Macron leads ceremony for French victims of Hamas attacks

Macron leads ceremony for French victims of Hamas attacks
President Macron walks as photographs of the 42 French nationals killed in the Hamas attacks are held by the French Republican GuardsReuters

President Emmanuel Macron has described the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel as “the largest antisemitic attack of our century”.

He was addressing a ceremony for French victims of the attacks in the courtyard of the Invalides military complex in Paris.

A total of 42 French and dual French-Israeli nationals were killed on 7 October, and six were injured.

Three are still missing, presumed to have been taken hostage by Hamas.

Four French hostages were freed during a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November.

The 7 October attack was the largest slaughter of French nationals since the July 2016 Bastille Day attack in the southern city of Nice, in which 86 people were killed when a truck drove into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

The sombre ceremony – the first of its kind to be held outside of Israel – took place in pouring rain.

A French government representative said earlier this week that it was obvious that “the same emotion and the same dignity are owed to the French victims of the bombing of Gaza, who will be honoured on another occasion”.

Dozens of members of the Jewish community stood outside Les Invalides, following events on a giant screen and holding signs that read “The world can never look away again”.

Ahead of President Macron’s speech, photographs of the 42 victims were brought out as their relatives looked on.

Three chairs were left empty, to mark the three hostages believed still in captivity in Gaza. A violinist and a pianist gave a rendition of Maurice Ravel’s interpretation of Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

“On 7 October, at dawn, the unspeakable emerged from the depths of history… Hamas launched a massive and hateful attack, the largest antisemitic attack of our century,” said the French president.

He drew parallels between 7 October and the “barbarity” of the 2015-2018 jihadist attacks in Paris, Nice and Strasbourg.

“Barbarity feeds off antisemitism and spreads it,” President Macron said. “But those who kill out of hatred will always find on their path those who are ready to die for love.”

French Jews have been targeted by a steep increase in attacks in the four months since 7 October, and President Macron hit out against “rampant, uninhibited antisemitism”.

His speech was followed by a minute of silence and the Marseillaise.

Relatives of the victims leave holding a banner with an image of one of the victims of the 7 October attacks

Reuters

A number of cabinet ministers and representatives of political parties attended the ceremony.

Among those taking part were members of the far-left France Unbowed (LFI), whose leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has come under fire for not labelling Hamas a “terrorist” group. The armed group is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by many Western governments, including the UK, EU and US.

LFI described Hamas as “an armed offensive of Palestinian forces”, prompting fierce criticism from other parties, including left-wing allies such as the Socialist and Communist parties. A major demonstration against antisemitism in Paris in November was boycotted by LFI.

Relatives of the victims and the hostages criticised the presence of LFI deputies at the Invalides.

“I don’t think they should be there,” Ishay Dan, the brother of French hostage Ofer Kalderon, told Agence France-Presse.

Aymeric Caron, an MP who belongs to a party affiliated with LFI, was booed by the crowd outside Les Invalides who called him a “collabo” – a derogatory term for traitorous Nazi collaborators during World War Two.

After the ceremony, Mr Mélenchon wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that his party colleagues who attended had shown great dignity and that, “despite the swearing and the provocations”, they had paid their respects to the dead.

France has a Jewish community of almost 500,000, the largest in Europe. Another 100,000, many of them dual nationals, live in Israel.

Around 1,200 people were killed during the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on 7 October last year.

More than 27,500 Palestinians have been killed and at least 65,000 wounded by the war launched by Israel in response, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman