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Egypt Cynically Rejects a Safe Corridor for Gaza's Civilians: Muslim Countries Demand Palestinian Civilians Accept Martyrdom to Preserve the Ummah's Honor

Hamas murdering more than 800 civilians during Operation al-Aqsa Flood persuaded Jerusalem that it must finally dismantle the terrorist group committed to Israel's destruction. However, Gaza's high population density will result in appalling civilian casualties unless noncombatants can seek refuge elsewhere until Israel completes its mission. Despite this, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi flatly opposes American, European, and UN proposals to establish a safe corridor for refugees fleeing the fighting.

Cairo's al-Azhar al-Sharif, the primus inter pares among Sunni mosques and whose Grand Imam is a government appointee, explained on Twitter its opposition to safe corridors. First, it praised the Hamas attack that "restored our confidence, breathed spirit into us, and restored life to us after we thought it would never return again." Then al-Azhar warned Palestinian civilians against diminishing the Ummah's massacre-induced euphoria by seeking sanctuary in Egypt:

Al-Azhar reiterates its salute to the steadfast Palestinians and appreciates their keen clinging to their dear homeland and perseveringly holding on to its soil, regardless of the cost and sacrifices involved. Indeed, their lands represent their dignity and their honor... It is better for you to die on your land as knights, heroes, and martyrs than to leave it to the usurping colonialists.

President Sisi more tactfully said, "Egypt will not allow the Palestinian cause to be settled at the expense of other parties." This callous attitude defined Egypt's 1949-67 occupation of Gaza. Egyptian authorities severely restricted Palestinian employment outside the Strip and forcibly transferred thousands of refugees who settled in Cairo to Gaza.

Dramatic economic and demographic growth accompanied Israel's post-1967 administration of Gaza. For decades after the Six Day War, Palestinians moved freely from Gaza to Israel, where many found work. That combined with Israeli investment in development projects caused the Strip's GNP to grow during 1968-82 on average by 9.7 percent per annum, enabling a much higher fertility rate. A 1967 Israeli census recorded 354,000 inhabitants while its current population approaches 2.4 million.

Israel only introduced work permits in 1991 during the First Intifada. Economic conditions deteriorated further under the Palestinian Authority's administration (1994-2007) as terrorism worsened. In 1992, 116,000 Gazans worked in Israel. By 1996, the number fell to 28,000. Palestinian groups commenced shooting rockets at Israel during the Second Intifada after the Gaza security barrier effectively reduced terrorist infiltration. Their volume increased after Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza and again after Hamas seized control of the Strip in 2007. Israel responded with a naval blockade to intercept materials used to manufacture weapons and for other military purposes. Accordingly, labeling Gaza an "open-air prison," ignores how Israel progressively tightened freedom of movement in response to increasingly sophisticated terrorist attacks.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), with a membership of 57 states and serving as "the collective voice of the Muslim world," advocates "the opening of humanitarian corridors to facilitate the entry of medicines and food supplies and basic needs to the Gaza Strip," but not a safe corridor. Its official statement on the current conflict never mentions the bloodbath that provoked Israel's war against Hamas. It merely denounces Israel's "sinful aggression" while calling Palestinian casualties "martyrs." One must conclude the OIC shares al-Azhar's sentiment that its more honorable for Palestinian civilians to accept martyrdom than seek temporary refuge in neighboring Egypt.

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