Approximately 1,000 Americans find themselves stranded in Gaza, unable to leave because Hamas militants are refusing to open the region’s primary passage to Egypt, as conveyed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.
On the same day when the State Department operated its final evacuation charter flight from Israel, the top American diplomat disclosed this information. Meanwhile, Hamas has refused to permit individuals who wish to exit its territory through the Rafah crossing. Israeli officials had previously advised Gazans to use this route to escape the escalating ground offensive in the region.
In this predicament are approximately 400 American citizens and their families, totaling around 1,000 individuals, as indicated by Blinken. Additionally, an estimated 5,000 foreign nationals are also affected by the situation.
Blinken further emphasized that his department is giving utmost attention to this matter and actively collaborating with regional allies to devise a plan for the safe evacuation of U.S. citizens from Gaza.
Blinken acknowledged that the department has encountered situations in which they believed they could proceed, only to discover that the necessary procedures to make it happen couldn’t be implemented. He emphasized that Hamas has been the primary obstacle in this regard.
Several Americans in Israel are still unable to return home due to the cancellation of flights by major airlines following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, which resulted in the tragic loss of more than 1,400 lives, including at least 33 U.S. citizens. After approximately a week of calls for the Biden administration to assist in evacuating American nationals from Israel, the State Department announced its decision to initiate charter flights to bring back U.S. citizens.
Nonetheless, Tuesday marked the conclusion of the planned charter flights, as State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller mentioned that only five passengers had boarded a full-size jetliner earlier in the week. However, Miller indicated that the department might consider resuming the flights if there is an uptick in demand.