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Israel-Palestine war: Why Egypt is in dilemma

After about a 24-hour journey in the desert with no food or water from Khartoum to Egypt’s border, 7,000 Nigerians and other nationals fleeing the…

After about a 24-hour journey in the desert with no food or water from Khartoum to Egypt’s border, 7,000 Nigerians and other nationals fleeing the conflict in Sudan got stuck for six days at Egypt’s border before they were allowed into the country for lack of visa.

Many Nigerians were outraged and could not comprehend why another African country could not make exceptions for other Africans fleeing conflict by giving them a safe corridor through their border.

After interventions by the Nigerian government, the evacuees were finally allowed to transit on the condition that only the number of available seats in the aircraft would be allowed to move to Aswan airport for airlifting.

As a top national security priority, Egypt jealously guards its borders against neighbouring Sudan, Libya and Gaza, who are all in armed.  When the recent cycle of violence between Israel and Palestine began, Egypt was swift to reject the call by US-Israel for Palestinian civilians caught up in the conflict to flee South towards the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said, “The displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt means that the same displacement will take place for Palestinians from the West Bank into Jordan.

“Subsequently, the Palestinian state we are talking about and the world is talking about will become impossible to implement because the land is there but the people are not. Therefore, I warn of the danger of this matter,” El Sisi warned.

While his statement could be interpreted to mean Egypt’s solidarity to the self determination cause of the Palestinians, other underlying factors have been pointed to, for the position of Egypt in the Israel-Palestine war.

Observers said although Egypt identified with the Palestinian cause and collaborates with Hamas in its fight against terrorist in northern Sinai, it is more at home with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) governing the West Bank than Hamas in the Gaza strip.

Egypt is also wary of possible influx of armed fighters into its border, which could lead to political instability in the country and war with Israel.

Egypt’s role in Israel-Palestine war ambivalent – Haruna Warkani

Speaking on Trust TV’s Africa Update, a documentalist and commentator on international diplomacy, Haruna Warkani, described Egypt’s intervention in Israel-Palestine war as ambivalent.

“Egypt has shown clearly that it is neither here nor there in this crisis, and this can be historically traced to the fact that Egypt recognised that Hamas as a movement or body is home to the Muslim brotherhood.

“The last president (Mohamed Morsi) had to be removed because as soon as he got into office or power, you could see that Egypt was tilting towards an Islamic state and the country found it very difficult to accept, so there was crisis in the country for quite some time until the government of Mohamed Morsi was removed and replaced by the current president, General Abdel El-Sisi.

“You could see that the Egyptians share common identity of ethnicity (Arabs) and religion as Islam, However, recently, Egypt officially declined to accept fleeing Palestinians for fear that the more Palestinians they had across the border into Egypt the more trouble there maybe for the country in the nearest or farthest future.

“You can see that the country is officially declaring that they support Hamas. Yes, they identify with their Muslim brothers, they also identify with their Arab brothers. However, unofficially and behind the scenes, they do not accept the ideology of Hamas. So you can see that this can be summarised in the word, ambivalent,” Haruna explained.

The documentalist further expatiated, “Egypt is conscious of the common border crossing at Rafah. If you open the border freely, it means that thousands of Palestinians would find themselves across the Sinai Peninsula, which will create problem for Egypt. They are going to create a new refugee camp that would be larger than Jenin and all the refugee camps in Palestine. So, over time, it might be difficult to manage such people

“Egypt almost signed what is called the Abraham Accords with Israel to normalise their relationship. Egypt is saying it is finally recognising Israel as a state that has the right to exist. But now, Hamas has declared that Israel has no right to exist, so you have a diametrically opposed position of the two countries.”

Egypt, among other Arab countries, has a history of conflict with Israel. First with the 1948 civil war against the creation of the state of Israel, then 1956 (Suez Crisis), 1967 (Six-day war), and 1973 (Yom Kippur war).

It was following the Yom Kippur war in 1973 that Egypt and Israel signed the Abraham Accords normalising relations between both countries.

With the signing of the Camp David accords in 1978, Egypt recognised Israel’s right to exist. The two countries subsequently established normal diplomatic relations.

Egypt’s actions face saving attempt towards possible escalation in Middle East – Tukur Abdulkadir

Also speaking on Trust TV’s Africa Update, Dr Tukur Abdulkadir, a lecturer in the Department of International Relations, Kaduna State University, said Egypt’s actions with regard to the Israel-Palestine war is a “face-saving device.”

Acknowledging Egypt’s role in brokering peace in previous cycles of violence, he criticised the General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi-led government for being at the beck and call of the United States.

“Egypt, to me, is the fit man of the Arab world. It is the most powerful. Militarily speaking, it is the most powerful Arab country, the most populous, yet just some few kilometres metres away from Egypt, genocide is being carried out against their brothers and sisters. I am not surprised.

“Egypt is governed by an authoritarian, dictatorial, military ruler acting as a democrat. We should remember that in 2013, the military staged a coup against a democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood; and Egypt is the second largest recipient of American aid after Israel.

“We should also remember other Arabs that are against the emergence of popular groups like Hamas are also working hand in gloves with Egypt, Israel and the United States. So, probably they are trying to save their face, and maybe General El-Sisi is trying to save his face and he is also concerned about the possible outburst that may likely erupt anytime soon in the Arab world.

“I think they are trying to survive the possible conflagration that may envelop the whole of the Arab world if the ongoing genocide continues, just for them to save their neck. it is a face-saving device,” Tukur said.

Speaking on Hamas link to the Islamic Brotherhood, the Academician recalls that “Hamas in 2017 issued a new political document that did not make reference to its organisation or any ideological linkage to the Muslim Brotherhood that should be understood.

“More so, the entire leadership of the Palestinians, whether Islamic Jihad, Fatah or the popular front for the liberation of Palestinians, whether Hamas, all of them are united that they would not move an inch from the Gaza Strip. Whether or not Egypt has accepted to open the Rafah crossing, I think they only go there to seek medical assistance and foreign nationals.

“The Palestinians are willing and desirous of staying either to survive or to all perish, rather than to become refugees again.

“Egypt is trying to appease the overwhelming majority of the people, who have nothing to do with any form of peace accord with Israel. If we are talking about Egypt’s recognition of Israel, we are only referring to the secular military elite and other corrupt leaders who have been at the beck and call of the United States since 1981. They are the ones that have recognised the existence of Israel.”

In his rejection to receiving Palestinian refugees, President El-Sisi has said that the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai Peninsula could drag Egypt into war with Israel.

El-Sisi said millions of Egyptians were ready to demonstrate in rejection of displacing the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, describing Israel’s attack on Gaza as “not an act against Hamas, but rather to push the population to leave.

“If the Palestinians should be displaced, why not transfer them to the Negev until the end of the war?” He suggested.

Egypt suspends evacuation of foreign nationals Injured at Rafah

In the meantime, evacuations of injured Gazans and foreign passport holders through the Rafah crossing to Egypt has been suspended, but Egyptian, US and Qatari officials said there were efforts to resume.

The evacuation was suspended after an Israeli strike on an ambulance in Gaza being used to transport injured people, Egyptian official sources said. The Israeli military said that without showing evidence, the vehicle was carrying Hamas militants.

Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had announced plans to help evacuate 7,000 foreign nationals through the Rafah Crossing from Gaza.

At least 800 nationals have been evacuated alongside an unspecified number of those injured.

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