French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday vowed that France would do everything to ensure the release of the dozens of hostages held by Palestinian militant group Hamas after its attack on Israel.
“I want to say that we will do everything to ensure that these hostages, whatever their nationality, are released,” he said in an address to the nation, adding that France would work to this end both with “our partners” and the Israeli authorities.
The French president said that at least 13 French citizens were confirmed to have been killed in the attack by Hamas but 17 more “children and adults” were missing and “without doubt some of them are held hostage”.
“France will never abandon its children,” he said. Around 150 people are believed to be held hostage by Hamas.
His comments came after the families of French citizens held hostage by Hamas militants in Gaza urged the president to step in to help secure their release.
Batsheva Yahalomi, whose 12-year-old son has been missing since Saturday, told a news conference in Tel Aviv that she wanted “French intervention” and details about him and others being held.
“I think France is very generous and compassionate and I’m sure President Macron, who many of us voted for, will do something… (and) get involved,” added her mother, Jocelyne.
No ‘endless war’
Macron condemned the “blind murderous hatred” and “absolute cruelty” of the Palestinian militant group in its attack on Israel early on Saturday.
“Hamas implemented a plan that in its scale, barbarity and human toll has no precedent.”
He said that Israel had the right to defend itself “by eliminating terrorist groups, including Hamas, with targeted actions but preserving the civilian population”, adding that the “only response to terrorism is one that is… strong but fair”.
He said France remained committed to a two-state solution to the conflict.
“We cannot resign ourselves to an endless war in this region. The fight against terrorism cannot replace the search for peace. The conditions for a lasting peace are known.”
With tensions rising in France which has large Jewish and Muslim communities, Macron said 582 religious and cultural facilities in France were receiving stepped up police protection.
“Those who confuse the Palestinian cause and the justification of terrorism commit a strong moral, political and strategic error,” he said.
French anti-terror prosecutors on Thursday said they had opened a terrorism probe into the attack by Hamas on Israel, into murder, attempted murder and kidnapping, including of minors, by a “terrorist organisation”
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