Egypt warns Israel of 'rupture' in relations if displaced Palestinians from Gaza flee to Sinai
Egypt has reportedly warned Israel that ties between the countries will be "ruptured" if Palestinians from Gaza flee into the Sinai desert, as a consequence of ferocious Israeli bombing in the territory, US website Axios reported on Thursday, citing US and Israeli officials.
This comes as Israel shifted its military campaign in Gaza southwards, heavily shelling the city of Khan Younis and other locations. Many Palestinians have fled to Rafah as a result, close to the Egyptian border. Thousands have been killed in the past week.
According to Axios, Egyptian intelligence and military officials told their Israeli counterparts that "they are highly concerned" about the implications of a military operation in southern Gaza for Egypt, which could result in the displacement of Palestinians into Egypt.
Cairo further said that such a scenario would prompt "a serious crisis" in diplomatic ties between the two, which normalised relations in 1979.
Since the beginning of Israel's brutal military campaign on October 7, Egypt has expressed concerns that Tel Aviv is attempting to push Palestinians into the Sinai, which shares a border with Gaza.
According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site, Egypt has been closely monitoring Israel's onslaught on Gaza, which Cairo said indicated Tel Aviv’s aim of forcing Palestinians closer to the Egyptian border.
Israel rejected the concerns, claiming that it was only "targeting Hamas" and that wounded Palestinians seeking medical treatment in Egypt would be allowed to return to the enclave.
The comments came as Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday it would be "inappropriate and in contradiction of international law" if Palestinian civilians from Gaza were forced into Egypt, at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C.
Shoukry emphasised that Palestinians fleeing to Egypt wouldn’t be "the right way to deal with the conflict, stressing that Gazans shouldn’t be "penalised" and forced to leave their territory.
Additionally, Egyptian State Information Service head Diaa Rashwan, said that the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to the Sinai was "a red line" for Egypt and it would not allow it no matter what the implications were.
Egypt played an instrumental role in brokering the week-long truce between Hamas and Israel last month, though the ceasefire broke down and Israel quickly resumed striking the territory.
Around 85 percent of Gaza’s population is displaced, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), with groups of people moving as southwards as possible in an attempt to escape Israel’s hellish shelling.
Nearly 17,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardment since the war started on October 7, which has now entered its third month.