Bildt urges renewal of Gaza ceasefire

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Sunday praised a fresh call by the United Nations Security Council to halt the violence in Gaza.

“I welcome that the UN Security Council has now demanded an immediate halt to all military activities to and from Gaza,” Bildt said in a statement.

The comments come as Israeli air strikes in Gaza continued for a second day in response to repeated mortar attacks launched by Palestinian militants.

By Sunday, an estimated 280 Gaza residents had been killed and 600 injured by the Israeli strikes, according to the New York Times newspaper.

Bildt also noted the importance of the Security Council’s recognition of the “serious economic and humanitarian situation” facing Gaza’s population and that the body calling for measures to “ensure the people can receive food, fuel, and medical help”.

“Both Hamas and Israel ought to, against this background, declare as quickly as possible that they are willing to return to their earlier ceasefire and halt all combat operations,” said Bildt.

Bildt also called for border crossings to be opened to allow international aid and other supplies to reach “Gaza’s hard stricken people”.

The foreign minister’s comments come a day after he characterized the Israeli attacks as “a serious continuation of the heightening of tensions” which began when Hamas just before Christmas decided not to renew a six-month ceasefire.

“Even if the ceasefire didn’t live up to expectations – not least when it came to easing the Israeli blockade of Gaza – it would have been better for everyone if it had continued to be respected,” said Bildt.

“We strongly urge both parties to exercise moderation and to as soon as possible return to the ceasefire.”


Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street

A former Israeli soldier was attacked in the German capital Berlin, police said Saturday, with one or several unknown assailants spraying him with an irritant and throwing him to the ground.

Former Israeli soldier attacked on Berlin street
Israeli soldiers on operation near the Gaza Strip. Photo: dpa | Ilia Yefimovich

The 29-year-old was wearing a top with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) logo when the attackers started harassing him on Friday about his religion, the police added, calling it “an anti-Semitic attack”.

Officers are seeking the assailants, who fled immediately after the attack, on suspicion of a politically-motivated crime.

Saturday is the second anniversary of an attack by a far-right gunman on a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle, who killed two in a rampage when he failed to break into the house of worship.

It was one of a string of incidents that led authorities to declare the far right and neo-Nazis Germany’s top security threat.

Also this week, a musician claimed he was turned away from a hotel in eastern city Leipzig for wearing a Star-of-David pendant.

While the allegations prompted a fierce response from a Jewish community unsettled by increasing anti-Semitic crimes, several investigations have been mounted into contradictory accounts of the incident.

In 2019, police recorded 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes, an increase of 13 percent year-on-year.

“The threat is complex and comes from different directions” from jihadists to the far right, the federal government’s commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism Felix Klein said recently.