Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she could hear the sounds of the evacuated Australian children in the background when she spoke to Australia’s ambassador to Egypt earlier today.
Wong said the ambassador, Dr Axel Wabenhorst, told her that the 23 Australians and family members in the first group to evacuate Gaza via the Rafah crossing seemed to be in good health after their seven-hour bus journey.
Wong said consular officials would ensure anyone who needed urgent medical attention would receive it in Cairo, and the government was arranging transport home to Australia. She said this would be free for the passengers, and when asked for details, she said that was the information she had received.
Wong said there about 85 Australian citizens, permanent residents, visa holders and family members in Gaza and Department of Foreign of Affairs and Trade was trying to assist all of them.
“I know how distressing this situation is for them and for the next of kin,” Wong said. “Please be assured we will continue to press for all of you to cross the border out of Gaza.”
Wong was asked about the Australian citizen who remained behind in Gaza because his wife, a visa holder, had not been allowed to exit Gaza at the Rafah crossing. This was a reference to Abdallah Dahalaan, 77, who we blogged about earlier.
Wong said she assumed he would be registered with DFAT and therefore consular officials would be in contact.
“Obviously communications have been disrupted at times in difficult circumstances, but we’re in contact with all the Australians who are registered and we are seeking to assist all of those who wish to leave,” she said.
She said evacuating Australians out of Gaza was complex because there were thousands of foreign nationals in Gaza and 350 were permitted passage, including the 23 bound for Australia.