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Ottawa has been told Canadians trapped in Gaza will be allowed to leave starting Sunday: source

Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt at Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (Fatima Shbair/The Canadian Press/AP - image credit)
Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt at Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (Fatima Shbair/The Canadian Press/AP - image credit)

The Canadian government has received assurances there will be windows to evacuate Canadian nationals from Gaza through the Rafah border crossing on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, a government source told Radio-Canada.

The source, who is directly involved in efforts to evacuate Canadians, cautioned that the situation is fluid and unforeseen events could affect timelines for getting Canadians out of Gaza.

CBC News is not naming the source because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) says it is in contact with at least 516 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members who have been trapped in the besieged enclave for nearly a month.

In its Friday update, GAC said it has provided regional partners a list of "close" to 450 eligible Canadian citizens, permanent residents and family members who want to leave Gaza.

CBC News obtained a copy of an email GAC sent to Canadians in Gaza on Friday.

"We have been informed that more than 400 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and eligible family members will be able to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing in the coming days, and possibly as early as Sunday," says the email.

The note adds that the government of Egypt will allow those who cross into Egypt from Gaza to stay in the country for a maximum of 72 hours.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly tweeted Thursday evening that she received assurances from Israel's foreign minister that Canadians and their families will be able to leave Gaza in the coming days. She also added that Egypt's foreign minister has confirmed his country's cooperation in efforts to evacuate Canadians stuck in Gaza.

Once Canadians cross into Egypt, the Canadian government will cover the cost of a bus to Cairo, accommodations, meals and other necessities, said Joly's office. The government will not be paying for flights out of Egypt, but emergency loans will be made available to those who need it.

"Obviously, it's a very complex situation," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in French to reporters in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

"We are working with our allies, with the Egyptians, with the Americans and with everyone to try and get people out as quickly as possible."

Trudeau said the government is hoping Canadians will be allowed to cross into Egypt "in the coming days."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a media availability at the Embassy of Canada after the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity summit in Washington on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a media availability at the Embassy of Canada after the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity summit in Washington on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a media availability at the Embassy of Canada after the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity summit in Washington on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The news of Canadians possibly being allowed to leave Gaza starting Sunday comes as frustration grows about the Canadian government's lack of success to date on this issue.

For the first time since the onset of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, hundreds of foreign nationals received approval to leave Gaza this week as a result of ongoing negotiations involving Egypt, Israel and Hamas. Qatar is mediating these negotiations.

The Hamas-run Gaza border authority released lists on Thursday and Friday of foreign nationals from more than a dozen countries who have been approved to depart through the Rafah border crossing.

Nationals from G7 allies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, have all made those lists, but no Canadians have received approval to date.

Defence Minister Bill Blair insisted Friday the evacuation of Canadians from Gaza is a priority for the Canadian government.

"Our foreign affairs minister has been in the region twice and she's worked very extensively with all of the countries," Blair told reporters Friday. "She and I were on the phone very late last night talking to a number of people that we believe can facilitate the safe evacuation of Canadians from the Gaza region."

Egypt said this week it will help evacuate "about 7,000" foreign and dual nationals from Gaza.

Trudeau told reporters in Washington the federal government is working with its officials and allies in the region to ensure that Canadians who are allowed to leave Gaza will be "properly supported."

"We've been there from the very beginning for people leaving the West Bank, for people leaving Israel since October 7. We will continue to be there to help Canadians and their families get to safety," said Trudeau.

"Our consular officials will be on the Egyptian side of the border in order to facilitate your transportation to Cairo by bus and assist with onward travel to Canada at your own expense," says the email GAC sent to Canadians in Gaza. "While in Cairo, we will provide you with accommodation, food and basic necessities."