ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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France seeking ‘verifiable proof’ that medicines reached hostages in Gaza

As French FM Stephane Sejourne visits, official says Paris working with Qatar to get evidence the medications were delivered as promised in deal with Hamas

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after crossing the terminal border from Egypt, on January 17, 2024. (AFP)
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after crossing the terminal border from Egypt, on January 17, 2024. (AFP)

France wants proof from Hamas that medication sent for Israeli hostages held by terror groups in the Gaza Strip has reached them, a member of French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne’s entourage told The Times of Israel on Monday as the diplomat visited the country.

Weeks after medicine was delivered to the Gaza Strip for hostages held in Gaza, the countries involved in the complex operation still do not know whether the drugs eventually reached the captives.

“We know that the medications effectively entered into Gaza,” the official said speaking on condition of anonymity. “The modalities of their transfer to the hostages were dealt with under Qatar’s mediation. We now expect to receive verifiable proof that the medications have reached their beneficiaries.”

“The responsibility lies on Hamas and is a matter of regular exchanges with Qatari authorities,” the official continued and noted Paris is working with Qatar and other partners in the region on the matter.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.

Sejourne met with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, who requested that France put pressure on Qatar to provide proof that the medicines for the hostages have been delivered.

Sejourne responded that France was already working on obtaining the evidence and warned if it’s discovered the medications were not delivered as promised, there will be “serious consequences,” Channel 12 reported, citing a source who was at the meeting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) shakes hands with French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 5, 2024. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Following a deal brokered by Qatar and France, Doha announced on January 16 that the delivery of the medications for the hostages would begin the next day in return for the concurrent transfer of large amounts of medical and humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the International Committee of the Red Cross would not be involved in the deal and that Qatar would guarantee the delivery of medications.

France said at the time that the deal called for providing a three-month supply of medication for 45 hostages with chronic illnesses, as well as other medicines and vitamins. As part of the arrangement, Israel demanded visual proof of the delivery of medications to each hostage.

However, there has still been no official confirmation that the medicines were delivered.

On Sunday, a representative of the medical and resilience team of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum told the Times of Israel it has no new information on the matter.

Many of the hostages have chronic illnesses requiring daily medication and regular medical monitoring. Others were injured during their capture. The ICRC has not visited any of the hostages to check on their condition and provide necessary medical treatment.

Sejourne, who became France’s top diplomat last month, also met Monday with Netanyahu and used his first visit to Israel to urge the government to allow an “immediate ceasefire” and a “massive influx” of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Speaking later at a news conference, Sejourne said it was France’s role as a “friend” to tell Israeli leaders some truths they “may have difficulties hearing.”

“For four months now, the people of Gaza have been living under bombs and an almost full siege. They are being deprived of the minimum aid they need to treat their wounds, protect against epidemics, and feed themselves,” he said.

Sejourne stressed that France “strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself” after the Hamas-led October 7 massacres, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and kidnap 253 others to Gaza, mostly civilians, sparking the ongoing war in Gaza. At the same time, he lamented the death and destruction in the Palestinian enclave.

“The tragedy in Gaza must end,” he said. “We call for international humanitarian law to be respected by all and for an immediate and lasting ceasefire and a massive influx of humanitarian aid.”

Sejourne also called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all the 105 remaining hostages believed held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza since October 7. Three French nationals are believed to be among them, he said.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne disembarks upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport on February 5, 2024.(Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

As he greeted the visiting foreign minister, Netanyahu praised France’s “stalwart and consistent support from day one” and said they planned to discuss issues related to Lebanon, from where Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis since October 8. The Iran-backed Lebanese terror group says the attacks are to support Gaza amid the war there.

Lebanon is a former French protectorate and maintains close ties with France. Sejourne said Paris was committed to preventing any escalation of regional hostilities.

The minister’s first trip to the Middle East since his appointment started with stops in Egypt on Saturday and Jordan on Sunday.

Sejourne met later Monday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah and was due to travel to Lebanon on Tuesday.

Ahead of the meeting, the French foreign minister voiced support Abbas and the PA. “The future of the Gaza Strip is inseparable from the future of the West Bank, we must prepare for this future by supporting the Palestinian Authority,” Sejourne said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, right foreground, during their meeting in Jerusalem, February 5, 2024. (Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via AP)

“It must renew itself and redeploy as soon as possible in the Gaza Strip,” where Hamas seized power in 2007, he added.

“I repeat: Gaza is Palestinian land,” he said.

Sejourne called for “a comprehensive political solution, with two states living in peace side by side,” urging the resumption of the peace process “without delay.”

Israel and the Palestinians have not held substantive peace talks in more than a decade.

“Without a political solution, there will be no just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Sejourne said.

Also during his visit to Jerusalem, Sejourne announced that France will donate 200,000 euros to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, to help Hamas victims deal with sexual violence and sexual crimes committed on 7 October.

Reports of rape and sexual violence have multiplied since October 7, and at the start of December, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Hamas used rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Sejourne is not the only prominent Western diplomat currently visiting the region. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday for a Mideast trip that also will take him to Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank this week. Blinken hopes to make progress on a potential cease-fire deal.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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