Macron Says Israel Must Fight Hamas ‘Without Mercy but Not Without Rules’

President Emmanuel Macron of France expressed firm support for Israel during a trip there on Tuesday, even as he insisted that its war against Hamas should spare civilians and that Israel should not lose sight of a political resolution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“You are not alone,” Mr. Macron told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at a news conference, after a closed-door meeting between the two leaders.

“The fight must be without mercy,” Mr. Macron added, “but not without rules, because we are democracies that are fighting against terrorists, democracies that respect the laws of war, democracies that do not target civilians, in Gaza or elsewhere.”

Mr. Netanyahu thanked Mr. Macron for his visit, but he focused on military operations against Hamas, which he said “must be destroyed.”

“We will dismantle its terror machine, we will dismantle its political structure, we will make every effort to release our hostages and we will make every effort to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

“It could be a long war,” he said, as he depicted the battle against Hamas as a “test case of civilization against barbarism.”

Mr. Macron and Mr. Netanyahu, drawing parallels between the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7 in Israel and those that have hit France over the past decade, said terrorism was their common enemy.

“You’ve known the barbarism of terrorism,” Mr. Netanyahu told Mr. Macron. “We cannot live like that, nobody can live like that.”

Mr. Macron recalled that Mr. Netanyahu took part in a massive march in January 2015 after terrorist attacks that killed 17 people in and near Paris.

Thirty French citizens were killed in the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas — the worst toll for a terror attack against French people since one in 2016 that left 86 dead in Nice. Nine French citizens are still missing or held hostage by Hamas. Both leaders said that securing the release of hostages was a top priority.

The French president said that an international coalition set up to fight the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq could be widened and repurposed to fight Hamas.

Mr. Macron also insisted that civilians in Gaza needed access to aid. He said the two leaders had discussed “restoring electricity for hospitals, the sick and the wounded, without allowing this electricity to be used to wage war,” and said “we’re going to be building very concrete cooperation on this subject in the next few days.” He did not elaborate.

Mr. Macron said Israel could not build a lasting peace “without a decisive relaunch of the political process with the Palestinians.”

“Israel’s security, the joint fight against terrorism, respect for humanitarian law and the opening up of a political horizon are all inseparable,” Mr. Macron said.

Mr. Macron, who right after landing in Tel Aviv met with about 30 family members of French-Israeli victims of the attacks, is expected to visit Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank later on Tuesday to meet with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

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