U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he’d asked the Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to soften Al Jazeera’s coverage around Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza according to a report by the Daily Beast.
Three people who attended a meeting between American Jewish community leaders and Blinken on Monday told Axios that Blinken made the request less than two weeks ago.
One source said Blinken said he had asked the Qataris to “turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement.” The Al Jazeera Media Network is funded by the government of Qatar but it claims to enjoy editorial independence.
Axios added that Blinken seemed to be referring to Al Jazeera Arabic rather than its English-language counterpart. Israel’s communications minister recently accused Al Jazeera of being a “propaganda mouthpiece” for Hamas.
Blinken Confirms 33 Americans Killed In Attacks On Israel
An NBC report said:
Antony Blinken addressed a meeting of the U.N. Security Council and condemned the Hamas attacks on Israel. Blinken also confirmed that 33 American citizens had been killed in the attacks.
Blinken Urges Other Countries To Pressure Iran Not To Widen Israel-Hamas War
Another media report said:
Antony Blinken has urged other members of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to pressure Iran and the groups it supports not to widen the war between Israel and Hamas.
U.S. Is Ready To Respond If U.S. Personnel Become Targets Of Israel-Hamas War, Say Blinken And Austin
An AP report said:
Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday that the U.S. expects the Israel-Hamas war to escalate through involvement by proxies of Iran, and they asserted that the Biden administration is prepared to respond if American personnel or armed forces become the target of any such hostilities.
“This is not what we want, not what we are looking for. We do not want escalation,” Blinken said. “We do not want to see our forces or our personnel come under fire. But if that happens, we are ready for it.”
Austin, echoing Blinken, said “what we are seeing is a prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region.”
He said the U.S. has the right to self-defense “and we would not hesitate to take the appropriate action.”
The warning from the high-ranking U.S. officials came as Israel’s military response to a deadly Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on civilians in communities in southern Israel entered its third week.
Israeli warplanes struck targets across Gaza overnight and into Sunday, as well as two airports in Syria and a mosque in the occupied West Bank allegedly used by militants as the war threatened to engulf more of the Middle East.
Israel has traded fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group on a near-daily basis since the war began, and tensions are soaring in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces have battled militants in refugee camps and carried out two airstrikes in recent days.
Blinken, who recently spent several days in the region, spoke of a “likelihood of escalation” while saying no one wants to see a second or third front to the hostilities between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza.
Blinken said he expects “escalation by Iranian proxies directed against our forces, directed against our personnel,” and added: “We are taking steps to make sure that we can effectively defend our people and respond decisively if we need to.” Iran is an enemy of Israel.
Blinken, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” noted that additional military assets had been deployed to the region, including two aircraft carrier battle groups, “not to provoke, but to deter, to make clear that if anyone tries to do anything, we are there.”
Meanwhile, trucks loaded with food, water and other supplies that Palestinians living in Gaza desperately need continued to enter the enclave on Sunday after a key crossing at the border with Egypt was opened a day earlier to allow humanitarian assistance to begin flowing.
But Cindy McCain, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, said the situation in Gaza remained “catastrophic.” She said even more aid needs to be allowed in.
She said her organization was able to feed 200,000 people dinner on Saturday “but that’s not enough. That’s a drop. We need secure and sustainable access in there, in that region, so we can feed people.”
Four hundred aid trucks were entering Gaza daily before the latest war, she said.
“This is a catastrophe happening and we just simply have to get these trucks in,” she said.
U.S. President Joe Biden convened a call with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom to discuss the conflict. Among topics discussed, the White House said the leaders committed to working closely to keep the war from spreading, while seeking a political solution.
The U.S. State Department on Sunday ordered non-essential U.S. diplomats and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and the U.S. consulate in Irbil to leave the country due to the heightened tensions. In an updated message to Americans in Iraq, the department said the security situation in Iraq made it impossible to carry out normal operations.
Austin and McCain spoke on ABC’s “This Week.”
Israel Withholding Visas For U.N. Officials After Hamas Comments: ‘Teach Them A Lesson’
A report by Fox News said:
Tensions between Israel and the United Nations are heightened after a series of comments about Hamas led to U.N. visas being denied.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday during a meeting of the Security Council the terrorist attacks against Israel Oct. 7 “did not happen in a vacuum.”
Supporters of Israel took offense to the assertion, and critics claimed the U.N. was blaming the Jewish state for the slaughter of its own civilians by Hamas.
The Israeli government immediately demanded Guterres resign and further escalated the feud by denying visas to U.N. officials.
“We will refuse to grant visas to U.N. representatives,” said Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan. “We have already refused to give one to Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths.
“It’s time to teach them a lesson.”
Erdan, who described Guterres’ remarks as “shocking” before calling for his resignation, doubled down Wednesday on his call for Guterres to step down.
“It is a disgrace to the U.N. that the secretary-general does not retract his words and is not even able to apologize for what he said yesterday. He must resign,” Erdan said Wednesday in a statement.
Over the 19 days of war since Oct. 7, the Hamas-run Health Ministry claims at least 5,791 Palestinians have been killed and 16,297 wounded.
More than 1,400 Israelis were killed in the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas, and 222 Israelis and foreigners were taken captive in Gaza.
Four people have been released so far.
Israel To Ban U.N. Officials After Sec-General Says Hamas Attack Did Not Happen ‘In A Vacuum’
An earlier report by New York Daily News said:
Israel on Wednesday said it will deny visas to U.N. officials “to teach them a lesson,” following recent comments by the U.N. chief about the Israel-Hamas war.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres angered Israeli officials over his remarks about the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following the deadly attack on Israel earlier this month.
Addressing the U.N. Security Council in New York, Guterres said that while he “unequivocally” condemned “the horrifying and unprecedented … acts of terror by Hamas in Israel,” it was also important to recognize those attacks “did not happen in a vacuum.”
“The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation,” Guterres continued. “They have seen their land steadily devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced and their homes demolished. Their hopes for a political solution to their plight have been vanishing.”
While nothing can justify Hamas’ “appalling attacks,” that violence also cannot “justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said, while repeating calls for a cease-fire.
“The relentless bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, the level of civilian casualties, and the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods continue to mount and are deeply alarming,” Guterres said.
Guterres’ remarks were fiercely criticized by Israeli officials, prompting Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., to call for the U.N. chief’s resignation, saying he was “tolerating” and “justifying” terrorism.
Speaking on Israeli Army Radio early on Wednesday, Erdan said because of the remarks, “we will refuse to issue visas to U.N. representatives.”
“We have already refused a visa for undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths,” he said. “The time has come to teach them a lesson.”
U.N. Organisations Plead For Unimpeded Gaza Aid ‘On Our Knees’
A report by Reuters said:
U.N. agencies called “on our knees” on Tuesday for aid to be allowed unimpeded into Gaza, saying more than 20 times current deliveries were needed to support its Palestinian population after two weeks of Israeli air strikes.
U.N. organisations have been making increasingly desperate appeals since Israel imposed a full blockade on the coastal strip and began bombardments to root out Hamas militants who had killed civilians in a bloody raid into southern Israel.
Trucks of aid began moving into Gaza from Egypt on Saturday after intense diplomatic efforts, but the agencies say they are far from enough. Half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people are homeless, many people have been wounded and food and clean water is in short supply.
“The aid which resumed from Egypt over the weekend is a mere drop in the ocean of what is needed,” said Jeremy Laurence, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Fuel, which has not been sent to the Gaza Strip along with the humanitarian aid, was crucial, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said.
“Fuel is extremely urgent because without fuel, the trucks themselves cannot move,” UNRWA spokesperson Tamara Alrifai said. “Without fuel, the generators cannot produce electricity for hospitals, for bakeries and for the water desalination plant.
Brian Lander, deputy head of emergencies at the World Food Programme, said that some 465 trucks of humanitarian aid were needed per day to support the population in Gaza prior to the conflict.
“We are seeing at best 20 trucks a day at the moment,” he said, stressing that the people of Gaza were dire need of water, food and other essential products.
WHO said medicines and health supplies had been delivered to three key referral hospitals in southern Gaza but that it still needed to reach the north of the Palestinian enclave, one of the most densely-populated places in the world.
“We still have not been able to reach the hospitals in the north with the medical supplies or the desperately needed fuel,” said Dr Rick Brennan, WHO Regional Emergencies Director for Eastern Mediterranean Region.
Brennan said one-third of hospitals in the Gaza Strip were now non-functional at a time when the medical burden is enormous, and that some two-thirds of clinics are not functioning.
“We are on our knees asking for that sustained, scaled up, protected humanitarian operation,” he said.
“We appeal to all of those in a situation to make a decision or to influence decision-makers to give us the humanitarian space to address this human catastrophe.”
Putin Warns Israel-Hamas Conflict Could Spread Beyond Middle East, Condemns Gaza Bombing
A Reuters report said:
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that Israel’s conflict with Hamas could spread well beyond the Middle East and said it was wrong that innocent women, children and old people in Gaza were being punished for other people’s crimes.
Putin, who made the comments in a Kremlin meeting with Russian religious leaders of different faiths, said bloodshed in the region had to stop. He said he told other world leaders in phone calls that if it did not, there was a risk of a much wider conflagration.
“Our task today, our main task, is to stop the bloodshed and violence,” said Putin, according to a Kremlin transcript of the meeting.
“Otherwise, further escalation of the crisis is fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences. And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East.”
In remarks that criticized the West, he said that certain unnamed forces were seeking to provoke further escalation and to draw as many other countries and peoples into the conflict as possible.
The aim, he said, was to “launch a real wave of chaos and mutual hatred not only in the Middle East but also far beyond its borders. For this purpose, among other things, they are trying to play on the national and religious feelings of millions of people.”
Putin conveyed his condolences to the families of Israelis and citizens of other countries who were killed or wounded by Hamas in its bloody Oct. 7 attack.
Moscow, he said, continued to advocate for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, something he said was the only way to reach a long-term settlement.
He made it clear though that he thought Israel was wrong to keep bombing Gaza in retaliation for the slaughter and hostage-taking of Israeli citizens by Hamas.
“It is also clear to us that innocent people should not be held responsible for crimes committed by others,” said Putin.
“The fight against terrorism cannot be conducted according to the notorious principle of collective responsibility when old people, women, children, entire families and hundreds of thousands of people are left without shelter, food, water, electricity and medical care.”
Turkey, Qatar Slam ‘Double Standards’ In Israel-Hamas War Response
An AFP report said:
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar accused the international community of “double standards” Wednesday in its reaction to the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Qatar’s top diplomat Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the two governments — both Western allies — “reaffirm our complete rejection of responding to the crisis with double standards when it comes to human life”.
“It is not permissible to condemn the killing of civilians in one context and justify it in another.” Al-Thani, who also serves as Qatar’s prime minister, said.
Israel launched its assault on Gaza in response to an unprecedented cross-border attack by Hamas militants on October 7. Gunmen from the Palestinian group poured into Israel from Gaza, killing more than 1,400 people and taking 222 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 6,546 people have been killed in the war so far, many of them children.
Western governments, including Britain, France and the U.S. have offered their full support to Israel, asserting its right to defend itself following Hamas’s deadly rampage.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said: “The failure of some American and north European countries to condemn and prevent the destruction and disaster in Gaza constitutes a very serious double standard and plays a destabilizing role.
“The operation in Gaza should be stopped as soon as possible. Humanitarian corridors should be opened,” he added.
Both Turkey and Qatar have been strong supporters of the Palestinian cause and have open channels of communication with Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza.
The wealthy Gulf emirate, which hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, also hosts Hamas’s political office and is the main residence of the Islamists’ self-exiled leader Ismail Haniyeh.
It has used its channels with Hamas, established with U.S. blessing, to play a lead role in the release of four of the more than 200 hostages held by the militant group in Gaza.
The Qatari minister said the only way to restore peace in and around Gaza was to keep channels of communication open.
He said Doha and Ankara would continue to coordinate with each other and regional partners to de-escalate the conflict.
He condemned criticism of Qatar’s position, saying that such comments “undermine existing efforts, risk lives and cannot be understood except in the context of political blackmail”.
Jordan’s Queen Rania Condemns Western Leaders Over ‘Glaring Double Standard’ In Israel-Hamas War
A HuffPost report said:
Queen Rania of Jordan criticized what she called a “glaring double standard” in the Western world’s reaction to the surprise attack launched by the Hamas militant group on Israel as opposed to the suffering of Palestinian civilians killed by Israel’s reprisal airstrikes.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour broadcast on Tuesday, Rania said the people of Jordan and the Middle East were “shocked” to see that the world sharply condemned the brutal Hamas attack but is standing by amid a humanitarian crisis unfolding in real-time in Gaza.
“Are we being told that it is wrong to kill a family, an entire family, at gunpoint, but it’s OK to shell them to death?” Rania asked. “I mean, there is a glaring double standard here. It is just shocking to the Arab world.”
Over 5,700 Palestinians have so far been killed in the conflict, the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry said, according to The Associated Press. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, most civilians attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7.
Rania decried world leaders’ reluctance to call for an immediate ceasefire, saying the Western world is “complicit” through its support for Israel.
“We are seeing staggering human suffering happening today, so why is the narrative always skewed towards the Israeli side?” she asked. “The Western media and policymakers are quick to adopt the Israeli narratives. When Israel attacks, Palestinians ‘die,’ but when Israelis die, they are ‘killed,’ murdered in cold blood.”
The Biden administration had previously called on diplomats in the Middle East to refrain from using language suggesting the U.S. was pushing for de-escalation, according to internal State Department emails reviewed by HuffPost.
While the U.S. is still not backing a ceasefire, it has since stepped up its calls on Israel to take measures to protect Palestinian civilians and consider “humanitarian pauses.”
“Israel must take all possible precautions to avoid harm to civilians,” Blinken said. “It means food, water, medicine, and other essential humanitarian assistance must be able to flow into Gaza and to the people who need them. It means civilians must be able to get out of harm’s way. It means humanitarian pauses must be considered for these purposes.”
However, Israel has only allowed limited humanitarian aid to cross into the Gaza Strip. It is continuing to block the delivery of fuel, which the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said would soon require them to scale back their operations.
Since the Oct. 7 attack that saw Hamas shooting at revelers at a music festival, killing civilians in towns and communities in Southern Israel while also taking hundreds of people hostage, Israel has vowed to impose a siege on Gaza and take out Hamas. The country is also reportedly preparing for a ground invasion in the territory, which the U.S. has reportedly expressed concern about.
Rania said the conflict started way before Oct. 7, calling out Israel’s occupation and the way the media are covering the news.
“Most networks are covering the story under the title of ‘Israel at war,’” she said. “But for many Palestinians on the other side of the separation wall, on the other side of the barbed wire, war has never left.”
Rania added, “This is a 75-year-old story, a story of overwhelming death and displacement to the Palestinian people.”
Israeli Orders For Civilians To Leave Northern Gaza May Violate International Law, Says Amnesty
A report by The Hill said:
The recent order by the Israeli military ordering civilians to immediately evacuate northern Gaza may be in violation of international law, Amnesty International reported.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) dropped leaflets on northern Gaza on Saturday telling civilians to immediately evacuate the area. The note warned residents that their lives were at risk and that anyone who chooses to stay in the area would be determined an
accomplice in a terrorist organization,” the organization said.
The Israeli military’s request comes one week after they issued an order warning 1.1 million residents in the area to evacuate and move southward. The World Health Organization condemned the evacuation, calling it a “death sentence” for the sick and injured.
According Rovera Donatella, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, the order might violate international law.
“Declaring a whole city or region a military target flies in the face of international humanitarian law, which stipulates that those carrying out attacks must distinguish at all times between civilians or civilian objects and military objectives, and that they must take all possible measures to spare civilians and civilian object,” Rovera said.
Targeting civilians and carrying out random attacks that kill or injure civilians is a war crime, she dded.
Dropping a message to evacuate in leaflets is not considered an effective warning and provides “further evidence that Israel aims to forcibly displace” civilians in Gaza, Rovera said.
The IDF finding civilians who stay in their homes to be equivalent to being an accomplice to a terrorist organization may amount to a war crime, Amnesty’s statement said.
Amnesty said it is reiterating its call on Israeli authorities to rescind its forced evacuation orders and “put an end to threats designed to sow fear and panic among Gaza’s civilian population.”
The call from the group comes one day after United Nations chief Antonio Guterres urged Israel and Hamas militants to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza, citing international law violations, Al Jazeera reported.
In remarks to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, Guterres defended the civilians in Gaza, saying evacuation orders in the region “where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel,” are not “protecting civilians.”
Australia Deploys More Aircraft, Personnel To Middle East
Another Reuters report said:
Australia said on Wednesday it had deployed two more military aircraft and a “significant number” of defense personnel to the Middle East to help support its citizens there if the ongoing war between Israel and militant group Hamas escalates.
Australia has sent a Boeing C-17 aircraft and an air refueler plane that has the capacity to carry passengers, taking the total to three, Defense Minister Richard Marles said.
He did not disclose the total number of personnel deployed and where the aircraft would be based due to security reasons but said they would not be based in Israel.
“It is a significant number of personnel, though, and they are there to support the aircraft and to support what that aircraft might ultimately have to do,” Marles told Channel Nine.
“All of this is a contingency and the purpose of it is to be supporting Australian populations that are in the Middle East … this is a very volatile situation and we just don’t absolutely know which way it goes from here.”
Since the conflict began, the Australian government has conducted repatriation flights for citizens stranded in Israel. It has been trying to rescue 79 Australians from the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip and 51 from the West Bank.
Australians in Gaza should try to move toward the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the main entry and exit point to Gaza that does not lead to Israel, Marles said.
Marles urged Australians in Lebanon who want to leave the country to use all options available after deadly clashes between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.