Global Affairs Canada says 234 Canadians, PRs and family members left Gaza Sunday

OTTAWA — Global Affairs Canada said 234 Canadians, permanent residents and their eligible family members have crossed from Gaza into Egypt Sunday.

The update came as the Rafah crossing reopened after a two-day closure, allowing foreign nationals to flee the war-torn territory.

Dalia Salim, a London, Ont. woman, said her 66-year-old father crossed the border Sunday with her uncle, who is a U.S. citizen.

"I'm so relieved, I have the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders," Salim said in a phone interview. "I'm still hurting for my people and my country ... but on a personal level, I'm just really glad that my dad is safe."

Not everyone with ties to Canada cleared to leave Gaza has crossed the border.

The re-opening of the border was shared on a Facebook page on which the General Authority for Crossings and Borders posts a daily list of foreigners cleared to make the journey.

The list is compiled in co-ordination with the Egyptian and Israeli governments, but had not been updated as of Sunday.

On Friday, it was expanded to include 266 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their family members, meaning some people on the list have not yet made it out.

Salim said she wishes her extended family was able to leave as well, noting her father was feeling hurt about leaving them behind.

She said her father retired last year and was spending time in Gaza with his aging mother before war broke out between Israel and Hamas last month. He had unsuccessfully tried to cross the border five times before finally making it out on Sunday.

"I know he was a little hesitant to leave, because I'm sure he felt so guilty that he is the one with a privilege to get out because he has a passport, while everyone else has to endure ... the hunger and the living conditions, no access to water or food," Salim said.

The Canadian Embassy in Egypt is assisting those who crossed with transportation to Cairo, as well as food and accommodation until they have arranged their travel plans.

The Egyptian government is allowing those who cross the Rafah border to stay in the country for up to 72 hours.

The latest tally of those fleeing Gaza comes in addition to 107 people who crossed the border last week.

The war, now in its sixth week, began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed into Israel, killing an estimated 1,200 people and taking roughly 240 others back into Gaza as hostages. Israel has retaliated with daily air and land strikes, and the Hamas-run health authority says casualties in the territory have topped 11,000.

The escalating fighting centred around Gaza's largest hospital on Sunday. Health officials and people trapped inside the Shifa hospital rejected Israel's claims that it was helping babies and others evacuate the building, saying fighting continued just outside the facility where incubators lay idle with no electricity and critical supplies were running out.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected urgent international calls for a cease-fire unless it includes the release of all the hostages captured by Hamas.

A day after Netanyahu said Israel was bringing its “full force” with the aim of ending Hamas’ 16-year rule in Gaza, residents reported heavy airstrikes and shelling, including around Shifa Hospital. Israel, without providing evidence, has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

Israel’s military asserted it placed 300 litres of fuel near Shifa overnight and coordinated the delivery with hospital officials. But the delivery location was not clear from the military’s video, and there was no immediate response from the Health Ministry and others including the Red Cross.

Netanyahu has said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas. Israel has long accused the group, which operates in dense residential neighbourhoods, of using civilians as human shields.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2023.

- With files from The Associated Press.

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press