German FM Maas: We stand with Israel’s right to defend itself
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German FM Maas: We stand with Israel’s right to defend itself

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 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek and Slovakian Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok expressed their support for Israel during a visit to the region, as Operation Guardian of the Walls continued on Thursday.

“Germany stands with Israel and its right to defend itself,” Maas said ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. “I came to Israel to show solidarity and support Israel after the rocket fire from Gaza. Israel has the right to defend itself.”

“Israel’s security and that of the Jewish residents here are not negotiable,” he stated.

Maas added that he has been following the humanitarian situation in Gaza with great concern, but that he is aware of Israeli efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the coastal enclave.

In recent days, Hamas twice shelled humanitarian aid convoys from Israel into Gaza, killing two civilians and injuring 10, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Maas also said that Germany supports efforts to bring about a ceasefire, and that he has been in contact with the US, Egypt and others towards that aim.

“We need to look to the future and make sure there is sustainable peace in the region that allows for a situation in which Israelis and Palestinians can live here with self-determination. The current situation is one of uncertainty that only serves to strengthen those who spread hate and terror,” Maas stated.

Maas met with Ashkenazi, who also accompanied him to Petah Tikva to see a home that was destroyed by a Hamas rocket and receive a security briefing from Home Front Command commander Maj.-Gen. Ori Gorodin.

Soon after, Kulhanek and Korčok visited the same house.

Kulhanek said he was “speechless” after seeing the destruction terrorism against Israel has wrought.

“In these days, Israel needs its friends in the world, and we are here to show strong friendship,” he stated. “The Czech Republic proudly waved an Israeli flag over its government institutions as a sign of identification with and support for Israel. Israel has the full right to defend itself.”

Korčok said that Israel and Slovakia are “true friends,” and that he is in Israel to show the power of that friendship.

“Hamas shooting must stop. Israel has the right to defend itself,” he said.

Ashkenazi thanked the foreign ministers for their countries’ support, and said that raising an Israeli flag over the Czech Foreign Ministry and Bratislava’s City Hall is “heartwarming and cannot be taken for granted.”

Asheknazi explained that the current round of fighting is different from the past: “Hamas’s missile attack on Israel broke out following a brutal attempt by Hamas to strengthen its political status and take over the Palestinian agenda and Palestinian Authority leadership.

“Hamas chose to do this through terrorist attacks and shooting missiles and rockets at Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the south. [Hamas] is doing this from populated areas, in backyards and schools, while using residents of Gaza as human shields. Hamas is committing a double war crime,” he said.

Ashkenazi pointed out that Hamas rockets have destroyed electric lines into Gaza, and then Hamas shot at Israeli Electric Company staff that tried to fix them.

“This is another example of how Hamas harms the population of Gaza and cynically takes advantage of its distress,” Ashkenazi said.

Maas also met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who updated him on developments in the fighting against Hamas and progress towards the goal of attaining long-term quiet and security for Israelis.

The German foreign minister also plans to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and will go to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. He plans to return to Germany on Thursday.

Greek Foreign Ministry Nikos Dendias visited Israel on Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council did not reach a joint statement on the ongoing fighting between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said most member states’ foreign ministers agreed to a call for ceasefire and a condemnation of Hamas rockets, as well as the high number of civilian casualties, and a call for Israel to use “proportionate” force and respect international law.

Hungary vetoed an official statement, which must be made by consensus, because of its implied criticism of Israel, while other countries, like Ireland, felt it did not go far enough and called to take active steps against Israel.

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