CAIRO (AP) — As desperate Palestinians in sealed-off Gaza try to find refuge under Israel’s relentless bombardment in retaliation for Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 attack, some ask why neighboring Egypt and Jordan don’t take them in.
The two countries, which flank Israel on opposite sides and share borders with Gaza and the occupied West Bank, respectively, have replied with a staunch refusal. Jordan already has a large Palestinian population.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi made his toughest remarks yet on Wednesday, saying the current war was not just aimed at fighting Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, “but also an attempt to push the civilian inhabitants to … migrate to Egypt.” He warned this could wreck peace in the region
Egypt fears history will repeat itself and a large Palestinian refugee population from Gaza will end up staying for good.
NO GUARANTEE OF RETURN
That’s in part because there’s no clear scenario for how this war will end.
Israel says it intends to destroy Hamas for its bloody rampage in its southern towns. But it has given no indication of what might happen afterward and who would govern Gaza. That has raised concerns that it will reoccupy the territory for a period, fueling further conflict.
The Israeli military said Palestinians who followed its order to flee northern Gaza to the strip’s southern half would be allowed back to their homes after the war ends.
Egypt is not reassured.
El-Sissi said fighting could last for years if Israel argues it hasn’t sufficiently crushed militants. He proposed that Israel house Palestinians in its Negev Desert, which neighbors the Gaza Strip, until it ends its military operations.
“Israel’s lack of clarity regarding its intentions in Gaza and the evacuation of the population is in itself problematic,” said Riccardo Fabiani, Crisis Group International’s North Africa Project Director. “This confusion fuels fears in the neighborhood.”
Egypt has pushed for Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, and Israel said Wednesday that it would, though it didn’t say when. According to United Nations, Egypt, which is dealing with a spiraling economic crisis, already hosts some 9 million refugees and migrants, including roughly 300,000 Sudanese who arrived this year after fleeing their country’s war.
But Arab countries and many Palestinians also suspect Israel might use this opportunity to force permanent demographic changes to wreck Palestinian demands for statehood in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which was also captured by Israel in 1967.
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