Egypt Threatens to Suspend Peace Treaty with Israel over Potential Invasion of Rafah
Egypt has issued a warning to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if Israeli troops are sent into the densely populated Gaza border town of Rafah. The Egyptian government also stated that fighting in Rafah could lead to the closure of the territory’s main aid supply route. This threat comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that sending troops into Rafah is necessary to win the ongoing war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The potential invasion of Rafah has raised concerns among aid groups, who warn that it would worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza. Over 80% of Gaza’s residents have fled their homes, and a quarter of the population is facing starvation, according to the United Nations. Additionally, more than half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge in Rafah, where they are living in sprawling tent camps and UN-run shelters near the border. Egypt fears that a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees may never be allowed to return.
Netanyahu suggested that civilians in Rafah could flee north, as there are “plenty of areas” that have been cleared by the Israeli army. However, an offensive in Rafah would cause widespread destruction and potentially force the closure of its crossing, cutting off one of the only avenues for delivering much-needed food and medical supplies.
Egypt’s threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly half a century, highlights the seriousness of the situation. The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed in the late 1970s after years of conflict. It includes provisions governing the deployment of forces on both sides of the border. Egypt has heavily fortified its border with Gaza, creating a buffer zone and erecting concrete walls to prevent smuggling tunnels. Egyptian officials fear that if the border is breached, they would be unable to stop a tide of people fleeing into the Sinai Peninsula.
The potential invasion of Rafah has also drawn warnings from other countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who have stated that there will be severe repercussions if Israel proceeds with its plans. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote that an Israeli offensive on Rafah would lead to an “unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe” and grave tensions with Egypt.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian toll continues to mount. Airstrikes on Rafah in recent days have killed dozens of Palestinians, including women and children. The Gaza Health Ministry reported that in the past 24 hours alone, 112 people have been killed across the territory, bringing the death toll to 28,176 since the start of the war. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and fighters but notes that most of those killed were women and children.
The war between Israel and Hamas began in October, with Hamas launching an attack into southern Israel. Since then, the conflict has resulted in the deaths of over 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the abduction of around 250 individuals. While over 100 hostages were released in November during a ceasefire, Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and an end to Israel’s offensive before releasing any more captives. Netanyahu has firmly rejected these demands, vowing to fight until “total victory” and the return of all captives.
The situation in Rafah remains tense as Egypt and other countries warn against an Israeli invasion. The potential consequences of such an offensive are dire, with a further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and strained relations between Egypt and Israel. The international community continues to call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict and an end to the suffering of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.