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16 Feb, 2024 20:29

Egypt building mysterious wall near Gaza – media

Satellite imagery has shown construction work next to the Palestinian enclave as Israel prepares to launch a ground offensive
Egypt building mysterious wall near Gaza – media

The Egyptian government has reportedly started work on a wall near the country’s border with Gaza amid fears that a planned ground offensive by the Israeli military will push up to 1.4 million war refugees currently in the border city of Rafah out of the Palestinian enclave.

The Associated Press, the New York Times and other media outlets reported the construction work on Friday, citing satellite photos showing ground being cleared and a wall being erected. Egyptian officials have refused to discuss the project’s purpose, but the reports suggested that it could be a “fortified buffer zone” to accommodate Gazans fleeing a major Israeli military operation planned in the Palestinian city.

The construction work began earlier this month, as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) started preparations for a ground assault on Rafah, Gaza’s last refuge for civilians fleeing West Jerusalem’s war with Hamas. The IDF has leveled much of the besieged enclave as it hunts for Hamas fighters, killing nearly 29,000 people, according to an estimate by local health authorities.

Cairo has insisted that Israel not force Palestinian refugees into its territory. However, with so many civilians crammed into Rafah and the Jewish state vowing to finish Hamas off, the Egyptian side is apparently preparing for the possibility of a humanitarian crisis that could jeopardize its 1979 peace agreement with Israel. Rafah has already been targeted by airstrikes in recent days, killing hundreds of people.

The New York Times, citing an unidentified contractor commissioned by the Egyptian military, reported that the five-meter (16 feet) wall will close off an area of five square kilometers in a buffer zone near Gaza’s southern border.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed on Friday that the IDF would not try to force Gazans into Egypt. “We respect and value our peace agreement with Egypt, which is a cornerstone of stability in the region as well as an important partner,” he added.

Gallant’s statement came one week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his military to make plans for both evacuating civilians from Rafah and destroying Gaza’s last Hamas stronghold. He suggested in an ABC News interview that areas cleared out by the IDF north of Rafah could be used to shelter displaced people.