Nikolaos Stelya / DUVAR
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on May 18 headed to Israel and the Palestinian territories for talks with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, becoming the first European official to make a visit to the region over the latest heightened tensions.
Dendias met with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and was later expected to hold talks with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki before heading on the same day to Jordan to meet with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, the Greek Foreign Ministry announced on May 17.
According to sources close to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' government, Greece is assuming a mediator role so that Turkey does not take the sole initiative in the latest outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip.
Sources alleged that Greece is trying to give the message that it is “engaging in dialogue with all actors in the region” in contrast to Turkey and stop Ankara from presenting itself as the sole defender of the Palestinians.
Dendias is expected to travel to Egypt on May 20 for a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukri.
On May 18, Dendias will also participate in urgent video talks between European Union foreign ministers on developments in the region. The meeting was organized upon the initiative of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.
“In view of the ongoing escalation between Israel and Palestine and the unacceptable number of civilian casualties, I am convening an extraordinary [videoconference] of the EU foreign ministers on Tuesday,” Borrell announced on May 16.
Israeli warplanes on May 18 continued to bombard the Gaza Strip.
According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper, the fresh airstrikes targeted 12 houses belonging to senior Hamas commanders in Gaza City.
At least 213 Palestinians have been killed, including 61 children and 36 women, and 1,442 others injured in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since May 10, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Ten Israelis have also been reportedly killed in Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.