Egypt has threatened to suspend the Camp David peace treaty with Israel if the apartheid state sends troops into the densely-populated border city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, the Associated Press has reported. Two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said on Sunday that the fighting in Rafah may lead to the closure of the main route through which humanitarian aid enters Gaza.
The Egyptian threat to suspend the peace treaty, which has been a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly 50 years, came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that sending forces to Rafah “is necessary to achieve victory” in the four-month war against the Palestinians. He claimed that Hamas has “four battalions” of fighters in the city.
More than half of the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.3 million people have fled to Rafah to escape fighting in other areas. They are crowded in sprawling camps and shelters run by the UN near the border with Egypt, having been told by the occupation state that it is a “safe area”.
The Egyptian government fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, in the reasonably certain knowledge that Israel will never allow them to return to their homes in occupied Palestine.
The confrontation between Israel and Egypt comes at a time when relief organisations have warned that the attack on Rafah will exacerbate the already disastrous humanitarian situation in Gaza. According to the UN, a quarter of the population in the Strip faces famine.
Netanyahu used an interview with Fox News yesterday to claim that there is “plenty of room north of Rafah for them [Palestinians] to go to” after Israel’s offensive elsewhere in Gaza. He said that Israel would direct evacuees with “flyers, with cell-phones and with safe corridors and other things.” However, the Israeli offensive has caused widespread destruction, especially in northern Gaza, while fierce fighting is still taking place in central Gaza and the southern city of Khan Yunis. A ground operation in Rafah could also lead to the closure of its border crossing, cutting off the only way to deliver much-needed food and medical supplies.
The three officials confirmed the Egyptian threat, said Associated Press, while Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries have also warned of dire consequences if Israel enters Rafah. Moreover, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote on X that, “The Israeli attack on Rafah will lead to an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe and serious tensions with Egypt.”
The White House, which has sent weapons to Israel and protected it from international calls for a ceasefire, also warned against launching a ground operation in Rafah under the current circumstances, as it would be a “disaster” for civilians.
Egypt has fortified its border with Gaza, establishing a five-kilometre-long buffer zone and erecting concrete walls above and below the ground to deter tunnels. It has denied Israeli allegations that Hamas is still running smuggling operations through tunnels under the border. Although Egyptian forces have full control on their side of the border, officials in Cairo fear that if the border is breached, the army will not be able to stop the influx of people fleeing to the Sinai Peninsula.