Israeli far-right minister calls for return of settlers to Gaza

AFP , Sunday 31 Dec 2023

Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday called for the return of Israeli settlers to the Gaza Strip after Israel's brutal war on the territory and said its Palestinian population should be encouraged to emigrate.

All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are regarded as illegal under international law, regardless of whether they were approved by Israel. AFP


As the Israeli war machine continues to claim lives in besieged Gaza, 85 percent of the strip's population have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

The forced mass displacement has sparked a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the strip that has left 40 percent of Gazans at risk of famine, the UN said.

Israel has used the October 7 Hamas offensive, which left about 1,140 people dead in Israel, as a justification for its planned genocide and ethnic cleansing of Gaza.

"To have security we must control the territory," Smotrich told Israel's Army Radio in response to a question about the prospect of re-establishing settlements in Gaza.

"In order to control the territory militarily for a long time, we need a civilian presence."

The Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not officially suggested plans to evict Palestinians from Gaza or to send Israeli settlers back to the territory. However, former Israeli officials and analysts have explicitly suggested such a plan

Israel unilaterally withdrew the last of its troops and settlers in 2005, ending a presence inside Gaza that began in 1967 but maintaining complete control over the territory's borders.

Israel since imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the territory and is still regarded internationally as an occupying power in the Gaza Strip.

All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal under international law, regardless of whether they were approved by Israel.

Smotrich, head of the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party that is part of the ruling coalition, also said Israel should "encourage" the territory's approximately 2.4 million Palestinians to relocate to other countries.

"If we act in a strategically correct way and encourage emigration, if there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million, the whole discourse of the day after (the war) will be completely different," he said.

"We will help rehabilitate these refugees in other countries in a good and humane manner with the cooperation of the international community and Arab countries around us."

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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