French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday harshly condemned the bombardment of civilian infrastructure in the war raging between Israel and Hamas, while defending France's "balanced" approach to the conflict.
"We condemn in the strongest terms all bombardment of civilians and in particular civilian infrastructure, which must be protected" under international law, Macron told reporters in Bern during a state visit to Switzerland.
He was answering a question about the Israeli military raid Wednesday on Gaza's main hospital, Al-Shifa, as part of their war on Hamas, sparking fears for thousands of patients and other civilians said to be trapped inside.
Macron did not mention the hospital by name, but stressed that the obligations under international law to protect civilian infrastructure referred "not only to the buildings, but to the health workers inside", recalling that dozens of workers for humanitarian agencies had been killed in just over a month of fighting in Gaza.
Macron on Wednesday also rejected criticism that France had lacked clarity in its position on the war.
"The French position has been clear," he said, insisting it was "balanced" and has "never varied".
"We completely recognise Israel's right to defend itself and to fight against terrorism," he said.
"But because Israel is a democracy... this right to self defence must be exercised within the framework of international humanitarian law, and while respecting the rules of war."
He acknowledged that France's approach might not be to everyone's liking, pointing out that the country had faced criticism from both sides.
Macron has faced rare diplomatic dissent at home over his stance, with a dozen French ambassadors in Middle Eastern and North African countries signing a joint memorandum this week deploring what they allege is his pro-Israeli bias.
He has also faced criticism from the other side, including over an interview with the BBC last week in which he said there was "no justification" for Israel's bombing of civilians and warned the deaths were causing "resentment".
He said Wednesday that he stood by those comments, saying the French position was to mourn any child killed, regardless of the side they are on.
"There are no double standards for France," he said.
France's President Emmanuel Macron attends a joint press conference with Switzerland's President in Bern, on Wednesday. AFP