Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for “maximum restraint” from Israel in its ongoing military operations in the Gaza Strip, particularly around the Al-Shifa Hospital, the region’s largest medical facility. Trudeau’s comments, which were made at events in Vancouver and Maple Ridge, B.C., underscored the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, stressing the importance of protecting civilian lives.
“The human tragedy that is unfolding in Gaza is heart-wrenching,” Trudeau said, pointing specifically to the plight of civilians and the escalating crisis at the Al-Shifa Hospital. He emphasized that even in times of war, there are rules that must be respected, implying that the current situation in Gaza was crossing these boundaries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded sharply to Trudeau’s remarks. Utilizing the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, Netanyahu argued that Israel is committed to avoiding civilian casualties, while accusing Hamas of deliberately endangering them. “While Israel is doing everything to keep civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing everything to keep them in harm’s way,” Netanyahu’s post read.
It is not Israel that is deliberately targeting civilians but Hamas that beheaded, burned and massacred civilians in the worst horrors perpetrated on Jews since the Holocaust.
While Israel is doing everything to keep civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas is doing…
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) November 15, 2023
The Israeli government has accused Hamas of using hospitals, including the Al-Shifa Hospital, as cover for its fighters, a claim that both Hamas and hospital staff deny. Amidst these allegations, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has intensified, with reports of fuel shortages leading to life-threatening conditions in hospitals and residential areas.
The conflict, which escalated following a series of attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7, has led to significant casualties and the displacement of thousands of civilians. Health officials in Gaza report that the ongoing airstrikes have resulted in over 11,200 deaths. Trudeau, addressing these concerns, urged Hamas to cease using civilians as human shields and to release all hostages unconditionally.
Internationally, the Canadian government has been under pressure to advocate for a ceasefire. However, Trudeau has refrained from using the term “ceasefire,” instead calling for a “sustained humanitarian pause.” This stance reflects Canada’s complex position, balancing the need for humanitarian aid and the safety of Canadians and other nationals in the region.
Adding to the Canadian connection to the conflict, Trudeau paid tribute to Vivian Silver, a Canadian-Israeli peace activist killed in the Hamas attacks. He praised Silver’s dedication to peace and her embodiment of Canadian values.
Meanwhile, the situation for civilians in Gaza remains dire. The United Nations has warned of the lack of safe places in the territory, and the Canadian government is actively working to evacuate its citizens and permanent residents. So far, over 350 Canadians and their relatives have been safely removed from Gaza, with efforts ongoing to evacuate the remaining individuals.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has expressed concern over the fuel shortages impacting UN relief operations in Gaza, emphasizing the need to protect civilians and ensure the continuation of humanitarian work.
As the situation evolves, Trudeau’s focus on ensuring safety for all civilians and upholding international humanitarian law remains a central tenet of Canada’s response to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.