Germany’s foreign minister to travel to Israel next week

By Thomson Reuters Feb 11, 2024 | 9:53 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Israel in the middle of next week, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Sunday, a trip in which she said she plans to urge for a ceasefire as Israel prepares to advance on Rafah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government is preparing an evacuation plan for the more than one million Palestinians penned into Rafah, on the southern border with Egypt. Many have already been displaced at least once and have nowhere left to flee in the crowded enclave.

“The distress in Rafah is already beyond belief. 1.3 million people are seeking protection from the fighting in the most limited of space. An offensive by the Israeli army on Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe,” Baerbock wrote in a post on X on Saturday.

“Israel must defend itself against Hamas terror but at the same time alleviate the suffering of civilians as much as possible. That is why another pause in fighting is needed – also in order for hostages can finally be released. I will discuss ways towards that in Israel again next week,” she added in a second post.

Palestinian health authorities say more than 28,000 people, about 70% of them women and children, have been killed since Israel began its offensive after militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, stormed the border fence into Israel on Oct. 7.

According to Israeli tallies, 1,200 were killed in the Hamas attack and more than 250 hostages taken.

Baerbock’s visit next week will be her fifth since the outbreak of the war.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Writing by Victoria Waldersee;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Sharon Singleton)