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Egypt’s Dilemma: Facilitate Ethnic Cleansing Or Allow Possible Genocide
If Egypt opens its borders for all refugees, then there’s a very real chance that most of the population will flee, thus raising the likelihood that they’ll be replaced by Israeli settlers sometime after the war ends. At the same time, Egypt also faces accusations of allowing a possible genocide in the event that it keeps its border closed throughout the course of Israel’s impending ground operation, which could directly contribute to civilian casualties reaching an unimaginable scale.
The latest Israeli-Hamas war forced Egypt into the dilemma whereby it’s pressured to either facilitate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip by opening its borders for all refugees or allow their possible genocide by keeping them trapped in the conflict zone with all that entails for their safety. The theoretical third option of launching a “Responsibility to Protect”/”Humanitarian Intervention” (R2P/HI) operation against Israel is politically unrealistic and there’s no indication that it’s being considered.
Time is ticking for Egypt to choose the “lesser evil” of these two since Israel announced that it’s planning a ground operation that’ll follow its large-scale bombing campaign, which will further worsen the already immense suffering of the Palestinian people. Although the self-professed Jewish State claims that every civilian target that it strikes is supposedly a secret Hamas base of some sort, no honest observer can deny the collateral damage that this has caused and the massive loss of life in the aftermath.
Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged to destroy Hamas and he can’t make good on that without going through with his government’s planned ground operation into Gaza. It’s irrelevant in this context whether or not Israel will ultimately succeed since the point is that the next impending phase of this conflict will lead to even more bloodshed. Countless locals obviously want to escape what’s coming, but Egypt thus far refuses to let them cross the border.
President Sisi said that he won’t allow the conflict to be settled at the expense of others, which was widely interpreted as signaling that he’s against facilitating Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from Gaza by going along with their forced relocation to the neighboring Sinai region. If Egypt opens its borders for all refugees, then there’s a very real chance that most of the population will flee, thus raising the likelihood that they’ll be replaced by Israeli settlers sometime after the war ends.
That outcome would result the de facto removal of Gaza from the two-state solution mandated by international law per relevant UNSC Resolutions and consequent speculation from there on out that Egypt cut a secret deal with Israel to this end. It’s therefore deemed politically unacceptable by Sisi, at least for the time being, hence why he insists on keeping the border closed and pursuing a ceasefire instead even though the latter is politically unrealistic until after the next phase of the conflict ends.
At the same time, Egypt also faces accusations of allowing a possible genocide in the event that it keeps its border closed throughout the course of Israel’s impending ground operation, which could directly contribute to civilian casualties reaching an unimaginable scale. If that happens, then Egypt would be partially guilty of this crime against humanity after it knew what was about to unfold yet still refused to let civilians flee, thus irreparably shattering its reputation as well as Sisi’s.
That outcome would be the same as the previously mentioned one with respect to Gaza’s forced depopulation and the locals’ likely replacement by Israeli settlers after the war ends, with the only difference being that countless more of those same locals would be killed in the process. Israel doesn’t care about civilian casualties since it’s out for blood after Hamas’ terrorist attacks, and some of its leadership have arguably wanted to ethnically cleanse or even genocide the Palestinians for some time.
Egypt’s decision to keep the border closed for now appears to be predicated on its expectation that Israel will be successfully pressured by the global public’s credible concerns about the Palestinians into restraining itself, calling off its ground operation in Gaza, and agreeing to another ceasefire with Hamas. Israel has already proven itself impervious to public opinion when it comes to the conduct of its military operations, however, so Sisi is mistaken if he really thinks that his stance will somehow stop the war.
It could also be that he’s cynically calculating that Egypt won’t be blamed for the possible genocide of the Palestinian people since the global public will likely be too focused on condemning Israel afterwards. Their potential martyrdom could then reverberate throughout history and be exploited by Egypt or whoever else in pursuit of future political goals, whether domestic or international. Even if that’s not what Sisi has in mind, it could still be how he responds after any forthcoming genocide in Gaza.
In any case, Egypt is under maximum pressure right now to articulate its policy to the rest of the world since over two million people’s lives are literally on the line. Keeping the border closed looks very bad in the eyes of public opinion. At best, it seems like Egypt wants the same Palestinians who it claims to support to continue suffering as part of some grand gamble to end the war, while at worst it appears that Sisi is either clueless about their possible genocide or doesn’t even care all that much if it happens.