OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he is not prepared to back Israel’s claims that the Gaza hospital blast was caused by a failed missile launched by Palestinian militants.
Hamas blamed Israel for the explosion on Wednesday, but Israel denied the claim and offered evidence that the hospital was hit by a failed missile that was launched from Gaza.
Trudeau was asked in a press conference Thursday if he had access to the same evidence provided to U.S. President Joe Biden, who said that he was convinced the explosion was caused by “the other team,” meaning Palestinian militants not Israel. Trudeau said Canada is still working closely with its allies to determine what happened.
“Everyone is in agreement that the deaths of innocents in that hospital in Gaza never should have happened,” he said during a closing event at the summit with leaders representing the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, in Ottawa.
“But we are taking the necessary time to look carefully at everything and rapidly, of course, before we draw any final conclusions about what happened. We are taking this extremely seriously because of all the intensity with which people are living this horrific loss of life.”
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Conservatives accused Trudeau of seemingly blaming Israel for the explosion in the hours after it happened on Tuesday. Many initial news reports had repeated Hamas’s claim that the explosion was from an Israeli missile strike and had killed 500 people.
“The news coming out of Gaza is horrific and absolutely unacceptable. International humanitarian and international law needs to be respected in this and in all cases. There are rules around wars and it’s not acceptable to hit a hospital,” Trudeau said shortly after reports of the explosion on Tuesday, without naming either Israel or Hamas.
“It’s clear to me in his remarks that they were focused on Israel and I think he needs to walk that back and take responsibility for that statement,” said Conservative MP Marty Morantz.
Israel has presented evidence, including audio and video, that it said shows the explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital was caused by a missile fired from Gaza towards Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad that failed and crashed to earth in the hospital parking area. The general director of the hospital told Associated Press that there were fewer deaths than in the initial reports.
On Thursday, Trudeau said the government was “obviously horrified by the attacks” before correcting himself and adding “by the destruction of the hospital in Gaza.”
“Civilian life must always be protected and international and humanitarian law must always be respected,” he said.
“We are working closely with the allies to determine exactly what happened.”
Trudeau was asked if would soon be visiting the Middle East, like President Biden did this week, but he would not say.
“I’ve been many times and I look forward to the next opportunity to go where we can actually be helpful and push towards peace and stability in the region,” he said.
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