Leaders of Canada, Australia and New Zealand Jointly Call for ‘Immediate Humanitarian Cease-fire’ in Gaza


Philissa Cramer

The prime ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand have joined a growing chorus of voices calling on Israel not to follow through with its plan to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“With the humanitarian situation in Gaza already dire, the impacts on Palestinian civilians from an expanded military operation would be devastating,” the leaders said in a joint statement released Thursday. “We urge the Israeli government not to go down this path. There is simply nowhere else for civilians to go.”

The leaders — Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Australia’s Anthony Albanese and New Zealand’s Christopher Luxon — say in their statement that “a negotiated political solution is needed to achieve lasting peace and security” and call for Hamas, which they condemn, to “lay down its arms and release all hostages immediately.” But, they say, “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is urgently needed.”

The call adds to mounting pressure on Israel not to invade Rafah, a city near the Egyptian border where Gazans were told to go when Israel invaded Gaza City and Khan Younis. An estimated 1.5 million Gazans are crammed into the city, which before the war had about 200,000 residents.

On Wednesday, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the White House “cannot support any military operation in Rafah until such time as Israel has developed a humanitarian plan that can be executed, and that they have executed such a plan.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the city is Hamas’ last remaining stronghold. He has agreed to American requests to evacuate civilians from the city, but it is unclear where they will be able to go. Months of war have left much of Gaza uninhabitable.

“There is growing international consensus. Israel must listen to its friends and it must listen to the international community,” the leaders’ joint statement says. “The protection of civilians is paramount and a requirement under international humanitarian law. Palestinian civilians cannot be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas.”

In addition to the White House, the Arab League and the Vatican have both issued official opposition to Israel’s planned Rafah invasion. Israel called the Vatican’s comments “deplorable” but toned its characterization down to “regrettable” on Thursday.

The Zionist Federation of Australia criticized Albanese’s statement, saying that Australia must recognize the need for Israel to defeat Hamas. Canada and Australia are two of the countries with the largest Jewish populations outside of the United States and Israel.

“It is extremely disappointing and frankly unreasonable for the government to call for the removal of Hamas from power as the only pathway to end the war and simultaneously call on Israel to refrain from entering Rafah to remove the last remaining Hamas stronghold,” ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said in a statement. “It places Israel in an impossible position.”


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