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The Globe and Mail

Canada stands behind Israel’s right to defend itself, ambassador says

An Israeli border policeman throws a tear gas canister during clashes with protesters against Israel's operations in the Gaza Strip., in the West Bank city of Hebron, Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012.

Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

Israel's ambassador says Canada is backing her country's right to defend itself without pressuring the country to end its strikes in Gaza quickly.

Ambassador Miriam Ziv said Ottawa has given Israel a clear message of support since Israel began airstrikes in the Gaza strip a week ago. The Harper government has been unequivocal in backing Israel's right to defend itself in the face of rocket attacks from Hamas and other groups in Gaza, she said.

"Its main concern is the security and safety of the state of Israel. And this is the paramount issue that they have been stressing," she said. "It's a clear message that says it's the right of Israel to defend itself. We are the ones who have to defend our own people – the government of Israel – and the government of Canada stands behind this."

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When asked if Ottawa is also pressing for Israel to wrap up what it calls Operation Pillar of Defence quickly and to avoid escalation to a ground war, she said: "Well, the government of Canada knows there is a responsible government in Israel. And it leaves it in the hands of Israel to make its decisions, and protect its citizens."

Ms. Ziv spoke to The Globe and Mail amid reports from talks in Cairo that a ceasefire may be close at hand – although she said she has no clear indication whether a deal is imminent.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday his country would be a "willing participant" in such a truce. Ms. Ziv insisted that is what Israel has been seeking all along: a ceasefire where it can be assured that neither Hamas nor splinter groups like the Islamic Jihad will fire rockets into Israel.

"What the government of Israel is seeking is to make sure that our citizens are not threatened again by ongoing rocket attacks onto the civilian population," she said, adding later: "We want to see a peaceful neighbourhood, and to guarantee that Hamas doesn't continue threatening us."

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