Rafah crossing: More than 100 Britons leave Gaza but dozens remain

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Some people with foreign passports have been allowed to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing

More than 100 British people have left Gaza this week – and it is hoped more will be evacuated on Sunday, the deputy prime minister has told the BBC.

Oliver Dowden told Laura Kuenssberg said it was “disappointing” the Rafah crossing was closed on Saturday.

He said the government is “engaging closely” with authorities there and hope it will reopen soon.

The Rafah crossing was opened for three days earlier this week, with dozens of Britons named as eligible to leave.

As well as some foreign passport holders and their dependents, some wounded Palestinians were also allowed to leave Gaza via the border crossing and enter Egypt.

But on Saturday, hundreds with foreign passports went to the border but were not allowed to cross.

Sources from the crossing authorities on the Palestinian side told the BBC that movement of people with foreign passports is not being allowed until there is agreement on the safety of transferring injured patients.

There has been no official statement from the authorities as yet.

It was thought there were around 200 British nationals in Gaza before war broke out.

Mr Dowden said: “The first thing we are doing is trying to make sure we get the Rafah crossing open again and I’m hopeful we will make progress on that today.

“Secondly, we are seeking to have these temporary pauses to allow humanitarian aid in and to get our people out.”

The Foreign Office had said on Saturday the situation with the crossing was “complex and challenging” and they were using “all diplomatic channels” to urge its reopening.

Mr Dowden urged Britons remaining in Gaza to contact the Foreign Office.

Palestinians with foreign passports wait at the Rafah crossing

Border crossings in and out of Gaza have been closed since 7 October, when Hamas, which is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK, attacked Israel, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 240 hostage.

Since then, the Israeli military has launched a massive bombing campaign on Gaza, placed the strip under a “complete siege” and recently launched a ground assault on the north of Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 9,400 people have been killed.

It is thought 14 Britons died in the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel. Mr Dowden said three Britons remain unaccounted for, but he was unable to say whether or not they had been taken hostage.

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Many of those trapped in Gaza and seeking to leave have family in the UK urgently watching the situation.

Faras Abuwarda’s wife and five children – aged between three and 11 years old – have been named on a list of those allowed to leave but they are stuck in the north and cannot get to Rafah.

Mr Abuwarda, who travelled with his family to see relatives but then returned to London for work, said: “The situation is a disaster. We are disgusted at the British government as they aren’t able to help us.

“What we ask for is safe travel to the border, nothing else, and we’re unable to get it.”

He is waiting in Cairo, Egypt, and says his children are “frustrated, hopeless, and feel isolated”.

Omar Mofeed, from London, said his brother and pregnant wife, along with their three children, also do not believe it is safe to travel through Gaza.

“The British foreign ministry called us saying Israel has allowed a safe route […] then people start going, and Israel attacked people who are walking on this safe route,” he said.

The Israeli military has said it does not target civilians.

Icel Chumlukh said his wife Lamia, his 13-year-old stepdaughter and the couple’s one-year-old son had turned up at the border but were asked to leave. While his wife and son are on the list, his step-daughter is not – but his wife took her anyway, “hoping for a miracle”.

He said his son now “screams every time he hears a bang, or when someone closes a door” because they remind him of the sounds of airstrikes.

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