Egypt threatens to suspend peace treaty if Israeli offensive expands into Rafah: AP

Ahram Online , Sunday 11 Feb 2024

Egypt has threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if Israeli offensive in Gaza expands into the densely populated Gaza border town of Rafah, two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat told AP on Sunday.

GAZA
A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 11, 2024. AFP

 

Egypt says fighting in the border town could force the closure of the territory's main aid supply route, according to the officials.

AP said the three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters on the sensitive negotiations.

The threat to suspend the 1978 Camp David Accords came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said sending troops into Rafah was necessary to win the four-month-old war against the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

More than half of Gaza's 2.3 million population have sought refuge in Rafah to escape the conflict in other regions.

Warnings of serious repercussions from several other countries and international parties – including the US, the EU, the UN, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other global aid groups – over the Rafah offensive mounted due to Netanyahu’s remarks about his country’s intentions.

Israel has killed over 28,000 Palestinians, most of whom were women and children, since the start of its brazen war against Gaza. The planned offensive jeopardizes the lives of tens of thousands currently crammed in crowded UN-operated tent camps and shelters near the border.

Southern Gaza’s city of Rafah is now the last refuge for Palestinians. Less than 300,000 people typically inhabit the city, but now – due to Israeli airstrikes and ground offensive in other parts of central and northern Gaza – it accommodates an additional 1.4 million individuals.

In January, Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt's State Information Service, called on the Israeli side to show respect for the peace treaty and to refrain from making statements that would strain bilateral relations. This was in response to Netanyahu’s claims regarding weapon smuggling into Gaza from Egypt.

Egypt, along with Qatar, is exerting efforts to push for a ceasefire in the war-torn strip that could also secure the release of Israeli captives held by Hamas in Gaza and Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails.

On Thursday, Cairo hosted the latest round of Egyptian- and Qatari-mediated talks, with the attendance of a Hamas delegation, according to media reports.

Egypt has urged all parties to have flexibility. Israel, however, has refused most of Hamas’ demands regarding the latest ceasefire and detainee swap proposal — a framework thrashed out in a Paris meeting in late January.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Egypt has warned Hamas that if it does not reach an agreement with Israel within two weeks, Israel will proceed with its ground invasion into Rafah.

CIA Director Bill Burns is expected to land in Cairo on Tuesday to talk with Egyptian officials in a bid to push negotiations around a new Gaza ceasefire deal, according to an Axios report.

Israel to dispatch high-level delegation for hostage talks in Cairo. The team will be led by Mossad Director Dedi Barnea, Shin Bet Head Ronen Bar, and retired Major General Nitzan Alon, according to the Jerusalem Post.

They are set to meet Burns, Egyptian General Intelligence Service Chief Abbas Kamel, and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to deliberate on efforts to secure the detainees' release, as informed by two high-ranking Israelis.

According to senior Israeli figures, speaking to Jerusalem Post, ongoing discussions with Egypt and Qatar are focused on a captive swap deal, "with a critical deadline set for the coming Tuesday."

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