By Marnie Cathcart
Five Canadians have been killed in Israel following attacks by Hamas terrorists, according to Global Affairs Canada. Three other Canadians are still missing who were in Israel during the Oct. 7 incursion by Gaza’s terrorist Hamas group into the southern region of the Jewish nation.
Julie Sunday, assistant deputy minister at Global Affairs responsible for consular, security, and emergency management, provided the update in a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 15.
“Sadly, one Canadian who was missing has now been confirmed as deceased. And we have had confirmation of another death. As a result, Global Affairs Canada is aware of the deaths of five Canadians. We also continue to follow up on the cases of three other missing Canadians,” said Ms. Sunday, adding that she was unable to provide more specifics due to “privacy reasons.”
“It has always been a possibility that missing persons would be confirmed deceased,” said Ms. Sunday. “It is an extremely tragic outcome. Our thoughts are with the families in all of these cases.”
The deputy minister said there are more than 6,800 Canadians registered as being in Israel and more than 450 Canadians registered in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Canadian officials are assisting over 3,300 Canadians, permanent residents, and their families, said Ms. Sunday.
“We are very focused on addressing the cases of the three missing persons, who we continue to try to locate and bring back to safety in Canada,” she added.
She said a number of Canadians have left Israel aboard Canadian flights headed for Athens, with more than 1,000 expected to leave before the end of the day on Oct. 15.
The government is also trying to assist departures from the Palestinian territories, she said, noting that the situation there remains treacherous.
“For the Gaza Strip, the situation remains extremely fluid and insecure. Approximately 300 Canadians, permanent residents, and their families have reached out to us for assistance and for support to exit Gaza,” Ms. Sunday said.
She said Canada has been engaging with all parties hoping to find an option for foreign nationals to be able to exit through the Rafah Gate border crossing in southern Gaza into Egypt, as Israel has closed all of its crossings following the terrorist attack.
However, that plan has yet to succeed.
“Nobody got through that gate yesterday,” Ms. Sunday said, explaining that arrangements between the various authorities were presenting an “incredibly complex” situation.
“We’re engaging with all interlocutors, both in capitals and in the region, to be able to get an option for people to be able to exit. So this includes Israel. It includes Egypt. It includes the U.S., who is very engaged in in trying to get this corridor opened. And it also includes the UN,” she said.
“Clearly, though, there are some difficulties, as in terms of who’s controlling the Gaza, the Gaza Strip, it’s Hamas,” Ms. Sunday said.
She added that there could be “a very short window” during which the border will be opened and people have to be ready. She said officials are not telling people to go to the border, but rather be close to it, due to “security issues at the border itself.”
Alexandre Leveque, also a deputy minister with Global Affairs Canada, said that the government believes that “Hamas is probably playing some obstruction inside of Gaza as well, and is in some cases preventing the movement of some individuals inside Gaza.”
Officials at the press conference also warned that Global Affairs is watching the situation closely and recognizes the possibility of broader regional impacts.
Regarding Lebanon, to the north of Israel, where the Hezbollah Shiite terrorist group based in that country has voiced support for Hamas’s attacks on Israel, Ms. Sunday said there are many Canadian citizens and permanent residents there and the situation “continues to be unstable.”
The deputy minister said it’s absolutely important for Canadians to watch the federal government’s travel advice, which says to avoid non-essential travel to Lebanon as well as Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
There have been cross-border clashes between armed militants in Lebanon and Israel defence soldiers, as Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group fired rockets into Israel and Israel responded with shelling and the firing of missiles in south Lebanon at Hezbollah targets.