Egypt is facing mounting pressure to act as neighboring Gaza gets pummeled by Israeli strikes after October 7’s brutal assault in Israel by Hamas.

In the wake of the Hamas attacks, Israel closed its two border crossings with Gaza and imposed a “complete siege” on the territory, blocking supplies of fuel, electricity and water.

That has left the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt as the only viable outlet to get people out of the enclave and supplies into it.


Is there a reason that the only viable evacuation route is through Egypt, and people can't flee by sea? I am guessing that like the other land borders, Israel is not permitting people to flee by sea, but why wouldn't Israel open the sea borders and let the Palestinians flee by sea to some other country than Egypt? If it did close the sea border, did Israel give an official reason as to why it also closed the sea borders?

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    Flee to where? Even if they had enough ships, it's not clear anyone would take them in, see my comments under the answer. Nov 9, 2023 at 22:33
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    If you look at the refugee situation in the Mediterranean it becomes very clear why nobody wants a large number of Palestinians take to the seas, with unclear destinations and makeshift ships that aren't exactly seaworthy.
    – xLeitix
    Nov 10, 2023 at 8:54
  • @xLeitix But maybe somebody would want to take people with clear destination and sturdy ships that are seaworthy. One would just need to provide the ships and the destination After all one could argue that it's a war zone, not just migration for economical reasons. That might be a different case (or not). Nov 22, 2023 at 12:12

3 Answers 3


Gaza doesn't really have ships that are fit for cross-sea travel, and Israel won't let unexamined ships reach Gaza - fearing that those ships might be carrying supplies for Hamas. Israel might also ask to see who is leaving Gaza in order to prevent high profile Hamas leaders from leaving Gaza, as well as to prevent Hamas from transporting hostages abroad.

Seems like there hasn't been yet a country which offered their ships to be examined by Israel in order to take Gazans to that country.

It might also be, that Egypt is preventing this, fearing that those refugees will sail to unguarded Egyptian beaches.


Geography is probably the main reason: on the south lies the Egyptian coast, stretching for a few hundred miles. Thus one either ends up still in Egypt (but by a more difficult and riskier route) or one has to venture till Libya, which is next to impossible without a really sea-worthy boat and appropriate navigation equipment.

Another option is navigating along the Israeli border - via Ashkelon, Tel-Aviv, Haifa - in the hope of reaching Lebanon and Syria. These countries already have their share of Palestinian refugees, and are not necessarily welcoming (see this answer for more information.)

Finally, one could venture across the sea, towards Cyprus or Turkey, but this is again dangerous without the appropriate equipment.

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Is there a reason that the only viable evacuation route is through Egypt, and people can't flee by sea?


No one is going to take them. The Fourth Geneva Convention makes it illegal to move populations in order to resettle those territories acquired in a war. An overwhelming number of countries believe that is what Israeli has been doing historically and would be doing again if the population of Gaza was removed or diminished. Any country accepting or facilitating Palestinians "refugees" on scale, would thus be complicit in this illegality. Which is why Israel constantly calls for there "humanitarian evacuation" while creating and controlling what makes the evacuation necessary.

UN Resolution 2334 reaffirmed this as recently as 2016 by a vote of 14-0, with the United States abstaining.


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