Bombing of hospital in Gaza ‘not acceptable,’ Trudeau says amid conflicting claims

Bombing of hospital in Gaza 'not acceptable,' Trudeau says amid conflicting claims
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the bombing of a hospital in Gaza is illegal, calling the situation "absolutely unacceptable." Trudeau speaks with reporters as he makes his way to Question Period, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The bombing of a hospital in Gaza was “absolutely unacceptable,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, as federal officials confirmed Canada stands ready in Egypt to help people in the besieged territory get out amid a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Hundreds of Palestinians were killed when a rocket hit a Gaza City hospital where many were sheltering. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry blamed the blast on an Israeli air strike, while Israel’s military said after Trudeau’s remarks that the strike was a result of a misfire by a group of Palestinian militants.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau called the situation “absolutely unacceptable.” Speaking in French, he told reporters that “it’s not legal” to bomb a hospital.

“The news coming out of Gaza is horrific,” the prime minister said.

“International humanitarian and international law needs to be respected in this and in all cases. There are rules around wars and it’s not acceptable to hit a hospital.”

News of the bombing came as conditions in Gaza are rapidly deteriorating. International aid organizations are warning of an impending collapse as Israel continues to block water, fuel and food from coming into the region.

The conflict began after Hamas militants conducted a spate of surprise attacks on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, which prompted Israel to declare war. The conflict had claimed more than 4,000 lives on both sides even before the hospital blast.

Canada is among countries working to get a humanitarian corridor established to see that humanitarian aid like medical supplies and staff can enter the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The Canadian government has listed Hamas as a terrorist entity since 2002.

More than a million Palestinians in Gaza were told by Israel’s military late last week to leave their homes in the north and flee to the territory’s south ahead of a potential ground invasion.

That expected assault was pending as United States president Joe Biden prepared to travel to Israel in a high-stakes visit on Wednesday, and as countries attempted to work out a diplomatic solution to open a crossing into Gaza.

The World Health Organization has characterized the evacuation order as a “death sentence” for medical patients. It is also urging parties to agree to let staff and life-saving supplies into the region.

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Tuesday that international aid organizations can only operate “in an environment of trust.” Canada has pledged $10 million worth of aid, which the government says is directed at United Nations agencies and the Red Cross.

“They have to make sure that for them to go into Gaza, not only to bring in supplies but to actually help people with medical needs and so on, they have to be 100 per cent sure that their workers will be protected.”

Hussen said that while he’s been informed that several trucks have been allowed to enter from Gaza’s border with Egypt, that is not enough.

Julie Sunday, an assistant deputy minister with Global Affairs Canada, told reporters in a briefing on Tuesday that Canada knows of 370 people in the territory.

That includes Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families. She said Canadian officials are pushing hard in negotiations to include the relatives of Canadian residents when it comes to securing a chance for an exit.

An earlier plan to allow foreign nations to leave through the border with Egypt fell through on the weekend.

“Our mission in Cairo is ready to move to be able to receive those individuals. All of that planning has taken place, but … this needs a diplomatic solution,” said Sunday.

“Not a single person has left Gaza, and that is something that is very preoccupying for all of us.”

She added that Canadians in the region would likely only have a short time frame to exit should a passage to Egypt open, saying that until then, Canada is encouraging people to take necessary precautions to keep themselves safe.

Alexandre LĂ©vĂŞque, another assistant deputy minister at Global Affairs Canada, said Israel, Egypt and “a number of other countries” are involved in negotiating the conditions needed to launch an evacuation in the region for foreign nationals.

“We know how dangerous the situation is inside Gaza,” he said. “We know that the crossing point has also been damaged due to attacks and bombing.”

Earlier in the day, Foreign Affairs Minister MĂ©lanie Joly said it is also time for Canadians living in Lebanon to leave while the option to take a commercial flight still exists.

Canadian officials said they are worried about the war between Israel and Hamas expanding into a larger regional conflict — a concern that has been amplified as Hezbollah fighters clash with the Israeli military across their shared border.

In Israel, two more Canadian-arranged airlifts departed on Tuesday. Sunday said that for the first time, not all of the seats were full, and she noted that commercial flights still remain available.

She said that so far, 1,350 Canadians have left Israel through military airlifts. In some cases, Canadians who were offered a place did not take the government up on it.

Sunday acknowledged that leaving is a difficult choice to make, while Joly said earlier in the day that if Canadians in Israel qualify for a spot, they should take it.

Victoria Maymon Dunn, 38, said she was one of those to register for a flight. The Canadian embassy communicated to her on the WhatsApp instant messaging application that she would be contacted “when it is your turn,” she said.

However, it said “pets are not being allowed.” Maymon Dunn has two small dogs, she said, and she intends to travel with them. She said she’s unsure of her next steps.

Originally from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Maymon Dunn moved to the coastal Israeli city of Netanya last year and describes the situation on the ground as “beyond tragic.”

She said she is “filled with fear” while she remains stuck in Israel. “I’m in and out of panicking, I’m trying to be hopeful and then I just have this overwhelming sense of sadness for the entire nation.”

Officials said another two flights are expected to leave from Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

They said about 130 Canadians remain in the West Bank. On Monday, Joly had announced that 21 Canadians, plus 10 foreign nationals from Australia and New Zealand, left from the Palestinian territory on a bus to neighbouring Jordan.

On Tuesday, she also offered condolences to the family of Tiferet Lapidot.

She said the woman was one of three Canadians reported missing after Hamas attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people.

Joly said that during her recent trip to Israel, she met with Lapidot’s Canadian father in Tel Aviv, as well as Lapidot’s uncle, who said she was a “brilliant, beautiful young woman.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs described Lapidot as an Israeli woman with Canadian parents, saying in a statement that her family asked that news of her death be shared with media.

Including Lapidot, Joly said at least six Canadians were killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. Two Canadians remain missing.

Trudeau said Monday that it is possible that the missing Canadians could be among the 199 hostages taken by Hamas.

But Global Affairs Canada has warned against speculation and declined to provide any details, saying that could further endanger hostages.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 17, 2023. 

With files from The Associated Press, Mia Rabson in Ottawa and Sammy Hudes in Toronto.

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