Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

Are One Million Gazans Headed for Egypt?

The world is embroiled in a two-pronged crisis. On October 7, Hamas attacked Israel that retaliated with intensified shelling on Gaza. In addition to hospitals being targeted, the mass displacement and Israel’s cut of electricity and water supplies to the besieged strip, skirmishes continue with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border.

We expected that the westerners and Israelis abducted by Hamas will be the wildcard in this war, but instead, about 1 million Palestinians have become an Israeli wildcard.

Israel, which has been beating the drums of war to the tune of a large-scale ground offensive, has so far opted for aerial bombardment that has grave consequences on civilians and protects the IDF from incurring further casualties. If the shelling continues, this will spell an even greater disaster for Gazans and the number of civilian victims will climb further.

The strike on the hospital was most likely perpetrated by Israel, which had previously threatened to target the hospital under the pretext that Hamas leaders were hiding there. Hamas’ losses are relatively small, as airstrikes are less effective in guerilla warfare such as against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The most serious consequence of this crisis, however, is the displacement of approximately 1 million Gazans from the north of the enclave to the south, and potentially, from its south to Egypt’s Sinai. This would mark the largest Palestinian displacement since the 1967 War! Is the expulsion of about one-third of the Gaza Strip's population to Egypt possible?

The first displacement from northern Gaza to its south is part of the battle with Hamas and will later create a vast buffer zone protecting Israel’s borders. The displacement of 1 million Palestinians to Egypt, on the other hand, is an issue that concerns all stakeholders in the region. Is this a realistic option? Under the present circumstances, this seems unlikely due to a multitude of reasons; chiefly, that Egypt is completely opposed to the idea for political and national security considerations.

Egypt is an ally of the United States, and Israel itself will not sacrifice its diplomatic relations with Egypt. Therefore, there can be no displacement of the Palestinians without Egyptian consent, and Egypt will certainly oppose this. Had these clashes been with Syria or Lebanon, the situation would have been very different, as Israel could have pushed the local population, if any, toward the border.

As for the question: "What happened to the millions of Syrians?", they fled the warzone to Türkiye, but this is a different subject to be able to draw any parallels. Damascus considers Türkiye responsible for supporting the opposition, and Türkiye was unable to directly intervene militarily, so it had to open its borders to Syrians fleeing the country. The numbers of those who fled was unprecedented since World War II. Today, Türkiye is grappling with the burden of a large number of refugees and with the economic, social and political ramifications.

Israel’s talk of displacing Gaza's population to Egypt appears to be a retaliatory measure against Egypt, for what the former considers to be laxness on the part of Egyptians in controlling crossings, tunnels and the border. The displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, whether internally or externally, amounts to a reward for both Israel and Iran.

Israel will rid itself of a large chunk of Palestinians on its borders, whereas Iran would have weakened Egypt and threatened its national security, and at the same time, strengthened Iran’s negotiating position, along with that of Hezbollah and Syria.