Palestinians shelter at a temporary tent camp set up for those who were displaced from their homes by Israel’s evacuation orders and airstrikes, Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip (Photo credit: Bloomberg)
NEW DELHI, Nov 03: The Israeli government’s contemplated plan to forcibly transfer of the 2.3 million population of Gaza Strip to Sinai Peninsula permanently and calling for the international community to be leveraged to assist the move appears to have been leaked.
Claiming to have the details of the plan, Israeli culture magazine Mekomit published on October 28, 2023, a leaked document issued by Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence recommending the occupation of Gaza Strip and total transfer of its 2.3 million inhabitants to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on permanent basis.
The report in Mekomit says, “The document, issued on 13 October, identifies a plan to transfer all residents of the Gaza Strip to North Sinai as the preferred option among three alternatives regarding the future of the Palestinians in Gaza at the end of the current war between Israel and the Hamas-led Palestinian resistance.”
The document recommends that Israel evacuate the Gazan population to Sinai during the war, establish tent cities and new cities in northern Sinai to accommodate the deported population, and then create a closed security zone stretching several kilometers inside Egypt. The deported Palestinians would not be allowed to return to any areas near the Israeli border, the report in the magazine said.
The report also pointed out that “The existence of the document does not necessarily indicate that its recommendations are being implemented by Israel’s security establishment.”
The Ministry of Intelligence, headed by Gila Gamliel of the Likud party, does not control any of Israel’s intelligence agencies, but independently prepares studies and policy papers, which are distributed for consideration by the government and its security bodies.
However, recent statements by Israeli government officials and actions by the Israeli army in Gaza suggest the plan is indeed being implemented. Since October 7, 2023, Israeli officials have repeatedly issued warnings to Palestinians to move to southern Gaza in advance of a looming ground invasion.
Israel has imposed a total siege on Gaza, cutting off food, water, fuel, and electricity supplies fueling fears among the international community of an impending crisis that could starve the entire population. The siege, combined with intense Israeli bombing that has killed over 8,000 Palestinians, the majority women and children, threatens to make Gaza uninhabitable, at least for the next many months, if not couple of years from now.
An official at the Ministry of Intelligence confirmed that the ten-page document is authentic but “was not supposed to reach the media,” magazine Mekovit noted.
According to a right-wing activist, the document from the Ministry of Intelligence was leaked by a member of Likud. Leaking the document was an attempt to find out whether “the public in Israel is ready to accept ideas of a transfer from Gaza.”
The document unequivocally and explicitly recommends carrying out a transfer of civilians from Gaza as the desired outcome of the war.
The transfer plan is divided into several phases: in the first phase, the population in Gaza must be forced to move to southern Gaza, while Israeli air strikes will focus on targets in northern Gaza.
In the second phase, the Israeli army’s ground entry into Gaza will begin, which will lead to the occupation of the entire strip, from north to south, and the “cleansing of the underground bunkers from Hamas fighters.”
At the same time as the Gaza Strip is occupied, the citizens of Gaza will move to Egyptian territory and will be prevented from returning permanently.
“It is important to leave the traffic lanes towards the south usable, to allow the evacuation of the civilian population towards Rafah,” the document states.
The document recommends beginning a dedicated campaign that will “motivate” Gazans “to agree to the plan,” and make them give up their land.
Gazans should be convinced that “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,” the document reads, the report stated.
Further, the plan states the government must launch a public relations campaign that will promote the transfer program to western states in a way that does not promote hostility to Israel or damage its reputation. The deportation of the population from Gaza must be presented as a necessary humanitarian measure to receive international support. Such a deportation could be justified if it will lead to “fewer casualties among the civilian population compared to the expected number of casualties if they remain,” the document says.
The document also states that the US should be leveraged to pressure Egypt to take in the residents of Gaza, and to encourage other European countries, and in particular Greece, Spain and Canada, to help take in and settle the refugees who will be evacuated from Gaza.
The report says, “Finally, the document claims that if the population of Gaza remains, there will be “many Arab deaths” during the expected occupation of Gaza by the Israeli army, 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 Palestinians in Gaza to Sinai permanently.”