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People search through the rubble of damaged buildings following an Israeli air strike on Palestinian houses in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Dec. 12.STAFF/Reuters

Israel came under increasing international pressure Tuesday, with U.S. President Joe Biden warning Benjamin Netanyahu that he is losing support for the war with Hamas, and the United Nations voting overwhelmingly in favour of demanding an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

In a break with the United States, Canada for the first time joined in the call for a ceasefire, supporting the UN resolution and releasing a joint statement with two of its Five Eyes intelligence allies.

The United States voted against the UN resolution, but in some of his strongest language yet, Mr. Biden publicly told Israel that it is losing allies over its military offensive in the Gaza Strip, particularly from Europe.

“Israel’s security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world,” Mr. Biden said. “But they’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”

His comments were underscored by the vote at the UN General Assembly, which passed by more than three-quarters of its 193 members, a wider margin than a past resolution, as many countries including Canada switched positions.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said her government’s significant policy change was precipitated by the breakdown in the humanitarian pause between Hamas and Israel more than a week ago. Israel’s retaliation against Hamas will “not lead to the durable defeat of Hamas,” she said.

“We must recognize that what is unfolding before our eyes will only enhance the cycle of violence,” Ms. Joly said. “With the future of Israelis and Palestinians in mind, Canada is joining the international call for a humanitarian ceasefire.”

She repeated calls for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

Despite releasing a statement with Australia and New Zealand, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau avoided mentioning a call for a ceasefire in his own comments to journalists outside of the House of Commons or during Question Period. He told reporters he spoke with Mr. Netanyahu on Tuesday to explain Canada’s position.

In the Tuesday statement with New Zealand and Australia, Canada for the first time said Hamas should have no role in the governance of Gaza. It called for the unconditional release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and condemned the group’s sexual violence against Israelis.

Israel and U.S. show sharp divisions over mounting casualties in war against Hamas

While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, the three countries also cautioned that the Jewish state must follow humanitarian law.

“We are alarmed at the diminishing safe space for civilians in Gaza. The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians,” the statement said.

Experts said the joint statement could put pressure on the White House – the only capital still holding influence over the Israeli government.

The most important message from Canada came in the statement with Australia and New Zealand, rather than in the UN vote, said Janice Stein, the Belzberg professor of conflict management at the Munk School at the University of Toronto.

“This statement is not directed principally at Israel, it is directed rather to Washington,” Prof. Stein said, calling it a carefully crafted and balanced statement.

“It sends a signal to the United States that its closest allies want a ceasefire now and it also provides some cover for Washington as the U.S. increases pressure on Israel to agree to a halt in the hostilities,” she said.

The U.S. administration’s decision to strongly back Israel when Hamas first attacked in October coupled with its military support means it holds significant influence over what comes next, Prof. Stein said.

“Starting in 1956 the United States has frequently forced Israel both to stop the fighting, to accept the ceasefire and at times to pull back.”

Bessma Momani, a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, said the United States has clearly shown its frustration with Israel’s lack of a postwar plan. But she said the ratcheted-up public comments from the White House are not being heeded in Israel.

“Canada working on a common statement with Five Eyes allies is significant and likely an attempt to find a middle ground between the U.S. and many frustrated allies,” Prof. Momani said. “But it is unlikely to convince Israel to stop.”

Four of Canada’s G7 partners either abstained from the UN vote Tuesday or voted against it. Japan and France joined Canada in voting for the resolution, which also demanded all parties follow international law and called for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” and humanitarian access to Gaza.

Attempts to amend the resolution by Austria and the United States, which would have added clauses naming Hamas as the hostage taker and describe the group’s actions as “heinous terrorist attacks,” were defeated by the General Assembly.

The war was sparked more than two months ago by the Hamas militant group’s attack, which Israel says killed 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and led to 240 people being taken hostage.

Since then Israel has bombarded Gaza from the air, imposed a siege and launched a ground offensive. Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry says 18,205 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 50,000 wounded.

Battles rage across Gaza as Israel indicates it’s willing to fight for months or more to beat Hamas

Until Tuesday, the minority Liberals had resisted intense internal pressure to call for a ceasefire, with the government instead underscoring Israel’s right to defend itself.

Liberal MPs Marco Mendicino and Anthony Housefather both posted statements on social media disagreeing with their government’s yes vote at the United Nations. Mr. Mendicino said Canada was effectively calling for an “unconditional ceasefire.”

Mr. Housefather, a Quebec MP, said any stop in the war “requires Hamas to release all hostages and lay down arms and surrender.”

“Hamas, a terrorist organization, is entirely responsible for starting a war. I disagree with our vote at the UN today,” he said.

However, the move was applauded by other Liberals, including Sameer Zuberi, who told reporters on Parliament Hill that the change in position validated a flank of the Liberal caucus that has been calling for a ceasefire since October.

“We need to see that there’ll be peace in the Middle East,” Mr. Zuberi said. “We need to see the creation of a viable Palestinian state, where both Jews and Palestinians can live in peace and security. And this is a simple call.”

Canadian Jewish groups roundly condemned Canada’s call for an immediate ceasefire. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it was “disgusted and frankly shocked” by Canada’s stand, given that the motion does not explicitly call out Hamas for its crimes or urge the group to surrender.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims welcomed the change and said Canada “must immediately begin to work with our allies to end the siege of Gaza and work to create a permanent ceasefire on the ground.”

With a report from Reuters and The Canadian Press

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