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Jan 5, 2024, 7:22am EST
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Blinken returns to Middle East as regional tensions flare

Insights from Time, The Washington Post, and Politico

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he boards an aircraft during his departure from Washington to travel to the Middle East, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., January 4, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool
REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool
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The News

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to arrive in the Middle East on Friday, marking his fourth trip to the region since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

America’s top diplomat is expected to visit Israel, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, as the White House prepares for a protracted conflict amid growing concerns of an expanding, multi-front war.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

US military drafts Red Sea defense plans

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Sources:  
Politico, BBC

U.S. defense officials are drafting plans to strike back at Yemen’s Iran-supported Houthi rebels, who have been attacking ships in the Red Sea. The proposals include the possibility of striking targets within Yemen, Politico reported. Major shipping companies have suspended their operations in the area in response to the attacks, a diversion that has had a profound impact on global trade: The International Chamber of Shipping has said that 20% of container ships are avoiding the Red Sea, and instead traveling around Southern Africa. U.S. officials fear the threat could escalate. “From our perspective, the most worrying thing is that the Houthis might sink a ship,” one defense source told Politico.

Washington must push for Gaza’s future

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Sources:  
The Times of Israel, Time

Israeli officials presented for the first time this week a plan for how the Palestinian enclave would operate after the war, but did not include a role for the Palestinian Authority, Washington’s preferred government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected calls for a two-state solution, a stance contributing to growing frictions with U.S. President Joe Biden. “Netanyahu has always been more comfortable saying no than he has in taking the initiative. It is up to the U.S. to get him to where Israel needs to be,” David Halperin and Michael Koplow, from the Israel Policy Forum, argued in Time.

Israeli strikes fuel genocide concerns

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, The Associated Press

Members of Netanyahu’s far-right government have repeatedly called for the destruction of Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes, and thousands more have been displaced from their homes. The rhetoric and continued onslaught has prompted South Africa to file a genocide case at the International Criminal Court, a suit Israel has roundly criticized. “Netanyahu and his allies remain conspicuously vague about their imagined endgame for Gaza,” Ishaan Tharoor wrote for The Washington Post, only deepening “concerns about Israel’s intent among its Arab neighbors.”

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