Macron wants Western troops to fight Hamas
French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested that Western troops deployed in Syria and Iraq, ostensibly to battle the remnants of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists, should be repurposed to fight the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem on Tuesday, Macron said the US-led coalition, which includes dozens of countries, should take up a new mission against the Gaza-based faction.
“France is ready for the coalition, which is fighting in Iraq and Syria against ISIS, to also fight against Hamas,” the president said. While he did not elaborate on the proposal at the time, he cautioned that operations against Hamas “must be without mercy but not without rules.”
Macron’s office later issued a statement to Reuters explaining that the international coalition is currently not limited to “operations on the ground, but is also involved in the training of Iraqi forces, the sharing of information between partners” and funding foreign counter-terrorism efforts.
Netanyahu did not immediately weigh in on Macron’s proposal, but went on to label Hamas “the new Nazis,” and said “the free world” is now engaged in a battle with an “axis of evil.”
Alongside the United States, which maintains around 2,500 troops in Iraq and nearly 1,000 in Syria, France also keeps a force of some 600 soldiers in the region under its Operation Chammal, its primary anti-IS mission, first launched in 2014. Although combat operations have slowed since the early days of the deployment, French casualties have been reported as recently as August, when a paratrooper was killed during a firefight with an Iraqi terrorist cell.
American personnel have also come under fire in recent weeks amid soaring tensions in the Middle East, with at least 13 drone and rocket attacks reported since October 17, according to the Pentagon. US officials have pinned the blame on Iran-backed militia groups.
Tensions have flared across the region amid the latest round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza. A deadly Hamas attack earlier this month triggered weeks of retaliatory airstrikes by the IDF, which have left over 5,700 Palestinians dead and thousands more injured, according to local officials. The Israeli government, meanwhile, says at least 1,400 people have been killed in Israel, while around 200 were captured during Hamas’ October 7 assault. Four of the detainees have been released since then, but most remain in captivity.