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HomeworldBlinken visits Iraq in bid to prevent Gaza spillover

Blinken visits Iraq in bid to prevent Gaza spillover

BAGHDAD: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday (Nov 5), as he tours the Middle East attempting to tamp down tensions after war erupted between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

After an earlier visit to the occupied West Bank, Blinken landed in Baghdad on Sunday evening for his first visit to the country as the US top diplomat and held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al Sudani.

He said the United States was working hard to ensure that the conflict in Gaza does not spread.

Blinken said he had a good, candid conversation with the Iraq government and that US officials were working to secure a humanitarian pause in Gaza that would advance several priorities including getting more aid in and getting Hamas’ hostages out.

Speaking to reporters after the unannounced stop in Baghdad, the US Secretary of State said there were now 100 trucks of aid moving into the besieged coastal enclave, but “it’s grossly insufficient”.

Washington wants to prevent a wider regional conflict and has stepped up diplomacy with regional countries whose populations have been angered by Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Blinken landed at Baghdad’s international airport, donned a ballistic vest and travelled by Black Hawk helicopter to the Green Zone, a remnant of the US occupation of Iraq after its 2003 invasion. At the US ambassador’s residence, he was briefed on threats to US facilities, before heading to the Iraqi prime minister’s office.

Iran-backed group Kataib Hezbollah issued a warning on Saturday night that the expected Blinken visit would be met with “an unprecedented escalation”.

US defence officials say rocket and drone attacks on US and coalition troops have stepped up in Iraq and Syria since Hamas’ deadly attacks on Oct 7 sparked an intensive Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

Related:

Protesters march in major cities to demand Gaza ceasefire

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says no Gaza ceasefire until all hostages returned

Commentary: Will Israel-Hamas war become a wider conflict in the Middle East?

Iraqi armed groups aligned with Iran have threatened to target US interests with missiles and drones if Washington intervened to support Israel against Hamas in Gaza.

Al Sudani has pledged to pursue the perpetrators of rocket attacks on three military bases in Iraq hosting international coalition advisers, including Ain al Asad in western Iraq, a military base near Baghdad’s international airport and Harir in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which like Hamas is backed by US adversary Iran, has launched strikes on northern Israel.

Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah issued a warning on Friday, as Blinken arrived in the region, that preventing a regional conflict depended on stopping the Israeli attack on Gaza, and said there was a possibility of fighting on the Lebanese front turning into a full-fledged war.

Later on Sunday, the US Secretary of State arrived in Ankara, where he will hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan on Monday amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Protests were already underway in Türkiye ahead of Blinken’s visit.

Meanwhile, Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel said on Sunday that all communications and internet services have been cut again within the Gaza Strip.

“The main routes that were previously reconnected (were) cut off again from the Israeli side,” it said.

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