Wednesday February 21, 2024

German FM heads to Middle East amid escalating Gaza war

Published : 20 Oct 2023, 00:34

  DF News Desk
Annalena Baerbock, Germany's Foreign Minister. File Photo: Britta Pedersen/dpa.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has taken off from Berlin for a new round of crisis talks in Jordan, Israel and Lebanon amid the ongoing war in Gaza, reported dpa.

Before departing for Jordan on Thursday, Baerbock assured Israel of the German government's "unbreakable solidarity."

"The fight is with Hamas, not with the Palestinian civilian population" which is also suffering enormously, Baerbock said.

She said she wanted to use the trip to press for the release of hostages held by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union. German citizens are among the roughly 200 captives being held by the group in Gaza.

Baerbock appointed a special envoy for humanitarian aid issues in the Middle East to coordinate support for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, which has been sealed off by Israel as part of a "total siege."

Germany stands ready to provide comprehensive humanitarian assistance to Gaza, she said. It was working intensively to find ways for German citizens to leave Gaza as quickly as possible.

The Foreign Office believes that well more than a hundred German citizens are in the sealed-off coastal enclave, which is ruled by Hamas.

Israel has cut off food, water and electricity for the densely populated coastal strip, which is home to more than two million Palestinians.

Israeli forces have also pounded Gaza with repeated airstrikes that have levelled buildings and killed thousands of people, most of them civilians.

The strikes are in response to a bloodbath in Israel unleashed by Hamas with coordinated attacks on October 7. More than 1,400 people were killed in Israel, the vast majority of them civilians, in what has been described as the worst catastrophe in the country's history.

There are concerns that clashes between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon could further fuel the conflict.

Israel has fired artillery and carried out airstrikes in southern Lebanon in response to rocket attacks and other incidents.