The threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly a half-century, came after PM Benjamin Netanyahu said sending troops into Rafah was necessary to win the four-month war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Over half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled to Rafah to escape fighting in other areas, and they are packed into sprawling tent camps and UN-run shelters near the border. Egypt fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who may never be allowed to return.
The standoff between Israel and Egypt, two close US allies, took shape as aid groups warned that an offensive in Rafah would worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, where around 80% of residents have fled their homes and where the UN says a quarter of the population faces starvation.
Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television station quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying that any invasion of Rafah would “blow up” talks mediated by the US, Egypt and Qatar aimed at achieving a cease-fire and the release of Israeli hostages.
Israel’s offensive has caused widespread destruction, particularly in northern Gaza, and heavy fighting is still taking place in central Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis. In Gaza City on Sunday, the remaining residents covered decomposing bodies in the streets or carried bodies to graves. Some streets were piled high with sand from bombings. Smoke billowed from destroyed buildings. A ground operation in Rafah could cut off one of the only avenues for delivering Gaza’s badly needed food, medical supplies.