Israel fears relations with Egypt could collapse over Rafah

Senior Israeli officials are voicing their fears of a deterioration in relations with Egypt [Getty]

Senior Israeli officials are increasingly concerned about deteriorating relations with Egypt over their ground invasion of Rafah, as humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip remains blocked due to anger at the Israeli seizure of a border crossing there.

Senior Israeli officials warned that Egypt might withdraw from the Israel-Hamas mediation talks, aimed at securing a hostage-release agreement, Haaretz reported on Wednesday, after the raising of the Israeli flag by soldiers on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing.

The growing diplomatic spat between the two countries escalated after Israel pushed ahead with its ground invasion of Rafah on 7 May despite pleas from Egypt, the US, and others to not invade the border city where around 1.4 million Palestinians from elsewhere in Gaza have been sheltering.

The Israeli move has made it difficult for Egypt to continue operating the crossing without facing accusations that it is collaborating with the Israeli operation, a highly sensitive issue in the country.

If the crisis continues, security and intelligence cooperation between the two sides could be negatively impacted, officials warned.

“The situation with Egypt is now at its worst since the start of the war,” one Israeli government source told the Israeli newspaper.

Another explained that while Cairo was initially understanding of  Israel’s aim of militarily dismantling Hamas after October 7, the invasion of Rafah changed things.

“Since the start of the (military) operation in Rafah, there has been a shift in the Egyptians’ stance towards Israel,” the source said.

“They want to annoy us, to force an end to the war on us. And this hasn’t happened before – not even in our previous operations in Gaza.”

Israel has accused Egypt of exploiting the issue of relief entry into Gaza to put pressure on Tel Aviv.

“We realise why this has caused them this public relations problem. But their reaction – stopping the passage of humanitarian relief almost totally – is completely over the top,” one official said.

On Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted: “The key to preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is now in the hands of our Egyptian friends”.

Egyptian officials insist that the passage of aid will only be possible if the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing is under Palestinian control.

Egyptian pressure has reportedly prompted Israel to consider the possibility of involving the Palestinian Authority (PA) in administering the crossing, but such a move would face sharp criticism from the far-right parties in the Israeli government.

This article is based on an article which appeared in our Arabic edition by Nayef Zidani on 15 May 2024. To read the original article click here.

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