October 18, 2023

Warren, Markey, and Shaheen Urge Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to do Everything Possible to Assist U.S. Citizens Fleeing Gaza Strip

“We urge you to develop and immediately implement a plan to protect these civilians and request the State Department brief our offices as soon as possible.”

Text of Letter (pdf) 

Boston, MA - Today, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urging them to do everything possible to provide assistance to U.S. citizens fleeing the Gaza Strip, including constituents from New England. In the letter, the Senators expressed concern about Americans who remain in Israel and Gaza, including a family from Medway, Massachusetts who is stuck in Gaza. 

“We have called for Israel to uphold the rule of law and protect innocent civilians in Gaza. We will continue to do so. We are also concerned that our offices have received requests from multiple families from New England who are seeking assistance. These families are terrified for their lives and growing more frustrated as promises of escape through the opening of the Rafah crossing remain unfulfilled. As with all civilians in Gaza, these families’ situation only grows more concerning as Gaza runs out of food, water, fuel for hospitals, and other critical supplies,” wrote the lawmakers. 

One publicly reported case is a family from Medway, Massachusetts. Abood Okal, a Palestinian American, came to Gaza to visit family. He is now stuck in Gaza with his wife and one-year-old son. Abood’s sister, who was also visiting, attempted to cross the border from Gaza into Egypt while the crossing came under fire from Israel. She’s awaiting safe passage with her three children, including one who is only two months old. On Saturday, at the State Department’s direction, they joined hundreds of people waiting for hours to cross the border, only for the border guards to not allow anyone to cross into Egypt. According to the family’s attorney, they have already run out of drinking water, will soon run out of food, and cannot access fuel.

“We appreciate all of the work the State Department is doing to secure humanitarian aid and safe passage for these families, as well as the support and communication we have received from the State Department regarding assistance for Americans, including those from Massachusetts. But we continue to have questions about what assistance will be provided to these families, including transportation assistance and security assurances of the crossing area, as well as more information about when these families can be confident there will be safe passage through the Rafah crossing,” wrote the lawmakers.