Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rebuffed Justin Trudeau’s call for an international investigation into deadly clashes at Gaza’s border but pledged to get to the bottom on the sniper shooting of a Canadian-Palestinian doctor.
Pushing back against international censure of his army’s actions, Mr. Netanyahu telephoned the Canadian Prime Minister late Thursday afternoon in what officials described as cordial but frank discussions about the violence and killings at the Israeli-Gaza border on Monday, the day the United States inaugurated its new embassy in Jerusalem.
The call from the Israeli leader was prompted after Mr. Trudeau issued a statement on Wednesday, deploring Israel’s use of live ammunition against Palestinian protesters. Mr. Trudeau said Israel’s use of “excessive force” was “inexcusable” and joined British Prime Minister Theresa May and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in calling for an immediate independent investigation.
Israeli and Canadian officials told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Netanyahu said he would not co-operate with an international investigation and argued Israel was merely defending its territory. He blamed Hamas, the Islamist terror group that controls Gaza, of being behind the protests.
Hamas admitted on Thursday that 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed were their members. More than 2,700 Palestinians suffered injuries, including 1,359 from live ammunition in Monday’s protests, the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war.
Mr. Trudeau did not back down from his view that an investigation was needed into the wounding by Israeli forces of children, civilians, journalists and first responders, including Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani, officials said.
However, Mr. Netanyahu told the Prime Minister that the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) will conduct a fact-finding inquiry to determine how Dr. Loubani, an emergency ward doctor from London, Ont., and associate professor at the University of Western Ontario, was shot in both legs on Monday.
Dr. Loubani, who was field testing 3D printing tourniquets, said he was shot by an Israeli sniper while standing 25 metres away from the protests and surrounded by orange vested paramedics. He was among 18 medical personnel who were wounded that day while another died of a sniper bullet to the chest.
Israel’s envoy to Canada, Nimrod Barkan, said the IDF fact-finding investigation is independent and impartial.
“These processes demonstrate the IDF’s commitment to examining its conduct and taking action when necessary, with legal and investigative mechanisms that meet the requirements of international and domestic law,” he said.
Two Jewish Liberal MPs – Anthony Housefather and Michael Levitt, broke with Mr. Trudeau’s criticism of Israel. The MPs said they were troubled by the shooting of Dr. Loubani, but blamed Monday’s violence on Hamas.
“Hamas’ stated aims of the destruction of Israel and the murder of Israelis lay bare its goals in fueling these violence protests,” they wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “Israel has every right to defend its borders.”
Shimon Fogel, chief executive of the Ottawa-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, requested an immediate meeting with Mr. Trudeau and questioned his government’s commitment to Israel.
“We are deeply disappointed the government’s statement ignores Hamas’ direct responsibility for recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border,” Mr. Fogel said. “This contradicts the government’s long-stated position that, as a close ally and fellow liberal democracy, Israel can count on Canada’s support when its security is threatened.”
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said Israel has every right to use live fire to defend its borders “in light of the fact that Israeli troops twice came under gunfire themselves from Hamas operatives.”
“What would the Prime Minister propose Israel do instead? I certainly hope that if armed terrorists approach our border, Trudeau will be prepared to permit Canadian border guards to use real bullets.”
Amnesty International, the BC Civil Liberties Association and National Council of Canadian Muslims were among a number of organization that wrote a letter Mr. Trudeau on Thursday, endorsing his call for an independent inquiry.
As protests die down on the Israel-Gaza border where dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire this week, Reuters' Emily Wither speaks to some of the two million people facing crippling unemployment and blockade in the narrow strip.