OPINIONS

Thu 19 Oct 2023 5:01 pm - Jerusalem Time

Projects to resettle Gazans in Sinai between yesterday and today

Author: Maher Al-Sharif

On Friday, October 13, the United Nations indicated that the Israeli army, which is waging its widespread aggression against the Gaza Strip, informed it on Thursday evening that approximately 1.1 million Palestinians residing in the northern Gaza Strip will have to go to the south. sector within 24 hours. In a tweet published in Arabic a few minutes later, Avichay Adraee, a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army, called on the residents of the Gaza Strip “to head south to the Gaza Valley, and urged them to stay away from Hamas terrorists who are using them as human shields,” adding that “they will not be allowed to return to Gaza City.” Unless a permit is issued to do so, it is prohibited to approach the fence area with the State of Israel”. 


This statement raised fears that the Israeli goal was to force a large portion of Gaza’s population to head towards the Egyptian border and revive their resettlement projects in the Sinai Desert, especially in light of the statements made by the former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, to Al Jazeera, in which he stated: “There are almost endless spaces in the Sinai desert on the other side of Gaza and they (the Palestinians) can leave (the Gaza Strip) to those open spaces where we and the international community will prepare infrastructure and tent cities and provide them with water and food.”


Settlement projects in Sinai


Since the Nakba of Palestine, the Zionist movement, which wanted the land without its people, saw in the Sinai desert a wide area to which Palestinians could be displaced and resettled.


The Egyptian government, which emerged from the revolution of July 22, 1952, was still searching for its way in terms of foreign policy and was attached to its local issues, when in 1953, after months of negotiations it conducted with UNRWA, it agreed to a project to settle about 12,000 refugee families from the Gaza Strip settled on lands in the northwestern Sinai desert after making them suitable for agriculture, by delivering a percentage of the Nile River’s water to them annually. $30 million was allocated for the implementation of this project, which received the support of the US administration at the time. Popular movements in the Gaza Strip began against this project since Egyptian newspapers hinted at it in May 1953. 


Then these movements took on new dimensions following the massive Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip on February 28, 1955, as they were launched on March 1. March: A massive demonstration from the “Palestine Public” School in Gaza City, with the participation of the school’s teachers, students, car and bus drivers, and shop owners, who chanted: “No resettlement, no housing/Oh American agents,” “They wrote the Sinai Project in ink/and we will erase the Sinai Project in blood.” The Egyptian police forces confronted them with live bullets, and the first martyr was Hosni Bilal, a textile worker in the city of Majdal and a refugee to Gaza City.


The demonstration was not limited to Gaza City. Rather, the demonstrations spread to the rest of the Gaza Strip’s cities, villages, and camps, extending from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south. The “Supreme National Committee” was formed from representatives of the communists, Islamists, nationalists, and independents to supervise and regulate the popular movement, and its representatives were chosen in Each camp in the Gaza Strip, and committees were formed to guard the demonstrations, which forced the Egyptian authorities to authorize the director of investigations in the Gaza Strip, Saad Hamza, to negotiate with two representatives of the “Supreme National Committee.” 


They were the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Communist Party in the Gaza Strip, the poet Moin Bseiso, and a member of the group’s leadership. Muslim Brotherhood Fathi al-Balaawi; Following those negotiations, the Egyptian authorities decided to cancel the project to resettle Palestinians in Sinai, and took a decision to train and arm Palestinians in the camps.


After Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, during the aggression of June 5, 1967, Minister Yigal Allon proposed a project to transfer numbers of refugees from the Gaza Strip to three areas in the Egyptian Al-Arish region, with Israeli funding, with the first phase starting with 50,000 of them. However, that project was completely rejected by Egypt.


The commander of the southern region in the Israeli army, Ariel Sharon, who, in 1971, was waging a bloody campaign to liquidate the armed Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip, returned and proposed a project to uproot 12,000 refugees from the Strip’s camps and place them in other asylum stations in the Sinai desert. But Egypt strongly rejected this project as well, and “the rejection of settlement in Sinai has become an established part of the security and political doctrine of the Egyptian state”. 


On the eve of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, in the fall of 2012, fears emerged that Israel would implement a plan “aiming to transfer the Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai as an alternative homeland,” and “shifting the Palestinian crisis towards the Egyptian neighbor, in the face of the worsening security failure in Sinai. Reports stated that the Israeli plan stipulates "the transfer of about 1.5 million Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai and Al-Arish."


Commenting on this plan, the head of the Sinai Development Foundation, Muhammad Shawqi Rashwan, told reporters, “The Sinai project as an alternative homeland for the Palestinians could be achieved if we do not move forward with the development of the region.” While Adel Soliman, Director of the International Center for Foresight and Strategic Studies, stated, “The Alternative Homeland Project encourages us to review the long-term development plan for Sinai and choose an urgent plan aimed at developing the roads leading to Sinai and facilitating the movement of its residents to other regions of Egypt”.


The Egyptian leadership firmly rejects the idea of resettlement in Sinai


The positions of Western analysts varied regarding the project to resettle a portion of the population of the Gaza Strip in Sinai, following its re-presentation these days, as some of them saw that there are reasons that encourage Egypt to accept this project, which may mean “an increase in American military aid and Western support to it, and funding from agencies.” United Nations,” while others estimated that the price that Egypt would pay, in exchange for accepting this project, would be: “Egypt’s reputation in the Arab and Islamic world,” in addition to “the challenge from the Egyptian street,” not to mention that Egypt is “a densely populated country with a fragile economy, and it It does not, in fact, want to see a new mass of poor people entering its territory.” 

While the residents of the Gaza Strip, despite their severe suffering as a result of the ongoing Israeli aggression, expressed their fear that a new catastrophe would befall them if their deportation to Sinai was successful, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was firm when he called on them to remain on their lands, and announced, on Thursday On October 12, he stated that the residents of Gaza must remain “present in their lands,” expressing Egypt’s fears that Israel seeks to “empty Gaza” of its residents. 


During his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz in Cairo, yesterday, the 18th of this month, the Egyptian President delivered his “most comprehensive and violent” speech on this issue, as he estimated that pushing the Palestinians to leave their lands is “a way to end the Palestinian issue at the expense of neighboring countries.” He said: “The idea of forcing the residents of Gaza to move to Egypt will lead to a similar displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank, the territories occupied by Israel, and this will make the establishment of the State of Palestine impossible... and would drag Egypt into a war with Israel,” in addition to that “ By transferring the Palestinians to Sinai, we are transferring resistance and fighting to Egypt, and if attacks are launched from its territory, then Israel will have the right to defend itself (...) and will strike Egyptian territory,” concluding that the peace signed between Israel and Egypt in 1979 “will... It melts in our hands,” and that “if the idea is forced displacement, then there is the Negev...and Israel can then return them (to Gaza) if it wants to.”. 


For his part, Jordanian King Abdullah II warned on Friday in 13 of this month, against “any attempt to displace Palestinians from all Palestinian territories or incite their displacement,” adding that “the crisis must not extend to neighboring countries and lead to aggravation of the refugee issue.” He returned and announced that the evacuation of the residents of Gaza: “is unacceptable and will push the region towards another disaster and a new cycle of violence and destruction,” stressing that “there will be no refugees in Jordan and no refugees in Egypt,” and that it is necessary to address “the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank.” ". Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also warned the US Secretary of State, who met with him in Amman, that the displacement and expulsion of more Palestinians from Gaza “would amount to a second Nakba”.


Source: Institute of Palestinian Studies

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Projects to resettle Gazans in Sinai between yesterday and today

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