Hamas ‘has to be eliminated,’ Canada’s defence minister says
Canada’s Defence Minister Bill Blair says the government stands by Israel’s right to defend itself when asked about calls for a ceasefire, adding he believes Hamas should be “eliminated.”
“I think they have a right to defend themselves against that terrorist threat. And quite frankly, Hamas has to be eliminated as a threat not just to Israel but to the world. They are a terrorist organization,” Blair said on his way into the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “absolutely supports” the European push for what is being described as a “humanitarian pause” to get aid to the region.
“Our priority throughout this needs to be the continued protection of innocent civilians, the liberation of the hostages,” Trudeau told reporters prior to question period.
“That’s why we’re engaged closely with our allies on trying to build humanitarian corridors, get aid in, get civilians and foreign nationals out of Gaza. I think there’s a lot of conversations going on now about the need for humanitarian pauses. And I think that’s something that Canada can absolutely support.”
Speaking the the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “humanitarian pauses must be considered.” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on Monday characterized the current aim as “to make sure that Israel has the tools and the capacity and the capabilities to go after Hamas terrorists and to make sure humanitarian assistance flows in and to make sure we can get innocent civilians who want to leave Gaza out, including American citizens.”
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described the push for a humanitarian pause Monday evening as well, and noted its difference from a ceasefire.
“A pause, as the name implies, is a pause, meaning an interruption of something that then continues. It is a less ambitious objective than a ceasefire, which means an agreement between the parties,” Borrell said.
“A pause can be agreed more quickly. And I think, and I think ministers have understood this, that such a pause is necessary even for humanitarian aid to come in. Even for humanitarian aid to get in, there needs to be a pause in the war. Otherwise, humanitarian aid itself will fall victim to military activity.”
French President Emmanuel Macron proposed on Tuesday that an international coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria widens its scope to include the fight against the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.
Macron gave no details on how the U.S.-led coalition of dozens of countries, of which Israel is not a member, could be involved. His advisers said, however, that the coalition’s participation would not necessarily imply boots on the ground, but could include intelligence-sharing.
On Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asked the government if it would call for a ceasefire in the conflict. International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen did not address the question directly, saying Canada is committed to working diplomatically to keep the conflict from spreading, providing humanitarian aid and calling for civilians on both sides to be protected.
When asked if calling for a ceasefire would be seen as being more directed at Israel than Hamas, Blair said he doesn’t believe it would be effective.
“I have no expectation that the terrorist organization would respect international law or any call for a ceasefire,” Blair replied.
Hamas has been designated a terrorist entity by Canada since 2002, and that designation was last reviewed and upheld in June 2021.
Blair added that Canada respects Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the deadly Hamas Oct. 7 attacks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “crush and destroy” Hamas after the militant group’s attack killed 1,400 people, a figure provided by the Israeli government.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health says more than 5,700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its offensive, including 2,300 children.
Blair said he wants to make sure this defence is done in accordance with international law and doesn’t negatively affect the humanitarian situation.
“We will work with our friends and allies in the region to secure the release of Canadian hostages, evacuate Canadians stuck in Gaza and make sure this is unimpeded access into Gaza for humanitarian supplies,” Hussen told reporters.
Global Affairs Canada has not confirmed whether the two missing Canadians it was aware of are hostages. Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, have said they do not confirm nor deny whether missing Canadians are being held hostage abroad in order to avoid putting them at risk.
— with files from Global News’ Nathaniel Dove, The Canadian Press and Reuters.
by Global News