Why So Many Palestinians Wouldn't Flee Gaza Even If They Could
Even as the borders close and the siege tightens, most of the Palestinians also deeply fear leaving, convinced that (like their forebears) they'll never return.
Updated Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Why has Egypt refused to open a humanitarian corridor for refugees to flee Gaza? The response is complex, forcing us to delve into the abyss of history.
It is a specter that haunts Palestinians wherever they may be, and which goes by the name of the Nakba, or "catastrophe" in Arabic. This refers to the departure and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, when the Jewish state was born.
Some of these refugees were welcomed into Gaza, which was then an Egyptian-controlled territory. Seven decades later, they are still there. According to the website of UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees, 1.6 million of Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants are descendants of refugees from 1948.
They live in eight camps spread over the 42 kilometers of this territory, which over time have become veritable cities, such as Jabaliya and Khan Younès.
Becoming refugees again
Today, they dread becoming refugees all over again. Leaving for Egypt to escape the Israeli bombardments is likely, in their eyes, to be another journey of no-return.
When the Israeli army spokesman advised Gazans to evacuate earlier this week, it was a flashback in family histories that might force them to relive the nightmare of 1948.
The Palestinians themselves do not want to abandon what is Palestinian land.
Egypt has no desire to see the creation on its soil of a Palestinian abscess that could become permanent. Especially if it is under the influence of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a sworn enemy of the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
For this reason, the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, at the Rafah terminal, remains almost completely closed. It must also be noted that the Rafah crossing has been bombed three times by Israeli aircraft in recent days.
The Palestinians themselves do not want to abandon what is Palestinian land, even though living conditions there before the war were a nightmare, and they have been subjected to intensive Israeli retaliatory bombardment and a siege for the past five days. Leaving for Egypt would be their last option.
What is the Nakba?
A living hell
There are already more than 300,000 displaced people in the territory, fleeing the neighborhoods targeted by the Israeli air force to take refuge in lesser-targeted areas. A new Israel order early Friday for those in northern Gaza to head south within 24 hours has been called "impossible" by the United Nations.
Israel runs the risk of being accused of collective punishment.
Meanwhile, the number of victims continues to grow, and conditions have become a living hell in this territory deprived of water and electricity by the Israelis.
International NGOs are calling for humanitarian corridors not to evacuate residents, but to bring them relief. Today, this is impossible, and already seven UN employees have died.
Struck at its heart last Saturday by the Hamas terror attack, Israel runs the risk, with these massive reprisals that make no distinction between Hamas fighters and the civilian population, of being accused of collective punishment, forbidden by the Geneva Conventions. Even U.S. President Joe Biden — an unconditional supporter of Israel — has called on Israel to respect the rules of war.
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