Egypt builds border wall amid Israeli offensive on Rafah

Egypt is constructing a wall along its border with the Gaza Strip in Rafah, where 1.3 million civilians remain displaced as Israel clashes with Hamas terrorists, Egyptian officials told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. The wall, which is set to span 8 square kilometers, is made of reinforced concrete and steel, and is equipped with surveillance cameras and sensors. The wall is intended to prevent infiltration and smuggling of weapons and goods through the underground tunnels that connect Gaza and Egypt.

The wall is also part of a larger project to create a buffer zone along the border, which will include a residential area, a hospital, a school, and a mosque, to receive Palestinian refugees fleeing the Israeli assault on Rafah, according to the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights, a local NGO. The project, which is funded by the Egyptian businessman Ibrahim al-Organi, who has ties to the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, aims to provide shelter and services to the refugees, as well as to protect the indigenous groups in the area, whose homes have been destroyed by the wall construction. The project has been welcomed by some Palestinian factions, such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, who see it as a humanitarian gesture by Egypt.

A diplomatic challenge to balance interests and pressures

The wall construction and the buffer zone project pose a diplomatic challenge for Egypt, which has to balance its interests and pressures from different actors in the region. On one hand, Egypt wants to maintain its security and stability, as well as its relations with Israel and the US, who support the wall as a means to curb Hamas’s influence and activities. On the other hand, Egypt wants to preserve its role as a mediator and a supporter of the Palestinian cause, as well as its ties with Turkey and Qatar, who back Hamas and oppose the wall. Egypt has been trying to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, as well as to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, but its efforts have been hampered by the lack of trust and cooperation from both sides.

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