US must put pressure on Israel to stop Palestinian displacement, senior Arab officials say

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit warns crisis could last another 100 years if Gazans are forced out of enclave

From left, TV presenter Emad Adeeb, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and GCC Secretary General Jasem Al Budaiwi at the World Governments Summit in Dubai. EPA
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The US must put pressure on Israel to stop the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, or the region will “explode”, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Tuesday.

Israel is facing international pressure to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, as the country prepares for a ground operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians are trapped close to the border with Egypt.

“It is vital that the US orders Israel to stop these policies, otherwise the Middle East will explode in an unprecedented way,” Mr Aboul Gheit said during the World Governments Summit in Dubai.

Rafah has become the last refuge for about half of Gaza's population, who have fled towards the Egyptian border as the conflict rages. Many live in makeshift camps where they face outbreaks of hepatitis and diarrhoea, as well as a scarcity of food and water, the UN said.

“The mentality to displace Palestinians and leave the Gaza Strip empty for Israelis to take over leaves a confrontation for the next 100 years,” Mr Aboul Gheit said.

He said Israel had “become a threat to the continuation of the agreements signed with it, especially with Jordan and Egypt”.

The Jordanian and Egyptian governments have both publicly denounced any plans to displace Palestinians into their territory. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El Sisi and King Abdullah II “affirmed that any attempt at the expulsion to Jordan or Egypt is rejected” during a meeting in response to the outbreak of the war. Mr El Sisi, whose government controls the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, has said the war must not be resolved “at the expense of others” and rejected any suggestion that Gazans could be relocated across the border into Sinai.

Speaking alongside Mr Aboul Gheit at the summit was Jasem Al Budaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Co-operation Council, who said the region relied on Washington to communicate with Israel on ways to end the war.

“There is no doubt that we rely on the US to use its communications and relations with the Israelis to end this barbaric Israeli war,” Mr Al Budaiwi said. “The US has great interests with Israel and we hope this picture can be clarified, which can be reflected in the region.”

Israel is not “seeing the future as their anger has blinded them”, Mr Al Budaiwi warned.

GCC member states hope “all partners of Israel can use their international responsibility to impose their solutions on Israel”, he said.

Mr Aboul Gheit added that the West “has been very unsupportive and unjust towards Palestine”.

Washington is one of Israel's staunchest allies and the administration of US President Joe Biden has repeatedly voiced its support for Israel's military operation and refused to support international resolutions calling for a ceasefire.

However, as Israel continues to press on with its war, Washington has said that the civilian death toll is too high and sent US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on repeated trips to the region to push for de-escalation and a long-term resolution to the conflict.

Mr Al Budaiwi said talks were the only way to end the crisis that has killed more than 28,400 Palestinians in about four months.

The war began after Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7 that killed about 1,200 people. Militants took about 250 Israelis hostage and at least 130 are still held in Gaza, according to Israeli figures.

Israel retaliated by launching a full ground and air military operation on the enclave that has now entered its fifth month.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 11:57 AM