French President Emanuel Macron strongly rebuked Israel’s bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza on Friday, saying there is “no justification” for the effort in a BBC interview.
Macron said “we do urge them to stop this bombing” in Gaza and advocated for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, adding that France “clearly condemns” Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization.
“De facto — today, civilians are bombed — de facto. These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed,” he said. “So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.”
Israeli military operations in Gaza have killed over 11,000 Palestinians, including 4,000 children, since the start of the war early last month, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
The war began Oct. 7 after Hamas militants killed over a thousand Israeli civilians in a brutal surprise attack on border communities.
France quickly backed Israel alongside the U.S. and other allies, but Macron has lightly pushed back on the Israeli government in recent days amid concerns over civilian casualties in the conflict.
Late last month, Macron proposed an international coalition to fight Hamas, likening the effort to the one which defeated ISIS in Iraq and Syria. That coalition would, in theory, weaken the Israeli military’s control over operations in Gaza.
Paris hosted an international summit to encourage humanitarian support for civilians in Gaza starting Friday, where he also urged Israel to better consider Palestinian civilians.
“In the immediate term, we need to work on protecting civilians,” he said. “To do that, we need a humanitarian pause very quickly and we must work towards a cease-fire.”
In the BBC interview, Macron said the “clear conclusion” from the first day of the conference was “that there is no other solution than first a humanitarian pause, going to a cease-fire, which will allow [us] to protect… all civilians having nothing to do with terrorists.”
Macron further argued that a cease-fire and limiting civilian casualties would both save lives and help the Israeli cause in the long-term.
“It’s extremely important for all of us because of our principles, because we are democracies,” he said. “It’s important for the mid-to-long run, as well for the security of Israel itself, to recognize that all lives matter.”
He added that the current Israeli offensive creates “resentment and bad feelings” which can exacerbate the conflict.
Tensions have already risen between Israel and Iran over the war. Iran has long-backed Hamas, and skirmishes have increased between the Israeli military and Iran-backed groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Israel has said it will start daily four-hour military pauses in parts of northern Gaza as it continues its offensive, at the urging of the Biden administration. The nation’s defense minister, however, stressed the pauses would be “localized” and would “not detract from the war fighting.”
Calls for a cease-fire in the conflict have divided U.S. politics. Progressive Democrats came under fire from members of both parties for backing a cease-fire, while Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was censured in the House on Tuesday for advocating for a cease-fire while using language some considered antisemitic.