Oct 14, 2023 - World

U.S. tells Americans in Gaza to move south ahead of possible evacuation

moke billows from the Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt during an Israeli airstrike.

moke billows from the Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt during an Israeli airstrike on Oct. 10. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/picture alliance via Getty Images

The State Department told American citizens in Gaza on Saturday to move south towards the Rafah Crossing with Egypt ahead of a possible reopening of the crossing to allow foreign nationals to leave the enclave, a State Department spokesperson told Axios.

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

  • The Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing has been non-operational due to Israeli airstrikes, making it impossible for Palestinians to leave Gaza.
  • U.S. officials say that if the crossing reopens, it will be on short notice and for a short period of time. Therefore, American citizens, especially those in Gaza City, should try and go to more southern parts of the enclave as quickly as possible.

What they're saying: "The U.S. government is working to secure the safe exit of U.S. citizens from Gaza," the State Department spokesperson said. 

  • "We have informed U.S. citizens in Gaza with whom we are in contact that if they assess it to be safe, they may wish to move closer to the Rafah border crossing — there may be very little notice if the crossing opens and it may only open for a limited time," the spokesperson added.

Driving the news: On Saturday morning, the Israeli military called on Palestinian civilians in Gaza City to use two main roads as safe passages south between 10am and 4pm local time.

  • After this announcement, the State Department told American citizens to use these routes to move south closer to the crossing, U.S. officials said.
  • Other foreign governments also notified their nationals in Gaza to move to the border crossing with Egypt, one U.S. official said.
  • But not long after, the Israeli military notified the U.S. and other foreign embassies that "due to concerning the information we received, we instruct everyone to stay away from the area and wait for further updates," Israeli officials.

The big picture: Even if foreign nationals will eventually be able to enter Egypt via the Rafah Crossing, most Palestinians will not be able to leave Gaza, a densely-populated enclave home to more than 2 million people.

  • President Biden in some of his first remarks about the dire situation unfolding in Gaza said on Friday that the Biden administration is working "urgently to address the humanitarian crisis" there.
  • Gaza is currently in darkness and facing severe shortages of food, basic goods and medical supplies due to Israel's "complete siege" of the enclave.
  • The UN Palestinian refugee agency on Saturday called on Israel to allow aid to enter the enclave, saying Gaza was quickly running out of safe drinking water.

Israel late Thursday ordered more than 1.1 million Palestinians living in northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern part of the Strip within 24 hours — a sign that Israel may be preparing for an imminent and major ground operation.

  • The UN has called on Israel to rescind the order, saying it's a "death sentence" for many.
  • The Israeli military on Thursday conducted limited raids into Gaza to look for hostages and "clear the area" of Hamas militants.

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