People in gaza wave white flags and raise their hands

People wave white flags and raise their hands as they reach the central Gaza Strip on their way to the southern part of besieged enclave on November 5, 2023.

(Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

Diplomats Tell New York Times Israel Privately Pushed to Expel Gazans to Egypt

Israel has been accused of waging a genocidal war as multiple plans to ethnically cleanse Gaza have surfaced.

A month into Israel's war on Hamas, Sunday reporting from The New York Times is bolstering fears of Israelis using the devastating war to ethnically cleanse the besieged Gaza Strip of Palestinians.

According to the Times:

Israel has quietly tried to build international support in recent weeks for the transfer of several hundred thousand civilians from Gaza to Egypt for the duration of its war in the territory, according to six senior foreign diplomats.

Israeli leaders and diplomats have privately proposed the idea to several foreign governments, framing it as a humanitarian initiative that would allow civilians to temporarily escape the perils of Gaza for refugee camps in the Sinai Desert, just across the border in neighboring Egypt.

The proposal has been rejected by not only Palestinians but also "most of Israel's interlocutors—who include the United States and Britain—because of the risk that such a mass displacement could become permanent," the newspaper noted.

Spokespeople for both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declined to comment, though the latter delivered a mid-October speech in which he forcefully opposed any relocation.

At least two separate Israeli plans to permanent expel Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt have circulated during the war. One, reported by the Israeli business daily Calcalist, came from Israel's intelligence minister, Gila Gamliel. Another, reported by Middle East Eye, was authored by Amir Weitmann, who chairs the Libertarian faction of Netanyahu's Likud party, and published by the Israeli think tank Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy.

Recent comments from Israeli leaders have also stoked fears of "a second Nakba," or catastrophe—a reference to when more than 750,000 Arabs were ethnically cleansed from Palestine in 1947-48 during the creation of the modern state of Israel. For example, Ariel Kallner, a Likud lawmakers, last month called for a "Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of '48."

Ameed Abed, a 35-year-old resident of Jabaliya—part of northern Gaza, from which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have told civilians to evacuate to the south—suggested in a phone interview with the Times that forced relocation to Egypt would be another Nakba: "As a Palestinian, I won't renew the Nakba again... We will not leave our homes."

Allegations of genocide and war crimes have mounted since Israel declared war on Hamas in retaliation for the Palestinian militant group leading an attack on October 7. Netanyahu has been accused of an "explicit call to genocide" due to a Biblical reference during an address last weekend in which he also described Israel's invasion of Gaza as a "holy mission."

The prime minister on Sunday indefinitely suspended Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu for publicly suggesting that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was on the table. Israel is one of the world's nine nuclear-armed nations.

As Politicodetailed:

A member of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, Eliyahu earlier on Sunday claimed in a radio interview that since there were "no noncombatants in Gaza," using an atomic weapon on the Palestinian enclave was "one of the possibilities."

Eliyahu later sought to rectify his statement, saying it was "clear to all sensible people" that his reference to nuclear weapons had been "metaphorical."

Netanyahu said that "Minister Amihai Eliyahu's statements are not based in reality. Israel and the IDF are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents. We will continue to do so until our victory."

According to officials in Israel, over 1,500 Israelis have been killed in the past month and Palestinian militants still have around 240 hostages. The Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday that the Israeli assault has killed more than 9,400 Palestinians, including 3,900 children. Another 144 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, where Israeli settler violence has surged.

Some Israeli settlers in recent weeks have tried to scare Palestinians into fleeing the West Bank with displays of dolls covered in blood or a substance meant to mimic it and leaflets with messages like, "Run to Jordan before we kill our enemies and expel you from our Holy Land, promised to us by God."

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