Tel Aviv: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for Israel to halt its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza, saying that the Palestinian militant group is the sole culprit for the civilian deaths in the besieged enclave. Netanyahu also accused Hamas of being an affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS), a transnational terrorist organization that has been waging war on several countries in the Middle East and beyond.
In a phone conversation on Tuesday, Macron urged Netanyahu to “put an end to the hostilities” and “protect civilians” in Gaza, where more than 11,000 people have been killed and 27,000 wounded since Israel launched its offensive on October 7, following a surprise attack by Hamas that killed 1,400 Israelis. Macron also expressed his “deep concern” over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and reiterated France’s support for a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But Netanyahu rejected Macron’s appeal and defended Israel’s right to self-defense, saying that Hamas, not Israel, is responsible for the bloodshed in Gaza. He claimed that Israel is doing everything possible to minimize civilian casualties, while Hamas is doing everything possible to maximize them. He said that Hamas is using Gaza’s civilians as human shields, preventing them from evacuating the areas targeted by Israel and forcing them to stay in places where Hamas stores its rockets and weapons.
Netanyahu also repeated his controversial assertion that Hamas is ISIS, or Hamas-ISIS as he calls it, implying that the two groups share the same ideology and goals. He said that Hamas is committing “crimes against humanity” by holding Israeli hostages – including women, children, and the elderly – and using mosques and hospitals as terrorist command centers. He warned that Hamas’s atrocities in Gaza are a threat not only to Israel but to the whole world. He said that if Hamas is not stopped in Gaza, it will soon launch similar attacks in Paris, New York, and other cities. He called on world leaders to condemn Hamas-ISIS, not Israel, for the ongoing violence.
Netanyahu’s remarks came as Israel faced mounting international pressure to end its military operation in Gaza and agree to a ceasefire with Hamas. The United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, and several countries have called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a resumption of peace talks. However, Israel has insisted that there will be no ceasefire until all its hostages are freed and Hamas is disarmed.