Canadians Stranded in Gaza Amid Closed Borders and Rising Conflict

Gaza Experiences Communications Blackout Amid Growing Conflict and Potential Egypt Border Deal
People wait at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on on Wednesday. Egypt is preparing to treat wounded Palestinians from Gaza. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

In a concerning development, Global Affairs Canada has confirmed that none of the 266 Canadians scheduled to leave the Gaza Strip on Friday were able to exit, as the Rafah border crossing remained closed.

Early Friday, the names of 266 Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and their family members were listed for exit to Egypt through the Rafah border, as coordinated by Palestinian authorities with the Egyptian and Israeli governments. However, the closure of the crossing thwarted their departure.

A statement from Global Affairs Canada expressed hope for the border’s reopening, “Canadians who were at the border today for crossing were contacted, and we are hopeful the border will reopen soon to allow them to cross.”

Amro Abumiddain, a Canadian who managed to leave Gaza earlier this week, shared the plight of his relatives who waited all day at the border, only to be turned back in the evening.

“They spent the whole day waiting and then at the end of the day, they told them, ‘Just go home because they’re not going to let anyone in,'” Abumiddain recounted to The Canadian Press from Cairo.

Despite these setbacks, 107 individuals connected to Canada successfully crossed on Tuesday and Thursday. Currently, Global Affairs is tracking 550 Canadians, permanent residents, and family members attempting to leave Gaza.

Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, November 8, 2023. ( AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The situation is further complicated by hints from the department about the possibility of Canadians being among those captured by Hamas in the recent attack in Israel on October 7. While Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has not confirmed Canadian hostages, efforts are ongoing to secure their release.

Amidst these developments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his concern about the rising tensions affecting Jewish and Muslim communities in Canada, “What’s happening in the Middle East right now is causing a lot of devastating emotions — fear, anger, grief — on all sorts of different communities.”

The ongoing conflict has led to a significant humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israeli airstrikes, a response to the Hamas militants’ October 7th attacks, have escalated the situation. The Israeli Foreign Ministry recently revised the death toll to about 1,200 Israelis, down from the initial figure of 1,400. Over 11,000 Palestinians have been reported killed, with another 2,650 missing.

In response to the crisis, the White House announced a daily four-hour “humanitarian pause” in Israeli airstrikes, hoping to facilitate the evacuation of foreign nationals and the delivery of humanitarian aid. U.S. President Joe Biden noted the unlikelihood of a ceasefire but maintained the importance of these pauses.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk have both expressed concern over the high civilian casualties and called for investigations into Israel’s military actions in Gaza.