Germany’s Scholz to visit Israel and Egypt this week – sources

BERLIN (Reuters) -German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Israel on Tuesday and then Egypt as Western nations try to prevent the Middle East conflict from spreading, 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.

“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.”

The German Chancellor said on Monday that apart from expressing solidarity with Israel, there were questions to be discussed about the security situation and how to prevent the conflict spreading, he said.

“The point is to be in constant dialogue with everyone and to prevent such escalation,” Scholz said in Tirana, Albania.

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.

“The Hamas attack was a terrorist act that was irresponsible, that has terrible consequences, that has killed an unbelievable number of people,” Scholz said. “That is why Israel has every right to defend itself.”

Israel has responded with its heaviest ever bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which Hamas authorities said has killed at least 2,808 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 worst fighting between them since a 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.

(Reporting by Rachel More and Maria Martinez, writing by Miranda Murray; editing by Mark Heinrich, Andrew Cawthorne and Grant McCool)