Ottawa (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Monday for a humanitarian corridor to be opened into the Gaza Strip, saying urgent help was needed to address an increasingly dire situation in the besieged enclave of 2.3 million people.
Israel, reacting to an attack by Hamas last week that killed more than 1,300 people, has put Gaza under a total blockade and pounded the crowded Palestinian enclave with unprecedented air strikes.
Gaza authorities said Israel’s aerial bombardment has killed more than 2,800 people, around a quarter of them children, and left at least 10,000 others wounded.
In addition to the air strikes, Israel has said it plans to launch a major ground offensive into northern Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas, the Iranian-backed militia that controls the coastal strip of land seized from Egypt by Israel in 1967.
“Canada is calling for unimpeded humanitarian access and a humanitarian corridor, so that essential aid like food, fuel and water, can be delivered to civilians in Gaza. It is imperative that this happen,” Trudeau said.
Canada fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with international law, but “even wars have rules”, he told the House of Commons lower chamber of parliament.
“Terrorism is always indefensible, and nothing can justify Hamas’ acts of terror. … Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people nor their legitimate aspirations,” he said.
The Ottawa government said separately that it had withdrawn some non-essential staff and their families from the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Representative Office of Canada in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
However, essential personnel remain at both missions, and additional staff have been brought in from other Canadian embassies around the world “to provide assistance to Canadians in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” Canada’s government said.
Earlier in the day, Ottawa said Canadians should consider leaving Lebanon while they can because of heightened security risks in the region.
Canada has been using two military planes to airlift people who needed help leaving Israel. The first group of Canadians has safely crossed from the West Bank into Jordan and there are also about 300 people in Gaza that Canada is seeking to bring out through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
Five Canadians have been killed in the Hamas attack on Israel while three are still missing.