How the Israeli resettlement of Gaza went from being a fringe view to a real possibility

Special How the Israeli resettlement of Gaza went from being a fringe view to a real possibility
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Israel announced its Gaza disengagement plan in 2003, and implemented it two years later. The withdrawal happened 38 years after the Israeli army captured Gaza from the Egyptian army. (Reuters /File)
Special How the Israeli resettlement of Gaza went from being a fringe view to a real possibility
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A baby holds an Israeli flag as members of the Israeli settler community gather at a convention in Jerusalem on January 28, 2024, calling for Israel to rebuild settlements in the Gaza Strip and the northern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (REUTERS)
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Updated 01 February 2024
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How the Israeli resettlement of Gaza went from being a fringe view to a real possibility

How the Israeli resettlement of Gaza went from being a fringe view to a real possibility
  • Rightwing Israeli politicians, including cabinet ministers, are joining forces with settler groups hoping to reoccupy enclave
  • The resettlement of Gaza and ‘voluntary’ removal of Palestinians would likely deal a killer blow to the two-state solution

LONDON: It is easy to miss the gated entrance to the Gush Katif Museum, squeezed between two low-rise apartment blocks on an unremarkable side street in Jerusalem.

Since it opened in 2008, the museum has been a quiet, reflective backwater, a place of pilgrimage for a group of people who call themselves “the uprooted” — the survivors of a curious and, for them, traumatic chapter in the story of Israel and the Palestinians.

But since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas-led militants, and the subsequent devastating retribution visited upon Gaza by the Israeli army, the museum suddenly finds itself rather more than a mere footnote to history.




Israeli armor advances against Egyptian troops at the start of the Six-Day War June 5, 1967 near Rafah, Gaza Strip. Thirty-eight years later, the Israeli army pulled out of Gaza under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. (AFP/Getty Images/File)

Instead, it has become the spiritual home of an increasingly vocal rightwing movement in Israel calling not only for the reoccupation of Gaza by Israel, but also for the ethnic cleansing of all Arabs from the territory.

Situated barely 1.5 km west of Jerusalem’s Old City, the museum was established in August 2008 to commemorate the 17 Israeli settlements that sprang up in Gaza in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War.

From 1970 onward the agricultural settlements, inhabited mainly by orthodox Jews and known collectively as Gush Katif, occupied a narrow coastal strip running north from the Egyptian border for about 12 km.




In this combination of images taken from 2001 to 2004, Israeli children (top photos) are seen at play in the  Netzarim settlement in Gush Katif near the Gaza Strip. At the bottom are Palestinians living as refugees in their own homeland. As Palestinians escalated their resistance, the Israeli government decided to pull out from Gaza, forcibly uprooting Jewish settlers that it had previously encouraged to build homes on Palestinian lands. (AFP/File)

For 35 years the communities of Gush Katif, insulated from their Palestinian neighbors by a system of roads closed to Arab drivers and patrolled by a dedicated unit of the Israeli army, put down deep roots and thrived. They built homes, schools, synagogues and greenhouses on land they believed would belong to Israel forever.

But then it all came crashing down.

In what some in Israel still describe as a betrayal, and even a crime, in 2003 Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, announced his “disengagement” plan — a unilateral decision, taken in the face of stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to withdraw all Israeli settlements from Gaza.




In this picture taken on May 4, 2001, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon views the wreckage of a car that exploded at Rafah Yam in the Gush Katif group of Jewish settlements, amid Palestinian resistance. Sharon subsequently ordered an Israeli disengagement from Gaza, to the dismay of settlers who came to the captured Palestinian territory on government invitation. (AFP)

In a televised speech on Aug. 15, 2005, Sharon described the withdrawal as “the most difficult and painful step of all … very difficult for me personally.”

The decision had not been taken lightly, he said, “but the changing reality in the country, in the region, and the world, required of me a reassessment and change of positions.”

Israel, he added, “cannot hold on to Gaza forever.”

Without doubt, the “disengagement” was traumatic for the Jews of Gush Katif, more than 8,000 of whom lost their homes. For some, it was a second displacement, having been resettled there at the invitation of the Israeli government after Israel handed over the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1982.




Tens of thousands of Israeli settlers and right-wing supporters march at a Gaza beach on April 27, 2005, in protest against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon disengagement plan. (AFP/File)

Contemporary newsreels playing at the Gush Katif Museum capture the traumatic forced evacuations that took place between Aug. 15 and 22 in 2005. Film of the final day of the evacuation shows women and children, crying and screaming, being dragged away from their homes by Israeli soldiers and police officers.

At one of the settlement’s synagogues, men, singing prayers and weeping, gather for the last time. Even as the settlements are being abandoned, diggers and bulldozers move in to destroy all the homes.

“I don’t think it’s fully appreciated that the religious right in Israel have their own calendar, and that there are traumatic events marked in that calendar,” said Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney specializing in Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem and the founder of the NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem.

“Trauma number one came in 1967, when Moshe Dayan (then Israel’s defense minister) did not forcefully impose Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount, which they consider to be Israel’s biggest blunder.




In this file photo, Israeli troops observe the old city of Jerusalem, home to the Dome of the Rock (C) in the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, Islam's third holiest site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest site of Judaism, prior to their attack June 1967. (AFP)

“But the second-largest trauma for the religious right is the eviction from Gush Katif, a seminal, traumatic event for them.

“There is a yearning for returning now that that has been spoken about for years, but always by people who were perceived as on the fringe. Now, there are people in government who are also talking about it.”

GAZA STRIPTIMELINE

• Belongs to Ottoman Empire from 16th to 20th century.

• Taken by British troops in 1917 during the Second World War.

• British rule ends in 1918.

• Under Egypt’s military rule in 1950s and 1960s.

* Captured by Israel in 1967 Middle East war.

• Palestinians gain limited control under 1993 peace accord.

• Israel evacuates troops and settlers in August 2005.

• In 2006, Hamas scores victory in Palestinian parliamentary vote.

• In 2007 Hamas ejects political rivals and becomes sole ruler.

And not just talking about it. Rightwing politicians, including some in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, are joining forces with settler groups and calling for the lost homes of Gush Katif, and many more besides, to be rebuilt.

On Sunday Jan. 28, no fewer than a dozen government ministers and 15 members of the Israeli parliament joined 3,000 people at the Jerusalem International Convention Center for a “Resettle Gaza Conference,” a boisterous, noisy affair with a distinctly celebratory atmosphere.




Jewish settlers gather at a convention in Jerusalem on January 28, 2024, calling for Israel to rebuild settlements in the Gaza Strip and the northern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (REUTERS)0

Among the high-profile conference-goers was Netanyahu’s security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the darling of Israel’s religious right.

Last year Ben-Gvir led ultranationalist settlers on a series of provocative marches to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which many Jewish religious extremists would like to see destroyed to make way for the construction of a third Jewish temple, replacing the two that the Jewish bible says were destroyed in antiquity.

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It was these marches, and an escalation in Israeli settler activities, that were cited by Hamas as the final provocation that triggered the Oct. 7 assault on Israel — an operation it named Al-Aqsa Flood.

Ben-Gvir has shown no remorse for his provocations. Indeed, on New Year’s Day he declared “we must promote a solution to encourage the migration of Gaza residents … a correct, just, moral, and humane solution.”

He added: “Make no mistake about it, we have partners around the world that can help, there are statesmen around the world to whom we can promote this idea.

“Encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza will allow us to bring the residents of Gush Katif back home.”




Israeli ministers, including national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, participated in a Resettle Gaza Conference in Jerusalem. (AFP)

His boss, Netanyahu, appears to share his sentiments.

In the face of growing international disquiet at Israel’s disproportionate military response in Gaza since Oct. 7, the man at the helm of the most rightwing government in Israel’s history, politically beholden to settler groups, has repeatedly rejected calls from allies, including the US, to pave the way for the long-awaited two-state solution.

Netanyahu’s position was made clear in a statement issued by his office on Jan. 21, the day after US President Joe Biden once again publicly urged him to seek peace by agreeing to the principle of Palestinian statehood.

“In his conversation with President Biden,” it read, “Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated his policy that after Hamas is destroyed Israel must retain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty.”




US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 18, 2023, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas. (Pool Photo via AP, File)

A return to Gush Katif, now being openly proposed by some in Netanyahu’s cabinet, would be compatible with this bleak vision of the future — but some want to go much further.

In a poll carried out in Israel in December, 68 percent of Israelis said they supported the idea of “voluntary migration” for the Arab citizens of Palestine. And on Dec. 25, the day after the poll results were published, Netanyahu told a meeting of his Likud Knesset faction that his government was already working on how to achieve this.

“Our problem is finding countries that are ready to absorb them, and we are working on it,” the Jewish Press reported Netanyahu as saying.

The idea is also gaining traction among the Jewish lobby overseas.

On Jan. 2, a columnist for the Jewish Press, the largest independent weekly Jewish newspaper in the US, a self-proclaimed “tireless advocate on behalf of the State of Israel,” offered a sinister take on the calls for “voluntary migration.”

“It stands to reason that rather than engage in futile efforts to persuade the countries of the world to open their gates to the most militant Islamist population on the planet, Israel should invest efforts in making life in Gaza unbearable,” wrote David Israel in a deeply disturbing column.




Palestinian man uses a wheelchair to transport bags of flour distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on January 29, 2024. If rightwing Israelis have their way, Palestinians should be sent to a country where they are welcomed. (REUTERS/File Photo)

He added: “The idea of tempting the Gaza Arabs onto large cruise ships that would take them to nicer places may be a romantic delusion, but the flight of thousands of starved individuals from a disease-ridden and ever-shrinking livable space would eventually bring down the Egyptian government’s barred gates.”

In Israel, not everyone is comfortable with the talk of resettling Gaza, a prospect that has alarmed even politically center-right newspaper The Jerusalem Post. In an editorial on Jan. 30, it labelled the Resettle Gaza Conference “disturbing” and condemned the calls to resettle Gaza as “divisive.”

But, given the support of a growing number of ministers and others, the paper concluded, “we can no longer say the resettlement of Gaza is a fringe idea that has no teeth or staying power.”




Palestinians shop in an open-air market near the ruins of houses and buildings destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict in Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on November 30, 2023. Rightwing Israelis are toying with the idea of letting Palestinians leave Gaza "voluntarily" and migrate to other countries. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Omer Bartov, professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs in Providence, Rhode Island, cautions against the use of euphemisms in the current situation.

“When speaking of a reoccupation of Gaza and the ‘voluntary’ removal of Palestinians, Ben-Gvir and followers are in fact speaking about the ethnic cleansing of Gaza, and then its settlement by Jews,” he said.

“They are quite open about that. There is nothing voluntary about this.”

If this came about, he said, “this would first of all mean that the entire IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) operation in Gaza will be seen as one of forcible removal of population, which is a war crime and a crime against humanity under international humanitarian law.”

It might also “be a breach of the Genocide Convention, as it could be presented as the intentional destruction of the part of the Palestinian people living in Gaza. This would put Israel directly in the sights of the International Court of Justice.”




Displaced Palestinians flee from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 30, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Bartov is, however, doubtful that “the radicals in the Israeli cabinet will manage to push this through. I don’t think there will be ethnic cleansing, but I do anticipate a major political crisis in Israel.

“This can be channeled in a positive direction only through massive pressure by the US and its allies, especially the UK, France and Germany, and then a regional agreement with Arab states, not least Saudi Arabia, to normalize relations with Israel on condition of the creation of an independent, possibly demilitarized, Palestinian state,” he said.

In the Gush Katif museum, among the artefacts on display, pride of place goes to a menorah, the traditional candelabra traditionally lit on the Jewish holiday of Hannukah. It was saved from the synagogue of Netzarim, the last of the Gaza settlements to be evacuated, and growing numbers in Israel would like to see it returned to what they believe is its rightful place.




More than 20,000 Peace Now demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv on October 1, 1996, calling for a continuation of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Twenty-seven years after, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still in office, leading right-wing extremists in posing an obstacle to peace. (AFP/File)

In a film shown at the museum, Rivka Goldschmidt, one of the “Uprooted” from Gush Katif, speaks of her hopes for the future.

“It could be that our children will be able to return to Gush Katif and that will be a great comfort,” she says.

“I don’t know if it will happen, or when it will happen, but in the back of my mind that is an aspiration because there was something there that was great and tremendous, built by honest people.”

Gush Katif, she adds, “was vacated for no reason and it could be that our children, maybe our grandchildren, will return there one day.”

If Netanyahu and the rightwing ministers in his cabinet get their way, that day could be sooner than anyone could have predicted.

And if that happens, the prospects for a two-state solution and the peace for which so many Palestinians and Israelis have prayed for so long will likely have been dashed for generations to come.

 


Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah

Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah
Updated 25 May 2024
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Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah

Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah

KHAN YOUNIS: In a cowshed in Gaza’s Khan Younis, zookeeper Fathi Ahmed Gomaa has created a temporary home for dozens of animals, including lions and baboons, having fled with them from Israel’s offensive in Rafah.
“We’ve moved all the animals we had, except for three big lions that remain (in Rafah),” he said.
“I ran out of time and couldn’t move them.” Ahmed abandoned his zoo in Rafah when Israel ordered the evacuation of parts of the southern Gazan city.
Before the offensive, the city on the border with Egypt had been spared a ground invasion, and more than half of the Gaza Strip’s population was sheltering there.
Now, the Israeli offensive has sent more than 800,000 people fleeing from Rafah, according to the UN, with Gomaa and his family among them.
“I am appealing to the Israeli authorities: these animals have no connection to terrorism,” Gomaa said, saying he wanted their help in coordinating with aid agencies to rescue the lions left behind in Rafah.
He fears they won’t survive long on their own.
“Of course, within a week or 10 days, if we don’t get them out, they will die because they’ll be left with no food or water.”
Gomaa said he had already lost several of his animals to the war: “Three lion cubs, five monkeys, a newborn monkey, and nine squirrels.”
And while the squawking of parrots fills the air, many of Gomaa’s other birds are no longer with him.
“I released some of the dogs, some of the hawks and eagles, some of the pigeons, and some of the ornamental birds. I released many of them because we didn’t have cages to transport them.”
In the cowshed, Gomaa is making do with what he has, using improvised fencing to raise the heights of the pens so that their new inhabitants, spotted deer, can’t leap out.
Israeli troops began their assault on Rafah on May 7, defying widespread international concern for the safety of the 1.4 million civilians sheltering in the city.


EU considers possible Rafah border mission, diplomats say

EU considers possible Rafah border mission, diplomats say
Updated 25 May 2024
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EU considers possible Rafah border mission, diplomats say

EU considers possible Rafah border mission, diplomats say

BRUSSELS: Talks on deploying a EU mission at the Rafah border crossing in Gaza are at a preliminary stage and the deployment will not happen without an end to the war between Israel and Hamas, a senior EU official said on Friday.
EU foreign ministers will hold their monthly meeting in Brussels on Monday, and discuss how to improve humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza.
Two diplomats said the US had suggested the EU revive its EU Border Assistance Mission or EUBAM Rafah, which has not been operational since 2007, when Hamas seized full control of Gaza.
The crossing is the main entry point for aid from Egypt and has been closed since Israeli forces took control of it from the Gazan side nearly three weeks ago.
Rafah city is now fire in an Israeli military assault, which judges at the top UN court said on Friday should immediately halt.
“Even if we now have people on the ground talking to the different parties and seeing how it could be done, we are in a very preliminary part of the story,” said the senior official.
The official said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell could be mandated by the 27 members on Monday to come up with “some kind of operative conclusions that could allow the mission to deploy.”
He said a deployment could not happen “in the current circumstances, not in war circumstances.”
“We are talking about the future,” the official said.
Three EU diplomats said the discussion would be on the table, but there was nothing concrete to discuss. One said the proposal was a “long shot.”
The mission would need unanimous approval from EU member states. Also, EUBAM is a civilian mission, and given the potentially dangerous nature of the operation, personnel and equipment would need to be adapted.
Diplomats said that such a mission could go ahead only if Egypt and Israel were also in favor.
Two US officials said Washington was reviewing options to secure the opening of the Rafah crossing, but no definitive plans have been developed yet. Israel began its offensive in Gaza after Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.


Four Britons repatriated from Syria camp, Kurds say

Four Britons repatriated from Syria camp, Kurds say
Updated 24 May 2024
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Four Britons repatriated from Syria camp, Kurds say

Four Britons repatriated from Syria camp, Kurds say
  • The Kurdish administration said it had “handed over a woman and three children to the United Kingdom“
  • The four had been interned in the Roj camp where militants’ relatives are held

QAMISHLI, Syria: Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria said Friday that they had handed over a woman and three children to British representatives for repatriation, with a source saying they had been held in a camp for militants’ relatives.
Five years after the Daesh group was driven out of its last bastion in Syria, tens of thousands of the militants’ family members, including from Western countries, remain in detention camps in the Kurdish-controlled northeast.
The Kurdish administration said it had “handed over a woman and three children to the United Kingdom,” following a meeting with a British delegation led its Syria envoy Ann Snow.
A source within the administration told AFP the four had been interned in the Roj camp where militants’ relatives are held.
Britain’s foreign ministry said UK officials had “facilitated the repatriation of a number of British nationals from Syria to the United Kingdom.”
“This repatriation is in line with the long-standing policy that all requests for UK consular assistance from Syria are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant circumstances including national security,” the spokesperson said.
On May 7, the United States announced it had brought back 11 Americans including five minors, as well as a nine-year-old non-US sibling of an American, from internment camps in northeastern Syria.
The United States in the same operation facilitated the repatriation of six Canadian citizens, four Dutch citizens and one Finnish citizen, eight of them children, Secretary of state Antony Blinken said.
And in December, the Kurdish administration handed over to Britain a woman and five children who had also been held in a camp.
Despite repeated appeals by the Kurdish authorities, a number of Western countries have refused to take back their citizens from the camps.
Among the most high profile cases is that of Shamima Begum, a former Briton stripped of her citizenship after leaving the country aged 15 to marry an Daesh group fighter.


Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri

Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri
Updated 24 May 2024
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Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri

Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri
  • Parliamentary speaker accuses Israel of ‘greed’ over Lebanese resources
  • Berri’s statement came as hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in the southern border region entered their 230th day

BEIRUT: Lebanon is willing to cooperate with any international effort to stop Israeli aggression and bring security to the region, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri said on Friday.
However, in a statement marking the 24th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Berri warned that Lebanon “is not ready to waive any of its sovereign rights.”
He also accused Israel of displaying “greed toward Lebanon, its resources, its entity, and its land, sea, and air borders.”
Berri’s statement came as hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in the southern border region entered their 230th day.
The parliamentary speaker called for intensified international and regional efforts to halt Israel’s assault in the Gaza Strip, saying this was crucial to maintain security and stability in the entire region.
Hezbollah claims its actions have been in support of Gaza amid further Israeli threats to Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Thursday from the northern command headquarters “to carry out detailed, important and even surprising plans to return displaced settlers to the north.”
He claimed Israel had killed hundreds of Hezbollah fighters.
Benny Gantz, a minister in the Israeli war Cabinet, said: “Get ready from now on for the return of the residents of the north to their houses safely in early September by force or order.”
Berri returned from Tehran after attending the funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19.
In his message to the Lebanese, he renewed Lebanon’s “commitment and adherence to UN Resolution 1701, and all its terms and stipulations.”
The resolution calls for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon to be replaced by Lebanese and UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, and the disarmament of armed groups including Hezbollah.
Berri accused Israel of ignoring the resolution “since the moment it was issued, with over 30,000 land, sea and air violations.”
Lebanon “upholds its right to defend its land with all the available means in the face of Israeli hostilities,” he said.
He called for the liberation of “the remaining occupied territory in the Kfarchouba Hills, the occupied Shebaa Farms, the northern part of the GHajjar village, and the contested border points with occupied Palestine all the way to the B1 point in Ras Al-Naqoura.”
Caretaker Minister of Defense Maurice Slim said that Lebanon preferred peace to war.
However, “defending the land was and will be the Lebanese state’s choice through the resilience of its army and people, especially the steadfast ones who are still residing in their villages and towns to repel the aggression,” he said.
Israeli warplanes on Thursday struck the town of Maroun Al-Ras in the Bint Jbeil district.
Sirens sounded in Israeli settlements opposite the border with Lebanon amid fears of possible drone attacks.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that Hezbollah’s drones caused significant damage in the northern towns and resulted in several fatalities.
Another newspaper, Israel Hayom, said that Hezbollah’s drones are “one of the biggest threats facing Israel in the northern arena.”
The newspaper said that Hezbollah leader Mohammed Hassan Fares, who was killed by an Israeli drone strike last week in Qana, was a scientist who specialized in robotics and machine learning.


2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council

2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council
Updated 24 May 2024
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2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council

2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council
  • Palestinians ‘actively deprived’ of essential items as Israel steps up operations in city
  • Some in Gaza have been displaced as many as 9 times since October

LONDON: The Norwegian Refugee Council has warned that 2,000 aid trucks are stuck in Egypt at the Rafah border crossing, with Palestinians in Gaza being “actively deprived” of essential goods.
Rafah is the last remaining area of Gaza yet to come under full assault by Israeli forces, with fears now mounting of an imminent operation to take the southern city.
The NRC’s head of operations in Gaza, Suze van Meegen, told the BBC: “The city of Rafah is now comprised of three entirely different worlds: the east is an archetypal war zone, the middle is a ghost town, and the west is a congested mass of people living in deplorable conditions.”
She said medical supplies, tents, water tanks and food are being held up at the border, and in some cases Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced as many as nine times since Israel launched its military operation last October.
“People have no choice but to put their faith in so-called ‘humanitarian safe zones’ designated by the forces that have killed their family members and destroyed their homes,” she added.
Israeli journalist Amos Harel told the BBC that he believes Israel is moving ahead with plans to occupy Rafah with tacit US support.
“It’s quite clear that the Americans are no longer trying to prevent Israel from occupying Rafah. So the Israelis may proceed carefully and not too quickly. But it’s less of a question of whether the Israelis are going to occupy Rafah. It’s quite clear that they are,” he said.
It comes despite earlier warnings by US President Joe Biden against Israel attacking “population centers,” and with the International Court of Justice set to rule on the legality of the Israeli campaign in Gaza after a case was submitted by South Africa in December accusing Israel of genocide.