French President Emmanuel Macron, on a solidarity visit to Israel after the October 7 attacks, called Tuesday for Palestinian militants Hamas to be added to the targets of an international coalition against the Islamic State group.
Macron also said there had to be a “decisive relaunch” of the Middle East peace process, following talks with leaders in Israel, whose army is building up to a likely ground invasion of the Gaza Strip with the declared aim of toppling Hamas.
The French leader went on to visit Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where he told Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas the Hamas attacks were “also a catastrophe for the Palestinians”.
In Jerusalem, Macron said the Global Coalition against Daesh, or the Islamic State (IS) group, “should also fight against Hamas”.
The French president said he had proposed this during talks with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to other “international partners”.
“We should build a regional and international coalition to battle against terrorist groups that threaten us all,” he told a joint news conference with Netanyahu.
An Elysee Palace source said Macron’s proposal “draws inspiration from the experience of the Global Coalition against Daesh and seeing what aspects can be replicated against Hamas”.
The coalition was set up in 2014 and says it has 86 “members” — countries and groups such as the European Union and the Arab League.
It has focused on countering IS in Iraq and Syria but is also aimed at cutting off funding to the jihadists, the sharing of intelligence and support for many countries, including the training of Iraqi forces.
Macron was the latest of a string of Western leaders to voice support for Israel’s riposte to the Palestinian militant group after the attacks that Israel says left 1,400 people dead, mostly civilians.
But as he made overtures to Israel, Macron faced calls for restraint during a trip to the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
After his meeting with the French president, Abbas said that the international community must halt Israel’s “aggression” as it battles Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“We urge you, President Macron, to stop this aggression,” Abbas said.
Macron told reporters that “nothing can justify” the suffering of civilians in Gaza, a narrow territory of some 2.4 million people.
The Hamas government says at least 5,791 people have been killed in Israel’s bombardment of the Palestinian territory, most of whom are civilians. Israel says that its hundreds of air raids each day target Hamas leaders and military positions.
– Peace process –
Macron said extending the anti-IS coalition would benefit Israel and its neighbours who are also “threatened” by Hamas, which is branded a terrorist organisation by the European Union and United States.
“The battle must be without mercy, but not without rule because we are democracies which fight against terrorists, democracies which respect the right to war and assure humanitarian access,” Macron said in Israel.
Macron’s office said before his visit that he would seek a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza while in Israel, but no mention was made after his talks with Netanyahu.
The French leader did call for a “decisive” new effort to move toward a Palestinian state, declaring: “The Palestinian cause must be heard with reason”.
“Israel’s security cannot be sustainable with a decisive relaunch of the political process with the Palestinians.”.
Macron also met some of the relatives of the 30 French people killed in the October 7 attacks and the nine people missing, at least one of whom has been confirmed as being a hostage.
He said freeing all hostages had to be the “first objective” of the Israeli military campaign.
Like other Western leaders, Macron told Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog that their country was “not alone”, drawing parallels with past attacks on French soil.
“I think this is our duty to fight against these terrorist groups, without any confusion, without… enlarging this conflict.”
Speaking alongside Macron, Israeli premier Netanyahu vowed to “destroy Hamas”.
“We will dismantle its terror machine. We will dismantle its political structure. We will make every effort to release our hostages,” Netanyahu said.
With the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group daily trading fire with the army across the Lebanon-Israel border, Western governments are concerned the conflict could spread.
Macron named Hezbollah, Iran and the Huthis in Yemen when he said they should “not take the ill-considered risk of opening new fronts”.
US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised similar concerns during visits to Israel over the past week.