in Columbus and was previously married, is survived by two sons, Chris and Mark Herrick of the Indianapolis area, daughter Lola Reece of Peterstown, W. Va., five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


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Chicago shooting kills 8-year-old girl and wounds 10 people including small children, police say

CHICAGO (AP) — Eleven people standing outside a family gathering Saturday night were shot including a young girl who was killed in what Chicago police believe was gang-related violence on the city’s South Side.

Four victims were children, police said Sunday. An 8-year-old girl was fatally shot, while a 1-year-old boy and a 8-year-old boy were each shot multiple times and listed in critical condition. A 9-year-old boy was also injured with a graze wound to his finger and hospitalized.

The department’s Sunday statement updated the number of shooting victims to 11 from 8 and gave new ages for the victims compared with a news conference late Saturday.

No one was in custody Sunday.

Department Deputy Chief Don Jerome told reporters Saturday that the shooting happened when shots were fired at a crowd standing outside a family gathering around 9 p.m.

“This was not a random act of violence. It was likely gang-related,” Jerome said. “The offenders’ actions, make no mistake, are horrific and unacceptable in our city.”

Police responding to a gunfire alert applied tourniquets and chest seals to victims, who also included adults between the ages of 19 and 40, Jerome said.

A 36-year-old man who was shot in the arms and and back was listed in critical condition. The other adults were listed in good condition, police said Sunday.

The investigation was still in the preliminary stages but witnesses told police that a black sedan approached and someone fired shots into the crowd before fleeing, police said Sunday. Jerome also told reporters Saturday that witness accounts described two possible shooters on foot.


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US works to prevent an escalation across the Mideast as Biden pushes Israel to show restraint

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Sunday highlighted its role in helping Israel thwart Iran’s aerial attack as President Joe Biden convened leaders of the Group of Seven countries in an effort to prevent a wider regional escalation and coordinate a global rebuke of Tehran.

The U.S. assisted Israel in shooting down dozens of drones and missiles fired by Iran on Saturday in what was the first time it had launched a direct military assault on Israel. Israeli authorities said 99% of the inbound weapons were shot down without causing any significant damage.

U.S. officials said that despite the high interception rate, Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation across the Mideast. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an effort to contain tensions, that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran, and the president made “very clear” to Netanyahu “that we do have to think carefully and strategically” about risks of escalation.

The push to encourage Israel to show restraint mirrored ongoing American efforts to curtail Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which is now in its seventh month, and to do more to protect civilian lives in the territory.

While the U.S. and its allies were preparing for days for such an attack, the launches were at the “high end” of what was anticipated, according to the officials, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles from Iran were in the air simultaneously with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said. Biden and senior officials monitored the firings and interception attempts in real time in the White House Situation Room. The officials said there was “relief” in the room once they saw that the missile defense efforts had succeeded.

A senior U.S. military official said American aircraft shot down more than 70 drones and cruise missiles, while U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea downed between four and six ballistic missiles, and an American Patriot missile battery in Iraq shot down one more.

“At my direction, to support the defense of Israel, the U.S. military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week,” Biden said in a statement late Saturday. “Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles.”

Administration officials said the call demonstrated that despite differences over the war in Gaza, the U.S. commitment to Israel’s defense was “ironclad” and that the U.S. would mount a similar effort again if needed.

The officials rejected the notion that Iran intentionally gave Israel and the U.S. time to prepare for an attack, but said they took advantage of the time Iran needed before it was ready to launch the assault to prepare their response. The officials said Iran passed word to the U.S. while the attack was unfolding late Saturday that what was seen was the totality of their response. The message was sent through the Swiss government since the two countries don’t have direct diplomatic ties.

Biden, in a Saturday evening call with Netanyahu, urged that Israel claim victory for its defense prowess as the president aimed to persuade America’s closest Middle East ally not to undertake a larger retaliatory strike against Iran, the officials said.

“I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks — sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” Biden said in his statement after the call.

Biden had a call Sunday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in which the king said any “escalatory measures” by Israel would lead to a broader conflict in the region, according to the Royal Court. The White House said the situation in Gaza was discussed, and the leaders reaffirmed their cooperation “to find a path to end the crisis as soon as possible.”

The president also spoke with some of the U.S. forces involved in shooting down the Iranian drones.

Later Sunday, Biden spoke with the leaders of the House and Senate, emphasizing the urgent need for the House to pass additional wartime funding for Israel and Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Sunday with foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to underscore the “importance of avoiding escalation and coordinating on a diplomatic response,” a department spokesman said.

After the G7 videoconference Sunday, the leaders issued a joint statement “unequivocally condemning in the strongest terms” the direct attack by Iran while expressing “our full solidarity and support to Israel” and reaffirming “our commitment towards its security.”

The group of advanced democracies — the U.S., Italy, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Canada — also said that Iran, “with its actions, has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation.” They said their nations “stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives.”

A senior U.S. administration official said some of the countries discussed listing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and unlocking further sanctions against Tehran, though no final decisions were made.

The Israel-Hamas war was referenced in the G7 statement, with the leaders saying they will bolster “our cooperation to end the crisis in Gaza, including by continuing to work towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages by Hamas, and deliver increased humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in need.”

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the attack. “Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said. “Now is the time for maximum restraint.”

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan called the attack “an unprecedented escalation,” while Iranian Ambassador Saeid Iravani said, “Iran’s operation was entirely in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defense.”

After the meeting ended without any council action, U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood said, “There has to be a Security Council response to what happened last night.”

The U.S. and Israel had been bracing for an attack for days after Iran said it would retaliate for a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria that killed 12 people, including two senior Iranian generals in the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized the White House for “leaking it to the press” that Biden told Netanyahu to take the win and not retaliate.

Rubio told CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was “part of the White House’s efforts to appease” people calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

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AP writer Michael Weissenstein at the United Nations contributed.


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