In the midst of escalating global concern over civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, French President Emmanuel Macron has issued a call for Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza. Macron, in an interview with the BBC, expressed alarm at the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, including children, women, and the elderly, and urged Israel to bring an end to the violence.
While France, like many Western nations, designates Hamas as a terrorist organization, Macron underscored that his country has firsthand experience with terrorism. He acknowledged France’s condemnation of Hamas’s destructive attack on Israel on October 7 but emphasized that such an event does not justify the bombing of civilians not associated with the militant group.
Macron’s statements come on the heels of a humanitarian aid conference in Paris, which specifically focused on addressing the humanitarian crisis resulting from the conflict in Gaza. During the BBC interview, Macron highlighted that the conference had fostered a consensus among aid agencies and governments, emphasizing the urgent need for a humanitarian pause followed by a comprehensive cease-fire to protect civilian lives.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Macron’s remarks, asserting that any cease-fire would be contingent on the release of hostages. Israel claims that 239 individuals abducted from the country on October 7 are still being held captive. Netanyahu, in a statement issued around midnight in Israel, placed blame on Hamas for any harm suffered by civilians in Gaza. He called on world leaders to condemn the militant group, accusing it of using civilians as human shields and obstructing their exit from combat zones.
The Israeli leader argued that while Israel takes precautions to avoid civilian casualties, Hamas actively prevents civilians from leaving safe areas, essentially using them as shields. Netanyahu drew a parallel between Hamas and the Islamic State (ISIS), suggesting that the crimes committed by Hamas in Gaza could potentially extend to other parts of the world.
This exchange between Macron and Netanyahu marks a notable shift in international support for Israel in the aftermath of the October 7 attack. Just weeks ago, Macron and Netanyahu had met in Tel Aviv, with the French president expressing solidarity with Israel during a period of mourning. However, the continued images of destruction and civilian casualties in Gaza resulting from Israel’s military campaign have led leaders across Europe, the United States, and now France to question the appropriateness of Israel’s military response and advocate for a cease-fire to mitigate civilian harm.
As diplomatic efforts intensify to address the conflict, Macron’s call for Israel to halt its military operations and prioritize the protection of civilians adds to the growing chorus of voices urging de-escalation and a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The humanitarian concerns arising from the conflict are now at the forefront of international discussions, as leaders seek ways to alleviate the suffering of civilians caught in the crossfire.