OTTAWA — A group of 135 people with ties to Canada desperate to flee escalating violence in the Gaza Strip were officially cleared to leave the besieged territory Sunday, though there was no immediate word on how many were able to make the trip.
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest efforts to get Canadians through the Rafah land crossing into Egypt, but the names of 135 Canadians were on a list of foreign passport holders cleared for the journey as of Sunday. That list is updated daily by Gaza's General Authority for Crossings and Borders.
Among those cleared for departure was Palestinian-Canadian Khalil Manaa, 71, who left Gaza for Egypt Sunday.
After fleeing to southern Gaza, he said he and relatives shared a crammed home of 40 people.
“And there, we also were subjected to intense strikes. … A rocket hit our house," he said.
The most recent update from Global Affairs, provided on Friday, said 376 Canadians, permanent residents and their relatives had so far been able to leave the Palestinian territory through the Rafah crossing.
The current conflict began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis in brutal surprise attacks, taking another 240 people hostage.
Israel immediately declared war on Hamas, began an airstrike campaign and cut off food, water and supplies to Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million Palestinians.
The territory's health officials said more than 11,500 people have been killed so far, two-thirds of them women and children, and another 2,700 people are reported missing.
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, is struggling to provide basic services to hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Seventeen of its facilities have been directly hit, the agency said.
Over the weekend, Israel allowed UNRWA to import enough fuel to continue humanitarian operations for another couple of days, and to keep internet and telephone systems running. Israel cut off all fuel imports at the start of the war, causing Gaza's sole power plant and most water treatment systems to shut down.
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday gave the clearest indication yet that the military plans to expand its offensive to the south, where Israel has told Palestinian civilians to seek refuge.
The evacuation zone is already crammed with displaced civilians, and it was not clear where they would go if the offensive moved closer. Egypt has refused to accept any influx of Palestinian refugees, in part because of fears that Israel would not allow them to return.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2023.
With files from The Associated Press.
The Canadian Press