Egypt denounces Israeli 'wartime proposal' to forcibly displace Palestinians to North Sinai
Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly reiterated on Tuesday, 31 October, his country's absolute rejection of an alleged Israeli plan to forcibly displace Palestinians of Gaza to the North Sinai province.
Madbouly's surprise visit came a day after Israel acknowledged that the Intelligence Ministry had drafted "a wartime proposal" to transfer Gaza's over two million population to North Sinai, drawing condemnation from the Palestinians and worsening tensions with Egypt.
"We, the Egyptians, are ready to sacrifice millions of lives so that nobody approaches a grain of sand [in North Sinai]," the prime minister declared while addressing the attendees formed of local tribal leaders, army personnel, commanders, public figures and journalists.
In the Israeli report in question, the Intelligence Ministry — tasked with conducting research, not setting policies — put forward three alternatives "to influence a significant change in the civilian reality in Gaza" given what it described as the crimes of the Palestinian Hamas faction, which rules the Gaza Strip, leading to "the Sword of Iron war."
Moreover, during the ceremony, Mohamed Rabie, Commander of the Second Field Army of Egypt's army, said that the Egyptian armed forces are "highly prepared to undertake any mission assigned to them to protect Egypt's national security at the northeastern strategic direction."
Madbouly represented President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, inaugurating developmental projects in the once restive northeastern where he met tribal leaders and army personnel in the presence of public figures, celebrities and journalists. Madbouly is expected to visit the Rafah border city crossing with Gaza later in the day.
The Egyptian government has frequently expressed worry over a possible forced mass exodus of Palestinians to choose between death under Israeli bombing or displacement from their land.
Most recently, Cairo-based Mada Masr news outlet has been suspended for six months and referred to the prosecutor-general after running a report on the plans for displacement of Gaza's Palestinians in Sinai.
The country's Supreme Council for Media Regulation accused the independent outlet, one of the remaining free voices in a country ranked as the world's third worst jailer of journalists, of "harming national security" and "publishing fabricated news."
The conspiracy theory of displacing Palestinians in North Sinai is no news. Since the 1950s, there have been concerns in Egypt that Israel could forcibly displace the Palestinians of Gaza to the restive province, and these sentiments have been strengthened by a recent Israeli order to Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate the north of the enclave.
On 18 October, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said during a joint press conference with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Cairo that Gazans could be moved to the Israeli Negev desert instead of Sinai "until Israel is capable of defeating Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Afterwards, Palestinians could return to their homeland."
A few days later, during a peace summit held in Cairo in the presence of several other heads of state and senior officials and diplomats, Sisi reiterated once again that his government and people had been firmly rejecting the forced displacement of Palestinians from their land under any circumstances.