Report: Canada preparing to evacuate 45,000 citizens from Lebanon as war fears grow

Canada’s FM said to tell Israeli FM in tense conversation that Ottawa making plans for unprecedented operation; Katz urges Ottawa to pressure Iran into reining in proxy Hezbollah

Black smoke billows after an Israeli air strike that targeted a house in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, near Israel's northern border with Lebanon, June 21, 2024. (Rabih Daher / AFP)
Black smoke billows after an Israeli air strike that targeted a house in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, near Israel's northern border with Lebanon, June 21, 2024. (Rabih Daher / AFP)

Canada is preparing to evacuate 45,000 of its citizens from Lebanon should a full-scale war break out between Israel and Hezbollah, Hebrew media reported on Friday.

The Channel 12 report quoted what it said was a tense conversation held earlier in the day between Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Canadian counterpart Mélanie Joly. The latter was said to have told Katz that Ottawa had already sent military forces to the region in preparation for “the largest evacuation we have ever undertaken,” amid fears of an escalation in violence between Israel and Hezbollah along the border with Lebanon.

It was unclear if similar plans were being made for the roughly 35,000 Canadian citizens living in Israel.

Katz reportedly urged Joly to put pressure on Hezbollah’s Iranian backers to reign in the terror group.

“The window of opportunity is closing,” Katz was quoted as saying. “Israel will not put up with… the situation where residents of the north can’t return to their homes.”

Israel evacuated communities along its northern border following Hama’s October 7 terror onslaught, fearing Hezbollah would carry out a similar attack and amid daily rocket fire. Some 60,000 residents of northern Israel remain displaced.

File – Foreign Minister Israel Katz speaks during a plenum session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 29, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On October 7, thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 250 hostages, sparking the war in Gaza. Since then, the Iran-backed Hezbollah has attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the northern border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

Tensions have reached a fever pitch over the past two weeks, as explosive-laden drones launched by Hezbollah have caused fires to ravage much of Israel’s north. Amos Hochstein, the White House’s special envoy to the Middle East, reportedly warned Beirut this past week that if Hezbollah doesn’t cease its near-daily attacks on northern Israel, it could find itself the target of a limited Israeli operation backed by the United States.

Hochstein, who in 2020 brokered a maritime agreement between Israel and Lebanon, was in the region to hash out a deal to try get Hezbollah to retreat north of the Litani River, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the border with Israel. The line is enshrined in United Nations Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, right, meets with US envoy Amos Hochstein in Beirut, Lebanon, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Katz reportedly brought up the Litani in his conversation with Joly. According to Channel 12, Katz told his Canadian counterpart on Friday that if Ottawa wanted to avert an all-out war in Lebanon, it should pressure Tehran into forcing Hezbollah to retreat beyond the Litani.

There was no official readout of the conversation.

However, Katz later posted on X: “Israel cannot allow the Hezbollah terror organization to continue attacking its territory and citizens, and soon we will make the necessary decisions. The free world must unconditionally stand with Israel in its war against the axis of evil led by Iran and extremist Islam.”

The reportedly tense conversation between Katz and Joly came two days after the Israeli foreign minister congratulated Ottawa for declaring Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terror group.

File – Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly talks to the media during a press conference with her Cypriot counterpart (not pictured) on humanitarian aid for Gaza,at the ‘Zenon’ Coordination Centre in Larnaca, Cyprus, May 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Joly, a member of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s center-left Liberal Party, in March announced that Ottawa would cease weapons shipments to Israel. The motion was drawn up by the Liberals’ leftwing coalition partners, the New Democrats, who are helping keep Trudeau in power in power and were unhappy with what they saw as his failure to do enough to protect civilians in Gaza.

Katz at the time slammed the decision, saying that “history will judge the current acts of Canada harshly.”

Israel’s skirmishes with Hezbollah in the current war have so far resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 15 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 349 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing fighting, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 63 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

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