UN rejects Canadian push to call out "deliberate cruelty" of Hamas attacks

WASHINGTON — A Canadian-led effort to formally condemn Hamas for the "deliberate cruelty" of its deadly Oct. 7 attacks on Israel went down to defeat Friday as the United Nations instead endorsed a call for a humanitarian pause in hostilities.

On the second day of an emergency session of the UN General Assembly, delegates debated the language of a draft resolution calling for a "truce" to allow aid to enter the Gaza Strip and trapped civilians to escape.

But the resolution, introduced by the UN's 22-nation Arab coalition, made no mention of Hamas, the attacks or the tactics employed by a group that has long been considered a terrorist organization by Canada and the U.S., among others.

Bob Rae, Canada's permanent UN envoy, sought to rectify that with an amendment that "unequivocally rejects and condemns" the attacks while demanding the "immediate and unconditional" safe release of all hostages.

Jordan's ambassador, Mahmoud Hmoud, dismissed the amendment as an effort to "whitewash" Israel's response: a relentless and ongoing campaign of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, widely seen as a precursor to a ground offensive.

"We in this assembly have an obligation to name two things not mentioned in the draft resolution," Rae said in his impassioned response in the UN's cavernous assembly hall.

"The organization that bears responsibility for those events and its consequences, and the deliberate cruelty of the murders, and the hostage-taking, that is still underway.

"Our amendment does just that. No more and no less."

In the end, the amendment failed, unable to garner the required two-thirds majority of votes in the General Assembly. The vote saw 88 members in favour, and 55 against, with 23 abstentions.

The resolution itself passed by a margin of 120-14.

Canada was among the 45 nations that abstained from the final vote after the amendment failed to pass. Gilad Erdan, Israel's UN emissary, left little doubt about his feelings when it was over.

"The spectacle we just saw proves beyond a doubt that the UN is committed — sadly, tragically — not to preventing, but ensuring further atrocities," he said.

"We saw exactly what (Hamas) dreams of doing to every Israeli and Jew and we will not sit idly by to let them re-arm and commit such atrocities again. We won't, just as every single other member state in this room wouldn't."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada supports the idea of "humanitarian pauses" to allow aid into the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of civilians and foreign nationals.

Also Friday, the federal government said it would match up to $10 million worth of public donations made to the Humanitarian Coalition's Gaza Humanitarian Emergency Appeal between Oct. 7 and Nov. 12.

"Canadians believe in helping others in times of need," International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said in a statement.

"This is why we are joining forces with Canadians in supporting our partners on the ground that are providing urgent, life-saving assistance to those most severely impacted by this humanitarian crisis."

A major crisis is now blooming in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory that's home to 2.3 million people, many of whom now face a rapidly escalating disaster, exacerbated by shortages of food, water and fuel.

Earlier Friday, U.S. envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield called it "outrageous" that the resolution didn't call out Hamas by name, nor mention the fact that the group is currently holding more than 200 hostages.

"These are omissions of evil, and they give cover to and they empower Hamas's brutality. No member state should allow that to happen," Thomas-Greenfield said.

"That is why we have co-sponsored an amendment put forward by Canada that corrects these glaring omissions."

The Israeli military said Friday that its ground forces were "expanding their activity" in the Gaza Strip with the prospect of a full-on ground invasion of the besieged territory looming ever larger by the day.

Military officials said the ongoing aerial bombardments were targeting Hamas's sprawling network of underground tunnels and other targets, while hundreds of thousands of troops have been amassing along the border with Gaza.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2023.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press