French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to express his country’s “full solidarity” with Israel, according to an AFP journalist.
The French head of state was also expected to call for the “preservation of the civilian population” in Gaza, as Israel carries out a relentless bombardment of the Palestinian enclave and prepares for a ground offensive following the October 7 incursion by Hamas militant group, the presidency said.
His visit comes more than two weeks after Israeli officials said Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip and killed at least 1,400 people, including 30 French citizens.
Israeli air strikes on Gaza have killed more than 5,000 people, most of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Macron was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express France’s “full solidarity” with Israel after that attack, the French presidency said.
Macron will in particular call for a “humanitarian truce” to allow desperately needed aid into Gaza, where an Israeli blockade has deprived 2.4 million people of water, food, electricity and other basic supplies, the Elysee Palace said.
Macron and Netanyahu were due to hold a joint press conference at 1:00 pm (1000 GMT).
The French head of state was also due to meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog, as well as opposition leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid in Jerusalem.
And in Tel Aviv, he was due to meet the families of French and French-Israeli nationals killed in the Hamas attack or being held hostage in Gaza.
Seven French citizens are still missing: one of them, a French woman, has been confirmed as among the more than 200 people Israel says were taken hostage by Hamas.
Macron has said the others are also thought to be hostages, but there has not yet been confirmation.
The French president also aims to continue efforts “to avoid a dangerous escalation in the region”, the Elysee said, amid growing alarm over swelling cross-border exchanges between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Macron will propose relaunching a “true peace process”, with the aim of creating a viable Palestinian state in exchange for guarantees from regional powers towards “Israel’s security”.
There will also probably be exchanges with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and leaders of Gulf nations, the Elysee said.
US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni have already visited Israel.
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