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An invasion of Rafah by Israel is “totally unacceptable”, recalls Mélanie Joly

Photo: Spencer Colby The Canadian Press Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly speaks to reporters before a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

Laura Osman – The Canadian Press and Dylan Robertson – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

Posted at 2:13 p.m. Updated at 6:41 p.m.

  • Canada

Liberal ministers in Ottawa expressed disappointment and dismay Tuesday over Israel's announced invasion of the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip — the last refuge for displaced Palestinians in the territory.

Canada's foreign affairs minister chastised Israel for its military operation in Rafah, but said she remained hopeful that ceasefire talks would prevail.

“It is absolutely necessary that Israel's military invasion of Rafah does not take place, because if it did, it would be completely unacceptable, indicated Minister Mélanie Joly to reporters on Parliament Hill Tuesday morning. Too many women and children and innocent people would be affected by this invasion. So, [Canada’s] position continues to be the same. »

Israeli officials announced Monday that the country had approved a military operation in this border town with Egypt, and Israeli forces began striking targets in the area.

The decision came hours after Hamas announced that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal submitted by Egypt and Qatar. But Israel believes that this proposal does not meet its essential demands.

Minister Joly said the situation in the Palestinian territory was “absolutely catastrophic.” She added that the vast majority of people in Rafah had already been displaced and had nowhere to go.

She also said that Canada was pressuring Israeli officials to end the military operation.

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The flow of humanitarian aid was cut off when Israel took control of the border on Tuesday, in what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an “important step” toward dismantling Hamas' military and economic capabilities.

Approximately 1.3 million Palestinians — more than half of Gaza's population — are stranded in Rafah and rely on aid passing through the border crossing.

“They are stuck there, without access to humanitarian aid, and this will cause many civilian casualties,” International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Tuesday. Canada has consistently advised against a military operation in Rafah, he said. “We are very disappointed that this is happening. »

Other help options

Canada has already explored other options for delivering aid to the besieged territory, including helping to build a seaport and using airdrops, Minister Hussen said. “We did everything we could. »

The border closure will also further complicate plans to move people who have extended family ties to Canadians out of Gaza. “That means we won't be able to get people out, and that concerns me greatly,” admitted Immigration Minister Marc Miller.

The government has launched a temporary visa program to bring people to Canada to seek refuge with their Canadian families, but was unable to facilitate their escape from the war zone through the already tightly controlled Rafah border .

Some managed to get by on their own by paying large sums of money to private companies to allow them to cross the border into Egypt. People will likely continue to do whatever they can to get out, even in a militarized zone where their lives are at risk, Minister Miller said. “It’s difficult to speculate, but it will definitely be more difficult, I think. »

At a Senate committee meeting last week, Canadian officials said they hoped for a ceasefire that would allow delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip.

Experts, however, believe that Ottawa finds itself in a delicate position facing leaders who do not have much political incentives to end this conflict.

Ottawa's aid budget funds efforts to eventually bring in sufficient quantities of food that will reduce the black market in Gaza, said Karim Morcos, Global Affairs Canada's director for Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He said that flour is so rare and expensive in the territory that its delivery causes violence and theft. “The strategy of the UN agencies is to flood the place with aid so that it loses its value,” he testified last week before the Senate Standing Committee on National Security.< /p>

“What they're looking for is basically to take a football stadium and fill it with aid, and have people come and help themselves. This is the only way they can do it in the short term, where there is no civil order to protect these deliveries. »

Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza are unhappy with their leaders, who can count on the ongoing conflict to distract from their own unpopularity, said Janice Stein, a foreign policy analyst at Israel's “Munk School.” 'University of Toronto.

Polls show a majority of Israelis want Mr. Netanyahu gone, and there are 'fissures' between his coalition of nationalists and religious orthodox parties on issues such as Iran, she told the committee.

Also, Palestinians openly express anger at Hamas , which exposes them to war without thinking about the civilian population, she said.

The Gaza Strip became a battlefield after Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The siege, the Retaliatory bombings and ground attacks have left more than 30,000 Palestinians dead, regional health officials said.

According to Professor Stein, the time is running out to defuse the conflict: “a high risk of escalation into a wider regional war” would have “catastrophic consequences for the civilian population.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116