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Trudeau reconfirms support to Israel in wake of Netanyahu rebuke

PM says he also emphasized importance of protecting civilians and minimizing casualties
Palestinians with dual nationality register to cross to Egypt on the Gaza Strip side of the border crossing in Rafah on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hatem Ali

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz to affirm Canada’s support for Israel “and its right to defend itself in accordance with international law,” Trudeau’s office said Thursday.

In a summary of the Wednesday evening call, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau strongly emphasized “the importance of taking all possible measures to protect civilians and to minimize casualties” in the Israel-Hamas war.

Gantz released a summary of his own on X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter, on Thursday morning. He said Trudeau “conveyed to me his long-standing support for the state of Israel and Israel’s right to self-defence.”

“We discussed the war’s development in Gaza, the atrocious Hamas terror attack and the efforts to release the hostages held in Gaza immediately,” Gantz said.

Both statements also noted that the pair discussed their concerns about rising antisemitism and spoke about Hamas, which Canada recognizes as a terrorist organization, using civilians as human shields in the Gaza Strip.

“Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated Canada’s support for the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, dignity, and security, and he reaffirmed Canada’s enduring support for a two-state solution,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The conversation with Gantz came after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly reacted to strongly worded comments from Trudeau urging Israel to use “maximum restraint” in preserving civilian life.

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

“The world is witnessing this. The killing of women and children, of babies.”

In response, Netanyahu posted on X to say, “While Israel is doing everything to keep civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way.

“It is Hamas, not Israel, that should be held accountable for committing a double war crime — targeting civilians while hiding behind civilians.”

The current conflict began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants killed 1,200 Israelis in brutal surprise attacks. The attackers also took about 240 people hostage, bringing them into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

In response, 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.

The territory’s health officials say more than 11,470 people have been killed, two-thirds of them women and children. Another 2,700 people are reported missing, believed to be buried under rubble created by airstrikes. The official count does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.

Foreign nationals have been trying to flee the besieged territory through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

But none of the 386 people connected to Canada who are trying to leave were able to cross into Egypt Thursday. The General Authority for Crossings and Borders published the latest list of approved people on its Facebook page early in the morning and it did not include any Canadians.

Global Affairs Canada said Thursday that 367 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members have been able to get out so far, including nine people who left without the government’s help.

Two people were able to leave on Wednesday, and 10 made the trip on Monday. The Canadian government said it cannot determine how many people can cross each day.

Internet and telephone services collapsed across the Gaza Strip on Thursday for lack of fuel, the main Palestinian provider said.

“Even if there is an outage of communications, we continue to try to contact Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their eligible family members through all available channels and will also continue to be in touch with their loved ones in Canada,” Global Affairs said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Israel signalled that its offensive against Hamas could next target the south of the territory, where most of the population has taken refuge.

If the assault moves into the south, it is not clear where people would go, as Egypt refuses to allow a mass transfer onto its soil.

The international community — even Israel’s closest ally, the United States — has expressed rising concern about the civilian death toll. The U.S. has not told Israel to wrap up the war, but it has warned the Israelis that international criticism will grow the longer the war lasts.

On Thursday, for a second day, Israeli troops were searching Shifa Hospital in the territory’s north for traces of Hamas.

They displayed guns they said were hidden in one building, but had yet to release any evidence of a central Hamas command centre that Israel had said is concealed beneath the complex. Hamas and staff at the hospital, Gaza’s largest, deny the allegations.

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