Militants stand guard around the stage as Yahya Sinwar, the Palestinian leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, makes a rally appearance days after a cease-fire was reached following an 11-day war between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, Monday, May 24, 2021, in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Militants stand guard around the stage as Yahya Sinwar, the Palestinian leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, makes a rally appearance days after a cease-fire was reached following an 11-day war between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, Monday, May 24, 2021, in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Canadian troops, Mounties get front row seats to Israeli-Palestinian clashes

Twenty-three Canadian troops and three Mounties are part of a U.S.-led mission, first launched in 2005

A handful of Canadian Armed Forces members and RCMP officers have had front row seats over the past two weeks as protests and violence have rocked parts of Israel and the Gaza Strip, leaving scores of people dead.

The 23 Canadian troops and three Mounties are part of a U.S.-led mission, first launched in 2005 and based in East Jerusalem, whose aim is to train Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.

Brig.-Gen. Jeannot Boucher, the commander of Task Force Jerusalem, says the Canadians represent the largest contingent in the mission, which includes about 20 Americans and smaller numbers of British, Dutch and Turkish trainers.

“We work primarily with the Palestinian Authority security forces in trying to build capability,” Boucher said in a recent interview. “We spend most of the time trying to facilitate co-ordination between the Palestinian Authority security forces and the Israeli Defence Force.”

Yet the Canadians have been largely confined to their compound and forced to work remotely since clashes between protesters and Israeli police broke out in East Jerusalem a few weeks ago over the threatened eviction of Palestinian families.

The focal point of the protests has been Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood located only about 200 metres from where the Canadians are based. Hundreds of people gathered there most recently on Saturday to protest the planned evictions.

“There’s been protests that the Israeli security forces have countered with a mix of stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas,” said Boucher. “So obviously, we’re able to see that play on a nightly basis.”

Clashes over Sheikh Jarrah this month precipitated fresh fighting between Israeli forces and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza and is a listed terror group in Canada, with the two sides launching airstrikes and rocket attacks against each other.

A ceasefire was declared on Friday after 11 days of fighting that killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 Israelis.

East Jerusalem, which is currently controlled by Israel but whose ownership is claimed by the Palestinians, was largely spared from attack. But Boucher said air-raid sirens did go off on one occasion, sending the Canadians and others scrambling for cover.

The training mission does not work in Gaza but rather in the West Bank, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority under Hamas rival Fatah. Despite being largely confined to their compound, Boucher added, the Canadians have continued to work remotely.

While Boucher described the tensions in the area as palpable, he suggested the relative calm in the West Bank is evidence the training mission is having an impact as security forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority work with Israeli counterparts.

“If you look at Area A, which is the one controlled by the Palestinian Authority security forces, things have been relatively calm and under control,” he said.

“The relationship between Palestinian Authority security forces and the co-ordination with the Israeli Defense Force is happening on a 24/7 basis right now. And I would argue that’s probably the thing that is keeping violence from erupting in Area A in the West Bank.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

Painting by Dave Davies from Shaver’s Bench facing Teck Trail.
Happy 120th Birthday to the City of Trail!

The town of Trail Creek- or Trail Creek Landing - was incorporated as a city on June 14, 1901.

Cropped photo: Silver Screen Drive-in will be in the upper parking lot of Waneta Plaza.
Summer drive-in returns to Trail unveiling blockbuster movies

PHOTOS: Scroll to bottom for a trip down memory lane to the Auto Vue Drive-In

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read