Confusion reigns for US citizens in Gaza as border crossing remains closed

Americans trying to escape Gaza were left waiting at Egypt’s border after an apparent misunderstanding between Washington and Cairo.

Israel was preparing its ground push into Gaza on Saturday and warned anyone in the northern portion of the strip to evacuate. The Biden administration advised Americans that the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt would be open to US citizens.

There are approximately 500-600 Palestinian Americans in Gaza, according to the US State Department.

The long-simmering conflict between Israel and Palestine boiled over when Hamas fighters crossed the Israeli border and butchered approximately 2,000 Israelis, many civilians and children. Israel responded with a bombing campaign in Gaza that has leveled apartment blocks and killed civilians and children.

US officials said the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt would be open from 12pm to 5pm on Saturday. However, Americans arriving at the crossing were stopped and turned away.

“Egyptian authorities have rejected the idea of using the Rafah crossing only for foreigners. The Egyptian position is clear,” Alqahera News reported, quoting Egyptian officials.

It is unclear exactly what happened, but reports from the gate suggest that Cairo had refused to allow US citizens passage.

By 5pm local time, the crossing from Gaza into Egypt had remained closed. It is unclear if it ever opened to allow US citizens across.

Lena Beseiso, 57, is an American from Salt Lake City who is visiting her family in Gaza. She told the New York Times that she had received messages from the US State Department on Saturday instructing Americans to leave Gaza through the Egyptian border, but she — and scores of others — were left waiting at the crossing.

Gazans with foreign passports wait arrive the Rafah Border Gate and wait to cross into Egypt as Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip continue on the eighth day in Rafah, Gaza on October 14, 2023

(Anadolu via Getty Images)

“Everyone here is frightened something goes wrong,” Ms. Beseio told the Times. “I have hope it will open. We’ll wait a little longer.”

Unfortunately for her, it does not appear that the crossing ever opened.

It is unclear if the border will open tomorrow or if US citizens will have to find another means of leaving Gaza. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza have been driven from their homes ahead of the Israeli military advance.

There is still no word from the US State Department explaining what happened.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent the day traveling across the region in an attempt to de-escalate hostilities. He began his day in Saudi Arabia before traveling to Abu Dhabi to speak with the United Arab Emirates’ Shiekh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

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