Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says Canadians in Gaza will be allowed to leave in the “coming days” as Israel continues its attacks in the Hamas-controlled territory following the militant group’s deadly Oct. 7 attack.
Some 450 Canadians and their family members are in the region and have expressed a desire to leave, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said in an update Thursday.
Foreign nationals and Palestinians have been gathered near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt for weeks, as Israel carries out airstrikes and a ground offensive against Hamas in retaliation for the militant group’s surprise and deadly attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
“I spoke with my Israeli counterpart @elicoh1 (Foreign Affairs Minister Eli Cohen) and received assurances that Canadians and their families will be able to leave Gaza beginning in the coming days,” Joly said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Thursday night.
“My Egyptian counterpart confirmed their cooperation. GAC will communicate the latest information directly with Canadians.”
GAC said it has plans in place to receive Canadians once they cross Rafah to provide any support necessary, including documentation and onward travel to Canada.
“We have a team of consular agents on the ground nearby, who are ready to move to the border as quickly as possible once we receive the final approval from the local authorities to do so,” the department said.
“As of now, the Government of Egypt is only allowing foreign embassies to be on site at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing once their residents are confirmed to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip. We continue to work with our allies and stakeholders to ensure the success of this operation.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Bill Blair echoed Joly’s comments on Friday.
“We are working with all of our regional officials and our allies to make sure that Canadians come out to safety hopefully in the coming days,” Trudeau told reporters in Washington.
“We’ve been there from the very beginning for people leaving the West Bank, for people leaving Israel since Oct. 7. We will continue to be there to help Canadians and their families get to safety.”
Blair told reporters in Ottawa he believes priorities have been placed upon the evacuation of the injured and citizens from countries that have few people in the area.
“We’re working very hard on it and we understand its importance and urgency for those people and for their families,” he said.
Israeli authorities say than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. In addition, around 240 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the militant group.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry claims Israel’s military response has killed more than 9,000 Palestinians to date.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to press for a humanitarian pause in the fighting. Humanitarian pauses are different from ceasefires, which include a formal agreement to stop hostilities between the parties involved in a conflict.
Blinken was in the region for the second time in less than a month as Washington has sought to balance support for Israel in the aftermath of the Hamas attack with efforts to reduce the toll of the conflict on civilians.
“At the same time let’s just make clear, how Israel does this matters,” he said.
“It is very important when (it) comes to (the) protection of civilians who are caught in the crossfire of Hamas’s making, that everything be done to protect them and to bring assistance to those who so desperately need it, who are not in any way responsible for what happened on Oct. 7.”
Israel has said it does not target civilians but that Hamas deliberately embeds itself among the civilian population in Gaza, raising the risks of civilian casualties from strikes on the militant group.
— with files from Reuters