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Cautious praise for ceasefire

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John Baird

Canadian officials last week offered cautious praise for the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas brokered by Egypt.

In separate statements released on Nov. 21, representatives of the Conservative government, the Opposition NDP and the Liberal party all praised the ceasefire.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he hopes “terrorist cells” in Gaza will abide by the agreement.

“We are deeply concerned about the loss of innocent lives on both sides and hope this agreement will end the fear, violence and death of the past days,” he said.

“In my conversations with regional ambassadors and counterparts,” Baird added, “I have reiterated Canada’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, which, in all its forms, must be wholly rejected by all peace-loving people around the world. Canada appreciates the concerted efforts taken by the Egyptian government, with the support of others, to mediate the ceasefire agreement.”

On his Twitter feed, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar posted the following on Nov. 21: “We welcome ceasefire agreement in Mideast, thank the countries that worked hard to reach it & urge all to move towards comprehensive peace.”

Liberal Interim Leader Bob Rae said he hoped the ceasefire could lead to peace and “an end to all terrorist attacks… and the guarantee of the safety and security of citizens of the region.

“Our thoughts go out to the families of civilians who have been killed and injured in Israel and Gaza during this challenging time.”

David Koschitzky, chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said he is happy for the residents of Israel who can now experience their “first nights of secure and uninterrupted sleep” since Hamas’ rocket barrage began.

“Our hope is that the days ahead will mark the beginning of a long period of quiet,” Koschitzky said in a Nov. 21 statement.

“The immediate goals of Israel’s military response have been achieved, but the real test will be whether Egypt and others in the region take serious measures to prevent the rearming of Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza. With Iran’s substantial backing, Hamas and its affiliates have become the single greatest obstacle to a peace that would benefit Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is imperative that the international community redouble its efforts to counter Iran’s support for terrorism, and to compel Hamas to abandon the path of violence.”

Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies president and CEO Avi Benlolo said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the ceasefire but fears Hamas, an organization that, he said, “joyfully celebrated the pain and suffering of Israeli citizens” has not finished terrorizing Israelis.

“I absolutely do not envy the Israelis who are trying to make peace with those who rejoice in suffering and death,” Benlolo said.

Reports out of Israel last week noted that there were celebratory gatherings in the streets of Gaza, with Hamas claiming victory in the recent conflict.

However, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak last Thursday dismissed the victory celebrations.

Speaking on Israeli television, Barak said the Hamas government is deceiving its populace with fabricated achievements.

“They [Hamas] are deceiving their own people. They are celebrating the downing of an F-16 [which did not happen] and rockets that supposedly exploded in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They know full well what has befallen them: the prime minister’s official residence is gone, their manufacturing infrastructure is gone, no heavy machinery, they now have less than 40 per cent of the medium-range rockets they once possessed, and a buried military chief,” Barak said, according to Israel Hayom.

In a Nov. 24 interview with Associated Press, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said his organization would not stop smuggling and developing weapons even though that was a stipulation of the current negotiated ceasefire agreement with Israel.

“There is no way to relinquish weapons,” Abu Marzouk said in the interview. “These weapons protected us and there is no way to stop obtaining and manufacturing them.” 

The agreement calls on Hamas and Israel to cease all forms of military activity, including Israel’s targeted killings of terrorists. It also calls for an easing of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

On Saturday, a Muslim imam in Gaza issued a religious edict, or fatwa, that said it is a sin to violate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Imam Suleiman al-Daya issued the fatwa, according to Haaretz, after Abu Marzouk made his comments.

“Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us,” al-Daya said in his edict. “Violating it shall constitute a sin.”

Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, said: “We are satisfied and proud of this [ceasefire] agreement and at the steadfastness of our people and their resistance.”

He said it was Egypt’s unwavering support and the Arab Spring that gave them the strength to emerge victorious. “Israel was defeated and now they know the rules have changed.”

With files from JTA and JNS.org

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