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OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada is planning to operate evacuation flights for Canadians stranded in Israel after major airlines canceled flights in the wake of Palestinian militant group Hamas’ unprecedented weekend attack, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Tuesday.
Some 35,000 Canadian citizens live in Israel and nearly 90,000 Canadians travel to the country every year, according to the Canadian foreign ministry. About 1,000 Canadians in Israel are looking to leave after Hamas’ assault on Saturday, according to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
At least two Canadians have been confirmed dead in the attack – 22-year-old Ben Mizrachi and 33-year-old Alexandre Look, according to Canadian officials.
Canada will send military aircraft to Tel Aviv “in the coming days” for citizens and permanent residents as well as their spouses and children, Joly said in a statement.
“We are planning to begin the assisted departure of Canadians from Tel Aviv … We are also working on additional options for those who cannot reach the airport in Tel Aviv,” Joly said on X, formerly Twitter.
While many major airlines have canceled flights to and from Israel, domestic carriers have looked to ramp up capacity, at least in the coming days.
Hamas launched a surprise assault on Saturday, killing hundreds of Israelis and seizing dozens of hostages, including foreigners, in the worst breach in Israeli defences since the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. The death toll from the Hamas attacks had risen to 1,200 by early Wednesday, according to Israel’s public broadcaster.
Israel subsequently battered Palestinians with air strikes in Gaza. Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 830 Palestinians were killed and up to 4,250 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave since Saturday.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned Hamas’ attack and joined a solidarity gathering for Israel late on Monday. Political leaders from across the spectrum in Canada have expressed support for Israel.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Costas Pitas and Lincoln Feast.)