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TEL AVIV: French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on Sunday pressed for an “immediate and durable” truce in the Gaza war, saying “too many civilians are being killed” in the Palestinian territory.

Israel has come under growing international pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza, where its war against Hamas has killed at least 18,800 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas government.

The offensive comes in response to Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attacks in southern Israel in which about 1,140 people were killed, mostly civilians, and about 250 taken hostage, according to the latest Israeli figures. Meeting her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen in Tel Aviv, Colonna stressed that the victims of Hamas’s attacks must not be forgotten, including those reportedly subjected to sexual violence.

France sending warship to provide medical aid to Gaza

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

There is concern the war is spreading to other parts of the region.

There have been regular cross-border exchanges of fire between Israel and armed groups in southern Lebanon, notably the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group.

Cohen said Israel “has no intention to start another front on our northern border”.

But he warned that ensuring the security of Israelis near the border meant pushing Hezbollah “north of the Litani River”.

“There are two ways to do that: either by diplomacy or by force,” Cohen said, adding that France could play a “positive and significant role” in preventing all-out war.

Colonna called on all parties to “de-escalate” along the border.

“If things were to spiral out of control, I don’t think anyone would benefit, and I say this to Israel too,” she said during a stop at the Shura military base.

Colonna also said France and its allies were weighing a response to attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

Major shipping firms have suspended passage following attacks by Huthi rebels in Yemen aimed at pressuring Israel over the Gaza war.

“These attacks cannot go unanswered, and we are studying several solutions,” including a “defensive role to prevent this from happening again”, Colonna said.

She was also due to meet the families of French hostages still held in Gaza, and meet her Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki in the occupied West Bank.

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