Egypt builds wall in possible bid to stop migrants after warning Israel Rafah offensive

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Egypt is building its own border wall with Gaza as officials in the Arab country fear a possible influx of Palestinian refugees if Israel proceeds with its plans for a ground offensive in the southern border city of Rafah, satellite images revealed this week.

The images taken on Thursday show cranes, trucks and precast concrete barriers being set up along the Sheikh Zuweid-Rafah Road — spanning across the entire Egyptian-Rafah border.

An engineer and a contractor said they were commissioned to build a 16-foot wall from the Egyptian Army along about three square miles, and started work on the wall on Wednesday, they told the New York Times.

Egypt is building a wall and is leveling land near its border with the Gaza Strip ahead of a planned Israeli offensive targeting the border city of Rafah, satellite images show. Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies/AFP via Getty Images

The construction is “intended to create a high-security gated and isolated area near the borders with the Gaza Strip, in preparation for the reception of Palestinian refugees in the case of [a] mass exodus,” the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights posted on X.

Other satellite imagery showed land nearby being cleared between Feb. 4 and Feb. 14, for what is believed to be an 8 square-mile walled enclosure in the Sinai Desert, according to the Wall Street Journal.

More than 100,000 refugees could be accommodated in the camp, which would be surrounded by concrete walls and located far from any Egyptian towns, unidentified officials and security analysts told the Journal.

But the officials would like to limit the capacity to just 50,000 or 60,000, as Egyptian officials continue to worry about security risks from the potential refugees.

Anyone allowed in the enclosed area would not be allowed to leave unless they are departing for another country, the Journal reports.

Egypt repeatedly has warned Israel not to forcibly expel the over 1 million Palestinians displaced in Rafah across the border, according to reports. via REUTERS

The construction seems to be the Egyptian government’s latest effort to keep Palestinians from crossing the border.

One Gazan official in Rafah has estimated there are more than 100,000 displaced Palestinians staying in encampments at the Egyptian border, and one Palestinian woman, Fatima Majdi Hamouda told the Journal that if the bombing in Rafah intensifies “they will go directly to Sinai.”

To prevent them from entering the country, Egyptian officials have spent weeks boosting its security presence at the border with Gaza — deploying more troops and machinery, and fortifying checkpoints with more soldiers, according to CNN.

The main road is also being prepared for the deployment of tanks and military machinery, a witness told the news station.

It has also warned of “grave consequences” of an Israeli military operation in Rafah, potentially threatening the end to Egypt’s longstanding peace deal with the Jewish nation.

Officials have also called on Israel to refrain from “taking measures that would further complicate the situation and would harm the interests of everyone involved, without exception.”

The images show cranes, trucks, and what appear to be precast concrete barriers being set up along the road. via REUTERS

But Israeli officials have insisted that civilians who are forced to leave their homes in Gaza will be allowed back, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured the US it would create a safe corridor to allow the Palestinians in Rafah to move north.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, also suggested at a Munich security conference that the Palestinians in Rafah could go to Khan Younis once it has been cleared of Hamas terrorists, according to the Guardian.

He also insisted the Israeli government would work with its Egyptian counterparts before any siege of Rafah — where they say the last of the Hamas terrorist network may be hiding out.

“We will deal with Rafah after we speak with Egypt about it,” he said.

“We’ll coordinate it, we have a peace accord with them and we will find a place which will not harm the Egyptians. 

“We will coordinate everything and not harm their interests.”

In the meantime, experts say it was a strategic decision for Egypt to secure the border and build a walled city for possible refugees.

Homes and farmland in the area previously had been razed during Egypt’s war on an affiliate of the Islamic State group in the area. Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Technologies/AFP via Getty Images

By doing so, the Arab country could agree to accept a limited number of Palestinian refugees in return for financial or other incentives, according to Mohannad Sabry, an Egyptian security analyst.

“It’s a multi-pronged effort from Egypt to counter any scenarios that is not according to its accepted conditions,” he told the Journal.

“Even if the Israelis push a million and a half people to spill over the border, Egypt can throw the ball back into Israel’s lap by simply limiting the movement of Palestinians further in.”

But so far, Egyptian officials have denied they are constructing any border walls.

The governor of the North Sinai region on Thursday said the construction was simply part of an effort to take an inventory of houses that were destroyed during Egypt’s past military campaign against the Islamic State.

Still, he told Saudi-owned TV news channel Al Arabiya: “Egypt is prepared for all scenarios in the event that Israel carries out military operations in the Palestinian border governate.”

With Post wires.

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Egypt builds wall in possible bid to stop migrants after warning Israel Rafah offensive

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