1) Canada Committing $10M In Humanitarian Aid For Israel, Gaza As Canadian Flights Leave
Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Oct 12th, 2023
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
Canada is giving an initial $10 million in aid for urgent needs in Israel and the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday, while refusing to say whether he agrees with a United Nations warning that Israel is violating international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, the first airlift of Canadians out of Israel was completed earlier Thursday, with 128 citizens, permanent residents or their relatives landing in Athens on a military flight from Tel Aviv.
A second flight with just over 150 passengers was taxiing for departure from Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon.
Trudeau was speaking five days after a brazen attack Hamas launched from Gaza that killed hundreds of civilians and led Israel to declare a war against that group.
“The situation on the ground is volatile,” Trudeau told reporters in Yellowknife.
The federal government held a technical briefing for reporters on Thursday. Global Affairs Canada provided the briefing on the condition that officials not be named.
The officials said a fourth Canadian has been reported missing in the past day, up from three.
On Wednesday, officials saidabout 700 people with a connection to Canada who are in Israel have asked for help to leave that country since violence broke out on Saturday.
On Thursday, the same officials said that Canada is aware of hundreds of people in the affected region, but not all of them have asked for flights. That includes roughly 800 people in Israel, 180 in the West Bank and 100 in Gaza.
Another roughly 520 people are in the region, but Global Affairs Canada does not know whether they are in Israel or either of the Palestinian territories.
The officials noted that these figures represent the number of registered Canadian citizens in each area. But they said the actual number of Canadians in a geographical area is often three times as large as the number of people who have registered.
The federal government says each of its military flights can take up to 150 passengers, and officials noted that they “believe” the second flight out of Israel contained three more people than the official capacity.
Canada does not usually provide military air transportation when commercial flights are still operating, but the government says people have been asking for help because it’s difficult to get tickets.
The Royal Canadian Air Force anticipates continuing two daily flights from Tel Aviv to Athens on Friday and likely Saturday, with a surge capacity to increase the frequency if demand rises and flying conditions remain accessible.
Officials say flights the government facilitated with Air Canada should start leaving from Athens on Friday afternoon, with passengers paying for the commercial leg of the trip but not their airlift from Tel Aviv. The flights from Athens would land at Toronto Pearson International Airport, the officials said.
The officials said Thursday afternoon that they have seen a rise in demand for flights out of Israel in the past day, which they argue indicates that commercial options are not sufficient, particularly due to cancellations.
They said an eventual decline in this demand from Canadians would indicate the airlift is no longer needed.
Israel is conducting airstrikes in Gaza in retaliation for the deadly weekend assault by militants from Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since seizing power in 2007. Hundreds of Israelis were massacred on Saturday, including in their homes and at an outdoor music festival.
The Associated Press reports at least 2,700 people have died, on both sides of the conflict.
Israel has cut access to water and power in the Gaza Strip. The UN warned on Tuesday that this violates international humanitarian law, since it blocks access to the essentials of life.
Humanitarian groups say Israel is blocking them from providing food, electricity, water and medical supplies to the territory, on top of Hamas’ own restrictions.
Canadian officials said Thursday that they are aware of “over 100 people now in Gaza” who have asked for help to leave the territory, up from Wednesday’s count of 70. They said that Canada’s ambassador in Israel has asked for the country’s help in getting citizens out.
Canadian officials added that part of the aid Trudeau announced Thursday would go towards an eventual humanitarian convoy into Gaza, if a corridor opens up.
On Thursday, Washington publicly urged Israel to allow for such a move. It said it is in touch with countries who speak with Hamas, asking them to push for the same.
Trudeau refused to say Thursday whether he believes Israel is following international law in its current siege, when reporters asked him about it multiple times.
He instead said Canada is “working very hard” with peer countries to try protecting lives, and said “barbarity” from Hamas, which Canada lists as a terrorist organization, has caused the carnage.
“We continue to look for ways to support civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, and ensure that as many civilians as possible are kept safe during this terrible conflict that is the responsibility and the fault of the terrorist organization known as Hamas.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it is asking both Hamas and Israeli officials to allow for humanitarian access to Gaza, saying it is a neutral party that can provide the essentials of life and facilitate communication between hostages and family members.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat had said Wednesday that Israel wants countries to continue voicing support for the country’s right to defend itself, while working to keep other states, such as Lebanon and Syria, from being drawn into a wider war.
In a briefing provided to Canadian journalists on the condition they not be named, Israeli government officials added on Thursday that this request applies to Canada, adding that Israel is not asking Canada for any additional military or diplomatic help.
Trudeau appealed for Canadians to remain calm amid tense demonstrations in Canada related to the war.
“We must always stand united as Canadians. This is something that is core to Canada; we take care of each other even in the most difficult of times and we support each other, always.”
Canadian officials said they did not have an estimate of the cost of the ongoing airlift from Israel.
They pushed back on a Wednesday statement by Haiat, who said that Israel was not negotiating with Hamas. The comments followed Ottawa’s announcement that it deployed officials to help Israel’s chief hostage negotiators.
The Canadian officials noted the U.S. has made a similar deployment, and said Ottawa wants to have as much of its own support on the ground as possible if there are negotiations that can help free any Canadians who might be held hostage.
Haiat said Canadians are among those being held hostage, but Ottawa said confirming this could make it harder to free anyone being held.
2) Canadian Politicians Condemn Deadly Surprise Hamas Attack On Israel
Courtesy of Barrie260.com and Canadian PressPublished: Oct 7th, 2023
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 200 people have been killed and more than a thousand 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 Canada, 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.
Global Affairs Canada said there are currently 1,419 registered Canadians in the state of Israel and 492 in the Palestinian territories. The government said it received approximately 97 inquiries about the situation, all of which were seeking general information.
“There are currently no signaled Canadian casualties or injuries,” it wrote in an email, adding that personnel at the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv, as well as personnel in Ramallah, are safe and accounted for.
The organization 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. Canadian personnel in those locations were safe and accounted for, it added.
“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. In some places, they roamed for hours, gunning down civilians and soldiers as Israel’s military scrambled to muster a response. Gun battles continued well after nightfall, and an unknown number of Israeli solider and civilians were also seized and taken into Gaza.
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.
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.
After nightfall, Israeli airstrikes in Gaza intensified, flattening several residential buildings in giant explosions, including a 14-story tower that held dozens of apartments as well as Hamas offices in central Gaza City. Israeli forces fired a warning just before, and there were no reports of casualties.
Soon after, a Hamas rocket barrage into central Israel hit four cities, including Tel Aviv and a nearby suburb, where two people were seriously injured.
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.