Rafah crossing reopens as first foreign passport holders leave Gaza
Rafah crossing to Egypt reopens, with the first foreign passport holders and wounded finally beginning to leave Gaza
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Foreign passport holders and wounded Palestinians who were trapped in Gaza have started leaving the war-torn territory as the Rafah crossing to Egypt reopened for the first time since Hamas’s bloody October 7 attacks.
Pictures show relieved families streaming out of the border gates, which have remained firmly shut to anyone entering from the besieged strip amid relentless Israeli airstrikes, which Hamas says have killed over 8,500 people.
Convoys of desperately needed aid have passed between Egypt and Gaza, which the UN has described as ‘a drop in an ocean of need’ – but no people have been allowed through the Rafah crossing until now.
British nationals are among those who have flocked to Gaza’s southern border over the past few weeks, desperately hoping that they could be among the lucky few to cross into Egypt.
The first group of injured evacuees from the Gaza strip have entered Egypt via ambulances, according to local media.
Queues began to form early this morning at the terminal and some 545 foreigners and dual nationals along with about 90 sick and wounded were expected to leave.
Palestinians with dual citizenship wait outside the Rafah border crossing with Egypt
Relieved Palestinians cross to the Egyptian side of the border crossing with the Gaza Strip
The Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The gates have remained firmly shut to anyone entering from the besieged strip
Women smile as they leave the Gaza Strip, which has been under heavy Israeli bombardment for three weeks
The Gaza Borders and Crossings Authority earlier published the names of more than 500 foreigners and dual citizenship holders who it called to travel to Rafah in order to leave the Strip
After being allowed into the terminal area, huge queues formed around crossing booths for checks on passports and other documents
After being allowed into the terminal area, huge queues formed around crossing booths for checks on passports and other documents.
Ambulances waited on the Egyptian side to take away the wounded and sick.
The evacuations are believed to have been secured as part of a deal, mediated by Qatar, between Israel, Hamas and Egypt in coordination with the US.
The Gaza Borders and Crossings Authority earlier published the names of more than 500 foreigners and dual citizenship holders who it called to travel to Rafah in order to leave the Strip.
The zone around the terminal has been hit during Israeli air raids, with pictures showing levelled buildings in Rafah despite Israel urging people to move south for their safety.
Amid relentless Israeli bombardment, those trapped in the Strip have suffered severe shortages of medical supplies, food, water and fuel.
The UN has estimated that around 1.4million people are internally displaced in Gaza, with hundreds of thousands crammed into shelters and hospitals.
Some Britons trapped in Gaza are expected to be able to leave through the border crossing with Egypt today.
Children evacuate through the Gaza border with their mothers as they flee for safety
Palestinians with just a few belongings cross to the Egyptian side of the border with the Gaza Strip
People and cars enter the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip before crossing into Egypt
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said this morning that teams are ready to help British nationals who are able to flee the territory, which has been subjected to bombardment by Israel and shortages of food, water and fuel.
As Tel Aviv’s forces step up operations against the Hamas group with combined aerial and ground offensives, Mr Cleverly stressed the need for humanitarian aid to get into Gaza.
Mr Cleverly said: ‘UK teams are ready to assist British nationals as soon as they are able to leave.
‘It’s vital that lifesaving humanitarian aid can enter Gaza as quickly as possible.’
Zaynab Wandawi, an English teacher from Salford, Greater Manchester, is among those trapped in Gaza after she travelled there with her husband earlier this month.
Zaynab, 29, said that for ‘a couple of days’ their trip was ‘relatively normal’ before war broke out, but that they are now trapped in a warzone
She described her desperation at getting to the border earlier this week, telling a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office official that she feared they would not make it to the border.
‘The longer we are here, the higher the chance that we will not make it to the Rafah border,’ Zaynab told them.
‘I honestly don’t think they know how much our lives are at risk.’
Some of those being taken out for treatment in Egyptian hospitals are among more than 15,000 wounded in retaliatory Israeli strikes.
The Hamas-run health ministry says the bombardment has killed more than 8,500 people, two-thirds of them women and children.
Israel launched the bombardment of Gaza after Hamas’s invasion on October 7, which left 1,400 dead, mostly civilians. Another 240 people were taken hostage.
Yesterday, a refugee camp in the north of Gaza was bombed by Israel’s Defence Forces, leaving at least 50 dead according to the Hamas-run health authority.
Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that Israeli fighter jets carried out the attack, which he claimed killed a senior Hamas commander and caused the terror group’s underground infrastructure to collapse.
The IDF said that ‘numerous Hamas terrorists were hit in the strike’.
Jabalia is the largest of the besieged enclave’s eight refugee camps and is densely populated – with 116,000 refugees registered there and residents forced to live in crammed, substandard conditions, according to the United Nations.
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