French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday denounced “unacceptable blackmail” by Hamas after the Palestinian terror group threatened to execute some of the around 150 hostages it abducted in a weekend assault on Israel during which hordes of invading gunmen killed hundreds of people in the south of the country.
“The blackmail by Hamas after its terrorist acts is odious and unacceptable,” Macron told reporters on a visit to Germany.
The French president added that he considered it “likely” that Hamas had received outside “help” in its attack against Israel.
But he stressed there was “no formal trace” of any “direct involvement” by Iran, at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Scholz said Berlin was working “intensively” with Israel to learn the fate of German nationals among the hostages, “how many people it is and what we can do to secure their freedom.”
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier on Tuesday denied any Iranian involvement in Hamas’s shock weekend attack on Israel despite its strong support for the Palestinian terror group.
Hamas said on Monday that Israeli retaliatory airstrikes had killed four of the hostages, and later warned it could start killing them itself.
“Every targeting of our people without warning will be met with the execution of one of the civilian hostages,” said Hamas armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, .
A senior Israeli government source on Monday said that the “roof knocking” policy, whereby the IDF has previously used text messages, phone calls, or an initial strike on the roof to warn residents of a building that is about to be struck, is not the system currently being used. In certain circumstances, it will be used, the source said, but Israel is already instructing the Gazan populace to evacuate from central areas where it is targeting terrorist infrastructure.
In a shock weekend assault, some 1,500 Hamas terrorists invaded Israel after breaching the border and then rampaged for hours through southern areas, killing or abducting those they found. The death toll in Israel from the attack and subsequent battles rose above 900 by Tuesday, according to reports. Over 500 people remained hospitalized, many with life-threatening injuries; over 2,700 have been injured since Saturday. Hamas also launched over 5,000 rockets at Israel and has continued to bombard southern and central areas.
Israel responded with waves of airstrikes on what it says is terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, at least 687 people have been killed in Gaza in Israeli retaliation strikes.
France on Tuesday said it was against suspending aid that “directly” benefits the Palestinians, after the European Union said it was reviewing development help following Hamas’s attack.
Hungary’s Oliver Varhelyi, the EU commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, had said that support had already been suspended, although the bloc later clarified that this was not the case.
France is “not in favor of suspending aid which directly benefits the Palestinian populations,” the foreign ministry said, adding that it had “made this known to the EU Commission.”
Last year, France contributed 95 million euros ($101 million) in aid to the Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, West Bank areas run by the Palestinian Authority, and refugee camps in neighboring countries.
“This aid is focused on supporting the Palestinian populations, in water, health, food security and education,” added the ministry.
Distributed through the United Nations, it “directly benefits the Palestinian people” and is “fully in line with the engagements of France,” the ministry added.