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20 May, 2021 16:39

‘Not limited to words’: German FM visits Israel; asserts its right for ‘self-defense’ amid continued conflict with Gaza

‘Not limited to words’: German FM visits Israel; asserts its right for ‘self-defense’ amid continued conflict with Gaza

Germany will continue to make it possible for Israel to defend itself as long as there are forces seeking its destruction, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said during his visit to Israel aimed at promoting “ceasefire.”

Germany’s solidarity with Israel “is not limited to words only,” Maas said as he arrived in Israel for a one-day visit on Thursday. The diplomat insisted the Jewish state had every right to defend itself against what he called “massive and unacceptable attacks.”

“As long as there are states and groups that threaten Israel with annihilation, it must be able to protect its citizens,” Maas said, adding that Germany would “make contributions” to ensure Israel’s ability to do just that.

Maas is scheduled to meet Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi as well as other senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to discuss the measures the international community could take to promote a speedy ceasefire between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

He will also separately meet the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

The German minister’s visit comes amid the ongoing flare-up between Israel and the Hamas militant group in Gaza, which has seen the Palestinians launching hundreds of rockets at Israeli territory in the past 10 days and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responding with massive airstrikes targeting the Palestinian enclave.

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Shortly after landing in Israel, Maas joined Ashkenazi on a visit to Petah Tikva, a town located some 10km east of Tel Aviv, where a building was struck by a Palestinian rocket.

“The fact that we see that Hamas is again firing missiles into the south of Israel, since we have arrived here in Tel Aviv, is for us an indication of how serious the situation is that the people of Israel find themselves in,” the German minister said, earning praise from his Israeli counterpart.

Ashkenazi lauded the fact that Maas had decided to visit the Jewish state at a time when “sirens are sounding” as “the clearest sign of solidarity and Israeli-German friendship possible.”

However, the German foreign minister also reminded his host that Berlin still supported the idea of creating a Palestinian state as part of the so-called two-state solution. “We are convinced that a life in security and peace will only be possible in the long run if Israelis and Palestinians on both sides can live in self-determination,” he said.

Maas also acknowledged that “casualty numbers are rising by the day” on both sides, and said “the violence must end as soon as possible.”

The Israeli strikes against Gaza have killed at least 228 Palestinians since the conflict broke out on May 10, according to local health officials. In Israel, 12 people have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks. Most of the rockets from Gaza have been intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome air defense system.

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Maas is not the only European foreign minister who has demonstrated his nation’s solidarity with Tel Aviv by visiting Israel – Slovak FM Ivan Korcok and Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek also arrived on Thursday.

They both said that Israel had “no choice” but to defend itself and was “in need” of support.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her support for the two-state solution and called for indirect talks with Hamas to reach a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible. “Of course, Hamas has to be included, because, without Hamas, there will be no ceasefire,” she said.

Meanwhile, Germany’s senior lawmakers and government officials, including Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz; the leader of the Free Democrats, Christian Lindner; and the Secretary General of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Paul Ziemiak, plan to take part in a rally against anti-Semitism and in support of Israel later on Thursday.

Germany has seen a string of attacks targeting synagogues over the past few weeks, which the government condemned “in the strongest terms.” An anti-Israel protest in Berlin on Wednesday concluded with more than 50 arrests, according to the police.

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