Egypt, UAE urge seizing opportunity for Gaza truce as Rafah incursion unfolds

Amr Kandil , Tuesday 7 May 2024

While the Rafah incursion is unfolding, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have called for not missing the chance to reach a weeks-long truce in Gaza that ultimately leads to a full cessation of hostilities.

Israeli airstrike
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on buildings near the separating wall between Egypt and Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. AP


The Egyptian and Emirati foreign ministers made the call late on Monday before Israeli tanks advanced in the southernmost city of Rafah overnight and took control over the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing.

The Rafah crossing is the main crossing point for the delivery of humanitarian aid hailing from Egypt and world countries and the evacuation of seriously injured Palestinians.

Israel has decided to continue its military operation in Rafah, a move that the world has warned against over the past weeks, coinciding with a Hamas approval on Monday of a ceasefire proposal put forward by Egyptian and Qatari mediators.



In a phone call, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan called for building on ongoing mediation efforts to address the exacerbated situation in Gaza, the Egyptian ministry said in a statement.

They called for refraining from endangering more lives of innocent Palestinians and reaching a truce deal that facilitates detainee exchange and halts the bloodshed for several weeks, which would lead to a full ceasefire.

The foreign ministers said they would continue contacting various parties to prevent further escalation and avoid dragging the region into a wider conflict.

Shoukry reaffirmed warnings of an Israeli military escalation in Rafah as the city is the last relatively safe area in the strip and the last refuge of more than a million Palestinians.

He added that such escalation can potentially lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe that should be avoided.

Further efforts needed

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has called on all parties to exert further efforts to reach a deal that leads to ending the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and conducting a captive-prisoner swap.

“I closely monitor the positive developments in the current negotiations to reach a comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip,” El-Sisi wrote in a social media post late on Monday.

“I call on all parties to exert more effort to reach an agreement that will end the humanitarian tragedy suffered by the Palestinian people and complete the exchange of captives and prisoners,” he added.

Proposal detailed

Deputy head of the Hamas Political Bureau Khalil Al-Hayya said the Egyptian-Qatari proposal includes a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, unconditional return of the displaced people to their areas of residence, and a prisoner swap.

The three-stage proposal, each lasting 42 days, also includes an announcement for restoring sustainable calm in Gaza in the second phase, Al-Hayya noted in his remarks to Al Jazeera on Monday.

During the proposal's first phase, plans will be put forward for reconstructing Gaza under the supervision of Egypt, Qatar, and United Nations organizations, Al-Hayya said.

He added that reconstruction will start during the third phase of the proposal after garnering the required funding.

Captives will be released over three phases, freeing civilians, Israeli female soldiers, children under 19, elderly over 50, and patients. For every Israeli female soldier, Israel will release 50 Palestinian captives, including 30 of those serving life in prison and 20 with long prison sentences.

Hamas, under the proposal, will provide a list of prisoners' names to be released from Israeli prisons, added Al-Hayya.

Head of the Political Bureau of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh informed the movement’s approval of the proposal in phone calls to the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

Talks future

A delegation from Qatar is scheduled to travel to Cairo on Tuesday to resume the ceasefire talks, Majed Al-Ansari, spokesman of the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced.

Israel has rejected the ceasefire proposal put forward by Egypt and Qatar and accepted by Hamas, saying it is “far from meeting Israel’s requirements.”

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced plans to send negotiators to examine the possibility of reaching a deal that conforms to conditions acceptable to Israel.

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said the US will review Hamas' response to the proposal with Egypt and Qatar and discuss it with Israel.

Humanitarian crisis

The Israeli invasion comes amid a worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, especially Rafah which houses more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population.

Israel ordered on Monday 100,000 Palestinians to leave the eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah ahead of the planned operation.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said it will not participate in the involuntary evacuations.

After Hamas approved the truce proposal, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for Israel and Hamas on Monday to agree to a ceasefire.

“This is an opportunity that cannot be missed,” the UN chief stressed.

“A ground invasion in Rafah would be intolerable because of its devastating humanitarian consequences and because of its destabilizing impact in the region,” he added.

Since the war began on 7 October, Israeli forces have killed over 34,700 people, injured more than 78,100, caused extensive damage to Gaza's infrastructure, and displaced most of the strip's residents.

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