Foreign passport holders and wounded Palestinians trapped in Gaza have begun leaving the war-torn territory as the Rafah border crossing into Egypt reopened for the first time since the bloody October 7 Hamas attacks.
Pictures show relieved families streaming out of border gates that remained tightly closed to anyone entering from the besieged strip during the relentless Israeli airstrikes that Hamas said killed over 8,500 people.
Convoys carrying urgently needed aid have been traveling between Egypt and Gaza in what the UN has described as “a drop in the ocean of need” – but so far no people have been allowed to pass through the Rafah border crossing.
British nationals are among those who have flocked to Gaza’s southern border in recent weeks in the desperate hope of being among the lucky few to reach Egypt.
According to local media, the first group of injured evacuees from the Gaza Strip have now entered Egypt in ambulances, while many more are making the crossing on foot, carrying only a few belongings to reach safety.
Palestinians are relieved to cross the Egyptian side of the border crossing into the Gaza Strip
Palestinians with dual citizenship wait in front of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt
The Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The gates remained tightly closed to anyone coming from the besieged strip
Palestinian ambulances carrying people injured in the Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip arrive at the border crossing with Egypt
A medical worker cares for a Palestinian who is being treated in an Egyptian hospital
Women smile as they leave the Gaza Strip, which has been under heavy Israeli bombardment for three weeks
The Gaza Strip Border and Crossings Authority had previously released the names of more than 500 foreigners and dual citizenship holders whom it had asked to travel to Rafah to leave the Gaza Strip
People sit in the waiting area at the Rafah border crossing. After they were allowed to enter the terminal area, huge queues formed around the border crossing counters for passport control
Queues formed at the terminal early in the morning and about 545 foreigners and dual nationals, as well as about 90 sick and wounded people, were expected to leave the terminal.
After they were allowed to enter the terminal area, huge queues formed around the checkpoints for passports and other documents.
Ambulances were waiting on the Egyptian side to pick up the wounded and sick.
The evacuations are believed to have been secured as part of a Qatar-brokered agreement between Israel, Hamas and Egypt in coordination with the US.
The Gaza Strip Border and Crossings Authority had previously released the names of more than 500 foreigners and dual citizenship holders whom it had asked to travel to Rafah to leave the Gaza Strip.
The area around the terminal was hit by Israeli airstrikes. Images show destroyed buildings in Rafah, even as Israel urges people to move south for safety.
Amid the relentless Israeli bombardment, people trapped in the Gaza Strip are suffering from severe shortages of medical supplies, food, water and fuel.
The United Nations estimates that there are about 1.4 million internally displaced people in the Gaza Strip, with hundreds of thousands crammed into shelters and hospitals.
Some Brits stuck in the Gaza Strip are expected to be able to leave via the border crossing with Egypt today.
In order to flee to safety, children and their mothers are evacuated across the border to the Gaza Strip
Palestinians cross the border into the Gaza Strip on the Egyptian side with few belongings
People and cars enter the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip before entering Egypt
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said this morning that teams were ready to help British nationals fleeing the area, which has been hit by Israeli bombardment and a shortage of food, water and fuel.
As Tel Aviv forces step up operations against the Hamas group with combined air and ground offensives, Mr Cleverly stressed the need for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.
Mr Cleverly said: “UK teams are ready to help British nationals as soon as they are able to leave.”
“It is important that life-saving humanitarian assistance can reach Gaza as quickly as possible.”
Zaynab Wandawi, an English teacher from Salford, Greater Manchester, is among those held captive in Gaza after traveling there with her husband earlier this month.
Zaynab, 29, said their trip was “relatively normal” for “a few days” before the war broke out, but that they were now trapped in a war zone
She described her desperation when she reached the border earlier this week, telling a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office official that she feared they would not make it to the border.
“The longer we stay here, the higher the chance we will not make it to the Rafah border,” Zaynab told them.
“I honestly don’t think they know how much our lives are in danger.”
Some of those being taken to Egyptian hospitals for treatment are among more than 15,000 injured in Israeli retaliatory attacks.
According to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, the bombing killed more than 8,500 people, two-thirds of them women and children.
After Hamas’ invasion on October 7, Israel began bombing the Gaza Strip, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians. Another 240 people were taken hostage.
Yesterday, a refugee camp in northern Gaza was bombed by Israeli forces, killing at least 50 people, according to the Hamas-run health authority.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israeli warplanes carried out the attack, which he said killed a senior Hamas commander and collapsed the terror group’s underground infrastructure.
The IDF said that “numerous Hamas terrorists were hit in the attack.”
Jabalia is the largest of the besieged enclave’s eight refugee camps and is densely populated – with 116,000 refugees registered there, according to the United Nations, and residents forced to live in cramped, substandard conditions.