Lara Villalón Istanbul


Updated Monday, February 19, 2024-18:50

  • War More than a million Palestinians displaced in Rafah, waiting for the imminent Israeli assault: "My children ask me where we will go"

  • Geopolitics Erdogan condemns in Egypt the "forced depopulation" of Gaza and calls for an immediate ceasefire

Egypt is building a walled buffer zone near its border with the

Gaza Strip

in the face of an imminent

Israeli ground offensive

in the south of the enclave, which could lead to a forced exodus of thousands of Palestinians. An investigation by the Sinai Human Rights Foundation revealed that excavating machines had been leveling the land for days and raising a seven-meter-high wall. Satellite images of the area, verified by US agencies, confirmed that construction began in early February.

The walled enclosure could extend from Gaza's border with Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea, with a total of twenty square kilometers of fortified land and could accommodate around

100,000 people

. The construction has raised suspicions that Egypt would be preparing to receive a possible influx of Palestinian refugees from Gaza, given the advance of Israeli troops in the border city of Rafah, where one and a half million Gazans are displaced. Cairo fears that thousands of Palestinians will be pushed into its territory in an attempt to flee the conflict and has deployed

dozens of tanks on its border

in recent weeks .

Following the failure of talks mediated by the US and Arab countries to achieve a


, Israel has warned


that if it does not release all the hostages before March 10, it will launch an offensive in Rafah. Israeli authorities have reiterated that they have a plan to resettle the 1.5 million civilians refugees in Rafah, although they have not given details of its logistics. "Israel has no intention of evacuating Palestinian civilians to Egypt," Israeli Defense Minister

Yoav Gallant

said last Friday. "We respect and value our peace agreement with Egypt, which is a cornerstone of stability in the region as well as an important partner."

For his part, Egyptian Foreign Minister

Sameh Shoukry

warned on Sunday that the ground offensive in Rafah is a "direct threat to Egypt's national security" and denied that Cairo is building a refuge for Palestinians in the Sinai. "We've been dealing with maintaining our border ... maintaining road networks. I think there have been some jumping to conclusions about what constitutes these activities," he said. Shoukry added that while Egypt would treat civilians "humanely", the displacement of Palestinians to the Sinai remained "unacceptable". An Egyptian military source told the

Middle East Eye

newspaper that while the construction of the security zone is true, the project seeks to "create a centralized area to limit the infiltration of militants into the Sinai." The source noted that Egypt already set up a similar security zone in 2014 during a conflict with militant groups in

northern Sinai


Displaced Palestinians in Rafah have been suffering from a lack of food, water, medicine and shelter for months. The UN high commissioner for refugees warned that a forced exodus to Egypt would be "a disaster for Egypt and

a disaster for the future of peace