Blinken expresses 'sorrow' over Dahdouh killing, fails to condemn Israel amid Middle East tour

Blinken expresses 'sorrow' over Dahdouh killing, fails to condemn Israel amid Middle East tour
During his tour of the Middle East, Blinken was asked about Israel's killing of an Al-Jazeera journalist, but failed to condemn Tel Aviv.
5 min read
Many analysts have pointed out the hypocrisy of the US trying to focus on Gaza's reconstruction as it continues to arm Israel [Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply, deeply sorry” over the “loss” of journalist Hamza Dahdouh, the son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, Wael Dahdouh, in Qatar on Sunday during the beginning of his tour of the Middle East. 

Hamza, aged 27, was killed by an Israeli missile strike in the western part of Khan Younis earlier on Sunday, in what Al Jazeera have said was a targeted attack by Israel targeting journalists. His colleague Mustafa Thuraya was also killed in the attack. 

This is not the first loss Wael Dahdouh has suffered during Israel's indiscriminate war on Gaza, with the correspondent's wife, son, daughter and grandson also killed by Israel earlier in the conflict. 

Blinken was asked about the killing of the journalists  in a joint press conference in Doha with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. And while the Secretary of State offered personal sorrow, he stopped short of offering a condemnation of Israel for an indiscriminate attacks on civilians and its targeting of the press, which has so fat left 110 journalists and media workers dead.

“I am deeply, deeply sorry for the almost unimaginable loss suffered by your colleague, Wael Dahdouh. I am a parent myself, I can’t begin to imagine the horror that he has experienced, not once, but now twice,” Blinken said.

“This is an unimaginable tragedy,” he added.

It is widely known that most of the weaponry Israel is using and has used to attack and kill civilians and media workers in Gaza originates in the US, which is Tel Aviv's premier patron and diplomatic ally. 

Blinken is in the region on a diplomatic mission to prevent Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza from exploding into a broader regional conflict.

His tour continued on Monday in the United Arab Emirates where he met leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. He will later travel to Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at enlisting the key Arab leaders in a push to not only keep the war contained but also prepare for post-conflict Gaza’s future.

With Sheikh Mohammed in Abu Dhabi Blinken “emphasized the importance of preventing further spread of the conflict and stressed continued U.S. commitment to securing lasting regional peace that ensures Israel’s security and advances the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” the State Department said.

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Arab resistance to 'day after' talks

Blinken arrived in Abu Dhabi from similar meetings in Qatar, Jordan, Turkey and Greece, where he claimed at least modest success in his mission with pledges from those countries to consider contributing to the effort to plan for Gaza's reconstruction and governance once the fighting has ended. Gaza has been decimated by three months of Israeli bombardments that have sparked anger around the world for the massive damage and huge number of civilian casualties.

Financial and in-kind support from the UAE and Saudi Arabia will be essential to the success of any such plan and U.S. officials said Blinken on his fourth trip to the region since the war began in October hoped to overcome initial Arab resistance to considering “day after” scenarios for Gaza. Arab countries have been pressing for an immediate cease-fire and an end to civilian deaths before discussing such plans.

But after his first meetings on his latest tour, Blinken said he had been speaking with officials about contributions they could make to post-war plans and about using their influence to tamp down resurgent fears that the conflict could expand and potentially draw in direct U.S. involvement.

“This is a conflict that could easily metastasize, causing even more insecurity and even more suffering,” Blinken told reporters during the news conference in Doha on Sunday.

“So from day one, among other priorities, we have been intensely focused on working to prevent the conflict from spreading," he said. “We share a commitment to ensure that the conflict does not expand."

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He said his talks had also included “not necessarily easy discussions” of what each country can do once the conflict is over “to provide the assurances and the incentives required to build a more secure and more stable, more peaceful future for the region.”

“And my takeaway from the discussions so far, including here with our friends in Qatar, is that our partners are willing to have these difficult conversations and to make hard decisions. All of us feel a stake in forging the way forward,” Blinken said.

Arab states have been highly critical of Israel’s actions and have eschewed public support for long-term planning, arguing that the fighting must end before such discussions can begin. They have been demanding a cease-fire since mid-October as civilian casualties began to skyrocket.

'Catastrophic repercussions'

After his talks with Blinken, Sheikh Mohammed called for an immediate cease-fire, saying the constant images of death and destruction in Gaza are de-sensitising people to the horrors of what is happening.

“This is a big test for our humanity,” he said. “We are looking for a sustainable future. However, the focus is now on stopping the fighting.”

In Amman on Sunday, Jordan's King Abdullah II “warned of the catastrophic repercussions” of the war in Gaza while calling on the U.S. to press for an immediate cease-fire, a statement from the Royal Court said.

Israel has refused to agree to a cease-fire and the U.S. has instead called for specified temporary “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid to get in and people to get to safety.

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Another urgent priority for Blinken is to surge humanitarian assistance to Gaza. In Amman, Blinken toured the World Food Program’s regional coordination warehouse, where trucks are being packed with aid to be delivered to Gaza through both the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings.

“We’re determined to do everything we possibly can to ameliorate the situation for the men, women and children in Gaza,” Blinken said.