Editorial: Red lines

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Wednesday 6 Dec 2023

Since the week-long truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed on Friday, hell has broken loose once again in Gaza.


The Israeli army again started its horrific, insane killing machine, committing more war crimes against Palestinian civilians, topped with children and women. Residents of northern Gaza who were told by the occupation army during the first, 48-day phase of the war to move to the southern parts of the densely populated strip are being told to move again, and sometimes more than once a day, to other places that turn out to be no safer from the continuous bombing from air, land, and sea.

Palestinian suffering has been truly unimaginable and unprecedented in any recent memory, not comparable to even the bloodiest wars the world has witnessed. Since the war started on 7 October following the sudden attack by Hamas which humiliated Israel’s military and shook the Israeli population’s confidence, more than 80 per cent of Gaza’s 2.5 million residents have been displaced, forced to flee their homes and to live in extremely miserable conditions in overcrowded schools, hospitals and on the streets.

Schools, run by the UN agency for Palestinians refugees, UNRWA, have been repeatedly bombed, along with hospitals that Israel falsely claimed were nothing but hideouts for Hamas leaders in tunnels underground. Thus, when Israel sends its warnings to Palestinians, ordering them to move again, there is practically nowhere to go to where people can settle down. The end result is not just more human suffering, but more and more innocent Palestinians dead.

Adding to the irony and absurdity is that the Israeli army has been sending its warning messages on the alleged “safe areas” in southern Gaza through a mobile application at a time when all of Gaza has been living in darkness with no electricity or communication networks in the first place. While people flee bombs and missiles falling on their heads on foot, it is hardly likely that they will stop to check phones that haven’t been working to find out which areas might be safe for the next few hours.

The extremely confusing and hi-tech maps of Gaza, dividing it into over 2400 zones, that are being sent to Palestinians are clearly aimed at satisfying the US administration of President Joe Biden after calling on Israel to avoid adding to the mind-blowing number of civilian deaths during the first stage of the war. Before the truce went into effect, nearly 15,000 Palestinians were killed, including 7,000 children and 3,000 women. In the first three days of renewed fighting, another 1,000, again mostly children, have lost their lives.

The reality on the ground has thus turned the whole theatrics of “safe zones” into a mockery as Palestinians continue to die in huge numbers around the clock. Recent statements by US officials might seem more sensible in warning Israel of the dire consequences of indiscriminately killing Palestinians, and how this could lead to “strategic defeat,” but they are merely paying lip service to the supposed rules, not exercising any real pressure to stop this war and reach a permanent ceasefire.

Particularly worrying to Egypt is that, while the official US stance, represented by President Biden among others, confirms that Washington will not allow the forced displacement of Palestinians to Egypt’s northern Sinai, creating a new Nakba, Israeli actions on the ground – which are tolerated by the United States – continue to lead to that doomsday scenario. In the recent evacuation orders by the occupation army, Palestinians were told to move towards Rafah along the border with Egypt. Adding to Egypt’s serious concerns about the intentions of Israel’s extremist government is that Rafah has not been spared the barbaric, indiscriminate bombing, leaving Palestinians nowhere to go but across the border into Egypt.

This would be playing with fire, and crossing a red line that Egypt’s government and people will never tolerate. As President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi reminded Israel shortly after the war started, pushing Palestinians to flee towards Egypt would be a major violation of the Camp David peace agreement signed between the two countries in 1979. Knowing the reality that Palestinians will never give up their ambition to liberate their land and build their own state, turning areas along the borders between the two countries into a huge Palestinian refugee camp would simply mean launching attacks against Israel from Egypt. In that case, Israel would respond and that would be the end of peace between the two sides.

Such talk is irresponsible. Whether it emanates from Israel or those US Congressmen who blindly support the Zionist enterprise, the idea of deporting Palestinians in Gaza to nearby countries can only be a recipe for renewed hostilities between the two countries. And that is definitely not a development any reasonable or concerned party in the world would like to see.

In this context, Egypt has expressed its strong condemnation of the breakdown of the short-lived truce that allowed the only true opportunity for the safe return of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas to Gaza on 7 October, spared the lives of innocent Palestinians, and ensured the access of more urgent humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Current Israeli actions to hinder the Palestinians’ access to aid are a systematic policy aimed at pushing the Palestinians to leave the Strip under the weight of bombardment, siege, and unprecedented dire humanitarian conditions. That’s why US assurances and public statements alone are not enough, and the world needs to take practical steps to ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and halt attempts to force the Palestinians to flee their own country.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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