In a critical development, the first group of Canadian citizens and their family members eligible to leave the strife-ridden Gaza Strip have gathered at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. This move comes after they received a notification from Global Affairs Canada, offering a glimmer of hope in a region plagued by conflict and devastation.
Among the evacuees is Mohammed Sharif AlGhusain, who, along with his wife and two daughters, found himself on a list of 80 Canadians and their family members approved to leave Gaza for the first time since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted a month ago. As of now, 75 Canadians and their relatives have successfully crossed the border, according to Global Affairs Canada (GAC).
The evacuees, who had received an email from Global Affairs Canada, were informed that the Rafah border crossing would open at 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday. The email also detailed the presence of consular officials on the Egyptian side of the border, ready to assist in getting evacuees on a bus to Cairo, where they will be granted up to three days of shelter by the Egyptian government. The Canadian government pledged to provide food, accommodation, and essential necessities during their stay in Cairo.
Additionally, they will aid in onward travel to Canada, with the expenses to be covered by the evacuees themselves. For those in need, financial assistance in the form of emergency travel loans is available.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly shared a video statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, expressing gratitude for the safe evacuation of the first group of Canadians. She acknowledged the anxious wait that families and loved ones had endured and extended her thanks to the governments and diplomats of Egypt, Israel, and Qatar for their cooperation in this effort.
These Canadian evacuations come on the heels of other foreign nationals leaving the Gaza Strip, a region that has been under relentless Israeli bombardment following a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,400 people and the seizure of 240 hostages.
The Gaza health authorities report a devastating toll of 10,328 Palestinians killed, including approximately 4,237 children, in the Israeli assault that followed.
While those who have managed to leave express relief, they continue to mourn the loss of their homes, loved ones, and livelihoods in Gaza. Their thoughts are with those who remain behind.
Some individuals faced heart-wrenching choices, such as Mohammed Sharif AlGhusain, who was able to evacuate with his wife and daughters but couldn’t secure spots for his parents and sister, leaving him in an agonizing dilemma. He called on the Canadian government to facilitate the evacuation of the rest of his family.
For Abdel Nassar, a Canadian leaving Gaza with his wife, the departure is bittersweet. “I’m happy I’m going to Canada but my house here is with my family,” he lamented, sharing the pain of losing friends and family in the conflict.
Ayah Al Sisi, another evacuee, hopes for a safe journey out of the Gaza Strip with her three children after experiencing the loss of her home and family members, alongside the dire living conditions in the region.
Global Affairs Canada reported that the Israel Defence Force had indicated that more than 400 Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and eligible family members would be allowed to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing in the coming days.
Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s International Development Minister, expressed optimism about this development, saying, “The fact that the first group got out is very encouraging. I believe this will build the momentum to get the rest of them out, now that we have the modalities to ensure a safe passage.”
Currently, 451 Canadians residing in Gaza and the West Bank are registered with Global Affairs Canada. The list of the first group allowed to leave comprises around 20 Canadian citizens, with the remainder being dual citizens or Palestinians.