Macron calls for international coalition against Hamas based on anti-ISIS campaign

French president insists on targeted operations, says Paris has directly warned Hezbollah; joins Israel in demanding immediate release of all hostages from Gaza

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) as they hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023. (Christophe Ena/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) as they hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023. (Christophe Ena/Pool/AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Tuesday for the international coalition against the Islamic State terror group to be expanded to also fight Hamas after the deadly October 7 assault on Israel.

Macron, speaking after talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, said that countries fighting ISIS “should also fight against Hamas.”

After Macron’s comments, an Elysee Palace official said that France is available “to beef up what we are doing in the coalition against ISIS. We are available to include Hamas in [being targeted by] the coalition against ISIS depending on what Israel will ask us to deliver.”

“Not every country is fighting on the ground,” the official continued, responding to a question from The Times of Israel. “Much will depend on conversations we have with our allies.”

At the same time, the official did not rule out the possibility of military cooperation against Hamas or French boots on the ground.

Some 86 countries came together beginning in September 2014 to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS after it took over large swaths of Syria and Iraq. The coalition eventually drove the terrorists out out a series of cities including Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqa, its main strongholds. France provided ground forces, trainers, special forces, and fighter planes in ongoing support of the effort.

French General Jean-Marc Vigilant (L) and French Defense Minister Florence Parly (2nd-L) talk to French soldiers engaged in the “Operation Chammal,” the French military operation within “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the international coalition against the Islamic State jihadist group, as they stand in front of a wheeled 155 mm howitzer gun on February 9, 2019, near Al-Qaim, Iraq. (Daphné Benoit/AFP)

Speaking alongside Netanyahu, Macron stressed there must be a “decisive relaunch” of the Palestinian peace process following the Hamas atrocities and Israel’s declaration of war against the terror group.

Netanyahu, addressing the press before Macron, compared Hamas’s October 7 attack to the Holocaust, citing Babyn Yar and Anne Frank as he listed atrocities the terrorists committed as they killed some 1,400 people. “Hamas butchered, Hamas beheaded, Hamas burned babies alive, Hamas raped, Hamas kidnapped hostages,” he said.

“As in the Second World War, when the French supported the anti-Nazi resistance, today the international community is uniting in support of Israel,” Netanyahu continued. “Hamas barbarism threatens the Jews, it threatens the Middle East, it threatens Europe, it threatens the world.”

Netanyahu called Gaza “an enclave of ISIS.”

Hezbollah fighters raise their group’s flag and shout slogans, as they attend the funeral procession of Hezbollah fighter, Bilal Nemr Rmeiti, who was killed by Israeli shelling, during his funeral procession in Majadel village, south Lebanon, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

“We are doing everything we need to do to destroy Hamas in Gaza. We will dismantle its terror machine, we will dismantle its political structure. We will make every effort to release our hostages. And we will make every effort to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way.

“Hamas must be destroyed,” Netanyahu stated.

The Elysee official said after the meeting that France wants to “consolidate the perspective of a ceasefire. I know it is very delicate to discuss. But we need again to know where we are going to have the instruments available that can bring back peace and stability.”

The official said that now that Macron had met with Netanyahu, “we understand where the prime minister wants to go. I think it will take much more work to make sure everybody wants to embark.

“We believe a key priority remains, which is to free the hostages,” the official said. “We are exploring every option and we believe it very important to do it with Israel.”

President Isaac Herzog (R) meets visiting French President Emanuel Macron at his residence in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023 (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

In his meeting with Netanyahu, and earlier in the day with President Isaac Herzog, Macron underscored the importance of getting hostages out.

France lost 30 citizens in the Hamas assault, and nine are missing.

“The first objective we should have today is the release of all hostages, without any distinction, because this is an awful crime to play with these lives of children, adults, old people, civilians and soldiers,” Macron said to Herzog.

Macron also emphasized that France identifies with Israel in its fight against terrorism, especially after the string of terrorist attacks the country faced in 2015.

“I want to make sure you are not left alone in this war on terrorism,” he told Herzog, “because I speak on behalf of a country which experienced terrorist attacks, and you were there. And I think this is our duty to fight against this terrorism, without any confusion, without enlarging the conflict.”

“The situation is extremely complicated and fragile,” said Herzog, regarding the war against Hamas, launched after the terror group massacred 1,400 people in southern Israel on October 7 and took some 220 hostage. Herzog stressed that “we are demanding the full and immediate release of all our citizens.”

“There is no difference between Israeli citizens and someone who holds another citizenship,” said the president, after reports emerged that dozens of hostages with foreign citizenship could be released.

Herzog also warned Iran is “playing with fire” in Lebanon.

“If Hezbollah will drag us into war, it should be clear that Lebanon will pay the price. Lebanon cannot be a sovereign member of the international community, its citizens carrying a Lebanese passport, but when it comes to attacking Israel, they are not responsible.”

Speaking in English, Macron seemed to disagree with Herzog on the scale of Israel’s response, saying that the terrorist organizations must be struck, but Israel must carry out a “targeted operation.”

“You can fight without hesitation,” he said, “but without widening the conflict. A targeted operation is essential.”

It wasn’t fully clear whether he was referring to Herzog’s comments about Lebanon or Israel’s plans for a major ground offensive into Gaza, or both.

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on October 24, 2023, as he visits Israel amid the war against Hamas. (Photo by Christophe Ena / POOL / AFP)

Macron added that France warned “other potential terrorist groups wanting to join this operation” to stay out of the fight, and “clearly warned Hezbollah with direct messages.”

Macron arrived in Israel on Tuesday morning to express his country’s “full solidarity” with the Jewish state after the deadly October 7 massacres by Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Macron headed to Tel Aviv, where he met with families of French and French-Israeli nationals killed in the Hamas onslaught or being held hostage by terrorists in Gaza.

His visit comes more than two weeks after thousands of Palestinian terrorists stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death in their homes and at an outdoor music festival. Among them were 30 French citizens.

At least 224 people were also taken into Gaza as captives.

Nine French citizens are still missing: One of them, a French woman, has been confirmed as among the hostages taken by Hamas. Macron has said the others are also thought to be hostages, but there has not yet been confirmation.

The French head of state also met in Jerusalem with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and now-minister Benny Gantz, whose opposition National Unity party joined the coalition to form an emergency war cabinet.

Macron will travel to the West Bank to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. He will then continue on to Jordan to meet King Abdullah II of Jordan. He is expected to speak with, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and leaders of Gulf nations as well, the Elysee said.

More than 5,000 people have died during Israel’s attacks, according to unverified numbers given by the Hamas-run health ministry. They are believed to include its own fighters and the victims of hundreds of misfired Palestinian rockets Israel says have landed in Gaza since October 7, including one that hit a hospital parking lot and killed scores of civilians.

Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) hosts French President Emmanuel Macron at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, January 22, 2020. (Koby Gideon/GPO/File)

US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte have already visited Israel since the war began.

AFP contributed to this report. 

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