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Blair Anticipates Canadians Will Be Able to Depart Gaza in the Coming Days

Canadians could be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip in “the coming days,” Defence Minister Bill Blair said on Nov. 3, but shared no firm timeline as Canadians faced another day of being left off the list.

Groups of people, including foreign nationals from several other countries, have been allowed to exit the Palestinian territory through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the last two days.

But Canadians have so far been excluded from the lists of those approved to depart, including the third one issued on Nov. 3.

There are more than 450 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their family members who want to leave Gaza, which has been under siege and regular bombardment by Israel for more than three weeks.

Mr. Blair told reporters in Ottawa on Nov. 3, there is “no specific impediment” to getting those people out. He said the Canadian government is working closely with Israel, Egypt, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

He also says Canadian consular officials will be ready to help people as soon as they cross into Egypt.

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Global Affairs Canada has not explained why Canadians have not made the list so far.

The department noted in written updates sent on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, that the first group allowed to cross included citizens from eight countries with smaller groups of nationals in Gaza. It also said “Canada has one of the largest contingents of nationals in Gaza.”

The department has not said whether that would delay Canadians getting out, or why.

Nov. 2’s evacuation list from the General Authority for Border Crossings in Gaza, as presented on a widely shared Google spreadsheet, included 400 American citizens. The list shared on Nov. 3 had 367 Americans. In one day, Britain has had 127 people listed as approved for departing through the Rafah crossing.

Jon Allen, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, said the effort is “very complicated,” but he wasn’t sure if countries with the most citizens would end up being among the first or last to leave.

“It does make sense that if you have a higher number, then you’re going to try and reduce that number. But I don’t know if that’s the case,” Mr. Allen said in an interview on Nov. 3.

Mr. Allen helped oversee the 2009 effort to evacuate dozens of Canadians from Gaza during an earlier war between Israel and Hamas. He said these efforts involved communicating with several governments to get everyone on the same page.

He also said the United States has an outsized influence in the region and many would expect American citizens to be among the first to be able to leave, but other countries would likely not have much ability to get ahead of others.

“It is a war and there are these processes that are inevitably going to have to be gone through,” he said.

Concerns about the risk of Hamas sympathizers crossing into Egypt could be one reason for general delays, Mr. Allen said.

“There are a lot of considerations that they’re taking,” he said.

“The Canadians will come out, and I feel sympathy for all of those that are there.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Nov. 3, calling once again for a humanitarian pause. Mr. Netanyahu says that will not happen until Hamas releases the hostages taken during surprise attacks on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly issued a late Nov. 2 update on X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter, saying she has spoken with her counterpart in Israel, Eli Cohen, about the matter.

She said she also received confirmation of Egypt’s co-operation.

While the flow of foreign nationals leaving Gaza through the Rafah crossing since Nov. 1 has been slow, officials with Global Affairs Canada say they

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