French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said there was “no justification” for Israel’s bombing of “these babies, these ladies, these old people” in the war against Hamas and reiterated his call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop,” Macron told the BBC, expressing hope that other Western leaders will join his call.
Macron’s comments were met with pushback from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Hamas was to blame for civilian casualties as a result of its devastating onslaught in southern Israel last month.
“While Israel is doing everything to refrain from harming civilians and calling on them to leave areas of fighting, Hamas-ISIS is doing everything to prevent them from leaving for safe areas and is using them as human shields,” Netanyahu said in a statement from his office, likening the Gaza-ruling terror group to the Islamic State jihadist organization.
Netanyahu said that Hamas is “cruelly holding our hostages — woman, children and the elderly — in a crime against humanity” and “uses schools, mosques and hospitals as terror command centers.”
“These crimes that Hamas-ISIS is coming today in Gaza, will tomorrow be committed in Paris, New York and everywhere around the world. World leaders must condemn Hamas-ISIS and not Israel,” the premier added.
During the interview with the BBC, Macron said Israel had the right to protect itself after the October 7 massacres and that France “clearly condemns” the Hamas-led cross-border attack in which Palestinian terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 240 hostages.
“We do share [Israel’s] pain. And we do share their willingness to get rid of terrorism,” Macron said on the sidelines of an international peace forum in Paris.
“We know what terrorism means in France.” But he insisted there was “no justification” for what he called the bombing of civilians.
“It’s extremely important for all of us because of our principles, because we are democracies. It’s important for the mid-to-long run as well for the security of Israel itself, to recognize that all lives matter,” he added.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that more than 11,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in Israel’s air and ground assault since the massacres. The figure cannot be verified independently and is believed to include members of terror groups and civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.
Macron said that all governments and aid agencies at a humanitarian aid conference in Paris on Thursday had agreed that a “humanitarian pause” followed by a “ceasefire” was the only way to protect Gaza’s civilians.
When asked whether Israel had breached international law, Macron replied: “I’m not a judge. I’m a head of state” who sought to be “a partner and a friend” to Israel.
The French leader added that he disagreed that the best way for Israel to “protect [itself] is having a large bombing of Gaza.”
This was creating “resentment and bad feelings” in the Middle East, he said.
Macron is among Western leaders who have visited Israel since the attacks to show solidarity. During his trip to Israel, Macron called for the international coalition against Islamic State terror to be expanded to also fight Hamas.
France voted in support of a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution on October 27 that urged an immediate ceasefire and made no mention of Hamas.