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As they throw punches, will Egypt downgrade ties with Israel over Rafah?

The disagreement between Israel and Egypt over the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip contrasts heavily with the tight security cooperation between the two countries before Oct. 7.
Egyptian army infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) are deployed near the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Israeli officials are concerned over steps Egypt has recently taken, including its intent to join South Africa's International Court of Justice case accusing Israel of genocide, and Cairo’s decision earlier this month to halt the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza as long as Israel controls the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing following Israel’s launching of its Rafah operation.

The officials do not believe the 1979 bilateral peace treaty between Egypt and Israel is at risk, but they warn that a continued deterioration of relations could harm regional security and even jeopardize Cairo's willingness to pursue its mediation efforts toward a deal for a hostage release and cease-fire with Hamas.

The Camp David treaty limits the presence of Egyptian military forces across the Sinai Peninsula. Still, after the 2011 change of regime in Egypt and the spread of ISIS-related groups in the region, Israel agreed that Egypt could expand its military presence there, including adding thousands of Egyptian soldiers and the construction of military airports. It did this without revising the text of the peace treaty. 

The stretch of land along the Egypt-Gaza border (from the triangle Israel-Egypt-Gaza border point up to the coast), nicknamed the Philadelphi Corridor, was vacated following the peace treaty with Israel to prevent the smuggling of arms and other illegal materials. The peace treaty stipulated the presence of 750 Egyptian police officers there. 

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