Credits: REUTERS/Darren Whiteside
HALIFAX -- The Canadian military could take part in an effort to evacuate Canadians in the Middle East should the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalate to a level that warrants it.
On Sunday, Reuters reported that at least 11 Palestinian civilians, including four children, were killed in what Hamas said was an Israeli air strike on a Gaza apartment building, the highest death toll in a single incident in five days of fighting. For their part, Gaza militants launched dozens of rockets into Israel and targeted its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for a fourth day.
"Six years ago the Canadian Forces was involved in a whole of government evacuation. One thing I have come to know and appreciate about the Department of National Defence is there is constant planning...and preparing for whatever inevitabilities may come. We know the situation in Israel is dire," Defence Minister Peter MacKay said during an exclusive interview with Sun News Network on Sunday morning. MacKay was attending the fourth annual Halifax International Security Forum which began on Friday and wrapped up Sunday.
In 2006, Hezbollah militants based in Lebanon conducted a raid into Israel killing several Israeli soldiers and capturing two, which prompted Israel to launch air attacks in Lebanese territory. Canada responded by evacuating 14,000 Canadians in Lebanon.
Members of the Canadian Forces are currently stationed across the Middle East.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas has been a central topic at the International Security Forum, where hundreds of security experts and academics are gathering. MacKay says the meeting is in Halifax in part because it is home to the East Coast navy with one of best ports in North America.
The Syrian conflict also weighed on the forum agenda. U.S. Senator John McCain called the American response to Syria "shameful" and is urging the U.S. to intervene with a no-fly zone.
"Everything bad that was predicted if we intervened with a no-fly zone has now happened because we didn't intervene," McCain said during a news conference at the event.
Two topics added to the agenda this year included the rise of China as a new power and cyber warfare. There was also a last-minute panel session to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict.