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Canada’s Joly says plan for citizens in Gaza to exit to Egypt was ‘cancelled’

Click to play video: 'Deal secured to allow Canadians to leave West Bank, planned evacuation from Gaza cancelled: Joly'
Deal secured to allow Canadians to leave West Bank, planned evacuation from Gaza cancelled: Joly
WATCH - Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Saturday that a deal has been secured for Canadians to leave the West Bank after earlier confirming that a plan to evacuate Canadians from Gaza ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive against Hamas was cancelled due to violence at the Egyptian border – Oct 14, 2023

LATEST UPDATES AS OF 4 P.M. ET:

  • Plan for Canadians to leave Gaza at Egyptian border crossing Saturday was cancelled due to violence, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says. Evacuation for Canadians in the West Bank set for Tuesday.
  • Israeli military preparing offensive using air, ground and naval forces: AP
  • A fourth Canadian missing since the Hamas attack has died, according to their family.

A plan for Canadians to leave Gaza ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive against Hamas was cancelled Saturday due to violence at the Egyptian border, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says.

The Israeli military said in a Saturday statement it was preparing a coordinated offensive in Gaza using air, ground and naval forces, The Associated Press reported.

“We are going to broadly attack Gaza City very soon,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a nationally broadcast address.

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Click to play video: 'Israeli-Canadians join fight against Hamas after call for 300,000 reservists to return'
Israeli-Canadians join fight against Hamas after call for 300,000 reservists to return

It was not clear how many Palestinians remained in north Gaza by Saturday afternoon, said Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. On Friday, Israel gave the population of the northern half of the Gaza Strip – about one million people – until Saturday morning to move south.

Hamas – the militant group that controls Gaza and that carried out a surprise attack in Israel on Oct. 7 that spurred Israel’s current response – has urged people to stay in their homes, calling the Israeli directions to leave “psychological warfare.”

Here is what you need to know this Saturday.

Palestinians flee northern Gaza

Egyptian officials had said the southern Rafah crossing where its border meets Gaza would open later Saturday for the first time in days to allow foreigners out. Joly said 160 Canadians and their relatives have been trying to secure safe passage.

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Joly added she had authorization on the part of the Israeli foreign minister that Canadians would be able to leave Gaza. She said she was set to speak with her Egyptian counterpart later in the day.

Families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with possessions crowded a main road heading away from Gaza City as Israeli airstrikes continued to hammer the 40-kilometre-long territory. Supplies of food, fuel and drinking water have been running low because of a complete Israeli siege.

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The United Nations said Friday that evacuating everyone within 24 hours was “impossible.”

An Israeli armoured personnel carrier (APC) heads towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Ariel Schalit/AP

Joly also announced that Canada had struck a deal with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan for Canadians in the West Bank to be evacuated. Roughly 335 Canadians are in that area, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) officials said Friday.

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Those evacuations would take place by bus, and Ottawa hopes to have them begin as early as Tuesday.

Global Affairs Canada said Friday it is aware of more than 6,588 Canadians in Israel, with 3,369 having reached out to officials since Saturday. There are still 600 Canadians whose location is not clear and GAC is reaching out, they said. The agency continues to follow up on the cases of missing Canadians.

Israel said its troops have conducted temporary raids into Gaza to battle militants and hunted for traces of some 150 people – including men, women and children – who were abducted during Hamas’ assault on southern Israel.

It said Saturday it killed two Hamas commanders who were behind the deadly rampage. Israel has called up roughly 360,000 reserves and massed troops and tanks along the Gaza border.

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas conflict: Gaza’s complex tunnel network raises questions ahead of potential ground invasion'
Israel-Hamas conflict: Gaza’s complex tunnel network raises questions ahead of potential ground invasion

The Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday that more than 2,200 people have been killed in the territory, including 724 children and 458 women. The Hamas assault killed more than 1,300 people on the Israeli side, most of them civilians, and roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, the Israeli government said. A fourth Canadian missing since the Hamas attack was also confirmed to have died, according to their family.

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U.S. authorizes non-emergency staff to leave Israel

The U.S. State Department said Saturday it authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and eligible family members from the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the U.S. branch office in Tel Aviv “due to the unpredictable security situation in Israel.”

It is not clear if a similar authorization will be issued for Canada. Global News has reached out to GAC.

Iran’s foreign minister also called on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza, warning conflict might expand to other parts of the Middle East if the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon joins the battle.

Israel estimates Hezbollah has some 150,000 rockets and missiles, including precision-guided missiles that can hit anywhere in Israel. The group, which has thousands of battle-hardened fighters who participated in Syria’s 12-year conflict, also has different types of military drones.

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Palestinians stand by a building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. Hatem Ali/AP

Hezbollah fighters have been on full alert along Lebanon’s borders with Israel following Hamas’ attack. Hamas has received support from Iran, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said there is no “direct evidence” Iran was involved in the Hamas attack one week ago.

The possibility of a new front in Lebanon brings back bitter memories of a vicious month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 that ended in a stalemate and a tense detente between the two sides.

Click to play video: 'Israel-Gaza conflict: Fears grow for hostages held by Hamas as ground invasion looms'
Israel-Gaza conflict: Fears grow for hostages held by Hamas as ground invasion looms

Trudeau convenes Incident Response Group

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened the Incident Response Group – a body with ministers and senior officials – to discuss the conflict.

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According to a readout, they talked about Canadian consular support and the ongoing assisted departure of Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members from the region.

Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip are seen from Ashkelon, Israel, Friday, Oct.13, 2023. Tsafrir Abayov/AP

“The prime minister unequivocally condemned Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and reiterated Canada’s full support for Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with international law, noting that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations,” the readout from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The prime minister and ministers considered the latest developments, shared their profound concern for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian life, and underscored the importance of Canada’s close engagement with partners and allies in the international community, including those in the region. The prime minister also reinforced the importance of ensuring the safety of all Canadians.”

— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters

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