About 600 people in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who have submitted requests for assistance to the Canadian government have not yet been located, senior federal officials said Friday.
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Deputy Foreign Minister Julie Sunday reported “increasing difficulties” in communicating with Canadians and permanent residents stranded in the Gaza Strip, given the power outages and attacks on communications infrastructure by Israeli forces.
The Deputy Minister informed during a press conference with journalists that “the Ramallah Representative Office continues to work in very difficult conditions and circumstances to meet the needs of Canadians.”
Ottawa warns that some people applying for assistance may simply have forgotten to include their location when filling out the form.
The very “fluid” situation in the entire region forces the staff of the Emergency Monitoring and Response Center, where 80 officials are on site, to work 24 hours a day.
In total, more than 3,300 requests for assistance have been submitted to Canada since the surprise attack by Hamas on the Israeli border area last Saturday.
There are currently about 150 Canadians in the Gaza Strip.
A “possible” passage to Egypt
Senior officials indicated that Canada is in discussions with the Egyptian government regarding a potential “window” of time during which refugees from the Gaza Strip could cross the border and enter Egypt.
The crossing is located at the Rafah border crossing, an area that was still the scene of gunfire by Israeli forces.
“We cannot provide any certainty at this time,” said Alexandre Levesque of Global Affairs Canada. “We will maximize every available window to evacuate Canadians.”
The Egyptian government fears a mass movement of refugees from Gaza across its borders, but special treatment may be granted to Palestinians who hold another nationality.
The Israeli government said that it had carried out ground operations and suggested that residents of the northern Gaza Strip move south as part of the operation.
Furthermore, Ottawa is warning many Canadians currently in Lebanon against traveling south of the Litani River, a river located not far from the border with Israel.
On Thursday, evacuation flights on military aircraft from Tel Aviv allowed 236 people to be transported to Athens, Greece. Two more thefts occurred on Friday and two more will continue in the coming days.
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