Macron says Gaza operations must ‘cease,’ death toll ‘intolerable’

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French President Emmanuel Macron told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that the Gaza death toll was “intolerable” and Israel’s operations there “must cease”, the president’s office said.

In a telephone call that saw Macron toughen his tone, the French leader expressed France’s “firm opposition” to an Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying it “could only lead to a humanitarian disaster of a new magnitude” and create a new risk of regional escalation, according to a statement from the presidential Elysee palace.

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The French leader stressed that a ceasefire agreement should be reached “without further delay”, adding such a deal should “guarantee the protection of all civilians and the massive inflow of emergency aid.”

Macron said that the lack of sufficient access to “a population in an absolute humanitarian emergency was unjustifiable,” his office said.

He said it was “imperative to open the port of Ashdod” in Israel north of the Gaza strip, “a direct land route from Jordan and all the crossing points.”

The French president also urged “the prime minister and all Israeli leaders to have the courage to offer their fellow citizens a future of peace”, which he believes only the “creation of a Palestinian state” can achieve, the statement said.

On Tuesday, France said it was imposing sanctions against 28 “extremist Israeli settlers” whom it accuses of committing human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank.

France would also be seeking sanctions at European level, the foreign ministry said.

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The latest Gaza war began after Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also took about 250 people hostage, around 130 of whom are still in Gaza, according to Israeli figures. Israel says 29 of the remaining captives are presumed dead.

Israel’s relentless bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza has killed at least 28,576 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the Palestinian territory.

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