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German Chancellor Scholz 'horrified' by Gaza hospital blast on Middle East trip

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
German Chancellor Scholz 'horrified' by Gaza hospital blast on Middle East trip
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives in Israel in a show of solidarity. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Michael Kappeler

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday called for a comprehensive investigation of a blast at a Gaza hospital compound which health officials in the impoverished enclave said killed at least 200 people.

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 Scholz said his "thoughts are with the families of the victims.

"A thorough investigation of the incident is imperative," added Scholz, who was in Cairo on Wednesday after talks in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Tuesday, Scholz became the first world leader to visit Israel in a show of solidarity following the terrorist attack by Hamas and the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel and Palestinian militants have traded blame for the explosion, which has sparked global condemnation and violent protests in several Muslim nations.

Health authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza said the blast at the Ahli Arab Hospital killed between 200 and 300 people and was caused by the latest in a wave of Israeli airstrikes. Hamas said in a statement 500 had died.

READ ALSO: Germany issues travel warning for Israel, Lebanon

In a widely shared tweet shortly after the attack, Hananya Naftali, a prominent aide to Netanyahu, appeared to attribute the bombing to the Israeli military. 

However, the tweet was deleted a short while afterwards and Israeli Defense Forces have since blamed Palestinian militants, saying an outgoing Islamic Jihad rocket had misfired.

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Neither account could be independently corroborated.

Scholz' Israel visit disrupted by rocket fire

On Tuesday, Scholz was greeted on his visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who described Germany as "one of our biggest and closest allies". 

READ ALSO: German Chancellor Scholz to visit Israel 'as early as Tuesday'

"We deeply appreciate  the Chancellor’s visit to Israel at this difficult time," Cohen said. "These solidarity visits strengthen international support for Israel and expose the visitors to the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists.”

On Monday, Scholz had restated Germany's "unwavering" support for the war-struck nation, but also emphasised the need for dialogue to prevent further escalation in the Middle East.

On his way out of the country from Tel Aviv airport, an alarm for incoming missiles led to the Chancellor being evacuated from the government plane and taken to safety. Staff members and members of the press corps were ordered to lie on the ground near the plane.

According to media reports, Scholz witnessed Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system shoot down two rockets. 

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Following the missile scare, the Chancellor was able to safety depart to Egypt, where he is holding talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday to help secure a humanitarian corridor out of Gaza.

Israel shut off the supply of water, food and electricity to the Gaza strip on October 8th, following the surprise attack by Hamas militants that claimed the lives of more than 1,500 civilians and soldiers. 

Attempts to open borders to bring humanitarian aid to the besieged region or evacuate civilians have so far been unsuccessful. 

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