15 May 2024

A View from Cairo

Yasmin El-Rifae

In February satellite photographs of a new militarized buffer zone along Egypt’s border with Gaza circulated online. The Egyptian government was silent about the matter for a few days, then said that the area was being prepared so that aid trucks could enter the besieged Palestinian territory through the Rafah border crossing. Unnamed Egyptian officials also told NPR and other media outlets that the government planned to contain up to 150,000 people there in case of a mass breach by Palestinians trying to escape Israeli assaults.

From October until May Israel systematically pushed Palestinians from across Gaza southwards into Rafah, against the refortified Egyptian border, where 1.3 million people, 600,000 of whom are children, now shelter, mostly living in tents. All along it also threatened to invade this designated “safe zone.” The built environment of much of northern Gaza has been destroyed. Some 35,000 people have been killed; an estimated ten thousand are still missing under the rubble. After initially blocking all food, water, fuel, and medical supplies, Israel heavily restricted the entry of aid and repeatedly targeted aid distribution sites and networks, killing people in what Palestinians call “flour massacres.” In so doing Israel has manufactured famine in the north, which is now spreading to other areas.

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