Egyptians outraged over Israel's expanding military operations in Rafah

Egyptians outraged over Israel's expanding military operations in Rafah
Egypt and Israel have technically been at peace since the late 1970s, sharing solid diplomatic, economic and security ties despite the public's opposition.
4 min read
Egypt - Cairo
07 May, 2024
Palestinians will have no access to humanitarian aid after Israel has controlled the Rafah Border Crossing with Egypt. [Getty]

As Israel seized control of the Rafah Border Crossing, Gaza's only connection to the outside world, Egyptians expressed outrage on both official and unofficial fronts.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned Israel's military ground operations in eastern Rafah, describing the move as "a dangerous escalation" that threatens the lives of over a million Palestinians dependent on the crossing as a major lifeline to the besieged Gaza Strip.

Cairo called on Israel to exercise "utmost restraint" and avoid pursuing a policy against a sustainable truce in Gaza.

The Egyptian foreign ministry further asked all influential international parties to intervene and allow diplomatic efforts to achieve their desired results.

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An unenviable position

Rafah sits on Gaza's border with Egypt, where there are growing concerns that Israel could use its war to displace Palestinians across the border into North Sinai, a scheme vehemently rejected by Cairo.

The looming question now is whether Israel's much-anticipated move could risk its ties with neighbouring Egypt and jeopardise the peace treaty signed with the North African country in 1979.

"The Israeli closure of the Rafah Border Crossing is a clear violation of the peace treaty. Any adjustments to the Israeli security situation on the border should have been approved by Egypt first," a prominent Egyptian political analyst argued said to The New Arab on condition of anonymity. 

"Egypt's regime has been placed in an unenviable position where the public opinion is denouncing the Israeli attack on Rafah, urging Egypt to intervene, while rejecting the possible influx of Palestinian refugees into North Sinai province, bordering Gaza," the analyst added. 

The Egyptian government has repeatedly warned against any Israeli ground attacks on the Palestinian Rafah City for being "a direct threat to Egypt's national security."

Gaza's southern Rafah city currently harbours over 1.5 million displaced Palestinians of a population of almost 2.3 million.

Egypt and Israel have imposed a strict blockade on Gaza since 2007 after the Palestinian Hamas faction assumed power following clashes with the rival Fatah faction that rules the occupied West Bank.

It was nearly a decade later when Hamas dropped its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed group in Egypt since 2014, that the Egyptian regime softened its stance towards the Palestinian faction.

Egyptian activists, meanwhile, took to social media to express their outrage towards Israel.

"Israel totally did what it wanted, separating Egypt from the border crossing, a red line that [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi has always considered an act of war…why is he silent about it," an Egyptian scholar living in the US named Sam Youssef posted on X.

Similarly, UK-based Egyptian journalist Osama Gawish argued in a post on X that Israel has violated the peace treaty with Egypt.

"The Egyptian regime under Sisi is nothing but a bunch of empty vessels…Israel did not care about Egypt's threats on the impact of a ground invasion of the [Palestinian] Rafah [City]," he wrote.

Egypt and Israel have technically been at peace since the late 1970s, sharing solid diplomatic, economic and security ties — despite widespread opposition from the Egyptian public.

Over the years, Cairo has played a key role in mediating peace deals between the Palestinians and Israelis, as well as among rival Palestinian factions.

But tensions have escalated between the two countries since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza erupted on 7 October last year, claiming the lives of more than 34000 Palestinians, many of them women and children.

Renowned political sociologist Dr Said Sadek rules out a possible military intervention.

"In 1978, late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat declared that the October war was the last one. And Sisi keeps this pledge," Sadek told TNA.

"Moreover, Egypt has an important gas agreement with Israel worth US$1.2 billion at a time when frequent power cuts have become an unacceptable routine for many Egyptians. And despite slamming Israel and sympathising with Gazans and boycotting American products, Egyptians don’t want their country to go to war," he argued.