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Israel Quietly Pushed for Egypt to Admit Large Numbers of Gazans

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The Israeli government has not publicly called for large numbers of Gazans to move to Egypt. But in private, diplomats say, it has pushed for just that — augmenting Palestinian fears of a permanent expulsion.

Israel has quietly tried to build international support in recent weeks for the transfer of several hundred thousand civilians from Gaza to Egypt for the duration of its war in the territory, according to six senior foreign diplomats.

Israeli leaders and diplomats have privately proposed the idea to several foreign governments, framing it as a humanitarian initiative that would allow civilians to temporarily escape the perils of Gaza for refugee camps in the Sinai Desert, just across the border in neighboring Egypt.

The suggestion was dismissed by most of Israel’s interlocutors — who include the United States and Britain — because of the risk that such a mass displacement could become permanent. These countries fear that such a development might destabilize Egypt and lock significant numbers of Palestinians out of their homeland, according to the diplomats, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss a sensitive matter more freely.

The idea has also been firmly rejected by Palestinians, who fear that Israel is using the war — which began on Oct. 7 after terrorists from Gaza raided Israel and killed roughly 1,400 people — to permanently displace the more than two million people living in Gaza.

More than 700,000 Palestinians either fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel during the war surrounding the creation of the state in 1948. Many of their descendants are now warning that the current war will end with a similar “nakba,” or catastrophe, as the 1948 migration is known in Arabic.

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Smoke rising in northern Gaza amid Israeli airstrikes and ground operations last week.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

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