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Canada expects 'everyone' to abide by ICJ's latest Israel ruling, Trudeau says

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The International Court of Justice's latest ruling is in line with Canada's position on Israel's military operations in Rafah, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

"Canada's position has been clear for many, many weeks now. We need an immediate ceasefire. Hamas needs to lay down its arms, release all hostages, but there also must be no more military operations in Rafah by Israel," Trudeau said during a news conference in Truro, N.S.

"The ICJ's proposals are binding, and we expect everyone to follow them as a matter of international law."

His comments come after the United Nations' top court ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza Strip city, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire for the enclave.

The sharply focused decision sent a three-pronged message to Israel, ordering the country to halt the Rafah offensive, allow war crimes investigators access to Gaza and immediately increase humanitarian aid into the region.

The ruling is a blow to Israel's international standing, but the court doesn't have a police force to enforce its orders.

Benny Gantz, one of three members of Israel's war cabinet, indicated his country's military won't change its course in Rafah despite the recent order.

"The State of Israel is committed to continue fighting to return its hostages and promise the security of its citizens — wherever and whenever necessary — including in Rafah," Gantz said.

Gantz's comments Friday were Israel's most senior reaction to the ICJ's ruling, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not make an immediate public response.

Criticism of Israel's military operations in Gaza has been growing, particularly since it turned its focus to Rafah. 

This week, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for another international court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, along with Hamas officials.

Earlier this month, Canada abstained from a UN vote aimed at formally recognizing Palestine, but opened the door to supporting statehood before the end of the current conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also under pressure at home to end the war, which was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 hostages.

Thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring the hostages home, fearing time is running out.

Israel's offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to the territory's health ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. 

The operation has obliterated entire neighbourhoods, sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from their homes and pushed parts of the territory into famine.

On Friday, Trudeau reiterated Canada's support for a two-state solution and called out the Israeli government for standing in the way of that aspiration.

"Unfortunately, the Netanyahu government is creating barriers and blockages to ever being able to create or even imagine that two-state solution. That is where we fundamentally disagree with the Netanyahu government," Trudeau said. 

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson said Friday that the Canadian government should put pressure on Israel into to abide by the ICJ order. 

She called for sanctions against the Israeli war cabinet as well as National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Yoel Smotrich.

"Canada must support this decision by increasing pressure on Israel now," McPherson said on X. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2024.

— With files from The Associated Press.

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