Official says Israel ready to pay for flights, but that no country has agreed to accept emigrants
Some 35,000 Gazans left via Egypt in 2018
Palestinians gather at a makeshift bus station as they wait to get permits to take a bus to travel through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, November 2017. Photo Wissam Nassar/dpa
Israeli authorities are willing to allow Gaza Strip residents who want to emigrate to fly out via Israel if a country is found to accept them, a senior government official said on Monday. According to the official, Israel would even pay for the flight. The official added that the government had asked a few countries, including some in the Middle East, whether they would be willing to accept Palestinians from Gaza, and was turned down.
Some media outlets in Israel quoted the official, who spoke to journalists during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Ukraine, as saying that Israel would agree to organize shuttles from the Gaza Strip to an airport in the south from which they would take off.
Last year 35,000 Palestinians emigrated from Gaza via the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt. Most of those leaving are young people who are relatively well off, including 150 doctors from Gaza hospitals. Most of those leaving fly to Turkey, where local intermediaries put them on ships bound for Greece, and from there they continue to Europe.
In November 2017, the Rafah crossing was opened to Palestinians for the first time in a decade, which allowed many of them to leave the Strip. Until the crossing was opened Gaza residents could not fly except in rare, extraordinary circumstances, and with the approval of Israeli security authorities.