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Updated Dec 4, 2023, 8:56am EST
Middle East
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Semafor Signals

Gaza war enters new stage as Israel expands offensive

Members of 'Palestine Red Crescent Society' assist a Palestinian child as wounded Palestinians are rushed into Nasser hospital following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, December 4, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
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Israel widened its offensive across Gaza and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would keep fighting until its goals were met, signaling a new stage in the Israel-Hamas war.

The expanded operation means it is unlikely that Israel and Hamas will come to a new ceasefire agreement after negotiations to extend a temporary one-week truce broke down on Friday.

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This weekend, Iran-backed Houthi fighters fired missiles at ships in the Red Sea, prompting the U.S. military to shoot down three Houthi drones.

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SIGNALS

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

Fears continued to circulate that the conflict risks expanding throughout the Middle East. “If the war crimes committed by the Israeli regime ... are not stopped, the scope of the war in the region is likely to deepen and expand,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a phone conversation with European Union foreign policy head Josep Borrell. Iran may be exploiting the war to aid its goal of expelling U.S. forces from the Middle East, the Institute for the Study of War noted: Iran, alongside leaders from its so-called “Axis of Resistance” is “operating on the theory that relatively low levels of militant pressure gradually diminish the willingness of the US political establishment to sustain deployments in the Middle East.”

The expanding war is impacting U.S. domestic politics. Third-party challengers for the presidency are capitalizing on the situation in Gaza to launch their presidential bids, and the hostilities have angered Democrats — 70% of whom are displeased with the actions of the Biden administration. Some voters are threatening to abstain from the election entirely, Semafor’s David Weigel reported. U.S. President Joe Biden “simply didn’t have a problem on his far-left flank in 2020 — and now, he does,” Weigel noted.

Israel said it has reached a “dead-end” in talks with Hamas, and withdrew its officials from meetings in Qatar. Negotiations broke down after Israel pushed for the release of a group of women and Hamas refused, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN. Israel said during the temporary ceasefire that it would extend the truce for one day for every 10 hostages released, but negotiators believed last week that Hamas was running out of hostages that fit the criteria, CNN reported. Negotiators understood that once Hamas was unable to meet the criteria provided by Israel, fighting would resume.

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