Canada, U.S. and UN call for 'humanitarian pauses' in Israel-Hamas war

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: CBC News:
October 24, 2023 at 19:38
Hamas-run Health Ministry says overnight Israeli strikes killed more than 700
A woman reacts next to the rubble of a building following an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman reacts next to the rubble of a building following an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

The latest:

  • Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says Israeli strikes have now killed 5,791.
  • Israel blocking fuel shipments to Gaza as hospitals run low on power.
  • Israeli hostage freed by Hamas describes conditions in captivity.
  • Palestinian Red Crescent says 8 more aid trucks entered Gaza from Egypt.

Canada, the U.S. and the United Nations appealed on Tuesday for a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war to allow safe deliveries of aid to civilians short of food, water, medicine and electricity in the besieged Gaza Strip.

International pressure for unimpeded aid to Gaza rose as the Hamas-run Health Ministry said Israeli airstrikes had killed more than 700 Palestinians in Gaza overnight. Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said this was the highest 24-hour death toll in Israel's two-week-old siege.

In a statement released on social media, the ministry said at least 5,791 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli bombardments since Oct. 7, including 2,360 children. About 704 were killed in the previous 24 hours alone, it said.

Reuters could not independently verify the ministry figures.

An overhead view shows people standing in the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Palestinians in Gaza look for survivors following Israeli bombardment of the Nuseirat refugee camp on Tuesday. (Hatem Moussa/The Associated Press)

The Israeli military said that it killed dozens of Hamas fighters overnight while hitting more than 400 Hamas targets but that it would take time to destroy the Islamist militant group, whose deadly cross-border attack on Oct. 7 shocked Israel.

UN agencies said they were on their knees pleading for emergency aid to be let into Gaza unimpeded, saying over 20 times more than what was currently being delivered was needed to support the narrow strip's 2.3 million people amid widespread devastation from Israel's aerial blitz.

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

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

People work to rescue a person trapped under rubble.
Rescuers try to free a person trapped under rubble at the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza. (Ali Mohmoud/The Associated Press)

"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.

Canadian Defence Minister Bill Blair said Tuesday that Ottawa would not advocate for a ceasefire because he believes Hamas would not respect it.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pleaded on Tuesday for civilians to be protected, voicing concern about "clear violations of international humanitarian law" in Gaza.

People react while standing atop rubble.
People react following Israel strikes that destroyed a house in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Tuesday. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Security Council: "Palestinian civilians are not to blame for the carnage committed by Hamas."

"Palestinian civilians must be protected. That means Hamas must cease using them as human shields ... It means Israel must take all possible precautions to avoid harm to civilians."

Trudeau echoed Blinken.

"There are a lot of conversations going on now about the need for humanitarian pauses, and I think that's something Canada supports," he told reporters in Ottawa. "We must remain anchored on the priorities of protecting innocent [people] and freeing the hostages."

Hospitals low on fuel

Doctors in Gaza say patients arriving at hospitals are showing signs of disease caused by overcrowding and poor sanitation after more than 1.4 million people fled their homes for temporary shelters under Israel's heaviest-ever bombardment.

All hospitals say they are running out of fuel to power their electricity generators, leaving them increasingly unable to treat the injured and ill. More than 40 medical centres have halted operations, a Health Ministry spokesperson said.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, warned in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that it would halt operations in Gaza on Wednesday night because of the lack of fuel.

WATCH | WHO says Gaza hospitals facing critical shortages, dire conditions: 

Hospitals in Gaza are seeing 'horrific' scenes as they face critically low levels of medical supplies and other basics, including food, water and fuel, a World Health Organization doctor said Tuesday.

However, the Israeli military reaffirmed it would not permit the entry of fuel in order to prevent Hamas from using it.

"The situation here is absolutely dire," Ghassan Abu Sitta, a doctor who works in several hospitals around Gaza, told CBC's Power & Politics on Tuesday.

Sitta said he is hearing reports of hospitals having to turn off incubators and ventilators in order to preserve power and warned that fuel would run out in a matter of days.

"Without electricity, [hospitals] will turn into a mass grave."

Ground offensive expected

Israeli tanks and troops are amassed on the border between Israel and Gaza awaiting orders for an expected ground offensive. It is an operation that may be complicated by fears for the welfare of hostages taken to Gaza by Hamas on Oct. 7 and by heavily armed militants dug into a crowded urban setting using a vast network of tunnels.

Israel's bombardment of Gaza was unleashed in response to a shock cross-border Hamas assault into southern Israel in which gunmen killed over 1,400 people — mostly civilians — in a single day.

Hamas on Monday freed two Israeli women who were among the more than 200 hostages taken during the rampage, the third and fourth to be released.

WATCH |  Is a ground war in Gaza imminent?:

Israel has said it is preparing for a ground war in Gaza. Andrew Chang explains the signs that Israel is ramping up and what it's weighing before it goes in.

One of those freed, Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, said she was beaten with sticks by militants as she was abducted and had difficulty breathing.

"They stormed into our homes. They beat people. They kidnapped others, the old and the young without distinction," she said, seated in a wheelchair and speaking in barely a whisper to reporters outside a Tel Aviv hospital.

"I've been through hell."

WATCH | Released hostage describes time in Hamas captivity:


Yocheved Lifshitz with her daughter, Sharone, translating, spoke from a Tel Aviv hospital on Tuesday about being taken and held by Hamas - including the fear and horror of capture and how Hamas provided for her while she was being held.

Inside Gaza, a group of hostages were led into what Lifshitz called a "spider's web" of damp tunnels and eventually reached a large hall where they remained under 24-hour guard. A doctor visited every two to three days, Lifshitz said, and brought them medicine they needed.

"They treated us gently and met all our needs," she said.

Qatari mediators are urging Hamas to quicken the pace of hostage releases to include more women and children and to do so without expecting Israeli concessions, according to three diplomats and a source in the region.

Worries of wider conflict

How soon Israel might launch a full-scale invasion of Gaza remains unclear. The Middle East's most powerful military faces a group that has developed a heavy arsenal with Iran's help.

World powers are concerned the conflict could ignite the entire Middle East, and some have urged Israel to exercise restraint while affirming its right to self-defence.

Deadly clashes have escalated between the Israeli military and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, as well as between Israel and Lebanon's Iran-backed, heavily armed Hezbollah group along the two countries' tinderbox border.

WATCH | Canada planning mass evacuation from Lebanon, minister says:

"We are watching some very concerning escalation," said Defence Minister Bill Blair of the risk of Hezbollah entering into the conflict between Israel and Hamas. "Should Canadian citizens in Lebanon need Canada's help, we will be there for them."

Fears of regional escalation focus on Iran's network of proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Any wider conflagration would jeopardize security in a region key to global energy supplies.

Blinken told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Washington does not seek conflict with Iran but warned it would act swiftly and decisively if Tehran or its proxies attack U.S. personnel anywhere.

U.S. officials told Reuters the U.S. military is taking new steps to protect its troops in the Middle East as concerns mount about attacks by Iran-backed groups, and it is leaving open the possibility of evacuations of military families if needed.

With files from CBC News


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