Egypt’s foreign ministry said that the country’s border with Gaza at Rafah remains open, despite media reports claiming the border was closed with exceptions for humanitarian or aid transfers.
“Since Israeli attacks commenced, Egypt has been adamant in keeping the Rafah crossing open continuously and exceptionally to allow for the passage of people and humanitarian aid convoys and to receive the wounded,” said the ministry in a statement, Ahram Online reported on Sunday.
Some 7,500 people, as well as over 1,200 tons of medical aid and food, have passed through the Rafah crossing, it said, adding that accusations that Egypt was keeping the border closed are “in complete contradiction to facts on the ground.”
In fact, the ministry said, it is Israel that continues its “inhumane” blockade on Gaza. The ministry demanded the blockade be lifted.
“Egypt is continuing its efforts and its permanent attempts to stop the bloodletting of innocents from the Palestinian people and giving its utmost support for them to achieve their legitimate aspirations,” said the statement.
Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and is a fellow at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs as well as a contributor to The Jerusalem Post, said that this effort by Egypt is no more than an effort to satisfy Arab and international public opinion by accusing Israel of aggression toward the Palestinians.
“It is a kind of reaction to what is being said in Israel and in the international and Arab media that Egypt sides with Israel against Hamas,” Mazel said.
Egypt perceives Hamas-ruled Gaza as a threat to its security, and a logistical base for jihadi terrorism in Sinai where it has around 15,000 soldiers stationed, he said.
The Egyptian media has paid scant attention to the Gaza conflict on the whole and has instead been focusing on domestic and economic issues – such as the initiation of digging of the new Suez canal and the building of industrial and touristic zones between it and the old Suez canal – Mazel said.
“This is an investment of many billions of dollars that is supposed to employ 1 million people and boost development in Sinai,” he said, adding that “to secure the economic development of Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi needs to neutralize terrorism from Gaza and Sinai.”
The Rafah passage has been open on-and-off for humanitarian cases, transferring medical equipment and students.
But, Mazel said, “Egypt cannot open it for a free passage for men and merchandise because it is a security hazard.”