Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is looking into sanctions against Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been accused of attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the territory.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued financial sanctions against Israelis living in illegal settlements. Washington says the sanctioned individuals are connected to “escalating violence” against Palestinians.
“We are looking at sanctions on extremist settlers,” Trudeau told reporters Friday after an unrelated announcement in Waterloo, Ont., where he offered no update on a Canadian missing in the Gaza Strip.
“Settler violence in the West Bank is absolutely unacceptable and puts at risk peace (and) stability in the region, and the path toward the two-state solution that is absolutely essential.”
He was referring to Canada’s longstanding policy of advocating for a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The American penalties unveiled Thursday aim to block four people from using the U.S. financial system and bar American citizens from dealing with them. Washington has said it may list more settlers.
Last December, Canada was among 14 countries that condemned “extremist settlers, which are terrorizing Palestinian communities.”
Attacks have intensified during the Israel-Hamas war. Palestinian authorities say some Palestinians have been killed, and rights groups say settlers have torched cars and attacked several small Bedouin communities, forcing evacuations.
“Israel, as the occupying power, must protect the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank,” reads the 14 countries’ Dec. 15 statement.
Groups advocating for Palestinians, such as Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, are calling for Canada to sanction not just settlers but the senior governmental officials who are encouraging them.
For example, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said this week that the U.S. should not have sanctioned “the heroic settlers” in the West Bank.
The group Justice For All Canada said Ottawa needs to use sanctions and diplomatic pressure to clamp down on settler violence and sweeping detention rules Israel has enacted during the war in both Gaza and the West Bank.
“The time for vague and tepid statements and half-measures is over,” Ganiyat Sadiq, an activist with the group, said Friday on Parliament Hill.
Trudeau offered no update Friday on the case of Mansour Shouman, a Canadian citizen in Gaza who was documenting humanitarian efforts in the Gaza Strip during the war.
Shouman’s contacts overseas say they lost touch with him roughly two weeks ago, and claim that eyewitnesses saw Israeli military officials take him away.
The Israeli embassy in Ottawa said Friday it’s aware of the reports and is looking into what information it can share about Shouman.
Trudeau would not say whether he has spoken about the case with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“All levels within our government are fully seized with this. We are engaged with all partners, including the Israeli government,” he said.
“We are following up as necessary in an extraordinarily active way to determine what happened and how we can help this individual.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly spoke to the Mansour family on Thursday, and her office says officials are in touch with Israeli officials and regional non-governmental organizations.
Shouman previously worked as an oil and gas consultant in Calgary.
He appeared on a list of foreigners approved to leave Gaza on Nov. 7, but he opted to stay behind in Gaza when his family left, citing a duty to document the war.
His wife and five children left that day for Abu Dhabi, where his mother resides.