Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Israel on Tuesday and then Egypt as Western nations try to forestall a spread of the Middle East conflict, according to sources familiar with the plan.
Scholz is to depart following his meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Berlin on Tuesday, the sources said, though a government spokesperson declined confirmation
“This is really a sign of solidarity,” Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, told German TV channel Welt, of the reported visit. “He is the first prime minister to visit Israel (since the Hamas-Israel war erupted) and we see that as incredibly important.”
Germany has rallied round Israel since at least 1,300 people were killed and dozens taken hostage in an unprecedented, cross-border infiltration by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.
Israel has responded with its heaviest ever bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which Hamas authorities say have killed at least 2,750 people, in preparation for an expected ground invasion.
Israel’s relentless air strikes have complicated diplomatic efforts to allow foreign passport holders to leave the besieged, densely populated enclave while allowing in aid for Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
Heightening international fears of the conflict expanding, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, has been exchanging fire with Israel across the border for days in the deadliest escalation since they fought a major war in 2006.
Last week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held talks in Israel and Egypt on how to defuse the crisis.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also visited Israel last week, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Tel Aviv again on Monday as part of an extended Middle East trip.

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