Egypt denies approving plans to join Arab task force in postwar Gaza

Amr Kandil , Wednesday 19 Jun 2024

Egypt refuted claims that it has approved the deployment of forces to Gaza as part of an alleged joint Arab task force under the United Nations, which would follow the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation troops from the Palestinian strip.

Sultan neighbourhood
Smoke plumes billow during ongoing battles in the Sultan neighbourhood in the northwest of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June, 2024. AFP


A high-level source denied on Wednesday news reports that Egypt has agreed to join this task force, which would manage the Gaza border crossings, Al Qahera News TV reported.

A report by Qatari-owned Al Araby Al Jadeed newspaper, highlighted by Israeli media, claimed that Cairo is willing to deploy Egyptian forces in Gaza temporarily after a full withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces.

The report, citing Egyptian sources, claimed that Arab forces, including those from Egypt, would be sent to Gaza after the cessation of the ongoing Israeli war. 

These forces would secure Gaza's border crossings, including the crucial Rafah crossing with Egypt, until a Palestinian administration is established in the territory, according to the report.

This Arabic presence was allegedly discussed during a meeting reportedly convened by US Central Command Commander Michael Kurilla, Israel's army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, and several Arab militaries last week, according to the report.

Axios reported that the alleged meeting gathered generals from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, UAE, and Egypt.

The American news website asserted that the meeting has not been publicly disclosed “because of the regional political sensitivities around the war in Gaza.”

In mid-May, the 33rd Arab Summit in Bahrain called for deploying international protection and peacekeeping forces under the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territory until the two-state solution is implemented.

The United Nations has continued to consider Gaza as part of the occupied Palestinian territory despite Israel's disengagement of its army and settlers from the strip in 2005.

Biden’s offer

Egypt, the United States, and Qatar have been working to end the war in Gaza for nearly nine months by encouraging Israel and Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan outlined by President Joe Biden late in May.

The proposed three-phase deal includes “an immediate and full” ceasefire in Gaza in the first six-week phase and “upon agreement of the parties a permanent end to hostilities” in the second phase.

Through these two phases, Israeli forces would gradually fully withdraw from Gaza and humanitarian aid entering the strip would dramatically surge, according to a White House speech by Biden.

Meanwhile, the third phase focuses on a mega-reconstruction process in Gaza.

“The United States will now work with the mediators, specifically Egypt and Qatar, to bridge final gaps consistent with the President’s May 31st speech and with the contents of the UN Security Council resolution,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last week.

Despite the huge PR push, Biden's plan is at a stalemate.

Worsening situation

Calls for a ceasefire have intensified as the humanitarian situation has drastically worsened in Gaza over the past eight months. UN officials predict that the strip is only a few steps away from famine.

An ongoing Israeli attack on Rafah in southern Gaza since 7 May has blocked life-saving aid through the Rafah border crossing, further adding to the humanitarian tragedy of Palestinians besieged there.

Egypt has insisted that it will only coordinate with Palestinian authorities over the crossing and blamed Israel for the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the urgent need for reopening the Rafah crossing to ensure vital humanitarian assistance.

A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) late in May disclosed that aid entering Gaza has dropped by 67 percent since the Israeli invasion of Rafah.

Late in May, Egypt started redirecting Gaza-bound humanitarian aid trucks temporarily from the Rafah crossing to the Karm Abu Salem crossing following an agreement between Egyptian and US presidents.

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