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‘Maximum restraint’ needed to protect civilian life in Gaza Strip: Trudeau

PM’s comments came during Vancouver stop as Canadian death toll in conflict tallied at 7
Palestinians look for survivors following an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. Scores of Canadians are still hoping to leave the Gaza Strip, as Canadians and Israelis mourn the loss of dual national Vivian Silver in last month’s attack by Hamas.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Fatima Shbair

Israel must use “maximum restraint,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged on Tuesday, to protect civilian life in the brutal war it is waging on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Trudeau said the world is witnessing the killing of women, children and babies, and that it must stop.

“The human tragedy that is unfolding in Gaza is heart-wrenching, especially the suffering we see in and around the Al Shifa Hospital,” he said.

Gaza’s largest hospital became a focal point of the conflict this week as Israeli ground troops surrounded the campus.

While Israel said it is willing to allow staff and patients to evacuate, Palestinians say Israeli forces have fired at evacuees and that it is too dangerous to move the most vulnerable patients. Doctors say the facility has run out of fuel and patients are beginning to die.

Israel is accusing Hamas of using hospitals as cover for its fighters, alleging that Hamas has set up its main command centre in and beneath the hospital, without providing visual evidence. Both Hamas and Shifa Hospital staff deny the Israeli allegations.

“I have been clear that the price of justice cannot be the continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians. Even wars have rules,” Trudeau said at an event in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Israel declared war against Hamas after its militants killed 1,200 people on Oct. 7, including hundreds of civilians, and took about 240 people hostage.

Health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory say weeks of retaliatory airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip have now killed more than 11,200 people.

Trudeau said Hamas needs to stop using Palestinians as human shields and release all hostages “immediately and unconditionally.” Canada has designated the group as a terrorist organization for more than 20 years.

He said the violence urgently needs to stop, “so that Palestinians can get access to life-saving medical services, food, fuel and water, so that all hostages can be released, so that all Canadians and other nationals can leave Gaza.”

Friends, family and government officials have confirmed that at least seven Canadians were killed when Hamas militants conducted a series of attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

Here’s what we know about the victims:

Vivian Silver

Vivian Silver, 74, was in her home on Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza border and talking on the phone with her son Yonatan Zeigen when they learned of the incursion by Hamas into Israel.

“We couldn’t grasp the incapability of the Israeli army to defend the civilians … we started to say goodbye because we realized this is probably our last words to each other,” Zeigen later told a news conference organized by the Jerusalem Press Club.

He said they shifted their conversations to text messages so his mother could stay silent, and someone broke into her home. They said they loved one another before the messages stopped coming.

Zeigen said he had received information that she was taken hostage, and her phone had been geolocated in Gaza.

On Monday, his brother Chen Zeigen confirmed their mother’s death. He said Israeli authorities told him the remains found earlier in the kibbutz had been identified as Silver.

He said his mother was born in Winnipeg and moved to Israel in 1974.

She dedicated her life to peacebuilding and fostering understanding between Israelis and Palestinians, he added.

She also volunteered to help children in Gaza access medical care in Israel.

Tiferet Lapidot

Tiferet Lapidot, 22, was a few days shy of her 23rd birthday and attending a music festival when the Hamas attack began.

Her cousin Oran Zlotnik remembered Lapidot as a charismatic and compassionate person who had travelled the world, taught in Africa and spent time in Australia before she returned to Israel in the fall.

Her uncle Harel Lapidot said she called her mother the morning of the attack to say she was hiding in a bush and to ask whether she should flee. Her cellphone was later tracked to the Gaza Strip, leading family to believe she was being held hostage. They then mounted a campaign to secure her freedom.

Zlotnik said that when the cellphone of one of Lapidot’s friends, confirmed deceased, was also traced to Gaza, the family realized it was possible she wasn’t a hostage.

Harel Lapidot said his niece’s body was later identified and the family held a funeral.

“We know for a fact they were hunted,” he said. “They ran away and they were hunted and killed.”

Tiferet Lapidot was an Israeli citizen but her family was from Canada, including her father, Ohad, who was born in Saskatchewan.

Harel Lapidot thanked the Jewish community in Canada and MPs who had reached out to help and offer support. The family had a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly while she was in Israel.

Netta Epstein

Israeli-Canadian Netta Epstein, 21, died when his home, Kibbutz Kfar Aza, came under attack.

His mother, Ayelet Shachar-Epstein, said he loved life. She learned the circumstances of his death from text messages he sent her in the moments before he was killed, and from his fiancée, Irene Shavit, who survived.

Netta Epstein was inside a safe room with Shavit, and he jumped on a grenade thrown in by the attackers.

Shachar-Epstein, who also lost her mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law in the attacks, described it as a terrorist invasion.

She said her son, who had worked with special needs youth, had returned home two months earlier after completing military service.

He was born in Montreal and was a Canadian citizen. Shachar-Epstein said many members of the family still live in that city.

Shir Georgy

Israeli Canadian Shir Georgy, 22, was killed by Hamas militants who ambushed the music festival near Kibbutz Re’im.

Georgy’s aunt Michal Bouganim confirmed the death.

“We are currently a mess, heartbroken,” Bouganim said in a Facebook message.

Bouganim shared a 22-second clip on her social media in which a terrified Georgy was seen sitting on a floor, with her back against a wall and surrounded by other festival attendees — some of them injured.

Georgy’s funeral was held in Israel.

Adi Vital-Kaploun

Adi Vital-Kaploun, 33, was killed by Hamas militants in her kibbutz near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, said the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.

The group’s CEO made a statement on behalf of Vital-Kaploun’s family, saying the dual citizen has a large extended family in the Ottawa area.

The family said she died a hero, after convincing her killers to spare her two young children and warning her father and husband to stay hidden during the attack.

“Adi was a beautiful woman that brought love and lightness to the people around her, but also she was very focused and determined to make a beautiful life for her family,” her cousin-in-law Aaron Smith said in an interview.

The family said she was an amazing mother and wife, always bringing love and laughter to their household.

She was also a talented dancer, saxophonist and basketball player.

After completing her master’s degree in engineering, Vital-Kaploun excelled in her cybersecurity career, they said.

“We are mourning trying to process this unconscionable act of terrorism in her kibbutz and across the country,” said the family, adding that they wish her memory to be “a blessing.”

Ben Mizrachi

Canadian Ben Mizrachi was one of at least 260 people gunned down by Hamas militants at the music festival in southern Israel.

Mizrachi, 22, from Vancouver, was described as “larger than life with a big personality” in a statement by his former high school in B.C.

Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, said Mizrachi was about to start university in Israel after serving with the country’s national defence force.

Hilit Nurick, a home economics teacher at King David High School in Vancouver, remembered Mizrachi as a “kind, wonderful, and community-minded” young man who had a positive influence on everyone around him.

Nurick said she and Mizrachi once put a large event together for more than 100 people at school.

“He was in charge of making Moroccan-style spicy fish stew. He brought his mother’s recipe and shared it with everyone and taught us how to make it,” said Nurick. “He was incredible, just an incredible human being.”

Alexandre Look

Alexandre Look, who had recently celebrated his 33rd birthday, was among those killed while attending the musical festival.

Look, who lived in Montreal with his family before moving to Mexico, died a hero, his dad said in a Facebook post.

“Like a true warrior he left as a hero wanting to protect the people he was with,” Alain Haim Look said.

Friend Lior Horovitz described him as a “once-in-a-lifetime person” who became like family during their five-year friendship.

In a phone interview from a town outside Tel Aviv, she said she and her boyfriend met Alexandre Look in Mexico. They became fast friends and would organize their vacations to meet up, either in Mexico or Israel.

He was a proud Jewish Canadian and a generous person who would do anything for his friends, she said.

“He’s a person who loves people,” she said. “He’s the guy that’s always going to help others, especially if they are Jewish.”