In a critical operation to ensure the safety of Canadian citizens amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, the Canadian Armed Forces launched the first two evacuation flights from Israel. These flights, conducted by military CC-150 Airbus Polaris, successfully airlifted approximately 281 Canadian citizens and their families out of the country, with further missions planned for the days ahead.
Prime Minister’s Commitment to Citizen Safety: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized the government’s unwavering commitment to the safety and security of Canadians, both at home and abroad. Acknowledging the volatile situation on the ground, he declared that active support extended to citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada.
A Collaborative Effort from Safe Zones: The evacuation flights departed from the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, marking the beginning of a multi-faceted collaboration. After landing safely in Athens, passengers will be transferred to an Air Canada plane, destined for Toronto. The transition is facilitated through a special code, ensuring a seamless journey back to Canada. The first of these flights is scheduled to take off on the following day, accommodating passengers who may need to stay overnight.
Flights in Response to Demand: Defence Minister Bill Blair affirmed that evacuation flights will continue in response to demand and as long as they are necessary to ensure the safety of Canadians. He emphasized the need for patience as these operations are executed.
Ongoing Efforts and Collaboration: According to senior government officials, evacuation flights are expected to continue throughout the coming days, with at least two flights per day, accommodating an average of 150 passengers per flight. Of the 5,700 registered Canadians in Israel, around 1,600 individuals have expressed interest in evacuation assistance. However, it is estimated that approximately half of them may eventually opt for military airlifts, while others explore alternative solutions amid the ongoing conflict.
Mixed Emotions Among Evacuees: At the Ben Gurion Airport, Canadians waited with mixed emotions to board the evacuation flights. Relief and gratitude for their imminent departure were juxtaposed with sorrow for those who remained in the conflict zone. As Sarah Berry, one of the evacuees, expressed, the situation is heartbreaking, and she is thankful for the opportunity to leave, though she is concerned for those who have to endure the ongoing conflict.
Abby Finkelstein, another Canadian waiting for evacuation, expressed her gratitude and excitement to leave, describing her previous night as “terrifying.”
Challenges in Reaching All Canadians: These evacuation flights are open to Canadian citizens, their families, Canadian permanent residents and their families, and dual-nationals. The operation is further complicated by the unavailability of humanitarian corridors in Gaza and the West Bank, where hundreds of Canadians are registered. Evacuation flights to these areas remain unfeasible.
Ongoing Concerns for Missing Canadians: As of Thursday, federal officials reported their communication with the families of four Canadians reported missing. The government is collaborating with authorities and allies to gather more information. The conflict, now in its sixth day, has had devastating consequences, resulting in casualties, injuries, displacement, and stranding of thousands, including Canadian citizens.
The successful execution of these evacuation flights remains a testament to Canada’s commitment to its citizens’ safety during times of crisis.