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Stranded travellers wait to be booked on a flight at Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv.TAMIR KALIFA/The New York Times News Service

Canada will begin evacuating its citizens from Israel “in the coming days” using military aircraft, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced Tuesday.

She said flights will leave from Tel Aviv and those eligible for a seat include Canadian citizens and permanent residents as well as their spouses and children.

Ms. Joly also directed her statement to Canadians in the West Bank as well as Gaza, which is under siege from Israel. The minister said Ottawa is working on options “for those who cannot reach the airport in Tel Aviv” – but provided no details.

Many commercial flights to and from Israel have ceased operating after the Islamist militant group Hamas launched one of the biggest attacks in decades on Israel Saturday. Hamas is designated a terror group by the Canadian government.

“I know that this situation has been difficult,” Ms. Joly said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Many of you want to return home to your family and have no way to do so safely,” she said. “We will help you.”

She said more details will be revealed on Wednesday.

Israel-Hamas war live updates

Ms. Joly said those seeking a place on the flights should register with the Department of Global Affairs so that information can be shared directly.

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a Canadian-based advocacy group, said he believes fewer than 1,000 Canadians in Israel are looking for a way to leave the country right now: people who were temporarily visiting for holidays or family events.

The Official Opposition Conservatives on Tuesday called on the federal government to dispatch evacuation flights for citizens in Israel as soon as possible, noting other countries have already done so.

Canada’s announcement follows action by other countries to repatriate their citizens including Mexico, Brazil, Poland, Thailand, Czechia and Argentina.

According to the federal government, about 35,000 Canadian citizens live in Israel on a permanent basis and approximately 90,000 Canadians travel there each year.

The Department of Global Affairs said Tuesday that a registry of Canadians currently visiting Israel was up to 3,234, as well as 478 Canadians registered in the Palestinian territories. The list is not considered to be complete because it’s a voluntary system.

It said it’s received 1,284 inquiries since the beginning of the conflict asking for travel advice and travel advisories for Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; status of airports, flights and options for departure; the overall security situation; and relatives seeking information on the well-being and whereabouts of family members.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware of one confirmed death of a Canadian and reports of a second death, as well as three other Canadians who are reported missing,” the department said in a statement.

Ottawa said its diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and Ramallah remain open. “Canadian officials in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon are also supporting this work and we have called upon surge capacity in Ottawa’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre responding to the crisis and assisting Canadians around the clock.”

In an interview with The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador-designate to Canada Iddo Moed said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ms. Joly have shown Israel “very solid and strong support.”

He said the most important way for Canada to help Israel right now is to deter other countries in the region from joining the conflict and escalating it into a broader war. Mr. Moed said Ms. Joly has been in direct talks with Israel’s Foreign Minister and her counterparts in Arab countries and that she is delivering that message.

“Iran and Syria, and Lebanon, the axis of evil, should really stay out of this conflict,” he said. The international community’s role and responsibility is “to warn those players not to intervene, to stay away from this conflict.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said Ottawa appears to have failed to learn from its mistakes in not acting swiftly during the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in 2021.

“It is the duty of any government to help citizens who are trying to leave a conflict zone; the Prime Minister and his government are failing at this basic task.”

Few commercial air carriers are still operating out of Israel. The departures board at Ben Gurion International Airport as of 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday showed 12 flights. Of these, seven were delayed, one cancelled and the remainder headed for Cyprus or Greece.

Mr. Chong said Canada should be acting now in case conditions worsen and prevent flights from leaving.

NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson called for Canada to move quickly. “Canada should do everything in their power to help Canadians currently in Israel and in Palestine get the consular support they need,” she said. “This also means working with allies on the ground so Canadians can be brought home safely.”

She also urged the federal government to do what it can for those Canadians taken hostage by Hamas. “In collaboration with allies, Canada must also do everything in their power to bring home hostages who have been brutally kidnapped by Hamas.”

On the weekend, Air Canada cancelled its flights to Tel Aviv, stranding people in Israel and Canada. Israeli airline El Al is still flying into the country and said it is adding flights from several destinations in the world.

“We are doing the utmost to bring passengers home and to assist passengers of other airlines that have had their flights cancelled,” the airline said on social media.

El Al does not offer direct flights to Canada but does fly to several U.S. cities, including New York and Boston.

The war has left Israelis stuck in Canada too. One Israeli man and his wife, visiting family in Montreal, was stranded by the flight cancellations. He said they were determined to get back to Israel – where their two adult children were both called up from the reserves on the weekend – and are now flying to Athens where they will catch an Israeli airline flight to Tel Aviv.

The Globe is not identifying him because of security concerns.

“I am much more useful there, than here,” he said. “When our country is in a problem we want to be in our country.”

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