Two Canadians are confirmed dead, and a third is presumed dead in Israel, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly confirmed Wednesday, adding that assisted departures of citizens and their families will begin by the end of the week.
After initially indicating that three Canadians were confirmed killed, Joly and Global Affairs Canada’s assistant deputy minister for consular security and emergency management Julie Sunday clarified that the third death is presumed, as Israeli authorities have not provided confirmation.
Joly said that the government is following reports that another three Canadians remain missing and it is in contact with these individuals’ families to offer support, and officials are in touch with local authorities to gather additional information.
She would not confirm if there are any Canadian hostages, saying she didn’t want to “increase the value and put their lives in danger.”
However the minister indicated Canada has been in contact with the chief negotiator of hostages in Israel, and will be sending “a team of experts,” to support the officials on the ground in Israel that are engaged in hostage negotiations.
The latest federal figures are that 4,249 Canadians are registered in Israel and an additional 476 Canadians are registered in Gaza and the West Bank.
Condemning Hamas’ attacks and calling for the violence to end and for hostages to be released, the minister was joined by Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre to provide the latest on the Israel-Hamas war.
Now into its fifth day, the fighting sparked by Canadian-designated terrorist group Hamas’ incursion into Israel and Israeli reprisal strikes has killed and stranded thousands, including Canadian citizens.
Joly said she spoke with Look’s family on Tuesday, and that it was one of the most difficult calls she has ever had to make.
“As we continue to watch the horrors unfold… I extend my condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones following the terrorist attacks in Israel. The pain and suffering that we continue to bear witness to cannot be measured,” Joly said.
“Young lives have been cut short, families have been ripped apart, and it is absolutely heartbreaking. It is being felt in homes and communities across Canada.”
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT AIRLIFTS
While details of the airlifts remain thin, Joly said the Canadian Armed Forces aircraft will be flying those looking to leave the region from Tel Aviv to Athens. From there, an Air Canada plane and crew will bring Canadians back to this country.
The Canadian government first announced Tuesday night that it will assist Canadians departing “in the coming days,” and that the flights will be open Canadian citizens, their spouses, and their children; as well as Canadian permanent residents, their spouses and their children.
“Let me be clear, this includes dual nationals,” Joly said.
Canadian travellers in Israel have told CTV News that so far, they have been unable to find a way home amid airline cancellations and challenges receiving assistance from the embassy despite consular capacity increasing. This prompted calls from the federal opposition parties for immediate emergency airlifts.
The government is imploring any Canadians in the region who have not yet registered to do so, so that embassy officials can share more information about these upcoming flights directly with them.
Noting that it is “a time of great uncertainty and of great anxiety,” Joly said the missions in Tel Aviv and Ramallah remain open and officials in Ottawa, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon are offering emergency surge support 24/7.
The minister said she is working on additional options for those who cannot reach the airport in Tel Aviv.
This is a breaking news story, check back for updates.
With files from CTV News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver