Cautious signals for a ceasefire ahead of Maas’ visit to Israel | Free press

Berlin (AP) – Before Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, signs of a possible ceasefire have intensified.

Similar statements were made by Hamas, the ruling office in the Gaza Strip, which had begun firing rockets at Israel. ‘I think there will probably be a truce in the next two days. God knows when the mediators can reach an agreement, ” Israeli media quoted Hamas leader Mussa Abu Marzuk. Even Israeli television did not rule out the possibility that pressure from US President Joe Biden could lead to an end to the fighting.

During his visit, Maas wants to investigate what the international community can contribute to a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict. But above all, it is a sign of solidarity with those who fear for their lives day and night or mourn their relatives, the SPD politician said shortly before the trip. “Germany is behind our friendship with Israel, which must defend itself against the rocket terror from Hamas,” said Maas. “And our humanitarian aid to the Palestinians has always been reliable, even in troubled times.”

American pressure is likely to be decisive to end the violence. The White House announced on Wednesday that US President Joe Biden had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call that he expected a “significant de-escalation … towards a ceasefire” later in the day. . Netanyahu ignored this request and instead announced on Twitter, “I am determined to continue this operation until the goal is achieved.”

The goal of the military operation against Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip is to bring security and peace to the citizens of Israel, Netanyahu emphasized. He did not immediately respond to Biden’s expectation of de-escalation. He only thanked the US President for proclaiming Israel’s right to self-defense.

A senior Israeli army representative had already spoken to journalists about “very, very important successes” that would help stabilize the south of the country in view of the military operation. It is now being checked whether these are sufficient.

Maas visits Israel and the Palestinian Territories ten days after the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants. On May 10, Islamist Hamas launched heavy rocket attacks on Jerusalem and other cities. Israel responded with massive bombing of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

Maas emphasized that in his talks he wanted to gauge how a way back to peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians could be paved – “even if that seems miles away at the moment,” he said. “Despair and hopelessness are a security issue. Israelis and Palestinians again need perspective for a peaceful future. Otherwise, the next escalation is only a matter of time.

Maas wants to meet, among others, Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Aschkenasi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and President Reuven Rivlin. A meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas is on the agenda in the Palestinian Territories. Together with Ashkenazi, Maas also plans to visit a building in Petach Tikwa, a city in the greater Tel Aviv area, which was hit by a missile last week.

Israeli ambassador to Berlin, Jeremy Issacharoff, emphasized the importance of the visit to the Meuse. “He is Germany’s foreign minister and Germany has traditionally been seen as a close ally,” he told the German news agency. The German position is therefore also given weight. “It’s not just a symbolic gesture, it’s a message of solidarity,” said Issacharoff.

On Thursday evening there were again air-raid alarms in communities near the Gaza Strip and also in Beersheva, 40 kilometers away. Tens of thousands of Israelis had to enter the shelters. At first nothing was known about missile impacts. The Israeli Air Force again attacked targets in the coastal strip that night. There was initially no information about new victims.

Since the start of the new escalation, Palestinian militants have fired about 4,000 missiles at Israeli cities, according to the military. According to military sources, the Israeli Air Force subsequently fired on more than 1,000 targets in the Gaza Strip. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 227 people died in the reciprocal shelling in the Gaza Strip and about 1,620 were injured. According to official figures, 12 people were killed and hundreds were injured in Israel.

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