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Americans Raced to Get Their Families Out of Gaza. Then the Border Slammed Shut.

Americans Raced to Get Their Families Out of Gaza. Then the Border Slammed Shut.
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The closure this month of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, the only way out for civilians, has thrown an already complicated system into disarray.

Portrait of a woman wearing a head scarf.
Ghada Redwan at her home in Houston, Texas. Her parents are in Gaza. “You live comfortably, you have money, you’re a U.S. citizen and your parents are suffering and there’s nothing you can do for them,” she said. “It is just insane.”Credit…Danielle Villasana for The New York Times

Ghada Redwan, a 48-year-old pharmacist in Houston, has been trying to get her parents out of Gaza for months. Their bags, packed and ready to go, have been sitting by their door in Rafah, the city where Israel is now conducting a military offensive.

But Ms. Redwan has hit roadblocks at every turn. And like other Palestinian Americans desperate to get their relatives to safety, she has described a confounding bureaucratic maze involving the State Department, the governments of Israel and Egypt, politicians, advocacy groups, lawyers and more.

The closure this month of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt — the only way out for civilians — has thrown an already complicated system into disarray, leading to calls for the United States to make a more forceful effort to evacuate the relatives of American citizens.

“You feel like there’s nothing you can do,” Ms. Redwan said in an interview. “You live comfortably, you have money, you’re a U.S. citizen and your parents are suffering and there’s nothing you can do for them. It is just insane.”

Ms. Redwan last spoke to her mother on Monday morning, one day after an Israeli strike that killed dozens of Palestinians in a camp for displaced people in Rafah.

“There is no safe place,” her mother told her. “Just pray for us.”

Since the start of the war seven months ago, more than 1,800 American citizens and their families have left Gaza with the assistance of the State Department, U.S. officials say. They are only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of Gazans desperate to leave as the already dire conditions there deteriorate.


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