(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/11/14) — The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) is urging the U.S. Department of State to take action to help American citizens stuck in the Gaza Strip due to border closures preventing them from leaving that blockaded area.
CAIR-SFBA has received requests for assistance from the families of several United States citizens who traveled to Gaza to visit elderly relatives prior to Egypt’s closure of the Rafah border crossing and are now unable to leave.
Information is also being sought about as yet unidentified Americans who may be stranded in Gaza.
American diplomatic personnel in the area have reportedly been mostly unresponsive to the U.S. citizens seeking assistance in returning home.
A CAIR-SFBA letter sent to the White House, the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, and the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv expressed concern about the apparent inability of the Department of State to adequately assist United States citizens trying to return home to their families in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The letter reads in part:
“he persons stuck in the Gaza strip have contacted United States officials in the region to secure their leave, but after talking to various persons and waiting weeks for a response have not been provided any substantive assistance. Our office is reaching out in the hopes that you can secure their immediate travel out of the region and back home to the United States where family members are anxiously awaiting their return.”
Philip Skotte, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of American Citizen Services and Crisis Management, told CAIR Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator Brice Hamack that the department is continuing to press at various levels to coordinate a group extraction of U.S. citizens currently stranded in the region. Director Skotte also requested information about any other U.S. citizens in the region blocked from leaving.
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED:
CAIR requests any community member who may be stranded in Gaza, or has family or friends stranded there, to contact CAIR Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator Brice Hamack at firstname.lastname@example.org so their information can be passed on to State Department officials and included on a potential extraction list.