Egyptian official threatens to send 1 million Palestinians to Europe

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the Yassin Mosque, destroyed after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike at the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, early Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
By John Cody
5 Min Read

In a report from the Financial Times detailing the Egyptian government’s growing fear of a potential massive refugee crisis, an unnamed official reportedly said he would send 1 million Palestinian refugees to Europe if they were forced out of Gaza.

According to the Financial Times, a senior Egyptian official told a European counterpart: “You want us to take 1mn people? Well, I am going to send them to Europe. You care about human rights so much — well you take them.”

Israel’s saturation bombing of Gaza could become a serious problem for Europe, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flee south.

Other neighboring Arab states, many of whom already have substantial Palestinian refugee populations such as Jordan, are also rejecting taking in more Palestinian refugees.

“That is a red line,” King Abdullah II, who rules Jordan, told journalists, “I think that is the plan by certain of the usual suspects to try and create issues on the ground.”

“There will be no refugees in Jordan and no refugees in Egypt,” he said.

The news comes as President Joe Biden warns that Israel should not occupy the Gaza Strip, which would create serious obstacles for the U.S.’s nearly unconditional support for Israel. Biden told “60 Minutes” that it would be a “serious mistake.” The United Nations has already accused Israel of violating international law with its bombing campaign and siege of Gaza, which cut off food, water and electricity to the 2.2 million residents of Palestine.

Palestinians remove a dead body from the rubble of a building after an Israeli airstrike in the Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Ramez Mahmoud )

Egypt is currently being urged by Western officials to allow Palestinians to cross its border at the Rafah crossing. However, Egypt is pushing back, and its diplomats have stated it will deliver aid but will not take any significant number of Palestinians in. For one, there is concern that Israel is pushing the refugees out of its land in order to expand into and occupy Gaza. However, the country, which is facing an economic crisis, also fears any internal instability that an exodus of Palestinians could bring to an Egypt marked by a history of political instability and terror attacks. ISIS already operates in the Sinai desert, which is the area of Egypt connected to the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s expected ground offensive has not even occurred yet, but the humanitarian situation in Gaza is already disastrous. While Hamas’ terror attack on Israel led to the deaths of 1,400 people, the ongoing bombardment in Gaza has displaced hundreds of thousands, killed 2,750, and wounded over 10,000. Gaza lacks medical supplies, electricity, and enough hospital beds for the constant flow of wounded.

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Israel has ordered all of northern Gaza’s residents to clear out and head to south Gaza. The Financial Times reports that Egypt is suspicious that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to evict them into Egypt, a claim the Israeli government denies.

Egyptian state media has said that such an eviction of Gazans would “end the dream of a Palestinian state” and absolve Israel of its legal responsibilities as an “occupier.”

Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, also addressed the fears of an exodus of Palestinian refugees, stating: “How many and for how long? And even if it is for temporary humanitarian protection, after the Israeli offensive maybe there will be nothing for the Palestinians to go back to. Or maybe Israel won’t let them return.”

Volunteers of the humanitarian aid convoy for the Gaza Strip wave Egyptian and Palestinian flags at Rafah crossing port, Egypt, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Omar Aziz)

According to the Financial Times, “Hanna noted that previous Palestinian displacements had become permanent. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan have spent decades in those countries without any prospects of returning to their villages and towns.”

There are already 5 million Palestinian refugees in various Middle Eastern countries who have spent decades away from their villages now occupied by Israel.

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