Some Australians trapped in Gaza have been advised to go to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt as the border opens to foreign nationals. Egypt has allowed the first foreign nationals to leave Gaza through its border, following a deal being struck between the United States and Israel, according to AFP.
Some 400 foreigners and dual nationals, along with some 90 sick and wounded, were expected to leave on Wednesday local time. It was not immediately clear how many people managed to leave via Rafah but live footage from the scene showed crowds of people entering the Palestinian side of the terminal.
An unknown number of Australians stuck in the besieged territory have been told that their names are “on the initial list of approved Australians” to cross into Egypt. The ABC has seen an email sent by Australian consular officials to some families which says the border may open to them at 9am local time (6pm AEDT) on Wednesday.
The email urges recipients to “seize this opportunity to depart Gaza” if they “deem it safe to do so”. Recipients have also been told to take enough food and water to last for at least five hours, and expect large crowds. There are 88 Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families known to be trapped in Gaza, which has come under relentless bombardment by the Israeli military since October 7.
It is not clear how many Australians have been told they are on the first list of persons who may be able to enter Egypt, which is not decided by the Australian government.
“The Australian Government is working to provide support to those that cross into Egypt,” the email states.
“The Australian Government will continue to work to gain permission for any remaining Australians and their families to depart Gaza.”
The alert was sent on Wednesday, but internet and telecommunications access in Gaza has been intermittent. Australians in Gaza have previously been told to make their way to the southern border amid reports it could open to foreigners — only to have their hopes dashed. Relatives with loved ones in the occupied territory have expressed growing frustration and disappointment with the level of support offered by the Australian government to those in Gaza compared to those in Israel over the past month.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said the situation in Gaza was “highly challenging and rapidly changing”.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is communicating with all individuals registered with us in Gaza about departure options, including to make them aware of the possibility of the opening of the Rafah border on 1 November,” a DFAT spokesperson said.
“Consular officials in Cairo are ready to provide support to those Australians and their family members who cross into Egypt.
“Australia continues to work with authorities and support international efforts to establish a safe passage corridor both for humanitarian supplies and for Australians and their family members who want to depart Gaza.”
Earlier, Foreign Minister Penny Wong would not confirm if Australians were among the reported 400 people that would be allowed entry into Egypt.
“We have consistently advocated for that outcome, as has the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, members of the European Union and countries of the region,” Senator Wong told Sky News on Wednesday.
“I spoke two nights ago to my Egyptian counterpart and again pressed the same view and request that Australia has at my level and official level engaged in every day since this conflict began, which is we want to see our Australians out of Gaza.
“We have called for humanitarian pauses to enable both aid and assistance to get in and also for civilians to get out.”