Egypt joins ICJ case against Israel as one official warns Rafah op puts peace at risk

As IDF deepens action in city, Cairo escalates pressure on Jerusalem to pull back troops; at the same time, country’s FM insists peace treaty is ‘core pillar of regional stability’

File: Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry attends a panel discussion during the World Economic Forum Special Meeting in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)
File: Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry attends a panel discussion during the World Economic Forum Special Meeting in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

With the IDF deepening its ground operations in Rafah, a senior Egyptian official told The Associated Press on Sunday that Cairo had lodged protests with Israel, the United States and European governments, warning that its peace treaty with Israel — a cornerstone of regional stability — was at high risk.

The news agency did not report any further comments from the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At the same time, at a Cairo press conference with his Slovenian counterpart, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry sought to calm worries over the future of the peace deal.

“The peace agreement with Israel has been Egypt’s strategic choice for 40 years, and it represents a core pillar of peace in the region for peace and stability,” he said, adding that there are mechanisms for adjudicating violations of the agreement.

Nevertheless, later Sunday Egypt announced it would support South Africa’s ongoing lawsuit in the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Egypt’s statement said the decision “comes in light of the worsening severity and scope of Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and the continued perpetration of systematic practices against the Palestinian people, including direct targeting of civilians and the destruction of infrastructure in the Strip, and pushing Palestinians to flee.”

Proceedings are ongoing at the ICJ in The Hague in the Netherlands, to examine South Africa’s claim that Israel’s aerial and ground offensive in Gaza, launched after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, is aimed at bringing about “the destruction of the population” in the Palestinian enclave.

Israel rejects the accusations as false and libelous, saying it respects international law and has a right to defend itself after some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border into Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages amid wholesale acts of brutality and sexual assault.

In January the ICJ agreed to review South Africa’s claims that Israel violated some rights guaranteed under the genocide convention during its assault on Gaza and ordered emergency measures, including a call for Israel to halt any potential acts of genocide.

File: Judge Nawaf Salam, third right, speaks at the start of a two-day hearing at the World Court in The Hague, Netherlands, in a case brought by Nicaragua accusing Germany of breaching the genocide convention by providing arms and support to Israel, April 8, 2024. (Patrick Post/AP)

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

The announcement from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry came as Israeli troops continued to operate along the Egypt-Gaza border.

Egypt has said it would not open its borders to allow large numbers of Gazans to escape the fighting. Israeli troops have captured the Gaza side of the Rafah Crossing, and Egypt has since then refused to coordinate bringing aid in.

A woman and boy walk with belongings past barbed-wire fences as they flee from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 11, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and terror group Hamas. (AFP)

The statement called for the international community to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the Rafah operation.

While Egypt has been hosting on-and-off talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire and hostage release deal, Cairo has also been heavily critical of Israel and its prosecution of the ongoing war against Hamas. But the prospect of a widespread ground offensive in the southernmost city, just next to Gaza’s border with Egypt, has sharpened such criticism.

On Saturday, the Israeli military began calling on Palestinians in additional neighborhoods of Rafah to evacuate the area, as it pressed on with an operation against the terror group in the city in the southern Gaza Strip.

IDF soldiers under the Givati Brigade stand atop a tank in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in a handout picture released on May 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Egyptian officials had warned the decades-long peace treaty between Egypt and Israel could be suspended if Israel Defense Forces’ troops were to enter Rafah, or if any of Rafah’s refugees are forced southward into the Sinai Peninsula.

In an effort to forestall a massive influx of refugees, Egypt has stationed tanks near its border with Gaza, after reinforcing the border wall since the beginning of the war, both structurally and with surveillance equipment.

Most Popular
read more: