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Hundreds more foreign nationals flee Gaza as bombing toll mounts

By AFP - Nov 03,2023 - Last updated at Nov 03,2023

Civilians leaving Gaza wait as dual national Palestinians and foreigners prepare to cross the Rafah border point with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday (AFP photo)

RAFAH, Occupied Palestine — Hundreds more foreigners and dual nationals fled war-torn Gaza for Egypt on Thursday as Israeli forces bombarded and fought ground battles in the besieged Palestinian territory, where thousands have died.

Egypt said it eventually plans to help evacuate 7,000 foreigners through the Rafah crossing and a spokesman for the Palestinian side of the border post said about 100 had been able to leave on Thursday.

A total of 400 foreign passport holders as well as 60 severely wounded Palestinians in ambulances were due to cross by the end of the second day of departures, Wael Abu Mohsen said, and Egyptian officials later reported the first arrivals.

A list of those approved to travel on Thursday shows hundreds of US citizens and 50 Belgians along with smaller numbers from various European, Arab, Asian and African countries.

"There was no food, no water, no gas, nowhere to take shelter," said US passport holder Salma Shaath, 14, as she prepared to cross. "People were going to hospitals to sleep, there are a lot of martyrs, there is no internet, no communications and no electricity

"Our house was bombed and our situation was difficult, so we came here to Rafah, and now we're planning to travel."

The evacuation marks a tiny proportion of the 2.4 million people trapped in Gaza under weeks bombardment since Hamas launched their surprise attack into Israel on October 7.

Ground battles flared again overnight in northern Gaza as Israeli forces have sought to destroy Hamas.

The Gaza health ministry says more than 9,000 people have died, mostly women and children.

Special concern has focused on repeated heavy strikes on Gaza’s largest refugee camp, densely populated Jabalia, north of Gaza City, where explosions brought down residential buildings.

Gaza’s Hamas-ruled government said 195 were killed in two days of Israeli strikes on Jabalia, with hundreds more missing and wounded. Hamas said seven of the estimated 242 hostages it is holding, died in Tuesday’s bombings.

Major strikes also hit Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp and an area near a UN-run school, where the health ministry said 27 had died.

Outside the Al Quds hospital in Gaza City, displaced residents seeking shelter from Israeli strikes told AFP that civilians would not withstand the barrage much longer.

“This is not a life. We need a safe place for our kids,” said 50-year-old Hiyam Shamlakh. “Everybody is terrified, children, women and the elderly.”

Talal Shamlakh, 65, said: “There have been missiles since 7:00am around the hospital and we couldn’t sleep while children are screaming.”

Another Gazan, Mahmoud Abu Jarad, said civilians would not be able to tolerate another week of strikes. “We demand a ceasefire. This is the most important thing,” the 30-year-old said.


 ‘Death every day’ 


Israel has sought to justify the first Jabalia attack by saying it had targeted a senior Hamas commander in a tunnel complex below the camp.

AFP has witnessed rescuers desperately clawing through the rubble and twisted metal in frantic attempts to bring out survivors and bodies.

Emergency responders say “whole families” have died.

The wounded were rushed away by cart, motorcycle and ambulance as anguished wails and blaring sirens filled the dusty air.

But Gaza’s hospitals have been overwhelmed and run short of medical supplies and even electricity.

Tensions and violence have also spread in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where more than 130 Palestinians have died since October 7 according to the Palestinian health ministry.

In embattled Gaza, more than 20,000 people are wounded, according to aid group Doctors Without Borders.

While the United States and other Western powers have largely backed Israel, anger has flared across the Arab and Muslim world.

The United States and several Western countries back Israel in ruling out a ceasefire for now, arguing that it must have the right to defend itself against Hamas.


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