1708114173 Egypt is preparing for an exodus of Gaza residents that

Egypt is preparing for an exodus of Gaza residents that Israel denies planning International

Egypt is preparing for an exodus of Gaza residents that

Egypt is preparing for a scenario in which an Israeli offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza comes to fruition and leads to a massive forced relocation of Palestinians towards its territory. In recent days, the Arab country's authorities have accelerated work in the east of the Sinai Peninsula, near the Gaza border, to build an isolated and walled area that could accommodate an eventual exodus of Gazans. The work comes as Cairo simultaneously reinforces its border with the Palestinian enclave and orders a major military deployment in the region.

On the one hand, Israel insists that it has no intention of deporting Palestinian refugees to its neighboring country; On the other hand, he reiterates that he will coordinate with the Egyptian authorities his plans to relocate the population gathered in Rafah, the only city that has not yet been attacked by land, so as not to cause damage to that country. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said this on Friday. “We will deal with Rafah after we talk to Egypt.” We will coordinate it, we have a peace agreement with them and we will find a place [para los refugiados] This will not harm the Egyptians,” Katz commented while attending the Munich Security Conference (Germany), Portal reports.

In principle, the plans to defeat Hamas are about removing the approximately one million people who live there from Rafah. Most of them come from other parts of the Gaza Strip and have been forcibly displaced since the bombings began on October 7, following the terrorist massacre of the Islamist movement in Israel. The head of Israel's diplomacy suggested settling them in the west of the enclave or in Khan Younis, a dozen kilometers north and the scene of fierce attacks by his troops for weeks. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also noted at the same conference that the planned Israeli army invasion would be “devastating.”

In the same vein, Filippo Grandi, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Portal on Friday that the expulsion of Gazans to Sinai was “a catastrophe” for the Palestinians, for Egypt and for the future of peace were . The most radical members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet and some lawmakers have defended the expulsion of Gazans and the reoccupation of the enclave, which has had no Jewish settlements since 2005.

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Satellite images

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Satellite images show a large area in northeast Sinai, near Gaza's southern border, that has been cleared, leveled and fenced off with a wall. The work aims to establish a high-security area in preparation for receiving Palestinians in the event that Israeli military operations push tens of thousands of Gazans into Egypt, the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, a local organization, said, citing two contractors in the neighborhood. The recently started work is expected to be completed in a few days.

The space will be provided in a five-kilometer-wide border zone that Egyptian authorities created over the last decade as part of a comprehensive anti-terrorism campaign in the north of the peninsula along the entire Sinai-Gaza border. Located very far from other inhabited areas of Egypt, the site will cover an area of ​​about 13 square kilometers and is expected to house more than 100,000 people, an Egyptian source told American newspaper The Wall Street Journal.

Cairo has not yet made an official statement on the work in Sinai and has categorically rejected the forced relocation of Gaza residents to its territory since the beginning of the Israeli military offensive in order not to be perceived as an accomplice in the ethnic cleansing from Gaza. The work coincides with a major Egyptian military operation in the region, albeit within the boundaries set by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and the reinforcement of at least one of the three walls separating the Sinai from the Gaza Strip.

As Israel launched its military operation following the Oct. 7 attacks, the North Sinai governorate said in a statement that it had ordered all provincial leaders to prepare for the potential impact of the crisis. He also called for suitable rooms to be found to accommodate potential refugees.

According to the Sinai Foundation, the work was commissioned by the Egyptian Armed Forces' engineering department to a company owned by Ibrahim al Ergany, a businessman close to the highest levels of the state and founder of a federation of families and tribes from the north is Sinai, which has been working with the Egyptian army and security forces in the fight against terrorism in the region since 2017.

The work is carried out with great safety precautions. Another conglomerate company controlled by this powerful businessman, Hala, is at the center of a shadowy network of intermediaries that facilitates the departure of Palestinians from Gaza in exchange for payments totaling thousands of dollars, as recently documented by EL PAÍS. The trip The agency and the company responsible for the work in East Sinai, Beni Sinai, which was already one of the main beneficiaries of the Gaza reconstruction plans after the Israeli military offensive in 2021, share their headquarters in Cairo, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

The Sinai Foundation has also noted that the cleared land is in one of the areas evacuated and largely destroyed by authorities during their anti-terrorism campaign over the last decade. Late last year, hundreds of people from this region demonstrated to demand their right to return, partly out of fear that Gazans would be displaced into the region.

Control of the Rafah Corridor

The Israeli plans have also raised tensions around the so-called Philadelphia Corridor, a narrow strip of land along the border between the Palestinian enclave and Egypt. Although its status is governed by the 1979 peace agreement, Israel has recently expressed its desire to control it.

It is a “big challenge” and the “most critical problem” facing Israel, says Israeli security analyst Kobi Michael, pointing to the corridor that stretches across both sides of the border. It is a point that “Hamas uses to smuggle weapons and people” through the tunnels that connect one side to the other, claims Michael, who is also a fellow at the National Institute for the Study of Security (INSS) and the Misgav is institute. “Unfortunately, the Egyptians are not doing their job well there,” he complains. However, he understands that the two countries Israel and Egypt must coordinate and reach an agreement in the border area.

Egyptian authorities have warned that the mass expulsion of Palestinians into their territory and a possible occupation of the Philadelphia Corridor represent two red lines, but they have avoided specifying what action they would take if Israel crossed them.

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