US considers receiving some Palestinians from Gaza as refugees: CBS

Yasmine Osama Farag , Wednesday 1 May 2024

The US Biden administration is considering bringing some Palestinians fleeing war-torn Gaza to the US as refugees, according to internal federal government documents obtained by CBS News.

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A view of tents at a camp housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.AFP

 

Senior officials across several federal US agencies have discussed the practicality of different options to resettle Palestinians from Gaza who have immediate family members who are American citizens or permanent residents.

One of those proposals involves using the decades-old United States Refugee Admissions Program to welcome Palestinians with US ties who have managed to escape Gaza and enter neighbouring Egypt, according to the inter-agency planning documents.

In a statement provided to CBS News late Tuesday night, a White House spokesperson said that Washington "has helped more than 1,800 American citizens and their families leave Gaza, many of whom have come to the United States. At President Biden's direction, we have also helped, and will continue to help, some particularly vulnerable individuals, such as children with serious health problems and children who were receiving treatment for cancer, get out of harm's way and receive care at nearby hospitals in the region."

The proposals to resettle certain Palestinians as refugees would mark a shift in longstanding US government policy and practice. Since its inception in 1980, the US refugee programme has not resettled Palestinians in large numbers, CBS said.

 

‘Smokescreen’ for displacement

US Army and Navy troops are assembling a large floating platform several miles off the Gaza coast.

The giant floating pier is due to be completed in the next two weeks, but some UN and humanitarian officials fear that the US project, which Biden touted as a way to bring about a massive increase in aid to Gaza, is in danger of becoming a “smokescreen” for the planned Israeli invasion of Rafah, the Guardian reported.

Aid officials fear that the aid will be diverted south to camps set up for the more than 1,3 million people now sheltering in Rafah. The Israeli occupation army wants them to move out so that it can conduct a ground invasion in Gaza’s southernmost city.

"Any way to get more aid into Gaza, whether by sea or airdrop, is obviously good," said UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

"Delivery of aid by land, however, is more cost- and volume-effective," Dujarric said, and "we need more entry points and we need a larger volume of aid to come in by land."

Another fear is that the pier would be used to displace Palestinians from the Strip, as the Israeli officials have been advocating since the begining of the war. 

“The proposed pier will be under Israeli control and may be used to perpetuate the reoccupation of Gaza,” Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said in a statement.

He called the months-long construction of the pier by the US “an evasion of its legal and moral responsibility for the Gaza blockade.”

“There are real fears that Israel could use it to displace Gaza’s population and carry out ethnic cleansing, which it failed to achieve by force,” he added.

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a private meeting of the Knesset that the port could facilitate the removal of Palestinians from Gaza, Israel’s Kan News reported.

He said there was “no obstacle” to the Palestinians leaving Gaza apart from the unwillingness of other countries to accept them, the report said.

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians is the “right humanitarian solution” for Gaza.

The US, Israel's biggest backer, had vetoed three previous United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding a ceasefire in Gaza since the war began on 7 October. 

In early April, the Biden administration authorized the transfer of over 1,000 500-pound bombs and over 1,000 small-diameter bombs to Israel.

A few days later, US Congress passed $14 billion in additional military aid to Israel amid its war on Gaza which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and displaced nearly 85 percent of Gaza's 2.3 million people.

Amnesty International revealed in a new assessment published on Monday that Israel’s army has used US-manufactured weapons, including Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) and Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs), to conduct unlawful attacks or kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which Amnesty says should be investigated as potential war crimes.

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