It is exactly three months to the day since Hamas terrorists attacked Israel at dawn, brutally claiming thousands of lives. For the people of Israel, Gaza and the entire region, 7 October marked the beginning of a never-ending nightmare. For the families and friends of the hostages abducted by Hamas, who have been torn between hope and despair for 92 days now, fearing for their loved ones. And for the people in the Gaza Strip, whose humanitarian situation is catastrophic.
Foreign Minister Baerbock issued the following statement prior to her departure on 7 January 2024:
We all feel that the terrorist playbook must not be allowed to continue any longer. Terrorism must come to an end. The humanitarian plight of the people must come to an end. The region must emerge from this endless cycle of violence. Now is the time to finally lay the foundations for lasting peace and security. Far too many people have already died in this conflict – people who did not want this war and who long for nothing more than peace. To achieve this, Gaza must no longer pose a threat to Israel’s existence. Hamas must lay down its arms and Hezbollah and the Houthis must cease playing with fire. To achieve this, the people of Gaza and the West Bank need to be able to live in security, dignity and self-determination.
Political talks in Israel and in the Palestinian territories
Foreign Minister Baerbock will begin her trip in Israel and will hold political talks on Sunday and Monday with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and the new Foreign Minister Israel Katz, among others. Meetings with representatives from civil society are also planned. On Monday, she will travel on to Ramallah and meet representatives of the Palestinian Authority such as Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki to discuss the situation in the West Bank and Gaza. Foreign Minister Baerbock is also planning an exchange with Palestinian residents of the West Bank about living in an increasingly difficult environment with violence from radical settlers and concerns about an escalation of the conflict.
Foreign Minister Baerbock stated the following:
As remote as this may seem right now, Israelis and Palestinians will only be able to live side by side in peace if the security of one is part and parcel of the security of the other. This will only succeed if each acknowledges the other’s suffering. We must leave no stone unturned on the path to a two-state solution.
Improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza
Foreign Minister Baerbock will then travel on to Egypt, where she will meet Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and other officials. The country is playing a key role as a mediator and for humanitarian access to Gaza via the Rafah border crossing. Rafah has been a hub since the beginning of the war and was the only access point to Gaza for most of the time. The supply situation for the people in Gaza remains catastrophic. According to the United Nations, 85 percent of Gaza’s population is internally displaced and 53 percent is suffering from malnutrition. Foreign Minister Baerbock will bring further urgently needed aid supplies for the people of Gaza on her trip to Rafah.
In addition to all this suffering, there is the risk of escalation in the region, which would have devastating consequences for the Middle East. The almost daily skirmishes on the Lebanese-Israeli border and the attacks by the Houthi militia on civilian ships in the Red Sea demonstrate just how volatile the situation is.
To prevent these smouldering fires from turning into a conflagration, it is essential to keep channels of communication open and to seek dialogue. Following her visit to Egypt, Foreign Minister Baerbock is therefore planning to travel on to Lebanon where she will meet inter alia with the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib. Furthermore, she is to visit the Bundeswehr whose frigate Baden-Württemberg is involved in the Maritime Task Force of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).