Rafah, Gazah: World Leaders say NO! Tourism Leaders Say What?

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When a million people, many children are in imminent danger of dying, it’s time to speak out – it’s time for everyone also tourism leaders to speak out. Do they?

The travel and tourism industry has been mostly silent on the ongoing Gazah war and Israel’s actions against Hamas, and collateral damage in their path.

It appears the world is (almost) united today in speaking out on the imminent attack on Rafah.

Forcing the over one million displaced Palestinians in Rafah to again evacuate without a safe place to go would be unlawful and would have catastrophic consequences. There is nowhere safe to go in Gaza. The international community should take action to prevent further atrocities.

Nadia Hardman, refugee and migrant rights researcher at Human Rights Watch

Travel and Tourism has a responsibility

Travel and tourism as a custodian of peace has a responsibility not to be silent.

As an Arab American living in Jordan, Mona Naffa has been one of the few tourism leaders to speak out loud and clear. For this, she was awarded the Tourism Hero status by the World Tourism Network.

Silence is not an option anymore:

Growing up as a first-generation Arab American and now residing in Jordan and witnessing the oppression of the Palestinian people, (my mother’s family were uprooted from their homes in 1948).  I sat quietly for years knowing our story but now I feel compelled, convinced, and confident to share the narrative of the Palestinian People and proud to be one of them!    

Mona Naffa, Amman, Jordan

World Tourism Network Hero Dov Kalman from Israel responded:

Free Gaza from Hamas creates the so-needed hope for mankind 

Today is a critical day for the war in Gaza

Israel threatened to attack the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. It is the capital of the Rafah Governorate of the State of Palestine.

Currently, this city at the Egyptian border is the only shaky “safe place” for many of the displaced and homeless population of Gaza. Rafah is the temporary place of refuge for a million or more people trying to overcome hunger, sickness, and killings. Most of the displaced people currently cramped in Rafah are babies, children, and women.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday he seeks to evacuate Palestinians jammed into Rafa ahead of an expected invasion.

Half of Gaza’s population is now in Rafah. They have nowhere to go. They have no homes, and they have no hope.

UN Chief Antonio Guterres

There are no logistic options to evacuate them.


There are tunnels in Gaza illegally connecting to Israel and Egypt and could be used by the terror organization Hamas.

This is understood and was known even before this war. One such tunnel was discovered by the Israeli Defense running below a UN compound in Rafah. The United Nations did not know about it and cooperated with IDF.

It was also clear that 13 out of 13,000 UNRWA workers had connections or were members of Hamas. With almost anything in Gaza connected to Hamas, this is no big surprise.

What is crystal clear is that without the work of the United Nations heroic staff, the situation in Gaza for certainly innocent children, mothers, and everyone else would be worse.

Shameful not to honor the UN’s Selfless Work

It’s shameful to not honor, respect and support the live threatening and selfless work these men and women doing for the United Nations, for the people of Gaza and for humanity.

Juergen Steinmetz, Chairman World Tourism Network

UNWRO donor countries Norway and Spain understand this. They increased its funding, only to be countered by essential donors such as the United States, and Germany among others who are no longer pitching in.

It was immediately overlooked that this work is an essential lifeline for millions of people who go through horrors a normal human being could not even imagine.

WTNAdvocacy | eTurboNews | eTN

Tourism is a big business in the neighborhood

Tourism is big business in neighboring countries such as Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even Lebanon.

This war sees its dark tourism clouds far further. Americans are now having second thoughts about traveling to places such as Saudi Arabia, Dubai, or Qatar, fully knowing both regions are safe and not in danger of being militarily involved in this war.

El Al, the Israel National Airlines is advertising new flights from the United States to Tel Aviv against all odds, and flights are mostly full. This is certainly tourism resilience together with the strength of the Jewish faith.

Maybe today is a day of hope after all?

It appears almost the entire world is slowly uniting in saying NO MORE!

Israel is also signaling there may be a way out. Qatar, which was essential in negotiating between Israel and Hammas makes a strong statement saying: STOP!

What is UN Tourism doing?

UN Tourism Secretary Zurab Pololikashvili will be attending the Global Tourism Resilience conference in Montego Bay this week, hosted by the Hon. Minister of Tourism for Jamaica Edmund Bartlett. It waits to be seen how tourism resilience leaders will address the situation in Gaza, or elegantly overlook it altogether.

Faced with an imminent attack by Israel on the Gaza City of Rafah the world is now responding:


There is limited space and great risk in putting Rafah under further military escalation due to the growing number of Palestinians there,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday during a press briefing, warning that an escalation would have “dire consequences.

Egypt also emphasizes that any attempts or endeavors that seek to forcibly displace the Palestinians from their land are doomed to fail.

Egyptian officials warned the decades-long peace treaty between Egypt and Israel could be suspended if Israel Defense Forces’ troops enter Rafah, or if any of Rafah’s refugees are forced southward into the Sinai Peninsula.

United States of America

What I can just say and reiterate what I just said is that such an operation needs to be conducted with planning and factoring and considering the things that I laid out, specifically the more than a million people sheltering, and the impacts on humanitarian assistance. And we have not seen such kind of planning take place yet, and therefore, as I said, the US Foreign Secretary made clear that this is not something that we would support.

US President Biden said: I talked to Bibi (Netanyahu) to open the gate on the Israeli side. I’ve been pushing hard, really hard, to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza. There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s got to stop.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that Israel must keep civilians safe and that under current conditions, a planned military operation there “cannot proceed.”

Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia warns of the very serious repercussions of storming and targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, which is the last resort for hundreds of thousands of civilians forced by the brutal Israeli aggression to flee. The Kingdom affirms its categorical rejection and strong condemnation of their forcible deportation and renews its demand for an immediate ceasefire.

This continued violation of international law and international humanitarian law confirms the need for an urgent convening of the UN Security Council to prevent Israel from causing an imminent humanitarian disaster for which everyone who supports the aggression is responsible.


German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that she was “shocked” by Israeli statements regarding the possibility of military movement towards the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, stressing that this “would not be justified.”

This came in an interview with a German news website, published on Saturday, in which it touched on statements by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant regarding the military movement towards Rafah.

Burbock expressed her shock when she heard Gallant’s statements.

She added: “Moving now in Rafah, the last and most crowded place, as the Israeli Defense Minister announced, will simply not be justified.”

She pointed out that the majority of those in Rafah are women and children, and added: “Let us imagine that they are our children.”

European Union

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borell posted on X, formerly Twitter, Saturday: “I echo the warning by several EU member states that an Israeli offensive on Rafah would lead to an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe and grave tensions with Egypt.

United Kingdom

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he was “deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah.

“The priority must be an immediate pause in the fighting to get aid in and hostages out,” he posted.


The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates warned of the danger of the Israeli occupation army carrying out a military operation in the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, which houses a large number of Palestinian brothers who were displaced there as a safe haven from the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip.

The ministry reiterated “the Kingdom’s absolute rejection of the displacement of Palestinians inside or outside their land.”

It stressed “the necessity of ending the war on the Gaza Strip and reaching an immediate cease-fire that guarantees the protection of civilians, their return to their places of residence, and the arrival of aid to all parts of the Gaza Strip.”

The Foreign Ministry also called on the international community “to assume its responsibilities and take immediate and effective action to prevent Israel from continuing its raging war.”


The State of Qatar condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli threats to storm the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and warns of a humanitarian catastrophe in the city that has become a last refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced people inside the besieged Strip.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on the UN Security Council to take urgent action to prevent the Israeli occupation forces from invading Rafah and committing genocide and to provide full protection to civilians under international law and international humanitarian law.

The Ministry affirms Qatar’s categorical rejection of attempts to forcibly displace the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip.

The Ministry also reiterates Qatar’s firm position regarding the justice of the Palestinian cause, the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and the establishment of an independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.


Hamas, meanwhile, issued a statement Saturday saying military action in Rafah would have catastrophic repercussions that “may lead to tens of thousands of martyrs and injured,” for which the terror group would hold “the American administration, international community, and the Israeli occupation” responsible.


Netanyahu: Those who tell us not to enter Rafah are telling us not to win against the terrorists.

Israeli Minister of Transportation Miri Regev has said that the Israeli government takes Egypt’s sensitivity regarding the military operation in Rafah seriously and confirms there was an ongoing dialogue with Egypt regarding the operation in Rafah. He also said he thinks we will be able to reach an agreement.

A Strategic Reality

As Israeli forces have extended steadily south. Rafah has become the last major Gaza city that troops have yet to enter, even as it is bombarded by air strikes almost daily.

Travel and Tourism Leaders Lost Their Voice, but some speak out louder

World Tourism Network together with the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism PATA and former UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli had been pioneers in the travel and tourism industry in stepping forward to say something about the war in Gaza.

It appears the same people are still pioneers.

Tourism Media Speaks out

The two “alternative” travel and tourism media eTurboNews and Travel Impact Newswire remain the two main global publications with a voice of reason for the travel and tourism industry on the Israel – Gaza war.

Touching this subject certainly did not always make us friends, bring us new reader, or generate much-needed advertising. Every religion however will tell us, that all of us will be judged one day. I don’t want to be worried about facing this day – sorry.

Juergen Steinmetz, publisher eTurbonews

About the author

Avatar of Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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