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Germany's Baerbock demands access for aid at Gaza crossing

March 26, 2024

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has demanded access to the Gaza Strip for aid organizations during a visit to the Israeli Kerem Shalom border crossing. She called the humanitarian situation in Gaza "hell."

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock is shown how aid trucks are checked and prepared at the Israel-Gaza border crossing at Kerem Shalom
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock was shown how aid trucks are checked and prepared at the Israel-Gaza border crossing at Kerem ShalomImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, continued her diplomatic tour of the Middle East on Tuesday with a visit to the Israel-Gaza border crossing point Kerem Shalom.

Describing the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as "hell," she demanded that international aid organizations be able to bring aid to Palestinians "unhindered" and announced that Germany had increased its funding to the World Food Programme by an additional €10 million ($10.8 million).

"Given the suffering in Gaza, we can no longer afford this discussion about where exactly the bottleneck is," she said, demanding that the process of "unloading, inspecting and reloading trucks up to three times," as described to her by Egyptian and Israeli border personnel, be speeded up.

"We need a way to change this," she said, adding that Germany would "pull out all the stops" to support a Jordanian concept which would see a smaller number of trucks enter Gaza directly without having to undergo the lengthy inspection process.

Baerbock, of Germany's Green Party which is part the current coalition government, became the first foreign minister permitted to visit the Kerem Shalom crossing by Israeli authorities, and was shown how around 120 trucks are prepared and loaded with aid each day.

Prior to the October 7 attack on Israel by militant-Islamist Hamas, during which around 1,200 Israelis were killed and 250 taken hostage, around 500 aid trucks would enter Gaza daily, and around 300 via Kerem Shalom.

According to Israeli border personnel, 12 trucks an hour can be checked for weapons, ammunition and other non-permitted items by two scanners ― which Baerbock wasn't shown.

She was told by Israeli personnel that more trucks could be processed but that there were too few Palestinian drivers, according to the German dpa news agency.

US 'will not rest until all Hamas hostages are home': US Defense Secretary

Baerbock urges Israel not to 'follow the script of terror'

Following her visit to Kerem Shalom, Baerbock held talks with her Israeli counterpart Israel Katz in Jerusalem.

The discussions, which German news agency dpa described as "professional" but "cool" and in which neither sought much eye contact, revolved around Monday's UN call for a cease-fire and the release of hostages as well as Baerbock's repeated calls for a two-state solution.

Annalena Baerbock shakes hands with Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz
Baerbock then held talks with Israeli foreign minister Israel KatzImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Baerbock also said that, while Israel has a right to defend itself, it must not lose sight of the bigger picture.

"The security of Israel depends on how the government conducts the fight against Hamas," she said, urging Israel not to "follow the script of terror."

Baerbock: Israeli security linked to Palestinian security

Baerbock's Israel visit was the third and final stop on her latest diplomatic tour of the region, which started in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday evening and continued with meetings with Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Monday.

During talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Baerbock reiterated her call for a two-state solution to the ongoing conflict, insisting: "People in Israel can only live in security when Palestinians live in security, and Palestinians can only live in security when Israel has long-term security."

She said that a two-state solution can only work with a "reformed" Palestinian Authority (PA), but welcomed the fact that the first steps towards this were "already on the table."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, in Ramallah
Baerbock praised Abbas and the PA for clearly condemning the violence of the October 7 attacks led by HamasImage: Palestinian President Office/REUTERS

She insisted that the PA have "access to Gaza and the certainty that Gaza and the West Bank are both part of Palestine," and called on Israel to release taxation money collected in the occupied West Bank on the PA's behalf, but which it has been withholding.

"The PA needs all [necessary] instruments to take this path and it needs financial support," she said, calling the current facilitation of transfers via the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund "only a temporary step" and lamenting a situation where "schools can't open every day because the teachers can't be paid" and an "unimaginable situation for pupils here."

Germany's Baerbock criticizes Israeli settlers

If Baerbock's later meeting with Israeli foreign minister Katz was little more than cordial, it may have been due to her earlier criticism of Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

"Every announcement of a new settlement creates gaps in the territory of a future Palestinian state, literally building over a two-state solution, literally building over peace," she said, promising to continue to call for "radical, violent settlers to face consequences."

"It's not in the interest of security for Palestinians and it's not in the interest of the security of the state of Israel."

Israel: Far-right settler groups call for Gaza resettlement

mf/lo (Reuters, dpa)

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