Providing aid and ‘wiping out’ Hamas not mutually exclusive goals: Holland

Click to play video: '‘Palestinian civilians must be protected’: UNSC debates Israel-Hamas conflict response'
‘Palestinian civilians must be protected’: UNSC debates Israel-Hamas conflict response
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is debating the world's response to the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has killed thousands of people. Jackson Proskow reports on the fiery meeting, including what ministers said about the hostages and Gaza's growing humanitarian crisis – Oct 24, 2023

A second Canadian cabinet member, Health Minister Mark Holland, is echoing comments from Defence Minister Bill Blair, who said on Tuesday that Hamas needs to be “eliminated.”

“I think bringing Hamas to justice and making sure that they are held to account for their actions and that we can work to wipe them out as a terrorist organization and the protection of innocent life are not incompatible concerns,” Holland told reporters on his way into Wednesday’s Liberal caucus meeting.

Holland stressed he does not see the need to “wipe them out” and provide humanitarian aid to Gaza as “mutually exclusive” goals.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada “absolutely supports” the call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting, in order to get foreign nationals out of Gaza and allow the unimpeded delivery of aid like food, water and medicine to the region.

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Holland added that Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly is in the region working with partners on trying to come to diplomatic solutions to potentially facilitate this pause.

After the caucus meeting, Blair took questions to clarify what he meant by saying Hamas must be eliminated the day before.

“What I was saying is I was concerned about the terrorist threat that persists and that terrorist threat has to be dealt with,” Blair said.

“But that’s a very different situation than making sure that the people who are in a desperate situation, innocent civilians on both sides of the border, we have to make sure that humanitarian aid is available to them.”

The defence minister also said on Tuesday that he didn’t believe Hamas would abide by a ceasefire. When asked what makes him think Hamas would respect a humanitarian pause, Blair said he wouldn’t speculate and stressed the need to get humanitarian aid into the region.

Several Western nations are calling for a humanitarian pause, which is different from a ceasefire, including the United States and France.

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.”

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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.

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“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.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau: Israel ‘did not’ fire rocket at Gaza hospital, according to ‘best evidence’ feds have'
Trudeau: Israel ‘did not’ fire rocket at Gaza hospital, according to ‘best evidence’ feds have

French President Emmanuel Macron, visiting Israel on Tuesday, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that France stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Israel in its fight with Hamas but that it must not fight “without rules.”

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Netanyahu said Israel would try to protect civilians as it worked to ensure they “will no longer live under Hamas tyranny.”

The Israeli government says there are over 200 hostages still in Gaza following the Oct. 7 attack, and roughly 1,400 dead after the attack. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 6,500 people are dead in the territory amid two weeks of retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.

Reuters reported that U.N. agencies were pleading “on our knees” for emergency aid to be let into Gaza unimpeded, saying more than 20 times current deliveries were needed to support the narrow strip’s 2.3 million people.

Click to play video: 'More than 400 Canadians still awaiting evacuation from Gaza, Joly says'
More than 400 Canadians still awaiting evacuation from Gaza, Joly says

Eight trucks containing water, food and medicine entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt late on Tuesday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

The United States is negotiating with Israel, neighbouring Egypt and the U.N. to smooth emergency deliveries into Gaza, but the parties have wrangled over procedures for inspecting the aid and over bombardments on the Gaza side of the border.

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“While we remain opposed to a ceasefire, we think humanitarian pauses linked to the delivery of aid that still allow Israel to conduct military operations to defend itself are worth consideration,” a senior U.S. official said to Reuters.

Click to play video: '‘We have no good news’: Canadians stuck in Gaza share their stories'
‘We have no good news’: Canadians stuck in Gaza share their stories

Government House Leader Karina Gould said helping secure the release of hostages is a Canadian priority, and releasing hostages should not be tied to humanitarian aid.

“I don’t think we need to make this one or the other. I think we need to ensure that we continue very strongly to push for the release of the hostages. There are Canadians there as well,” Gould said on her way into the caucus meeting.

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.

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The Conservatives’ foreign affairs critic Michael Chong posted a statement on X that the party is also in favour of a humanitarian pause to allow foreign nationals an exit from Gaza and entry for aid.

“Those efforts, by necessity, require temporary pauses in military activity to ensure the safety of those involved,” Chong wrote.

— with files from Reuters

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