The Canadian government announced Saturday it will provide an additional $50 million for humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip as the region’s border crossing with Egypt opened to let a trickle of desperately needed aid into the besieged Palestinian territory.
International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen issued a statement from Cairo, Egypt, saying the federal government will ensure none of the money goes to Hamas, the militant group that launched a series of terror attacks on Israel two weeks ago.
Hussen said the money will be used to provide the Palestinian population with food, water, medical assistance, protection services and other life-saving aid.
“The critical and immediate needs of civilians affected by the crisis become clearer with each day that goes by,” Hussen’s statement said.
“As Canada’s partners make their growing needs known, this new assistance will allow us to provide them funding quickly so they can scale up their efforts to help people in urgent need.”
The money will be sent to humanitarian organizations already in the war-ravaged area.
- Canadian man with relatives in Gaza says his loved ones are starving, need water
- Bombing of hospital in Gaza ‘not acceptable,’ Trudeau says amid conflicting claims
The new funding is in addition to $10 million Canada committed last week for humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
On Saturday, Hussen was attending a peace summit in Cairo with Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly.
The ministers issued a joint statement saying they planned to reiterate Canada’s condemnation of the attacks while also highlighting Canada’s concerns over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million people.
“We are gravely concerned by the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, which continues to deteriorate,” Joly told the meeting.
“We are encouraged by the news this morning that food, fuel and water being able to enter Gaza, but we need to see more.”
Just 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid were allowed to enter Gaza from Egypt on Saturday. Aid agencies say their loads won’t be enough to address the needs of the population, which is now rationing food and drinking dirty water.
More than 200 trucks carrying aid have been waiting at the border for days.
About half of Gaza’s residents have fled their homes. Hospitals are running low on medical supplies and fuel for generators amid widespread blackouts exacerbated by waves of Israeli airstrikes. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants continue to fire rockets into Israel.
Israel had insisted nothing would enter Gaza until Hamas released all the captives from its Oct. 7 attack on towns in southern Israel. Hamas freed its first captives, an American woman and her teenage daughter, late Friday.
- First group of Canadians leave West Bank for Jordan as those in Gaza brace for worst
- ‘I’m worried for my family’: Israel-Hamas conflict hits home on Vancouver Island
Joly said both sides in the conflict must respect international humanitarian law.
“Even in times of crisis, there are principles. Even in times of war, there are rules,” she said Saturday. “Palestinians and Israeli civilians are equal and both must be protected.”
As well, she said the 400 Canadians still in Gaza must be able to return home.
“In the fog of war, it is always hard to see the light of day on the horizon, but we need to see it,” Joly said. “We should not be scared about talking about the next steps. Canada will always stand up for human rights.”
Joly said she plans to meet with staff at the Canadian embassy in Cairo to discuss their efforts to support Canadians in the region, including their work to help Canadians leave Gaza.
The peace summit includes dozens of regional leaders and other senior western officials, with a focus on de-escalating the fighting and seeking a ceasefire.
Tensions have been rising as the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel since the war began, even threatening to join the fight if the Israeli military goes ahead with an expected ground invasion of Gaza.
About 14,500 Canadians are registered with the federal government as being in Lebanon. Global Affairs Canada is urging all of them to get out of the country while they still can. Meanwhile, the Canadian Armed Forces is preparing for possible evacuations.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2023.
— With files from The Associated Press