After 26 days of despair, Adelaide family escapes Gaza through Rafah crossing

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An Adelaide family, with children aged seven and 10, is among those who have crossed to Egypt.

In a brief email – “too exhausted to say/type more now” – the father told this masthead his family had made it to Egypt.

Families waiting to cross into Egypt at the Rafah crossing.Credit: AP

“[We] will be in Cairo in a few hours,” he said. “DFAT has been taking excellent care of us right from the point we arrived at the Egyptian side of the border.”

The family was in the middle of a four-week trip to Gaza – their first in 12 years, inspired by what had seemed to be stable conditions – when the war broke out.

They had been told several times to go to the Rafah crossing and had waited there for hours, only to have their hopes dashed when no one was allowed to leave.

They were staying with relatives, queueing for hours for bread and using artesian bore water from the local mosque. They were running out of money.

The man, who does not want his identity known, said the children would lie awake hearing bombs drop at night.

“We try to distract the children by giving them something go play with, taking turns to tell them stories and try to give them chores to do at home,” he said in a previous interview. “My son [aged 10] in particular struggles with the lack of physical activity.”

His son needs medication, which is also running out.

The Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts has confirmed 23 people registered with DFAT, including 20 Australian citizens, had entered Egypt from Gaza via Rafah.

Speaking on ABC News Breakfast, Watts said those people had met Australian consular officials.

“We’re incredibly relieved that overnight 23 individuals who had been registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and trade, including 20 Australians, were able to cross the border at Rafah,” Watts said.

“They were met by Australian consular officials who are on the ground there in Egypt, who are able to provide assistance with ongoing travel arrangements.”

Watts said the government was pushing for the 65 Australians remaining in Gaza to be let through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

Watts told ABC News the government was using all available communication channels to stay in contact with the stranded Australians, but the circumstances were “incredibly challenging”.

“We know that there are still 65 Australians in Gaza that we are supporting [and] providing consular assistance to at the moment, and we’re continuing to push for them to be able to make that passage across the Rafah crossing as soon as possible,” Watts said.

“We know this is an incredibly distressing time for Australians in Gaza and their families, and we’re providing all possible support we can, communicating through all available channels with the best information and options we have about their safety in a very, very difficult situation.”

As diplomats around the world work to free up to 7000 foreign nationals and dual citizens from the Gaza Strip, the Financial Times reported plans were being discussed to allow the departure of 1000 a day after the initial 500 that were set to depart on Wednesday.

With Lucy Cormack

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