Against a backdrop of mounting international outrage over civilian casualties as Israel wages war on Hamas, President Emmanuel Macron of France on Friday called on Israel to stop the killing in Gaza.
“De facto, today, civilians are bombed — de facto,” he told the BBC in an interview. “These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed. So there is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop.”
France, like much of the Western world, considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and Mr. Macron stressed that his country had experienced terrorism and condemned Hamas’s devastating Oct. 7 attack on Israel. But he said there was “no justification” for bombing civilians who were not tied to Hamas.
The remarks came a day after a humanitarian aid conference in Paris focused on the war in Gaza. In the BBC interview, Mr. Macron said the conference had produced a consensus among aid agencies and governments that a humanitarian pause followed by a cease-fire was needed to protect civilians.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said that a cease-fire would be contingent on the release of hostages. Israel says that 239 people abducted from Israel on Oct. 7 are still being held.
On Friday night, Mr. Netanyahu fired back at Mr. Macron, issuing a statement around midnight in Israel in which he blamed Hamas for any harm suffered by civilians in Gaza and called on world leaders to condemn the group.
“While Israel does everything to avoid harming civilians and calls on them to leave the combat zones — Hamas-ISIS does everything to prevent them from leaving safe areas and uses them as a human shield,” Mr. Netanyahu said, repeating a parallel he has sought to draw before between Hamas and the Islamic State, which has conducted and inspired terrorist attacks around the world.
Mr. Netanyahu warned that the crimes Hamas “is committing today in Gaza will be committed tomorrow in Paris, New York and anywhere in the world.”
Just weeks ago, Mr. Macron and Mr. Netanyahu were meeting in Tel Aviv during a visit that the French president said was intended to convey his country’s “solidarity” with Israel in its time of mourning.
But international support for Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack has eroded as images come out daily of the destruction and death in Gaza from Israel’s military campaign. Mr. Macron, along with leaders elsewhere in Europe as well as the United States, is increasingly questioning Israel’s military response and calling for a cease-fire to save civilian lives.