Egypt-Israel Tensions Rising as Egypt Refuses to Open Rafah Border to Palestinian Refugees

Beware the two-faced Egypt.

Christine Williams | Front Page | May 28, 2024

Pressure is building between Israel and Egypt over Palestinian refugees as Israel prepares its offensive on Rafah, where Hamas is hiding out and using human shields. According to an Atlantic Council report:

Relations between Egypt and Israel have soured in recent weeks as Israel prepares to launch a full-scale ground offensive into Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip—a move that Cairo has warned would put its peace treaty with Israel at risk and destabilize the region.

Egypt fears a sweeping assault on Rafah—where more than one million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge from Israel’s incessant bombardment of the northern and central Gaza Strip—may force hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to storm the Rafah border and cross into the Sinai Peninsula with little prospect of ever returning.

As pressure mounts globally, with blame focused upon Israel, Egypt is now beginning to draw attention. Egypt has long warned of “catastrophic repercussions on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and on regional peace and security” from any Israeli ground attack in Rafah, as it continued to push for a ceasefire at Israel’s expense. This is despite the fact that Egypt knows firsthand the dangers posed by the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot. Yet it has not issued any open condemnation of Hamas, leaving Israel isolated in the region and beyond.

New York Magazine said this regarding Egypt:

It has railed against Israel, and it has refused to condemn Hamas. But the government hasn’t actually let any Palestinians come out of Gaza and into the Sinai Peninsula. I may be missing something, but I don’t think Egypt’s refusal to do so has stirred much international outrage.

It’s no secret that Egypt is also concerned about Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist influences among the Palestinians. Egypt largely eliminated its own Muslim Brotherhood problem in 2013, killing up to 2000 Muslim Brotherhood members in a single  day and imprisoning others.

But Egypt should not be let off the hook so easily. A March 2016 report by the Carnegie Endowment, Egypt’s Shifting Hamas Policies, noted a contradiction in Egypt’s stance toward Hamas:

 A high-level Hamas delegation visited Cairo for security talks. The visit was preceded by an article published in the government daily Al-Ahram calling Hamas a “resistance movement,” dropping the previous label of “terror organization.” This visit was followed by a public visit by Ismail Haniyeh in January 2017 and another in September after his election as leader of Hamas. In the September visit, Haniyeh spoke of a new chapter in bilateral relations, pledged respect for Egyptian national security, and increased security cooperation with the regime.

Although the Hamas-Egyptian alliance was said to be for the purpose of fighting the Islamic State, questions remained. Middle East Eye has noted that “the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is highly secretive about its activities in Rafah.” Also noteworthy is the fact (which Israel has confirmed) that Hamas used the tunnel system to smuggle weapons and ammunition from Egypt into Gaza in the run-up to October 7.

One certainty is that Egypt is vocal about supporting the “Palestinian cause,” from the River to the Sea:

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made clear from the start that he categorically rejects any attempt to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at the expense of other countries. Sisi has also rejected the displacement of Palestinians into Egypt, saying that would be tantamount to “the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.” Moreover, Egypt does not want to be seen as being complicit in the “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians.

Al-Sisi has also stated this regarding the “Palestinian cause”:

My decision was resolute, and it was the same decision of Egypt – the state and people- namely to be at the forefront of the supporters of our brothers in Palestine and to spearhead action for their sake. This firm decision is embedded in the heart of our nation and its conscience. The history of Egypt’s struggle has been inextricably intertwined with sacrifices for the Palestinian cause. Egyptian blood blended with Palestinian blood for seven decades. By virtue of its history and geography, Egypt is destined to be the backbone in supporting the struggle of the brotherly Palestinian people.

In January 2024, al-Sisi was accusing Israel of “impeding aid deliveries to Gaza.” Why the world has been so understanding toward Egypt as it shuts its doors on its own declared “Palestinian” brethren, but so enraged at Israel, a tiny state that has suffered persistent attacks on its citizens since its founding, culminating in the savagery of October 7?

The situation is in flux:

If Israel goes ahead with its planned incursion, Egypt will most certainly come under immense internal and external pressure to open the Rafah border crossing and allow a mass influx of refugees into Sinai. This has long-term implications for the country. Hamas and members of other extremist groups might make their way into Egypt among those who enter.

Egypt is now in a quandary. On the one hand, it rejects Palestinian refugees. On the other hand, it embraces them as brothers. Its strategy is to exert more pressure on Israel…..

After Israel’s rejection of the ceasefire deal, Netanyahu defiantly announced he would go ahead with his planned incursion into Rafah; the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ordered the displaced Palestinians to evacuate into an even narrower strip of land—to the chagrin of the Egyptian leadership, which has since taken several retaliatory steps to pressure Israel to rescind its decision.

It will be intriguing to see how Egypt confronts a question of priority: its own national security vs. the Islamic Palestinian cause that is the central concern of both the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League. Egypt is a member of both. In fact, the Arab League was formed in Cairo in 1945. In the end, Egypt will likely attempt to deflect attention from its own hypocrisy and contradictions, and go into full blame-Israel mode. Egypt has already joined the International Court of Justice genocide case against Israel.

May 28, 2024 | 6 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. Shmuel… Can’t be anything other than a hudna.

    Egypt’s role? To feed the Hamas alligator in the hope that it (Egypt) would be eaten last.

  2. Short or long, peace with most Muslim countries ends up beimg at best an hudna….short term cease fire.
    Egypt has been co opting Hamas for years, Now
    it is crunch time.

  3. “Egypt fears a sweeping assault on Rafah—where more than one million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge from Israel’s incessant bombardment of the northern and central Gaza Strip—may force hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to storm the Rafah border and cross into the Sinai Peninsula with little prospect of ever returning.”

    No kidding!!!

  4. “By virtue of its history and geography, Egypt is destined to be the backbone in supporting the struggle of the brotherly Palestinian people.”

    No kidding!!!

  5. “It has railed against Israel, and it has refused to condemn Hamas. But the government hasn’t actually let any Palestinians come out of Gaza and into the Sinai Peninsula. I may be missing something, but I don’t think Egypt’s refusal to do so has stirred much international outrage.”

    No kidding!!!