By Jack Jeffrey and Samy Magdy | Related Press
CAIRO — As determined Palestinians in sealed-off Gaza attempt to discover refuge below Israel’s relentless bombardment in retaliation for Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 assault, some ask why neighboring Egypt and Jordan don’t take them in.
The 2 international locations, which flank Israel on reverse sides and share borders with Gaza and the occupied West Financial institution, respectively, have replied with a staunch refusal. Jordan already has a big Palestinian inhabitants.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi made his hardest remarks but on Wednesday, saying the present battle was not simply geared toward preventing Hamas, which guidelines the Gaza Strip, “but in addition an try and push the civilian inhabitants to … migrate to Egypt.” He warned this might wreck peace within the area.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II gave an identical message a day earlier, saying, “No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt.”
Their refusal is rooted in worry that Israel desires to pressure a everlasting expulsion of Palestinians into their international locations and nullify Palestinian calls for for statehood. El-Sissi additionally mentioned a mass exodus would danger bringing militants into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from the place they may launch assaults on Israel, endangering the 2 international locations’ 40-year-old peace treaty.
Here’s a take a look at what’s motivating Egypt’s and Jordan’s stances.
A HISTORY OF DISPLACEMENT
Displacement has been a significant theme of Palestinian historical past. Within the 1948 battle round Israel’s creation, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians had been expelled or fled from what’s now Israel. Palestinians confer with the occasion because the Nakba, Arabic for “disaster.”
Within the 1967 Mideast battle, when Israel seized the West Financial institution and Gaza Strip, 300,000 extra Palestinians fled, largely into Jordan.
The refugees and their descendants now quantity almost 6 million, most residing in camps and communities within the West Financial institution, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The diaspora has unfold additional, with many refugees constructing lives in Gulf Arab international locations or the West.
After preventing stopped within the 1948 battle, Israel refused to permit refugees to return to their properties. Since then, Israel has rejected Palestinian calls for for a return of refugees as a part of a peace deal, arguing that it will threaten the nation’s Jewish majority.
Egypt fears historical past will repeat itself and a big Palestinian refugee inhabitants from Gaza will find yourself staying for good.
NO GUARANTEE OF RETURN
That’s partially as a result of there’s no clear state of affairs for a way this battle will finish.
Israel says it intends to destroy Hamas for its bloody rampage in its southern cities. However it has given no indication of what may occur afterward and who would govern Gaza. That has raised considerations that it’s going to reoccupy the territory for a interval, fueling additional battle.
The Israeli navy mentioned Palestinians who adopted its order to flee northern Gaza to the strip’s southern half can be allowed again to their properties after the battle ends.
Egypt shouldn’t be reassured.
El-Sissi mentioned preventing may final for years if Israel argues it hasn’t sufficiently crushed militants. He proposed that Israel home Palestinians in its Negev Desert, which neighbors the Gaza Strip, till it ends its navy operations.
“Israel’s lack of readability relating to its intentions in Gaza and the evacuation of the inhabitants is in itself problematic,” mentioned Riccardo Fabiani, Disaster Group Worldwide’s North Africa Challenge Director. “This confusion fuels fears within the neighborhood.”
Egypt has pushed for Israel to permit humanitarian help into Gaza, and Israel mentioned Wednesday that it will, although it didn’t say when. In response to United Nations, Egypt, which is coping with a spiraling financial disaster, already hosts some 9 million refugees and migrants, together with roughly 300,000 Sudanese who arrived this yr after fleeing their nation’s battle.
However Arab international locations and lots of Palestinians additionally suspect Israel may use this chance to pressure everlasting demographic modifications to wreck Palestinian calls for for statehood in Gaza, the West Financial institution and east Jerusalem, which was additionally captured by Israel in 1967.
El-Sissi repeated warnings Wednesday that an exodus from Gaza was meant to “get rid of the Palestinian trigger … crucial reason for our area.” He argued that if a demilitarized Palestinian state had been created way back in negotiations, there wouldn’t be battle now.
“All historic precedent factors to the truth that when Palestinians are compelled to depart Palestinian territory, they don’t seem to be allowed to return again,” mentioned H.A. Hellyer, a senior affiliate fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace. “Egypt doesn’t need to be complicit in ethnic cleaning in Gaza.”
Arab international locations’ fears have solely been stoked by the rise below Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of hard-right events that discuss in constructive phrases about eradicating Palestinians. Because the Hamas assault, the rhetoric has turn out to be much less restrained, with some right-wing politicians and media commentators calling for the navy to raze Gaza and drive out its inhabitants. One lawmaker mentioned Israel ought to perform a “new Nakba” on Gaza.
WORRIES OVER HAMAS
On the identical time, Egypt says a mass exodus from Gaza would carry Hamas or different Palestinian militants onto its soil. That is likely to be destabilizing in Sinai, the place Egypt’s navy fought for years in opposition to Islamic militants and at one level accused Hamas of backing them.
Egypt has backed Israel’s blockade of Gaza since Hamas took over within the territory in 2007, tightly controlling the entry of supplies and the passage of civilians backwards and forwards. It additionally destroyed the community of tunnels below the border that Hamas and different Palestinians used to smuggle items into Gaza.
With the Sinai insurgency largely put down, “Cairo doesn’t need to have a brand new safety downside on its arms on this problematic area,” Fabiani mentioned.
El-Sissi warned of an much more destabilizing state of affairs: the wrecking of Egypt and Israel’s 1979 peace deal. He mentioned that with the presence of Palestinian militants, Sinai “would turn out to be a base for assaults on Israel. Israel would have the correct to defend itself … and would strike Egyptian territory.”
“The peace which we have now achieved would vanish from our arms,” he mentioned, “all for the sake of the concept of eliminating the Palestinian trigger.”