US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has asked the Qatari government to change its relationship with Hamas, starting with the way Al Jazeera reports on the Israel-Gaza conflict, Axios reported on Wednesday.
Blinken reportedly revealed this to a group of America’s Jewish community leaders on Monday, according to three people who attended the meeting and spoke with the outlet. The US diplomat visited Doha on October 13, just days after the Hamas incursion into Israel triggered the latest escalation of hostilities in the Middle East.
During the visit, according to Axios’ sources, Blinken asked the Qatari government to “change its public posture” towards Hamas. As one example of how this could be done, he reportedly said they could “turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement.”
Blinken did not offer any examples of the rhetoric he wanted “toned down.” The State Department declined to comment on his reported remarks. The Qatari Foreign Ministry did not respond to Axios’ requests for comment and neither has Al Jazeera.
Israel has accused the Doha-based network of being “a propaganda mouthpiece” for the Palestinian militant group, and has been looking at banning the channel.
“The government is working on something,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat told the Jerusalem Post last week. “The idea is if they are crossing the line in assisting Hamas, we can shut out the entire channel.”
Read more: Qatar: America’s best friend in the Gulf?
Meanwhile, the White House has relied on Qatar’s relationship with Hamas to negotiate the release of some of the hostages taken on October 7. Blinken stated that he was “deeply appreciative of the role Qatar is playing” in freeing American captives amid their release last week, according to an unnamed State Department official speaking in a background briefing.
At least 1,400 Israelis were killed and thousands more were injured during the Hamas incursion. West Jerusalem responded by declaring war on the Palestinian group and launching artillery and air strikes against Gaza.
Al Jazeera has stated that its bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Al Dahdouh, lost his wife, son, daughter, and grandson in what it claimed was an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday.