18.6 C
Los Angeles
Sunday, July 14, 2024

Egypt’s Rafah Border Crossing: A Key Element in the Israel-Hamas Conflict

The crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is the sole route for aid to enter Gaza directly from outside, as well as the only exit that does not lead into Israeli territory. It has become a focus in the intensifying conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. Since the start of the fighting, hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents have headed towards south Gaza after Israel warned them to leave Gaza City and the enclave’s north, where Israel is targeting infrastructure and threatening a widespread humanitarian catastrophe. Trucks filled with aid from NGOs and several countries are lined up in the Egyptian town of Arish, close to the crossing. But Egypt has not yet agreed to reopen it, and marathon talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s war cabinet on Monday ended without any clear announcement on a deal to allow people and supplies to pass through.

While Egypt has legitimate security concerns in the northern Sinai, where Islamist militancy has been a problem for a decade, it has kept Rafah essentially closed since the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood-linked President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 and has shown no sign of changing its policy. This is even though armed groups from both sides of the Gaza divide operate in the area.

The reluctance to reopen the crossing also exposes Cairo’s ambivalence towards Gaza refugees, who are not welcome in Egypt, unlike in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. The country does not even accept Palestinian refugee camps on its territory, allowing its population to be scattered across the region and making it difficult for decision-makers to control the movement of people in and out of the territory.

The lack of a clear plan to reopen the crossing is alarming because if it does not, the Gaza crisis will only worsen and could lead to an escalation that will further strain relations between Egypt and the West. This is not what both sides want, and the international community should pressure all parties to find a way out of the impasse. This should include the Egyptian authorities, which should consider reopening the crossing, subject to security considerations. It is possible, as they proved between 2010 and 2013, despite the activities of armed groups in the region, to ensure that the crossing remains open for both the entry and exit of civilians without granting de facto legitimacy to Hamas. Egypt needs to understand that it will lose its role as a broker of peace in the Middle East if it does not. This will have severe consequences for the regional stability it desperately needs.

Trending Now:

Recommended for "The Publishers Weekly"

Most Popular Articles