Egypt plans summit on ‘Palestinian cause’ as fighting between Israel, Hamas intensifying

Egypt said Sunday it plans to host a summit on “the future of the Palestinian cause” as the Israel-Hamas war raged in Gaza and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Cairo.

Egypt controls the Rafah border crossing, the only passage in and out of the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel, which has been closed since Tuesday after three Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian side.

Palestinians and foreigners have been unable to flee, and aid trucks bound for Gaza have been waiting in El Arish, 50 kilometres (30 miles) away.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi headed a national security council meeting Sunday on the “military escalation in Gaza”, said a statement from his spokesman.

His administration has pushed for diplomatic efforts with allies and humanitarian groups to “deescalate” the conflict and “deliver the required aid”, he said.

Cairo also said it would host a regional and international summit on the future of the Palestinian cause, but without providing a date.

The council on Sunday echoed Sisi’s earlier statements “rejecting and denouncing policies of displacement or attempts to eradicate the Palestinian cause at the expense of neighbouring countries”.

Israeli forces have readied to invade Gaza with the aim of destroying Hamas, the Islamist militant group that unleashed the bloodiest attack in the country’s history.

In the eight days since Hamas gunmen killed more than 1,300 Israelis in a surprise onslaught, Israel has responded with an intense bombing campaign that has claimed over 2,300 lives in Gaza.

Israel has warned more than one million north Gaza residents to flee to the south of the territory ahead of the expected ground battles focused in and around Gaza City.

‘Security a red line’

Cairo, historically a key intermediary between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement ruling Gaza, faces mounting pressure to allow fleeing Palestinians to enter Egypt.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned Blinken on Friday that driving out Gaza’s people would amount to a “second Nakba” — the displacement and expulsion of more than 760,000 Palestinians when the Israeli state was created in 1948.

Israeli evacuation warnings for Palestinians have stirred fears that Israel is pushing to resettle Gazans into Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, which Israel has occupied in the past.

In a televised interview with Al Jazeera, Israel’s former deputy foreign minister Daniel Ayalon said Cairo “will have to play ball” and allow “temporary” settlement in the “almost endless space” in Sinai, a vast desert region.

Sinai has been the site of a multi-year fight against Islamist insurgents that has devastated North Sinai communities.

Ayalon said Israel and the international community could prepare infrastructure, including “tent cities”, to receive the refugees, an idea Cairo strongly rejects.

“Egypt’s national security is a red line and there will be no complacency in protecting it,” Cairo’s national security council said Sunday.

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