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US evacuates 17 US citizen doctors from Gaza — officials

US evacuates 17 US citizen doctors from Gaza — officials

WASHINGTON - The United States on Friday evacuated out of Gaza 17 American doctors who had been stuck since an Israeli takeover of the Rafah crossing closed the border with Egypt, official sources said.

US diplomats arranged for the 17 doctors to leave instead through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Israel.

"Some of the US citizen doctors who had been stuck in Gaza have now safely departed and made their way to safety with assistance from the US embassy in Jerusalem," a State Department spokesperson said.

"We have been in close contact with the groups that these US doctors are part of, and we have been in contact with the families of these US citizens," he said.

A source familiar with the operation said that three other US citizen doctors who were part of the volunteer medical mission chose to stay despite the uncertainty on when they will again have a chance to leave.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt has been the main gateway for goods and people entering Gaza. It has been closed since Israel on May 7 said it had seized the border post from Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put the onus on Egypt to reopen the crossing.

Egypt has accused Israel in turn of denying responsibility for a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and says that truck drivers and aid workers do not feel safe crossing through an Israeli checkpoint into Gaza. — Agence France-Presse