Mohammed Abed Agence France-Presse Rafah is the only exit for foreign nationals who wish leave the Gaza Strip, which has been under constant bombardment since October 7. In the photo, children sleep at the Rafah border post on Tuesday.
A total of 59 people linked to Canada finally managed to leave the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Ottawa confirmed, as the federal government works to get hundreds of Canadians out of the besieged Palestinian territory.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, confirmed earlier Tuesday that a first group of Canadians had managed to leave the Gaza Strip, in a video from Tokyo, where she was participating in a meeting of G7 foreign ministers to discuss the deadly month-long war between Israel and Hamas.
“I have some good news to share, a bit of a glimmer of hope in difficult times,” said Minister Joly in a video published on X. I know that families and friends have been waiting too long. »
The first group of Canadians left Gaza. Our team of officials welcomed them on the Egyptian side of the border and are providing them with support. pic.twitter.com/1ekZJDP5OI
— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) November 7, 2023
At the end of the day, Global Affairs Canada said that 59 Canadian residents permanent workers and their family members had crossed the Rafah border crossing into Egypt – a passage that countries, including Canada, have been demanding for weeks.
“Canada does not determine when and how many people can cross on a daily basis,” the ministry said in a press release late in the afternoon. As the situation remains fluid and unpredictable, Canadians should expect significant delays at the Rafah border crossing. »
The document states that Canadian officials are on the Egyptian side of the border to welcome Canadians and facilitate their transport to Cairo.
Those crossing the border are allowed to stay in Egypt for a maximum of three days.
Global Affairs Canada said in a statement Monday that the Israeli army had assured Canada that more than 400 of its citizens could cross the border “in the coming days”.
Tuesday's breakthrough came after Canada earlier told citizens stuck in the besieged Palestinian territory that they might be allowed out late last week, but the Rafah crossing was closed until Monday. by Israeli attacks.
The Gaza border authorities' evacuation list, as presented on a widely distributed Google spreadsheet, showed that about 20 people listed as Canadian citizens were eligible for an departure Tuesday, along with 60 other people linked to Canada.
Global Affairs said Canadians who were on the “approved crossing list” have been contacted, and Canadian officials are directly contacting people on the list who did not cross the border on Tuesday.
< p>The document also contains the names of other foreign nationals, from countries including France, the Philippines, Ukraine, Moldova, Germany and the United Kingdom, who have been granted permission to leave.
Still hundreds of Canadians to evacuate
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Tuesday that while the fact that the first Canadians have left is good news, “there are hundreds who have to go.”
He promised that his government will continue working “until all Canadians and their families are out of Gaza.”
Defense Minister Bill Blair told reporters “it is not anticipated that the military will be required” to return Canadians who escaped from Gaza to Ottawa because “there are commercial flights available.”
“A number of measures have already been put in place by our consular officers on site to provide the necessary support, shelter, food, arrangements and then assistance in organizing the transportation home,” he said.
Blair said Canada expects those fleeing Gaza to pay for their own plane ticket, but added that if people are unable to afford the cost, Global Affairs Canada can drawing on what he described as “provisions” to help them.
Canada sent military flights to Tel Aviv to help Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families leave Israel in the days following Hamas' surprise attacks on October 7, which left 1,400 Israelis dead and another 240 people taken hostage.
Israel responded by launching a month-long bombing campaign that, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, left more than 10,000 people dead. It says more than 40 percent of those killed were children. Canada has listed Hamas as a terrorist entity for more than two decades.
Mr. Blair defended the decision not to provide military assistance to Canadians leaving Palestinian territory, even though such aid was provided to those fleeing Israel.
He said Air Canada no longer served Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport following the attack, and significant limits were placed on the ability of commercial flights to operate.
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Mansour Shouman, a Canadian who is in Gaza, said Tuesday that his wife and five children, who were on the list, had received Monday evening a message from Global Affairs Canada informing them that they would be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing.
Mr. Shouman, who was also on the list but chose to stay in Gaza, said he hugged his wife and children at a hospital in southern Gaza, where they were sheltering. They left for the Egyptian border by taxi, he said.
He said he last heard from them when they sent him a message informing him that they had arrived at the Rafah post. And even though he thinks they made it across, he's still waiting for confirmation.
“Any father, any husband would definitely feel relief,” said Mr. Shouman, an engineer who lived in Canada for more than a decade before moving to Gaza with his family three years ago .
Mr. Shouman said the email sent to his family by Global Affairs indicated they would be allowed to stay in Egypt for a maximum of three days. The email stated that the Canadian government would help take the family to Cairo by bus, provide food, lodging and basic necessities during their stay, and assist with onward travel to Canada, at the family's expense .
Mr. Shouman explains that he decided to stay there to be able to help at the hospital. “I believe it is a religious and humanitarian obligation for me to stay and […] try to help the people here as much as possible,” he said. We need to think about the other 2.3 million civilians here. »
Tuesday morning in Ottawa, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said the government was “very encouraged” by this development. “This is the result of the work we have done in the region with our allies and friends,” he said on his way to the weekly Liberal cabinet meeting.
“I believe that this will create the momentum needed to get the rest of them out, now that we have worked out the arrangements for safe passage. »
With reporting from The Associated Press, Fakiha Baig in Toronto, and Laura Osman in Ottawa