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Israel’s Evacuation Order in Northern Gaza Raises Historical Concerns for Arab Neighbors


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The Concerns Surrounding the Tent Cities in Gaza

The sight of tent cities housing displaced Palestinians in the war-torn Gaza Strip evokes historical memories for Israel’s Arab neighbors, particularly Egypt and Jordan. These neighbors fear that Israel may be planning to evacuate the area, reminiscent of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” which refers to the displacement of 760,000 Palestinians during the creation of Israel 75 years ago.

Recent indiscriminate bombings by Israel in the Gaza Strip have heightened concerns that history may repeat itself. The Gaza Strip is primarily inhabited by Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who have already endured devastating bombing for over two weeks. Israeli warnings to evacuate the northern Strip prior to a ground invasion have raised historical concerns, as over a million Gazans have already been forced from their homes.

Regional Effects

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The Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights warns of the potential consequences: “When we see the tents on the border today, anyone who knows Palestinian history should shudder – the tents, this is how the Nakba began.” Many Palestinians would prefer to stay in Gaza, even if it means risking their lives, rather than becoming refugees again.

Israel claims that its evacuation order is aimed at protecting Palestinian civilians while pursuing Hamas and attempting to rescue hostages. However, former Israeli officials and interviews on television have fueled suspicions that Israel may be planning a mass evacuation, with Egypt potentially creating tent cities in the Sinai desert.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stresses that Israel, as an occupying power, bears responsibility for Palestinian civilians under international law. He suggests that if forced displacement is the goal, the Negev desert in southern Israel could be an alternative. Leaders like Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also express concerns that if Israel succeeds in expelling Palestinians from Gaza, it may attempt the same in the occupied West Bank in the future.

Additionally, Egypt fears the security implications of hosting displaced people from Gaza, as past instances involving Palestinian refugees and resistance groups have drawn their host countries into conflict. King Hussein of Jordan accused Palestinian fighters of attempting to control the country in the 1970s, while Christian parties in Lebanon fought against the Palestine Liberation Organization during the civil war. The idea of an alternative Palestinian homeland, such as establishing an industrial zone in Sinai proposed by former US President Donald Trump, is likely to be rejected by Egypt due to its commitment to territorial integrity.

The Sinai Peninsula, previously occupied by Israel and regained by Egypt in a peace agreement, holds historical significance and is considered a “red line” for Egyptians.

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