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ConflictsMiddle East

German foreign minister slams 'massive' attacks on Israel

May 20, 2021

Heiko Maas said that Israel had the right to defend itself against "this massive and unacceptable attack." He is visiting Israel and calling for a cease-fire.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas + Israel Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi inspect a rocket-hit house in Petah Tikvah
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited a rocket-hit house in Petah Tikvah, IsraelImage: Dana Regev/DW

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Israel has the right to defend itself against "massive and unacceptable attacks," as he arrived in Israel on Thursday.

Maas stressed that Germany's solidarity "is not limited to words."

During a one-day trip, Maas is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top ministers for talks on the Israel-Palestinian crisis.

Maas will be discussing what the international community can do to promote a cease-fire, 10 days after Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip began a new round of a decades-long conflict.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to visit Jerusalem

Germany calls for cease-fire

"As long as there are states and groups that threaten Israel with destruction, it must be able to protect its inhabitants. Germany will continue to make contributions to ensure that this remains the case." Maas said as he met Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi.

"We support the international efforts for a cease-fire and are convinced that the violence must end as soon as possible in the interest of the people. I would also like to call for this here today," he added.

"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," Maas said.

Maas also spoke about suffering on both sides: "The casualty numbers are rising by the day. That also concerns us greatly, and for that reason we support international efforts for a cease-fire."

Twelve people have been killed in Israel by rocket fire during the conflict. The Palestinian health authorities, which do not differentiate between civilian and militant casualties, have reported more than 230 deaths.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas shakes hands with Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi first on his visitImage: European Pressphoto Agenc/dpa/picture alliance

"We also want to look beyond the current situation. 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."

In response, Ashkenazi said: "The fact that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is now visiting Israel while sirens are sounding is the clearest sign of solidarity and Israeli-German friendship possible."

He said he was "grateful for Germany's support since the beginning of the war" and for condemning Hamas.

Maas' trip to Israel

On Thursday, Maas is holding meetings with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and President Reuven Rivlin, in addition to Netanyahu and Ashkenazi.

Maas also joined Ashkenazi on a visit to Petah Tikva to the east of Tel Aviv to view a building struck by a missile.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Israel Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi inspect a rocket-hit house in Petah Tikvah, Israel
Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited a rocket-hit house with Israel Foreign Minister Gabi AshkenaziImage: Dana Regev/DW

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

DW reporter Dana Regev in Israel posted photographs of the house ahead of the visit.

Merkel backs indirect talks with Hamas

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by telephone with President Abbas on Thursday.

Both Merkel and Abbas agreed that initiatives for a speedy cease-fire should continue to be supported, Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a press release. 

Merkel also told a forum on Europe in Berlin earlier on Thursday that Israel has the right to defend itself.

She added that she wants diplomacy to lead to a sustainable situation in the Middle East.

This is in line with Germany's position that it advocates for what it calls a negotiated two‑state solution.

"Of course there must be indirect talks with Hamas," Merkel told the forum, noting that Egypt and other Arab countries were already holding discussions with the group. 

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi (R) visit a rocket-hit building
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has condemned the attacks against IsraelImage: Gil COHEN-MAGE/AFP

"Of course Hamas has to be included because without Hamas there will be no cease-fire."

She stressed she had zero tolerance for antisemitism in Germany, in light of recent incidents.

Is a cease-fire likely?

A senior Hamas official said early on Thursday that talks with mediators over a cease-fire were underway, predicting that a truce could be reached within days.

An Egyptian security source cited by Reuters news agency said the sides had agreed in principle to a cease-fire after help from mediators. However, that details are still under negotiation.

There are also growing growing international calls for a cease-fire .

France had drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire. But the United States has opposed this, insisting that it could interfere with other mediation efforts by Washington.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he "expected significant deescalation today on the path to a cease-fire."

Meanwhile, hostilities continued. The Israeli army said some 70 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel, the majority of which were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air-defense system.

Overnight, Israel carried out airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza.

kmm/aw (dpa, AFP, AP)