Russia has announced it has begun evacuating its citizens who have been trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip belatedly now that there has been more access through the Rafah Crossing. “The Emergency Situations Ministry together with Russian diplomats have organized the evacuation of civilians from the Gaza Strip,” a statement posted to Telegram indicated.
“Over the past week, the operational group of the Emergency Situations Ministry of Russia has been working to coordinate the procedure and routes for the evacuation of Russian citizens trapped in the area of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” it continued.
Starting last week, two Russian Il-76 transport planes have been parked in Cairo on standby in order to evacuate Russians from the Gaza Strip, state-run TASS has confirmed.
Russian diplomats cited in state media earlier this month estimated there are almost 600 Russian citizens seeking to evacuate Gaza. They’ve been prevented from leaving until now, as it has been the countries of the US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar involved in discussions overseeing evacuations through Rafah.
Already a reported 60 Russian nationals have entered Egypt as of this weekend – this after over 80 were given Israel’s approval to leave, per RIA Novosti news agency. They are being sent to Cairo to be assessed by Russian emergency crews.
The United States has so far evacuated hundreds of its dual citizens through Rafah, as many other countries have for weeks been scrambling to get theirs out too.
The crossing has been subject to frequent, unannounced closures – and its vicinity even at times pummeled by Israeli airstrikes. Egypt is concerned over seeing a massive Palestinian refugee influx into its country. There’s been some limited numbers of medical evacuees.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “Fewer than 50 people, including foreign passport holders, Egyptians and five wounded Palestinians, had entered Egypt on Friday before the crossings were halted” – after in total, “More than 2,000 people have crossed the border at Rafah since limited evacuations from Gaza to Egypt began on Nov. 1. The evacuations have been suspended a few times due to strikes.”
Due to Washington’s closeness with Israel, there’s a widespread perception that the US has been given priority in terms of safely getting its hundreds of passport holders out of the war-ravaged Strip first.