- President Emmanuel Macron has called for Israel to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza
Macron said there was ‘no justification’ for ‘bombing babies’ and said a ceasefire would benefit Israel.
When asked if he wanted other leaders – including in the United Sates and Britain – to join his calls for a ceasefire, Macron said: ‘I hope they will.’
Israel has faced growing calls for restraint in its month-long war with Hamas but says the Gaza-based militants, who attacked Israel on October 7 and took hostages, would exploit a truce to regroup.
Speaking the day after a humanitarian aid conference in Paris about the war in Gaza, Macron said the ‘clear conclusion’ of all governments and agencies present at that summit was ‘that there is no other solution than first a humanitarian pause, going to a ceasefire, which will allow to protect… all civilians having nothing to do with terrorists’.
‘De facto – today, civilians are bombed – de facto.
‘These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop,’ he said.
US President Joe Biden has been dismissive of the chances for a ceasefire, insisting there was ‘no possibility, none’ as he left the White House for Illinois yesterday.
In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has backed ‘specific pauses’ in the Israel-Hamas conflict but has also rejected calls for a ceasefire.
Yesterday, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any conversation over ending hostilities in Gaza and accused US Democratic Rep Rashida Tlaib of calling for the ‘genocide’ of the Jewish people as he promised to win the war against Hamas.
The Israeli leader tore into anti-Israeli demonstrators at US colleges accusing them of ‘moral depravity’, and vowed to pursue the war in Gaza for ‘however long it takes’.
But he insisted there would be no ceasefire after the Hamas terror attack on October 7 that killed more than 1,400 Israelis and saw hundreds more taken hostage.
‘A ceasefire with Hamas means surrender to Hamas and surrender to terror,’ he added.
‘We’re going to continue until we eradicate Hamas and nothing will stop that.’
But the White House revealed on Thursday that Israel agreed to open a second corridor for civilians to flee northern Gaza – along the territory´s coastal road – joining the first that has been in place along its main north-south highway.
A series of daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in its assault on Hamas in northern Gaza will take effect as part of an effort to get hostages out.
And Netanyahu hinted that freeing the 239 hostages seized by Hamas could make a difference.
‘There won’t be a ceasefire without the release of the Israeli hostages, that’s not going to happen,’ he said.
Indirect talks were taking place in Qatar – which also played a role in the freeing of four hostages by Hamas last month – about a larger release of hostages.
CIA Director William Burns was in Doha on Thursday to discuss efforts to win the release of hostages in Gaza with the Qatari prime minister and the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.
But the Israeli PM insisted Hamas would be destroyed before the war ends with a Gaza ‘demilitarized and deradicalized’.
And he praised Congress for voting to censure Michigan Rep Rashida Tlaib over her repeated calls for a free Palestine ‘from the river to the sea’.
She also accused Biden of supporting ‘genocide’ in Gaza and ‘complicity’ in the deaths of children in the Middle East.
‘From the river to the sea means there’s no Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, which is a tiny area, by the way, that encompasses Israel, there is no Israel,’ Netanyahu responded.
Israel says 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed and about 240 taken hostage by Hamas in the October 7 raid that triggered the Israeli assault.
Israel says it has lost 35 soldiers in Gaza.
Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, about 40 percent of them children, in air and artillery strikes.
Israel’s military advance on central Gaza City, which brought tanks within a mile of Al Shifa, according to residents, has raised questions about how Israel will interpret international laws on protecting medical centres and displaced people there.
Deadly air strikes on refugee camps, a medical convoy and near hospitals have already prompted fierce arguments among some of Israel’s Western allies over its military’s adherence to international law.
Meanwhile, Israel has agreed pauses in its offensive in northern Gaza that will allow some civilians to flee heavy fighting, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any broader ceasefire as a ‘surrender’ to Hamas.
Asked if there would be a ‘stoppage’ in fighting, Netanyahu said on the Fox News Channel: ‘No. The fighting continues against the Hamas enemy, the Hamas terrorists, but in specific locations for a given period of a few hours here or a few hours there, we want to facilitate the safe passage of civilians away from the zone of fight and we’re doing that.’
The Israeli military has allowed some wounded Palestinian civilians to cross into Egypt for treatment.
US President Joe Biden said in a post on Thursday that Israel has ‘an obligation to distinguish between terrorists and civilians and fully comply with international law.’
The White House confirmed on Thursday that Israel had agreed to pause military operations in parts of north Gaza for four hours a day.
The pauses, which would allow people to flee along two humanitarian corridors and could be used for the release of hostages, were significant first steps, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.
Aid groups have pleaded for a full ceasefire, warning of a humanitarian ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza, where food, water and medicine are in short supply.
‘It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up: how am I going to feed the children today,’ Amal al-Robayaa told AFP in Rafah, where she was sheltering with her husband, six children, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren at a UN school.
Oxfam France director Cecile Duflot said staff were reporting ‘the worst, the most tragic situation that they have ever seen’ in the territory.
Complicating Israel’s military push is the fate of around 240 hostages abducted on October 7.
CIA director Bill Burns and David Barnea, head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, were in Doha for talks on pauses that would include hostage releases and more aid for Gaza, an official told AFP.
Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad released a video Thursday claiming to show two hostages – a woman in her 70s and a 13-year-old boy – which, if verified, would suggest not all captives are held by Hamas.
Israel’s military slammed the video as ‘psychological terrorism’.
Four hostages have been freed so far, and the desperate relatives of those still held have piled pressure on Israeli and US authorities to secure the release of their loved ones.