Rafah border crossing reopens for evacuation from Gaza

Only foreign citizens already approved will be allowed to exit as no new evacuees announced by Gaza border authority

Ambulances wait at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Getty Images
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Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, the only way out of the Gaza Strip not directly controlled by Israel, reopened on Monday for the evacuation of foreign citizens approved for departure, the Gazan border authority said.

The evacuation of foreign citizens trapped in the Palestinian enclave began last Wednesday under an internationally brokered agreement. The deal also allowed some injured Gazan civilians to leave for treatment at Egyptian hospitals for the first time since the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7.

The crossing was closed on Friday after an Israeli strike on an ambulance at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city and no foreign citizens were allowed to leave on Saturday or Sunday.

Health officials in Gaza said the strike targeted a convoy of ambulances taking wounded people to Rafah. Israel said the ambulance was carrying a Hamas militant.

The Gaza border authority said on Monday that not all the foreigners cleared to leave so far had departed, and asked those still in the territory to make their way to the Rafah crossing.

The authority has been publishing daily lists of foreigners approved to leave Gaza on Facebook. The lists show 345 people were issued approval on Wednesday, 596 on Thursday and 571 on Friday. The list posted on Saturday was comprised of 55 Egyptians.

Under the border deal, the departure of foreign citizens depended on the Israeli military allowing injured Palestinians to safely leave Gaza for treatment, an official in the Egyptian city of Arish told The National.

The crossing remained closed to foreign citizens until assurances were given that all aspects of the deal will be respected, the official said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said a convoy of four ambulances transporting patients from Al Shifa Hospital, accompanied by two ICRC vehicles arrived at the Rafah crossing on Monday.

“It is an immense relief to know that these patients are safe and will receive urgent medical care,” said William Schomburg, the head of the ICRC’s office in Gaza.

“I can’t emphasise enough how crucial it is that hospitals, medical personnel, and patients are protected amid this violence. There are thousands of critically injured people in Gaza. It is an obligation under international humanitarian law to spare them from harm.”

Fifty lorries carrying aid entered Gaza on Monday, an Egyptian Red Crescent officer said, after 24 entered on Sunday.

Egypt is seeking to increase the amount of aid flowing into Gaza, including fuel, which Israel has thus far refused to allow.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Programme, on Sunday to outline the “logistical obstacles” to the delivery of aid into Gaza, including repeated Israeli bombardments of the Rafah crossing.

Israel allowed fewer than 20 lorries to enter Gaza in the week after lifted its blockade on aid on October 21.

The following week it allowed 100 lorries to enter each day, but thousands of tonnes of aid sent by countries in the region and from around the world remain in Arish.

Updated: November 06, 2023, 4:36 PM