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Egypt rejects displacement of Gazans into Sinai

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says Egyptians in their millions would reject the forced displacement of Palestinians into Sinai, adding that any such move would turn the peninsula into a base for attacks against Israel.

The Gaza Strip is effectively under Israeli control and Palestinians could instead be moved to Israel’s Negev desert “till the militants are dealt with,” Sisi told a joint news conference in Cairo with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The border between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip is the site of the only crossing from the Palestinian territory that is not controlled by Israel.

Israel’s unprecedented bombardment and siege of Gaza to destroy Hamas militants who control the strip has raised fears that its 2.3 million residents could be forced southwards into Sinai.

“What is happening now in Gaza is an attempt to force civilian residents to take refugee and migrate to Egypt, which should not be accepted,” Sisi said.

“Egypt rejects any attempt to resolve the Palestinian issue by military means or through the forced displacement of Palestinians from their land, which would come at the expense of the countries of the region,” he said.

Sisi said the Egyptian people would “go out and protest in their millions … if called upon to do so” against any displacement of Gaza’s residents to Sinai.

Referring to the Egyptian position, Hamas official Osama Hamdan called “for rallying around this position and supporting it on the popular and Arab official level because this represents real protection for our Palestinian people,” at a Beirut news conference.

Egypt is wary of insecurity near its border with Gaza in northeastern Sinai, where it faced an Islamist insurgency that escalated a decade ago.

Any transfer of Palestinians to Sinai would mean “that we move the idea of resistance, of combat, from the Gaza Strip to Sinai, and so Sinai would become the base for launching operations against Israel,” Sisi said.

Jordan, which shares a border with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and absorbed most of the Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes after the creation of the state of Israel, has also warned against Palestinians being forced off their land.

Egypt has been trying to channel humanitarian relief through its Rafah crossing with Gaza but aid has been piling up on the Egyptian side because Egypt says Israeli bombardments on the Gazan side have made the crossing inoperable.

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The US has said it is working with Israel on a plan for sending in aid and White House spokesman John Kirby said they were getting close to a framework for the plan.

The plan is likely to involve allowing some foreign passport holders to leave Gaza but Egyptian officials say that has to be accompanied by the delivery of aid.

Two Egyptian security sources said that talks had faltered, blaming Israeli obstinacy on allowing the crossing to operate safely.

Israel says it is bombing Gaza to eliminate Hamas militants who massacred Israeli civilians earlier this month.

Sisi’s comments came after a blast hit a hospital in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening (local time), killing large numbers of Palestinians and unleashing new fury across the Middle East just as US President Joe Biden arrived in Israel.

Volunteers waiting on the Egyptian side of Rafah performed a funeral prayer for those killed in the blast, many of them dressed in black.

Sisi and other Arab leaders have pulled out of a planned meeting with Biden in protest over the blast and what they see as the pro-Israel bias of the US.

Israel denied responsibility for the blast and said it was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, which denied blame.

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