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2 Jan, 2024 22:36

US rejects Gaza ethnic cleansing proposal

A State Department spokesman insisted that the enclave “will remain Palestinian land”
US rejects Gaza ethnic cleansing proposal

The US State Department has condemned Israeli proposals to remove the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza en masse.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller explicitly rejected as “inflammatory and irresponsible” recent comments from Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir supporting the mass deportation of Palestinians.

Noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his cabinet have denied that it was official government policy to resettle Gaza’s Palestinian inhabitants, Miller demanded the ministers back away from such rhetoric “immediately.”

“Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and no terror groups able to threaten Israel,” he continued.

On Monday, Ben Gvir described “encouraging the residents of Gaza to emigrate” outside the enclave as “the right, just, moral, and humane solution,” explaining that it would allow Israelis living in border communities to return home.

He doubled down on his comments following Miller’s statement, writing in a post on Telegram, “I greatly appreciate the USA, but with all due respect…we will do what is good for the state of Israel.”

Smotrich made similar comments in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday. “What needs to be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage emigration,” he said. “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not 2 million Arabs, the entire discussion on the day after [the war] will be totally different.”

While an official with Netanyahu’s office subsequently told the Associated Press that “contrary to false allegations, Israel does not seek to displace the population in Gaza,” instead merely looking to “enable those individuals who wish to leave to do so,” a government document leaked in November called for the mass relocation of all 2.3 million of the territory’s residents to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula – a plan that has alarmed Palestinians and Egyptians alike.

The US State Department has repeatedly called for Gaza to be run by the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers the West Bank and ran Gaza prior to Hamas' 2007 election victory, as a prelude to full Palestinian statehood. Israel has openly opposed a two-state solution.

At least 1.8 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants have been displaced since Israel began bombing the territory following Hamas’ October 7 cross-border attack, which left 1,200 Israelis dead. Many residential neighborhoods have been completely flattened, with vital civilian infrastructure such as the hospital system virtually destroyed. 

Over 21,800 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombs since the start of the war, according to the enclave’s health ministry, with upwards of 56,000 more seriously injured. Thousands more are reportedly missing beneath the rubble.