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Egypt Building Walled Enclosure for Palestinians Fleeing Gaza, Photos Suggest

Egypt is building a walled enclosure for Palestinians fleeing from Gaza.
Egypt is building a walled enclosure for Palestinians fleeing from Gaza. Credit: Gigi Ibrahim. CC BY 2.0/flickr

A monitoring group in Egypt has released evidence of construction work taking place in Rafah on the border with Gaza that may be intended to house Palestinians fleeing from the potential Israeli assault on the city.

Photos and videos released by the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR), a monitoring group, have captured workers operating heavy machinery and erecting concrete walls and security towers along the border with Gaza near the Rafah crossing.

The videos, dated February 15th, don’t appear to show the Egyptian authorities installing water or other infrastructure, and satellite images published by Planet Labs on the same day show cleared strips of land close to the Gaza border.

The human rights group said on social media that the videos showed efforts to “establish an isolated area surrounded by walls on the border with the Gaza Strip, with the aim of receiving refugees in the event of a mass exodus.”

It is estimated by the UN that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza since Hamas’s October 7th attacks has displaced around 1.7 million Palestinians in the enclave with the majority of them forced south in recent weeks. There are more than half a million in Egypt’s Rafah increasing the city’s pre-war population of 280,000.

Egypt’s concerns about Palestinians fleeing Gaza

Egypt’s officials have, on several occasions, shared concerns that Israel’s invasion could push millions of Palestinians to flee across the border and into the Sinai, further highlighting that those displaced may never be able to return. The north African country has stood firmly in opposition to the notion suggested by Israeli ministers and others that Palestinians could flee to northern Sinai. President Abdel Fatah-al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt rejected what they have termed “the forced displacement of Palestinians from their land.”

In a call Thursday, US President Joe Biden cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against proceeding with a military operation in Rafah in the absence of a “credible and executable plan” to protect civilians, as reported by The Guardian. However, Netanyahu said on Friday he rejects “international dictates” on a long-term resolution of his country’s conflict with the Palestinians.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz said there were no plans to deport Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and added that Israel would coordinate with Egypt in its plans for hundreds of thousands of refugees in the city of Rafah.

When questioned as to where the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would go, Katz said that once Gaza’s second city, Khan Younis, had been rid of Hamas fighters, they could go back there or to the west of the enclave.

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