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What we know about how Canada is supporting citizens trapped in the Gaza Strip

Canadians in Gaza are still waiting to be allowed to leave the besieged Palestinian territory via a border crossing with Egypt as the Israel-Hamas war continues. Here is what we know about how Canada is supporting its citizens in Gaza: 

How many Canadians are trapped in Gaza? 

Four days after the war began on Oct. 7, government officials in Canada said 70 Canadians in Gaza had asked for consular help. Global Affairs Canada says that number has since grown to more than 400 citizens. 

Global Affairs has also said “Canada has one of the largest contingents of nationals in Gaza.”

What is Canada doing to help citizens leave Gaza? 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been publicly calling for Canadian citizens to be let out of the Gaza Strip and has been involved in negotiations with other countries that the public is not privy to.

“We’re pushing on our friends in Israel, our friends in Egypt, working with the Americans and others to make sure that Canadian families get on the list. We’re not going to stop until we get them out,” Trudeau said on Thursday last week, a day after the first cohort of foreigners left Gaza through the Rafah crossing

Global Affairs said it remains in contact with more than 400 citizens trapped in the region, and has been providing them with instructions on how to be prepared to leave on short notice, and what to expect as they exit the enclave via Rafah, the only exit point for those who wish to leave the Palestinian territory.

The Canadian embassy in Egypt has said it has a team of consular officials ready to help Canadians, permanent residents and their family members as soon as they cross at Rafah into Egypt.

Who decides who can leave through Rafah? 

Since Nov. 1, roughly 1,100 foreign nationals have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing under an apparent agreement between the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.

Very little information has been released by Canada or other governments on how those agreements are reached or who assembles the lists of foreign nationals allowed to leave Gaza before the General Authority for Border Crossings in Gaza publishes them online.

Global Affairs Canada has not explained why Canadians have not made the lists so far.

What happens next? 

Canada had raised hope that Sunday could be a breakthrough for citizens trapped in Gaza, but the Rafah crossing closed over the weekend due to escalating attacks from Israel before reopening on Monday.

Evacuation lists published online did not include names of Canadians as of Monday morning.  

Some Canadians with loved ones in Gaza have expressed increasing fear that their relatives might die by the time Canadians are allowed to leave Gaza.

Canadians trapped in Gaza have said they are torn on what they will do if given the chance to evacuate because they want to flee the war, but also worry for their Palestinian loved ones who can’t leave and are in desperate need of help.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2023.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press