Hundreds of foreign passport holders, including a number of Americans, and some wounded Palestinians who were trapped in Gaza started leavingWednesday as the Rafah border crossing to Egypt opened to them for the first time since the
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller confirmed some American citizens have left Gaza but he wouldn’t provide a specific number.
“There are a number of American citizens who have crossed through Rafah and are in Egypt today,” Miller told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
At least five nongovernmental organization workers who have been confirmed as Americans were on a list released by Gaza’s Hamas-controlled interior ministry as approved to cross on Wednesday, but it remains to be seen how many of the at least 400 American citizens the State Department says are stuck in Gaza will be able to cross in coming days.
Utah resident Susan Beseiso, who has been trapped in Gaza, told CBS News on Wednesday that the State Department has sent her guidance that says that the U.S. government “has reliable information that limited departures from Gaza may begin this week. U.S. citizens and family members will be assigned specific departure dates to ensure an orderly crossing.”
Before Beseiso heard from the State Department, she expressed frustration about her situation.
“They started letting foreigners out today but it’s not Americans because I guess we’re not as important as we thought,” Beseiso told CBS News. “It’s like they’re holding us hostages — not Hamas holding us hostages, it’s the IDF soldiers, Egypt and America. They’re using us as a human shield in a way.”
Footage showed the gate of the crossing on the Palestinian side of the border being opened Wednesday morning as people began to cross into Egypt for the first time sincebegan. Convoys of desperately needed aid have previously passed between but no people had been allowed through the Rafah crossing up until now.
At least 320 foreign passport holders had crossed into Egypt from Gaza, Reuters reported Wednesday. Some 545 foreigners and dual nationals along with dozens of sick and wounded were expected to leave throughout the day.
Diplomatic sources confirmed to CBS News that Qatar had mediated an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, in coordination with the U.S. to allow the limited evacuations from Gaza.
After being allowed into the terminal area, huge lines of those waiting to leave formed around crossing booths for checks on passports and other documents.
The first ambulances carrying wounded Palestinians from war-torn Gaza entered Egypt via the Rafah crossing on Wednesday, an Egyptian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
CBS News producer Marwan Al Ghoul previously reported on Tuesday that among those crossing will be at least 81 people the Egyptian government is letting travel in ambulances from Rafah to Arish for medical treatment.
The zone around the terminal for the Rafah border crossing was hit during Israeli air raids after the Hamas attacks, which Israeli authorities say left 1,400 dead, mostly civilians. Another 240 people were taken hostage.
Some of those being taken out for treatment in Egyptian hospitals are among what the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says are more than 15,000 wounded in retaliatory Israeli strikes, which the ministry says have killed more than 8,500 people, two-thirds of them women and children.
Meanwhile, internet watchdog Netblocks and major Palestinian operator Paltel said in social media posts Wednesday that all of the Gaza Strip was in the midst of another internet blackout.
A 48-hour communications blackout hit Gaza when Israel announced an expansion of its ground operation last week. Telecommunications were restored Monday, Paltel had said, before this latest blackout.