Israel strikes Gaza close to Egypt border, Philadelphi Corridor
Local sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the attacks on the city were so severe they could be heard on the other side of the border in the North Sinai Governorate.
“The Israeli air strikes were the most severe on the border area since the start of the war on Gaza,” the source said, adding that there are growing fears of what a ground incursion on Rafah will mean for people in Egypt’s Sinai province, considering the large number of displaced.
Footage from Rafah showed decimated apartment blocks with dozens reportedly killed. People gathered at the city's Al-Najjar hospital after identifying corpses of relatives killed in the overnight bombardment.
Egyptian Apache military helicopters were also seen hovering above the Philadelphi Corridor – a demilitarised zone between Gaza and Egypt – for the first time in weeks.
The air sorties were conducted along the coast and the border to the recently opened Kerem Shalom crossing, where aid has trickled in to Gaza through Israel.
According to a security source cited by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the activities were in coordination with Israeli authorities and part of Egypt’s monitoring of the frontier.
It comes against a backdrop of reports that Egypt has been working to increase the height of the concrete border wall and installed barbed wire in a bid to deter any Palestinians from crossing over.
Israeli officials have also been eyeing up bolstering the wall by installing a ‘smart border’ between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, a plan which was quickly rebuffed by the Egyptians.
Photos and video segments have recently gone viral, showing Egypt's side of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza while reportedly being fortified and barbed wires installed on the fences. 👇https://t.co/Ib3U25by2E— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) February 8, 2024
The New Arab's Cairo correspondent Thaer Mansour, citing an unnamed security source, confirmed that Egyptian authorities were installing barbed wire, but the source emphasised that it had been done as part of wider repairs. Earlier media reports said that it was a new measure to block Palestinians from crossing over.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant has repeatedly threatened, despite major humanitarian concerns, that the army will push south to Rafah – what he referred to as “the last remaining [stronghold] of Hamas”.
Gallant's threat of further bloodshed is looming large over stalled ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas, which have seen both parties reject details in the proposal. Mediators from the US, Qatar and Egypt are scrambling to secure a deal between the two sides.
Despite Israel's rejection of Hamas' proposal on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he still sees room for negotiation. A Palestinian Hamas delegation led by senior official Khalil Al-Hayya is due to travel on Thursday to Cairo for ceasefire talks with Egypt and Qatar.
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Rafah holds over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, with two-thirds of the enclave under Israeli evacuation orders, leaving minimal areas for refuge.
Israel has killed 27,840 Palestinians in Gaza since 7 October, with 67,317 injured according to Gaza's health authorities.