SUGAR LAND, Texas (KIAH) — A mother and daughter, from Sugar Land, are trapped in Gaza, desperately trying to evacuate ahead of the expected Israeli ground attack.
Mai Abushaaban said her mother and sister, both U.S. citizens, were in Gaza City visiting her sick grandparents.
When Israeli Defense Forces started dropping fliers, telling residents to evacuate northern Gaza, they were forced to make the perilous evacuation to the south.
Abushaaban, 22, says they are stuck in Rafah, Gaza’s only border crossing with Egypt. She said her mother and sister are in a crammed two-bedroom apartment with 20 others.
Egypt has refused to open the border to let foreigners leave unless Israel also opens its side of the border to allow humanitarian aid going into Gaza.
The U.N. human rights office decried “appalling reports” that civilians who were trying to flee to southern Gaza were killed by a military strike. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani urged Israeli forces to avoid “aerial bombardments, indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks” and to “take precautions to avoid – and in any case, to minimize – loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.”
Israel sealed off Gaza since the militant attack on southern Israel Oct. 7 killed over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and resulted in some 200 taken captive in Gaza. Hamas militants in Gaza have launched rockets every day since, aiming at cities across Israel.
Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed at least 2,778 people and wounded 9,700, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Nearly two-thirds of those killed were children, a ministry official said.
Another 1,200 people across Gaza are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead, health authorities said. Emergency teams struggled to rescue people while cut off from the internet and mobile networks, running out of fuel and exposed to unceasing airstrikes.
At the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only connection to Egypt, truckloads of aid were waiting to enter. The World Food Program said that it had more than 300 tons of food waiting to cross into Gaza.
An agreement to open the border appeared to have been reached Monday, but Israel denied reports of a cease-fire in Rafah, which would be a precondition. On Tuesday morning, gates were still closed.
Abushaaban said that her family has been in contact with the U.S. State Department, but feels mixed about their interactions with them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.