Canadian politicians condemned an unprecedented Saturday attack Hamas militants waged on Israel that is being called the deadliest in the country in years.
Hours after the militants fired thousands of rockets and sent dozens of fighters to infiltrate the heavily fortified border by air, land and sea, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada strongly condemns the attacks and called for civilian life to be protected.
“These acts of violence are completely unacceptable. We stand with Israel and fully support its right to defend itself,” Trudeau wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
At least 70 people have been killed and hundreds have been injured, Israel’s national rescue service said Saturday. The Israeli military struck targets in Gaza in response to some 2,500 rockets that sent air raid sirens wailing constantly as far north as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, some 80 kilometres away.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said at least 198 people have been killed and at least 1,610 wounded in the territory in Israel’s retaliation after the attack which caught the country off guard on a major Jewish holiday.
The attacks pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare the country is now at “at war” in a televised address, where he announced a mass army mobilization and vowed to inflict an “unprecedented price.”
His declaration and the overseas violence were being watched in Canadian, where some police forces upped their presence at mosques and synagogues and politicians called for peace.
“I unequivocally condemn the invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists and the sadistic violence they have subsequently carried out against innocent civilians,” said Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, said in a statement. “Canadians pledge their solidarity with all the victims.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly posted on X condemning “the multi-front terror attack,” as did NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who called for hostages to be immediately released.
“We fear what the coming days will bring. Terrorism and violence solve nothing,” Singh said.
It’s unclear how many Canadians may be in the region.
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment, citing the evolving situation.
However, the organization’s website urged Canadians travelling to the region to exercise “a high degree of caution” in Israel and avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip and the country’s borders with Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. Non-essential travel to the West Bank and Gaza Strip border was also discouraged.
Global Affairs urged anyone in the affected areas to limit their movements, remain “extremely cautious” and shelter in place until it is safe to leave the area.
It said the Canadian government’s ability to provide consular services to Canadians in the Gaza Strip is “limited” and in cases of deportation, local authorities are not obliged to notify the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv nor the Representative Office of Canada in Ramallah.
“As a result, Canadian officials may not be able to provide you with consular assistance.”
Meanwhile, advocacy organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East urged the Canadian government to support calls for a ceasefire and a negotiated resolution following the escalating violence.
“Canada must call on all parties to implement a ceasefire, including an immediate end to the brutal daily violence of Israel’s military occupation and apartheid practices,” said Thomas Woodley, CJPME president, in a statement.
The Trudeau government has opposed efforts for Palestinian justice through non-violence, the organization said, whether through the movement to boycott Israel, the United Nations General Assembly or international courts.
“Violence is an inevitable response when all avenues for peaceful, nonviolent, or diplomatic protest against oppression have been denied,” said Woodley.
Iddo Moed, Israel’s ambassador-designate to Canada, said in a statement that the attack proves Hamas has no interest in the safety of citizens of the Gaza Strip, seeing them as “nothing more than a pawns in its efforts to harm the citizens of Israel.”
“On a holy day when the Jewish people should be peacefully coming together in a synagogue to celebrate the Torah, hundreds of Israelis are hiding for their lives while hundreds of thousands remain in shelter and Israel finds itself in a state of war.
Ottawa police said Saturday they would have an increased presence at areas or religious significance, including mosques and synagogues, as a result of the attack and its impact on the local community. Toronto’s police chief, Myron Demkiw, said the force is not aware of any threats to Jewish communities in the city, but said they would also increase their presence to ensure the safety of residents.
Hamas militants were still fighting gun battles inside several Israeli communities hours after the incursion began. An unknown number of Israeli solider and civilians were also seized and taken into Gaza.
Hamas fighters used explosives to break through the border fence, then crossed with motorcycles, pickup trucks, paragliders and speed boats on the coast. The strength, sophistication and timing of the attack shocked Israelis.
Bodies of dead Israeli civilians and Hamas militants were seen on streets of Israeli towns. Images on social media appeared to show fighters parading what seemed to be captured Israeli military vehicles through Gaza streets and a dead Israeli solider being dragged and trampled by crowd of Palestinians.
The serious incursion occurred on Simchat Torah, a normally joyous day when Jews complete the annual cycle of reading the Torah scroll. It revived painful memories of the 1973 Mideast war practically 50 years to the day, in which Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, aiming to take back Israeli-occupied territories.
Western nations such as the U.S. also condemned the incursion and reiterated their support for Israel, while others, like Saudi Arabia, called for restraint on both sides. The kingdom said it had repeatedly warned about “the dangers of the situation exploding as a result of the continued occupation (and) the Palestinian people being deprived of their legitimate rights.”
Israel has maintained a blockade over Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. The bitter enemies have fought four wars since then.
The blockade, which restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, has devastated the territory’s economy. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep militant groups from building up their arsenals. The Palestinians say the closure amounts to collective punishment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2023.
— With files from the Associated Press.