Fighting between Israel and militants in Gaza started on Friday when Israel assassinated prominent Islamic Jihad leader Taysir Al-Jaabari in Gaza in airstrikes, ending a year of calm in the enclave.
Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have killed at least 15 people, including a five-year-old girl. In response, Palestinians fired rockets at Israeli cities today.
On Saturday, the Israeli forces said in a statement that they are prepared for a week of fighting against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which has reportedly launched dozens of rockets at Israeli cities.
The last major Israeli assault on Gaza was in May 2021, which killed around 250 Palestinians, including women and children, before an Egypt-brokered ceasefire ended hostilities.
An Egyptian official told Extra News on Friday that Egypt is conducting intensive communications between Israel and Palestinian factions to end the current escalation in the Gaza Strip in order to preserve the 2021 ceasefire.
Addressing students at the Military Academy today, El-Sisi said that Egypt has had a “very positive” role in Gaza and has been keen to make contacts with Palestinians and Israelis to ensure that no crisis, violent acts or fighting take place between the two sides.
“Yesterday, there was a deviation from this; as usual we moved and made contacts with everyone around the clock in order for things to not get out of control and for fighting to not take place,” El-Sisi said.
The president affirmed that Egypt is working to ensure that the crisis ends, and expressed hope that matters do not escalate further.
During his speech to the military students, El-Sisi also reviewed Egypt’s policy regarding a number of foreign and local issues, including the crises in Taiwan and Ukraine and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute with Ethiopia.
El-Sisi stressed that Egypt has an “unchangeable” policy regarding the situation in Taiwan, which is the One-China policy. He asserted that Egypt views this policy as in the interest of the stability and security in the world.
“We do not need further crises that affect us all,” El-Sisi said, affirming that Egypt is keen through its policies to support regional and international stability and peace.
El-Sisi affirmed that Egypt’s policies are based on moderation, balance, non-interference in others’ affairs, and prioritisation of political and diplomatic courses.
Tensions between China and the self-ruled island of Taiwan are running high, with China sending scores of planes and firing live missiles near Taiwan in its biggest drills in the Taiwan Strait. China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to unify the island with the mainland by all means.
The drills started a day after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a solidarity visit last week to the island despite China’s angry warnings, becoming the highest-ranking American official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
Parallel tracks on water security
El-Sisi also spoke about the Egyptian stance regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, affirming that Egypt has adopted the track of diplomacy and negotiations to resolve the dispute.
El-Sisi reiterated that Egypt’s water share “will not be compromised.”
“The goal is that when there is a crisis or a problem, we resort to patience and negotiations,” El-Sisi said, affirming that the state has also taken measures to ensure optimal use of Egypt’s water resources.
This includes establishing triple agricultural wastewater treatment plants, lining of canals nationwide, and expanding modern irrigation means, El-Sisi explained.
The state has already constructed two major agricultural wastewater treatment plants, including the Bahr El-Baqar plant in Port Said governorate and the El-Mahsama plant near Ismailia, with production capacities of 5.6 million and 1 million cubic meters per day respectively.
Unlocking grain exports from Ukraine
El-Sisi shed light on an agreement allowing grain to leave Ukraine amid the ongoing crisis, saying that Ukraine’s large quantities of grain is a matter of great important to Egypt and the entire world.
Late in July, Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement that would allow the resumption of vital grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports in an effort to ease the global food crisis caused by the war that started last February.
Egypt, which used to depend on Russia and Ukraine for 80 percent of its imported wheat, has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis.
El-Sisi underlined the efforts made by the Arab League’s Ukrainian crisis liaison group, including making contacts with both Russia and Ukraine to settle the crisis and bring the two sides back to the diplomatic track.
“We try to maintain a positive role in encouraging the resolution of the crisis in a political and diplomatic track and diffusing the dispute,” the president stressed.
National Dialogue ‘very important’
El-Sisi described the planned National Dialogue that he called for last April as “very important,” affirming the need for people of different spectrums in Egyptian society listen to each other and conduct discussions.
The president called for the dialogue among national forces with the aim of reaching common grounds on national priority issues.
The dialogue is still in the preparatory stage and is planned to be conducted in the presence of political forces, partisan figures, intellectuals and others to discuss political, economic, and social issues of concern to citizens.
In April, the president also reactivated the Presidential Pardon Committee. Since then, more than 700 prisoners and pretrial detainees have been released.
Controlling prices amid crisis
El-Sisi affirmed that Egypt has reserves of strategic commodities that are sufficient for local consumption until the end of the year.
He highlighted the state’s strategy to deal with the crisis, including ensuring the availability of goods in adequate quantities and trying to keep their prices unchanged.
The president mentioned Egypt’s measures to ease the burdens on citizens caused by the inflation in Egypt and worldwide, including through social protection programmes.
Amid the current global economic crisis, El-Sisi has urged the government to focus on the enhancement of social protection programmes in the coming period.
In a cabinet meeting late last month, El-Sisi instructed the addition of one million new families to the Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) cash support programmes, thus increasing the number of beneficiaries to more than 20 million citizens nationwide.
El-Sisi also directed the government to disburse a total of EGP 1 billion per month for the next six months as exceptional aid to nine million families.
Recipients will include the neediest families and pensioners who receive less than EGP 2,500 per month as well as state employees whose monthly salaries are less than EGP 2,700.
In addition, two million subsidised food boxes will be made available each month at half their price from the Egyptian Armed Forces’ food markets. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Endowment in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Solidarity will distribute Eid Al-Adha meat throughout the year.
Earlier in July, Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait said that EGP 356 billion of the fiscal year (FY) 2022/23 budget have been allocated for social protection and subsidisidies, while another EGP 400 billion will go towards improving the conditions of public sector employees, including wages and compensations.
Out of the EGP 356 billion allocated by Egypt’s FY 2022/23 budget for social protection and subsidies, Maait said EGP 90 billion went for subsidising food commodities and bread to ensure their availability for about 71 million citizens.
Some EGP 22 billion are allocated for Takaful and Karama (‘Solidarity and Dignity’) programmes that provide aid for four million families, Maait said.