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Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza Strip in March PA

Canada halts future arms shipments to Israel as international pressure mounts and Gazans starve

Despite the resumption of talks, there is little indication of an imminent agreement.


CANADA IS HALTING future arms shipments to Israel as international pressure continues to mount over its conduct in Gaza, where more than 31,000 people have died and half the population is facing famine. 

Canada’s foreign minister Melanie Joly told the Toronto Star newspaper yesterday that her government would stop future arms exports to Israel, a decision that has angered the Israeli government.

“It is a real thing,” Joly told the newspaper, although the parliamentary vote that passed on the measure is not binding. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said: “History will judge Canada’s current action harshly”. 

He described the move as “regrettable” and said it “undermines Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorists”.

US Senator Bernie Sanders said in a post on X that Canada was “absolutely right” to take the step, one which other Israel allies have not taken thus far.

“Given the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, including widespread and growing starvation, the U.S. should not provide another nickel for Netanyahu’s war machine.”

Canada had already suspended the shipment of lethal equipment to Israel after 7 October but this agreement, struck between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party and its coalition partner the New Democratic Party (NDP), means future sales have been suspended. 

The vote had been an NDP initiative, who also tried to include recognition of the State of Palestine but that effort failed. However, suspending future arms sales to Israel is a clear sign of strained ties between the allies, and mounting domestic pressure on the Canadian government to respond to Israel’s prosecution of its war on Gaza. 

Israel has historically been a top receiver of Canadian arms exports, with CAN$21 million worth of military materiel exported to Israel in 2022, according to Radio Canada, following CAN$26 million in shipments in 2021.

That places Israel among the top 10 recipients of Canadian arms exports.

“The situation on the ground makes it so that we can’t” export any kind of military equipment, the Canadian official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Famine looming

In Gaza, however, there is no sign of letup in the war that has devastated much of the Gaza Strip and forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to seek refuge in the south of the besieged region.

Israel’s offensive on Gaza has killed at least 31,923 people since October, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The latest toll includes at least 104 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 74,096 people have been wounded in Gaza since October.

A UN report has said 300,000 people in the territory’s north will face famine by May without a surge of aid. It also said 1.1 million people – half the population – are facing famine unless more food is allowed into the Gaza Strip.

UN rights chief Volker Turk said Israel was blocking aid and conducting the conflict in a way that “may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war”.

AFPTV footage from Gaza showed desperate crowds gathered at the Jabalia refugee camp to get a portion of carrot soup.

“We came to queue, but they threw us out,” said Jabalia resident Musaab al-Masry, lamenting that there was not enough food for everyone.

Mourners have held funeral prayers outside a hospital in central Gaza for 28 people killed in three separate Israeli air strikes on urban refugee camps the previous night.

Video footage showed mourners praying over the bodies, which were wrapped in funeral shrouds, before the bodies were taken away in carts for burial.

Nineteen people, including five women and nine children, were killed when a strike flattened a family home yesterday in the urban Nuseirat refugee camp.

Attack on hospital

Israeli troops continued their assault on Gaza’s biggest hospital yesterday, which they allege Hamas uses for military purposes, saying more than 50 fighters had been killed and around 300 suspects arrested and taken for questioning.

The Israeli military already laid siege to and assaulted Al-Shifa Hospital earlier in the conflict, claiming that Hamas had a “command and control centre” underneath the complex. But after forcing patients and displaced civilians to flee the hospital in November, no evidence of such a centre was produced.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh accused Israel of seeking to “sow chaos and perpetuate violence” and “sabotage ongoing negotiations in Doha”.

Witnesses reported air strikes and tanks near the hospital compound, which is crowded with thousands of displaced civilians, as well as the sick and wounded.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said this week that Palestinian militants and commanders had since returned to Al-Shifa “and turned it into a command centre”.

An Israeli army statement late yesterday said “dozens of prominent terrorists” from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were among those arrested in the operation.

Diplomacy and truce talks

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is returning to the Middle East today in a new bid to secure a truce in Gaza as experts warn that hundreds of thousands of civilians are on the brink of famine.

Following a failed attempt to secure a ceasefire in the war in the Gaza Strip by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last week, a new round of negotiations hosted by key mediator Qatar has commenced.

Nearly six months into the conflict, Israel’s key backer the United States has repeatedly called on its ally to allow an increase in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza but has yet to exert that pressure through practical steps. 

Blinken is due in Saudi Arabia today and in Egypt, which neighbours Gaza and has been involved in previous mediation efforts, tomorrow.

He had earlier this week said everyone in Gaza was now suffering “severe levels of acute food insecurity”.

“That’s the first time an entire population has been so classified,” he said during a visit to the Philippines.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant is to visit Washington in the coming week, the government said today, as pressure mounts to call off a planned offensive in Gaza’s Rafah.

Netanyahu’s office also announced that a delegation would visit Washington at “the request of US President Joe Biden” to discuss the planned assault, which the United States opposes.

Gallant is due to meet Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin but no date was announced.

They will discuss “developments in the war against the Hamas terrorist organisation, force build-up, humanitarian issues and areas of bilateral military cooperation,” the defence ministry said.

Israel’s Head of Mossad David Barnea entered a new round of talks with Egyptian and Qatari mediators yesterday.

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said he was “cautiously optimistic” but it was “too early to announce any successes”.

Ansari said they were expecting a counter-proposal to be presented to Hamas after both sides rejected previous offers, adding that technical talks would continue.

Despite the resumption of talks, there is little indication of an imminent agreement.

Includes reporting from © AFP 2024 and Press Association

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