German FM heading to Israel, Palestinian territories Thursday

German FM heading to Israel, Palestinian territories Thursday in de-escalation effort
2 min read
Maas will meet Israel's foreign and defence ministers, as well as the Palestinian premier.
Heiko Maas will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories for talks Thursday [Getty]

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories for talks Thursday amid Israel's continued airstrikes of the Gaza Strip, a ministry spokeswoman said.

"The political talks will focus on the current escalation in the Middle East and the international efforts to end the violence," the spokeswoman said. 

Maas will meet Israel's foreign and defence ministers. He will also travel to Ramallah to hold talks with the Palestinian premier.

At a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Maas spoke of his plan to "hold talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah" but had said that the trip was yet to be confirmed with Israeli authorities. 

The visit would be the first by a senior European official to Jerusalem over the latest escalation of violence in the Middle East.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was previously the country's foreign minister, however expressed doubts over the impact of Maas' visit.

"Germany must use its relations in the region," he said, but pointed out "the Middle East Quartet has been activated and Europe is part of it".

"I have my doubts as to whether individual nations should make their own mediation efforts," he added.

Israel has launched its worst assault on the Gaza Strip in years, while Hamas militants lob rockets into the Jewish state.

Israeli forces have killed 219 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry, while 12 people in Israel have also died, according to Israeli police.