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.
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.
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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.
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Blair said he wants to make sure this defence is done in accordance with international law and doesn’t negatively affect the humanitarian situation.
On his way into cabinet, Hussen discussed Canada’s continued calls for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian workers.
European foreign ministers agreed Monday that a temporary halt to fighting was needed to get aid into Gaza and French President Emmanuel Macron is in Israel pushing for such a pause Tuesday.
When asked about this, Hussen maintained that Canada’s focus remains on getting aid to affected civilians without specifically mentioning a ceasefire or pause in the conflict.
“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 and The Canadian Press
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