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Liberal MPs call for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war, end to 'butchery' in Gaza Strip

OTTAWA — A Quebec Liberal MP issued an emotional plea for peace in Israel and a viable Palestinian state on Wednesday, as deaths in the Gaza Strip "mount by the minute.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during the Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA — A Quebec Liberal MP issued an emotional plea for peace in Israel and a viable Palestinian state on Wednesday, as deaths in the Gaza Strip "mount by the minute." 

Sameer Zuberi battled tears, speaking about the "butchery" of innocent children as he made his way into the weekly Liberal caucus meeting. 

His comments came as more of the government's members of Parliament called for a ceasefire. 

"We have to recognize clearly that bombs are falling on innocent children, adults, seniors being launched from the Israeli military. We need to recognize that," Zuberi told reporters. 

He said Hamas's surprise attacks on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 was an "abhorrent" act that caused the latest crisis and escalated tensions that have existed in the region for decades. 

The conflict has left more than 4,000 people dead on both sides.

But Zuberi said people in the Gaza Strip died before the latest conflict escalation, too, and the only way to save innocent lives is for bombs to stop falling. 

"I know that civilians are dying," the MP said. 

"And if I was behind an artillery cannon and I knew this would fall on hospitals and schools I would not push that trigger," Zuberi said, as his voice filled with emotion. 

A blast that hit a hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday has become a new focal point in the escalating war. Hundreds of people were killed, including some who were sheltering at the site for safety. 

The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza quickly blamed the hospital blast on the Israeli military. But Israel said it was not involved, and its government later released video and other information that officials said showed a Palestinian military group had misfired.

Countries including Canada remain concerned the war could expand into a wider regional conflict, with Hezbollah fighters exchanging fire with the Israeli military over the Israel-Lebanon border. 

The blast at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital came amid a worsening humanitarian crisis throughout the territory, which Israel has blocked from accessing essential supplies such as food, water and power. 

Canada has been pushing for a humanitarian corridor to be established not only to allow aid organizations and their staff to bring in supplies through the territory's border with Egypt, but also to provide a way for nearly 400 Canadian citizens and their relatives to escape. 

Following a request from United States President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Wednesday that it approved a plan that would allow Egypt to deliver some supplies into Gaza.

Biden, who met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv Wednesday, told the Israeli leader that based on what he had seen, it appeared the hospital blast was perpetrated "by the other team, not you."

Biden said data from the U.S. Defense Department showed it was not likely a strike by Israel's military. The White House also said that a U.S. intelligence assessment found Israel was not responsible for the strike. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's last comment on the incident came late Tuesday when he posted on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, that "we must determine what happened" and "there must be accountability."

Earlier on Tuesday, as news of the blast reached Canada but before Israel denied responsibility, Trudeau called the bombing "absolutely unacceptable" and called the act "not legal" under the international rules of war. 

Iddo Moed, Israel’s Ambassador to Canada, said in an interview Wednesday that he hopes Canada offers a "similar response" to the United States about the incident, saying Israel has provided an "abundance of evidence." 

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs president and CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel suggested in a statement that allowing "incidents like this to stand uncorrected foments a culture of hatred targeting Canada's Jewish community that we know from experience results in violence."

Several Liberal MPs heading into their national caucus meeting on Wednesday said they did not have enough information to say who was responsible, though several called for a ceasefire.

Liberal MP Shafqat Ali said the hospital bombing was "heartbreaking" and called for a ceasefire and new talks to bring an end to the conflict.

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid had also called for a ceasefire in a statement she released on social media last week, as did Salma Zahid. 

Trudeau has not said whether Canada will officially join that call.

Winnipeg Liberal MP Ben Carr said while a ceasefire and long-term peace is what everyone wants, getting there is complicated.

"The issue is that Hamas is still harbouring hostages that it took from Israel during the attack. That's one issue," he told reporters Wednesday morning. 

"The second is Israel has a right to defend itself, and in part of that defence, it means helping deal with the structure of the current Hamas regime. If that regime is not dealt with, then as time goes by, they will simply rebuild, they will rebuild stronger and Israel will be at threat again."

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Canada should call for a ceasefire and for Hamas to release the hostages.

"It's about compassion and recognizing the horrible human toll of ongoing violence," Singh said on Wednesday. 

Michael Chong, the Conservatives' foreign affairs critic in Parliament, told the House of Commons earlier in the week that Canada should "resist" the temptation to ask for a ceasefire, saying that Israel has the right to defend its borders against Hamas.

There remain two Canadians still reported missing since the Oct. 7 attacks. Trudeau has said they could be among the more than 200 hostages held by Hamas, which Canada has designated as a terrorist group for more than 20 years.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet suggested Wednesday that "nobody clearly knows" who was behind Tuesday's hospital blast, adding that "the disinformation machines are fully engaged, so we must be very careful of what we receive as being true or clear."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2023.

— With files from The Associated Press and Liam Fox in Ottawa.

Stephanie Taylor and Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press