update deskIsrael at War

FM Cohen hosts French counterpart in Tel Aviv

The Israeli foreign minister said Paris can help prevent a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna meets with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in Tel Aviv, Dec. 17, 2023. Source: X.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna meets with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in Tel Aviv, Dec. 17, 2023. Source: X.

Paris can play a “positive and significant role” in preventing all-out war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told his French counterpart Catherine Colonna in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Colonna emphasized during their meeting “the importance of doing everything to avoid an escalation with Lebanon.”

France’s top diplomat also pressed for an “immediate and durable” truce in the Israel-Hamas war and said that “too many civilians are being killed” in Gaza, AFP reported.

Jerusalem has rejected any durable ceasefire that leaves Hamas in place and maintains that it will continue in its goal to eradicate the terrorist group in Gaza. The Israeli government also holds Hamas responsible for all civilian casualties.

“To my counterpart Eli Cohen, I reiterated the attachment to the security of Israel in the face of terrorism, the urgency of a humanitarian truce to Gaza for the release of the hostages and the humanitarian access, and the importance of doing everything to avoid an escalation with Lebanon,” Colonna tweeted after she met with Cohen.

During the meeting, Colonna condemned the rapes and sexual abuse committed during the Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis by Hamas terrorists, according to the AFP report.

“Needless to say, France believes the word of these women victims …, those who had to witness these rapes and mutilations, these desecrations,” she said.

Cohen stressed that Israel does not intend to start a war with Hezbollah, but warned that allowing residents to return to their homes in the Upper Galilee requires that the Iranian terror proxy be pushed “north of the Litani River.

“There are two ways to do that: either by diplomacy or by force,” Cohen added.

Colonna also visited the Shura army base near Ramle and was expected to meet with families of French hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza. She is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Ramallah.

French Foreign Ministry worker killed in Gaza

The French Foreign Ministry said late Saturday that one of its employees died from wounds sustained during an Israeli airstrike on Rafah earlier last week.

He was hiding in a house of a college from the French consulate with two other co-workers and their family members, according to the ministry’s statement.

“The house was hit by an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday evening, which seriously hurt our agent and killed about 10 others,” the ministry said, adding that the man later died of his wounds.

“We demand that the Israeli authorities shed full light on the circumstances of this bombing, as soon as possible,” it said.

The Israel Defense Forces did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters and the French Foreign Ministry declined to provide any details about the victim, including name, nationality and age.

“We’re waiting for clarification [from Israel],” said Colonna on Sunday.

UK, German FMs call for ‘sustainable ceasefire’

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock penned a joint article in the Sunday Times calling for a “sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza.

“We do not believe that calling right now for a general and immediate ceasefire, hoping it somehow becomes permanent, is the way forward” because “it ignores why Israel is forced to defend itself: Hamas barbarically attacked Israel and still fires rockets to kill Israeli citizens every day,” they wrote.

Instead, the foreign ministers advocate for “a sustainable ceasefire, leading to a sustainable peace. The sooner it comes, the better—the need is urgent.”

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