Macron walks back criticism of Israel’s Gaza campaign

After accusing Israel in BBC interview of bombing civilians, French president reiterates support for Israel’s war on Hamas.

By JNS

French President Emmanuel Macron called his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog on Sunday to clarify remarks he made on Friday in which he criticized Jerusalem’s military campaign in Gaza.

During a BBC interview on Friday, Macron claimed that Israel was killing women and children in Gaza.

“De facto—today civilians are being bombed. These babies, these women, these old people are being bombed and killed. So there is no reason for it and no legitimacy. So we do plead with Israel to stop,” the French leader said.

The remarks drew condemnation from Israeli leaders, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying on Saturday during a press conference that Macron “made a serious mistake, factually and morally” and in a statement that “the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas-ISIS and not with Israel.”

However, according to the readout of the call with Herzog, Macron “made clear that he does not and did not intend to accuse Israel of intentionally harming innocent civilians in the campaign against the terrorist organization Hamas.

“President Macron also emphasized that he unequivocally supports Israel’s right and duty to self-defense, and expressed his support for Israel’s war against Hamas.”

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During the call, Macron explained that his comments were in reference to the humanitarian situation in Gaza. He also reiterated his commitment to demanding the immediate release of the more than 240 hostages held by Hamas who were captured during the Oct. 7 massacre of northwestern Negev communities in which 1,200 persons were murdered and more than 5,000 wounded.

Herzog told Macron how much “pain and upset” his comments caused in Israel and said that it was good that he clarified them.

“The [Israeli] president reiterated that the State of Israel and the IDF continue to act in a humanitarian manner and in accordance with international law. He noted that Israel took all possible measures to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians. He also emphasized that the full responsibility for harm caused to innocent people in the Gaza Strip rested with the terrorist organization Hamas.”

Herzog also informed Macron that just before their conversation, he watched the “horrific footage” of the Oct. 7 assault and recommended that the French president and all world leaders do so “in order to remember and remind them of the enemy that faced Israel and the entire world—an enemy of pure evil against whom Israel must act, just as President Macron had noted when he compared the war against Hamas to that conducted by the Global Coalition that fought against ISIS.”