update deskIsrael at War

Israel peace treaty at ‘high risk’ amid Rafah op, Cairo threatens

Egypt has lodged formal protests with Israel, the U.S. and European governments against the IDF operation.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the peace-treaty signing between Israel and Egypt on the White House lawn, March 26, 1979. Credit: GPO.
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the peace-treaty signing between Israel and Egypt on the White House lawn, March 26, 1979. Credit: GPO.

Egypt has again threatened to suspend its 45-year-old peace treaty with Israel if the latter further expands its offensive against Hamas in Rafah.

Cairo has lodged formal protests with Israel, the United States and European governments following the Israel Defense Forces’ invasion of eastern Rafah, which was launched last week, AP reported on Sunday.

An Egyptian official cited by the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the operation has put the peace treaty at “high risk.”

The peace agreement with Jerusalem is a “strategic choice,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told reporters later on Sunday.

Peace “has been Egypt’s strategic choice for 40 years, and it represents a main pillar of peace in the region to achieve peace and stability,” Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu quoted the diplomat as saying.

Also on Sunday, Egypt announced its intention to formally join South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Cairo said the decision was made in light of what it called the “worsening severity and scope of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and the continued perpetration of systematic practices against the Palestinian people, including direct targeting of civilians and the destruction of infrastructure in the Strip, and pushing Palestinians to flee.”

Israel’s War Cabinet on May 6 decided to “continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to promote the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war.”

Israeli troops took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt the following morning, as tanks from the IDF’s 162nd Division’s 401st Armored Brigade rolled up to the border station.

The Rafah operation, which Israel estimates will last around two months, is being carried out in phases as opposed to a full-scale invasion. The phased nature of the operation allows for it to be paused should a hostage release deal be reached between Israel and Hamas.

On Thursday, the Cabinet voted unanimously to expand the action after the IDF encircled the entire eastern sector of the Hamas stronghold in preparation for the destruction of the group’s remaining battalions.

For the past week, Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel to allow aid to pass through the Rafah Crossing, the local Alqahera News outlet reported earlier on Sunday. Egyptian President Abdel al-Fatah al-Sisi’s decision is preventing aid trucks from passing through the border.

Jerusalem wants to allow humanitarian aid for Gazan civilians through Rafah but is unable to do so without Egyptian cooperation.

Cairo has previously also warned Israel against taking military action in the buffer zone along the Gaza-Egypt border known as the Philadelphi Corridor. Video footage shared by IDF troops last week showed them raising a massive Israeli flag in the 8.7-mile-long border area.

Egyptian officials have repeatedly made clear that the country will not accept any Palestinian refugees from Gaza, declaring it a “red line.”

Egyptian security sources dismissed proposals to allow Palestinians to flee, with one saying Cairo would not allow safe corridors so as to protect “the right of Palestinians to hold on to their cause and their land.”

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