Israel trying to force Gazans into Egypt – UN official
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are setting the stage for the mass expulsion of Palestinians into Egypt while creating conditions that will make it impossible for them to ever return to their destroyed homes in Gaza, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency chief has claimed.
“The United Nations and several member states, including the US, have firmly rejected forcibly displacing Gazans out of the Gaza Strip,” UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) chief Philippe Lazzarini wrote on Saturday in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. “But the developments we are witnessing point to attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt, regardless of whether they stay there or are resettled elsewhere.”
An Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman denied Lazzarini’s accusation, saying West Jerusalem has never had a plan to push Gazans into Egypt. However, two Israeli lawmakers wrote last month in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that they would like to see countries around the world welcome Gazan refugees who choose to relocate.
The Israel-Hamas war has driven more than 1.8 million Gazans from their homes, the largest forced displacement of Palestinians since 1948, Lazzarini said. Nearly 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza, and an Israeli study found that 61% of the people who perished in IDF airstrikes were civilians. The war began when Hamas launched surprise attacks against southern Israeli villages on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking hundreds of hostages back to Gaza.
The Palestinian casualties have included more than 270 people who were sheltering in UNRWA facilities at the time they were killed. Lazzarini said many of those shelters were in areas of central and southern Gaza that were thought to be safer than the north, where Israel’s bombing campaign was primarily focused. “The sad reality is that Gazans are not safe anywhere: not at home, not in a hospital, not under the UN flag, not in the north, middle, or south,” he added.
The survivors are now besieged and holed up in a “tiny area” of southern Gaza, near the Egyptian border, Lazzarini said. Many are being left with only one option: Leaving the Palestinian enclave altogether.
“Judging by policy and humanitarian discussions underway, it is hard to believe that the Palestinians of Gaza who are displaced today will be allowed –or even willing– to return to their destroyed homes anytime soon,” the UN official said.
If this path continues, leading to what many are already calling a second Nakba, Gaza will not be a land for Palestinians anymore.”
A UN Security Council resolution that would have brokered a ceasefire in Gaza was vetoed by the US on Friday. President Joe Biden’s administration has claimed that the US is doing more than any other nation to help civilians in Gaza, but it’s also aiding the Israeli war effort. A CBS News poll released on Sunday found that only 20% of Americans believe that Biden is making a peaceful resolution to the conflict more likely.
Lazzarini said civilians are being used as pawns in the war, with Hamas abdicating all responsibility for their well-being to the UN and Israel inflicting “collective punishment” on the more than two million people of Gaza. The “meager” humanitarian supplies that Israel has allowed to trickle into the enclave have provided little relief, he added.
“Bombardment and a tight siege are again creating conditions under which nothing more than mere survival is possible,” Lazzarini said. “The deprivation of humanitarian aid is key to this plan. After the destruction of the north, the destruction of the south is ongoing, except this time, people have nowhere to go.”