The ongoing war in Gaza, which has entered its fourth month, has caused massive displacement and suffering for the Palestinian population in the besieged coastal enclave. According to the United Nations, nearly 1.9 million people, more than 80% of Gaza’s total population, have been displaced since the beginning of the war. Most of them are sheltering in overcrowded and unsanitary UN facilities, schools, mosques, or makeshift tents.
The displacement has been exacerbated by Israel’s orders to Palestinian residents to move ever further south towards the Egyptian border, as it intensifies its aerial and ground attacks on Hamas targets in the northern and central parts of Gaza. Israel says it is warning civilians to evacuate areas where Hamas operates and stores weapons, and that it is doing its best to avoid harming them.
However, many Palestinians have nowhere else to go, and fear that Israel’s ultimate goal is to push them out of Gaza altogether. They also accuse Israel of deliberately destroying their homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods, and of violating their rights and dignity.
These fears have been heightened as Israeli forces gear up for a ground assault in the city of Rafah, which lies right on the Egyptian border and is where hundreds of thousands of people displaced by violence further north are trapped in desperate conditions. Rafah is also the location of the only crossing point between Gaza and Egypt, which has been mostly closed since the war began.
The prospect of a large-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah has sparked alarm and outrage among the Arab and Muslim world, as well as the international community, who fear that Israel may try to expel the Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt, or create a humanitarian catastrophe in the already devastated city.
Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel but also supports the Palestinian cause, has sent about 40 tanks and armored personnel carriers to northeastern Sinai within the past two weeks as part of a series of measures to bolster security on its border with Gaza, two Egyptian security sources said. Egypt has also deployed troops and police to prevent any infiltration or smuggling attempts by militants or refugees.
Egypt has also been mediating between Israel and Hamas to broker a ceasefire and a political solution to the conflict, but so far without success. Egypt has proposed a plan that would include a halt to hostilities, the opening of the Rafah crossing, the reconstruction of Gaza, and the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. However, Israel and Hamas have rejected each other’s conditions and demands, and have vowed to continue fighting until they achieve their goals.
Israel says it wants to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities and deter it from future attacks, and that it will not negotiate with a terrorist organization that seeks its destruction. Hamas says it wants to end Israel’s blockade and occupation of Gaza and to secure the rights and dignity of the Palestinians, and that it will not recognize or coexist with an oppressive entity.
The Endless War
The war in Gaza, which began on October, 2023, after Hamas lunched a surprise attack, killing more than 1,200 Israelis. The war has caused widespread destruction and suffering in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire have targeted Hamas’ military and civilian infrastructure, including its tunnel network, rocket launchers, command centers, media offices, hospitals, schools, and homes.
The war has also caused significant damage and trauma in Israel, where Hamas’ rockets and drones have reached as far as Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheba, killing or injuring hundreds of Israelis and disrupting daily life. The war has also sparked unrest and violence in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and inside Israel, where clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, and between Jewish and Arab citizens, have erupted, resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries.
The war in Gaza has shown the complexity and difficulty of resolving the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives and caused endless suffering and misery for both sides. The war has also shown the need and urgency for a just and lasting peace, based on mutual recognition, respect, and coexistence, between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Jews and Arabs, in the land they both call home.