Canada must play its part in opposing a Rafah ground invasion by suspending all arms transfers to Israel now

Today in Rafah, despite the chaos, continued bombardment, the fear and the ongoing displacement, UNRWA teams are still working and delivering critical food supplies.


Gaza sitrep of dead and injured

As of 5 pm EST on 13 February 2024, at least 28,473 people have been killed and 69,147 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s October 7 attack.

UN Report on War on Gaza

According to a new report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia entitled War on Gaza: twenty-first century’s deadliest 100 days?:

The ongoing war stands out as unprecedented in the scale of death, destruction, and suffering, with repercussions that will echo for generations to come.

Vignette of a war crime

The Washington Post reports that, according to the Red Crescent on Saturday, the body of Hind Rajab, the 6-year-old  Gazan missing for 12 days since losing touch with rescue workers after her family car was fired on in Gaza, has been found.

The ambulance dispatched to reach her was also shelled, and the two paramedics inside were killed. Hind, the sole survivor of the attack in Gaza City, reached emergency dispatchers by phone on January 29 and begged for hours to be rescued.

Dutch appeals court suspends transfer of F-35 parts to Israel

At last some good news amid the Gaza horror.

On 12 February an appeals court ordered the Dutch government to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, citing a clear risk of violations of international law.

In the words of Judge Bas Boele as he read out the ruling:

It is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law.

The Netherlands is home to one of three F-35 European regional warehouses. The exports must cease within seven days.

Oxfam Novib, Pax Nederland, and The Rights Forum filed the case in December. They argued the continued transfer of the aircraft parts makes the Netherlands complicit in possible war crimes being committed by Israel in its war with Hamas.

Human rights groups in the United Kingdom have brought a similar suit against their government, attempting to block weapons exports to Israel. The case has yet to be decided.

Wallonia, Belgium suspends arms export licences to Israel

Prior to the Dutch ruling, Wallonia, a French region in another NATO ally, Belgium, and the centre of its arms industry, suspended arms export licences to Israel, citing the ICJ ruling and the

unacceptable deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

EU’s Foreign Policy Chief suggests US cut military aid to Israel

Reuters reports that on 12 February 2024 European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made a thinly veiled call on the US to cut arms supplies to Israel due to high civilian casualties in its war in Gaza, stating, in reference to President’s Biden’s concerns:

Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people being killed.

Canadian-Palestinian Coalition signals intention to sue GOC over arms exports to Israel

Canada too is facing potential legal action over its military goods and technology transfers to Israel since 7 October 2023.

By letter dated 28 January 2024 to Foreign Minister Joly, a coalition of Canadian and Palestinian entities, including Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR), assert that

the Export and Import Permits Act prevents Canada from issuing permits to Canadian companies to export military goods and technology to Israel due to the substantial risk that they could be used to commit serious violations of international law and serious acts of violence against women and children.

Backed by extensive evidence of the violations of international law being committed by Israel in the prosecution of its war in Gaza, the coalition asks that the Minister confirm that she and/or the Canadian government:

  • have canceled or suspended all permits (including general permits) to export or broker military goods or technology destined for Israel that were issued or active after 7 October 2023;
  • have denied all applications to export or broker military goods or technology destined for Israel that were received or assessed after 7 October 2023;
  • will issue no further permits to export or broker military goods or technology destined for Israel and/or where Israel is the end-user until such time as Israel ceases to violate international law as described in the attached Schedule;
  • will immediately prevent all transfer of military goods or technology that are assembled in a third state before being transferred to Israel as an end-user until such time as Israel ceases to violate international law as described in the attached Schedule; and
  • have removed or will immediately remove Israel from the Automatic Firearms Country Control List

The coalition has asked for a response from Canada confirming it has stopped this illegal activity within fourteen days,

failing which the coalition will consider its legal options.

Israel is the end-user of Canadian-made F-35 parts exported to US

The references to export permits “where Israel is the end user” and to military goods “that are assembled in a third state before being transferred to Israel as an end user” are particularly important, given the revelations in a report released by Project Ploughshares on 14 December 2023 entitled Fanning the Flames: The grave risk of Canada’s arms exports to Israel.

In the words of its author, Kelsey Gallagher:

Of particular significance is Canada’s supply of military components to the United States, some of which are later supplied to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). These Canadian-made components include some integrated into the Israeli F-35I Joint Strike Fighter, which has reportedly been utilized in the ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

RI President Peggy Mason comments:

If military goods merely stored in an EU warehouse cannot be exported by the Netherlands to Israel because of the “clear risk” of their use in Israeli war crimes, then how can Canada possibly justify its continued export of Canadian-made F-35 parts to the US where Israel is the end-user?

Open letter: CSO coalition urges Canada to stop arms transfers to Israel

By letter dated 5 February 2024, a large coalition of Canadian civil society organizations, including the Rideau Institute, sent an Open Letter to Foreign Minister Joly urging Canada to stop arms transfers to Israel.

The letter begins:

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, have profound concerns about the legal and humanitarian implications of Canada’s transfer of weapon systems to the government of Israel. These concerns have only been amplified following the January 26th provisional ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The coalition asserts that continued arms transfers to Israel violate Canada’s obligations under the Export and Import Permits Act and the Arms Trade Treaty given the

clear and substantial risk that Canadian arms transfers may be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

The letter also cites the January 26th provisional ruling by the ICJ that it was “plausible” Israel has committed acts that violate the Genocide Convention as a further reason for Canada to halt arms transfers to Israel, reminding the government that

All parties to the Genocide Convention, including Canada, have duties to ensure the prevention [of] and non-complicity in one of the most serious internationally wrongful acts.

The letter concludes:

Minister, we welcome Canada’s announced strong support for the “critical role” of the ICJ and commitment to abide by its rulings in the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel. However, the government of Canada cannot at the same time signal support for the ICJ, and adherence to its rulings, while continuing to arm those whom the ICJ has ruled are plausibly accused of genocide….

The letter was reopened on 12 February for further organizational signatures until the end of the day on 14 February 2024, and a follow-up note will be sent with the new signatures, drawing attention to the Dutch appeals court ruling.

Canadian military exports authorized to Israel since 7 October 2023 are at an all-time high

The extent of authorized Canadian military exports to Israel since 7 October 2023 was revealed by Alex Cosh in an explosive article entitled Trudeau Government Authorized $28.5 Million Of New Military Exports To Israel Since October (, 10 February 2024), from information released in an access to information (ATIP) request.

Alex Cosh elaborates on the significance of this figure:

The total value of the new permits authorized over a two-month period exceeds the 30-year annual record high of $26 million in Canadian military exports to Israel in 2021.

While the ATIP information does not indicate the exact nature of the weapons authorized for export to Israel, it does indicate the weapons categories, which include:

  • “bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges and related equipment and accessories, and specially designed components.”
  • “‘Aircraft’, ‘lighter-than-air vehicles’, ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ […] aero-engines and ‘aircraft’ equipment, related equipment, and components.”
  • $859,000 worth of permits covered items that included “ground vehicles and components,” and $7.3 million worth of permits covered “fire control, and related alerting and warning equipment.”

Minister Joly uses legally meaningless terms to describe these exports

I have not … approved any permits for weapons exports to Israel since October 7th and any permits issued since October 7th are for essentially non-lethal permits [sic ] … We abide by the UN Arms Trade Treaty and we take this responsibility very seriously. – FM Joly on 12 February 2023 in House of Commons

As the Cosh article discusses, and as Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJMPE) have extensively catalogued here and here, Foreign Minister Joly has repeatedly insisted that Canada has only exported “non-lethal” military goods to Israel since 7 October, a category that does not exist under either the Arms Trade Treaty or Canada’s Export and Import Permits Act.

RI President Peggy Mason comments:

So, to be clear, the obfuscation is on two fronts — the type of military equipment being transferred under export permits and the complete omission of Canadian military exports destined for Israel which are transferred via the United States without export permits, contrary to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Netanyahu’s plans for Gaza: ‘like smashing glass into smaller and smaller pieces’

After rejecting the ceasefire counterproposals from Hamas as “delusional”, Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, claiming “total victory” over Hamas was within “touching distance” and promising the “eternal disarmament of Gaza”.

In his commentary in the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor adds:

When asked by a reporter to further explain what “total victory” meant in the current context, Netanyahu invoked a chilling metaphor, citing how one smashes glass

into small pieces, and then you continue to smash it into even smaller pieces and you continue hitting them.

But no one should be surprised by this response. As Tom Stevenson writes in his searing analysis of Israel’s Gaza military operation in the London Review of Books:

From the beginning, Operation Iron Swords has been an all-out assault on a captive and overwhelmingly civilian population.

Next phase is ground invasion of Rafah

With almost 1.7 million Palestinians crammed into Rafah (a city with a prewar population of roughly 280,000), Netanyahu has vowed to extend Israel’s ground invasion to that city, maintaining that Rafah is the “last bastion” of Hamas, ordering the military to develop a “dual plan”, to evacuate civilians from Rafah and to defeat the remaining Hamas battalions believed to be located there.

In response, Agnes Callamard, head of Amnesty International, tweeted:

Evacuation?? BUT WHERE? There is nowhere to go to.

@amnesty is reiterating that Palestinians in Gaza are at grave risk of genocide. The international community has an obligation to act to prevent genocide.

International concern mounts for trapped Gazan civilians

The Guardian reported on 10 February that even the German government, heretofore staunchly in Israel’s court, is expressing concerns, with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, posting on X on Saturday:

An offensive by the Israeli army on Rafah would be a human catastrophe. The people in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air.

The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, said in a social media post, he was “deeply concerned” about the prospective offensive, adding:

The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out.

British opposition Labour leader Kier Starmer said:

There are over 1.4 million displaced Palestinians in Rafah and it is the gateway to aid for Gaza – an Israeli offensive there would be catastrophic. The fighting must stop now. We need a sustainable ceasefire.

UN will not be party to forced displacement of people in Gaza

On Sunday, 11 February 2024, Netanyahu continued to claim that Israel will provide “safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave”.  In addition, the New York Times reported that Israel is working on a ‘detailed plan’ to move Gazans north.

In response, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, stated that the United Nations

“will not be party” to any forced displacement of people. As it is, there is no place that is currently safe in Gaza.

In a reference to the northern and central areas of the Gaza Strip, which witnessed massive destruction as a result of Israel’s bombing campaign, the spokesperson added:

You can’t send people back to areas that are littered with unexploded ordnance, not to mention a lack of shelter.

Biden says he wants a “credible and executable plan” for safety of Gaza civilians

In a telephone conversation on Sunday, President Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu that

a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there.

We will examine that statement more closely after finishing the outline of relevant developments regarding Rafah.

Israel steps up air strikes in preparation for ground invasion killing hundreds

In the early hours of 12 February 2024, the Israeli military successfully rescued two Israeli hostages. The Guardian wrote:

At least 67 Palestinians were killed during the raid, according to the Gaza ministry of health, as Israeli aircraft bombarded the neighbourhood with bombs, and the high death toll will be seen as telling its own grim story in the ratio of dead to rescued.

It also underlines the enormous risk to civilian life in the event of an Israeli offensive against Rafah.

Hamas’ armed wing said on Monday that three of eight Israeli hostages who were seriously injured following Israeli airstrikes had died from their wounds.

South Africa seeks further intervention by the ICJ

South Africa has made an urgent request to the International Court of Justice to consider whether Israel’s plan to extend its offensive in Gaza into the city of Rafah requires additional emergency measures to protect Palestinians’ rights.

A statement by the South African presidency on this matter reads in part:

In a request submitted to the court yesterday (12 February 2024), the South African government said it was gravely concerned that the unprecedented military offensive against Rafah, as announced by the State of Israel, has already led to and will result in further large-scale killing, harm and destruction….

This would be in serious and irreparable breach both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court’s Order of 26 January 2024.

The ICJ has sometimes granted additional emergency measures when circumstances on the ground changed.

UN aid chief warns ground operation could lead to ‘slaughter in Gaza’

In an unusually strongly worded statement Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths warns:

Military operations in Rafah could lead to a slaughter in Gaza. They could also leave an already fragile humanitarian operation at death’s door.

Biden’s feeble and disingenuous efforts to rein in Netanyahu

 If the Israeli military repeats what it did in Gaza City and Khan Yunis, Rafah will be left as a smoldering ruin and the civilian death toll will skyrocket. – Daniel Larison

Daniel Larison of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft has written a critique of America’s latest alleged efforts to rein in Netanyahu entitled Biden’s calls for Israel to mind the laws appear feeble, and ignored (13 February 2024).

His article coincides with the US Senate passing the Biden administration’s long-delayed 95-billion-dollar aid bill for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel, although its fate in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is still uncertain. The bill contains $14 billion for Israel’s war with Hamas.

In contrast to unstinting military assistance to Israel, Larison writes of Biden’s “feeble” diplomatic efforts to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu:

The Biden administration issued a pro forma warning that the [Rafah ground] operation “should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there,” but this warning, like others before it, has no teeth because there is no reason to believe there will be any consequences if Netanyahu ignores it.

He adds:

Washington’s refusal to use its leverage has left the U.S. in the absurd position of enabling Israeli violations of international law while feebly asking for the violations to stop.

Underscoring his point, Reuters is reporting that talks involving the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar on a Gaza truce ended without a breakthrough on Tuesday.

What the US should do and what every responsible ally should be demanding it do

Larison concludes his commentary with the “dramatic change” in US policy that is needed regarding Israel and the war in Gaza:

The Biden administration needs to stop providing unconditional support for the war, it needs to restore funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that it wrongly stopped, and it needs to back up its previously empty warnings with serious penalties in the form of aid cutoffs and targeted sanctions on top officials if the Israeli government won’t halt the assault.

Beyond preventing the ground assault on Rafah, the U.S. should also be pressing Israel for a full and permanent ceasefire and a lifting of the blockade that has created famine conditions in Gaza.

Larison concludes:

These are all things that the U.S. should have done months ago, but there is still time to correct course and prevent the worst-case scenario. comments:

These steps are exactly what any responsible Western ally of the United States should already be demanding instead of acquiescing in a policy that is fundamentally at odds with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law.

Canada finally expresses concern over Rafah ground invasion

On 12 February 2024, Canada joined those urging Israel not to mount a ground invasion against Rafah, with Foreign Minister Joly telling reporters:

What the Netanyahu government is asking them to do, which is to leave again, is unacceptable. Because they have nowhere to go and so that’s why we need right now for the violence to stop.

She also reiterated Canadian calls for a sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages.

Joly said she would be holding talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday.

A Canadian “readout” of that meeting has one sentence on the Gaza war and makes no mention of the impending Israeli ground invasion:

Minister Joly and Secretary Blinken also discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict and the urgent need to secure the release of hostages, increase humanitarian aid into Gaza, and advance efforts towards lasting peace through a two-state solution.

Whither Canada?

Israel will not change course without the prospect of real consequences for its grossly illegal conduct of the war in Gaza. Canada has the means to impose such consequences by immediately suspending all transfers of military equipment to Israel.

We call on the Government of Canada to suspend all transfers of military goods to Israel directly or to Israel via the United States, including Canadian-made components exported to the US for integration into the Israeli F-35I Joint Strike Fighter.

 We reiterate our call for Canada to reinstate full funding to UNRWA immediately.



Click HERE to sign the parliamentary e-petition calling for an end to Canadian arms transfers to Israel.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: <  >

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly: < >

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen: < >

Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh: < >

Leader of the Conservative Party Pierre Poilievre: < >

Leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet: <>

Green Party Critic Elizabeth May: < >

And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.

 Photo credit: UNRWA, Wikipedia Commons (Israeli jet fighter), UNICEF. is a public outreach project of the Rideau Institute linking Canadians working together for peace. We depend on your donations as we accept no funding from government or industry to protect our independence. Thank you for your support…. 

Tags: "dual plan", Agnes Callamard, Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), Canada and CLAIHR letter to stop arms transfers to Israel, Dutch appeals court, duty to prevent genocide, Export and Import Permits Act, F-35 parts to Israel suspended, feeble Biden efforts, Hamas, International Court of Justice (ICJ), international law, Ishaan Tharoor, Netanyahu, Rafah ground invasion, risk of genocide, South Africa and ICJ, UN aid chief Martin Grifffiths, UNRWA, Wallonia, War crimes, war on Gaza