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DOHA: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Sunday the war in Gaza could spread and threaten security in the wider Middle East, on a regional tour aimed at de-escalating the conflict.

“This is a moment of profound tension in the region. This is a conflict that could easily metastasize, causing even more insecurity and even more suffering,” Blinken told a news conference in Doha alongside Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

The war started when Hamas on October 7 launched an unprecedented attack on Israel which resulted in about 1,140 deaths, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Blinken says he will raise protecting Gaza civilians while in Israel this week

The Palestinian group also took around 250 hostages, 132 of whom remain in captivity, according to Israel. At least 24 are believed to have been killed.

In response, Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment and ground invasion that have killed at least 22,835 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Blinken warned it was “imperative” Israel put a “premium on protecting civilians”, ensuring operations were “designed around protecting civilians… and around getting humanitarian assistance where people need it”.

Hamas chief urges Blinken to focus on ending Israeli ‘aggression’

Amid the deepening humanitarian crisis and mass displacement in Gaza, Blinken said civilians “must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow”.

“They cannot, they must not be pressed to leave Gaza,” he added, after two Israeli ministers suggested Palestinians should be encouraged to emigrate.

‘Unimaginable tragedy’

Blinken called the deaths of two Al Jazeera journalists in Gaza, which the Qatar-based network has blamed on Israel, an “unimaginable tragedy”.

“That’s also been the case for… far too many innocent Palestinian men, women and children,” he said.

Heavy fire from Lebanon targets northern Israel: Israeli military

Blinken arrived in Qatar following stops in Jordan, Turkey and Greece.

He went on to Abu Dhabi late Sunday, and on Monday is due to travel to Saudi Arabia.

Killing of Hamas deputy leader in Beirut raises risk of Gaza war spreading

Blinken will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi desert city of Al-Ula, said a US official on condition of anonymity.

The Qatari premier said talks with Hamas on a fresh truce in Gaza were “ongoing” with US backing.

Doha mediated a one-week break in fighting the began in November and led to the release of scores of Israeli and foreign hostages, as well as aid entering the besieged Gaza Strip.

However, Sheikh Mohammed said a Tuesday strike in Lebanon that killed Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri had affected “the complicated process”.

“Yet we are not giving up. We are moving forward.”

Comments

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KU Jan 08, 2024 07:33pm
By all canons of experienced US policy, escalation will take place. They know how to skin a cat when the cat has other ideas. But the perplexing question is that how long will the obsession with this geopolitical and geo-economic dominance last? Especially when climate change is bound to spoil every wish for dominance in the near future.
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