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Global Affairs investigating the disappearance of a Canadian citizen in Gaza

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Global Affairs are investigating the disappearance of a Canadian citizen in Gaza amid reports that Palestinian-Canadian Mansour Shouman has been missing for a week.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware of a Canadian who is missing in Gaza. Canadian officials continue to monitor the situation closely and are in direct contact with the family members,” the agency said in a statement to CTV News on Sunday. “Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed.”

Shouman has spent months documenting the crisis in Gaza as a citizen journalist and helping to distribute humanitarian aid. He has frequently spoken to international media over the course of the war to share details of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, and is believed to have been missing since Jan. 21.

There have been unverified reports of eyewitnesses who say Shouman was arrested by the IDF.

"For everybody, watching what's happening in Gaza has been traumatic, but since we haven't heard from Mansour, it's been really worrying," Zaheera Soomar, a colleague of Shouman, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

Soomar, who works with the team in Gaza from Toronto, said that the last time they had heard from Shouman was 4 p.m. on Jan. 21.

“In the morning, we didn’t really worry about it because we knew there was coms blackouts and we knew Khan Younis was under attack,” she said.

But by Monday afternoon, they’d heard from others on the ground, who said that “Mansour had left Khan Younis and headed towards Rafah.”

When the team still couldn’t get in contact with him, alarm bells began to ring. On Thursday, members of Shouman’s team posted to his X account, formerly known as Twitter, saying they believed he was missing.

Then, on Saturday, Soomar said they got an update from their contacts on the ground in Gaza.

“There are three eyewitness accounts that on Tuesday, when he was making his way from Khan Younis to Rafah, that he was arrested by IDF,” she said.

Since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in Israel and took roughly 250 hostages, more than 26,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, amid a brutal aerial bombardment and a ground assault by Israel.

The southern city of Khan Younis has faced heavy fighting this past week as Israeli troops pushed into the city. A strike on a crowded UN shelter in Khan Younis on Wednesday killed 12 and wounded over 75, the Associated Press reports—just a small part of one of the bloodiest military campaigns raged in years.

Shouman has been living in Gaza with his family since 2022. He previously completed oil and gas consulting work in Calgary, and has five children, according to the Canadian Press. In the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, his family fled their homes.

As the fighting continued, Shouman decided to split up from his wife and children so that he could document what he saw unfolding around him without fearing for their safety, he told CTV National News in November. 

In that same conversation, Shouman described overflowing hospitals, communication blackouts, people going hungry and the increasing danger of disease in UN-run schools packed with refugees.

“People are basically suffering,” he said.

That was nearly three months ago. The situation has only continued to worsen in Gaza, with the death toll climbing and Israel vowing no end in hostilities until Hamas are eradicated. 

Shouman has not only been documenting what is happening on the ground, but has also been trying to help distribute aid, Soomar said.

“Mansour has been doing two different types of work. One, he's spreading awareness about what's been happening, like an independent journalist. He's been broadcasting to the world ... because he speaks very good English, he is able to communicate with a very big population in the world about what is happening on a daily basis,” she said.

"And the second piece of work is humanitarian efforts. So he does work on the ground to bring food, to bring aid, medical supplies, helps with building tents, shelter ... and just bringing relief on the ground, basically."

Soomar’s worry regarding Shouman’s safety is compounded by the fear that Shouman may be in the hands of the IDF, she said.

"We've seen journalists being targeted,” she said.

"Right now, we really need the government of Canada to act and act with urgency."

A petition calling for Shouman’s safe return has already garnered more than 87,000 signatures since it was first shared on Saturday.

At least 83 journalists and media workers have been killed so far in the conflict, including 76 Palestinian journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In November, as the first foreign nationals began to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, Shouman told CTV National News that he wouldn’t be leaving—his role, he felt, was to be a voice for those in Gaza to international media.

“Given that the impact that the media is having, trying to get the media out in the English language in a way that the western world, the decision-makers, hopefully understand — not a lot of people in Gaza can play this role right now,” he said in November.

“If everyone like me decided to leave, then who would be left to help the people here?”

With files from The Canadian Press.

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