July 18, 2014 8:52 am

Palestinians urge Ottawa to press Israel to stop Gaza attack

A wounded Palestinian is carried into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, early Friday, July 18, 2014. The heavy thud of tank shells, often just seconds apart, echoed across the Gaza Strip early Friday as thousands of Israeli soldiers launched a ground invasion, escalating a 10-day campaign of heavy air bombardments to try to destroy Hamas' rocket-firing abilities and the tunnels militants use to infiltrate Israel. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

OTTAWA – The Palestinian delegation in Ottawa has asked the Harper government to talk Israel out of its land invasion of Gaza.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird instead blamed Hamas for the latest escalation in the area and urged Egypt to broker a new ceasefire.

The Palestinian statement was issued hours after Israel launched its first major offensive into Gaza in five years, following 10 days of airstrikes aimed at stopping the militant group Hamas from firing rockets at Israeli cities.

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“For the past 11 days the world has stood by as the Palestinians of Gaza have been subjected to indiscriminate killings and collective punishment,” the statement said.

“We call on the government of Canada to talk Israel back from the brink of this disaster.”

READ MORE: More than 20 Palestinians, 1 Israeli soldier killed as troops enter Gaza

The statement stressed that the Israeli ground offensive will only compound the suffering of Palestinian civilians, children in particular, saying they account for 30 per cent of the 245 people killed so far.

It also laments the deaths of four Palestinian children killed in an Israeli strike on a Gaza beach earlier this week.

“In one of its most heinous acts, Israeli forces murdered four boys aged 9 to 11 playing on the beach in Gaza City this past Wednesday,” it said.

“It takes an incredible act of moral contortion to believe that the Israeli pilot that fired the missile that killed these children, or the government that authorized it, did so in self-defence.”

READ MORE: Hamas, Israel resume attacks after brief truce

Baird issued his own statement supporting Israel’s latest military move and reiterating that Hamas is entirely to blame for any casualties.

“These operations could have been avoided if Hamas had not rejected the government of Egypt’s ceasefire proposal – a proposal that was accepted by Israel and welcomed by the Palestinian Authority,” Baird said.

“This proves that Hamas has no interest in peace and bears responsibility for the further tragic loss of life.”

Baird also called on Egypt to resume its unsuccessful efforts to arrange a ceasefire. “Egypt is the best-placed country in the region to help end the current hostilities. It is a historic leader in regional peace efforts.”

The Israeli offensive was continuing today as troops moved further into Gaza, targeting tunnels and other infrastructure in an attempt to degrade the ability of Hamas to launch attacks.

“Canada stands by Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself,” Baird said. “Israel will be forced to continue defending itself as long as Hamas continues its rocket attacks against civilians.”

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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