Egypt–Palestine relations

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Egypt-Palestine relations
Map indicating locations of Egypt and Palestine



Egypt–Palestine relations are the bilateral relations between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Palestine. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and he favored self-determination for the Palestinians. Although the Egyptian government has good relationships with Israel since the Camp David Accords, Egyptians strongly resent the Israeli occupation.

Historical relations[edit]

Two men facing each other. On the left a man in military uniform with sunglasses and a gun on his right side. On the right a man wearing casual clothes, with a white shirt and gray trousers. In the background another man in casual clothing looking at the camera.
Nasser with Arafat (left) at the emergency Arab League summit, 1970

Relations between Egypt and the Palestinians started after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. Many Palestinians saw Nasser as the only real person who could defeat the Israelis and many of them had sympathized with him and supported him. During the January 1964 Arab League summit, Nasser decided to establish an organization to represent the Palestinians. In May 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization or PLO was established. It included various Palestinian factions and its first leader was Ahmad Shukeiri, who was supported by Nasser.[1] But after Egypt was defeated in the Six-Day War in June 1967, Nasser began to call for peace with Israel. But his traditional allies (Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and the PLO) opposed his recent moves and formed a "Rejectionist Front."[2]

In January 1968, Nasser commenced the War of Attrition against Israel, ordering his forces to begin attacking Israeli positions east of the now-blockaded Suez Canal.[2] In the same month, he allowed the Soviets to construct naval facilities in Port Said, Mersa Matruh, and Alexandria.[3] Then in March, Fatah under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, faced off with Israel in Jordan in what became known as the Battle of Karameh. The Jordanian Army eventually backed Fatah fighters forcing Israel to withdraw its troops without achieving its strategic goal—destruction of the Palestinian fedayeen base. The battle was thus seen as an Arab victory over Israel and Nasser immediately dispatched Mohammed Hassanein Heikal to invite Arafat to Cairo.[4] There, Nasser offered the Fatah movement arms and financial support, but advised Arafat to think of peace with Israel and establishing a Palestinian state comprising the West Bank and the Gaza Strip;[5] Nasser was effectively ceding his leadership of the "Palestine issue" to Arafat.[4] Eventually Yasser Arafat was later elected President of the PLO.

But after the death of Nasser his successor Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords. This angered the Arab World and it led to the expulsion of Egypt from the Arab League until 1989. After Sadat's assassination, Hosni Mubarak continued the peace process and has maintained relations with Israel. Nevertheless, Egypt was one of the first countries to support the Palestinian Declaration of Independence and officially recognized Palestine on 15 November 1988.

Recent relations[edit]

On 19 June 2008, the Egypt-brokered "lull" or pause in hostilities between Israel and Hamas went into effect.[6] The term "lull" is a translation of the Arabic term Tahdiya.[7] The agreement required Hamas to end rocket attacks on Israel and to enforce the lull throughout Gaza. In exchange, Hamas expected the blockade to end, commerce in Gaza to resume, and truck shipments to be restored to 2005 levels, which was between 500 and 600 trucks per day.[8][9] Israel eased restrictions on the blockade to a reduction in rocket fire and gradually re-opened supply lines and permitted around 90 daily truck shipments to enter Gaza, up from around 70 per day.[10] Hamas criticized Israel for its continued blockade[11] while Israel accused Hamas of continued weapons smuggling via tunnels to Egypt and pointed to continued rocket attacks.[8]

During the 2008-2009 Gaza War, Egypt condemned the Israeli attacks, but Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said that Egypt has long warned Hamas that this would be Israel’s response should Qassam fire continue.[12] As a result of many protests, Egypt opened up the Rafah Border Crossing to allow the wounded into Egyptian hospitals.[13] The Egyptian Ministry of Health sent 30 buses to North Sinai to help transport injured Palestinians.[14] The Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Hamas does not allow the wounded Gazans to cross the borders to Egypt.[15] Egypt also deployed 500 CSF anti-riot police along the border.[16] At the 6060th UN Security Council meeting the Egyptian representative stated that the "crippling blockade imposed by Israel" is in "flagrant violation" of Israel's responsibilities under international law, international humanitarian law and its specific obligations as an "occupying power".[17]

After 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denounced Israel's use of "excessive and unjustified force" while the Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to express its condemnation.[18] The Egyptian President also ordered the opening of the Egyptian border to Gaza on Tuesday to allow humanitarian and medical aid into the Gaza Strip.[19][20] On February 13, 2011, Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour stated that "the Camp David Era was over" and he did not recognize Egypt's Peace Treaty with Israel.[21]

As of 23 July 2012, Egypt now allows Palestinians to freely enter without visas.[22] During the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, Egypt harshly criticized Israel's military operation. The Egyptian ambassador was recalled to Cairo and Israel's ambassador received an official protest. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi stated that "The Israelis must realise that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region". Demanding that the Arab League call an urgent meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss "criminal Israeli aggression" on Gaza, and sought an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council.[23][24][25]

The Foreign Ministry of Egypt berated the operation and called on Israel to halt its attacks. According to The Guardian, the chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party, Saad El-Katatni, said: "The Egyptian people revolted against injustice and will not accept an attack on Gaza. The brutal aggression on Gaza proves that Israel has not yet learned that Egypt has changed".[26]

An Egyptian official reported that Egyptian hospitals are ready to receive wounded Palestinians and that the Rafah Crossing will remain open.[27] Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil visited Gaza on Friday, 16 November.[28]

On 17 November, the Arab Medical Union has sent a delegation of Egyptian doctors with aid across the Rafah border.[29] On 19 November, a group of Egyptian civilians headed to Gaza to aid their Palestinian neighbors in their current tribulation.[30]

On the 29th of November, 2012 Egypt followed through with its continuing criticism of Israel by voting to welcome Palestine as the newest member of the United Nations by voting in favor of United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19. That resolution made Palestine a non-member observer state just like the Vatican.[31]

During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry published through its Facebook page a statement where it expressed its "deep concern" about the latest situation in the Gaza Strip and called for self-restraint as well as stopping the mutual violence.[32] A Hamas official stated that Egypt is attempting to mediate a truce between both sides and that Egyptian officials have contacted Hamas for that purpose.[33] Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry made a remarks following a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart where he said it is important to address the crisis in a manner that protects the Palestinians and their interests.[34]

On 11 July, the Foreign Ministry then criticised the IDF operation in Gaza as "oppressive policies of mass punishment. Egypt rejects the irresponsible Israeli escalation in the occupied Palestinian territory, which comes in the form of excessive and unnecessary use of military force leading to the death of innocent civilians." It also demanded Israel adopt self-restraint and to keep in mind that being an "occupation force", it has a legal and moral duty to protect civilian lives.[35] The Egyptian government urged world powers to intervene and stop the crisis when it stated that its ceasefire efforts have been met with "obstinacy and stubbornness".[36] The same day, Egypt informed authorities in Gaza that it closed the Rafah Border Crossing[37] after re-opening it the previous day to receive injured Palestinians for medical treatment in Egyptian hospitals.[38] This comes after Egyptian forces seized 20 Grad rockets being smuggled from Gaza to Sinai after clashing with militants in Rafah, Egypt.[39] However, shortly after the closure, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered the Egyptian military to transport 500 tons of aid, which comprises food and medical supplies, to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. A statement was also released by the military saying that Egypt is pursuing its efforts to "stop the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip" under the president's supervision.[40][41]

De facto relations[edit]

Beside that official communication, there are several observable elements that can help understanding the relations between Palestine and Egypt. One example is the Egypt–Gaza barrier, a wall built by Egypt to prevent crossing of Palestinians. The unique point of crossing, at Rafah, is often closed. [42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aburish 2004, pp. 222–223
  2. ^ a b Aburish 2004, p. 280
  3. ^ Aburish 2004, p. 292
  4. ^ a b Aburish 2004, p. 281
  5. ^ Aburish 2004, pp. 288–290
  6. ^ Isabel Kershner (2008-06-25). "Rockets hit Israel, breaking Hamas truce". International Herald Tribune.
  7. ^ Hamas offering Israel truce, not peace. USA Today. Published 3/12/2008.
  8. ^ a b BRONNER, ETHAN (2008-12-19). "Gaza Truce May Be Revived by Necessity". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
  9. ^ UN Press Conference on Gaza humanitarian situation
  10. ^ BBC Truce barely eases Gaza embargo. By Aleem Maqbool. BBC News. Published 19 August 2008.
  11. ^ Guardian Gaza truce broken as Israeli raid kills six Hamas gunmen Rory McCarthy 5 November 2008
  12. ^ Behnorin, Yitzhak (December 27, 2008). "Egypt Lays Blame on Hamas". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
  13. ^ Sood, Manish (2008-12-27). "Arab and Islamic leaders condemn deadly raids on Gaza". Topnews. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
  14. ^ Palestine News Network However, the Ministry of Health in Gaza said the injured were in too serious of condition to make the trip to the south as most of the first hits were in the north. Director of Emergency and Ambulance in the Gaza ministry, Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, said on Sunday that helicopter transfer was necessary.
  15. ^ "Egypt: Hamas denying Gaza wounded treatment in Egypt". Reuters. 2008-12-28. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
  16. ^ "Egypt slams Israeli murder in Gaza, summons ambassador". AFP. 2008-12-27. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
  17. ^ Libya calling the operation a "horrible massacre" - "United Nations Security Council 6060th meeting (Click on the page S/PV.6060 record for transcript)". United Nations Security Council. 2008-12-31. Archived from the original on 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  18. ^ "World shocked, outraged at raid". Kuwait Times. June 1, 2010. Archived from the original on June 17, 2011.
  19. ^ Egypt opens Gaza border, Israel kills five Palestinians, RFI English, 01-06-2006
  20. ^ ASHRAF SWEILAM (AP) – 10 hours ago. "The Associated Press: Gazans cross border after Egypt lifts blockade". Retrieved 2010-06-02.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ "Egyptian envoy to US: Peace treaty with Israel will stand". The Jerusalem Post. February 13, 2011.
  22. ^ " Egypt begins allowing Palestinians free entry into country." AP, 23 July 2012.
  23. ^ Harriet, Sherwood (15 November 2012). "Egyptian president condemns Israel's 'aggression' in Gaza". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  24. ^ Harriet, Sherwood (15 November 2012). "Mohamed Morsi's approach to Gaza air strikes falls short for many Egyptians". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  25. ^ Kais, Roi (14 November 2012). "Egypt recalls ambassador after Jabari hit". Ynetnews. IL. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  26. ^ Beaumont, Peter (2012-11-14). "Egypt condemns Israeli air strikes in Gaza and demands ceasefire". The Guardian. UK.
  27. ^ "Egyptian hospitals prepare for Gaza victims". Ma'an. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Egyptian delegation to visit Gaza on Friday". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  29. ^ "Arab Doctors: We will recruit all of our resources to aid Gazans" Archived 2013-01-05 at at Youm717 November 2012
  30. ^ "الجزيرة مباشر مصر برفقة الوفد الشعبي المتضامن في غزة" 19 November 2012
  31. ^ UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19
  32. ^ "MFA" (official Facebook page). Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  33. ^ "Palestinian Teen Buried as Egypt Seeks Hamas-Israel Cease-Fire". Bloomberg News.
  34. ^ "Egypt calls for self-restraint amid Israeli aggression on Gaza". The Global Post. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14.
  35. ^ Yashar, Ari (11 July 2014). "Egypt Slams 'Oppressive' IDF Operation". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  36. ^ "Egypt urges world powers to help end Gaza bloodshed". Al-Ahram. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  37. ^ "Rafah border crossing closed: Gaza Interior Ministry". Daily News Egypt. 11 July 2014. Archived from the original on 13 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  38. ^ "Egypt opens Rafah border crossing to receive wounded Palestinians". Al-Ahram. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  39. ^ "Egyptian forces seize rockets being smuggled from Gaza to Sinai". Al-Ahram. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  40. ^ "Egyptian govt to send 500 tons of aid to Gaza". Al-Ahram. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  41. ^ "Egypt, Jordan urge world to intervene in Gaza". i24news. Agence France-Presse. 12 July 2014. Archived from the original on 12 July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  42. ^ Al-awsat, Asharq. "Rafah Crossing Closed Due to Security Operation in Sinai". (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 2018-04-01.