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Canadian airlift from Israel coming later the week: Joly

4,249 Canadians registered in Israel, another 476 in the West Bank and Gaza
Israeli soldiers arrive at Sderot, a town close to the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Oct.11, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Ohad Zwigenberg

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says the federal government will begin to airlift Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families from Tel Aviv by the end of the week.

Speaking in Ottawa today, Joly would not confirm whether any Canadians are being held hostage in Gaza, but a senior official from Global Affairs Canada says two Canadians have died and a third is presumed dead.

She says Canadian Armed Forces flights to Athens will be arranged in the coming days and the government will help arrange flights to Canada.

Chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre says the first Polaris plane will land in Athens later this morning and the Air Force will run a shuttle service.

As of Tuesday, Joly says there were 4,249 Canadians registered in Israel and another 476 in the West Bank and Gaza.

She says Canada will work with the United Nations if there is an evacuation from Gaza but so far there are no such plans.

Global Affairs has urged Canadians in the region to limit their movements.

In a statement on Tuesday, the department said it had received 785 requests for help since the conflict began, adding that most inquiries related to travel advice and advisories, the status of flights and airports, the overall security situation and requests for information about family members’ well-being or whereabouts.

Joly’s statement did not mention the Gaza Strip.

Israel is hammering Gaza in retaliation for a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Israeli soil on Saturday, with fighting causing the deaths of at least 1,800 people so far. Friends and family have confirmed to The Canadian Press the deaths of two Canadians, 22-year-old Ben Mizrachi from Vancouver and 33-year-old Alexandre Look from Montreal, who died when gunman swarmed a music festival in southern Israel.

Some Canadians have been pleading for help to get their loved ones out of the Hamas-controlled territory as Israel closes off access.

In what the Israeli government is describing as a total siege, the entry of food, fuel and medicines into Gaza has been halted, with aid organizations sounding the alarm.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Conservative party had urged the federal Liberals to help Canadians in Israel, accusing the government of “consular and diplomatic failures.”

A statement from the party’s foreign-affairs critic, Michael Chong, said members of Parliament were hearing “too many stories” from Canadians who were reaching out for assistance but getting no answers.

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre have signalled their staunch support for Israel, condemning the Hamas attack that initiated hostilities on the weekend.

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