Egypt's former vice president warns of Gaza depopulation amid growing fear in Cairo
"All evidence and circumstances show that there is a systematic Israeli plan to displace the people of Gaza out of the country through the Rafah crossing in the near future," Mohamed El-Baradei, who lives in self-imposed exile, wrote on X on Tuesday.
Cairo has sounded alarm about alleged Israeli plans to forcefully expel Gaza’s population into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, repeatedly rejecting such proposals. Jordan, which borders the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has said that any Israeli expulsion of Palestinians would be a declaration of war.
Israeli officials, including extreme-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, has openly made calls to expel Palestinians and a leaked Israeli intelligence document suggested that Israel was making plans to displace Gaza's population to Egypt.
El-Baradei, who formerly chaired the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there was an "utmost necessity to take proactive steps to nip this hideous and racist plan in the bud, starting with insisting on a ceasefire, reconsidering all Arab countries’ relations with Israel, and other…means of pressure that we have if Israel continues its approach,"
He urged for action to be taken before "a new catastrophe is created."
"It is an international crime to displace people, to displace the Palestinians to Sinai, or into any other land."— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) November 10, 2023
Why Egypt is pushing back against Israel's Gaza refugee plans 👇 https://t.co/RUZwcdPs9T
The second phase of Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip has seen the military bomb and encircle Khan Younis, killing scores of civilians, amid international calls to limit civilian casualties and avoid further civilian displacement.
Some 80% of the enclave’s 2.3 million people have been displaced by Israel’s unprecedented war since October 7, fleeing southwards.
More than 16,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children.
Egypt is concerned that Israel wants to empty the besieged territory and create a situation in which Egypt is forced to open the Rafah crossing – the only land crossing with Gaza not shared with Israel – and allow the entry of possibly hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
An Israeli government delegation reportedly visited Cairo on Monday to give "reassurances" about Israel’s ground operation in southern Gaza, a source told The New Arab’s sister site.
The security delegation's primary mission was to respond to Egyptian concerns regarding the recent field movements of the Israeli army in Gaza’s south, and the impact of those movements on Egypt, the source told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
In related developments, Saudi Arabia’s de factor ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani reiterated their utter refusal of expelling Palestinians from Gaza.
The two monarchs stressed in a joint statement "the necessity of putting an end to Israel’s violations and stopping the forced displacement of Palestinians, and intensifying efforts for a comprehensive settlement in accordance with the principle of the two-state solution."
Crown Prince Mohammed was in Doha to take part in the seventh meeting of the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council.
Saudi Arabia suspended US-mediated efforts to normalise relations with Israel after Tel Aviv began bombing Gaza.