The Biden administration is opposed to the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza to neighboring Egypt, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he met with him in Ramallah on Sunday.
Blinken “made clear that Palestinians must not be forcibly displaced,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said after their meeting.
They also spoke about the importance of restoring stability to the West Bank and “the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those accountable responsible,” Miller said.The two met during Blinken’s visit to the region close to one month into the start of the Gaza war. He met with Abbas after holding talks with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv and Arab leaders in Jordan over the weekend.
In his meetings with Arab leaders, such as King Abdullah in Jordan on Saturday, he attempted to assuage their fears over the possibility of a forced expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza.
US President Joe Biden issued the same message to Abdullah when he spoke with the monarch last Tuesday.They “agreed that it is critical to ensure that Palestinians are not forcibly displaced outside of Gaza,” the White House said after the call.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby echoed that sentiment in speaking with reporters last Wednesday.
He rejected any reports of a plan to expel Palestinians from Gaza.
“I want to stress that is not our policy. That is not what we are after. We want to make sure that the people of Gaza, should they want to go back home, can go back home. But if they want to get out in the interim, they should be able to get out.”
Palestinians flee homes in Gaza to escape IDF bombings, failed rocket launches
Some 1.4 million of the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip have fled their homes in an attempt to escape IDF bombings or explosions from failed Palestinian rocket launches.
Hamas claims that close to 10,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war on October 7.
Israelis have suggested that Palestinian civilians in Gaza should be temporarily allowed to relocate to Egypt for their safety until the war ends.
Palestinians have voiced concern that this would be a second expulsion, akin to what happened to them during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 when invading Arab countries encouraged them to flee while they “pushed the Jews into the sea.” Some 750,000 Arabs fled or in some cases were forcibly expelled from their homes during the war, an event that Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba” (catastrophe).
PA envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour told the Security Council last Monday that “Israel wants to depopulate the Gaza Strip completely… and throw them [Gazans] into the lap of Egypt in the Sinai desert.”
Kirby last Wednesday stressed that “there is no US policy for endorsement for some sort of permanent settlement” of Palestinians outside of Gaza.
The war in Gaza was ignited by the infiltration into southern Israel of Hamas terrorists who murdered over 1,400 people and took more than 240 people hostage.
Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told a Lebanese news outlet this week that his organization would execute more October 7 attacks, because it does not believe that Israel should exist.
Kirby said, “This is what is at stake for the Israeli people, that is what is at stake for the people of Gaza, that Hamas is willing to continue this fight and will continue to try and slaughter innocent Israelis. Those are chilling comments and we all ought to take them seriously.”
Hamas, he said, cannot remain in power after the war, he added.
An Israeli diplomatic source told reporters on Sunday that the IDF must retain security control of Gaza after the war.“I don’t see a situation where Israel will not have supreme security responsibility in Gaza,” the source stated. Work must also be done to change the mindset of Palestinian society there, the source added.
“It is not enough to restore Gaza. It must be put through a process of de-Nazification,” the source added.The source noted that the problem was not limited to Gaza, but also included the West Bank.
“This culture [of wanting to kill Jews] still exists in the Palestinian Authority,” the source said, warning during the conversation that West Bank settlements were in danger of Hamas attacks.
Blinken told Abbas that Washington believes the PA “should play a central role in what comes next in Gaza,” said a senior State Department official who briefed reporters traveling with Blinken.
The official said the future of Gaza was not the focus of the meeting but that PA officials appeared willing to play a role.
Abbas told Blinken that Gaza is “an integral part” of the state Palestinians want, according to an account of the meeting from the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, which suggested any PA role in governing Gaza would have to be part of a wider settlement of the decades-old conflict.
“We will fully assume our responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes all of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” Abbas was quoted by WAFA as saying.
Reuters contributed to this report.