Canadian Jewish leaders: We won't be scared away by attack

Canadian Jewish leaders tour recall the incident near Gaza border which wounded Dichter's aide.

dichter shooting 24 88 (photo credit: David M. Weinberg)
dichter shooting 24 88
(photo credit: David M. Weinberg)
Friday's sniper attack on the Gaza border targeting a senior delegation of Canadian Jews "did not scare us away," said Moshe Ronen, chairman of the Canada-Israel Committee and head of the 15-member delegation. The Friday morning incident saw the group standing at a point on the Gaza border fence near Sderot when it came under fire from a Palestinian sniper. Mati Gill, who, together with his boss Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, was accompanying the group, was hit by the gunman. Gill underwent surgery over the weekend and is expected to be released from Barzilai Hospital within a few days. Once the shooting began, Ronen recalled, "We were told by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) guards to lie down on the sand. Within approximately a minute the IDF started firing back. Within 20 to 30 minutes IDF troops had evacuated the delegation and the minister from the border area." Following the shooting, the group insisted that their tour of the area continue, said Ronen. "We even continued the visit in Sderot. We met Sderot residents and had lunch in the town." The experience "wasn't pleasant," he added in clear understatement. "There were frightening moments. But we are calm and continuing on our visit in Israel," slated to end Tuesday. Indeed, the experience only strengthened the commitment of the CIC, which represents the organized Canadian Jewish community on issues of Canadian-Israeli relations, "to continue bringing groups to Sderot. We didn't just express our solidarity; we tasted the situation itself, what the people there go through every day. Visiting here is important to our efforts to explain what's going on." The incident sent reverberations through the Canadian political leadership over the weekend. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Ronen from Europe within hours of the incident to express concern for the delegation's safety and solidarity with the Sderot visit. Also Friday, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler spoke in Canada's House of Commons condemning the incident. "Today a Canadian delegation, including constituents of mine, was the target of deliberate sniper fire while visiting Sderot," he said, adding that Sderot "has endured seven years of relentless rocket attacks, targeting schools, synagogues, playgrounds and day care centers, with the objective of killing Jews because they are Jews." Cotler, who recently visited the Negev town, called on the international community to condemn the regular terror attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. Ronen even received a call from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shortly before the start of Shabbat on Friday evening. "The prime minister inquired if the group was doing well. He thanked us for our efforts and for our visit to Sderot," recalled Ronen. The CIC is funded by Canada's Jewish federations and advocates closer ties between the two countries.