IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis told French lawmakers in Paris on Tuesday that Hamas was taking France’s donations to Gaza and using them to build military infrastructure and prepare terror attacks.
“The Middle East conflict, as it is called, is not a conflict between neighbors,” Manelis told the French National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee. “Israel is dealing with and battling a murderous terror organization that stops at nothing in its efforts to attack children, women, innocent civilians, including civilians living under its rule. Hamas announces its murderous intentions at every opportunity and takes actions that are in clear contravention of international law and of the universal values of human society.”
Billions of shekels’ worth in funding from donor countries, “including from the French taxpayer, are diverted to building terror capabilities,” Manelis warned. “Don’t get suckered in by Hamas. This is a militarized terror group in every sense, with a general staff, fighting brigades, operational battalions and attack plans against Israel. This organization has murdered thousands of Israelis, Americans, French citizens and Britons in bus bombings, suicide attacks in malls and restaurants, and stabbing and car-ramming attacks.”
Manelis is on an official visit to Paris, where his schedule includes meetings with think tanks and local Jewish organizations.
In his briefing, Manelis also touched on Iran’s involvement in Gaza, charging that the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, is a “mass murderer responsible for thousands of deaths around the world… [and] sends 100 million dollars each year to terror groups in Gaza. The money has one purpose: to build military capabilities for the purpose of carrying out terror attacks. Every place that Iran and Suleimani have touched has seen destruction and devastation — in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria, and in Gaza.”
Hamas has turned Gaza into “the capital of terror, darkness and killing. Instead of a success story, we have here a story of failure and repression. Not only does Hamas not allow human rights, it even chooses not to invest in its own people, so unemployment in the Strip is skyrocketing.”
He added: “The residents of Gaza aren’t my enemies. Hamas has taken them hostage.”
He also charged that mass protests at the Gaza border in recent weeks were planned by Hamas as cover for terror attacks.
“To call what’s happened in Gaza ‘protests’ is a mistake. These are actions whose purpose is to carry out terrorism. We have unequivocal intelligence information according to which they planned to kill and kidnap soldiers and infiltrate Israeli towns” under cover of the border riots, Manelis said. “We can’t allow terrorists, even if they are dressed in civilian garb, to reach Israeli citizens and harm them.”
Manelis’s comments on the Gaza protests may have been meant as a rebuttal to the official stance of French President Emmanuel Macron, who said in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris on June 6 that the violence was caused by the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.
US President Donald Trump’s administration and some Israeli officials have maintained that the violence was unconnected to the embassy transfer, which they said was just an excuse for Gazan terrorists to carry out attacks.
“If [moving the embassy] leads to people dying, it’s not a celebration,” Macron said during a press conference with Netanyahu.
Macron has also said his government was looking for ways to alleviate the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
The French president expressed his “condemnation of any form of violence toward civilians and, in particular, these past few weeks in Gaza.”
More than 115 Gazans have been killed in border protests since March 30, including more than 60 on May 14, the day the US moved its embassy. Hamas said 50 of the May 14 fatalities were its members. May 14 was also the eve of “Nakba Day,” when the Palestinians mark what they call the “catastrophe” that befell them with the establishment of Israel.
Israel says its forces opened fire on the protesters as many charged toward the border fence, and in some cases, while some protesters were attempting to harm soldiers, damage the fence, infiltrate Israel, or carry out attacks. Israel accuses Hamas of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
At least half of those killed since the protests began in March have been identified as members of Hamas or other terror groups.
Manelis invited the French lawmakers to Israel, telling them it is “hard to grasp the security challenge from far away. I invite you to come see the IDF’s defense challenge. We and you share the same threat.”