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Egypt braces for Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah

​Displaced Palestinians take shelter in a tent camp in Rafah.

Displaced Palestinians take shelter in a tent camp in Rafah.

REUTERS/Bassam Masoud
Acting on intelligence about Hamas and hostages, Israeli special forces raided the main hospital in southern Gaza on Thursday despite international calls for civilian protection. This coincides with Egypt’s concerns over Israel’s planned ground offensive of Rafah, where 1.4 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. An operation there could lead to an influx of Palestinians fleeing over the border into Egypt – something Cairo is keen to avoid.

“Egypt remains quite opposed” to housing refugees, says senior Eurasia Group analyst Omar Monieb. It worries that opening the door would undermine security and cause domestic political headaches. Israel’s desire to control the Philadelphi corridor, a narrow buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border, also makes Cairo nervous.

Meanwhile, Egypt has boosted border security and is reportedly building a walled enclosure in the Sinai that could house over 100,000 people – perhaps part of a contingency plan?

Reports suggest an offensive in Rafah could see Cairo abandon its 1979 treaty with Israel, which has helped maintain stability between the countries for decades. Egypt’s foreign minister denies the treaty is at risk, but that doesn’t mean the relationship with Israel will remain unscathed.

“Egypt wouldn’t abandon the treaty but will take measures to voice displeasure,” says Monieb, like recalling its ambassador and “freezing security cooperation and information sharing.”


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