Egypt prepares border shelter: Safeguarding Palestinians in Gaza crisis

Egypt is setting up a space along its border with Gaza to potentially shelter Palestinians in the event of an Israeli offensive into Rafah causing a mass exodus, according to four sources familiar with the plans.

Publication: 16.02.2024 - 11:17
Egypt prepares border shelter: Safeguarding Palestinians in Gaza crisis
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Despite Cairo's denial of such preparations, the move is seen as a precautionary measure amid concerns that Israel's intensive attacks on Gaza might force Palestinians into Sinai, a scenario Egypt and other Arab states, including Jordan, have deemed completely unacceptable.

The United States has consistently opposed any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. Amid hopes for a ceasefire to avert such crises, Egypt's setup at the border is intended as a temporary safeguard, three security sources noted, stressing that it is purely a contingency step.

Israel's military has been planning to target Hamas's stronghold in Rafah, where over a million Palestinians have sought refuge from the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Israel has also discussed plans to evacuate civilians to safer parts of the Gaza Strip.

However, the UN's top aid official, Martin Griffiths, has dismissed the notion that safe evacuation within Gaza is feasible, highlighting the risk of Palestinians fleeing into Egypt as a "nightmare" scenario for Cairo. Egypt's stance against the displacement aligns with a broader Arab consensus to prevent a repeat of the 1948 Nakba when around 700,000 Palestinians were displaced during the establishment of Israel.

Despite official denials from Egypt, the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights released images suggesting construction activity in the border area, purportedly to secure a space for any potential influx of Palestinians. Although Reuters confirmed the location of some of these activities in Rafah through satellite imagery, the full scope and timing remain unverified.

The conflict in Rafah has escalated tensions between Egypt and Israel, despite a peace treaty between the two nations since 1979. The Arab League, with Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, has warned that Israeli actions could strain these diplomatic relations further. Egypt's Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to the peace treaty, contingent on mutual adherence.

This development reflects the complex geopolitical dynamics surrounding the Gaza conflict and the broader Middle Eastern landscape, underscoring the dire humanitarian implications of extended military engagements in the region.

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