Middle East Newsblog I Baerbock travels to Israel and Lebanon


Lerato Khumalo

Israel has killed another Hezbollah commander. Baerbock is travelling to Israel and Lebanon for crisis talks. More information in the news blog.

16:42: According to the mediating state Qatar, there has been some progress in the negotiations to end the Gaza war. However, there are “still some gaps” between Israel and the Islamist Hamas, said Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani during a visit to the Spanish capital Madrid. Qatar is continuing its efforts. There have been several meetings with representatives of Hamas.

For months, the mediators USA, Qatar and Egypt have been trying to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire and Hamas to release the approximately 120 people abducted from Israel – so far without success.

3.22pm: Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) will travel to Israel next Monday in light of growing concerns about an escalation in the conflict between Israel and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia. In addition to the war in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing catastrophic humanitarian situation there, the path to a two-state solution will also be a topic, as on previous trips, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in Berlin said.

According to the spokeswoman, Baerbock will first attend the regular meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday, which will focus on joint support for Ukraine in its defensive fight against the Russian war of aggression and the situation in the Near and Middle East.

In the evening, the Federal Foreign Minister will give a speech at the Herzliya Security Conference of the Institute for Politics and Strategy and Reichman University near the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv. On Tuesday, talks with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mohammed Mustafa, are planned in Ramallah about the situation in the West Bank and the PA’s reform efforts. A meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz is planned in Jerusalem.

On Tuesday evening, Baerbock plans to speak with Prime Minister Najib Mikati in the Lebanese capital Beirut. One of the topics to be discussed is the tense and dangerous situation on the border between Israel and Lebanon. The Israeli military recently approved plans for an offensive in Lebanon, fueling concerns about an escalation of the conflict with the Hezbollah militia.

11.46 am: The Israeli army is advancing to the west and north of Rafah. According to residents, Israel has stepped up its offensive to take the city on the Egyptian border over the past two days. The Israeli army speaks of precise actions in Rafah based on intelligence information. The soldiers have been involved in close combat. Fighting is also taking place in other parts of the Gaza Strip.

3.35 am: The US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken advised Israel to avoid further escalation in Lebanon. Blinken met with Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs.

Thousands of people protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel on Thursday evening. According to Israeli media, the largest rally took place in front of the prime minister’s private home in the city of Caesarea. The demonstrators demanded new elections and the release of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip. According to media reports, hundreds also gathered in Jerusalem for a protest.

There have been repeated protests against the government in Israel for months. The demonstrators accuse Netanyahu of bowing to the demands of his extremist coalition partners and therefore of thwarting a deal to release the hostages held by Hamas. Some ministers are against an agreement with the Islamists because it would also provide for a ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.