Oct 11, 2023 - World

Israel and Egypt in talks to create safe passage out of Gaza for Americans: officials

Smoke billows from the Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt during an Israeli airstrike on October 10, 2023.

Smoke billows from the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt during an Israeli airstrike on Oct. 10, 2023. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has been engaging in recent days with Israel and Egypt in an effort to create a safe passage that will enable the evacuation of Americans and other foreign nationals from Gaza, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.

Why it matters: There are more than 500 Americans and hundreds of other foreign nationals in Gaza, among them UN workers, members of non-governmental organizations and journalists, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.

  • The closing of the border crossings with Israel and Egypt, and ongoing Israeli airstrikes, have made it effectively impossible to leave Gaza. An expected Israeli ground operation will make it even harder.
  • More than 1,200 Israelis and 1,100 Palestinians have been killed and thousands have been injured since the fighting began.

Driving the news: Israel and Egypt agreed in principle to create a safe passage out of Gaza for Americans and other foreign nationals, the U.S. and Israeli officials said.

  • But they stressed the operational implementation might be very difficult mainly because it will require some kind of ceasefire.

What they are saying: Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Wednesday that the U.S. is talking to Israel and Egypt about a safe passage.

  • "It's an ongoing conversation. I can't get into the details. Some of this is, needless to say, understandably complicated," Blinken said before leaving to Israel and Jordan.
  • Blinken will meet on Thursday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials. He will then travel to Jordan and meet King Abdullah and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, U.S. officials said.
  • "We support safe passage for civilians. The civilians are not to blame for what Hamas has done. They didn't do anything wrong, and we continue to support safe passage," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.

Behind the scenes: White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden spoke to Netanyahu during their phone call on Tuesday about the need to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza as much as possible.

  • Biden said he told Netanyahu about this on Wednesday: "I told him that with all the anger and frustration it is important that Israel operates in Gaza according to the rules of war."

The big picture: The UN and other groups are warning Gaza is facing a severe humanitarian crisis, particularly after the sole operating power plant shut down Wednesday after running out of fuel, leaving much of the Strip in the dark.

  • Israel cut electricity and blocked food, fuel and other supplies from getting into Gaza after declaring a "complete siege" of the enclave, which had already been under a strict Israeli blockade, supported by Egypt, for 16 years.
  • More than 263,900 people have been displaced in Gaza since the war began, the UN humanitarian office said late Tuesday. Many are sheltering in UN-run schools. Several schools have sustained damage from air strikes.

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