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No Canadians approved to leave Gaza on Friday were able to exit: Global Affairs

Some waited all day at border, hoping to be rescued
Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip along Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Hatem Moussa

Global Affairs Canada says none of the 266 Canadians on Friday’s list of foreign nationals approved to leave the Gaza Strip were able to get out.

“The Rafah border crossing was closed today,” the department wrote in a Friday afternoon statement. “No foreign nationals crossed.”

Early Friday, 266 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their family members appeared on the daily list of foreigners approved to exit for Egypt through the Rafah border crossing. That list is posted by Palestinian authorities and co-ordinated with the Egyptian and Israeli governments.

“Canadians who were at the border today for crossing were contacted, and we are hopeful the border will reopen soon to allow them to cross,” the department wrote.

Amro Abumiddain, a Canadian citizen who already left Gaza this week, said his relatives waited all day in the hopes of reaching safety.

“They were told (Thursday) that they should be heading to the border today, because their name appeared on the list and they went in the morning,” Abumiddain told The Canadian Press from Cairo on Friday.

“They spent the whole day waiting and then at the end of the day, they told them, ‘Just go home because they’re not going to let anyone in.’”

A total of 107 people with connections to Canada crossed on Tuesday and Thursday, though the crossing was closed Wednesday because of what a U.S. State Department spokesperson described as a “security circumstance.”

Some of those Canadians have since reached Canada, while others remain in Cairo; Egypt allows foreigners to stay 72 hours in the country.

Global Affairs says it’s aware of 550 Canadians, permanent residents, and family members who are currently trying to leave Gaza, including those who were supposed to cross Friday.

Meanwhile, the department is hinting at the possibility of Canadians being among those captured by Hamas in the brazen Oct. 7 attack in Israel.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Thursday that Canada’s top official for consular cases was in the Middle East to try help securing the release of hostages being held by Hamas.

That role is to “engage with government representatives and others to seek the release of Canadian hostages abroad, including in the Middle East,” the department said.

Joly has long refused to say whether Canadians were among the hostages, an effort to avoid complicating the overall rescue effort. Ottawa refers only to “two Canadians who are missing” in the region, citing privacy considerations.

Foreign nationals in the territory are trying to flee a worsening humanitarian situation and constant Israeli airstrikes. The bombardment is in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants, who killed about 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 239 people.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the death toll had been lowered from the initial number of 1,400. It did not give a reason for the revision. However, an Israeli official said the number had been changed after a painstaking weeks-long process to identify bodies, many of which were mutilated or burned. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement, added that the final death toll could still change.

Abumiddain, 45, left Gaza after a fifth attempt on Wednesday with his wife and three children in tow, as part of an American group since their children are U.S. citizens.

He described the last month has been the worst of his life, calling it a “nightmare.” Abumiddain was living near the centre of the territory, while his wife and children were in Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

He only reunited with them when leaving the country, and crossing the border took 13 hours.

The family farm is about 900 metres from the Israeli border, and he was helping his dad out when the war began. He described the bombing in the area as intense.

“I was just telling my wife I’m surprised I’m here, because every day there, you feel like it’s the last day,” Abumiddain said. “I never thought I would see things like that in my real life.”

The family hopes to reunite in Egypt in the coming days. If they can, Abumiddain hopes to return to Mississauga, where he lived previously.

While his mother had gone to Ontario to visit his sister three weeks before the Israel-Hamas war broke out, his father has remained behind in Gaza.

The images of airstrikes in Gaza have already fuelled a number of tense protests in Canada, and Trudeau said Friday he’s concerned about Jews and Muslims being targeted.

He didn’t cite any specific examples, but Montreal police have said two Jewish schools were hit by gunshots, while a series of brawls at Concordia University led to three people being injured and one arrested.

“What’s happening in the Middle East right now is causing a lot of devastating emotions — fear, anger, grief — on all sorts of different communities, but particularly both the Muslim and the Jewish communities across Canada,” he said.

“We all need to be extremely concerned about the rise in tensions, the rise in threats of violence, the rise in actual acts of violence and the rise in hatred.”

In recent years, Muslims have shown up to support Jewish people after attacks at synagogues, and Jewish people have done the same after violence occurred at mosques, Trudeau noted.

“Canadians stand up for each other. We hear each other’s pain and grief and support each other.”

The White House announced Thursday that Israel agreed to put in place a daily four-hour “humanitarian pause” on its airstrikes in Gaza. Canadian officials said they hope the breaks in fighting will allow more departures of foreign nationals, the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid and the negotiation of an eventual end to the month-old war.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the promise of daily pauses came after he called on Israel to withhold bombardment for three or more days in the hopes that Hamas would release hostages, though he said there was “no possibility” of a ceasefire.

The Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory has said the bombardment has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians. Another 2,650 people have been reported missing.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “far too many” Palestinians have died and that Israel is not doing enough to avoid civilian casualties.

American officials have said the recent resumption of some water supplies and food shipments has yet to meet a huge demand for essentials.

Separately, United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk called on Friday for an investigation into what he called Israel’s “indiscriminate bombardment and shelling” in densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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