The French leader told Isaac Herzog that he did not intend to accuse Israel of deliberately harming Palestinian civilians
French President Emmanuel Macron appears to have backtracked on his comments about Israeli strikes killing scores of civilians in Gaza, which he made in an interview with the BBC on Friday while calling for a ceasefire.
The remarks prompted a backlash from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused Macron of making “a serious mistake, factually and morally.”
On Sunday, the French leader initiated a phone call with Israel’s president to clarify his position, saying that he “did not intend to accuse Israel of intentionally harming innocent civilians,” according to the office of Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
Herzog said the remarks had “caused much pain and upset in Israel.”
Macron also reiterated his support for Israel’s right to self-defense and his commitment to secure the release of the hostages held in Gaza, explaining that his comments were “made in reference to the humanitarian situation.”
Herzog reportedly reassured his French counterpart that Israel was taking “all possible measures to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians,” and shifted the blame for civilian deaths onto Hamas.
On Friday, Macron told the BBC that he “clearly condemns” the Hamas attack on Israel. However, he also said that, “de facto, today, civilians are bombed... these babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed.”
He added that “there is no reason for that and no legitimacy,” urging Israel to stop. He added that a humanitarian ceasefire was the only solution to protect all civilians in Gaza.
Netanyahu was quick to respond, arguing that Israel was “truly doing everything to minimize harm to civilians,” and urged the Western leader not to bow to pressure from those calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Israel launched an unprecedented military bombardment of the densely populated Palestinian enclave in retaliation for the Hamas attack on its territory that left around 1,200 of its citizens dead.
More than 11,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in over four weeks of artillery and airstrikes in Gaza, at least 8,000 of whom were women and children, according to health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory.
On Sunday, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said al-Quds Hospital, the second-largest medical facility in Gaza, had ceased operations due to a fuel shortage and power outage. It blamed the international community and signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention for neglecting the complete breakdown of Gaza’s healthcare system and the dire humanitarian crisis.