Why Egypt Won’t Open Its Border With Gaza

Aid convoy trucks are seen waiting to cross at Gaza’s Rafah border on Oct. 17, 2023 in North Sinai, Egypt. MAHMOUD KHALED/GETTY IMAGES
Published October 18, 2023
Concerns about a refugee crisis, financial strains, permanent displacement, and possible militancy in Sinai worry leaders in Cairo.

Egypt Fears an Exodus While Aid Is Blocked

In an attempt to wipe out Hamas after the group killed at least 1,300 people in attacks on Oct. 7, Israeli airstrikes have destroyed more than 22,000 Palestinian residential units in Gaza, and almost 3,000 people have been killed there in the past ten days. The Israeli military last week ordered 1.1 million civilians to flee south toward the Egyptian border—ostensibly for their own safety but in effect encouraging the displacement of half of the territory’s population.

Meanwhile, Egypt has deployed hundreds of security forces to the Rafah border crossing, according to Egyptian media, and is resisting pressure from Israel and the United States to let Palestinians flee, fearing an exodus of Gaza’s 2.3 million people into its Sinai Peninsula—where Egypt is already fighting insurgents. It fears assuming responsibility for a massive refugee population and the risks of fleeing militants using its territory to attack or plot against Israel, which could prompt Israel to target them on Egyptian soil.

As the Financial Times noted, “Cairo would not want to police an exiled community that could include militants who want to fight Israel from its territory.”

Following a rapid diplomatic tour across the Middle East by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Egypt has said it will allow foreign nationals and dual-citizen Palestinians safe passage through Rafah if humanitarian aid is allowed to enter Gaza. At the time of writing, the border was still closed.

Together with Israel, Egypt has upheld a 16-year blockade on Gaza from the Rafah crossing, the only non-Israeli exit point. Arab countries including Jordan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates have rallied humanitarian assistance, as well as a blood donation campaign initiated by the Egyptian government, with around 100 aid trucks stuck on the Egyptian side of the border.

Egypt said the Rafah crossing has become inoperable due to Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza side and won’t open the border unless there is assurance its aid convoys will not be bombarded. From Israel’s perspective, it rejects a temporary cease-fire for aid unless hostages held by Hamas are released. Hospitals in Gaza are on the brink of collapse. Israel has cut off supplies of food, water, and fuel.


SOURCE: https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/10/18/egypt-hamas-israel-border-gaza/

RELATED: Egypt does not see why country should ‘bear solely’ the responsibility for Gaza’s refugee influx

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry at a joint news conference in Turkiye’s capital Ankara in April.
Published October 18, 2023

Egypt does not see why it should squarely shoulder the responsibility of taking in refugees coming from the besieged Gaza Strip, said Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry.

“I see no reason why Egypt, which is hosting 9 million refugees — hosting them and providing them integration into our society at considerable burden on our economy — should have to bear solely [the] additional influx of Gazans,” Shoukry told CNBC’s Dan Murphy late Tuesday.

The International Organization for Migration agency in August 2022 assessed that there were 9 million refugees hailing from 133 countries in Egypt at that time.

The Rafah crossing, which is located on the Gaza-Egypt border, is the sole passage point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Egypt tightly restricts the Rafah crossing and has been recently reluctant to open it for the movement of people, unless Israel allows humanitarian aid to enter the territory.

To most of the more than 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip enclave, the Rafah crossing represents the only potential exit, as Egypt says Israel continues with aerial bombardment. Israel has said it exclusively targets the strategic positions of Hamas, following the Palestinian militant group’s multi-pronged terror attacks of Oct. 7.

A call for the residents of northern Gaza to evacuate southward — dispensed late last week by the Israeli Defense Forces amid fears of a potential ground incursion into the enclosure — has exacerbated the flows of refugees, with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees on Monday estimating that more than 1 million people have been displaced in the strip since the start of the conflict.

“We are proud that we have always supported our brethren,” Shoukry said, citing states in Africa, as well as the Middle East.

“But we hope that other countries will also bear the share of the burden, and provide for vulnerable communities the necessary support. I think those who have greater resources should probably bear greater responsibilities,” the Egyptian foreign affairs minister said.


SOURCE: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/10/18/egypt-does-not-see-why-it-should-be-responsible-for-gazas-refugee-influx.html

RELATED: Egypt’s Sisi rejects Gaza refugee influx, blames Israel for aid block

Aid lorries wait in neighbouring Egypt for an agreement to allow desperately needed supplies into the war-battered Gaza Strip © Khaled DESOUKI / AFP
Published October 18, 2023

After talks with visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi blamed Israel’s air strikes on the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for the failure to get aid to the territory’s 2.4 million people.

“The displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt means the same displacement will take place for Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan,” Sisi warned.

“Subsequently, the Palestinian state that we are talking about and that the world is talking about will become impossible to implement — because the land is there, but the people are not. Therefore, I warn of the danger of this matter.”

Sisi’s meeting with the German chancellor came as Gaza faced a 12th straight day of ferocious Israeli bombardment in retaliation for a shock cross-border attack launched by Hamas on October 7 that killed at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

About 3,000 people have been killed in Gaza, which is nearly out of electricity, food, water and fuel.

Pressure has mounted for aid to be allowed in through Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza, the only access to the besieged territory not controlled by Israel.

Sisi said Egypt “did not close” the crossing, but that “developments on the ground and the repeated bombings by Israel of the Palestinian side of the crossing have prevented its operation”.

Hundreds of lorries carrying aid have been waiting for six days on the Egyptian side of the crossing, which Israeli aircraft has bombed four times.

Scholz told reporters Berlin and Cairo “are working together to get humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip as quickly as possible.”


SOURCE: https://www.rfi.fr/en/international-news/20231018-egypt-s-sisi-rejects-gaza-refugee-influx-blames-israel-for-aid-block


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Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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