Photo Credit: Stringer/Flash90
Displaced Gazans from Beit Hanoun in the north stay a tent city in Rafah, outside the Egyptian border, November 30, 2023.

In Egypt’s strategic and diplomatic approach, objection to a permanent resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Gaza Arabs stands as a fundamental element for national security. This stance sharply contrasts with Israel’s objective, as it actively directs more Arabs toward the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Rumors abound in southern Gaza about potential immigration options, with whispers suggesting that Egyptian border guards might be susceptible to bribes, allowing those with the means to enter Egypt discreetly. As unbearable overcrowding persists amid ongoing attacks and conflicts, there’s a growing concern that desperate Gazans may eventually breach the border with Egypt.


Despite Egypt’s early objection to hosting any Gazan Arabs on its soil, the pressing question now centers on whether the Egyptian government will authorize its police to use lethal force against the thousands of desperate, thirsty, hungry, and frightened Gazans attempting to break through the border fence.


Lieutenant Colonel Avichay Adraee, head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, on Saturday, issued the following statement on social networks and via leaflets that were dropped by warplanes:

“Residents of the Gaza Strip, the IDF has resumed forceful action against Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.” The message and leaflets were accompanied by maps of the areas that must be evacuated before the IDF forces enter and kill whoever stands in their way. Essentially, Arabs who are in southern Gaza were told to seek shelter in Rafah, on the Egyptian border. Everywhere else, including Khan Yunis, where the Hamas leadership is now barricaded, will soon be subject to the hellfire of an IDF assault.

The three districts south of the Gaza River: Deir al-Balah, Khan Yunis, and Rafah, are spread over 230 square kilometers (89 square miles). About a quarter of this area is agricultural and theoretically could accommodate the concentration of the additional displaced persons.

However, the IDF has established a one-kilometer-wide no-man’s land along the Strip’s eastern border, where in the future any Gazan who sets foot there would be shot on sight. This means that a stretch of some 30 square kilometers (11.5 square miles) is out of bounds for the displaced Gazans. In addition, the IDF has already ordered the residents of five villages east of Khan Yunis to leave and has demolished many of the homes there in pursuit of hiding Hamas terrorists. Altogether, this means that only about 170 square kilometers (66 square miles) are available to house the fleeing Arabs in the southern Gaza Strip. This is an area roughly twice the size of Manhattan.

The population density of the three districts before the war was 4,347 people per square kilometer. In Manhattan, the population density is 27,346 per square kilometer, but, of course, southern Gaza has few tall residential buildings. In any event, after the evacuation of northern Gaza and the forbidden zones south of the Gaza River, with some 2 million Arabs crammed in, the population density in the shelter zones will be an estimated 11,000 per square kilometer.

The water, electricity, roads, and health infrastructure, which even on normal days could not adequately meet the needs of about a million residents, and are now almost non-functional, and certain to collapse under the burden of about two million people. The plan is to erect a tent city across much of southern Gaza, with sporadic deliveries of humanitarian support.

Ironically, 16 out of the 22 Gush Katif settlements that were abandoned in August 2005 may now become part of the tent city for displaced Gaza Arabs.

If they are not killed in the IDF attacks and the exchange of fire, the residents of the southern Gaza Strip could die from diseases that are always associated with overcrowding and the lack of water and medical care, especially during the rainy season. Their complete dependence on humanitarian aid, without the ability to make a living, will likely generate a crime wave that will add to the mortality figures, especially as the medical facilities are running out of supplies and power.


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