France condemns Israeli ministers’ call for Palestinian emigration from Gaza

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France on Wednesday described as “provocative” comments made by far-right Israeli ministers calling for Palestinians to emigrate from Gaza and Jewish settlers to return to the besieged territory.

“France condemns the comments of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We call on Israel to refrain from such provocative declarations, which are irresponsible and fuel tensions.”

Ben-Gvir on Monday called for promoting “a solution to encourage the emigration of Gaza’s residents” and the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

His comments came the day after Smotrich also called for the return of settlers to Gaza, adding that Israel should “encourage” the territory’s approximately 2.4 million Palestinians to leave.

“The forced transfer of populations constitutes a grave violation of international law,” the French foreign ministry warned.

“The future of the Gaza Strip and its inhabitants will lie in a unified Palestinian state living in peace and security side-by-side with Israel.”

Israel unilaterally withdrew the last of its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, ending a presence inside Gaza that began in 1967 but maintaining near complete control over the territory’s borders.

The United States on Tuesday also denounced the ministers’ controversial comments as “inflammatory and irresponsible”.

The Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not officially suggested plans to evict Gazans or to send Jewish settlers back to the territory since the war broke out in October.

The fighting erupted after Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing around 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says more than 22,000 people have been killed in the war, mostly civilians, while relentless strikes have left much of the territory in ruins.

The vast majority of Gaza’s residents have been forced out of their homes by nearly three months of fighting between Hamas militants and Israel.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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