More than a million Palestinians in Gaza are now displaced; why are Arab countries not opening their doors?

JERUSALEM — At a summit of leaders from more than 50 Arab and Muslim states held last weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Israel’s military response in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre was fiercely condemned. 

But what was missing from the gathering’s final statement was any immediate solution for the 2.3 million civilians of the Palestinian enclave, more than half of whom are now internally displaced after nearly six weeks of fighting.

While the final resolution called for an immediate end to “the brutal Israeli aggression on Gaza” and made offers of humanitarian and financial aid to the Palestinians, not one country came forward with a viable solution, even temporarily, for the 1.5 million civilians who, according to the latest U.N. figures, are now internally displaced in the southern section of the Strip. 

As the death toll in Gaza rises, thousands of civilians continue to flee the conflict and head southward, where the Israeli military has said it is safer and where truckloads of food, water, and medicine arrive daily via the Rafah Crossing with Egypt. The U.N. estimates 250,000 fled in the past week alone.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, fifth from right, poses for a family photo during the Extraordinary Joint Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League at King Abdulaziz International Conference Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 11, 2023.  (Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Some have questioned why nearby Arab countries, who have provided temporary shelter in the past to civilians from other regional conflicts, appear unwilling to even discuss sheltering the refugees from Gaza.

“Arab states have historically been divided with regard to their stance on the Palestinian people and numerous other significant issues,” Ahed Al-Hindi, a senior fellow at the Center for Peace Communications, told Fox News Digital. “Although these states project solidarity with the Palestinian people, they hold divergent views on the most effective course of action.”

“Certain countries, including those in the Arab Gulf, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt advocate for a two-state solution, which they believe can be accomplished through diplomacy. Conversely, the Iranian axis espouses the ideology of obliterating Israel and establishing a Palestinian state extending from the river to the sea.”

Al-Hindi said the primary reason why even the moderate states, most of which have diplomatic ties with Israel, have not taken practical steps to help the civilian population in Gaza is due to their aversion to Hamas and its goals.”

“As a result, many Arab countries are concerned that aiding the Gazans could inadvertently benefit Hamas, given that the organization has ruled in Gaza for nearly a generation,” he said. “Hamas is a network affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood opposes every Arab monarch. This poses significant internal risks to the aforementioned states.”

crowds of people trying to leave Gaza

Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt at Rafah, Gaza Strip, Nov. 1, 2023.  (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)


“Ideologies of the Muslim Brotherhood advocate for the overthrow of Arab monarchies and the formation of a Sunni revolutionary Islamic republic, which would resemble Iran but operate under the banner of Sunni jihadism,” Al-Hindi added. “Since Hamas serves as an agent for Iran, which in turn presents an additional danger to Arab monarchs, the majority of these nations are worried that their assistance to Gaza may fall into the clutches of Hamas.”

The two Arab countries bordering Israel on either side — Egypt and Jordan — have both pointedly refused to offer refuge to any number of Palestinians from Gaza, even though Jordan already has a large Palestinian population and Egypt’s expansive and sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula is just a few miles from where the thousands of Palestinians are now being cared for by international aid agencies.

Earlier this month, Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly dismissed calls for displaced Palestinians to resettle in the Sinai desert, saying his country would protect its land and sovereignty at any cost. His comments came following the revelation of an Israeli intelligence document proposing that residents of the Strip be evacuated to tent cities in Sinai as the Israeli military works to destroy Hamas.


An aerial picture taken from a commercial airplane shows a view of Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

“We are ready to sacrifice millions of lives to protect our territory from any encroachment,” Madbouly said in a recent speech, advocating that a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians was the only comprehensive resolution that would guarantee regional peace.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital that such a solution should have been touted by the international community at the onset of the war.

“Washington should have made the humanitarian argument, helped fund a camp for Gaza refugees in Sinai and guaranteed their return after the end of the war,” he said. “This would have convinced Egyptians to take them.”

Rows of tents in the Gaza Strip

Tents set up for Palestinians seeking refuge along the Gaza Strip Oct. 20, 2023. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Still, said Abdul-Hussain, both Jordan and Egypt also have their own domestic concerns driving their refusal to offer refuge to Palestinians now displaced due to the fighting

“Jordan is not an option,” he said, adding that it does not border Gaza, and logistically it is not feasible to move hundreds of thousands of Gazans there. 

Egypt’s resistance, Abdul-Hussain said, stems from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s view of Hamas, a Palestinian off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian leader has been fighting since he came to power.



A man walks in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency building as UNRWA personnel strike, demanding a salary increase because of the high cost of living in Gaza City, Gaza, Jan. 30, 2023. (Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“Transplanting Gazans, with thousands of possible Hamas cadres or partisans, into his Sinai, where he battled ISIS, might scare the Egyptians a bit,” he explained. Hussain also pointed out that even if Egypt did want to take in the Gazan refugees, the country’s financial instability made it impossible.

While the practical arguments presented by these two Arab countries are plausible, there is also a deeper, ideological and even emotional reason rooted in the region’s history, mostly dating back to Israel’s creation in 1948. In fact, many of the images coming out of Gaza in recent days, with columns of shabbily dressed and clearly shaken civilians trekking miles on foot to reach safety in the south, have been compared to what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians chose to leave their homes or were forced to flee to neighboring countries during Israel’s war for independence. 

“The Arab world, particularly countries like Egypt and Jordan, have found themselves in a very uncomfortable situation,” said Michael Horowitz, a geopolitical and security analyst and head of intelligence at Leo Beck International. “They need to show support for Palestinians in Gaza because a large majority of the Arab public sympathizes with the Palestinian cause. But there is not much they can do beyond token statements of support and limited aid.”

Horowitz said the notion of Egypt or Jordan hosting Palestinian refugees was a “non-starter.”

“Doing so would actually anger the pro-Palestinian segments of their population, who would feel that they are actively facilitating a “second Nakba,” he said, adding that such a move would be so unpopular among the public it could even destabilize some of those countries.


Terrorists from Hamas during an anti-Israel military march in Gaza City. (Yousef Masoud/Majority World/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)


“Arab states feel they should not be held responsible for Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, which to them stands at the origin of much that ails the region,” said Joost Hilterman, program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group. “To them, Israel, as the occupying power, has absolute responsibility for the welfare of the Palestinian population.” 

Hilterman also noted that the Palestinians “do not want to leave Palestine and become refugees again, and both Egypt and the Palestinian population of Gaza fear that the temporary will become permanent, especially if Israel renders Gaza uninhabitable, which it is well on its way in doing.”

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