Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Oct 13th, 2023 3:14pm
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
Canada’s foreign affairs minister arrived in Tel Aviv on Friday for a visit to Israel and Jordan, as escalating tensions have hundreds more Canadians asking for help to leave the region.
Of particular concern are the 150 people with a connection to Canada inside the Gaza Strip, meaning Canadian citizens but also their foreign relatives and possibly permanent residents.
Canada’s top official for consular services says there might be a short window of time on Saturday afternoon for Canadians to cross the border into Egypt.
But she said the situation remains volatile.
“We know this has been a terrible week for Canadians in Gaza,” Julie Sunday, the assistant deputy minister for consular, security and emergency management at Global Affairs Canada told reporters on Friday during a briefing on Parliament Hill.
“It is an incredibly difficult situation there right now.”
She said there are approximately 2,200 Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank who have asked for consular help in leaving the region. That includes 600 who sought help on Thursday night alone.
Those requests came asIsrael’s military told about one million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza on Friday and head to the southern part of the sealed-off coastal enclave ahead of an expected ground invasion. The United Nations warned that would be impossible and potentially calamitous on a 24-hour deadline.
In a nationally televised address on Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas as the army prepares for an expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Sunday said Ottawa is still assessing how best to instruct Canadians in the territory. She noted that there is no guarantee a crossing that Egypt intends to open at the southern end of Gaza will end up being available.
“We are not going to tell Canadians to move until we know that that is a possibility,” Sunday said.
Meanwhile, military flights from Tel Aviv to Athens continue for Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families seeking to leave Israel, with the Canadian planes also transporting 28 Israelis from Greece back to their home country.
Canadians are still able to find commercial flights out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Sunday said, adding there were “a number of no-shows at the airport” on Thursday.
“Our assessment is that individuals have found alternate routes out and are trying to get out as quickly as possible,” she said.
The war, sparked after Hamas conducted surprise attacks across the Israeli border from Gaza on Saturday, has already claimed more than 2,800 lives on both sides.
Sunday said there are 6,500 Canadians registered in Israel and another 485 in both Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.
She stressed that Canada’s travel advisories are updated frequently, particularly on how those within these regions can best limit their exposure to danger.
“We are trying to the best of our abilities to give the most accurate information to Canadians.”
Joly is in the region to discuss the impacts of the attack by Hamas on Israel and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.
“I’m in Israel to extend Canada’s support to those impacted by the terrorist attack by Hamas,” Joly wrote Friday in a statement on the X platform, formerly Twitter.
“I’ll meet with Canadians who are on their way home and with officials to better understand the situation on the ground and the humanitarian impact on Israeli and Palestinian civilians.”
Alexandre Lévêque, another assistant deputy minister at Global Affairs Canada, said during the briefing that Joly spent a few hours in Israel meeting with her counterpart there. She also spoke with Canadians awaiting an airlift out of Israel, before she went on to Jordan.
The department wrote in a news release that Joly will “reaffirm Canada’s support for Israel and its right to defend itself in accordance with international law,” while pushing forward collective efforts to ensure the swift passage of humanitarian aid and the protection of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
It says Joly will also meet with the foreign affairs minister for Jordan.
Joly’s three-day trip comes after militants from Hamas, which Canada considers a terrorist organization, staged a deadly massacre in Israel last Saturday, with ensuing Israeli bombardments killing hundreds in besieged Gaza.
The Trudeau government has urged all parties to respect humanitarian law and says Israel has a right to defend itself, without specifying whether it agrees with the United Nations that Israel is violating international humanitarian law.
Ireland’s head of government Leo Varadkar criticized Israel in an interview that aired Thursday evening, saying the country is under threat and must defend itself without “targeting civilians” and cutting off infrastructure.
“To me, it amounts to collective punishment. Cutting off power, cutting off fuel supplies and water supplies — that’s not the way a respectable democratic state should conduct itself,” he told RTÉ One.
2) Palestinians Flee Northern Gaza After Israel Orders 1 Million To Evacuate As Ground Attach Looms
Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Oct 13th, 2023
By Isabel Debre, Edith M. Lederer And Wafaa Shurafa in Jerusalem – The Associated Press
Palestinians fled in a mass exodus Friday from northern Gaza after Israel’s military told some 1 million people to evacuate to the southern part of the besieged territory ahead of an expected ground invasion in retaliation for the surprise attack by the ruling Hamas militant group nearly a week ago.
The U.N. warned that ordering almost half the Gaza population to flee en masse would be calamitous, and it urged Israel to reverse the unprecedented directive. As airstrikes hammered the territory throughout the day, families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with possessions streamed down a main road out of Gaza City.
Hamas’ media office said warplanes struck cars fleeing south, killing more than 70 people. The Israeli military said its troops had conducted temporary raids into Gaza to battle militants and hunted for traces of some 150 people abducted in the Hamas attack.
Hamas told people to ignore the evacuation order, and families in Gaza faced what they feared was a no-win decision to leave or stay, with no safe ground anywhere. Hospital staff said they couldn’t abandon patients.
Unrelenting Israeli strikes over the past week have leveled large swaths of neighborhoods, magnifying the suffering of Gaza, which has also been sealed off from food, water and medical supplies, and under a virtual total power blackout.
“Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if you’ll make it, if you’re going to live,” said Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, as she broke into heaving sobs.
In the week-old war, the Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that roughly 1,900 people have been killed in the territory — more than half of them under the age of 18, or women. The Hamas assault last Saturday killed more than 1,300 Israelis, most of whom were civilians, and roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed during the fighting, the Israeli government said.
ISRAELI TROOPS MAKE FORAY INTO GAZA
Israel’s raid was the first word of troops entering Gaza since Israel launched its round-the-clock bombardment in retaliation for Hamas’ massacre of hundreds of people in southern Israel.
A military spokesman said Israeli ground troops left after conducting the raids. The troop movements did not appear to be the beginning of an expected ground invasion.
The evacuation order was taken as a further signal of an expected Israeli ground offensive, although no such decision has been announced. Israel has been massing troops along the Gaza border.
An assault into densely populated and impoverished Gaza would likely bring even higher casualties on both sides in brutal house-to-house fighting.
“We will destroy Hamas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday night in a speech, adding, “This is only the beginning.”
Hamas said Israel’s airstrikes killed 13 of the hostages in the past day. It said the dead included foreigners but did not give their nationalities. Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari denied the claim.
In Israel, the public remained in shock over the Hamas rampage and frightened by continual rocket fire out of Gaza. The public is overwhelmingly in favor of the military offensive, and Israeli TV stations have set up special broadcasts with slogans like “together we will win” and “strong together.” Their reports focus heavily on the aftermath of the Hamas attack, stories of heroism and national unity, and they make scant mention of the unfolding crisis in Gaza.
ISRAEL URGES MASS EVACUATION OF GAZA CIVILIANS
The U.N. said the Israeli military’s call for civilians to move south affects 1.1 million people. If carried out, that would mean the territory’s entire population would have to cram into the southern half of the 40-kilometer (25-mile) strip.
Israel said it needed to target Hamas’ military infrastructure, much of which is buried deep underground. An Israeli spokesperson, Jonathan Conricus, said the military would take “extensive efforts to avoid harming civilians” and that residents would be allowed to return when the war is over.
Israel has long accused Hamas of using Palestinians as human shields. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel wanted to separate Hamas militants from the civilian population.
“So those who want to save their life, please go south,” he said at a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said it would be impossible to stage such an evacuation without “devastating humanitarian consequences.” He called on Israel to rescind any such orders.
PALESTINIANS IN GAZA GRAPPLE WITH WHERE TO GO
Hamas’ media office said airstrikes hit cars in three locations as they headed south from Gaza City, killing 70 people. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on the strike.
Two witnesses reported a strike on fleeing cars near the town of Deir el-Balah, south of the evacuation zone and in the area Israel told people to flee to. Fayza Hamoudi said she and her family were driving from their home in the north when the strike hit some distance ahead on the road and two vehicles burst into flames. A witness from another car on the road gave a similar account.
“Why should we trust that they’re trying to keep us safe?” Hamoudi said, her voice choking. “They are sick.”
The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment on the strike.
Hamas called the evacuation order “psychological warfare” aimed at breaking Palestinian solidarity and urged people to stay. But there was no sign of it preventing the flight.
Gaza City resident Khaled Abu Sultan at first didn’t believe the evacuation order was real, and now isn’t sure whether to move his family to the south. “We don’t know if there are safe areas there,” he said. “We don’t know anything.”
Many expressed concern they would not be able to return or be gradually displaced to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
More than half of the Palestinians in Gaza are the descendants of refugees from the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, when hundreds of thousands fled or were expelled from what is now Israel. For many, the mass evacuation order dredged up fears of a second expulsion. Already, at least 423,000 people — nearly 1 in 5 Gazans — have been forced from their homes by Israeli airstrikes, the U.N. said Thursday.
“Where is the sense of security in Gaza? Is this what Hamas is offering us?” said one resident, Tarek Mraish, standing by an avenue as vehicles flowed by. “What has Hamas done to us? It brought us catastrophe,” he said, using the same Arabic word “nakba” used for the 1948 displacement.
HOSPITALS STRUGGLE WITH PATIENTS
Gaza’s Health Ministry said it was impossible to evacuate the many wounded from hospitals, which are already struggling with high numbers of dead and injured. “We cannot evacuate hospitals and leave the wounded and sick to die,” spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said.
Farsakh, of the Palestinian Red Crescent, said some medics were refusing to abandon patients and were instead calling colleagues to say goodbye.
“We have wounded, we have elderly, we have children who are in hospitals,” she said.
Al Awda Hospital was struggling to evacuate dozens of patients and staff after the military contacted it and told it do so by Friday night, said the aid group Doctors Without Borders, known as MSF, which supports the facility. The military extended the deadline to Saturday morning, it said.
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, said it would not evacuate its schools, where hundreds of thousands have taken shelter. But it relocated its headquarters to southern Gaza, according to spokesperson Juliette Touma.
“The scale and speed of the unfolding humanitarian crisis is bone-chilling. Gaza is fast becoming a hellhole and is on the brink of collapse,” said Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general.
Pressed by reporters on whether the army would protect hospitals, U.N. shelters and other civilian locations, Hagari, the Israeli military spokesperson, said the military would keep civilians safe “as much as we can.” But he warned: “It’s a war zone.”
Shurafa reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip and Lederer from Chicago. Associated Press writers Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem, Samya Kullab in Baghdad, Samy Magdy in Cairo, and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
3) Canadian Doctor Trapped In Gaza Volunteers At Hospital, Urges Entry of Medical Aid
Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Oct 13th, 2023
Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
Dr. Ehab Bader had travelled from London, Ont., to Gaza for a family visit, to see his aging parents.
Now trapped in the besieged Palestinian territory, he is volunteering at Gaza’s largest hospital, which is overwhelmed by people in urgent need of life−saving care as medical supplies run short.
“People are waiting outside, severely injured, and sometimes you have to choose, unfortunately, who do you serve,” the neonatologist told The Canadian Press, speaking from his parents’ home in Gaza City.
“It’s a difficult choice for those who work at the emergency room. The situation will be better described as catastrophic.”
Bader, 47, arrived in Gaza less than two weeks before Hamas militants crossed through Israel’s highly fortified separation fence and killed over 1,300 Israelis in a brutal rampage.
Israel’s military told about one million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza on Friday and head to the southern part of the sealed−off coastal enclave, an unprecedented order applying to nearly half the population ahead of an expected ground invasion against Hamas.
The order sparked panic among civilians and aid workers already running from a barrage of Israeli airstrikes, as the U.N. warned staging such an evacuation on a 24−hour deadline would be impossible and potentially calamitous.
The war has claimed at least 2,800 lives on both sides.
Bader said he was asked to volunteer at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where the morgue was overflowing, and workers had to stack corpses outside the walk−in cooler and put dozens more, side by side, in the parking lot.
Israel said that nothing would be allowed into Gaza until the release of around 150 hostages taken captive by Hamas.
Egypt says it has engaged in intensive talks with Israel and the United States to allow the delivery of aid and fuel to Gaza through its Rafah crossing point, which remained closed on both sides Thursday.
Bader said Canada and the broader international community need to raise their voices louder in calling for the creation of a humanitarian corridor that would allow food, water, and medicine to enter Gaza.
Shifa and other hospitals are desperately trying to save whatever diesel remains in their backup generators, turning off the lights in all hospital departments but the most essential — intensive care, operating rooms, oxygen stations.
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz has said, “Not a single electricity switch will be flipped on, not a single faucet will be turned on, and not a single fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages” Hamas militants captured from Israel are returned home.
Bader accused Israel of inflicting collective punishment on Palestinians in Gaza who played no role in the Hamas attack, insisting that ensuring access to medical supplies and other essentials for non−combatants should not be a subject of negotiation.
“If we are principled, we should ask ourselves why we can’t help those who are trapped in Gaza Strip,” Bader said.
“A government like (Canada should) put enough and extra pressure, often, to stop this disaster. What’s going on in Gaza is a crime because we have no access to our basic needs.”
Israel has enforced a strict blockade of Gaza since 2007, the year Hamas took power in the coastal enclave. Egypt also tightly controls the flow of goods and people through the Rafah crossing.
A senior official with the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that the lack of electricity could cripple hospitals, put newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk, and stop kidney dialysis and X−rays.
“Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues,” said Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC’s regional director.
Bader said he has been surrounded by scenes of death and destruction. The beds at Shifa are full, with patients crowding the hallways.
He told The Canadian Press that he is not sure what he will do if given the chance to evacuate, expressing conflict about leaving Gazans in desperate need of help.
“So many like me are torn between our family, our relatives, our colleagues, our friends, our neighbours in Canada, and the family that we left behind,” Bader said.
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