Israel must stop killing babies and women in Gaza, French President Emmanuel Macron has told the BBC.
In an exclusive interview at the Élysée Palace, he said there was “no justification” for the bombing, saying a ceasefire would benefit Israel.
While recognising Israel’s right to protect itself, “we do urge them to stop this bombing” in Gaza, he said.
But he also stressed that France “clearly condemns” the “terrorist” actions of Hamas.
France – like Israel, the US, the UK, and other Western nations – considers Hamas a terrorist organisation.
When asked if he wanted other leaders – including in the US and the UK – to join his calls for a ceasefire, he replied: “I hope they will.”
Israel says it attacks military targets in line with international law and takes steps to reduce civilian casualties, like issuing warnings ahead of strikes and calling on people to evacuate.
Speaking the day after a humanitarian aid conference in Paris about the war in Gaza, Mr Macron said the “clear conclusion” of all governments and agencies present at that summit was “that there is no other solution than first a humanitarian pause, going to a ceasefire, which will allow [us] to protect… all civilians having nothing to do with terrorists”.
“De facto – today, civilians are bombed – de facto. These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.”
He said it was not his role to judge whether international law had been broken.
‘We share Israel’s pain’
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded quickly to Mr Macron’s comments, saying nations should condemn Hamas, not Israel.
“The crimes that Hamas [is] committing today in Gaza will be committed tomorrow in Paris, New York and anywhere in the world,” a statement from Mr Netanyahu’s office read.
In a wide-ranging interview at the end of the first day of an annual Paris Peace Forum, President Macron also discussed:
Fears of violence spilling over from the Middle East into France, urging citizens of all faiths to be “united against antisemitism”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it was France’s “duty” to help Ukraine – but suggesting there may come a time for “fair and good negotiations” with Moscow
Extremism online, saying Facebook’s parent company Meta and Google “just don’t deliver” on moderation
And the dangers of climate change, saying it was pushing people around the world toward “terrorism”.
Starting by discussing Gaza, Mr Macron said France “clearly condemns” Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October which sparked the war. Hamas gunmen killed about 1,200 people and took 240 others hostage in its unprecedented cross-border assault it launched that day.
“We do share [Israel’s] pain. And we do share their willingness to get rid of terrorism. We know what terrorism means in France.” But he said there was “no justification” for the ongoing bombing of civilians in Gaza.
“It’s extremely important for all of us because of our principles, because we are democracies. It’s important for the mid-to-long run as well for the security of Israel itself, to recognise that all lives matter.”
When asked, he refused to say that Israel had broken international law in Gaza. “I’m not a judge. I’m a head of state,” he said, adding it would not be right to criticise Israel in this way – “a partner and a friend” – just a month after it was attacked.
But Mr Macron said he disagreed that the best way for Israel to “protect [itself] is having a large bombing of Gaza”, saying it was creating “resentment and bad feelings” in the region that would prolong the conflict.
After a month of Israeli bombardment and nearly two weeks after Israel launched a major ground offensive into the territory, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said on Friday that 11,078 people had been killed, while 1.5 million had fled their homes.
Israel has said it will start daily four-hour military pauses in parts of northern Gaza as it continues its offensive. Its defence minister however stressed the pauses would be “localised” and would “not detract from the war fighting”.
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