Germany will send a team to Egypt to analyze improving anti-smuggling efforts on the border with the Gaza strip, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after talks in Egypt on Saturday, Jan. 10.
Hamas says it won't consider a ceasefire until Israel stops its military offensive
On the second day of his Middle East trip, Steinmeier said he had offered German help in training personnel to secure the border between Egypt and Gaza to prevent the Islamist movement Hamas from rearming.
"We agreed in the next few days a group from Germany will travel to Egypt to see how we can help equip police and provide training," Steinmeier said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart.
Egypt has thus far objected to stationing foreign troops and other personnel on its 15-kilometer (nine-mile) border with Gaza, but was ready to accept technical assistance for its own forces along the border, diplomats have said.
Israel, for its part, has said it will no agree to any ceasefire until it contains regional and international commitments to prevent Hamas from smuggling rockets into the Gaza strip.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, meets with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Steinmeier arrived in Cairo late on Friday, yet another player in mediation efforts by the European Union. Steinmeier said that his stepped up intervention was coordinated with the Czech Republic, currently the EU president. On Sunday, he travels to Israel.
There, he will meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and president Shimon Peres. It was not clear if Steinmeier would also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before returning late Sunday to Berlin.
The United Nations Security Council late Thursday demanded an immediate end to the fighting. But on Saturday, Steinmeier said the resolution was "not enough to provide the conditions for a ceasefire."
Tens of thousands took part Saturday in worldwide protests against Israel's 15-day bombardment and infantry deployment into Gaza.
Palestinian supporters protest in Berlin
In Germany, more than 35,000 people took to the streets in demonstrations organized mainly by ethnic Turks, Palestinians and other predominantly Islamic minorities.
The biggest demonstration in Germany was in the western industrial city of Duisburg, where 10,000 demonstrators attended a rally organized by the Milli Gorus Islamic community, a Turkish Islamist group.
Thousands attended other Turkish-organized demonstrations in the cities of Mainz, Hanover and Freiburg.
In the capital, Berlin, a crowd of 8,500, mostly Palestinians, demonstrated against the Israeli operation in a follow-up to a rally a week ago by 7,000. Many held aloft photographs of injured children. A woman at the front carried a doll wrapped in "blood-stained" rags.
Palestinian immigrants also demonstrated by the thousands in the southern cities of Nuremberg and Munich.
Mo'aweya Hassanein, chief of emergency services in Gaza, said 31 Palestinians were killed Saturday and more than 50 wounded in airstrikes and tank-shelling on houses and cars in all areas of the enclave.
Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel
Hassanein said that the death toll since the beginning of Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, which began on December 27, had surpassed 820 killed and more than 3,300 people wounded.
The Israeli military said one of the people killed was a senior militant from Hamas who fired rockets into Israel. Israeli security officials said militants in Gaza fired more than 20 rockets on Saturday.