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Hundreds of Americans appear set to leave Gaza through Rafah border crossing into Egypt

Some foreign nationals evacuated from Gaza
Gaza's southern border crossing opens to evacuate some stranded foreign nationals 04:36

Hundreds of Americans who were trapped in Gaza appeared set to leave the war-torn territory on Thursday as foreign nationals continued to cross over the Rafah border crossing into Egypt after it opened to them for the first time since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

A list released by Gaza's Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry had the names of 400 American nationals who were approved to cross over the border on Thursday. The U.S. State Department estimates that there are around 400 Americans stuck in Gaza. 

In Washington on Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller confirmed some American citizens have already left Gaza but he wouldn't provide a specific number.

"There are a number of American citizens who have crossed through Rafah and are in Egypt today," Miller told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

At least five nongovernmental organization workers who have been confirmed as Americans were on a previous list released by Gaza's Hamas-controlled interior ministry as approved to cross on Wednesday. All five were confirmed to have crossed over to Egypt by their respective humanitarian organizations in statements sent to CBS News.

In Minnesota on Wednesday, President Biden said more people will be able to leave Gaza in the days ahead.

"We're working nonstop to get Americans out of Gaza as soon and as safely as possible," Mr. Biden said at an event about his economic agenda.

Biden addresses Gaza evacuations as some Americans cross into Egypt 03:18

Utah resident Susan Beseiso, who has been trapped in Gaza, told CBS News on Wednesday that the State Department has sent her guidance that says that the U.S. government "has reliable information that limited departures from Gaza may begin this week. U.S. citizens and family members will be assigned specific departure dates to ensure an orderly crossing."

Before Beseiso heard from the State Department, she expressed frustration about her situation.

"It's like they're holding us hostages — not Hamas holding us hostages, it's the IDF soldiers, Egypt and America. They're using us as a human shield in a way," Beseiso told CBS News

Miller, the State Department spokesperson, said the situation in Gaza "remains extremely fluid." Americans and their family members who want to leave Gaza will be emailed departure instructions over the next three days, Miller said.

Footage showed the gate of the crossing on the Palestinian side of the border being opened Wednesday morning as people began to cross into Egypt for the first time since the war began. Convoys of desperately needed aid have previously passed between Egypt and Gaza but no people had been allowed through the Rafah crossing up until now.

In a statement on Thursday, the Egyptian foreign ministry said that Egypt will help evacuate "about 7,000" foreigners and dual nationals from the war-ravaged Gaza Strip. In a meeting with foreign diplomats, assistant foreign minister Ismail Khairat said Egypt was preparing "to facilitate the reception and evacuation of foreign citizens from Gaza through the Rafah crossing".

Khairat said that involved "about 7,000" people, representing "more than 60" nationalities.

At least 320 foreign passport holders had crossed into Egypt from Gaza, Reuters reported Wednesday. Some 545 foreigners and dual nationals along with dozens of sick and wounded were expected to leave throughout the day. 

Diplomatic sources confirmed to CBS News that Qatar had mediated an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, in coordination with the U.S. to allow the limited evacuations from Gaza. 

Ambulances carrying wounded Palestinians from war-torn Gaza entered Egypt via the Rafah crossing on Wednesday, an Egyptian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.  

CBS News producer Marwan Al Ghoul previously reported on Tuesday that among those crossing will be at least 81 people the Egyptian government is letting travel in ambulances from Rafah to Arish for medical treatment.

Ambulances began moving from the Gaza Strip to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on Nov. 1, 2023.  Reuters

The zone around the terminal for the Rafah border crossing was hit during Israeli air raids after the Hamas attacks, which Israeli authorities say left 1,400 dead, mostly civilians. Another 240 people were taken hostage.

Some of those being taken out for treatment in Egyptian hospitals are among what the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says are more than 15,000 wounded in retaliatory Israeli strikes, which the ministry says have killed more than 8,500 people, two-thirds of them women and children.

Meanwhile, major Palestinian telecommunications operator Paltel said Gaza experienced another internet blackout Wednesday and service was gradually being restored.

A 48-hour communications blackout hit Gaza when Israel announced an expansion of its ground operation last week. Telecommunications were restored Monday, Paltel had said, before the latest blackout.

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