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Egypt, Israel in 'secret meeting' ahead of Rafah invasion

Egypt, Israel in 'secret meeting' ahead of planned Rafah invasion
3 min read
25 April, 2024
Israeli intelligence and military officials met with their Egyptian counterparts to discuss the planned and potentially imminent invasion on Rafah.
Egypt has kept the border with Gaza at Rafah tightly shut due to its own security concerns and its opposition to Israel effectively cleansing Gaza of Palestinians [Getty]

Top Israeli intelligence and military officials met with Egypt’s intelligence chief and other senior officials in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza.

Ronan Bar, the head of Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet, and Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military Chief of Staff, met with Abbas Kamal, the head of Egypt’s intelligence service, and Osama Askar, the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Axios reported.

The meeting between the Israeli and Egyptian officials coincided with an announcement by Israel that it was "moving ahead" with the assault on Rafah. 

Egypt's primary concern is that the invasion of Rafah could lead to a massive influx of Palestinians breaching its border.

Most of the 1.3 million people crammed into Rafah have been displaced from other parts of the enclave, and the Egyptian border is one of their only escape routes in the event of an Israeli invasion.

Egypt has stated that if such a scenario were to occur, it could lead to a rupture in relations with Israel and potentially endanger the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.

Israel maintains that coordination with Egypt is crucial before initiating the assault on Rafah.

"Everyone is waiting for Netanyahu's directive to start evacuating the civilian population from Rafah. It's parked at his desk. He needs to resolve the matter with both the Americans and the Egyptians," a senior Israeli official told Axios.

This is thought to be the main reason for Wednesday's "secret" meeting in Cairo, though it's not yet known if Egypt has given its blessing for Israel to go ahead with the invasion.

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A significant portion of the plan will require coordination with Egypt, although the details of this have not been confirmed by Cairo.

Senior Israeli officials have stated that Egypt and the UAE have established large tent shelters between Rafah and Khan Younis, as well as in the Muassi area northwest of Rafah along the coast, in preparation for the military assault.

Egyptian security officials assert that coordination between Egypt and Israel regarding the assault on Rafah does not imply the country's approval of the operation, which aid groups have warned could kill thousands.

Cairo has previously warned that any Israeli attack on Rafah "would lead to massive human massacres, losses (and) widespread destruction".

This reflects similar concerns raised by the international community, the UN, and international aid organisations, which have also advised Israel against attacking the city.

On Wednesday, the Red Cross declared it "not possible" to evacuate civilians from Rafah, stating that there were no safe or adequate places for displaced Palestinians to go.