Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly confirmed Wednesday that three Canadian citizens are presumed dead (two confirmed) following a devastating barrage of attacks into Israeli towns along the Gazan border.
Vancouverite Ben Mizrachi, 22, and Montrealer Alexandre Look, 33, have been confirmed killed by Hamas — a designated terrorist entity in Canada. Another three Canadians have also been reported missing.
Joly spoke with Look's family Tuesday, calling it one of the most difficult calls she has ever made.
"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," she 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."
In addition to the somber announcement, the minister provided Canadians trapped abroad with additional details on returning citizens and their families.
To avoid further loss of life, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) unveiled its plan to repatriate citizens caught in the crossfire of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and Hamas.
On Wednesday, she said a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) aircraft would shuttle citizens from the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv to Athens — a safe third country.
According to defence officials, the tentative plan is expected to include three flights per day at a capacity of 150 personnel per flight. Upon their arrival in Athens, an Air Canada plane would charter their return home.
Joly told reporters that efforts to bring Canadians home from Athens would commence Thursday or Friday, including dual citizens.
According to the latest federal figures, 4,249 Canadians are registered in Israel.
Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre confirmed that two CC-150 Airbus Polaris military aircraft would charter these flights, but for a limited time.
"It will be demand-driven [by how many Canadians are asking to get out]," he said.
The federal government will prioritize documented passengers, tourists and the most vulnerable, according to immigration officials at a technical briefing on Tuesday.
As for the 476 Canadians registered from Gaza or the West Bank, Canada has yet to indicate plans to evacuate.
“What I can tell you also is that should the United Nations work on an evacuation, we would be working with them,” said Joly.
“We've done so in the past, but at this point, there has been no information coming from the UN regarding evacuation as we speak, but we keep our options open.”
On Wednesday, the minister did not confirm if Hamas had taken any Canadians hostage, citing a desire to not "increase the value [for their return] and put their lives in danger."
However, she said 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.