Israel’s Arab Neighbors Condemn Gaza War But Reject Palestinian Refugees

October 18, 2023

Israel's Arab neighbors condemned its war in Gaza but refused this week to take in Palestinian refugees fleeing from or displaced by the conflict.

Jordan's King Abdullah on Tuesday warned against trying to push Palestinian refugees into Egypt or Jordan, adding that the humanitarian situation must be dealt with inside Gaza and the West Bank.

"That is a red line, because I think that is the plan by certain of the usual suspects to try and create de facto issues on the ground. No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt," King Abdullah said at a news conference following a meeting with German chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

King Abdullah last week called for a "two-state solution" as the conflict unfolded.

"There will be no security, no peace, no stability without just and total peace that comes through a two-state solution," he told his Parliament on October 11, as he called for the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital of East Jerusalem.

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 that any such move would turn the peninsula into a base for attacks against Israel.

The Gaza Strip is effectively under Israeli control and Palestinians could instead be moved to Israel's Negev desert "till the militants are dealt with," Sisi told a joint news conference in Cairo with Scholz.

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.

Sisi in an Oct. 7 meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron "warned against the danger of the situation deteriorating and sliding into more violence, the worsening of humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the region entering into a vicious cycle of tensions that threatens regional stability and security," his spokesman said at the time.

In the aftermath of a blast at a Gaza hospital Tuesday—for which Hamas and Arab leaders immediately blamed Israel, though there is now evidence it was the result of a misfired rocket from Gaza—Egypt called on the Jewish state to "immediately cease its collective punishment policies against the people of the Gaza Strip."

King Abdullah also offered condemnation, with his royal court calling the blast "a heinous war crime that cannot be ignored."

The blast also drew condemnation from across the Arab world. Hezbollah, a militant group based in Lebanon, called for Wednesday to be "a day of unprecedented anger against the enemy and its crimes," while thousands in the West Bank city of Ramallah rallied in response to the explosion.

Israel's unprecedented bombardment and siege of Gaza to destroy Hamas militants who control the strip has raised fears that its 2.3 million residents could be forced southwards into Sinai.

"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," said Sisi Wednesday.

"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.

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."

Egypt is wary of insecurity near its border with Gaza in northeastern Sinai, where it faced an Islamist 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.

Aid Push

Egypt has been trying to channel humanitarian relief through its Rafah crossing with Gaza, but aid has been piling up on the Egyptian side because Egypt says Israeli bombardments on the Gazan side have made the crossing inoperable.

The United States has said it is working with Israel on a plan for sending in aid, and White House spokesperson John Kirby said they were getting close to a framework for the plan. The plan is likely to involve the evacuation of some foreign passport holders from Gaza, but Egyptian officials say that has to be accompanied by the delivery of aid.

(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Nadine Awadalla, and Riham Alkousaa; additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; writing by Aidan Lewis; editing by Gareth Jones, Philippa Fletcher, and Rachel More)

Published under: Egypt , Hamas , Israel , Jordan