Fears now are reaching fever pitch that a conflict between Israel and Egypt could be imminent following a new focus on the Rafah border crossing.
Israel announced plans for “evacuating the population” of Gaza on February 9th as fears of mass displacement to Sinai grow, according to AP.
The statement was delivered two days after Israel’s president, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected a Hamas ceasefire proposal including the release of all Israeli hostages by the militant group.
Sources in Egypt’s securing services told Reuters that 40 Egyptian tanks and armoured personnel carriers have been sent to north-eastern Sinai in the past two weeks, in an effort to bolster security at the border with Gaza.
The mobilization comes as Israel’s military closes in on Rafah, a previously designated “safe zone” on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, where more than one million Palestinians have sought refuge from four months of Israeli bombardment and recent ground invasion.
Washington, Israel’s main ally, has said it would not support an assault that failed to protect civilian lives, and had briefed Tel Aviv on a new US memorandum reminding beneficiaries of US arms sales to adhere to international law.
Egypt and Israel have enjoyed more than four decades of peace, improved relations in recent years thanks to increased trade and security coordination along the countries’ shared border, including in a mutual blockade on Gaza since Hamas’ election in 2007.
However, since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war October 7th, the two countries’ relations have become strained as Cairo raises fears of a mass Palestinian displacement into its territory.
Cairo has also blamed Tel Aviv for hampering deliveries of aid into Gaza, amid mounting evidence of mass famine and disease, which Israel has denied.
Analysts claim Cairo’s fears are rooted in the potential for Hamas infiltration in Egypt, as-well-as becoming host to a large refugee population. Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has previously warned Israel that a mass-displacement from Gaza would turn Sinai into a staging point for anti-Israeli attacks.
Israel’s assault was launched in retaliation for a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7th which resulted in 1,200 Israeli deaths and 253 hostages being abducted, according to Israeli figures.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry figures claim at least 27,947 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks, with a further 67,459 injured and many more bodies expected to be buried under rubble.
Head of the UN’s Relief and Works agency in Palestine (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, stated: “There is a sense of growing anxiety, growing panic in Rafah.”
With doctors and aid workers struggling to supply basic aid to the refuges sheltering in Rafah, UN data suggests one in ten Gazans under the age of five are malnourished.
ActionAid, a humanitarian charity working in Gaza, has claimed some have resorted to eating grass, stating: “Every single person in Gaza is now hungry, and people have just 1.5 to 2 litres of unsafe water per day to meet all their needs.”