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32 more Canadians leave Gaza, Canada says Palestinians can’t be forced out

Israel agrees to daily 4-hour pauses in offensive, making it easier for Canadians to leave
Palestinians and foreign aid workers wait to cross into Egypt at Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Fatima Shbair

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada is in line with Washington in saying Palestinians cannot be forced out of the Gaza Strip.

Joly made the comments as word emerged that 32 more Canadians had fled Gaza for Egypt, bringing the total so far to 107. Another 500 are still hoping to leave.

Joly says the numbers are consistent with other countries similar to Canada, and that Ottawa had called on Israel and Egypt to allow the evacuations to happen.

The Liberals say they hope now that Israel has agreed to allow daily four-hour pauses in its offensive, that will make it easier for Canadians to get out.

Joly says those pauses should also allow humanitarian aid to get in to Gaza.

She also says that Canada’s head of consular cases is in the Middle East, trying to help secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas.

Gaza, Joly said, is currently the most difficult place on earth to live.

“We’ve been ready since the first days following the attacks on Israel to evacuate Canadians in in Gaza,” she said Thursday from Vancouver.

Earlier in the day, Global Affairs Canada said 32 more people with links to Canada had been able to leave Gaza for Egypt by way of the Rafah border crossing.

Originally, there were 40 Canadian names on the list of approved evacuees; the department did not explain what changed. But officialssay the situation at the border is volatile and chaotic, and that people are only asked to make their way to the crossing when it’s clear they can get through.

Indeed, the crossing had been reported closed earlier in the day as hundreds of people with links to Canada awaited news of when — and whether — they would be able to escape the besieged Palestinian territory.

On Tuesday, 75 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families were the first people with ties to Canada to leave the territory since the war between Israel and Hamas began a month ago.

But no Canadians were able to cross on Wednesday, with a U.S. State Department spokesperson saying the border had been closed because of a “security circumstance,” offering little additional detail.

People coming from Gaza will be allowed to stay in Egypt for up to three days, and the Canadian government is providing them with accommodation and basic essentials during that time.

Thursday’s news came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Israel to ensure that the newly agreed-upon humanitarian pauses in the fighting would last long enough for people to leave the area and for aid to arrive.

The White House confirmed Israel had agreed to put in place a daily four-hour humanitarian pause in what has been a relentless assault on Hamas in northern Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden said that move came after he called on Israel to cease 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 Israelis have committed to announcing each four-hour window at least three hours in advance, said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. The first humanitarian pause to be announced Thursday, he added.

Israel was also opening a second corridor for civilians to flee the areas that are the current focus of its military campaign against Hamas, Kirby said, with a coastal road joining the territory’s main north-south highway.

Trudeau said he’s hopeful the latest developments can lead to deeper long-term discussions about how Israelis and Palestinians can live beside each other in peace.

“We’ve been calling for weeks now for humanitarian pauses,” he told a news conference.

“They need to be significant; they need to last long enough to get people out (and) to get supplies in. And we have to start using them to start thinking about what the medium term and long term is.”

Trudeau said that needs to include “a Jewish state of Israel” alongside “a viable Palestinian state … where they are both secure; where they are both able to protect their citizens and flourish.”

He said Canada would help in the efforts to secure a two-state solution.

Early Thursday morning, some Canadian evacuees arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport after fleeing through Rafah and boarding a 12-hour flight to Canada from Cairo.

A couple in their 50s embraced their son, who was waiting for them at the arrivals area. The family then quickly left the airport, headed for their home in London, Ont.

The Gaza Strip has been bombarded by thousands of Israeli airstrikes since Hamas militants stormed through the Gaza border on Oct. 7.

Israel’s government says those surprise attacks killed 1,400 Israelis and another 240 people were taken hostage.

The Health Ministry in Gaza, which has been governed by Hamas since 2007, has put the Palestinian death toll above 10,500 people, and it reports that more than 4,000 of them were children. Canada has listed Hamas as a terrorist organization since 2002.

A worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been largely cut off from the delivery of aid, has international aid organizations calling for a ceasefire and for food, water and medical supplies to be allowed to enter the region.

Federal officials have said there are more than 400 Canadians, permanent residents and their families in Gaza and that Canada has no direct control over the evacuation from the enclave.

Global Affairs Canada has also warned the situation is “fluid and unpredictable” and subject to rapid change.

“Canada does not determine when or how many persons can cross each day,” it said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

“Canada continues to engage all relevant parties to ensure that Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their eligible family members presently in Gaza can exit safely and promptly.”

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