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Egypt outraged over Israeli takeover of Rafah crossing but shows restraint

Egypt has condemned the Israeli takeover of the Rafah border crossing and warned that it derails the efforts to reach a comprehensive truce in the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian army soldiers man an infantry fighting vehicle deployed near the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing

Egypt on Tuesday condemned the Israeli takeover of the Rafah border crossing in the Gaza Strip, amid unconfirmed media reports that the country has raised its military's level of preparedness in northern Sinai bordering Gaza ahead of a looming ground invasion in Rafah.  

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday in which it strongly condemned the Israeli operations in Rafah and subsequent takeover of the vital crossing bordering Egypt.

“This dangerous escalation threatens the lives of more than 1 million Palestinians who depend primarily on this crossing, as it is the main lifeline of the Gaza Strip, and the safe outlet for the wounded and sick to exit to receive treatment, and for the entry of humanitarian and relief aid to our Palestinian brothers in Gaza,” the statement read.

Egypt urged Israel to exercise “maximum restraint” to avoid further escalation that threatens the cease-fire efforts, the statement added.

The ministry also called on “all influential international parties to intervene, pressure against escalating the current crisis and allow diplomatic efforts to achieve their desired results.”

For its part, the Egyptian parliament said in a statement on Tuesday that it “holds all concerned parties, especially the Israeli government, fully responsible for any action that leads to a dangerous escalation and undermines the process of negotiations.”

The statement quoted parliament speaker Hanafy el-Gebaly as saying that the Egyptian side is closely following up on the latest developments in Rafah, describing the Israeli operations in Gaza as a “humanitarian nightmare.”

He further called on the international community to pressure Israel to adopt a peaceful approach that would lead to a just solution to the Palestinian cause and prevent more Palestinian deaths.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli army advanced in the eastern parts of Rafah and established “operational control” of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing as part of what it called a “counterterrorism operation to eliminate Hamas terrorists and infrastructure.”

Dozens of Palestinians were killed overnight in heavy Israeli bombardment in Rafah, according to the official WAFA news agency.

Israel has been planning a major ground invasion in Rafah despite warnings from international actors and humanitarian organizations about the humanitarian risks and the mass influx of Palestinians into Egypt’s Sinai.

Nearly 1.4 million Palestinians have been crammed into Rafah near the Egyptian border after fleeing their homes in northern and central Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7.

Egypt has previously warned that it will suspend its peace treaty with Israel in the event of a ground invasion in Rafah. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly rejected any attempts at relocating Gaza’s Palestinians to Sinai.

Egypt was the first Arab country to strike a peace agreement with Israel in 1973.

The Egyptian army had deployed dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers to northeastern Sinai in the past few months, Reuters reported last February, citing Egyptian security sources.

The Middle East Eye news outlet revealed on Monday that Egypt’s military intelligence has met with Sinai tribes in recent weeks to discuss their role in case Israel moves ahead with its planned Rafah invasion.

The outlet quoted three Sinai tribal sources and one Egyptian security source as saying that the Egyptian intelligence has instructed tribes to work with the army to prevent “any infiltration of Palestinians” toward the villages and centers of northern Sinai.

The Israeli actions in Rafah over the past 24 hours have threatened the talks mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United States to reach a cease-fire in Gaza.

Hamas said on Monday that it accepts an Egyptian-Qatari cease-fire proposal to halt the seven-month war with Israel.

Cairo is hosting on Tuesday delegations from Qatar, the United States and Hamas for talks aimed at reaching a comprehensive truce in Gaza, reported Al-Qahera News, a site linked to Egyptian intelligence services.

According to a high-ranking source who spoke to Al-Qahera News, Egypt is deploying intense efforts with the concerned parties to contain the situation in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel also dispatched a delegation to Cairo on Tuesday to discuss further details and reach a final agreement.