BERLIN Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has urged Germany to help find a solution to the conflict in Gaza and send inspectors to Gaza's borders along with other European Union countries.
Mediators were working on Thursday to extend a truce between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, where half a million people have been displaced by a month of bloodshed. A three-day ceasefire was due to expire on Friday.
Lieberman told Thursday's mass-selling German daily Bild that Germany had a "very significant" role to play in preventing an economic and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where Israel and Egypt maintain tight restrictions on the movement of goods and people to try to prevent arms reaching Islamist militants.
He said Germany should bring together EU leaders to help find a lasting settlement for Gaza.
Lieberman said he was not suggesting the despatch of troops or police. "But Germany and the EU need to send inspectors to Gaza to control the trade the Palestinians conduct with neighboring states."
Germany, France and Britain have proposed reactivating a European Union mission on the Egypt-Gaza border to help stabilize the enclave, a German diplomatic source said on Wednesday.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild: "Together with our European partners we are prepared to play a part - for example with an EU mission to monitor border crossings. We are holding intensive talks with all sides to work out what would be necessary for this."
Lieberman said Israel did not want to govern Gaza again but a solution was needed for the people who live there.
"And Germany should take responsibility as the leader of such a mission," he said.
Germany has traditionally seen itself as a protector of Israel, mindful of the Holocaust of Europe's Jews committed by Nazi Germany in World War Two.
Reinhold Robbe, President of the German-Israeli Association, told Germany's Deutschlandfunk radio he was in favor of such a mission but said it should have a U.N. mandate and would probably also need military back-up.
"I don't know if only having customs officers with the same arms as police will be enough to get things under control," he said.
An opinion poll for broadcaster WDR found 69 percent of Germans believed Germany should stay out of the Gaza conflict.
Lieberman said Israel's military action was "not yet over" but had been successful in destroying the cross-border tunnels dug by Palestinian guerrillas from Gaza to Israel.
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,874 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket salvoes into Israel.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; additional reporting by Andreas Rinke; editing by Andrew Roche)