A Humanitarian Conference on Gaza Opens in Paris

Paris – France is hosting a “humanitarian conference” on Thursday, at the initiative of President Emmanuel Macron, in an attempt to unlock aid to Gaza, which has been made nearly impossible by Israel’s relentless bombardment since the Hamas attack on October 7.

The Israeli government is not represented at the conference organized at the Elysee, but French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will speak with him again after, according to the French presidency.

Macron also had telephone conversations with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani, whose countries play a key role in improving the delivery of aid to the 2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza.

But the Arab countries are not represented at the highest level.

Palestinian Authority has sent its Prime Minister and Egypt, which controls the only crossing point into Gaza that is not held by Israel, has sent a ministerial delegation.

However, the conference is being closely followed by humanitarian organizations, which denounce the impossibility of providing aid as long as the bombardments on Gaza continue.

Thirteen NGOs have called for an immediate ceasefire, demanding to ensure the entry of aid to Gaza and respect for international humanitarian law.

The UN estimates the aid needs for the population of Gaza and the West Bank at $1.2 billion until the end of 2023.

The conference aims to reach a common diagnosis of the situation and mobilize all partners and donors to meet these needs, according to a counselor of Emmanuel Macron.

According to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the discussions were expected to include a component on aid in terms of food, medical equipment, and energy, a complicated issue as Israel does not want gasoline to enter Gaza.

Another component is planned on the promised donations as well as a discussion on humanitarian access to the territory, which is still extremely complicated.

The other, still vague, objective is operational, insists Paris. The president, who is to open the conference, hopes for tangible results, particularly to make effective the initiatives blocked by the Israeli blockade and the ongoing fighting.

Israel has the right to defend itself, and this must be in line with the rules of international law, said Charles Michel, President of the European Council, on France 2 television, admitting that Europeans and Americans have difficulty convincing that there should be humanitarian pauses as soon as possible.

The small Palestinian territory has been under Israeli blockade since the unprecedented attack by Hamas on October 7, which killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

Israel’s retaliatory strikes, which promised to annihilate Hamas, have killed more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, according to the Palestinian Islamist movement.

The United Nations has never recorded so many deaths in such a short time in a conflict, said Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), on France Inter public radio.

We will ask that assistance enter Gaza, because for now, it is only a few trucks a day that enter, he added, specifying that he would also request $100 million just to pay the salaries of 30,000 UNRWA employees.

Calls for pauses, truces, or ceasefires have multiplied in recent weeks to facilitate access to aid and the release of more than 240 hostages captured by Hamas on Israeli soil. But the Israeli Prime Minister again ruled out a ceasefire on Wednesday without the release of the hostages.

The surroundings of President Macron point out that the Hamas will probably not release hostages while the operation continues in the current conditions. Therefore, the humanitarian pause, in our opinion, is also important to obtain the release of the hostages.

There will be no joint statement at the end of the conference so as not to fall into an endless debate on one word or another, according to the same source.

Paris insists on a strictly pragmatic, operational, humanitarian nature, they do not want this conference to turn into a platform for condemning Israel from the Elysee, says a European diplomatic source.

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