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Canada urges halt to escalating violence as Israel suspected of airstrike on Iran

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, (left to right) German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa attend a meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, Italy, Friday, April 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Gregorio Borgia, Pool

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again called for the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East Friday, following an airstrike in Iran widely suspected of being a retaliatory attack by Israel.

"Everything needs to be done to prevent further escalation in the region, to get back on a track toward supporting people in the region," Trudeau told reporters in Victoria.

Canada condemns Iran's "absolutely irresponsible" missile and drone attack on Israel over the weekend, Trudeau said.

The two countries have been in a proxy war for decades, but Iran struck Israel directly for the first time Saturday in retaliation for what it believed was an Israeli attack on its embassy in Syria.

Earlier this week, the Liberals joined the U.S. in urging Israel to not lash out in retaliation, noting Israeli officials believe they thwarted 99 per cent of the hundreds of weapons Iran hurled at their country.

Western allies argued any retaliation by Israel could cause the conflict to spread beyond current flashpoints in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would nonetheless strike back against Iran.

Trudeau's government took note of reports that Israel was behind a drone attack on a major airbase in Iran, but he stopped short Friday of condemning Israel.

Instead, Trudeau again called for more humanitarian aid to flow into the Gaza Strip, for the militant group Hamas — which Ottawa deems a terrorist organization — to lay down its arms and release Israeli hostages. 

He reiterated Canada's decades-long call for a two-state solution, which he described as "a peaceful, secure, democratic Israel living alongside a peaceful, secure, democratic Palestinian state."

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly also co-signed a lengthy statement that reiterates those points Friday, while touching on attacks on ships off the coast of Yemen.

The statement was issued in Italy by foreign ministers from the G7, which represents like-minded, wealthy countries such as the United States and France.

Conservative foreign-affairs critic Michael Chong suggested the best way for Canada to advance peace in the region would be to undercut funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran's army.

"The biggest threat to peace in the region is the regime in Iran," Chong said, referencing the country's support of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis. 

Conservatives have called for the IRGC to be listed as a terrorist organization in Canada, and the Liberals say they are studying the possibility. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2024.

— With files from Sarah Ritchie

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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