February 16, 2024 | Flash Brief

Egypt Creates Buffer Zone With Gaza for Displaced Palestinians

February 16, 2024 | Flash Brief

Egypt Creates Buffer Zone With Gaza for Displaced Palestinians

Latest Developments

Cairo is building a buffer zone along the Gaza border to prevent displaced Palestinians from flooding Egypt, according to February 15 reports. The eight-square-mile enclosure will be framed by concrete walls over seven yards tall and accommodate upwards of 100,000 people. Egyptian officials said that Palestinians who enter the enclosure will have to remain there unless they can go to another country. Despite mounting humanitarian concerns, Cairo continues to reject Palestinians evacuating Gaza.

Expert Analysis

“Egypt’s efforts to prepare for the coming maneuvers in Rafah are a sign of increased communication and engagement between Jerusalem and Cairo. It is unclear what this next phase of the war will bring, but it will require both countries to handle the humanitarian challenges with care. This is a reality based upon the geographic location of Rafah, which straddles the Gaza and Egyptian border.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“Cairo concluded that it will have to allow some displaced Gazans to shelter on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border. This decision is a result of the dire conditions in Gaza and Cairo’s desire to save face internationally and boost the government’s popularity among domestic constituents sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Now, Egyptian officials are focused on minimizing by all possible means the number of displaced Palestinians they will host, either by pushing for a ceasefire or by advising Israel to be cautious with civilian casualties and provide safe corridors for relocation within Gaza — all to prevent a mass exodus into Sinai.” — Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow

Israel Prepares for Rafah Operation

Egypt is shoring up its border security as the Israeli military prepares to move into Rafah, one of Hamas’s last strongholds in the Gaza Strip. “We are completing the mission in Khan Younis, and we will also reach Rafah and we will kill every terrorist there who tries to harm us,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on February 1. Gallant’s remarks stoked fears in Cairo about the fate of more than 1 million internally displaced Gazans who are sheltering in Rafah. On February 14, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that Israel would “allow the civilian population to leave the battle zones” before undertaking “powerful action” in Rafah. Jerusalem reportedly presented Cairo with a proposal earlier this month for the construction of 15 campsites in southwestern Gaza that could house Palestinians evacuating Rafah.

Egypt Threatens Peace Treaty With Israel

Egypt has accepted only a limited number of foreign passport holders and wounded civilians from Gaza since October 7. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi said on October 12 that Egypt will not absorb displaced Gazans because “it’s important for [Gaza’s] people to stay steadfast and exist on its land.” On February 5, Cairo threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if civilians in Gaza were evacuated to Egypt ahead of Israel’s advance into Rafah. “If even one Palestinian refugee crosses over,” Egyptian officials reportedly told Israel, “the peace agreement will be nullified.”

Egypt Threatens to Suspend Peace Treaty With Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

Egypt Accepts Only Small Number of Temporarily Displaced Gazans,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Tunnels to Egypt Played Key Role in Arming Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief


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