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

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

CVRD Area E director Alison Nicholson, right, hiked two hours to Waterfall Camp at the Fairy Creek watershed along with Comox town councillor Nicole Minion and Comox Valley Regional District director Daniel Arbour to meet with old-growth logging activists on Monday, June 7. (Submitted)
Cowichan Valley regional director visits Fairy Creek protest camps

‘They clearly communicated that they are committed to what they are doing’

Tim Wilkinson, who will attempt a double anvil triathlon on Vancouver Island on July 3, poses with his training partner, Shadow, who has been dragged up and down the Nanaimo Parkway many times. (Submitted)
Vancouver Island triathlete takes on ‘double anvil’ for charity

7.6km swim, 360km bike ride, and 84.4km run, all within 36 hours

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Most Read