‘Egypt Has Enough Refugees’: Support for Palestinians from Arab Countries Ends at Their Borders

A picture taken on October 10, 2023, shows the closed gates of the Rafah border crossing w
SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are discovering that none of the Arab countries that claim to love them as brothers are willing to accept them as refugees.

With a massive Israeli counterattack against the terrorists of Hamas – the elected and very popular rulers of the Palestinians – on the horizon, Gazans are learning they have no place to run.

“Where should we go? Where should we go?” 55-year-old Gaza resident Mohammad Brais wailed to Reuters after his shop was hit by an Israeli airstrike.

Another resident of northeastern Gaza said “many of us got phone calls, audio messages from Israeli security officers telling us to leave because they will operate there,” but there were few safe havens available, especially after fuel and electricity supplies were cut.

“Electricity shortages mean residents cannot recharge phones, so are cut off from news of each other and from events, and are unable to pump water into rooftop tanks. At night the enclave is plunged into total darkness, punctuated by the blasts of air strikes,” Reuters explained.

Over 100,000 Gazans have taken shelter in U.N. facilities, but the total population of the Gaza Strip is over two million. Air strikes have made travel across the area difficult and dangerous.

Neighboring Egypt made it very clear that a flood of Palestinian refugees will not be tolerated. The only border crossing between Egypt and Gaza has been tightly sealed. On Wednesday, Egypt firmly rejected requests to open a safe corridor for Palestinian refugees.

The National on Thursday found “sympathy and support for the Palestinians” among the Egyptian public, but not much enthusiasm for letting them cross the border.

Some Egyptians who spoke to The National were strongly opposed to Israel and supportive of the Hamas butchers, who they tended to view as courageous freedom fighters against Israeli oppression, and some were angry about Israeli airstrikes hitting close to the Egyptian border, but they generally understood the reluctance of their government to import a massive Palestinian refugee crisis and security risk.

“Egypt has enough refugees living in it. Just over the past 10 years or so, many Syrians came here to flee their war, then many thousands of Yemenis came when war broke out over there too. Then just this year, when war broke out in Sudan, the same happened and we allowed Sudanese refugees in,” complained Cairo antiques dealer Noha El Sayed.

One interesting strain of criticism among the Egyptian public is that Hamas sought to piggyback on what Egyptians have been taught to view as a legitimate military victory: the recapture of the Sinai Peninsula in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“Hamas launched its attack 50 years and a day after the October 6 victory against Israel. They look up to Egypt’s military back when it was good,” grumbled Cairo resident Hassan Yehia.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced $20 million in emergency aid on Tuesday, to be provided through UNRWA, the United Nations relief fund for Palestinians for years linked to jihadist indoctrination programs in Gaza.

The UAE has not, however, offered to take more Palestinians as refugees. To date, no Arab country has. According to UNRWA, about 1.5 million Palestinians are already living in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, none of whom feel they have the capacity to take more.

The world outside the Middle East is no more eager to host Palestinians fleeing the Hamas day of reckoning. 

The government of Greece, which is already dealing with a migrant crisis, worried on Tuesday that the Gaza crisis could increase “migration pressure” on the European Union – especially if the conflict widens. About 22 percent of illegal immigrants in Greece were Palestinians even before the showdown in Gaza began.

Italy and Spain are nearly overwhelmed by their own migrant inflows and would be poorly prepared to deal with a fresh surge of refugees from places like Lebanon and Libya.

“As if the multitude of flashpoints in northern Africa and Syria were not pushing thousands of migrants and refugees to Europe already, now this,” sighed Greek immigration minister Dimitris Keridis.


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