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Ambassador: 29 Ukrainians not allowed to evacuate from Gaza due to alleged cooperation with Hamas

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 11, 2024 10:31 AM 3 min read
Ambulances queue to cross the Rafah border from the Egyptian side to transport the injured from Gaza to receive treatment on Nov. 6, 2023 in Rafah, Egypt. (Mahmoud Khaled/Getty Images)
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The security services of Israel and Egypt have not granted permission to evacuate 29 Ukrainians from the besieged Gaza Strip due to their alleged cooperation with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel Yevhen Korniichuk told Hromadske on Jan. 11.

Since the hostilities between Israeli forces and Hamas started in early October, Ukraine has managed to evacuate 315 people from Gaza, mostly Ukrainian nationals, according to the country's military intelligence agency.

The evacuation of foreigners from Gaza began on Nov. 1 when Egypt finally opened the Rafah checkpoint, and the first Ukrainians were allowed to leave on Nov. 7.

Except for the 29 people prohibited from leaving, some more Ukrainian citizens are currently staying in Gaza, including those who refused to be evacuated earlier, Korniichuk said in a comment for Hromadske.

"We cannot forcibly take them out of there. We persuaded people to leave, but not everyone agreed for various reasons. Someone has elderly parents, someone's husband was not allowed to go. These 29 citizens are all men who collaborated with Hamas in one way or another," the ambassador said. The Kyiv Independent couldn't verify this claim.

He didn't specify how many Ukrainians remain in Gaza, which has been heavily bombarded for months.

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In some cases, the Ukrainian embassy managed to obtain permission to evacuate citizens who were initially prohibited from leaving, Korniichuk previously told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

When already in Egypt, "they were interrogated, some investigative actions were carried out," and then they were released, according to Korniichuk.

"Some are less fortunate; there is probably more evidence that they cooperated with Hamas. But sooner or later, this situation will be resolved; the war will not be endless," he added, speaking with Hromadske.

Korniichuk said on Dec. 1 that another 146 Ukrainians had requested to be evacuated from Gaza since the start of a week-long ceasefire and the successful completion of the first stage of evacuation.

The fighting in Israel and Gaza broke out after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israeli settlements on Oct. 7.

Tel Aviv responded with retaliatory airstrikes against Gaza, a total blockade of the enclave, and a ground offensive. Thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed on both sides.

As of Oct. 23, more than 500 Ukrainians have been evacuated from Israel. Some 19 Ukrainian citizens have been confirmed as killed in Israel, and four others in Gaza, according to Ukrainian authorities.

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