Behind the scenes of negotiations to bring foreigners out of Gaza

Behind the scenes of negotiations to bring foreigners out of Gaza 2

Behind the scenes of negotiations to bring foreigners out of Gaza

The breakthrough allowing the first group of foreign nationals, including many Americans, to leave the Gaza Strip on November 1 came after weeks of diplomatic efforts between multiple parties.

Qatar, with US support, was the main broker of the deal between Israel, Egypt and Hamas, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

Joyful people pass through the Rafah border gate after being allowed to leave the Gaza Strip on November 1.

Before the agreement, there were times when US officials thought they could get Americans out and the US State Department even recommended that citizens make their way to the Rafah border crossing.

A team of US officials led by ambassador David Satterfield participated in direct diplomatic efforts in both Israel and Egypt, but had to rely on partner countries to communicate with Hamas.

`We negotiate with Israel, Egypt but not directly with Hamas. Egypt and Qatar can send messages to Hamas. But you can imagine how difficult things are. They are very complicated.`

At the start of negotiations, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi emphasized that humanitarian aid would reach Gaza before Cairo considered opening a way for civilians to leave the area.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that left 1,400 people dead, Egyptian officials have expressed concern about the scenario of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip evacuating to this country permanently.

Hamas wants injured Palestinians to be able to leave with foreign nationals.

However, the United States supports allowing injured civilians to leave Gaza to receive medical care.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Sisi discussed with each other, agreeing that it was important to ensure `Palestinians in the Gaza Strip do not completely move to Egypt or any other country,` the White House said over the weekend.

Egypt wants an international organization in charge of managing and checking people from the Gaza side before they cross the border, according to sources familiar with the matter.

However, they could not receive assurances from Hamas that UN officials would not be harassed or hindered in their operations.

Despite days of effort, negotiators were unable to persuade Hamas to agree to what Egypt wanted, so they had to shift their focus to other potential paths.

Behind the scenes of negotiations to bring foreigners out of Gaza

Location of Rafah and Kerem Shalom border gates on the Egypt – Gaza Strip border.

In recent days, Egypt abandoned its requirement to have a third party monitor the Rafah border crossing, while Hamas agreed to allow the operation of the border crossing, after discussions with Qatar.

As negotiations progressed and aid vehicles were able to enter Gaza, Egypt became more open.

US officials said Hamas was the party obstructing efforts.

By the end of last week, the prospect of reaching an agreement became clearer.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a phone call with his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on October 30 and urged increased pressure on Hamas to ratify the agreement.

By the next day, `The United States has reached a point where we can be confident that American citizens will be able to leave Gaza,` Miller said on November 1.

Border officials controlled by Hamas supervised the process of bringing civilians through the Gaza side of the border crossing.

Haneen Okal, a 31-year-old mother of three, was one of the American passport holders allowed to leave the strip of land.

`We cannot describe the feeling of leaving. But we are still sad because of what is happening in Gaza. The war is still there,` Okal said.

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