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Dozens seen entering Rafah border crossing from Gaza into Egypt

A Palestinian health ministry ambulance enters the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip before crossing into Egypt on Wednesday.

A Palestinian health ministry ambulance enters the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip before crossing into Egypt on Wednesday. Photo: AFP/Getty

Dozens of people have been seen entering the Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt.

It appeared to be the first time foreign passport holders have been allowed to leave since Israel sent its forces into Gaza in retaliation for a major attack by Hamas on October 7.

Hundreds have gathered at the crossing at different times in recent weeks but have not been allowed out due to disagreements among Egypt, Israel and Hamas.

Earlier, Reuters reported that Qatar had mediated an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, in co-ordination with the US, to allow for the movement of foreign passport holders and some critically injured people out of Gaza.

An Egyptian security source said up to 500 foreign passport holders will pass the Rafah crossing on Wednesday.

About 200 people were waiting at the Palestinian side of the border on Wednesday morning, the source said.

There is no timeline for how long the Rafah crossing will remain open for evacuation, the source added.

The agreement is not linked to other issues under negotiation such as the hostages held by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that governs Gaza, or pauses designed to ease a humanitarian crisis in the enclave which is suffering from food, water, fuel and medical shortages, said the source.

Egypt has prepared a field hospital in Sheikh Zuwayed in the Sinai, according to medical sources.

Israel besieged Gaza after the Hamas attack, and the UN and other aid officials have said civilians in the enclave are living in a public health catastrophe, with hospitals struggling to treat casualties as electricity supplies peter out.

On Wednesday, communications and internet services were completely cut off in the enclave again, Gaza’s largest telecommunications provider Paltel said.

Bids to reach Gaza residents by phone were unsuccessful early on Wednesday.

Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org confirmed Gaza “is in the midst of a total or near-total telecoms blackout consistent with” the weekend blackout.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the communication blackout would disrupt the work of first responders and make it harder for civilians to seek safety.

“Even the potentially life-saving act of calling an ambulance becomes impossible,” said Jessica Moussan, an ICRC spokesperson.

Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas after several inconclusive wars dating back to the militant group’s 2007 takeover of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed international calls for a “humanitarian pause” in fighting to enable emergency aid deliveries to civilians.

-Reuters

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