Tel Aviv / Gaza / Ramallah (dpa) – Accompanied by heavy rocket attacks by militant Palestinians on cities in southern Israel, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has once again been clearly on the side of the Jewish state.
Israel has “the right to defend itself against such massive attacks,” he said on a visit to the area on Thursday. “For us, the security of Israel, as well as the security of all Jews in Germany, is non-negotiable. And Israel can always rely on that. “
Maas received sympathy and benevolence from his Israeli hosts. His colleague Gabi Aschkenasi thanked him for the solidarity of Germany. “I thank him for visiting us at this time, at a time when missiles are falling.” When asked what Israel expects from Germany, he said, “Our expectations are exactly what is happening.” After their conversation, the politicians visited a house in East Tel Aviv that had been hit by a missile by militant Palestinians.
Maas also met President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Secretary Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit. The latter presented two debris from a drone. “Iran has sent us this armed drone,” he said. Israeli forces shot them at the border with Jordan.
In the evening, Maas met Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank. It is here, at Palestinian Authority headquarters, that the interlocutors are to be found when it comes to peace talks, and not with the Islamists in the Gaza Strip, he said afterwards.
Islamist Hamas, which ruled the Gaza Strip, condemned Maas’ statements as “partisan”. “We are shocked by the media statements of the German Foreign Minister (…) regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the Hamas Office for International Affairs wrote in a statement. The Palestinian Organization firmly rejects the Mass “to blindly and unconditionally support Israeli aggression against our people”.
Palestinian militants almost continuously attacked neighboring areas in Israel from the Gaza Strip on Thursday with rockets and mortars. The Israeli army asked residents near the Gaza border to stay in the bomb shelters. But even in the more distant towns of Ashkelon and Beersheva, the sirens continued to wail.
Even before Maas met Abbas, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) spoke to the Palestinian president on the phone. The German head of government had agreed with him that the initiatives for a rapid ceasefire would continue to be supported, the federal press service in Berlin said. Merkel also underlined Israel’s right to self-defense.
Meanwhile, several signals pointed to a possible end to the fighting in a short time. According to Egyptian security circles, Netanyahu wanted to present the plan for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict to his security cabinet on Thursday. These mediate in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The plan aims to end Gaza’s rocket attacks on Israel and could go into effect within hours, it said in Cairo. However, so far there have been no signs of endorsement by the ranks of Palestinian militants.
The conflict escalated on May 10 with Hamas rocket fire on Jerusalem. Israel responded with massive attacks in the coastal area. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 232 Palestinians were murdered on Thursday, including 65 children and adolescents. 1900 people were injured.
According to the Israeli military, militant Palestinians fired a total of 4,340 missiles at Israel, 640 of which fell in the Gaza Strip. The iron dome of the Israeli defense system (“Iron Dome”) intercepted 90 percent of the projectiles. Twelve Israelis died and more than 300 were injured.
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had previously culminated during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and after the cancellation of the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Police barriers in the old city of Jerusalem, which many young Palestinians viewed as humiliation, are considered the trigger.
Additionally, there were clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem over the threat of evictions and violent clashes on the Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif).