Scholz urges Gaza ceasefire ahead of meeting with Israel's Netanyahu

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) speaks with Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) during their meeting. Sandra Steins/BPA/dpa
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) speaks with Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) during their meeting. Sandra Steins/BPA/dpa

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for an urgent ceasefire in the Gaza War on Sunday after meeting Jordan's King Abdullah in the southern Jordanian port of Aqaba.

On his second visit to the region since the war started, the German chancellor came out against an Israeli ground offensive into Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip.

"It is absolutely clear that we now have to do everything to prevent the situation becoming worse than it already is," Scholz said.

"I believe that a large number of casualties from an offensive of this kind would make all peaceful development extremely difficult," he said. "Many people in Israel as well know this."

Scholz's comments came just hours ahead of a scheduled meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who again defiantly rejected international calls for an end to the Gaza War and stuck by plans for a ground attack on Rafah.

The focus of Scholz's meeting with Netanyahu is expected to focus on Israeli preparations to attack Rafah, which is crammed with more than 1 million Palestinians who had fled attacks elsewhere in Gaza, and the German chancellor's urgent warning against such an attack.

Rafah lies directly on the border with Egypt, and many of the people now living there are sheltering in tents and other provisional accommodations.

King Abdullah II of Jordan on Sunday warned of the "tragic" humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip during his meeting with Scholz, the Jordanian royal court said, and underlined the importance of intensified efforts to protect civilians and provide "adequate and sustainable" aid to people in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

The king "stressed the necessity of the international community to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the strip," the court added in a statement.

Scholz repeated the German government position that Israel had every right to defend itself against attacks launched by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, but said this should not result in the many people in Gaza who had fled to Rafah being directly threatened by military action.

"For that reason, I have made very clear, exactly the way the US president has done, that we find that this is something where one has to do everything very, very, very carefully so as to avoid further high casualty figures," Scholz said.

Referring to a planned resumption of indirect talks on a provisional ceasefire, Scholz said that the possibility of a longer ceasefire needed to be firmed up.

The Jordanian king called for standing firm against what he called extremist Jewish settlers' violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and violations against Islamic and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

Jordan is the official custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

The war in Gaza was triggered on October 7 by a bloody terrorist attack on Israel led by Hamas militants and other extremist groups.

Although Germany supports the Israeli military operation against Hamas in principle, it has criticized the conduct of the war, which has already claimed the lives of many thousands of civilians.

A ceasefire that lasts "for the foreseeable future" is needed, Scholz said before his departure on Saturday.

Scholz is scheduled to meet President Isaac Herzog and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz as well as relatives of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza alongside Netanyahu.

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks over a hotel parapet at Aqaba after a meeting with the Jordanian King ahead of his visit to Israel. Kay Nietfeld/dpa
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks over a hotel parapet at Aqaba after a meeting with the Jordanian King ahead of his visit to Israel. Kay Nietfeld/dpa
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C) comes out of the hotel in Aqaba for the onward journey to Isreal. Kay Nietfeld/dpa
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C) comes out of the hotel in Aqaba for the onward journey to Isreal. Kay Nietfeld/dpa
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C) comes out of the hotel in Aqaba for the onward journey to Isreal. Kay Nietfeld/dpa
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (C) comes out of the hotel in Aqaba for the onward journey to Isreal. Kay Nietfeld/dpa