(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. anticipates American citizens will exit Gaza “today” and that more are expected to depart “over the coming days,” the result of weeks of effort.
“Today, thanks to American leadership, we secured safe passage for wounded Palestinians and for foreign nationals to exit Gaza. We expect American citizens to exit today, and we expect to see more depart over the coming days. We won’t let up working to get Americans out of Gaza,” he wrote in a post on X Wednesday afternoon.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller confirmed during a press briefing Wednesday that “an initial group of foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, departed Gaza through Rafah today, and we expect exits of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to continue over the next several days.”
The State Department has faulted Hamas for preventing people from leaving through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.
“Hamas was impeding the departure of American citizens and other foreign nationals. We’ve talked before about how, at times, they had no one there at Rafah gate to process individuals who were attempting to leave. At other times, they were actively preventing them from approaching the gate, and they have now agreed to no longer stand in the way,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Wednesday while declining to provide details about how the arrangement came about.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday that “a handful of Americans” were expected to leave Gaza later in the day through the Rafah border crossing to Egypt and that the State Department “communicated directly with American citizens in Gaza over the past 24 hours.”
“This is a significant breakthrough,” Kirby said on Air Force One. “I think the evidence shows that we’ve — that we’ve gotten through a bottleneck and obstacle that we are now moving, but it’s gonna take some time. It’s an enormous population.”
He cautioned that “the situation remains very fluid” and explained the “complicated process” to identify Americans, make sure they had proper documentation, and then get a route available to them to exit safely and efficiently.
“A lot of work went into this, I mean, this has been building now for quite some time. So it — it wouldn’t be — I don’t think it’s accurate to say there was like one thing sort of like tripped the switch here.”
Earlier Wednesday, five American aid workers were among the foreign nationals who crossed the Rafah border from Gaza into Egypt, according to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.
A Rafah crossing spokesman said at least 335 foreign passport holders, including dual nationals and foreigners, have crossed from Gaza into Egypt.
The border crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened on Wednesday for the first time since Hamas launched a surprise terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
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