(Update 1: adds details of Macron’s meeting with Israeli president)
Jerusalem, Oct 24 (EFE).- France’s President Emmanuel Macron said in Israel on Tuesday that the release of all the hostages captured by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas during an attack on Israeli territory on Oct. 7 must be the top priority of military operations in Gaza.
“The first objective we should have today is the release of all hostages, without any distinction because this is an awful crime to play with the lives of children, adults, all people, civilians and soldiers,” the French president said during a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, to whom he expressed his country’s “support and solidarity.”
According to the Israeli government, 22 French nationals were killed and three remain missing after the surprise multi-pronged attack by Hamas against Israel on Oct. 7, which claimed the lives of 1,400 people in Israel. More than 200 people were also taken hostage during the attacks.
The attack led Israel to declare a war on Hamas, during which the Israeli military has killed more than 1,200 militants in Israeli territory and conducted a wave of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, which have left more than 5,200 dead, 70 percent of them children, women and the elderly.
“I want you to be sure that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you and your nation and we will do whatever we can to restore peace, security and stability for your country and the whole region,” Macron assured Herzog, in a warning to militias across the region against their involvement in the escalation, especially the Shiite group Hezbollah, which has stepped up its attacks from southern Lebanon against northern Israel.
“We are following, very closely, the situation in Lebanon, I think Hezbollah is playing with fire, I think the Iranian empire of evil that is backing them and operates day in and day out to destabilize the Middle East and the region is playing with fire,” Herzog said.
“I want to make (it) clear: we are not looking for a confrontation on the northern border or with anyone else, we are focused on destroying Hamas’ infrastructure and bringing our citizens back home, but if Hezbollah will drag us into war, it should be clear that Lebanon will pay the price,” the Israeli president added.
In a recent telephone conversation with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Macron warned against any escalation or extension of the conflict, particularly in Lebanon and urged Iran to do everything possible to avoid any regional escalation.
Macron arrived in Tel Aviv in the morning with the aim of reducing an escalation of violence.
The French leader seeks a “humanitarian pause” in the war between Israel and Hamas, which would allow international aid to enter Gaza, and help negotiate the release of the hostages, according to French sources.
Paris wants to involve the players in the region in the search for a security and peace formula that satisfies the needs of each one, including the creation of a Palestinian state.
During his visit, the French president will also meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leaders and families of the victims of the Hamas attack.
Macron will also meet the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who governs parts of the occupied West Bank, where also violence has escalated as a result of the war with Hamas. EFE