French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israel to better target its response to Hamas terror attacks to ensure the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip.
“We fully recognize [Israel’s] right and the legitimate will to fight terrorism, we are ready to help. But we consider that a complete blockade, indiscriminate bombing and the prospect of a massive ground operation don’t protect the civilian population,” he said at a press conference after the EU leaders’ summit he just attended.
“It is crucial that Israel acts in a targeted manner in Gaza, which means by fighting terrorism without endangering the lives of civilians.”
In the weeks since the Hamas attack on October 7, Israel has retaliated with daily airstrikes on the blockaded Palestinian enclave, killing more than an estimated 7,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, which included 53 U.N. workers, whom Macron referenced, saying: “We can’t act as if nothing was happening. These people have nothing to do with terrorism — nothing.”
Macron also alluded to Israel’s “complete siege” on Gaza after the start of the Israel-Hamas war, which severely limited the delivery of fuel, food, medicine and water, resulting in a worsening humanitarian crisis, according to aid organizations.
“We had a very long debate about a plural or a singular [pause or pauses],” Macron said, referencing the lengthy discussion among the 27 EU leaders that resulted in a unanimous call for “humanitarian corridors and pauses for humanitarian needs.”
“To be honest, given the situation, I think we need a humanitarian truce now,” Macron said, using stronger language than Western leaders, including Macron himself, have used in recent weeks when addressing Israel’s war with Hamas.
The French president said it was time for the EU to take action to tackle the humanitarian consequences of the crisis.
Several EU countries planned to coordinate delivery of medicine supplies through a “maritime humanitarian corridor,” with the assistance of Cyprus and Greece in particular, he said.
After addressing one war, the French president turned to another, stressing the importance of a unified European response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Macron was also asked to comment on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s handshake with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which sparked controversy ahead of the two-day EU summit.
“There’s absolutely no need to forbid a head of state from seeing another,” he said. “But what I’m asking, out of loyalty, is that we have coordination beforehand and afterwards, and especially given the situation with Russia, that we don’t use these bilateral contacts to negotiate things for ourselves that would weaken our unity.”
Macron, who has been criticized for having multiple calls with Putin since the start of the war in 2022, said he would not lecture anyone about meeting with the Russian president, adding it might prove useful.
He did wrap up his comments on Hungary, though, by condemning Orbán’s recent statements where he compared the country’s EU membership to its Soviet occupation.
“Brussels hasn’t invaded Hungary, nor did the European Union,” he pointed out.