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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Scores of dual nationals and injured Palestinians cross from Gaza to Egypt

Fellow soldiers mourn at the grave of Staff Sgt. Adi Leon of the Givati Infantry Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion during his funeral in the Modi’in Cemetery in Israel, Nov. 1, 2023. Leon was killed by an anti-tank missile in the Gaza Strip.

By Vivian Yee, Hiba Yazbek, Iyad Abuheweila and Victoria Kim

Scores of people — some with dual nationalities and other seriously injured Palestinians — arrived in Egypt on Wednesday, a border official said, after the Gaza Strip border was opened under an international agreement to allow a few categories of people to cross. They were the first such exits from Gaza since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel.

Ambulances shuttled 76 critically injured people and members of their families into Egypt from Gaza, said Wael Abu Mohsen, a spokesperson for the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing. Gravely wounded Palestinians were being taken to nearby hospitals in Egypt, Gazan health officials said.

Six buses carrying 335 more evacuees left Gaza and had arrived at the border crossing, Mohsen said. It remained unclear if they had entered Egypt.

Earlier, Egyptian state TV showed what it said was a group of foreign or dual nationals carrying luggage on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, where they were to have documents checked.

The crossings came after a deal negotiated late Tuesday among Israel, Egypt, Hamas, the United States and Qatar. Egypt was preparing to receive hundreds of people Wednesday, according to Western diplomats in Cairo and Jerusalem, as well as Gaza authorities. U.S. citizens were not expected to be among Wednesday’s evacuees, other than those working for certain aid groups, but they are slated to follow in batches later in the week, three of the diplomats said.

The Rafah crossing has been the focus of heated international negotiations. At present, it is not only the sole possible escape route for people trapped in Gaza, but it is also the only entry point for relief supplies.

After Hamas mounted devastating coordinated attacks on Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, Israel imposed a siege on the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory, conducting a bombing campaign and then sending troops deep into Gaza starting over the weekend.

On Tuesday, an Israeli airstrike on the neighborhood of Jabaliya, near Gaza City, killed dozens and wounded hundreds, according to officials at a hospital. On Wednesday, the Gaza interior ministry said another airstrike in the same area had killed and injured more people. Nearly 8,800 people have been killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Here’s what else to know:

— Gaza’s more than 2 million residents appeared to have been once again plunged into a communications blackout Wednesday. The strip’s main telecommunications provider said around 4 a.m. that its services had been disrupted. Over the weekend, as Israel began a ground invasion, residents endured a panic-inducing 34-hour blackout.

— Israel said its strike Tuesday in the Jabaliya area had successfully targeted Hamas militants, including a commander who was central to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed 1,400 people. A Hamas spokesperson denied that a commander had been in the area.

— Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed to press on with the campaign in Gaza despite the deaths of Israeli soldiers there. “We are in a difficult war. It will also be a long war. We have important achievements, but also painful losses,” Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday evening.

— It was not immediately clear why U.S. citizens were not on the list to leave Wednesday. A State Department email sent to U.S. citizens in Gaza said “limited departures from Gaza may begin this week.” Ramona Okumura, a Seattle resident and volunteer for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, crossed into Egypt from Gaza after waiting for more than seven hours with four other Americans.

— The United Nations aid chief, Martin Griffiths, said a pause in fighting would be the only viable option for delivering sufficient supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel into Gaza and urged the immediate release of hostages. “Failure to act now will have consequences far beyond the region, because this is a global crisis,” he said.

— Bolivia severed diplomatic ties with Israel over its strikes on Gaza, a decision that Israel condemned as a “surrender to terrorism.” Israel’s ties with other countries in Latin America have begun to fray over the war.

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