When the border in Gaza finally opened on Wednesday for people to flee to Egypt, many who crossed left behind more than constant bombings and blackouts. Alongside badly injured Palestinians being transferred to Egyptian hospitals, only those with foreign or dual citizenships were allowed to cross, and many of them had to leave behind mothers, siblings or children.
Nadia Salah, 53, went to the border with her eldest daughter, Lama Eldin, on Wednesday, but then had to say goodbye and watch her cross to safety. Ms. Eldin was born 30 years ago in Bulgaria, where the family owned a cafe, and has Bulgarian citizenship. But Ms. Salah, her husband, and their 20-year-old twins, do not and so had to stay behind.
“It’s very difficult, but she should go,” Ms. Salah said in a phone call from Khan Younis, pushing back tears. “To be safe.”
Another Palestinian, Haitham Schurrab, 54, was on a trip in Cairo with his wife when the full siege of Gaza started, but his three sons and daughter remained trapped in the Gaza Strip. All are citizens of Austria, where Mr. Schurrab was born, and on Wednesday, the sons were finally allowed to leave.
That brought the family only partial relief. Mr. Schurrab’s daughter, Dayana, who is 23, stayed behind, because she recently got married and her husband does not have foreign citizenship.
On Wednesday afternoon, just as their three sons were on the way back, Mr. Schurrab said he had to take his wife to a doctor in Cairo because she was having a nervous breakdown.
“She is devastated,” Mr. Schurrab said. “She just keeps crying.”
Some people with foreign passports who tried to leave Gaza on Wednesday arrived at the Rafah border crossing only to find that family members had not made it onto the official list of evacuees, forcing them to make an agonizing choice.
Abdallah Dahalaan, 76, lived in Australia from 1974 until about a year ago. A widower, he left his children and grandchildren behind in Sydney and returned to Gaza, where he was born and raised, to marry a Palestinian woman.
He had not yet procured an Australian visa for his wife when the war broke out, but the Australian government agreed to issue her an emergency visa to allow them to evacuate together.
Yet when Mr. Dahalaan and his wife reached the border on Wednesday morning, her name was not on the official list, compiled from names submitted by various embassies and agreed to by Israel, Egypt and Hamas. He protested and pleaded, but border officials were unmoved, he said: Visa or no visa, she could not go.
“She was even telling me to go when I was at the border. She said, ‘Just go, and then we’ll see what happens after.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not going, I’m not leaving you behind,’” he said by phone on Wednesday. “You can’t leave your wife behind, it’s not the right thing to do.”
He took his Australian passport back, and the couple returned to their apartment in Khan Younis. All they could do now was wait.