Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the Hamas terrorist group of preventing hundreds of American citizens and those from other nations from leaving Gaza.
As concerns grow over a possible escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the imminent ground operation in Gaza, the U.S. Government has announced several efforts to ensure the safety of Americans, including the evacuation of hundreds of citizens still trapped in Gaza.
However, according to recent statements that Blinken gave on “Face the Nation,” Hamas has been preventing the evacuation of both Americans and other citizens of the world. “Hamas has blocked them (Americans) from leaving, showing once again its total disregard for civilians of any kind who are stuck in Gaza,” he said.
There are estimated to be between 500 and 600 Palestinian Americans waiting to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip and Blinken assured that efforts are being made with the different governments involved with Israel to be able to remove civilians, but the Palestinian terrorist group must allow them to move.
“So really, the ball is in Hamas’ court, in terms of letting people who want to leave, civilians from third countries including Americans get out of Gaza,” he said.
Israel has already warned that the terrorist group likes to use civilians as human shields, and Americans could be used for this purpose as well, especially after Israel announced a massive ground operation.
.@SecBlinken says Hamas is preventing Americans in Gaza from leaving through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
"To date, at least, Hamas has blocked them from leaving, showing once again, its total disregard for civilians of any kind who are stuck in Gaza," Blinken says. pic.twitter.com/kShZMbiQV0
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) October 22, 2023
Contingency plans to evacuate American citizens
After Blinken’s statements, other U.S. officials reported that contingency plans are being prepared to evacuate American civilians in the Middle East in case the war escalates, as reported by the Washington Post.
Although details of plans to avoid triggering panic among Americans in the region have not yet been given, the Department of State (DOS) has already published several warnings and suggestions.
Last week, a global alert was issued to all nationals currently outside the country due to the “increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests.”
The DOS suggested that American citizens increase precautions and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and facilitate their location in case of an emergency abroad.
On Sunday, the State Department was even more forceful and published an alert urging Americans to leave Lebanon due to “the unpredictable security situation” and even offered loans to citizens who wish to purchase plane tickets. However, there are still hundreds of thousands of Americans in the region.