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WASHINGTON: Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving independent senator in American history, said Monday he will seek a fourth term in an announcement touting his record over 16 years and taking aim at US military funding for Israel.

The 82-year-old son of Jewish immigrants — who describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and votes with the Democrats — framed November’s election as “the most important” in generations. The announcement cements Sanders, who is in a safe seat in Vermont, as the most high-profile Senate progressive as President Joe Biden vies for reelection against Republican Donald Trump while navigating a growing protest movement sparked by the Israel-Hamas war.

Sanders has been a reliable Biden ally on most of the president’s domestic agenda.

But he has become a thorn in the administration’s side over the mounting death toll in Israel’s response to the October 7 Hamas attacks. That assault seven months ago resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

“Israel had the absolute right to defend itself against this terrorist attack, but it did not and does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people, which is exactly what it is doing,” Sanders said in his announcement.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Monday that at least 34,735 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory, including at least 52 deaths in the past 24 hours.

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