Macron calls for humanitarian access to Gaza via Rafah crossing

Emmanuel Macron

Peris: President Emmanuel Macron has urged Israel and Egypt to open a humanitarian corridor out of the besieged Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing for French nationals, his office said Saturday. Paris is seeking to ensure that French nationals could cross out of the southern Gaza Strip and into Egypt and that the crossing could also be used for “humanitarian operations” to Gaza, according to a statement from the Elysee Palace.

Macron spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Friday and expressed his “deep concern” about the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza. He called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” and reiterated his support for Egypt’s mediation efforts to restore calm.

Macron also stressed the need to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law in Gaza, where more than 2,200 Palestinians have been killed and more than 8,700 injured by Israeli air strikes since October 7. He said France was ready to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, in coordination with Egypt and the United Nations.

The Rafah Border Crossing is the only crossing point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. It is located on the Gaza–Egypt border, which was recognized by the 1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty. Only passage of persons is allowed to take place through the Rafah Border Crossing, as per the Israeli-led blockade of the Gaza Strip, the entrance of any goods into Gaza must go through Israel, usually through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing.

The Rafah crossing has been mostly closed since 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza from the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Egypt has occasionally opened the crossing for humanitarian reasons or to allow pilgrims to travel to Mecca. However, since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, Egypt has kept the crossing closed, citing security concerns.

According to the French Foreign Ministry, there are about 300 French nationals living in Gaza, mostly of Palestinian origin. They have been trapped in the coastal enclave since Israel ordered a siege on Gaza on Monday, cutting off electricity, water, food, and fuel supplies. Israel has also ordered more than one million people in northern Gaza to evacuate within 24 hours, raising fears of a ground invasion.

France has been trying to evacuate its citizens from Gaza since Saturday but has faced difficulties due to the closure of the Rafah crossing and the lack of coordination with Israel. France has asked Israel to allow its diplomatic staff to enter Gaza via the Erez crossing on the northern border with Israel but has not received a response yet.

France has also appealed to other countries with a diplomatic presence in Gaza, such as Turkey and Qatar, to help evacuate its nationals. However, these countries have also faced challenges in accessing Gaza due to Israeli restrictions. France has urged Israel to respect its obligations under international law and allow safe passage for foreign nationals and humanitarian workers in and out of Gaza.