Two Egyptian security sources stated that Cairo has sent around 40 tanks and armoured personnel carriers to northeast Sinai in the past two weeks as part of a series of measures to enhance security along its borders with the Gaza Strip.
Forces are deployed ahead of Israel expanding its military operations to include the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, where most of the Strip’s population has fled in search of a haven, exacerbating Egypt’s fears of the possibility of Palestinians being collectively forced out of the Strip.
Israeli warplanes bombed Rafah on Friday, 9 February, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the army to prepare a plan for the evacuation of civilians in Rafah ahead of military operation.
After the outbreak of war on 7 October, Egypt erected a concrete border wall extending six meters into the ground and topped with barbed wire, as reported by Sky News Arabia. Additionally, Egypt has constructed berms and bolstered surveillance at border posts.
Sources told AP on Sunday, 11 February, that Egypt is warning of the potential suspension of its peace treaty with Israel if Israeli troops are deployed into the densely populated Gaza border town of Rafah. Additionally, Egypt asserts that any fighting in Rafah could lead to the closure of the besieged territory’s primary aid supply route.
More than half of Gaza’s population, totalling 2.3 million people, have sought refuge in Rafah to escape the ongoing conflict in other regions. They are densely packed into expansive tent camps and shelters managed by the United Nations, situated close to the border. Egypt is concerned about the potential for a massive influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who may never be permitted to return.
The standoff between Israel and Egypt occurs amidst warnings from aid organizations, which caution that any offensive in Rafah would exacerbate the already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Approximately 80 percent of the population in Gaza has been displaced from their homes, and the United Nations reports that a quarter of the population is at risk of starvation.