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‘Palestinians Can Never Get Out’: Why Are Millions Trapped With Nowhere To Go?

Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.

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“Palestinians can never get out. There can never really be an evacuation,” a former Indian diplomat told The Quint as the Israel-Hamas conflict enters the 11th day on Wednesday, 18 October.

More than 2 million Palestinians live in the 41-km-long and 10-km-wide strip of land, making it one of the most densely populated places on earth. It is separated from Israel using a permeable border with five crossings – not all of which are operational:

The Erez Crossing in north Gaza, Karem Shalom Crossing at the tripoint of Israel, Gaza and Egypt, Karni Crossing along Israel, Sufa and Kissufim Crossing in Easten Gaza and the Nahal Ouz Crossing.

During the recent ambush by Hamas militants, the Erez crossing along the border of Gaza and Israel was also hit, while the Kerem Shalom crossing was shut by Tel Aviv, BBC reported. 

An Indian woman currently stranded in Gaza had earlier told The Quint that the Rafah Crossing at the border with neighbouring Egypt has also been hit. 

“There is nothing that can go in and nothing that can come out of Gaza. Civilians there are completely trapped,” Mathew Truscott, Head of Humanitarian Policy, Oxfam International, told The Quint.  

After the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched 5,000 missiles towards Israel on 7 October, Israel has strengthened its retaliation by not only declaring a war against Hamas but also cutting off essential supplies such as food, water, electricity, internet, and fuel to Gaza.

And now, at least 500 people have been reportedly killed and hundreds more injured in what is being widely described as "a war crime," as an Israeli air strike targeted Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza.

‘Palestinians Can Never Get Out’: Why Are Millions Trapped With Nowhere To Go?

  1. 1. Why Are Gazans Trapped? | Part 1: History

    At 365 sq km, the Gaza Strip – which, for perspective, is one-third the size of Delhi – houses a population of over 2.3 million people, most of whom have settled here since they were displaced during the Arab-Israel war in 1948.

    According to a report in The Conversation, the original population – close to 750,000 Palestinian Arabs, who lived on 77.8 percent of the land that became Israel – were expelled from their homes or fled because of the war. This permanent displacement of Palestinians in 1948 has been termed al Nakba, which means “the catastrophe” in Arabic. 

    Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.
    Then in 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel captured Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Until then, Gaza was under the control of Egypt. While Israel placed Gaza Strip and West Bank under its military occupation, the Palestinians sought to establish an independent state in those territories. 

    In 1994, Israel put up a 40-km-long fence to delineate the Gaza Strip. The serpentine fence is actually two parallel barriers – one using a barbed-wire within Gaza and the other a 10-foot-high metal “smart fence” packed with surveillance sensors along the Israel demarcation line, as per The New York Times.  

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Are Gazans Trapped? | Part 2: Geography

    The Gaza Fence, however, has several crossings used for the movement of goods and people. Even though Israel withdrew its military from Gaza in 2005, it continues to control the inflow of commodities as well as the movement of Gazans through the northern and eastern crossing points. The crossing points are:

    1. Erez Crossing – is in the north of the Gaza strip and is the only border that allows Palestinians in Gaza to travel to the West Bank without passing through Egypt or Jordan. It is controlled by the Israeli military. 

    2. Karem Shalom Crossing – is a tripoint between Israel, Gaza and Egypt, and is primarily used for trade between Israel and Gaza Strip. It is also used as an alternative to the Rafah crossing. 

    3. Karni Crossing – along Israel was initially used by Israeli settlers to access Gazan settlements. But after Israel’s disengagement in 2005 and Hamas taking over in 2007, the crossing was shut. 

    4. Sufa Crossing – is located in eastern Gaza and is one of the smallest crossings along the Gaza Fence. It was earlier a transit point for construction materials but was shut down by Israel in 2008. 

    5. Nahal Ouz Crossing – was designated for the transportation of fuel, such as gas, benzene, and industrial diesel fuel into Gaza using underground pipes. It was closed by Israel in 2010, according to a report in Al Jazeera

    6. Kissufim – located in eastern part of the Gaza strip, the crossing was shut in 2005 after Israel pulled out of Gaza. It is now mainly used for Israeli military action, as an entry point for tanks and military vehicles, Al Jazeera reported. 

    Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.

    While Israel controls the air and sea approaches from the west, Egypt curtails movement of goods and people from the south through the Rafah Crossing along the border with Gaza. 

    It is important to note now that after the Hamas’ attack on 7 October, Erez and Karem Shalom – the only two operational crossings – were shut by Israel under further notice.

    Consequently, the enclave housing 2.3 million Palestinians was cut off from essential supplies such as food, water, and fuel, while electricity and communication lines were also disrupted by Israel to tighten its noose around Hamas.

    This leaves Rafah Crossing in the south as the only potential exit and the sole lifeline for Gazans for essentials, medicines, and humanitarian aid even as Israel relentlessly continues air strikes.  

    “The problem with Gaza right now is that there is no way to get humanitarian aid in and no way to get people stranded there out,” Truscott said. 

    Expand
  3. 3. Why Are Gazans Trapped? | Part 3: Politics

    On 13 October, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) directed almost half of Gaza’s population to evacuate northern Gaza and move southwards within 24 hours “for their own safety and protection.” The warning came ahead of Israel's possible ground invasion against Hamas. 

    “They are asking for the impossible. To evacuate people, Israel and Hamas must take a humanitarian pause and let aid in and people cross. One can't evacuate people while Israel is continuing to bomb Gaza. How will those in hospitals be evacuated? There are no ambulances to take the injured. There is no fuel to fire up cars and other vehicles. There is no electricity, no network. There are women, children, and elderly. They are all lost. They don't know what's real anymore."
    Mathew Truscott, Head of Humanitarian Policy, Oxfam International
    Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.

    Palestinians fleeing from northern Gaza to the south with their belongings stacked on their cars after the Israeli army issued an unprecedented evacuation warning to a population of over 1 million people in northern Gaza and Gaza City to seek refuge in the south ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion.

    (Image: PTI)

    Meanwhile, the Egyptian media claimed that the crossing was inoperable following three Israeli strikes on 9 and 10 October, which it said left injuries on the Egyptian and Palestinian sides of the border, BBC reported. 

    “Oxfam has some aid – food, water, female hygiene kits – prepositioned close to the border but Israel is just not letting it in. They have blocked all exits and it is tremendously difficult to reach out to those civilians who need help. They need to open the Erez crossing and the Rafah crossing,” Truscott asserted. 

    Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.

    Humanitarian aid convoy for the Gaza Strip is parked in Arish, Egypt.

    (Image: PTI)

    On Monday, 16 October, Egypt stated that Israel was neither cooperating with delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza nor evacuations of foreign nationals via the Rafah Crossing, leaving tonnes of supplies stuck. 

    "Until now, the Israeli government has not taken a position on opening the Rafah crossing from the Gaza side to allow the entrance of assistance and exit of citizens of third countries," Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told news agency Reuters.  

    Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in. It is uneasy of the prospect of thousands of Palestinians refugees crossing over into the Egyptian territory, which already holds millions of migrants as per CNN

    On being asked as to how can foreign nationals be evacuated, Truscott told The Quint that Israel and Hamas “must agree to cease the hostilities to let the civilians cross, and that cannot happen until the international community puts pressure on Israel.” 

    Since 12 October, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has visited Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, in what The Guardian has called a "last-ditch attempt to reduce the impact of a potentially catastrophic all-out Israeli land assault on Gaza."

    Blinken called for pressure on Hamas during a meeting with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, whose state has grown warmer to Israel, on Sunday, 16 October, where the two leaders discussed the situation for nearly an hour.

    Importantly, he said that ahead of his return to Jerusalem, the Rafah border crossing between Egypt to Gaza is set to open. However, the US state secretary did not specify a timeline for the re-opening.

    US President Joe Biden will also travel to Israel on Wednesday following an agreement reached between the US and Benjamin Netanyahu's government. This agreement focuses on providing humanitarian relief and establishing safe areas for over 2 million people in Gaza who are currently in urgent need of water, food, and medical assistance due to the ongoing conflict.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why Are Gazans Trapped? | Part 1: History

At 365 sq km, the Gaza Strip – which, for perspective, is one-third the size of Delhi – houses a population of over 2.3 million people, most of whom have settled here since they were displaced during the Arab-Israel war in 1948.

According to a report in The Conversation, the original population – close to 750,000 Palestinian Arabs, who lived on 77.8 percent of the land that became Israel – were expelled from their homes or fled because of the war. This permanent displacement of Palestinians in 1948 has been termed al Nakba, which means “the catastrophe” in Arabic. 

Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.
Then in 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel captured Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Until then, Gaza was under the control of Egypt. While Israel placed Gaza Strip and West Bank under its military occupation, the Palestinians sought to establish an independent state in those territories. 

In 1994, Israel put up a 40-km-long fence to delineate the Gaza Strip. The serpentine fence is actually two parallel barriers – one using a barbed-wire within Gaza and the other a 10-foot-high metal “smart fence” packed with surveillance sensors along the Israel demarcation line, as per The New York Times.  

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Why Are Gazans Trapped? | Part 2: Geography

The Gaza Fence, however, has several crossings used for the movement of goods and people. Even though Israel withdrew its military from Gaza in 2005, it continues to control the inflow of commodities as well as the movement of Gazans through the northern and eastern crossing points. The crossing points are:

  1. Erez Crossing – is in the north of the Gaza strip and is the only border that allows Palestinians in Gaza to travel to the West Bank without passing through Egypt or Jordan. It is controlled by the Israeli military. 

  2. Karem Shalom Crossing – is a tripoint between Israel, Gaza and Egypt, and is primarily used for trade between Israel and Gaza Strip. It is also used as an alternative to the Rafah crossing. 

  3. Karni Crossing – along Israel was initially used by Israeli settlers to access Gazan settlements. But after Israel’s disengagement in 2005 and Hamas taking over in 2007, the crossing was shut. 

  4. Sufa Crossing – is located in eastern Gaza and is one of the smallest crossings along the Gaza Fence. It was earlier a transit point for construction materials but was shut down by Israel in 2008. 

  5. Nahal Ouz Crossing – was designated for the transportation of fuel, such as gas, benzene, and industrial diesel fuel into Gaza using underground pipes. It was closed by Israel in 2010, according to a report in Al Jazeera

  6. Kissufim – located in eastern part of the Gaza strip, the crossing was shut in 2005 after Israel pulled out of Gaza. It is now mainly used for Israeli military action, as an entry point for tanks and military vehicles, Al Jazeera reported. 

Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.

While Israel controls the air and sea approaches from the west, Egypt curtails movement of goods and people from the south through the Rafah Crossing along the border with Gaza. 

It is important to note now that after the Hamas’ attack on 7 October, Erez and Karem Shalom – the only two operational crossings – were shut by Israel under further notice.

Consequently, the enclave housing 2.3 million Palestinians was cut off from essential supplies such as food, water, and fuel, while electricity and communication lines were also disrupted by Israel to tighten its noose around Hamas.

This leaves Rafah Crossing in the south as the only potential exit and the sole lifeline for Gazans for essentials, medicines, and humanitarian aid even as Israel relentlessly continues air strikes.  

“The problem with Gaza right now is that there is no way to get humanitarian aid in and no way to get people stranded there out,” Truscott said. 

0

Why Are Gazans Trapped? | Part 3: Politics

On 13 October, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) directed almost half of Gaza’s population to evacuate northern Gaza and move southwards within 24 hours “for their own safety and protection.” The warning came ahead of Israel's possible ground invasion against Hamas. 

“They are asking for the impossible. To evacuate people, Israel and Hamas must take a humanitarian pause and let aid in and people cross. One can't evacuate people while Israel is continuing to bomb Gaza. How will those in hospitals be evacuated? There are no ambulances to take the injured. There is no fuel to fire up cars and other vehicles. There is no electricity, no network. There are women, children, and elderly. They are all lost. They don't know what's real anymore."
Mathew Truscott, Head of Humanitarian Policy, Oxfam International
Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.

Palestinians fleeing from northern Gaza to the south with their belongings stacked on their cars after the Israeli army issued an unprecedented evacuation warning to a population of over 1 million people in northern Gaza and Gaza City to seek refuge in the south ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion.

(Image: PTI)

Meanwhile, the Egyptian media claimed that the crossing was inoperable following three Israeli strikes on 9 and 10 October, which it said left injuries on the Egyptian and Palestinian sides of the border, BBC reported. 

“Oxfam has some aid – food, water, female hygiene kits – prepositioned close to the border but Israel is just not letting it in. They have blocked all exits and it is tremendously difficult to reach out to those civilians who need help. They need to open the Erez crossing and the Rafah crossing,” Truscott asserted. 

Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in.

Humanitarian aid convoy for the Gaza Strip is parked in Arish, Egypt.

(Image: PTI)

On Monday, 16 October, Egypt stated that Israel was neither cooperating with delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza nor evacuations of foreign nationals via the Rafah Crossing, leaving tonnes of supplies stuck. 

"Until now, the Israeli government has not taken a position on opening the Rafah crossing from the Gaza side to allow the entrance of assistance and exit of citizens of third countries," Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told news agency Reuters.  

Egypt has been hesitant to open the crossing for any movement of people unless Israel allows humanitarian aid in. It is uneasy of the prospect of thousands of Palestinians refugees crossing over into the Egyptian territory, which already holds millions of migrants as per CNN

On being asked as to how can foreign nationals be evacuated, Truscott told The Quint that Israel and Hamas “must agree to cease the hostilities to let the civilians cross, and that cannot happen until the international community puts pressure on Israel.” 

Since 12 October, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has visited Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, in what The Guardian has called a "last-ditch attempt to reduce the impact of a potentially catastrophic all-out Israeli land assault on Gaza."

Blinken called for pressure on Hamas during a meeting with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, whose state has grown warmer to Israel, on Sunday, 16 October, where the two leaders discussed the situation for nearly an hour.

Importantly, he said that ahead of his return to Jerusalem, the Rafah border crossing between Egypt to Gaza is set to open. However, the US state secretary did not specify a timeline for the re-opening.

US President Joe Biden will also travel to Israel on Wednesday following an agreement reached between the US and Benjamin Netanyahu's government. This agreement focuses on providing humanitarian relief and establishing safe areas for over 2 million people in Gaza who are currently in urgent need of water, food, and medical assistance due to the ongoing conflict.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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