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Netanyahu ‘hijacked memorial service’

French President François Hollande has criticized Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu for transforming a memorial service for Jews slain by an Islamist gunman in southwestern France this year into a campaign meeting.

Netanyahu 'hijacked memorial service'
Photo: US Embassy Tel Aviv

"Netanyahu came to France to campaign and we knew that," Hollande told journalists in private remarks at the weekend which were later leaked by satirical weekly Canard Enchainé.

The two leaders last Thursday attended a highly emotional service for a rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren shot dead by Al-Qaeda inspired killer Mohamed Merah on March 19 in the city of Toulouse.

Hollande said the Israeli prime minister, who faces legislative polls in January, had hijacked the event.

"Since I was there, he toned down his speech but it wasn't good to transform this ceremony into an electoral meeting," he told the journalists, including AFP, in the private conversation. "It wasn't appropriate."

Netanyahu had compared the gunman to Nazis and warned that Israel could defend its people from those "who want to erase us from the map," ending his speech with the slogan "Israel will Live!"

France is home to between 350,000 and 500,000 Jews, according to various estimates. Since the creation of Israel in 1948, more than 90,000 French Jews have settled there.

Netanyahu enjoyed close ties with Hollande's right-wing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy until a G20 summit in November last year when he branded the Israeli leader "a liar" in a private conversation with US President Barack Obama.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," Sarkozy said, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on.

Obama, according to the French interpreter, replied: "You're fed up with him but I have to deal with him even more than you."

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ISRAEL

French sailor found after weeks adrift: Israeli army

A French sailor lost in the Mediterranean for weeks has been rescued by the Israeli military off the Gaza coast, the army said Friday.

French sailor found after weeks adrift: Israeli army
A file photo taken from the coast of Gaza. Photo: AFP

The man was recovered Thursday night drifting in a boat with a broken radio and no steering system near the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave bordering Israel and Egypt, the army said on Twitter.

“Our soldiers came across his boat near the Gaza Strip, rescued him, and took him for medical treatment,” the tweet said.

An army spokeswoman described the man as a fisherman travelling from Egypt towards Gaza. She said he was injured in the leg.

The tweet included a photo of a smiling man with greying hair wearing a sea jacket and hat and surrounded by soldiers aboard what appears to be an Israeli boat.

There were no further details on the circumstances of the rescue or the man's identity.

The French embassy in Tel Aviv said it had received information about the incident from the Israeli army, but did not have more any more details.

READ ALSO: Israel frees French-Palestinian after 13 months without trial

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