French President Emmanuel Macron has visited Tel Aviv to express solidarity with Israel and call for further escalation to be avoided.
Two weeks after the devastating terror attack, Macron began his visit by meeting the families of French victims of the Hamas outrage. He had an emotional encounter with the relatives of the nine people currently held hostage by the group.
“We are linked to Israel through mourning. Thirty of our compatriots were murdered on October 7,” Macron posted on social media.
He said the release of all 200 or so hostages held by Hamas should be the “first objective” of Israel and its allies. Western countries are urging Israel to allow time for discussions and additional aid to enter Gaza before the country unleashes its expected ground offensive.
“I have come to offer the Israeli people all the condolences of France,” a “friendly country”, Macron said at a press conference after his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“On January 11, 2015, you were with us as we marched through Paris and mourned our dead,” he said. That was in reference to the terrorist attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo publication in Paris that left 12 dead.
“Today I bring you the emotion and solidarity of the French people.”
Macron said that it was the priority of democracies to defeat terrorist groups and that Israel had the legitimate right to defend itself.
“This case is just, full stop,” he said.
“I suggest to our international partners that we can build a regional and international coalition to fight these terrorist groups that threaten us all,” he added.
The battle against Hamas “must be merciless, but not without rules,” Macron told Netanyahu. “We are democracies that respect the rules of war.
“Israel’s security cannot be sustained unless the political process with the Palestinians is relaunched decisively,” he said.
“The Palestinian cause must be heard with reason,” he added, emphasising that Hamas does not represent Palestinians.
According to Macron, Israel must embrace “the legitimate right of the Palestinians to have a territory and a state in peace and security alongside Israel” in order to achieve this.
Netanyahu also made reference to the 2015 Paris attacks and highlighted the brutality of the October 7 atrocities: “Hamas burned babies, beheaded, raped, and kidnapped over 200 hostages.”
He said the Hamas outrage was the “worst terror attack the world has known since 9/11” but added it was proportionally much worse.
“Like Anne Frank, Jewish children hid in attics from these monsters,” Netanyahu said, adding they were then “found and butchered”.
He called the current conflict a “war between civilisation and barbarism”, claiming that Hamas “threatens not only the Jews, but the entire region” and even the rest of the world.
Macron said he feared “a regional conflagration, from which everyone would come out the loser”.
He also drew “everyone’s attention to the acts of some against Palestinian civilians, whose violence threatens to spread the fire to the West Bank as well”.
Netanyahu warned at the news conference: “If Hezbollah makes the mistake of joining this war in a significant way, it will regret it.”
He said Israel would take action if necessary – and the “devastation against Hezbollah will be unimaginable”, adding the group would “suffer horrible consequences”.
European Union leaders are debating a proposal for a “humanitarian pause” in hostilities to allow water, food, and medicine into Gaza and to give more time to discussions brokered by Qatar to secure the hostages’ release.
Hamas has released a few hostages, apparently in an effort to generate some goodwill. It also said almost 5,800 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, with 704 people having been killed in the past 24 hours at the time of writing.
"Each person had a guard watching him or her. They took care of all the needs. They talked about all kinds of things, they were very friendly."
Yocheved Lifshitz details what it was like while being held hostage by Hamas.
📺 Sky 501 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/lSs5io56uH
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 24, 2023
As part of his Middle East visit, Macron is also set to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, thus being the first Western leader to go to Ramallah since the outbreak of hostilities.
The French President is also scheduled to meet Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz and opposition leader Yair Lapid in Jerusalem. Afterwards, he will meet with several Arab leaders in the region.