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French President hosts Gaza aid conference, appeals to Israel to protect civilians

PARIS (AP) – Western and Arab nations, international agencies and non-governmental groups stressed the urgent need for aid for Gaza civilians at a Paris conference, held as the humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory worsens amid Israel’s massive air and ground campaign against Hamas.

The gathering ended a few hours before the White House said Israel has agreed to put in place four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in Gaza, starting on Thursday.

The French presidency said the participants’ overall pledges topped EUR1 billion (USD1.07 billion) in funding, though that included some funds already announced earlier, and stressed that the global amount still remains to be finalised.

French President Emmanuel Macron opened the conference with an appeal for Israel to protect civilians, saying that all lives have equal worth and urging for pauses in the fighting to allow deliveries of desperately needed aid.

“In the immediate term, we need to work on protecting civilians,” he said. “To do that, we need a humanitarian pause very quickly and we must work towards a cease-fire.”

The conference brought together officials from over 50 countries, the United Nations (UN) and humanitarian organisations as the Gaza Strip is being pounded by Israel in its war against Hamas.

Israeli authorities were not invited but have been informed of the talks, Macron’s office said. There was no immediate comment from Israel on the conference.

More than 1.5 million people – or about 70 per cent of Gaza’s population – have fled their homes, and an estimated USD1.2 billion is needed to respond to the crisis in Palestinian areas.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a meeting with officials from Western and Arab nations, the United Nations and non-governmental organisations at the Elysee Palace, in Paris. PHOTO: AP
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