War: Baerbock in the Middle East: Hezbollah and the situation in the Gaza Strip

War: Baerbock in the Middle East: Hezbollah and the situation in the Gaza Strip
War: Baerbock in the Middle East: Hezbollah and the situation in the Gaza Strip

Ramallah, Jerusalem, Beirut: Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is in Israel for the eighth time since the Hamas terror attack. There are no signs of easing. Quite the opposite. The news at a glance.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is consulting with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa about the future role of the Palestinian Authority (PA). From the Green politician’s point of view, the PA could play an important role in a post-war order in the Gaza Strip. The talks in Ramallah in the West Bank are also likely to focus on the reform efforts of the Palestinian Authority.

Before the meeting with Mustafa, Baerbock had the head of the German representative office in Ramallah, Oliver Owcza, show her the situation in the West Bank and the border area with Israel from a vantage point. Critics accuse the right-wing extremist parts of the Israeli government in particular of wanting to strangle the PA by cutting Israeli payments to the Palestinian Authority. This could mean that some PA employees’ salaries could no longer be paid.

At the Herzliya Security Conference near Tel Aviv the evening before, Baerbock had stated that if the PA was to eventually assume the role of the legitimate government authority in Gaza, it must be in a position to ensure this – including with police and security forces.

She warned: “In the current situation, it is dangerous and counterproductive to destroy and destabilize established PA structures.” But that is exactly what the illegal expansion of Israeli settlement projects in the West Bank is doing.

Baerbock aims for two-state solution

Like many partners in Europe, the USA and the region, Baerbock is striving for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, in which an independent Palestinian state exists peacefully side by side with Israel. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects such a solution, as does the Islamist Hamas.

A meeting between Baerbock and Netanyahu is not planned this time. The most recent meeting between the two politicians in mid-April resulted in a loud argument. This is Baerbock’s eighth trip to Israel since the bloody Hamas terror attack on October 7.

Baerbock: 19 million euros for humanitarian aid in Gaza

Germany is providing a further 19 million euros for humanitarian aid for the people in the Gaza Strip. The UN Palestinian Relief Agency UNWRA and the World Food Programme are risking their lives to bring “flour and rice to starving families, because for the children in Gaza, every meal, no matter how small, is vital for survival,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Every box of medical supplies from the World Health Organization will help to “restore a minimum level of medical care” in destroyed hospitals in the Gaza Strip, she added.

The money will be used, among other things, to finance food baskets that cover 90 percent of daily calorie needs and contain, for example, flour, rice, sugar, oil, chickpeas and milk powder.

Interview with Benny Gantz

Baerbock met in Jerusalem with former general Benny Gantz, who recently left Netanyahu’s war cabinet because the government had not developed a plan for a post-war order in the Gaza Strip. To date, Netanyahu has not presented such a plan – probably also in order not to offend his ultra-right coalition partners, on whom his political survival depends. They are calling for the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. Nothing was initially known about the content of the conversation.

Baerbock now also wants to meet with her colleague Israel Katz. The focus will likely be on Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip and the dramatic humanitarian situation of the civilian population there. A meeting is planned later with relatives of kidnapping victims who are still being held in the Gaza Strip.

Baerbock in Beirut – Concern about escalation with Hezbollah

Against the backdrop of growing concerns about an escalation of the conflict between Israel and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, Baerbock will fly on to Lebanon in the afternoon. In the capital Beirut, talks with acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati and acting Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib are planned before returning to Berlin.

Complete withdrawal of Hezbollah required

At the Herzliya conference, Baerbock called for a complete and verifiable withdrawal of the Shiite Hezbollah militia from the border area between Lebanon and Israel. The increase in violence on Israel’s northern border is a major concern. “The risk of unintentional escalation and a full-scale war is growing daily. Extreme caution is therefore required,” said Baerbock.

Israel wants to use diplomatic pressure to get the militia to withdraw behind the Litani River, 30 kilometers from the border – as stipulated in a UN resolution. If necessary, however, Israel is also prepared to use a larger military operation, Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant recently warned.

Another hostage declared dead

Meanwhile, Israel has declared another hostage in the Gaza Strip dead. The hostage families’ forum announced on Monday evening that Mohammed Al-Atrasch had already been killed during the Hamas massacre on October 7. His body had been taken to the Gaza Strip by terrorists.

The 39-year-old leaves behind 13 children from two women. The Israeli army confirmed the death of the soldier with the rank of sergeant major.

Reports of 13 dead in Israeli air strikes in northern Gaza

According to Palestinian reports, Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip have resulted in numerous deaths. The Israeli army announced that two buildings in the north of the coastal strip where terrorists were staying were fired upon on Monday night. Among them were terrorists who had been involved in the massacre on October 7 and were holding hostages. The buildings are in the refugee quarter of Al-Shati and in Daraj Tuffah.

Palestinian media in the Gaza Strip reported that at least 13 people were killed in the attack in Al-Shati. According to unconfirmed reports, one of the dead was a sister of Hamas foreign chief Ismail Haniya.

Air strike in the south of the Gaza Strip

Meanwhile, at least seven Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike in Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip, according to hospital sources. According to residents of the city, the dead had accompanied humanitarian aid deliveries on behalf of Hamas.

Aid organizations are warning of a collapse of public order and chaos. For the first time in weeks, there was a rocket alert in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. According to paramedics, two people were injured when they ran to shelters. Several others suffered shock.

In a speech to the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, Netanyahu reiterated that the war would not end until all 120 hostages – the living and the dead – had returned. “We are committed to the Israeli proposal, which US President Biden welcomed. Our position has not changed,” he said. At the same time, Netanyahu underlined the goal of destroying Hamas. He also said that “at all costs and in all ways, we will thwart Iran’s intentions to destroy us.”

Situation in Gaza Strip is “hell”

The head of the UN Palestinian relief agency UNRWA describes the situation in the Gaza Strip as “hell”. “Over the past nine months, we have witnessed an unprecedented failure of humanity,” Philippe Lazzarini told the organization’s supervisory board in Geneva on Monday, according to a transcript. More than two million people in the Gaza Strip are “in a nightmare from which they cannot wake up.”

The “catastrophic extent” of hunger there is the result of human actions, said Lazzarini. “Children are dying of malnutrition and dehydration while food and clean water are waiting in trucks.” In addition, the collapse of civil order has led to “unbridled looting” and smuggling. Lazzarini called for the “crucial role” of UNRWA to be protected. It must be able to continue its work until a political solution is in sight.

Gallant holds talks in Washington

In Washington, Israel’s Defense Minister Joav Galant met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They discussed efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza that could lead to the release of Israeli hostages and relief for the Palestinian population. Blinken informed Gallant about current diplomatic efforts to ensure security and reconstruction in Gaza after the end of the conflict, said spokesman Matthew Miller.

Source: Stern

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