Trudeau raises concern over Israel's planned Rafah offensive

FILE PHOTO: Canada's PM Trudeau meets Alberta Premier Smith, in Calgary
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By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) -Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday expressed concern around Israel's planned offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in a call with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to push into Rafah in Gaza's southern tip, where more than half of the territory's 2.3 million residents have been sheltering to escape an Israeli assault farther north.

U.S. President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu on Monday that an Israeli military operation in Rafah would deepen anarchy in Gaza and they agreed that teams from each side would meet in Washington to discuss it, according to the White House.

KEY QUOTES

"The Prime Minister shared his concern around Israel's planned offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and the severe humanitarian implications for all civilians taking refuge in the area," Trudeau's office said in a statement.

Canadian lawmakers were set on Monday to vote on a non-binding motion backing Palestinian statehood that drew condemnation from Israel.

Trudeau's office added he "underscored the importance of renewing efforts toward a two-state solution."

Commenting on the Canadian parliamentary motion in a post on X after the call with Trudeau, Gantz said "unilateral recognition (of a Palestinian state), particularly following the 7th of October, is counter-productive."

CONTEXT

Israel's military assault on Hamas-governed Gaza has displaced nearly its entire population, caused a starvation crisis, flattened most of the enclave, and killed over 31,000, according to Gaza's health ministry, while also leading to accusations of genocide being probed in the World Court.

Extreme food shortages in parts of Gaza have exceeded famine levels, the global hunger monitor says.

Israel denies genocide charges and says it is acting in self defense after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel from Palestinian Islamist Hamas fighters that killed some 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)