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EDITORIAL: Incessant Israeli bombings all over Gaza have killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians, most of them children and women, and internally displaced 85 percent of its population — children or grandchildren to those uprooted from their ancestral homes during the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe). The plan being to permanently dislodge them from that small enclave – a war crime under international law—evacuation orders keep getting extended.

Its offensive in northern and central Gaza having pushed some 1.4 million Palestinians into Rafah amid dire physical conditions and acute food shortages, Israel has now called for evacuation of the city into which more than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.4 million people are crammed.

One stated aim is to free the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas in the October 7 incursion into Israel. The threatened offensive has already undermined the prisoner swap talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt. The other is to eliminate Hamas fighting for Palestinian rights.

Even if that were the objective, as some military experts have pointed out, Tel Aviv could use the option it just recently used in Lebanon and Iraq as well as in several earlier instances. The real intention behind invasion of Gaza’s southern town of Rafah was disclosed by the Jewish state’s ultra-right wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he told an American news channel “We’re going to do it while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave.”

Leave and go where? The German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock noted in a post on X, “the people in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air”, adding that an offensive on Rafah would be a “humanitarian catastrophe in the making.”

British Foreign Secretary David Cameroon said he is “deeply concerned “about the prospective offensive. However, neither official spelled out any consequences in the event of mass expulsions. And unsurprisingly, the US gave it qualified support, stating that if ‘not properly planned’ such an operation risks disaster.

Needless to say, Israel continues to act the way it has secure in the knowledge that no matter what it does Washington will remain on its side, providing weaponry, finances and diplomatic support at the UN Security Council. Nothing will change.

The likelihood of mass evictions from Gaza has caused serious concern for the neighbouring Arab states, particularly Egypt which shares a border with the besieged enclave, and where Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to go for now.

Worried over the prospect of hosting over a million distressed Palestinians refugees the el-Sisi government is reported to have moved tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the border with the message that it would suspend the 1979 Camp David Peace Accord if Palestinians are forced out of their land.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also warned of “very serious repercussions” of storming and targeting Rafah, and called for an urgent UNSC meeting. Given what transpired at several such previous meetings, that would be a non-starter.

All Arab countries need to take a united action against Israeli aggressors. They must not disappoint their own people a vast majority of whom sympathise with the Palestinian cause and are deeply upset over the unstopped carnage in Gaza. Unless peace comes to Gaza the ‘Axis of Resistance’ groups will increase their pressure, leading to unforeseen ramifications for the entire Middle East region.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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