French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday said that the US transfer of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last month sparked deadly violence in Gaza and did not promote peace.
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, referring to widespread violence on the Gaza border at the same time the embassy was moved in which dozens of Palestinians were killed.
He added that France wants to help alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
Macron spoke at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Elysee Palace in Paris after the two leaders held talks.
The French president expressed his “condemnation of any form of violence toward civilians and in particular, these past few weeks in Gaza.”
Netanyahu met with Macron as part of his European tour, aiming to rally support from allies against the Iran nuclear deal and to help push Iranian forces out of Syria.
However, tensions with Gaza have became a major theme of his talks with European leaders.
On Monday, Netanyahu said he discussed alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian situation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said the the weekly protests on the border are a symptom of the Hamas terror group which rules the Strip failing to pull the enclave out of a dire situation which has left millions without electricity or clean water.
Over 110 Gazans have been killed in border protests since March 30, including over 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.
Most international observers linked the violence to the embassy move, which has angered Palestinians and drawn condemnation from around the world.
News broadcasts that day showed split screens of Israeli and US officials celebrating the opening in Jerusalem, while less than 50 miles away some 40,000 Palestinians protested at the Gaza border and faced off against Israeli troops in a violent melee.
Israel says its forces have opened fire to stop attempts to harm soldiers, damage the fence, infiltrate Israel, and attempt to carry out attacks. Israel accuses Hamas, a terror group which seeks Israel’s destruction, 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.
Netanyahu is next scheduled to meet with UK Prime Minister Theresa May.