What we know about how Canada is supporting citizens trapped in the Gaza Strip

Canadians in Gaza are still waiting to be allowed to leave the besieged Palestinian territory via a border crossing with Egypt as the Israel-Hamas war continues. Here is what we know about how Canada is supporting its citizens in Gaza:

How many Canadians are trapped in Gaza?

Four days after the war began on Oct. 7, government officials in Canada initially said 70 Canadians in Gaza had asked for consular help.

On Monday afternoon, Global Affairs Canada said in an update it is in contact with more than 600 Canadians, permanent residents, and family members in Gaza.

It also said a unit of the Israeli military that handles civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories told Canada last week that more than 400 Canadians would be able to cross the border from Gaza into Egypt in the coming days.

Global Affairs said Canada is "actively engaging authorities to include other affected Canadians and their families for future crossings."

It has also said that "Canada has one of the largest contingents of nationals in Gaza."

What is Canada doing to help citizens leave Gaza?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been publicly calling for Canadian citizens tobe let out of the Gaza Strip and has been involved in negotiations with other countries that the public is not privy to.

"We're pushing on our friends in Israel, our friends in Egypt, working with the Americans and others to make sure that Canadian families get on the list. We're not going to stop until we get them out," Trudeau said on Thursday last week, a day after the first cohort of foreigners left Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

Global Affairs has been providing Canadians with instructions on how to be prepared to leave on short notice, and what to expect as they exit the enclave via Rafah, the only exit point for those who wish to leave the Palestinian territory.

The Canadian embassy in Egypt has said it has a team of consular officials ready to help Canadians, permanent residents and their family members as soon as they cross at Rafah into Egypt.

"As of now, the Government of Egypt is only allowing foreign embassies to be on site at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing once their residents are confirmed to be evacuated from Gaza," Global Affairs said Monday.

Who decides who can leave through Rafah?

Since Nov. 1, roughly 1,100 foreign nationals have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing under an apparent agreement between the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.

Very little information has been released by Canada or other governments on how those agreements are reached or who assembles the lists of foreign nationals allowed to leave Gaza before the General Authority for Border Crossings in Gaza publishes them online.

Global Affairs Canada has not explained why Canadians have not made the lists so far but said in Monday's update that "Canada does not determine when or how many persons can cross each day."

What happens next?

Canada had raised hope that Sunday could be a breakthrough for citizens trapped in Gaza, but the Rafah crossing closed over the weekend due to escalating attacks from Israel before reopening on Monday.

Evacuation lists published online did not include names of Canadians as of Monday as Global Affairs Canada warned it's not clear how long the Rafah crossing will remain open.

"As the situation is quite fluid and unpredictable, Canadians should be prepared for significant delays at the Rafah border," it said in a statement.

Some Canadians with loved ones in Gaza have expressed increasing fear that their relatives might die by the time Canadians are allowed to leave Gaza.

Canadians trapped in Gaza have said they are torn on what they will do if given the chance to evacuate because they want to flee the war, but also worry for their Palestinian loved ones who can't leave and are in desperate need of help.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2023.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press