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

A concept rendering of the proposed seven-unit, two-storey development at 1129 Riverside Ave. in Sicamous. (District of Sicamous graphic)
Proposed luxury development in Sicamous sparks parking concerns

Seven-unit commercial-residential building planned for Riverside Avenue

The Shaw Centre and the SASCU Recreation Centre are the two largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions on City of Salmon Arm properties. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon staff surprised COVID not cause of drop in greenhouse gas emissions

2020 sees emissions on city-owned properties decrease well below 2019 totals

Shuswap Litas and Son of Stomp head out from uptown Askew’s parking lot on Thursday, June 10, some with teddy bears and stuffies, to ride to Pierre’s Point by Adams Lake community hall to show their support for band members in the wake of the confirmation of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap bike clubs ride to support Indigenous communities

Motorcyclists go to Pierre’s Point in solidarity with bands in wake of residential school findings

Interior Health is offering mobile vaccination clinics for the first dose only of COVID-19 vaccine in the Shuswap from June 15 to June 19h. (Interior Health image)
First-dose vaccinations for COVID-19 offered via mobile clinics in Shuswap

Clinic in Salmon Arm scheduled for June 15, other clinics in Sorrento, Malakwa, Chase

The price per litre of regular gasoline was at 145.9 cents at several gas stations in downtown Salmon Arm on June 11, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Salmon Arm Observer)
Gas prices pumped up in Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Price spikes from 131.9 to as high as 145.9 cents per litre

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

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

Most Read