Kent's pathetic response parrots the Israeli line. Imagine if we had terrorists sheltering among kids in a schoolyard even firing at police or armed forces from within the shelter of the crowd. If the armed forces used artillery or some other means that killed dozens of people to get the terrorists would we say this was justified self-defence and that it was the terrorists who are responsible not the police or armed forces. Get real.
Of course we have no verification of the Israeli claim that two Hamas members were among the dead and we certainly do not know what they were doing there. It is all a charade of pro-Israeli propaganda. No doubt Harper expects kudos and donations from the pro-Israel crowd.
Israelis hit school, Ottawa blames Hamas
TheStar.com - World - Israelis hit school, Ottawa blames Hamas
New cabinet minister speaks out as tank fire kills huddled civilians
January 07, 2009 Oakland RossMIDDLE EAST BUREAU
JERUSALEM–Canada blamed Hamas yesterday for endangering civilians in the Gaza Strip after at least 42 Palestinians – including children – were killed by Israeli tank fire while taking shelter in a UN-operated school.
"Hamas bears a terrible responsibility for this and for the wider deepening humanitarian tragedy," Peter Kent, the new minister of state for foreign affairs, told Reuters in response to the attack.
"The burden of responsibility is on Hamas to stop its terrorist rocketing of Israel."
Hamas, a radical Islamist group, has ruled Gaza since June 2007.
While adding that Ottawa did not yet know much about the incident, Kent said: "Hamas's record is to use civilians – the population and civilian infrastructure – as shields and it would seem quite possible that this is yet another tragic instance."
As international pressure mounted for an end to Israel's all-out Gaza offensive, Kent said in another interview, "Until (Hamas) commit to a permanent ceasefire – a truly permanent ceasefire, a durable ceasefire – and don't use it as a break to rearm and resume rocketing, the fighting will go on."
His comments are Ottawa's strongest to date on the ongoing crisis.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon recently had used a slightly more moderate tone, urging both sides to avoid civilian casualties. He called for diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire, although he pointedly noted Canada views the rocket attacks on Israel as the cause of the crisis, and supports Israel's right to defend itself.
Israel blamed Palestinian fighters for the hit on the school yesterday, in which at least 55 people were wounded. A preliminary Israel Defense Forces report last night said Palestinian militants had used the school grounds as a cover to fire mortar rounds at Israeli soldiers, who returned fire.
"We face a very delicate situation where Hamas uses the citizens of Gaza as a protective shield," said IDF spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu.
He said the bodies of two Hamas militants, Imad Abu Askar and Hassan Abu Askar, were found among the dead at the school, located in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
At the local hospital where dozens of the injured were treated, Dr. Basam Warda said many of the casualties were women and children who had gathered at the school because they considered it safe. At the time of the attack, people were standing outside the gate of the school, where hundreds of families had sought shelter.
"The wounded arrived with multiple fractures, ripped stomachs, amputated limbs," he said. "The bodies were ripped apart."
The Israeli offensive entered its 12th day today, pitting Israel against Palestinian militants in Gaza, who persist in firing rockets at populated areas of southern Israel.
In other developments early today, Israel announced it will set up a "humanitarian corridor" for the Gaza Strip as aid agencies complain of a mounting crisis for the enclave's 1.5 million Palestinians.
The corridor had been recommended by Israel's military chiefs and would entail granting periodic access to various areas of the strip to allow Palestinians to stock up on vital goods, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement.
Olmert spokesperson Mark Regev described the measure as a "special status to allow the transfer of people, foodstuffs and medicines" and said it could be implemented as early as today.
Israeli leaders will debate today whether to order their armed forces to storm the Gaza Strip's urban centres, political sources told Reuters. Israeli troops have so far kept to the outskirts of the city of Gaza or other densely populated areas.
Israel called the initial ground sweep the "second stage" of the operation, without saying what could follow.
The Israeli operation is aimed at stopping the missiles, but militants in Gaza succeeded yesterday in firing 30 rockets toward Israel, one of which crashed in the town of Gedera, 30 kilometres south of Tel Aviv.
So far, four Israeli civilians have been killed in rocket attacks since the start of the Israeli offensive. Yesterday, a sixth Israeli soldier lost his life in ground fighting that began late Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian death toll rose past 600, with nearly 3,000 more wounded.
In addition to those killed at the UN school yesterday, at least 20 Palestinians lost their lives in Israeli shelling up and down the narrow coastal strip, according to Palestinian reports. Most of them appeared to be civilians, the reports said.
As the bloody conflict ground on in Gaza, world leaders continued to seek a so-far elusive formula for bringing an end to the killing.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy continued a whirlwind tour of the region, meeting yesterday with political leaders in Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria.
"I'm convinced that there are solutions," he said in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The pair proposed a plan that would bring together the main parties, including the Palestinian Authority, to take "all measures" to end the conflict, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council.
It would include the key issues of protecting Gaza's borders and reopening all crossings, he said.
Regev said Olmert's office was holding off commenting for the time being.
Kent's position on the fighting is similar to the U.S. stance.
"The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas," U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday in his first public comments on the conflict. "Instead of caring about the people of Gaza, Hamas decided to use Gaza to launch rockets to kill innocent Israelis. Israel's obviously decided to protect herself and her people."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the Palestinians "need humanitarian aid, but the Israelis must have some assurance that there are no rocket attacks coming into Israel."
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama broke his silence on the fighting in Gaza yesterday, calling the loss of civilian life "a source of deep concern for me."
He said he would have much more to say following his inauguration this month. "We've got plenty to say about Gaza, and on Jan. 20 you'll hear directly from me."
With files from Star wire services