CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday that Egyptians in their millions would reject the forced displacement of Palestinians into Sinai, adding it would set a precedent for “the displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan”.
The border between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip is the site of the only crossing from the Palestinian territory that is not controlled by Israel. “What is happening now in Gaza is an attempt to force civilian residents to take refugee and migrate to Egypt, which should not be accepted,” Sisi told a joint news conference in Cairo with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“Egypt rejects any attempt to resolve the Palestinian issue by military means or through the forced displacement of Palestinians from their land, which would come at the expense of the countries of the region,” he said. “The displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt means the same displacement will take place for Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan,” Sisi warned.
“Subsequently, the Palestinian state that we are talking about and that the world is talking about will become impossible to implement — because the land is there, but the people are not. Therefore, I warn of the danger of this matter,” he added.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas too has warned that the displacement of Gazans to Egypt would amount to a “second Nakba” — when more than 760,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their lands during the war that accompanied Israel’s creation in 1948. Most of Gaza’s population are refugees from that exodus.
“Palestinians could be moved there until Israel is finished with what it has declared is an operation to eliminate armed groups” from Gaza, the president said. “And then it could return them if it wished,” he added.
Sisi said the Egyptian people would “go out and protest in their millions… if called upon to do so” against any displacement of Gaza’s residents to Sinai. Referring to the Egyptian position, Hamas official Osama Hamdan called “for rallying around this position and supporting it on the popular and Arab official level because this represents real protection for our Palestinian people,” at a Beirut news conference.
Egypt is wary of insecurity near its border with Gaza in north-eastern Sinai, where it faced an insurgency that escalated a decade ago.
Any transfer of Palestinians to Sinai would mean “that we move the idea of resistance, of combat, from the Gaza Strip to Sinai, and so Sinai would become the base for launching operations against Israel”, Sisi said.
Scholz reiterated that Germany sought to avoid a conflagration in the Middle East” and warned Hezbollah and Iran “once again not to intervene in this conflict”.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2023