Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday praised the French military intervention in the African nation of Mali, thanking France’s president for combating Muslim extremism.

“You took a brave step against extremist Islamic terrorism,” Netanyahu told Francois Hollande over the telephone. “In my meetings with African leaders I learned how much it threatens the future of the continent.”

France’s military on Friday launched an operation to help the government of Mali push back al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.

The prime minister drew a parallel between the fighting in Africa and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“While there are countries for which the threat of terrorism is thousands of kilometers away from the homes of their citizens, we in Israel are familiar with the threat of global terrorism from up close,” he said. “For us it is only a few hundred meters away from our homes.”

Netanyahu also expressed his sorrow at the casualties among the French troops.

Earlier in the week Hollande said the “terrorist groups, drug traffickers and extremists” in northern Mali “show a brutality that threatens us all.” He vowed that the operation would last “as long as necessary.”