Desperate American Palestinians still trapped in Gaza

‘We are American citizens and should be treated the same as the Americans who got put on planes out of Tel Aviv’

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 17 October 2023 21:47 BST

Related video: Humanitarian aid blocked at Rafah border crossing

Hundreds of Palestinian Americans are still stuck in Gaza after the US State Department claimed they would be allowed to leave through Egypt’s border crossing near Rafah.

Families — many with children — sat with their suitcases outside the border crossing on Monday waiting for news on whether or not they'd be allowed to leave besieged Gaza.

One woman, Maha Barkat, told NBC News that her family is "surviving on sandwiches" while they wait to escape.

“We are American citizens and should be treated the same as the Americans who got put on planes out of Tel Aviv,” she said on Monday.

The US State Department told American Palestinians they would be given passage through the Rafah border last week. However, there was some apparent miscommunication between Washington and Cairo, as the border never opened, and the Americans were left stuck waiting, and have been for days.

“It’s getting dark, it’s already getting loud. We’ve heard a few bombings in the area. We’re not going to have electricity for the rest of the night,” Ms Barkat told NBC News.

Some reports from the area suggest that Israel bombed the Rafah crossing, which may have contributed to the Americans' inability to leave through the border. Signs posted on the border seemed to corroborate those reports, warning "danger: the crossing is threatened by bombing."

Israel's military response to a Hamas attack that killed approximately 2,000 citizens has displaced more than a million residents of Gaza. The IDF warned residents of the northern city to evacuate, forcing around a million people from their homes.

In the meantime, Hamas has taken hostages, including Americans, and is reportedly executing them in response to Israeli bombings.

Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt at the Rafah border crossing in the Gaza Strip

Despite the closure, the US State Department is still advising Americans in Gaza to head to the crossing, noting that it may open without announcement and may only remain open for a short time.

Egyptian authorities have reportedly told the US State Department that "security threats" are preventing the border's opening.

While Americans are still stuck inside Gaza, they've received little in the way of sympathy from GOP lawmakers who are rallying behind Israel's bombing, which has leveled apartment blocks and killed families, including children.

Senator Tom Cotton told Fox News that Israel can "bounce rubble" in Gaza and insinuated if civilians are killed by Israelis in Gaza, it is the fault of Hamas and is justified.

“Anything that happens in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas. Hamas killed women and children in Israel last weekend,” the self-proclaimed “pro-life” Mr Cotton said. “If women and children die in Gaza, it will be because Hamas is using them as human shields because they’re not currently allowing them to evacuate as Israel has asked them to do so.”

He said, “if Hamas uses schools, and kindergartens, and mosques for military purposes, Israel has every right under the laws of war to strike back.”

GOP presidential primary candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley shared similar sentiments, saying the IDF should "finish them" when referring to Hamas.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that "every death, going, forward, I blame on Hamas, not Israel," and has been spoiling for conflict with Iran, who he believes stoked Hamas' 7 October attack.

Al-Qaeda leader and 9/11 architect Osama Bin Laden operated off of similar logic after the 9/11 attacks, justifying the targeting of civilians by claiming they were responsible for the actions of the US government abroad, including the killing of civilians and children.

While Hamas was elected into power by Palestinians in 2006, approximately 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 18, meaning most of the residents in Gaza who are now facing Israeli bombardment were not alive or were too young to vote for the militants. No new elections have been held since.

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