French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said Qatar had played a key role in the release by Palestinian militant group Hamas of two American hostages held since its attack against Israel on October 7, adding he was confident of further releases.
“This is a very good outcome obtained by the negotiators, in which Qatar played a very important role,” Macron told a group of reporters.
Macron said France wanted similar operations to continue in the next “hours and days” to continue “allowing hostages, in particular our hostages, to get out.”
“The discussions we are having…through various contacts and Qatar in particular, give us hope that we will be able to find solutions to get as many hostages out as possible.”
“We are confident: the channels we have are the right ones and are useful,” he added.
Macron said seven French citizens were missing but of them only one — Mia Shem who appeared in a video that was condemned by Paris — was confirmed to be held hostage.
“For the other six others there an assumption they are being held hostage but no certainty,” he said. A total of 30 French citizens are confirmed by Paris to have been killed in the attack by Hamas, according to its latest toll Friday.
US hostages Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan were back in Israel late Friday, the Israeli government said.
No details were given on their condition but US President Joe Biden quickly said he was “overjoyed” at the news.
- Direct contact with Hezbollah –
Israel says 203 people — Israelis, dual nationals and foreigners — were abducted by Hamas gunmen when they launched the deadliest attacks in Israel’s 75-year history. At least 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians, according to the government.
Israel has responded with a relentless bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip that has left at least 4,137 people dead, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas administration.
The French president, who so far has not travelled to Israel in the wake of the attacks unlike several other world leaders like Biden, added he did not rule out traveling to the region in the “next days” depending on his talks with regional leaders.
Macron also said France had been in direct contact with pro-Tehran Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah to avoid a flare-up on Lebanon’s southern border after the attack by Hamas on Israel.
“We sent messages to Hezbollah very directly through our ambassador and our services,” Macron told the group of reporters, adding that despite rocket fire on the border there has been “no escalation” but “we remain very cautious”.
He said the responses to the messages indicated that there was “no desire” for the current conflictual status-quo to move into greater escalation.
“There is a situation of tension which is extremely worrying in any case and poses a great risk to the entire region. We will do everything to avoid escalation but the security situation remains by definition unstable because it is at a very high level of tension and pressure,” he said.
by Valérie LEROUX
©️ Agence France-Presse