“We have not been able to get American citizens through the [Gaza] border crossing and I’m not aware of anyone else being able to get out at this time, though I cannot fully confirm that because it’s a dynamic situation,” National Security advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday on Meet the Press. “We’re trying to create the circumstances where American citizens are in Gaza and are looking to lead to get into Egypt and ultimately to the United States or elsewhere, that they are able to do.”
As many as 600 Palestinian Americans are still in Gaza, and though the U.S. had announced that it had brokered a deal with Egypt to open the southern border for several hours on Saturday to allow U.S. citizens and other foreigners to leave — that never happened. Per the Washington Post:
Wael Abu Omar, the Palestinian spokesman for the Rafah crossing, said Palestinian officials had not had any communication with their counterparts on the Egyptian side. Egyptian media outlets reported that Cairo would only allow foreigners to cross the border if aid shipments could be delivered to Gaza.
Israel, meanwhile, has said it would strike any trucks coming across the border, especially trucks carrying fuel, according to a diplomatic official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss sensitive negotiations.
The Wall Street Journal adds that “Egypt told the U.S. that it has too many evacuation requests to accommodate U.S. nationals and that it can’t grant passage to one country over others, according to two Egyptian officials, who also cited security concerns related to a lack of screening of individuals.”
There have also been reports that Hamas officials have turned away anyone attempting to leave through the Rafah border crossing. Hamas has instructed Gazans to ignore Israel’s evacuation orders, and the president of the group’s political bureau has publicly praised Egypt for blocking “immigration” from Gaza.
The U.S. has also been working to arrange transit out of Israel for any Americans who wish to leave. The White House announced last week that it was setting up charter flights out of the country. The U.S. Embassy in Israel also announced Sunday that a ship for Americans would leave Haifa on Monday morning bound for Cyprus. U.S. citizens who wish to use these options to evacuate from Israel will need to agree to repay the government for the cost.
At least 29 Americans were killed during Hamas’ attack on Israel last weekend, and another 15 U.S. citizens remain missing, the State Department said Saturday.