Blinken has not condemned Israel’s killing of the Palestinian journalist.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply, deeply sorry” over the “loss” of Hamza Dahdouh, the son of Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, Wael Dahdouh, on Sunday.
Blinken’s remarks came in a joint press conference in Doha with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.
The briefing took place as part of Blinken’s regional tour – his fourth since the beginning of the war in Gaza on October 7.
The tour has so far included stops in Turkey, Greece, Jordan, and Qatar.
The press conference came hours after the killing of renowned Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh’s son in Gaza, Hamza, who was hit by a direct Israeli missile strike.
When asked about the killing of Hamza, Blinken said he was “sorry” for the loss, without condemning the incident or holding Israel to account.
“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.
The killing of Hamza is the third such attack on Dahdouh and his family members.
On October 25, Israel killed Dahdouh’s wife, 15-year-old son, seven-year-old daughter and infant grandson in a strike in the south, despite Israel announcing the area to be a safe zone before the attack.
Dahdouh found out about the killing of his family members while he was reporting on live television and said his family were targeted for his job.
“They’re getting revenge through the kids?” Dahdouh said at the time in a viral video as he watched over the body of his other dead son, Mahmoud.
The killing of Hamza and his colleague, Mustafa Thuraya, raised the total toll of journalists in Gaza to 110. Since October 7, Israel has killed at least 22,835 Palestinians in Gaza while injuring 58,416 others, according to the latest figures by the Strip’s health authorities.
Sheikh Mohammed noted that “it is unfortunate” that the war in Gaza continued “despite regional and international de-escalation efforts over the past three months.”
“It is painful that we have unfortunately reached a stage in which we have become accustomed to images of destruction, killing, and scenes of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, and the transformation of children, women, and civilian victims into mere numbers that pass us by in the news bulletins,” Sheikh Mohammed said, stressing that the focus is ending the war.
Captives release talks
Sheikh Mohammed said the discussions with Blinken dealt with the key developments in Gaza and the talks over the release of hostages and prisoners. The discussions also involved preventing “the expansion” of violence in light of the developments in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Blinken’s visit to Doha is his second since the beginning of the war in Gaza as Qatar mediates another captives’ release deal under its wider efforts to reach a ceasefire in the besieged enclave.
Qatar—the host of a Hamas political office and a Major non-NATO ally—alongside Egypt, have been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts in Gaza.
Doha and Cairo’s mediation had resulted in a temporary truce that lasted between November 24 and December 1 following two extensions under wider efforts to reach a permanent ceasefire.
The pause led to the release of at least 110 Israeli and foreign captives from Gaza, according to a Doha News tally. As part of the deal, Israel released 240 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
Israel said on Thursday that it believes there are 136 hostages still in Gaza, up from an initial estimate of 129.
“Qatar was instrumental in the negotiations that led to the simultaneous release of more than 100 hostages, including American citizens, and a pause in the fighting that during that time enabled us to double the flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza,” Blinken said.
“To those still being held hostage, to their loved ones, to their families, I promise you this, the United States will continue to work relentlessly to bring you home, to get you together with your family and loved ones,” the U.S. official said.
The negotiations appeared to face a new challenge last week following Israel’s killing of senior Hamas leader, Saleh Al-Arouri, in Beirut, a move that marked a dangerous escalation following months of cross-border attacks in southern Lebanon.
Sheikh Mohammed said the recent events “whether in Lebanon or Syria are condemnable and a violation of the sovereignty of countries.” He added that the attack against a senior Hamas leader “complicates negotiations on the release of the hostages,” while maintaining optimism over the talks.
“Regarding the negotiations, it has been ongoing, yes we go through challenges, ups and downs throughout the process and, of course, having one of the senior leaders of Hamas killed is something that can affect such a complicated process. Yet, we’re not giving up,” he said.
Sidestepping a ceasefire
When asked whether it is time to support a ceasefire in Gaza in light of the significant rise of casualties, Blinken said that “it is absolutely imperative that Israel does more to protect civilians” there is a “dilemma” over ensuring that Hamas does not repeat the attack of October 7.
“The dilemma that any country we face is having been the victim of one of the most horrible attacks that I’m aware of, that I’ve ever witnessed in my 30 years, is how to make sure it doesn’t happen again and any country faced with what Israel had to face on October 7th, we wanna do just that,” Blinken said.
The U.S. secretary of state said that it would become easier to ensure civilians are not harmed as Israel’s operations in Gaza “phase down.”
Washington has been a vocal supporter of Israel’s right to self-defence since the beginning of the brutal war on Gaza, where 70% of deaths are Palestinian women and children.
On December 8, Washington used its veto power to block a UN Security Council resolution over a ceasefire in Gaza while militarily backing Israel.
Washington had bypassed Congress for the second time on December 29 to approve an estimated $147.5 million in weapons for Israel. This came after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Republican bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel on November 2.
Responding to a question on conditioning military support to Israel, Blinken maintained that “any military assistance” provided by Washington to Tel Aviv “comes with requirements, including weapons being used in accordance with international law.”