(BIVN) – Ramona Okumura, one of the Americans stuck in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, has been evacuated. Her family confirms she is recuperating from the ordeal, and asks for time to recover.
Okumura was featured in a recent Peace Day Parade video, recorded in Honokaʻa, in which her brother Miles described her tenuous situation.
From a news release shared by the Okumura family:
After a grueling month trapped in Gaza, as critical humanitarian supplies dwindled, Ramona Okumura successfully evacuated through the Rafah crossing to Egypt early Wednesday morning.
Auntie Ramona will need time to recuperate from an arduous journey and then to reflect on experiencing the horrors of war. At this time, the family will not commit to a schedule of her availability because we don’t know her condition.
Until Auntie Ramona is ready to speak about it, her family is available and will be helping her spread her message about peace and ending the inhumane violence in Gaza. The Okumura family has been touched personally by the Israel-Hamas war, and has remained in touch with other trapped individuals in Gaza. They continue to advocate for a ceasefire and humanitarian corridor for safe passage for civilians, and an end to this brutal and tragic conflict.
Ramona was among hundreds of foreign nationals and dozens of seriously injured Palestinians who were first allowed to leave Gaza after drawn out discussions between Egypt, Israel, Hamas and Qatar. At approximately 10:30pm ET Tuesday, her family received notification through PCRF that Ramona’s name was on a list of individuals who would be allowed to exit via the Rafah Crossing into Egypt. Her family followed her movements all night on group text and a Zoom vigil.
Around 12:30am ET Wednesday, the Okumura family received a text from Ramona saying she was “on the move”. At about 10am ET, on Wednesday, she texted that she had made it across the Egyptian border and would then make the long 5 hour drive to Cairo. “Just finished. In Egypt now. Free!”
Ramona thanked everyone who called, emailed, petitioned and met with their government officials: “Luv to everyone who helped get me out. Pray for the people of Gaza who now don’t have us as shields from harm.”
She and her family describe overwhelming feelings of gratitude for her safety, paired with despair and sadness for the many civilians – 50% of whom are children – who continue to suffer and perish in Gaza. In voice memos she recorded before her escape, Ramona spoke powerfully about the conditions Gazans were facing, in particular the children she has served for the past 6 years. ”Please tell the U.S. to broker a ceasefire to stop this massacre of children. A friend told me that the more than 3,000 innocent dead Palestinian children are in a place where they no longer suffer. How many more children will find their only peace by dying?”
“We want to make sure we can get U.S. citizens and their family members out as safely as possible,” said Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, during a November 1 press briefing in which he announced the first group of departures from Gaza. “In the past 24 hours, we have informed U.S. citizens and family members with whom we are in contact that they will be assigned specific departure dates. We have asked them to continue to monitor their email regularly over the next 24 to 72 hours for specific instructions about how to exit. The U.S. embassy in Cairo is standing by to provide assistance to U.S. citizens as they enter Egypt.”
“The situation remains extremely fluid, but this has been an important breakthrough. And we will keep working on it to ensure that all of the U.S. citizens who wish to depart safely from Gaza can do so,” Miller said.