Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip, meant to clear Hamas militants from the Palestinian territory, are making it harder to achieve long-term stability in the region, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.
“Canada is extremely concerned about the number of civilian casualties in Gaza,” Trudeau told reporters at the APEC summit in San Francisco.
“Both because the loss of life is heartbreaking to see, but also because the pathway toward a secure, viable, independent Jewish state alongside a secure, viable independent Palestinian state is getting more difficult, with all the hardship that Palestinians are going through.”
Trudeau, when asked, also repeated his call for Israel to show “maximum restraint” — a phrase he had also used Tuesday that prompted a rebuke from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Friday, Trudeau said that during his Thursday conversation with Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, he highlighted Canada’s “deep concern” over what the United Nations has warned is a “humanitarian catastrophe that is going to strike millions of people in the coming days and weeks” and is already affecting many.
“Even as we absolutely must see releasing of hostages and a condemnation and justice for the Hamas terrorists, we need to also be moving toward peace and stability in the region, and that means protecting civilian life; it means getting necessary aid and medication and water into Gaza,” Trudeau said.
The latest conflict began Oct. 7, when Hamas militants killed 1,200 Israelis in surprise attacks, including hundreds of civilians in their homes and at an outdoor music festival. About 240 people were taken hostage.
Israel declared war on Hamas, began an airstrike campaign and cut off food, fuel, water and supplies to Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians. Health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory say more than 11,470 people have been killed, two-thirds of them women and children, and another 2,700 people are reported missing.
Trudeau said Friday he is also disturbed by “Canadians lashing out in anger” against each other amid an “intensity of the emotions” during the latest Israel-Hamas war.
“Whether it’s a woman in a hijab getting spat on, or a Jewish kid going to a college campus (who) is not feeling safe, or gunshots fired at Jewish schools, or a terrifying rise in Islamophobia alongside the significant rise and very troublesome rise in antisemitism … we are not a country where Canadians should be scared of other Canadians,” he said.
Earlier Friday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Hamas would not accept a ceasefire, when asked how he responds to Canadians in the Muslim and Arab communities who want Israel to stop its war in Gaza.
“Hamas broke the ceasefire with its unprovoked attack on Oct. 7, and Hamas has made it clear that it will not accept a ceasefire, that it will go on seeking genocide against the people of Israel, while oppressing the people of Gaza,” he told reporters on Friday in Cambridge, Ont.
“Our view is that Israel has the right to defend itself in accordance with international law,” he said. “Hamas is in violation of international law by using human shields and by using hospitals in order to shelter its terrorists in the middle of a war that it started.”
Poilievre also said the federal government needs to crack down harder on people linked to the Iranian regime inside Canada, because of links between Tehran and Hamas, which Canada considers a terrorist entity.
He argued this could be done by listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. The Liberal government has instead banned people with senior IRGC roles from entering Canada. The government has argued that a terror listing would inadvertently punish immigrants who had been drafted into the Iranian military.
Meanwhile, Global Affairs Canada reported that another nine people with links to Canada made it out of the Gaza Strip on Friday.
Global Affairs Canada said that as of Friday afternoon, 376 Canadians, permanent residents and their relatives have been able to escape via the Rafah border crossing.
The department had said on Wednesday afternoon that it was in touch with 386 people still in the besieged territory.
It t has since stopped reporting how many Canadians are in Gaza, instead publishing a combined number with those in the West Bank.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2023.