The resumption of evacuations in Rafah was on the agenda of a meeting on Sunday between Qatar and France’s foreign ministers.
The evacuation of foreign passport holders and injured from Gaza through the Rafah crossing has reportedly paused since Saturday due to Israel’s targeting of an ambulance, official Egyptian sources told Reuters.
The shared crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the only way in and out of the Palestinian enclave, had opened up temporarily last week to allow the exit of hundreds of foreign passport holders and the critically wounded.
The crossing has been shut for regular traffic since the start of the war on October 7 following multiple Israeli attacks. Egypt said it requires to receive a green light from Tel Aviv to open the crossing.
On November 1, Rafah opened for the first time for evacuations following a reported Qatar-brokered deal with Egypt, Israel and Hamas, in coordination with the United States.
While aid trucks are believed to be allowed to enter, evacuation of civilians has reportedly been suspended following Israel’s targeting of an ambulance carrying injured people en route to Rafah. Israel has claimed the vehicle was ‘transporting Hamas fighters’.
“We believe it will (open) this afternoon,” a senior US State Department official told Reuters on Sunday, though they added “don’t hold me to it.”
The US official also accused the Palestinian resistance group of making additional demands. “And every time that happens, every time one side makes a demand, you have to go work out with every other party involved how to respond,” the official said.
Qatar separately said it is working on re-opening the Rafah crossing, noting that the targeting of hospitals and ambulances hinders all efforts aimed at evacuating people out of Gaza.
“The bombing of hospitals and the bombing of ambulances, which are part of this agreement for ambulance convoys to move patients out of harm’s way, certainly does not help,” Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Dr. Majed Al Ansari told the press in Doha on Sunday.
Dr. Al Ansari urged all parties including the occupation forces “to make sure that there are safe routes and that the agreement, as it was reached, is respected.”
The resumption of evacuations through Rafah was among the main talking points of a meeting on Sunday between Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
“We also welcome the success of the first evacuation through the Rafah border crossing at the beginning of November, where the sisterly Republic of Egypt played a major role in facilitating this process and making it a success,” Sheikh Mohammed told the press at the Amiri Diwan.
“We hope that work will continue on the evacuation issue, whether it is evacuating foreign citizens or evacuating the wounded whose treatment conditions require them to leave,” he added.
Massacres in Gaza continue
Speaking alongside Colonna, Sheikh Mohammed slammed Israel’s aggression in Gaza as a “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”, marking a rare description made by any top official since the beginning of the war.
“Every day, the Israeli occupation commits genocidal practices and crimes of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people, not to mention the indiscriminate shelling of hospitals, schools, refugee camps, and other civilian facilities where displaced women, children, and the elderly have taken shelter,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Within a month, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have killed at least 9,922 Palestinians, including 4,008 children—making up 40% of the total toll.
On Sunday night, Israel cut off all telecommunications and internet services from Gaza once against as it carried out what has been described as “unprecedented” bombardment.
Palestinian news agency Wafa said Israel targeted the vicinities of several hospitals in Gaza, acting on its threats of bombarding all health facilities, which it has claimed serve as bases for Hamas despite doctors debunking the allegations.
The IOF’s spokesperson Daniel Hagari on Sunday pulled an image of the Qatar-funded Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa bin Thani hospital in north of Gaza City and claimed Hamas were hiding in tunnels inside the facility.
The claims were dismissed hours later by the Gaza media office chief Salama Maarouf, who said the government is willing to receive investigators to inspect the hospitals. Maarouf added that the so-called tunnel was a fuel tank opening.
Schools and hospitals in Gaza have been serving as a shelter for tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians.
The health sector in Gaza has also collapsed due to the absence of medical supplies and electricity.
Humanitarian workers have also been unable to perform their duties as Israel continues to kill staff members. The United Nations said on Sunday that 88 of its members have been killed since the start of the war, making it the deadliest for the global organisation.
Eighteen UN entities and other humanitarian organisations issued a joint statement on the same day calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in both Israel and Palestine.