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Middle East updates: Baerbock says planning Lebanon visit

Published June 24, 2024last updated June 24, 2024

Germany's foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has called intensified fighting on the Israeli-Lebanese border "more than concerning," and said she would stop off in Lebanon on her Middle East trip. DW has more.

An Israeli tank and two soldiers near the border with Lebanon
Image: Gil Eliyahu/JINI/Xinhua/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Baerbock planning a Lebanon visit amid "more than concerning" uptick in fighting on border to Israel
  • Israel's Netanyahu says major military operations in Rafah winding down, partly to relocate troops north 
  • Houthi rebels strike Greek-owned ship bound for Egypt

Here is a roundup of developments from the Israel-Hamas war and the wider Middle East region on Monday, June 24. This blog has now closed.

Skip next section US wants realistic plan for Gaza after the war
June 24, 2024

US wants realistic plan for Gaza after the war

While meeting Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will emphasize the importance of Israel developing a robust and a realistic plan for the governance of Gaza after the war, according to the US State Department.

Spokesperson Matthew Miller said the two will also discuss the need to avoid further escalation of the conflict in Gaza and to improve humanitarian access to civilians there.

The AFP news agency reported that Gallant met with CIA Director Bill Burns before heading into talks with Blinken. Burns has been President Joe Biden's point person in the efforts to secure a hostage deal and a pause in fighting in Gaza.

 "I would like to emphasize that it is Israel's primary commitment to return the hostages, with no exception, to their families and homes," AFP quoted Gallant as saying before he headed into meetings with the US officials.

"We will continue to make every possible effort to bring them home," he said. 

The statements came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments in an interview published late Sunday by Israel Channel 14 angered the families of roughly 120 hostagesheld in Gaza.

Netanyahu said he would only be willing to "to make a partial deal — this is no secret — that will return to us some of the people," sparking anger from familieswho called on the president to ensure the return of all hostages.

Netanyahu: Intense phase of Gaza war winding down

Skip next section Germany wants 'clarification' after IDF soldiers tie wounded man to jeep
June 24, 2024

Germany wants 'clarification' after IDF soldiers tie wounded man to jeep

Germany called for "clarification and consequences" after the Israeli military admitted to its failings in itstreatment of an injured Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said he was aware the incident was a violation of rules of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the German government expected "rapid clarification, rapid results and corresponding consequences for those responsible."

The IDF said Sunday it was investigating the conduct of some of its soldiers after a wounded Palestinian man was tied to the hood of a moving military jeep during a raid in Jenin.

The Israeli military said the conduct of its forces did not "conform to the values of the IDF." 

Skip next section UNRWA chief wants countries to 'push back' against Israel's efforts to disband it
June 24, 2024

UNRWA chief wants countries to 'push back' against Israel's efforts to disband it

The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) called for help to resist Israel's efforts to have the organization disbanded.

"Israel has long been critical of the agency's mandate. But it now seeks to end UNRWA's operations, dismissing the agency's status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of member states," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told the agency's advisory body in Geneva.

"If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system," Lazzarini said.

UNRWA was established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war and provides services including schooling, primary healthcare and humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Israel has sought to have the organization dismantled. Last month the Knesset passed an early reading of a bill seeking to have UNRWA designated as a terrorist organization.

Earlier this year, Israel accused UNRWA staff of being involved in the October 7 terror attacks.

An investigation requested by the UN into the allegations found no evidence to support Israel's allegations that the agency had been thoroughly infiltrated by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

According to UNRWA, 193 of its workers in Gaza have been killed since the war began.

Skip next section US: Yemen's Houthis strike Greek-owned ship bound for Egypt
June 24, 2024

US: Yemen's Houthis strike Greek-owned ship bound for Egypt

The US Central Command, or CENTCOM, said in a statement that Houthi rebels in Yemen had fired on a bulk cargo carrier that was Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned and operated, and en route to Egypt. 

The attack took place at around 4 a.m. on Monday local time (0100 GMT), CENTCOM said, describing it as a "suspected uncrewed aerial system (UAS) attack," meaning a comparatively sophisticated drone attack likely involving ground control stations and other support.

The crew of the vessel "reported minor injuries and moderate damage to the ship, but the vessel has continued underway," the statement continued. 

Houthi rebels, who have controlled much of Yemen for around a decade, have stepped up attacks on commercial ships amid the conflict in Gaza. They say they are responding to Israel's military campaign and have been targeting shipping and assets belonging to, or bound for, Israel. Analysts have said the rebels are firing on non-military ships more or less at random, based mainly on what is in reach.

"This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional security and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden," CENTCOM said. 

Can Africa profit from Red Sea crisis?

Skip next section Germany's Baerbock plans Lebanon leg in Middle East trip
June 24, 2024

Germany's Baerbock plans Lebanon leg in Middle East trip

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said the increasing tension on the Israeli-Lebanese border was "more than concerning," and said she would include a stop in Lebanon during her upcoming trip to the region. 

"A further escalation would be a catastrophe for all people in the region," Baerbock said. 

She was speaking on arrival in Luxembourg for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday. Baerbock is set to travel on to Israel from this appointment and is expected to give a speech on Monday evening at the Herzliya Security Conference in Israel

She then has an appointment scheduled with her Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, on Tuesday. 

The German foreign minister again appealed for a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of the remaining Israeli hostages, saying a halt in fighting was "needed more urgently than ever." 

The Iran-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon and Israeli forces have been exchanging fire most days since Hamas' October 7 attacks and Israel's subsequent military operations in Gaza. But the fighting has intensified in recent days and weeks

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also voiced concern about the outbreak of more widespread fighting in Lebanon. 

"The risk of this war affecting the south of Lebanon and spilling over is every day bigger," Borrell told reporters. "We are on the eve of the war expanding." 

Expert: Israel-Hezbollah war 'would be a disaster'

Skip next section Netanyahu says Rafah operation winding down
June 24, 2024

Netanyahu says Rafah operation winding down

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said in a TV interview that the "intense phase of fighting against Hamas" in Rafah in southern Gaza was about to end.

"We will have the possibility of transferring some of our forces north, and we will do that," Netanyahu said Sunday on Channel 14, referring to the border with Lebanon and Hezbollah attacks into Israel. He said the relocation of troops would be done "primarily for defensive purposes." 

You can read about this story in more detail here.

Rafah, as one of the last remaining strongholds of Hamas and its allies, has been one of the main focuses of Israel's military in Gaza since early May. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU and other governments.

The International Court of Justice called on Israel last month to curtail any operations in Rafah that could render the area uninhabitable. The court also called on Hamas to release the remaining Israeli hostages from its October 7 terror attacks.

msh/ab (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)