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Report: Egypt weighed recalling ambassador amid nadir in ties sparked by Gaza war

An Israeli accusation that Egypt was holding up delivery of aid to Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing angered Cairo, with officials even debating withdrawing the country’s ambassador from Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The comments were made by Israel’s legal team at the genocide hearings at The Hague.

The paper said top security officials met on the day of the hearing on January 12 to discuss the matter, but eventually decided not to do so, merely issuing a statement against the allegation.

On Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi accused Israel of holding up aid deliveries as a pressure tactic.

  • “This is a form of pressure on the Gaza Strip and its people over the conflict and the release of hostages. They are using this as a pressure tool on the people of the Strip,” Sissi said in comments to mark Egypt’s national police day.

The Journal described ties between the country as hitting a nadir not seen in decades amid the war in Gaza, citing both Cairo’s concern of Palestinian refugees streaming over the border into the Sinai, as well as the Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea as a result of the war causing a 40 percent decline in Egyptian profits from the Suez Canal, which could cost the country billions of dollars.

Israeli plans to potentially retake control of a buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border have also sparked anger.

  • At the same time, Egypt has played a key role in mediating talks for the release of hostages from Hamas captivity and is involved in the latest talks for a new agreement.
  • The Journal said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has refused a number of calls from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks amid the tensions.

On Monday, Egypt warned Israel that any attempt to reinstitute security control of the strip of land that separates Gaza and Egypt will result in a “serious threat” to relations between the neighboring countries.

  • The so-called Philadelphi Route is a 14 kilometer (nine-mile) corridor that runs all along the Egypt-Gaza border. Israeli leaders have recently talked about retaking control of the corridor — from which the IDF withdrew when Israel left Gaza in 2005 — to prevent arms from being smuggled to Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza overland and via tunnels.

Egypt fears that a military operation on the border could push large numbers of Palestinians into its territory. It has also apparently taken insult from the allegation that it is unable to secure the border itself.

  • “It must be strictly emphasized that any Israeli move in this direction will lead to a serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations,” Diaa Rashwan, head of Egypt’s State Information Service, said in an online statement.

Rashwan asserted the Egyptian border with Gaza was secure and railed at Israeli accusations that weapons were being smuggled from Egypt into the Strip, calling them “allegations and lies.”

He accused the Israeli government of seeking to escape from “its successive failures in achieving its declared goals for the war” against Hamas, which Israel launched in response to the terror group’s deadly October 7 onslaught.

  • “The conclusion is that these false allegations do not serve the [Israel-Egypt] peace treaty that Egypt respects, and it demands that the Israeli side to show its respect for it also, and to stop making statements that would strain bilateral relations in light of the current inflammatory conditions,” he said.
  • “Egypt calls on everyone who talks about its failure to protect its borders to stop making these allegations, in light of the fact that it has a strong army capable of protecting its borders with all efficiency and discipline.”

On December 30, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the corridor “has to be in our hands” at the end of the war against Hamas to ensure that Gaza is and remains demilitarized, to prevent weapons from being smuggled through tunnels into the coastal enclave. The comments were denounced by an Egyptian lawmaker.

Netanyahu said on January 13 that this was “one possibility for what I call a southern barrier,” after The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Israel informed Egypt of plans to launch a military operation to retake control of the corridor.

Source: TOI