Macron calls on Israel to avoid escalation, 'particularly in Lebanon'

AFP , Wednesday 3 Jan 2024

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Israel to avoid escalation, "particularly in Lebanon", following an Israeli strike in Beirut that killed Hamas's deputy leader, the Elysee Palace said late on Tuesday.

Civil defense workers clean the street in front of an apartment building where an apparent Israeli strike Tuesday killed top Hamas political leader Saleh Arouri, in the southern suburb of Beirut that is a Hezbollah stronghold, Lebanon. Photo: AP


Macron, who spoke by telephone with Israeli minister and war cabinet member Benny Gantz, said "it was essential to avoid any escalatory attitude, particularly in Lebanon, and that France would continue to pass on these messages to all players directly or indirectly involved in the area", the presidency said.

Hamas number two Saleh al-Aruri was killed in an Israeli strike in a suburb of Beirut on Tuesday evening, the Palestinian group and Lebanese security officials said.

Israel regularly carries out strikes against the Hamas-allied Hezbollah movement along its shared border with Lebanon, but Aruri's killing was the first time since the start of the war in Gaza that it has targeted the Lebanese capital.

After the strike, Hezbollah vowed Aruri's death would not go "unpunished", calling it "a serious assault on Lebanon... and a dangerous development in the course of the war".

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati also condemned the killing and said it "aims to draw Lebanon" further into the Israeli war on Gaza.

In his conversation with Gantz, Macron reiterated his call for a "lasting ceasefire" between Israel and Hamas, the presidency said.

He also expressed again his "deepest concern" at the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza, as well as the humanitarian crisis unfolding inside the Palestinian territory, while at the same time reaffirming "France's commitment to the security of Israel".

Since October 7, Israel is launching a relentless bombardment and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip that has killed at least 22,185 people, 70% of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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