By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany expects Israel to adapt its military strategy to better prevent suffering among Palestinian civilians, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday, marking a slight shift in Berlin towards a more critical stance of its ally.
Germany has staunchly defended Israel’s right to defend itself since the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, underscoring its duty to stand by the country’s side in atonement for its perpetration of the Holocaust in which six million Jews died.
The government has faced accusations – including from prominent Jewish residents in Germany – of allowing guilt to blinker its response to Israel’s retaliation, which has caused a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
German government officials have increasingly stressed the need for Israel to adhere to international law in its response to the Hamas attacks but have mostly avoided outright criticism of its actions in the Palestinian territories.
That has changed over the last week, with typically more outspoken foreign minister Baerbock leading the charge.
“We expect Israel … to allow more humanitarian aid, especially in the north, to ensure its military actions are more targeted and cause fewer civilian casualties,” the minister said at a news conference in Dubai on the sidelines of the United Nations climate summit.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge in the densely populated enclave, with around 18,000 people already killed and conflict intensifying.
“The question of how Israel carries out this battle is central to the perspective of a political solution,” Baerbock added.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who lit the first candle on Berlin’s giant menorah for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah last week in solidarity with the Jewish people, has been less outspoken in his criticism.
Still, Scholz has increasingly called upon Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza and denounced the violence of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, including in a phone call on Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The foreign ministry last week said it welcomed the U.S. imposition of sanctions on a number of Israeli settlers over attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and called for the EU to consider similar sanctions.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Sharon Singleton)