Egypt builds 'enclosure' for displaced Gazans in Sinai

Satellite picture shows machinery building a wall along the Egypt-Gaza Strip border in Rafah (Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Tech)
Satellite picture shows machinery building a wall along the Egypt-Gaza Strip border in Rafah (Satellite image ©2024 Maxar Tech)

Egypt is building a walled camp in the Sinai Peninsula to accommodate Palestinians who have been displaced following the war in Gaza, according to reports.

The Wall Street Journal claims that Egyptian authorities are constructing an "eight-square-mile walled enclosure" on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza.

Since the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants started in early October, Egypt has expressed concerns about the "forced displacement" of Palestinians into the Sinai desert.

However, facing the challenge of 1.5 million displaced Palestinians at its border and without any progress in ceasefire negotiations, Egypt is now setting up a camp capable of hosting "more than 100,000 people" as a "contingency plan", according to the Journal.

The Sinai Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR), a monitoring group, has published photos and videos showing workers operating heavy machinery to construct concrete barriers and security towers around an area on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.

Videos and satellite images from Planet Labs show land being cleared near the Gaza border without clear signs of water or infrastructure development.

The SFHR said on social media that these efforts are to create a walled, isolated area on the border with the Gaza Strip, intended to house refugees in case of a mass exodus.

However, Mohamed Shousha, the North Sinai governor, refuted claims on Thursday that Egypt is developing "an isolated area in Sinai" for refugees.

He explained that the construction efforts are part of an assessment of houses that were destroyed in recent upheavals, aiming to "properly compensate" the owners.

But with 1.5 million displaced Palestinians pushed up against its border and no results from ceasefire talks, Egypt is establishing the compound as part of "contingency plans" that could accommodate "more than 100,000 people", the Journal said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has spoken out against the forced displacement of Gazans and highlighted the importance of not compromising the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Concerns have been raised about the potential for a "second Nakba", referencing the 1948 event where over 760,000 Palestinians were displaced or expelled during the establishment of Israel, with no return allowed.

Israel, however, rejects claims of trying to force Palestinians into Sinai, although some ministers and officials have expressed support for the "voluntary resettlement" of Palestinians from Gaza.

The conflict escalated following an attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, which led to approximately 1,160 deaths, primarily among civilians, based on counts from official Israeli sources.

In response, Israel's military offensive in Gaza has resulted in the deaths of at least 28,775 individuals, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.