First group of Canadians leave West Bank for Jordan as those in Gaza brace for worst

By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced Monday that the first group of Canadians have crossed safely from the West Bank into neighbouring Jordan as violence continues in Israel’s escalating war against Hamas. 

Joly made the announcement this morning on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, thanking the Global Affairs staff who she says worked around the clock to make it happen.

The federal government says 21 Canadians, plus 10 foreign nationals from Australia and New Zealand, took a bus out of the West Bank, a Palestinian territory that Israel has occupied since 1967, and where it has established numerous settlements. 

Long-simmering tensions in the region exploded on Oct. 7 when fighters with Hamas — a group Canada has designated a terrorist entity — stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of civilians and taking more than 150 people hostage. 

More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed. So far, Canadian officials have confirmed at least five Canadians were killed in the attacks. 

Israel has responded by bombarding Hamas-controlled Gaza and cutting off food, water and electricity to 2.3 million Palestinians. 

At least 2,778 have been killed and 9,700 wounded in Gaza, according to the health ministry there, and more than a million have fled their homes. Many people have resorted to drinking dirty or sewage-filled water, risking the spread of disease.

Hospitals in Gaza face collapse as water, power and medicine near depletion, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians searched for dwindling food supplies

Thousands of patients’ lives were at risk, U.N. officials said, and mediators struggled for a ceasefire to let in aid waiting at the Egyptian border. Israel has said the siege will end only when hostages are freed. 

Israel is planning a massive ground invasion, and Canada is working to try to help as many as 300 Canadians and their families escape Gaza after a plan to allow people to leave via Egypt over the weekend fell through.

Canadians need to register with Global Affairs in order to get help leaving the region. Officials say more than 6,800 Canadians are registered in Israel, and more than 450 in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Canada has also arranged airlifts out of Israel. The first flights departed last week, with 128 citizens, permanent residents or their relatives landing in Athens on the first military flight from Tel Aviv, followed by a second flight of roughly 153 people. 

Defence Minister Bill Blair said Sunday that the Canadian Armed Forces has taken 1,000 people out of Israel since Oct. 12. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he remains “deeply concerned” about the situation in Gaza, where millions remain trapped. 

Last week he pledged an initial $10 million in aid for urgent needs in Israel and the Gaza Strip. 

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2023. 

— With files from The Associated Press