Politics

Gaza foreign evacuees, including Canadians, arrive in Egypt after Rafah crossing reopens

The Rafah land crossing between Gaza and Egypt reopened on Sunday after being closed the two previous days, allowing injured Palestinians and more foreigners to leave the war-torn territory, officials said.

A Canadian official said more than 100 people with connections to Canada have come through the border and are waiting for buses to take them to Cairo.

Evacuations through the border crossing, the only entry point to Gaza not controlled by Israel, were suspended for a third time on Friday after issues around transporting injured Palestinians from northern Gaza.

At least seven injured Palestinians arrived on Egyptian soil on Sunday to receive medical treatment.

Egyptian security sources said 32 Egyptians also crossed over. Poland said 18 of the foreigners who crossed were Polish citizens.

Hundreds of foreign nationals and dependents and dozens of injured have passed through since the crossing began facilitating limited evacuations on Nov. 1.

Passengers fleeing from the Gaza Strip arrive in the Egyptian part of the Rafah border crossing with the Palestinian enclave on Sunday. (AFP/Getty Images)

The announcement that the border would reopen was shared on a Facebook page where the General Authority for Crossings and Borders posts a daily list of foreigners cleared to make the journey.

That list had not been updated as of Saturday night, but Global Affairs Canada previously confirmed that 266 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their families had been cleared to cross the border as of Friday.

WATCH | Canadian who got out of Gaza feels ‘born again’ after reuniting with daughter in Ottawa

Canadian who got out of Gaza feels ‘born again’ after reuniting with daughter in Ottawa

Featured VideoHany el Batnigi was visiting Gaza to take care of family business when Hamas’s attacks on Israel sparked an ongoing war. He says he lived in fear of airstrikes ‘every day and every night,’ while daughter Nour el Batnigi in Canada worked to get him back home.

A total of 107 people with connections to Canada managed to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing on Tuesday and Thursday.

The border had been closed for the previous two days, leaving all stranded in Gaza amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation and escalating fighting between Israeli troops and militants from Hamas, which controls the Palestinian enclave.

Airstrikes near hospitals continue

Israeli strikes pounded Gaza City overnight and into Sunday as ground forces battled Hamas militants near the territory’s largest hospital where health officials say medics, patients and displaced people are trapped with no electricity and dwindling supplies.

Israel, without providing evidence, has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the Al-Shifa Hospital compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

“We spent the night in panic waiting for their arrival,” said Ahmed al-Boursh, a resident taking shelter in the hospital. “They are outside, not far from the gates.”

The World Health Organization said it lost communication with contacts at the hospital, which was reported to be surrounded by Israeli forces. WHO said it has “grave concerns for the safety of those inside the facility.

The hospital’s last generator ran out of fuel on Saturday, which the Hamas-run Health Ministry says caused the death of a premature baby, another child in an incubator and four other patients. It says another 37 babies are at risk of death because there is no electricity.

Israel’s military said there was a safe corridor for civilians to evacuate to southern Gaza, but people sheltering in the hospital said they were afraid to go outside. The military said troops would assist in moving babies on Sunday, and that it was in contact with hospital staff. It was not possible to independently ascertain the situation in and around the hospital.

Doctors concerned about moving patients

The Health Ministry said there are still 1,500 patients at Al-Shifa, along with 1,500 medical personnel and between 15,000 and 20,000 people seeking shelter. Thousands have fled from the area, and other hospitals, but physicians said it’s impossible for everyone to get out.

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said another Gaza City hospital, Al-Quds, is “no longer operational” because it has run out of fuel. Gaza’s sole power plant was forced to shut down a month ago, and Israel has barred any fuel imports, saying Hamas would use them for military purposes.

With Shifa and other hospitals now inaccessible, people sheltering in Gaza City said they were cut off from emergency care. Heba Mashlah, who was sheltering at a UN compound along with thousands of families, said a strike late Saturday killed four people and wounded 15.

“The wounded are bleeding, and no one is able to come and help them,” she said, adding that the dead were buried inside the compound.

The UN Development Program confirmed one of its compounds was hit, although its agencies have not been able to provide services in the north for weeks.

The U.S. has also pushed for temporary pauses that would allow for wider distribution of badly needed aid to civilians in the besieged territory, where conditions are increasingly dire.

Death toll grows

Israel has agreed to brief daily periods during which civilians can flee the area of ground combat in northern Gaza and head south on foot along two main north-south roads. Israel is, meanwhile, striking what it says are militant targets across southern Gaza as well.

The war has displaced over two-thirds of Gaza’s population, with most fleeing south. Egypt has allowed hundreds of foreign passport holders and medical patients to exit through its Rafah crossing. It has also allowed hundreds of trucks loaded with food and medicine — but no fuel — to enter, but aid workers say it’s nowhere near enough. 

At least 80 aid trucks had moved from Egypt into Gaza by Sunday afternoon, Egyptian securty sources said.

People look at rubble from buildings destroyed in a bombarment.
A woman reacts as people stand amid the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 2,700 people have been reported missing and are thought to be trapped or dead under the rubble.

At least 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial Hamas attack, but officials say 46 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the ground offensive began on Oct. 27

About 250,000 Israelis have been forced to evacuate from communities near Gaza, where Palestinian militants are still firing barrages of rockets, and along the northern border with Lebanon, where Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants have traded fire repeatedly.

Netanyahu continues to reject calls for ceasefire

In a televised address on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected growing international calls for a ceasefire unless it includes the release of all the nearly 240 hostages captured by Hamas in the Oct. 7 rampage that triggered the war, saying Israel was bringing its “full force” to the battle.

Netanyahu has said the responsibility for any harm to civilians lies with Hamas. Israel has long accused the group, which operates in dense residential neighbourhoods, of using civilians as human shields.

On Saturday, Netanyahu began to outline Israel’s postwar plans for Gaza, which contrast sharply with the vision put forth by the United States.

Netanyahu said Gaza would be demilitarized and that Israel would retain security control, with the ability to enter Gaza freely to hunt down militants. He also rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some stage control Gaza. Hamas drove the PA’s forces out of Gaza in a week of street battles in 2007.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the U.S. opposes an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in both Gaza and the West Bank as a step toward Palestinian statehood. Even before the war, Netanyahu’s government was staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood.

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