Tuesday, July 16, 2024

As people waited at the Rafah crossing on Thursday anticipating a second day of evacuations from Gaza into Egypt, the sound of an airstrike rattled the crowd, and a piece of shrapnel appeared to fall in the area.

The blast was just another sign that for many, the trip to safety was one of the riskiest endeavors they had undertaken in Gaza.

“Reaching Rafah crossing was the most dangerous trip in my entire life,” Ala Al Husseini, 61, an Austrian citizen who evacuated on Wednesday, wrote in a text message from the bus that took him from Rafah to Cairo.

Reached by phone on Thursday after arriving in Cairo, he said that he had not been able to find any taxis or people who would drive him to the border because of a shortage of fuel in the Gaza Strip, and because phones were not working. Eventually he found a ride, but he and the driver were terrified while driving from central Gaza on the enclave’s empty streets.

Mr. Al Husseini said he feared that simply being next to a place that Israel considered a Hamas target could get him killed. “You could be collateral damage any time,” he said. “I was scared to death.”

Gaza’s border crossing authority released the names of about 600 more foreign nationals it said would be allowed to leave through the Rafah crossing on Thursday. The list included 400 Americans as well as people from Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland.

Photos from Gaza showed scores of people waiting at the crossing, and Egyptian television showed people pushing luggage carts on the other side of the checkpoint.

Mr. Al Husseini said that the scene at the border was chaotic. Officers were processing names manually, he said, and people who were not among the few hundred people being allowed out were among the crowds, some trying to leave.

Family members of those who could evacuate were sometimes barred from leaving, because they did not have foreign citizenship or the necessary documents, forcing people into difficult decisions.

Adala Abu Middain, a Palestinian with Egyptian citizenship, went to the crossing on Thursday with her sister, Dalal, and Dalal’s 6-year-old daughter, Maha, both of whom have American citizenship, she said. But she said that when they arrived at the crossing they were told that the niece could not leave.

“We just want one thing: Help us to leave Gaza,” Ms. Abu Middain said.

It was unclear what the holdup was, and the American Embassy in Cairo did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said Wednesday that around 400 Americans in Gaza had expressed a desire to leave, but that the government would also help their family members who wish to flee, for a total of about a thousand people. Still, some names were not on the list on Thursday.

Mkhaimar Abu Sada, 58, an associate professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, was accompanying his two sons, both in their 20s, at the Rafah crossing on Thursday. He said they had American citizenship, but that he was not allowed to leave because he has only an American green card. His wife and three other children are not American and will stay behind as well.

He is hoping they will all eventually be able to get out. “The situation is beyond catastrophic and beyond even imagination,” he said. “The death, bombing, bloodshed.”

Lena Beseiso, 57, an American who had come to the crossing repeatedly only to find it closed, was finally traveling through it on Thursday with her family. But her feelings were bittersweet.

“It’s so sad that we have to leave all those innocent people behind,” she said in a voice note.

Iyad Abuheweila and Anna Betts contributed reporting.

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