A “massive” Israeli ground incursion into Gaza would be “an error”, French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday, warning it would harm civilians without ensuring Israel’s long-term security.
The warning came as Macron held talks in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who also urged efforts “to avoid a ground invasion” in Gaza, where Israel is locked in a deadly confrontation with Hamas militants.
Israel has been relentlessly bombing the tiny Palestinian territory since October 7 when Hamas gunmen poured across its border, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing more than 220 others, officials say, in the worst attack in Israel’s history.
Hamas officials say that so far, Israeli strikes have killed more than 6,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians. There are fears the toll could further soar if Israel pushes ahead with a widely expected ground invasion in a bid to destroy Hamas and rescue the hostages.
“A massive intervention that would put civilian lives at risk would be an error,” said Macron after meeting Sisi, who also warned a ground operation would cause “many, many civilian casualties”.
The French leader said “it would also be a mistake for Israel because it would be unlikely to offer long-term protection and because it is incompatible with protecting the civilian population or respecting international humanitarian law and the rules of war.”
Egypt and Jordan were the first two Arab states to forge relations with Israel, in 1979 and 1994 respectively, and have since played key mediator roles.
Cairo has been one of the main brokers in efforts to secure the release of more than 200 hostages now held in Gaza.
After more than two weeks of relentless bombardment and siege by Israel, Gaza’s already-fragile healthcare system is at risk of collapsing, with hospitals running out of essential supplies and fuel to power generators.
– No ‘political horizon’ –
Macron said on Wednesday that France would be sending a navy ship to support Gaza’s hospitals within the next 48 hours.
France would also send a planeload of medical equipment to Egypt to be transported into Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
Sisi called for a de-escalation, ceasefire and return to diplomacy, saying “the lack of a political horizon” had fuelled the current war.
Macron echoed Sisi’s support for a “two-state solution” — the cornerstone of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that have been stalled for years.
“It is difficult at the moment to talk about the resumption of a peace process,” Macron said, describing it as “more necessary than ever”.
Worried that the Gaza bloodshed could exacerbate tensions across the wider Middle East, Arab leaders have repeatedly pushed for a return to a political process, with Jordan’s King Abdullah II saying the war “might lead to an explosion” in the region.
Before meeting Macron, Sisi inspected Egyptian troops and told them to “always be ready” three days after an Egyptian border watchtower was hit by an accidental Israeli shelling that wounded several guards.
Egypt was doing all it could for a de-escalation and ceasefire, as well as to “support civilians in Gaza” by sending aid through the Rafah border crossing, he said.