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RAFAH, Gaza Strip – “Hundreds of American and other foreign passport holders are preparing to depart from the Gaza Strip on Thursday. This marks the first significant evacuation of civilians from the region since the conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas started earlier this month. An updated list of approved passport holders, consisting of foreign citizens and dual-national Palestinians, was released by the border authority overnight, with approximately 400 Americans included. The exact number of departures on Thursday remains uncertain.”

On Wednesday, the State Department confirmed that it has been in communication with approximately 400 American citizens who have expressed their wish to depart from Gaza, as stated by department spokesperson Matthew Miller. When considering their family members, the total number seeking evacuation amounts to around 1,000. Among those approved to leave Gaza is Haneen Okal, a 31-year-old mother of three, who holds an American passport.

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We find it difficult to put into words our emotions as we await evacuation,” she shared with NPR while at the Rafah border crossing on Thursday. “Yet, our sorrow lingers because of the ongoing conflict in Gaza.”

Haneen Okal, a mother of three at 31 years old, revealed, “I’ve left behind my two sisters, two brothers, and my parents. While my mom and dad possess American citizenship, they are hesitant to leave behind the rest of our family. Our hope is to bring everyone out of there as soon as possible.

It’s a dire situation in Gaza with a severe shortage of food, electricity, power, and no internet access. The ongoing bombings have made it incredibly unsafe. The duration of this crisis remains uncertain.”

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On Wednesday, at least 300 foreign citizens, including dual nationals, left Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Additionally, dozens of critically wounded Palestinians were transported by ambulance to hospitals in Egypt for urgent medical care.

Israel continues its ongoing airstrikes, and its ground campaign within Gaza has escalated, with Israeli troops entering from the north and east. The Israeli military has reported several clashes between its soldiers and Hamas fighters.

In Gaza, access to essential resources such as water, food, fuel, and medical care remains a pressing humanitarian concern, as reported by the United Nations.

According to Palestinian health officials, the conflict has resulted in the tragic loss of more than 9,000 Palestinian lives since October 7. Additionally, Hamas claims to be holding approximately 240 hostages, with dozens of them allegedly perishing in Israeli airstrikes.

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The White House has recently expressed support for a “humanitarian pause” in response to mounting calls for a cease-fire from human rights groups, international leaders, and certain members of the Democratic Party. President Biden himself called for a brief cessation of military operations, stating that it could provide an opportunity to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Since the entry of Israeli ground troops into Gaza, which officials have referred to as the “second phase” of the war, at least 17 Israeli soldiers have lost their lives. In total, the conflict has claimed the lives of 332 Israeli soldiers, with the majority of casualties occurring on October 7.

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According to the Gaza health ministry, the Israeli strike on the Jabalia refugee camp earlier this week resulted in the tragic loss of 195 lives, while 120 individuals remain unaccounted for beneath the rubble.