North Sinai governor says Egypt creating new aid hub on Gaza border

Construction along a 3km stretch of border had raised speculation that Cairo was preparing to receive displaced Gazans

Lorries park near a newly constructed wall in Al Masoura, Egypt, 3km from the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, on February 17. EPA
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Construction work along the border with Gaza in Egypt's North Sinai province is for a new “logistical area” to receive Gaza-bound aid, the provincial governor said on Saturday amid speculation that Egypt was preparing for an influx of Gazans fleeing Israel's planned attack on the city of Rafah.

The Egyptian military is building the new zone to reduce the strain on the nearby port city of Al Arish from the large volume of aid deliveries for Gaza, North Sinai Governor Mohamed Shousha said.

The governor's press statement was the first official comment on the work being carried out along a 3kn stretch of the border since February 11. Journalists were given a tour of the area on Saturday and allowed to take photographs.

Mr Shousha said the zone would have waiting areas for lorries, storage space for aid shipments, administrative offices and places for lorry drivers to sleep.

The new facility will reduce the pile-up of aid in Al Arish and facilitate aid efforts undertaken by the Egyptian Red Crescent, he said.

Rigorous Israeli checks of the aid convoys have meant that only a fraction of the relief supplies sent by international donors has been allowed into Gaza.

The besieged Palestinian enclave is in the throes of a severe humanitarian crisis after more than four months of an Israeli military offensive that has claimed nearly 29,000 lives and left nearly 69,000 people injured. Israeli bombardment and ground fighting has destroyed large swathes of the territory and displaced most of its 2.3 million population, more than half of whom now live in the city of Rafah, near the border with Egypt.

Israel now plans to send its troops into Rafah to seek out remaining members of the militant group Hamas and try to rescue hostages they seized during attacks in southern Israel on October 7, in which they also killed about 1,200 people. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the attack on Rafah will go ahead despite international outcry over the likely impact on civilians there.

Satellite images of the construction work on the border sparked rumours that Egypt had struck a deal with Israel to allow Gazans to cross into its territory, although President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and other Egyptian officials have insisted Cairo would not allow the mass displacement of Palestinians from their land.

Updated: February 19, 2024, 5:53 AM