Egypt expanding wall on Gaza border amid Rafah assault fears

Egypt expanding wall on Gaza border amid Rafah assault fears
There are concerns in Egypt about an impending assault on Gaza's Rafah City, which could push hundreds of thousands of Palestinians over the border,
3 min read
23 February, 2024
Rafah has been completely devastated by the Israeli assault [Getty]

Egypt is expanding a possible Palestinian refugee camp close to the Gaza border with 3km of wall constructed in the past week, according to reports, with Cairo fearing a spillover of the war

Videos emerged this week that allegedly show another stretch of fencing close to the Gaza border being constructed, amid fears that a planned Israeli assault on Rafah City could force hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into Egypt.

There have been reports that Cairo is clearing a 16 sq km border area to make room for the expected exodus from Rafah, now home to around 1.5 million people, with most fleeing from the north of Gaza.

Satellite imagery viewed by BBC Verify shows 4km of wall erected in the Egyptian border area and a hive of activity in northern Sinai, with trucks, cranes and workers busy with construction.

The Egyptian government insists this will be a logistics hub and not a makeshift camp for Palestinians, which has become a highly sensitive issue in Egypt.

They said it would include spaces for lorries to park and drivers to rest, warehouses for aid, and offices for humanitarian workers.

One aid worker told the BBC they had never seen such a huge area cleared for a logistics hub and they had not been informed by the government about any plans for a new humanitarian centre.

"The capacity for warehousing in Egypt is something that is discussed at almost every meeting. Given that this hasn't been shared, my assumption is that this is not what the plan is," the source told BBC Verify.

Academic Andreas Krieg also disputed the Egyptian government narrative, saying that the huge space allocated for the project does not suggest a planned logistics hub and instead points toward Cairo preparing for a "worst-case scenario".

"If you put this in perspective of how big this area this is, 16 km sq of trucks, that is thousands and thousands of trucks. There's never been a situation where you've had thousands of trucks waiting at the border," he told the BBC.

Almost the entirety of Gaza's 2.2 million population has been uprooted in the Israeli offensive, which followed the 7 October attacks, almost half fleeing to the southern city of Rafah.

Over 29,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive with fears of a sharp rise in the death toll if Israel goes ahead with its planned assault on Rafah, expected to take place before Ramadan next month.

There are reports that Israel could expel most of the civilian population from Rafah before troops enter the city.

Even the US and other allies have warned Israel against an assault on the border city without making plans for the civilian population there.

The UK government could be forced it to suspend arms sales to Israel for legal reasons if the attack takes place, despite its explicit support for the Israeli operation in Gaza.