More than 230 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members were able to flee the war in Gaza on Sunday, including a 66-year-old man who had made five prior attempts before making it safely through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, his daughter said.
“I’m so relieved, I have the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders,” Dalia Salim, a resident of London, Ont., said in a phone interview. “I’m still hurting for my people and my country … but on a personal level, I’m just really glad that my dad is safe.”
Global Affairs Canada said a total of 234 Canadians and permanent residents crossed from Gaza into Egypt on Sunday, after the crossing was reopened following a two-day closure.
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Salim said her father retired last year and was spending time in Gaza with his aging mother before war broke out between Israel and Hamas last month.
She said she wishes her extended family was able to leave as well, noting her father was feeling badly about leaving them behind.
The latest tally of Canadians fleeing Gaza comes in addition to 107 people who crossed the border last week.
But not everyone with ties to Canada cleared to leave Gaza has crossed the border.
Global Affairs had previously confirmed 266 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families had been cleared to make the journey as of Friday.
The Canadian Embassy in Egypt is assisting those who crossed with transportation to Cairo, as well as food and accommodation until they have arranged their travel plans.
The war, now in its sixth week, began on Oct. 7 when Hamas terrorists stormed into Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking roughly 240 others back into Gaza as hostages.
The escalating fighting centred around Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, on Sunday, where the Israeli Defence Forces say Hamas has its main headquarters.
The IDF in recent weeks has provided evidence that Hamas has been using Shifa and other Gaza hospitals for its operational activities, which are conducted in a massive tunnel system underneath the complexes. The patients at these hospitals are used as human shields and to hide Hamas’s activities, according to the IDF.
Israel also has provided evidence that Hamas has stockpiles of fuel and other supplies that it keeps for itself, refusing to share it with Shifa Hospital or the Gaza population.
Shifa’s last generator ran out of fuel Saturday, leading to the deaths of three premature babies and four other patients, according to the Health Ministry. It said another 36 babies were at risk of dying.
Israel’s military reported it had placed 300 litres of fuel near Shifa overnight for an emergency generator for incubators and had co-ordinated the delivery with hospital officials.
However, Hamas stopped the hospital from receiving the fuel, said the military. The IDF publicized a recording of a conversation between an IDF officer and a senior official in the Hamas Health Ministry, indicating that ministry CEO Yosef Abu Rish forbade the reception of the fuel.
“We agreed on a place with the hospital on where to leave the fuel. Sadly, they haven’t taken the fuel yet,” IDF spokesperson Lt.-Col. Richard Hecht said.
“It’s very, very cynical on behalf of Hamas,” he continued. “The only thing standing between Shifa and refueling needs is Hamas.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a ceasefire in the conflict unless it includes the release of all the hostages captured by Hamas.
A Biden administration official confirmed to NBC News on Sunday that a deal for releasing the hostages was in the works, and Netanyahu made similar suggestion to NBC.
— The Canadian Press, with additional reporting from The Associated Press and the Jewish News Syndicate
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