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Steinmeier responds to Israel FM on German role in Gaza

Germany’s foreign minister says officials are considering what contribution the country can make in Gaza. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on Germany and the European Union to send inspectors.

In an article to be published Friday in the Bild newspaper, Frank-Walter Steimeier said that he could see Germany having a role in Gaza following Israel's monthlong war there. Earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Bild that Germany and other EU countries needed to help find a solution.

"Together with our European partners, we are ready to make a contribution, for example with an EU monitoring mission of the border crossing," Steinmeier told Bild. "We are holding intensive talks with all sides to work out what would be necessary for this," he added.

On Wednesday, a diplomatic source said Germany, Britain and France would consider reactivating a European mission to monitor the flow of goods across Gaza's border with Egypt (pictured). Launched in 2005, the EU Border Assistance Mission monitored the Rafah border crossing after Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza, but it was discontinued two years later after Hamas seized power in the coastal territory.

'More decisively'

Egyptian officials are brokering indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians to extend a 72-hour ceasefire set to expire Friday. Speaking early Thursday, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, told Israel Radio that the army would respond to any rocket fire from Palestinian militants with force.

"The army would then resume operations and I think more decisively," he said.

A month of airstrikes and shelling displaced half a million people in Gaza. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers died, and rockets fired from Gaza killed three civilians.

Israel's attacks on Gaza killed 1,880 people; the UN estimates that the number includes 1,300 civilians. The attacks also left more than 9,800 people wounded.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to rebuild Gaza and ease the suffering of its 1.8 million inhabitants.

"Do we have to continue like this?" Ban said at the UN. "Build, destroy and build and destroy?"

"We will build again, but this must be the last time to rebuild," he said. "This must stop now. They must go back to the negotiating table."

mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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