With no fuel to be had, some arrived on foot instead, others by donkey cart, lugging all the baggage they could. Then, they crowded in to wait, the mood tense, if edging toward relief.
So much depended on the bureaucratic minutiae of passports and visas, on the long, unwieldy list of names that determined whether someone could cross — and, perhaps, whether she or he would survive.
Adal Abu Middain, 18, an Egyptian, made her way to Rafah on Thursday morning with her sister, an American citizen, and other relatives, hoping to evacuate after three previous attempts. Somewhere during that time, an Israeli airstrike had destroyed their home, she said.
Though most of the family was approved to cross, Ms. Abu Middain said they all had to turn back because her 6-year-old niece, Maha, who she said also had U.S. citizenship, was not on the list of names compiled by foreign embassies and approved by Israel, Egypt and Hamas. They could not leave her.
“She’s just 6 years old. How is she going to travel alone without her family?” she said. “She can’t eat by herself. She can’t go to the bathroom by herself.”
At roughly the same time, halfway around the world in Colorado, three weeks of agony were coming to an end for Danny Preston. His mother, Dr. Barbara Zind, a Colorado pediatrician, was volunteering with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund when the war erupted.
When she heard the border might open for foreigners weeks ago, Dr. Zind, 68, was so optimistic that she could leave that she gave away much of her clothing to others who would need it more. She spent the rest of her time in Gaza sleeping in jeans in the basement of a United Nations building, the parking lot of a U.N. school and the kindergarten playroom of another building, her son said.