Tent city: Egypt plans buffer zone: space for 100,000 Palestinians

Tent city
Egypt plans buffer zone: space for 100,000 Palestinians

Palestinians displaced within the Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt. photo

© Mohammed Talatene/dpa

Israel’s planned military offensive in Rafah is met with growing international criticism. Egypt fears an onslaught of Palestinians. In this case, it is apparently planning a reception camp in the desert.

Before a planned Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza Strip Egypt will set up a buffer zone near its border with the territory to accommodate up to 100,000 Palestinians. A wall would be built around the area in order to maintain control over Palestinian refugees if necessary, the German Press Agency learned from Egyptian security circles on Thursday. Work began about two months ago to accommodate refugees there in buildings and tents. There was initially no official confirmation of this.

Since the start of the Gaza war four months ago, the government in Cairo has been worried that the fighting could cause masses of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to flow across the border. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has described this scenario as a “red line”. According to him, large numbers of refugees would pose a security risk to Egypt and undermine Palestinian aspirations for their own state. Egypt is in a serious economic crisis and has taken in many refugees from Sudan, for example.

Israel’s Defense Minister Joav Galant emphasized on Friday that his country has no intention of bringing Palestinian civilians to Egypt. “We respect and value our peace agreement with Egypt.” The neighboring country is “a cornerstone of stability in the region and an important partner.”

The London-based Sinai Foundation for Human Rights also reported on the establishment of such a buffer zone near the border. The human rights organization said the construction work would create a cordoned-off area to accommodate refugees, surrounded by a seven-meter-high wall.

Egypt’s governor dismissed the reports as false

Egypt’s governor in North Sinai, Mohammed Shusha, dismissed the reports as false. The authorities in the border town of Rafah would rather check which houses were destroyed during military operations against extremists in the region in order to pay compensation to the owners, he told the dpa. This has “absolutely nothing” to do with the alleged construction of refugee camps for Palestinians. Egypt will not accept their forced expulsion across the border.

Israel’s army is currently preparing an offensive on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Before the war began, around 300,000 people lived in the city. There are now around 1.3 million civilians there, many of whom were displaced by fighting or followed Israeli orders to evacuate.

Egypt’s military has been fighting a local branch of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia in North Sinai for more than ten years. Extremists continue to be active in the area and carry out attacks. Residents of the border town of Rafah on the Egyptian side had to leave their homes due to the fighting. A new place called New Rafah City was built for them a few kilometers away. According to local residents, it is still uninhabited.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday about Egypt’s plans to set up a huge reception camp for Palestinian refugees on the border with the Gaza Strip.


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