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Border still closed between Gaza and Egypt as Canadians wait

A U.S. spokesperson told reporters the closure was because of a ‘security circumstance’
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

A key crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has remained closed Thursday as hundreds of people connected to Canada await news of when — and whether — they will be able to escape the besieged Palestinian territory.

The federal government confirmed that no Canadians were able to leave the Gaza Strip on Wednesday because of a closure of the Rafah border crossing.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told reporters on Wednesday that the closure was because of a “security circumstance,” but offered little additional detail.

A daily list of those allowed to cross that had been published in recent days by the General Authority for Crossings and Borders in Gaza was not available Thursday morning.

Global Affairs Canada says Canadian officials in Egypt remain ready to welcome those leaving the territory and help them get to Cairo.

Those coming from Gaza are allowed to stay in Egypt for up to three days, and the Canadian government will provide them with accommodation and basic essentials during that time.

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

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 killed and another 240 people 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 the Gaza Strip, which has been largely cut off from the delivery of aid, has prompted prominent international aid organizations to call 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.

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

“Canadians who were at the border today for crossing were contacted, and we are hopeful the border will reopen tomorrow to allow them to cross. Canada does not determine when or how many persons can cross each day,” it said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

“As the situation is quite fluid and unpredictable, Canadians should be prepared for significant delays and unexpected closures at the Rafah border. 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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