Palestinian holders of foreign citizenship are seen at Erez Crossing. Photo: BEN HARTMAN

 Residents of the Hamas-ruled enclave began making their way out of the coastal territory as operation entered sixth day.

An exodus of several hundred Palestinian dual citizens from the Gaza Strip began Sunday at the Erez crossing.

Residents of the Hamas-ruled enclave began making their way out of the coastal territory as Operation Protective Edge entered its sixth day, with no ceasefire in sight.

They began making their way through the crossing in the hours before a bombing campaign the IDF said would begin at noon, and would pass through Israel to Jordan and then to their final destinations.

The crossing was a hive of activity Sunday morning, with consular staff from several countries including Romania, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere trying to make their way into the terminal and the Strip to coordinate the evacuation of their citizens.

The biggest contingent appeared to be Americans, part of a group of around 150 leaving on Sunday from Erez, according to US State Department Press Attache Leslie Ordeman. Another large contingent was expected later from Romania, which according to two Romanian officials included around 100 people.

Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, said that on Thursday the embassy began encouraging its citizens to leave Gaza. So far, about 22 had registered to leave, including five who had already made it through the Rafah crossing on Saturday into Egypt.
He said the total would be in the “low dozens,” and that those who are refusing to leave include one woman with disabled children in Gaza who wants to look after them, as well as others who are simply not too concerned about the situation or prefer to stay behind with their family.

Sharma said the evacuation “just reflects the deteriorating security situation in Gaza” and in the same instant a mortar exploded somewhere close by. He added that the violence “only appears to be increasing and not decreasing and we believe a ceasefire is at least a few days off so we’re urging them to leave.”

Dr. Akram Mushtaha, a Gaza native who now lives in Houston, said that for several days he has been trying to leave in order to get his two daughters out of the Strip. He came with his daughters and wife for summer vacation and said that he wanted to stay and possibly use his medical training to help people in Gaza, but that he left for the sake of his children, aged 17 and 4.

“I don’t want them to go through that experience they were scared they were crying whenever they’d hear the sounds, and they would panic and ask me, ‘Why’d we come here?’”

Like the rest of the American Palestinians reached by The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Mushtaha lives in Texas, as does his 17-year-old daughter Diana, who will attend the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, where she said she will major in international relations.

Rawan Mehana, 21, of Dallas, Texas, was at the crossing with her parents and her sister, Noor, 10, and Muhammed, 13, on Sunday, seemingly in high spirits though clearly ready to leave.

Sipping a soft drink, Noor said “it’s very scary, of course we’re not used to it, when it started it brought me to tears it was very close by.”

Rawan said they came to Gaza City for her sister’s wedding three weeks ago to a man from Gaza, though the wedding now seems like a much longer time ago.

When asked what they would do when the airstrikes happened, she said, “That’s the problem, Israel always says we give them warning strikes but where do you want them to go? We have no shelters so you stand in the middle of the house away from the windows and hope for the best.”

She said the whole experience was “truly mortifying” and when asked what she hopes happens now, she added, “I think a ceasefire that’s fair on both sides, to make the Palestinians feel their lives are worth something but also to bring peace to the hearts of civilians who are suffering in Israel. I don’t want them to be terrified either.”

Looking visibly-shaken, 34-year-old Ayed Al-Hamdani made his way through the Erez crossing with his wife, en route to Norway, where he said he has lived for 17 years.

The two of them had been visiting in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza City since March and a few days ago, decided it was time to leave, with Ayed saying, “There’s nowhere to run, nowhere that’s safe in Gaza.”

When asked how he feels leaving family back in the Strip, he said, “It’s all so terrible. It doesn’t feel right to leave, but what can you do? All you can do is hug them.”

via The Jerusalem Post


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