The ground invasion of Gaza by Israeli troops to defeat Hamas following the October 7 attack has yet to happen, but the airstrikes on the Strip are intensifying. With more than 700 fatalities reported on Tuesday, Gaza has experienced the bloodiest day of the war, according to authorities of the enclave. The surge in violence coincides with a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron. “Hamas are the new Nazis, they also threaten Europe,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing next to Macron in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The French president stated that their two countries face the same terrorist enemy, referring to Hamas in Palestine, the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq and the Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. The French leader is proposing that the same international coalition already fighting Islamic State should now try to put an end to Hamas.
Seventeen days have elapsed since the attack by Hamas that killed around 1,400 Israelis, and the tanks and soldiers of the Israeli army are still stationed on the perimeter of the Gaza Strip without carrying out the major attack announced by the highest officials of the country. In the meantime, Israeli aviation and artillery continue to step up their attacks against the Palestinian enclave, where they have hit some 400 Hamas targets in the last 24 hours, killing dozens of its members, according to army data. At least 704 people have died in these attacks, including 305 minors, according to sources from the Gaza Ministry of Health, which considers it the bloodiest day since the conflict broke out. In total, 5,791 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, of which around 2,000 are minors, according to the same source.
In the midst of the war, Israel is multiplying its diplomatic activity. During his visit, Macron stressed that the priority is to free the hostages that remain in Gaza. There are 220 according to Israel, not counting four women who have been released, two of them on Monday night. The French president has arrived in Israel with a message of solidarity, stating that France will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Israel. He is also hoping to help stop a regional escalation and facilitate a new international consensus around the conflict, according to French government sources.
Macron confirmed that there are nine French hostages captured or missing in the Hamas attack. Another 30 were killed. The president met with some of the victims’ families at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. “They will not be alone in this war against terrorism,” said Macron after being received by President Isaac Herzog, but added that this fight must be carried out “without enlarging this conflict.”
Israel, said Macron, has the right to defend itself while Gazans have the right to receive humanitarian aid. “This fight should be ruthless but not without rules, because we are democracies that are fighting terrorists,” he said, adding that the laws of war must be upheld. He also defended “a decisive relaunch of the political process with Palestinians.”
The French president believes that the fight against Hamas must also become a goal of the U.S.-led coalition that has already been fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq since 2016, of which France is a part. “It is about being inspired by the experience of the global coalition against the Islamic State and seeing what aspects can be replicated against Hamas,” said sources at the Elysée Palace without providing details on how to carry out the president’s plan in a coalition that does not include Israel. In any case, the two countries share an enemy, Macron said after meeting with Netanyahu.
The Hamas attack means that France now faces a greater number of hostages in this conflict than it had in the rest of the world. The number of its nationals killed on October 7 is the highest in an action of this type since the Nice attack in 2016, in which a truck killed 84 people.
After that massacre, Israel insists that Hamas operates under the same ideology and modus operandi as the Islamic State. The Israeli army said that the Palestinian assailants carried flags of that terrorist group that were found in the places attacked in Israeli territory. The Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, said that the delay in the ground invasion is due to “tactical and strategic” factors, although his soldiers are ready for an operation that is expected to be difficult and lengthy.
The fact that more than 200 hostages remain in the hands of the jihadists could be decisive when deciding what type of ground offensive the army will carry out. Military officials and politicians insist that the goal is to free everyone safe and sound. So far, diplomatic negotiations with the fundamentalist militia have led to the release of four people. They are gestures, hinted military spokesman Daniel Hagari, that try to show a humanity that the captors lack.
“I have been through hell,” explained Yocheved Lifschitz, 85, one of the two kidnapped women released on Monday night. This woman has not spared criticism of her country for the security failure that allowed Hamas to act despite the fence that separates Israel from Gaza at a cost of $2.5 billion, “but which did not help at all.” The Israeli army, according to an announcement made on X (formerly Twitter), is offering protection and economic aid to Gaza residents who step forward with any information about the whereabouts of the hostages, as explained in the flyers that have been raining down in the Gaza Strip, offering different ways to get in touch.
Macron’s agenda also includes a trip to Ramallah to meet with the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting will take place as Macron deals with a loss of popularity in the Arab world after his government banned public demonstrations, protests, and displays of solidarity with the Palestinian people, only to be warned by the French courts that it was an illegal measure.
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