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Gaza war: Egypt denies refugee plan, warns against displacement of Palestinians

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, centre, speaks with his Cypriot counterpart on Feb. 8, 2024.   -  
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Petros Karadjias/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Munich Security Conference

As an Israeli assault on the southern Palestinian city of Rafah looms, Egypt's foreign minister was asked if his country was drawing up a contingency plan in case of an influx of Palestinian refugees.

Egypt's Sinai Peninsula border the city of Rafah.

Speaking at a panel of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday (Feb. 18), minister Sameh Shoukry denied such a plan.

“No, we’re not. We will not deal with the hypothetical. And we will continue to call upon all our friends, all of those who understand the complexities and the dangers associated with it, to not only provide support by rhetoric but to indicate clearly that there will be consequences for any form of displacement.”

Asked about reports of bulldozers and tanks on the border and walls being built in preparation for an influx: “This is very hypothetical. We have constantly been dealing with maintenance on our border … maintaining the road networks there, usual maintenance to our border fortifications. So I think it is a jumping to conclusions what those activities constitute.”

Israel's military offensive first targeted the north of the Gaza Strip forcing over a million Palestinians to flee south. The operation has since expanded, and the next stage appears to be Rafah.

Israel said it would work to develop a plan to evacuate civilians in Rafah. It is yet to make it public.

The government has not publicly discussed a timeline for a ground offensive on Rafah. More than half the enclave’s 2.3 million Palestinians have sought refuge in the southern city.

Humanitarian crisis

Egypt has repeatedly warned against the force displacement of Palestinian civilians. Five months into the war, Sameh Shoukry reiterated Cairo's stance: “It is not our intention to provide any safe areas or facilities, but necessarily if this was a case in a situation, we will deal with the humanity that is necessary and we will provide the support to the innocent civilians if that was to take place. But that should not be construed as an encouragement or an acceptance for an eventuality of this nature."

Over 28,000 Palestinians mostly women and children have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

On Saturday, nearly 2,000 people marched through the streets of Jabaliya, in the largest refugee camp in Gaza, asking for food and medicine.

Gaza has been under an Israeli siege for 4 months.

According to OCHA, since the start of 2024, humanitarian partners have planned 77 missions to deliver aid and undertake assessments to areas to the north of Wadi Gaza. Of those, only 12 were facilitated by Israeli authorities, with partial humanitarian objectives met for another three.

An interim ruling in January by the International Court of Justice ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

"I am deeply concerned by the reported bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in Rafah," the ICC chief prosecutor said on February 12.

"My Office has an ongoing and active investigation into the situation in the State of Palestine. This is being taken forward as a matter of the utmost urgency, with a view to bringing to justice those responsible for Rome Statute crimes. All wars have rules and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted so as to render them hollow or devoid of meaning," Karim Khan said.