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Middle East updates: EU and G7 discuss Iran response

Published April 17, 2024last updated April 18, 2024

EU leaders gather in Brussels, G7 foreign ministers head for Capri, and the UN schedules a vote on full Palestinian membership. The world’s still scrambling to react to tension between Israel and Iran. DW has more.

Unidentified men are carrying a model of Iran's first-ever hypersonic missile, Fattah, past a mosque
Iran and Israel have both said they would react to any attack in the manner of their choosingImage: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • EU leaders gather in Brussels with the escalation between Iran and Israel center stage
  • G7 foreign ministers, meanwhile, are convening on the Italian island of Capri
  • The Security Council will vote on full Palestinian UN membership on Friday, the US may veto
  • Germany's Baerbock calls for 'prudent' response in talks with Israeli leaders

The news from the Middle East on Wednesday, April 17. This blog is now closed.

Skip next section Iran 'not prepared' for escalation, expert tells DW
April 18, 2024

Iran 'not prepared' for escalation, expert tells DW

Arash Azizi, historian and author of a book called "The Shadow Commander: Soleimani, the US and Iran's Global Ambitions," told DW he does not believe Iran is ready for or wants the conflict withIsrael to escalate, despite its actions over the weekend. 

"I think they're not prepared. I think they thought they could do this attack and, frankly, get away with it," Azizi said. 

He said he believed the government in Tehran was also aware that most of the world would not want matters to escalate.

"I think they know that there's an appetite against it: in the United States, in western capitals, in the region certainly. The Arab countries definitely don't want a Iran-Israel war to break out. That can be catastrophe for everyone." 

Meanwhile, as the EU and G7 debate potential new sanctions to target Iran, Azizi said he was skeptical of their likely impact. 

"I don't think sanctions do much by this point. Iran is already one of the most sanctioned, probably the most sanctioned country in the world. It also happens to have relations with Russia, which is already another heavily sanctioned country," he said.

"And we've already seen that a lot of countries don't honor sanctions or find ways of going around them. And even those who want to enforce them find sort of a bit of exhaustion around them. So, no, I think sanctions will have limited effect," he added. 

War with Iran would be a catastrophe on every level: Historian Arash Azizi

Skip next section ​​​​​​​'We've got to make sure there's no escalation,' Jordan FM says
April 17, 2024

​​​​​​​'We've got to make sure there's no escalation,' Jordan FM says

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said an Israeli retaliation against Iranian strikes could bring a real risk of dragging the whole region into a devastating war.

In an interview released by state media, Safadi said his country was lobbying major powers against an escalation that would have far-reaching consequences for regional stability and security.

"The risks are enormous. That could drag the whole region into war, which would be devastating to us in the region and we’ll have very, very serious implications for the rest of the world including the US," Safadi said.

"The situation is too dangerous. The chances of regional explosion are real, and that has got to stop. We’ve got to make sure there’s no further escalation," he added.

Jordan, along with the US, UK and France, shot down most drones and missiles fired toward Israel by Iran on Saturday. 

Iran said it launched the attack in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic complex in Damascus on April 1.  

Arab nations weigh response to Israel-Iran tensions

Skip next section Children disproportionately affected by war in Gaza, UN agency says
April 17, 2024

Children disproportionately affected by war in Gaza, UN agency says

A United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) official said in a statement that children were being disproportionately affected by the war in Gaza.

More than 12,000 children — or almost 70 children every day — are estimated to have been injured since the conflict began, UNICEF official Tess Ingram said citing Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry documents.

"This is almost certainly an underestimate because only a small number of all reported injuries are disaggregated to specify when it is a child that has been injured," she said, adding: "These children have become the faces of the ongoing war."

The war in Gaza began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel from Gaza on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many countries including US, Israel and Germany. 

Skip next section IDF says first WFP aid trucks enter Gaza from Ashdod port
April 17, 2024

IDF says first WFP aid trucks enter Gaza from Ashdod port

Israel's military said on Wednesday that the first contingent of aid from the World Food Program (WFP) had entered the Gaza Strip after passing checks at the Ashdod Port.

Israel said earlier this month that it would be using the port, which is just north of the enclave, to deliver food aid.

"For the first time since the approval of the opening of the Ashdod Port, 8 WFP trucks of flour entered Gaza from the port," the Israel Defense Forces wrote on social media. "The trucks underwent a thorough security inspection at the Ashdod Port. They were then admitted into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom Crossing."

UN agencies, including the UNRWA on Tuesday, have complained that there has been "no significant change" in the amount of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip, even after the International Court of Justice called for Israel to allow more aid in

Gaza City: Bakery reopening brings bread to hungry families

Skip next section Germany's Scholz calls for restrained Israeli response
April 17, 2024

Germany's Scholz calls for restrained Israeli response

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at an EU summit in Brussels, has appealed for a measured response from Israel following last weekend's drone and missile attack by Iran. 

"For us, it's important that this moment is used for a further de-escalation," Scholz said, advising Israel to use its successful repulsion of the attack with the help of allies "to strengthen its own position in the entire region." 

On this basis, he urged Israel not to respond with "a massive attack of its own." 

After Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo voiced support for sanctions against Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Scholz said such a step would require further legal checks first.

Skip next section Security Council schedules vote on full Palestinian UN membership
April 17, 2024

Security Council schedules vote on full Palestinian UN membership

The Security Council plans to vote on Friday afternoon on a Palestinian request for full UN membership.

Algeria, currently one of the body's 10 rotating members, put forward the motion that "the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations."

Unlike in past such votes, the motion may receive sufficient support that the United States is forced to decide whether to use its veto power to block the motion. 

The motion would need the support of nine of the 15 current Security Council members and no objections from the Council's five veto holders to pass. The last attempt fell short of nine votes in favor. 

However, European powers, including permanent Security Council members the UK and France, have been reiterating the importance of more formal Palestinian statehood as part of the recipe for peace in the conflict in Gaza in recent months.

Should the motion pass the Security Council, the UN General Assembly would also have to approve the request for full membership with a two-thirds majority. However, the Palestinians would very likely surpass this hurdle.

The State of Palestine is currently a non-member observer state at the UN. This is already seen as a de facto recognition of statehood at some level, but one that required only to pass a vote in the UN General Assembly, where no country holds a veto, as it did in 2012. 

Full UN membership would be a major step towards a more autonomous and influential Palestinian state.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Greenfield recently said Washington believed the issue was one that should be settled between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We do not see that doing a resolution the Security Council will necessarily get us to a place where we can find ... a two-state solution moving forward," she said. 

Skip next section Jordan sees itself 'trapped between 2 major troublemakers,' analyst says
April 17, 2024

Jordan sees itself 'trapped between 2 major troublemakers,' analyst says

The director of the Al Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman, Oraib Al-Rantawi, said Jordan perceived the conflict in Gaza as a potentially "existential threat" even before tensions between Iran and Israel started to mount. 

"Jordan is trapped between, if I may say, and I quote here some officials, between two major troublemakers in our area, Israel and Tehran," he told DW. 

Al-Rantawi said he believed Jordan helped intercept Iran's drones over the weekend, firstly, to defend its own sovereignty and airspace, and, secondly, in a bid to contain the potential tension between countries in the region. 

However, he said he did not believe it heralded a military alliance with Israel against Iran, primarily because of regional dissatisfaction with the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

He said governments like Jordan would have several priorities facing the current situation, the "top" one being "not to allow [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to divert the attention from Gaza to somewhere else." 

Al-Rantawi said Jordanian officials would also seek to prevent a widespread regional conflict where "nobody will be winning." 

"If Israel also retaliates to the Iranian attack, the Iranians will retaliate again and this will be a vicious circle of violence," Al-Rantawi said, saying that, in his opinion, Iran's first attack was in retaliation to an explosion at Iran's Damascus consulate at the beginning of the month. While Iran blames Israel for the strike, Israel has not claimed responsibility. 

Skip next section Iran-Israel tensions set to dominate G7 ministers' meeting
April 17, 2024

Iran-Israel tensions set to dominate G7 ministers' meeting

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialized countries are meeting on the Italian island of Capri on Wednesday for three days of talks.

The gathering is overshadowed by expectations of an Israeli retaliation against Iran over its weekend missile and drone attacks against Israel. 

The ramping up of tensions between Israel and Iran looks set to dominate the agenda of the ministers from the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan.

Italy holds the G7's rotating presidency and is urging a cease-fire in Gaza and a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

However, despite Western calls for restraint, Israel appears likely to retaliate against Iran. 

"Against a background of strong international tensions, the Italian-led G7 is tasked with working for peace," Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said in a statement.

There was a pledge of support for Israel from G7 nations in the wake of the Iranian attack. Tehran said the weekend's drone and missile attack came in response to what it said was an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus.

The wars in Gaza and in Ukraine are also expected to feature on the G7 ministers' agenda.

Skip next section Iran's president warns of 'fierce' response even to 'slightest' aggression
April 17, 2024

Iran's president warns of 'fierce' response even to 'slightest' aggression

Iran Teheran | Iranischer Präsident Ebrahim Raisi
Image: Vahid Salemi/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi praised the aerial attack on Israel during a speech at a military parade marking the country's armed forces' day on the outskirts of Tehran

"This operation showed that our armed forces are ready," he said in a speech addressed to the regular army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. 

Raisi said that even "the slightest act of aggression" by Israel would lead to a "fierce and severe response" from Iran, repeating similar warnings issued in recent days. 

Iran's military showcased an array of weaponry at Wednesday's parade, including long-range drones such as those used in the weekend attack and the Russian-made S-300 air defense system. 

A Russian-made S-300 air defense system is carried on a truck during Army Day parade at a military base in northern Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, April 17, 2024.
Offensive and defensive aerial equipment, like the S-300 missile defense system visible in this shot, was on show at the paradeImage: Vahid Salemi/AP/dpa/picture alliance

The parade was relocated at short notice from its usual venue on the outskirts of southern Tehran to a military barracks in the north of the capital. It was also not broadcast on state television as in previous years. No reason was given for the changes. 

Iranian army members march during Army Day parade at a military base in northern Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, April 17, 2024.
Regular soldiers and volunteer troops alike participated in the paradeImage: Vahid Salemi/AP/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section 14 wounded in Hezbollah attack on northern Israel
April 17, 2024

14 wounded in Hezbollah attack on northern Israel

The Iran-backed group Hezbollah has said it launched a drone and missile attack from Lebanon against an Israeli base in response to strikes that killed three Hezbollah fighters.

Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, said a strike in Western Galilee had injured 13 people, including four in a serious condition. The local Galilee Medical Center and the Israeli military said 14 people had been injured.

There have been near-daily cross-border exchanges since Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering war in the Gaza Strip.

It's the third day in a row that Hezbollah strikes have wounded people in Israel amid heightened regional tensions after Iran's unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel.

Hezbollah said the Wednesday attack came "in response to the enemy assassinating a number of resistance fighters in Ain Baal and Shehabiya" on Tuesday.

The Israeli army said it had identified several launches from Lebanon crossing the border and added that its forces had struck the sources of the fire.

More than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians have been killed in the fighting on the Lebanese side of the border, according to a toll by Reuters news agency.

The Israeli military said 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed near the northern border to Lebanon since hostilities flared after October 7. 

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite political party and militant group that is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Germany.

Lebanese seek end to border battles by Ramadan

Skip next section Germany's Baerbock calls on Israel, Iran to act 'prudently and responsibly'
April 17, 2024

Germany's Baerbock calls on Israel, Iran to act 'prudently and responsibly'

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says she made clear in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her visit to Israel that the Middle East must not be allowed to slide into a scenario with an outcome that is completely unpredictable.

"Everyone must now act prudently and responsibly," said Baerbock before leaving Israel to attend a Group of Seven foreign ministers' meeting in Italy that is due to discuss Iran sanctions.

"I am not talking about giving in, I am talking about prudent restraint."

Skip next section Netanyahu thanks Germany for 'important' support
April 17, 2024

Netanyahu thanks Germany for 'important' support

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thanked German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock for Germany's backing in its stance against Iran, saying it meant a lot to his country.

"I want to thank you for the support you've given to Israel, during the Iranian attack. It's important for us. It's something we should be considering as well among other things we'll be discussing. So thank you."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned Iran not to carry out more attacks, and Baerbock has said the Iranian attack on Israel had brought the region "to the edge of the abyss."

In his talks with the visiting British and German foreign ministers, Netanhyahu's office said he "rejected the claims by international organizations about famine in Gaza and said that Israel is doing above and beyond" what is needed "on the humanitarian issue."

He also said that Israel "will reserve the right to protect itself," the office said.

"I want to make it clear —we will make our own decisions, and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself," his office's statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock
Baerbock said she would use some of her time in Israel to demand that more aid be let into GazaImage: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section Israel now has chance to curb Iran, says Israeli Foreign Minister Katz
April 17, 2024

Israel now has chance to curb Iran, says Israeli Foreign Minister Katz

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz
Israel's foreign minister emphasized Iran's threat to security during talks with BaerbockImage: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has met Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz to discuss the aftermath of Iran's missile and drone attack on Israel. 

Katz said Israel now had a chance to act against Iran and clarified that it had a right to react. 

"Iran and its affiliates endanger regional and global stability. Now we have an opportunity to curb Iran."

"Its wild attack on the State of Israel proved that Iran endangers regional stability through its terrorism and that of its affiliates. It's time to call the Revolutionary Guards by their real name — a terrorist organization and impose painful sanctions on Iran's missile project."

Baerbock met Katz alongside her UK counterpart David Cameron, who Katz thanked for Britain's participation in curbing the Iranian attack. He also thanked Baerbock for Germany's resolute stance on Israel's side.

He also asked the ministers to act in the UN Security Council to make sure that any cease-fire would be conditioned on the release of all the abductees.

Skip next section Not responding to Iran would be an escalation, says Israeli minister
April 17, 2024

Not responding to Iran would be an escalation, says Israeli minister

An Israeli minister has vowed a response to Iran's missile and drone attacks in an interview with DW on Wednesday.

"No state on Earth would suffer this kind of an assault and attack without a response and so therefore I think we have the obligation to take serious steps and to make sure that these assaults will not happen again," Amichai Chikli, Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism said on a visit to Brussels. 

"It's quite an escalation to shoot hundreds of missiles toward a sovereign state. So not to escalate — not to respond — would be to escalate. And to say that we can accept these kinds of attacks against us, it will send the wrong message to the terror regime in Iran," he said. 

Tehran says its attacks against Israel was an act of self-defense, after a suspected Israeli strike on the consulate in the Iranian embassy complex in Damascus. On Wednesday, Chikli told reporters: "We did not attack the embassy. This is a building next to the embassy. Not the embassy itself."

As European Union leaders and G7 foreign ministers gathered separately on Wednesday, Chikli called on the West to impose further sanctions on Iran and sever diplomatic ties with Tehran. 

"Words are not enough," Chikli said. "We need to see the decisive economic sanctions against Iran, against Iran Revolutionary Guard personnel, their leaders, their assets all across the world, to shut down embassies. I don't think any Western state should have an embassy in Iran." 

Arab nations weigh response to Israel-Iran tensions

Skip next section Israeli president says world must work 'defiantly' against Iran
April 17, 2024

Israeli president says world must work 'defiantly' against Iran

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her UK counterpart David Cameron  arrive for the meeting
Annalena Baerbock and David Cameron were in Israel ahead of a meeting of G7 foreign ministers later in the day in ItalyImage: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has spoken after his talks with the British foreign secretary and German foreign minister in Jerusalem, thanking them and urging the international community to unite against Iran.

"I appreciate our warm discussion together this morning in Jerusalem. Thank you for both the UK and Germany’s strong stand alongside Israel in the face of the reprehensible attack by Iran."

"The whole world must work decisively and defiantly against the threat by the Iranian regime which is seeking to undermine the stability of the whole region," said Herzog on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her UK counterpart David Cameron are the first Western diplomats to visit Israel since Iran's missile and drone attack.

Iran said the attack came in retaliation for a strike on its consulate compound in the Syrian capital, Damascus, that it blames on Israel.

After he met Herzog, Cameron said it was clear that Israel had decided to respond to the attack.

"It's clear the Israelis are making a decison to act," Cameron said. "We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible." 

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