'Massive' Israel ground operation in Gaza would be 'an error': Macron

Ahram Online , Wednesday 25 Oct 2023

A "massive" Israeli ground incursion into Gaza would be "an error,"French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday, warning it would harm civilians without ensuring Israel's long-term security.

Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron talks to journalists on the tarmac of Cairo airport, Egypt, as he departs Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. AP

 

Macron's warning came before the French president left Egypt after holding talks in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who also urged efforts "to avoid a ground invasion" in Gaza, where Israel is striking relentlessly. 

The French president stressed that his country will not send any armed units to the region and seeks to avoid further escalation.

Macron underlined the importance of reaching a political settlement based on the two-state solution.

He called for lifting the Israeli siege on Gaza, saying the Palestinians have the right to have a state of their own.

The French president said he agreed with the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders on the importance of reaching a truce and a solution based on a two-state solution.

Macron's visit to Cairo came after he visited Israel, Jordan, and Ramallah on Tuesday where he held talks with various leaders to discuss ways to de-escalate the ongoing war in Gaza.  

Dire humanitarian situation in Gaza
 

Israel has been relentlessly bombing the tiny Palestinian territory since 7 October when Hamas’s attack killed 1,400 people and captured more than 220.

Israeli strikes have killed more than 6,500 people and wounded more than 17,000 in Gaza, with 700 deaths recorded since Tuesday alone, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The ministry said on Tuesday that 10 of the 35 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are out of service, along with 65 percent of primary healthcare facilities. Meanwhile, 178 educational institutions, including 140 government and 20 UNRWA schools, are out of service.

The ministry estimated that 1.4 million Gazans have been displaced. Of these, 685,000 are sheltering with other families, 565,000 in 148 schools affiliated with the UNRWA, 101,000 in mosques, churches, and public places, and 70,000 in 67 government schools.

The statement said that 42 percent of housing units in the Gaza Strip were destroyed by Israeli bombardment. Of these, 26,684 were completely destroyed, while 140,500 were partially destroyed.

There are fears the toll could further soar if Israel pushes ahead with a widely expected ground invasion.

"A massive intervention that would put civilian lives at risk would be an error," said Macron after meeting El-Sisi, who also warned a ground operation would cause "many, many civilian casualties."

The French leader said: "It would also be a mistake for Israel because it would be unlikely to offer long-term protection and because it is incompatible with protecting the civilian population or respecting international humanitarian law and the rules of war."

During a press conference with President El-Sisi, Macron said that France would send a navy ship to support Gaza's hospitals within the next 48 hours.

France would also send a planeload of medical equipment to Egypt to be transported into Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

After 19 days of relentless bombardment and siege by Israel, Gaza's already fragile healthcare system is at risk of collapsing, with hospitals running out of essential supplies and fuel to power generators.

Meanwhile, during the presser with Macron, President El-Sisi called for a de-escalation, ceasefire, and return to diplomacy, saying "the lack of a political horizon" had fueled the current war.

Macron echoed El-Sisi's support for a "two-state solution" – the cornerstone of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that have been stalled for years.

"While it is difficult at the moment to talk about the resumption of a peace process, it is more necessary than ever," said Macron.

Arab leaders have been pushing for a return to a political process, with Jordan's King Abdullah II saying the war "might lead to an explosion" in the region.

Before meeting Macron, President El-Sisi inspected Egyptian troops and told them to "always be ready."

Egypt has been intensifying efforts to protect the civilian population in Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing, he said.

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