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Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Nov. 21.Ariel Schalit/The Associated Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a truce-for-hostages deal between Israel and Hamas might set the groundwork for an eventual end to the fighting, though international relief organizations are skeptical.

“This is an important bit of progress, but we have to redouble our efforts now to get toward a lasting peace,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday morning on Parliament Hill.

“This humanitarian pause is what Canada and others have been calling for, for weeks now.”

He was speaking afterEgypt and Qatar, along with the United States, helped mediate adeal between Israel and Hamas, in which 50 hostages of Hamas are to be released in stages over four days, in exchange for what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The Israeli government said it would extend the truce by an additional day for every 10 hostages released, while Hamas is promising that hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid, including fuel, will be allowed to enter Gaza.

Hamas, which Canada deems a terrorist organization, said in a statement Wednesday that the deal includes “prohibition of air traffic in the south of Gaza for four days,” where most people in the territory have moved, as well as daily six-hour pauses on air traffic in northern Gaza.

Global Affairs Canada has said one Canadian is missing, but won’t confirm if that person is being held hostage. The United States said in a statement on the weekend that the group of about 240 hostages included American and Canadian citizens.

Trudeau added that the deal loomed large during a call with G20 leaders held Wednesday morning, and he hopes it will allow for more Canadians to leave the Gaza Strip. Six weeks of Israeli air strikes have destroyed large parts of the Palestinian territory.

“It is going to allow for hostages to finally be liberated; it’s going to allow for significant amounts of humanitarian aid to get in to the civilians and the innocent people in Gaza who desperately need it,” he said.

“It’s going to allow for protecting of civilian life, including hopefully getting even more Canadians and foreign nationals out.”

Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said in a post on X, formally known as Twitter, that he was “very pleased that a deal has been reached” during his visit to Israel this week alongside other Canadian MPs.

He said he has met with many hostage families in Israel, and he is happy that the deal between Israel and Hamas will lead to the release of 50 hostages and the delivery of significant humanitarian aid to Gaza.

On Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly expressed hope that a deal would allow all foreign nationals in Gaza to get out of the war zone, saying that still included roughly 200 people connected to Canada.

No Canadians were among those on Wednesday’s list of foreign nationals approved to cross into Egypt from Gaza.

Joly had said Tuesday that Canada wants “a humanitarian truce, which would lead to a potential ceasefire,” but Trudeau didn’t use the word “ceasefire” in his comments on Wednesday.

Trudeau also issued a statement calling for “rapid, sustained, and unimpeded access to humanitarian relief” in Gaza.

“Civilians must be able to get the life-saving assistance they need, including food, water, fuel and emergency medical supplies, quickly,” the statement said.

When asked about Trudeau’s Wednesday remarks, Doctors of the World executive director Joel Weiler rejected the idea that a temporary pause could build momentum for a longer-term peace.

“It’s not enough; it’s a Band-Aid and it will solve nothing,” Weiler said. He said charities will likely be able to bring in drugs and fuel, but four days won’t be enough time to get them to the most desperate people in Gaza.

Paul O’Brien, U.S. head for Amnesty International, said that rich countries need to freeze arms exports to Israel and call for a ceasefire, as countries such as France have done.

“We need G7 countries that have been on the fence about this to step in,” O’Brien said. He added that a sustained pause is needed to remove rotting bodies that could spread diseases in Gaza, and to build housing for the looming winter.

“We need to make very clear that the call for a pause cannot stand in the way of the pause for a permanent ceasefire,” he said.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs called the deal a relief, but said there must be an “immediate and unconditional” release of all hostages.

“Hamas deserves no praise for agreeing to do less than the bare minimum,” the group posted on X.

“The Canadian-listed terrorist organization has for weeks been negotiating with innocent Jewish lives, seeking to trade Israeli babies and mothers for Palestinians held on and convicted of terror related offences.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims echoed Trudeau’s comments that a temporary pause should lead to a longer peace, and asked Ottawa to take a leadership role.

“Israeli leaders have vowed to keep the war going. Canada now must become a global leader in gathering support among allies and partners for a just peace – an end to violence that works for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the group wrote in a statement.

The council wants Canada to convene international leaders to help broker a permanent ceasefire, stop arms exports to Israel if it vows to continue fighting and “take a clear stance on the rhetoric of ethnic cleansing from extremist leaders” in the Israeli government.

The group’s requests come after Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant declared “we are fighting human animals,” and Israel’s intelligence ministry issued a “concept paper” on the possibility of transferring the 2.3 million people living in Gaza to Egypt or other countries.

The latest Israel-Hamas war began after Hamas militants killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel launched a retaliation campaign, including air strikes and a ground offensive, which the health officials in Gaza say has killed more than 12,700 people.

Avril Benoit, the U.S. director for Doctors Without Borders, said Israel needs to allow international observers to assess its unverified claims that Hamas is running a command structure in a hospital. Otherwise, the attacks on hospitals could be war crimes, she said.

“It’s dangerous and it’s terrifying to think what is happening to the norms, to the laws of war. It’s like this dystopian reality now, where all the normal scaffolding of what is the conduct of responsible parties in a conflict have been completely perverted,” Benoit said.

Global Affairs Canada officials monitoring the humanitarian situation in Gaza are set to testify to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee this afternoon.

– With files from the Associated Press

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