US will talk to Egypt about temporarily hosting Gaza refugees: John Kirby

Amr Kandil , Tuesday 31 Oct 2023

John Kirby, the US’s National Security Council coordinator, said they will talk with Egypt and other partners in the region about the possibility of them hosting Palestinian families fleeing the Gaza Strip on a temporary basis.

John Kirby
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, in Washington. AP


In the White House Daily Briefing on Monday, Kirby said the priority for the United States now in this regard is to secure a safe passage out of Gaza.

“Should we be able to secure that, we would have conversations with partners in the region including Egypt about what the capacity would be to provide some sort of temporary subsistence capability for the families wanting to get out of Gaza,” Kirby said.

He noted that the US thinks most of the Gazan families, who want to leave the strip now, will seek to return home in the future.

“There is not a desire by many, at least from our sense of it, that want to flee forever and go somewhere else in the world,” he added.

Kirby’s statements seem to backtrack on remarks made by US President Joe Biden in a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Sunday, where he rejected the displacement of Palestinian people outside their homeland.

US Secretary Antony Blinken also said in mid-October that the US does not support the relocation of Gazans to Sinai in light of regional rejection of the idea.

“We have heard, and I have heard directly from Palestinian Authority President Abbas and from virtually every other leader that I have talked to in the region, that that idea is a nonstarter, and so we do not support it,” Blinken said in an interview with Al-Arabiya.

Meanwhile, a recently uncovered document attributed to the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence has proposed the permanent relocation of the Gaza Strip's population to Sinai, encouraging international support for the idea.

Also, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to lobby European leaders in meetings last week to pressure Egypt into accepting Gaza refugees, a report by the Financial Times on Monday cited sources briefed on the discussions as saying.

The sources said Netanyahu’s idea was floated by some European countries including Austria and Czechia.

However, major European states, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Greece, have dismissed the proposal over the past days.

“Netanyahu pushed quite hard that the solution was for Egyptians to take Gazans at least during the conflict,” said a western diplomat, adding that the proposal, however, has not appeared promising in light of Egypt’s consistent rejection of the idea.

The Egyptian position is and has always been very clear and they just will not do it,” the diplomat added.

However, another Western diplomat urged applying pressure on Egypt to accept the proposal as “that is the only thing that can be done.”

President El-Sisi has repeatedly warned against Israeli attempts to relocate the Gaza people in Sinai, saying that this will “liquidate” the Palestinian cause and make the two-state solution unachievable.

In a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on 18 October, El-Sisi said the displacement of the Gazans to Sinai means also “transferring the attacks against Israel to Egyptian territories, which threatens the peace between Israel and a country of 105 million people.”

El-Sisi added that Israel can relocate the Gazan people to the Negev desert in Israel until the defeat of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in case the Israelis cling to the displacement notion.

The Gaza Strip has been under unrelenting Israeli strikes for 25 day, which have killed more than 8,300 people and displaced around one million of the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in Gaza to the strip’s south on the border with Egypt’s North Sinai.

The Israeli strikes come in retaliation for a Hamas surprise attack on 7 October that killed more than 1,400 Israelis and captured around 200.

Egypt and many world countries have called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip based on an Arab resolution adopted by UN General Assembly last Friday. However, Netanyahu dismissed the call in remarks to foreign media on Monday, saying: "calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas."

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