Joly pleads for humanitarian pauses as she says time is running out to help in Gaza

By Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

A humanitarian agreement is urgently needed to help people in the Gaza Strip, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Monday.

In a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, Joly called for a temporary pause in hostilities in the Israel-Hamas conflict to allow more aid to get into Hamas-controlled Gaza, which is home to more than two million Palestinians.

She also said the Canadian government has an obligation to help its citizens get out. Global Affairs Canada says it is in contact with 499 Canadians, permanent residents and family members in the territory.

In her speech, Joly also urged Hamas to release more than 200 hostages held in Gaza, which she said may include two Canadians who are still missing.

The latest conflict began when Hamas militants launched brazen attacks on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7. More than 1,400 Israelis were killed in those attacks, the Israeli government said.

Israel responded with force, showering Gaza with rockets and in recent days launching a ground offensive. More than 8,300 Palestinians have been killed in the days since, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, and it says most of them are women and children.

Israeli tanks and troops were pushing deeper into Gaza on Monday, where conditions for civilians are deteriorating as food, medicine and fuel run dangerously low.

On Sunday, 33 trucks of humanitarian aid entered the territory from Egypt. Relief workers say the amount is still far less than what is needed for the population of 2.3 million people.

The siege has pushed Gaza’s infrastructure nearly to collapse. With no central power for weeks and little fuel, hospitals are struggling to keep emergency generators running.

On Saturday, crowds of people broke into four United Nations facilities and took food supplies in what the UN said was a sign that civil order was starting to break down amid increasing desperation.

In the occupied West Bank, Israel said its warplanes carried out airstrikes Monday against militants clashing with its forces in the Jenin refugee camp, the scene of repeated Israeli raids. Hamas said four of its fighters were killed there.

As of Sunday, Israeli forces and settlers have killed 123 Palestinians, including 33 minors, in the West Bank, half of them during search-and-arrest operations, the UN said.

“The humanitarian situation facing the Palestinian people — facing Palestinian women and children — is dire. Extremist settlers’ attacks continue in the West Bank,” Joly said in her speech.

Global Affairs Canada says it has helped 65 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members leave the West Bank since the conflict began, and it is in touch with 66 people who are still there.

The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed on Monday that it has sent special forces to Canada’s embassy in Tel Aviv after Global Affairs Canada requested military support to help prepare for the possible escalation of hostilities in the Middle East.

Joly reiterated Canada’s unequivocal condemnation of Hamas for its attacks, and said Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism “in accordance with international law.”

The fears of a broader conflict have been exacerbated by clashes at the Israeli-Lebanese border, which officials say might lead to the need for an evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon.

Joly said that as the region faces this precarious moment, there is also a need to look forward to the future, supporting a two-state solution.

“The tectonic plates of the world order are shifting beneath our feet, and the structures that are built upon them are fracturing,” Joly said Monday.

She said the world faces a generational challenge to prevent a global conflict and Canada has an important role to play in building a stable, inclusive world.

That includes what she called “pragmatic diplomacy,” even with countries with whom we do not agree.

“As respect for the rules diminishes, empty chairs serve no one. Let me be clear: I am door opener, not a door closer,” she said. “Therefore, with rare exceptions, Canada will engage.”

Joly warned that democracy cannot be taken for granted and Canada needs to protect its sovereignty.

She said the government is committed to increasing the country’s presence at the UN and other international institutions, building on Canada’s history of creating international rules and institutions.

“The current world order is also being questioned by people and nations, especially from the South, who challenge whether the rules reflect their reality and benefit their people,” she said.

“Some have expressed concerns about double standards or whether the current institutions and their decisions meet their needs or are fair.”

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