Civilians in a war zone always do the same thing – try to escape the battlefield and find humanitarian assistance. Sometimes the humanitarians make it harder for them.
International aid agencies, aided by the United States, are killing Palestinian refugees. They are knowingly herding them into a battle zone and refusing to let them move, even temporarily, to safety. And they deliberately driving up the death toll and misery index to force Israel to abandon its legitimate decision to disarm Hamas in Gaza.
As of May 2023, UNHCR reported more than 110 million individuals forcibly displaced worldwide, including more than 13 million Syrians, and more than 5 million Afghans. As fighting continues in both of those countries, no one expects civilians to sit in the middle of the battle. More than 3.6 million Syrians are sheltering in Turkey. Europe was told to open its doors to refugees and it did; more than one million are there.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, people fled. As of September 2023, there were 6.2 million Ukrainian refugees in Europe. Israel has about 45,000. By comparison, Japan has about 2,468 Ukrainian refugees. That last is not to complain about Japan, but simply to note that refugees first go to the closest places (Russia – for ethnic Russian Ukrainians, plus Germany and Poland leading the list), or to places that help them relocate (Israel sent airplanes), and only at the end, to places farther afield.
After the Hamas massacres of October 7, Israel determined that it would have to uproot the Hamas military infrastructure dug in under the civilians of Gaza. It was understood that this would create dislocations, but after 1,200 people in Israel were slaughtered in the most deliberate, vicious, and blood curdling manner possible and 240 more kidnapped, it was inconceivable that Hamas should be allowed simply to retreat to Gaza and resume operations.
Israel, as it always does, warned the civilians that it was coming from the north – contrary to all military understanding that telling the enemy your route allows them to plan their counterattack. Which Hamas did, by not letting the civilians leave the cities of northern Gaza. This use of human shields is a war crime, but it was ISRAEL that was warned not to kill civilians.
After days of battle, the IDF opened a corridor for Palestinian civilians, and they moved south in large numbers – and inevitably, Hamas operatives moved with them. Tens of thousands of people ran for the safety of international organizations in the south, near Egypt. This prompted warnings to ISRAEL to allow food and humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza from Egypt – without Israeli inspection.
Despite the State Department’s stern warning that aid should not end up in the hands of Hamas, there is video evidence of Hamas operatives commandeering aid trucks, shooting at civilians, and smuggling arms into Gaza on those trucks. Aid organizations and The New York Times claim the people storming the trucks are desperate civilians, despite their guns. But Hamas operatives wear no uniforms – which is another war crime – so it is not clear how aid organizations or journalists know who is who.
Now you have hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians parked next to the city of Rafah near Philadelphia Corridor – the area between northern Sinai and the southern Gaza Strip. “The need is close to catastrophic at this stage,” said Hardin Lang, of Refugees International.
On the principle that the closest safe place is the best place, could the refugees go to Egypt temporarily? NO, says President Al-Sisi. NO, says UNRWA. NO says the US government. Why not? Because they’re Palestinians and have to stay in Palestine – which sounds more like a jail sentence than an effort to help.
The real reason is that Hamas is the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt rightly hates the Brotherhood and Hamas. But Egypt, with help, is being allowed to stymie the provision of food and medical assistance to those Palestinians who have managed to escape the clutches of Hamas and run for safety.
Northern Sinai is fairly empty – there are jihadists roaming in some places, but Egypt, with Israel’s help, has largely defeated them. Putting refugees in temporary refugee camps – guarded by the Egyptian military and/or a coalition of other troops if necessary – would provide safety for a time.
For how long? For as long as it takes to liberate both he Palestinian and Israeli people from the scourge of Hamas.
And then should come the reckoning for those who wouldn’t help.