Pleas from Canadians trapped in Gaza: “Get us out!”
Frustration is mounting as Canadians desperate to leave Gaza watch as others with international passports escape the horror of the Israeli bombardment.
“I am still in Gaza and don’t know when I will die,” said one email sent to Global Affairs Canada. “Children are hungry..scared..thirsty..sick. Need ur government help to get them out of Rafah.”
“Why is the government silent!!! Get us out already,” said another email reviewed by the Toronto Star.
U.S. citizens were among the 500 hundred foreign nationals who flooded through the gates at Gaza’s border crossing with Egypt on Wednesday, marking the first time that people trapped inside Gaza since fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas have been allowed to leave.
None of them were Canadian.
The Gaza border crossing authority, which is run by the Hamas government in Gaza, announced early Wednesday that the Rafah border would be open for injured people and some foreign passport holders to exit the territory.
The authority published a list of people that it said were approved to exit, reports NPR. The list included the names and passport information of nearly 500 foreigners, most of them citizens of eight countries or who are associated with NGOs. People from other countries, including Britain, Sri Lanka, Mexico and European nationals have either left or are on the approved list to leave.
Canada’s Defence Minister Bill Blair said Friday that Canadians could be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip in “the coming days.” He shared no firm timeline as Canadians faced another day of being left off the list, according to CTV.
Palestinians search a house after an Israeli air strike, in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on October 12 2023. (Via Shutterstock)
There are more than 450 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their family members who want to leave Gaza, which has been under siege and regular bombardment by Israel for more than three weeks.
Reem Sultan, a spokesperson for a Palestinian group in Canada, told the BBC that – in contrast to the government’s official statements – some Canadian friends and acquaintances of hers in Gaza have not yet been contacted by officials.
She said that some families with relatives in Gaza believe they “are being treated differently” than Canadian citizens who were evacuated from Tel Aviv in the early stages of the war.
According to the Canadian Air Force, more than 1,600 Canadians were flown out of Israel on 19 separate flights by military aircraft, with the last flight taking off on 23 October.
“Now, we’re not putting on enough pressure to get our citizens out…many are feeling as though they are not as important,” she said. “This is the part that is very confusing and frustrating for families.”
As international appeals for a ceasefire or pauses in the fighting mount, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 9,000 people have been killed in the Strip since the beginning of the war.
Six Canadians were killed when Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking 242 hostages. At least two Canadians are still reported missing, including peace activist Vivian Silver.