A Massachusets family stranded in Gaza for weeks as Israeli forces wage war against Hamas has been cleared to leave the territory.
Abood Okal, Wafa Abuzayda and their 1-year-old son, Yousef, are on a list of 400 Americans cleared to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing to Egypt as soon as today. As of 5:20 a.m. ET Thursday, they reached the Rafah crossing into Egypt and boarded a shuttle to Cairo.
Okal, his wife and their son were visiting family in Gaza when Hamas launched its largest attack against Israel on Oct. 7. The family has been in the region since late September and had intended to return home to Medway, Massachusetts, on Oct. 13 before the violence delayed their plans.
In an audio recording obtained by Fox News Digital, Okal explained that the family ran out of drinking water on Sunday and that a nearby desalination station had run out of fuel needed to power generators. He said they had been roaming the main roads and streets in Rafah City, where they were staying in a single-family home with 40 other people including his sister Haneen and her three kids, in search of trucks or carriages carrying tanks of 1,000 or 2,000 liters of drinking water. Haneen and her children are also Americans.
‘We stood in line, I think it was for maybe about two hours, to fill one gallon. They tried to limit the portions, so ours was a gallon. And we’re hoping that would last us for the rest of the day today and for most of tomorrow until we could find another place to get drinking water from,’ Okal said in the recording created on Monday.
Two sources involved in the negotiations told Fox News that 400 Americans have been cleared to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing as soon as today.
Officials said the State Department has been working to assign Americans in Gaza specific departure dates. Those in Gaza who have been in contact with the State Department will receive notifications when they are able to leave.
In addition to the United States, there are citizens from Mexico, Hungary, Croatia, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Greece, Chad, Bahrain, Italy, Switzerland, North Macedonia, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and Belgium who have obtained permission to leave Gaza.
Not all 400 Americans approved to leave Gaza will get out today. Sources tell Fox News that some family members were left off the list and those who are on it will not leave them behind.
Dozens of foreign passport holders were allowed to leave through the crossing on Wednesday following negotiations between the U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar. The Rafah crossing had previously remained closed at the insistence of both Israel and Egypt.
Fox News’ Rich Edson, Trey Yingst, Nick Kalman, Anders Hagstrom and Landon Mion contributed to this report.