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Baerbock says people must be brought to safety before Rafah offensive

In Europe
February 15, 2024

During her visit to Israel, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged an evacuation of the civilian population from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip before an Israeli offensive.

It is important to her that the international community does everything to ensure that the one million people in the city reach safety, Baerbock said on the second day of her diplomatic visit on Thursday.

Palestinians need a protective corridor back to the north of the coastal strip before attacks are launched to combat Islamist militant cells in Rafah, the German diplomat noted.

At the same time, Baerbock stressed that “Hamas is the fundamental evil of this situation. We stand in full solidarity with the people here in Israel.”

She said that militants from the Palestinian organization Hamas had raped women and “murdered small children in the most brutal way” in Israel on October 7.

They had also brought a lot of suffering to children and families in the Gaza Strip, she added. Some 17,000 children are currently orphaned in the Palestinian territory.

The suffering must end, the German foreign minister said. “That is our human task.”

She also called on the countries in the region to put pressure on Hamas to surrender and release the hostages still being held.

Baerbock called on the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to take a position.

Baerbock also insisted on better cooperation on aid deliveries to the Palestinian territory. The Israeli army must provide security guarantees. “The United Nations must take a closer look at how aid is distributed locally.”

The Green politician also spoke out in favour of significantly more aid deliveries – specifically 500 trucks a day. That’s how many trucks carrying humanitarian goods drove into the area every day before the start of the war. Baerbock also called for additional border crossings to be opened.

In order to distribute the aid and achieve the release of the hostages, a ceasefire is needed, Baerbock continued.

On Thursday, Baerbock met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Israeli war Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz and relatives of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip.

It is the German foreign minister’s fifth trip to Israel since the war in Gaza began after Hamas launched unprecedented bloody attacks on Israel which killed about 1,200 people, many of them civilians who died in massacres.

In response, Israel’s massive ground and air offensive has killed 28,576 and injured a further 68,291 in Gaza, according to Wednesday’s figures.

Baerbock stressed that a renewed ceasefire could open a window of opportunity to negotiate the release of additional hostages being held by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.

Baerbock has called on the warring parties to accept a proposal from Qatar and Egypt for a ceasefire and the release of further hostages.

Israel’s leaders, however, have flatly rejected that possibility and demanded that Hamas capitulate before any further talks are held.

During a week-long ceasefire in November, 105 hostages were released as part of a deal that also saw Israel release 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Another 134 people are believed to still be held by Hamas, although the Israeli military believes at least 30 of them are already dead.

On Friday, Baerbock is due to join the Munich Security Conference, where the war in Gaza is expected to be a major topic, along with Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

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