Twelve Greek citizens who had been trapped in Gaza since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas were able to cross into Egypt, diplomatic sources reported on Thursday.
The civilians used the Rafah crossing along with hundreds of other foreign nationals and dozens of seriously injured Palestinians who were allowed to leave Gaza for the first time since the war began more than three weeks ago.
“Following the actions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and under the coordination of the Embassy of Greece in Cairo and the Consulate General of Jerusalem, twelve Greek citizens, who resided in Gaza, passed safely through the Rafah border crossing today and are now in Egypt,” the sources said.
Dozens of Greeks were evacuated during the first days of the war. Over 360 foreign passport holders have also left Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, an Egyptian government official told CNN.
The official said dozens are now on their way to Cairo, where some will catch flights back to their home countries.
The injured Palestinians and dual nationals are the first non-hostages allowed out of the enclave since Israel’s latest war with Hamas began three weeks ago, representing a significant breakthrough following weeks of Israeli airstrikes across the densely populated strip that have killed thousands and sparked a humanitarian crisis.
According to the Egyptian official, 491 foreign nationals were registered to arrive in Egypt today, but the remaining 130 either didn’t make it to the border crossing or refused to cross without their families, whose names were not registered on the list.
US President Joe Biden said the opening of Rafah came after “intense and urgent American diplomacy with our partners in the region,” and as many as a thousand more foreign nationals could depart soon.
More than two million people, half of them children, have been stranded inside the war-torn strip since Hamas’ deadly October 7 terror attack prompted Israel to close its borders with Gaza and launch an aerial campaign targeting the militant group that controls the enclave.
Gaza under seize
Israel’s bombardment of the densely inhabited strip has killed at least 8,700 people, according to figures released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, drawn from sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave. Women, children, and the elderly make up more than seventy percent of those killed, the Ministry said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency crossed into Gaza to meet with staff; on his return to Egypt, he described the scale of tragedy as “unprecedented.”
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), called the trip “one of the saddest days in my humanitarian work.” He described “unsanitary living conditions” and “water, food, medicine and fuel are running out” in Gaza, he confirmed.
“Everyone was just asking for water and food,” he admitted in the statement. “Instead of being at school, learning, children were asking for a sip of water and a piece of bread. It was heart-wrenching. Above all, people were asking for a ceasefire. They want this tragedy to end.”