Canadian evacuation flights from Israel scale back as tensions grow along Lebanon border

The flights, operated by RCAF Polaris transport planes, have been scaled back from two daily flights to just one, using a single aircraft

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OTTAWA — As Canada scales back its evacuation flights out of Israel, increased tension along the Lebanese border now have officials urging Canadians to avoid all travel to that country.

“Canadians should not travel to Lebanon for any reason,” said Julie Sunday, deputy minister of Global Affairs Canada.

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“For those Canadians who are still in Lebanon, we strongly advise that they seek commercial options to leave as soon as possible.”

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Sunday said about 14,500 Canadians are registered with Global Affairs as being in Lebanon.

Evacuation flights from Israel, operated over the past week by RCAF CC-150 Polaris transport planes, have been scaled back from two daily flights to just one, using a single aircraft.

So far, 16 evacuation flights have left the Tel Aviv airport and more planned over the weekend, officials said during a Friday afternoon press conference in Ottawa.

One of the two planes used for the flights arrived back at CFB Trenton on Thursday after a week of daily shuttle flights from Tel Aviv to Athens.

Canadians still in Israel who are looking to leave should contact Global Affairs Canada, Sunday told reporters.

“For the time being, commercial options out of Tel Aviv also remain available, although these are still limited,” she said.

During a briefing last week, Canadian Joint Operations Command head Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie said Canada’s relief flights were also transporting Israeli citizens to Tel Aviv aboard their return trips, at the request of the Israeli government.

On Friday, RCAF Maj.-Gen. Darcy Molstad confirmed evacuation flights had indeed been scaled down to a single plane daily, due to decreased demand.

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Over 1,500 passengers have so far been transported from Tel Aviv to Athens, Molstad said.

“CAF is and will remain postured to fully support Global Affairs Canada as the situation evolves,” he said.

For the 430 Canadians still in Gaza, the deputy minister of Global Affairs said the Rafah gate on Egypt’s border remains closed to foreign nationals.

Diplomatic efforts to open those gates to Canadians are continuing, she said.

“We are continuing to communicate directly with Canadians who wish to exit,” Sunday said.

“We know they are facing extremely difficult conditions, and we are doing everything we can to support them.”

Any efforts to open the gates will be a multinational one, she said.

“We’re working closely with all of our partners who have their citizens also there,” she said.

Talks are also in the works to ensure any Canadians who do manage to cross at Rafah are safety transported to Cairo, some 300 kilometres southwest of the border with Israel.

“We are looking at how we can facilitate Canadians then getting from Cairo back to Canada, and we will likely do something very similar to what we had in Athens in terms of supporting their onward travel,” Sunday said, referring to arrangements made with Air Canada to provide opportunities for evacuees out of Israel to purchase plane tickets back to Canada.

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Things are more positive for those seeking an exit via the West Bank, she said — reporting that 33 Canadians had successfully left via Jordan, with more expected on Sunday and Monday.

Canada’s travel advisory urging Canadians not to travel to Lebanon follows suit with similar warnings posted by France and the United States.

Saturday marks two weeks since Hamas conducted a brutal campaign of terror against innocent Israeli civilians, unleashing a barrage of rockets as cover for a ground assault that saw nearly 1,400 men, women and children murdered.

Terrorists also abducted civilians, bringing them back to Gaza as hostages.

Iran-backed Hezbollah used the attack to launch an assault of their own, clashing with Israeli soldiers along the border and launching rockets into Israel.

Israel and Hezbollah have clashed before, including a 2006 war with Lebanon.

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter: bryanpassifiume

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Originally posted 2023-10-20 21:51:10.