Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Monday reaffirmed his country's commitment to its peace agreement with Israel, which has endured for more than four decades, amid reports suggesting that the latter's ongoing military campaign in the Gaza Strip has strained the relationship between Jerusalem and Cairo.
Shoukry made the comment during a visit to Slovenia in response to media questions about the war in Gaza and the state of Egyptian-Israeli relations. His remarks followed an Associated Press report on Sunday, citing unnamed Egyptian officials, who suggested that the peace treaty could be suspended if the IDF were to invade Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip which borders Egypt.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Rafah stands as Hamas’ last remaining stronghold after more than four months of war, emphasizing the necessity of deploying ground troops to defeat the terrorist group.
In an interview with ABC's This Week, Netanyahu argued that preventing Israel from launching an offensive in Rafah would be tantamount to asking it to concede defeat in the war.
Egypt's primary concern is reportedly the potential influx of Palestinians crossing into the Sinai Desert to escape the fighting. A Wall Street Journal report last week indicated that Egypt was bolstering its border defenses with Gaza, incorporating measures such as installing cameras, observation posts and sensors to prevent the mass crossing of Palestinians into its territory.
Shoukry's remarks represent a departure from the consistent messaging from Cairo, especially in light of Israel's assertion that operations along the Philadelphi Corridor—a 14-kilometer (approximately 9-mile) stretch adjacent to the Gaza border with Egypt—are necessary. Israel argues this is due to Hamas using tunnels under the area to smuggle weapons into Gaza. Egypt has expressed strong opposition to any Israeli military presence in the area, arguing that it constitutes a violation of bilateral agreements.
The Wall Street Journal reported that an Egyptian official disclosed Israel had notified Cairo of 12 operational tunnels beneath the border, linking the Gaza Strip to Sinai. This came after Cairo announced it had demolished all smuggling tunnels.
Egypt has been instrumental in facilitating discussions for a potential agreement that would involve the exchange of hostages for a comprehensive cease-fire and the release of Palestinian prisoners convicted in Israel.