Israel should use ‘maximum restraint’ to protect civilian life in Gaza Strip: Trudeau

Israel should use 'maximum restraint' to protect civilian life in Gaza Strip: Trudeau
THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Fatima Shbair
Palestinians look for survivors following an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. Scores of Canadians are still hoping to leave the Gaza Strip, as Canadians and Israelis mourn the loss of dual national Vivian Silver in last month's attack by Hamas.

Israel must use “maximum restraint,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged on Tuesday, to protect civilian life in the brutal war it is waging on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Trudeau said the world is witnessing the killing of women, children and babies, and that it must stop.

“The human tragedy that is unfolding in Gaza is heart-wrenching, especially the suffering we see in and around the Al Shifa Hospital,” he said.

Gaza’s largest hospital became a focal point of the conflict this week as Israeli ground troops surrounded the campus.

While Israel said it is willing to allow staff and patients to evacuate, Palestinians say Israeli forces have fired at evacuees and that it is too dangerous to move the most vulnerable patients. Doctors say the facility has run out of fuel and patients are beginning to die.

Israel is accusing Hamas of using hospitals as cover for its fighters, alleging that Hamas has set up its main command centre in and beneath the hospital, without providing visual evidence. Both Hamas and Shifa Hospital staff deny the Israeli allegations.

“I have been clear that the price of justice cannot be the continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians. Even wars have rules,” Trudeau said at an event in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Israel declared war against Hamas after its militants killed 1,200 people on Oct. 7, including hundreds of civilians, and took about 240 people hostage.

Health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory say weeks of retaliatory airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip have now killed more than 11,200 people.

Trudeau said Hamas needs to stop using Palestinians as human shields and release all hostages “immediately and unconditionally.” Canada has designated the group as a terrorist organization for more than 20 years.

He said the violence urgently needs to stop, “so that Palestinians can get access to life-saving medical services, food, fuel and water, so that all hostages can be released, so that all Canadians and other nationals can leave Gaza.”

As clashes continue, a dire lack of fuel in the Gaza Strip will likely mean that the United Nations’ work to support Palestinian civilians soon ends — a development that has Canada’s foreign affairs minister “extremely concerned.”

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, confirmed its fuel storage facility in Gaza is empty and its relief operations will be halted before long.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of UNRWA, said that after weeks of warnings and rationing, the agency will soon be out of fuel.

“The depot is now empty,” said Lazzarini. “It is very simple. Without fuel, the humanitarian operation in Gaza is coming to an end. Many more people will suffer and will likely die.”

UNRWA provides food, shelter and other services to hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians.

Foreign Affairs Minister MĂ©lanie Joly called the situation unacceptable.

“Civilians must be protected and enough food, fuel and water must get into Gaza so that (the UN’s) lifesaving work can continue,” Joly said in a statement late Monday evening.

Israel has refused to allow fuel shipments into Gaza since Hamas’s cross-border attack on Oct. 7. Israel says Hamas will divert any fuel shipments for military use.

Palestinians trapped in Gaza are struggling to survive without electricity or running water and are rationing food as Israel’s siege of the territory extends into its second month.

Joly did not specifically name Israel in the statement posted on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.

The Canadian government has faced increased pressure domestically from the National Council of Canadian Muslims, refugee settlement agencies, opposition members and municipal politicians to call for a ceasefire, in a bid to safely evacuate civilians and deliver humanitarian aid.

Joly did not mention a ceasefire in her statement Monday, and Trudeau has instead called for “a sustained humanitarian pause” in the bombardments.

When asked why he won’t go so far as to call for a ceasefire, the prime minister spoke about the need to keep Canadians safe from a rising tide of antisemitism and hate-motivated incidents.

“If we can’t figure out how to stop being mad at our neighbours here in Canada, who in the world will? That’s the question we have to be asking ourselves every day,” he said.

“It’s not, ‘Oh, is this magic solution or that magic solution said by a Canadian prime minister going to suddenly bring peace to the Middle East overnight?'”

Scores of people connected to Canada are still hoping to escape the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations says no place is safe.

No Canadians were named on the list of potential evacuees allowed to use the tightly controlled Rafah border crossing into Egypt on Tuesday.

Global Affairs Canada said on Tuesday that it was in touch with 390 Canadians, permanent residents and their eligible family members in the war-torn Palestinian territory.

So far, 356 Canadians and their relatives have made it out of the Gaza Strip, including 10 on Monday.

“We are working day and night to bring the remaining Canadians in Gaza to safety,” Joly said.

Canada is also involved in efforts to secure the safe return of hostages taken in last month’s attack and brought to Gaza.

Julie Sunday, Canada’s new senior official for hostage affairs, is in Qatar engaging in negotiations with partners in the Middle East, Joly said. She has recently been in Israel and Egypt as part of her mission to help facilitate the release of Israeli hostages.

Canadian Vivian Silver, a dual national previously believed to have been taken hostage, is confirmed to have died in the initial attack last month.

Silver, who moved to Israel in the 1970s, was thought to be alive and held in Gaza. But identification of some of the most badly burned remains has gone slowly, and her family was notified of her death Monday.

Trudeau said he met with one of her sons last month, and that her courage, commitment and compassion exemplifies what it means to be a Canadian.

“Vivian dedicated her life to peace, and the bright light was extinguished on Oct. 7,” Trudeau said.

Global Affairs says it is aware of one Canadian who is still missing.

A 19-year-old soldier who was taken hostage has also been killed, Hamas and Israel said, making her the first of the Oct. 7 hostages confirmed to have died in captivity.

On Tuesday, Israel’s military declared Noa Marciano a fallen soldier without giving a cause of death. Meanwhile, Hamas said she was killed in an Israeli strike, without providing evidence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Laura Osman, The Canadian PressLaura Osman, The Canadian Press

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