Evacuations of Canadians from Gaza have begun, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says.
Joly said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday that the “first group” of Canadians left the territory as Israeli troops continued weeks of airstrikes and ground attacks following the deadly surprise attack by Hamas on Oct. 7.
Joly said Canadian officials have met the evacuated Canadians on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, where thousands of Palestinians and foreign nationals have gathered in an attempt to flee Gaza.
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Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said in an update Tuesday afternoon that 59 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members had crossed the border into Gaza. Earlier in the day, the agency had said in a statement 20 to 25 people were among the first group who had evacuated and that up to 80 citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members are expected to leave Gaza on Tuesday.
“Finally, the first group of Canadians were evacuated out of Gaza. They were met by Canadian diplomats on the Egyptian side of the border. I would like to thank my Egyptian, Israeli and Qatari counterparts for making this operation successful, and also, I would like to thank all Canadian diplomats in Egypt and also in Ottawa who have been working night and day to make this happen,” Joly said in a video that accompanied her post.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa the government is working “day and night” to get Canadians out of Gaza.
“There are hundreds to get out, so we’re going to continue to work day and night until all Canadians and their families are out of Gaza,” he said.
Last week, Joly said the Canadians would be allowed to leave in the “coming days” as reports emerged that some of those seeking to flee were finally being allowed through the Rafah crossing. Defence Minister Bill Blair said last Friday he believes priorities have been placed upon the evacuation of the injured, and citizens from countries that have few people in the area.
GAC said in an update Monday afternoon it is contact with more than 600 Canadians, permanent residents and their family members in Gaza.
That update said Israeli officials have told Canada that “more than 400 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members would be able to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing in the coming days. Any Canadians who are on the approved list for crossing will be contacted directly by Canadian officials.”
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Delays for Canadians looking to use the Rafah border crossing out of Gaza
GAC said the situation at Rafah remains “quite fluid and unpredictable,” and that “Canadians should be prepared for significant delays at the Rafah border.”
“Canada is actively engaging authorities to include other affected Canadians and their families for future crossings. Canada does not determine when or how many persons can cross each day,” Global Affairs Canada said.
“We continue to communicate directly with Canadians, asking them to have their travel documents at hand and be ready to travel on short notice. The Government of Egypt will allow those who cross into Egypt from Gaza to stay in the country for a maximum of 72 hours,” it said.
“Our consular officials will be on the Egyptian side of the border to facilitate transportation to Cairo by bus and help with onward travel to Canada. While in Cairo, Canada will provide accommodation, food and basic necessities to those who cross into Egypt.”
Israeli authorities say 1,400 people died in the Hamas attack. Officials with the Hamas-run Gaza health authority say more than 10,000 people have been killed in the airstrikes that have followed.
— with files from The Associated Press AND A
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