Hundreds of Canadians Await Uncertain Exit as Gaza-Egypt Border Closure Continues

Palestinians and foreign aid workers wait to cross into Egypt at Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

As the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt remains shut, hundreds of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are caught in limbo amidst escalating tensions in the Palestinian territory.

The Canadian federal government confirmed that the pivotal crossing has been closed due to a “security circumstance,” with a U.S. State Department spokesperson citing the same reason but providing scant details on the situation. Wednesday saw no Canadians able to exit Gaza, leaving many awaiting urgent news on when they might traverse the border.

Global Affairs Canada has stated that Canadian officials in Egypt are on standby to assist those able to leave Gaza, offering support and essential accommodations in Cairo for a period of up to three days. This comes after 75 Canadians successfully departed the territory on Tuesday, marking the first exit connected to Canada since the conflict between Israel and Hamas flared up a month prior.

This image provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, with humanitarian-associated trucks lined up at and near the border, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. (Satellite image 2023 Maxar Technologies via AP)

The recent hostilities have led to a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, with international aid organizations pressing for a ceasefire and the need for essential supplies. The Health Ministry in Gaza has reported over 10,500 Palestinian fatalities, including more than 4,000 children, following a series of Israeli airstrikes that began on October 7. Conversely, Israel reports substantial casualties and hostages due to surprise attacks by Hamas militants.

More than 400 Canadians are believed to be in Gaza, with the Canadian government acknowledging its limited control over their evacuation. Officials have urged Canadians to brace for significant delays and potential further closures at the border, emphasizing the fluidity and unpredictability of the current circumstances.

“Canadians who were at the border today for crossing were contacted, and we are hopeful the border will reopen tomorrow to allow them to cross. Canada does not determine when or how many persons can cross each day,” a statement from Global Affairs Canada expressed, reflecting ongoing diplomatic engagements to ensure safe passage for its citizens.