20240325 macron
French President Emmanuel Macron Image Credit: Reuters

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that any forced transfer of people from the southern Gaza city of Rafah would constitute "a war crime".

And he repeated his opposition to any Israeli military operation to fight Hamas in Rafah, where most of Gaza's population has taken shelter after months of fierce fighting in the besieged territory.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

In a telephone call between the two leaders on Sunday, Macron also "strongly condemned" Israel's announcement Friday of the seizure of 800 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank for new settlements.

Activists say Israel's declaration that the land in the northern Jordan Valley was now "state land" was the single largest such seizure in decades.

In the call, Macron told Netanyahu he intended to bring a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for "an immediate and lasting ceasefire".

He also urged Israel to immediately open all crossing points into Gaza.

The planned Rafah ground offensive has faced intense international pressure, with warnings it would cause mass civilian casualties and worsen the humanitarian crisis.

However Israel has insisted it is necessary in its campaign to destroy Hamas.

The Gaza war was sparked by the unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel has vowed to destroy the militants, who also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes around 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 presumed dead.

Almost six months of fighting have killed 32,070 people in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israel has faced ever greater global opposition to its military campaign as Palestinian civilian deaths have soared and its siege has brought widespread malnutrition and hunger.