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Oct 16, 2023, 5:10pm EDT
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How the US is becoming increasingly involved in the Israel-Hamas war

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Chad McNeeley/Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs/Handout via REUTERS
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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

The U.S. has picked about 2,000 troops to prepare for a possible deployment to help Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported. They wouldn’t be meant to serve in combat roles, but rather would be focused on advising and medical support. The decision signaled that the Pentagon will support Israeli troops should they launch a ground invasion of Gaza. President Joe Biden and National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby both said they don’t think the U.S. will need to deploy troops to fight alongside Israeli forces, though a small special operations team is assisting Israel with hostage recovery efforts.

Over the weekend, the U.S. ordered a second aircraft carrier to be sent to the eastern Mediterranean, and is doubling the number of land-based attack planes it has in the Persian Gulf region. That move, according to The New York Times, is aimed at deterring Iran, Syria, or groups like Hezbollah from joining the fighting and going after Israel. But ahead of Israel’s likely ground invasion into Gaza, “American commanders expressed fears that the United States could get dragged into the conflict,” The Times wrote.

The U.S. is on a mission to keep the fighting from expanding into a regional conflict, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting leaders across the Middle East in the last week. It shows that the U.S. is “is still uniquely positioned to influence Israel as well as key Arab power brokers,” and is still interested in taking on a leadership role in the Middle East, CNN’s Stephen Collinson writes. But that role could become complicated by the challenging nature of the conflict. For example, Israel’s attempt to wipe out Hamas’s leadership “could result in such enormous destruction and loss of life that it will alienate America’s Arab allies,” Collinson argues.

The White House plans to propose a military aid package to Israel and Ukraine this week that is “significantly higher” than $2 billion, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday. It’s unclear how any aid package could be approved without the House having a speaker, Reuters reported, though a vote on the speakership is scheduled for Tuesday. The question of Israel aid has reportedly become linked to the speaker drama: Some hardline Republicans have said they oppose linking Ukraine and Israel aid, though GOP speaker nominee Jim Jordan has privately suggested he’d allow a vote on such a package if elected, Axios reported.

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