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Egypt does not see why it should be responsible for Gaza’s refugee influx

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry at a joint news conference in Turkiye’s capital Ankara in April.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Egypt does not see why it should squarely shoulder the responsibility of taking in refugees coming from the besieged Gaza Strip, said Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry. 

“I see no reason why Egypt, which is hosting 9 million refugees — hosting them and providing them integration into our society at considerable burden on our economy — should have to bear solely [the] additional influx of Gazans,” Shoukry told CNBC’s Dan Murphy late Tuesday. 

The International Organization for Migration agency in August 2022 assessed that there were 9 million refugees hailing from 133 countries in Egypt at that time.

The Rafah crossing, which is located on the Gaza-Egypt border, is the sole passage point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Egypt tightly restricts the Rafah crossing and has been recently reluctant to open it for the movement of people, unless Israel allows humanitarian aid to enter the territory.

To most of the more than 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip enclave, the Rafah crossing represents the only potential exit, as Egypt says Israel continues with aerial bombardment. Israel has said it exclusively targets the strategic positions of Hamas, following the Palestinian militant group’s multi-pronged terror attacks of Oct. 7.

A call for the residents of northern Gaza to evacuate southward — dispensed late last week by the Israeli Defense Forces amid fears of a potential ground incursion into the enclosure — has exacerbated the flows of refugees, with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees on Monday estimating that more than 1 million people have been displaced in the strip since the start of the conflict.

“We are proud that we have always supported our brethren,” Shoukry said, citing states in Africa, as well as the Middle East.

“But we hope that other countries will also bear the share of the burden, and provide for vulnerable communities the necessary support. I think those who have greater resources should probably bear greater responsibilities,” the Egyptian foreign affairs minister said.

Egypt's foreign minister hopes for de-escalation of Israel-Hamas war

Egypt has deployed hundreds of troops to the Rafah border crossing, resisting pressure to let Gaza’s population of 2.3 million into its Sinai Peninsula, where the country is already grappling with insurgents, according to Foreign Policy.

Jordan on Monday said that both it and Egypt will not accept refugees from Gaza.

“That is a red line, because I think that is the plan by certain of the usual suspects to try and create de facto issues on the ground,” Reuters reports Jordan’s King Abdullah as saying at a news conference in Berlin after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Egyptian authorities have so far laid fault at the feet of Israel for the inability to open the Rafah crossing, both to allow safe passage for refugees and to receive humanitarian supplies. U.S. authorities had expressed hopes that the crossing might be opened on Monday.

The Israeli foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

“At this stage, I can only tell you that we have been unsuccessful in obtaining a definite guarantee of safe passage through the crossing,” Shoukry told CNBC. 

He maintained hopes for a more concerted effort that will allow the entry of humanitarian goods for the Palestinian people within Gaza.

“I hope that there will be a determined effort to allow for the entry of humanitarian goods and the provision of safe areas and safe corridors to disperse these goods,” Shoukry said. 

“It is a very tragic and very difficult situation that needs immediate attention,” the minister said.

Human rights agencies have decried a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, which has been sealed off from Israel’s own supplies of water, electricity, food and fuel.

U.S. President Joe Biden was originally scheduled to visit Jordan for a summit on humanitarian aid for Palestinian people with other Arab leaders, but the meeting was canceled after a deadly hospital bombing in Gaza. 

Biden was supposed to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Palestinian Authority President Mahmound Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

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