More than 4,300 people have been killed in Gaza, according to Hamas-run Health Ministry
A group of Palestinians living in the GTA are appealing to the federal government to bring family members living in Gaza to Canada faster than standard immigration policies allow.
Milton local and permanent resident Abdallah Alhamadni says they're hoping Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will create a humanitarian pathway for Palestinians fleeing from the Israel-Hamas war, similar to those implemented for people escaping violence in places like Syria and Ukraine.
"I have a great hope, it's not impossible to do that," said Alhamadni, adding Canada has a reputation for helping people around the world find safe haven in the country during times of crises.
"We would like to be treated the same."
Israel's siege of Gaza, launched after the Oct. 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants, has left the enclave's 2.3 million people running out of food, water, medicine and fuel.
Humanitarian aid was let into southern Gaza for the first time on Saturday after Israel's military pounded northern Gaza and warned it would increase its attacks following the surprise infiltration of its borders by Hamas militants. A second convoy was headed to Gaza on Sunday.
An expected ground offensive is likely to lead to a dramatic escalation in casualties on both sides in urban fighting. More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed in the war — mostly civilians slain during the Hamas incursion — according to the Israeli government. The Israeli military on Saturday said at least 307 of its soldiers have been killed since Oct. 7.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday that the death toll in the enclave has reached 4,385, while 13,561 people have been wounded.
Brantford, Ont., local and permanent resident Ahmad Abualjedian says his wife — who's expected to deliver his daughter and first child sometime Sunday — is still in Gaza along with his sisters and brothers.
He says he's already lost family members due to violence and is worried about losing more, on top of the stress he feels knowing his wife has to deliver in such dire circumstances.
"People just live there, they have nothing to do with anything," said Abualjedian.
"I lost my sister. Should I lose more to convince … humanity to help us?"
CBC Toronto has reached out to the IRCC for comment but did not hear back by publication time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that Canada supports Israel's right to self-defence while adding that international law must be upheld in Gaza. More than 30 MPs — 23 of them Liberals — have written a letter to Trudeau calling on him to advocate for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The last time the government publicly announced committing funds toward helping Palestinian refugees was in June. Global Affairs Canada announced funding of up to $100 million over four years for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and an additional $3 million to the Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza.
Government has already set precedent: immigration lawyer
Immigration lawyer Maureen Silcoff says policies that can help Palestinians come to Canada faster than usual is something the government has allowed in the past for other groups.
"We've seen numerous public policies that are being created for Ukraine, for Afghanistan, for Sudan, for Hong Kong, for a whole host of situations," said Silcoff. "It's a matter of the minister deciding what would be appropriate in the circumstances."
Canadian describes trying to reach pregnant sister in Gaza
Featured VideoRola Baker, who lives in Moncton, N.B., had several brothers and sisters in Gaza when Israel imposed its complete siege of the territory — including a sister who was six months pregnant when the violence escalated.
It could also look at extending visas and permits for Palestinians already here, waiving processing fees or expediting existing applications in the system from loved ones with relatives who live in Canada, she said.
"It would be keeping in keeping with past policies of the government, passed actions of the government."
Alhamadni says his family is bracing for bad news at every passing moment. If something were to happen to relatives overseas, he would feel "guilty" and that he "failed to protect them."
"We can't continue our life, and we feel we are like broken into two parts," said Alhamadni.
"We're trying to raise our voice."
With files from Tyler Cheese, The Associated Press and Thomson Reuters
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