Canadians remain stuck in Gaza and are not on evacuation lists

Canadians stuck in Gaza, who were told late last week that they might be allowed to leave, will have to wait again before they can leave the besieged Palestinian territory.

Gaza’s General Authority for Border Crossings said the Rafah crossing on the southern border with Egypt was reopened on Monday to allow foreigners on approved lists to leave Gaza. This border crossing was closed at the end of the week due to the escalation of Israeli attacks.

In an email update Monday evening, Global Affairs Canada confirmed that the Rafah border crossing reopened late Monday. The federal organization said it does not know how long it will remain open.

“As the situation remains uncertain and unpredictable, Canadians should expect significant delays at the Rafah border crossing,” the Global Affairs press release said.

However, as of Monday morning, the Canadians’ names were not on the evacuation lists approved by the General Authority for Gaza Border Crossings, which fit into a simple Google spreadsheet and are widely shared.

According to Global Affairs, the Israeli military assured Canada that more than 400 of its citizens could cross the border “in the coming days.” The agency added that four Canadian nationals had already left Gaza with the help of a third party, without providing further details.

Global Affairs says it is in contact with more than 600 Canadians, permanent residents and their family members in Gaza.

“Canada continues to work with all relevant parties to add additional Canadians and their family members to the list of persons eligible for passage,” the organization said.

In Canada, two women trying to help their relatives leave Gaza said they had received information from Global Affairs Canada that the Canadians were expected to begin leaving as early as Tuesday.

The Israeli military said it has now surrounded Gaza City and divided the besieged coastal strip in two as it continues its war against Hamas.

Samah Al Sabbagh of London, Ontario, said she was worried about how her 73-year-old father, a Canadian citizen, would get from Gaza City in the north to the Rafah border crossing in the south, since Israel has isolated the north of the territory from the rest of the Gaza Strip.

“He is very worried. He just waits. He is waiting to come out, she said in a telephone interview on Monday. Things are getting worse day by day (…) I spoke to him this morning at three in the morning and he told me that things are getting really serious.”

Ms Al Sabbagh said the email she received from Global Affairs on Sunday also warned that the situation at Rafah Post remained “volatile and unpredictable”. She said she is still waiting for a response from Global Affairs about how the Canadian government can help her father get to the southern border crossing.

“Nobody contacted us, neither the government nor Global Affairs, to tell us how they would help him [son père] moving from north to south, she said. Every time I talk to Global Affairs I ask them the same question (…) And they tell me: ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do’.”

Dalia Salim, who relays messages from the Canadian government to her 66-year-old father in Gaza, said Global Affairs told her on Tuesday about an attempt to cross the border. However, she stressed that her father may not know when it will be safe to enter Egypt due to another telecommunications outage in the area.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi for supporting the departure of foreign nationals from Gaza, including Canadians and their family members.

The Rafah border crossing is the only exit point for foreign nationals seeking to leave the Palestinian territory, which has been under constant bombardment since the Israeli army launched attacks in retaliation for Hamas’s brutal invasion of Israel on October 7.

Tyrone Hodgson

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