French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed “solidarity” with Israel amid its continued bombardment of the Gaza Strip, weeks after deadly attacks launched by the Palestinian group, Hamas.
“What happened will never be forgotten,” Macron said in Jerusalem on Tuesday, referring to the October 7 attack by Hamas. “I am here to express our solidarity.”
Macron was meeting his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog and is later set to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is the latest Western leader to visit Israel, following counterparts from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and others.
Macron, though, is one of the few Western leaders also expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, said Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem. Macron hopes his visit can achieve something “concrete and positive”, Fisher said.
“[Macron] is arriving with what appears to be a four-point plan. He says all these proposals are as operational as possible. He wants to prevent escalation; he wants to free the remaining captives in Gaza; he would like guaranteed security for Israel; and also he wants to work towards a two-state solution,” our correspondent said.
The French news agency AFP, which was briefed by Macron’s office ahead of the visit, reported on Monday that the president will call for the “preservation of the civilian population” in Gaza amid Israel’s bombardment of the besieged enclave, and the “resumption of a genuine peace process” for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Macron will also call for a “humanitarian truce” to allow desperately needed aid into Gaza, whose some 2.3 million people have been largely deprived of water, food, electricity, fuel and other basic supplies after an Israeli blockade, the Elysee Palace told AFP.
Macron’s visit comes more than two weeks after Hamas members stormed into Israel, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, including about 30 French citizens.
Israel has since relentlessly bombed Gaza, so far killing more than 5,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, while it prepares for a ground invasion of the blockaded area.
During the October 7 attack, Hamas also took more than 200 people hostage.
The French foreign ministry said seven of its citizens are still missing and that it has confirmed that “some of them are hostages of Hamas”.
“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 the lives of children, adults, old people, civilians and soldiers,” Macron said after meeting President Herzog on Tuesday. He added that the campaign must be fought without “enlarging this conflict”.
In Tel Aviv, Macron also met the families of French and French-Israeli nationals killed or being held hostage.
The French president also aims to continue efforts “to avoid a dangerous escalation in the region”, the Elysee told AFP, amid growing alarm over swelling cross-border exchanges between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.
He will propose relaunching a “true peace process”, with the aim of creating a viable Palestinian state in exchange for guarantees from regional powers towards “Israel’s security”.
Macron will most likely also travel to Lebanon and Egypt, the French newspaper Le Parisien reported, citing diplomatic circles.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani warned that the dangerous escalation of the war on Gaza threatened the region and the world. He urged that the fighting should stop and said Israel should not be given a green light for unconditional killing.
In Rome on Tuesday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella emphasised the need to avoid the escalation of violence, and commit to a common and peaceful solution in the region.
On Sunday, leaders of the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Britain underscored their support for Israel and its right to defend itself, but also urged it to adhere to international humanitarian law and protect civilians.