Egypt would not object to Israel's assault on Gaza's Rafah: reports

Egypt would not object to Israel's assault on Gaza's Rafah: reports
Egypt has denied that it would end its 1979 peace treaty with Israel over Tel Aviv's impending Israeli assault on Rafah, according to Israeli sources.
3 min read
11 February, 2024
Egypt allegedly fears the influx of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai [Getty]

Egyptian officials have informed Israel on Sunday that they will not object to a military operation in Rafah, as long as it is conducted without harming Palestinian civilians in the southern Gazan city.

Israeli Army Radio, cited by The New Arab’s sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, claimed that Egypt’s main concern is the displacement of Palestinian civilians into the Sinai, with it having no objection to an Israeli assault on Rafah if such displacement does not occur. 

Egypt's foreign ministry has denied Israel's claims that it has given any such blessing to military activities in Rafah.

However, other Israeli media sources, as well as The New York Times, reported that Israeli officials said Cairo had informed Tel Aviv that it fears any influx of Palestinians could lead to a resurgence of Islamist "militancy". This could indicate that Egypt will give tacit acceptance to any assault that doesn't lead to Gazans being displaced towards the country. 

The regime of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has spent years repressing the moderate democratic Islamism associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi, who was overthrown by Sisi in 2013.

Hamas began as an offshoot of the Brotherhood, while Morsi maintained a close relationship with the Palestinian group during his short time in power.

On Saturday, it was reported that Egypt had said that Israeli military activity near Rafah and the de-militarised Philadelphi corridor could lead to Cairo re-thinking the 1979 Camp David peace agreement between the two countries.

However, according to Israeli Army Radio, Egypt has been keen to emphasise to Israel that such reports are not true and that there is no threat to the now 45-year-long agreement.

The Egyptians and Israelis allegedly want to coordinate to ensure that the security arrangements around the Philadelphi corridor are upheld, but Egypt considers an Israeli assault on Rafah inevitable and will not work to prevent it.

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According to the Israeli sources, Egypt’s adoption of a tough stance and reports of its threats to rescind the 1979 agreement are largely due to it having to maintain the idea that Egypt stands firmly opposed to Israel’s war on Gaza to the Egyptian people, most of whom are supportive of the plight of Palestinians.

Even if Egypt's denials of acceptance of Israel's seemingly inevitable assault on Rafah are true, most analysts would agree that Cairo will do nothing concrete to deter such an assault, let alone end the peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt was the first of all Arabic-speaking countries to sign a peace deal with Israel under President Anwar Sadat in 1979, though the treaty remains hugely unpopular with Egyptians.

Regardless of its intentions, Egypt has vehemently opposed the cleansing of Palestinians into the Sinai Peninsula, something Israel is believed to have desired early on in the conflict.

However, the Egyptian government has drawn criticism from aid groups, Palestinians and Egyptians for not opening the Rafah crossing and letting humanitarian aid flow freely into Gaza.

Egyptian authorities claim Israeli airstrikes on Rafah have made it difficult to open the tightly-controlled crossing.