The French Presidential Office and French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, November 19th, that France is sending a helicopter carrier, the Dixmude, to Egypt in order to provide medical aid to Gaza. The carrier is to set sail “at the start of the week and arrive in Egypt in the coming days”. The carrier is equipped with 40 hospital beds, and joins France’s ‘Tonnerre’ helicopter carrier, which has already been deployed in the region for the same purpose. The Tonnerre has 60 hospital beds.
The statement also said that France plans to send 100 million Euro’s (109 million USD) in humanitarian assistance to Gaza, with the vast majority of the 100 million going to UN bodies.
“The €100 million of humanitarian assistance deployed by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is broken down as follows: €77 million to support the work of the UN agencies, including €54 million to UNRWA for its emergency response in the sectors of food (water and food supply and financial assistance), shelter, healthcare and protection, particularly for women and children, and the payment of UNRWA staff salaries, as well as €13 million for the World Food Programme (WFP) to distribute emergency aid; €6 million via the ICRC for its emergency response in the sectors of food (water, food and financial assistance), shelter, healthcare and protection; €17 million for French and international partner NGOs – €15 million through the Crisis and Support Centre and €2 million through bilateral and European operations for access to basic services (shelter, healthcare, water-sanitation-hygiene and food security)”. – French foreign ministry statement
France has additionally committed to sending 10 tons of medical supplies, having already sent 100 tons of aid since the wars’ beginning. The medical supplies are being sent on a charter flight, which is expected to arrive within the next few days.
Macron announced separately on Twitter that France was making preparations to evacuate 50 people with the most serious injuries to French hospitals in order to receive treatment.
The full statement of France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, which details the aid that has and is being sent, may be read here.
Conversations with Palestine and Israel
In a separate announcement from the expansion of aid, President Macron’s Presidential Office announced he had held conversations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The conversations addressed several key aspects, which will be broken down below.
Macron and the Palestinian Authority
In his meeting with Abbas, Macron emphasized the importance for the PA to condemn Hamas’ initial attack upon Israel on October 7th. A common theme amongst Western nations that have sought to aid Palestine/Gaza is that they equally seek to condemn Hamas’ attack, including in UN resolutions on the matter.
Perhaps one of the most notable parts of Macron’s conversations with both Abbas and Netanyahu were his calls for “an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a ceasefire”. This is in stark contrast to France’s initial policy towards the conflict in the first days of the fighting, when France, alongside other Western nations, supported Israel with claims the country had the “right to defend itself” from Hamas aggression. While France has reiterated their support for this right, as the conflict has continued, France and other nations that once supported Israeli strikes against Hamas targets have begun calling for a ceasefire(s) following the wake of mass civilian casualties. It is currently unclear if mounting diplomatic pressure will have any effect on Israel’s efforts, as they operate deep within the Gaza Strip.
Equally notable in Macron’s conversations with Abbas was his offer of support for an eventual two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
“The two presidents insisted on the need for a rapid resumption of the political process in order to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians to have a state, living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel. The two presidents agreed on the role that France could and should play in this regard”.
Attacks against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank were also discussed during the conversations, with Macron condemning “the violence committed there against Palestinian civilians, and underlined the demands he expressed to the Israeli authorities so that they put an end to it”
Since the start of the war especially, the West Bank has largely fallen under the radar of global media. However, as of late light has begun to shine upon the issues which plague it. Clashes and attacks between West Bank Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the region have intensified since the beginning of the war, but are, of course, a long-standing issue.
US President Joe Biden has also condemned violence against Palestinian civilians, with both Biden and Macron having stated they discussed the issues with PM Netanyahu.
Finally, Macron further expressed France’s belief that the PA is the “only legitimate authority to represent the Palestinian people”. The PA is commonly viewed by the international community as the sole legitimate representative of Palestine. However, some nations also hold dialogue with groups like Hamas as governmental representatives.
Macron and Netanyahu
In his conversations with PM Netanyahu, President Macron again iterated France’s solidarity with Israel following Hamas’ initial attacks and discussed the hostages that were taken, particularly the eight French nationals, and efforts to secure their release.
During the conversations between the two leaders, Macron “drew the attention of the Israeli Prime Minister to the humanitarian risks and the too many civilian losses linked to the ongoing military operations in the Gaza strip”.
According to Gaza’s health ministry, the death toll within Gaza has now reached over 13,000 people, with approximately 5,000 of those being children.
Additionally, the statement stressed that Macron “reminded him of the absolute need to distinguish terrorists from the population and to provide effective protection to civilians”.
Israel has drawn condemnation from a number of international players who accuse it of striking civilian areas under the guise that Hamas is operating within or underneath the affected areas. Many of these strikes, including those upon refugee camps, have resulted in a significant amount of civilian casualties.
As with his conversation with Abbas, Macron discussed with Netanyahu the growing escalations in the West Bank, expressing “his great concern regarding the increase in violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and condemned it”.
Most notable of Macron’s conversation with Netanyahu, however, was his direct expression of support for a two-state solution to Netanyahu.
“Finally, the Head of State reiterated the need to open a political horizon. He reiterated his availability to contribute to this with all of our partners. He recalled that only the solution of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, will ensure stability in the Middle East”.
As said by many international leaders, Macron stressed to both Netanyahu and Abbas the importance of preventing the war from becoming a regional conflict. Analysts have speculated on the potential intervention by Hezbollah, or even Iran, as clashes continue on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Previously, Hezbollah had stated they would intervene if Israel entered Gaza. As Israel is now well within Gaza, the threat of intervention grows.
Macron’s calls for a two-state solution echo an increasingly growing list of international leaders, including recent calls from President Biden of the US, who said “This much is clear: A two-state solution is the only way to ensure the long-term security of both the Israeli and Palestinian people”. Presently, the future of Gaza is rather uncertain. If Israel is able to successfully remove Hamas from Gaza, PM Netanyahu said in early November that Israel would take “overall security responsibility” of Gaza for an “indefinite period”. This is in contrast to an earlier statement from Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who had said there would be a “removal of Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip” after the war is over, stating that Neither Israel nor Hamas would control Gaza.
The full statement from the French Presidential office may be read here.