Egyptian authorities are rushing to shield and militarily reinforce their border area with the Gaza Strip, while Israel is considering extending its devastating military operation to the city of Rafah, the southernmost urban center of the Gaza Strip and the only one that has not yet been attacked by the armed forces. Israeli Land Forces. Of particular note are the reinforcements ordered by Cairo since the beginning of this month. They want to strengthen their position on the border and prevent a massive expulsion of Palestinians into their territory.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, estimated in the first days of February that about two-thirds of Gaza's 1.7 million displaced people (75% of them) were overcrowded in Rafah governorate. The humanitarian situation in the region is characterized by an acute shortage of drinking water, food, medicine and shelter, which has led thousands of Gazans to settle in tents just meters from the border fence with Egypt, at the last frontiers the enclave, were built. Despite the fragile humanitarian situation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday that he had ordered the planning of an attack on Rafah. However, no detailed plan to evacuate those trapped there has been presented so far.
Facing increasing pressure in its backyard, Egypt has sent around 40 tanks and armored personnel carriers to the northeastern Sinai Peninsula over the past two weeks to bolster security on the Gaza border, two Egyptian security sources told Portal. The Sinai Human Rights Foundation, a local organization, also spotted the activity of an Egyptian helicopter flying over the border last week and released images of the installation of three layers of barbed wire on a separation fence. between Sinai and recently built Gaza. The Egyptian authorities also periodically build brick walls on the border, sources in Rafah and in Egypt told the independent Egyptian press Mada Masr.
“Egyptian security measures on the Gaza border are the highest provided for in the specifications of the Security Annex to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, both in terms of surveillance and alert measures by the security services,” says military expert and retired military expert Brigadier General Samir Ragheb .
There are currently three barriers along the Egypt-Gaza border. The last of these, a concrete wall about six meters high, was built at the end of last year, according to the Sinaí Foundation, after work was carried out on one of the two walls already built. In addition, strips of earth were dug about 200 meters from the fence. Over the past decade, the Egyptian army had already built another iron and steel fence and another six-meter-high concrete wall along its border and another six meters below, as part of a comprehensive anti-terrorism campaign in northern Sinai and the strict blockade of the Palestinian territories Earth. A restricted area of five kilometers was then established, into which only the military, police and border guards have access.
Shortly after the Israeli military offensive began following the Hamas attacks on October 7, the Egyptian army also sent military reinforcements – including officers, soldiers and vehicles – to the border area, the Sinai Foundation reports. However, it is unclear whether these units remain deployed. In the first days of its military operation, Israel also bombed the Rafah border crossing several times and at least once there were hits on Egyptian soil. In recent weeks, Israeli aviation has again intensified its activities in the southern city, striking areas close to Egyptian territory at least six times so far in February, according to the previous organization.
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On the rope
Over the past decade, the authorities of Egypt and Israel had strengthened their ties, particularly thanks to their harmony on security issues in the Sinai and Gaza Strip, but the scale and devastation of the current Israeli offensive has severely strained their ties.
In recent months, Cairo has publicly drawn two red lines regarding the progression of the Israeli military operation. The first of these is a mass expulsion of Gazans to Sinai. Egypt categorically rejects it because it does not want to engage in ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip and because this would undermine the Palestinians' right to create a state including Gaza and could turn Sinai into a base of operations for the Gaza Strip's armed factions of the Palestinian resistance . . The occupation of the narrow border corridor, whose status is regulated by the 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, is another red line.
Cairo has avoided clarifying the measures it is considering if Israel crosses one of these lines, but Egyptian sources have leaked to local and international media that one of the measures it is considering if Israel crosses one of its red lines is the withdrawal of its ambassador in Tel Aviv is. A step that Cairo already took in 1982 after the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon and in 2000 when suppressing the first Intifada. American and Israeli officials have also privately leaked to regional media that Cairo has expressed its intention to cut ties with Israel outright, station larger forces on the border or suspend the peace deal if Israel pushes Gazans toward Sinai , which represents unprecedented actions .
Nevertheless, senior officials from both countries have maintained contact to resolve bilateral issues and Egypt is closely involved in mediation with Hamas. In this spirit, an Egyptian delegation traveled to Tel Aviv last week to address the situation in Rafah and try to maintain some cooperation, according to the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal. And this Tuesday, according to Israeli media, a new round of high-level negotiations on a possible ceasefire is planned in Cairo.
“The current security warning [de Egipto] The aim is to ensure security in accordance with the terms of the peace agreement and prevent the displacement of Palestinians,” says Ragheb, who is also director of the Cairo-based Arab Institution for Strategic and Development Studies. “Things would be different if Israel launched an offensive against Rafah without evacuating civilians or coordinating with the Egyptian side,” he slips, since this “would be considered a violation of the peace treaty and would give Egypt the right to do so “To break the agreement.” and the use of military forces.”
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