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Over the past two days, a minimum of 79 individuals who hold dual citizenship in America have entered Egypt from Gaza. This was made possible through a negotiation involving the United States, Israel, Egypt, and Qatar, with the latter serving as a mediator for Hamas.
Joe Biden, the president of the United States, informed journalists in the Oval Office that 74 individuals, who were both American citizens and citizens of another country, were able to depart the area on Thursday. According to John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, five US citizens had also left the day before, but he noted that the figures were constantly changing.
The announcement follows Mr. Biden’s statement that he has arranged for injured Palestinians and foreign citizens to leave Gaza safely. Gaza has faced intense attacks from Israel in the past few weeks.
Palestinian authorities in Gaza have reported that on Thursday, 384 individuals from other countries departed through the Rafah crossing, accompanied by 21 injured individuals. As per a list of names obtained by The Independent, over 400 American citizens have been granted permission to leave under the agreement. However, it is uncertain how many will actually be able to reach the Rafah crossing at the Gaza-Egypt border due to the ongoing Israeli airstrikes throughout the Gaza strip.
A British Palestinian surgeon named Ghassan Abu Sitta reported that the Israeli army had shot at ambulances transporting injured individuals on a coastal road that had been deemed safe by the Israeli army on Thursday. Recently released video footage showed an Israeli tank firing at a car on Salalhuddin road, which is a major route from the north to the south in Gaza. The Independent reached out to the Israeli army for a response regarding the reported assault on the coastal road.
Assistance for those in need is delivered to Gaza via the Rafah border crossing.
When asked by The Independent about the safety of American citizens attempting to reach the Rafah crossing, Mr Kirby stated that the majority of known Americans in Gaza are currently there. However, he cannot confirm with certainty that there are no family members elsewhere who have not yet traveled to Gaza or are unable to do so.
He stated that the State Department was in direct communication with every American family in Gaza and ensuring they are updated on when they are able to depart.
However, a dual citizen of the US who was contacted by The Independent stated that they had not received any communication from the State Department until yesterday, despite contacting US consulates in the area.
The 19-year-old Palestinian-American, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated in a message that they have not received any assistance. They have sent numerous emails to American consulates in Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Cairo, pleading for their aid.
The individual who is a citizen of the US is currently on a trip with their parents and siblings. However, they are the sole member of their family who possesses US citizenship, causing some complications. On Wednesday, the State Department informed them that their name will be included in the list of approved names for departure in the upcoming days. However, they are uncertain if their family will also be able to depart.
They expressed that they have limited food, no access to water, electricity, internet, and medicine because their parents were injured by bombs in the area. They had to evacuate to a shelter in order to be safe.
For the past two days, there has been disorder at the border as numerous civilians anxiously awaited to see if their names were included on the list for evacuation. Wael Abo Mohsin, a Palestinian representative in Gaza, reported that individuals of various nationalities arrived, only to discover that no one from their country was on the list.
Several Palestinian-American families have been stuck in a state of uncertainty as they wait near the border crossing. The Okal family from Massachusetts, consisting of Abood, Wafaa, and their one-year-old son Yousef, had been in Gaza visiting relatives when the conflict broke out.
Prior to the commencement of evacuations on Wednesday, the State Department had provided them with numerous notifications assuring them that they would be allowed to pass through Rafah. However, upon arrival, they discovered that the route was blocked for those seeking refuge from the war. They were forced to wait in a residence with several other families and a diminishing amount of food, while explosions, presumably from IDF airstrikes, occurred within a distance of less than 1000 meters.
“Nowadays, time is of the essence,” Mr Okal stated in a voice memo to The Independent last week. “One missile or airstrike could easily miss its target and end up too close to our location, as has happened before. That would be the end of it.”
The Independent has been unable to communicate with the family for a week.
A high-ranking government representative informed The Independent that the roster of individuals approved by Hamas to exit only includes those who have been cleared as of today, November 2nd. The official also noted that the list is restricted to American citizens, although others with ties to the US who do not hold citizenship – such as green card holders and family members of both groups – may still be undergoing clearance to cross.
On Wednesday, the government of Israel announced that any non-citizens and injured individuals from Gaza are allowed to leave without restriction.
“We granted permission for foreign individuals to evacuate through Rafah […] and we anticipate this will continue in the coming days,” stated Colonel Elad Goren, a representative for COGAT, the Israeli defense agency responsible for communicating with Palestinians, during a press briefing on Wednesday evening.
Israeli forces launch attacks on Gaza, while their ground troops move closer to the city of Gaza.
Officials on the Egyptian side of the border between southern Gaza and Egypt possess a record of numerous individuals from other countries who have been approved by all parties.
The nations provided us with a list of individuals living in [Gaza] who they wish to relocate. We carefully reviewed each name,” he stated, mentioning that wounded Palestinians “who are not involved in terrorism” are also permitted to enter Egypt for medical care.
According to previous estimates, there are around 500-600 American citizens currently stuck in Gaza. This is due to Israel’s declaration of a “total siege” on the area and their retaliation against Hamas for a deadly attack that claimed the lives of over 1,400 individuals. In the aftermath, over 8,000 Palestinians have lost their lives from Israeli bombings, including over 3,700 children.
On Wednesday, while on Air Force One, Mr Kirby stated that the Rafah crossing being opened is a crucial initial move in a process that is anticipated to continue in the upcoming days. He also referred to it as a significant achievement that was made possible by the hard work and diplomatic efforts of Mr Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Special Envoy David Satterfield.
He stated that during Sunday’s discussions with President Sisi of Egypt and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, the focus was on this particular arrangement and it was extensively talked about.