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Mansour Shouman; pictured in a Zoom screengrab from his interview with The Globe and Mail. Up until last year, Mr. Shouman was working in Calgary. Now he is in Gaza with his young family, surviving on briny water and lentils.The Globe and Mail

From his perch outside the Nasser Hospital, in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, Mansour Shouman can say with some certainty that Tuesday was the worst day so far.

He says he saw 100 bodies leave the hospital, wrapped in white sheets, bound for a graveyard. He describes seeing children asking the corpses of their parents to wake up and widows weeping on dead husbands. This was all on Tuesday.

“The bombing was relentless today, the most successive bombing I have seen,” said the father of five, who, up until last year, lived in Calgary and worked at PwC, the accounting and consulting firm, as well as several oil and gas companies. During a video call with The Globe and Mail, he proudly held up his Canadian passport and talked of earning an engineering degree at Queen’s University, followed by an MBA at the University of Calgary.

Today he sits in circumstances he can only describe as hell. The Shoumans are subsisting off briny well water, lentils and rice. His children, who range in age from 4 to 16, are hysterical and depressed as they wait for the world to open the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt so they can escape.

On the opposite side of the border, trucks carrying food, medicine and other essentials have lined up in anticipation of a border opening. “Even if they don’t want international passport-holders to leave, why not let aid come in to civilians?” said Mr. Shouman.

Evacuation from Gaza remains impossible without a deal to allow the departure of foreigners, Canadian officials said on Tuesday.

“Nobody has left Gaza. Not a single person has left Gaza. And that is, you know, something that is very preoccupying for all of us,” said Julie Sunday, an assistant deputy minister at Global Affairs.

Ms. Sunday said there are about 370 Canadians and other individuals in Gaza seeking Ottawa’s help in leaving. Canada is working with Egypt to ensure that if Canadians are able to leave Gaza through the southern Rafah crossing, they would be transported to Cairo for onward travel to Canada.

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Mansour Shouman’s children: Aisha: 16, Fatima: 14, Omar: 10, Mariam 6, and Ibrahim 4 are anxious and depressed, hoping to escape Gaza as soon as possible.Supplied

Meanwhile, two more Canadian military flights left Tel Aviv for Athens Wednesday, the 11th and 12th since the war began, bringing to 1,400 the number of Canadians, permanent residents and citizens of other nationalities airlifted to safety. The supply of seats has exceeded demand, the government noted, saying it will reassess the need for flights on a regular basis.

As for the West Bank, officials said, demand is not yet significant for another bus to take people to Jordan, after an earlier evacuation run brought 21 Canadians from the Palestinian territory on Monday. But, they said, they will keep asking people.

Mr. Shouman says his wife, Suzan Harb, and their children intend to stay with relatives with Egypt if they can cross. They have friends back in Canada, but they don’t want to burden anyone.

He has other plans for himself.

“I’m not leaving Gaza in these circumstances,” he said. “As an able man who can add value in different areas, especially in humanitarian areas, I think I need to stay here and support the 2.2 million civilians and help life get back in order.”

The Shoumans moved to Gaza last year, returning to their Palestinian roots. They bought a house in Gaza City. He and his wife worked. The children attended an international school. “There were challenges, but we were having a good life until the last 10 days,” he said.

On Oct. 7, after Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel, air strikes cratered the mosque he and his family attended five times a day. They spent much of last week shuttling among shelters and friends trying to evade the bombing until hearing that the Rafah border might open for foreign nationals.

They reached Rafah on the weekend but saw more fighter jets than border officials. “There were 100s of families gathered there waiting,” said Mr. Shouman. “We stayed there until sunset. No authorities contacted us, so we decided to go back.”

The Shoumans have been staying in Khan Younis ever since, about eight kilometres from the border. Mr. Shouman has been working with international media assembled near the hospital, doing interviews and acting as a fixer.

He says his two youngest children have been acting hysterically, jumping and laughing at the sound of bombs. His eldest breaks down crying, even during quiet times.

“I wish I had a magic wand to solve everyone’s problems,” he said. “I hope that the international community can lower the pressure on the people right now and help out in any way possible.”

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