Some 400 Americans approved to flee Gaza through Rafah crossing

November 2, 2023

Hundreds of foreign citizens, including roughly 400 Americans, were approved to depart war-torn Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing on Thursday.

The go-ahead came one day after the first civilians carrying foreign passports were cleared to cross through Rafah—the only border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. A handful of Americans, mostly aid workers departed Gaza through the crossing on Wednesday. Ambulances transporting wounded Gazans were also allowed passage.

Some 545 foreigners and dual nationals, along with dozens of sick and wounded, were expected to leave Wednesday, though the Gaza border authority, which is operated by Hamas, estimated that 300 or so foreigners departed on Wednesday.

The opening for foreigners to escape the war between Israel and Hamas inside Gaza came roughly a week after Egypt allowed the first humanitarian aid trucks access through Rafah into Gaza.

However Egypt had been reluctant to allow foreigners to pass from Gaza through the Rafah crossing because both Egypt and Jordan, which borders the West Bank, have declared a “red line” against relocating Palestinian refugees into their countries, amid concerns that the Israeli-Hamas war might trigger a new wave of permanent displacement in the region.

The State Department has been in contact with the roughly 400 Americans who have expressed a desire to leave Gaza, according to spokesperson Matthew Miller. With their family members, the total number comes to around 1,000.

More than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed since Hamas’ massive October 7 attack on Israel, according to Palestinian health officials, who are overseen by Hamas.

Meanwhile in Gaza, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in Gaza said Monday that more than 670,000 people have been internally displaced and are sheltering in 150 of its overflowing facilities. 

“They live in appalling, unsanitary conditions, with limited food and water, sleeping on the floor without mattresses, or outside, in the open,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said during a video conference from Jordan.

President Biden on Wednesday night said he believed there should be a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war to get the more-than 220 Hamas-held hostages out of Gaza, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to depart for the region on Friday, as the conflict intensifies and the issues, including humanitarian concerns, grow more complex.

PHOTO: Rafah crossing in 2009

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