Reports conflict over increased tensions between Egypt, Israel as Rafah attack looms
As concerns have been growing over the possible political and security repercussions of a major Israeli offensive on the Palestinian Hamas faction in Rafah city, Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry reiterated on Monday his country's commitment to its more than four-decades-long peace treaty with Israel.
While there are conflicting reports in regard to the Egyptian official stance about its ties with Israel, many still rule out a war between the two.
As Egyptian citizens have been publically supporting Gaza, their impact never surpassed a war of words on social media or boycott campaigns of Western products of countries known for supporting Israel.
"The unforgiving economic crisis Egypt has been going through for about two years has hit hard the country's low and average-income social segments to the extent we care more about our bounties rather than a cause," a 40-year-old civil servant told The New Arab.
Another factor at play is the growing fear of a massive displacement of Palestinians in Gaza into the Egyptian side of Rafah city in North Sinai as there is, logically, nowhere else for them to go.
"Egyptians can hardly make a living and can't tolerate more refugees entering their homeland in the process," said the civil, who asked to remain anonymous, fearing for their safety.
The Egyptian authorities have reportedly been increasing the height of the concrete border wall with Gaza and installing barbed wire in a bid to deter any Palestinians from attempting to cross into the Sinai.
A security source told TNA, on condition of anonymity for not being authorised to talk to the media, that "a large number of Egyptian troops, mostly special forces and commandos, have been deployed in Rafah", as reports indicated that about 40 tanks have been positioned in and around the border area in recent days.
The recent deployment came ahead of an expansion of the Israeli army operation on Gaza that first kicked off on 7 October last year against the Gaza Strip bordering Egypt's North Sinai province.
"Egyptians people only sympathise with Palestinians without seeking any war with Israel for many reasons for the economic situation is not reassuring," Said Sadek, professor of peace studies at Pharos University Alexandria, told TNA, adding that "there is an overwhelming belief that if Egypt goes to war, no Arab country will back it."
Nevertheless, the sustainability of the peace treaty has faced many challenges since 1979. "Tensions between Cairo and Tel Aviv are rising but won't materialise into a war. There have been undeclared threats to freeze the treaty, not abolish it, though," Sadek noted.
"Egypt and the US are the only parties that can put mounting pressure on [the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu not to commit a massacre in a ground offensive in Rafah," he added.
Back in 2014, a year after the military coup, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi fostered warmer ties with Tel Aviv, advocating the two-state solution and co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis.
"On the other hand, it is unlikely that the US would allow the situation to escalate. The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel has been sponsored by the US, and annulling it will impact the entire region. Mind you, Egypt has not even recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv. Both still main high-level security relations," Sadek argued.
Egypt was the first Arab state to normalise ties with Israel despite widespread opposition from the Egyptian public.