GAZA STRIP: Hundreds of Palestinian foreign passport holders waited on Tuesday inside the war-stricken and besieged Gaza Strip to escape through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
While most still queued nervously, the first arrivals were seen on the Egyptian side where paramedics transferred an injured woman on a stretcher into an ambulance to rush her to a hospital.
Tuesday was set to mark the fifth day on which Gaza’s sole land crossing not controlled by Israel has opened in the past week, to wounded Palestinians as well as foreigners and Palestinian dual nationals.
Video footage from the Gaza side showed hundreds waiting with suitcases, bags and other scant belongings at the Rafah terminal complex.
“We were suffering just like any Gazan resident, we waited a long time for the crossing to open,” said Farid Nawasra, who holds a Russian passport.
“We were waiting every day for our names to be added to the list, and we hope today that they allow us to pass, as they allowed other foreigners to pass.”
Departures from the Gaza Strip were expected to resume for many more after 500 people had received authorization to enter Egypt, Hamas officials said.
“Every person in Gaza is in danger,” said Myrian Abu Shaban, a resident of Gaza City. “I’m happy that we managed to make it to the border.”
Meanwhile, along with thousands of fellow Thai agricultural workers, Pornchai Somnuan has fled the fields in Israel to return home.
When Hamas gunmen attacked Israel on Oct. 7, farmhands who had traveled thousands of miles to work close to the Gaza border found themselves on the front line.
In all, 34 Thai nationals were killed and 19 wounded, while 24 others were taken as hostages back to Gaza, according to Thai officials.
The toll sparked fear among many of the 30,000 Thais working across Israel, with Pornchai and many of his friends seeking help to leave.
“My family wanted me to go back. They’re concerned,” the 27-year-old said in a Tel Aviv hotel, from which diplomats were facilitating evacuation flights.
“I have seven friends. Four have returned, so there are three left,” he added.
Boxes of Thai noodles and packs of bottled water were waiting at the door of a room used to process the details of those seeking to leave.
Naruchai Ninnad, deputy head of consular affairs at Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, flew in to support the evacuation efforts.
“Our main priority is to get back as many Thais as possible who needed to be repatriated,” he said.
Bangkok has organized dozens of flights to repatriate around 7,500 people, while some 1,500 others have made their own way home, Naruchai said.
“We do not force them to go back. But we recommend them to go back during this time for their own safety, and of course they can return once everything is calm,” he said.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has repeatedly urged citizens to return home.
His Cabinet has approved 50,000 baht ($1,400) compensation for each laborer who returns from Israel, with the government also stating the returnees would be eligible for a low-interest loan of up to 150,000 baht.
In tandem, Thailand deployed its foreign minister to the region to press for the release of its citizens among the more than 240 hostages.
A team of Thai negotiators traveled separately to Iran, where they held direct talks with Hamas on Oct. 26.