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A senior German diplomat in the country's foreign ministry has called on Israel to allow an “unconditional” flow of aid to Gaza, and to implement the UN Security Council resolution demanding “extended humanitarian pauses” in the war-ravaged territory.
At the same time, Tobias Lindner told The National in an interview in the Bahraini capital Manama on Saturday, that his country is involved in regional shuttle diplomacy and working “tirelessly” for an “unconditional” release of the hostages held by Hamas.
Germany’s policy towards the war is focused on five goals that include “making sure that Israel has the right to defend itself against terror within the boundaries of international law” and “improving the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people,” said Mr Lindner.
“We need more humanitarian aid,” he said.
Although the Israeli army agreed to open humanitarian corridors from Egypt into Gaza on October 21 following a US-brokered deal, Israel has only allowed in amounts of aid that are far smaller than what is needed for Gaza’s population.
On Saturday, US White House Co-ordinator Brett McGurk told the IISS Manama Dialogue security summit that “the surge in humanitarian relief” will come “when hostages are released”.
In contrast, Mr Lindner said during the interview on the sidelines of the annual conference in Bahrain that Berlin’s point of view was “to deliver more humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza, full stop".
“There is no justification why German citizens are being kept as hostages, so I demand their unconditional release,” Mr Lindner said in reference to Germans being held by Hamas, which the German government said this month totalled “eight” civilians. Mr Lindner said “a small two-digit number” of Germans were being held.
At the same time, humanitarian aid is for the people, for the civilian people. It's not to support Hamas or anybody. So from our from our perspective, humanitarian aid is also unconditional.”
In response to the Hamas-led October 7 attacks, Israel's military campaign in Gaza has killed more than 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, according to Hamas, which has ruled the strip since 2007. The real toll could be considerably higher as the health ministry in Gaza says it became unable to count fatalities around a week ago.
Israel has vowed to “eradicate” the militant group when it broke through Gaza's militarised border to kill about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 240 hostages, around half of whom are foreign passport holders.
Western and Arab officials attending the IISS Manama Dialogue have hinted that a first landmark hostage agreement is on the horizon, as indirect talks gain momentum.
The primary challenge, however, lies in reaching consensus on three key aspects, they say: the number of Israeli hostages to be released, what Hamas wants in return, and whether a humanitarian “pause” precedes the deal or vice versa.
“We are working tirelessly for an unconditional release of the hostages,” confirmed Mr Lindner. Berlin is involved in a “shuttle diplomacy” in the region, he added.
He explained that the three other pillars of German foreign policy regarding the war revolve around the need to “avoid a spread” of fire in the Middle East, support German citizens in the region, and release the German hostages.
The German minister reiterated his country's support for “a humanitarian pause” but is convinced that improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza significantly will only happen if “you have a significant pause of the military operations to let humanitarian aid in to help people”.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for the protection of children and “extended humanitarian pauses” in war-ravaged Gaza.
The resolution sponsored by Malta “demands that all parties comply with their obligations under international law … notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children”.
Despite the resolution being legally binding, Israel, which governments have accused of violating international humanitarian law, continued with its military offensive.
“This resolution now is a few days old, and we should do what we can … for a swift and speedy implementation,” Mr Lindner said.
Asked whether the two-state solution is still the optimal path for peace, he stressed that “there is no alternative on the table”.
“It's still viable, but we need to be careful. My government was very outspoken regarding the expansion of settlements in the West Bank,” said the Minister of State.
“We need to preserve and protect the preconditions necessary for a two-state solution based on the boundaries of 1967. If you expand settlements … that's a danger to the necessary preconditions.”