Above photo: Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal aera in Gaza City on Oct. 9, 2023 Naaman Omar apaimages/Wikimedia Commons.
A leaked document from the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence to an Israeli news site on Monday lays out a plan to transfer more than 2 million Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai desert.
The document from the Ministry of Intelligence is being downplayed by Israeli officials, who are saying it is not being actively considered while the ground operation is underway. The document was first published in Hebrew by the news website Sicha Mekomit. The article’s blurb says:
“A document on behalf of the Ministry of Intelligence, the full content of which is published here for the first time, recommends the forced transfer of the population of the Gaza Strip to Sinai permanently, and calls for the international community to be harnessed for the move. The document also suggests promoting a ‘dedicated campaign’ for the residents of Gaza that will ‘motivate them to agree to the plan.’”
The news site’s source said the Ministry’s “personnel stand behind these recommendations” but that they are “not based on military intelligence” and are only used as “a basis for discussions in the government.”
The Times of Israel reported:
“The document is being downplayed by government officials, with the Prime Minister’s Office telling Haaretz that it represents ‘initial thoughts’ on the issue, which is currently not being considered by authorities focused on the war effort and not the day after.
The document, which is dated October 13, calls for the civilian population to be moved to tent cities in northern Sinai, and eventually the building of permanent cities and the opening of a humanitarian corridor. The plan includes a several-kilometer-wide ‘sterile’ buffer zone inside Egypt, to ensure the population cannot settle on Israel’s borders.”
According to Sicha Mekomit, the document says, “The messages [to the Gazans] should revolve around the loss of the land, that is, to make it clear that there is no longer any hope of returning to the territories that Israel will occupy in the near future … The image should be ‘Allah made sure that you lost this land because of the leadership of Hamas – there is no choice but to move to another place with the help of Your Muslim brothers.”
It is a cynical message in the extreme to sell a crime against humanity to a totally desperate population. “The term ‘forcible transfer’ describes the forced relocation of civilian populations as part of an organized offensive against that population. It is a crime against humanity punishable by the International Criminal Court (ICC),” according to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. The ICC is currently investigating possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and Palestine.
According to Sicha Mekomit, the Israeli government is well aware of the international damage to Israel’s reputation that would result from implementing such a plan by force:
“It is claimed [in the document] that if the population of Gaza remains in the Strip there will be ‘many Arab deaths’ during the expected occupation of Gaza, and this will damage Israel’s international image even more than the deportation of the population. For all these reasons, the recommendation of the Ministry of Intelligence is to promote the transfer of all citizens from Gaza to Sinai permanently.”
According to The Washington Post, Egypt and the United States have discussed ways to keep the Palestinian population from being forced out of Gaza. According to a White House readout of a call, the U.S. and Egyptian leaders “discussed the importance of protecting civilian lives, respect for international humanitarian law, and ensuring that Palestinians in Gaza are not displaced to Egypt or any other nation.”
Most Gazans are already refugees or descendants of refugees who were expelled from their homes by Israel in 1948 in the violent creation of the state of Israel.