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4th Mar 2024

Macron to Netanyahu: France 'ready to fight' Hamas

  • French president Emmanuel Macron arriving in Tel Aviv on Tuesday (Photo: elysee.fr)
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French president Emmanuel Macron has offered Israel to help fight Hamas in future, amid EU efforts to get more aid into Gaza.

"France is ready for the international coalition against Daesh in which we are taking part, for operations in Iraq and Syria, to also fight against Hamas," Macron told press alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday (24 October).

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Macron didn't elaborate what he meant and Netanyahu didn't remark on the Frenchman's proposal.

The coalition against Daesh (sometimes called Islamic State/Isis) began with US-led air-strikes and special forces operations in Syria in 2014, with Danish, French, German, and Italian support.

France also moved its aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to help bomb Daesh in Syria in 2015 and the US has moved two carriers to the Eastern Mediterranean to back Israel in the current Gaza war.

But Macron's office in Paris indicated to the Reuters news agency he had less direct support in mind.

"The international coalition against Daesh does not limit itself to operations on the ground, but is also involved in the training of Iraqi forces, the sharing of information between partners, and the fight against terrorism funding," it told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

Macron is the latest in a line of European VIPs to visit Israel in a show of solidarity since Palestinian paramilitary group Hamas murdered 1,400 Israelis in a dawn raid on 7 October.

He was expected to meet Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and the Jordanian king on his Middle East tour ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.

France is the former colonial power in Lebanon, whose pro-Hamas Hezbollah militia has also exchanged fire with Israel, amid fears of regional escalation.

And Macron said in Jerusalem: "I warn Hezbollah, the Iranian regime, the Houthis in Yemen, and all of the other groups in the region that threaten Israel, to not take the reckless risk of opening new fronts".

He urged Netanyahu to let in aid for Gaza, amid French-led UN efforts to create a "humanitarian corridor" via the Rafah crossing point with Egypt.

"It's in the interest of Israel and its security…This fight should be ruthless but not without rules, because we are democracies," Macron said.

France has about 50 nationals stuck in Gaza, several hostages being held by Hamas, and lost 30 citizens in the 7 October attack.

It has also seen an Islamist killing in Arras, volatile pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris, and a spike in antisemitic incidents since Israel hit back, killing some 5,800 Palestinians in the past two weeks.

But if Macron tried to calibrate his message carefully, other leaders were showing less restraint.

Western silence was complicit in Israeli "savagery" against Palestinians, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Russian president Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday.

Qatar's leader sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said: "Enough. Israel shouldn't be granted an unconditional green light and unrestricted authorisation to kill".

EU summit

EU leaders will, on Thursday, likely press Israel for a "humanitarian pause" in fighting rather than a more ambitious "ceasefire", EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell indicated on Monday.

Two of Netanyahu's staunchest EU allies, Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer and Czech prime minister Petr Fialo, will also visit Israel on Wednesday.

Germany has sent 140 extra soldiers to a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon and Italy has given Israel military-intelligence cover.

Commenting on the Al-Ahli hospital bombing in Gaza on 18 October, Italy's foreign minister Antonio Tajani told the Sky TG24 news channel on Tuesday the death toll was far lower than Gaza authorities had said (471).

"We need to avoid the negative impact of propaganda because that missile that was said to have caused 500 deaths, in reality it was around 50 people…. was not launched by Israel," Tajani said.

On the other side of the EU divides, Irish president Michael Higgins has been among Israel's most vocal critics.

Israeli rhetoric

And Israeli diplomats have showed their own strength of feeling.

"#Ireland wondering who funded those tunnels of terror?," Ophir Maroz, the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Dublin, posted on X, referring to Hamas tunnels in Gaza and foreign aid money.

Some security experts have said the procession of Western VIPs to Israel, including US secretary of state Antony Blinken, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Dutch prime minster Mark Rutte, have kept Netanyahu from launching a Gaza ground invasion so far.

But the Israeli leader's rhetoric alongside Macron in Jerusalem indicated more aggression to come.

Hamas were the "new Nazis", Netanyahu said.

"It [the 7 October raid] was the worst terror attack the world has known since 9/11 and for Israel it was like twenty 9/11s," he added.

"Hamas barbarism threatens Europe and threatens the world. Hamas is the test case of the world against barbarism. The people of Israel refuse to have Isis in a terror enclave on its border," Netanyahu said.

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