PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron will host a humanitarian aid conference for Gaza on Thursday, although Israel, which is bombing the territory after an October 7 attack by Hamas, will not be there.
Still, all governments “have an interest in seeing the humanitarian situation in Gaza improve, including Israel,” a Macron aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters before the meeting.
Hamas stormed across the border from Gaza into Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 240 hostages, Israeli officials said.
More than 10,500 people, many of them children, have died in the retaliatory Israeli military operation, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there would be no fuel deliveries to Gaza and no ceasefire with Hamas unless the hostages were freed.
Macron spoke to Netanyahu on Tuesday and the two will speak again after Thursday’s aid conference is over, the Elysee Palace said.
Negotiations are underway to release a dozen hostages held by Hamas, including six Americans, in exchange for a three-day ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a source close to Hamas told AFP on Wednesday.
Another source said Qatar had brokered negotiations in cooperation with the US to free “10-15 hostages in exchange for a one- to two-day ceasefire”.
Qatar, like Egypt, is playing a key role in trying to get more aid to the Gaza Strip.
Macron held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday, his office said.
Thursday’s aid conference was hastily put together on the sidelines of the annual Paris Peace Forum on November 10-11.
“The idea is to visit all the major donors and step up aid to Gaza,” the French foreign ministry said last week, saying there would be sections on donations of goods such as food, fuel and medical supplies, financial support and humanitarian access.
Few Arab countries are expected to send delegates, although the Palestinian Authority will send its prime minister and Egypt a ministerial delegation.
French President Macron will meet with Sisi in Egypt on Wednesday
It will be attended by the prime ministers of Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg, as well as the high representatives of the EU, Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen.
At the end of the conference, no joint declaration is foreseen.
France “insists on a strictly pragmatic, operational, humanitarian tone, they do not want this conference to turn into a platform to condemn Israel,” a European diplomatic source said. AFP under the condition of anonymity.
‘Pause’ or Ceasefire?
International concern over the fate of civilians in Gaza, most of whom cannot escape the closed territory, has fueled calls for humanitarian “pauses” or a complete ceasefire.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said “the unfolding catastrophe makes the need for a humanitarian ceasefire more urgent by the hour”.
Meanwhile, 13 major aid groups, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council, called on leaders attending the conference on Wednesday to work to end the fighting.
Government leaders should “do everything in their power to achieve an immediate ceasefire” and increased access to aid, they said.
For now, Israel has remained steadfast in continuing its offensive with the stated goal of destroying Hamas – which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
The UN estimates that the people of Gaza and the West Bank will need $1.2 billion in aid between now and the end of the year.
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