French President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to victims of Hamas’s October 7 attack in Israel in a national ceremony held four months after what he described as the century’s “largest antisemitic massacre”.
The ceremony paid homage to 42 French citizens who died in the attack and three hostages still believed to be held by Hamas and other militants in Gaza.
Three empty chairs symbolised their absence, placed near families of victims who attended the tribute.
Four French hostages have been released out of the total of about 250 people who were abducted in the Hamas attack.
About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed.
Honour guards held photographs of each victim in front of a giant screen showing their first name in the Invalides monument courtyard in central Paris.
Many of those killed “will never turn 30″, Mr Macron said.
“Their voices still resonate in Hebrew and French.”
“Hamas launched a massive surprise attack, the largest antisemitic massacre of our century,” he said, strongly denouncing barbarity “which feeds on antisemitism and propagates it”.
Mr Macron said France will keep “working tirelessly to meet the aspirations for peace and security of all in the Middle East”.
The memory of victims will “remind us that our lives, their lives, are worth fighting relentlessly against hate speech, not giving in to rampant, uninhibited antisemitism here as there, because nothing justifies it, nothing. Nothing can justify or excuse this terrorism. Nothing,” he said.
A sharp rise in antisemitic acts in France has been reported in the wake of the October 7 attack.
Data from the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Community Protection Service watchdog showed that 1,676 antisemitic acts were reported in 2023, compared with 436 the previous year.
Mr Macron also referred to the ongoing war in Gaza and stressed that Israeli lives “are not the only ones that continue to be torn apart in the Middle East”.
“All lives are equal, invaluable in the eyes of France,” he said.
The Republican Guard’s orchestra played Kaddish by French composer Maurice Ravel, written in 1914 based on a traditional Hebrew melody.
Yashay Dan, a relative of French Israeli hostage Ofer Kalderon, said ahead of the ceremony that he hoped it “can resonate all around the world, not only in France”.
“I think from this perspective that France is showing a great gesture by being with those that have suffered an enormous blow,” he told The Associated Press.
Ayla Yahalomi Luzon, sister of French Israeli hostage Ohad Yahalomi, said: “We don’t need people to hope for us. I have hope. We need help. Ohad is a French citizen and I ask France to make all efforts to release him and everyone.”
The families of Israeli hostages have worked for months to keep the captives’ plight in the global spotlight.
The ceremony comes after new French foreign minister Stephane Sejourne made his first trip to the Middle East, including Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he pushed for the release of the hostages.