Foreigners from various nationalities stuck in the Gaza Strip are eagerly anticipating promises to exit the enclave through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
While Egyptian authorities affirm that the crossing is open for aid deliveries and the passage of foreigners, Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the US State Department, has accused Hamas of “hindering the departure of foreigners and making the situation at the Rafah border crossing extremely challenging.”
Hamas, in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, labeled Miller’s accusation as “false,” asserting that “the closure of Gaza is due to Israeli occupation.”
Following the Israeli attack on Gaza over two weeks ago, Washington urged US citizens there to head to the Rafah border crossing, with the intention of coordinating their evacuation as quickly as possible.
However, Egypt “refused to allow the exit of foreign nationals and dual citizens from Gaza until humanitarian aid was allowed to enter Gaza through the crossing,” as reported by Egyptian official media sources at the time.
The number of US citizens in Gaza is estimated to be between 500 and 600, most of whom were visiting their families.
However, their departure has been hindered by “repeated Israeli airstrikes on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing,” according to The Washington Post.
“Egyptian authorities have repeatedly confirmed their readiness to allow the passage of individuals with various nationalities, and the border crossing has not been closed by Egyptian authorities,” a senior Egyptian security source told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“However, the frequent Israeli shelling of the crossing from the Palestinian side, damage to the road leading to it, and the concern for civilian casualties have all prevented their departure,” added the source, who requested anonymity.
Miller told CNN that the sporadic presence of Hamas at the Rafah border crossing has made the situation “extremely difficult,” but Egyptians are ready to take in US citizens and foreign nationals who make it to their side of the border.
Husam Badran, a member of the Political Bureau and the Head of the National Relations Office of Hamas, dismissed the statement made by Miller as “false” regarding Hamas obstructing the departure of foreign nationals at the Rafah border crossing.
“The only crossing for the Gaza Strip is currently closed due to Israeli occupation, which enforces the blockade of Gaza with overt US support,” Badran told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Badran emphasized that “the continuous airstrikes on Gaza have disrupted all aspects of life there.”