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Senior Israeli officials lead effort to calm Egyptian concerns amid warnings against Rafah operation

Egypt reinforces border security, deploys 40 tanks near Gaza Strip

Palestinians at the site of a destroyed house from an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Feb. 11, 2024. (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israeli security officials have been speaking with their Egyptian counterparts “around the clock” in an ongoing effort to assuage their concerns regarding Israel’s plans to advance on the town of Rafah, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported on Sunday.

Egypt has repeatedly warned Israel against an operation in Rafah, the southernmost town in the Gaza Strip lying on the border with Egypt, which is reportedly Hamas' last remaining stronghold in the coastal enclave.

Senior officials from the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad, the domestic intelligence service Shin Bet, and the Israel Defense Forces redoubled their efforts to reach out to Egyptian security officials after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that an operation in Rafah was necessary to win the war.

Israeli officials assured Egypt that no unilateral moves would be made without prior coordination with Cairo, the report added.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Sunday doubled down on its criticism of the Israeli plans to advance on Rafah and warned “of the consequences of these measures, especially due to the dangers of worsening the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.”

“Egypt completely rejects the statements of high-ranking officials in the Israeli government regarding the intention of the Israeli forces to conduct a military operation in the city of Rafah,” the statement read.

In addition to its humanitarian concerns, Cairo also worries that an Israeli advance on Rafah could cause a mass of refugees to storm its border and seek refuge in Egyptian territory.

An influx of Hamas-affiliated Palestinian refugees may reportedly cause domestic danger to the regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

To prevent this, Egypt has ramped up its security measures at the border, reinforcing its troops with about 40 tanks and armored personnel carriers to northeastern Sinai over the past two weeks, the Times of Israel (TOI) reported.

In addition to the existing border fortifications, since Oct. 7, Egypt has constructed berms, another concrete wall reaching six meters into the ground and topped with barbed wire and increased surveillance, according to the TOI.

Egyptian officials estimate that Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip will begin operating in the town of Rafah in about two weeks if a hostage release deal is not reached before then, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

When Egypt warned Hamas leaders about the Israeli intentions, the terror group’s officials reportedly insisted on their existing demands, rejected the “Israeli threats” and said they were prepared to defend Rafah.

In light of the worsening relations between the countries and the reinforcement of Egyptian troops at the border, Israeli experts have been warning of the far-reaching consequences if the current Israel-Egypt peace agreement comes to an end.

“Although it’s a poor country, it’s the strongest army in the Middle East today - 4,000 tanks, 2,000 modern ones, hundreds of the most advanced aircraft, and a navy of the best there is,” said retired IDF Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Brik in an interview with 103 FM Radio over the weekend.

“For years, they’ve been building highways into Sinai. We’re the target. They’re not building the army for anywhere else. This means one decision to cancel peace, they become an enemy state, and we don't even have a brigade to stand against it,” Brik added.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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