GAZA, PALESTINE - 2020/08/11: Members of the Palestinian Hamas security forces wearing protective masks are seen checking passengers before allowing them through the Rafah land crossing. Egypt reopens the Rafah land crossing after months of closure due to the Coronavirus pandemic in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo by Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Egypt Opens Gaza Border Crossing to Aid Injured Palestinians and Evacuate Foreign Nationals

on Wednesday, a convoy of ambulances transported 76 severely injured Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt, marking the first such evacuation since the conflict between Hamas and Israel erupted.

Additionally, a group of 335 foreign passport holders, including British nationals, were granted permission to depart from Gaza through the Rafah crossing, according to officials.

The Gaza Strip has remained sealed off since Hamas initiated hostilities against Israel on October 7. The Rafah crossing is expected to periodically open to facilitate the safe exit of foreign nationals and injured civilians. The lists of eligible individuals for crossing will be jointly determined by Egypt and Israel, with the respective embassies being informed in advance to prepare for the arrival of their citizens.

It has come to light that approximately 7,000 dual nationals are currently residing in Gaza, according to information from the BBC.

In a statement made on Wednesday evening, US President Joe Biden expressed gratitude for what he termed “concerted American leadership,” which has enabled the commencement of safe passage for wounded Palestinians and foreign nationals. American citizens were among the initial group of evacuees, with more evacuations slated to occur over the upcoming days. President Biden emphasized that strenuous efforts are underway to evacuate Americans from Gaza as swiftly and safely as possible.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hailed the departure of the first group of an estimated 200 Britons in the region as a “hugely important first step.” He conveyed ongoing collaboration with Egyptian and Israeli authorities to ensure the Rafah crossing remains accessible to facilitate the safe return of all British nationals in the coming days.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, characterized by more than three weeks of Israeli bombardment and the recent deployment of ground forces in response to a cross-border attack by Hamas, which resulted in 1,400 casualties and 240 hostages, remains a matter of concern.

Gaza’s health ministry reports a staggering death toll exceeding 8,700 people in the region, while the United Nations raises alarm over dangerously low supplies of essential resources, including food, water, fuel, and medicine, due to an Israeli-imposed siege.

Meanwhile, ambulances were observed rushing to Rafah on Wednesday morning, with at least two children among the wounded, one with a bandaged stomach. Following medical assessments, these individuals were carefully transported away on stretchers.

By evening, at least 76 individuals had successfully arrived in Egypt, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the Palestinian border authority and an Egyptian official.

Nassem Hasan, a medic affiliated with Gaza’s health ministry, disclosed the challenging situation faced by hospitals in the Gaza Strip. A shortage of critical medical supplies has rendered these facilities incapable of addressing such critical cases, necessitating their transfer to the Egyptian side for further evaluation and potential relocation to different medical facilities.

The majority of these patients will be directed to a field hospital established by Egyptian authorities in Sheikh Zuweid, situated 15km (9 miles) from Rafah. Others will be directed to permanent hospitals in the neighboring town of El-Arish and the city of Ismailia.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed appreciation for Egypt’s decision to accept medical evacuations while emphasizing the pressing need for an accelerated flow of medical aid into Gaza. He underscored the necessity of safeguarding hospitals from bombardment and military use.

The WHO reports that over one-third of Gaza’s hospitals are non-operational, and those still in operation are grappling with an overwhelming influx of casualties. Gaza’s health ministry has documented that over 20,000 individuals have sustained injuries in the ongoing crisis.

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