American citizens were among the scores of foreign nationals who began to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Wednesday, the White House confirmed.
“The United States has been able to secure safe passage for wounded Palestinians and foreign nationals, including Americans, to depart Gaza through the Rafah crossing,” John Kirby, a spokesperson on foreign policy and national security, told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“And this is an important first step in a process that we expect to see continue over the coming days. The situation remains very fluid, but this is a significant breakthrough,” Kirby said.
“A handful of Americans” are expected to depart Wednesday, with more expected in the coming days, Kirby said.
The departure of Americans and others was the “direct result” of weeks of diplomacy conducted by President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Kirby said. Biden raised the exit of civilians through the Rafah crossing on separate Sunday phone calls with the president of Egypt and the prime minister of Israel, he said.
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The State Department has been in contact with American citizens in Gaza to “tell them to be ready to go and await further instructions,” Kirby said.
Gaza has been pummeled by Israeli airstrikes in the aftermath of Oct. 7 terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel. The attacks by Hamas, which controls Gaza, killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
The response by Israel has raised alarms about a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where Palestinians and others located there have been without access to adequate food, water and medicine. Gaza also experienced a communications blackout over the weekend before they were restored Monday.
White House officials have rebuffed calls from some progressives and activists for a cease-fire in Gaza, arguing it would allow Hamas to regroup and solidify its position. Instead, the White House has said it would support a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid into the area.
Source: The Hill