Egypt warns of downgrading ties with Israel if it proceeds with Rafah offensive: Al-Arabiya

Ahram Online , Monday 12 Feb 2024

Egypt has warned Israel that it will “review and downgrade the diplomatic relations” in case Tel Aviv moves forward with its plan – announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – to storm the border town of Rafah, Saudi TV channel Al-Arabiya reported citing unnamed sources.

A picture taken from a position from a position in southern Israel along the border with Gaza shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024. AFP


Cairo has already decided to limit communications with Israel to the security level only to pursue negotiations on the much-needed truce and detainee swap deal, while freezing any governmental communications with the Israel side, according to the sources.

The sources asserted that the Egyptian side is angered by circulating Israeli reports that Cairo has approved the beginning of a military operation in Rafah, a step which Egypt, along with several countries, has repeatedly warned against.

The sources also said that Egypt has informed the Israeli side that “any change in the status of the Salah al-Din Axis (Philadelphi corridor) is completely rejected.”

The Philadelphi corridor – which divides the city of Rafah into two; an Egyptian side and a Palestinian side – is a buffer zone on the Egypt-Gaza border guaranteed by the 1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty. Egyptian security forces have patrolled the 14-kilometre-long and 100-metre-wide route after Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.

In one of his controversial remarks, Netanyahu said in late December that the narrow route “has to be in our hands.

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

Israel has already launched intense air strikes Sunday night targeting densely crowded Rafah, killing over 100 Palestinians, including children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

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.

Egypt has also stressed to Israel that it “will never allow the policy of forced displacement of Palestinians out their lands,” Al-Arabiya’s sources noted, as Israel has forced most of the Gaza population to flee its brazen strikes toward the border city of Rafah.

Egypt views the deportation of Palestinians as a non-negotiable red line. The country has repeatedly warned that such a step would lead to the liquidation of the decades-old Palestinian cause.

According to media reports, Egypt has recently deployed over 40 tanks to enhance border security in Rafah.

On Sunday, sources told AP that Egypt has threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if the Israeli offensive in Gaza expands into Rafah.

An official statement by Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs read on Sunday that the country completely rejects the statements made by high-ranking officials in the Israeli government regarding the intention of Israeli forces to launch a military operation in Rafah

Short link: