Canada on Saturday urged its citizens in Lebanon to leave while they still can, as neighbouring Israel continues to fight militants in the country and ramps up a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.
“If the armed conflict intensifies, it could impact your ability to depart [Lebanon],” a government statement read.
“You should consider leaving by commercial means now, if you can do so safely.”
Fighting has broken out along the Israel-Lebanon border since shortly after Oct. 7 when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Lebanese political party and armed movement that supports Hamas, traded strikes with Israel.
Israel responded by bombarding the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas and has been blockaded by Israel since 2005, and by striking targets in Lebanon. The Canadian government has designated both Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. Israel and its allies fear Hezbollah will fully enter the conflict and attack from the north.
An estimated 40,000 to 75,000 Canadians are living in Lebanon at any given time, according to government data. Defence Minister Bill Blair said last week that Ottawa is preparing mass evacuation flights out of Lebanon should the situation worsen.
Canada conducted such an evacuation effort in 2006, when federal government extricated roughly 15,000 people — most of them dual nationals — out of Lebanon due to fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. The foreign affairs minister at the time, Peter MacKay, later told the House of Commons that it was “by far the largest” evacuation effort attempted in Canadian history.