French FM threatens possible sanctions to force Israel to boost Gaza aid

Stephane Sejourne makes remarks as aid transfers reach daily wartime highs, after Israel responds to US pressure following deadly strike on food aid convoy

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne poses with a gift in Nairobi, on April 6, 2024. (Simon Maina/AFP)
French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne poses with a gift in Nairobi, on April 6, 2024. (Simon Maina/AFP)

PARIS — France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that pressure, and possibly sanctions, must be imposed on Israel to open crossings to get humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, as trucks entering the enclave hit consecutive daily highs since the beginning of the war.

“There must be levers of influence and there are multiple levers, going up to sanctions to let humanitarian aid cross checkpoints,” Stephane Sejourne told RFI radio and France 24 television

“France was one of the first countries to propose European Union sanctions on Israeli settlers who are committing acts of violence in the West Bank. We will continue if needed to obtain the opening of humanitarian aid,” he said.

The threats came even as Israel stepped up aid transfers into the Gaza Strip with a record number of trucks entering the territory alongside a huge airdrop of aid.

France’s threat of sanctions is a stark turnaround for the country that initially offered widespread backing for Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the October 7 assault by Hamas that killed some 1,200 people and saw another 253 taken hostage.

It came the same day as Turkey said that it will impose trade restrictions on Israel starting Tuesday on a range of products, including cement and steel and iron construction materials in response to the ongoing war in Gaza.

Palestinians buy and sell at an open market in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

“This decision will remain in place until Israel declares a ceasefire immediately and allows adequate and uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” the Turkish trade ministry announced on social media.

In a statement following Ankara’s announcement that it would be taking measures after Israel rejected its request to take part in an aid airdrop for Gaza, the ministry said the restrictions would include iron and steel products, construction equipment and products, machines, and more.

Turkey has been one of the harshest critics of Israel during the Gaza war, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Erdogan branding Israel a “terrorist state.”

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 33,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far — a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Last month, a United Nations-backed report warned that famine was looming in northern Gaza, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain. The US says that 100 percent of Gazans are suffering from acute food insecurity as the humanitarian operation has collapsed amid the fighting.

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