The families of some of those taken hostage by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel were on Parliament Hill Monday asking the federal government to step up its efforts to secure the release of their loved ones.
It’s been 23 days since Hamas breached the Israeli border and went on a murderous rampage that saw it kidnap innocent Israeli civilians and take them back into the Gaza Strip as hostages.
“It’s an inhuman and unbearable act of Nazi people,” said Harel Lapidot, the Canadian uncle of Tiferet Lapidot, 22, who was killed while at a music festival near the Gaza Strip. “Canada stood against ISIS, against that horrible terror. We want Canada to stand with Israel. It’s not a matter of Israel, it’s a matter of the Western world,” he told a press conference Monday.
Pro-Palestinian activists also held a press conference on Parliament Hill Monday. The activists said Ottawa must call for a ceasefire as Israel ramps up its military campaign in Gaza before more civilians are killed by Israeli arms.
Several thousand Palestinians are believed to have died already in Israeli airstrikes, the activists said, and Canada’s support for a “humanitarian pause” isn’t enough. Canada backs a temporary halt to hostilities to allow aid into Gaza, a territory that has limited access to food and fuel.
‘Fear and despair’
A pause could also give countries like Canada time to extricate citizens who are stuck in Gaza. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Monday that Canada believes as many as 400 Canadians are “trapped” in the Palestinian territory and “living in fear and despair.”
“A humanitarian pause — is that what civilians who have done nothing deserve? It’s like a coffee break before going back to being butchered,” said Ahmad Al-Qadi, a spokesperson for Justice For All Canada, an advocacy group for persecuted Muslim minority communities.
He said Canada’s “laissez-faire approach to a massacre” is unacceptable and accused Western countries of giving Israel “carte blanche to do what it pleases.”
Canadian officials have said that Israel has the right to defend itself after Hamas’s brutal attack, as long as it respects international law. There’s division in the Liberal caucus over the issue. Some pro-Israel Liberal MPs, including Ben Carr and Anthony Housefather, have said they oppose calls for a ceasefire because Hamas could use the time to rebuild and regain strength.
Chen Zeigen’s mother Vivian Silver, a Winnipeg native who moved to Israel in the 1970s, is thought to be one of Hamas’s hostages. Zeigen told reporters his mother is a peaceful woman who was living in the close-knit Be’eri kibbutz before the attack.
He called her a humanitarian who has helped drive sick Palestinian children from Gaza to hospitals in Israel.
“Many of her friends volunteering in the same program were murdered. We hope the Canadian government will join the international effort to pressure and promote the unconditional release of all these hostages,” he said.
“We have not been given any information about their fate. I’m not sure if my mother is alive or dead or if she’s injured. Her house was completely burned down.”
Silver’s cell phone pinged off a Gaza tower some time after the attack, which gives the family hope that she could eventually be freed by Hamas. Aharon Brodutch, an Israeli living in Toronto whose family members have been taken by Hamas, said there’s “a complicated war going on” but releasing the hostages is “a very simple piece.”
“Thirty-three children, 239 hostages that we know of right now are being held. This is just a horrible crime and I think everyone can completely understand that this is just wrong,” he said.
“We hope the Canadian government, the Canadian people, can help us.”
Brodutch said Canada needs to pressure Israel to focus on releasing the hostages and that a rescue or negotiated release should take priority over any military operation. If a release doesn’t happen soon, the families’ ordeal could drag on, he said. “We know how this could end,” he said.
Canada has deployed an expert team of hostage negotiation experts to the region to help secure the release of Israeli civilians captured by Hamas.
“They’re just ordinary people. My baby was just dancing at a party. She never went to the army, she’s never held a gun, she knows nothing about politics,” said Lapidot.
Lapidot said Canada must continue to show solidarity with Israel in its fight against Hamas.
“We know the values of Canada are the same values as Israel. That’s why we’re here,” he said. “‘We’re fighting terror, we’re doing whatever should be done’ — that would be the right answer to terror.
“Being with Israel is being on the right side, fighting the darkness of terrorism, of Hamas, or ISIS, the Nazis. We should be here together fighting against it.”
Activists aligned with the Palestinian Youth Movement, a group that has been organizing demonstrations across Canada, took their calls for a ceasefire directly to some MPs on Monday.
In a media statement, the group said it staged sit-ins at 17 MP offices across the country, including those belonging to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Joly, Defence Minister Bill Blair and Conservative MP Andrew Scheer.
“We know we must not stay silent as atrocities are committed against our people in Palestine and will continue to hold our elected officials accountable until our demands are met,” the group said, adding that it wants to see a ceasefire, an “arms embargo” on Israel and an end to the Gaza blockade that has limited the flow of goods.
Source: CBC News