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Gazans crowdfund thousands for uncertain escape

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Gazans crowdfund thousands for uncertain escape

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Their online fundraising page, like most, is being managed outside Gaza, in their case by another son Amjad, who lives in Europe. It is one fundraiser among thousands, appealing for donors to assist Gazans to “survive”, “evacuate” and “escape genocide”. Some campaigns have been successful, raising over $100,000. However, the BBC spoke to several of these account holders who, even after achieving their fundraising goals, said their desperate attempts to help loved ones were mired in chaos and confusion. In the words of one fundraiser, a New Jersey woman who asked to remain anonymous to avoid risking the chance of hindering her cousin’s way out: “Every day is a toss-up.” A complex route out The first challenge is determining the cost to leave. Fundraising account holders who spoke to the BBC said the most common price was $6,000 per person, allowing people to leave within 72 hours. Some people fundraise toward the goal of $12,000 per person, the price said to get an exit within 24 hours. Once enough money is raised, the next challenge becomes getting tens of thousands of dollars into Gaza. There are few wire services like Western Union left in the devastated territory, and the line to enter is days-long. Some people have used cryptocurrency exchanges. Others have relied on PayPal accounts registered elsewhere, as the firm doesn’t provide services to people in Gaza or the occupied West Bank. Most people, however, wire the money to someone outside of Gaza – a relative or friend in Europe – who then withdraws the cash, and travels to Egypt to wait in a separate days-long line at the offices of Hala Travel in Cairo, an agency that facilitates travel between Egypt and Gaza. Footage from outside the Hala offices shows crowds thronging the street.Hala has not responded to requests for comment from the BBC. However, the BBC has obtained a copy of a receipt from Hala Travel dated 13 February for $6,000. The person’s name on that receipt also appears with four others on a separate ticket indicating they have been cleared for entry into Egypt. Visas and onward travel to Cairo are included. The final step is to check for approval online. Places like the Gaza Ministry of Foreign Affairs Facebook account publish daily lists of up to 250 approved names. All have paid thousands to get out, according to the person who provided the receipt, who asked to remain anonymous. People whose names appear on the official list must leave the same day. However, due to spotty WiFi service and rolling blackouts, some people miss their window to exit and have to repeat the entire process, including paying again, this person says. The man who provided the Hala receipt told the BBC that the names of those on the official list to enter Egypt only appear after they’ve been vetted by Egyptian intelligence. “Is this new? No. It’s not really new, but the price before the war was $600. Now it’s 10 times higher,” he says. “Gaza is not only under bombardment, but people are profiting from their suffering.” Hamas, the Palestinian group which was governing Gaza and launched the attack targeting civilians in southern Israel that triggered the current war, has also accused “companies, individuals and people with influence” of exploiting Gazans by “making them pay exorbitant amounts to coordinate their travel”.Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has told Sky News that his country is investigating.We will take whatever measures that we need so as to restrict it and eliminate it immediately,” he said, without giving further details.In January, Egypt’s State Information Service head Diaa Rashwan “categorically denied the allegations related to the collection of additional fees from travellers from Gaza, as well as claims that an unofficial entity collected fees for the passage to Egyptian lands”. Egypt was trying to help Gaza’s Palestinians, he added, and did not want to impose extra burdens on them. Large sums raised

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