Middle East

German foreign minister condemns Israeli settlers’ violence in occupied West Bank

From CNN's Inke Kappeler and Niamh Kennedy

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock denounced Israeli settlers’ violence towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, against the backdrop of rising number of settler attacks.

“It is the responsibility of the Israeli government to implement and enforce the rule of law when people who live here legitimately and are being attacked illegally,” Baerbock told reporters during a visit to the occupied West Bank on Monday.

Israeli settlers or soldiers have killed at least 340 Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said last month that 2023 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2005, when it began keeping records, according to a report from the organization.

CNN previously reported on the violence, including one attack in the town of Huwara, where the assault was so brutal that the Israeli military commander for the West Bank called it a “pogrom.”

Remember: Israel has occupied the West Bank since seizing the territory from Jordanian military occupation in 1967. It later agreed to transfer limited control over parts of the territory to the Palestinian Authority, after agreements signed in the 1990s.

Israel has continued to build settlements in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, encroaching into land that Palestinians and the international community view as territory for a future Palestinian state. Israel views the West Bank as “disputed territory,” and contends its settlement policy is legal.

Berlin speaks up: Germany is one of Israel’s closest allies and its government has repeatedly stressed Israel has the right to defend itself. When the United Nations General Assembly voted to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza last month, Germany abstained in the non-binding vote for the ceasefire resolution.

But Baerbock has on Monday joined a growing chorus of leaders have warned Israel to limit the civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israeli attacks have killed at least 22,835 Palestinians since October 7 — about 1% of the enclave’s total pre-war population of 2.27 million people.

After a meeting with her Israeli counterpart Israel Katz and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Baerbock said Israel has to “protect Palestinian civilians much better in its military action“ in Gaza.

It came after Baerbock on Sunday called on Israel to carry out a “less intensive” military offensive in the Palestinian enclave, while stressing a post-war Gaza “must no longer pose a threat to Israel’s existence.”

She reiterated Germany’s position that the two-state solution is the “only chance for Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace.”

CNN’s Nima Elbagir, Abeer Salman, Eyad Kourdi, Sugam Pokharel, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Celine Alkhaldi, Tara John and Kareem Khadder contributed reporting to this post.

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