Canadians Stranded in Israel Amid Deadly Conflicts, Flights Cancelled and Embassy Closure for Thanksgiving

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Canadians Stranded in Israel Amid Deadly Conflicts, Flights Cancelled and Embassy Closure for Thanksgiving
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

As deadly fighting intensifies in Israel, a number of Canadians find themselves trapped, with flights canceled and limited access to the Canadian Embassy due to Thanksgiving celebrations.

Unprecedented Attacks

Hamas militants, based out of Gaza, unleashed a barrage of thousands of rockets this past Saturday. Coupled with the deployment of dozens of fighters, they initiated one of the deadliest attacks on Israel in years. Both sides have seen heavy casualties, with hundreds reported dead and many more injured. The Israeli government declared war on Sunday, signaling an increase in military operations and retaliations.

Desperate Pleas for Assistance

Toronto residents, Kendall and Marie Fullerton, who were vacationing in the ancient site of Megiddo when hostilities broke out, are among those affected. “Right now, the situation is OK, but I think that Israel is probably going to ramp up some offensive operations… It may get more heated as time goes on, so we’re kind of anxious to leave this place,” expressed Kendall in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Their attempts to depart have been thwarted with their scheduled flight cancelled. The couple, along with others, has also encountered challenges in seeking help from the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv. Marie mentioned their struggles, pointing out that they’ve been “bounced to hotlines” and couldn’t obtain direct information due to the embassy observing the Thanksgiving long weekend hours.

Passengers look at a departure board at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 7, 2023, as flights are canceled because of the Hamas surprise attacks. The conflict sparked major disruption at Tel Aviv airport, with American Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa and Ryanair among carriers with cancelled flights. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

A Frustrating Silence from Authorities

Robbie Segall, a 22-year-old Montreal native currently in Israel for an internship, echoed these sentiments. Residing in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, he expressed his frustrations, noting the “lack of care or assistance from the Canadian government.”

While he currently feels safe, he was redirected to the closed Canadian Embassy when he tried reaching out for support. “If I felt that I really, really needed to get out, I wouldn’t be able to get any help from the Canadian government, from the embassy until Tuesday,” Segall said.

Official Response and Advice

Global Affairs Canada, as of now, hasn’t responded immediately to the situation. However, they have advised over 1,400 registered Canadians in Israel and another 492 in Palestinian territories to reduce their movements and to shelter in place until further notice. The Canadian government has urged its citizens to exercise extreme caution when in Israel and to avoid areas like the Gaza Strip, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon’s borders. Non-essential travel to West Bank and Gaza Strip borders has also been discouraged.

On The Home Front

Back in Canada, the repercussions of the conflict are evident. Police forces have increased their presence around mosques and synagogues. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the attacks by Hamas and is coordinating with international leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, on efforts in the region.

Various groups have also organized demonstrations, with a significant gathering in Montreal where participants chanted slogans and showed support for the Palestinian cause.

As the situation continues to evolve, many Canadians and their families anxiously await further developments and pray for the safe return of their loved ones.