Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an impassioned plea Wednesday for a “humanitarian pause” in the clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, to end the violence and “get back on track” to creating a two-state solution in the Middle East.
Trudeau noted that Tuesday marked exactly one month since renewed violence erupted with Hamas militants launching “horrific” attacks on Israeli civilians.
“Every day since then, we’ve seen violence and horrific images of families, elderly, mothers, children killed,” he told reporters before the Liberals’ weekly caucus meeting.
The current war is the deadliest to date between Israel and Hamas.
Israel’s government says 1,400 Israelis have been killed, most of them on Oct. 7 when Hamas fighters stormed through the Gaza border, taking another 240 people hostage.
The Israeli military has responded with incredible force in the weeks since, with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry reporting more than 10,000 Palestinians dead, including thousands of children.
“We’re watching it on TV every night, seeing it all over our social media, and Canadians are hurting and crying out that it needs to stop,” Trudeau said.
A humanitarian pause is needed, the prime minister said — one that lasts long enough to allow all foreign nationals, including Canadians, a chance to escape, and one that also allows more humanitarian aid to flow into the besieged territory.
Such a pause must happen “while we begin doing the work of de-escalating the situation,” Trudeau said. Fighting needs to stop both in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he said, where violence is also increasing.
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Violence in the region is making it harder to “get back on track to a two-state solution,” he said, referring to Canada’s policy to encourage, as Global Affairs Canada puts it, “the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”
Trudeau’s remarks came as more Canadians were on a list to exit the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, after 75 Canadians, permanent residents and their family members were able to cross into Egypt on Tuesday.
The Rafah crossing was closed Wednesday due to a “security circumstance,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said in a midday press briefing.
Rob Oliphant, parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, had told reporters earlier on Wednesday that he expected more Canadians to be able to cross over.
But he did not provide additional detail, and outlined that getting citizens out remains complicated.
Canada is working with Egypt, Israel and Qatar, Oliphant said, adding “we are doing everything we can do to get them out as quickly as possible,” but emphasized that Canada does not control the process for who gets to leave, including when.
The foreign ministers of the G7 released a statement on Wednesday demanding that “all parties” permit “unimpeded humanitarian support” into Gaza, ranging from medical supplies to water and food. Joly was in Toyoko this week meeting with her counterparts to discuss the situation.
Not long after Trudeau’s comments on Wednesday, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet called for a ceasefire in the conflict.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also pressed Canada to advocate for a more-permanent end to the fighting.
On Wednesday, Conservative MP Marty Morantz urged that Canada must be “unequivocal” in calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas.
The Tories have previously rejected calls for a formal ceasefire, with foreign-affairs critic Michael Chong saying last month that Israel has a right to continue to defend itself.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2023.
— With files from The Associated Press.